How my Disneyland experience has evolved from leisurely to very tiring... in the best way.
| There’s one place in the world that makes my whole family giddy. Even my dad, who is a well-known manly man, gets that little kid spark in his eye. When we go, it’s like Christmas. The time we spend there creates memories that last forever. That one fantasmic place is Disneyland.
Most people think of Disneyland as the happiest place on earth, and I don’t disagree with them. When I was little, we would go every other weekend. My mom had free passes from work, and we made Disneyland one of our weekly routines. On Saturday morning we would eat our corn flakes, get dressed, and then head to Disneyland.
We’d spend half the day in Fantasyland, waiting eagerly in line for Peter Pan. The glee on my face and on the face of my sister was contagious. My mom and dad were excited to go on the little kid rides, even though the larger rides were just around the corner, hiding cleverly behind the buildings that house Snow White and Pinocchio. Even then, at the tender age of five, I knew that there was more to see, more to do, in the “big kid” sections of the park.
What I didn’t know was that the “big kid” sections were much, much scarier than Fantasyland.
“You just get a little wet!” insisted my dad, tugging on my hand. We were in line for Splash Mountain, and I made it all the way to the front of the line. It was about an hour wait, and there was no way my dad would let me chicken out at that point.
“There aren’t any seatbelts in there! What are you, crazy?” I asked incredulously. I was especially safety conscious for a six-year-old. I was the little girl who would yell at the boys that were flinging dirt at each other. I didn’t know what a germ was, but I knew they were bad, and I knew they lived in the dirt. I was Mr. Clean in a world of dirty counters and floors.
“You’ll be fine! Get in this log right now, Savannah,” insisted my dad. Instead of waiting for an answer, he picked me up and sat me in that log. He knew that was the best way to do things. I would always refuse and refuse until someone forced me to get on a ride.
Splash Mountain is a tricky ride. It takes you up a lift right away, and the whole time up all I could think about was how dead my dad would be when my mom found out he’d killed me on stupid Splash Mountain. There’s no hill after the lift, so that left me anxious. I knew that when you go up, you have to go down. And then we floated into the mountain, where happy little animals started singing. I was so distracted from the actual ride by the end, there was no expecting the drop.
I must say, I’ve never screamed so loud in my life. It was amazing such a sound could actually come out of such a tiny little girl. By the time we pulled into the station, however, I was all too ready to go again. That’s how it worked with me. I was terrified until I realized that I actually wasn’t going to die.
I blossomed from Fantasylander to Park Adventurer in just under a year. My family and I would mosey wherever we wanted to. Fastpasses were introduced, and our Disneyland experience was made as enjoyable as ever. We’d go on whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. If it was raining, we’d just go home. Taking a trip to Disneyland was like taking a trip to your favorite Grandma’s house. We liked being there, but we knew would be back the next weekend, anyway, so it was okay if we left early once in awhile.
And then, much to my dismay, we moved to Colorado. The closest thing to Disneyland was Fun Junction, and that was more of a carnival gone awry than a theme park. Our thirty trips to Disneyland a year fell to two. I got a craving for Disneyland that my family and I could only compare to pregnancy cravings. I was addicted to Disneyland like my mom was addicted to chocolate dipped peaches while I was the bun in her oven.
When we finally did go to Disneyland, the atmosphere had changed drastically. We only did the important things. There would be no going on the Fantasyland rides for us, oh no. We’d only ride the big, gnarly rides. Peter pan? Oh, you must be joking. Indiana Jones, though? Yes, that’s more like it.
Fastpasses were our best friends, and we relied on the new, inexperienced Disneylanders to clog up the slow standby lines. They were the Dean Martin to our Frank Sinatra. Our days were jam-packed with what could only be described as extreme fun.
My best friend Clara has accompanied us to Disneyland many times. We’ve molded her to believe that the Fantasyland rides are simply a joke. Sure, Dane, my little brother, spends his day there with my grandma, but what else would you expect from a five-year-old? In time, he will be just like the older kids, who spend their Disneyland days riding the rides that matter, a hint of determination touching each of their features.
“How many times is this?” asked Clara as she took her seat next to me on Thunder Mountain. I was on the right, she was on the left. We had a surplus of Fastpasses for Big Thunder, and we were absolutely not going to waste them.
“Twenty-one,” answered my dad from the car behind us.
The good thing about taking people who only rode the little kid rides was taking their tickets. They didn’t ride any of the rides that required Fastpasses, so we could get enough for two go-rounds on just one group of people. Sometimes it is truly fantastic having a family of wimps. We use them for their Fastpasses.
At the end of a grown-up day, our feet are sore. Actually, sore isn’t quite the way to describe them. Aching, throbbing, and bleeding would be more accurate.
Once, during one of our grown-up excursions, we decided to take a break and go on the Haunted Mansion. It’s a nice, cool ride and we needed to rest our feet, and the Haunted Mansion is always our go-to ride in that situation. The line moves like lightening, and the actual ride is several minutes long. If you situate yourselves right, you can even have a nice little nap.
We were even pros at preparing to go on a ride. When we step into the stretching room, we make sure to avoid all small children, and press ourselves to the back wall. That’s where the door is, and we want to be out of the room and sitting down as soon as possible.
As soon as the doors close, we would speak right with the narrator. “Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching, or is it your imagination, hmm? And consider this dismaying observation... this chamber has no windows, and no doors! Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! Mwahahahahaha! Of course, there's always my way...” At that point, we shriek at the top of our lungs. Even my dad would scream. The reason we would avoid the little kids is because a high pitched scream can be rather… unnerving if you think the ride you’re on is actually haunted. Knowing all the words to the intro was just another way to heighten our Disneyland experience.
When we got off, all freshly rested, we would go right back to our demandingly fun schedule.
Every moment we spend at Disneyland, we see people moseying along, rather heading straight towards the next ride. Teenagers listen to their iPods instead of listening to Disneyland (it does have a certain sound). People are so nonchalant, they don’t even notice that Tomorrowland even smells different that New Orleans Square. When you’re a Hansen, you relish every single element of Disneyland. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, if it’s a hundred and three degrees, or if our feet have been reduced to bloody stumps.
Our Disneyland trips are the very height of our year. Yes, we do work ourselves to the bone, but, oh boy, do we have fun doing it. It is work, and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s hard work, but at Disneyland, everything is fun. I could lose an arm if I stuck my hand out on Thunder Mountain, but if I did, would I stop riding? No, I would most certainly not. Disneyland is a wonderful place. It doesn’t matter if you spend all your time in Fantasyland, waiting to get on Dumbo, or spend your time hauling yourself everywhere possible, bloody feet or not.