The World of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy

When I was a kid, my parents took us to Disneyland. I was too young to remember much. I was afraid of the sea monster and erupting volcanoes at 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I was afraid of every little part of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. And I was completely, utterly enchanted by the Main Street Electrical Parade, and the fiber optic wand my parents bought off of a street vendor.

Meeting Steamboat Willie With my Grandparents in 1996

I was probably about six or seven years old. A few years later, my parents took us to Euro Disney. I remember even less from that trip. But one thing stuck with me: I couldn’t wait to come back. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that I wound up moving to Orlando and spending plenty of time at Walt Disney World after graduating high school.

Visiting Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in 2012

I visited Disneyland as an adult in mid 2012. In many ways, I considered it to be my “first time” in the park, since my childhood memories of the place were few and far between. But an interesting thing happened as we strolled around the area…the memories came flooding back. Here was King Arthur’s sword, which I had failed to lift from its place in front of the iconic carousel. Here was Indiana Jones, the brand new ride whose three hour wait time had prevented us from riding it back in 1995. But the thing I loved most about my trip in 2012 was mingling my old memories with the fresh new sights and experiences waiting around every corner.

Fast forward two and a half years.

My boyfriend Dan and I had come to California, chasing visions of crashing Pacific waves, balmy nights, and most of all, a day in the Happiest Place on Earth. Despite my inability to sleep the night before, we rose early, stopping for a delicious breakfast sandwich at our hotel’s onsite restaurant before making our way to the park. We happily paid the parking fee, parked in a cheerfully marked garage, climbed aboard a bright red tram, and waited in line to have our bags checked. Today was Disneyland Day. Nothing could bring us down.

Long Lines to Enter Disneyland Park, Spring 2012
Not even these long lines just to get inside the park!

The lines to get in the front gates were madness. I had hoped, since we booked our trip during a slower season, that we would have the park to ourselves. From our place behind 200 or so people, however, I started to think otherwise. It turns out, I was worrying for nothing. In our one short day at Disneyland Park and California Adventure, we managed to see everything our hearts desired…well, almost everything.

I imagine Disneyland is charming at any time of year (it’s certainly true of its Florida counterpart), but it was especially lovely in early November. We planned our trip just a couple of weeks before the flood of Thanksgiving guests were due to arrive, and the park was already dressed up in its holiday best.

As my friend had done for me two and a half years earlier, I told Dan to close his eyes and guided him along Main Street until Sleeping Beauty Castle was in full view. Finally, for the first time in his life, it was time to see the iconic castle.

Dan in Front of a Snow-Capped Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in November 2014
Warning: for those who have visited any other Disney park, this castle has been known to elicit the response of “that’s it?” It’s small, but then again, the best things don’t always come in large packages…

What can I say about Disneyland that hasn’t been said before? It’s a place unlike any other. Yes, despite the obvious comparisons to other Disney parks around the world, this little park, the one that started it all, had a very special feeling to it. It was impossible to walk its streets without picturing Walt Disney himself, standing in the very same location decades earlier. From the very front of the park, which proudly displays the park bench on which Walt first envisioned Disneyland, to the small details scattered throughout the eight themed “lands” that comprise the park, traipsing through the iconic park was nothing short of magical.

The Griffith Park Bench Where Walt Disney First Dreamed Up Disneyland
The Griffith Park bench where Walt Disney first imagined Disneyland.

Of course, it helped that the lines were mercifully short, and most of the rides and shows functioned without any obvious issues.As I said before, Dan and I saw almost every single thing on our must-see list…and had plenty of time to spare! We started of course at Disneyland itself, booking it to Indiana Jones with everyone else, and then veering straight back to Space Mountain after learning Indiana Jones was closed for a production shoot of some kind. But rather than ramble on and on about how glorious and iconic and perfect our experience was, I’ve decided just to showcase a few of my favorite photos. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to relive our Disneyland trip!

The Space Mountain Queue at Disneyland, California
Our first ride of the day: Space Mountain! As some of the first people in the park that day, we walked right onto the ride with no wait at all!
Details on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland
I insisted on riding the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, an adorably re-themed version of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride that terrified me as a first-time visitor to Disneyland.
A Booby Trap in the Queue for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, a Ride at Disneyland
One of my favorite parts of Disneyland is the Indiana Jones ride. The queue is an attraction all by itself. I especially loved this booby-trap section, which cautioned against falling spears and stepping on certain stones.
Details from the Queue Line for Disneyland's Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye
More details from the Indiana Jones queue…
Disneyland's New Orleans Style Haunted Mansion Ride Dressed Up for the Holidays
The Haunted Mansion was dressed in its holiday best, and completely re-themed to suit the occasion. Dan and I were both hoping to see the original version and compare it to its Florida counterpart, but we were excited nonetheless to see the Nightmare Before Christmas themed holiday alternative!
The Nightmare Before Christmas Takes Over the Haunted Mansion Holiday Ride at Disneyland
Waiting to enter the building.
Jack o Lanterns and Other Halloween Touches on the Haunted Mansion Holiday Buggy in California
A haunted buggy in the line, now taken over by Halloween and Christmas details!
Loading Area for the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland
I loved the colorful and charming loading area for the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
View of Disney's California Adventure Park from Mickey's Fun Wheel on Paradise Pier, Disneyland
Paradise Pier in California Adventure had plenty of adorably boardwalk-themed attractions. We had an awesome view of the parks from our seat in the ferris wheel, known as Mickey’s Fun Wheel.
Dan and I at Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure Theme Park
We were excited to see the recent Cars Land addition to California Adventure. The ride itself was adorable, and the queue line was full of funny little signs and details. Our favorite? A gas station sign that said, “Stanley always has gas.”
Shops Around Radiator Springs Lit Up for the Night, Disney's California Adventure
By the time we exited Radiator Springs Racers, the sun had set and Disneyland lit up for the night. This area was so well-done. I could not stop taking pictures of these and other buildings in the new Cars Land.
Disneyland Mad Tea Party Teacups at Night
I don’t think this really needs a caption. But I far prefer the original Mad Tea Party to the version we have in Orlando. For one thing, this one is open-air, and allows a dizzying view of the gorgeous Fantasyland area illuminated in brilliant color.
Disneyland's King Arthur Carrousel, Reflected in a Trash Can
One of my favorite shots from our trip…would you believe that the reflection was provided by an especially clean trash can in the outdoor queue for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride?
The Colorful Exterior of It's a Small World After All at Disneyland
it’s a small world after all! We didn’t ride this time around, but we will definitely give it a go in the future! I loved watching the boats weave in and out of the massive ride building.
A Replica of the Carthay Circle Theater in Disney's California Adventure Theme Park
A lovely tribute to the Carthay Circle Theatre, the movie house which premiered Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves back in 1937.

Of course, these are far from the only photos taken on our single day in Disneyland! Between our two phones and my spare camera, we took nearly 400 pictures…and would have taken more if the camera hadn’t died toward the end of the day! In the end, we only missed out on two experiences that we would have loved to see. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular were both in an area which was closed early for a special event. If we had read the signs at the front of the park, we could have planned our visit a little better, but like any other exhausted tourist, we breezed right on by without a second glance. Not all was lost! With the extra time, we hopped back over to Disneyland to take in the lights, get a snack, and repeat a couple of rides. Then it was back to California Adventure to see World of Color. This, too, was themed for the holidays, which in 2014 meant a lot of Frozen. A lot. Now, I am a big Frozen fan, so I was loving it! But I’m sure plenty of people in the audience were groaning at more Anna and Elsa.

Selfie at California Adventure's Paradise Pier, While Waiting for World of Color
Waiting for World of Color to begin!


This is my favorite photo from our day in Disneyland…it may even be my favorite photo from our entire California trip! We had such a fantastic time at Disneyland, and can’t wait to go back as soon as possible! I’d love to hear about your Disney experiences as well! Please feel free to comment below and tell me what you loved (or didn’t love) about your own Disney vacation!

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