Adventureland tiki
Mom with a tiki in Adventureland
Dusk swept in as the jungle drums were beating and torches flickered along the edge of the boat launch. Mom paused for a photo with a tall tiki.

“Send this to Autumn, she’ll love it!” she said, as I snapped the image with my iPhone and emailed it to my niece. We walked down to the landing for the Jungle Cruise, where it took only a few moments to board the boat for a wisecracking cruise that’s been a Magic Kingdom staple since the beginning. Without kids tagging along, we were out for a Mom and daughter trip, reliving my childhood memories while making new ones.

A Family Tradition

Sally and Susan at Disney
My sisters with Flower the Skunk in Fantasyland, 1972
In 1972, we piled into the old station wagon for our first visit to Walt Disney World, a brand-new attraction in Orlando, staying at the Contemporary Resort. How modern the hotel, and Tomorrowland, seemed then! My siblings, their families, and my parents were regulars at the park over the next several decades, where I’d join them for family gatherings and celebrations, like our parents 35th and 45th wedding anniversaries. We lost Dad just shy of their 50th. A few months later, Mom and I spent a girl’s-week-out to her favorite destination, returning to the Contemporary Resort for the first time in over 20 years.

In for Adventure

Clinging on as the boat splashed down into a scene of mayhem in Pirates of the Caribbean, we laughed as we saw the vignettes updated with a familiar face – Johnny Depp – from the movies inspired by the ride.

Jungle Cruise
Always a load of groans, the Jungle Cruise was a must for us

Without kids tagging along, we could take our time browsing through Island Supply and the Agrabah Bazaar. It felt freeing, and gave us more options for where to enjoy our lunch and dinner, with no worries about a crowd of picky eaters.

Tom Sawyer Island
Tom Sawyer Island is the most relaxing spot in the Magic Kingdom, in our opinion

Skipping over rides with long lines – like Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – for more gentle adventures, like a walk around Tom Sawyer’s Island, let us explore the park at a leisurely pace. Holding a multi-day park pass, we were in no rush to take it all in, so the Hall of Presidents even made our list on this trip.

Tom Sawyer Island floating bridge
We used to run across this bridge as kids. Mom takes her time.

A Taste of Fantasy

The gentle boat through It’s a Small World came just in time to cool us down in the heat of the day. We’d first shared this ride together at the 1964 World’s Fair, where it debuted. The dark rides of Fantasyland are a great place to duck into during the midday hours. Each one comes with its own set of memories. I remember sailing with my sisters on the Peter Pan ride over the lights of London, a place we’d all eventually visit.

Its a Small World
It’s hard to believe, but the first time we saw this together was 48 years ago at the World’s Fair

A cruise on the PeopleMover gave us an overview of what to tackle in Tomorrowland. We settled on a few spins of target shooting on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and more shared memories on the Carousel of Progress, another World’s Fair oldie. Mom isn’t a roller-coaster fan, so she shopped while I sped through Space Mountain. Later, we watched the Main Street Electrical Parade, a favorite for both of us.

Country Bear Jamboree
The Country Bear Jamboree was Dad’s favorite. We watched it in his honor.

Revisiting our past through the filter of the Magic Kingdom, we had much to share as we walked around the park. We talked about family members and the fun they had, remembered silly things that happened to us as kids and as adults, and, more than once, found tears in place of smiles as memories of family members lost to us – my sister, my father – jumped out of unexpected corners. But in visiting the park together, on our own, Mom and I made new memories for the future.

Carousel of Progress
The Carousel of Progress is another Disney classic from the 1964 New York World’s Fair

Visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom

While it’s smaller than the other Disney Parks, expect to do a lot of walking within Disney’s Magic Kingdom. If your parents have limited mobility, consider renting a scooter for the duration of your trip. Buena Vista Scooters delivers directly to your hotel.

Parents and children have different needs on a theme park outing, but hydration is a common one and important in Florida’s heat. Carry a refillable water bottle for each of you and top it off at every water fountain.

Contemporary Resort hotel room
I had a conference at the Contemporary Resort that made this trip together possible, and was happy to share it with Mom

If you’re staying nearby, consider taking a break during the midday heat to relax at your hotel room or chill out at the pool – easy to do if you stay at the Contemporary Resort, since it’s within walking distance and quickly accessed by monorail or boat.