Orlando, Part V: City of Tomorrow

“Dad, how is EPCOT different from the Magic Kingdom?”

“Well, I always think of it as the Magic Kingdom is for rides, and EPCOT is for walking and seeing what there is to see.”

“Uh, and what is there to see?”

“Characters! Characters as far as the eye can see!”

“Good, cuz there were hardly any in the Magic Kingdom”

Which was true, of course, though not too many people like to point that out ahead of time. If the Magic Kingdom is for inhaling the magic, then EPCOT is for bringing that magic to life and interacting with it. There were no fewer than 20 characters brought to life that we wanted to meet on that Wednesday when we rolled out of bed and got ourselves ready for Day 2 of our park journey. I’ll admit it was kind of sad to me that we would not be going back to the Magic Kingdom, but I was looking forward to the more expansive, more wide open EPCOT.

From the start, it was obvious it would be a different kind of trip that day. After parking in a smaller parking lot there was no need to ride the monorail as we were already there! Going through the gates was a much simpler process because there were fewer people and because we had gone through the procedure with the magic bands a couple of days before. We were veterans by that point, grabbing the wheelchair for Madeline and getting moving right away. Straight off I saw Pluto chilling, taking pictures with newly arriving guests.

It was a sign of things to come. After he put his paw over Alexa’s face, and we all laughed, we took a few pictures, he signed the girls’ autograph books (on his nose), and we took off for one of only four rides we would go on that day: Spaceship Earth. Continue reading “Orlando, Part V: City of Tomorrow”

Orlando, Part III: Magic Kingdom

When most people think of Disney, the first thing that comes to mind is the Magic Kingdom, the nighttime parade down Main Street USA, pictures in front of Cinderella’s Castle, and everything that comes along with that. So it was fitting that the next morning we were up early and on our way to the Magic Kingdom first. Swirling through my head were all the memories (both real and embellished in the intervening years) of my own trips there, the most recent being 25 years prior to our adventure.

As we drove through the expansive gates of the Disney complex it was like entering a whole new world (pardon the double entendre). I had Heidi take a few pictures as I drove a little slower to capture it all. The kids in the back with my mother were oohing and aahing over the huge likenesses of Mickey, and Goofy, and Donald painted onto the gates. I knew it was going to be an amazing day, although it had been hot as blazes when we’d left our resort, and I knew it would just get hotter as the day went on.

But we had a plan. If there’s anything you should know about Heidi, it’s that she’s the queen of planning things out. Our honeymoon was coordinated to perfection, and other trips we’ve taken have received the same treatment. Following the signs, we ended up in the parking lot marked for Simba (Alexa was upset we weren’t in the villains parking), but we were early enough that it wasn’t far from where we needed to catch the monorail. Continue reading “Orlando, Part III: Magic Kingdom”

Orlando, Part II: Settling In

It was hot. No. Seriously. Now, we knew going down to Florida in the dead of August was going to be a bit of a warm affair, but no matter how much we prepared ourselves, nothing quite compared to the real thing.

We touched down in Orlando late on Saturday night. Stepping out of that airport into the night air should have been refreshing, but the air was like a heavy thing, pressing down on us from the start. It was simply a preview of the coming week, though we were too tired at that moment to truly appreciate it.

But none of that really mattered, once we drove past the sign for the Magic Kingdom, and the other Disney theme parks. Maybe Alexa doesn’t believe in magic, but seeing that, just being there, it made all of us take in a breath. I tried not to think about how fast it would all go, because things always seem to move quickly when you’re trying to stop the world and move as slowly as possible, when you’re trying to let it all sink in.

Our resort was amazing, walking distance from Old Town, a fifteen minute drive to the Magic Kingdom. I still can’t believe we were so close to a sort of magic I hadn’t truly experienced since I was a kid and my parents sacrificed for my sister and me to be a part of that magic. Of course, though, as we pulled onto DeLorean Drive, that was the last thing on my mind. Continue reading “Orlando, Part II: Settling In”

How I Remember It

My parents left me at EPCOT Center on my birthday.

I know, it seems like a wish come true, but for a newly minted 9-year old who was afraid of his own shadow, it wasn’t quite as cool as all that. The day before we had visited the Magic Kingdom and all the fascination that came along with it. In fact, they had given me the choice of if I wanted to spend my birthday at Disney or EPCOT, and I chose EPCOT because the 26th was closer to Christmas, and I felt that Disney would be lit up better because of the proximity of the holiday (My birthday is the 27th). I was wrong. It was just as lit up on the 27th.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway, my dad told me once that I didn’t remember it correctly, that I was sitting on the bench, refusing to go on whatever ride it was with them, so they let me think they were leaving me. But I recall wandering alone, crying, hoping I would see my parents again someday (my sister too, if I’m to be honest). I was also mad at them, though, because it was my birthday, and they were supposed to treat me like the king of everything (“Who died and made you king of anything?”). It seemed inherently wrong to exclude me from any of the fun, to leave me sitting there thinking I was deserted.

My sister told me that I was in a pissy mood from the start, that I wanted everything to revolve around me, and when it all didn’t I pouted and threw a tantrum. I remember no tantrums. Continue reading “How I Remember It”

Living Next to Disney

Disney-World“People who live next to Disney hardly ever go there.”

I lived the first twenty-one years of my life in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, the birthplace of the U.S. Constitution, and the home of the famed Liberty Bell. And after I ventured out into the world and met more people from other places, I finally realized just how interesting the place of my birth was. The history packed into the place could fill several books, and yet it was something I took for granted being able to walk into Independence Hall anytime I wanted, or passing by Betsy Ross’s house on my way to South Street on Thursday evenings in July. Moving away, though, gave me a perspective I never would have had otherwise.

When I won a trip for a week at Disney World, to stay on the park property, I was ecstatic. I was going to the most magical place on earth, to spend a week with several other groups of kids from all over the U.S., and it was going to be amazing. Among the group of kids who all congregated there for the week were teenagers from California, from Texas, and from Atlanta. There was also a group from Orlando, and I was so excited to meet them. I mean, they lived right down the block from a place I would kill to live near, and I wanted to know how amazing that was for them. But when I asked the question, one of the girls laughed at me and said, “People who live next to Disney hardly ever go there.” She explained that it didn’t mean the park wasn’t amazing. What it meant was that you can get used to anything. You can take anything for granted. Continue reading “Living Next to Disney”

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