#10: Disneyland was MY first park.
In 1976 I was five years old and I was at Disneyland for the first time. It was amazing! I loved being there. We watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights and I watched the original ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ in syndication in the afternoons. I was already a Disneyphile and didn’t even know there was such a thing.
I remember so much of it. I remember that the crowd around Mickey was so big I couldn’t get to him, but no one was with Goofy. He motioned me over. He was so big and a little scary, but I went anyway. I remember that he posed for a picture with me and as I was walking away with my family I ran back and gave him a huge hug. I remember sitting on top of a mailbox to watch the parade. I was terrified in the Haunted Mansion and I was sure the tiki gods had really made it rain outside. But the thing I remember most was my favorite ride, Adventures in Inner Space. For those of you too young to remember that ride ( it closed in 1985), it was less a ride than it was a science exhibit. Audience members boarded ‘Atomobiles’ and were shrunk down to see snowflakes, water molecules, and oxygen atoms before returning to normal size and exiting. The line area used Disney magic to show the atomobiles shrinking and I believed it wholeheartedly. I rode it so many times that my family was sick of it. By the end of the day they took turns going on with me, so they wouldn’t all have to ride it again. At the end of the day I got my first pair of mouse ears. It was the best day.
Thirty years later Mr. Mouse and I took The Princess on her first visit. The park had changed. Inner Space was long gone, Toontown and California Adventure had arrived, and we didn’t need ticket books. I didn’t close my eyes in the Haunted Mansion. The Princess did not think the tiki gods made it rain. She actually got to meet Mickey Mouse, she got her first pair of ears, and I got to show her the mailbox I sat on to watch my first Disney parade. It was both different and the same in wonderful ways.
When I think about the two parks, I cannot separate myself from those memories. There is a connection there. I think about my time there, The Princess’s time there, and I wonder what it will be like when I go (in MANY years) with the next generation. No matter how wonderful Walt Disney World is, it will never have that kind of emotional resonance with me and that’s okay. There are people who can make the exact same argument for the Magic Kingdom. That’s why this is at the bottom of the list. It is not remotely objective, but it is the truth about why I personally think Disneyland is the better of the two parks.