Monday I went to Disneyland for the first time in 20 years. My last visit had been during the 30th anniversary and I barely remember it. My first visit, only three years later, is instead chiseled into my memory.
Like every other kid in the world I had dreamt of going to Disneyland one day. From the shores of the La Plata river in Argentina, that dreamed seemed fully unattainable. But the illness of my sister, the search for an ever-ellusive kidney, had deposited us in Southern California and after checking into the hospital and securing a car and a place to live, going to Disneyland was the first thing in the agenda.
For months before our trip to the US I had wished myself to dream about Disneyland before I went to sleep. But I didn’t know what to dream about, the few pictures of the place I’d seen had not given me a fair image of what Disneyland was. I’d been to one amusemant park before, the Italpark in Buenos Aires. Its bumper cars, ghost train, small rollercoaster and even its flying dumbos assured that however high my dreams, the reality of Disneyland would not disappoint. Today, after having been to several amusement parks in the US and Europe, Disneyland just seems like just one more. But back then, it was a complete new universe.
Lines must not have been much of an issue in 1981 because I remember jumping from one ride to the next, being enchanted by the Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean, feeling included by the little gaucho in It’s a Small World (my mom’s favorite ride), being amazed by the submarine ride and excited to drive a car in Autopia. Even the tea cups and Tom Sawyer’s island were amazing fun. That first visit, and the one that followed a few months later when our aunt came to visit, was pure magic. As I recalled it and recounted it to my husband, I wished that our daughter could feel the same, while knowing there was no way she could. Without much exposure to Disney, much less awareness of Disneyland, for her this would be just another place.
And it was.
We “ chose” to go to Disneyland a Monday in April, right before the celebrations for its 50th Anniversary. I thought the park would not be crowded, that people would chose to wait a week and see wha new Disneyland had to offer. I was wrong, as the place was full of people. Who knows? Perhaps Disneyland is never uncrowded anymore.
The park has not changed much in the last twenty years. There were several new rides of which I tried four, but in general they’ve replaced others which have closed. There is a new section, Toon Town, which is very cool for little kids, as they have things to climb into and explore in addition to rides.
This time around, Disneyland didn’t feel any different to me than any other amusement park. Watching the people rush from ride to ride, wait in interminable lines and in general look hurried and tired, took away from any magic I might have once felt.
We started our visit in the New Orleans area. We were able to go to both Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion without having to wait in line. Both rides were very much like I remembered, I was once again amazed at the special effects and animatronics (considering how long ago they were built), though of course, they weren’t as cool as I’d once thought them to be. We also took on the Winnie the Pooh ride, which was nice and colorful but it went too fast for a 3 year old. Indeed, this was a general complaint about all the children rides at Disneyland, they moved too fast for little kids to take in the action.
We then continued to the Indiana Jones ride, for which we’d gotten fast passes. Even then, it took like 20 minutes to get out of the ride, including the loooong walk to the carts and standing in the shorter line. The ride was enjoyable (and it also went too fast) but not particularly thrilling. I would have been terribly disapointed if I’d had to wait more than what I did. One particularly cool special effect doesn’t work well if you’re not seated in the front seat, though another one is more thrilling if you’re further behind. Next time I go to Disneyland, I’ll probably skip it.
Little kids are not allowed in this ride, so while we went Mika spent time at the Tarzan Treehouse, she seemed to enjoy herself there.
We were then off to fantasyland. We took on the Snow White and the Pinocchio rides, both were too short, too fast and a bit scary for Mika, but mostly uninteresting to her as she didn’t know the stories. Without knowing the stories, they don’t make much sense. Still, the lines for these rides were fairly short which made them worth it. We also stayed in a LOOOOONG line for the Peter Pan ride. I’d forgotten about it, but I’d read you went on flying ships and wanted to do it. It was cool, but once again way too short for the wait time and there is no way I’d wait in line for it again. Mika, again, was unimpressed.
She was much more thrilled by the King Arthur Carrousel, it’s amazing how for little kids the basics are often the best.
We then headed to Toon Town, where we’d gotten fast passes for the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin. We didn’t need them as even at mid-day, there was no line at all. The ride was OK, fast and colorful, but again nothing special. None of us were impessed.
The rest of Toon Town was fun, specially for a toddler. Mika loved Chip & Dale’s tree house, Donald’s Boat, and the other little buildings and props she could explore. Next time around we’ll spend more time in this section.
We went to the Blue Bayou for lunch, which ate about an hour and a half of our day. After that we headed to Tom Sawyer island. Waiting for the rafts was a drag, but Mika enjoyed herself exploring all he caves and jumping on the suspended bridges. This section made me wish I was a kid again.
We tried to go to the bountiful farm, but it was closed by then, so we headed back to Fantasyland, where Mika and Kathy braved the long wait for the Flying dumbos. Mika loved it, though, which made it worth it.
It’s a small world was also a winner, we all could agree it was great. The dolls are beautiful and seeing them gives you a nice, warm feeling. The song is also catchy and had us sing it for the rest of the day.
We were then off to Tomorrowland where we waited in line for what’s probably the 2nd most stupid ride (after Muholland Madness in California Adventure) in all of creation: Autopia. I’ve never been in a more boring ride in my life. Alas, Mika LOVED driving the car and she wanted to go again – the wait was too long, however.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, another new ride, was actually a blast. You go in two-person carts which you can turn around, and have guns that you aim at targets that you try to shoot. Mike was quite good at it, but even little kids can get points by just shooting aimlessly. At the end of the ride, you get a digital picture which you can e-mail home. It was great and Mika enjoyed it.
Finally, Mika headed to Astro Orbitor, a ride where you spin around in rockets that you can direct up and down. She loved it too.
In all we had quite a good time. I was annoyed by the long lines, and next year I’ll try to find even a less busy time to go, but getting there right at opening time was good for at least getting some rides in. Next year I’ll also get Mika more acquainted at least with the stories behind the rides so she can be more excited about it. Who knows? perhaps by next year she’ll be into princesses like practically every other little girl anyway. She’ll also be tall enough to be able to take on other rides.