A Magical birthday

I think it’s safe to say my daughter’s 21st birthday was magical.

People celebrate 21st birthdays in myriad ways. Often, that involves heading out to adult establishments and embracing their newfound 21-year-oldness. And a hangover the next day.

My daughter, however, has for years said she wanted to do her 21st birthday at Disney, with us.

We are fortunate that we have been able to go to Disney quite a few times over my kids’ lives. We used to take vacations down there, with cousins and grandparents and such, and it became a staple of their childhood.

And it has been her most magical place on the planet. We were thankful that our daughter (a) wanted to celebrate her birthday there and (b) wanted to celebrate it with us. So we were happy to oblige. (Side note: Disney is kinda the favorite place of my wife and me, so the obligation was a pretty easy sell.)

We arrived at Disney a day prior to her birthday. This gave us some time to game up for the big 2-1 day we would celebrate. We went to Downtown Springs for dinner. Disney Springs is an outdoor shopping and dining area that has some really cool stuff to see. We milled about at the stores down there, mainly window shopping. Side note – there is a Levi’s store in Disney Springs. I am not sure why you would go to Disney and say, “You know what I need? Some new Levi’s.” But what do I know?

On her birthday, we got up bright and early – and I mean, really, early, and sorta bright – for the day she had carved out for her 21st. Our plans: Hit Epcot. Start the day with the Frozen ride. Go to the Mexico Pavilion for margaritas so she could get carded for the first time. Ride Soarin’. And Test Track. And on and on and on.

I learned this during this trip: Disney parks don’t actually open when they say they open. We arrived at the parks each day about 45 minutes before the park officially opened. Thanks to my daughter’s keen planning and intel, we were near the front of the entrance when they started letting people in before opening time. We targeted the rides we wanted to make sure we did, and we beelined it to those first, usually walking right on before the lines got above an hour.

We were at Epcot plenty early, and probably 15 people deep in a big line of folks. By the time they let us in, there were WAY more people behind us. Off to Frozen.

We pretty much walked on the Frozen ride, and it’s hard to convey what a special feeling it is to see your 21-year-old daughter become a kid again, beaming from ear to ear at every step. When we left Frozen, we followed the agenda and headed to Mexico. We walked into the tequila bar, and ordered our drinks. The bartender asked for my daughter’s ID. When he looked at it, he looked back at her, handed it back, and announced to the entire bar that it was her 21st birthday. The rather crowded bar cheered and toasted her, which, yeah, was kinda fun.

Over the course of our visit, we hit all the parks – Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and, of course, Magic Kingdom. We walked more than 50 miles. We braved a few rainstorms, as is the Orlando summer way. We rode every ride we could have wanted to, some twice. But most of all, we had a great time as a family.

When we went to the parks when the kids were younger, it was a lot tougher. We had to deal with kids in strollers. With naptimes. With hungry kids needing snacks. 

It was kinda awesome going with my kids now that they are adults. Disney was always a magical place when they were little. But it’s pretty cool to realize that magic lives on. Happy birthday, Allie.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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