Last week I got to fulfill a personal dream of mine, which was to be able to go solo to a Disney park. I know that sounds like a slightly weird and/or pathetic dream, but you have to realize that every time I’ve gone to one of these theme parks, I’ve always been with family (and, more often than not, been tasked with herding kids around). So when I had a few days’ vacation time coming up and my wife asked me what I wanted to do by myself, this is what I chose.
I regret nothing.
It was a whirlwind trip, flying out to California on a Sunday, doing Disneyland for three days afterward, and then taking a redeye home on Wednesday night. I had never been to Disneyland before (always gone to Florida) and I wanted to check it out before the Star Wars land came in and that park maxed out capacity for the next couple of years. Being solo meant that I could take it at my own pace, traveling light and fast and indulging in whatever rides or experiences that I wanted. Don’t feel too badly for my kids, by the way; they were very supportive of me going and knew that I was going to take them to a local amusement park the week after I got back.
Physically, it was an exhausting trip — I stayed at the parks for 12-14 hours each day, walking or standing almost non-stop — but mentally it was a wonderful break from responsibilities, parenting, and working. While the crowds were fierce (moreso than expected), the weather was almost as perfect as could be and I simply enjoyed my time without stressing out as to where to go or what to do. In fact, while I brought a Kindle to read in lines, I rarely used it — instead, I would just talk with others or people watch or soak in a little inner quiet.
I definitely hit a ton of rides while there, and my brother-in-law Bill came to join me for the second day. I did a lot of comparing to Disney World, noting both the positives (a much higher ride density, some better versions of the rides, better weather) and negatives (some worse versions of the rides, higher crowds). I had anticipated going on Haunted Mansion dozens of times — it being my favorite theme park ride ever — but I was let down by how it felt like a smaller and lesser version than Florida’s.
Instead, the highlight rides turned out to be Pirates of the Caribbean (wayyyy better than Florida’s), Jungle Cruise (I never got tired of the puns), Tiki Room (the full, real show!), Space Mountain (with the in-car soundtrack, which Florida doesn’t have), and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Actually, that last one brought me great joy, because I remember riding it a lot when I was a kid at Disney World, and then they took it out in the late 90s. So to get to ride it again felt like reclaiming a small precious memory.
A strange theme that emerged was getting stuck on rides. We had to get evacuated off Pirates after a 15-minute breakdown, Haunted Mansion stalled for a good 10 minutes while I was in the attic, and even Jungle Cruise had to stop for a problem with a boat in front of us. It was all fine, I wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere or do anything in particular, and I always had enough to do.
By the end of the three days, however, I felt like I had gotten it all out of my system. I was really ready to go home and see my family, and there wasn’t any urge to stick around for much longer. I didn’t expect that; usually when I leave Disney World, I’m left wanting more. But I guess when you go solo, you can zip through rides way faster and get more done in a less amount of time.