I’ve never won a Super Bowl (not even on Madden…) but on Tuesday I got to say the magic words nonetheless: “I’m going to Disneyland!”. And even a cynic like me, who has seen a little too much of the negative side of life, must admit the place really is magic, to the point that the $82 admission fee somehow seemed like a bargain. My friend Shannon and I went to the main park (as opposed to the adjacent California Adventure) and soon felt like two little kids again as we went on ride after ride. The next day, we felt like two fortysomethings again, but that’s what Advil is for. Commercialized and at times hokey as it may be, Disneyland remains the kind of place where kids can see their dreams come true and adults can recapture, however briefly, the feeling of what it was like to be young, innocent and carefree. I’m not much into shopping, which is a huge part of the Disney experience, but I do like rides. Here are my top five (this doesn’t include Splash Mountain, because I didn’t bring a change of clothes, or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, because it was undergoing repairs):
1) Space Mountain (Tomorrowland): Ok, so ranking Space Mountain first isn’t particularly original, but that doesn’t mean it’s undeserved. The line was very reasonable (under half an hour, shorter than several other rides) and the onboard experience nothing short of dazzling. You first shoot upward through a tunnel with dazzling graphics all around giving you the sense that you’re about to break the speed of sound (or is it the speed of light?). Then you plunge into a vast darkened space lit only by “stars” and “planets”, among which you careen at a breakneck speed. The genius of this ride is that you can’t see the track under you, at least unless you’re much sharper-eyed than I am. You really do feel like you’re flying.
2) Star Tours (Tomorrowland): Any fan of the Mos Eisley cantina scene in the original Star Wars movie (yes, I’m one…) will love this ride. You line up at a futuristic spaceport, ready to embark on an interplanetary flight during the Star Wars era. What begins as a simple journey in your craft (basically a people mover that doesn’t move) with 3D glasses to view the passing scenery through a small-scale movie screen suddenly gets much more complicated. You and your shipmates end up racing for your lives through some galactic hotspots with R2D2 and C3PO as your guides. To call Star Tours jarringly realistic doesn’t do it justice, but it’s as close as I can come.
3) Indiana Jones Adventure (Adventureland): What I liked best about Indy was its vehicle of choice, a six-seat Jeep. Then again, I got to sit at the steering wheel- very cool (while it didn’t actually steer, it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part)! The Jeeps go up, down and sideways over some rough underground terrain where Indy-type adventurers are interspersed with a handful of fairly scary monsters (the cobra still gives me the creeps, but then again, I hate snakes too). One of the most realistic rides in the park as well as one of the most exciting.
4) Matterhorn Bobsleds (Fantasyland): Here you ride in narrow bobsled cars (one person per seat) down a hollowed-out “mountain”, which thankfully is much more fun than it sounds. Matterhorn is sort of a cross between a bobsled run, a waterslide and a roller coaster. In keeping with the mountain theme, there are lots of twists and turns and a few wet spots, but not very many steep drops. The eleven-year-old behind me ran off at the end, ready to get right back in line. The eleven-year-old inside me was tempted to do likewise.
5) Pirates of the Caribbean (New Orleans Square): Pirates doesn’t have the speed and thrills of the other rides listed, but it’s perhaps the best value in the park- lots of riding time with a minimal wait. You traverse Captain Jack Sparrow’s domain and witness him and his henchmen both at work and at play. Once you even find yourself caught in the crossfire as his ship battles the garrison of an enemy port city. All ages and temperaments will enjoy this ride.