June 12, 2015

Top Ten Disney Park Moments

When you're a huge Disney park fan such as I am, you look around at the condition and quality of the Stateside Disney parks and sometimes wistfully yearn for days in the past when the company was truly cutting edge and fully invested in creating the ultimate experience for its guests. That doesn't mean there haven't been huge successes recently, the revamp of California Adventure comes to mind- but in too many other areas, the Company has failed at home in spite of some great concepts developed by the Imagineers.

Why do we look backwards? Often it is because we are used to being flabbergasted by what's been created by the folks who used to be best in the business. And we hold on dearly to those sweet, sometimes inspiring, memories that we've made. It is in that spirit that I present my personal Top Ten Disney Park Moments (in chronological order):

Wow, just wow!

July 1975- Taking the boats across the Seven Seas Lagoon, seeing Cinderella Castle for the first time, long before we arrived at the dock to go to the Magic Kingdom. I was just a teen, but the impression was so strong that my attachment to Walt Disney World became just as powerful as the one I had to Walt's Original Kingdom. That's saying something from a guy who considers himself an Orange County California boy.

July 1981- Visiting Club 33 at Disneyland with my girlfriend (now wife). It was the perfect birthday gift, and one that has never been able to be repeated. My father in law worked for Kodak, and they had a corporate membership. Little did she know then that her life would be filled with Disney moments.

If You Had Wings was just around the corner. Photographer unknown.

April 1982- Walking the grounds of the Polynesian Village on our honeymoon. It wasn't the focus of our trip, (that was the Bahamas), but it was the first two days. We absolutely loved the gorgeous Electrical Water Pageant, Liberty Square, and of course, If You Had Wings.

In its original incarnation, EPCOT Center was my favorite Disney theme park.

April 1983- Returning a year later but this time for a whole week, we couldn't wait to see the first (and best until Tokyo Disney Sea) non-castle Disney park. Taking the Walt Disney World monorail through EPCOT Center the night before we would go in the park, I couldn't imagine what it could be like. World Showcase lit up beautifully, Future World gleamed even before Horizons, and the next day could not come soon enough. We were not disappointed.

Photo copyright The Walt Disney Company.

May 1989- Taking our children to Walt Disney World for the first time. Three little ones were surprised by the adventure as they went with Daddy on his business trip. A stay at the Caribbean Beach and the opening of the Disney-MGM Studios. What a week of fun!

A beautiful day to explore the world's most beautiful Magic Kingdom. 
One of three trips to Disneyland Paris taken in three different seasons.
(Photo by Mark Taft.)

October 1998- The first view of the castle as we walked down Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland Paris. Our family (now with three teens and an 8 year old) snagged $99 each way tickets from Denver to London. Absolutely, we would not miss Paris and Disney's first European theme park. Just being in Europe as a family was the "E Ticket", but the part itself was everything it was promoted to be. Still the world's most beautiful Magic Kingdom.

Photo copyright Mark Taft.

October 1999- The Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This family trip included a close friend of ours. The kids were old enough to stay in the room one night while we went our for dinner.  A new Disney theme park, a beautiful one, but woefully short in attractions.

We still love Epcot- but not as much as the original EPCOT Center.
Photo copyright Mark Taft.

February 2009- A trip for husband and wife alone. After many years, the World seemed fairly fresh again. Dinner and fireworks at the California Grill restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort. Watching the Magic Kingdom via the telescope. A stay at the Port Orleans Riverside resort was just the ticket to a relaxing few days. Now, that restaurant is one of my favorite places to eat- but its not the food (mostly good), but it is the location that draws me. 

Photo copyright Mark Taft.

October 2012- Catching the view of Cars Land for the first time as I walked under the rock work arch from the Pacific Wharf at California Adventure. I was alone this trip but absolutely amazed. The Imagineers still had it. If the suits would let them. Perhaps my favorite land at the Disneyland Resort. That or New Orleans Square. Now, it's a tough choice. 

Well, thanks to my job and all my miles, we've been able to have some great adventures. These are my Top Ten Moments, all without actually being there and riding an attraction. By the way, did you notice there were only nine? I'm reserving Number Ten for when the time comes that we take take our  grandchildren to Disneyland for their first visit.

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