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!
For the WDW Grand Opening day parade, High School Musicians from marching bands were selected after submission of audition tapes on cassettes. I was fortunate to be selected from DeLand playing a Baritone horn. Even more outstanding was that Meredith Wilson (76 trombones) was the conductor. Now even for a “cool kid” in High School, that was cool. It was a load of fun, we even got shuffled around through the underground system to make appearances. Would like to know where the WDW archives are to locate some of these band pictures, the only one I had seen was published in LIFE magazine at the time.
So, I have had all my WDW pics scanned for awhile now and use them all the time on FaceBook for all sorts of things so this is super easy!! First trip to the park was in June 1972. My mom took me and I was able to go at least once most summers after because my aunt and uncle lived in Kissimmee! I was told that I visited the Preview Center in the summer of 1971 but I have no pictures so I have no proof. SAD! But I have pictures from every year once I started going on my own in May 1983. Disney is one of my greatest loves and WDW is the place where I am home! I have some amazing memories but they are too long for this comment thread. But I will definitely start hashtagging all the pics!!
Nice to see you back- maybe you could “unbox” some more memories!
P..S. I never got on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and a couple of years later it was closed, so the closest I get to it is drinking out of my Disney 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea mug…🤣…seriously!
My 1st visit WAS to be in the late 1970’s but my Dad, adorable and generous as he was, was not a great planner and was floored when our travel agent told him the bookings were a year ahead…so fortunately my sweet husband that I married in mid 1980’s was also a HUGE Disney fan and we went in 1985. I remember dressing up wearing a red dress that had black polka dots on it and my Mickey Ears and as we entered the WED Way People Mover people shouted out Hey Minnie! (not even realizing they were shouting out to me initially)
We fell in love with that vacation and once our son was born we’ve been regularly choosing to vacation at WDW every year! It is an annual trek that we managed to get to even last September and yes, it was well worth the quarantining in my home state when we returned.
I still wish the “apartments” above on Main Street were for real and I would choose to live there!
Many more fun-filled acations to be had at WDW!!!!! <3WDW 4ever!
‘Bout dang time they brought you back to the DPB. Looking forward to your future posts and photos that always stir up great memories of my visits to WDW as you share your own travels and experiences.
My first visit was August of 1973. I remember taking the Monorail for the first time. A family pic by the castle. Then I walked through the Castle and saw Dumbo! It was my first attraction I ever road (The Monorail is only considered an attraction at Disneyland). Looking forward to being in the park on October 1 for the 50th Anniversary!!