After a decade in California, I finally visited one of its iconic places – Disneyland. I had never been before and it was always one of those places that the Beloved and I kept saying we “ought” to go. We’d just never seemed to get around to it. Last weekend, she organized a big meeting in Orange County and in its aftermath we decided to spend a couple of days visiting The Mouse.
Now, as an adult without children, Disneyland is an interesting proposition. Would it be too “kiddie” for us to really enjoy? I’d been WDW when I was 11 and I remember it being a blast, but of course I was 11. We discussed the different options and decided that if we were going to go, we might as well go all the way and stay on the property. We opted for The Grand Californian – which is modeled on the craftsman style of many National Park lodges. It was beautiful and decorated with an over the top eye for detail. It sort of reminded me of places that you might see in Las Vegas. You know, without the hookers.
We arrived on Sunday night and had “park hopper” passes for Monday and Tuesday that would allow us to go back and forth between Disneyland and the newer California Adventures theme park.
We started our day Monday with Chip-N-Dale’s Critter Breakfast and I mean really – can you resist giving yourself over to the spirit of a place when you have mouse-ear waffles and a five-foot chipmunk comes over and gives you a giant hug? Of course you can’t.
We went to Disneyland on Monday and had a wonderful day. Sunny and cool, we pretty much walked onto every ride we wanted to go on – whether it was a “big” attraction like “Splash Mountain” or something small and kitschy like the “Enchanted Tiki Room”.
We’d read about the FastPass option (designed to help you bypass lines during busy times), but really only needed it once in the two days we were there. Pretty awesome. We really enjoyed all the rides (with the exception of maybe the “Jungle Cruise” which was getting a little long in the tooth) – especially “Space Mountain”, “Splash Mountain” and the small but beautiful Winnie the Pooh ride (don’t judge me).
We ventured over to California Adventures on Tuesday. This park is smaller than the Magic Kingdom, and has focused on newer, more intense rides like the rollercoaster “California Screamin’”, the scary “Tower of Terror”, and the delightful “Soarin’ Over California”, which were all excellent (of course the only one that made me queasy was the giant ferris wheel). And the park’s not going to be smaller for much longer – there is a ton of construction going on and several new areas are going to open up in the next couple of years.
And everywhere we turned, it seemed like everyone was having a good time, too. Happy kids out-numbered crying ones at least 50-to-1, and even bedraggled parents looked tired but happy in a way that I’d never seen at other amusement parks, and that made me think that maybe Disneyland really is the “Happiest Place on Earth”.
And maybe that’s what distinguishes the Disney “experience” from those other theme parks — that Disney asks you to buy into that philosophy and become a part of it. You’re not just a customer; you’re a participant in it. And I discovered that I still have enough kid left in me that it was easy to put aside my been-there-done-that cynicism and have a grand time.