It’s a brand new decade at 50 Days to 50 Years! Next in our countdown to the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, we are fortunate to showcase Lisa of Beyond the Attractions blog and author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. Welcome Lisa and 1980!
Our Walt Disney World story begins in 1980, the year Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic Kingdom opens. It continues in 2000, the year our family began. And, I hope it doesn’t end anytime soon.
As an aside, Walt’s Home, Disneyland turned 25 in the year 1980! (Take a look at our other series 60 Days to 60 Years which highlights all 60 years.)
Walt Disney World in 1980
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a wooden roller coaster in Frontierland with speed, dips, and tight curves. As the story goes, a flash flood threatens a gold mining town in the old West and its residents throw one last hurrah. Without loops, Disney categorizes this ride as a Mild but Wild Ride. It is the first (and only) roller coaster I can remember riding as a child.
Fast forward twenty years.
Planning a getaway after our wedding ceremony involved more than selecting a destination for the honeymoon – it also meant finding the perfect location for our familymoon. Where could a husband, his ‘tween son, and his new wife celebrate becoming a new family? It didn’t take long for the answer to become obvious. Walt Disney World, it was. Walt envisioned a park which parents could actively enjoy with their children and not just sit on the sidelines. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad epitomized this vision for our family.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
My new son and husband are thrill ride enthusiasts. I am not. Sure we could (and did) enjoy Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Cranium Command (we still lament the closure of this one). But I needed that one ride where I took the training wheels off and started to earn points toward the cool mom badge or at least the not-completely-mortifying-to-an-eleven-year-old-boy badge. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was perfect. Even though it was tame, it was a roller coaster. As my son grew over the years, it was still a ride he enjoyed. Most importantly, it was a ride we continued to experience together as a family.
Over ten years later, I am mom to not one, but three boys and I know that as the years pass my two little guys will no longer be content to ride “it’s a small world.” In fact, it’s happening already. My very timid, reserved five-year-old can’t get enough of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which I have to say surprised me. But, once he had that first ride there was no looking back. I’m sure he’ll graduate to Rock ‘N Roller Coaster one day but I know I’ll always have Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with him and his brothers.
50 Days to 50 Years
God willing, this story that started in 1980 will continue over a lifetime. Thirty years from now I’ll be the cool Grandma who takes her small grandchildren on their first roller coaster – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Thank you to Walt Disney and the Imagineers for 50 years of magic.
Lisa is co-founder of WDW Fan Zone and former contributing author at Chip & Company. Despite a pressing deadline for the 2012 edition of her book, she somehow found the time to share her memories of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and 1980 with us today. Thank you Lisa.
Tomorrow brings 1981, and guest blogger Jennifer from Disney Babies Blog. We hope you will return for another Disney classic!