47 Years: 47 Moments & Memories

This month marks the 47th anniversary of Walt Disney World; one of my FAVORITE places on earth.  A good friend of mine, Ken Pilcher, news producer at Channel 6 in Orlando, was tasked with writing several articles about the park and the 10 ten best things about the world (https://www.clickorlando.com/theme-parks/10-best-things-to-happen-to-walt-disney-world-since-oct-1st-1971), the Magic Kingdom (https://www.clickorlando.com/theme-parks/10-best-things-to-happen-to-the-magic-kingdom-since-oct-1-1971) , Epcot (https://www.clickorlando.com/news/10-best-things-to-happen-to-epcot-since-oct-1st-1982) and the future of WDW(https://www.clickorlando.com/news/10-top-things-to-look-forward-to-by-oct-1st-2021).  Ken is definitely more of an expert on the subject than I am (after all he lives and breathes in the area) and I found his articles to be extremely well written (jealousy creeps in here) and thought provoking.  So thought provoking, that I felt that I had to write something of my own.

My own history with WDW dates to 1981 with a band trip to Orlando. (Now THAT would be blog post!  If only my memory stood the test of time!)  That trip included a couple of hours in the Magic Kingdom.  Then there was another brief foray to Florida with my family in June 1982 (pre-Epcot) in which I was the park expert (having been the year previous).  I wouldn't travel back until 1996 on my honeymoon and since then have visited in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016.  (Seems like I am due for another trip...if only the wallet would agree).

With all that said, I give you MY 47 Moments & Memories from WDW:
1.     Spring 1981:  Space Mountain.  This was the first roller coaster I EVER rode!  Petrified, but I did it.  (I had to be reassured several times that it DIDN'T go upside down.  I DON'T do upside down...until I was brave enough to ride Rock N Roller Coaster years later...with my eyes closed for the most part!)
2.     Spring 1982:  Haunted Mansion & Pirates of the Caribbean:  As the "expert" (ok, I'd been once for a couple of hours the year before) I introduced my mother and brother to these classic rides.  (Unfortunately we were also introduced to loud and rude tour groups that has been indelibly cemented in my mother's brain and a reason she would never go back.)
3.     September 1996:  Walking into the Contemporary for the first time.  It was my husband's favorite hotel so we stayed there (in the garden wing that has since been replaced with Bay Lake Towers).  We were given a first floor room with a view of Bay Lake.  I still think it's a better view than the Magic Kingdom. (Although a tower view of Bay Lake is even better! )
4.     September 1996:  The pink "cake" castle.  Hated it...enough said. (And the fact that it still "stood" when we returned in 1997...ugh!)
5.     September 1996:  Horizons...my first Epcot attraction experience.  It was amazing.  The music, the audio animatronics, the Omnimax Theater, selecting your final destination. I still miss it! (Sorry Mission: Space!)
6.     September 1996:  Universe of Energy:  It just happened to reopen (it had just been revamped with Ellen DeGeneres) while we were there.  There are so many "lines" from this that will forever be stuck in my brain.  "Mammals are getting hairier." "Stupid Judy!"(She must have been the one who came up with the idea for the total make over instead of a refurb.  I will miss those dinosaurs!)
7.     September 1996:  Rose & Crown For dinner:  Our first meal at WDW.  The waitress gave us a coin in a cork for good luck.  (Has anyone else ever heard of that?)  Wish I knew then that you could stay and watch Illuminations from this location.  Live & learn!
8.     September 1996:  Superstar Television:  I was selected to participate and became Ethel Mertz in the famous candy factory scene from "I Love Lucy."  I had a blast!
9.     September 1996:  Alien Encounter:  Loved the theatrics of it, but was petrified going in as on the hotel television it showed the alien spitting at you and I was terrified that I would get goo on my face.  (It never happened...just like you don't stand on the elevator in the Tower of Terror.  So much for truth in advertising!)  I loved the pre-show (poor Skippy; understand that he has recently been gutted and used for parts!  NO!) and all the special effects that went into it.  
10. September 1996:  Hot Tubs & Fireworks:  There was a fireworks convention at WDW that year.  Hubby and I were in the Contemporary's hot tub one night and all of a sudden fireworks started going on...talk about magical!
11. September 1997:  Behind the Scenes Tour at World Showcase:  We've taken several tours over the year (Behind the Magic in Magic Kingdom and the Undiscovered Futureworld in Epcot), but this was the first and the best.  Our tour guide (I have long forgotten her name) was very well informed (which I can't say for our Undiscovered Futureworld guide) and fun to be around.  It was a long day, but a very special one. I have a special affinity for Epcot and this only added to it. We also did Behind the Magic during this trip and I would NOT recommend doing 2 tours during one trip.  (Unless perhaps it is a very long trip/vacation).
12. September 1997:  Meeting Dan & Dan, Reedy Creek paramedics!  Not all fun and games on this trip as I ended up NOT taking good care of myself and having an allergic incident.  (I've since learned my lesson to be very specific about my allergies and cross contamination issues.)  This was also the last time we dined at the Concourse Steakhouse.  (And I still owe my college buddy Maryann an apology for running off during dinner and not coming back, but...)
13. October 1999:  Make your own CD kiosks:  My husband developed a love/obsession with attraction music and background music.  These kiosks fueled that.  The search was also on for area music from resorts and other locations (like World Showcase).  I believe we came home with at least 50 cds and an extra suitcase.  But this obsession lead to some wonderful friendships, so...
14. October 1999:  Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party:  We didn't dress up, but we did have a blast.  Loved the headless horseman that led off the parade.  And thus started MY obsession to attend other seasonal events.  (And do I need to mention the characters that were dressed in holiday gear and all the candy!)
15. October 1999:  Test Track:  I never did get to see (or appreciate) the World of Motion, but I quickly fell in love with Test Track.  (I am partial to the original incarnation, as opposed to the update that went into effect in 2012.)  Loved the pre-show briefing room.  (7?) And speeding around that track! Woo hoo!  Hubby says it's just like driving with me on Route 280!
16. October 1999:  Tapestry of Nations (which eventually evolved into Tapestry of Dreams in 2001 before concluding in 2002).  The music, the giant puppets, the drumming!  It was a spectacle around the World Showcase that was breathtaking.  Bring it back!  Bring it back!
17. October 1999:  Kali River Rapids:  I've only done this once.  I really liked it, but two words:  wet underwear!
18. September 2000:  Kona Cafe:  Recommended to us by none other than Ken Pilcher it has become a favorite.  (And for a long time was an undiscovered gem.)  We were staying at the Poly at the time and Ken joined us for dinner.  He and my husband had formed an on line friendship (see item #13). This was our first time meeting in person and I'm so glad we did!  A great meal and a great friendship was born that night!  This was only to be topped off by meeting another friend (we'd also met on line on a Disney fan site), Janet and viewing the Electrical Water Pageant (a hidden gem in my book) from the Poly docks.  Disney vacations are great; sharing your vacation with friends like Ken and Janet: pretty darned close to perfect.
19. September 2000:  Le Cellier:  Sure it's overpriced and overblown now, but back then it was a hidden gem.  Delicious food and a cool spot during a hot day.  Walk by the lush Canadian gardens and past the waterfall before entering.  Just thinking of the steaks make my mouth water.
20. December 2000:  Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party:  You've seen the holiday parade on ABC Christmas morning; see it live during the party. (Hint: it's better!) Enjoy hot chocolate and cookies.  See the Country Bears Christmas show (actually you don't have to see it during the party; it was around during the "season."  See the "original" and this one...they are a corny treat!)  I even got to "meet" Liverlips in person!  (And he was wearing a holiday scarf!)
21. December 2000: Candlelight Processional:  This brings you to the real meaning of Christmas.  The story is told by a celebrity host (I've seen Ben Vereen and Rita Moreno; both were amazingly good narrators!) and sung by a choir of Disney cast members.  An incredibly moving experience.  Additionally, in the World Showcase each country has its own "take" on holidays.  (I'm not just talking Christmas; although that IS the main one.)  Personally, one of my favorites were the Three Kings in Mexico and Papa Noel in France.
22. May 2001:  Animal Kingdom Lodge:  We stayed at this beautiful resort before its official opening.  It was incredible.  You could stay there and never leave.  From our balcony we could see the ankole cattle and giraffe.  From other spots in the hotel you could watch zebras.  Why would you want to leave?  Plus the design of the resort; you really feel like you are in Africa!  Seriously, I had problems believing I was in Florida!
23. May 2001:  Animal Kingdom; Seeing DeVine for the first time.  The performer blends into the foliage and simply walks around (on stilts).  My description does not do it justice, but she is perfect for Animal Kingdom, which is a much slower, laid back park.  (Which is probably why I don't enjoy it as much as I would like.  I can't control myself; I’m a type A personality and always want to go, go go!)
24. September 2001:  Wilderness Lodge Flag Family on 9/11.  I've written about this before, so I won't go into it here.  I honestly don't remember much of this trip because of everything that happened and the LONG horrible train ride home the following Sunday.  (We were supposed to fly home on Friday).  I do remember a really great breakfast at the Whispering Canyon Cafe that morning...before we found out what was going on in the world. (I also remember friends Ken and Janet calling us, making sure that we were ok and seeing if they could do anything for us/help us.  Out of all our friends, they were the only ones to do so and that kindness can never be forgotten.)
25. December 2003:  Sci Fi Dine In:  The best burger I've ever had.  Yes, it was overpriced, but this was our first experience at this restaurant and I LOVED every second of it. Those wonderful trailers.  Eating in a "car."  Waitresses on roller skates.  The "twinkling" stars above. Like the 50s Prime Time it is an immersive experience that is like no other. (It didn't hurt that same morning we also met Kermit the Frog for the first time ever in the park.)
26. July 2004:  The wildest ride in the wilderness is even more fun when shared by friends. (Especially one who hoots and hollers during the ride.)  Top that off with a soggy ride on Splash Mountain that ends at 2 in the morning and you have summer in the Magic Kingdom.
27. July 4:  A day in Epcot with friends.  Lunch at Le Cellier and dinner at Akershus (before it was run over with Princesses); maybe that's not patriotic, but it sure was delicious!  A special Illuminations to celebrate the birthday of our country.  Riding Spaceship Earth in the morning and seeing photos projected onto it at the end of the night. A LONG day, but full of fun because it's Epcot and FRIENDS.
28. October 2004:  Getting "lost" in the World of Disney (which has happened to me more than once) and getting back to the room (at the Caribbean Beach Resort) late and missing most of Lost.
29. September 2008:  First trip with our son (who was sick as a dog the day before).  He threw up as the plane landed.  Smart mom had a change of clothes.  Threw up twice more on the bus from the airport to the Contemporary resort.  (And all over my husband.) I wasn't THAT smart of a mom.  When we FINALLY arrived (it was the LAST resort drop off), hubby and son went DIRECTLY to the gift shop for new shirts (ugh!) and I got the carry ons off the bus and checked in.  The gift shop staff on the concourse level of the Contemporary were phenomenal with my guys.  But then there was the look on my husband's face when he realized that we were going to the 12th floor (club level) and how my son ran to get cookies from the lounge.  What an introduction to WDW for my son!
30. September 2008 (and 2009 too):  Evening ritual of watching the Electrical Water Pageant from the balcony in our room.  (We could actually see most of it from the bed!)  
31. Sept 2008:  Being so shy (scared) around characters, but LOVING the Yellow Power Ranger.  (And he never even watched the show).
32. Sept 2008:  Chef Amber Kent at the Rose & Crown (now at Trattoria al Forno) getting me a special egg free cake to celebrate our anniversary!  And my son diving into it without reservation.  (A cake that was shared with good friend Ken too!)  And doing the EXACT same thing with the special sundae made for me by Chef Ken Brown at the Plaza restaurant.  (I didn't even realize what was going on until I saw the photos!)Special meals and special memories. 
33. September 2009:  Spending time with Grandma  & Grandpa at Disney parks.
34. September 2009: Epcot: Walking out of Captain E-O because it was too scary. My son riding Test Track for the first time.  Meeting the Princesses at Akershus (and more importantly meeting the incredible Chef John, who made me an incredible meal and kept me safe.  John you are so missed!  Gone too soon doesn't even begin to describe the emotions I feel when I think of you.)  "Discovering" the kid friendly pop up fountains and running through them.  (I remembered a change of clothes, but NOT a change of undies...ugh!)
35. September 2009:  Not at Disney, but after the flight home, being invited into the cockpit by the pilot.  My son got to sit in the pilot seat and check everything out.  I had to yell for my husband to get back on the plane and take photos!
36. December 2010:  Upgrade to the 14th floor at the Contemporary! (Where the balconies are really large...but I really would have liked a Bay Lake view instead of the MK view.  And some of the people who stayed there WERE really obnoxious and self-serving!).  But I loved the staff (I always do), especially when Paul let me take the remains of the Grand Marnier to my room so I could have it when I got back from the park.  (Since it would be after the staff had left for the night.)
37. December 2010:  Some of the coldest December weather on record in Orlando.  Who ever thought I would have to buy gloves and scarves in Disney?  Still made for a fabulous time at the Osborne Family light show in the Hollywood Studios (where we were once again joined by Ken), wandering around the World Showcase and seeing all the holiday traditions (and getting an extra special Illuminations which we shared with our friend Janet and her now hubby, Leslie, and of course, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party where my son danced with Chip and I NEARLY deleted all our vacation photos.  (Why it's good to have a techie for a husband.) We took so many photos with the holiday decorations (not just in the parks, but also in the resorts) this would have been a total disaster!
38. April 2012:  NOT telling our son the day before we left on the trip that his great grandfather had died.  (Which made it a difficult vacation.  We had a great time, but it weighed on our minds.  Still Great Grandpa had 95 great years and he wouldn't have wanted us to forego our vacation.
39. April 2012:  Chalk drawings with a cast member while waiting to meet Mater and Lightening McQueen. And finally getting to meet our idols: Phineas & Ferb (and let's not forget Duckie Mo Mo!)
40. April 2012:  Exploring the new kid water area at the Contemporary and learning to swim in the Contemporary pool.
41. April 2012:  Exploring the new Haunted Mansion queue with Ken.  Making "friends" with the ghost hostesses.  Riding the attraction over and over again. (I'm pretty sure we did this at least a dozen times!)
42. April 2012:  The Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.  Enjoying it from a new prospective, as I did something to my foot/ankle (to this day I don't know what) and had to have it bandaged up and hubby had to push me around Epcot one night!
43. June 2016:  An amazing breakfast at The Garden Grill (We had been "rehitched" there in the summer of 2004) we finally got to experience the new Soarin'.  The wait was clocked at 30 minutes just after opening and it was probably closer to an hour.  An amazing ride, but they really need to do SOMETHING about the queue.  (If they can do it for Pooh in MK, and a Kilamajori Safari in Animal Kingdom, something CAN be done here!)
44. June 2016:  The Polynesian King Kamehameha Club...not quite as impressive as the Atrium Level at the Contemporary, but the south sea vibe...how can you resist?  And the views?  If only we could have stayed here for our whole trip.  (We started at the Caribbean Beach Resort and moved half way through.)  Rooms are beautiful and the pool...we actually spent a morning at the pool.  (Which is incredible for someone like me who gets up and goes, goes, GOES!)  My first time on a water slide...I HATED it!
45. June 2016:  Amazing meals!  At the 50s Prime Time, where I was surprised with a belated birthday gift (a beautiful pair of silver Mickey head earrings) and my son was force fed a green bean to the special meal prepared for us by friend Amber at Trattoria al Forno (at the Boardwalk...it replaced Spoodles, which was also a favorite of ours.  The incredibly alcoholic Blue Spoodle may be "gone", but not forgotten, especially as I continually try to re-invent it with my snow cone maker!)  Of course there were also great meals at the Grand Floridian Cafe, Kona Cafe, and Sci Fi Dine In.  Since I have food allergies, the dining experience at WDW is something that I treasure!
46. June 2016:  The shows!  Illuminations will always be a favorite (what will I do when it's gone) and the new Fast Pass viewing spot made it even better.  Fantasmic is always fabulous. And the Star Wars fireworks at the Hollywood Studios!  Wow!  (And staying for extra Magic Hours afterwards and enjoying the late Great Movie Ride and Star Tours with my son for one last time before our vacation ended was icing on the cake.)
47. The Future:  I know there are more memories to be made.  I have yet to experience the Frozen attraction in Norway (RIP Maelstrom!), Pandora, Rivers of Light, or Toy Story Land.  I look forward to trying the forthcoming  Skyliner transportation system and new attractions that SEEM to be on the horizon.  (Because if we can dream it; we can do it.)

Those are all the memories I could condense into a list of 47.  There are so many others...attractions that I love, resorts experiences, amazing meals...If you think I've missed something (hmmmm...paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow) you're probably right!  Let me know what YOU think should have been included.  Or better yet, share YOUR own 47 memories!


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