Why Someone’s First Disney Park Visit Can Be Memorable For You
Like millions of people around the world, I will always remember my very first trip to a Disney theme park.
It was the summer of 1997 and I was 5 years old. I remember standing in line for Splash Mountain with my parents and brother, terrified. I didn’t want to go on a ride that had a scary-looking thorn bush in front while a log plummeted downward into it. To a 5-year-old, that’s terrifying. After some fussing,
we eventually approached the front of the line and I was plopped inside a log. Hearing the incredibly catchy tunes and seeing animals come alive through animatronics for the first time, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. After conquering my fear of the Splash Mountain big drop, I immediately wanted to get back in line and do it again.
As clear as a picture, that will always be my first visit.
Disney has a way of making an ordinary weekday feel timeless. As if you’ve been transported into a world where you are celebrated every day and everyone around wants to make sure you’re having the best time possible.
That first visit to Disney opens up the door to a world of happiness, experiences, possibilities and, most of all, memories.
Disney is a place where people go out of their way to make you feel special, even if you’re not celebrating anything. Little do you know, Disney is celebrating. They are celebrating you and your first visit to their park.
I took my husband to Disneyland for his first-ever park experience in June 2019. We were in California visiting family but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend a day at Disneyland. More than anything I was excited for him to experience a Disney park for the first time. What I didn’t expect was to discover how much fun it is to share in someone else’s first Disney experiences and moments. Rather than go to my usual favorite spots or ride my favorite rides, I was taken back to my own first visit. All the feels came flooding in from my own first visit memories and I wanted to be part of those moments for someone else.
If I can make someone’s first visit a little less overwhelming by giving some tips here and there, it will be well worth all the extra smiles and moments shared together.
The first thing I wanted to make sure we did was to get a freebie button. After passing through the entrance gate we headed over to City Hall and picked out a celebration button. Disney offers a selection of free buttons for those celebrating a special occasion. They are a fun souvenir to keep and I was after the First Visit button for my husband.
To this day, that button is on our mantle next to a photo of us in front of the castle, which we were literally the first people in line for. Meaning we have a castle photo without crowds in the background!
While you may be itching to see the castle for the first time or head over to your most anticipated ride, picking up your celebration button should be the first agenda item.
These buttons are a way to communicate with cast members and other park-goers why you are there. My husband wore his First Visit button all day and as if Disney wasn’t already welcoming, it opened up that welcome gate a little wider.
My husband was determined to meet Mickey Mouse and the gang so we made our way to ToonTown. The gates weren’t open just yet but a cast member immediately noticed the button and welcomed him to Disneyland saying that we will be the first people to walk into ToonTown and visit with Pluto -- after Mickey finished his breakfast of waffles, we were told.
True to their word, the cast member opened the gate to ToonTown and there was Pluto in that iconic red collar. As if transformed into a boy, my husband was all smiles over seeing Pluto for the first time. I remember this moment in slow motion. I remember the cast member making good of their word as we were the first people in line and watching my husband’s face light up at the sight of Pluto approaching us with a doggie greeting as if to lick our faces, a moment we were able to capture with a selfie. Just then, I realized how iconic a moment for my husband but also how lucky I felt to witness his first-ever character meeting.
Throughout the day it’s as if people were going out of their way to talk to my husband and ask how he was enjoying his first visit to Disneyland. It was such an honor to be by his side during this first Disneyland experience. Being able to share in those moments and memories is something that will stay with me forever.
Eventually, we made our way to Splash Mountain. Now granted, my first experience as a 5-year-old won’t be the same as a 30-year-old’s. He didn’t have the same apprehension of riding it but fully didn’t expect to get nearly as soaked as the name “Splash Mountain” suggested. But that’s not the point. I just wanted to be there for his first Splash Mountain ride since my memory of it is so vivid and holds a special place in my heart.
At the end of the day knowing that he had a fantastic trip and wanted to come back was all that mattered.
Being there to witness someone experiencing Disney for the first time is magic in itself. The parks bring out an inner sparkle that no other place on earth can. You smile a little bit brighter and you sparkle a little bit more while drinking in all that Disney has to offer. Seeing the expression on someone's face as they approach the castle for the first time, isn’t something you forgot. Seeing the castle though someone else’s eyes for the first time allows you to revisit your own first visit memories.