Disneyland is a place where if you are 9 or 99 years old there is a sense of child-like wonder that takes over all of us. Though I visit often, each time I enter the gates headed for some new adventure I get to again experience the sense of – “Who knows what wonderful thing is going to happen to us today?”
Recently I had the opportunity to bring my 85-year-old grandmother to Disneyland for the first time in 15 years. On the trip, I and my extended family got to see my grandmother reconnect with the magic that she had helped to introduce me to when I was just 4 years old.
Bringing My Grandmother to Disneyland After 15 Years
Bringing my 85-year-old grandmother, who has fanned the flames of my passion for creativity and the arts over the years, to Disneyland after 15 years was an incredible experience. My mom, sister, and aunt were also on the trip with me. Disney hosted us for this trip to reconnect as a family and share what a multi-generational trip to Disneyland can look like. All opinions are still my own.
This trip was a great opportunity to bring her back to the place she loved to visit with her children and grandchildren. I got to give the feeling of wonder and possibility that comes with Disneyland to her. Throughout the trip, she reflected on her earliest memories of riding original attractions and visiting when Disney California Adventure was still a parking lot.
Previously she joined me on a Disney Cruise to Alaska and we had one of the best weeks of our lives together.
Surprising Her With the Trip to Disneyland
This spring I had to hold in this big secret until it was time to surprise my grandmother. Slowly I told each family member until it was time to surprise my grandmother. I had just the perfect way to do it.
While with her for Easter I set up a moment where I would play a clip of Mickey Mouse calling and then tell her about the trip. It all went off marvelously. You can see the video here. My grandmother was a major proponent of Disneyland and visited on my earliest trips so getting to surprise her with a trip and come full circle was a great joy.
Headed to Disneyland In a Wheelchair
My grandmother is completely fit and capable, but the long distances at Disneyland are challenging for even the fittest. I should add that Disneyland days are even more strenuous when you tour the parks with my family as we take advantage of our long legs for power walking to attractions.
We told my grandmother that if we were going to do this trip she had to be willing to ride in a wheelchair. She typically walks 1-2 miles over the course of an entire day (as tracked on her Apple Watch), but we knew that during this trip she would have to move at a faster pace.
In fact, before I even surprised her with the trip we made her promise that if she wanted to do big travel with us again she would have to be willing to try the wheelchair. Thankfully she agreed.
Even on the first day, it took her a moment to give in to using the chair. Though after seeing how far it was from just our Disneyland Hotel room to the first ride of the day, she got much more comfortable being pushed. The wheelchair worked out very well for us. She was comfortable doing our 12-mile-plus days walking around the parks, but also could easily pop out of the chair when she needed to transfer to a ride vehicle or wanted to take a break. At one point she insisted that she show us (and I think all of you) that she was still fit, so she pushed my younger sister in the chair for a bit before swapping back in to sit.
We opted for the Disneyland wheelchair vs the scooter because we wanted to be able to navigate crowds and not have my grandmother need to drive. You can read our full guide to doing Disneyland in a wheelchair here.
Nothing Beats the Classic Disneyland Attractions
Though it had been 15 years since my grandmother went to Disneyland, so much was still the same. Her favorite attractions were just as she had left them awaiting her return. “It still feels like the first time we rode it” she whispered to me as we walked off the “it’s a Small World” attraction. Though that attraction has been through numerous upgrades including a refresh that added Disney characters, the classic boat ride around the world delivers the same feeling of optimism and whimsy. All the same, every ride that she loved was like new thanks to Disney’s diligent upkeep.
After everything we enjoyed, both new and familiar, my grandmother confirmed that Pirates of the Caribbean and “it’s a Small World” remain her two favorite attractions. She reflected after getting off Pirates saying: “I have always loved Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s the one ride that when we came to the park we would always go on it two or three times. It didn’t matter how long the line was. We just did it.”
She Conquered Many of the Newest Attractions Save For a Few
After initially being weary of even going up and down on Dumbo, she experienced many of the newest attractions from Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Cars Land’s Radiator Springs Racers. On Radiator Springs Racers, she gripped my arm for the entirety of the outdoor race scene. I almost dropped my phone shooting video on the ride as she grabbed for my hand. At the end, she remarked, “That was about as much as I can take”. Even though it had been intense, she shared how she could see the work that went into building the impressive attraction.
Getting off of Rise of the Resistance she was just amazed with the attraction. We didn’t warn her about a final pivotal moment of the ride and though she was unsurprisingly shocked about our escape method, she could handle all of it.
For one meal, we sat at brunch at the Lamplight Lounge (as I detail further into the article) and watched the Incredicoaster launching. My grandmother looked out at that and first made a grimace but after watching for awhile added, “I almost wish I had enough nerve to go on the roller coaster because…I can yell and scream with the best of them and it looks like everyone is happy to do that.” After that comment though, she looked back at the coaster launching and made a final comment – “Ugh! I don’t think I would.”
She Was Impressed With the Quality of Entertainment in Every Corner of the Park
Throughout our day, my grandmother remarked on how much great entertainment there was ongoing constantly. From the characters out strolling among the guests to the Disneyland Band to the Magic Happens afternoon Disneyland parade, each entertainment offering was something new to see and enjoy.
One of the afternoons we took a slower moment and paused to wait for the parade in Fantasyland in front of the Alice in Wonderland bathrooms. The half-hour we waited for the parade was a great break (and a great opportunity to mobile order some ice cream from Gibson Girl on Main Street).
Here’s the Show She Was Most Impressed With at Disneyland
During our trip to Disneyland we saw both the new “Wondrous Journeys” fireworks and the “World of Color – One” fountain show. Though I, as a frequent Disneyland visitor, prefer the new Disneyland fireworks show based on the cadence and effects, my grandmother was WOW-ed by World of Color. It took me back to the first time that I ever saw the fountain show.
She walked away from World of Color marveling at the numerous disciplines that would have had to work together to pull together and create the show. The fountains, projections, lasers, animators, and architects all came to mind when we reflected on the sheer scale and multitude of mechanisms used for storytelling. She came away saying – “Wow, only Disney could do that!”
For both the fireworks and World of Color, it was a lot of fun to sit and watch my grandmother completely impressed by the level of effects. I could just see the amazement on her face.
Inside Our Stay at the Disneyland Hotel
We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and my grandmother loved the Disney details and throwbacks to when she first visited the parks. At the check-in, she laughed at the Mad Tea Party-themed teacup chairs in the waiting area.
The hotel is located in close proximity to the theme parks, just a short walk away through Downtown Disney. We enjoyed the easy access to the theme parks. There was one detail in particular that my grandmother loved.
Highlight of Our Disneyland Hotel Room
Once in the room, we got to share my favorite surprise reveal in the hotel. There is a special enchanted headboard behind the beds in each Disneyland Hotel room. When you click a switch, lights above the headboard shimmer to life to create a fireworks display over the Disneyland castle. My grandmother loved the headboard. Using words I have heard all my life as her highest form of praise of something cute she exclaimed “Oh look at that, isn’t that fun!”
Taking Advantage of Early Entry
Again, I visit Disneyland frequently to report for MickeyVisit.com so I have been through the entire routine of getting up early for the parks quite often to make use of and test our Disneyland morning strategy and Disney California Adventure morning strategy. The rest of my family was also ready to go, but my grandmother was a little bit shocked when we told her she would have a 6:15 am alarm the next day. She was a great sport and was up and ready to go. After accomplishing so much the first with Genie Plus, she didn’t join for Early Entry the next day and had a nice sleep-in before enjoying breakfast in California Adventure.
This is a great time to add in this general Disneyland tip for large groups. Don’t be afraid to split up throughout the day with planned meeting points and experiences. This is one of the reasons we always recommend having some meals added to the scheduled so you can reconnect with the entire group.
Skipping the Lines With Disney Genie Plus
We took great advantage of Disneyland Genie Plus during our trip. In the morning I made the effort to follow our best Disneyland Genie Plus tips to ensure that we always had another attraction to head to. Most importantly I never let two hours go by in the day without grabbing our next Lightning Lane.
Following this strict schedule, utilizing the complimentary Early Entry for Disneyland Resort Hotel guests, and having our park hopper Disneyland tickets allowed us to see a ton on the first day of our trip. I was thrilled with how much we enjoyed and what my grandmother enjoyed during the day.
Used Disneyland Mobile Order Throughout the Trip
Throughout the trip, I was the tour guide. While stacking up Genie Plus reservations, as I explained above, I was also planning out our snack breaks using Disneyland mobile order.
The Disneyland app has a very slick system that lets you mobile order meals and snacks ahead of time for a specific time window. Then, any time during that window, you can click a button and a Cast Member will prepare your order. They won’t make any food for you until you click that button so your food always comes out hot and fresh once you are ready to eat it.
Multiple times I parked my family at a table and then popped back over with snacks and meals. My most ambitious mobile order meal was a meal that included food from the Corn Dog Castle (a Disneyland must), tacos from Cocina Cucamonga, and salads from the Pacific Wharf Cafe (currently becoming the new Baymax Big Hero 6 San Fransokyo Square).
Made Dining Reservations For The Group
During our trip we sat down three times for a meal. Other than these three times we mobile ordered food or picked up food from some of the carts throughout Disneyland. Make sure to read our tips on getting Disneyland dining reservations as they can be difficult to snag. This is another great perk of staying at the Disneyland Hotel as the concierge was able to help provide “preferred” dining reservations even though we didn’t book until about a week before our trip.
We sat down for meals at the Blue Bayou, Lamplight Lounge, and were lucky enough to enjoy Disney’s private Club 33. Between the Blue Bayou and Lamplight Lounge, we all enjoyed the atmosphere and experience much more at Lamplight Lounge.
Though the concept offered at the Blue Bayou is one of a kind – the dining room is literally inside the first scene of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction – our meal felt rushed and our table happened to be at the side of the restaurant furthest from the waterside ride tables. At the Lamplight Lounge, we have a completely opposite experience. We enjoyed what might be the best table in the entire restaurant with two couches and a direct view of the Incredicoaster launch. On top of that, the food here was delicious and there really wasn’t a scrap of food left after our meal. We had brunch food and loved the avocado toast with steak and French toast.
The Hardest Part of the Trip?
There really was no difficult part of this trip to Disneyland, except maybe for convincing my grandmother to get off of Jessie’s Critter Carousel. While we were waiting for my sister and aunt to get off Toy Story Midway Mania we decided to ride the carousel and expected that my grandmother would just sit. Well, while we had our backs turned, my grandmother scampered up on to the carousel animal and had a grand time waving to the passerby throughout the ride. She shocked us even more when she decided we should stay on to go around a second time.
Our Disneyland trip with my grandmother was a paused moment in time where we could all go back to Disneyland and leave behind our individual focuses to be together. We were all kids again marveling at the same thing we did years earlier. The couple of days spent together gave us time to come together to enjoy our favorite place and catch up in a way that few places can allow.
Disneyland hosted us for this experience but I visit the theme parks frequently to cover every aspect for Mickey Visit. All opinions are my own. I am not afraid to comment on what were good and bad parts of the experience.
We Go to Disney Parks Weekly – AVOID These Rookie Disney Mistakes
I or a member of the Mickey Visit team visit a Disney Park every single week and work to show you the ins and outs so you can avoid any issues for your trip. You do not want to make these rookie Disney mistakes on your next trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Each of these celebrities that love to visit Disney Parks would never even make these mistakes. CLICK HERE to read about the rookie Disney mistakes to avoid on your next trip.
Big Hero 6 Transformation Coming Soon to California Adventure!
A major change will be coming to Disney’s California Adventure as Pacific Wharf is transformed into San Fransokyo from the Big Hero 6 movie! Read about details, construction updates, and what you can look forward to after this retheme in our guide to the Big Hero 6 Transformation.
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