Seems there are two types of people -- and they're not liberals and conservatives. No, there are those who love Disney and those who would prefer dental work to Dumbo, who would prefer a good book to Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too. Those who love Disney mention the magic, the joy, the inventiveness, the seamless operation of the parks. The naysayers highlight the heat, the lines, the cost, the fact that it all seems like artificial fun.
It's true, every bit of it.
Since we've been to Disney twice in the past two years, you can probably guess that we're among the Disney lovers. And you'd be right.
Here's what they do well:
Yes, "magic" and this is coming from someone who rolls her eyes and scoffs at the whole "magic" thing.
I believe I was seven when I first went to the Magic Kingdom. Cinderella's castle, It's a Small World, The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House -- I was flat out enthralled. It is feat of engineering and architecture to make this place as visually appealing as it is. You walk into Frontierland, and you feel you've entered the Old West. You visit Animal Kingdom, and you feel like you're really on a safari.
When Kolbe and Tim were seven and three we walked into the Magic Kingdom, and there stood Buzz Lightyear. I think even Kolbe was speechless. I thought to myself, "This place is grossly over-priced and totally materialistic and we're about to have the time of our lives." And we did.
On this past trip, I rode the Teacups with John and Ainsley (and let me tell you, they are much, much spinnier than I remember). Ainsley positively chortled with glee. It was magical.
2. Doing It Right
Disney's Parks are exceptionally well run. The parades are spectacular and two minutes after they're over, someone is sweeping the streets. If you lose your tickets (which may have happened to one of us), they hand over another one. I stopped by customer service to upgrade Kolbe's ticket from a child's ticket to an adult one since he's now over ten. When I pulled out my credit card, the cashier said, "We don't charge you for letting your kids grow up." If you have a problem, someone assists you. The bathrooms are spotless.
I've shelled out nearly as much money at Busch Gardens, a tidy sum at Stone Mountain, and a pile of cash at White Water. They certainly offer fun, but lack the attention to detail that sets Disney apart.
3. Minimal Price Gouging
It's pricey to get in, but most things you buy there -- I'm thinking food more than toys and clothes -- are moderately priced. You can bring in anything you feel like carrying around all day - coolers full of snacks, water bottles, etc. Having attended major league baseball games into which you may not bring so much as an ounce of water and where a bottle will set you back about six bucks, I appreciate this aspect of Disney.
4. Taking Care of People
Disney treats sick or disabled patrons like royalty. On our last trip, one child in the group had a chronic and serious illness. Disney gave him a pass to take six people to the front of every line. My sister's friend went to Disney when she was at the end stages of cancer, and Disney pulled all the stops to give her family a memorable visit. The parks are totally accessible for the disabled, for nursing mothers, heck, they even take care of smokers.
You can skirt the issue of the heat by visiting during the cooler months. The crowds and the cost are a little trickier to avoid. Disney attracts people from all over the world, so my bet is that it's a rare day you won't have some lines to contend with. As for the cost, there are lots of ways to trim the bottom line, but it's still far from chump change to get a family of six into the kingdom.
True, Disney is manufactured fun and a very different sort of enjoyment than, say, seeing dolphins as you walk along a beach or hiking to a waterfall. And a steady diet of this sort of over-the-top extravaganza wouldn't benefit anyone. Then again, who can afford a steady diet of this?
While we've loved our visits to Disney, on my last trip, I travelled with two friends who Really! Love! Disney! Enthusiasm really is infectious. It's a good visit when you leave mentally thinking of when you want to return. For us, this will be before Tim graduates and while Ainsley is still young enough to want to do the whole princess thing. Yes, this non-girly-girl has every intention of clothing her daughter in pastel tulle and standing in a gargantuan line so this daughter can meet some well-endowed chick in a flowing dress and a tiara.
If I'm selling out, so be it. I'm confident we'll have a great time doing it.