The Happiest Place On Earth

In the fall of 1997, I took my first ‘real’ trip.  One that involved airplanes and a hotel, and didn’t involve visiting family (although I do like those kinds of trips too).  My 10 year-old son and I went with my sister and her 9 year-old son to Disneyland.

58 The Happiest Place on Earth

I had just sat as a juror in a six-week-long murder trial, and this long-planned and eagerly awaited trip came as a very necessary form a relax therapy for me.  We didn’t have much money back then so our vacation had to be done on a very skinny shoe-string budget.  My hard-earned jury duty payment gave my spending money a much needed boost.  And thanks to the generosity of other family members, we didn’t have to skimp on the fun once we got there.

Our first day was spent at Universal Studios, thanks to one of my sisters who gave us free passes.

2  Universal Studios

On the shuttle to Universal I managed to get just the briefest glimpse of the Hollywood sign, not long enough to snap a picture, so I was happy to see the fake photo-op one at Universals and I made my crew wait for our chance to get a photo.

3 Universal Studios

The day was a sort of rushed blur, going from one event to the next, intent on not missing a single thing.

Back to the Future from backlot tour

4 Back to the Future

This Charlie Chaplin was a real person.  We didn’t know it until the boys sat down next to him for a picture and he put his arms over their shoulders.

6 Universal Studios

Magnum PI car

12 Magnum PI's car

The Back to the Future simulated ride was great fun.  The E.T. ride was cute and rather fun too.  The boys enjoyed participating in Nickelodeon—although I’m not sure how much fun getting cream pies in the face was—while my sister and I enjoyed the brief reprieve from the intense heat.

9 Nickelodeon

10 Nickelodeon

We were apprehensive about going on the Jurassic Park ride, thinking the 84 ft drop might be too scary, but we ended up enjoying it so much, we did it twice.

14 Jurassic Park, Universal Studios

16 Universal Studios

We probably would’ve opted for a third go at Jurassic Park, but we didn’t want to miss WaterWorld, which was simply excellent.  Spectacular stunts, pyrotechnics, lots of action.  At the Backdraft exhibit, the narrator explained it was very realistic and small children might want to leave.  That was enough for my son, he wanted out of there.  I promised him it’d be okay, but then a door across from us blew open with a ball of fire, and all around us things began exploding into fire, the ceiling started to fall in amidst more explosions.  When the catwalk we were standing on dropped about a foot, my son burst into tears and I felt like the meanest mom in the world.  Thankfully he shook it off quickly once we’d left and it didn’t affect the rest of his long day of fun.

The boys were beyond excited the next morning as we entered Disneyland.  After a stroll down Main Street, we headed to Adventureland.

18 Disneyland

91 Main Street USA

I giggle to remember how shy the boys were to get their picture taken with the beautiful Jasmine.

21 with Jasmine

Swiss Family treehouse, Jungle cruise then…Indiana Jones!!  Lots of fun and not too scary for this big chicken.

30 Tom Sawyer's Island & Mark Twain Riverboat

31 with Peco's Goofy

66 Indiana Jones

On to New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  I was so impressed with the details and the characters’ facial expressions.  Another fun ride.

Next was the Haunted Mansion.  Beautiful setting and I thought the ghosts looked exactly like ghosts should look.

68 Haunted Mansion

Then Critter Country and Splash Mountain.  Gulp!!  Like Jurassic Park, Splash Mountain starts out cute and benign then grows increasingly menacing.  I confess to having to close my eyes when we went over the drop.

70 Splash Mountain

Hands down the favourite ride of the day for the boys was the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Needless to say, we took more than a few trips on it.

89 Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

In Fantasyland, I ‘forced’ the boys to go on some of the cuter little kid rides.  They were good sports, but not terribly impressed.  We had a real adventure on Alice in Wonderland when the ride broke down.  Ended up getting a cool behind the scenes tour out of it.

33 Alice in Wonderland

Peter Pan was fun, but best ride in that section was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  All of us enjoyed it so much we did it twice.

41 Mr Toad's Wild Ride

38 Sleeping Beauty Castle

Started Day Two at Tomorrowland.  The boys took a few spins around the track at Autopia then we went for a submarine ride.  What a hokey ride compared to the other rides we’d been on.  We really liked the simulated Star Wars ride.  SpaceMountain didn’t make it onto my favourite’s list, but it was probably just me.  I thought Mickey’s Toontown was adorable.  Lots of cute, bright, little houses, very busy and fun.

47 Mickey's Toontown

49  in Mickey's house


The boys were surprisingly willing to get their picture taken with Minnie, after displaying a decided lack of interest in any of the other female characters.

53  with Minnie Mouse

Meeting Mickey Mouse was a real highlight.


55  with Donald Duck

56 Sleeping Beauty Castle at night

One of the most exciting activities we got to do on that trip full of exciting activities was going up in the Good Year Blimp.  Yes, the real Blimp!!  We were so fortunate that a fellow we knew was able to arrange this for us free of charge.  We arrived early, so were able to watch the Blimp land, take off, and land again while we waited for our turn.  It was both thrilling and terrifying.  Take off looked neat, loud, fast and almost straight up.  Landing looked a little bumpy.

77 Goodyear Blimp

84 Goodyear Blimp

I had no idea how I’d react once I entered that small enclosed basket and wafted up 1200-1500 ft in the air.  SO WORRIED!!  But I loved it.  We saw lots of back yard pools and golf courses, lol.  We also saw miles and miles of beach with not a soul to be seen.

81 Boarding the Goodyear Blimp

83 View from Goodyear Blimp

We spent the next day at Disneyland going on all our favourite rides over and over again.  The park had been quiet the previous days and we must have gotten spoilt because we weren’t too happy to see the weekend line-ups.

64 with Goofy

65 with Pluto

67 Pirates of the Caribbean

69 Splash Mountain

That evening we went to Medieval Times, a very welcome gift from our mom.  It’s one of those medieval themed dinners where you eat the food with your hands and watch Knights do competitions and jousting matches.

The MC

93 MC, Medieval Times

Our handsome Red Knight

94 The Red Knight, Medieval Times

It was actually quite impressive (the food not so much) and the boys were terribly excited.  My sister and I were almost as enchanted watching the boys as we were by the show.  A magical evening of entertainment.

100  Bus ride after Medieval Times

On our last day, we had a quiet morning at the hotel, enjoying the pool and sunshine.

104 Hotel pool

We arrived at Disneyland midafternoon to find wall-to-wall people.  After watching the Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fools, which was bright and lively, we did one final quick tour of the park, then went back to the hotel to pack.

109 Goofy's Gas Station

110 with Dale

Even after having gone on Splash Mountain many times, absolute terror stilled showed on my face.  And check out the chick behind us waving at the camera.  Bitch.

111 On Splash Mountain

A change into warmer clothes then back to Disneyland for Fantasmic.  The show was well worth the one hour wait.  Most of the Disney characters were involved and we thoroughly enjoyed the incredible light show.

114 Finale of Fantasmic

We got back to the hotel very late, kind of subdued and sad, knowing it was our last night and we might never return.

I love remembering back to that simpler time.  How innocent we all were, a little naive, and so easily impressed and amazed by everything we saw.  It was an excellent vacation and my only wish was that the rest of my family could’ve been there to experience it with us.


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