What Makes Disneyland So Magical?

So back when I solicited questions, Kristin wrote this:

What do you think it is that makes Disneyland so friggin magical? Because it is! We fight the crowds, wait in long lines, pay a ridiculous amount of money for tickets/passes, make a visit in a heat wave and/or rain, etc., etc. all for that little piece of magic you just can’t get anywhere else. How the heck do you think they do that?!

I know, you probably thought I was ignoring her, but actually I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I mean a LOT. As in “Le Fou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking–a dangerous passtime–I know!”

Because it’s actually a really, really good question. I mean it’s true, through wind or heat or rain or crowds or price, we’re still willing to go, and we still love it. Well, I still love it. And I’m assuming if you’re reading this blog you love it. Or want to love it. Or are trying to convince someone else to love it. Or typed something like “Home coffee bar” into Google, clicked over here, and decided to stick around.

But regardless of how we got here, the fact is that I’m spending a tremendous time at Disneyland after having already spent a tremendous time over the last few years, yet I still can’t wait to go again. I still get a little catch in my throat when I come around look down Main Street, and see the castle. The fireworks still make me teary. And the churros…man, the churros. You KNOW how I feel about those.

But why? Is it because the park is clean? Yeah, that’s definitely a great part of Disneyland, especially when you walk around something like the county fair and feel like you’re wading in litter. Is it because the rides are awesome? Yeah, that’s another great part about it. Is it the theming? Sure, definitely. I love some good theming. And attention to detail? Yep, that too. Happy employees? Absolutely–the Cast Members are fabulous. Nostalgia? Holy heck, yeah.

But all of those explanations feel…I don’t know…lacking. A clean park with detailed theming and happy people just doesn’t seem to cover it when thinking about Disneyland Magic. It’s something different.

Something more.

And you know what? I wanna figure out what it is.

So let’s do it! Let’s do everything there is to do at Disneyland, and MORE. What makes Disneyland so magical? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.

Will you join me?

27 responses to “What Makes Disneyland So Magical?

  1. sproutsphoto August 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I love this post and have been trying to figure this one out myself for years! You nailed it though, because having a clean amazingly detailed park doesn’t make the magic. We went to Islands of Adventure in Orlando around 7 years ago and that park is AH-MAZING! Its the same park that just opened the Harry Potter world. Man, can that park do theming. I can honestly say I think their theming compares, or dare I say is even better than Disney (agh!) and the park is in impeccable condition. Its the only other theme park I’ve been to that rival’s Disney to me. BUT, with all that said and how much I thoroughly LOVED the park and can’t wait to get back and go visit Hogwarts, it didn’t make me feel the same way as I do when I do to Disneyland. There’s something there that I feel that innocence from childhood, I feel like my kids and I are friends. Its so hard to explain!

    • Jill Morales-Ratner August 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Yes I think it is all those things, But I think what really nails it is that Uncle Walt created it and he had an imagination that has touched us all. He created the magic, so the magic is within us all… I will never tire of Disney. I can never get enough…

      • Shelby August 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm

        Yes, definitely! I love looking back at the pictures of Walt on Main Street or in the engine of the train! He loved his park so much and in many ways he really was a genius. But still–he’s been gone for 45 years and a lot of the park has changed, yet it hasn’t lost any of the magic. I can never get enough too–obviously! πŸ˜€

    • Shelby August 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      I’ve heard amazing things about the Harry Potter Wizarding World and can’t wait to go! But there’s still something about Disneyland–something there I can’t quite put my finger on. But I’m going to figure it out!

  2. heidi wightman August 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Just pure NOSTALGIA is what it is!! It is Americana at its very finest….the memories we all have are priceless…and those feelings all come back just as vivid when we now take our own kids there.

    • Shelby August 18, 2011 at 11:46 pm

      Nostalgia IS a huge part, but what about people who never went as kids? Still, I love, love, LOVE sharing Disneyland with Theo. Who knows how much he’ll remember, but our pictures are priceless.

  3. BruinKristin August 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Yay you weren’t ignoring me!
    OK so I grew up going to Disneyland but then stopped going shortly after adulthood. I worked in a professional setting with a woman (one of those Disney obsessed Nor Cal people btw) who had a Mickey tattoo and thought it was the most ridiculous thing. People told me about their passes, how much they went and how I just needed to get a pass now that I have a child. Then my good friend who I do everything with got a pass, but still I refused to succumb to the over-tourist, over-marketed, over-commercialized Disney trap. No thank you. I’ll just stick with my $60 Knotts Berry Farm pass. Then I caved in on my birthday. And only did so because it was free and I had twin brother and under 3 year old to join me. Instantly all the magic came right back. Now we are a fully pledged Disneyland family with passes that will push close to $1K next year. Magic doesn’t come cheap! But indeed the magic is there. Even if you try to resist it, it’s there. I would LOVE to join you in figuring out the how and why of that magic : )

  4. BruinKristin August 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Hush up Heidi! It’s not just nostalgia – it’s pure MAGIC!!!!!!!!!!
    No I really do think it’s more than that because I have very fond memories of Knotts Berry Farm too and I take my kids there and it’s just not the same. And how about the people who have never been as a child yet fall in love with Disneyland as an adult?
    My children will have Disney memories of Disneyland and CA Adventure but I’m willing to bet when they come back and visit as an adult it will be Disneyland that will be magical for them. Which is precisely the reason CA Adventure will never flourish the way Disneyland has. It just can’t because it’s not magical Disneyland. It will always be the next door stepchild no matter how many new cool rides are “lands” they put in…

    • Shelby August 18, 2011 at 11:48 pm

      Still, Cars Land is going to be awesome. I agree though, I don’t know that anything can match Disneyland’s magic, but I’m sure glad we have CA Adventure too!

    • Dawn August 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Every time my sister and I went to California Adventure during our trip in July, we commented “there is no magic here” and we went back to Disneyland. All we accomplished in California Adventure was to get her picture taken with Pilot Minnie. I didn’t go very often as a child as we lived in Indiana but I still feel the magic when I go there and was so thrilled when I went back this summer that I still felt it.

      • Shelby August 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm

        California Adventure was such a disappointment when it opened and up to now. They are doing a lot of cool things now, like Cars Land, but I don’t think it will ever have the kind of magic Disneyland does. But that’s okay with me–I’m looking forward to another awesome park! πŸ™‚

  5. bowmansinbavaria August 19, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I think part of the magic lies in the famous characters: Mickey Mouse and Co. hearken back to another age, and yet they remain as fresh and appealing today as they did when they were created. They’re universally appealing – I mean, kids all over the world know about Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Daisy, Minnie, Pluto, etc. I think there is something truly magical about that.

    • Shelby August 19, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      That’s a good point! Who doesn’t have a good feeling about Mickey? Quite possibly one of the most recognizable characters in the world, I’d bet. I am actually not even a fan of the cartoons so much as I just love seeing the characters. Theo particularly loves Goofy!

  6. Renay August 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Love this post! I will have to show my husband this, maybe he has the answer! Or maybe it is just a different answer for everyone, but my husband would be happy to hear that he has been a part of making people feel so happy at the Happiest Place on Earth! I know it always makes him feel good hearing people say how excited they are after getting off a ride he was a part of creating! Once again, great post!

  7. mmax13/ Margaret! August 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Hey, I’m just happy you put in a Beauty and the Beast reference.

    • Shelby August 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      Woo! Such fabulous music in that movie. AND, I got to meet Paige O’Hara at D23! Well, I got to see her–the line was huge and I didn’t have anything for her to sign. I snuck a couple of pictures and just stood there thinking, “THAT’S BELLE!!!!!!!!!” πŸ˜†

  8. Jeri August 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I think that along with all the many things you mentioned already, another part of the magic is leaving the real world at the gate. When you walk in your biggest problem is the person standing in the way of the churro stand. Being able to let go and be a child again if you’re an adult, or simply embracing the magic that is fantasy and adventure if you’re a child.
    I grew up knowing that magic is real, and much of that is due to Disney. Disney parks just reminds me of that πŸ™‚

    • Shelby August 22, 2011 at 12:22 am

      This is such a great point. Disneyland does bring out the kid in us. Where else can you wear a hat with big black ears and feel completely unself-conscious about it??

  9. Jeri August 22, 2011 at 7:55 am

    or get your face painted and not feel ridiculous? πŸ™‚

  10. Jeri August 22, 2011 at 9:45 am

    agreed! I’ve only done it a couple of times.

    A few friends and I will be visiting Disneyland and DCA sept 14-17. Maybe we’ll see you and theo wandering! πŸ™‚ Also, re: Paige O’Hara. She was recently in a play called Judy: The Musical, which a friend of my boyfriend helped compose the music for. My boyfriend called to tell me that Belle was hanging out with his friend at his house. I was very jealous. I am now also jealous of your visit to D23. πŸ™‚

  11. RedRosie August 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I used to feel like BruinKristin did ..and now I am getting to be one of those Nor Cal Disney freaks! I think part of the magic is all of us. When I sent to Disneyland last year (1st time since I was a kid and so 1st time with my kids), my friend told me about DISboards and “these people” that will make beautiful shirts and things for us. Hunh? (BTW..I used to spell it Huh, but I like Shelby’s way better.) Why would these people make something for me? They don’t even know me. But now I know, not only will they make fabulous things for me, they will wish me lots of pixie dust, and give me great ideas, and cheer me on. They are happy to make others happy. So when I go to Disney, I will already be happy before I get there. And where else can we wear matching shirts or fake ears? I would never, I mean NEVER, wear cutesy matching shirts to our county fair. But I can’t wait to do it next month… and oh, the dilemma, should my daughter wear her Minnie shirt or her Chip & Dale shirt to Breakfast with Minnie and Friends? In my normal life, I have much bigger worries than that! So I think we all bring our own magic and stir it in to the great big pot!

    • Shelby August 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      Well, I think the N in hunh adds a certain pronunciation enhancement :lol:. That was what I loved about D23 as well. Disney fans are, quite frankly, awesome people. It’s all about sharing the love. And if someone asked me to wear a fluorescent green t-shirt anywhere else I’d be like “Dude, are you kidding me???” but if someone suggested my group wear fluorescent green t-shirts to Disneyland I’d be like “Oh, that would make it so easy to keep track of everyone–great idea!” :lol:.

      Also, my vote goes to Minnie for your character meal. I simply LOVE seeing little girls in Minnie outfits. It warms my heart to see the classic Minnie get some love. Chip and Dale are a lot of silly fun for sure, but Mickey and Minnie always hold a special place in my heart.

      Fabulous point too. Part of the magic of Disneyland is definitely guest interactions with each other. I mean, you’ll always come across some jerks, but for the most part, everyone is there to have a good time and find it really awesome for other people to have a good time as well.

      This has been such a great discussion–thanks everyone for all of the comments!

  12. Pingback: Lilly Belle « My Year With The Mouse

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