Disney World From the Viewpoint of a ‘Childless Millennial’
I want to address a topic that is very political but has nothing to do with the body politic of Virginia or national politics. Let’s talk about something I am so passionate about that I plan my life around it. Something I am so passionate about I upend my life and schedule my entire year around it.
Yes, my friends, I am speaking of the glory that is Walt Disney World.
I want to take you back in time to October 1995. My mom had recently graduated from nursing school and my dad was working his job in manufacturing. They saved for years to provide me with the trip that they themselves were not able to go on as children. My parents saved to take me to Orlando, Florida, to Walt Disney World.
The year 1995 was an one for Disney. Disney was in the middle of what studio experts call “The Disney Renaissance.” Classic movies such as “Oliver and Company,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Toy Story,” and my all-time favorite as a child, “The Lion King,” were being produced by Disney and Pixar.
Disney was raking in the dough and they were also getting ready to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. That year, Cinderella Castle was decorated hot pink, like a birthday cake, with the turrets made into candles.
I remember being only four years old and piling into my mom and dad’s sage green Ford Thunderbird. My mom sang songs, fed me snacks, and read books to me for the 10-hour car ride to Florida. My dad proceeded to drink an entire six-pack of Mountain Dew (which is the closest thing he has ever had to come close to addiction as a tea-totaling Baptist Sunday School Teacher).
After 10 hours, we arrived at Disney World. To this day, I remember my mom and I crying tears of joy as we saw the gates of Disney World (my dad didn’t cry; he mainly moaned and groaned because he had to pee from drinking all that Mountain Dew).
What ensued for my small family from Southwest Virginia over those next five days was nothing short of magical. We rode pretty much everything, including Space Mountain and Tower of Terror (now as an adult I skip these rides). We laughed, we cried tears of joy, we met every character.
There is an alleged story of how Goofy led me to the ice cream machine at dinner one night and squirted soft serve ice cream right into my hands (although no photo evidence exists, and that was not the most sanitary idea).
That trip led to other Disney trips in 2000 and 2003. My love for Disney Parks grew more as the years went by. I rode the bigger rides, more importantly my all time favorite, Star Tours (which for those non-Disney folks is a Star Wars motion simulator ride which at the time took you on a journey to defeat Darth Vader and the Death Star. Which to a 12-year-old kid, was probably the coolest thing ever.) There were a lot of Disney lapel pins collected and traded. There were great memories shared with family.
Then I grew up. I graduated high school, then college, and started my career. I got married and started to settle down. There was rent to pay, and a car payment that needed to be made every month. I started to forget about those trips as the years went by.
My wife and I married after only dating for 11 months, so we still had a lot to learn about each other. One thing that we discovered was that we enjoyed traveling together. The first few years we had to sink most of our money into traveling for other friends’ weddings. Then, we took a trip to a resort in Mexico in 2015. The resort was nice, but it didn’t … how do I put this … it wasn’t the most memorable vacation. Sure, who doesn’t love three mixed drinks before breakfast, but that wasn’t the memorable times that we needed.
The year 2016 was a disaster for my career. I changed jobs three different times and the last time I was forced to take a temp job to pay the rent. It was not my proudest moment. However, I made a promise to my wife that when we got out of the financial hole of working a temp job, I would take her to Disney World. My wife Lauren had never been to Disney World and had wanted to go. So I got the full time job at the company I was working at and then we began to plan our first trip.
As the planning began, I slowly started to realize that our trip to Disney World was bringing us closer together than we could have ever thought. I remember the day we got our first “Magic Bands,” which serve as your park tickets. I can remember flying to Disney on the first trip.
However, the thing I remember most from that trip was the moment we walked together into the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World. Lauren got a good view of the castle for the first time, but more importantly, we got to relive a moment of TV history.
For those of you who were not born in the 1990s, I want to share about the time “Full House” went to Disney World. John Stamos’ character was trying to have a romantic evening with his TV wife played by Lori Laughlin.
Of course that wacky Tanner family got in the way and John Stamos’ character didn’t get to take his wife on a date. Then, to try to win her back, he played a song on the piano in the Grand Floridian Hotel. When Lauren and I walked into that hotel, my eyes filled with tears. That black Steinway piano was still in the same place as it was in my childhood. Like the hotel had been frozen in time, the piano was softly being played with the sounds of Disney tunes by a man in a tux. It was like much had changed at Disney in the 14 years of my absence, but some things were just frozen in time.
Lauren and I had a fantastic first trip. We laughed at the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, I obnoxiously screamed at the Tower of Terror, and we both cried watching Magic Kingdom Fireworks. I collected lapel pins and Lauren got her own set of Minnie Mouse Ears. We ate and drank our way through the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. We drew closer than we ever have.
I give you that story because there has been some recent controversy over “childless millennials” going to Disney parks. Most all major media outlets have run a story about this harpy shrew who complained about “childless millennials” ruining her trip to Disney World with her child. There have been media pundits on both sides of the argument, with The New York Post saying it’s “weird” to be a millennial at an amusement park and The Washington Post encouraging millennials to go to the Disney Parks.
The reason for writing is to inform those prudes out there at the New York Post that if loving Walt Disney World is weird, then I want to be a weirdo! If loving Walt Disney World is wrong, I refuse to be right!
To me, Disney Parks, especially Walt Disney World, represent the American Dream. My dad grew up in a home in rural North Carolina. My mom grew up on a farm in Southwest Virginia. My father’s father was a butcher. My dad’s family never could afford to send their kids to Disney World. My mom’s family ran a farm and was into the logging business, meaning they didn’t have the time or the money to send my mom to Disney World.
However, my dad got up every day (as he does to this day) at 4am to do his job to save the money to take me to Disney World. My mother put herself through Nursing School, staying up late at night to study and waking up early to get me to my great-grandmother’s house so she could get to class. My parents scrimped and saved and they took me on the trip of a lifetime, THREE TIMES. They may not have had a life where their parents could take them, but my dad busted his ass to make sure that I had a trip to Disney World.
Today, Walt Disney World still stands by the American Dream. More and more families save for years to go to central Florida and enjoy the trip of a lifetime. When they arrive, they discover a magical experience with world-class customer service. The Walt Disney Corporation prides themselves on making stays comfortable and they have been in the memory-making business of running amusement parks since 1955. They are nowhere near stopping, and this millennial is not going to stop going any time soon.
That dream is still attainable in 2019. For adults and kids and even senior citizens, the trip of a lifetime is just a short flight to Orlando. For me, going to Disney World is a reminder of my family’s sacrifice and devotion to the American Dream.
Walt Disney himself stood for the American Dream. Mr. Disney believed in his country, his flag, and more importantly, was one of the most patriotic men in Hollywood. He was an early donor to a young California Governor named Ronald Reagan. Disney stood up against communism and made sure that all of his parks contained a patriotic element to them.
Even now, in the days of protesting the American flag, the main American flag that flies over Magic Kingdom has a surrender ceremony where a veteran or active duty service member participates in folding the flag and keeping it in honor of his or her sacrifice to this great nation.
So I say this with a loud voice: we Disney “weirdos” will not go quietly into the night. We will not stop attending Disney World because people complain about us being in line nor will we stop going because of social justice liberals.
We will visit Disney World and Disneyland and we will have a good time. We will not stop just because some hoity-toity New Yorker who has never experienced the glory that is a Mickey ice cream bar or the goodness of a Disney character meal complains about us. We will not stop because coastal elites who write for big newspapers shame us. We will not stop. We will continue to be “weird” and we will continue to enjoy our parks.
When we left my personal story of Disney, we were talking about the first trip with my wife to Walt Disney World. We went again in 2018, and now are planning our 2019 trip for this fall. Perhaps we should make T-shirts that say “Childless Millennial” on them.
Some may consider us weird but trips to Walt Disney World have brought our marriage closer together, brought us more joy than we could have ever imagined, and truly made lasting memories.
–New York Post: Sorry, childless millennials going to Disney World is weird
-Disney Tourist Blog: A Childless Millennial’s Guide to Disney