It was our family's first trip to Walt Disney World. I'd visited fifteen or sixteen times over the course of my twenty-six years, while my wife had been to the parks two or three times. However, it was our kids' first trip. We weren't quite sure how it was going to go, as we had two five year old boys and a fifteen year old daughter. Would we spend more time at the resort resting with our boys than in the parks? Would our daughter be "too cool" for princesses and characters?
Because we'd arrived early on property, and our room was not yet ready, we made a side-trip to Disney's Wilderness Lodge to meet up with my uncle, cousin, his wife, and baby for lunch, all of whom (except the baby of course) were cast members at Disney Springs.
After lunch, we loaded back into the minivan and made the drive over to our home for the next few days, Disney's Port Orleans: Riverside resort. We checked into the resort, receiving our welcome packet at the check-in desk in the lobby meant to resemble a waiting room for passengers preparing to sail down the Sassagoula River on a steamboat. Our room was located in the Alligator Bayou portion of the resort, so we got back into our car and drove down the road that loops around the resort and pulled into the parking lot that corresponded with our building. We unloaded all the luggage from the van and carried our bags up the steps to the second level of the building.
We finally found our room and I touched my MagicBand to the lock of the room. The green light flickered and a click was heard inside the door. I pushed the handle and our door opened to reveal a beautiful room inside. As a family of five, our options were limited within our budget for accommodations. We booked the room at Riverside because it features rooms with two queen sized beds and a bench that converts into a pull-down bed. Our daughter decided to take the pull-down bed, only to find later that her 5'3" frame was too long for the bed, as her feet hung off the edge!
The boys were tired after an already busy day, so my wife and I decided they needed time to rest. Not wanting to limit this first experience for her, I decided to take my daughter for a walk around the resort to explore. We grabbed our refillable drink mugs (which still had handles, mind you!) that we had purchased as part of our dining plan, and headed up to the Riverside Mill Food Court. We filled our mugs with soda and wandered through the resort. We headed up to Fulton's General Store, where she tried on a set of princess Minnie Mouse ears, begging me to snap a picture of her posing. We wandered outside as I snapped pictures of various details on my camera for a future volume of "A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World." As we arrived near the boat dock along the Sassagoula River, we came face to face with Dr. Facilier, the villain from The Princess and the Frog. I encouraged my daughter to get her picture taken with him, and because there were very few other guests around, he spent about five minutes interacting with her, which was awesome. I don't know the cast member that was "friends" with the Shadowman, but I commend his staying in character and having fun with a teenager that I figured would be skeptical.
After filling our drink mugs again, dehydrated from the Florida heat, we followed the dock around the corner to find the giant waterwheel emerging from the Riverside Mill Food Court. She posed alongside the slowly-turning waterwheel, and I snapped another picture of her: this picture was special for me, as I had a photo of myself standing alongside the water wheel when I'd visited the then named Dixie Landings Resort back in the 1990s.
We stopped by the pool on Ol' Man Island, when all of a sudden the sky opened up and water began pouring from above. We scrambled beneath the porch of Muddy Rivers Pool Bar and sat at a table, waiting for the deluge to cease. I marveled at the numerous details scattered throughout the bar, such as the fishing gear, boating parts, and alcohol stills. The rain finally stopped, and we made our way through the muggy woods, across a bridge over the Sassagoula River, and back to our room. We let ourselves into the darkened hotel room where the boys were trying to sleep, and together, my wife, daughter, and I sat on one of the beds, planning out our evening at Disney Springs.
Only a month after meeting our daughter for the first time, this first hour of our trip, spent alone together wandering Port Orleans: Riverside together, was very special for me. I was able to share something that was incredibly special to me, especially during my teenage years, with my new daughter, a teenager. I will remember that hour for the rest of my life.