Just 19 years (or days) left! Welcome back to the countdown within the countdown: 50 Days to 50 Years is nearing an end, but the “reward” is The World’s Most Magical Celebration . Today, Stelle recalls Walt Disney World 2002.
By 2002, my family and I had been visiting Walt Disney World for seven consecutive summers. It was more than a vacation; it was a tradition.
Walt Disney World 2002
In the parks, the celebration of Walt’s 100th birthday was going strong. It had started in October of 2001 and continued all through 2002 with new parades (Share a Dream Come True at Magic Kingdom and Disney Stars & Motorcars at MGM Studios) and a new icon (the Sorcerer’s Hat!) at MGM. Thanks to the big 1-0-0, my mom had a new reason to cry at the parks- visiting the One Man’s Dream exhibition and watching the movie at the end (then narrated by Michael Eisner).
The year also brought the opening of the Beach Club Villas (gorgeous) and the reopening of Journey into Imagination with Figment. Ya know, the one WITH Figment and the return of the catchy Sherman Brothers tune, One Little Spark? I, for one, was glad to see that purple little guy back (even if the attraction was mediocre).
To my delight, Stitch fever had also hit the parks! Lilo & Stitch was the newest animated feature to arrive in theaters that summer. One of the three animated films to be produced at the animation studio in MGM, there was much love for that little blue alien all over. I remember being so excited about their marketing technique and trying to find him everywhere.
Walt Disney’s 100th Birthday
Personally, that year featured a few of our own milestones. It was the first time I ever visited the parks twice in one year (April and August). That April trip was the first time we boarded a flight to Florida, instead of road tripping from New Jersey, and was also the first time I was able to bring a friend with us on vacation. (My dad had to work. Sorry Dad!)
It felt nice to be a tour guide for a newbie. (I had been that person only a few years earlier.) We ate at Cinderella’s Castle, pool hopped (Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Boardwalk, and Old Key West), and spent a lot of time sipping virgin daiquiris with my mom and sister. Here is a highlight:
Disney Cruise Line
Don’t worry. My dad was “invited” (haha) to come back in August when the whole family took our first 7-night Western Caribbean Cruise on the Magic (we had been on a 4-night cruise in 1999)- visiting Key West, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman for the first time and of course, revisiting the gorgeous Castaway Cay. (My dad also was the one to drive us the thousand miles to our destination- small detail.)
I was 17 when we took the cruise, and I remember being alone a lot of the time. (Let me hear the collected “aww”.) My sister was hanging out with her Oceaneer pals and my parents were spending their nights at Rockin’ Bar D. I didn’t love the crowd in the teen scene so I spent a lot of my nights reading and writing on the top deck, which was just fine with me.
During the days, we went sightseeing at Hemingway’s house (Key West) and the Mayan ruins (Cozumel); I spent a glorious day ruining my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale on a beach in Grand Cayman. At Castaway, I tanned and floated in the ocean (hard work). My sister and I also got our hair braided. Never again. I thought my hair was being ripped out of my head, never to be seen again, and my eyes would not stop tearing. The end result was pretty… for a few hours. But some days later, the braids got frizzy and I was half-expecting permanent baldness when I finally took them out. Thankfully we ended those glorious seven days with a few days at the park before the long ride home.
To make leaving a little less painful, my family always ends our trips with talk of plans for the following year. But as we brainstormed in 2002, I could hardly believe that when we returned the next summer, I would be a high school graduate and on my way to an unknown college. Who knew what the next year would bring- in the land of Disney and beyond!
Estelle is some writer! She loves a cold safari ale, anything related to the Muppets, and planning her next Disney-fied vacation with her husband. Follow her on Twitter @thatsostelle
Tomorrow, “Disney Donna Kay” will join the series and thrill us with tales from 2003!