We finally bit the bullet and took our kids to Disneyland last month. We’ve been trying to save up for it for the last few years but you know how things happen just when you get some money saved up? Like repair work on the car or medical bills or any number of things? Yeah, that’s what happened with us too. Just when we would start to think we were getting somewhere, life would come along and remind us that we weren’t.
Anyway, we booked the hotel room and bought the tickets and budgeted for the gas money. Yup, we drove. 1000 miles there and 1000 miles back. 30 hours in the car. And normally a person would say that it was horrible but, in all honesty, it wasn’t. I like to drive. Mostly because I don’t like to fly. And our kids are also remarkably good travelers so that makes it really easy. And my husband drives fast so we made pretty good time as well. So yeah, driving beats flying in my book.
We bought 3-day park hopper tickets and bright and early the next morning there we were…standing in line with a horde of people eager to have our money sucked out of our pockets, all in the name of the Mickey, the Minnie and the holy Goofy. Mike was the pack mule for the day, burdened with the backpack full of PB&J sandwiches, snacks, sunscreen and water bottles. We were clearly packing in our own supplies in an attempt to keep some of the afore mentioned moola securely in our possession. The kids were all hopped up on the free hotel waffles and the kind of expectation only a child can muster. About 10 minutes into the wait, the youngest, who was dancing from foot to foot, accidentally stepped on her sister’s foot. The ‘injured’ child then pushed her back which caused her to fall into the oldest (who, at 15, was way too cool to be hanging around us anyway) and basically set off a chain reaction of snide comments, shoves and general feuding. We tried to contain the chaos to the approximately 3′ x 3′ area we were occupying in line but that was pretty much futile. In an attempt to save our family fun time, it was after all only 9:20 on the first day, Mike gathered the children to him in a fatherly ‘bear hug’ that resembled a football huddle. Keeping his voice low enough that only the kids could hear him, he said, through gritted teeth “Listen, we just drove 1000 miles to get here and spent…well, way too much money on the tickets. We did it because we love you and we want to make memories. And, it’s the happiest place on earth so you’re going to be freakin’ happy! Got it?” Oh, I love that man. And it worked. Attitudes greatly improved from that point on. Also, they opened the gates at 9:30 so that might have helped.
Once through the gates, and after we took the obligatory picture in front of the train station, we bought each of the girls an autograph book. That was the only souvenir they wanted and we thought we were getting off easy until the cashier told us it would be $35 bucks for 2 books, 2 pens and tax. Damn. But, if that was all they wanted, great. They could fill it with free signatures and we would be golden. And as soon as we walked into the main street area, there was Goofy! This was going to work out great! This was not the first time I’ve been wrong.
On the first day at Disney we saw Goofy and the Fairy Godmother and waited in line for 40 minutes to see Tinkerbell. 40 f’cking minutes for a fairy. We didn’t even wait that long for the rides. And that was it…we saw other characters but they were either going on break or you had to go to their ‘show’ to see them. Seriously? Are they union? For the amount of money we just paid to get in, there should be a Mickey Mouse in every ‘land’ of the park. And princesses should be pimping themselves out on the street corners.
When we bought the tickets I wasn’t sure three days would be enough to see all that the two parks had in store for us. It was. Honestly, by the end of the first day, I was done. When we went to California Adventure it was more of the same. We had to stalk Mickey Mouse to get that little rodent to sign their books. Literally, I’m not even joking here. We got one of the park employees to tell us when & where he was going to pop up next (we won’t go into detail about that conversation) and then we staked out the joint until he came strolling in with his oversized shoes.
By the end of the third day, I was ready to throat punch a princess. We got in to the park early that morning so after a few quick rides we headed to the place where Merida, from Brave, was supposed to be at 10:00. The girls were second in line…score! And I have to say that, despite being a little late, Merida was a very awesome princess. Not at all uppity like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Those dames are stuck up. Want to know how I know that? Because after seeing Merida, we stood in line for 50 minutes to see the big three: Cindy, Ariel and Snoozy. That’s five-zero. 50. And with the exception of Ariel, who was also quite awesome, they were just like mean girls in big dresses. Ugh.
I know, I know… I’m caustic. I’m a cynical person by nature (or nurture, but that’s another story) but I was willing to overcome all that and try to get into the spirit of the place. I really wanted to be washed in the magic of Disney. But it didn’t happen. I enjoyed the essence of the place but I just couldn’t get there. And it wasn’t until the last day that I was able to figure out why. You see, Walt Disney did a great job in creating all the different areas of his park to be specific in every way. For example, you don’t hear the music from Frontierland when your next door in Adventureland and so on. Even the smells are different. And that’s awesome. Until all that immersion just starts to feel manipulative. It starts to feel like a cover for just plain old commercialism. When your shelling out $40 for 5 ice creams it really doesn’t matter if you’re standing in ToonTown or Tomorrowland. And after standing in line with hundreds of other families, all with that resigned look on their faces, the princesses’ gowns look a bit more threadbare. And when your kid just wants to see Minnie Mouse or Snow White and you can’t find them unless you stand in endless lines, the magic starts to wane.
So yeah, that’s my take on Disneyland. Kind of a downer, aren’t I? Don’t get me wrong, we still made some very awesome memories on our trip. But it was because we were together, not because of where we went. It wasn’t Disneyland that made the trip for us. We made the trip, Disney was just one of the stops along the way.
Universal Studios…now that was an awesome day…and one that I will put down in text soon.