A Happy Homecoming
R. Mangio, owner of Magical Escapes Vacations and a Disney
College of Knowledge Graduate
all Disney fans know well, 2005 marks the 50th Anniversary Celebration
of the DisneylandÒ theme park. All Disney properties across
the world, on land and sea, are participating in this Happiest Celebration,
in honor of the beginning of it all.
If you are like me, then this party
is the perfect reason to revisit Walt Disney World, and participate
in the celebration. For many of us, especially out here on the East
Coast where I live, there really is no contest in our minds between
which US Disney theme park to visit. If you’re going to make
the trip to Disney, why go all the way out to California, to visit
a smaller version of our beloved theme park, when you can head right
on down to Florida and visit it all?
I’ll tell you why. Because
there is no place more magical to celebrate this most special of
I know what you might be thinking.
Trust me, I thought it, too. Now, I hope none of you Disneyland
fans will get mad at me. After all, I don’t need to convince
you to visit your favorite place. But I am appealing to all of those
who, like I was, aren’t entirely certain why they should make
the trip out to California. My husband and I have visited WDW more
times than we can count. And once, many years ago, we did stop and
visit Disneyland for a few days, because we wanted to see the original
theme park, and compare it to our Happiest Place down in Florida.
We had a good time. We found Disneyland
to be quaint and tiny, but magical. We loved the Pirates of the
Caribbean so much better there, and all around were little touches
that made Disneyland so unique and memorable in its own right.
Still, whenever we think of visiting
Disney, it’s always to Walt Disney World that we are drawn.
To us, WDW is our Disney home.
Till this year, that is. I knew when
I first heard word of the upcoming “Happiest Homecoming on
Earth” celebration that I wanted to visit Disneyland again.
And it wasn’t until after I had gotten there that I knew for
certain there was no better place to be.
And luck was with me. A conference
I was attending was held out in Long Beach, bringing right out to
Disneyland’s backyard. And what kind of Disney travel agent,
not to mention Disney fan, would I be, if I didn’t stop by
for a peak? Two days wasn’t near long enough, but it was enough
time to imprint a memory I’ll always treasure.
The fact is, Disneyland is different
than Walt Disney World. WDW grew from Disneyland, but it was here
that the magic was first given life. You’ll see familiar sights
and rides, yet it’s more intimate, cozy, like wandering back
into your childhood days. But the emotion of the past 50 years will
catch up with you from the moment you walk in.
The city of Anaheim has done a great
job cleaning up the city in the last eight years since my previous
visit, making it all the more pleasant to visit Disneyland. The
Disney Resorts are beautiful, and nothing can beat the Grand Californian’s
private entrance right into the middle of the Californian Adventure
– especially after a long day when you just want to get to
your bed, or soak in a pool. But even many of the off-site resorts
are right within walking distance (a few right across the street!),
given you many options to choose from.
I first walked into Disneyland after
dark, when the entire park was lit up – what a grand way to
feel as if you were walking into a childhood memory again. There
was Sleeping Beauty’s Castle down the end of Main Street,
all brilliant pink and shining gold crowns. Just the sight had me
I wandered into the City Hall to
look at all the memorabilia on display, including many of the original
tickets issued for Disneyland. It truly was a walk down memory lane,
and it had me nostalgic for all the things – theme parks and
movies, tv shows and cartoons – that I grew up with and love
so much about Disney.
But what was most special about that
first evening – and is the reason every Disney fan should
want to make it out to Disneyland before the Happiest Homecoming
ends – was the fireworks show, “Remember…Dreams
Come True.” There are many reasons to visit Disneyland this
year, but if you need only one reason – this is it.
If you’ve been to Walt Disney
World in the last year or so, then you are probably familiar with
its new fireworks show, “Wishes.” It’s a fabulous
new display that combines an astonishing array of fireworks with
story, song, and the heartfelt wishes of children and Disney characters.
True” takes the best parts of “Wishes” and makes
it even grander. I don’t want to give away the show, but think
of “Remember” as blending the best things of “Wishes”
and “Illuminations.” It goes beyond just fireworks and
song to tug at your heartstrings with laser, lights, and more, engaging
most of the Main Street area in its dazzling display. It will take
you on journey down memory lane, to all the things of Disney with
which you fell in love, from your favorite attractions to television
shows and Disney classic movies.
Before “Remember” was
even halfway through, I quite literally had a tear in my eye and
the warmest feeling in my heart. But what I remember most was all
the people around me, the many Disney fans who were swept away in
the show, laughing and remembering and, yes, crying. When the show
ended, my eyes met the woman next to me, and we both shared a crazy
grin as we realized that the other also had tears on their face.
There is something truly magical
about this new fireworks display at Disneyland… but it’s
also the emotion of the moment, surrounded by thousands of other
fans, here where the Disney theme park dreams began, in front of
the glittering gold crowns of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I’ve
said it already, but I’ll say it again: if there is one thing
you shouldn’t miss during the Happiest Homecoming Celebration,
it is the “Remember… Dreams Come True” fireworks
display in Disneyland.
Of course, there are many other reasons
to visit Disneyland before the end of 2006. The new “Walk
in Walt’s Footsteps” Tour is a great way to see Disneyland
and learn more about this park. Walt Disney never lived to see the
opening of Walt Disney World in Florida, so this is an experience
you just won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Throughout the park, you will find
mosaics of Disney characters and classic scenes, all comprised of
photos of families who have visited Disneyland over the years. Fifty
hidden “Mickey 50 Ears” are hidden throughout the Park
as well – can you spot them all?
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle has
been transformed into a “Golden Tribute” to its 50 years
– from golden turrets and drapes, to the Crown Jewels on its
main towers. It’s a beautiful and stunning transformation.
The original rides which opened in 1955 are celebrating as well,
as one vehicle in each ride is now golden. Buzz Lightyear’s
Astro Blaster has made its way from Florida, and Space Mountain
has been revamped with all new special effects.
During the day, don’t forget
to see the new Parade of Dreams, displaying scenes from favorite
Disney movies. It’s a touching and heart-warming journey through
the moments of Disney movies we’ve all come to love.
Then hop on over to California Adventure
to check out the Block Party Bash – a high energy parade and
show that will have you dancing in the streets. The performers are
always full of energy, even in the sweltering heat, and their enthusiasm
is infectious – it’s hard not to get swept up in the
dancing. Then head to the animation building for a conversation
with Crush (from Finding Nemo), in the new “Turtle Talk With
As you can see, there is much excitement
going on in Disneyland this year. This is Classic Disney at its
best, mixed with the energy of all that’s new – and
the dreams of all that’s to come. Any Disney fan will not
be disappointed in a trip to the original Disney theme park –
just don’t forget to bring your handkerchief when the inner
child within you brings those tears of joy and nostalgia to your
(This article originally appeared in edited
form in the Passporter
December, 2005 Edition)