Fifty Disney World fans share their earliest memories of visiting the theme park in honor of the company's 50th anniversary — and their answers will warm your heart.

Advertisement
Nathalie Franco with Mickey Mouse and Goofy
Credit: Courtesy of Nathalie Franco

"I always wanted to go to Disney, but my dad said he wouldn't take me until they opened one in Florida." This is what my own dad told me when I asked about his earliest Disney World memory. Luckily for my dad, a Disney park did eventually make its way to Florida.

Walt Disney World opened on Oct. 1, 1971, and the park will kick off its 18-month-long 50th anniversary celebration this year on the same day in October. My dad visited the park "somewhere in the first two weeks of opening" because he shipped out for military duty in Vietnam on Oct. 15, 1971.

It's impossible for me to imagine the harsh juxtaposition of being at Disney World and — less than a month later — being shipped off to war, but I'm thankful he was able to visit the park before he left.

He went on to tell me, "When I first stepped onto Main Street, I thought, 'Wow, this really is a magical place.' My friends and I were fascinated by the Abraham Lincoln animatronic in the Hall of Presidents. The way he spoke and turned his head was so far ahead of anything we'd seen before. I was hooked on Disney immediately."

My dad went on to work at Disney for a short time and took us there on countless family visits over the years. My fascination with Disney was born out of the impact Disney World had on him, and it got me thinking about the ways in which Disney has affected millions of other guests who visit every year.

In honor of Disney World's 50th anniversary, I asked 50 other Disney enthusiasts about their first memories of the park. Some anecdotes made me laugh, others made me cry, but in each and every one, you can see that Disney World really has changed people's lives. Whether it's as small as discovering a favorite roller coaster, or as life-changing as realizing a future career path while at the park, the significance of Disney World is undeniable.

Starting from the 1970s when Disney World opened, we've mapped out 50 Disney World memories to capture the spirit of the park.

1970s

"The first time I visited Disney World was in 1974. Some of my earliest memories of Magic Kingdom are that visitors received lettered tickets, and you only had so many of the 'good' tickets, which were 'D' or 'E.' The 'A' tickets were for things you really didn't want to do, like ride the carousel. I still have a few (OK, maybe more than a few) of the 'A' tickets in my memorabilia. I remember riding the SkyWay, Haunted Mansion, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Grand Prix Raceway, Hall of Presidents, and one of my favorites, Space Mountain. It was pretty much in our backyard, so we visited fairly often, and even so, it seemed like a magical place." — April

"My first memory [of the park] is visiting the Walt Disney World Preview Center to see the model of Magic Kingdom before it even opened. I was only four or five years old at the time of our visit, so I don't think I even thought about what a job was. But when my family band got to perform at Magic Kingdom in 1979, I started thinking that Walt Disney World would be a fun place to work. I used to tell my mom, 'I don't want to work when I grow up, but if I have to get a job, I want it to be at Disney World!'" — Kathy, field operations manager at Walt Disney World

"My very first impressions of Disney probably came from the 'Wonderful World of Disney,' which was on TV in the 1960s. We had all seen Walt talk about plans for a new Disney theme park being planned for Florida. Flash forward to early 1970s: My dad had a sabbatical leave to Leesburg, Florida, to work with the University of Florida, and my brother was working at Disney World and gave me complimentary admission as an employee. My favorite 'E' ticket was the Country Bear Jamboree and a no-ticket-required attraction called America the Beautiful with a 360-view tour of great places in the U.S. Later that year, a senior asked me to Senior Grad Night, where the teens took over the park and rode the rides for free all night. We saw a rock star named Rick Nelson who performed his current hit called 'Garden Party.'" — David

"I was a reporter for the then Fort Lauderdale News (now the Sun Sentinel) covering the opening of Walt Disney World, and I took my two young sons, Alan Jr. and Robert, along. My first impression was that I had stepped into another world, especially at the first sight of the spectacular Magic Kingdom castle. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters in costumes amazed the kids. The kids especially enjoyed the Mad Tea Party teacups. I had no idea what I was observing would become so famous, and put the then small city of Orlando on the worldwide map. I remember that day talking to Charles Ridgeway, the park's public relations chief, who said that he had never heard of Orlando when Disney sent him there from California to prepare for the opening." — Alan

"Back in the summer of 1972, my family decided to skip the Catskills and visit a newly opened vacation destination: Walt Disney World. As a precocious six-year-old, I remember enjoying frozen bananas, Mickey bars, and even going with my grandpa to see the Hall of Presidents. At the end of that first visit, I told my family, 'I'm going to work here one day.' Fast forward a year or two and that little girl had a picture taken in front of the door that would later lead to her office on Main Street, U.S.A." — Joanne, senior financial analyst at Walt Disney World

"We had visited the Preview Center before the park was done and I was so excited for it to finally open. My family's first in-park visit was Thanksgiving 1971, and it wasn't pretty. Disney was completely unprepared for the crowds — they ran out of food, lines were awful, and people were upset. Mom wanted to leave, but I demanded we ride the Haunted Mansion. It was still a day full of memories and we've been going ever since. It's our home away from home." — Phyllis

Phyllis Perry Eurek at Disney World in the 1960s/1970s
Credit: Courtesy of Phyllis Perry Eurek

"My family went the first summer Disney was open. My dad was more excited than anyone. He was so impressed with all of the little details. For some reason, I remember him going on and on about the spider webs at the Haunted Mansion and how real they were. He kept pointing out little details, like bats on the hand rails. It's amazing I still remember that 50 years later. I also remember riding It's a Small World a dozen times and then singing the song until my mother begged us not to sing anymore." — Diana

"My first visit to Disney World was in the summer of 1978. I was 13 years old, and it was my first time on a plane, sleeping in a hotel, and my first trip anywhere with just my dad and sister. I remember wanting to go on all the fast roller coasters, but my 17-year-old sister was too cool to take me, so my dad took me around the park instead. He kept taking me to all the 'little kid' rides, saying that I was too young for the fast roller coasters. After a lot of convincing, my dad agreed to take me to Space Mountain. I'll never forget watching my dad's expression change as he read the safety precautions on the way into Space Mountain. He was terrified, and it was too late to turn back." — Mary

"My mom practically raised us on Disney with television and movies in the '60s, so she was over the moon when Walt Disney World opened. Since we road-tripped to Florida from New Jersey every year on vacation, my dad agreed to stay at the newly opened Polynesian Resort. It — and Adventureland in Magic Kingdom — felt more tropical than anything else we'd ever visited in Florida. A swimming pool with a waterfall, Tiki Room singing birds, the 'Swiss Family Robinson' tree house, and the silly Jungle Cruise were gems to a 10-year-old with two little sisters in tow. Plus, [it was] the biggest hotel room our family of five had ever set foot in!" — Sandra

"The first Disney World visit I remember was with my grandparents. All I remember about it was my grandparents arguing about which way to go while driving on Disney property, trying to find the park, and me telling my grandma I was afraid to ride Dumbo because it goes up so high. I was seven years old — I was afraid of riding tall and fast theme park rides until I was in my late 30s. Now, I publish Attractions Magazine, a publication all about theme parks, and I ride them all (and love them)." — Matt

"My aunt passed away from a brain tumor in 1972 and my dad wanted to do something special with her two youngest children, ages 10 and 15. We rented an RV and took them along on a family trip to Disney World, with a couple of beach days. My 10-year-old cousin got a pretty bad sunburn on the way, so he was a bit miserable until we made it to Magic Kingdom. This was just a year after Disney World opened and you had to buy tickets for the rides in addition to the entrance fees. 'E' tickets were the most valuable and you had to pay almost a dollar to get extras. Our favorite rides were the Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Peter Pan's Flight, and Skyway to Tomorrowland. For us, the Disney World vacation was both fun and a healing event." — Steve

1980s

"My first Walt Disney World memory is from the age of three. I was on my dad's shoulders watching a parade that was themed around 'Aladdin.' I remember telling my parents that I was going to do that someday. Seventeen years later, I achieved that goal when I joined Walt Disney World Entertainment in 2010." — Nathalie

Nathalie Franco with Mickey Mouse and Goofy
Credit: Courtesy of Nathalie Franco

"When I first came to Walt Disney World, I fell in love with It's A Small World. My first language is Spanish, and I remember that listening to the dolls sing in Spanish was an incredible moment. After this first trip, my family and I came to the parks from Venezuela almost every summer. During our very first dinner in Orlando, I said, 'I'm here now, and I will work at Disney.' I now work at the Disney Reservation Center and feel like I am truly living my dream." — Nayi, sales agent at Walt Disney World

"I visited Disney World on a field trip in elementary school and I had to write a journal assignment about it when I got back. I had no time for school work on my trip, so I glued a bunch of postcards to take up space. It's pretty cool now to have postcards of old attractions like Horizons and World of Motion." — Kelly

"I've been visiting Disney World since I was too young to remember. My earliest memory is visiting with my mom, dad, and sister and being so excited to hug all of the characters. My sister, on the other hand, was terrified and wouldn't go near any of them. I wasn't too upset, though, because that meant I got them all to myself. We even have a photo of me giving Winnie the Pooh a huge hug and my sister hanging tightly to my mom off to the side." — Tarah (that's me!)

Tarah Chieffi with her family at Disney in the 1980s
Credit: Courtesy of Tarah Chieffi

"My first visit to Walt Disney World was in 1983, right after Epcot celebrated its first anniversary. I can still remember Figment — he was our guide for the Journey Into Imagination. The ride was amazing. We spent all day discovering the countries. On our third day, we headed to Magic Kingdom. We took the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island, and after spending what seemed to be an eternity exploring every crevice of the island, we relaxed at Polly's for some lemonade. (I've been back many times since with my own kids and always check to see if Polly's is serving that lemonade. Sadly, I have yet to be there when it's open.) Thirty two years later, in 2015, I was thrilled to take my parents back to Walt Disney World Resort and share with them the magic they introduced me to so long ago. The Empress Lilly had long been retrofitted into another restaurant, so I treated my parents to Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary, then we walked to Magic Kingdom. In January 2021, I took my seven-year-old grandson to Disney World to discover the magic. It felt like it was my first time again, even though I've been back a dozen times since 1983." — Rob

"Although I lived in Orlando until I was three, and spent a lot of time with my parents at Magic Kingdom, my first memories of Disney World are when I visited again with my family at the age of five. My favorite ride was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad because I felt like a big girl for riding it. I remember being on It's a Small World, just me and my mom, when the teenagers in front of us found an empty autograph book in their seat. They gave it to me and I collected signatures from characters for the rest of the day. I brought the book back with me to the parks for the rest of my childhood, even as a teenager. Over the years, I was able to visit the openings of all the new parks during their first-year celebrations. I still have the autograph book and now my own children use it. It has signatures from 1986 to 2018, and I can't wait to go back and add to it!" — Colleen

"I went to Disney World on my honeymoon because I'd never been. As a kid, I was too shy to volunteer for anything because I was worried my siblings would tease me, so we agreed to act like excited honeymooners and raise our hands for everything. We got picked for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and had to run around on stage in costumes. We also got picked for the Monster Sound Show, and they told us to run out on stage when the doors opened because we needed to get in there quickly. As soon as the doors opened, my husband took off and ran right into the door. Still, it was magical because I'd always wanted to be picked from the audience." — Cheryl

"I remember buying a cassette tape with all the songs from Epcot. We listened to it over and over and sang along to it even after our trip. The reason I loved Living With the Land so much was because I loved listening to the song on that tape. I'll also always remember how amazing it was to see Main Street, U.S.A. for the first time, and I'm still amazed when I visit now." — Erin

"My first visit to Disney World was in 1986 with my mom, aunt, and cousin. The trip was the first in a long line of Disney [vacations] for me, and it definitely started me down a path of Disney obsession that led to my current career. I love helping my clients make these magical Disney memories and often think back to my first visit when I'm helping them plan for their first time at the 'Most Magical Place on Earth.'" — Chrissy

Siblings in front of Castle at Disney
Credit: Courtesy of Chrissy Sheets

"I was really young the first time I visited Disney World. We probably couldn't afford the Disney Channel, but my mom thought it was important because she deeply believed in having a sense of imagination, so we loved Disney even before we visited. I don't specifically remember anything from that trip, but this belief about the 'Disney way' led me to later join the Disney College Program. Looking back now as an adult, my first experience at Disney allowed me to appreciate the nuances, finer details, and even the forced perspective of Main Street. That single-handedly inspired me to pursue a career in the creative field." — Kevin

1990s

"I first visited Walt Disney World in 1990. I was nine years old at the time and still have vivid memories of it. I remember riding Space Mountain with my dad, and going up that initial climb, he told me, 'We're going to go down like a bat out of hell.' It turns out he was wrong. Our tram took a sharp turn after that climb, and I lost the baseball hat I was wearing. We also visited Via Napoli at Epcot, which remains a staple in my Disney dining rotation. Oddly enough, I didn't return to Disney until 2011, and have been back 10 to 15 times since, and I now bring my own sons." — Mike

"We first went to Disney World in the winter of 1993, and it was a big deal because we were meeting up with my mom's cousin's family and would be spending the week with them. Their kids were the same ages as my siblings and me (I was eight, my sister was six, and my brother was two and a half). I remember being so blown away by the whole organization — how did someone build this? We stayed at the Grand Floridian, and though it was a little chilly, we managed to do some swimming. I truly loved Epcot, and felt so immersed in the worlds...Since that trip, we went back one more time — the next year — and it was the last family trip before my parents got divorced, so it always holds a special place in my heart. I've been back once since then, with my ninth grade class. We had a blast hanging around Disney, and it was my first time on a roller coaster — the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith. I am so excited to take my boys to WDW in a few years!" — Olivia

"My earliest Walt Disney World memory occurred in 1992, when I was in fourth grade visiting the park over Christmas break. We camped in tents at Fort Wilderness. My vivid memory took place around Splash Mountain, a ride that had only been open for a couple months at that point. I was scared of a lot of rides and seeing the big drop from outside made me scared of that one. My mom, knowing I would probably like it if she could just get me on it, made me go. I remember waiting in a long line with my mom and grandpa, crying through most of it. But by the time I got off the ride, I loved it. It was so beautiful inside, something I couldn't tell from the outside. Later on during that trip, my dad and I skipped the nighttime parade and rode Splash Mountain over and over when the line was short because everyone was at the parade....magical! That trip, and really that experience specifically, solidified my love for Walt Disney World. I went on to participate in the Disney College Program in 2005, working in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, and now I try to visit once a year." — Cara

A group family photo at Disney World in the early 1990s
Credit: Courtesy of Cara Zielke

"My earliest Walt Disney World memory is from 1992. I remember there used to be flamingos in Epcot. They were just roaming around near the Odyssey building, but I heard they moved to Animal Kingdom when that park opened." — Angel

"I was four years old when I first went to Walt Disney World with my parents. We had a one-day ticket to Magic Kingdom and I was truly the happiest girl on Earth. My dad insisted on having me pull the sword out of the stone in front of the carousel, and no matter how hard I tried, it never budged. I still remember the jealousy I felt watching a little boy pull the sword a few inches out of the stone during a show some hours later. Every visit since then (over 30), I have tried to pull the sword from the stone and it's never budged. Fast forward to 2021: My husband and I have been Disney Vacation Club members and out-of-state annual passholders for the last four years. In January, we took our nine-month-old son for his first visit. Of course, he had to try and pull the sword from the stone, too. Although he couldn't get it to budge either, I'm excited that he has a lifetime of magical vacations to keep trying." — Rachel

Rachel Lindsey at Disney as a child and then her with her son at Disney now
Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Lindsey

"My earliest Disney World memory is from when I was three years old. My aunt and uncle took me along with my cousin, who is my age. What I remember most is going to the 'Beauty and the Beast' sing-along and then taking pictures dressed as Belle. I also remember playing in the 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' area. It was so much fun. Strangely enough, I don't remember anything relating to Magic Kingdom. I'm not sure what resort we stayed at, but I remember plenty of pool time. My mom always lets me know that I didn't cry at all for my parents while I was gone — I loved every minute!" — Julianne

"When I was seven, my parents called me downstairs to watch a movie. That wasn't weird, but what was weird was my dad holding a video camera. They said we were watching 'Beauty and the Beast,' but when Lumiere came on the screen, I knew something was up. We were watching the Disney World planning video and my parents were filming my reaction to hearing we had booked a stay. I remember it like it was yesterday. We stayed at the Polynesian, and I think it may have even been before FastPass, but we did every park plus Universal. It was incredible. I've only been back twice since, but I can't wait to go again." — Ryan

"I was almost four the first time I went, so I don't remember a lot, but it was just a few months after my sister was born and my parents left her with my grandparents (who lived in Florida), so it was just me, my mom, and my dad. That alone felt special because I hadn't had them to myself since my sister was born. The other thing I remember vividly is having dinner at Cinderella Castle and being particularly amazed by the Mickey butter sculptures. After dinner, I even got to meet the 'real' Cinderella, which, as a four-year-old who was princess obsessed, was basically the most amazing thing that could have ever happened. At the end of the day, my parents let me pick a souvenir (a 'Lady and the Tramp' plush set) before we went back to my grandparents' house to get my sister. I'm pretty sure there's still a photo of me, with my lovely bowl cut and a '101 Dalmatians' shirt, alongside Cinderella from the trip." — Kelsey

"I first went to Disney World with my boyfriend when I was 18. As a kid growing up in India, most of what I knew about the U.S. was Times Square and Disney from movies. I wanted nothing more than to go there one day. When I moved to the U.S. at 17, and started dating my now husband, our first trip together was Disneyland, and the following year we went to Disney World in Orlando. I absolutely lived it up. I got a picture holding the biggest stuffed Mickey Mouse toy I'd ever seen." — Sucheta

"I visited Disney World for the first time in the summer of 1994. I was only four years old at the time, but I vividly remember it because it was the last trip that my entire family went on together. My mom, dad, and grandparents took me to Disney World, and I thought it was the most magical place on Earth (and still do). We had a character breakfast, rode tons of fun rides, and I immensely enjoyed being with my entire family. About six months later, my parents got divorced, so that Disney World trip is the last vivid memory I have of all of us together, and I think that's partly why I'm still such a Disney fanatic." — Cory

Family photo with Mickey Mouse at Disney from the 1990s
Credit: Courtesy of Curb Free With Cory Lee

"Going to Walt Disney World was one of the biggest highlights of my childhood. My family packed up the car and drove from Ontario, Canada, down to Orlando, stopping halfway to spend the night, as it was a 24-hour drive. I was in awe of the magical atmosphere, the rides, and seeing Cinderella Castle in real life. A highlight of my visit was meeting Mickey Mouse and getting a photo with him and his autograph — I was thrilled. This was our first big family vacation together, aside from trips to nearby cottages, and it really solidified my love for Disney and road trips in general. When my parents asked where we wanted to go for future family vacations, I insisted that we drive to Disney World every time, and we did. That was the only family trip we took right up until I was in high school." — Lauren

"My first memory of Walt Disney World is watching the fireworks from my childhood bedroom window in the early 1990s. I grew up right down the street in Orlando. I was probably three or four and we lived there until I was 13 or 14, so I saw lots of fireworks. I was probably five or six when I finally visited Disney World." — Casey

"My first visit to Walt Disney World was in 1992. I was 15 and traveled to Florida from Belgium for a language summer camp. As a kid, I had a Belgian cartoon magazine that featured Disney World. I'd always wanted to visit, so I was extremely excited that day. I clearly remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Skyway being there. I moved to the United States four years ago. Now, I've been visiting Disney World every year and am a happy annual passholder." — Edwin

"My first memory of Walt Disney World is from the summer of 1996. After my experience with Space Mountain, I was obsessed. I remember all the details the cast member told me about the ride when I was afraid. I wanted to create an attraction just like it one day. I was amazed by the experience the cast member made for my family and me. Because of this encounter, I always wanted to become an Imagineer as a kid, and that dream is what brought me to Disney when I was in college, where I started my career at Space Mountain as an Attractions Host. My experience as a child taught me the importance of individualized and personalized guest service that I still use in my role today." — Brandon, product analyst at Walt Disney World

"It was summer 1991 and we drove from Louisville to Orlando. The night before we left, I remember my folks breaking out a large folder with maps, brochures, and Disney Dollars. I put mine in a money clip to keep it safe. We visited Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and MGM, and what I remember the most is the 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' area and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I even got an official Indiana Jones hat that I kept until I lost it in college." — Kevin

"The summer after my eighth birthday, my family met up with our best friends at Disney World for a week. We visited every park available at the time (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, and Typhoon Lagoon). I vividly remember having breakfast with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy on the Empress Lilly, and my friends and I planning exactly what questions we would ask each one when they stopped by our table for autographs. My favorite ride then was the Haunted Mansion, which is still one of my favorites today. I especially loved the hitchhiking ghosts. We still talk about that trip fondly." — Jessica

"My first Disney World memory is from 1995, when Cinderella Castle was a bright pink birthday cake. I remember sitting on my dad's shoulders as he walked both of us down Main Street, U.S.A. We stopped in at the Confectionery to get one of those giant stick lollipops, and I was in sugar-rush heaven. As we continued down toward the castle, music was playing and characters were roaming first thing in the morning. It was magic." — Megan

2000s

"I grew up in Norwalk, California, a suburb of Los Angeles located just a few miles from Disneyland. So, as a child, I became very familiar with Disneyland. When Disney World opened later, I was curious to visit and see what was different. When I finally got there, I was blown away by how much bigger it was. I was only there for a few days, so I barely [scratched] the surface of its offerings, but did especially like Animal Kingdom and Epcot. In fact, I enjoyed my visit so much that I lost track of time, and this was the one and only time I ever missed a flight. Fortunately, American Airlines had mercy on me and got me home the same day. I even brought back oversized suckers for my friends." — Carole

"My first memory of visiting Walt Disney World is from my 30th birthday. I wanted to visit Magic Kingdom ever since I was small, and when I first saw Cinderella Castle, I knew that nothing would ever be impossible again. I still vividly remember how all the cast members wished me a happy birthday and had a very contagious sense of happiness during our interactions. That visit, and the cast members I met, inspired me to become a cast member because I believe the magic of being a cast member is needed everywhere in our world." — Pedro, custodial host at Walt Disney World

"I remember being so excited to ride the Tower of Terror for the first time. But as we started to walk through the dark boiler room and see all the scary stuff in line, I wasn't sure I wanted to ride. I ended up loving it and rode it a bunch more times during that trip. I'm glad I didn't get too scared to ride." — Harrison

"My first visit was the year after Animal Kingdom opened during the 100 Years of Magic celebration commemorating 100 years since Walt Disney's birth. It was just five months after 9/11. I remember thinking how strange all the new security procedures were; bag checks had never been a part of my Disneyland visits in the past. Now, going through security is just part of the process and feels like no big deal. My high school dance team competed at the national dance competition held at the MGM Studios park (now Hollywood Studios). The Magical Express bus ride from the airport was so exciting. Now, as an adult, I can only imagine how nice that must have been for our chaperones and coach to not have to coordinate transportation for 20-plus people. We had a great time riding the shuttles to and from the Caribbean Beach Resort and various parks. We visited Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios, and Epcot." — Elise

Five female teens at Disney in the 2000s
Credit: Courtesy of Elise Laney

2010s

"I was 23 when I became a Disney parks kid. I was always obsessed with the movies, but never had the opportunity to visit until 2010 with my husband and in-laws. We stayed at the Polynesian, so I was spoiled from the start. We went to dinner at the Spirit of Aloha show and my husband even got called on stage to dance. Now, we go back just about every year because I fell in love with it." — Jessica

"I know I went as a baby, but the first thing I remember is from when I was five years old. I was too scared to get on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, but my parents convinced me to do it anyway. I rode it two more times that trip and now it's my favorite coaster in the world." — Avery

"In 2012, I took my daughter and father to Walt Disney World. It was my father's first time, but he has been a Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney fan since he was five years old. Our first full day was spent at Magic Kingdom. My dad woke up at 4 a.m., got dressed, and sat at the end of the bed until we could leave for rope drop. He was so excited, absolutely over the moon. I will never, ever forget that moment." — Shannon

"The first time I visited Disney I was 34 and a mother of three. I was secretly dreading it — I'd told myself I wasn't a theme park person, I was a beach person. I was so wrong! The resort, the happiness of all the staff, the cleanliness, and the rides that were actually fun and not terrifying made the trip so memorable" — Bailey

"I went to Disney World on my first plane trip, the day after Christmas. We had dinner with Mickey and Minnie at Hollywood Studios. I went on rides and met princesses and princes and had my picture taken with them. My favorite ride was Avatar Flight of Passage. On my dad's birthday, I got to go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I had a makeover to look like Cinderella and then we had lunch at Cinderella Castle with all the princesses. The best part of the day was when an elf asked me to be in the parade, too." — Piper

Two smiling children on their first visit to Disney World
Credit: Courtesy of Holly Charles

2020s

"We recently returned from our son's birthday celebration at Disney World in Orlando. It was our family's first time doing anything like this as a unit of four. We spent four nights at the Pop Century Resort, arriving Saturday evening. We first visited Animal Kingdom on Sunday (our son's actual birthday). It's Tough to Be a Bug was one of my favorites because, while in line, you can see all the details of the Tree of Life and 'A Bug's Life' was my favorite movie as a kid. Our five-year-old was pretty freaked out by the large bugs that come out at you. We also visited Magic Kingdom. It's a Small World was my absolute favorite — the visuals were stunning. The kids enjoyed Mickey's PhilharMagic show located outside the carousel. We got to see a handful of characters throughout the day, but the best was saying goodnight to Mickey and pals on the balcony as we were leaving. I don't think either of our kids would be into hugging their favorite characters, so it worked out great that the characters were a little distanced from us." — Adal

"I loved flying the Millennium Falcon. There was a red button, and when I pressed it, we went fast so the other ships couldn't get us. We crashed a lot, and when we got out of the cockpit, we saw that the ship was broken and [there] damage everywhere. My brother tried to blame it on me, but I said I didn't do it." — Norrin

"In 2020, my family and I went to Walt Disney World for our children's first visit. There are so many parts of this trip that I never want to forget. I don't want to ever forget how every time my son saw Mickey, he screamed, 'Mickey! My favorite character!' I don't want to ever forget how happy and thankful my daughter was for every magical moment of our trip — especially all of the festive treats. Most of all, I don't want to ever forget the moment they both fell in love with roller coasters, specifically Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Mine Train went down for a little while, and after it came up and we rode it, my children thanked the cast member for fixing their favorite ride. The cast member was so touched that he let us through the FastPass line to ride one last time before the park's closure on our last Magic Kingdom day. Cast members are the epitome of Disney magic. The memories we made as a family on this trip will live on in our hearts forever." — Holly