I’m a pretty lucky frog who gets to spend a lot of time in theme parks with my husband, Leap, and our tadpoles, Tad and Lily, so when the Disney parks closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it hit me hard. Watching clips of the characters and cast members waving goodbye to park guests amid a sea of bubbles makes me cry every time. The Los Angeles Times called Disneyland closing a “blow to American optimism,” and maybe that’s exactly it. But I am optimistic that we are all doing our part to slow down the spread of this virus and we will all step into the magic again as soon as it is safe.
In the meantime, my cold-blooded (it's an amphibian thing) heart is warmed by seeing people sharing their favorite Disneyland memories and YouTube videos. It really is “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but it's more than a place. It's a feeling. Disneyland continues to bring joy through photos and videos. Sharing our memories and favorite moments makes us smile even when we can't be at Disneyland in person. Looking at photos and videos can help cheer us up if our much-wanted vacations got canceled as a result.
What Makes Disneyland Magical to Me
Today I am sharing what makes Disneyland magical to me in hopes of bringing a smile to your face and leaving you dreaming of a future visit. We are sharing Tad's YouTube videos, so you can enjoy them if you've found yourself with a little extra time on your hands these days. We can take a walk down memory lane together, and with a little faith, trust and pixie dust, we will be making new memories in the park soon enough.
First off, one of the things that makes Disneyland magical to me is the overall trip to Fantasyland ... not just the land itself, but having the ability to froget any troubles for a while as soon as you enter the gates. It’s a happy place and an escape from everyday life. We all become children at heart, no matter how old we are in real life. It's easy to get excited for a parade or meeting a character or riding a favorite ride. We become princesses and Super Heroes and part of the Star Wars saga. And to me, that escape is pure magic.
The Nighttime Entertainment
We cannot pick a favorite when it comes to nighttime shows at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. They all toadally bring tears to my eyes! We are fireworks junkies so we will always jump in place in one of the best places to view Disneyland fireworks whenever possible. We love the changeability of fireworks shows, which vary per season or festival. Even the nights with just projection and music have us hopping in the streets when there are no accompanying fireworks! Fantasmic! and World of Color both take our breath away with their magical blend of water, music, fire and Disney moments.
We love a parade! We got our fill of the new Magic Happens parade before Disneyland closed and we look forward to seeing it again and again. It celebrates all those magical moments in Disney movies we love so much. In the meantime, watching Tad’s videos on YouTube helps us catch even more details and enthusiastic dancers that we missed in person. We miss the Main Street Electrical Parade for its nostalgia, but if we had to pick an all-time favorite, it’s Paint the Night for the win! When can we do this again?! We know watching it on YouTube is not the same as being there, but once that music starts and I see the excited crowd, I can't stop smiling!
The Snacks and Treats
There are so many favorite Disneyland snacks that we made an entire post about the best Disneyland snacks and where to find them! Dole Whip, pickles, popcorn, ice cream and Mickey pretzels? Yes, please! But I’ll give them all up for one Disneyland caramel apple!
The Unique Drinks
You need to stay hydrated when at Disneyland, and what better way to do it that to enjoy a refreshing Mint Julep, a Moof Juice in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a Dole Whip Float in Adventureland or a frozen Memory Refresher at Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff on Pixar Pier.
On dates nights, Leap and I enjoy the adult drinks at Oga’s Cantina or throughout Disney California Adventure Park. We love the secret menu drinks at Lamplight Lounge or the attraction-themed drinks at the Alfresco Tasting Terrace, such as the colorful Fun Wheel or the throwback to California Screamin', the 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...1 with an orange peel loop! The most magical drinks of all, though, can be found at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Certain drinks actually cause volcanoes to erupt, ships to sink and the weather to change!
The Hidden Gems
At Disneyland, it’s all about the little details, from Hidden Mickeys to Wendy and Peter Pan’s initials carved into a tree (it's hidden near the wishing well). Ride the Disneyland Railroad at least between Tomorrowland and Main Street. You’ll take a side trip to the Grand Canyon and travel back in time to the Primeval World with dinosaurs! These posts have a few fun details to read up on so you can look forward to finding the Disneyland hidden gems and Disney California Adventure hidden gems the next time you are in the parks.
The Themed Rides and Lands
Disneyland rides and lands are incredibly immersive. We love chasing Jack-Jack with the Incredibles and Edna Mode on the Incredicoaster on Pixar Pier and rocking out with Rocket Racoon and the Guardians of the Galaxy in the soon-to-be Avengers Campus. We rev our engines for Radiator Springs Racers after we make a pit stop on Route 66 in Cars Land. Then we can’t help but sing, “Yo ho! Yo ho! A pirate’s life for me!” on Pirates of the Caribbean in New Orleans Square. One of our favorite rides is the “wildest ride in the wilderness” — Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland! It's dynamite!
The Cast Members
These are the people creating the magic. Obviously, we love meeting characters every chance we get. But the cast members have the ability to make your visit extra special with their enthusiasm, pin trading and sometimes a sprinkling of pixie dust.
These outstanding workers keep the park super clean and get the crowd hopping up and down with excitement for the coming parade by having cheering contests. They have so much power to add a little extra magic to our day. We miss these hardworking cast members and want to give them a shout out!
We love looking though our photos from our Disneyland vacations. They bring back so many hoppy memories! What makes many of our family pictures extra special are the Disneyland PhotoPass photographers. How many vacation photos do you have where you are behind the camera and not appearing in the shot with the rest of your family? Or, maybe your selfies are a little awkward with none of the scenery you wanted to capture (trust me, I've been there!). The PhotoPass photographers get it all! Ask for Magic Shots for a little extra magic to appear in your photos. The PhotoPass photographers might even pose you in toadally cool ways and at angles you never thought of before.
At Disneyland, you can get all those professional pictures for the day and on-ride shots for $20 with Disney MaxPass. That’s a steal! Another benefit of MaxPass is being able to manage our Disneyland FASTPASS reservations from your phone. Read up on Disney MaxPass. That way, you can use it to magically skip the lines even easier during your next visit.
It’s pretty hard to pinpoint what makes Disneyland magical to me because it’s everything — the whole package coming together! It's like the rides, the entertainment, the characters, the food and the feeling we get from being there all combine into one magical potion. What makes Disneyland magical to you? Share your favorite magical memories and things you miss the most about Disneyland and are looking forward to experiencing again when you make your next visit in the comments below.
Until our next visit, it’s not goodbye to Disneyland, but "See ya real soon!"