“Disneyland is the happiest place on earth” – if you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a million times, and 60 years after first opening its magical gates, that’s still very much the case.
But how did this enchanted beast, which started out with a white-gloved male mouse and only 20 attractions, end up a multi-billion dollar enterprise with eight-themed areas, dozens of attractions, thousands of employees and the ability to entertain an average of 44,000 people everyday?
It’s a questions I’ve asked for years, and try as my friends might, their enthusiasm after visiting the park was never quite enough to explain how it earned and retained the ‘happiest place on earth’ reputation.
I had to get to the bottom of it (that, and I’ve wanted to tick it off my bucket list since I was old enough to understand its connection to my favourite red-headed, under the sea princess – Ariel).
So, I reserved an entire day during my recent trip to Los Angeles to experience Disneyland Park in California’s magic for myself, to uncover its secret to success and of course, pretend to be Minnie Mouse for a day…
And here’s what I found, this is what I think makes Disneyland the happiest place on earth.
Never underestimate the power of Disney
“Wow, it’s going to take forever to get in”, was the first thing I thought as the Uber approached the park. Thousands of people filled the entrance, as they patiently waited for the 9.00am opening (opening times vary depending on day and period, I went on a Wednesday during daylight savings).
My friends and I joined the back of the queue and took bets on how long it would take us to get in. Some of us estimated half an hour, others guessed 45 minutes, and we were all wrong.
Staff efficiency, a little Disney power and the use of modern technology had me and my group of friends passing through security, purchasing tickets and entering the park in under 15 minutes.
It has the happiest staff on earth
Staff will make or break a business, and Disneyland seems to have a knack for choosing people who genuinely love their jobs.
From the security guard checking my backpack, to the ride managers and even the lady taking my fries and cheeseburger order at the Village Haus Minute Maid – each and every Disney employee I encountered greeted me with a big smile and a desire to assist.
Even actors dressed in what look to be incredibly uncomfortable outfits and at times unbearably hot costumes, stayed true to their roles whether it was the delightful princess, a tough Stormtrooper or a cheeky Sheriff Woody.
Big shout out to the guy (didn’t get his name) monitoring the Darth Vader meet and greet line on the day we were there. He not only managed the 25 minute queue with complete patience, but even helped set the tone for meeting the Dark Lord by adopting a little of his menacing temperament.
And the happiest visitors on earth
What’s better than spending a day in one of the busiest parks in the world and having the happiest staff on hand? Being surrounded by the happiest visitors too.
Generally, when you bring thousands of people together and ask them to wait patiently between rides, there can be a bit of tension, raised stress levels and even a few arguments.
But at Disneyland, there’s none of that (well I definitely didn’t experience any of it). Everyone was too busy walking around in their own little bubble of pure happiness and wrapped up in a childhood state of mind (even kids were walking around reminiscing about the happier times, although for them it was probably a week ago compared to twenty-something plus years for the rest of us) to let the little things irritate them.
Visitors are so cheerful, they even make waiting in line for popular rides bearable. If you’re like me and my friends, you’ll even bring your own bit of joy to queues by entertaining those around you with a mini-completely unprepared flash mob.
Everything is so perfectly in theme
It’s not just an Alice in Wonderland ride, it’s practically a recreation of Wonderland with all the colours, sights, characters, music, quotes and architecture you’d expect to see in the movie.
Disneyland creators went all out when it came to developing each area and attraction, to the point where even going to the toilet felt like you were still very much part of the magic.
For example, in Fantasyland before jumping on one of two Alice in Wonderland rides, guests can visit the Mad Hatter shop, meet Alice or freshen up in the ‘Playing Cards’ bathrooms.
When ready to hop on the ride, there’s even a creatively written description of the feature that of course, links back to the movie:
These little touches create an immersive experience where you feel very much a part of each cartoon or movie.
And the choice is endless
85 acres of fun! 85 acres! I don’t know what that actually is (never been good at maths), but trust me when I say, it’s huge. It’s like a never-ending circle of fun.
There are eight themed areas, each connects to the other, making it easier for visitors to tick off each section.
With so much room, there’s also equally as much to see and do.
You can hop on a crazy ride like Hyperspace Mountain, take a simulated ride through the galaxy or even head off on an easy underwater tour during the ‘Great Barrier Reef’ Finding Nemo ride. See Tarzan’s Treehouse or learn about Star Wars special effects at the 3-D launch bay. You can chill with characters from the movies and cartoon or experience a bit of New Orleans in California. There’s an adorable recreation of Sleeping Beauty in Aurora’s Castle and a Rivers of America walk through. AND young fans can even learn to be Jedis at the Jedi School. Plus there’s countless dining options, refreshment stands, shopping and so much more.
With random breaks of nature
In all the craziness, it’s hard to imagine finding a peaceful location. But somehow Disneyland managed to squeeze two in there.
The first random spot of silence I could find was at the top of Tarzan’s Treehouse. The Treehouse is goes up several stories, so visitors are very spread out, which means if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll find yourself at the top of attraction, overlooking the entire park and all on your own.
The second is a quiet little pond between Fantasyland and Frontierland. It’s right beside the giant castle and is a little off the main path, so there’s not too many people passing through, it has ducks and there’s even a wishing well where you can donate your coins to charity.
It’s filled with love
As mentioned earlier, everyone is in a great mood at Disneyland, combine that with Disney’s ‘happily ever after’ policy and the thousands of families around you and you’ve got an entire park filled with love. It’s actually quite powerful, you can’t help but feel the love.
It has the best souvenirs on earth
Merchandise shopping is literally all over the park. You can’t take a step without feeling the urge to buy yourself Minnie ears or pick up a souvenir for the family back home.
The best part about souvenir shopping in Disneyland Park is that you can not only have access to all the Disney Princesses, Toy Story, Avengers, Star Wars, etc. merchandise but also some pretty gifts for the non-Disney fans, such as chocolate. The park has a pretty impressive selection of chocolate, granted it’s all themed, but it’s all also very tasty. Trust me, I’m a chocaholic and I was very pleased.
And, it’s Disney!!!
Just the word ‘Disney’ conjures up memories of an innocent time when the biggest responsibility of the day was memorising the line after “flippin’ your fins you don’t get too far” in The Little Mermaid’s ‘Part of That World’, can you imagine what an entire park of it can do?
From creatively themed-areas to a vast variety of rides, food and features and some of the best merchandise in the world accompanied with the happiest staff and people on the planet, it’s not wonder Disneyland Park in California really is the happiest place on earth.
What do you think makes Disneyland Park in California the happiest place on earth?
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