Go ahead, say what you will about Disneyland: it represents everything that’s wrong with America, consumerism, the decline of culture, etc, etc.
Then try going to the Anaheim, California amusement park – you will have to work very hard not to be won over. Your cynicism might last a couple of hours, boosted by fellow tourists in matching t-shirts, overpriced junk food and the high entry fee.
Soon, you will notice how clean everything is, how efficiently it all runs, and how darn happy everyone is – we’re talking about the visitors AND the employees. Just make sure to avoid ‘It’s a Small World’, unless you want to have a really cheesy song stuck in your head for the next week.
Then, you will find yourself happily buying Made-in-China princess tiaras, $7.95 helium balloons and bubblegum-pink cotton candy. Because it’s fun, it makes everyone happy, and what more justification do you need than that?
After that, you may even find yourself skipping around and buying your own princess tiara, or Mickey Mouse ears.
The rides are really well done, with great music and art direction. Our favorites were the epic ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ boat ride, submarine adventure ‘Finding Nemo’ and the ‘Mad Tea Party’ spinning teacups.
We were lucky that Sophia is over 40 inches tall, since that meant she was able to go on all the big rides, the rollercoasters. Actually, it meant that she had to go on the 50-foot drop Splash Mountain, alpine adventure Matterhorn and Wild West-themed Big Thunder Mountain not once, but twice – once with me and once with Daniel. (She got so into rollercoasters that she daringly raises her arms when we go up and down big hills in the car).
She only faltered once: declining a second ride after one go on Space Mountain, a lurching, space-themed rollercoaster in the dark.
Despite this bravado, her absolute favorite moment of the day was the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire, where kids get to meet their movie heroines. Aurora, Ariel, Belle, et al were superb, gracefully and theatrically staying in character even when speaking to colleagues. They all hugged Sophia, asked about her dreams and fantasies and then froze their beautiful gazes for the camera. I don't know whether the photos catch the wonder, glee and amazement in Sophia's eyes.
One piece of advice: if you can, go to Disneyland mid-week, when school is in session, and it’s forecast to rain. We did, and barely waited in a single line.
Thanks so much to Kristyn, our friend from the KOA campground at Santa Margarita Lake, whose friend Ramona, a Disney employee, totally hooked us up with free tickets!!! (That said, the experience is 100% worth the $62/$72 one-day entry fee.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.