July 9, 2010

Geeking out – Disneyland

The word geek can be applied to almost anything. I know photography geeks, gear geeks, food geeks… you get the idea. So I thought I’d tell you about one of my other geekdoms today – Disneyland. Not Disney mind you, specifically Disneyland.

I visited Disneyland the first time when I was around 8 or 9 years old. The only memory I really have is hiding behind my cousin on the recently opened Splash Mountain, I held on for dear life as I was convinced I was going to fall out and be crushed under a fake log boat.

As you can tell, I survived.

I returned around five years ago. I figured I would go, have a fun and exhausting day, and maybe go once every five or so years after that. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the giant commercialized Maus Mouse. But fall in love I did. So many things about the park are magical to me. Yes, I said magical. I purchased a pass as soon as I could fit it into my budget, and I try to go about once a month or every other month. I like having the pleasure of a pressure free trip in which I can just go for popcorn and a few rides. I also love hitting 12+ hour days there with visiting friends. One day last summer, I even attempted riding everything in one day (I was close, I rode all but three).

Things I love about Disneyland:
  • Dole Whip Float – a beverage from the stand in front of the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland. It’s pineapple juice topped with a healthy dollop of pineapple soft serve. It is heaven on a hot day.

  • The walkways of Adventure land after dark. The lighting is soft, the trees loom on your left, the shops are made to feel like a bazaar, you can walk through and fool yourself out of Southern California easily.
  • The smell of Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a mixture of chlorine, mildew, people, stale popcorn, and fake water. That sounds gross I realize, but it’s wonderful and so distinct. I wish someone could recreate it in bottled form.
  • The quiet corner in Critter Country where you can watch the fireworks from the back, away from the thousands of people squished into Main Street. 
  • Food, food, food: the Polynesian chicken skewers from Bengal BBQ, garlic fries and ratatouille from Café Orleans, veggie burritos from Rancho del Zocalo, the popcorn, and the fusilli pasta from the Pizza Port. I plan my Disneyland days for optimum food consumption.
  • The miniature versions of Cinderella’s castle, etc in Storybook Land. They make me squee. A lot.
  • Lights. Each area has lights that fit in with the land, and I never tire of photographing them. Tiffany style lights that look like calla lilies, metal strips with leaves carefully cut out of them, sparkling lanterns… someone should get permission from the powers that be to make a book of just the lights. 
  • Knowing that even if there are crazy crowds, a handful of places throughout the park will still be quiet if you need a moment of respite. 
  • Every cast member I’ve encountered in five years has been nothing but friendly. And it doesn’t come off as insincere.

I could go on for a while. That place makes me happy.
Though I don’t really collect any Disneyland paraphernalia, I am a sucker for books about the making of and history. Obscure facts like that the Morse code you hear at the New Orleans train station is a translation of Walt Disney’s welcome speech make me happy in a very nerdy way. It’s fascinating to hear about how rides came to be, how Pirates of the Caribbean morphed from a walk through museum with wax figurines to a boat ride through a pillaged town. The stuff that Disney and his team of Imagineers came up with was revolutionary for the time. He had this wacky dream and executed it better than anyone could have imagined. So though Disneyland may be a commercial utopia and in some ways built to suck every cent from your pocket, behind every façade and every fake boulder is a man of genius and imagination. Someone who said, I don’t care if you think I’m nuts, I’m going to build Sleeping Beauty’s Castle for real. That is what keeps me going back.

Do you like going to Disneyland? What are your favorite things?


  1. I've never been to Disneyland, but I've been to Walt Disney World over 30 times, and I adore it in just the same way. I think our Pirates smells the same as yours, and I enjoy it down there! I also love some of the food items, I love chatting with cast members, and me and my husband have a great time there.

    Girls Are Geeks

  2. Kinda sucks...I never been to Disney Land or Disney World.

    ::hangs head in shame::

  3. I've never been to Disneyland, but as a kid we went to Disney World almost every year. Haven't been since I was 18. I LOVE IT!

    1. How I miss Dole Whip. I eat it when I'm visiting out west. Got hooked on it on vaca in HI when I was 12.
    2. Those calla lily lamps are gorgeous!
    3.My fave geeky thing is always learning about the animatronics on Discovery Channel-type shows.
    4. The food! My fave is visiting the countries at Epcot.

  4. I went to Disneyland with my mom and brother when I was 12 and lost the shirts my brother and I had been wearing when we hugged Mickey Mouse. (We had changed into our new shirts.) I cried over it during the 4th of July Fire Works. Just to be clear, this is not my favorite thing, but my most vivid memory.

  5. You and I have almost the exact same Disneyland experiences and interests! Uncanny. I agree with 99.9% of your blog!

  6. Glad I'm not the only one that loves the
    "making of Disneyland" stories.

    I went on the "Walk in Walt's Footsteps" tour a couple of years ago. It is amazing, we got to go into the lobby of Club 33 and even got to see one of the original animatronics from the tiki room.

  7. I've never been to Disney Land even when I lived in LA I never had time to go! Growing up we went to Disney World at least once a year though and I've been back a few times in my adult years. I love it. It makes me incredibly happy to be there.

    Great review! It made me nostalgic and smiley. ;)

  8. I LOVE Disneyland! I grew up in So Cal and still live here and go 10+ times a year! I could never get sick of it! I get such a "little Kid"/Magical feeling every time we go! Some of my favorite things are: Peter Pan; Small World; Space Mountain; Star Tours (duh!); The Tiki Room (& the Dole Booth-yummy!); Thunder Mountain RR; Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mtn! I also love to go at Christmastime and love to ride the Haunted Mansion when it is all "Nightmared" out!
    Also, like Mariann said, The "Walk in Walt's Footsteps" tour is wonderful!

  9. I've never been to Disneyland, I've just been to Disney World twice. I remember going on Splash Mountain there when I was seven. We were there a few weeks before the official opening of the ride, and a couple times we went by and they had it closed for checks and fixes, but it was running fine. I was just tall enough to ride on it, which was lucky because it was by far my favorite ride in the park. We were there for four days, and I rode it six times.

    The pineapple floats! They sell them at the Dole Plantation here on Oahu, and I always get one when I stop by. Mostly their gift shop is just hokey souvenirs, but Dole Whip is surprisingly delicious. The floats are super sweet, but I like sweet. I agree, a perfect treat for a hot day.

  10. As I tweeted last week, I'm going this weekend, Sat - Tue. Some of favorite thing are just going in general, but specifically staying in the Grand Californian hotel so it's all right out your door. Walking around the park and downtown Disney after dark on warm Californian nights. Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou. And at the risk of sounding perverted, "relations" in a Disney themed hotel room with the sounds of the park comming in from outside.

    My dad passed away last weekend, and one of my favorite childhood memories is when he took my brother and I. I have a Disneyland Railroad, costumed pic from that trip some where.

  11. i go to disneyland almost once a week....it never gets old. I love sitting on main street and listening to the little kids squeal with delight when they see the castle for the first time.

  12. Husband and I live about ten minutes away, we probably go every other week or so. We got lucky a few months back and go to ride the Lilly Belle, which is a not-so-secret fancy car that they sometimes hook on to the back of the train. We were there with my seven year old niece, so it was extra special.

    I unabashedly love Disneyland. :-D

    We can see the fireworks from our front porch. It's awesome!

  13. I'm with you on the Dole whip. LOVE that shit. But, for my money, I'd much rather spend my day at Universal Studios. I could ride the tram tour all day.

  14. I've only been to Disneyland once, many years ago in high school for "Grad Nite" which was when the park was open all night to CA high school seniors (and a few teachers) only. It was a surreal experience because we all had to dress up and there were no kids and we were all buzzed to be riding the rides in the middle of the night. I LOVED it there, even if I don't have specific memories about exactly what we rode or ate or saw. I still have a photo of me with Donald Duck from that night. From your descriptions of Disneyland I so want to go back and experience it again. I might even be ok seeing little kids hanging about!

  15. Oh wow guys, I am blown away with all your memories and stories. I knew that I wasn't the only one that loves the park too.

    I'm glad to hear good things about the Walk in Walt's footsteps tour, I keep meaning to sign up for one.

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  17. I've never been to EITHER Disney. ::sniff:: ::sniff:: BUT...I plan on changing that QUITE soon.


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