by David JuartI was lucky as a child to visit Walt Disney World nine times from 1990 to 2000. In no small way was this feat accomplished through the work of a trip planning guru in his own right, my father. He goes by many names – Dad, Daddy, G-man, and now Man Man as he was christened by his granddaughter – Gary Juart has played no small part in instilling and fostering my love for all things Disney. He was my Thrill Ride Wing Man, tackling the Mountains, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, Body Wars and his personal favorite, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. He sat through endless stage shows at the behest of my sister. He suffered through 18 holes of golf in the oppressive July heat while I hacked my way around the Magnolia and Palm courses. He was the family photographer, snapping endless pictures of my sister and me meeting the Disney Menagerie at the Crystal Palace and 1900 Park Fare. In fact, he was behind the camera so much that it took me well over a half an hour thumbing through 4”x6”s for me to find the above picture of the two of us. My father was THE MAN behind the scenes. He made all the reservations, searched for the best pricing, airfare, specials, and discounts without the help of this here internet. But for all of his researching, reserving, and planning, he always left the daily plan up to his kids. Well, at least the park choice. He took care of the rest.
I know this isn’t quite the helpful list, but I’m sure that if the DISDads were around back in the day, my father would have been one of us. He loves bacon and red meat, sacrificed his sanity for the fifth ride on It’s a Small World for his daughter, let his wife run amok in the plethora of shops, and vicariously showed his son how to plan one helluva trip. Now, he was more of a Main Street Bakery Cinnamon Bun guy than a Dole Whip fiend, but you can’t fault him for that. So without further ado, below I’ve compiled the Top Five Disney Experiences my DISDad Shared with Me. Cheers, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day.
5. The Living Seas – When I was a teenager, I had an infatuation with all things sea life. This meant literally hours at The Living Seas, many of which with the family in tow. Luckily Pops put up with said obsession, always willing to take me there while Mom and Sister swam at the resort or what not.
4. Disney Golf – My father’s a bit of a golf nut. He has been for years. So for one day during each trip, the men and women would split up, the latter to lounge at the pool and shop at Downtown Disney while the former hit one of the courses on property. There really isn’t much better to a teenage golfer than playing on a championship golf course, and I was lucky enough to share that experience with my father several times over.
3. Prime Rib at 1900 Park Fare – I’m pretty sure that once we discovered this, we hit it every trip. Back then it was a “Fab 5” character dining spot, buffet-style, featuring my father’s favorite dish, Prime Rib. It was almost the perfect set up for our family. Mom LOVED the Grand Floridian and got to hang out there for an evening, my sister loved the characters, and my Dad and I loved the food. WIN.
2. Sprinting Walking to Splash Mountain/Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at rope drop – Looking back, I swear that Dad was dragging/carrying my little sister during the mad dash to the Mountains. Even though Dad let us chose which park to attend each day (with some guidance), we had our touring plans for each park. Magic Kingdom’s included using morning Extra Magic Hours, hitting Small World and Snow White, then lining up to race to Splash Mountain, followed by BTMRR, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, then breakfast at Crystal Palace. (By the way, still the best touring plan ever).
1. Opening of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in 1994 – Somehow, the stars aligned and we lucked into being on property for the opening of ToT. I remember my father finding the news in the Orlando Sentinel, and immediately we rearranged our park touring so that we hit MGM on the last day of our stay when the grand opening was to take place. This was by far the cherry on top, the icing on the cake of a great week at WDW. We arrived at the park early, watched the pomp and circumstance, then Dad and I rushed down Sunset Boulevard toward the new icon at MGM. It was something I will never forget, all of it brought about because of my DISDad.