The first time I went to Disney, I was 8 years old. I have vivid memories of eating way too much sugar, going on rides, and begging my parents — who'd carefully mapped out our day for maximum fun and minimum stress — to please let us stay longer. I remember meeting and being slightly terrified of Mickey and Goofy at the Disney hotel we were staying at. I remember stretching to my full height, praying I'd be tall enough to get on certain rides, and feeling like I'd just won the lottery when I was permitted on. It was a week of fun, delight, and indulging a lingering belief in magic. And those memories are enshrined in a golden glow of nostalgia that I still look back on fondly.
[My friends and I] left feeling enriched, satisfied, and, much like I did when I was a kid, hopeful that good and magical things are possible.
The most recent time I went to Disney, I was a full-grown adult, aged 22. I went with three of my college friends. After spending weeks planning our trip and reading up on every Disney highlight we couldn't miss, we were so excited to go. Because we were all still students at the time, we prepared some of our meals ahead of time and opted for a budget-friendly hotel. And when we first arrived, I'll admit I was a little nervous. Would it still be as amazing as it was when I was a kid? Especially since now I had to pay for my own ticket and prepare my own food. Would the enchantment still be there even though I was an adult now — old enough to know magic wasn't real? I was worried I'd built up my Disney experiences in my head, and that the only reason I had truly loved it so much was because I was a kid. I was worried I wouldn't feel that indescribable happiness as a grown-up.
I was so, so wrong.
My friends and I spent our days at Disney in a haze of complete joy, racing from ride to ride, indulging in too much sugar, and laughing with delight when we spotted famous characters from our childhood traveling around the park. The parade of floats at the end of the day still left me speechless; I stood spellbound as I watched the history of Disney play out in lights on the side of Cinderella's castle. And walking down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom still gave me goosebumps. We left feeling enriched, satisfied, and, much like I did when I was a kid, hopeful that good and magical things are possible.
Disney, to me, still represents all of those wonderful feelings that you so easily express when you're young but can sometimes lose sight of when you're an adult. The world is stressful and scary, but going to Disney makes you forget about all of that for a while. You get to have fun and let your imagination run wild, and that's something none of us should ever lose — that's what makes going to Disney as an adult so incredible. There's no judgement about who belongs or who doesn't. Everyone is welcome. Disney means friendship, acceptance, and love. So, whether you bring your kids or go with your best friends, Disney is always going to be there for you, waiting with open arms the next time you're ready to feel the magic.