Disney magic never fades

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer November 10, 2013

Growing up, a trip to Disneyland was the most special of all treats, akin to winning the kiddie lottery. Years later, the impact remains the same. As the grey, faux Matterhorn rose on the right side of the car, my excitement boiled over to an audible squeak of joy.

To beat the lines at the park, we bought our tickets from the desk in our off-property hotel lobby. It costs a steep $137 per person a day to visit both the Magic Kingdom and California Adventure. We were waiting impatiently when they opened the gates, so we could have the maximum amount of fun from 9 a.m. to midnight.

The original California location started in 1955 with only one park, The Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney himself laid out almost every detail of the five “lands”: Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. With the addition of Mickey’s Toon Town, New Orleans Square and Critter County, eight sections competed for our attention.

Arriving on Main Street and looking up at Sleeping Beauty’s castle, I felt the same tingle as my 6-year-old self. As a Disney traditionalist, I’m not sure that I like the new color scheme and crowns that now decorate the five turrets. I do, however, really appreciate that all of the rides have been souped-up with the latest technology. Perennial favorites such as the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise compete with the Indiana Jones Adventure and Space Mountain.

The Haunted Mansion was in its annual holiday makeover with characters of the original Haunted Mansion mingling with those of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” After a rather over-priced lunch ($29 entrees) at the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates ride, we walked across to the California Adventure, themed after the history and culture of the state of California.

The last time I visited this park, I was less than overwhelmed at the experience. Now, after a 7-year, $1.1 billion renovation, it was worth a trip all by itself. It also features eight lands, including Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, Condor Flats, Grizzly Peak, Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, “a bug’s land” and Hollywood Land.

California Soaring was still my favorite ride, but the new Radiator Racers was a close second. The Aladdin show was a great place to rest our weary feet. The adults in our group were immediately attracted to Golden Vine Winery, where wine tasting was available. Dinner at the Wine Country Trattoria featured a tasty Italian menu.

Fortified by pasta and with hours before the resort closed at midnight, we moved quickly between rides. The Mad T Party was unlike any Disney experience I have ever had, where psychedelic lights, loud music, dancing and brightly colored cocktails were the attractions.

The next day, we spent the time before our flight in Downtown Disney, a shopping area outside the parks filled with chic boutiques and fun restaurants. An hour at the Mandara Spa, inside the Disney Grand Californian Hotel, rejuvenated our aching bodies, and we spent our last hour in a Disney-induced daze, sitting in the sun with a pitcher of mojitos.

I may not be a kid anymore, but after all of these years, the mouse still thrills!