After an absence of about thirty years, we found ourselves heading back to the “happiest place on earth” during a recent vacation in southern California. As with many things, the impetus for a trip to Disneyland was a four-year-old grandson.
It was déjà vu all over again. Our only previous trip was when Greg was about the same age. That time we were naïve enough to go at Christmas, when the lineups for everything from amusement rides, to food, to washrooms were a mile long. This was technically the slow season so wait times were reasonable. As I recall, Greg needed to be carried a fair bit when he powered out. Grady was more of a trooper and didn’t wilt until after the daily parade.
So what in the world has changed over the past three decades? Everything?and nothing. The same friendliness and cleanliness the park built its reputation on is still there. Now there is an entirely new complex called Disney’s California Adventure. It seemed to have more restrooms and better signage but I suppose that is to be expected. A one-day adult admission of $137 allowed for park hopping between the old and new, and a sixteen-dollar parking fee several blocks away gave us shuttle service to and from the parks.
There were disappointments when some of the most popular rides (Radiator Springs Racers and Splash Mountain) were closed for refurbishment. As someone whose head and gut couldn’t tolerate the Scrambler even when I was a teen, I was shocked that Grady and Aunt Hilary went on the large Ferris wheel and the Matterhorn. I got an instant headache after one round on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. But I handled Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train in ?a bugs land,? I’m happy to report.
Some of the cooler things were on the Adventure side: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride (did that one twice) and a virtual ?suiting up? as Ironman. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion tours were also geared for those of us likely to vomit on any ride too spinny, bumpy, fast, or curvy.
I loved seeing the place over-run with tiny princesses. I’d heard about this beforehand: where little girls could get their hair and makeup done and be outfitted in a gown. Precious, precious, precious.
Our lunch at Taste Pilots? Grill was good and the prices comparable to elsewhere: a veggie burger and fries for ten bucks. Contrary to what their website says, off-site food and beverages were allowed and openly consumed. Having Disney staff become ?Food Nazis? would ruin their rep, I guess.
The whole place runs like a well-oiled machine, which isn’t surprising, I suppose, since the original park opened in 1955. They’ve had a few years to get things right. There were ?guests? of every age from a few weeks old to seniors in wheelchairs and motorized chairs.
To create something that appeals to all sixteen million annual visitors and has stood the test of time is no small feat, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.