Thanksgiving at the Magic Kingdom, 1990s
November 25, 2021
In the early 1990s, Vern and I were living in Birmingham, Alabama. We started making annual trips to Walt Disney World. We had made trips to Walt Disney World in the summer, when it was way too hot and crowded, but had not made any trips in the cooler months. We decided to try going during Thanksgiving. I assumed the park would not be crowded, since Thanksgiving is a holiday for being at home with family. We didn't make any dinner reservations, since we figured we could just walk up to a restaurant if the park wasn't crowded. Boy, were we wrong on all counts! On Thanksgiving day, the Magic Kingdom was more crowded that we had ever seen it on our summer trips.
I had recently started a new AIDS drug "cocktail" of 3 or 4 drugs. For the first time in a few years, my numbers were going in the right direction. I was starting to feel better. The AIDS drug cocktail I was taking included one medicine that I had to take exactly every eight hours, on an empty stomach (four hours after may last meal). My stomach had to stay empty for at least two hours after my dose. If I missed the dose, or took it with food in my stomach, the virus could quickly develop resistance to the drugs, making them ineffective.
Lunchtime wasn't too bad. We went to a counter service restaurant and got served fairly quickly. Then the park started filling up. By mid-afternoon, the park was packed. We heard that the Magic Kingdom had reached capacity and was not letting any more guests in. I was taking my eight hour medicines at 6:00 in the morning, 2:00 in the afternoon, and 10:00 at night. My window of opportunity for dinner started at 6:00 PM and lasted until 8:00 PM. By 5:45 PM, all the counter service restaurants had lines that seemed to be a mile long. Disney cast members were turning people away from getting in line. We gave up on counter service and started going to every table service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, begging for a table. But like Mary and Joseph, we found there was no room at the inn. By 7:30 PM, we were at the last available place for food, the Liberty Tree Tavern. If we couldn't get in there, I would have to skip dinner. On Thanksgiving. When the hostess told us we couldn't get in without a reservation, I started crying. I tried to explain my situation with my AIDS medicines while sobbing. The hostess took pity on us, and found us a table. We had a wonderful traditional turkey dinner with sweet potatoes, green beans, and corn bread dressing. And I got to shake hands with Mickey Mouse during the meal! I had to wash my hands immediately, since he was shaking hands with all the children and adults in the restaurant and I had no immune system. Still, I was more than grateful for the food and the magic of Disney. I also had an even greater appreciation for all the Disney cast members, who do so much to make sure everyone at the parks has a magical day.
This year Vern and I live just a few miles from the Magic Kingdom. We're spending Thanksgiving with family, though. We're blessed to have relatives nearby in Tampa. We will eat at my niece's house, and leave space at the Disney restaurants for the next clueless tourists who didn't make plans ahead of time. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!