Emily’s Early Disney Memories…

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The iconic Cinderella Castle during one of our first visits in the ’80s.

Growing up in the ’80s, we were fortunate enough to have grandparents that lived close to Disney…roughly a 2 hour drive away. We would visit Florida multiple times a year, and always for at least 2 weeks in the summer. Sometimes our parents would take us to Disney World for 3 whole days….and those 3 days were easily the highlight of our summer. We would get up VERY early when it was still dark out (probably about 5 am) and drive what seemed like forever until we passed under those magical gates where we could leave reality behind. There was a Disney World channel that we could turn on the radio that would pump us up even more. The first site of a monorail made everything real. We were really there!

We would always stay on property and the hotels were much more affordable than they are now. We stayed at the Polynesian multiple times, the Contemporary, the Golf Resort/Disney Inn (now known as Shades of Green) and the Caribbean Beach Resort. We would always take an afternoon break and enjoy the pool at the resort, and then head back to the Magic Kingdom until midnight. We would even do this on our last day there, then drive the 2 hours back after the park closed. We would be fast asleep in the car, and to this day I still have no idea how my father was able to drive that route back without falling asleep too.

Our parents never took us to Disney until they felt we were old enough. I believe my first visit was when I was about 4. I can’t remember each trip specifically, but I remember bits and pieces of all my trips blended together. At the time there were “only” 2 parks – Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom. I remember always being bored at Epcot, all I wanted to do was be in the Magic Kingdom! As I grew a little older, Epcot bored me more because there weren’t any “thrill rides” hehe – (side note: I have a major appreciation for Epcot now, I absolutely love it).

Random things I remember about Disney in the ’80s:

  • Characters walked around freely, no cast members to assist.
  • When you entered Epcot there were TV screens you could use to talk to someone (they could see you) and you could make a dining reservation on the same day with them.
  • We would split up and never have a problem meeting up later, strange to think about now since we all have phones that we can coordinate on. I guess back then, you’d have to plan a time and place to meet and stick with it.
  • The monorail doors had to be shut manually, I thought it was so cool how the workers would walk down the platform shutting (I remember it as slamming) each door before we departed.
  • You could get chocolate Dole Whip
  • Of course, all the beloved attractions which are only memories….Horizons, the Living Seas, Communicore, the original Journey into Imagination, World of Motion, Time Keeper, If You Had Wings/Delta Dreamflight, the Tomorrowland Skyway and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (which we thankfully can still experience at Disneyland in Anaheim).

I didn’t realize it then, but now I really do understand just how fortunate I was to grow up in a family of Disney Fanatics!

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