by Laura Crum
You know how I posted last time that I was going on vacation? And then Alison Hart very kindly asked me to post photos so she could enjoy my vacation vicariously? Uhmm…I am going to admit that I sort of flinched when I read Alison’s comment. Because this was not a vacation I wanted to brag about, or post photos of. No. This was a vacation I intended to say nothing further about. But…
Here’s the story. Normally when we go on vacation its to somewhere fairly remote and interesting. We go to the desert and the mountains. We take horse packing trips to high country meadows and camper trips to the Four Corners to look at petroglyphs and Anasazi ruins. We raft on whitewater rivers in Colorado and swim in the lakes of Michigan. We once took a summer to travel around Europe. All trips I remember fondly and am happy to wax lyrical about. The photos are lovely. This last vacation…uhmm….well, I guess you can see I’m having a hard time admitting it. But yes, just like the rest of suburban America, we went to Disneyland.
What’s so bad about going to Disneyland I can hear you saying (or rather some of you—others are groaning in sympathy). Everybody goes to Disneyland. And that’s just the problem. My husband and I are not ones for the well trodden path and we tend to avoid any sort of “popular” vacation spot. We don’t do cruises or resorts—we try to go where the crowds aren’t. And we very firmly declared, as we became parents, that the one thing we were NOT going to do was take our child to Disneyland. Right.
Some of our friends thought we were cruel. The wiser ones just smiled. And we remained smug in our ignorance. While our child was young our approach worked just fine. We never mentioned D-land and he didn’t know it existed. We sort of whisked him away from any conversations where it was mentioned. End of problem.
But…kids grow up. And as our kid got older and had friends and read magazines and such, he inevitably learned of the existence of Disneyland. And he slowly but surely became determined to go there. Until finally the day came when he announced that his one wish for his birthday was a trip to Disneyland. And he refused to be swayed by offers and bribes. He didn’t want a party, complete with bouncy house (been there, done that); he didn’t want the largest Lego kit to be found at Toys R Them (another place we tried to hide the existence of, but he eventually discovered). The only thing in the world he wanted was to go to Disneyland.
What are you gonna do? It wasn’t an unreasonable request. To make a long story short, we agreed to go. And thus I, who hate crowds and lines and big cities, just spent the last week driving the Los Angeles freeways and walking endless miles of bleak concrete surrounded by hordes of people to wait in forty minute lines for attractions that were described by the knowledgeable employees (known as “cast members”) as not at all crowded today. In fact the whole park was supposedly not at all crowded—and all I can say is that if it wasn’t crowded, than I NEVER want to see it when it is.
Anyway, to look on the bright side, we stayed at a nice hotel with excellent food and drink, though every single thing cost about twice what it would anywhere else. And we rode just about every ride in the park, with the exception of the three my kid deemed the scariest. My husband and I took this in turns, as I can’t stand heights and he doesn’t like spinny things. I don’t mind being spun as long as its at ground level. So my husband rode the tall things and I rode the spinning teacups…etc.
Below you see my husband and son on one of these rides that would give me vertigo.
And, of course, my son and I had to ride horses.
I can’t say it was my favorite vacation ever, but the joy on my kid’s face made it worthwhile. For him, it really was magical. So what if my husband and I constantly felt rather as if we were in the midst of a herd of lemmings, dashing madly towards something we didn’t really want to do.
And then there is the “fake” factor. Nothing in Disneyland is real—its all ersatz. Even my kid noticed this. As we were embarking on the whitewater ride (Grizzly River Run) we heard some people saying how much they loved river rafting here. Now we had actually rafted a whitewater river (the Poudre River in Colorado) last summer. My son turned to me and said quietly. “These people don’t understand that this isn’t really river rafting. When you raft a real river, you have to paddle. And if you time it wrong the raft might flip. They think this is real, but it isn’t.” And that pretty much sums up everything in Disneyland. Its modeled on real things—interesting and delightful things—but all of it is an expensive fake.
The hotel we stayed in (The Grand Californian), for instance, is modeled on the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Park. Now I’ve stayed in the Ahwahnee, and though I certainly noticed the similarities, what was most obvious to me were the differences. The Ahwahnee has a gravitas that Disney’s imitation just doesn’t begin to approach. And at the Ahwahnee, the giant boulders forming the fireplace are boulders, and the huge pillars are redwood and Doug fir. At the Grand Californian both boulders and pillars are concrete—made to look like stone and wood (which my husband found out with his pocket knife). The overall impression is just fake. It’s a nice hotel in many ways --probably costs as much to stay there as it does at the “real” Ahwahnee, though.
So, in conclusion, sure we had many fun moments on our trip, but truly, people, if you want to stay at a grand arts and crafts style hotel, go stay at the Ahwahnee and enjoy the real awesome things to be seen in Yosemite. If you want to raft a river, raft the Poudre, or some other lovely whitewater river. I’m here to tell you your money will be better spent than at Disney’s clever imitation world.
And now we’re back home—and I’m so happy. Here’s my little house, looking very jolly.
Here’s my porch, full of blooming plants.
Here’s my cute little yellow horse, turned loose to graze in the spring greenness.
And look what happened the day after I got home? Baby chicks.
Why would I want to leave?
Those of you who have done the obligatory Disneyland trip, feel free to leave your comments concerning how you feel about it—for better or worse. And for those of you, like me (I’m not mentioning any names here), who swear they are never going to Disneyland, I warn you, it IS inevitable. At least if you have a kid. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.