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.
You lived through it... and it made you all that much happier to be home! Yup - we did Disney World. Too many times! But, after going once as young married 'kids' we decided we would NEVER take a toddler! We almost lived up to that. My brother was coming to the Magic Kingdom. Wouldn't it be fun to see him there? Oh, sure. So, off we went with our boys, then 3 and 7. We did avoid meltdowns (and the worst part of crowds, and expensive lunches) by going back to the hotel for a down time and naps - for us, at least!
I will have to say that despite our exposing the boys to every-kid's dream, they much prefer a trip to the wilderness and peace and quiet. So, I guess we didn't totally ruin them!
See my confession is the opposite. I love Disney and it's fakeness. In particular, I love Disney cruises. I'm always taking care of everyone else and it is so nice to be taken care of for a change. I like the parks, but the crowds do get to me after a while. Hubby does the scary rides with the teen daughter and I do the kiddie rides with the little daughter. We went to Lego Land last winter and it was the greatest - no lines. I couldn't believe it. Reminded me of my youth and going to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk all the time and often never having to deal with lines.
Laura; you are the best Mom ever! Nothing trumps the smile on a kid's face. I am sure you found it funn to go on a log ride on a simulated mountain stream when you can probably hike to one from your back door or the watch the Country Bear Jameboree when you have real Black Bears roaming in the woods, But not everyone gets to live in paradise like you do. Besides even I will admit that I love Disneyland which is predictable growing up as a Southern California kid. I still love Disneyland today, even though I have not gone in forever, because it is my chance to not think about anything real and act like a kid. I am glad you are home safe tucked away in your natural paradise and that you enjoyed your brief trek into civilization. I am sure your son will have many amazing memories from this vacation as from the your other ones.
Dreaming--Yeah, we handled it much the same--plenty of down time in the hotel room.
Angie--I didn't know you went to the Boardwalk. I'm from Santa Cruz.
Terri--We don't actually have black bears in our woods--cougars, yes, bears, no. I have to admit I had plenty of fun moments at D-land. I totally loved the whitewater ride (and got soaking wet).
I like going to Disney World, for ONE day, every few years. It's nice to not have to decide anything more difficult than what I'm eating for lunch! Yes, it's fake, but it's pretty, and some of the rides are quite fun for my family. But I don't like the crowds, and it's fake, and since we tend to take "real" vacations to wilderness areas, the Disney versions are, as you pointed out, sort of a joke.
If Disney were the only place we went on vacation, it would drive me nuts. But it's fun on occasion.
jenj--I hear you. I did have fun at many points. But the crowds were hard on me. I really don't like crowds.
Glad you survived and the kid had a blast! Your home is lovely; I know you're so glad to be back.
Giggling at the thought of your husband whipping out the knife to check a "log" in the hotel!
Funder--Yeah, I thought it was funny, too. Trust Andy to check and see if the logs and boulders were real. I'm glad nobody caught him doing that--would have got us kicked out the hotel, probably.
Laura sometimes I think you and I share a brain. I took my kids to Disneyland. Crowds = Rude people. That is the first of my peeves... the second is waiting in line. I am not a fricking sheep. And I am an instant gratification type of girl so waiting in line pushes my buttons big time. Especially for something that I really don't care about. The last time I went to Disneyland was when I took my daughters at ages 7 and 9. Pretty much perfect ages for DL. I was pregnant so they wouldn't let me on the rides. I spent the entire day waiting in lines then waiting for girls and dad to finish the ride. By the end of the day I was more tired and frustrated than if I had layed brick all day! Of course Mr. Wonderful hates the rides so by the end of the day he was as cranky as a bear and sore. He kept telling me that his bones ached from the rides. The things we do for our children.
Don't get me wrong, if there weren't any lines or crowds and I could go on all the rides as many times as I wanted... I would go. I like a good roller coaster or theme ride. Just not enough to deal with rude people and lines. And don't even get me started on the price of things a DL.
My husband loves to go and try to figure out "how did they do that". He will study things and talk about how they must have done something years ago when they didn't have as much technology as they do now. When we went to the Hearst Castle - I thought we would never get out of there. He was intrigued to say the least.
kel--Yep, those were my feelings exactly. Man, I needed that margarita at the end of the day. But I was happy to do the whole thing for my kid. And I did have fun riding that whitewater ride.
Laura, you echo a conversation I had with a riding partner last summer. "Why would anybody want fake when there is so much amazing REALITY to experience?"
And yet, fake is popular in part because fake is SAFE. At DL, you can experience the fun of the river raft without the chill of knowing that the raft could flip, eject the rafters, and impale one of them on a rock breaking his neck instantly I was on a crew that pulled a body out of the river many years ago. The guy was wearing all the right gear, etc. but gravity just caught up with him suddenly and he was entirely dead. That possibility scares the stuffing out of a lot of people, especially in regards to their kids.
The question, as I see it, is "what favors do you do for your children by only giving them the Disney Version of the world?" I'm not talking about a once-in-a-lifetime trip to DL. I mean people who refuse to read the REAL version of "The Little Mermaid" (in which the prince marries somebody else and the mermaid commits suicide), or stay in a REAL wood-and-boulder building (BUGS??!!!) or ride a real horse on a steep mountain trail (even a husband-safe horse can get stung by a bee).
Fortunately for me, our kids are old enough to take themselves to DL someday...and they probably will. But I'm not going with them. I hope they send me a postcard.
Aarene--Couldn't agree more. When we rafted the Poudre River last summer it was pretty high--and the week before a raft had flipped and a tourist had drowned. It did give me pause. But we did the rafting trip. And my kid and I trail ride two or three days a week on average, even though I'm perfectly aware that rock solid Henry (my son's lovely 24 year old horse) could get stung by a bee or slip and go down. I am a fairly (some would say very) cautious mom--but I think the gifts I give my kid through the horses and camping in the wilderness and whitewater rivers...etc are worth the risk.
I have not been to Disneyland nor Disney World and neither have my children. We took family vacations canoeing or hiking 50 miles at a time with the Boy Scouts, driving across country to visit relatives in other states, or visiting parks, like Yellowstone. Now my children are grown and I've never heard them voice any regrets that we didn't go. However, I see nothing wrong with going, once (or twice), just for kicks. It really does make one appreciate Nature that much more. I've never been able to go trail riding in the mountains with my horses either. Now that I regret!
It was a nice read, sometimes couples in love really take horrible decisions which i have raed in manylove confessions on different website online. Happy to read that this was not something like that.
Laura - I grew up in Santa Cruz (Felton) to. As I recall, the first book of yours was referenced to me by a Book Shop Santa Cruz person (or it could have been Capitola Book Shop) as a local author writing horse books.
Angie--Oh that is fun. Maybe we met at some point?
My kid wants to go to Lego Land. Are there really no lines? That would be huge.
Eh, I prefer Epcot at Disney World. Why? FIREWORKS. The rest of it...eh, meh, but on the other hand it's possible to wander around with a drink, see a few performances, and then at night....a very nice laser light and fireworks show.
Rest of it? Well, when we used to go, there was this lovely British Horse Society certified barn called Grand Cypress. I had some very nice jump and flat lessons, as well as trail rides. No longer around, alas.
Oh, and Laura, we had tons of fun spotting the brush rabbits in and around Epcot! Disney World does have some cool wildlife enclaves and we spotted rabbits in the park as well as a flock of wild turkeys, and the usual Floridian wildlife (gators, turtles, mobility scooters, etc...)
Sorry, Laura, but I LOVE DLand. LOVE. IT. I grew up in the middle of Illinois watching Disney's Wonderful World of Color every Sunday night and dreaming of visiting the Magic Kingdom. I finally moved to southern California when I was in my 20s. Is it crowded? Yes. Can people be rude? Yes. Do I care? No, because the sight of the Matterhorn from the I-5 freeway still makes me point and say, "Look! It's the Matterhorn!"
I love nature, too. I love our trip to the mountains every year. We're going to Carmel next week and we'll take a horseback ride along Pebble Beach - gorgeous.
The DLand experience is just special in a different way for me.
If you time Legoland correct there are no lines in the morning and short lines (5-10 minute wait) for the more popular rides in the afternoon. We went in February mid-week and were able to walk on almost every ride. It was great.
Who knows maybe we did meet at some time?
Thanks for posting a photo of . . . the baby chicks! I want to snuggle with one, even though I don't think chicks are the snuggly types.
Glad you survived Disney. (You did sorta go during prime time which equals prime crowds.)
Alison--Actually, early May is supposed to be an "uncrowded" time at Disneyland and all the staff swore it wasn't crowded. I think their definition of crowded and mine is just different.
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