This weekend, MJ and I brought our niece to Florida to celebrate her 10th birthday at Disney. Yes, we fully expect a nomination for Aunt & Uncle of the Year. Although she had been to Disney before, her last visit was when she was three years old, meaning most of the sights of our favorite place on the planet were relatively new for her. Seeing Disney through a new set of eyes was a great experience, but it also reminded me of just how much this happy place has changed over the years. As much as I love Disney, I'd love it a lot more if these favorite places and experiences were still around.
Before there was Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, Disney's one and only water park was River Country. As the name suggests, the park was themed after an old fashioned swimming hole, complete with rope swings and water slides that plunged riders straight into Bay Lake. Of course, therein was the problem with River Country - it seems lakes in Central Florida are prime breeding grounds for a wicked brain eating amoeba. At least that's the excuse Disney used as their rationale for closing the park down.
Today, River Country sits completely abandoned, seen only by those that rent one of the mini water sprite boats and know where to look. I miss River Country, not due to any real attachment to the park, but for the simple fact that I never got to go...
"Disney" and "Nightlife" are words you might not normally combine into the same sentence, but Pleasure Island was home to just such a phenomenon. From the late 1980's until it's demise in 2006, Pleasure Island was a popular nightlife destination, not just for those visiting the Mouse, but for Orlando as a whole. The dance clubs and nightly celebration of New Years Eve are now just a fading memory, however it's one that I won't soon forget thanks to an abundance of great times had on the Island.
|Sadly, this awesome sign was spotted in a dumpster.|
What I miss the most about Pleasure Island isn't the destination itself, but the piece of Disney Imagineering that went with it. Pleasure Island told an elaborate story - that of the swashbuckling captain of a Mississippi River steamship named Meriweather Adam Pleasure. The captain came ashore on this "island" in the middle of Central Florida and promptly named the land after himself. In the decades that followed, Pleasure established a host of enterprises, from a Fireworks Factory (my favorite restaurant as a kid) to an expansive library (known as the Adventurer's Club) to the Pleasure Thespian Players (also known as the Comedy Warehouse). Pleasure's island continued on long after his death, until Hurricane Connie blew through destroying everything in its path. She also managed to create the Typhoon Lagoon water park across the street.
It's that in-depth story telling that the Disney parks of 2013 seem to lack, and one I'm reminded of every time I cross the bridge onto Meriweather Pleasure's island.
In the early 90's, Disney added Osprey Ridge and Eagle Pines to its stable of championship golf courses. Sadly, only one still remains.
The Eagle Pines course was designed by Pete Dye and was best known - at least to my memory - for the large amount of pine straw covered waste areas. If you're a golfer - think Kiawah Island but replace the sand with pine straw. Not only was Eagle Pines one of my favorite courses, it was also the site of my first solo adventure with friends without my parents. Yeah...going to a golf course without mom and dad while on vacation - I was definitely a rebel.
|Where Eagle Pines once "stood."|
Eagle Pines was recently plowed under as part of the development of the new Four Seasons Orlando. While I'm clearly not one to embrace change at Disney, this is one trade that I'm more than happy to make...
Monorail Front Seat
There was a time when I had my own reserved seat on the Monorail. OK, so it wasn't technically reserved for me, but I was known to let a monorail pull away without boarding just for the chance of riding in the front cab with the pilot on the next one. The front seat on the Monorail was one of those "secrets" at Disney that I took a lot of pride in doing on a regular basis. Yes, I was always tempted to climb in the pilot's chair while they watched the train load, but sadly I never took advantage of the opportunity.
A tragic accident and crash between two monorails took the life of one pilot and effectively ended the days of guests riding in the front cab forever. An understandable reaction on Disney's part, even if the monorail served for decades without a single loss of life - arguably the safest form of mass transportation on the planet. Still, mention the monorail to anyone that had the privilege of riding in the front, and the view is no doubt the first thing that will come to mind. At least it does for me.
I'm sure there's some old adage about change that would be appropriate here, but I'll spare you because I really don't want to hear it either. Why is it that "the good old days" always seem so great? Perhaps it's because we only see the positive in our most treasured memories. I'm sure the Fireworks Factory was overpriced, and if River Country still existed there's no way I'd go splash about in Bay Lake. Yet I still miss the Disney of old, and can't help but wonder if in two decades I'll feel the same way about the Disney of today.
Enjoy Your Stay