University of York Graduate, aspiring to be a journalist with dreams of one day publishing my own novel.
Published work can be seen at www.theyorker.co.uk and www.yorkvision.co.uk
Published October 3rd 2012
It's not just for kids
If you're the cynical type who sees Disneyland as nothing more than a ploy to get kids to spend their parents' money, or a simple cash cow for Pirates of the Caribbean, then Disneyland in Anaheim may just be the place to prove you wrong.
As a seasoned theme park-goer who's no stranger to the perilous thrills of Alton Towers-esque rides, I approached the idea of going to Disneyland with some trepidation: surely it wasn't going to be as magical as my Space Mountain experience in Paris back in the summer of 2001. As it transpired, however, it would appear that Disneyland in Anaheim wasn't all costumes and candyfloss; there really was something for the adults too.
Visitors can buy either a one-day ticket or a 'park hopper' which covers both Disneyland and California Adventure. If you're going to make a day of it then I would sincerely suggest going in September – whereas I'm used to three-hour queue lines for rides at Thorpe Park, the distinct lack of children this time of year meant that going in at 10am was simply not necessary, and I didn't queue for more than ten minutes at any point throughout the entire day.
First up was, of course, Space Mountain, which seemed to lack the pizazz of its sister ride in Paris – whereas the French attraction launches you from a rocket, this one simply ascends ominously into the dark before going through all manner of twists and turns in a blacked out room. Of course, it's very high-speed and certainly raises a smile, but what truly made it for me was my second time round, when, by chance, I managed to get onto the front seat, which for some reason made the experience ten times as thrilling.
Ominous: the ascending tunnel kicking off Space Mountain
After watching Tomorrowland's Star Wars Jedi Training Academy, which I'm far too embarrassed to admit was actually rather entertaining, I proceeded to Fantasyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds, a Yeti-themed bob-sled ride which felt as dangerous as it looked. With all the smoothness of the Grand National at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, this series of unpredictable twists and turns accompanied by intermittent screams of cave-dwelling yetis made for somewhat of an uncomfortable ride, but a good one for the kids, no less.
While we're on the subject of kids I hasten to mention the novelty factor that is the Buzz Lightyear Space Invaders ride. Again, embarrassingly, though this ride should definitely come with a 3 sticker, I found my company and I riding it three times in a row, for the simple competitive element if nothing else – the concept being, you are tasked with the mission of defeating Zurg, and in doing so are armed with lasers and encouraged to fire at a series of moving targets. If you can handle the humiliation of looking at your points at the end of the game, then it might just encourage you to go round twice more in order to improve your kick-ass Space Invader status.
To infinity and beyond! Kids' favourite Buzz Lightyear
If you want to get the kiddiness out of your system then I would definitely recommend a trip to Frontierland where you'll find the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The frugal theme-park goers among us will probably appreciate the length of this ride as much as I did; at a cool three and a half minutes, I certainly felt I was getting my money's worth with riding time. This wild-west themed runaway train has everything from peaks and falls, splashes and tunnels and even a ride through a dinosaur skeleton. Suffice to say I rode this three times in a row, and it almost felt as if the ride was longer than the queue time – not that I'm complaining!
After all that excitement it's mind-boggling to think that anything could top the sugar-coated barrel of laughs that is Disneyland, but, as my waiters in the local breakfast eatery had told me previously, Splash Mountain was just the ride to do that. Akin to the aforementioned Railroad, this kiddy-themed log flume was as time-consuming as it was fun, with a series of drops and splashes accompanied by various animal-related hilarities. If you're not one for getting wet then I'd avoid this one like the plague – particularly as the steepest drop is in fact relatively tame, whereas the perilous plunges on the inside of the ride are deceptively designed to get you soaking.
The most intriguing, or indeed disturbing part of Splash Mountain was the intervals between bouts of soaking. The ride cruises through a whole range of indoor and outdoor environments, and, while floating through the indoor abyss, riders will witness a rather strange floor show, where a clothed menagerie will treat viewers to a saloon-themed sing-along. There are also some frankly disturbing images of fluffy rabbits tied up and ready to go in a stew, followed later on by some creepy sing-songs about being happy happy happy and the like. If you can get over the weirdness, however, Splash Mountain is a thoroughly entertaining ride, and for all its creep value, salvages itself with frankly epic drops.
The all-singing, all-dancing animals of Splash Mountain
For all its thrill rides and rollercoasters, Disneyland does have other treats for its visitors – the visuals, for example. With themed areas in every corner from Frontierland to Fantasyland and the world-famous castle, there are plenty of opportunities for Kodak moments. What's more, if you fancy yourself some 3D action and count yourself as a loyal MJ fan, take yourself over to Captain EO for some weird and wonderful sci-fi entertainment.
On leaving the Disneyland resort I can safely say I am a convert. The slightly over-priced park (although there are a multitude of ways to get cut-price tickets) truly has something for everyone, from speedy thrill rides to child-pleasing car rides like Autopia, where patrons can drive around a track and gain themselves a Disneyland driving license. There's no need to leave Disneyland, Anaheim feeling shameful for having enjoyed yourself – you might be an adult, but it's the perfect excuse to unleash your inner child.
My husband & I had a great time at Disneyland & we're in our 40s/50s. The Buzz Lightyear ride was so much fun we did it 3 times. Why should kids have all the fun. Your article has reminded me of a great holiday. So pleased that you enjoyed it too.