by Molly Jo Realy @MollyJoRealy

On Saturday, I took my daughter and her friend, Nathan, to Disneyland. Since we live in Southern California, we’re lucky enough to have annual passes so we try to get there at least once every two months.

This trip I spent some time alone, wandering through the Parks. Instead of riding the bigger roller-coasters, I slowed my pace, enjoying the shops and attractions. On Main Street USA next to the timeless favorite Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,  I found myself pulled into the Disney Gallery, currently showcasing the art of Mary Blair. It was, in typical Disney fashion, quite magical.

This was a place with no young children calling and pulling their parents along. No loud noises. No big crowds. It was simply a journey into the mind and beauty of one of Walt’s favorite animators, responsible for the themes behind Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Cinderella. She was also the designer/inspiration for that iconic ride, it’s a small world.

Throughout the rest of my day, it was a pleasant surprise to see those little touches throughout the Park. Of course, we had to ride the ride together just after twilight. I’m not sure why we usually do it then, since it’s an indoor ride. For me, I think, it’s because the line is shorter and you have the added thrill of exiting the ride into the lit-up world of Fantasyland. It’s never the same. There are so many details that can be so easily lost in the larger picture. So there we were, Hannah, Nathan, and myself, floating smoothly and singing along to the soundtrack that’s as integral to Disney as Walt himself. I found myself ignoring the big picture in order to selectively view those dolls and settings created by Mary Blair. It was just as exciting when Nathan pointed out the doll for Cinderella, which he’d never noticed before, and when, after all these years, I realized that I’d known the entire soundtrack, including Italian scene lyrics, since I was a child (thanks, Disney long-playing records!).

The other thrill of the day, was finding a Hidden Mickey that I’d been searching for, for about two years. I’m not big on stopping traffic in order to look about. Disneyland works better, for me and others, when someone doesn’t suddenly cease walking and gaze about in foot traffic. With Hannah and Nathan over at Disney’s California Adventure, and no plan for the immediate time, I strolled again down Main Street USA, taking it the sights, sounds, and smells of a century ago. Slowly passing the areas I knew had Hidden Mickeys – those head-and-ears icons that are stylishly designed into the structure of the park. It can be quite a challenge to see them, as there often are people blocking the view. But not this time. I glanced up at a mock-door, and there they were. Two of them, in fact. One at the top, the other at the bottom. To make it even more special, it was on the door of the Casting Agency, with a painted quote by Walt: “It takes People to Make the Dream a Reality”. I immediately snapped a picture with my cell phone and sent it to Megan.

There were other new experiences as well. This is the third time all three of us have gone together, and each time we try to eat at somewhere new. My daughter’s favorite, Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante, was our first trip. She loves Mexican food! Our second trip, we stopped at my favorite, the French Market, sitting on the outside patio reminiscent of jazzy New Orleans and right next to the Haunted Mansion (always our first ride). But this trip, we chose to eat in California Adventure and found ourselves at the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. Yes, another Mexican grill. But this one had different offerings, and they were just as uniquely delicious as Zocalo.

I rode Pinocchio’s Daring Adventure while Hannah and Nathan enjoyed “ElecTRONica”. Sure. It’s for young kids. But Pinocchio is my favorite Disney movie (he wears red, he’s Italian, it’s full of adventure and color… what’s not to love?!). So I took a ride. It was great. And not once did I feel awkward being alone (well, maybe just a little, but once I saw Jiminy Cricket, that feeling ended!).

They filled their afternoon with Tower of Terror, Space Mountain’s Ghost Galaxy, and the animation studios.

We ended the day as Nathan took us to D Street, a store in Downtown Disney District (which is a great place by itself, even if you don’t go into the Resort Parks). D Street is the place to purchase Disney Vinylmation: cute Mickey icons designed like, well, almost anything. It’s a new collection obsession that I have resisted for several years… until Nathan bought one each for me and Hannah. He collects the “blind box” ones where you can’t tell what you have until you open the box. That’s part of the fun, he says. Purchasing, keeping, and trading (I’d tried pin trading, but could never get into it… I like the few pins I have and don’t want to give them up…).

There’s all kinds of themed sets. I was hooked as soon as Nathan let me open a Star Wars blind box he’d purchased, only to discover it was a “chaser” that was more rare than the regulars, and necessary to the completion of his friend’s collection. Within five seconds, he was on the phone, arranging a trade.

Seeing our intrigue, he went into the store and purchased an “Animation Series 1” for Hannah, and a “Have a Laugh Series 1” for me. I thought it was cute and fun: I didn’t plan to get hooked. But apparently I am, because I’m already saving for my next Day at Disney.

After nearly 12 hours of walking, riding, shopping and seeing, it was time to head home. A short day by usual standards, but an exiting one.

All in all, it was a pretty great adventure: the familiar feeling of Disneyland, combined with the thrill of new experiences.

I can’t wait to go back. Each trip is an adventure.


Holiday Recipe: Chocolate Fondue
Recipe: Creamy Chicken with Rice
Sweeten my tea and share: