Tucked in my wallet, amid a sea of old Starbucks receipts and business cards, I keep the ticket stub from my last visit to Disneyland. My current stub is from May and has a grinning Mickey Mouse on it with his arms outstretched proclaiming, “Let the memories begin!”
Just looking at this stub lets a sea of memories wash over me. How the last time I was there, it had rained that morning and was kind of overcast out but I still had butterflies of excitement filling me up when my friends and I got our fastpass for Space Mountain. Every visit to Disneyland has its own kind of magic. Like a snowflake, no two visits are the same. When I hold this ticket stub and close my eyes, I remember waiting in line for the Indiana Jones ride behind a father of two children who was shouting, “LET’S GO GIANTS!” and clapping as though we were at a baseball game. How the Matterhorn was broken for a good half hour but my friends and I passed the time with a couple of churros from the cart outside of the waiting line. Ducking into the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show on Main Street just to sit down because we had been moving nonstop since 7am and at 5:30pm my feet were thisclose to dropping off of me. And of course, the epic quest to find that one stand that sells Mint Juleps in New Orleans Square (or Nawleans, as I like to refer to it).
It’s impossible to condense a piece on Disneyland to just five things you like about it. It’s not just the rides you wind up loving, it’s the little things like that store on Main Street that sells the barely-baked and super doughy cookies. Or seeing Peter Pan in the most random places (seriously, that character gets around at the park). I’m just gonna be old-fashioned with this one and go with 10 things I love about Disneyland, in no particular order and with no one thing taking the top spot either.
Here at Disneyland, everything is equal and with just the right sprinkling of magic.
It goes without saying. One of the biggest perks of going to the land of Disney is getting your own cinnamon sugary warm churro from the vendors with their little carts. Easily one of the cheapest and most delicious treats you can buy yourself there. Pretty much you buy your ticket, get your hand stamped and enter the park to find the nearest churro stand around. It may not be considered “a well-balanced breakfast” by the food pyramid (or plate) standards but it leaves your fingers covered in a thin layer of cinnamon in a way that few other Disney foods can do.
2. Riding in on the trolley
Wheee! We’re only a few minutes from entering the Magic Kingdom! We’re so close, you guys! So, so close! Wheee! Okay so I leave all of these comments inside of my head when I ride in but only because the vast majority of my friends in California are from this state and have been to D-Land way too many times to count. As a Missouri native, each time I’m on the trolley I keep my mouth shut but a big, big smile is lighting up the outside of it. Inside my head, well, it’s like I’m 10 years old again.
3. Meeting the Princesses
Disney Princesses have been a very big aspect of my childhood, teenage years and even adulthood. Growing up, I empathized with Cinderella to the point where I had some serious childhood trauma that involved a Halloween costume I did not get to wear. I even came up with a life philosophy about the girl for whom a dream was a wish your heart made. The first time I met Cinderella, my friends and I waited in a three hour line with 3-year-old girls decked out in full-on costumes and princess hairstyles. The Cinderella I met complimented my coat and we did princess poses together. My heart was swelling up with so much joy it nearly popped out of my body and floated up, up and away from me. I was in college the first time I met Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and it was truly a magical moment. This just proved to me that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you meet a princess. They are still just as excited to see you as you are them. Also, it needs to be said that the princes are really cute too. Especially Aladdin. Just watch the parade and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean
Before The Lonely Island came out with that ‘Jack Sparrow’ song featuring Michael Bolton, this was a cool ride. After they came out with that song, it got even cooler. I love Pirates of the Caribbean. I love riding in the boat, underneath that incredible sky that those savvy technicians light up so it feels like nighttime the entire time. I love seeing people eating at the Blue Bayou as your boat goes past them and the creepily realistic-looking Jack Sparrow. And the smell of this ride is incredible. Like a really wet swamp that honestly makes me want to sit in for days, it’s that good.
5. Space Mountain
Get your fastpass early for this one because no matter how busy you get waiting in lines for every other ride, this one is the main attraction. Mosey on down to Tomorrowland and get seated after walking through a series of hallways that I swear only get longer every time in the building. Once you’ve been cleared for launch, the space shuttle/roller coaster takes you up the track into a starry-night lit-up world of “space”, then drops you down and around and around. I always scream like a 5-year-old on this one and grab the handle till my palms are sweaty, clinging for dear life because I know that the one time I let go and throw my hands up, I will definitely fly out of my seat, rail or no rail holding me down. The laws of gravity do not exist in space, people! Toward the end of the ride, they snap a photo of you right before you get off with a big camera flash. This happens on many other rides too so get your face lookin’ not-so-scared beforehand. I always try to time it so that I’m smiling. That’s tough because 90% of the time when I’m on Space Mountain, I’m screaming at the top of my lungs. So I usually get a cross between being happy and positively terrified as the final product. Delete photo, please.
6. Jiminy Cricket on all of the recycling bins
I love that little cricket and I love him even more for reminding everyone to let their conscience be their guides and throw away their empty cups in the right places.
7. Pretty much everything happening in New Orleans Square
Also known as the place where you can find the Mint Julep Bar! This is one of my favorite portions of Disneyland because it is so detailed and intricate. The shops have little side streets with buildings that contain balconies and spiral staircases and wrought iron curlicues in fanciful designs. There’s always a live band outside playing some jaunty jazz jams while dressed to the nines in suspenders and little straw hats. It’s a real easy and swinging vibe in Nawleans and I love the old-fashioned feel of it all.
8. Downtown Disney
Better known as the area for when you want to get away from the kiddies and be with the adults. Downtown Disney does have its overwhelming share of gift shops but more importantly, it contains many bars. After a long morning/mid afternoon of walking everywhere, waiting in lines and riding the teacups, it’s nice for my adult self to take a moment to cool off and remember another favorite Capt. aside from Jack Sparrow: Morgan.
9. The bucket of gemstones inside Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
I dig my hands through the bin and feel like the Cruella de Vil of faux glittering jewels. Don’t we all do this?
10. The firework show at the end of the night
Tinker Bell swings around in the night sky and dozens of colorful fireworks light up the night sky, illuminating Sleeping Beauty’s castle in pinks and purples. It’s really beautiful and very much staying all the way until the end of the night to see. I have this theory that if everyone in the world could gather together to see it, for a moment, we might have world peace.
If you keep on believing…