Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

“W” is for Walt Disney World


Goggle Earth view of Cinderella's Castle at Disney World, 2015

Goggle Earth view of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World, 2015

Walt Disney World in Florida, USA–is there a more magical place on earth?!  We don’t think so, and our family has had some very special adventures there over the last 45 years!  Yes! I said 45 years, Max and I got to go to Disney World for a preview in December, 1970, a full ten months before they officially opened in October, 1971! We had gone down to visit his cousin Ronnie Kennerly who was a police officer in Jacksonville, Florida. Disney had invited the law enforcement  officers to come visit, and Max and I got to go also! We had no idea the magnitude of what we were seeing, nor of how privileged we were to see it before it opened to the public! All we knew was that our 21 year-old selves loved it and thought it was magical for sure! 

1970 pictures of trip to Disney World

By 1989, Max and I realized our first child, Ali was 15 and our second child Annie was 7, and we had not taken them to Disney World yet! How had we let this happen! Off we went for our great adventure! Then in 2005, our daughter Annie did an internship at Disney World for her Hospitality and Tourism Degree at Appalachian State University. While she lived at Disney for eight months, we went down to visit her during the Christmas holidays that year. The family now included Greg Orcutt as Ali had gotten married in 2001. Max and I have not been to Disney World since that 2005 trip, but in nine days, our daughter Ali and her family, Greg and three kids 7, 3, and 15 months are taking the plunge and touring the wonderful world of Disney, I can hardly wait to see pictures! 

Look at the difference in tickets alone between when we went in 1989, and for Ali and her family to go now in 2015! While we used paper tickets, treasures in our family scrap books, Ali and her family will wear electronic bracelets, called Magic Bands, which they will scan to get in, proving they have previously bought their admission tickets.  The bands not only replace the tickets to the parks, but also room keys, charges to the room, and fast passes for rides. How cool is that! 

 In 1989, Max and I stayed off campus in a condominium. It was lovely, but we decided it would be easier to stay in a Disney Resort  if you had kids.  When our children and grandchildren go next week, they will be staying on Disney. To this day, I remember how lovely it was to visit Disney World.  From the moment we parked and entered Disney, we were met and catered to by Disney cast members who saw to our every whim–with a smile! If that alone didn’t put a smile on your face, surely the parades, the Castle, the riverboat where we had breakfast with Mickey, Minnie and all the characters–to the Broadway play we saw in the Contemporary Resort, every moment was awesome, for us adults and the kids!  We rode rides, and visited backstage at Disney MGM Studios to see how movies were made.  Back at Magic Kingdom, we actually had lunch with Cinderella in the Castle, an event we had signed up for six months ahead of time! To this day, Annie remembers seeing her favorite Princess and that when lunch was over, Cinderella said, “I have to go now, because I have to go feed the Prince!” That amazed 7-year-old Annie! The days and nights were filled with parades, fireworks, oh my, and we shopped ’til we dropped! We left Disney thinking what a fabulous trip we had.

1989 trip to Disney World in pictures: 

In May 2005 through January 2006, our daughter Annie completed the Disney College Program (an internship) at Walt Disney World! During that time she took classes at Disney College, became a cast member and worked at Pop Century Resort in retail and in the food court. She also had the opportunity to work special events like the Food and Wine Festival and Star Wars Weekends. She even joined the cast choir which allowed us to hear her sing along with celebrities on Christmas Eve in Epcot Center! We had never been to Disney at Christmas time, and the sight took my breath away! Luxurious greenery and decorations covered every door, arch, and window! By then, I was sick and using a wheelchair. Getting on and off the monorail, getting in and out of plays, restaurants, stores–always, ALWAYS there was someone to lend a hand and see that my needs were met! My life might have been stressful for me and my family at home, but at Disney World, being handicapped brought support beyond belief, so that only joy remained! Annie learned the ins and outs of Disney, including the underground, cast only, tunnels to get them from one place to another. With all the normal trials of working at a place that large and busy, Annie finished still loving Disney, and having made a lifelong friend.  A sick Mom, and the eminent birth of her nephew, persuaded Annie to come home, but she has always considered returning for a career at Disney. She is a family person, true, but she is a Disney girl as well. One of our cousins calls her “Disney Girl” in fact–a nickname she loves!

2005 Disney College Program with Annie and Family Christmas at Disney

I want to share with you some pictures and a video from the Candlelight Processional which they have at Epcot Center every Christmas season. If you are ever at Disney during the Christmas season, you might find this as awe-inspiring as I did. I will never forget the trumpets, the candlelight procession, and the beautiful voices raised in praise that night in 2005, including our daughter Annie’s voice. 

Being the amateur genealogist that I am , I cannot close this post without sharing with you that I discovered that my husband and children are actually related to Walt Disney himself!  The relationship chart, showing that they are 9th cousins, 3x removed  looks like this: 

Disney relationship to max, 9th cousin, 3x removed

Forty-five years of trips to Walt Disney World includes my daughter Ali and her family’s trip this coming week. I can hardly wait to hear about my grandchildren’s first trip to Disney and to add some of their pictures to our collection. 

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