By Kiera Roberson
Disney. What do you think of when you hear that name? Do you automatically end up on a magic carpet and start singing “A Whole New World” or dramatically start quoting your favorite lines from The Little Mermaid? Maybe you visualize fireworks, castles, princes and princesses. Long lines? Perhaps you think of a creative and passionate man named Walt, who invested his entire life to building a kingdom. Maybe you think dollar signs and Hollywood, characters and over-priced food. Whatever it may be, I can almost guarantee we all have something to associate with the word “Disney”.
I recently spent 4 days in the lovely Southern California sun at the Disneyland Resort. As a new travel consultant, my managers were so kind to let me go for a Disney travel agent training. I had never experienced Disneyland as a kid and had no idea what to expect. What came to my mind when I thought “Disney” was nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up loving the films and music. They will always be some of my favorites of all time and mark most of my childhood. However, I just thought it was all overrated. Disneyland was simply a place for kids- over the top attractions, too many people, possibly some bad smells and weird characters. Not exactly a magical perspective. All that to say, I was very interested in seeing what it was all about. Now I get to share a little of my experience with all of you!
To start off, my arrival was so smooth. The flights from Kalispell to John Wayne Airport were quick and uneventful. I highly suggest choosing that airport over LAX, especially if you are traveling with children. It is small and easy. I quickly grabbed a Starbucks coffee from the nicest Barista’s I have ever been served by. The transportation on the Disneyland Resort Express bus was fast, the schedule was easy to understand, and the driver was jolly. Checking into the Disneyland Hotel was a breeze. I made it to my room in the “Frontier Tower” to find a spacious area, beautiful décor and the most comfortable bed I have ever experienced. After being up since the glorious hour of 3am, I decided to have a nap by the tropical themed pool area until our first training session began. While at the pool, there was a surprise visit from Goofy and Pluto. They were meandering around waving and taking pictures with the guests. I then realized I was in their home.
Over the next few days, I spent many fun hours with 27 other travel agents learning about what makes Disneyland unique, their events, special occasions, Good Neighbor hotels (all 48 of them!), some history, vacation planning and what’s coming soon to Disney. I was able to meet some truly great people and make a lasting friendship with a delightful lady from Alabama.
After our daytime trainings, we had the evenings to spend in the parks. That was when the magic happened. My first experience in the park was at Carthay Circle Restaurant- a signature dining experience. We were served a 3-course meal and dined liked we were in 1938. We then experienced “Paint the Night” which displayed all familiar Pixar and Disney friends in a beautiful parade of light and music.
Anytime I was in the parks, I used my handy Disneyland app and mobile FastPass ticket to skip many of the lines to the attractions. The longest I waited was 45 minutes! The intense nostalgia that came from the park surprised me. I didn’t expect to become the imagination-filled 8-year-old girl I once was.
It is such an immersive experience, especially if you are staying on-site at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels. Basically, you never leave magic. Everything is within walking distance- no public transport needed- can I get an “amen”! Instrumental music from your favorite films is all around you, cast members are so kind and helpful and there are so many special little touches you get from staying at an on-site hotel (see if you can find all the hidden Mickey’s around your hotel next time!).
In the end, most of my favorite experiences were those times when I didn’t have anything planned. The little surprises are what make it special. Such as stumbling across Goofy and Pluto at the pool, rounding the corner to a live performance of “You’ve got a Friend in Me”, dancing with characters from Guardians of the Galaxy. If you let yourself go and give in to the fun, you’ll have a great time. You could say that I went in a cynic and came out a believer.