Yup. You heard me. Magic. You can complain about crowds and lineups and tripping on strollers and overpriced food all you’d like. But for me, for this trip, it was pure magic. A good friend of mine told this this past week “Disney is wasted on the young.” While children are wide-eyed for seeing Mickey Mouse or Cinderella, they don’t pick up on all the tiny little bits of genius that make Disneyland so spectacular. It’s in the signage, and marketing, and wallpaper. It can be found in the most amazing (and invisible) janitors and kindest possible sales people. The whole trip was filled with time moments of “that is brilliant” and “that may be the best customer service I’ve ever had.” So A+ to Disney.
So what happened exactly? Well that’s my story to tell here today! We hopped on a Bellingham flight to Orange County, and arrived next to the theme part shortly after noon (perks of living on the west coast). The park is open until midnight, so we aimed to get through the gates before 2 so that we would have 10 hours to fully enjoy of first day there. It was hot and sunny out and shorts and tank tops were in order – which was a nice change from the cool BC climate. We knew it was a long weekend, and were prepared for crowds, so overall we felt everything was way less busy than anticipated – so it was a win right from the beginning.
When we entered Disneyland, we had our hands stamped, cards scanned, and face photographed. Good work Disney! I always wondered the answer to the “what if I lose my card” question – and there it is. The first time you enter your ticket is attached to a photo of your face. This way, you can have it deactivated in case of losing or theft. Of course it also means you can’t buy a 8 day park hopper and split it or re-sell it. So on the business end – smart move Disney. We ducked under the railroad and rounded the bend toward main street – right into the Disney Christmas Parade!! It was only November 8 – but Christmas was in full swing! This was the best of both world – Christmas at Disneyland, with out the Christmas crowds! We were already clapping our hands for joy.
We wanted to use our time well though, so we decided to skip around the parade and go for the rides in Fantasyland while all the other kids were busy watching Mickey on the float. This was a great idea on our part. We started with Alice in Wonderland, Snow White (which is scary for little kids!), Peter Pan, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
We hopped from Fantasyland to lunch and then to Toontown, with hopes of hunting down our first character sightings of the trip – the infamous Mickey and Minnie Mouse. We entered Mickey’s house behind a group of young children, who were excited to touch Mickey’s couch, telephone, frying pans etc. Meanwhile, we snuck around the shuffling children and beelined it to the front of the line – we just wanted the photo! We managed to get to the front and into the room with Mickey for our photo RIGHT before he was about to take a short break. Toontown itself was all dressed for the holiday’s as well – and everything feels just a little more magical at Christmas time – Toontown included.
While our wait to see Mickey was super fast, our wait to see Minnie mouse was anything but. The sign out front said 20 minutes, so we jumped in line. I mean, 20 minutes is short by Disney standards. However, as we moved slowly through Minnie’s house – from living room to kitchen to the back porch, we found that the line got slower and slower. Families weren’t staying together. So many people were moving up to cut “in” with their family members. It was common for Mom or Dad to “hold the place in line” while the child played, went to the bathroom, had some ice cream etc. Then when they got TO Minnie mouse they were disorganized. Cameras were still put away, as were signature books and pens. Mom wanted a picture of just her daughter with Minnie. Then the whole family. Then just mom. Then just dad. Then dad and daughter. Then grandma. Then grandma, mom and daughter. Then just grandma and daughter. And repeat this for EVERY SINGLE FAMILY IN LINE. It ended up taking us about an hour, and we were pretty impatient by the end with the people in front of us. I mean, I totally get the magic of the experience for every child, and would never want to take that away from them. But seriously people – get organized! And consider everyone else in line! By the time we got to Minnie we took ONE photo of the three of us together for a total interaction of 30 seconds, and then passed her off to the next family. So to the mom, dad, and two little girls behind us in line – you are welcome.
We left Toontown as the sun was beginning to set, and headed for tomorrow land, obtaining our fast past for space mountain, and then going for some dinner at the Jolly Holiday Bakery. After dinner, while wanting our food to have time to digest we decided on a slow and mellow ride – “It’s a small world.” As a child I remember finding this so boring, and as an adult, I loved it. While standing in line, now dark out, we were about to load our boat, and the lights went out on the whole side of the building. Of course my instincts were to assume something was wrong, but truthfully, we just weren’t watching the time. They had turned out the lights because it was time for the Holiday Magic Firework Spectacular. So as we were now loading the boat (too late to turn back) we were in the perfect place to view the fireworks. We saw 3 or 4 bursts before disappearing inside the ride. By the time we made it to the end, the fireworks were ending, and we disembarked into the crowd enjoying the last 2 or 3 shots of colour. On the plus side, we knew EXACTLY where we wanted to be the following night for the show.
We strolled with the crowds back into Tomorrowland to take advantage of our Space Mountain fast pass. One ride was enough for me, as the thrills of the ride are tied with the nausea of the twists and turns. Not sure what it is about that ride in particular that gets me every time, but I look forward to learning more about it when I head to the Magic Kingdom later this year.
Before heading home we ducked in and out of a few of the stores, enjoying numerous photo opps with the hats of Disney. One more thing I love about their customer service – no shop keeper yelling at your and forcing you to buy first. It makes every store a little bit more fun, and adds to the magic of it all. So thank you Disney. All in all it was a marvellous first day. Of course the previous night of no sleep and 4 AM ride to the airport had us both exhausted. Combined with 10+ kilometres of walking through the parks and a dozen or so rides, we were off to a wonderful start!