Once upon a time…
in the year 2005, there lived a restless, angsty young lady and a somehow (impossibly) more restless and angsty young man, in a small town by the sea, just outside of Los Angeles. This young lady and this young man had spent 4 years, being informally educated by the public school system together and as they neared the end of their high school careers, the pair planned to partake in the tradition of senior ditch day together. And so, on May 5th, 2005, they went to Disneyland where their flirtation mixed with pixie dust and turned into pure Magic. And together, they have lived happily ever after.
Listen, as cheesy as that intro sounds, its the way the story really went. I know, because I am that girl and my husband is that boy. Today is June 5th, 2019 and it has been exactly one month since my husband and I celebrated our most recent Disneyversary. As I was adding our photos from this last anniversary our Disneyland album, it dawned on me just how special of a role Disneyland has played in our relationship over the last 14 years. I mean, there are photos in that album that predate our facebook debuts (and our myspaces before that)! As I flipped through the album, I witnessed 14 years of growth as a couple and I was so moved that I set an intention to write this post to pay tribute to a place that has given so much to me. So, here we are and here we go…
In the Begining
We were young; 17 to be exact. We had been flirting for the entirety of senior year without ever making it an official “thing”. This was, in part, because we were young. Mostly though, it was because we were equally charged magnetic ends, perpetually attracting and resisting one another. When it came time to make plans for senior ditch day, we somehow settled on going to Disneyland together, though I can’t for the life of me recall how or why we came to that decision. I do remember waking up early with my heart in my throat and being obnoxiously giddy at the promise of the day. I remember changing my outfit about six times before settling on a denim mini skirt and a blue long-sleeved crop top, then drowning myself in Tommy Girl perfume. I remember sitting in my car on his street, waiting for him to come outside and wishing he were the one picking me up because then it would somehow feel like a date. I remember panicking when he was late and not wanting to knock on the door or ring the phone and alert his father to our plans. I remember feeling silly when he eventually came out for having panicked. I remember anxiously driving on the freeway with him navigating from a Mapquest printout because we did not know the way there by heart yet. I remember not being prepared to pay $10 to park and him not batting an eye at what I found to be an outrageous price as he forked up the money. (I remember stashing that parking ticket in my keepsake box at the end of the day too). And once we were finally in the park, I remember the awkwardness that hovered between us as we took stock of the hand-holding, matching-T-shirt clad couples. Then it just sort of happened, he put his arm around my shoulder in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. We held hands later and talked for the first time about the prospect of an “us” after high school while we were in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (the irony is not lost on me). We decided to give it a try, a real one. Because, after you’ve seen your crush in the light of Disneyland fireworks there really is no turning back.
Unfortunately, we have no photos from this day as they were all taken on a single-use fuji camera and the prints were accidentally tossed when I cleaned out my closet one summer. Still, my husband and I both remember all these details and we enjoy revisiting the park every year on May 5th to celebrate the anniversary of the day we became an “us”. I do still have the parking permit that Josh purchased that day (pictured above). In fact, I have every parking permit and most of our park tickets from all of our anniversary celebrations over the years! It’s really neat to look at them all and see the dates (and prices) laid out chronologically.
Life, like a Disney fairy tale, has it’s dark spots. Time is not always on our side, and we have sadly had to miss spending our anniversary at Disneyland twice in the last 14 years-once, in 2011 when my grandmother passed away days before and I was too distraught to attend, and again in 2015 when I will ill. The year that my grandma passed I was so sad to have missed our anniversary and my OCD was very triggered from the emotional stress I was under, so I had a melt down over not having a parking permit dated 05-05-11. Not having this ticket somehow made me feel like a failure, like I had been collecting these things for so many years and now my collection was ruined because I was too sad to celebrate. I was so upset about it that when I was sick in 2015, Josh actually drove to Disneyland just to pay for a parking permit with the right date on it so that I would not beat myself up over missing the date again. This gesture meant (and still means) more to me than I believe he knows. (I have no idea where the 2009 ticket is- we definitely went that year, and I’m sure I’ve just accidentally stashed the ticket in the wrong place where it will hide until it is ready to be found). We now keep all of our tickets and pressed pennies and other small mementos from our anniversaries in this beautiful keepsake box that we purchased on Main Street in 2017.
2017 was a special year because we got engaged in January. Naturally, we used our Disneyland app to purchase Maxpasses and had the Photopass photographers in the park take our save-the-date photos. We had our wedding date engraved on a pair of classic Mickey ears and used that as a prop in our photos and I was endlessly in love with the results. Later, when we were having dinner and drinks at the UVA bar in downtown Disney, one of the bar staff noticed our celebration pins that said “engaged” and notified the mariachi band that was there for Cinco de Mayo. The band came to our table and congratulated us then invited us to dance to a beautiful rendition of “At Last”. It was so special.
In 2018, we got married… on St. Patrick’s day. What can we say, we like holidays! Since Josh was living in barracks at his fire academy, and was only granted a 3-day absence for our wedding, we decided to go to Disneyland for a “minimoon” or “Disneymoon”, as the folks on Pinterest say. We got new celebration buttons that said “Happily Ever After”, and on It’s A Small World we got our own private boat, which was super neat. We had such an amazing time and it was the perfect way to celebrate our marriage, at the place where our relationship began.
Going to the park in March presented a new dilemma for us: could we justify spending the money to go again in May? The admission price has gotten expensive, and with our Hawaiian honeymoon planned for June, spending an extra few hundred dollars did not seem sensible, especially since we had just gone to the park two months earlier. So we did not go to Disneyland on May 5th, 2018. We tried to rationalize this choice by telling ourselves that we now had a new anniversary and from then on we would just go on March 17th. And then in 2019 I bought a pair of so-cal resident 3-day passes as a wedding anniversary gift for Josh and we were able to go on both St. Patrick’s Day (our wedding anniversary) and Cinco de Mayo (our dating anniversary). It may seem excessive to celebrate two anniversaries but I am okay with an excess of both love and Disneyland, so I am going with it. As long as Disney continues to offer the so-cal resident 3-day pass, Josh and I will celebrate both of our anniversaries in the park from now, to infinity and beyond. Yes, yes I did just do that.
Favorite Memories and Must-Do’s at Disneyland:
I love looking back at our photos from older years. I think it is funny to watch our fashion senses evolve with the changing park! Also, note the vast difference in photo quality with the introduction of photopasses to the park! Having the photopass option is so nice since it’s only $15 to upgrade your ticket to a Maxpass and link all your photopass pictures to your phone! There are professional park photographers scattered throughout the park to take high quality photos for you. Once they’ve snapped their shots, they scan your maxpass to link the photos and your pictures arrive on your phone withing a few minutes! This is such a good deal considering most theme parks charge an arm and a leg for photos that their professional photographers take (I believe we payed $45 for 3 photos elsewhere). If you’re headed to Disneyland, you’ll definitely want to download the Disneyland App and take advantage of this deal… unlimited professional photos at Disneyland for only $15 is truly a magical deal and the photos will be cherished for years to come.
As these photos make clear, we have explored so much of Disneyland over the years, and witnessed much of the park’s recent changes (like the transformation of Tom Sawyer’s Island into the Pirate’s Island and the updated Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the most recent addition of Galaxy’s Edge). We have our favorite spots throughout the park, like a specific bench in Adventureland where we like to sit and rest our feet, or the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction for a moment of quiet on a crowded day. We’ve eaten at nearly every food cart or window and tried everything from the churros to the Mickey shaped pretzels and of course, the famous Dole Whips, Mickey beignets and mint juleps. We’ve also dined at some of the park’s restaurants, from burgers and fries at the Gallactic Grill (which used to be Buzz’ Cafe) to the fancier cuisine at the Blue Bayou.We have ridden every ride and had our photos taken with so many characters. Our favorite rides are: Pirates, The Haunted Mansion, Small World and Space Mountain (with honorable mentions to Winnie the Pooh and the Disneyland Train). We have brought home so many Disney mementos, from my Eeyore pillow pet to a set of Beauty and the Beast figurines for our Bookcase to photo albums and frames and so much more. We have pressed countless pennies and cast our wishes into Minnie’s toon town well. With so many magical memories already made, it is easy to envision a real life happily ever after.
The Story Continues
In 2020 we will celebrate our 15th year of togetherness and our 2nd year of marriage. Naturally, we are planning to make a special occasion out of it, since 15 years together is definitely something worthy of celebration. We are considering booking a room at the Grand Californian in Downtown Disney, and having dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. I’m also hoping to have our portrait done together in the Main Street Photo Shop. I have wanted to stay at the Grand Californian since it opened, but since we live just half an hour away we never really needed a hotel room and so we have always just gone in and enjoyed some drinks and charcuterie at their Hearthstone Lounge.
I’m also hoping to knock off a few items from my Disneyland Bucket-list in the coming years:
- Try the grey stuff from the Red Rose Tavern
- take a photo with Mary Poppins
- visit Club 33
- own and wear something from the Dress Shop to the park
- Watch the Main Street electrical parade as an adult (at Disneyland NOT CA Adventure)
And, OF COURSE, we will eventually make the trip to Disney World on the other side of the country, one day. And then who knows, maybe later, when we have more time and less work, we can make it to the Disneyland’s in other countries! I would LOVE for that to be how we spend our family vacations over the years- traveling the world, living out a real life fantasy as a Disney family.
Have you tried/done any of my bucket-list items? My husband and I would love to hear some feedback on staying at the Grand Californian or tips for getting in to Club 33, so please leave your suggestions in the comments.