Childhood is a magical time in any human being’s life. It is a time of freedom from social pressures, a time of discovery and adventure and above all a time where our imaginations are allowed to roam free. As we grow older, the magic starts to dissipate. Of course, we still manage to find magic in other things that surround us but those moments are far more sparse. This year marked my first time at any of the Disney parks and while I was excited about finally realizing one of my childhood dreams, I still couldn’t help but wonder: will I feel the same kind of magic that lives in every child’s heart when they arrive in the land of Mickey?
We decided to reserve the second day of our Los Angeles trip for Disneyland and while we were both still tired from the flight and unused to the time difference, Andrew and I were still incredibly excited. Andrew had the chance to visit both Disneyland and Disneyworld before but as I mentioned, this was my first time to any of the Disney Parks. Since the park was located in Anaheim, it took us about 45 minutes from our hotel in Korean town to Uber to the amenities. Once there, we went through security and boarded the shuttle that took us to the Downtown Disney district. As the first point of entry to the parks, Downtown Disney is a colourful area comprised of a multitude of stores (both Disney and non- Disney related), a huge variety of restaurants and it is also the home of the various hotels where park goers have the option to stay during their visit to Disneyland.
The Disneyland in Anaheim is the very first Disney park created and while some of the other ones are much bigger, the Anaheim location holds the sentimental medal of being the birthplace of Mickey’s empire. Anaheim is the home of two Disney parks: the original Disneyland Park and the Disney California Adventure Park, both with their own sets of unique lands. As the oldest and most prestigious of the two, Disneyland Park is the gateway to the world of the Disney classics of my childhood. The original Disney castle is located at the heart of the park and it is a tribute to Aurora, one of the first princesses in the Disney pantheon. Inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, the castle is recognizable by its pinkish hues and blue turrets. Unfortunately, Sleeping Beauty’s castle was under renovation when we went and we were unable to visit it.
We started our Disney journey at the California Adventure Park which houses some of the newer additions to the Disney work including the Marvel super heroes and Pixar-inspired lands. You enter through Buena Vista Street which is a 1923’s inspired street which is part of the Los Angeles that Walt Disney would have lived in. It truly felt like we were walking on a movie set with all the beautiful Art Deco buildings, Spanish-tile roofs and vintage cinemas that populate the street. You can head over the Flo’s V8 Café in Cars Land or one of the multiple restaurants on Pacific Wharf if you’re hungry but make sure to save enough space for one of the Mickey Mouse Pretzels (or any of the numerous edibles shaped like the famous mouse). Some of the main rides include the newest Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: Breakout! , Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue and the Radiator Springs Racers but my favourite part of this park was by far Paradise Pier. The boardwalk features a giant Mickey Ferris wheel and a roller coaster ride (a grander version of the Santa Monica Pier park) and if you come on a good day, it is also the host of the World of Color, a nighttime show that is a clever marriage of water, lights and colour.
The second half of our day was spent at the main park on the lot. You enter via Main Street, USA which is another vintage-inspired street which is fairly reminiscent of Mary Poppin’s early 1900’s era. This park also contains seven distinct lands including Fantasy land (It’s a Small World), Tomorrowland (Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters), New Orleans Square (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion), Adventureland (Indiana Jones Adventure), Critter Country (Splash Mountain), Mickey’s Toontown (Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin) and Frontierland (Thunder Mountain Railroad). Each land had its own sets of rides meant to cater to the diverse audience that always comes to Disneyland. Some of them are quite popular (Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion for example) and the line up can be quite extensive so I would recommend grabbing a ticket for a FastPass so you can drop by at an assigned time to avoid the queue. Another great option on busier days would be to purchase a MaxPass which allows you to sign up for multiple FassPasses and grants you unlimited PhotoPass for the day! We grabbed dinner at the Alien Pizza Planet in Tomorrowland and we were pleasantly surprised by the portion size and flavour component of our dishes. You’ll be able to meet with some of your favourite characters on your walk throughout the lands but there is usually a parade in the afternoons on Main Street where you could see most of them at once. On the weekends, you can end the night with the fantastic firework show overlooking the castle.
I was quite pleasantly surprised by my first experience at the Disney Parks and it definitely won’t be my last. I felt like I was a child once again and I experienced a sense of euphoria that I haven’t felt in quite a while. I do wish that the castle hadn’t been under renovations but that simply gives me another excuse to come again. I am happy that I went to the park that started it all but I believe that my next Disney adventure will be at the Disney World in Orlando! So I better start looking into flights for my next magic carpet ride to Florida.