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Robert Niles

Giving (or getting) a theme park visit as a Christmas present

Published: December 6, 2010 at 11:04 AM

A trip to Walt Disney World isn't just a vacation for some families. Sometimes, it's a Christmas present, too.

That's what my first visit to Disney World was. As child born in Los Angeles, I'd been to Disneyland many times. But when we moved to Indianapolis while I was in elementary school, I figured my days of visiting Disney theme parks were over.

Mickey Mouse eraserThen my grandparents moved from Cincinnati to Florida. And the next Christmas, we found a Mickey Mouse pencil eraser on our Christmas tree on Christmas morning. A note was attached.

We were going to Disney World!

We ended up taking that first trip to Disney World - it was just the Magic Kingdom then - during Spring Break that year. Ice and snow still covered Central Indiana on the morning we left. As the sun rose and we reached Kentucky, the pavement dried. By the time we reached north Georgia, the snow was gone. And when we reached Florida, well, it felt like my bones were thawing after a long, cold winter.

Some people enjoy their Disney World present on Christmas itself. But Disney isn't the only holiday-present theme park destination. This year, I suspect that more than a few families will be getting visits to Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My cousins in northern Kentucky (huge Harry Potter fans) are getting their first visit to Hogsmeade in January. Their parents set up an elaborate series of clues around the house, which ultimately lead to my cousins discovering their big prize - the trip to the Wizarding World.

Which leads me to ask: Did you ever get a theme park visit as a holiday or birthday present? How did you find out?

Or, have you given a theme park visit as a present? Did you do anything special to build the suspense?

I'd love to read some comments detailing fun stories about readers learning about their first trip to Disney Word, Universal or other major theme parks.

Replies (11)

Brad W

Published: December 6, 2010 at 11:45 AM

My first trip to Disney World was a Christmas present for my brother and I when I was in first grade (my brother in 4th). I can still remember reading the note that my parents wrote for us to open on Christmas morning. We went for a week sometime in February that year. Still one of the best Christmas presents ever.
Neil Trama

Published: December 6, 2010 at 12:15 PM

My girlfriend and I will be heading to Disney for a few days in January, as we convinced our families to just buy us vacation stuff instead of presents for this Christmas (her parents buy the plane tickets, my parents buy the park tickets, etc.)

As a kid we visited Disney World 3 times around the holidays but it was never given as a surprise on Christmas morning. I can't imagine how excited I would have been to find "we're going to Disney World" under the tree!

David McArthur

Published: December 6, 2010 at 3:00 PM

I'm getting my wife and son (and myself) 2012 LEGOLAND® ANNUAL PASSES. Fall 2011 is free.

Published: December 6, 2010 at 5:29 PM

Every year as far back as i remember my grandfather would buy my mom, dad, my little brother, and myself annual passes to Disney and hind them some where in the Christmas tree in a envelope.One year i found two envelopes and not only did we get Disney but Universal as well


Published: December 6, 2010 at 6:10 PM

Yes, we leave for WDW in 5 days!

Published: December 6, 2010 at 6:59 PM

Season passes are also very popular. I know someone that always gets them to greatadventure for their birthday or christmas.

Published: December 6, 2010 at 8:28 PM

My husband and I go to Disney World every Christmas that we can , this trip is the only gift we give each other. We have done this nearly every Christmas for the past 12 years.We are seniors and most of the time we go just the two of us!!
Joshua Counsil

Published: December 6, 2010 at 8:37 PM

The first time we went to Orlando was after our great aunt left us a sizable inheritance. Our family had an amazing time. My brothers and I were depressed for quite some time after leaving, knowing we couldn't ever afford to go again.

The following year, our parents' business did very poorly. We were told that we were going to have a very small Christmas. When we woke on Christmas morning, we had one small package each - a tiny tin with a bow. Inside each tin was a picture of a character that resembled each brother - Mickey for the oldest, Donald for the youngest, and Goofy for me. We didn't catch on until the fourth present was opened - The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. We absolutely flipped. Our grandparents had bought our family a trip to Orlando.

Since then, we've given up gifts and have had a small vacation every Christmas, instead. We still use the same tins that were used that morning, but we've gotten cleverer with our presentations. Last year, my parents had planned a trip to D.C. Each of the tins for my brothers and I had something relevant to the recipient (e.g., for me, the engineer, it was a snippet about Pierre L'Enfant).

Hermione Potter

Published: December 7, 2010 at 7:57 AM

My siblings and I were given tickets to Disney World every year for Christmas when we were little. When we moved to Orlando when I was in high school I secretly hoped for annual passes or possibly even a trip to disneyland. Everyone being teens, we ended up with 2 year passes to universal. (I didn't tell my parents I would've rather gone to disneyland!)
Chelsea Vargas

Published: December 7, 2010 at 5:45 PM

For my seventeenth birthday I got Six flags Great Adventure as a birthday present. But I insisted on going since i didn't know what to get for my birthday. It was my first time going, so i was excited. I went for two days. The first day was on a monday. and that was for the themepark. Thank god I went on a monday, it wasn't that busy. The second day we went it was a thursday. It was the safari and the water park. I will never forget that week. It was the best!

Published: December 7, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Our daughter's birthday is in December. One week before her 9th birthday in 2008 we had put clues all over the house. The clues started in her bedroom and ended in the basement. When she opened a suitcase (the answer to the last clue), she found a present wrapped up and looked up at us and said, "Are we going to Disney World?" The present had our hotel info (Grand Floridian) in it and she started crying because she was so happy. The surprises didn't end there. My wife and I invited my mother along but didn't tell our daughter, so 2 days before our trip, my mom flew to our house, and our daughter was so excited that her grandmother was coming too! It was a very special trip - not only were we going for her birthday, but it was the first time we ever went around Christmas. While our daughter was given a birthday button when we checked in, she wouldn't wear it until her actual day, and what a great day it was! It started with a special balloon in our room, a trip to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the MK followed by lunch at Tony's Town Square, Dinner at Chef Mickey's and a visit to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party to end the day. We had such a fun time!

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