The Disney Parks are all about creating magical memories with family and friends. We may be missing our ‘happy place’ right now, but it’s always good to look back on the memories we have made.

First visits are always fun! I still remember my first visit to Walt Disney World in September 2004. It was a crazy time to go. Hurricane season was quite active that year. My first visit happened between Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Jeanne. The week that Hurricane Ivan hit, we made a decision to keep our scheduled trip.

When we arrived in Orlando, we had a scheduled grocery stop to buy snacks and food. Once we arrived at our hotel, we had connecting rooms so that was good in case we had to stay in them for a long period of time.

But that visit was very memorable for me. I couldn’t believe that I was finally at the place that I had seen so many times on TV! I wanted to see Mickey standing on top of Spaceship Earth when I first arrived at Epcot. Those commercials were always the best!

The first Walt Disney World park I stepped into was Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Park was over 6 years old, and Park hours were 9am to 5pm. There was plenty to do in that short amount of time. My favorite was Festival of the Lion King, which was being performed at Camp Minnie-Mickey. Camp Minnie-Mickey is now the home of Pandora – The World of Avatar. The show was very entertaining, and it was the best show I saw during that visit too!

Kilimanjaro Safaris was also fun! The story was different in the early days of the Park. And although the story may have. Been drilled,  the safari experience is still very much enjoyable. Even exploring the animal encounters and walking trails was fun. This Park has definitely ‘grown up,’ and I’m so happy because it’s such a beautiful Park if you take the time to explore it.

The next day was my first time at Magic Kingdom. I remember hearing the train whistle as I approached the Magic Kingdom main entrance. As I stepped into the Park and onto Main Street, U.S.A., I remember looking down at Cinderella Castle, and I was in shock at how big it was! I couldn’t believe it! I remember riding Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, and so many other classic attractions. All of them were similar, yet different compared to the Disneyland versions!

Just before Park closing, we waited on Main Street for “Wishes!” I loved this fireworks show! It brought tears to my eyes as it was a perfect way to end the day! The day was unbelievable as I had created new memories.

I even remember walking into Epcot during that visit and was amazed by how big Spaceship Earth was! And unfortunately, Mickey wasn’t standing on top of it, but that’s okay. Epcot was a very different Park. I didn’t expect most of everything I saw. World Showcase was my favorite part of Epcot. The different countries and experiences were great! El Rio del Tiempo, Maelstrom, the American Adventure, and the Circle-vision films were fun!

Of course, we also saw the Living Seas, Journey Into Imagination, Living with the Land, Test Track, and Mission: Space. To end the day, we saw “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth!” This was a great show as well! The music was my favorite part! I had remembered watching the Millennium countdown on ABC and they used the music from “Illuminations.” I also had the soundtrack, which I would listen to severely times a week!

Stepping into the former Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) was fun! After a few hours there, I said that this Park is what Disney’s California Adventure could have been and should have been. Disney-MGM Studios was all about shows. From “Beauty and the Beast Live On Stage” to the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular to “Fantasmic,” this Park was fun! “Fantasmic!” was very different because not only were you able to sit down and watch it, you saw a familiar yet fun show.

Ever since that first visit in 2004, I have taken many trips to Walt Disney World. I took friends for the first times many times! However, my favorite Disney World ‘first time’ trip was in October 2018 when I took my mom there for the first time. She had always wanted to go on one of my Disney World trips. I said she could come in 2018 because her birthday would be a couple weeks after. Plus her health had improved greatly after her breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and recovery in April/May 2015. She said that I was the perfect tour guide. And she even wanted to go back, and we did this past January. After we returned from that visit, she said that she wanted to go back yet again!

I know we all will return to our ‘happy place” soon to make even more magical memories! But for now, all we can do is share and remember those happy times!