Happiest Place on Earth. 60th Diamond Celebration. Largest Measles Epidemic in U.S.A.
When I first arrived in Santa Monica with my 8 month old son in January, I resolved that the measles outbreak would deter ANY possibility of visiting the happiest place on earth. Friends supported my choice claiming most children have their first recollection of visiting and enjoying the park at 4 years old. A vaccination shot, multiple east coast friends making the pilgrimage, and a dormant need to bring joy to my son dissipated my resolve five months later.
Kermit can officially cross off Disneyland from his bucket list.
To ensure a positive experience, I pulled an all nighter watching videos online and reading guidebooks to meticulously plan our visit. Despite an aggressive plan, I lowered any expectation of completing the list and possessed a willingness to abort mission at any sign of a meltdown. Amazingly, we completed 95% of our list without incident.
We had the BEST time.
We arrived at the parking lot an hour before its opening, took the tram to the gate, crossed security checkpoint and arrived in front of the ticket counter a half hour before the park opening upon the advice from the authors of “The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland”. Fifteen minutes later, we walked down Main Street and stood in front of Cinderella’s Castle. As one of the park attendants administered the countdown for the official opening, goosebumps rose on my arms and an entangled knot of excitement grew in my stomach. Two little children holding hands RAN through the castle doors a few hundred feet before the general public. I cried.
Kermit’s magical experience was sparked.
We made a beeline to Fantasyland and were able to ride 7 attractions within the first 90 minutes before the crowd arrived: Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, King Arthur Carousel, Pinocchio, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mad Tea Party, and Storybook Land Canal Boats in that order. Then Kermit guzzled his milk and napped in his stroller while we walked down Main Street and visited Mickey’s Toontown to see Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, and Goofy. It’s a Small World and Finding Nemo rounded out our adventure in the east side of the park. After another feeding and during a nap, my husband and I enjoyed lunch in Frontierland. By this time, the park was really crowded. When Kermit awoke, we went to New Orleans Square to see the Haunted Mansion and ride Pirates of the Caribbean. We took a break in Critter Country to visit Tigger, Eeyore, and Winnie the Pooh and ended the day with a ride on Mark Twain’s riverboat in Frontierland.
Obviously we did not experience the most popular attractions such as Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Matterhorn Bobsleds due to height restrictions. We were also unable to view the Enchanted Tiki Room or Disneyland’s Story presenting Mr. Lincoln due to Kermit’s fatigue. We missed Peter Pan’s Adventure and the Disneyland Railroad because they were not operational. This did not mitigate our enjoyment. Overall, I was genuinely surprised how accessible Disneyland is for infants.
Disney truly understands the intricacies of fulfilling their visitors’ needs at every age and has thoughtfully provided the necessary amenities to guarantee a return visit. A baby center centrally located on Main Street and outfitted with a feeding & diapering station, a nursing and pumping room, and infant/ toddler provisions like diapers, formula, bottles, and baby sunscreen are available at a nominal price. I visited the baby center three times and each time, it was at full capacity. The Lost and Found unit is also extraordinarily efficient. One of my friends told me she lost her purse on two separate occasions which was returned to her without anything missing. Another visitor lost his hat while on a ride and when found, was mailed to his home. Strollers are available for rental and stroller parking is abundant throughout the park. Fast passes alleviate the mental stress of waiting in queue and photo passes capture a momento of the whole family. I read that VIP escorts are available by the hour.
Added measures for improvements keep the park current yet retention of the mainstays spark nostalgia. For example, one of my favorite childhood memories is holding a mouse-eared shaped balloon while watching the parade on Main Street. Nearly four decades later, my son was able to enjoy the same experience. The picture of his very first adventure ride on Dumbo mirrors my own childhood snapshot. But unlike me who rode 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Kermit experienced Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I teared up as I watched him enjoy the updated wonder of “It’s A Small World” while I recollected my own memory of the voyage.
We will take Kermit to Disneyland this week before we return to New York. It really is the happiest place on earth.