The thrill rides at Disneyland park are unique among the offerings of theme parks around the world. This is because each one is an integral part of the land in which it exists, each one helps tell the story of that land, and each one is part of the immersive experience. I love thrill rides – the anticipation, the exhilaration, and of course, the pose-pics at the end 🙂 But Disneyland has much more to offer than thrill rides, and because many people run from thrill ride to thrill ride, they miss all of the wonder that’s in between. Disney is the master of details, and the master of storytelling, and if you look closely at the details, the story becomes infintely more meaningful. That’s what I want to do today at Disneyland – take it all in. No thrill rides – just relax, reminisce, interact, smile, smell the roses, taste the food, indulge my inner child, and become a part of the story. So, if that’s your thing, join me for a fun-filled day at Disneyland with NO thrill rides. I’ll be your personal tour guide. And you won’t believe how much we’re going to do.
The magic of Disneyland starts early, and who can sleep on a Disney day anyhow, so we’re up early, Disney shirts and caps on, pin-trading lanyards on, and we’re off to the park. We’re in line before the crowd, enjoying the characters and ambassadors who pass by the gate to lead us in cheers and get us excited. We’re surrounded by happy people from all over the world; everyone chattering and adding to the air of excitement. Our people watching starts now. And so does our hunt for Hidden Mickeys. These are the shapes of Disney characters hidden throughout the park, and finding them is part of the fun. Look up, you can see one above the turnstiles at the entrance. We’ll keep an eye out for these today.
We’re into the park with the first group, everyone snapping selfies and rushing to the rides, but we walk to the bench by the flagpole and pause for just a moment. We sit down, listen to the festive music, enjoy the cool morning air, look at the perfectly groomed flower beds, admire the buildings in town square, and let the magic soak in. While we sit, a Disney Ambassador comes over and offers us a pin if we can answer a trivia question. “What was Walt’s favorite bit of animation?” They love this one. Cinderella’s transformation. “That’s right, have a magical day in the park.” I will, thanks for the pin!
It’s still early, so we head over to the elegant Plaza Inn restaurant, at the end of Main Street USA, for a fantastic breakfast with Disney characters. The Plaza Inn is beautifully appointed, and the cast members are bright-eyed and ready to serve. Breakfast is buffet style or made to order, and there are choices that will please almost any palate, including those famous Mickey waffles. We eat a light breakfast outside on the veranda, relax, watch the excited people, digest, but we don’t plan the day, we wanna stay spontaneous.
There’s nothing like a morning river boat ride, so we stretch the legs and head over to the Rivers of America to ride the Mark Twain River Boat, an honest to goodness stern wheel steam boat. The first sailing is at 9:00, and we get there a few minutes early, so we ask the cast member at the gate if we can pilot the boat. Since its the first sailing and we’re there early, the pilot agrees. The pilot takes us up to the wheel house and we pass some pretty cool pictures and other memorabilia that most people never get to see. You take the wheel and guide us around the rivers of America, blowing the whistle and waving to your adoring fans who wonder “how did he get up there?” At the end the pilot gives you a nice certificate. And, yes, we get the pic with the pilot.
The morning is off to a good start. A little lively entertainment would be nice now, so we walk a few steps over to the Pioneer Mercantile at Frontier Land and listen to the seafaring ditties of the Pirate Band. They serenade us with songs of pirates and sailors and adventure and such. In authentic pirate garb, these guys totally look the part, so we snap a pic or two, then we’re off.
The pirates got us riled up, so we need an exciting activity to do. The Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition sounds just right, and at this time of the day its not too busy. We trod on over, deposit our coins and the competition begins. The shooting gallery has been redone and looks great, and since its all electronic, we’re shooting straight. There are all kinds of targets and the effects are fabulous. We’re giggling like kids. “I hit that one, no I hit it”. You know, the original shooting gallery was on Main Street and it used real .22s. Yes way. Those were different times.
A light treat would be nice after our competition, so we swing around into Adventureland, to the Tropical Imports across from the Jungle Cruise and grab one of my new favorite treats, sliced mango with tanjin and lime! So tangy, delicious, and light. We notice the famous Disney pickles so we grab one of those too. Tomorrow we’ll grab a Mickey Beignet at the Mint Julep Bar – its a Disneyland classic.
Next I’m going to take you for some belly laughs, perfect for mid-morning. We’re off to Fantasy Faire next to Sleeping Beauty Castle, where the Storytellers are performing in the Royal Theater. First we’ll grab a Boysen Apple Freeze at Maurice’s cart next door, perfect to sip on during the show. This wacky troop of troubadours delivers royal slapstick comedy at the rate of a joke a minute. Adults and kids alike are roaring with laughter. I’ve seen people laugh so hard that they, well, never mind.
Now we’ll head around the corner to Main Street USA, and stroll down the boardwalk. Lots to see and do here. We pay special attention to the many names scrolled on the Windows on Main Street. These windows pay tribute to the many people who helped Uncle Walt realize his grand vision. We talk about a few of them, like Elias Disney, Walt’s dad. Halfway down, we pause for a moment at Esmeralda the Fortune Teller, and let her predict your future, as she’s done for thousands before you. My fortune says that I’ll be writing Part II of this blog post very soon. How does she know these things? While we’re here, we step inside the Penny Arcade and participate in the time-honored tradition of pressing a penny as a keepsake from our visit today. Read about the history of penny pressing here.
Continuing down Main Street to the square, we grab a popcorn from one of the street vendors, then cross over to the Main Street Cinema. Stepping thru the turnstile, we’re transported back to the early 1900s as we’re treated to six of the early Mickey Mouse cartoons, the same ones that regaled children and adults alike, and launched Disney to fame. These were the first cartoons where the animal characters actually spoke, and the first ones set to music. Walt was the one who figured out how to synchronize film with a soundtrack. Genius. As we watch, we realize that early Mickey was really mischievous. So much so, that Lilly told Walt to make him nicer. Good advice.
While we’re back at Town Square, I really want to show you the Disneyland Story. Its housed in the Opera House with Great Moments with Mr Lincoln, which we’ll catch later. Real quick, look to the left when we walk in, you’ll see the actual park bench Walt sat on when he dreamed up Disneyland. So, this is an exhibit that has a detailed model of the Disneyland park, lots of very cool Disney memorabilia on display, and a short movie hosted by Steve Martin, about the history of the the Disney company. Well worth watching, and helps you understand how the magic came to be.
That didn’t take too long. Where are we off to now? Ok wait, something’s missing that’s critical for a day at the park. You have no hat! No worries, the Mad Hatter is just down the street, and they’ve gotcha covered. Way too many choices in there, but we pick out a lid for you, and get your name embroidered on it – for free. This is a time-honored tradition, and is unique to Disneyland. And on the way, we stop in the Magic Shop where Steve Martin actually worked as a young man, and ask the cast member to show us some cool magic tricks. He shows us the flying card trick. Love that one. There’s so much to do here!
Next, we walk back out to the Town Square, and over to one of the vehicle stops, where we catch a ride up Main Street in an antique car – one of four Main Street Vehicles. These vehicles have been transporting visitors since the opening of the park in 1955, and are authentic except they’ve been converted to natural gas. Walt’s favorite, no surprise, was the Fire Engine, which he drove around the park himself. The friendly, smartly dressed driver waves us in and off we go. Driving top down toward Sleep Beauty Castle, we wave to all the Disneylanders, and feel a little like we’re in a parade. We can’t help but smile.
Dismounting near the Partners statue, we notice that Mary Poppins and her crew have setup in front of the castle with the Disneyland Band, and a crowd is gathering. We jog on over and discover that its a full-on street festival, with singing, dancing, the band playing. Some people are standing back, but not us, we walk to the front and join right in. Man, those trumpets can really wail, and that gal playing the trombone is amazing (she really is). And where do they find cast members who look and sound so much like Julie Andrews? That was a blast.
As the crowd disperses, we take a second to look at the Partners statue. I have pictures of myself sitting right here before the statue was installed. We talk about Walt the man, the visionary, the risk-taker, the passion and the drive behind the company that not only invented this industry but dominates it. Respect, Walt. Respect.
Well, my friend, thanks for joining me today. We filled our morning with magic and laughter – and never once stepped foot on a thrill ride. We ate, we drank, we sang, we danced, and we became part of the magic. Gotta go for now, but in my next post, we’ll launch into a magic afternoon and evening together. That’ll be awesome. I hope you join me as we keep Doin’ Disney Right!
To continue our magic day together, check out Part II, A Magic Evening