Ok, to be completely honest yes, when I was 10 – in 1986 – my family went to Walt Disney World in Florida. I don’t really count that as an experience though. I was young, I don’t remember a lot about it and I’m fairly certain that a lot has changed in the intervening years. I love Disney though; I’ve always loved them. Growing up, one of the few cable channels my family subscribed to was Disney and I’ve always kept up with the company, both its history and new developments. So that’s why it’s bizarre that I haven’t visited any Disney Park as an adult. Thankfully, I recently had the opportunity to correct that oversight in Anaheim, California at the original Disneyland. I have a lot to say about my experience, but today I want to share some initial thoughts. As a disclaimer, Disney was kind enough to provide me with complimentary tickets, but all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.
The magic is real
As I left Disney California Adventure park for the last time and started the short walk back to my hotel, I tried to decide why I had as much fun as I did over the course of two half-days wedged in-between work obligations. The rides were fun, no doubt there. Whether it was the vintage 1955-era attractions, or newer experiences, there wasn’t a ride that failed to put a smile on my face. But Disneyland is about so much more than just rides. Walking down Main Street, I forgot for a brief moment that I was in a theme park and that’s when it dawned on me. There really is magic in the Disney experience and that is what had made me so happy while I was visiting the parks. Everything about both parks is done expertly and it forces guests to believe in the illusion. It’s a remarkable ability and I honestly felt like a kid again. It was a wonderful feeling and one I know I’ll try to recapture whenever I can.
Another reason why I was so happy was that I didn’t really experience any frustration with crowds or waiting for rides. As soon as I was able, I downloaded the app and made smart use of Disney’s FASTPASS options. Not only did it save me a lot of time waiting for rides, but it also helped me better organize my time both in Disneyland as well as Disney California Adventure. I wasn’t able to snag a FASTPASS for everything though, which is how I discovered one of the great Disney secrets – single rider lines. Whether you’re traveling solo like I was or you don’t mind riding without your companions, it’s the fastest way to get onto popular rides; many times quicker than even a FASTPASS. At Space Mountain I had a zero-minute wait and the longest I experienced at any attraction was 20 minutes. Much better than waiting in stand-by lines that at times can be more than an hour in length. I zipped around both parks quickly and with ease, seeing almost everything on my list in what was ultimately a short amount of time.
The kid in all of us
I was talking with a friend and I commented that I saw more adults than kids at the Disney parks, to which he quickly replied, “Oh yeah, Disney is absolutely for adults.” It’s a strange thing if you stop to think about it, but he was right. Sure, what kid wouldn’t want to visit Disney? But even more so, many adults do too. Whether it’s to indulge our childhood fantasies or to enjoy the many adult-oriented experiences, I never felt like I was out of place. If I wanted to sit in one of the tea cups, that’s fine; I certainly wasn’t the only adult doing it. Hug Mickey? Go for it! Disney is one of few places where adults can just go and have good, old-fashioned, honest fun. There’s nothing to worry about there and it’s very much a playground for everyone, regardless of age. I can’t think of many places like that and I now understand the Disney obsession that grips so many adults.
In the weeks to come I’ll write about the mechanics of visiting the parks, what I enjoyed most, what I ate and my overall impressions. Today though, I wanted to talk about the basis of all of those experiences, the magic that ties everything together and that, more than anything else is what I think Disney is all about.