Welcome! Today’s 40 Days to 40 Years edition features 1998, and our esteemed guest blogger, Stuart (co-founder of WDW Fan Zone).
I remember 1998 being a pretty good year. It had to be a good year because my wife and I got to take our children on their very first Walt Disney World Vacation and the New York Yankees beat the San Diego Padres to win the World Series.
Our first family vacation to Disney world took place shortly after Animal Kingdom opened its gates. At the time my son was 5 and my daughter was 2. The addition of Animal Kingdom was one of many changes to Walt Disney World that year. Also opening in 1998 at Downtown Disney’s West Side was DisneyQuest and Cirque du Soleil La Nouba. 1998 was also the year that Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin made its debut in Tomorrowland. We also said goodbye to some favorites in 1998 as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride closes its doors in Fantasyland and the Main Street Cinema was converted into a store.
I have many memories from our 1998 vacation. It was the very first time my wife and I stayed on property. At a friend’s recommendation, we stayed at All Star Sports. It was a great choice for our kids who thoroughly enjoyed the pool while daddy enjoyed the food court.
Some of the things that stand out from our 1998 vacation was the character meet and greets. My son had this uncanny sense of knowing where and when there was a character around. As soon as he would spot a character he would grab mine or my wife’s hand and pull us over to there. When we would get within thirty or so feet he would let go flying toward the character but, if he saw other children waiting he knew to go to the back of the line. While standing on line you could see the excitement building in my son’s facial expressions and body movements. As he got closer to the character his eyes would widen and light with a great big smile.
When it came to my daughter meeting characters well, that was a completely different story. She wanted to be brave like her older brother and meet all the characters but, she would only go over if either my wife or I would hold her. There was however one character my daughter went crazy for in a good way. We went to see Beauty and the Beast at the then Disney MGM Studios. She was mesmerized by the show and in particular the Beast. Then a couple of days later I was holding my daughter as we were in the Magic Kingdom lined up for the afternoon parade. My daughter was clapping for the characters but when she spotted the Beast she went bonkers. My daughter started screaming, “Beast come here Beast”! Of all the characters she met we thought the Beast would be the one she feared the most. Then on another day of our trip my daughter did something else that really shocked us. When my son spotted Aladdin sitting and talking to other children he grabbed my daughter’s hand and got on line to see him. As their turn came to my daughter, little miss timid jumped in his lap and had the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.
Another memory from our 1998 trip is of Disney security swarming all over my daughter’s stroller. I took my son to the Hall of Presidents while my wife stayed outside with my daughter to allow her to continue to sleep in her stroller. My wife was sitting on a bench in the sun and she decided to move my daughter out of the sun and under a tree that was about ten feet from the bench. As soon as my wife went back to the bench three cast members appeared from nowhere asking who the child belonged to. My wife said it must have taken them about 15-20 seconds from the time she moved the stroller for the security to respond. Although my daughter was never out of my wife’s sight, security did not know that and they reacted swiftly and appropriately proving that even back in 1998 Disney had an incredible security staff.
Since my daughter was 2 on this trip we used the parent swap quite a bit whereby my wife or I would ride an attraction with our son while one of us would stay with my daughter and then we would switch. Essentially my son got to ride several attractions twice in a row. One of those attractions was Countdown to Extinction now known as Dinosaur. My son absolutely loved the ride. I know many think this attraction is rough but it was much rougher in 1998 than it is today. The Dinosaur’s head also extended much closer to the ride vehicle than it does now.
Being so young my daughter has no memories of her first vacation to Walt Disney World but, my son has a few. As for me and my wife, we look back to our 1998 vacation with fond memories because for the first time it allowed us to see the magic of Walt Disney World through our children’s eyes.
Despite the Animal Kingdom opening its doors, (and the closing of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride), I think we can all agree that this family “first” tops all others! Thank you, Stuart @DisneyGeekDad for sharing your special personal memories. Go Yanks!