May 24, 2024

Our promise to bring Basti and Andoni back to Disneyland Anaheim was finally fulfilled last August. This time, our grandson Sean together with his parents, Derrick and Carla, were with us. In fact, they were there a few months back. We also celebrated Nena’s birthday on Aug. 10. Daughter Carla and abuelita Nena arranged our billeting and three-day passes to the park.

Considering the age gap between our two teenaged grandsons and Sean who was only seven years old, abuelita Nena convinced Barbra, grandma of Mason who is Sean’s school best friend, to join and meet with us at the park. Like in the past, our adventure started with a seven-hour road trip from Lincoln City to our destination, with son in-law Derrick behind the wheels.

As planned by Carla and Nena, we woke up early for our first day at the park, arriving at the entrance gates where other visitors were already gathering and lining up for security check-up then the entrance passes for verification. Disney songs welcomed us as we strolled through the Main Street lined up with stores in buildings shaped as in Disney stories transporting the guests to a new world – a fantasyland. Then our adventure began.

Learning from past experience, Carla and Nena made a mental list of what thrilling and scary rides and shows we would go to, taking into account how long the queue time would be for each. But as we walked along, Carla would later find out that the queuing time would change considering the influx of guests and the preference given to guests who would pay for the privilege of using the “lightning lanes” and passed ahead of the queued guests.

There are a total of 58 attractions in Disneyland which include rides, shows, and exhibits. Definitely it was impossible to experience all of them with just the three whole days that we would be there and taking into account the thousands of guests from around the world who would visit in a day. The long queues to these attractions could just eat up your hours at the park which operates from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.

But we were early enough to queue to the Haunted Mansion which took “only” 10 minutes to reach our turn. It was a shivering journey on a “doom buggy” into the unearthly realm as we rode into the dark nooks and crannies of the cavernous dwelling where ghosts would appear in all the places from the cemetery to the ballroom, mingling with the crowd and dancers. Soon with the adrenalin rush from the first ride, we were ready to face the thrilling rides that awaited us during the entire day and the next two days that followed.

From the very “tame” It’s a Small World ride and Finding Nemo ride, to The Rise of the Resistance considered as the best Star Wars ride; the boat ride in Pirates of the Caribbean; the Peter Pan ride where we felt like flying above London to the Neverland; the Incredicoaster; the Guardians of the Galaxy; Radiator Springs Racers; Soaring Around the World; Pixar Pal-A-Round Swinging Ferris Wheel; Jungle Cruise and other shows consumed our time in between munches of big turkey legs and such other eats available at restaurants and snack counters. Of course, at the end of each day, we were treated with scintillating light parades, the “fantasmic” night shows and spectacular fireworks that would float in my nightly sleep.

One would ask, why do we have to keep on returning to Disneyland, is it really the “happiest place on Earth” as it is advertised to be? Why should we save up for years to go to this place where we have to join the long queues at the gates to enter the park, then spend more time queuing up for long minutes or almost an hour under the heat of the sun every time we take a ride or watch a show or to get snacks or a table when we need to eat? Was it worth it to jostle for a space with better views of the night-time spectacular shows and fireworks?

After some reflection of our past experiences since we stepped foot in Disneyland Paris almost a quarter of a century ago up to our last visit to Disneyland Anaheim last August, I came to the conclusion that Disneyland is not the happiest place on Earth. For one, you need to have enough resources to gain entrance to the park. Then within the park, one must know how to make good use of their limited precious time to enjoy the attractions that are worth queuing up for, seeing to it that the family are all enjoying – managing situations of stress, providing for their needs and comfort, maintaining a pleasant disposition in an international crowd, among other things.

The park provides all the means for fun and entertainment with the 58 attractions available to its guests on a first come first served basis. Billions of dollars were poured in by Disney to recreate the fantasy world with the creativity and imagination of its artists and using high technology to make them real as if these Disney characters were jumping out of the comic books and walking around and mingling with the guests.

Should we miss this opportunity of a lifetime to experience the triumphant feeling of heroes after overcoming obstacles and challenges? Did we even learn anything from this experience? We soon learned that Disneyland was just the vehicle towards achieving joy and happiness in life.

Disney stories are actually always the fight between the good and the evil. There are heroes and the villains in every story, evolving in time from Mickey Mouse to Luke Skywalker. Who will not miss this opportunity of a lifetime to fight with your heroes against evil and sharing the joy of victory? Why shouldn’t we share this experience with our children and our children’s children, and imprint in them memories manifesting that goodness is all that matters in life?

Why should we even think of taking them to Disneyland to understand it? Because memories of Disneyland make us realize that love is not at all a bed of roses – it takes patience, understanding, cooperation, discipline, and sharing to feel the joy and happiness of being in love. It is said that life is a climate; it can suddenly change whenever and wherever. But memories are like the oxygen – they make us breathe forever.

That Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth” is not actually a place, but the roller coaster ride to the heart of your loved ones, where lies actually the joy and happiness in life.

So, expect us to visit again maybe seven years from now as we expect an addition to the family.