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Ruminations - Your First Disneyland Visit Memories!

Ruminations - Your First Disneyland Visit Memories!

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First off today, let me begin by saying "Thank you"! It was certainly interesting to hear from everyone about their first visit to Disneyland.

Second, welcome to everyone joining us here for the first time today (courtesy of our friends at CBC Radio One). More details on the "Noon Edition" can be found further down the page...

The variety of "First Disneyland Visits" shared covered the timeline from shortly after the opening day in 1955 to only a few months ago - during the 50th Anniversary kick-off. They also included everything from the classic family vacation to a honeymoon. Each memory you shared provided wonderful examples of the power of Disney magic to make moments in our lives all the more special. That did not make it very easy to choose two of them as the best for those special prizes...

As they were all great, here are some of the highlights:

Now, regular Jim Hill Media readers may recall how much was going on back in May when Disneyland kicked off the 50th anniversary celebration. Disneyland was closed to the public on May 4th for the Press Preview event, and there were plenty of invited guests to watch all of the day's festivities. And the following day, lots of people came to Disneyland for their first glimpse of it all - including the Parade of Dreams and the spectacular fireworks show, "Remember... Dreams Come True".

But imagine for a moment that these two days would be part of your first Disneyland visit. And not only that, you traveled all the way from Australia to be here to see it all!

Well, that is just what it was like for Keith Simpson. After years of anticipation and a very long flight across the Pacific, his first day at Disneyland was Sunday, May 1st. Fighting off jet lag, having been awake for more than 26 hours, he and girlfriend Della did exactly what most first time guests do - take a ride around the Park on the Disneyland Railroad. That is a wonderful way to see it for the first time. Not only do you get an overview, but there is a direct connection to the opening day festivities as well as Walt's passion for railroading; all at the same time. After enjoying the full circle tour, they disembarked back at the Main Street Station to find Mickey Mouse greeting guests in front of the Opera House. Time to stop in for a quick photo, of course!

The rest of the afternoon and evening was a busy and exciting time. His first Disneyland attraction was a trip to the Haunted Mansion, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean. Disneyland just announced the results of an independent "Golden Ears" national survey that found those as the second and third most popular attractions. And for those who are curious, the most popular attraction reopens "officially" today after a very complete renovation. Space Mountain was at the top of the list as America's favorite Disney theme park attraction.

Keith and Della even spotted a television crew from home (for Channel 7's Sunrise Show) finishing taping for their show for the next day. They finished up with a spin in the tea cups at Fantasyland's Mad Tea Party. By the time they got back to their hotel, it was one very long (32 hours) and magical day! I have always heard that Australians did things in a big way and this certainly confirms that.

Another interesting first visit memory shared was the tale of a Disneyland honeymoon, circa 1974. While today, Walt Disney World may be near the top on any list of honeymoon favorites, Disneyland remains a popular choice for many. Heck, even Michele and I managed a few days in Anaheim on ours back in 1986.

The couple in question, who we will call Lady and the Tramp, took advantage of what at the time was a very popular promotion for a midnight flight (right after the wedding and reception) from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Western Airlines. You may recall this airline from their great series of television and radio advertisements with Jim Backus doing the tag line of "The oooooonly way to fly..." Just to show how serious a Disneyland visit this was, they arrived at their hotel at 2 am and asked for a 6 am wakeup call, to be all set for an early morning breakfast at Town Square's American Egg House.

It was a full day and then some, as this couple managed to use all of the coupons in their ticket books and had to purchase more! 31 years later, they still go to Disneyland as often as they can. And they did good, too! They have a daughter who works in the theater industry in Los Angeles, and a son who has a career as an Imagineer. Now that is one heck of special Disneyland souvenir, don't you think?

James Weir and his family did their own version of the Griswold family vacation in 1968. Making the long trip from Chicago to Anaheim with the pop-up camper, they made stops in a different state everyday along the road to Southern California.As the oldest of three kids (at 7 ½ years old), his first Disneyland visit somewhat mirrored my own first trip. Highlights included seeing the old sign on Harbor Blvd for the first time (and realizing they finally were there!), the first time walking down Main Street and seeing the Castle. The Natures Wonderland Railroad also was memorable.

A particularly vivid moment for James was a Goofy one as well. It seems that Goofy tapped his father on the shoulder and proceeded to head off with the family stroller containing the baby brother heading for Fantasyland through the Castle courtyard. Some of that scene was even captured on a home movie that has become a family treasure from that first trip.

One tale that I wished had happened to me is the story of AJ Minotti. Living in Ohio, he and his family had made a number of trips to Walt Disney World before he entered college. Yet he still had never been to Disneyland. So, in 2003, when his father offered to take him anywhere in the United States for an entire week (on his first spring break from college), the choice was obvious -- Disneyland! AJ and his father made the trip to Los Angeles together, arriving for a week at the Grand Californian very early one morning. "Walking into the lobby was mesmerizing. The huge atrium, the seemingly handcrafted log walls, and the enormous fireplace reminded me that yes, this is a Disney hotel." With a view of Disney's California Adventure and the lights from Paradise Pier twinkling temptingly, it must have been very difficult to fall asleep that morning.

Yet, up they were bright and early for a full day! Even though his father was a bit disappointed in how small it all seemed in comparison to Florida's Magic Kingdom, AJ was taken by his own "Walt" moment. Seeing it the first time, here was proof of the success of the dream that started it all. And sharing it with his father made it all the more special for him. The following day, they also enjoyed the "Walk In Walt's Footsteps" tour with a wonderful tour guide and a very knowledgeable group, with plenty of comparisons between Anaheim and Orlando. Topping everything was a photo taken by his father of AJ standing in front of the Castle with no one else in the scene (no small achievement!) That view is a great reminder of that special first visit.

One common thread among all of these experiences is the shared enjoyment of those first visits to Disneyland. Whether parent and child, husband and wife or just friends, those moments have now become treasured memories for each of those people. This may the real secret behind the success of Disneyland.

It is "the power of Disney magic to bring a simple smile to a child's face" and to the child in all of us, that makes these memories every day for guests to Disney theme parks around the world. And that truly is something to celebrate.

Now - the details on Roger's guest appearance today with host Jennifer Gibson on CBC Radio One's "The Noon Edition"? Click this link to the CBC web page and you can listen in live from Noon to 1 pm (Pacific Daylight Time). You can also enjoy the show from their weekly archive. It should be a great time as Roger shares memories of his 1966 visit and yours, too. As well, the CBC Radio One audience will also be calling to share their own stories.

Next week? Roger dug into storage and has pulled out the old Brownie Hawkeye for some retro photos of the coming festivities at Disneyland. Processing willing, they will be here for you to enjoy!

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