In less than 48 hours, my beloved Disneyland will reopen its gates, welcoming guests after a forced closure lasting more than a year. I’ve waited four-hundred-and-twelve days for this moment, and even though I am a world away on my not-so-little island of Australia, just knowing it is there is enough to keep me going. I can almost hear the delightful music dancing blissfully down the walkways, dotted with echoes of laughter here and there. When I have a particularly stressful day, and I need to unwind or escape for a moment, just knowing that somewhere in the world that music is playing is enough to keep me looking forward.
There is an enchanting atmosphere that Disneyland has, unique in comparison to all the other parks. The pavement you walk upon instills a sense of history in your being as you live and breathe the peak of creativity and dedication that sets Disney apart from the rest. Conceptually fascinating, inclusive, family-oriented, yet able to spark the interest of everyone in your group, regardless of your level of thrill-seeking interest. It’s special beyond words, and it’s easy to kindle a special relationship with Disneyland Park.
Watching the live event earlier in the week, I started to feel that romance come creeping back in. As the castle lit up to the infectious tune of When You Wish Upon a Star, I felt that flutter in my stomach that tells me better times are ahead. The moment took me back to the first time I laid eyes on the place. My glorified childhood recollection is full of unbelievable magic and the beginning of a love affair that changed the person I would ultimately grow up to be.
My first visit to The Happiest Place on Earth only comes back to me in patches of clarity in between a fuzzy, but whimsical, blur of memories. The most prominent of which is a moment shared with my grandmother, affectionately referred to as Nana. In the back alleyways of New Orleans Square, I remember being allowed to choose a cone-shaped princess hat with elaborate streamers and sparkles draped from the end, along with a matching wand. I selected the purple one, of course; my sister, Casey, gravitated toward the pink version, and we wore them in delight. At the time, Disneyland Park occupied a much smaller footprint without many of the extensions we now enjoy, but to a little girl from south Sydney, it was everything I could have imagined.
Like most things in the olden days, these were made to last. Our princess hats survived many years of intense role-playing, long enough for our daughters to enjoy as well and still be resting perfectly in a dress-up cupboard, waiting for the next children to love them as much as we did.
That vacation was something special, sparking a devotion within myself for a concept of perpetual happiness and family fun that would bring me to where I am today. Three generations of my family went on a holiday, and all found enjoyment in entirely different ways. As I grew up, I came to realize this was the plan for Disneyland all along, though having lived it before knowing it, the experience was much more impressive.
With the news of reopening, many are planning their return to this Anaheim attraction post-haste. Even though it will only be open for California residents to begin with, we all know that a Disney vacation can take many months to plan, which is why for those of us outside that area, the time to start planning is now; myself no exception.
When I was just six years old, I became a believer; someone who looks forward, not back, and understands that positivity is a choice. It’s easy to think about all the things we are currently missing from Disney and feel disheartened. Still, to me, Disneyland will always represent potential, a backdrop for creating your memories and setting the stage for us to make our own magic along the way.
Disneyland, welcome back. You have been greatly missed, and I can’t wait to share your enchantment as soon as possible. For everyone else counting down the days until you can make your booking, check out this article: The Stories of Disneyland: What to Watch While You Wait; the stories might help you to rekindle those fluttering feelings before you arrive.
If you have a moment, I’d love to hear your first-time stories and what stands out in your memory as having the biggest impact on you.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.