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My Own Disney Park History . . .

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My history with Disney parks may not be as vast as some, but it's my special history and I decided I needed to share my take on the two parks I've been to.

Everyone who has anything to do with a Disney message board or travel site, it seems, has an opinion about Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World. I decided that it was time to include my two cents. And just before you go huffing off thinking that one like one park over the other . . . I don't. I love them BOTH!!! I just love them for completely different reasons.

I grew up and still reside near Seattle, WA. My mom is from the South. My Dad is from Maine. My husband is from California. So, we pretty much have all four corners covered in our family. When I was just about to turn 16, my mother decided it was time to take us down to visit her family and darn it, she wanted to go to Walt Disney World too. We had never taken a big vacation like that. My dad is kinda cheap (or, was when I was a kid). I certainly had no qualms about the plan. I was a huge Disney fan and had begged to go to Disneyland for years. But you know, Walt Disney World was fine too!

My first impression of Walt Disney World: HOT! Flippin' hot and sticky! We went in July. Come on, Mom! She grew up there. Didn't she know better? Well, she sorta forgot about all that hot and sticky. But, no matter - we were at this magical place and we were staying in the nicest hotel I'd ever been to - the Buena Vista Hotel. That night we walked over to what would eventually become Pleasure Island then NOT Pleasure Island. I can't remember if we ate at any particular restraunt, but I do remember Elton John's "Sacrafice" was piped in. There was music wherever we went and NO BUGS! The rest of the South seems to be teaming with insects, but not Walt Disney World . . . what's up with that?

The parks were awesome. We took the shuttles to the various parks, spending two days at Epcot, one at Magic Kingdom and one at, what was then, MGM Studios. I adored Epcot. I STILL adore Epcot. My list of parks is as such: Epcot, Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, California Adventure then Hollywood Studios. Maybe someday I'll add the international parks in there somewhere.

Anyway! Epcot was amazing. It was HUGE! I'd never been to a Disney park and this was my introduction. At first, of course, I complained that we weren't going to the Magic Kingdom first. I wanted to see Mickey. But Epcot became my favorite, very quickly. I remember the talking robot that interacted with my dad. My Dad. He was SOOOO happy at Walt Disney World. He actually started spending money - oh my gosh! He laughed. He didn't grump about the lines and the crowds. I think that's why Walt Disney World is special to me - it made my Dad happy! Epcot had the World Showcase and I loved the idea of traveling, I had a friend in Norway and I was taking French at the time. It was all there for me to enjoy! The audio-animitronic figures at Horizons were so cool (to me, anyway) and I loved sitting in those slow moving cars in the lovely air-conditioned ride. And WOW! Hanging gourds and veggies? How cool is that! A real taste of the future, I tell ya! Must be why they called it Future World! Hee hee!

Cinderella's Castle was stunning, however at the time, you couldn't go in. WHAT? I thought you could. I'd always seen pictures. Later in life, I found out that I had been seeing Sleeping Beauty's Castle all that time. OH!!! The rides were fun and I loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Still do - my favorite (ONLY! favorite) rollercoster. Otherwise, I hate rollercosters. I did the Haunted Mansion with my dad while my mom took my brother to other rides. That was very special to us and he loved making me jump by grabbing my arm in the dark. He loved the hitchhiking ghost sitting next to us. He was just down right amazed at that!

The whole trip was fun, but very hot and I was under the eye of my parents the whole time. I never did get to meet Mickey. My mom thought we were too old to take up his time away from the little ones. Oh how things change! I didn't get to buy a stuffed Mickey either. I was bummed. I did, however, get my first Mickey watch. But I never forgave my parents for not getting to meet Mickey. Mom did suprise us with a character breakfast at the boat that is now a seafood restaurant at Downtown Disney. I met Pluto. I was satisfied.

Jump ahead about 10 years. 2001. I was married and going to catch up with my husband after he had gone down to California for a conference. At last! Disneyland. We got to take my husbands very-much-younger step-sister with us and since she has type 1 Diabeties, she got a special pass that let us skip the lines. They don't give this out as freely any more, but she had a pump that couldn't get wet back then, so they let us have one. The "GOLDEN" pass.

We entered Disneyland and I stood there in shock. Where was the castle? My husband pointed, "It's right there!" He'd never been to Walt Disney World, so he didn't understand. This thing was puny!!!! I was severely dissapointed. "That's IT?" Ugh. I was such a Walt Disney World SNOB at that point in my life. Nothing would compare. OH how that would change!

First thing I bought: a big stuffed Sorcerer Mickey. Take that, Mom and Dad! HA! Then we went over and had a picture taken with Mickey at his house. Again, neener, neener! The magic was quickly starting to set in and as we watched the fireworks over that small, but very special castle. I cried. It just hit me and I cried. It was that moment that I became obsessed. I was bitten by that Disney bug and nothing would ever be the same. Sure, I had always loved Disney, but I hadn't UNDERSTOOD the magic. Not even at that first trip to Walt Disney World.

The rest of our trip to Disneyland and the newly opened, California Adventure, was great. I traded pins with two Japanese girls while waiting for the Electic Light Parade at DCA. I love that pin. It's from the the Tokyo Disney version of the same parade and it was then that I became an official pin trader. Yet a whole other mischievious Disney bug! At the time, DCA was kinda, well . . . meh. Not much too it and we were happy to have our little sister's special pass so we didn't have to wait in line for anything.

2006. It is now still in the era of the Golden 50 years of Disneyland. This time, we got to visit with our two year old son and for a very special event - a parade at Disneyland in which we were to be a part with some antique cars. OH WOW! Going with your own child for the first time is even more magical than you can imagine. Sure, by then I'd been bitten, but preparing for that specific trip led me to Mouseplanet. As a relitively new mom, I had to do everything just so. I needed to be prepared for anything. The Disney obsession GREW!! By this time in my life, I had also become a travel agent and graduated from the Disney College of Knowledge. I was official! My obsession was warented for professional reason. (At least, that's what I tell myself.)

My biggest worry was whether or not my son would respond well to the characters. Being the good little Disney boy that he is, he did! He loved them. Goofy was his first and then Chip and Dale. He loved Donald from the cartoons (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse had just started that year) and wanted to meet him. No Donald. Come to think of it, I hadn't seen Donald at Disneyland the time before either. Curious. We visited Mickey at his house and got, what would become, a traditional photo of the family.

Our son napped in his stroller. We took things easy. We saw both parks in one day because we didn't go on many rides. I think Pooh was the biggest thing we did, or maybe It's a Small World, maybe Dumbo. No Pirates, no Tiki Room, even. Mild. At DCA, he loved the King Triton's Carousel with some help from Mommy. We saw the Pixar Parade, back when it was really grooving. We did the Electric Light Parade too, but he was so sleepy at that point that teeny grumpies were starting to appear. Of course, when we got back to Paradise Pier, he was ready to stay up and play with his new Mr. Potato Head parts.

We went to the character breakfast at PPH with Stitch and Lilo. He LOVED Stitch back then and this was a hit! The parade we were in was special, but our son slept though the entire thing as I pulled him in his little wagon. All dressed in his knickers and cap - he got lots of oh's and awes. We dont' have any photos of that event. We weren't allowed cameras back stage and I didn't know anyone on the parade route to take any of us. One regret in life is my honesty with all things Disney and camera. I never fudge on those two issues and this came back to bite me - not in a good way!

2007 and we were back at Disneyland yet again. WOW! Two years in a row. We were vistiting my husband's family and of course, I had to go. Our son was a little older and taller and able to do more at the parks. Soarin' was a big deal. Still no costers, but we'll work into that. He actually remembers SOME of that trip. Two days. Two parks. Fun and things were starting to become old had - comfortably familiar. No rush to get it all in. No doubt we'd be back. With family in CA, we'd be there again. Again, however - no Donald. Curiouser and curiouser!

2008. My mother-in-law (who lives up here) decided it was time for a big family trip and she had airline miles enough to get us ALL to Florida. Who's up for Walt Disney World? My husband, at this point, was a bit Disney'd out. I had explained to him many times how different WDW is to Disneyland, but he just nodded and passed me off as "that crazy Disney lady". Little did he know! We talked him into the idea by suggesting we do Kennedy Space Center too . . . SOLD!

OH the planning. Even as a Disney planner, this was a lot of work. I made up a whole itinerary book for each family member and planned out our days to the half hour - which, for the most part, worked. When we got to Walt Disney World this time, I had a whole new take on the place. It wasn't hot. It was November. It was very pleasant. There was a whole new park to visit - Animal Kingdom. MGM was now Hollywood Studios. Of course, Epcot was my place. I had glimpses of memories from that trip when I was 16, but it was "a Whole New World" with a kid and a different family - with a Disney crazy father-in-law to help defend my obsession.

The days were commando! SO much to do. SO much to see and having flown all the way across country and not knowing when we would get there again, we were a little bit more pressed to do and see it all. My husband was flabbergasted (is that how you spell that?). Yes indeed. WDW is MUCH bigger than Disneyland. It's set up differenly. You can't "HOP" from park to park. You must take a shuttle or a monorail. The vastness of Walt Disney World was a bit overwhelming to him. My in-laws had been once before so they weren't as in shock. My son LOVED it all, of course. That "got to do it all" feeling wasn't as heavy with him. BUT!!! For him, the biggest difference was DONALD! That elusive duck had seemed to migrate to Florida and stay there. Never at Disneyland, but SIX times - count it, SIX! times at Walt Disney World! Mexican Donald, Christmas Tree Lot Donald, Chef Donald, Safari Donald, Regular old Donald at Epcot Character Spot and Movie Director Donald.

Walt Disney World was very different that time around. 1990 to 2008, lots had changed within the parks. I now had seen Disnyland and all the different magic there. I had a little boy and a husband. The magic was changing. Getting better. I was needing the magic more and more.

Here it is 2011. I haven't been to a park in a while. I did get to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum (see my previous blog about that) and felt a whole other sort of magic while there. A pure WALT magic. Disneyland has that same sort of feeling, but in a more kid-oriented way. Walt Disney World just sweeps you away and you forget about the outside world because you don't SEE the outside world while you are there.

This coming November, I get to go back to Disneyland. This time, just with my son. He's seven now. I find myself imagining what kind of new magic this trip will bring. He totally remembers Walt Disney World, so I know he'll remember this trip for a long time. He'll be able to do more rides -all the rides, if he wants now that he's tall enough, but I'm sure he'll still shy away from Space Mountain. I might be able to talk him into Big Thunder Mountain. We'll ride Dumbo, as we always do together and who knows! Maybe this time we'll see Donald and Disneyland!

So, in my humble opinion, there is no better park. They are each VERY special to me. I want to go to both of them for completely different reasons, but they both have a magical quality. Disneyland has a magical history and it's where I was bitten by the Disney bug. Walt Disney World provided happiness for my family when things were sad and when you are there, you are swept away . . . and it has Epcot. LOVE Epcot!!

Someday I'll visit the other parks. I'll have an opinion about them too, but for now, I'm happy with my TWO Happy Places. Mickey, Walt . . . thanks for the memories! I'll be back!

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  1. UsBurchs's Avatar
    Sorry about the spelling and typos - things were weird when I tried to post and my older version posted instead. Oh well. Try to forgive me, I beg of you . . .