Published January/February 2012

Come Be a Kid Again

Whether you’re 5 or 75, you’ll enjoy all Disneyland Park has something to offer

BYClint Williams
Half a billion people can’t be wrong. The wisdom of the crowd has been validated since 1955, as millions of people each year pass through the gates of Disneyland® Park — 85 magical acres of thrills and squeals, smiles, and wows — set in sun-kissed Southern California. Iconic rides like Space Mountain and Matterhorn, spectacular shows like Fantasmic!, and attractions like Star Tours – The Adventure Continues put Disneyland atop the dream trip wish list of every 6-year-old.
 
But if you think Disneyland is just for kids, well, with all due respect, you’re just wrong. Watching the wonder in a child’s face that rivals Christmas morning is part of the draw for parents (or grandparents), to be sure. But Disneyland, like most Disney animated films, also appeals to adult sensibilities. After all, you can’t stake a claim to being “The Happiest Place on Earth,” if the grownups are miserable while the kids pull them through the park. Since Disneyland is something of a fun buffet with 60 rides and attractions, everyone — Timmy, Sis, Mom, Dad, Nana, and Papa — will find something they like, making it a swell spot to bring the generations together.
 
Main Street, U.S.A.
Main Street, U.S.A. — the idealized small-town downtown that funnels visitors into the park — is noted primarily for shopping and eating. Most children will be in too much of a rush to want to wait around for a slow ride down the street in a fire engine or horse-drawn streetcar. Let them dash ahead — the first example of the benefits of a parent-grandparent tag team. The Baby Boomers in the group will want to duck inside Main Street Cinema, a standing-room-only movie theater with six screens showing vintage cartoons, including “Steamboat Willie,” the 1928 cartoon that introduced Mickey Mouse to the world. The pacing of the black-and-white cartoons likely won’t hold the attention of the children, but the flickering frivolity will almost certainly transport the grandparents back to a long-ago living room, watching some of these cartoons on a television with rabbit ears.
 
Fantasyland
Passing through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (smaller than you’re probably expecting) takes you into the heart of the park, Fantasyland, where many of the rides have been delighting visitors since the park opened. Teens and tweens will likely find most of the Fantasyland rides a bit tame, but they’re plenty thrilling for younger children. And they’re good for the grandparents because, frankly, you don’t have to worry about throwing out your back like you do on some extreme roller coasters.
 
Dizzy giggles are served up in giant pastel tea cups at Mad Tea Party, where you have some control over just how dizzy you’ll get. Each cup holds five, so you may have room for the whole family. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is a wacky two-minute drive, and Peter Pan’s Flight, soaring above nighttime London and Never Land, is a charming classic.
 
Matterhorn Bobsleds — Disneyland’s first roller coaster and the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world — is mild enough for younger children and intense enough to make even a 13-year-old grin.
 
Fantasyland is where you’ll find “it’s a small world,” the love-it-or-hate-it 15-minute ride that features 300 animated dolls and one catchy tune. This is another place were the tag team comes in handy. Short straw takes the kids.
 
Tomorrowland
If older kids — say, 10 and up — make up your group, go from the front gate to the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse and hang a right. Head straight to Tomorrowland, where you’ll find attractions that will make even the most jaded teen giddy.

Expect long lines at Space Mountain, the trend-setting indoor roller coaster that sends you speeding, twisting, and dipping in the dark. It’s best to make strategic use of the park’s FASTPASS system to cut your wait time. The FASTPASS also comes into play at three other nearby attractions: Autopia, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and Star Tours.
 
Children too small (under 40 inches) and adults too timid to blast through faux space at Space Mountain can wait for the others at Innoventions, a place that is part science fair and part arcade. It offers a fascinating look at future technology and is fun to boot. Be sure to send video emails to friends and family not lucky enough to be with you.
 
Autopia, go-karts on a guided rail track, is fun for younger children thrilled with the prospect of driving. For adults, however,  it’s a lot like the workday commute — a lot of waiting to not go very fast. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is — have to use it — a blast. It is part ride, part arcade game, and a game the kids are likely to win.
 
The newest attraction in Tomorrowland is flat-out awesome for all ages. The most creative minds in entertainment, Walt Disney Imagineering, Lucasfilm Ltd., and Industrial Light & Magic, have developed an otherworldly experience in Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. Eye-popping 3-D storytelling and motion simulator-based technology combine to send you zipping through space at the speed of light. Each trip is different, thanks to the use of more than 50 story combinations. This is a must-do.
 

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