Let me say this up front: I love Disney movies. I have loved them for as long as I can remember. If you were to visit me at home after I’d had an especially hard day, you would find a grown woman, curled up on the couch, soaking up some feel-good Disney vibes, and probably singing along.
Believe it or not, I tried not to be too excited as the time for my departure drew closer.
“It is only an amusement park, after all,” I told myself.
No, it is not.
The creators and staff at Disneyland work hard to make the park unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.
Every detail you see (down to the Mickey Mouse trash cans), every interaction from the moment you’re greeted at the gate, is carefully handled.
“Are you ready to enter the happiest place on Earth?” asked the man who inspected my bag at the entrance.
“Am I ever,” I replied, with gusto.
The day after Thanksgiving, the entire park gets covered in Christmas decorations — Disney-themed garland and breathtaking Christmas trees the size of buildings. Sleeping Beauty’s castle is strung with beautiful icicle lights.
It was a good time of year to go; the holiday crowds weren’t there, and while it was a little misty, it wasn’t too bothersome.
I should probably mention here that it is perfectly acceptable for adults to get as excited as children while they’re at Disneyland.
I certainly did as I knelt down next to my cousin as the parade went by. “Look, it’s Mickey! He’s waving at us!”
One thing about taking young children: Introduce them to as many of the characters as you can before you go.
While my young cousin enjoyed meeting most of the characters, she was much more excited about the ones she knew (I felt old when I was unfamiliar with Jake of the “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” TV show, but after we walked away she had a big smile and relished in the fact she could tell he liked her).
There are technically two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, right next to each other. We visited both. We spent three days doing everything we could see as efficiently as we could, and still didn’t do everything.
I’m not even sure how much time that would take, and on day three, I was taken out of commission by the stomach bug that was going around (my cousin and uncle were its first victims, unfortunately). But there are a few things I can recommend.
As I’m writing this, I’m beginning to realize just how many of the rides I enjoyed were geared for young children because my cousin didn’t meet the height requirements for many of the other rides.
I didn’t care. I was in my Disney-haze.
Surprisingly, animatronics still work to entertain.
There really are too many rides and features to talk about in one article, but my favorite were the Casey Jr. Circus train (a little train reminiscent of the one in Dumbo that winds through tiny models of Disney settings) in Disneyland and the rides in Cars Land (and the impressively immersive setting) in California Adventure.
My aunt and uncle, who are much braver than I, loved riding the California Screamin’ roller coaster while I happily entertained my cousin on the beautiful turn-of-the-century boardwalk on Paradise Pier in California Adventure.
There is a great mix of performances throughout the parks as well (aside from the seemingly spontaneous delightful performers who wander through the parks), and I most enjoyed the 45-minute stage version of “Aladdin” (the hilarious Genie makes current pop-culture references), “Turtle Talk with Crush,” which features a real-time animated turtle from “Finding Nemo” who swims up to the screen and answers your questions (don’t ask me how that works), and the World of Color water show.
All of those shows were in the California Adventure park.
There are lots of great eats in the two parks, but my favorite dining experience was in Ariel’s Grotto. It’s a little pricey, but the food is excellent and the princesses come around to each table to talk to the kids and the kids-at-heart.
Kuddos to those women, by the way, for staying enthusiastically in character day after day.
Also, bring money for shopping if you go.
There is so much shopping available — shopping and shopping and more shopping for every Disney trinket you could possibly imagine.
So, as someone who had built up the Disney parks in her head for the past 20 years of her life I can say with confidence: Disneyland does not disappoint.