I first heard about Disneyland when I turned five. I begged my parents to take me, but my sister had just been born, and they (logically) wanted to wait until she was old enough to go. So, they told me I had to wait until I was seven. I’m sure they hoped I would forget over the course of two years, lose interest, or get distracted by something else, but they were quite wrong. By my seventh birthday, they had no choice but to fulfill their promise and plan a summer vacation to Southern California.
I still remember the absolute joy of that long-awaited moment when I walked through the front gates into Disneyland for the first time. Twenty-three years later, it hasn’t gone away.
I’m now an annual passholder, so I visit the park several times per year, and I always have a blast. While there are hundreds of things I love to do at Disneyland, today I’ve put together a list of ten of my favorite things to do at the park:
1. Ride the Matterhorn.
It’s my all-time favorite ride, because of the perfect combination of theme and thrill. You careen around and through the mountain, which was constructed to look just like the real Matterhorn in the Alps. Out of all the Disney parks, this ride only exists in Disneyland, and it’s unique in that there are no breaks or powering mechanisms in use throughout the ride (except at the end). It begins by pulling you up to the top of the hill, then releases you to coast down the tracks. What’s awesome about this is, the heavier the people in your bobsled, the faster you go — we always try to put the heaviest person in front. It’s most fun to ride this at night, during the fireworks if possible; you can see the bursts of light as you come out of the tunnel and it’s pretty amazing!
2. Pilot the Monorail.
Many people don’t know that the monorail has a special compartment in the front, with the driver, that seats up to four people. You can’t actually drive the monorail, but you get the absolute best view of the park from the giant windshield. All you have to do is ask at the monorail station if you can ride up front! (It might be a long wait on busy days, and they won’t let you do it if it’s very hot outside).
3. Ride Splash Mountain in the rain.
It doesn’t rain much in Southern California, but when it does, I love to spend the day in Disneyland. Who would do this? Well, exactly, no one, except me, which is why it’s wonderful! You have the park to yourself! And, you’re already soaked, so why not jump on everyone’s favorite log ride? Last time we did this, we were able to ride through Splash Mountain three times in a row because no one was waiting to get on when we came in to dock. In my opinion, this is much more worthwhile than waiting 90 minutes in 90 degree heat to ride through it once. 😉
4. Sing along with “it’s a small world”
It makes the ride much more fun, and is actually challenging to do for the entire duration. Just don’t sing louder than the ride — you don’t want to annoy the poor strangers that ended up on your boat.
5. Wear a silly hat.
There are few places where you can get away with wearing an ear hat, a bear hat, or a pink-and-purple fascinator top hat. But you can wear them here! I enjoy looking quite ridiculous when I go to the park. It helps hide the fact that I’m usually also acting quite ridiculous.
6. Eat a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar.
7. Visit the Disney Gallery.
It’s filled with frequently changing displays of awesome, unique Disney-themed artwork. Most people don’t seem to know or care about it, so it’s usually not crowded, but it’s a lot of fun to walk through and check out some great art. It always makes me feel a little creatively inspired, too!
8. Scream in terror any time a ghost pops up from behind a tombstone in the Haunted Mansion.
There’s about four of them in the graveyard at the end of the ride and they pop up suddenly. Be sure to jump and scream bloody murder, especially if you know when it’s coming. We once got stopped for a few minutes on the ride right in front of one of these and I think Eric may have wanted to punch me.
9. Bring a friend who’s never been.
Maybe it’s because I still remember how excited and thrilled I was when I first entered Disneyland Park, but I love bringing someone else for the first time. It’s fun being able to share with them why I love the park so much. And I love getting to see them having fun in a place that makes me so happy, too!
10. Feel like a kid again.
There’s seriously something magical about this place that makes me so happy. Every time I walk through the front gates, I still feel the same unbelievable joy that I did on my first visit at the age of seven.