Last night my family visited our first ever theme park. Will and I have both been to amusement parks (Six Flags or similar for both of us, and I spent a memorable day at Kennywood in Pittsburgh when I was 14) but neither of us has ever done Disney. Or Legoland or any of the other big ones.
Living about 25 miles from Disneyland, I’ve often thought that we really ought to take Sam. But even putting the considerable expense aside, I just wasn’t sure he’d enjoy it. He’s too small for a lot of rides, crowds freak him out, I didn’t know what he’d think of the life-size characters, and besides which I wasn’t sure we’d enjoy it.
Two weeks ago Briana asked if we’d like to go to California Adventure for their Trick Or Treat Party. She’d won free tickets but was going to be in Vancouver for work. After a moment’s panic we said yes. Even the parking was free, so we’d be out nothing but the gas to drive there. If Sam hated it, we could just turn around and go home.
This past weekend we went to the county fair. We’d been to two last year (LA and Garrett County, Maryland), and Sam’s opinion was mixed. This year, though, he LOVED it. He loved the rides, he loved the sights, he just loved everything. So I was feeling pretty good about our big adventure last night.
We ate an early dinner, drove down in rush hour traffic (ugh), and got there just as it was beginning to get dark out. We had a horror movie moment when we were the only car on the winding drive to the parking lot. I’m guessing there was another way in. Then we walked through Downtown Disney, which was totally surreal. Neither of us had any idea that there was an enormous mall between the parking lot and the parks. Honestly, neither of us had any idea what to expect, period. We finally found the entrances to Disneyland and California Adventure, and turned right to go into the latter.
By the way, every employee smiles at you. And most of them seem genuinely happy. I guess they’ve heard the tagline.
I have no idea how California Adventure came to be. Seriously, it is like the dumbest idea for a theme park ever. Let’s celebrate how awesome California is, IN CALIFORNIA! Come to the Hollywood Backlot, forty-five minutes away from Actual Hollywood! So dumb. And yet it totally works. I am absolutely the target audience for this place. We went on two rides, both of them Pixar. The Monsters, Inc. ride, which I loved (when you go through HarryHausen’s, it smells like sushi), and the Toy Story ride, which involves wearing 3D glasses and shooting stuff. The only downside to that one was that I had to sit where I couldn’t see Sam’s total joy (he was with Will). We wanted to go on the Soaring Over California ride, but Sam wouldn’t stand up straight to be measured so he didn’t make the minimum height (he’s right at 40 inches). Sam also played his first arcade game and WON. And there were trick-or-treat stations about every hundred feet, so we came home with three bags full of caaaaaaandy. We were there for about two hours and didn’t see anywhere close to everything, but we saw plenty to have a good time.
I don’t know how much of our enjoyment was based on the fact that we didn’t have to pay for anything. And I don’t just mean admission–the games and stuff were free too. Or how much of it is because the lines were really short for everything because it was a closed party, so only people with tickets in advance were in the park. Or heck, how much of it was just the universe aligning with us this week. (Seriously, we are having a great week.)
But really, I don’t care why it was awesome. It just was.