This past weekend was my mom’s birthday, and everyone went to Disneyland.
I mean, really went to Disneyland. 3-day “park hopper” passes and a hotel stay for the whole family. Friday, Disneyland. Saturday, Disneyland. Sunday, Disneyland. Also California Adventure, but really, it’s all about The Mouse, isn’t it?
Well, here’s the thing. In my adult life, I’m just not that into Disneyland. I feel like I’ve seen everything it has to offer, and it’s gotten quite expensive to partake in. I still remember the day I talked to someone who was literally on a payment plan for their family’s park passes, and thought nothing of it– and that made me die inside a bit, to think we’d reached a point you had to basically take out a loan in order to afford a day with Mickey and Donald.
I know several friends who have annual passes, and other friends who would want them if only they could afford them (payment plan?), but I just don’t have the notion to go more than once a year, despite the park being about an hour’s drive away. Before this latest jaunt, I couldn’t remember how long it’d been since the last, and furthermore found I didn’t really care. For me this was less about Disneyland than it was about a nice hotel stay, some family time, and just general relaxation.
And you know what? When all was said and done, I may have had the best time at Disneyland I’ve ever had. I think back to my article on Comic-Con from two years ago, where I advocated something of a Zen approach to the experience, a “Jacob’s Ladder Method” where one focused on the positive, where minimal expectations would theoretically lead to a maximal amount of happiness.
Shit if the same thing don’t work with The Mouse. Oh, all bets would be off if you have a kid, kids tend to fixate, especially where The Mouse is concerned. At this time, though, the closest we had to a kid was our tiny niece, and we didn’t walk the parks with her until Sunday, so she already had two prior days of focused frolicking. Not to mention said niece gets to go to Disneyland nearly every time she visits the L.A. area, which I would presume helps take some of the edge off.
As an example, when we all got to our hotel at around noon on Friday, in the midst of 100 degree weather, she was quite amenable to holding off on immediate Mouse-ification in favor of making use of the swimming pool for a couple hours. I certainly felt no hurry either, both for my reasons stated above and for the fact that, hey, three day ticket. A dip in cool water and some relaxation in a lounge chair is a heck of a nice transition between fighting the freeways and entering the throngs at the park. By the time that was all said and done it didn’t even matter that the first shuttle from the hotel was too packed to fit us all… we just got off and caught the next one.
The whole weekend was more or less like that. We had a few breakfast and dinner reservations, but otherwise just went where opportunity took us, and that got us just about everywhere we wanted to go, with the exception of the CarsLand rides– but I’ll see about Radiator Springs Racers on some other occasion that doesn’t involve waiting in a two hour line under a scorching sun. For I’m sure, despite all my misgivings, that I’ll be back. The wife loves the place, for one thing, and I have to admit that if you let Disneyland be for a few years, then when you return you may find a lot of pleasant surprises. California Adventure is so much better than I remember from last time, and I’m not just saying that because you can buy and carry around a cup of beer. They’ve done a lot of work on the place, and for the better.
This is the way to do it. Stay away long enough for some changes, then see about getting a multi-day visit together as a mini-vacation. Oh, and bring along a smartphone. I remember another Comic-Con blog I wrote where I wished they could have some sort of app which would say not only what times and places various panels and events were, but the sort of line you’d be looking at when you got there. Well, enterprising souls have done just that for the Disney parks, and at least one of the apps Dawn had was very, very accurate, which saved us a lot of hoof wear and possible disappointment. Not to mention I directly credit it for cluing us in to a window where Space Mountain had a 20 minute standby on a Saturday (which actually ended up being 10 minutes when she timed it). I wasn’t going to ride Space Mountain, but, eh, at 20 minutes I figured the whole “Ghost Galaxy” thing couldn’t be too underwhelming.
Joyless? On the contrary. I did end up with a bruised toe and a blister, which was more damage than Comic-Con this year inflicted, but I escaped without sunburn, heatstroke, or loss of sanity despite being at and around those parks for three very, very hot days. It’s difficult for any non-Disney employee these days to use the phrase “The Happiest Place On Earth” without some note of sarcasm, but it ended up being a good weekend not only for family, but for the whole experience.