Travel Children love Disneyland – rain or shine By Monica Quock Chan / Special to the Star-Advertiser July 29, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! COURTESY MONICA QUOCK CHANThe writer's son wonders why Pluto, with his big "eyes," is having difficulty signing his autograph book. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. We weren’t interested in a Disney vacation. For some reason, the whole Disney concept felt like a forced smile to us, a premium-priced, manufactured utopia. Yet our children still gawked at "Cars"- and princess-branded paraphernalia. Their friends started returning from vacations bubbling about Tangled and Buzz Lightyear. Finally the grandparents got in on the action, asking us whether we were ever planning to go to Disneyland. "Not really," sighed my husband. "It wouldn’t be for you," they replied. "It would be for the grandkids." They regaled us with stories about how we loved Disney when we were young. As a boy, my husband had fixated on the ride called It’s a Small World, riding it until his auntie’s neck cramped up. My parents still have on display a photo of me at age 3, beaming excitedly as I shake the hand of Mickey Mouse for the first time. DISNEYLAND » Getting there: A round-trip economy ticket from Hawaii to the Los Angeles area costs approximately $500. » Website: www.disneyland.com » Money-saving tips: www.mousesavers.com » Guidebooks: "Birnbaum Guides: Disneyland Resort"; "The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland," by Bob Sehlinger WHERE TO STAY » Affordable: Best Western Plus Park Place Inn and Mini Suites, www.bestwestern.com » Nearby: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, across the street from Disneyland; disneyland.disney.go.com/grand-californian-hotel » Pricey but with perks: DoubleTree Suites Anaheim Resort, www.doubletree.com (includes an exclusive entrance into Disney’s California Adventure Park) » Note: Information is subject to change. Our eldest was almost 5. If we waited much longer, she would grow out of that stage of innocent belief. And besides, I did look pretty happy in that Mickey photo. … That is how, sandwiched between the demands — er, preferences — of two generations, we ended up heading to Disneyland. Our hotel was supposedly close to the park, but "walking distance" apparently has different meanings to different people. Especially for those with two grandparents, two young children and a day’s worth of just-in-case items in tow, e.g., hats ("In case it’s sunny!"), snacks ("In case we’re hungry!"), jackets ("In case we’re cold!"), etc. Traipsing past a few dozen other "walking distance" hotels, we finally arrived at the entrance of the park grounds, only to realize it was still a hike from there to the actual ticket booths. And this was all before even entering the park turnstiles, after which we’d be on our feet all day. Every glossy brochure depicted Anaheim as a land of sunshine, the turrets of Sleeping Beauty’s castle sparkling against cloudless cyan. We should have been forewarned when we woke up the first morning to completely overcast skies. The weather throughout our vacation? Rainstorms. Torrential bursts caused visitors to crowd into the nearest indoor attractions, making Boudin’s Sourdough Bread Tour look as attractive as Toy Story Mania. Outfitted in galoshes and slickers, we braved puddles the size of wading pools, rewarded with a near absence of lines. "How long is the wait?" we asked at the entrance to Indiana Jones Adventure, where guests (aka captive tourists) often stand in line for more than two hours. "As fast as you can walk from here to the loading cars," replied the cast member (aka Disney employee), grinning through the downpour. The deluge also meant easier "meet and greets." Tots usually endure long waits for a brief snapshot and autograph from their favorite costumed characters. But over in drenched Toontown, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy practically begged us to come see them, and we were more than happy to oblige. However, the Princess Fantasy Faire, perhaps because it was sheltered from the precipitation, posted a wait of more than an hour. Surrounded by ebullient little girls dolled up in ball gowns and tiaras, my practical husband wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. "Are you sure this line isn’t for a show? Or at least a ride?" "It’s just to greet the princesses," I answered. "But at least we get to meet Tiana, Ariel and Jasmine!" He rolled his eyes as we were herded along by the clock-watching cast members. At least our children were old enough to enjoy interacting with the characters. Many a parent has thrust their wee one into a character’s arms, only to end up with a snapshot of a bawling child who is decidedly not excited about meeting, say, the largest and oddest mouse they have ever seen. However, there was still plenty at the park to put our preschoolers on the alert, despite Disney’s softer fairy tale renderings. Wicked stepmothers, villainous pirates and fire-breathing dragons gained unbidden realism in Fantasyland, and we skirted entirely clear of rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Even the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, with its missing parents and toothy sharks, made our keiki grip our hands a little tighter. We parents were rattled in another way: literally, as our now midlife bodies encountered the adrenaline-pumping rides. In high school I had fun on Space Mountain. A few decades later I found myself wondering why I was voluntarily riding a roller coaster in the dark getting slammed with every unexpected twist and turn. "How about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?" I asked my husband after we dizzyingly disembarked from Space Mountain. "No way," retorted my normally amenable better half. Still, there was so much for our children to enjoy at Disneyland that we could see why it was called "The Happiest Place on Earth." Autopia was to our son what the Autobahn is to grown men, and our daughter adored meeting Ariel. Our ohana collectively declared It’s a Small World as our favorite attraction, and the grandparents seemed to be wistfully recalling their visit with my husband decades ago. Classics like the Enchanted Tiki Room, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Jungle Cruise brought back memories, while Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters and 3-D Star Tours lent a high-tech modernity to the park. The shows, including adjacent California Adventure Park’s professional "Aladdin" musical, the fascinating water-based techno "World of Color," and Disneyland’s own signature 360-degree fireworks, were in themselves almost worth the price of admission. "You mean they do this every night?" gaped a bystander watching Dumbo and Tinkerbell perform aerial stunts during the fireworks show. Our children blissfully waved the overpriced light sticks that the grandparents had bought them after a dinner of hamburgers and fries. Despite huddling under umbrellas, they sure did look like they were in the happiest place on earth. In the end we experienced five days of unforgettable and exciting family fun. Long afterward and thousands of miles from California, our children would often relive our memorable vacation by donning matching Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears, practicing Jedi moves with their nearly-confiscated-by-TSA light sticks, and launching into a rendition of "It’s a Small World (After All)." I was beginning to believe that dreams really do come true. Maybe there is something magical about Disney after all. Next stop, Aulani? Monica Quock Chan is a Honolulu-based freelance writer. Previous Story Lithium battery rule took effect in '08 Next Story How close is too close at the beach?