What a surprise summer getaway to Disney World taught me about myself, about adult life, and about marriage.
Everybody needs a little bit of magic in their lives. Especially dreamers, like me. Luckily, I married a man who is one of the most devout believers in magic…the magic of Disney, that is.
On what seemed like a typical day this summer, Dan gave me one of the biggest surprises to date. “Pack your bags, we are driving to Disney World. We need to spend some time at the happiest place on Earth. We are leaving the house in an hour.” Wait…what?? Was this a joke? What about work? Did my boss know about this? We’re driving? After I confirmed that Dan had taken care of everything, and all I really had to do was pack my bag, my panic quickly turned into excitement and I packed as fast as I possibly could. We dropped Pudge at his favorite doggy daycare to spend a few days with his puppy friends, and we were on the road.
Dan drove the entire way there. We made it all the way to Florida before we stopped to snooze. The drive was great- we were able to talk, spend quality time together that was fairly uninterrupted, and I was able to rest and get over a cold I had. (There’s something about leaving your environment and knowing you’re headed for Disney World that clears a cold up in turbo time.) While we were in the car, Dan’s coworker and biggest Disney fanatic we know, Greg, was coordinating a fast past masterplan and mapping out our rides and experiences for each day in the parks on an Excel spreadsheet. Without Greg’s efforts we would have been stuck in lines for hours.
Prior to this trip, I hadn’t been to Disney World since I was five years old. We drove through the gates and onto Disney property and I think I was more excited at 27 years old than I was as a child. We checked into our hotel, put on our magic bands, changed clothes, boarded the bus, and headed to Magic Kingdom.
We walked into the park and I was overcome with emotion. I was trying not to cry, because my whole body was swelling with happiness. We rounded the corner onto Main Street…ready for the reaction I was about to have, Dan pulled out his phone to capture the magic moment on Snapchat. With the sight of Cinderella’s castle, my jaw dropped and my eyes grew wide, and every single thought or worry fled my mind. I was little Ellie again, with big dreams in my head and pure happiness in my heart.
We spent some time wandering around Magic Kingdom before attacking Greg’s masterful fast pass ride itinerary. (We spent 3 full days in the parks, and I think we waited in line no longer than 10 minutes for any one ride.)
While we were meandering around Magic Kingdom soaking in all of the happy, the Main Street Philharmonic band marched onto the scene. The music was fantastic and the musicians were incredible- Dan was in awe, so we watched their entire show. Mid-way through the set of toe-tapping jazz tunes, Dan grabbed me and started dancing in front of the band, and a crowd of people. This is not the norm…this was ‘Disney Dan’ taking over. It was one of the most innocent, care-free, and heartwarming memories I will always cherish. Dancing on Disney’s Main Street with Dan, devoid of any of our cares or worries.
We tried the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, and it was a blast. This was one we waited a few minutes in line for, but we loved it. The coaster was very smooth, and I loved all of the jewels and gems that were part of the ride’s decor. This isn’t a big thrill ride, but it was definitely a joy ride. Look at the quality of photo this ride captures. Technology is amazing.
We park-hopped like crazy on this trip. Animal Kingdom was wild. The safari animals were all out, the Lion King show was unforgettable, and I can’t stress this enough: GO TO TIFFINS! It’s a new restaurant, it’s fancy, it’s delicious, and you won’t regret it. Another thank you to Greg for making our reservations and making sure we experienced this. You win.
Hollywood Studios I think has my favorite rides. Tower of Terror, Rockin’ Rollercoaster and The Great Movie Ride were definitely at the top of my list.
Dan and I made some extra special memories at Epcot. As adults, this park offers so much more than it did when we were young. We enjoyed a margarita in Mexico, ate dinner in Morocco, had a cocktail in England, ate an egg roll in China, shared a pretzel and a beer in Germany, and watched the fireworks show over the lake. We walked from land to land for hours, each one completely transporting us to new scenery and culture.
A Disney tip: The photos in this post were all taken by Disney photographers (or ride cameras). The memory maker photographers snap your photo, hold their camera to your magic band, and voilá! Your photos are magically transferred to your phone and into your Disney World app. From there you can purchase your images. We didn’t figure this trick out until our final day in the parks. Never again will we carry a bag in, now that these magic bands act as your wallet and key to everything.
There were so many more rides and experiences we shared during three days in the parks together. The Voices of Liberty, the Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate The Magic and Wishes nighttime spectacular, Star Wars : A Galactic Spectacular, and the list goes on. Dan keeps repeating out loud that driving us to Disney World this summer was one of the best decisions he has ever made. This was also the vacation, of all the getaways we’ve shared in almost five years together, that was by far the most fun.
Our trip to Disney World taught me some lessons about myself, about being an adult, and about being married:
1) It is okay to reconnect with your childhood sense of wonder. Always know where to find your inner Lost Boy.
2) Find ways to bring back your younger wide-eyed self into each day, so that life never loses its magic.
3) Never be afraid to know who you really are, despite what society and the working world makes you feel you have to be.
4) Don’t be afraid to enjoy and participate in what makes you truly happy. And only you know the answer to this. No matter who I have to be in my daily life, it is no secret that the second I sat down at the Beauty and the Beast show, my heart swelled five sizes and I unashamedly sang along softly to every lyric and mimicked the cast members’ movements to Be Our Guest.
5) Life’s little moments are what mean most in a marriage. Like grabbing each other’s hands with your arms raised as you drop down Splash Mountain screaming and laughing.
6) Sometimes you get your happy fix by watching your spouse be happy. Marriage is beautiful in that way.
7) We all need a dose of spontaneity in our mostly mundane adult lives. When you get the chance to dance in front of Cinderella’s castle, take it.
For now, I’ll be wishing upon a star until our next visit.