Most of my friends know of my family’s frequent visits to Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida. Many of my friends are “Disney People” themselves, however some people just don’t “get it” when it comes down to why we go there on vacation every summer. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard: “This is a big country… why don’t you go somewhere else?” It is my intention, with this post, to attempt to explain it you (them).
Confession: My name is Gunfighter, and I am a hard-core Disney addict, but I wasn't always. I'd like to tell you my story:
In 1996, my wife and I were planning to go to Melbourne, Florida, to see some friends for a weekend. Susan had some passes for Typhoon Lagoon (which is a Disney water park in Orlando) so we planned a really short trip to Orlando to use them and to see what else we could see. I have to tell you that I was less than thrilled about any Disney aspect to our trip. My thoughts were in line with most Disney-Haters: "This is just a colorful way to separate stupid people from their money", "I'd rather make MY OWN fun, rather than having the fun someone else wants me to have" etc... etc... etc... So we went to Typhoon Lagoon and later to Downtown Disney, which is a large shopping/entertainment area. I was not the best companion and Susan let me know about it. I didn't care much for our visit, and figured that since I had seen parts of Disney World, there was no need for me to have to go back. I was in for a surprise.
The following year, Susan suggested that we go again, because she was sure I'd like it if I gave it a chance. By this time we had been married almost two years and if I had learned anything in that period, it is that my wife is one of the smartest people ever, which means I trust her judgement on just about everything (except cooking)So... we made plans to go back to wdw!
I decided that perhaps I had been looking at this the wrong way. I decided that I was going to "give myself permission" to have a really good time, and just enjoy whatever we did in the spirit in which it was meant to be experienced. With this in mind, we traveled to Orlando. Once we settled into our hotel, it was time to go to The Magic Kingdom. (The MK is the first of the four major Disney Theme parks in Orlando). As soon as we arrived in the MK, I bought a set of Mickey Mouse ears, and that was it. I was hooked. I have been addicted ever since. During this trip, we saw all four of the Disney parks in Orlando, which include: Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney's MGM Studio. We had a great time on this trip, and i'll never forget it.
We went again in 1998, adding a week at Longboat Key for some time on the Gulf side of Florida, while Susan was pregnant (but not hugely so) with Olivia. We went again in 1999 (twice), and in 2000 (twice... I had to get a PT job at the Disney store to be able to feed the family habit), and again in 2001 (twice) Well, you get the picture... in 2002 we bought into the Hilton Grand Vacation Club because we knew that wdw was always going to be our vacation of choice (followed closely by Williamsburg, Virginia).
What did it for me? Why the transformation? I'll tell you: It was/is the texture of the place. There isn't just a thin veneer of happiness and cheer... there is a depth that has to be experienced to be understood. This is particularly important to me, as I am exceptionally detail oriented when it comes to many things. To see the incredible thought processes that went into not only the designs, but also the engineering of the roads, the resorts, the efficiency of hiding all the restrooms, the cleanliness of the parks, the locations of the trash recepticles, the water features, the use of infectious music... the tangibility of the place. It was overwhelming. As I said, I am detail oriented, and I really love seeing anything done particularly well. Well, my friends, Disney did it for me... the place was/is efficiently run. Clean, bright, and loads of fun. Fun for all, not just for children.
People often tell me that since they have no children, why would should they bother? "It couldn't possibly be any fun for me". To them I say: Look, you can go to Disney World and do lots and lots of kiddie stuff if you want to, but you don't have to. There are many levels of experience here, from staying in motel-like accomodations, to staying in five-star hotels and eating in the fanciest (and priciest) restaraunts, or anywhere in between.
Sure, Disney wants your money... but then the same can be said for going anywhere else. I realise that there are those that think themselves too cerebral or intellectual to have a good time at Disney World, but I respectfully suggest that perhaps those people need to lighten up and have a bit of fun that doesn't require recitations of the Periodic Tables or of Hamlet... in Danish.
For those that are skeptical, I’d ask you to give the place a chance. Allow yourselves to EXPERIENCE the place instead of just passing through. It is ok to play, if you want to, and I promise not to tell your friends in the local Shakespeare Society that you actually had a good time.
To paraphrase Rafael Sabatini, people that leave Disney World without having had an enormous amount of fun, only have themselves to blame.