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Top 10 Disneyland Faves
My husband and I are definitely Disney enthusiasts. We’ve visited Disneyland over Christmas, Halloween, spring break and Presidents’ Day. We've celebrated birthdays and anniversaries at the Blue Bayou. We flew my parents to this Southern California attraction – and tagged along, of course – for their 50th wedding anniversary. Needless to say, I was psyched when I was asked to list my favorite Disney experiences. It was hard to keep the list to only 10, but here’s what I came up with.
Mad Tea Party (aka “The Teacups”)
I’ve kind of grown out of my love of spinning, but the teacups are such an iconic Disney attraction that we ride them every time we’re in the park. If it’s just us, we let the cup spin slowly on its own. When we’ve traveled with kids, however, my husband spends the entire ride cranking the wheel in the middle of the cup, making the cup spin faster and faster — much to the giggling, squealing delight of our nieces and nephews. For me, the best time to ride is after dark, when the array of lanterns strung over the teacups are lit, giving the ride a romantic flair.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Hands down, my favorite attraction in Disneyland Park. It’s nearly all-age appropriate (under fives may find the skeleton pirates a little scary). While kids go wide-eyed over the pirate battles, rooms piled high with treasure, and that one silly pirate serenading a herd of pigs, adults will marvel at the technological mastery that goes into bringing these rapscallions and scalawags to life. The two water chutes the boats plummet down to get into the main part of the ride are just right: high enough to give your stomach a little flip, but tame enough that riders don’t need to be belted in. And, bonus: Thanks to its efficient passenger-loading system, this ride has one of the fastest moving queues in the park.
This is the perfect way to end a perfect Disney day. This nighttime musical extravaganza, which takes place on the Rivers of America, features high-resolution digital film sequences from the film Fantasia projected onto enormous screens of water, special effects that erupt against the night sky, appearances by Disney’s platoon of princesses, and a storyline that draws the audience into Mickey’s overactive imagination. Oh, and let’s not forget the 40-foot-tall, fire-breathing dragon. The show is popular, so arrive early to find a good viewing spot.
The Haunted Mansion
No matter how many times I visit the Haunted Mansion – and I’ve probably been more than a hundred times now – I notice some new detail or special effect. From the ballroom, where ghostly couples dance gracefully while two enchanted portraits engage in a never-ending duel, to the attic, where the ghost of a black widow bride is surrounded by portraits of her many unfortunate husbands, the mansion’s myriad rooms are chock-full of rich detail. In my opinion, the best time to board your “Doom Buggy” and visit the 999 resident ghosts and ghouls is mid-September through early January, when Jack Skellington and his friends give the mansion a holiday makeover inspired by Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.
it’s a small world
Yes, it may take a couple of churros and a trip on the Matterhorn bobsleds to dislodge that cheerfully addictive song from your brain, but everyone should experience it’s a small world at least once. If you’re traveling with little ones, they’ll be entranced. When I took my 3-year-old niece to Disneyland, she insisted on riding seven – seven – times … in a row. (Yes, I earned my “awesome aunt” stripes that day.) But I must confess, the tiny dancing hula girls, whose hips and grass skirts shake at a frenzied pace, made me smile every time.
Recently revamped, this ride is a must-do for any Star Wars fan. The Star Tours travel company has opened new interstellar routes in the Star Wars galaxy. Now, not only do guests zip to other intergalactic destinations, they do so in 3-D! Star Wars creator George Lucas worked with Disney to create a new storyline, which includes a trip through the skies of Coruscant aboard a Starspeeder 1000 and a high-speed pod race through the desert canyons of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet. Frequent fliers will find something new every time they ride: Star Tours — The Adventures Continue features 50 different story variations.
Grand Circle Tour — If you’re a park first-timer, definitely hop aboard the Disneyland Railroad for the Grand Circle Tour. It’s a terrific way to acquaint yourself with the layout of the park. But even if you know the park like the back of your hand, the train has its benefits. When we travel with small children or older adults, it’s a great way to give your feet a rest or transfer between lands. And since you don’t have to get off the train, you can just keep riding until you’re refreshed and ready to tackle another thrill ride. The full Grand Circle Tour takes about 20 minutes and is narrated; it also passes through an area that can only be seen from the train: the Primeval World diorama.
Indiana Jones Adventure
Who wouldn’t want to tag along with Indiana Jones on one of his archeological expeditions? Oh wait, isn’t he the explorer who’s always falling into booby traps, falling victim to ancient curses, and being chased by bad guys? Disney’s solution is a fantastic ride that gives you all the thrills of an Indy expedition without the high-stakes risk to life and limb. Even though I’ve done the ride dozens of times, I still experience a thrill of anticipation as our jeep pulls away from the passenger loading area and heads off in search of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye and worldly treasures.
The fact that Space Mountain is a dark-ride roller coaster is awesome. As you hurtle through a fantastic universe filled with stars, galaxies and spiraling black holes, you’re never quite sure when the coaster’s twists, turns, dips and dives will occur. For me, that makes riding all the more fun. The track can be a little bumpy for older guests (my 75-year-old father enjoyed it, but said he probably wouldn’t do it again), and the speed at which the coaster moves will surely do some interesting things to your coiffure.
This flume ride is perfect for a hot day, because you’ll surely get wet. My husband loves the music, the elaborate sets and the storytelling that goes on inside the “mountain.” For most kids, however, that’s just a whole lot of stuff that happens before your log boat takes a spectacular five-story plunge to the pool below. Tip: Riders in the front of the log tend to receive a more generous dowsing than riders in the back — but, depending on the weight distribution, you can never be sure. According to Disney, that's part of the fun.
If it weren’t currently closed for refurbishment, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad would have definitely made my list. But, don’t worry. The ride is scheduled to reopen in fall 2013, ensuring that park visitors won’t have to wait much longer to experience “the wildest ride in the wilderness!”