Tom and I have just arrived back from our trip to Disney World. For me, it was my first ever trip to a Disney park. Tom has been to Tokyo Disney. When I told people that we were going, and that it was my first time, most people responded with "like ever? not even as a kid?". Nope.
My family chose to vacation in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where my dad had been going since he was 2 and where he and my mom met when she was on vacation there with friends. Our castles were in the form of sand, and the only characters we came across were crabs and frogs, and the occasional jellyfish. But I wouldn't trade that for the world. Those memories are the best memories I have. For me, Fort Walton was my magic place. I don't remember ever feeling really jealous of my classmates when they went to Disney, because we had our special place. I do recall thinking it looked pretty awesome on the Full House episode when they went to Disney, though. It wasn't until I was older, in high school and college, that I truly understood what Disney World was.
And here's the thing- I'm a Disney fan! I can sing along to almost every soundtrack, I know the characters and the movies, I love princesses and fairy tales and singing animals. I've seen almost every Disney movie. And yet, I never found myself traveling to Orlando to see what the hype was all about. Until now.
Tom and I booked a quick trip to celebrate our First Anniversary. The entire process of booking everything was overwhelming for someone who has never been, with all the logistics, the different types of tickets, fast passes, and dinner reservations. We decided that for us,it made the most sense to do 2 days of visiting parks, with the park hopper option. We did not do any dinner reservations and decided to just wing it when it came to meals. Trying to figure out timing about when we would eat and which park was too much.
We arrived in the afternoon on Wednesday and spent most of that day walking around our resort area, in Disney Springs, and on the Boardwalk. We got a little sprinkle of the Disney magic. We got our "Happily Ever After" pins at Disney Springs and immediately people started to congratulate us. On Thursday, we boarded one of the Disney buses from our resort to head to Magic Kingdom. When we entered the park, turned down main street, and saw that castle, it finally clicked. This is Disney. This is magic. This is where you can be a kid. People kept telling me that, leading up to our trip, but I did not truly feel it until I saw that castle and practically ran to the front to get a closer look. Magic Kingdom is where the nostalgia happens. It's riding the Winnie the Pooh ride to settle my stomach after nearly hurling on the tea cups. It's seeing Peter Pan in a crowd and skipping over to ask for a picture. It's singing along the words to Little Mermaid songs as you travel through the ride. It's running to meet Daisy and Minnie because you know your niece will love to hear about it. It's yelling "We're flying!" while riding Peter Pan's flight. It's getting a great spot for the parade and waving to the princesses while jumping up and down. It's riding It's A Small World and getting that song in your head. It's acting totally normal to do the Enchanted Tales with Belle when it's literally all children and their parents in your group.
After Magic Kingdom we headed to Epcot. Our first mission was to do the World Showcase. I had heard so much about the different countries, I couldn't wait to see it for myself. It's truly amazing, and almost overwhelming, how incredible and detailed it is. Our favorite was Japan, where Tom was born and spent most of his life. We tried a Chicken Terriyaki Bun and spent time in the Japanese marketplace. As we made our way around the world I loved how many options there were for food. Each country had a couple restaurants to try- plus it was the Epcot Food and Wine festival, so there were extra stands with smaller sample size items to try. Epcot is also where we met my queens, Anna and Elsa. Listen, I fully embrace that I am a 31 year old woman who loves Frozen. I saw it twice in theaters and bought it on DVD the day it came out. There is something very special about that story, and the music. I was somehow a little nervous to meet these two, even though they are actors who are likely 10 years or more younger than I am. We loved meeting them, Anna was especially interactive and fun to talk to. We didn't ride on the Frozen ride, primarily because it was an hour wait and we were tired, hungry, and ready for a break from standing in the heat. But next time, it's on my list. Also, there are other characters sprinkled throughout the World Showcase. We quite literally ran into Mulan as she was walking to her spot to meet fans. We also saw Belle in France, and again, I would have waited in line because I am a Beauty and the Beast fanatic, but her line was in the direct, 95 degree sunlight heat.
After the World Showcase we rode a few rides, met Joy and Sadness from Inside Out, ate dinner, and then eventually walked back to our resort (Epcot was within walking distance, a huge plus!). We stopped on the Boardwalk to get a dessert, and realized that we had walked close to 35,000 steps.
The next morning, we headed to Hollywood Studios. We were looking forward to seeing Toy Story Land and all the Star Wars stops. Upon entering the park, we ran to Toy Story Land with hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing. That slinky dog ride? Already an hour wait when we walked up. We never did get to ride it, and it's another thing added to my list of things I need to do next time. But walking around Toy Story Land was amazing. The detail is beyond what you could even imagine. We enjoyed the alien saucer ride, and we had a fast pass for the Toy Story Mania ride, which was super fun! You basically are playing an arcade game while riding, and we both really enjoyed it. After Toy Story Land we got to explore the Star Wars spots, which included meeting Chewbacca, looking at props from the movies, interacting with Storm Troopers, and riding a Star Wars themed ride which Tom loved. We also met Olaf at Hollywood Studios. We didn't make it onto the Rockin Rollercoaster and truthfully I couldn't handle the Tower of Terror, so we decided to head out of the park and go to Animal Kingdom.
Originally, we weren't going to go to Animal Kingdom. We were going to spend Friday afternoon at one of the other parks again, going on rides we missed the first day. People told us that Animal Kingdom was "basically a zoo". I am so glad we decided to go, because we had a blast at this park! First of all, a lot of it is shaded, so even though we were still so hot, it was much better to walk around here under the trees. But it's a beautiful park! We didn't do the Avatar ride but we did get to do the Safari (and saw so many animals!), ride Everest, which may have been my very favorite ride, and we rode the indoor dinosaur roller coaster that was also super fun! The DinoLand part of the park is really cool for kids, too. I may not need to go back to Animal Kingdom, (except I would, to ride Everest), but I would for sure recommend going.
Instead of resting for the rest of the day, we went back to Hollywood Studios. Tom was able to watch a mini live Star Wars show and we ate dinner there. The line for Slinky Dog never went down, and the line to meet Mickey and Minnie kept going up, so we eventually did leave that park. If my feet had not been hurting so badly I think we would have stayed and waited in line for Slinky Dog and watched the Star Wars Fireworks. But I had blisters on three toes, and my feet were just pulsing with pain. So we took the boat back to the boardwalk, got a Mickey Mouse cookie for dessert, and went back to the resort to sleep.
And just like that, our trip was over. We were awake by 5 am to get to the airport.
Obviously, Disney is magical because you can be a kid, and you can meet all your favorite characters, ride some amazing rides, eat delicious food. But I think the most magical thing about the trip is that you literally feel like you are in another world. We never left Disney property, so we were surrounded by Disney at all times. I barely checked my phone, and only had it out to take photos and post them. I didn't keep up with the news or read any work e-mails. I just lived in each moment, taking it in, paying attention to the incredible details. As we sat in the airport to come back home I couldn't help but think about how every single person in that airport is either escaping from something, or returning home to something.
For us, "back to reality" means back to work, back to getting our finances on track after a little blip, back to planning for our future. It means back to our families and supporting our loved ones through difficult times. Back to eating healthy, going to bed and waking up at normal times. Back to being busy. Back to making memories with our family and friends. Back to us, one year of marriage down, infinity more to come.
We escaped for three days, away from all of the things that normally fill our days and our brains. And it was a beautiful escape. There is no one I would have rather experienced all of this with. I don't think there's anyone else on this world that I could have been my true self with on this trip. I would have hid my excitement. But with Tom I knew that I could just be me. And he smiled as I skipped around. He calmed me down when I got anxious about the crowds. He helped me when I almost got sick from the heat, making sure I rested and got water. When I thanked him for taking care of me, he just looked up and said "well, I'd be lost without you". I actually cried when he said that. It was one of the sweetest things he has ever said, and he said it so simply. Sorry for that extra helping of cheese, folks, but I just know I will cherish that moment for ever.
I will cherish our whole trip forever. Thank you to everyone who gave us advice, who followed along as we posted pictures on Facebook and who encouraged us to take this trip even though it felt like the universe was against us going.
And thank you to Tom for being my best buddy, for going on this adventure with me and for encouraging me to do things outside of my comfort zone like ride scary rides and go to the bathroom on an airplane.
Until next time, Disney World! One day we will be back.