Every so often we take a walk down memory lane and head 70 miles north to visit the happiest place on earth…that’s right, Disneyland. As someone who grew up in southern California, I have been going to Disneyland since I was a small child and my father’s military status got us in at reduced costs. (My father never went after his first visit, but my mother took us regularly–especially when relatives visited from out of state.) And yes, I even spent my honeymoon in the Magic Kingdom.
My husband loves to visit Disneyland during the fall when the park is decked out in all its Halloween finery…after all, his birthday is on Halloween. So since we had a weekend off, we headed to Disneyland on Saturday–in spite of the predictions of record high temperatures–to enjoy the park, rides some rides, watch some parades, and view some fireworks. We started early and stayed late…all in the name of fun!
Disneyland is constantly changing–and some things never change, like the French Quarter in New Orleans Square where we headed after our first few rides (and lines) for a cool mint julep and Micky-shaped beignets.
But like an evil twin or a twisted pair, this happy place also has an ugly underside. There are long lines–in spite of fast passes and a handy app that tells you the wait time for each ride, rides that break down just as you get to the front of the line (Space Mountain and the Matterhorn!), rides that pause for no apparent reason (we heard it was to accommodate handicapped visitors), expensive food and drink, and the grumpiness that comes from a long day in the hot sun, in long lines, with unexpected frustrations.
But maybe the lesson is to temper your happy place with a dose of patience. Waiting in line allows time for chatting with strangers. There is also ample time for people watching. There are opportunities to observe every possible parenting style–from the threats and bribes and incessant cajoling to the offering of limited choices and clear expectations. And then there are the various clothing choices–the families in matching T-shirts (some with clever numbers and nicknames), every variety of Disney character shirt from every decade, and some indescribable get-ups from scanty to absurd. (And who knew that Dooney and Burke made a Star Wars leather satchel?)
I did find my patience tested–and it required effort on my part to stay even-tempered and polite. But those qualities were also rewarded. Somehow, along the crowded Main Street, we found ourselves in perfect position to watch the daytime parade.
Drummers set the rhythm as we all sang along to M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E. Then there were the chimney sweeps dancing to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins,
and Peter Pan up close and expressive!
And sometimes standing in a ride line resulted in a picture perfect shot of the Matterhorn in the sunlight,
or a free choice fast pass as compensation for the ride breaking and us waiting out the minor repair until it became major.
And even though we were tired, it was fun to watch the night light up with dancers attired in neon that swirled and twirled–creating such fun photos,
and capped with a display of spectacular fireworks, projections on buildings…and even snowfall on an evening that was still 86 degrees at 10pm in mid-October!
I had fun and I was exhausted. There were spectacular sights and episodes of commercialism and overindulgence that made me cringe. I revisited the past and peeked into the future, and still wonder how this place will accommodate more visitors when it is already crowded beyond belief!
I enjoyed my Disneyland trip on Saturday…but I won’t need to return for a while.
So, can one place be a twisted pair? And is your happy place always happy?