Back in 1997, Terry and I were joined by Jay, Justin, and Chris
on a Florida vacation. (Chris being my best friend… later that
year the best man at our wedding… and an all-around great guy.)
We were already planning our wedding… but I hadn’t asked Terry
to marry me yet. I decided that the trip to Florida would provide
a great opportunity, picked out a ring, and hid it until a day
we spent in the Magic Kingdom.
little bit into our visit, late in the morning, I handed the video
camera to Chris as we boarded separate gondolas on the Skyway
from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland. And as he narrated and the boys
laughed, he taped my proposal and Terry’s acceptance. (The record
shows Terry wanting the ring before she said yes.)
has always been a special place for me… and that goes back more
than three decades. That trip in 1997, as the first for Terry
and the boys, would have included plenty of moments to make it
a special place for her. The engagement only added to the story.
January this year we were helping our friends Ellen and Richard
move. Conversations took place… decisions were made… and though
Ellen and Richard decided to pass this time, Terry and I decided
to visit Disney World for a day. On the morning drive to the Magic
Kingdom we began kicking around dates and realized we were right
at the anniversary of our engagement. So before we had even reached
the parking lot, there was a great feeling to the day… a special
atmosphere for it… and we just knew we were in for a fantastic
we went on:
Pirates of the Caribbean
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Country Bear Jamboree
“it’s a small world”
Stitch’s Great Escape!
Monster’s, Inc. Laugh Floor
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
a matter of official record, Terry destroyed me when we rode Buzz
Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Really… destroyed me. As in, the
score was so lopsided in her favor there really should be some
question as to whether or not my gun was even operational. I’m
not including that line to take away from her victory. I’m just
using it to emphasize exactly how insane the difference was. Tigg
much as we enjoyed everything about the Magic Kingdom and the
rides, two things should be mentioned: (1) Recapturing another
time… a past visit… connections with family and friends over stories
and movies and any number of emotional triggers… is an amazingly
powerful element of the Disney experience. Call it memories… call
it nostalgia… call it whatever you want… I think of my mother
and 1979 each and every time I visit “it’s a small world” and
I smile when the Jungle Cruise passes the elephants. I’m not alone.
Time can be marked by so very many people in ways such as whether
or not the kids were kept by your side or old enough to wander
off for a time on their own.
is… no doubt about it… a magical place.
Terry and I ate lunch and dinner in the park… and had no particular
agenda in mind when we thought about it. When we were hungry,
we stopped and got something to eat. We decided to share out meals…
splitting plates instead of winding up with extra fries to throw
lunch stop came in Frontierland, at the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn
and Café. Food was good… nothing incredible. For dinner
we found ourselves in Tomorrowland, eating at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight
Café. Again… food was fine and nothing spectacular. But…
is an animatronic figure that plays… well… his own Disney version
of spacey-fusion-blues-and-oldies might be the best description.
He’s a Disney alien lounge singer, and it works.
Street Electrical Parade
Wishes nighttime spectacular
is not the time to share the “Legend of the Fireworks at the Magic
Kingdom” story from 1999. Suffice to say, Terry, Ellen and Richard
no longer even ask me what parts of my day are the most important
to try and include… they know the answer is watching fireworks.
It is simply known as a written-in-stone given that if there are
fireworks at any Disney park that night, the thing I most want
to do is be there to see those fireworks.
and I grabbed some popcorn and chocolate chip cookies before the
parade and relaxed. We watched the Main Street Electrical… did
a bit of shopping in the retail stores… found a terrific spot
and saw the fireworks… and then headed out to the ferry. Simply
a perfect end to a terrific visit.
best of the best:
I don’t know what to tell you if you aren’t going to allow me
to say everything.
the meals great? No… the food was ok. But Terry and I split a
few things and enjoyed what we found for lunch and dinner.
this point, “it’s a small world” is almost no longer about the
ride. It’s about a constant that has been there for every visit
I’ve made… it’s about smiling because I remember being on it with
my mother, and feeling a weird connection to it when we rode in
Disneyland that borders on a combination of joy and comfort… it’s
about simple fun at it’s very best.
maybe that’s what we’re discussing here. It’s the full experience
that ranks as the best of the best… the entire combination of
elements, from seeing old friends to experiencing some new additions,
creating new moments to smiling at memories, and just enjoying
There are extensive renovations either in the opening stages or
soon to start at the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrowland and Fantasyland
will be different in about two years, according to recent stories
I’ve read and plans that have been announced. And yet… as always…
the Magic Kingdom will be very much the same. 20,000 Leagues leaves…
Snow White transitions into a roller-coaster, mine-cart, brand
new attraction… and through it all, Walt and Mickey are there
to lead the way.
really no wonder that when thinking of Disney World, so many people
experience feelings that deep down may simply be inexplicable.
I doubt if anyone rides “it’s a small world” these days for the
music or to be dazzled by the technology… and I would be stunned
to hear that anyone does. That’s really not the point though,
of my most vivid memories of travel… pictures I took during the
tenth anniversary celebration parade… the twenty-fifth anniversary
cake castle… the Sorcerer’s wand around Spaceship Earth… these
all took place at Disney World. The Hoop-Dee-Doo review… Polynesian
Village… Downtown Disney… geez, the list just goes on and on.
My childhood… my marriage… family and friends and all sorts of
here is the Magic Kingdom… with the Jungle Cruise and Country
Bears and Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain and… the more it
adjusts Pirates of the Caribbean or modifies rides from ExtraTERRORestrial
into Stitch or changes in any way, the more it stays the same.
praise (or complaints):
As people filed into the park… I admit it… I was scared. Where
were they all coming from? This
wasn’t the new land of Harry Potter… it was
a weekday in late January… and these people were all over the
we are going to have all sorts of problems getting on rides, or
I’m going to be racing around the park to try and collect Fast
missing of rides. No running all over.
and I had, by just about any measuring stick, a brilliantly perfect
the only wait we had was at Winnie the Pooh. And while I certainly
would have said yes to Peter Pan or Snow White if given the opportunity,
I have no complaints about the day we had and how we strolled
around the park.
you want a complaint… surprise… the food. We weren’t looking for
anything amazingly special, and… burgers and fries and so on...
we didn’t find anything amazingly special.
the end of the night I bought Terry a popcorn and it was served
in a commemorative container. It was only while waiting for me
(I was getting chocolate chip cookies in the bakery on Main Street)
that Terry noticed the container was holiday-themed. Yeah… perfect
for the end of January.
hold on… we shared our meals and never found ourselves hungry
or disappointed. I can’t say that any of the food we purchased
stunned me with prices. And those cookies… well… there’s a reason
we stop in that bakery on each visit.
while perhaps not exceptional, saying the food was a complaint
isn’t accurate at all. It simply wasn’t on the level of everything
else from a fabulous day.