An Anniversary of Sorts

by Brian Bennett, contributing writer

Over the last few weeks, several seemingly unconnected events have occurred that have made me feel rather nostaligic. As a result, I've decided to take a very unusual direction for today's piece instead of a more typical photo tour:

First, my family and I visited with some old friends, Walt and Brenda (and their three children) while we enjoyed a great meal at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Walt and I used to work together at that automotive components company, and discussing the "old days" made our three-year stay in Florida seem like a million years.

Second, our scrapbooking business (MouseMemories.Com) has outgrown its original Florida warehouse and we are hard at work planning our move. I expect that within a couple of weeks we will be moving our warehouse, custom album studio, and corporate offices (such as they are for such a small company) to our new location. The upgrade will be a huge one for us with a much larger building and a much nicer work space for our office and artistic team members.

Third, my dad came to visit us for a few days in early September. During his days here, I was able to show him the new MouseMemories building, our new Web site, our new purchasing and inventory control systems, and other "under the hood" things that I've worked on recently. One night, as Dad and I were visiting, it suddenly dawned on me that my original Web site, "Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planning Resource Net," was started over 10 years ago now.

Fourth, just a few days after Dad flew home again Barbara and I celebrated our 17th anniversary together. An anniversary just can't go by without me thinking of those older trips to Walt Disney World, including our honeymoon, of course.

So it's no surprise that this September 2006 piece is based on retrospective and reminiscences of a time gone by, of a time when I was a frequent Walt Disney World vacationer, Disney Vacation Club Member, and automotive engineering manager rather than what I've become: a frequent Walt Disney World day visitor, a former Disney Vacation Club member, and an Internet entrepreneur.

I join you to reminisce with me with the following fun list I brainstormed one day when I was "homesick" for WDW back in the mid-1990s. I posted the list in rec.arts.disney.parks and was amazed at the huge response as a lot of other people posted their own personal lists of favorite things. I later added the list to "Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planning Resource Net," and updated it a bit. That's why there are some things on the list that didn't exist back in 1995. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed re-reading it!

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… da da da da da (couldn't remember the words) and warm woolen mittens… brown paper packages tied up with string"… none of these can compare with my favorite things at WDW:

  • Oasis, a lush paradise
  • Purple road signs
  • Seeing the Tower of Terror when we drive in from 192
  • Turning right from Community Drive into Disney's Old Key West Resort
  • Checking in at the beginning of every trip
  • The Old Key West lighthouse

Old Key West Resort was our "welcome home" when we visited Walt Disney World from 1995 until we moved to Florida in 2003. Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • The first bus ride of the trip to the Magic Kingdom
  • Entering the turnstiles, walking under the train station, and viewing the castle for the first time every trip
  • The Tree of Life… Evolution? Yeah, right.
  • Watching Disney build something new almost every time we visit
  • An evening at the marketplace, browsing the stores—the Gourmet Pantry, World of Disney, and those great suits of armor at EuroSpain
  • The turn-of-the-century music in the town square of Main Street

I still pause to enjoy the ragtime when I see one of the pianists at work on the ivories over at Casey's on Main Street. Photo by Steve Railing, used by permission.

  • The big dill pickles you can buy in the cul de sac east of Main Street
  • Smelling the bakery and the candy shop
  • Breakfast at the Crystal Palace (Puffed French Toast)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean… especially the dirty foot of the one buccaneer that sits on the bridge toward the end of the town scenes
  • Strolling past the lawns and gardens surrounding Cinderella's Castle

I don't think I will ever tire of the lovely gardens of Walt Disney World or the view of Cinderella's Castle surrounded by the lovely topiary and planting beds. Photo by Steve Railing, used by permission.

  • Browsing in the Yankee Peddler
  • Tony's Town Square Cafe
  • Kilamanjaro Safaris
  • Slowly strolling the World Showcase Promenade… when everyone else is walking fast
  • Sitting in the lobby of the Grand Floridian… watching all the people that can afford to stay at this hotel and wondering if someday I'll be one of them

I'm still wondering. The Grand Floridian remains one of the few Walt Disney World Resorts that we've not stayed at. Maybe someday… Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • Soaking in the atmosphere at Port Orleans Resort Riverside (it will always be "Dixie Landings" for me)
  • Riding the mountains (Space, Splash, and Big Thunder)
  • Impressions De France
  • The impromptu plays and events in World Showcase (the Chinese jugglers, skits in the United Kingdom)

Another troupe helps the local crowd perform the classic, "Romeo and Edna." Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • Listening to the phone "conversations" in the Main Street Market House
  • The organ music as I walk by the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house
  • The Jungle Cruise at night
  • Fantasmic!
  • Spectromagic at the Magic Kingdom
  • The shops in the United Kingdom. I'm sad that the Royal Doulton stuff is gone.
  • The shops of Main Street, Hollywood, Sunset, and World Showcase

It's been awhile, but Barbara and I still enjoy taking some time and just strolling along the shops on either side of Main Street. Maybe next time we get a sitter and go on a date… Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • The Walt Disney World Rail Road
  • The monorail traveling from anywhere to anywhere
  • The lush lobby of the Polynesian
  • Grand Canyon concourse
  • The "streets" of Port Orleans Resort's French Quarter
  • Ol' Man Island
  • Parrot Cay (now simply called "Caribbean Cay")
  • Dinner at the Rose and Crown. The fish and chips, cottage pie, and prime rib (with Yorkshire pudding, of course) are particular favorites

Dad and I enjoyed fish and chips for lunch at the pub just a few weeks ago. Of course, Dad had to call Mom and tell her where we were at the moment just to rub it in. Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • The lobby at the Wilderness Lodge
  • An evening boat ride down the Sassagoula River
  • Having a French pastry at the Boulangerie Pattiserie
  • Star Tours
  • Themed pools
  • Water sprites
  • Topiary
  • Victoria Gardens in Canada

Again, I never tire of the gardens and themes that are presented for our enjoyment at Walt Disney World. I, for one, am a big fan of the resort's horticultural staff! Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • The promenade-side pruned trees of Germany
  • The cypress trees of Italy
  • The African pavilion that never was
  • Chef's salad at the Plaza restaurant
  • The Fountain of Nations in front of Spaceship Earth when it's fountaining to music (especially the theme from "Rocketeer")
  • The Friendships

Who can forget the throbbing of the engines, the turn-on-a-dime maneuvering, and the late night standing-room-only crowds on the friendships? Photo by Steve Railing, used by permission.

  • The rose garden in the MK
  • Flowers everywhere
  • The "burma shave" signs as you drive into Typhoon Lagoon
  • Mount Mayday and Miss Tilly
  • Streetmosphere at the Studios

The Wicked Witch of the West, one of the first audio-animatronic figures with designed-in compliance, is more lifelike than any previous character. Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • The Wicked Witch of the West in the Great Movie Ride
  • Ben Franklin walking up the stairs in the American Adventure
  • The glow of the torch of the Statue of Liberty in the American Adventure
  • The Animation Tour
  • The showcase of work in progress that is on display in the Animation Tour lobby
  • The steel drum music at the Caribbean Beach Resort
  • The organ at 1900 Park Fair
  • The Tower of Terror on one extreme and Muppetvision 3-D on the other

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened in 1994. I remember well reading Mike Scopa's account of the soft opening that he was able to catch during his July visit that year. I had to wait until September of that year for my first stomach-jarring drop. Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Peter Pan and the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Harambe and Anandapur
  • The Volcano pool and Storm-along Bay
  • Boma and 'Ohana—the best buffets in the world for protein lovers with huge appetites

Boma is one of Walt Disney World's newest restaurants, but it's also one of my family's favorites. Even now, three years after moving to Florida, we still visit Boma about once a month with friends, family, or by ourselves. Photo by Brian Bennett.

  • The elephant hotel model in the Boardwalk lobby
  • Buzz Lightyear at the All Star Movies Resort
  • The Fantasia Gardens fairways course

So here's to 10 more years of online discourse about Disney! May the year 2016 find Barbara and I closing in on our 30th anniversary as happy as we are as we are closing in on our twentieth. May it find our boys maturing into fine young men. And may it find Walt Disney World as enjoyable a place to visit as it has been since, well for me, since 1988.