It’s wonderful returning to Disney Parks Blog. For years, I covered (and sometimes unboxed) must-have souvenirs from Disney parks. Since June 2019, I’ve been supporting the Walt Disney World External Affairs team, which helps make a world of difference in the Central Florida community.
With “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” beginning Oct. 1, I recently dug into my treasure chest of photos and stories from personal visits and my 23-year Disney career at the best place to work. To kick off this series, I’m remembering my first visit to Florida – 38 years ago this month.
There is something extra magical about the first time you visit Walt Disney World – the anticipation and excitement is palpable. Seven-year-old me couldn’t wait to go, especially after spending hours poring through a book of concept artwork from EPCOT.
In mid-July 1983, my parents, sister and I boarded a plane in Columbus, Ohio, and embarked on a family vacation that would change my life. My parents maximized every moment at Disney; we stayed in Magic Kingdom Park and EPCOT from sunrise to sunset for four days.
During the trip, my sister and I met Disney characters. I remember my father frantically taking photographs as characters gathered outside the entrance to Main Street, U.S.A., and in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom. They were larger than life, much larger than what I had seen on television or at the movies.
The attractions left a lasting impression on me. I had favorites such as Tom Sawyer Island, Jungle Cruise and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain scared me, which is funny now as I adore both attractions today.
At EPCOT, Journey into Imagination was the best and Figment was my favorite. The scent from the dinosaur scene at Universe of Energy still lingers in my memory. My parents bought me a small toy soldier from the United Kingdom pavilion, a beloved spot in World Showcase.
I took only a handful of photos, such as Spaceship Earth or Disney’s Contemporary Resort, using a small, disc-film camera. I wish I would have taken more – but I was only a kid, after all!
After returning home, my mother helped my sister and me make books about our trip. The rainbow drawn on the Journey into Imagination pavilion was inspired by that concept artwork book I studied before my trip. After our visit, I knew I wanted to work for Disney … which would happen 14 years later.
I’d love to hear about your first visit to Walt Disney World Resort. Please share your favorite memories in the comments below. If you post a photo on social media from your first trip, be sure to use #DisneyWorld50. And I hope you keep checking back here on the Disney Parks Blog for more of my memories as we look forward to the big day on Oct. 1 and the 18-month celebration to follow!