50 Years of Walt Disney World ~ Pure Disney Magic

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I would try and explain to you what Walt Disney World celebrating her 50th anniversary means to me.  A lot of time.  It’s taken me a while because, honestly, I don’t know that I can put my true feelings about it into words.  Walt Disney World isn’t just a place to me; it’s an experience.  It’s the Disney version of magic – fantasy becomes a reality.  And that Disney Magic has touched my life during many different seasons.  Some of those seasons have been joyful, some have been a bit painful, but all have benefited from Disney and the childlike wonder it brings.

So, I’ll start at the beginning with my very first trip to Walt Disney World.  I’m going to age myself here.  I was six years old when Walt Disney World and I first met in 1974.  My new little sister had just been born, and she was very ill; most of 1973wase spent focusing on her.  After two serious surgeries, her health improved, and my parents felt it was time to focus on me.  Walt Disney World was bright and shiny and new, so that was where we were headed, and off we went for my first ever visit and stay at the Polynesian Village Resort.  I was a “princessy” type of little girl – my mom dressed me in short poplin dresses, I played dress-ups with barbies, I watched Cinderella on repeat, and I knew every word to Some Day My Prince Will Come.  I was Disney’s very first target market. I will never forget that trip. The smells, the sounds, the background music, the attractions, the food – and having my parents’ full attention as we played together.  Truly happy days. This was the first time I experienced the “Disney Bubble” – where things could seemingly never go wrong, and the outside world was shut out.  I fell in love.  Fortunately for me, so did my parents.  We returned three years later with my new little sister and again the following year with my grandparents.  Three visits in 4 years – was this a sign of things to come?  I could only hope so.  Disney Magic had captured me.









As I grew, so did Walt Disney World.  My next few trips in the early to mid-’80s saw Disney move from the old ticket books (each attraction required a ticket to ride, and the popularity of the ride determined the cost of the tickets – A, B, C, D, and E – that’s where we get the term “E-ticket attraction” from that we use today for rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) to a pay one time and all your rides are included model called a passport.  The first passport was a big piece of white cardboard that we had pinned to our shirts.  We felt rather important when showing our passport to the Cast Member at the attraction and not having to produce a ticket to ride.  I visited again with my family and then on a Young Life trip with my friends when I was a senior in high school.  By that trip, I knew my way around the parks (at this point, there was only Magic Kingdom and Epcot) like the back of my hand and was deemed the tour guide for our group.

Then, this princess fell in love with her prince.  By senior year of college, I had met my soon-to-be husband, and where else do two lovebirds go on spring break but Walt Disney World.  My husband had visited once as a child, so I took the lead on what to do and where to stay, except…two broke college kids could not afford the same budget my parents had afforded us.  So, instead of the Polynesian Village Resort, all we could afford was the Holiday Inn in Kissimmee.  We still talk about a trip to this day because it was a trip of “next time’s and if only’s.”  We had such a tiny budget that I had to skip many of my favorite things no staying onsite, no dining at my favorite restaurants, even a churro seemed like a splurge.  I swore then that I would only go back if I could “do it right,” and that meant waiting a few years until we were married and had our careers on track, even with all that the Disney Magic was alive and well.

Well, it just so happened that my career ended up being in the airline industry, so – yay us – we got to fly for free!  Now, most people would be excited to jet off to foreign countries and explore cultures and food from around the world.  Me?  I was like – “sure, we can do all that … in Epcot World Showcase!”.  I kid—kind of. So, we took advantage of the flight benefits and did explore some pretty cool places.  But, we also took many, many trips to Walt Disney World.  By now, my husband had fallen in love with it almost as much I had (he will never admit that), and we had two new parks to visit – MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) and Animal Kingdom.  During our numerous trips, we were able to stay at many of the new Disney resort hotels, which was so much fun and made every trip a unique experience.  This season was full of us being young and carefree.  Some of the best vacations in our 32 years of marriage were when we went by ourselves to Walt Disney World. Disney Magic exists for adults too!

Seasons changed, and along came our kiddos.  Vacationing with littles at Walt Disney World is a whole new ballgame, but we figured it out pretty well, and our girls grew up with Walt Disney World as our go-to vacation (we still flew for free, which was a huge help!).  As much as I loved all of my previous trips, two will always stick in my mind – when each of my daughters saw The Castle for the first time. I’m telling you, as a mom, there is absolutely nothing like it.  And seeing everything that I had started to take for granted through their eyes was amazing.  By the time we took our oldest daughter, we had probably ridden Peter Pan over a dozen times.  But that first ride with Abby – she truly believed we were flying in a pirate ship.  And I realized we were flying in a pirate ship!  Because…Disney Magic!  Like Jesus is always the correct answer in Sunday School at church – magic is always the right answer at Disney because it explains everything perfectly.







And the winds of change rolled in once again…and the seasons changed.  Due to my husband’s job, we moved from Fort Worth to San Antonio, and I decided the time had come to step away from my job at the airline.  So, no more free flights.  And lots of extra time on my hands. So, what could I do to keep myself busy and feed my love of Disney?  That’s when I found Travel with the Magic.  I was hired as a Travel Planner, and guess how I spend my days – busy and feeding my love of Disney. Travel with the Magic has afforded me the opportunity to travel to Disney with my family and take annual trips with my fellow Travel with the Magic agents to explore Disney Destinations. So now, when I visit Walt Disney World, I look at things through my children’s eyes and my clients’ eyes. So, what began as a wing and a prayer for something to fill my days is now a full-time job bringing Disney Magic to my clients.

Remember I mentioned some seasons were a bit more challenging?  Here we go…six years ago, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer.  Talk about seeing things differently.  My annual trips were now on hold while I focused on myself.  It took a year or two to get back on my feet, but when I did guess where I went?  I grabbed my family, and we went to Walt Disney World.  Let me tell you – while chemo may have been exactly what I needed physically, Walt Disney World was exactly what I needed for my soul.  There may have been tears of joy when I saw that castle (full disclosure:  there are always tears of joy – but these were more numerous and hit hard).  Every moment of that trip was super sensitive.  Every smell, every sound, the background music, the attractions, the food – it was 1974 all over again – a renewal of the childlike wonder.  I was home.

I’ll avoid calling Covid a “season” – there are many other words for it that come to mind, none of which are appropriate for this blog.  But can I tell you that even in that mess of craziness, both professionally and personally, Walt Disney World has been a beacon of hope and a symbol of “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow.”  Even on March 16, 2020 – when the gates to the parks didn’t open – we knew that someday everything would be ok.  Because – Disney Magic.  It never really disappears.  And my first trip back “home” in February of 2021 to experience her reawakening – Disney Magic overload.







The seasons continue to change – my husband and I are now empty nesters. So guess where our first empty nester trip is?  You guessed it – we check in to the Polynesian Village Resort next month.  Because where else would I be to celebrate a new season in my life?  Right alongside my beloved Walt Disney World, celebrating a new season in her life.  Because – Disney Magic.

My wish for you is that you experience the joy that comes from visiting Walt Disney World with your significant other or your children or your parents or your friends, or maybe even just yourself.  Whatever season you find yourself in, I can promise a Disney vacation will add joy to it.  Enjoy the Disney bubble.  It can be rough out here but in there – pure Disney Magic.


Follow Susan on Facebook

Read more installments in our Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Series!