Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Did we enjoy our trip to Disneyland?

"It's a nice day when you wake up in Disneyland."
--Five For Fighting

With the California sun overhead and our credit cards in our wallets, we set out on one of America's 2 most common, must do consumerist vacations -- a trip to Disney. This year, Disneyland in California is celebrating its 50th year welcoming families to Anaheim.

GSully and I were nervous that we would not enjoy it and even worse, that our kids would not enjoy it. We were partially convinced that we (well mostly GSully's mom actually) would hand over a great big pile of money to a great big company and be disappointed. After all our children barely recognize Mickey Mouse, and didn't even seem to know what Disneyland was before we introduced the idea.

Can you believe how silly we were?

Our kids loved it -- skipping naps for 3 consecutive days and dragging 3 adults from dawn to dusk and beyond through adventure after adventure punctuated by mediocre meals and waiting in line. (Our typical wait in line was often punctuated by 2 separate trips to the bathroom, 1 deep philosophical question and occasionally and actual collision with a stranger. For example my 2 year old accidentally kicked another girl in the head when I lifted her onto a great white steed on King Arthur's carousel.)

So why does Disney work? First, it might be the most lavish place that many Americans go (at least the ones that don't gamble. They pee in Kohler toilets, and sit in the shade or stand in line while looking at lush arrangements of flowers that grow so colorful and beautifully. Second, unlike an impressionist painting, Disneyland does not degrade with the details, from the Latin inscription of above Mister Toad's Wild Ride, to the Space Port staging area at Space Mountain to the fact that cast members all sing along in the nightly parade, the minute details separate Disney from other experiences, making them more REAL for children and more interesting for adults. Third, I actually think that there is something about the line waiting. Jokes above aside, I'll bet some families have more genuine conversation while waiting in line at Disney attractions over the course of 3 days than they do in the course of 3 months at home.

I have some closet enthusiasm for Disney, but it's not the magical fantasy that gets me going. After my first visit when I was in high school, I went home and wrote an American history term paper, with great respect, about the city-state Disney was able to construct for itself in the middle of Florida. When I go to the Disney parks, I see math -- the number of people moving efficiently, willingly and obediently through lines and attractions cloaked in fantasy. The math that exists somewhere that shows how much more money a guest will spend now that Fast Pass can take them out of line for an hour and put them into a restaurant and gift shop. This math that traces its roots back to a simple line drawing of a rodent.

In the next couple of posts, I'll share what some of our families favorites were and some tips for anyone planning to visit Disneyland with a young family.

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