I’ve never been a big fan of New Year's Eve. When I was younger and the parents would “let’ us stay up to welcome in the New Year, the idea of staying up until midnight was just the slightest bit exciting. But now, as an adult who takes complete responsibility for her own bedtime, the idea of staying up way too late to watch the ball drop in Times Square while having too much to drink just doesn’t knock my socks off. That is, until Santa left a trip to Disneyland under the tree.
After all, they don’t call this place the “happiest place on earth” for no reason.
Sure it’s crowded. Apparently Santa left quite a few Disneyland trips under trees this year. From the sky, a quick aerial view of this place must look quite frightening, like a sea of herrings swimming in tight formation in a giant aquarium, or a band of lemmings marching off to their destiny. But at ground level, armed with an abundance of patience and the willingness to be swept away by the magic of Walt Disney, it’s a great place to end one year and start another.
Despite living in California for over 25 years, we had never been to Disneyland. As an east coast native, I’d always been partial to Disney World. I’d been there as a kid and several times as an adult and had always been a bit reticent to trek down to So Cal to see the “original” Magic Kingdom fearing I’d be disappointed when it didn’t’ live up to it’s younger and grander sister in Orlando.
It’s definitely smaller. Disney World, with its three parks, was blessed with a large footprint. The entire complex, complete with more hotels, restaurants, shopping and entertainment, is self contained in true Disney fashion. With land a premium in southern California, the city of Anaheim has encroached on the kingdom and most of the housing, restaurants and shopping are outside the park. No worries. The hotels all have shuttles right to Mickey’s doorstep so traveling back and forth is a snap from just about anywhere within a five or ten mile radius.
The park is decorated to the hilt at this time of year. From the lampposts to the “characters” who roam the park to the magical Cinderella’s castle, everything is aglow with Christmas lights and spectacular decorations. There is no stone left unturned and it shows. The evening fireworks display is magnificent and despite the throng of people standing shoulder to shoulder on Main Street to watch the nightly pyrotechnics, it is hard not to “believe in the magic” as the sky becomes awash with color and snow falls from the sky. (This is Disneyland, after all.)
Never a company to rest on its laurels, Disney is no exception. There is always something new, a fresh take on an old adventure, a new “twist” to a family favorite. Tom Sawyer’s island has been invaded by pirates, Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas has moved into the Haunted Mansion and Nemo has replaced Jules Verne in the undersea adventure. Never mind. Time moves on. Things change. Audiences get younger and those of us who remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea are getting a bit long in the tooth. Nemo’s just fine.
So Happy New Year from the Happiest Place on Earth. Here’s to a 2008 that finds us healthy and happy among family and friends, an economy that affords more people a chance to make it on their own and a world that moves all of us just a little bit closer to peace.