Spring break season is over.
As Elisabeth is not yet school-aged, I don’t think in terms of break schedules. So when Damon visited last March and we decided to take Elisabeth to Disneyland, we didn’t consider that half the state of California (and the entire U.S.) would be on spring break and visiting Disneyland with us.
While we lived in Japan, Damon routinely brought up the idea of visiting Tokyo Disney. I routinely shot down that idea. It was too crowded, too expensive, and Elisabeth was too young to enjoy or remember it. I am a cold, heartless woman, I know.
But things were different now.* Despite my efforts at shielding Elisabeth from the more annoying of Disney characters, she is enamored of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. She’s old enough to have fun on rides. Though she would not remember the trip, she’d enjoy it in the moment. Plus, this was going to be our last time together as a family of three. Why not do something special? Disneyland is magical! It’s the Happiest Place on Earth! What could be more special than that?
Well, unless you think “special” entails pushing your way through hoards of tourists and waiting in endless lines while trying to keep your impatient child (or children) entertained, DON’T go to Disneyland during spring break. Just don’t.
Because this is what your visit will be like:
-Take 30 minutes to find parking.
-Wait 20 minutes for a shuttle to the park, or walk the 20 minutes to the entrance.
-Wait another 30 minutes in line for exorbitantly priced tickets. (Note to military spouses – Disneyland does not offer military discounts for single day passes. You have to waste three days of your life there if you want a discount.)
-Decide to take your daughter out of line and let her run around the courtyard that separates Disneyland and California Adventure. Marvel at her excitement at recognizing the characters that decorate the flagpoles. “Hot dog!” she will squeal with glee, because for some inexplicable reason she will think Goofy’s name is “Hot Dog.” Wonder why you are paying almost $200 to go into the theme park, when your child is obviously very easily entertained for free.
-Finally procure tickets and wait another 10 minutes to get through the turnstile.
Take note. You have now spent an hour and a half of your precious day waiting. Something you will only continue to do once you’re actually inside. If you’re visiting with a toddler you probably were not able to leave the house before 10AM due to some toddler-crisis, so by this time it’s practically lunch. You will wonder how feeding and nap schedules are going to play into your day, and contemplate your kid’s inevitable meltdown. You will also curse the inability of ANYTHING ever going according to your timeline.
“Um, why are we doing this on my vacation?” my dear husband asked while we were in line for tickets. It took great restraint not to strangle him on the spot,. Remember how he was the one that repeatedly asked about taking to Elisabeth to Tokyo Disneyland? Yeah.
“BECAUSE WE ARE HAVING A FUN FAMILY DAY, SO SUCK IT UP. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO AT DISNEYLAND. YOU WAIT!”
Do you get the point yet? Let’s move on.
-Once you’re finally into the park, you’ll spot your first character on Main Street. Mickey! Then you’ll spot the line to meet Mickey. Forget about Mickey.
-Walk to the carousel and determine the line is not too long. Because, really. Who rides a carousel at Disneyland except toddlers and their parents?
-After the carousel, check out the closest toddler-friendly ride: Dumbo. Check out the line for Dumbo: Hell, no.
-Consider your other options. Casey Jr. Circus Train. Hey, that line doesn’t look ridiculously long! Go for it.
-Quickly discover you are wrong. Casey Jr.’s line is moving like molasses because the ride is only operating ONE TRAIN. Seriously, Disneyland?
-While waiting and waiting, try to distract your child from the nearby Dumbo ride. See Dumbo statue and sit her in that. You have successfully tricked your child into thinking she has ridden Dumbo without waiting in an hour + line! You win as a parent!
-Eventually get on the circus train. Realize it is quite possibly the most boring ride in all of Disneyland. Maybe in any theme park, ever. Even your two-year-old is bored. Lament the time you spent waiting for this joke of a ride. Start calculating price/ride in your head. Cry a little bit on the inside.
It is now wayyyy past your kid’s lunchtime. And even though the churros smell heavenly, as a semi-decent parent you will know that you can’t feed your 2-year old a churro for lunch. Or you can, but you’ll pay for that later. Can you say “sugar crash?” Break for lunch at one of the many mediocre eateries nearby and realize that sheesh – it’s already mid-afternoon. Where did the day go? And why are there so many damn people!?
-After lunch, head to Toontown. Let your child run loose and try not to lose him or her in the crowds.
-See that you can meet Mickey in Mickey’s House! Your kid loves Mickey! Enter Mickey’s House and realize that this is also going to be another crazy long wait, but at least there are things for your kid to play with/on while you make your way through the house.
-As you get close to Mickey, your cynical self will melt a little as you witness your child’s enthusiasm. “Mickey around the corner!” she’ll exclaim.
-Finally reach Mickey. Watch your child dissolve into tears at the sight of a terrifyingly large mouse trying to pry her from her father’s arms. Curse all that is Disney.
-Calm your child and leave Toontown. Buy him/her a souvenir in hopes of reversing some of the Mickey trauma.
It’s now almost 4:00. When did that happen? What have you to show for the last four hours? An overtired child and a pair of overpriced mouse ears? It’s obviously time to move onto another part of the park. As you’re walking, you’ll realize that Disneyland has expanded in the last 10 years: there is now a petting zoo in Frontierland. Why, why, WHY?** You will quickly change course but soon realize that it doesn’t matter because your toddler is passed out in the stroller. Now what?
-With your child asleep, walk around aimlessly and gape at the ever-increasing crowds. Don’t these people know they are ruining your SPECIAL FAMILY TIME?
– Decide it is time to sit down and indulge in the fattiest, sugariest thing you can find. And that’s only because alcohol isn’t available anywhere. (Even if it was, you’re pregnant and you don’t need people judging you right now.)
-Look wearily at your husband and decide to throw in the towel and go home.
-Realize you spent well over $200 to let your child run around a glorified playground.
-Vow never to go to Disneyland again, ever. (Unless your kid is on a year-round schedule and you can go when everyone else is in school. I grew up doing this, and I highly recommend year-round school for this reason.)
There you have it. This will be your Disneyland experience for roughly the entirety of March and April. And probably June-August, too. Stay home. Save your time, your money, your sanity. There is no magic here.
*Full disclosure: I did take Elisabeth to Disneyland last summer. But we had free tickets, and I believe in bringing babies to Disneyland only if it’s free.
**I hate petting zoos. So gross.