It was 1987 when my husband and I last entered the Magic Kingdom. Our daughters were seven and ten years old, and somehow we’d been able to take them to Orlando over Christmas Break. There was security then, but no double bag checks and X-rays. We also remember that in order to take a picture of Cinderella’s Castle in the dark, we set our SLR camera on the top of a trash can. In contrast, this year I pulled a smart phone out of my pocket and snapped these shots of the fireworks and light show.
So what else has changed at “The Happiest Place on Earth,” in thirty years? Prices are higher, to be sure. You scan your “magic band” to get in instead of presenting a paper ticket. The customized bracelet also works as a debit card for hotel rooms, restaurants, and fast passes.
There are two more parks to visit now, but we stuck to the main ones: Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Muppets have been ensconced on Main Street USA, greeting visitors with a performance about the founding fathers. Miss Piggy (who else?) represents the royalty from which our new country broke away. Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland — all still there, with modifications such as Pixar’s Monsters Inc. “Laugh Floor.” Peter Pan’s ride, below, is fun as ever, along with the Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Teacups and Space Mountain. One can still float through “It’s a Small World,” and wind up with the tune in the head for the rest of the day.
At Epcot, time is best balanced among designing cars for the Test Track, navigating a mission to Mars, and taking in other countries’ shop wares and cuisine. We had a wonderful experience at the Japanese grille, breaking bread (if not chopsticks) with an extended family from Pittsburgh. And mouse ears of every color were everywhere: sprouting from headbands and caps; with sequins, bows, and fiber optics. Those wearing them were all ages, all sizes, from just about everywhere, speaking their home languages.
Never changing is the fulfilled vision of Walt Disney. Disney World is a place where you meet characters you grew up with, dance in your heart to music you’ve always loved; and dream more of what the future can hold.