Sometime in January, one of my closest friends, Hillary contacted me and said, “Hey, my friend has never been to Disney and want’s a couple big fans to give her the grand tour. Can you go at the end of February?”. I remember thinking…. Duh! Any excuse to visit the parks is a good enough reason for me but I wondered if a first timer adult would enjoy Disney or find it childish? I grew up with a love for Disney ingrained in me but I’m not oblivious to those who suggest adult Disney fans are odd loving and idolizing a place targeted at children and families. This seemed like an interesting social experiment for me as a fan and provided yet a new way to experience the parks.
Late February on a Saturday morning I drove up from Miami to meet the girls at EPCOT. When I arrived I met Maame, my friend’s classmate who had never visit Walt Disney World. I later found out she is originally from Ghana but grew up in the states. However, she was always residing a tad bit too far from Orlando and lacking young or enthusiastic family members to push for a Disney trip. At 27 years old, Maame is ready to graduate with a Masters this upcoming summer with a fantastic career ahead and yet here she stood in front of me, donning purple mickey ears, a celebrating button, first Disney trip button and the biggest smile you’d ever seen. I knew at that moment that she was ready to soak up all of the Disney magic.
Our first day was spent at EPCOT. Most of the trip I would take turns with Hillary providing Maame with fun facts around the park. (Yes… We told her EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and Walt’s initial vision) We commenced the drinking around the world while visiting each country and sharing tips and pointing out hidden mickeys which were fun for her to find. It never fails to amaze me no matter how many visits I still find myself discovering or learning of new Disney lore. Specifically standing in the middle of the Chinese pavilion before entering the 360° theater and hearing your own voice reverberate back at you if you stand just in the right spot. The night ended with FastPasses for IllimuNations which I have to say, as a repeat visitor I tend to skip it from having experienced it so many times. I quickly realized it had been years since I’d watched Illuminations from start to finish and it was fantastic. Maame quickly realized how exhausting a day at the parks could be as we called it a night and headed to the resort.
For a first timer’s trip, Maame was lucky enough to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort in one of the Pirate themed rooms. She quickly noted how immersive the property was and admired the details. The next morning we introduced her to the most magical breakfast item of all – Mickey Waffles. At breakfast, Maame announced her must do first thing at the Magic Kingdom was to meet the mouse himself. Again, as a repeat visitor, I found that slightly odd as I tend to skip characters altogether unless it’s a character I’ve never seen. We hopped in the car and drove down to the ticket center to hop on a monorail. The monorail arrived and the day at the Magic Kingdom was about to begin.
As promised, the first stop was to visit the big guy himself, Mr. Mickey Mouse. What an amazing character meet n greet! Mickey as a magician is welcoming and entertaining for audiences of all ages alike. I wore my button again and Mickey himself even sang me a happy birthday. After that experience, we proceeded walking right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A where Maame had to just stop by the grass hub and let it all sink in. She turned to us and said “You guys don’t understand how long I’ve wanted to visit. I can’t believe I’m here”. The day started out to the left of the castle towards Adventureland where we rode the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, Maame is allergic to pineapple and was unable to taste the deliciousness of a dole whip but she did get a citrus swirl. Next, we walked through Frontierland but avoided the long lines as we’d return later with our FastPasses. The path let us directly over to the Haunted Mansion were Disney’s NextGen initiative queues are at its best. No instrument was left unplayed or book pushed in by my crew. Finally we rode Haunted Mansion with zero spirit interruptions. Again, another check and hit with our first timer. (yup, we pointed out the hidden mickey plates, 13th hour, explained the ghost animatronic mirror effects, and the bride’s ring) Next on our journey was Fantasyland! Funny story, while at other rides, Maame saw other guests receive a red card on a lanyard from cast members at the line entrance. She inquired about it and we explained it was random and considered lucky if you’re chosen. She was chosen at It’s a Small World and squealed as if she had won the lottery. (little did she know at the time she would be selected two more times that day). While in line, I mentioned the boarding area is also a large clock. Coincidentally it was 12:58 PM when I said it and we were in the queue when the clock went off at 1 PM. The ride is a classic and was automatically a hit for her especially when they said goodbye at the end and flashed her name on the screen. New Fantasyland Expansion area was up next. Seeing the little mermaid ride was a dream come true for Maame as well as participating in Belle’s Tales and meeting the princess herself. I’ll never forget to bring over a Lefou’s brew for the gang to sample and having the first timer look at us and say “I get it! I see why this place means so much to you.” My heart literally fluttered for a second knowing someone understood me as well as validating what a good job we were doing as tour guides. The day continued with everything from Shake It Move It parade, Splash Mountain, Casey’s Hot Dogs, Space Mountain and more. Unfortunately, I had to drive back home for work the next day so I called it a night and I bid adieu.
Introducing an Adult to Walt Disney World was more enlightening as a long time fan than I ever expected. It provided me a fresh perspective and caused me to re-experience rides, shows and meet n greets I hadn’t stood in line for in years. Although I’ve certainly never taken for granted how close in proximity I live to the parks, this trip reminded me that the average family really needs to save up in order to fly a family to Florida, book resorts, purchase park tickets, souvenirs and food to make a Disney trip happen. This recent visit reaffirmed my love for Disney and its immersive experiences which provide a positive safe zone and once in awhile much-needed escape from reality. Sharing it made it that much more meaningful.
Alexandra Gonzalez operates the online Disney fan site If I Ran Disney World. Check out her site for even more Disney fun!
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