I'm probably dating myself by saying this but.....the first time I went to Disney was 6 months after it opened! Disney World consisted of the Magic Kingdom and that was it! I was fascinated with the idea of flying on an airplane to another state. I spent hours looking at my father's maps and memorizing where we were going, how far the drive was to each attraction and how long we would be there.Not much has changed with me in that department except that today it is much easier to plan a vacation.
My father made reservations at hotels all over the state of Florida, decades before the internet and before GPS. He winged it. He read street signs and if we got lost, we just turned around. Our first stop was Disney World which was in the middle of nowhere in central Florida. There were a few hotels that are still there but they have different names now. We stayed in what was known as "The Dutch Inn." They say it looked like a windmill — I don't recall particular feature, but I do recall that everything in the room was push button. That was very advanced for the time. I also remember that it raining very heavy just as I was going to the playground. It stopped within 15 minutes —typical Florida. I climbed to the top of the rocket ship, slid down and fell into a huge mud puddle. I cried not because I was hurt, but because I ruined my brand new sneakers! Wearing all of your new outfits on vacation was the thing back then. You wanted to look your best for people that you would never see again.
We had a blast. I met all the characters Mickey, Minnie, Cinderella, etc. You didn't have to stand in line for hours or use a Fast- Pass to meet them. They were all over the park, out in the open, waiting to greet visitors. We got the typical child's Disney souvenir, the Mickey ears with our names embroidered on them. We had our caricature portrait drawn which has been a popular theme park carnival items since the 1800's The portrait hung for years in a black picture frame in the hallway upstairs in the house I grew up in.It was a big deal to go on vacation! Not many families went on vacation back then. Air travel wasn't even that popular back then. People drove to their destinations.
Next stop was Marineland which was near Daytona Beach about an hour from Disney. It was a small version of Sea World, before Sea World existed. They had a dolphin show, a penguin tank and various huge fish tanks. I loved it. Afterwards, we made our way to west coast of Florida to visit my great aunt who lived in New Port Richey near Tampa. We stayed overnight and went to Weeki Wachee Springs the next morning. (In the 1950's, Weeki Wachee was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops) They had various different "mermaid shows" — women wearing colorful costumed fish tails that swam around a giant tank doing tricks. It's still open today. Our next stop was Silver Springs State Park located in the charming Ocala, Florida,It has been a natural landmark since the 1870s. Their most famous attraction is the glass bottom boats. They were the first to open in the U.S.
Disney and other tourist attractions may not have been as "in your face" spectacular as it is today but it sure was a lot of fun!!