Disneyland has marketed itself as The Happiest Place on Earth, and for those of us who have had the opportunity to visit, this slogan rings true.
However, the catalyst of the human experience is that without struggle, we find no joy.
So, the consequence of visiting the happiest place on earth? A tinyyyy bit of misery.
Absolutely no hate to Disney whatsoever. I LOVE Disney movies, Disneyland, and Disney actors. *cough cough* Pedro Pascal *cough*
But not even Disney can overcome the struggles of mortality.
SO. Here’s what a visit to Disneyland actually has in store for you.
You set your alarm for an early morning. If you want to be there by rope-drop (gate opening) of the park, this probably means somewhere around 6 a.m. But, you’ll be so excited to experience the magic, you probably won’t have any trouble waking up for the day.
You get dressed, preferably in some sort of Disney memorabilia. Which feels weird, but you won’t be alone. As soon as you leave the hotel, there are Mickey Ears on every other person walking down the street.
Upon entering the park, you head to the ride at the top of your bucket list. Quickly. The line for the ride will probably be over an hour long by the time you reach it. If you’re there early enough, you’ll be able to get inside before the last dregs of the cool morning wear off. If not, there’s a good chance your back will be drenched by the time you reach the front of the line.
Either way, you eventually reach the front of the line and the excitement wells up in your stomach and you feel like jumping up and down (and sometimes you do, even as a whole entire adult) and you can’t believe it’s really about to happen.
You sit in your seat and the bar comes down and the voice of some actor you can’t quite place tells you to keep your arms and legs inside at all times. The ride attendant presses the button and your cart shudders forward. And you’re in a state of absolute euphoria for the next three minutes.
By the time the ride ends, you’re refreshed and prepared to stand in line for the next one. Which is good, because it will probably be an 80-minute wait once you reach it. Depending on where you are in the park, these 80 minutes will be spent in the relentless California sun. Every second you spend in it drains your energy, and if the line pauses for long enough, you consider grabbing a quick nap on the pavement.
FINALLY, you reach the front of the line. The music surrounds you, the cool air blows on your face, and you climb inside the cart. Again, a lap bar slides over your shoulders, giving you a warm hug. Your heart rate accelerates and anticipation squeezes your insides. As the ride shudders, you forget all about the long wait and are swallowed up by twists and turns, joyful music, and waving animatronics of your favorite characters. For a moment, you are once again a child and there is no other place you would rather be.
At this point, the sun and heat and long periods of standing probably have your stomach growling. You’re in the mood for a snack, not quite a meal. So, you visit a nearby concession stand and fight back tears at the cost of a churro and soft drink. But you’re at Disneyland, so you ignore the irrational cost and purchase two, plus a frozen lemonade.
Then, you find a place to sit. If you’re lucky, there will be a bench or tables nearby with a little bit of shade. If you’re not, you’ll end up finding a little stone wall that only burns your thighs a little bit when you sit on it.
When you’re finished eating, you’re energized enough for another ride. And you endure the beating sun and sweaty people surrounding you to enjoy 15 minutes of air conditioned bliss as puppets of children tell you how small the world is, after all.
At this point, you’re thoroughly exhausted. You find a patch of shade near the exit of the ride and pull out your Disneyland app to check wait times for nearby rides. As you’re doing so, the blaring of trombones and trumpets blasts through the air. Four men in neon suits parade into the square, accompanied by Mary Poppins, Wendy Darling, and Minnie Mouse.
And suddenly, you forget about the temperature and about how your neck is probably sunburnt, because you’re once again a child.
Even though you fully understand the characters are adults playing dress-up, you have a flashback to your childhood dreams of flying away to a magical land where only happy endings exist. You watch the characters wave and dance in feigned bliss, tossing you a portion of their magic.
And when the characters leave a few minutes later, you’re rejuvenated once again.
It is still midday though, and the sun is relentless, so you spend the next few hours in Main Street stores or the train ride around the park, standing in line for one of the water rides, or grabbing another (overpriced) meal at a café or concession stand.
Eventually, the sun finally begins its descent, and the park begins to cool. Your shirt is no longer drenched. Your belly is full and the scent of fresh-baked cookies fills the air and lights begin to appear down the streets. Apart from the constant dull ache in your feet, you feel completely refreshed.
You want to prance down the streets and meet all your favorite characters and eat more sweet treats.
So you do.
You ride a few more rides, take one last stroll through Star Wars land, apologize to a stormtrooper because you forget how to operate as a human being, and finally head back to Main Street, where the masses are beginning to gather in front of the castle.
A voice comes over the loudspeaker and lights appear and fireworks shoot into the air. A medley of your favorite movie soundtracks surrounds you, and you barely recognize that you’re crammed together with a bunch of tired, sweaty strangers, staring into the sky.
Overwhelmed by the sounds and lights and smells, you forget yourself. You are nothing but joy. Pure, unadulterated– albeit exhausted– joy.
And when the music ends and you return to your hotel, you sleep better than you ever imagined possible.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be a little bit relieved when your Disney trip ends after a few days. It’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever enjoy standing on your two aching feet ever again.
But then, you wake up six months later on a normal Tuesday and realize that you’re craving the sights and sounds and excitement of the park that makes you forget your adult responsibilities and just live as if nothing bad ever happens in the world.
And you start planning your next visit.