(Prius Count 11, two on the way to Disneyland both days)
I wonder what it is like for a kid. You tell them for weeks that they are going to Disneyland and, man, are they excited. And then you get there. Does it meet their expectations? Is it all they ever dreamed it would be?
As we walked through the gates to the Happiest Place on Earth, Seth didn’t seem to know that we were there yet. All he saw was a road with stores to the left and the right. We weren’t IN Disneyland until we walked through the middle of the Sleeping Beauty castle. “Now we are here, Daddy” he said.
I hope that he had fun. I think he did most of the time. Here are some highlights:
• The very first ride we went on was Snow White. MISTAKE! It was dark and scary (and thankfully short). I felt like a liar after I made Seth repeat the mantra “Even though it’s sometimes dark, nothing at Disneyland is scary.” I kept up the mantra anyway.
• He got scared again in line to go on Star Tours. We almost had to force him to stay in line with us. Luckily, when we went on the ride, it ended up being a favorite.
• We then asked him if he wanted to go on a roller coaster. He said yes. So we took him on Space Mountain. Gosh, I feel like a horrible parent reporting on these things. Not only is Space Mountain one of the best and fastest coasters at the park, as you know, it is nearly completely dark on the ride! But we took him anyway. I couldn’t see his face during the whole ride so I didn’t know if he was in a state of absolute terror or not. Near the end of the ride, I heard him woo-hooing along with the rest of us. And when we got done—he was smiling and happy (with tears running down his face—maybe from the wind and speed?). I wanted to go again immediately—the wait was short. When asked if he wanted to go again Seth said: “Maybe not.”
• One of the coolest “shows” we watched was the production of the Jedi Academy. For those who haven’t seen this, here’s how it works. The stage that it takes place is the one just outside the hamburger joint in Tomorrowland. It has the rising section—remember it? Anyway, a bunch of kids line up behind some retaining string—then the Star Wars music starts and these AWESOME Jedi-folk come out. They proceed to choose lucky Jedis-to-be from the audience (about 25 kids—Seth didn’t want to participate, so we just watched) and put cute little brown Jedi-robes on them. The Jedi then proceed to instruct the kids on the finer points of light saber wielding. The main Jedi guy is funny and drops many force-speak one-liners. Anyway, when the kids are ready, Darth Vader and Darth Maul come out to challenge the new Jedis. The Darth Maul looks totally authentic. The whole thing was awesome—I’m not doing it justice here. If you are there—go see it. Even if your son doesn’t want to participate.
• On the first day we also discovered Seth’s favorite ride: Grizzly Rapids in California adventure. He absolutely loved that he got "soaking wet" even when he only got a few drops on him. Also on the first day: Matterhorn, Jungle Cruise, Dumbo (Maryn loved this one—you can tell when Maryn loves a ride because she cries when it’s over), California Screaming. One other honorable mention on the first day was the Pooh ride. When we went on it a few years ago with my parents, the line was an hour and the ride is only 3 or 4 minutes. This time there was no line at all and so we went twice.
• We love the free tortillas in the Mission tortilla factory in California Adventure—but skip the taco/burrito shop. We waited in line there at least 4 times longer than any ride line (over an hour).
• The second day seems like a blur (maybe I am just growing tired of writing—as you are sure to be tired of reading). The highlight of the day for me was this cool food demonstration on balsamic vinegar in California Adventure. At the end of it, everyone got a sample of lamb with reduced balsamic sauce. Yummy.
• Seth and I went on the Grizzly Rapids ride two more times. As a family, Jonas, Grandma, Papa and all, we also went on the large Ferris Wheel in CA and Pirates of the Caribbean (which has some cool Captain Jack Sparrow additions, I might add).
• A family favorite is California Screaming. As roller coasters go, it’s nothing special. But it’s really fun within the context of the rides at CA.
• The kids absolutely loved the bug’s land—little kid rides and water to splash in galore.
• If you have never seen the show at the Golden Corral in Frontierland you gotta. It is my favorite thing about Disneyland, period.
• There was a cool moment at the end of the second day. We left the kids (all three of ‘em) with Grandma and Papa and Tina and I raced off together to go on the Hollywood Tower of Terror in California adventure. It was so fun to just be with my wife—almost like our honeymoon again (which is coming up on being 7 years ago). We had a nice time visiting and snuggling a bit (not too much) in line. Tina was nervous about going on the ride, which made it all the funner when she had a great time. Also, the kids got to go on Autopia and the rockets in Tomorrowland which ended their ride experience in the park.
• After the fun date with my wife, we watched a great fireworks spectacular. Also a must if you can see it. It’s from last year’s 50th anniversary year. Speaking of the 50th anniversary, on the way out of the park, we went to a little movie about the 50 years of Disneyland. The theatre lobby was gorgeous and was done up with a bunch of old stuff—models, paintings, photographs of the history of the park. I realized again when we were there that my favorite parts of Disneyland are not the rides. What I love about the park is its history of Quality (wow—tying Pirsig's Zen into Disney). Everything about the park is meticulous—there is really no (or almost no) evidence of slack in Disneyland. From the flowers, to the barber shop quartets and marching bands, to the variety of friendly “cast members”, to the look and feel of each of the “lands”, Disneyland is all about attention to detail. You are really hard pressed to find any decay in the park. The only place that I saw it (decay or slack) was in those parts of the park that have kind of moved out of the main wave of the force of the Disney Machine. Toontown is a bit outdated (who really knows about Gadget and Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers anymore, anyway?). The only other evidence of a bit of slack would be the things that are NOT a part of Disneyland but are a major part of what we know Disney to be—namely Pixar. But the park is rapidly moving in that direction. There is a new Monster’s Inc. ride, a soon-to-open Finding Nemo ride, and apparently more on the horizon. It is quite the amazing thing, that Disneyland. If you go and aren’t impressed, check out the competition: Knotts and Magic Mountain. You might find more thrilling rides there, but you will also find garbage, grumpy employees, and an altogether lack of Quality.