How do you keep people coming back to a theme park that opened in the 1950’s and, even today, bears a striking resemblance to the original park? Well it helps to call it Disneyland, but it’s also important to keep re-inventing yourself. Whether it’s new rides, new events, entirely new “lands” or an entirely new theme park such as Disney California Adventure, the Disneyland Resort parks just keep packing them in.
It is amazing, though, that a big part of Disneyland feels today just as it did in 1959 when this author got his first kids-eye view of Walt Disney’s innovative new way to cash in on his movie success and keep Disney not far from the top of every kid’s mind. Baby boomers will remember the fascination with all things Disney – from movies like the Shaggy Dog and the Absent Minded Professor to a daily diet of TV shows like the Mickey Mouse Club and Spin and Marty. And you know what? It’s all just gotten bigger and better to the point that you’d have to have Houdini like powers to escape from today’s onslaught of Disney movies, cable TV, internet sites, games and toys.
So it is that California’s original Disneyland continues to thrive and, as any local can attest, still attract a sea of humanity that only lets up on rainy or really cold days. On any normal Southern California day, let’s just say you won’t exactly have Disneyland to yourself.
Before we discuss just how to beat the crowds, you should know that October is going to be a very busy month at Disneyland. The resort is getting all dressed up for Halloween a few weeks early and putting on what they call their “Halloween Time” celebration. The theme will be evident from the time you enter Disneyland as you’ll notice that the famous Mickey Planter is now a canvas of pumpkins and that Mickey already has his Halloween mask in place. There will be oversize pumpkin versions of many of the Disney characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy.
You’ll see a 12-foot-high Mickey jack-o-lantern in Main Street USA, where more than 300 pumpkins will be displayed in the shop windows. And, as you might expect, the Haunted Mansion has a few changes just for the Halloween season – during this time of the year it’s a “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme. There’s even a Halloween fireworks show, and for several evenings in October the park will host Mickey’s Halloween Park with costumes, candy, entertainment and special attractions.
In addition to the special events, the parks continue to add or improve attractions. For example, in 2011 Star Tours was converted to 3D and there’s a new twice-daily event called Mickey’s Soundsational Parade that is a very rollicking, uplifting and elaborate combination of floats, bands, lots of dancing and, of course hundreds of Disney characters. (Keep an eye out for parade times and plan your visit accordingly; during our recent visit we had planned to cross the park during the parade and found that foot traffic was pretty much at a standstill).
There’s a new ride at California Adventure called Ariel’s Undersea Adventure that is a Pirates of the Caribbean type of excursion except with underwater characters and displays. Just the previous year a World of Color nighttime water show was added to California Adventure and many renovations and updates occur in both parks annually.
The rides and attractions get better all the time at Disneyland, but the main thing that keeps people coming back every year is the Disney magic – something that almost can’t be defined, but that anyone growing up since the early 1950’s certainly understands.
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