Recently, I wrote about how many times I’ve been to Hawaii, which is nine. I’ve visited Disneyland about twice that often. Seriously.
No, I won’t provide a detailed account of each visit. But between my time as a kid visiting both sisters living in Southern California, then attending college at Claremont, residing in the San Fernando Valley shortly afterwards and coming here for continuous visits later on, it’s been more than I can accurately tally. The last visit was Christmas one year ago with the girls, my sisters and brother-in-law, and RAS.
While geographically in nearby Orange County, Disneyland and its new companion park California Adventure are lumped into the whole LA area tourist mishmash. Even though it’s been here now for 12 years, I had never been to the second attraction, until yesterday.
There’s also a whole resort complex surrounding the parks, with several mega-hotels, a retail area (Downtown Disney) and an extremely confusing parking situation, as evidenced by our 45-minute quest to find a space.
Like it was at Disney World in Orlando two years ago and Disneyland last year, I got the creeping feeling of rampant commercialism as I walked the place. I think every parent whose kids scream about wanting a huge Mickey Mouse plush or a easily breakable Princess figurine feels this as they part with the money. Nearly every other establishment in the park is a shop chock full of Disney stuff that nobody really needs. It’s not just the merchandise…it’s also the cost of food, which adds up and hits you square in the face before you realize your wallet becomes increasingly lighter.
But I tried to let this natural cynicism go and just enjoy the day with my kids and J, my sister. Hard to do, but I did it.
And amazingly, we all had a great time.
The park, which is significantly smaller than Disneyland and thus more manageable, has sections based on what California represents in the public imagination (not really mine, since I’m from here). There’s a golden-age Hollywood area, the little desert town based on the movie “Cars,” a seaside amusement park with thrill rides, a wilderness-like area and a large airplane hangar containing the park’s signature ride, Soaring over California, which we didn’t go on because we were all exhausted by the time we got to its entrance.
I’m glad my kids are past the age where they won’t pout and shout if they don’t manage to get on a ride. They understand that waiting in line is a waste of time, and if we didn’t get the FastPasses for the more popular ones, it just wasn’t worth it.
But here’s a small sampling of our day…
California Adventure is located right across a plaza from Disneyland, so visitors can easily go park-hopping in one day. That’s really logistically impossible to do. And it would exhaust the most energetic of kids, not to mention adults.
NLS wanted to on the Tower of Terror, based on a Twilight Zone episode about an old hotel with an abandoned elevator. She decided not to at the last minute.
The newest area of the park, Cars Land, is an elaborate re-creation of the Pixar movie “Cars.”
Every so often, one of the two main characters from “Cars” drives down the walkway:
Its most impressive feature is the massive desert landscape structure that house its most popular ride, Radiator Springs Racers. It’s the only time we waited more than 15-20 minutes for a ride, because the Fast Passes were gone for the day.
Afterward, we went over to Paradise Pier, a replica of seaside amusement parks found in different California coastal cities like Santa Cruz, near where I grew up. The roller coaster, California Screamin’, was unexpectedly fast. But I was able to ride on it and not feel like throwing up afterwards.
JRS really loved some of the stuff she saw in the shops…
Two more days to go…