Disneyland, I did not expect to like you that much. Oh I like you all right. Had such a fab time yesterday!
Things that Disneyland has going for it, in no particular order:
1. It's clean. You know how a lot of amusement parks don't smell great? Disneyland, by and large, smelled pretty good. There was not a lot of trash on the ground, and you could actually smell either nothing (i.e., air), fragrant smells (from the plants? Not sure), or food smells (not just pizza smells, but things like garlic).
2. It's pretty. The grounds, all the flora--very nice. It has the fact that it's in Southern California working to its advantage, because plants love it here, and the variety of things you'll find growing is outstanding. I don't know how long I'll be here in SoCal, but one thing I really love for the time being is how many different things you can see growing all over the area, with seemingly little maintenance. The climate does a lot of the natural maintenance.
3. It's not entirely cheesy. It's just not. I thought things would be more gimmicky, things that kids could fall for but that are lost on adults. Now, mind you, I know that Belle is not an actual princess and that Mary Poppins is not an actual nanny with a bottomless handbag, but the off-screen versions of characters and props are very polished. Granted, Walt Disney Co. has the budget to make things polished, but as an industry giant it also has the freedom to arrogantly choose not to make things polished. It's choice to do the former gives me some faith that the company still cares about quality entertainment.
4. The Fastpass system. Using your park ticket, you can go to rides and get a "Fastpass" that tells you when to come back to the ride to jump the line. You can go do other things, including riding rides that aren't as crowded, then come back later and wait 5-10 minutes to get on the ride. Not only genius, but it actually works, and probably makes regular wait times shorter too.
5. The staff is nice. I paid with my check card for most of the day, and several of the people who processed my transactions called me by name upon reading it. I'm sure they're trained that way, but still. The point is that they do it.
During our dinner, a woman named Sheri came over to our table offering buttons for specific celebrations (wedding, anniversary, birthday). I already had my "1st visit" button on, and she made a comment on that. She asked where I was from, Rosie and I told her about ourselves. Rosie realized while talking that we actually had recently celebrated something--our graduation--and Sheri went and got us "Just graduated" buttons. She also wished me luck in my career.
Um, tell me the last time you had such a conversation with a staff member at an amusement park. I'm not saying it hasn't happened. And to be clear, I haven't had terrible experiences at other amusement parks, and I believe they are often staffed with upbeat people. I'm just saying, I think this was a first for me.
6. Space Mountain. It's very important that we discuss Space Mountain. This was arguably the element that won me over at Disneyland. I had been on Space Mountain before at Disney World, and as a result I wasn't too excited to go on Space Mountain at Disneyland. Why? Because it wasn't that great at Disney World. It may have been my debut ride at D. World, actually, and I don't remember it being anything too special. Nick and his dad and myself are all thrill seekers, and it wasn't until we rode Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom later in the day that we felt we had gotten an adequate thrill.
After riding Space Mountain yesterday, I wondered if maybe my memory from the D. World version was warped in some way. But I told Rosie that me and Team Nick would have been more excited about Space Mountain if it were on par with the Disneyland version. Today I was prompted to look up information on it online, where I feel pretty well confirmed in my belief that the two rides are not identical.
Space Mountain at Disneyland is faster and more intense than the D. World version. Also, at D. World, the ride isn't as dark, so you can see more of the track and know where you're going. At Disneyland, it's pretty dark and there are projections of star images all around you, making for a very disorienting environment. Then it whips you around in completely unpredictable directions. The first time we rode it yesterday I instinctively laughed during the ride. That type of adrenaline that just makes you laugh based purely on your physical state without listening to any sort of comedic conversation or watching human antics is a rare and mysterious one that is incredibly satisfying.
We rode it twice. It was very important to me that we ride it twice.
7. Let's be real: Some childhood fantasies are fulfilled at Disneyland, regardless of age. First, I rode Splash Mountain for the first time, after watching DJ Tanner ride it years ago (during my 2008 trip to D. World with Nick and fam, Splash Mountain was closed, much to my disappointment).
Second, sure, it wasn't as "magical" for me to see the princesses dancing in the parade as it might be for a six year old, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't sing along with Belle and Ariel during the evening "Fantasmic" show. I could imagine things being extra impressive to me were I to attend this park at age 10, but nonetheless I was quite impressed with a lot of things. During Fantasmic, the cast of Peter Pan was acting on high ropes atop a large ship that was moving as they were performing. Corners were not cut. It was an impressive show.
8. There is variety in activity. Throughout the day, we rode rides, saw fireworks, listened to a barbershop quartet, watched a Michael Jackson film (raise your hand if you're a Disneyland virgin and were aware of that little element of the park), watched candy being handmade, watched a parade, looked at souvenirs. It wasn't just rides and playing games to win prizes. In fact I don't think there are any carnival games at Disneyland. Not that those are a bad attraction, but I think their absence adds another point of uniqueness to Disneyland. I guess what I'm trying to say in a lot of this analysis is that I expected Disneyland to be more predictable, given Disney's ubiquitous placement in culture worldwide.
9. The rides are more fun than you (or maybe just cynical, grumpy me) might think. It's a Small World, Storybook Land, those are a little more tame. But the Indiana Jones ride kind of throws you around. It's fun. And Space Mountain--holla.
10. It's friendly to those who get tired. All amusement parks have places to sit and eat your hot dogs, of course. But Disneyland has several restaurants, and where Rosie and I had dinner there was a cafeteria-style setup. Yes, this is also a way to get you to spend more money--and cynical me would focus on this--but it's also a nice way to take a legitimate break and feel like you're somewhere other than just an amusement park during your full day.
11. It's family friendly. This might seem like a "duh" comment, but: no, really. I heard very little swearing all day. Think about it. Where can you go anywhere anymore--besides houses of worship, maybe--where you don't hear someone around you cussing? I think it even cleaned up my mouth for the day. I can be a bit of a potty mouth, but was not so much yesterday.
Good work, Disneyland! Thanks for a great Saturday! And thanks to Rosie, my fab tour guide! Today I am recovering quietly--with sore muscles that evoke "worth it" memories--by drinking coffee and being economical with movement about the house. It's also after 3 p.m. and I am still in my p.j.'s.