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Small Wonders: The highs and lows of the Magic Kingdom

September 09, 2011|By Patrick Caneday

“I think most of all, what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place where parents and children can have fun together.” — Walt Disney, from the plaque on Partners Statue at Disneyland.

And somehow, that is exactly what happened, despite the very thing Disneyland was meant to serve: people, lots and lots and lots of people.

Not only is Disneyland the happiest place on earth, it is one of the few places on our increasingly overpopulated planet where the H.P.S. — Human Positioning System — of 100,000 people simultaneously goes on the fritz.


Besides Costco on any given Saturday, or the Glendale Galleria the day after Thanksgiving, rarely are you ever among a throng of so many people who have absolutely no idea there are other human beings in their general vicinity.

So what better way to spend Labor Day weekend then by becoming one of the masses battling the currents to swim upstream to reach Big Thunder, Space and Splash Mountains.

With well-planned usage of “Fast Passes,” and by positioning oneself at E-Ticket rides during parades when lines are depleted, it is possible to “beat” the crowds. (Side note: explaining to the younger generation what an E-Ticket ride is gets you the same condescending, quizzical look you get when you talk about life before the TV remote control and the Internet. It’s impossible to say how we survived.)

Though seemingly a contradiction of terms, Disneyland is exactly the kind of place where parents and children can have fun together. And yet, any and every trip to the Magic Kingdom is always fraught with highlights and lowlights. So here are a few of mine:

Highlight: Lunching on perfectly battered and deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwiches at the Blue Bayou restaurant under an ersatz starry sky in a Louisiana swamp, watching boaters gently float into a Caribbean world of pirates, wenches and Johnny Depp.

Lowlight: Spending $150 on that lunch for four, the kids eating about $5 worth, and leaving the leftovers behind for the rum-swilling scalawags. Yo-ho, yo-ho, no pirate's life for me.

Highlight: Using a Fast Pass to avoid standing in the blazing sun for an hour, and going straight onto the newly renovated Submarine Voyage. Accepting that every ride now promotes some franchise character or corporate sponsor. Finding Nemo throughout the underwater journey actually provided a level of entertainment missing in recollections of the ride from my youth.

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