There’s something about Disneyland. The memories of childhood, putting on the mouse ears, snapping photos in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. Everything about it is, for a lack of a better word, magical.
The very first Disneyland I ever went to as a child was in Tokyo. As a fourth grader, I was still living in Taipei. Naturally, the closest Disneyland was on the other side of an ocean. Thinking back, what a luxury that was. After the trip, my sister and I wore pink Minnie Mouse T-shirts to school with immense pride. We might have been the only kids in the entire elementary school who had been to Japan, let alone Disneyland.
After moving to California, the original Disneyland was so close within reach that visiting “The Happiest Place on Earth” most likely became an annual tradition. Whether it was a school trip, traveling for piano competitions, or just another family vacation near Anaheim, Disneyland became a prevalent experience yet never mundane. Spinning in Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups until we wanted to vomit, riding Space Mountain not once, not twice, but three times at different hours of the day was an utter thrill on its own. Matterhorn Bobsled seemed to always be our first excitement of the day and we always headed back to the hotel after the classic parade. Even if I wanted to act older than my age in high school, Disneyland was a place where being a kid was still considerably cool.
One summer, my parents took my sister and I to Orlando, Florida. There was no way we were missing Disney World, so we went. An entire weekend of pure bliss, running high on sugar and screaming our heads off during crazy rides. I don’t remember much, but I do remember realizing how small I was in a giant world that took three days to experience. It was like walking in my own animation film.
Later in life, I moved to Tokyo at age 26. There I was, visiting Disneyland again. The same place where I first put on a pair of Minnie ears, but this time, Disneyland felt smaller. I tackled all the rides with ease, fearlessness. As usual, my friend and I went home after the parade. I loved it, but I wouldn’t go back again. Maybe I grew jaded, but it felt…ordinary.
It wasn’t until this year that I was in Disneyland once more. This time, in a city I’ve called home for the last 10 years: Paris.
Truly, the last place any Parisian above the age of 30 would think of to be is Disneyland. Maybe that’s why it took me a complete decade to make the trip. But just a 30-minute train ride away, the magic sparked. The familiar music, the sound of the speedy rides, and just when you think no one in Paris speaks English…well, not in Disneyland! Here, bilingual is the only way to go.
First, get the FastPass, it’s worth the money not having to wait for hours in lines. Although not all the rides have FastPass access, but enough popular rides allow FastPass including the classics: Indiana Jones, Hyperspace Mountain Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan, the 3D Star Tours…and more.
Walking down Main Street, my friend Leila and I spent an hour deciding whether to splurge 14 euros on Minnie Mouse ears (which we eventually bought, of course!) then spent another hour taking endless selfies in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. This may just be the biggest difference between visiting Disneyland as children and as 30-somethings in the age of social media.
We laughed our way from Frontierland, Fantasyland, Adventureland to Discoveryland. Hopping on and off rides, all the while screaming from the top of our lungs. On any other Saturday, we would still be in bed suffering from having too many glasses of wine the night before. The magic of Disneyland exposed our inner girlhoods, dreaming to be princesses in fairytales (her name IS Leila and my name IS Wendy – wink!) Today, whether we’ve found our princes or not, the whimsical world of Disney made us giggle all day long, believing that anything is possible in this safe and jubilant universe.
What makes Disneyland Paris extra special was the addition of Walt Disney Studio Park filled with rides made for an older demographic. As rain started to pour, it sure didn’t dampen our spirits. Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith was by far my favorite ride, as we sped through highs and lows to Steven Tyler’s electrifying pitch. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, was the scariest in my opinion. As the elevator dropped from 130 feet above ground, then up and down again, my heart almost flew out of my chest. Leila and I rode the Ratatouille 3D ride by accident without glasses during the first time, and laughed our way through before a true entertaining experience during the second go around. This time, properly equipped with glasses. Laughs turned to gasps.
Our last ride of the day, the Crush’s Coaster from Finding Nemo was the perfect end to our day of wonders. The carts assimilated deep dives into the Great Barrier Reef then spiraled and churned through the Easter Australian Current. If you’ve ever wanted a face lift, both Crush’s Coaster and Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith will do the trick.
When visiting Paris, Disneyland may not be on the top of your list. But if there’s a part of your inner child waiting to be set free, even for a day, then pick up those mouse ears and be prepared for the magic. It’ll light you up just as brightly as the city does.
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