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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Martin

Visiting Disney Parks Comes Full Circle

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

Memories that last a lifetime and carry on through family traditions.

Epcot: Spaceship Earth, November, holiday time
Walt Disney's Epcot

So, this is love. As my husband and I look ahead to our anniversary (the lucky number thirteen), and we plan our Walt Disney World trip, I can’t help but become sentimental. Disney is my happy place. Not only because it is the happiest place on earth, but since it holds the most joyful memories of my entire life. I am so grateful that those moments occurred over many trips throughout my forty-one years. This vacation we are taking in 2021, will take my count to ten. You could say that family visits to Disney Parks have come full circle.

It originated long before I even stepped foot inside a Walt Disney theme park. I lived on Disney movies. Some played on repeat as a toddler. (That’s right, Mary Poppins, you know I’m talking about you.) Then when I was seven, my parents took me and my sister to Walt Disney World, Florida, for the first time. They say that the sense of smell is linked strongest to memory and that is the truth. As I write this, I can recall the aroma of The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, wafting out to invite guests to enjoy a waffle cone; and the lasting citrus scent of the orange grove scene in the Horizons attraction in Epcot. We stayed at the Polynesian Resort. I remember our dinner that first night at O’Hana. It was cozy and dimly lit, and I still picture the view outside of our window-side table. It was a vacation memory that would literally last a lifetime and spark the desire for our return many times. It took another nine years to get back there, but ever since then, a trip has never been too far away.

I can’t help but become sentimental. Disney is my happy place. Not only because it is the happiest place on earth, but since it holds the most joyful memories of my entire life. I am so grateful that those moments occurred over many trips throughout my life.

I went back with close family, extended family and even friends. We spent a few trips visiting The Yacht Club in the Epcot area. My favorite highlight of that resort was sitting on the balcony of the room, sipping coffee, eating my egg sandwich and looking out to the dock where the Friendship boats pull in. I loved walking to the International Gateway into Epcot. Mexico has always been my pavilion of choice for its colorful market; the ambiance of twilight, no matter how hot and bright outside; the relaxing boat ride featuring the Three Caballeros; and the dining at San Angel Inn. It’s all just so…magical. I plan to purchase a hand-painted spirit animal this trip.

My husband, Roger, is the perfect Disney match for me in that he knew nothing about Disney Parks, but wanted to be a part of it all because of my love for the place. He eagerly took a standpoint of being open to whatever I wanted to plan and simply enjoyed every experience as it came at him. We were married in 2008 and spent our honeymoon in Walt Disney World. It was amazing to be able to introduce the magic of Disney World into his life, immersing our relationship. My standout moment from that trip was the castle dinner and fireworks. We had arrived late morning, enjoyed cocktails by the volcano pool, then headed to dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table inside the iconic castle. I haven’t forgotten the amazing dinner I enjoyed that night - lemon-lavender lamb chops served with risotto and seasonal vegetables. As we walked out of the castle, we were just in time to watch Wishes Fireworks Show. It felt like Disney was celebrating our marriage with us. Roger was hooked.

Disney Springs, dining and shopping district in November, holiday time
Roger and Melissa at Disney Springs

Since then, we have shared trips there whenever possible, including a first-visit with our daughter, Anabeth Grace in 2014. That stay brought my parents back to Disney for an extraordinary stay at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. The grand lobby, upon walking through those large doors, captured our attention and our hearts forever. We were in awe. The warm tones of wood, the massive stone fireplace, the aroma of a pine forest – they all welcome visitors and create an everlasting image. The Wilderness Lodge quickly became a favorite of mine for their dining choices, décor and proximity to Magic Kingdom. I have to give a special shout-out to Territory Lounge. The lighting, the wines and cocktails, tapas dishes and the friendly cast members behind the bar make this a place you want to return to over and over. (We have visited Territory Lounge even when we weren’t staying at the hotel.) This resort is also a place where I smile thinking of the view from the balcony and mornings waking up to Anabeth jumping on the large bed, surrounded by her Disney plush.

Personally, my favorite moment of that trip will always be the very first hour that we were inside the Magic Kingdom with Anabeth, who was three then. The way she looked at everything from her stroller seat was joyful and simply contagious. Our first ride was on the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. We have a picture my husband took from the ride of me, Anabeth and my mother lined up in a row of decorated horses. The smiles abound and it looks like a scene from a movie. (It’s all about you again, Mary Poppins.)

Roger and I spent a second honeymoon at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. The steel drum music playing on a resort loop, as well as the signature scent of coconut and tropical flowers remains with me each time I think about that stay. We often play the Caribbean Breeze station on Pandora just to bring us back to that romantic trip for two.

Daughter, Addison at 3-years old
Addison Rain during her first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort

Our second child, Addison Rain, was born the following year in 2018. We had been planning our very first trip as a family of four when the global pandemic struck. We cancelled out of fear, but never gave up hope that all would return to normal eventually.

What happens next? After the impact of COVID-19, I must admit, I was a little skittish at first about returning. However, we decided to plan for the 50th Anniversary and will be going in November of 2021 to stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. The trip will include me, Roger, Anabeth, who will be ten, and Addison, who will be three. A family of four, just like my first visit as a seven-year-old. Additionally, we will be introducing Disney to two very special family members: my niece, Makayla, and brother-in-law, Jonathan. That’s right, my sister will be coming along as well as my parents. We will all be able to share in the most extraordinary Walt Disney vacation yet because each of us will have our own families with us. The circle of Disney will be complete.

I absolutely cannot wait to experience things all over again. Only this time, I have a hunch that everything will feel brand new.


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