When my boys entered Cars Land for the first time it was like they were kids again, except that they always have been — it is just the world around them growing up fast and somewhat jaded, casting shadows into every crack of childhood and innocence that makes one forget what magic looks like. My boys stood before the neon lights of Radiator Springs, and they had magic all over their faces.
Cars Land is a brand new addition to the Disney California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It opened last week as part of the DCA Grand Reopening, something that many felt was long overdue. We were just waiting patiently.
Mine is a family of Disney fans, and as such my kids have been to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (DCA) more often than most, something that either draws criticism or jealousy from other parents. I’m okay with that. I live in a glass house and I like to throw rocks. Judge away, other parents.
Of course, many people are indifferent to what my family and I choose to do for quality time together, but indifference does not sell pageviews. Down with indifference!
We were at DCA for a media event, something of a working vacation in which I worked and my family vacationed, but there was plenty of time for us to spend together and much of said work involved going on rides and eating, so I can’t complain. Even my kids couldn’t complain, and that’s a whole different level of special. All in all, it was a great way to write a story.
That’s something that Disney understands and a lot of other companies don’t — if you want me to write about your __________ and what my family thinks of your ________ then why not let me share it with my family and get their actual opinion? There’s logic there, don’t step in it.
But this isn’t about the savvy marketing of Disney, or even the opening of the new Cars Land (which, by the way, is FANTASTIC), it is about experiencing new things with your children and how some moments become living memories the second they begin. You don’t need a commemorative t-shirt to mark the occasion, a Facebook check-in to rub it in the noses of the world, or a dozen photos to capture it forever, but I still did all of those things because I’m like that.
We go to Disneyland Resort a lot (although to be clear, there are many people that go a lot more, and some of them don’t even work there), but over the years we have managed to maintain the magic. My boys never take the experience for granted, and that keeps me from crumbling into a cynical ball of dust and rolling whichever way the wind blows. They charge their innocence there beneath a hat of mouse ears and a cart selling churros, like little boys running on batteries they never suspect are borrowed. Their youth keeps me young and only a step behind.
When we entered the newly refurbished DCA on my oldest son’s birthday we found ourselves standing in a new place built upon familiar ground, and the mix was the best parts of excitement and comfort. No longer were we walking into an open square of too much space and not enough wonder, but rather a detailed retelling of Walt Disney’s first visit to Los Angeles, where the streets were clean and the Red Car Trolley remained unbroken by bullies and rumor. It felt like the turnstile had carried us to a better era, but without all of the social injustice that plagued it the first time around. That’s a nice touch.
By then meeting John Lasseter was totally gravy.
It was only a short walk to the Cars Land entrance and we stopped there to let it soak in. The Cars town of Radiator Springs had sprung to life, and there on the blacktop of the open road raced adventure. As an added bonus it was gassed with unknown.
My boys stood there for as long as they could and stared down the road to where it bent like a Frost poem, but with more red rocks than yellow wood. And then they ran along it, never thinking to check for oncoming traffic or where the caution they threw might deem to fall. This was newness wrapped in the known and it bubbled with overheated curiosity.
We rode the new rides, ate the new food (dill pickle popcorn is much better than it sounds), and then rode the new rides again. We visited the rest of the park and rode rides without lines — rides that on a normal day, when the park was open to the ticket-buying public, would have queues of an hour. We rode them over and over again and never stood still for anything longer than to catch our breath. This too, was new.
My son said it was the best birthday ever, and his little brother agreed. It was a pretty good workday, too.
When we were getting ready for the drive back to reality I looked at my children, tired, stubborn, and filled with Disney magic. For a moment I nearly packed their happiness, but then thought to let them carry it. They tied it to a string and let it float above us.
My family and I were guests of Disney at the Disney California Adventure Park Grand Reopening. Opinions are my own.
Whit Honea can be found writing about whatever he feels like at his personal site Honea Express (Honea sounds like pony) and DadCentric. If you’re really bored you can follow him on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).
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