Like a lot of kids, I went to Disney World on a family vacation back in the ’70s. I was too young to remember much, but I can recall watching the parade down Main Street. I didn’t go back until nearly 30 years later, when I moved to St Petersburg in my 30s and my sister came down to visit with her children. We had fun but our trip was shortened by a hurricane blowing through. But then I started dating a native Florida girl, who among her other charms was a huge Disney fan. We dated for several months before my birthday came around, and she offered to take me to Disney World to celebrate. After checking in to the Caribbean Beach Resort, we hopped on the bus over to the Magic Kingdom to buy some passes. While speaking with the cast member in the ticket booth, she noted on my ID that it was my birthday and wished me well. Then without missing a beat she handed me a phone and, lo and behold, Goofy was on the line wishing me a happy birthday! Now, Goofy is my favorite of the Fab Five, but the cast member didn’t know this. She just handed me the phone as though I were a child. And you know what? It worked! I spent the rest of that trip wide-eyed with wonder, fully infused with the magic of Disney. It sounds corny to tell it, and my family laughs at me when I do, but it absolutely set the hook in and made me fall in love. In the years since, I have returned to Disney Parks dozens of times, sometimes for weeklong vacations and sometimes just to hop over and have a meal at a resort restaurant. I have created many amazing memories and stories in those ensuring trips, from kneeling in front of the fountains at Epcot during our annual Food and Wine vacation, asking that Florida girl to marry me, to hunting for Hidden Mickeys with our children using a five-year-old guidebook. But that first trip, even though it wasn’t the first of my life, set the tone for all the rest.
– Gabriel, 41, Houston, TX
When did the magic happen for you? Tell us about your Disney moment of discovery!