As Disneyland enthusiasts, it is against our mouse-eared religion to speak unfavorably about anything in the parks out loud. I know, I get it. We block out those times we have tasted the stale popcorn or discovered our soft drink consists of 85% ice and 15% drink. There were those times that we were evacuated from rides, been caught off guard by a change in parade direction or had our highly anticipated firework plans pulled out from under us with a weather complication.
All of these moments in less-than-magic memory can be forgiven, well, everything except for that time I was stranded in The Little Mermaid ride with Ursula for 40 mins, I am still seeking therapeutic intervention for that experience, and it was not even the time when her head fell off!
With many of us pinning our future hopes and dreams on the outcome of the new Star Wars land, and the rest looking forward to it drawing the crowds away from our favorite attractions, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the rides I find a little underwhelming. Or overwhelming for all the wrong reasons, it depends on how you want to look at it.
The time has come to discuss five rides I am happy to skip past in the Disneyland Parks.
It’s pretty; I’ll give you that. I know this attraction is supposed to fill me with a nostalgic longing for my childhood, a flashback to simpler times and an appreciation for one of the remaining 1955 original opening attractions, I know. But frankly, once you’ve become accustomed to the wonders of Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, do you really want to spend your time lining up for a rotating horse ride over and over?
I have seen groups of adults get off this ride only to line up for it again and always wonder, why? Is this really a let’s-do-that-again experience in the absence of little ones? What am I missing?
Earliest records show this attraction was initially constructed for the Sunnyside Beach Park which opened in 1922 in Toronto, Canada. When the park closed, the ride was later relocated to Disneyland in 1954, where it was refurbished and re-themed before opening with the Disneyland park in 1955.
I can agree that this iconic attraction is a staple of any family-friendly theme park experience and I am more than happy for you all to line up over there, I may not understand it, but I encourage it. I will be over here waiting for the Matterhorn.
Number 4: Disneyland – Astro Orbiters
Picture this: I’m in the line; nearing the front after an uncomfortably dull 35-minute wait. I say a little prayer to the Disney powers above that I will be able to successfully commandeer a rocket on the opposite side from the queue, away from bored onlookers. The gates open and I awkwardly power walk myself to the far side; out of sight from the line of people desperately searching for a distraction from their own relentlessly uneventful wait.
We all know how this goes and it isn’t pretty. After psyching myself up like an Olympian at a gymnastics event, I throw my shoulder bag into the rocket and swing one leg into place. I begin to lunge forward while majestically rolling my torso into the vehicle. A combination of the angle of the rocket and the cruel nature of gravity contribute to my struggle to remain upright and appear less like I am mid unsuccessful duck dive. After wedging my hips in, I am finally in position. Albeit a very uncomfortable, sideways angled, position. I can now reach out to grab my child, drag him on top of me like a brick-filled ragdoll and shove him, affectionately, into his side-sloping position in front.
It’s not that I, or any of the other people struggling to get in, don’t fit. It’s that there is no elegant way to approach the entry of these awkwardly angled rockets without risking a wardrobe mishap.
The ride begins. The rocket goes up and down. I brace myself in each direction as my son insists on exploring the top and bottom ends of his navigating capabilities in quick succession. I curse my top-heavy body and consider the possible reality of actually falling out. The ride begins to slow, and as each rocket starts to descend I wonder where mine will stop, now conscious of the fact that getting in was nowhere near as embarrassing as getting out will be. This time I am not so lucky. Front of the line it is. The show has begun.
I lift/toss my uncooperative child out of the rocket while he’s still reaching for the controls. He begins to walk to the exit, carefree and unaware that my lower body is entombed in the ride and may never come out. My new address may be this very rocket, and I take a second to wonder if it has a specific reference number, or if it will be apparent when my mail is delivered as the only person who is using a ride carriage as housing.
With the last of my upper body strength, I hoist up my hips, throw a leg and slide ungracefully to freedom, staggering to my feet as I land. Pants riding down, shirt riding up, all the good stuff is out an on display. I make as little eye contact as possible with those unfortunate enough to be part of my audience. When I do, I give them an uncomfortable, ‘sorry to have shown you my Mummy-tummy, it wasn’t in the initial plan,’ grin. We all nod and agree to pretend it didn’t happen.
My child asks if we can ride it again. I say… no.
Dear Golden Zephers. It’s not that I dislike you so much as I resent the space you take up and can’t help but wonder what could have been. You are very shiny, and you blind me while I am waiting in line for the surrounding rides, not in an oooh-sparkly way but in a the-morning-sun-is-shining-and-I-have-not-been-to-sleep-yet way. Perhaps I am just worn out by the underwhelming rides that came before you. Swinging chairs, Jumping Jell.y.. Fi… zzzzz… Sorry! I’m awake, I promise… It’s just, well, Jumping Jellyfish, you understand, I’m sure. I feel that you may be a victim of circumstance although it doesn’t change the fact that you are too slow and shiny for my liking.
It’s not me; it’s you.
Number 2: Disneyland – Finding Nemo Submarines
Do you remember being a kid and laying down in the bath, under the water, goggles on so you could see the water drifting back and forth over your face? Nemo Submarines are like that except there are 40 other people in your bath, the goggles are dirty, the unpleasant scent of mold fills the air, and there is a fun element of mild claustrophobic panic that you can’t seem to shake.
You might be picturing this ride to have that wistful feeling of old-world Disney, but no. The best part is, you just waited in line for 45 minutes to experience this anxiety activating attraction. The least invasive way to enjoy this ride is to walk around it and watch it from above. If I could never ride this one again, I would be totally ok with that and even give a little inner ‘hoorah’ at the thought.
Number 1: Disneyland California Adventure – Goofy’s Sky School
If I wanted to sit unsteadily in a radio flyer wagon and be dragged around erratically by, what feels like an intensely energetic three-year-old, I could have stayed home. Not only does this ride make me feel like I am going to plunge to my death at every turn, but it is also one of the few rides that leave me with a parting gift of feeling that I will shortly become reacquainted with my lunch.
Goofy’s Sky School feels like an attraction that missed the mark. The thrill factor is higher than expected; however, the theme, ride carriages, and concepts feel better suited to younger guests. There is a juxtaposition of expectation vs. return on your waiting investment that I find unsettling. If you have a habit of ordering your rollercoasters jerky with a side of whiplash, then this is your golden ticket to Willy Wonka level happiness. If not, pack a neck brace.
No Goofy, I will not wait 45 minutes to ride your 45-second flight school, again. Sorry, not sorry.
There you have it, folks, those are the five rides you most likely will not find me standing in line for, in the Disneyland Park. What rides do you skip at Disneyland?