Then I grew up, got married, and went back for my honeymoon. (Hey, I was 23 – we couldn’t afford Paris.) Since we became parents my husband and I debated when we’d go back. It’s an informal requirement to bring your kids to Disneyland at some point, isn’t it?
But we had it pegged as a trip just for them; one we’d reluctantly go on for their sakes, like a visit to Chuck E. Cheese. And so we went to Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, part of the Disneyland Resort. We took our five-year old son and our eight-year-old nephew. Good ages, we thought – beyond the napping stage, with seemingly inexhaustible energy and as-yet-untainted
imaginations. Not surprisingly, they loved it.
A little surprisingly, so did we. I find few opportunities these days to truly have fun with my son and nephew; to actually participate in and enjoy the same things they do. Playing Princess Leia in their Star Wars reenactments doesn’t count, and Operation and Connect Four lose their excitement after the fourth or fifth round.
But going to Disneyland together put us on the same level. We were all entertained by the experiences, the rides, the shows and the hoopla. I enjoyed
it even more than I did as a kid. Everything old is new again. Disney is classic, familiar, with the same characters (more or less) and many details I remember from my childhood visit. (Esmeralda the fortune teller! The penny arcade on Main Street! The Swiss Family Robinson’s treehouse, which now belongs to Tarzan…)
And yet we found it new, clean, polished, updated. The grounds were impeccably clean, the streets wide and comfortable to walk on, even after a long day. Despite
the crowds, it never felt overly busy, nor did we ever spend time searching for somewhere shady to sit.
The Disney experience was far beyond rides. The boys participated in real Jedi training, one of them dueling Darth Maul with a light saber in front of
wowed crowds. I strongly recommend staying at the park, if at all possible. It
allowed us to be on the grounds first thing, then take a much needed siesta during the heat of the afternoon before a refreshed evening.
Don’t miss the night time World of Color water spectacular, which combines more than a thousand jets of water with colour, fire and light. Incredibly lifelike Disney characters are projected on a shimmering veil of mist.
And there were good eats. Although there was no shortage of treats – old-fashioned ice cream parlours and confectioners selling candy apples and salt water taffy – it all seemed to be real food. There were plenty of fruit stands throughout the grounds, offering up spears of fresh pineapple and giant chilled dill pickles, but not a bag of Doritos nor a fryer in sight.
Besides a noticeable lack of midway deep-fried shock food, we came across nary a chicken nugget. But we did discover grilled chicken satay, kebabs, and interesting grainy salads.
We ate rice bowls with teriyaki chicken and spicy Korean beef served with fresh pea pods, carrots, peppers and bok choy, with a side of steamed edamame sprinkled with coarse salt. The boys were thrilled to have the option of eating inside the Pirates of the Caribbean, where they offered up Cajun and Creole-style food like jambalaya and Monte Cristos.
We ate well, walked a lot, and are still talking about it all.
A second trip might be in order. After all, they won’t be kids forever. And I’d like to be one all over again.
NEW AT DISNEY IN 2012
The 12-acre Cars Land opens in Disney California Adventure Park, featuring Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Flying Tires. Make a pit stop at Flo’s V8 Cafe.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant lets guests hop aboard for a whirl; watch for new experiences in the Storybook Circus neighbourhood of the New Fantasyland
debut just northeast of the Mad Hatter Tea Party.
The new 4,000-passenger Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Fantasy, departs on her maiden voyage at the end of March, bringing guests on week-long Caribbean cruises featuring unique Disney experiences.