I have been going to Walt Disney World since I was two years old, going to the parks approximately every two years, sometimes more often than that. As a result, I've been to the resort 17 or 18 times. My wife has been to the parks five times since 2001, the last three trips with me since we've been married.
But the summer of 2015 was a very special trip for us, if not me especially: the first time we took our kids to the park.
As I explained in my last blog post (if you haven't read it yet, read my personal story here), my wife and I fostered our kids for a little over a year before finally adopting them this past May. However, we knew that the adoption would be going through once the birth parents' rights had been terminated during the summer of 2015. To celebrate our imminent establishment of officially being a family, we decided to take a trip to Walt Disney World, our first (and only at this point) as a family, as well as the first visit for any of our kids.
We didn't quite know how it was going to go. One of our boys is a very nervous kid. He doesn't like loud noises, frightening situations, or the dark (which can be a problem at Walt Disney World because many of the attractions feature loud noises, frightening situations, and the dark). Our daughter was also fifteen at the time (almost sixteen), and I wasn't sure if she would even be at all interested or enjoy the parks which can sometimes be seen as "kiddy" or "childish" for teenagers who sometimes see themselves as "too cool" for Disney magic. Our daughter had a touch of childlike faith in her, but at the point we traveled to the parks, she'd only been living with us for six months, so we still didn't know how she would respond to the theme parks and attractions.
|How silly of me to think that...|
The trip from North Carolina to Orlando by car takes about eleven hours. Somehow, I'd convinced my wife to leave the night before check-in and stay just over the Florida border in a hotel, leaving only a few hours' drive to property. Since we wouldn't be going into the parks on our "first day," it would give us an extra day to explore property, such as our resort and Disney Springs.
Because we couldn't check into our resort (Port Orleans: Riverside) until after lunch, and we had arrived on property mid-morning, we decided to drive over to Disney's Art of Animation Resort. As a big fan of Disney's Pop Century Resort, and because the Art of Animation Resort was fairly new (at that point), I had wanted to go check the new resort out. It was also a somewhat chill introduction to Disney World for the kids, who had never visited before. We explained to our daughter where we were going and why, but as four-year-olds, the boys didn't really have any concept of what we were going to see.
We pulled into the parking lot, and I explained to the security guard that we were just visiting to "check out the resort." He waved us on, and we pulled into the parking lot near the lobby. We unloaded from the van, having driven several hours from our motel, like clowns from a car. Picking out our wedgies and walking like cowboys, we waddled into the air conditioned rainbow lobby, making our first stop to...the restrooms.
After everyone finished their bidness, we wandered outside into the Big Blue Pool area. My wife immediately lit up, as one of her favorite Disney films is Finding Nemo. The boys climbed around the larger-than-life coral and anemone that served as the home for Marlin and Nemo. After a few minutes of their expending energy, we took them by the hands and began to wander down Route 66. They noticed pictures of Lightning McQueen and Mater on signs along the pathway.
However, as soon as they saw the life-size statues of the Sheriff and Doc Hudson, their energy spiked. They began to run down Route 66, until they spotted the statue of Mater in front of his junkyard sign. They immediately began climbing all over him, stepping on his wheels, peering into his mouth.
At this point, I lost it. This, I realized, is what made Walt Disney World so special, at least for me. My boys knew that Disney-Pixar's Cars franchise was a cartoon fiction. They knew the movies weren't real. They knew that these car-shaped figures were just statues. But it was the idea that they had been immersed in a universe that they loved, that these characters they watched and the toys that they played with were their size. They loved that they could pose next to Guido and Luigi (some pretty obscure characters from the film that, for some reason, my boys loved), that they could wander around the Cozy Cone Motel.
I was a wreck. I hung back the rest of the family as they wandered around, my boys posing next to Guido and Luigi (ironically wearing blue and yellow shirts), my daughter posing (appropriately) on the hood of Sally. I took a second, sniffed up my runny nose, and dried my eyes, composing myself after two minutes. I wandered up next to my wife, who had just finished taking pictures, who squeezed my hand, knowing full well what I was going through.
I later explained it to her more in detail: that this place that meant so much to me growing up, where some of my happiest and fondest memories lived as a child, was now being shared with my new family, where together, we can make wonderful memories of our own.
It wasn't Cinderella Castle that the magic lived in. Rather, the magic lived in this moment.
Read more about our family's first trip to Walt Disney World, by learning what it was like to experience Port Orleans: Riverside with a teenage daughter!
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Traveling to Disney with Toddlers Loop:
- 1st Stop - Love Our Crazy Life | 5 Reasons Not To Go To Disney With Toddlers
- 2nd Stop - Trips with Tykes | Tips for Disney Cruise Line with Toddlers & Preschoolers
- 3rd Stop - Saving Up for Disney | Walt Disney World Guide for Toddlers at Magic Kingdom
- 4th Stop - Distalgic | Our Kids' First Trip: Arriving on Property
- 5th Stop - Disney Mamas | 3 Tips for Handling Your Toddlers Schedule Disruptions at Disney Parks