As the vacationblog turns

What can I say about Disneyland? I have a love/hate relationship with all things Disney. As a child in the 1970s, the few Disney cartoons that were being produced were hardly worth watching. Then in the 1980s, Disney underwent a revolution, and started producing some really great stuff — the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin — fascinating, innovative cartoons, all of them. Even before I had kids, I went to see every one. Despite our best efforts, my kids were brought up on Disney. Jim was given an Aladdin videotape for his first birthday, and begged us incessantly to let him watch it. I think “Watch Aladdin” was probably his first proto-sentence. The first movie Nora and Jim saw in the theater was Lion King, and they now have a video collection that includes all the great 1990s Disney hits — not a single one of them, I believe, purchased by me.

Through marathon creative efforts and ruthless lobbying, Disney has built up a copyright-protected stockpile of entertainment products capable of keeping a toddler from whining for weeks on end. This power does not go unappreciated by the parents of the aforementioned toddlers, who gladly shell out thousands of dollars for the prospect of a few whine-free moments.

Our kids aren’t toddlers any more. Jim is 13 and, at 5 feet 10 inches, is taller than his mother and gaining quickly on his dad. Nora is 12, with the fashion sensibility of a 21-year-old, but without the hormones. But when they were toddlers, we tossed more than our fair share of dollars at the Disney idols, taking them on several trips to Disney World. Now that their cousins are old enough, they want to share the wonders of Disney with them. So we all met at Disneyland for four days of full theme-park immersion.

If you’re going to do Disney, you might as well do it all the way. There’s no point in going to Disney if you’re going to cook your own all-organic meals in your hotel room. So of course, we indulged in a meal at Medieval Times, where you can root for your own heroic knight while “wenches” serve you a vat of soup, a half a chicken, a pile of ribs, and various other finger foods. There was no silverware in the Middle Ages, you see. Fortunately, there were glasses, and Jim spent some of his own money to buy this $13 goblet filled with some sort of sugary substance:

Clearly his cousin Briar thinks it was a worthwhile purchase. Back in the hotel room, Jim was finally willing to interact socially with his traveling companions, engaging in a spirited wrestling match with his 3-, 5-, and 8-year-old cousins.

Finally, we made it to the park. Since you’ve seen all the rides before, I’m not going to show a lot of pictures. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of some of the rides was trying to decide whether to enjoy the ride itself or work to get a good picture. Here, Nora and Greta (who took this one) both decided on the second option:

For our final day, we decided to travel to San Diego to visit yet another theme park: Legoland. When I was a child, Legos were pretty much the best toys out there, and so naturally I assumed my kids would agree with me. I’ve bought them twice as many Legos as I ever had, and they’ve probably built less than half as much with them. Nonetheless, they were still excited to go to Legoland, and we weren’t disappointed. The most amazing aspect of this park is the Lego models — and clearly most of the rides were designed as an afterthought. The main area of the park is simply an outdoor museum where you can see what you could build if you had infinite time, an infinite supply of Legos, and much more talent than you actually possess. There was a model of New Orleans, complete with a working Mardi Gras Parade. There was a seaport, with working cranes, trucks, and ferries. The trucks even drove on to the ferries and were automatically transported across a 10-foot canal. The lego designers even built a 1/70 scale model of the New York skyline:

The building to the left is a rendering of Liebeskind’s proposed (and since scrapped) design for a replacement to the World Trade Center.

Though the rides at Legoland were most definitely an afterthought, there was one ride that was perhaps the best of our entire trip. It was a robotic arm that flung its passengers in unpredictable and awkward directions (for some reason, this ride was called “Medieval Tournament”). You get to choose your level of abuse, from “1” (only for wusses) to “3” (which is as high as sane people will go) to “5” (which is guaranteed to either leave you sterile or qualify you for Social Security Disability). Nora and I chose 4. First, it did this to us:

Then it did this:

This ride is why they make amusement parks. What a blast! Did I say I had a love/hate relationship with Disney and its ilk? This ride was enough to make me forget all that for a good thirty seconds. It’s amazing what we’ll put up with for that thirty seconds utter abandon, isn’t it?

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