Yes, that headline says it all. I’m going to Disneyland. And if you know me well at all or even if you’ve just come to be familiar with my travel style from reading this space, the idea that I’m going to Disneyland must sound absurd. Part of the description of this site says, “Family travel should be more than just beaches and amusement parks.” So why am I going to Disneyland? It’s complicated.
Amusement parks are not my thing. My wife doesn’t care for them and our son has no idea if he should. Because of our lack of interest in amusement parks he has never been to one. Sure, he’s asked to go to a theme park. But I have a little secret for all of you parents out there: you don’t have to go to an amusement park just because your child is begging you. And you definitely don’t have to go to Disney because the family down the street had the most spectacular experience at Disney World last year and you feel you must keep up.
I haven’t been to an amusement park of any kind since spending a day at Six Flags Over Texas when I was in college back in 1997. It’s just not my thing.
I’m not keeping up with the Joneses
Travel isn’t about competing, it’s not about living up to some magical standard set in the movies or in advertisements. Go to Disney because you want to and feel it will be a great experience for you and your family, not because pop culture and the neighbors tell you to.
So why, exactly, are we going to Disneyland? It’s not because my son is begging. As I type this, my 8-year-old son is sitting in the other room watching the end of an NBA game on TV. He’d rather tour every sports arena and stadium than go to theme parks. He doesn’t watch Disney movies. No one in our family has seen “Frozen” and we have no desire to do so.
Am I a hypocrite?
In my desire to have our travel be experiences that make us more well-rounded human beings, I’ve realized that maybe I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth to keep refusing the Disney experience. I visited Disney World when I was 7.
I honestly don’t remember much about that experience other than long lines and big crowds. I do remember I cried when we left. So I must have liked it, right? My wife visited when she was 10. So why should we refuse our son the Disney experience just because we’ve been there, done that and have moved on?
Maintaining my street cred
But if I’m going to a Disney park, I am going to try to keep my street cred just a bit. So instead of following the masses to Florida, we will spend a couple of days at the original, Disneyland. I’m sure Disney World is bigger and better in many ways, but I am a big believer in checking out the originator of the whole experience.
Everyone we know here in Tennessee who has had the Disney experience has traveled to Orlando for Disney World. I even had someone ask recently why I would want to go to Disneyland when it can’t possibly be nearly as fantastic as Disney World. So it’s only natural that I would do the opposite of everyone around me and go to Disneyland. It’s just my personality.
Providing travel balance
I recently spent a few days in Carlsbad, Calf., and came home spreading the message of that Southern California beach community near San Diego. My son then watched “The Lego Movie,” which has an ad for Lego Land in the DVD previews. He immediately was hooked on the idea of visiting Carlsbad and the original Legoland.
So in my attempt to give my son at least a few days of a beach experience every year, we are going to visit Legoland, Disneyland, spend a few days at the beach, enjoy the beauty of San Diego and maybe get a touch of the highlights of Los Angeles. This trip will have three days of amusement parks, but it will also have a few days at the beach and experiencing the culture of San Diego. Everyone will be happy, and my wife and I will get to visit a region we’ve always wanted to explore.
As our son gets older I’m realizing his tastes are changing. He’s been to art museums around the world, has eaten in some truly fabulous restaurants, has sat patiently with us in winery tasting rooms and has had more cultural experiences away from home than I had in my first 20 years of life. So I think it’s OK to mix in some amusement park fun and let him see what all the Disney fuss is about. Who knows, he might love it and grow to be an adult who is passionate about all things Disney like a few people I know.
Or, he’ll be like me and enjoy our time exploring Disneyland and then chalk it up as a wonderful life experience along with all the other ones we are fortunate to have on our travels.
But the only way to figure it out is to visit and enjoy the experience.