Last week, my whole family headed down to Los Angeles for my little sister’s college graduation. Mustafa and I, along with my parents, decided to do what any respectable group of adults would do when visiting LA: we headed over to Disneyland for a day. As a kid, Disneyland was my happy place and could do no wrong. As an adult I was curious how the Happiest Place on Earth would measure up. Would it still retain its magic for a newly minted 30-year-old? Or would it just seem campy and overdone? Here are a few things that I noticed from our recent visit to the park…
Related: A One Day Itinerary For Disneyland
The rides affected me a lot more than before. Growing older sucks. Indiana Jones, one of my favorite rides was a lot more jerky than I remembered and Soarin’ left me feeling lightheaded. I’m just glad I didn’t eat before either, otherwise it wouldn’t have been pretty. All I can say is that I know to steer clear of the Tea Cups.
I still appreciated that good ol’ Disney magic. Despite almost getting run over by strollers (seriously they rule the land), Disneyland still retained its magic for me. The moment that we entered the ticket area and could hear the uplifting park soundtrack, I turned into a giddy kid again. Maybe it was because this park and I have so much history, but I swear I saw Mustafa look starry-eyed more than once.
We didn’t really have a specific agenda, but I made sure to pay a visit to the cheeky spirits up in the Haunted Mansion (my all-time favorite ride), and it was as good as I remembered with all the transparent residents up to their usual ghoulish antics.
There is such thing as fine dining at Disney. My parents made a reservation at the Blue Bayou restaurant and I have to say that this is one thing that you have to do at least once. True, the dishes cost as much as what I would usually spend on a typical dinner out for two, but the feeling of dining in the middle of a nighttime bayou almost makes up for the steep price tags.
Fine dining aside, I didn’t eat as much food as I had planned to because greasy food and motion sickness do not mix. I was able to snag a classic Disney churro towards the end of the night that more than made up for any missed treats.
I did make a rookie mistake by not eating dinner before 8 p.m. (In my defense, I was too busy buzzing around California Adventure). By the time we headed back to Disneyland to grab a bite before the Paint the Night Parade (highly recommend), nothing was open except Cola Corner for hot dogs and we had to maneuver around the maze of ropes that were being put up for the parade. Disaster, I tell ya.
The customer service is on point. When my mom’s gluten-free dish took longer than expected, the staff at the Blue Bayou graciously bestowed us with Fast Passes to both It’s A Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. Actually, one of the staff (thanks Andy!) personally escorted us to the front of the line in Pirates and we felt like Disneyland royalty.
You’re never too old to act like a kid. It was Mustafa’s first visit and we headed over to the Mad Hatter to get him his first pair of Mickey ears (complete with his name embroidered in gold on the back, obviously). I got a pair of sparkling Minnie ears in solidarity and we wore them the rest of the day. My only regret? Not buying them earlier.
Speaking of kid-like shenanigans, we almost skipped over Toontown, but I’m glad we stopped by. By the time we made it in the late afternoon the crowds of kids had eased up and we could easily explore Mickey’s hometown without the pint-sized madness.
California Adventure was better than I thought. Disneyland will always be my first love, but California Adventure you are growing on this California girl. I was impressed this visit with the different lands (Hollywood! Grizzly Peak! Pacific Pier!), but my favorite was Cars Land. It felt like I had fallen right into the middle of a whimsical auto world.
If you go…
We stayed in a two bed/two bath condo at the Dolphin’s Cove Resort just minutes away from the park, which was quite a steal compared to the Disneyland Hotel.
If you are staying close to the park, consider taking an Uber there and back. One way our ride was $3 (funny sidenote: our driver was terrible and ran into the curb on our short ride there, but not to worry-this is not reflective of all Anaheim Uber drivers, we just lucked out) and we avoided the hefty $20 parking fee.
Get breakfast outside of the park. We found a collection of cafes nearby on the Promenade in Downtown Anaheim that did the trick. The K&A Café was great for breakfast burritos and sandwiches. Ink & Bean was perfect for getting a good Stumptown roast and checking out the print-themed décor with the old typewriters and books hanging from the ceilings.
If you want to save money on food, Disneyland allows you to bring in drinks and snacks (they didn’t when I was younger).
Disneyland is exhausting for all age levels. Having a sit-down meal in the middle of the day made a HUGE difference on our energy levels for the rest of our visit.
Have you ever been to Disneyland as an adult? What were your impressions?
I was hosted by Disneyland, but all options as always are my own.