I first went to Disney World somewhere in the late 70’s or very early 80’s.  My parents loaded us into the family station wagon (remember those?) and we drove down to Florida, staying in a trailer (before they were made to look like log cabins) in Fort Wilderness.  I have mostly vague memories of the trip–it was before EPCOT was built, so it basically involved seeing the Magic Kingdom and splashing around in River Country (holy cow, I’m dating myself!). 

I remember having a great time, enjoying the Peter Pan ride, the WEDway Peoplemover (my parents say I was especially fond of that), banging the center rail on the Tomorrowland Speedway, riding over the park on the Skyway (RIP), and being stunned and then dissolving into nervous laughter at the ending of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (also RIP).  I loved the familiarity of seeing so many of my favorite characters from the movies.

But although it was fun, that’s not when I fell in love with Disney World.  The scales-falling-off-the-eyes moment (so to speak) for me came on our second trip, in the mid-to-late 1980’s…after EPCOT was opened.  I remember riding Spaceship Earth and being amazed at the perfect spherical construction, seeing possible future communities in Horizons, checking out prototype cars in World Of Motion, and seeing a 3-D movie for the first time.  This was the first time I could remember seeing futuristic technology combined with imaginative presentation in a way that made me feel like I was entering a different world.  I was seeing things I’d never seen before, and the ideas being presented served as raw inspiration to my nerdy pre-teen brain.  That was the “aha!” moment–when I realized this place was something unique and special.

Since then, I’ve grown to find more and more things to love about it.  When Disney-MGM Hollywood Studios was opened, I was able to deepen my love for the movies and appreciate the work that goes into them.  As I became an adult, I started to notice all of the detail in the theme and atmosphere, even at the various resorts.  And then as a parent, I discovered the joy of watching my kids discover the place.  Imagination is allowed to run free in Disney parks.

So when was your “aha!” moment?  When did a Disney park make the biggest impression on you?

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