Disneyland Bound

“Whether we go to a Disney park or a ball game, there is always the excitement of deciding to go and planning what to take and to wear, the anticipation of arrival, and the pure pleasure of walking through the entrance with the intention to play.” — legendary Imagineer John Hench, in his book Designing Disney.

All right. Barring an unforeseen apocalypse (and I do try to foresee those), we’ll be going to Disneyland in just a few days.

A couple of months ago, my wife mentioned that the Aladdin live show at Disneyland will be closing down for good in January. We’ve never seen the show, we’ve heard it’s quite good, and Aladdin is one of my favorite Disney movies. So we were sad that we would probably miss out on ever seeing it, and joked that we should just head out there and see it. This led to checking out flights on a whim and realizing that I had enough airline reward points for at least one free ticket. Then a friend sent me a message saying that he had a money voucher thing for that same airline that he wasn’t going to use by its expiration date and we were welcome to it. Suddenly the flight, one of the biggest expenses, was basically covered. We started looking at hotels, and found some really reasonably priced ones walking distance from Disneyland. There was absolutely no reason not to make it happen.

Plane tickets were bought, a hotel was booked, and then it was just the countdown. Literally. There’s a countdown on the fridge.

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This photo was taken a while ago, when the plans first became reality. As of writing this caption, we’re down to FOUR days!

We’ve sort of tried this trip once before, getting as far as the early planning stages before opting instead to go back to Walt Disney World (due to a bunch of big attraction closures at Disneyland. I wrote about that here). So, as of this exact moment, I’ve never once been to the Happiest Place on Earth. I’ve been to Walt Disney World–which, if you’re taking notes, is called the Most Magical Place on Earth–countless times, but I’ve just never made it out to the park that started it all.

I don’t even remember my first trip to Walt Disney World. I’ve seen photos in which I’m really young, but I don’t recall the actual details of the trips. It just seems to me that I’ve always known my way around the parks, I’ve always been riding the rides, and it’s been a part of my life since pretty much always. I’ve definitely brought others there for their first times and that’s exciting in its own way (check out my post New Look in which I talk about that very topic) but my own “first time at Walt Disney World” is long past. Now I’ve been there a whole bunch of times, I write a Disney blog, I’ve got various Disney-related social media pages, and I’m considered more or less an expert on the subject by my friends.

So I’ve been to Walt Disney World a bunch, but this’ll be my first time at Disneyland and I’m beyond excited. It’ll be the first time I step through the main gate and the first time I walk down Main Street USA. I’ll see attractions that I’ve never seen before while proudly wearing a “1st Visit” button. I’ll be eating at new restaurants, seeing whole new areas (like Cars Land), and even though many things do carry over from one coast to the other there are still a lot of things I just won’t be familiar with. Being just another person seeing Disneyland for the first time… well, it’s a thrilling notion.

Plus, since my wife will be there with me, we get to experience this all together. It was different the first time I took her to Walt Disney World, of course. I knew my way around, though there were a couple new attractions that I hadn’t seen, and it was more like me showing her around this magical place that I loved. This time we’re exploring a park for the first time together.

This year also marks Disneyland’s 60th anniversary and there’s the ongoing “Diamond Celebration” so it’ll be really cool to see the special events that they have going on for that. Not only that, but the “Haunted Holiday” overlay for the Haunted Mansion will be in place too and that’s something that doesn’t exist at Walt Disney World. As my wife said while editing this post, I loooooove Nightmare Before Christmas and why don’t I marry it? Fourth grade humor aside (though it’s kind of our thing) I do love Nightmare Before Christmas and I’m freaking out a bit in anticipation of seeing it incorporated into the Haunted Mansion.

But it’s more than just seeing attractions and having fun, there’s also a lot of history that we’re eager to discover. This was the first Disney park, the only one that Walt himself ever experienced. Though all the parks around the world share the Disney name, this was “his” park. We’ve often read about him and his Imagineers and the work that went into creating his “world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy” and it’s a very big deal to us that we’re finally getting to see it. We even booked a tour, called Walk in Walt’s Footsteps, which delves into his inspiration for and development of the park.

Sadly, we did recently learn that a few attractions will be closed during our visit. Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise are both shut down (Jungle Cruise reopens the day after we leave). That’s a little disappointing. We also learned that “it’s a small world” will have its holiday overlay in place, which I’m fairly upset about partly because I wanted to see it in its original state (it’s supposedly fairly different from the Florida ride) and also because I’m just not a big fan of anything Christmas related.

I guess it just means that we’ll have to go back eventually.

So that’s where we are. Just a few days before we get on a plane (at 6:00am, meaning we leave our house at a way-too-early 4:30am) and head to California to experience Disneyland for the first time. In a few days we’ll see where it all began. Well see exciting new attractions, go on classic rides that have been there since the park opened, and even ‘revisit’ a few–like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventure–that don’t exist at Walt Disney World anymore.

In a few days it’ll be my first time at Disney.

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