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Rediscover Disney Through the Eyes of a First-Timer

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You are a die-hard Disney fan, a lot like me! I know this is true because you are reading this blog. You must be a devoted fan if you are here at AllEars.net and discovered this link.

You know the Disney parks like the back of your hand. You have visited them so many times that you know the quickest way to get from the Haunted Mansion to the Pirates of the Caribbean. That’s right . . . just past the Diamond Horseshoe you turn left, duck through the alley, pass the rest rooms and turn right into Adventureland.

You are aware that as you leave Frontierland and enter Adventureland things change. The background music changes, the plant life changes, the building facades change, even the texture of the concrete you are walking on changes. You have moved from one world and into another. You are in another place and another time.

There are so many little factors that all add up to what we call “The Disney Magic” . . . and you understand them. You feel The Disney Magic. You “get it”.

You appreciate how the parks are designed to immerse you in magic. You notice all the little things that they really didn’t have to do when they designed and built the attractions. But they built them in anyway; it’s all part of the magic.

There are lots of people who don’t get it. They don’t feel the magic and they will never understand why you do. You probably have friends who say, “Why do you always go to Disney World? It’s a place for kids.” Others will tell you, “I went to Disney World (or Disneyland) one day. It was too crowded and there wasn’t much to see.” These people probably annoy you; they annoy me too.

Now cast your memory back to your first trip to a Disney park. Wasn’t it overwhelming? Oh yes, it was wonderful, but there was so much to see and you didn’t know where to start. I see those people in the parks all the time, just like I was back in 1977, confused or frustrated looks on their faces, looking at a guide map, bewildered.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go back and do your very first trip over again, but this time do it with the benefit of all you now know about Disney? How much more could you have seen and enjoyed that first time if you knew your way around like you do today?

I wish I could make that happen, I’d sure like to have a “do-over” too.

But there is a way to enjoy that kind of experience. Take a friend who’s never been there before and act as their tour guide. Give them the benefit of all you have learned. Pay it forward!

If you are at all like me you will enjoy watching them see it all for the first time. It’s like a vicarious first time for me; I take pleasure in every oooh and aaah. It even works with someone who has not been there in a number of years as they see the new attractions and take delight in seeing their Disney favorites again.

My wife Carol and I have had the chance to do this several times. Each time it was a unique experience for us.

Over ten years ago we treated her parents to a week-long trip to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We acted as their tour guides. Carol’s Mom had been there a number of times, most recently in 1993, but for her Dad it was a first.

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He just loved the theming at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort and beamed as we took the boat ride to Downtown Disney. He soaked in every experience we threw at him and looked happier than I had ever seen him. My most vivid memory from the trip was watching him enjoy MuppetVision 3D. Visualize a seventy-two year old man giggling throughout the show . . . there is an inner child in all of us and its magic when we let that child loose!

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They enjoyed it so much that they have gone back six times on their own and also gone on three Disney cruises.

About six years ago we had just returned from the annual EPCOT Pin Trading Event and were telling my mother about the fun we had. She sighed wistfully and said, “I sure would like to get back there one more time.” She had been there twice, the last time was 22 years prior in 1983. We decided to grant her wish and within a month we were back at our favourite place. We spent five glorious days racing around the parks pushing her in a wheelchair . . . she could walk, but we made much better time with the chair. In five days we saw virtually every attraction in each park. She was beaming, grinning from ear to ear the whole time.

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What was my seventy-six year old mother’s favourite thing? Lets see . . . was it the banana split she had for lunch at the Plaza Restaurant? No. Was it riding in the front on the monorail? No. Was it Mickey’s PhilharMagic where she reached out to grab the jewels as Ariel sang about “whoosits and whatsits galore”? No. When we were all done, we had seen it all, we asked what she would like to see again on the sixth day, our last day there. She quickly replied, “The Hall of Presidents.” I thought it an odd thing for a Canadian to ask, but off we went . . . after all, it was her dream!

Recently, while we were camped at Fort Wilderness, we got a phone call from some long time friends from our home town. They were just leaving Nashville in their RV and decide to stop in to see us for a few days on their way to Key Largo. We arranged to have them assigned the campsite right beside us and they pulled in a few days later at noon. He had never been to Walt Disney World and she had not been there since the 1980’s. They had a day and a half until they had to leave. Wow . . . what to do? We asked what they wanted to see, the reply was, “You are the experts, bring it on!” So we did.

The first day, after they had their RV set up, was all about resorts. Since they are campers we showed them around Fort Wilderness, then caught the launch to Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary Resort Hotel.

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We took a quick spin around the resort monorail loop and pointed out the sights as we passed them by. After dinner at Trail’s End we drove around in the golf cart and enjoyed the awesome Christmas decorations at “The Fort”. We finished our day by watching Wishes and the Electric Water Pageant from the Fort Wilderness beach. Their comment at the end of the night? “Wow, we had a lot of fun today and it was all free!”

The next morning we hit the ground running. EPCOT! We covered the entire park in a day; we saw every attraction and rode every ride except Imagination.

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It was a whirlwind, but a great time. The highlights? Well, they are both car buffs so naturally they enjoyed Test Track but I really enjoyed watching them as they smelled the pine forest and the orange grove in Soarin’. He had a huge grin when we stopped near the archway at Innoventions to watch the Jam-itors play. In Canada we watched the CircleVision movie. You can almost see their cottage in the movie. Its near that bridge in the Thousand Islands. “Look,” they said, “there’s Smuggler’s Bay.” They were both tapping their toes as The British Revolution played behind the UK pavilion.

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After a great dinner at Chefs de France we continued our way around World Showcase and finished just in time to watch Illuminations. He asked, “Do they do this every night?” Yup . . . every night.

The next morning, as they pulled out, the thanks were effusive. But they didn’t need to say thanks; just being able to watch them enjoy themselves had been thanks enough.

Our latest experience with a “first-timer” was just a few weeks ago. Carol used to visit Walt Disney World with her good friend Judy when the children were young. Judy had not been there since 1997 and her husband Scott had never been there. They booked a two-week trip and stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter; we decided to take the RV to Fort Wilderness and enjoy some time there with our friends. We had a great time and so did they!

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We didn't spend a great deal of time with them; they mostly explored on their own. We got them oriented at the parks Judy had not seen before and then let them enjoy it, at their own pace. Most evenings we met for dinner and I really enjoyed hearing Scott recap all the things they did each day.

I interviewed Scott after the trip so he could tell you about his experiences in his own words:

Gary: Your wife Judy had told you many things about Walt Disney World before you went. When you actually got there was it what you were expecting?

Scott: I was not expecting the size of the complex, I figured that the individual parks were quite large and that it would take a number of days to fully appreciate what they had to offer, but the space between each was huge! I had no idea the Disney property is so big.

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G: What was the most surprising thing during your visit?

S: First I was surprised to see so many school-aged children there during the school term and not on a school holiday. Secondly I was amazed at the sheer number of people there on a daily basis. And lastly I saw lots of old grey haired people there too!

G: What was your favourite experience or attraction?

S: My most enjoyable part of Disney was the EPCOT Park. There I was able to see, hear, smell, taste and learn all about different countries that I no doubt will never visit, and I was able to do this, for the most part, at a very leisurely pace.

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G: Is there anything you would like to do at Walt Disney World but didn’t have a chance to do this time? Will you do it if you go back?

S: That’s an easy question! I would like to play golf at two or three of the courses there. We’re already talking about going back this October and I hope to play a round or two with my son-in-law.

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G: Was there anything you didn’t like?

S: There was only one thing I didn’t like about my vacation in Disney and that was leaving the lovely weather and returning to possibly two more months of winter here in Canada.

G: Is there anything you would do differently if you visit again?

S: If I was to visit Disney again I probably would not spend as much time in the Magic Kingdom. I found it quite confusing to navigate around. I am not a big fan of the Disney characters and I have not been brought up in a “magical atmosphere”; that’s probably why I don’t appreciate what the Magic Kingdom has to offer. The crowds there were larger too! I would shorten my stay at Disney Studios as well. There were a few things there that I found interesting. I really enjoyed Toy Story and Lights, Motors, Action. But for the most part I found it too was a little confusing to get around. The Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios weren't my favorites; EPCOT and Animal Kingdom had a lot more to suit my taste.

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G: What advice would you give to someone else who is visiting for the first time?

S: I would suggest that 2-3 weeks are required to completely see and do everything there is to enjoy. I would also recommend that you try all forms of transportation Disney offers as each is unique and each offers a different visual perspective on the way the complex was built. I really enjoyed the boat ride from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney. As we sailed past all those resorts and golf courses on our way to the shopping, dining and entertainment area I developed a real appreciation for the diversity of this amazing vacation destination. Oh yeah, also make sure you have reservations for dinner at ‘Ohana. I sure loved those shrimp!

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G: People often say that Walt Disney World is only for children. How would you reply to them?

S: I felt that the main theme of Walt Disney World was to make children happy and it did! It also made it very easy for the parents to achieve that goal. It is a terrific spot for children. But I also felt that it was a great place to go for an adult vacation. It offers a great selection of accommodations and excellent dinning options. It certainly offers plenty of things to see and plenty to learn in a very safe and clean environment. Having seen everything for the first time I now look forward to going back for another relaxing vacation at Walt Disney World.

Every time Carol and I visit Walt Disney World with a "first-timer" we see something fresh, something brand new. Sure, we've seen it many times before but now we're looking from a fresh perspective. It really is like seeing it all again for the first time.

So if you’re looking for a way to see “The Disney Magic” again for the first time, try visiting with a “first-timer”. Take all that Disney expertise you have gathered over the years and Pay it Forward. We enjoy the experience and I think you will too!

The previous post in this blog was Disney Fantasy Christening March 1, 2012.

The next post in this blog is Have you discovered these out-of-the-way play areas at Walt Disney World?.

Comments (12)

Michelle:

Wonderful blog, Gary! I laughed, I cried! It's so true that it's all new when you experience Disney with someone who has never been. I often think that if I could personally escort those "annoying" people that don't see the magic, they would come away with a totally different opinion. But I can't reach them all! :)

Lisa Z.:

I concur Gary! It also a thrill to watch a child's perspective change from trip to trip as they age and are able to experience more of the magic the world offers.

A great article!

Cheers!

Lisa

What a very nice blog post.

Very well written and with good photography. Makes me wish I was back in WDW (or my favorite - Disneyland in California) now.

Thanks for a wonderful article.

Dan

Gaylin:

Over the years I have introduced 5 people to Disney World. Only one of them caught the Disney bug but everyone had fun.

One friend commented after we had been in all 4 parks and seen the 3D, gone on Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids that Disney sure liked to get people wet.

My 24 year old nephew commented that his favourite part was seeing little kids having so much fun and how awesome the cast members were! And here I thought he would say the thrill rides were his favourite part. He is also a chef and loved the food, I paid special attention on the trip with him to the ADR's and the variety of restaurants we went to.

My first trip was in 1978 and I still have a very clear memory of being 18, walking down Main Street and wishing I had someone's hand to hold.

Peg:

Hi Gary, what a fantastic blog. My husband I had the pleasure of playing host to 2 Disney first timers in 2010, my then 9 year old nephew and 10 year old niece. My nephew could never understand why I always talked about Disney World, what was the big deal. He didn't care about the characters he was too cool at 9 to get excited about Mickey and his friends. He had been to amusement parks but just didn't get what made Disney World so special.

I think it took about a day and a half for him to give me a great big hug and say "Aunt Peg now I understand why you love Disney World so much". I relived my first Disney trip through them and it was wonderful! Every day they would ask me what are we doing today, what park are we going to, is this ride scary, is it fast, does it spin? All the questions I had when I first went. In a few years we'll be going again with Disney first timers when we go with friends who will be taking their children to Disney World for the first time and boy I can't wait for that trip.

Tiffany :

What a great blog.

We took my Mother-in-law for her first trip in 2008. It was fantastic to see her having a great time. I looked over during PhilharMagic to see her reaching for the jewels just like your mom. She screamed for her Mommy on big thunder mountain, and searched for the perfect cinderella watch. The best was watching her dance during Woody's cowboy roundup. We never knew she loved westerns. She even bought a pink cowboy hat to wear the rest of the day.

We brought our son for his first trip last year, but as he was only 9 months old we will have more first times with him to come.

Wendy Crober:

That was a great blog Gary. I also enjoy helping people with their trips so that they can enjoy themselves and not be so overwhelmed by everything.

I also hear those annoying people after every trip asking why we keep going back - they don't understand the magic and they never will. We love it so much we just bought into DVC.

We're back in 77 days and it's a great thought when we look outside at the snow and the frigid temperatures.

From a fellow Canadian,

Wendy

Maria:

Thanks for the article.

I love seeing Disney through new eyes as well. The latest was in February when we came down for the high school cheer competition. One of the girls in my room was a first to Disney. Most exciting was her face during Soarin' - priceless!

And yes people always ask why we keep going back to Disney. You do have to "get it" to appreciate it. Hope we made lifelong Disney fans of my two teenage girls.

I think my husband and I are setting a good example! :-)

Rebecca:

Great article! We just booked a May trip with my sister in law and 8 year old nephew- both first timers! Initially I was a little nervous about having an 8 year old around for a whole week because we are usually a group of adults (ok, I'm still a little nervous about that), but when I realized they are both first timers and we'll get to see it though their eyes, I got so excited! We enjoy just being on rides with people we don't know when you can tell they are first timers (Soarin is one of my favorites!), so to share it with them will surely be an awesome experience. I hope they "get it"!

Maxine:

One of my favourite things to do too! I have taken nieces and nephews (8 was the youngest - 14 was the oldest), 2 of my sisters for their 50th birthdays and my parents (mid-70's) all for their FIRST time. It is so exciting seeing someone for the first time in these parks I love so much. With each and every trip I try to do "new things" myself (last November with my sister we did Wild Africa Trek). That was a great blog - I enjoyed it immensely and sat with a big grin on my face the whole time.

Hi Gary!

What a great blog - nicely done.

It's so much fun taking first-timers to WDW. Once I took 4 of my co-workers and we had such a blast. Another time I went with my cousin and her family. It's always fun to experience it through their eyes.

It's equally fun to be able to share tips from having been there so many times.

Debbie:

Great blog! I, too, love experiencing my favorite place with first timers and reliving that "first-time magic". I, myself, will be a first timer again in June when I visit Disneyland for the first time.

Reading your blog just tripled my excitement. Thanks!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 2, 2012 8:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Disney Fantasy Christening March 1, 2012.

The next post in this blog is Have you discovered these out-of-the-way play areas at Walt Disney World?.

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