I was incredibly fortunate to get to travel to Disneyland last year with two of my best friends; my girlfriend Hollie and long term pal Jarrod. When we told people we were going to Disneyland we got plenty of eye rolls and lots of “Isn’t that for kids?”
The answer is plain and simply no. Walt designed the park to be a fun experience for all ages, and I’m definitely in the belief that Disneyland is not only great as an adult, but better!
Of course that being said, I never went to Disneyland as a child, but I think these next five points will prove my point.
1. The Food
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I was a super fussy eater. I ate about 10 things, max. Luckily as I grew up I got over that, and now I’ve got ‘A Whole New World’ of foods to try (I’m not even going to apologise for the Disney jokes that are evidently going to be scattered throughout this post.)
The first thing we did upon arrival in the park was sit down for some food- and the great thing about Disneyland is there’s plenty of different types of food options, ranging from park favourites like churros and hot dogs all the way to fine dining experiences. There’s some amazing tasting stuff in the parks, and some fantastic restaurant and dining experiences. Even with a week at the park we left so many restaurants untouched…but we’ll be back!
Plus as an adult, you get to make the choices, want a burger? Have a burger. Want a churro? Have four churros. See a sandwich on a menu that contains turkey, ham and cheese, is then deep fried, dusted in powdered sugar and served with a berry compote, think ‘that’s the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard of’ then order it! Because no one is telling you what you can and can’t eat. Hey why not even get that side of garlic fries!
The sandwich by the way is the Monte Christo from Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square. It’s pictured on the left. And it was good. I didn’t need the fries, because the portion size was huge. But the fries were also really good.
2. The Rides
One of the best things about being an adult when it comes to rides is that you’re tall enough for everything. There’s no missing out on anything this trip because you haven’t had a growth spurt yet! Plus without any kids tagging along you can skip the boring rides and go straight to those thrill seekers!
I think as an adult you also have a little more patience when it comes to queues (hey I said a little.) Kids can’t stand still for long, they fidget, they grumble, they’re impatient. Lines were the worst thing ever when I was kid. Now I can deal with it, and as all my friends are adults, we’re not getting frustrated with a kid that’s getting frustrated.
While riding the rides is fun, you can also appreciate the story telling. Disney does a great job of ensuring a ride is more than just that. Whether it’s exploring a temple with Indiana Jones, being shrunk down to the size of a bug at Flik’s Fun Fair, or going to hell at the end of Mr Toad’s Wild Ride…yeah maybe we didn’t appreciate that one as much as question “What the Hell?” (Literally)
3. You can understand Maps, Guidebooks, Early Park Entry and Fast Passes
With age comes wisdom, and with good research comes knowledge, and that’s a key to getting the most out of your experience as an adult. Kids will flitter between thoughts “I want to go on a Space Mountain, I want to go meet Winnie the Pooh, I want to play the boardwalk games” and you’ve just traipsed all over the parks losing precious time in between stops. If you take a moment to nerd it up a bit, and do your homework, you’re going to have a better time.
There’s well over 300 things to do between both parks in California (I know as I made everyone in our party to-do lists), but with some prior knowledge, smart use of the park maps and fast pass systems, as well as the handy bonus of getting early park entry thanks to staying at a Disney hotel, we were able to conquer about 60% of what the parks had to offer. We planned so well that we could even had a break day where we visited LA.
Being well researched also means you won’t miss out on stuff. Admittedly we did make this one mistake, we didn’t realise Fantasmic and the Fireworks were only going to be happening on the first night of our stay, and instead went to World of Colour at California Adventure. We only realised when we got back to our hotel and read the ‘What’s On’ guide. Learn from our mistake! Check what’s on, open and operating, and see ride wait times at information boards located in both parks. Or there are a bunch of handy apps you can get too!
Also- pick up a Disney PhotoPass, we shared the cost of ours, which made it something like $35 each, and then you get unlimited professional photos taken throughout the park, your ride photos, and select dining experience photos as well. We love our shots! Some of them feel like they’re right out of a Disney ad. Plus there’s no “Why am I not in any of these pictures?” because someone else is taking them for you! Money *very* well spent!
4. The Detail
As an adult I think one of the best things about Disneyland is that you can appreciate all the detail, and there’s a lot of it. The Imagineers go out of their way to ensure each element of the park tells a story, from the ground you walk on, to the ever blooming gardens, from ride queues to food stands. Nothing is just placed into the park without an intensive design and story process first.
There are hidden Mickey faces all over the place, park history is repurposed in new rides, there’s references to The Lion King musical in the middle of the Jungle Cruise. Stepping into California Adventure now really feels like you’re stepping back in time with the 1930s style Hollywood entrance, and the detail in each building, plus the Improvisers that wander the streets bringing to life character from the era makes the whole world come to life. These aren’t just theme parks, these are living, breathing stories.
I could spend a whole day (or more) in the park just exploring and taking pictures of some of the amazing detail that goes into each land. The recently opened Cars Land is a great example. The whole location feels like the film has come to life. All your favourite Radiator Springs locations are there, but on top of that there’s immense detail. Look into the Cosy Cone office and you’ll see Buzz Lightyear and the gang reenacting the road crossing under traffic cone scene from Toy Story 2, and that’s just one portion of that world.
We are also fortunate enough to start seeing the Christmas decorations go up, in Pooh’s corner we saw baubles dipped in honey, with bumble bees floating around, there were seashells for Ariel, snow on top of the castle, tinsel and wreaths made from car parts in Cars Land, and Main Street USA became decked out in olde world delights. The details are what really make the magic. Take the time to look around and appreciate all that, because it’s something only adults can do.
And what’s the best thing about going to Disneyland as an adult?
5. You Can Become A Child Again
The first time I went to Disneyland was in 2011, whilst I had never longed to go there as a child (my family didn’t like rides…what was the point) I looked forward to the opportunity to visit the esteemed park. When I got there though everything changed. Instantly I reverted back to a child.
On my most recent Disney trip with Jarrod and Hollie that happened once again. Soon I was decked out in Mickey Mouse Ears and I’d begun pin trading. I wanted to wake up early as to not miss a moment in the park, and made sure we were some of the last people to leave the park at night when it was all closing too. I ate churros, a lot, and gorged myself on other sweet treats. I got excited whenever I saw a character, and felt the tingles of excitement as I waited for a ride to begin. I enjoyed the magic of the parades and was wowed once again by the World of Colour fountains. I giddily sang along to songs that were playing, and even sang other Disney songs that weren’t.
That’s the best thing, being able to escape from the world to somewhere that’s a little bit perfect, for as little or as long as you’re there for. I forgot all the worries from back home, let go, became a child again, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I did what Walt Disney had intended me to do.
And ‘Oh Boy’ did that feel good!