Travel and Leisure
What’s Wrong with Theme Parks
I am writing this while traveling back from the ultra-theme park vacation for our family. We had a great time with plenty of fun had all around. Needless to say, I also came back with several rants as well.
This trip is the most commercial, materialistic vacation we have ever taken as a family. Not that we are necessarily opposed to the much-hyped tourist destinations, but typically we are the type to go camping or visit a national park for our outings. We enjoy the great outdoors and enriching our kids’ lives, and ours with a little history whenever possible. That said, I do feel like it is a great experience for kids to see Disneyland at least once in their lives. Call me a sucker for the advertising.
Before going, we ordered and received the complimentary Disney vacation DVD they send out to get you “prepared” for your visit. It showed out kids a little of what was coming, but be warned this is basically an advertisement for their hotels and an invitation to spend as much as possible with the options that are conveniently located within the park. What really struck me about the Disney message though, and quite frankly rubbed me the wrong way, is the whole idea of “Where your dreams come true.” Is this the message I want my kids believing in? Ok, I don’t really think they are going to believe it, but there is some heavy brainwashing going on throughout the mini-movie. In fact, at one point they actually say “Disneyland “ the only place where your dreams come true.” Let me repeat that”¦only place“¦yikes!
Ok, that little bit of griping about their marketing aside, Disney is a sensory overload for kids that they absolutely love. Like a local carnival on steroids times 10, there is simply no way to get everything in the kids to want in a 2-day park hopper pass as we did. That’s a good thing, though. Getting in loads of fun, but leave the kids realizing there was even more fun to be had. We did hit several of the big rides more than once though, so we didn’t do too bad.
My biggest complaint is the price of food. Not only is it overpriced and only so-so quality, but they essentially force it on you. You are prohibited from bringing in outside food beyond a water bottle and snack items, and they even search your bags on the way in under the guise of security. Sure you are looking for a bomb, especially when you poked through the little mini cooler we had for cheese sticks and milk for our baby. Did I happen to mention the food was overpriced? We already paid a fortune to get in this place, now we need to use that home equity loan to feed the family a meal to get through the day.
My next thought is more of a funny one than complaining. We arrived early to be at the gates right when they open. We were 5 families back or so at our gate, so we had a jump on things. We had our plan in hand ready to rush to the first ride and get going with a bang. The gates opened ~15 minutes early, so we felt like we had won a prize for being the early birds, but it was not so. We rushed ahead past the shops which were open, only to be greeted by a rope barrier and some friendly security guards keeping us in the main street shopping area until the last second before opening. Yep, we had to wait in what would be our second of oh so many lines of the day, even before getting on our first ride. I figured they wanted to entice to shop right at the get-go, but they had another plan in mind. Right at the top of the hour a big announcement came on welcoming us to the park and essentially releasing the hounds in one big hyped moment. It worked, our kids were jazzed to take off from the starting line and rush out to our first ride. Those Disney marketing folks know what they are doing.
Lines, need I say more? Lines stink, but I have admitted we had our timing about as perfect as it could be. Most of our lines were short because we went on off days and an off-peak week. I shudder to think of what it would have been like during the peak times.
We did miss out on a couple of the big name rides, particularly Splash Mountain and the Aladdin stage show. That is the price you pay for being there in off-peak times.
We did the rounds since we had already traveled such a long distance to get to these oases of fun. First Legoland, which is only for the young kids; then Sea World followed by a day at the beach to take a break; finally a two-day finale at Disney and California Park Adventure. I am “parked” out now, but we have created some significant, fun memories for the kids. That’s what it’s all about, right?
So, with my little complaints aside, would I do it again? You bet. Every year with the kids, not a chance. Maybe in 4 or 5 years when my youngest is old enough to have her own set of memories to cherish; then she can get her adventure with Mickey and the gang.