Why Disneyland Matters in Today’s World

We spend months planning and thousands of dollars to get here.

Countless hours disappear while we comb over websites hoping to find the very best information so we can make our trips as close to perfect as possible. We study books. We install apps. We join discussion boards. We forego Hawaii and the Bahamas.

What is it about this place that makes us all a little crazy?


The Griswolds made this pilgrimage famous years ago in National Lampoon’s Vacation. They set out in search of Mickey Mouse Marty Moose with high hopes of achieving the picture perfect family vacation. Catastrophes happened, lessons were learned and a great Aunt perished en route. Was it worth it? Clark would agree that it was.

But, why?


In today’s world, we are challenged to preserve innocence and to find simple goodness. Disneyland provides exactly that. The original Magic Kingdom allows us to escape real life and for one brief pause in our busy over-scheduled routines, we get to live in the moment with our children.

We spin in a teacup, ride gentle boats through small worlds, dip down in the sea to find Nemo and brave thunder mountains.

And, we return to do it again and again.

I often read (and surprisingly enjoy) entertaining posts that poke fun at Disneyland and people like us who return to Disney parks seeking the magic. I don’t understand the need to criticize us for our storybook obsession, but I do enjoy a snarky commentary. So, carry on haters. You’re just less people I have to worry about getting the last Matterhorn Macaroon in the park when I visit.

I watched Saving Mr. Banks recently and enjoyed it a second (or third?) time. It got me thinking. What if Walt had not kept that 20 year promise to his daughters? What if the story of Mary Poppins had not been told? What about all of the other stories?

Would the world be alright? Probably. But, it wouldn’t be quite as colorful.


I sit in the park now once a week watching people walk up and down Main Street in the morning. It’s such a joy to witness these tiny fragments of peoples’ lives spent in what will likely be a place they will remember forever. I watch them walk in and out of the Market House for coffee, starting their day with such noble ambition. We’re all Clark Griswold during that initial walk down Main Street toward the best day ever.

Morning moves on and the crowds thicken a bit. I see tiara-clad little girls adoring princesses, offering up autograph books with hopeful eyes. Little boys look to super heroes for power, strength and courage. Teenagers fumble with their phones, posting to Instagram and occasionally even put the devices away to join their families.

Skippers tell terrible jokes through jungle waters. Indiana saves the day, as he always does. Jack Sparrow peeks at us behind barrels and the Haunted Mansion beckons us in with her happy haunts. 10956051_10205051602282831_609486916_n

Meanwhile, a family poses with Mickey Mouse on their first vacation. Space Mountain lines build. (You can’t not ride Space Mountain.) The Matterhorn whisks people through an icy mountain, giddy with laughter. Little ones fight Zurg with the help of Buzz Lightyear.

A thousand smiles all at once arrive when the parade starts. Popcorn kernels burst furiously, filling the air with that salty aroma, as we wait in anticipation for our favorite characters. The music is just loud enough. Anna and Elsa appear and it’s almost too much for our little daughters to take in. Fathers look down to see their joy and everything all at once clicks – this is why we do this.

This is why we come to Disney parks.

Finally, my favorite time of the day arrives. Sun sets over Tom Sawyer Island and I watch it from a park bench while people decide on dinner. There’s a fresh hope that arrives with nightfall. It’s an entirely new park as the lights come on slowly warming the park through the eventual Southern California chill that creeps in with the dark.

Break out the glow sticks! Everyone needs a necklace. Fantasmic! will arrive soon. Let’s make one more trip to Fantasyland for the dark rides. We can’t miss Snow White.

Fantasmic! thrills everyone and Mickey wins the battle over evil. He always does. We can count on that. With tired feet and now sleeping children in strollers everywhere, I wander through a more empty park now and notice small details that I haven’t in previous visits. Where is the Halloween tree again? I wonder when the cats will emerge to keep the rodents at bay, in the house a mouse built.

Cali 5 100I walk back down Main Street now, noticing someone in the chair I sat in 12 hours before. I hope she’s had a good day. I wander through the candy store and into the Emporium because I have to each time I visit. No purchases for me today, but I see people buying coffee mugs, t-shirts and refrigerator magnets. They’ll take them home to Connecticut, Alabama and Australia because holding a small piece of the park makes the visit last a little bit longer.

Life is all about grand gestures. And, while Disneyland is not for everyone, I encourage those who have the means to take kids – young and old – to see the magic firsthand. Don’t wait until your children are “old enough”. Go now. I encourage you to go without children if you’re able. I encourage you to get to Main Street as fast as you possibly can. Start planning today.

The years go by quickly, friends. I’ve found they’re much better spent with a churro in hand.

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  1. Love this and is so true for my family from Australia, I’m heading over in November for my 7 time I think 🙂 this will my first time with my daughter and people think we are crazy for one going with a 18month old and two for going so much( like hello not enough) there is so much magic there and is truly my happiest place on earth

  2. I love this so much! Our trip is in less than 3 weeks and the sounds of Disneyland BGMs have been filling our house, the countdown is on the chalkboard and our kids have started behaving just a little bit better as we anticipate the excitement of this trip. It’s just “that place” where we all feel love, magic, happiness. It’s where my boys who argue at home become best friends again, my husband and I fall in love again (especially during fireworks). It’s where we as grown-ups play as kids with our kids…I think it’s where we get to behave like we wish we could everyday. It’s literally the only thing our family (Mom, Dad and boys ages 16, 12, & 10) agree on. Life is hard, go to Disneyland.

  3. THIS IS PERFECT. We are going in May and I can’t wait to see the looks on my kids faces. Only problem is, I cry (with joy) every time I see anything Disney. Watching the Disney parks show on Christmas Day and I was bawling! So embarrassing. However, this article sums up the exact reason why- innocence, happiness..there’s nothing better..thanks Casey!

  4. Wow, what an amazing article. Disneyland fills my heart with so much joy, I was wiping away a tear at the end of this post. I love reading your articles and planning my trip, even if I don’t have a specific trip planned between you & Fresh Baked I get my Disney fix every day. Would love to bump into you in the parks when we’re there in December.
    Thanks so much for your dedication to and love of Disney!

  5. Thank you Casey for a lovely article. Living in Australia makes it a bit harder to visit but I have been 3 times now & planning a 4th in March 2016. As a little girl my grandparents went and my grandma came home and said that all she thought about on It’s a Small World was how much I would love it. I finally visited for the first time at age 20 and understood what she meant. I always tear up on that riding thinking of her as she passed away 10 years ago. I am finally doing one of my bucket list items next year – bringing my two daughters to experience the magic together and over three days instead of the usual rush of 1 day & will hopefully see WOC for the first time. The girls don’t really understand why I am planning so far out but to me that is half the fun & so we get to see & do as much as possible, so that they can look back with life long memories. Thanks for all your tips – keep up the great work!

  6. This was perfectly written. It brought visions of the past 2 times taking my daughter and the few times I went with my mom. Disneyland is a place where the present meets the past with joyful looks to the future!

  7. Hi Casey,
    We met you in Fantasyland yesterday evening and just wanted to say thank you for spending the time with us, to share some new facts about Disneyland. You were kind and gracious and sweet and we loved talking to you. We’re looking forward to reading your blog and will share it with our Disney friends.


    Don, Connor and Lucy Low

  8. Fun to meet you at California Adventures this evening!

    We had a wonderful time experiencing the magic of Disney – Thanks for all the tips and advice…

  9. this is a positive site and no backlashing about Disney’s price, food and how crowded it is. I like to see the positive side for once

  10. I can certainly relate to this article. In 2010 at the age of 57 I told my husband I had to go to WDW..a life long dream. He did not want to go..but did and said this is a one-time only trip. We have been back 3 times in the last 4 years and I am planning again for 2016 as I want to wait for Disney Springs to be complete. Also have a tear while waiting for the magical express to come pick us up and take us to the airport.

  11. My EXACT sentiments! How well written. As we walk under the bridge each time we feel like we have returned to OUR playground, ready for new adventures in the places we have seen countless times before. As I leave each time, I take a minute to stop at the statue of Walt and Mickey to think about the happiness he has brought to my family. He has provided a positive influence that has helped bond the 36 of us like no other. After reminiscing about the thousands of hours of happiness he has brought into our lives, I always say “Thank you, Walt”. At the end of each trip it is hard to leave without wiping away a tear of gratitude and sadness at leaving while hoping for a quick return.

  12. facebook problem, but wanted this information to get out:
    So, the April Fools Joke is on us. Many had expected Captain America and Thor to move to another location (probably the Starcade) after Innoventions closed yesterday.

    Both are listed as “Schedule Unavailable” today through May 13.

    • Hey, Gerry. I wasn’t expecting them to the move to the Starcade, but I was hopeful they’d find a place. Cast members have all hinted at something amazing coming. Wish I knew what!

  13. Nothing but love for this magical place. So very blessed to have grown up here, worked as a CM for a few years and now take my kids often as Annual Passholders to pass the tradition. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Well said and thank you!

  14. This an inspired piece of work! You have managed to capture everything any Disney lover would say from their hearts about the parks they love. I am sometimes asked the question by people who have never been or haven’t been in a while, “What’s really so great about Disneyland?” You have captured the magic and spirit of Disneyland right here! Bravo!

  15. I LOVE this! And I completely agree with every word. Our parents took us many times while we were growing up, and now that we have 5 kids of our own, we have taken them all once (after a VERY long 8 year hiatus) and hope to go late this year again. I’m so glad we’re able to take them to experience it while they’re young. And I’ll openly admit that there is nowhere else on earth that I would want to vacation!

  16. This is exactly the feelings I get at Disney this is why we choose this place as our family vacation place every time…. Where else in this sad messed up crazy world can we feel like everyone is happy full of hope and joy??? No where but Disney ????my son 2year old son passed away last January after a long 16months in hospital and a year at home with us which was the best year of out lives, but after he passed we wanted to do something special for our daughter who spent countless hours at the hospital and was really put second alot due to the high needs of Lukas… So after going for our honeymoon and 1st wedding anniversary, we drempt of taking our children there, it wasn’t the dream I thought but I knew this place would do something good for all of our hearts I knew that as soon as I witnessed my daughters face as she walked through those gates the first time, that joy would enter my heart amongst the pain that was settled there,… I was so right all three of us felt joy happiness and we all laughed, something we felt impossible to do before…. So long storey short I love this place it’s our place and no other will compare?we head back there April 16th yay before we try for another baby and then my dream will be to return asap with another little I can share the magic with

  17. This is an amazing article!! I could have written it as it’s totally how I feel! I have the apps, books, maps, support groups…oh wait…discussion board groups…and notes to go with it. I have a laminated (!) map of DL and DCA in my purse that I study and memorize in preparation for our trip in 144 days (I have an app that told me that this morning!)…. I don’t want to roam aimlessly looking for that churro! It’s such joy and such magic and I love it all! Planning is half the fun…it brings all this joyous mahic to me each day for the months leading up to a Disney trip. Life is good…and adding Disney magic to that is even better! Hugs, Casey, thanks for a great read!!