Chapter 1: Never too old for Disney

I am a middle-aged fan of Walt Disney World who believes that the magic of Disney is not just for kids. Are you like me? Do you feel that a trip to a Disney Resort is one full of extraordinary experiences? Do you consider Disney’s theme parks, Disney’s first-class resorts, and the abundance of four-star dinning experiences the perfect makings for an adult vacation? This blog was created to share personal experiences as mature travelers at a Disney Resort. Although this blog will focus on my time spent at Walt Disney World, I welcome comments about your experiences at any of the Disney Resorts.

As most baby-boomers, I grew up watching Disney shows, such as the original Mickey Mouse Club. I enjoyed watching the Mouseketeers sing and dance, the Disney cartoons, and the various original series. As I got a little older, I sat around the television with my family on Sunday evenings watching the Wonderful World of Color. My favorite episodes were those that featured an inside look at Disneyland. I wanted to go there, to walk in that magical place that “Uncle Walt” had built. Every time I asked my parents when we would get to go to Disneyland, they would always give me the same answer, “some day.”

Some day came during the summer of 1970 when my family finally made the trek to California to visit family and, of course, explore Disneyland. At 12 years old I was overwhelmed with the world Disney had created. The details in theming were more fantastic than I had imagined. I was finally walking down Main Street, U.S.A., with its colorful and quaint shops and offices, all designed to reflect a turn-of-the-century town. And there, straight ahead, was the famous Disney Castle guarding the entrance to Fantasyland.

After my first experience through the Haunted Mansion, it quickly became my favorite attraction. The theming immerses you in the three-act story of “999 happy ghosts.” My journey began with a greeting from the melancholy servants as they guided me into the plantation-styled mansion, and the voice of my “ghost host” welcomed this “foolish mortal.” I remember being startled by the sound of a body hitting the floor at the center of the stretching room. The second act began as my “ghost host” welcomed me onboard my “Doombuggy.” I still vividly remember the images of floating candles in an endless hallway; eager ghosts behind bulging doors trying to greet me; a disembodied head floating in a crystal ball; and a room full of partying ghosts. The third act took me out an attic window into a graveyard “alive” of singing spirits. I thought the “ghost host’s” warning to “beware of hitchhiking ghosts” was a little corny, until I saw one in a mirror sitting beside my own reflection.

I was in awe of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea adventure. What boy would refuse a ride on a submarine that took you on an underwater exploration? The Mark Twain Riverboat took us on a historic tour of the Rivers of America; pass a settler’s burning cabin and an island with a hidden cave.

Two years later, I took a tour of Florida, which included a few days at the Magic Kingdom, the only park open at that time. I ran directly to the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square. The Disney World version of the mansion is built in a Colonial style. I found all the familiar ghosts and haunted rooms I had experienced at Disneyland. It would be another 42 years before I would have the opportunity to visit a Disney Resort again, and ride a “Doombuggy” to visit those “999 happy ghosts.”

During the summer of 2014, my wife and I enjoyed our first trip to Walt Disney World. As we made plans for our vacation, we frequently heard the same comment from family and friends, “Aren’t you too old for Disney.” My answer will always be a resounding, “NO!” As a mature individual, whose children are grown, and whose grandchildren are not yet able to attend, I still see the magic in a Disney World vacation.

So, what is your story? What was your first experience like in a Disney park? How did you become a mature fan of Disney? What are your experiences at Walt Disney World and Disneyland? Do family and friends wonder why you, a mature vacationer, would choose to go to Walt Disney World for a vacation? What do you tell them? Please post your comments and keep the conversation going.

In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse I will share our experiences in choosing a Disney Resort for our first vacation as mature visitors to Walt Disney World.