Why Disneyland Matters in Today’s World

We spend months planning and thousands of dollars to get here.

Countless hours disappear while we comb over websites hoping to find the very best information so we can make our trips as close to perfect as possible. We study maps and install apps. We try to figure out just what MaxPass is and if it’s worth the money. We join discussion boards. We forego Hawaii and the Bahamas.

What is it about this place that makes us all a little crazy?

The Griswolds made this pilgrimage famous years ago in National Lampoon’s Vacation. They set out in search of Mickey Mouse Marty Moose with high hopes of achieving the picture perfect family vacation. Catastrophes happened, lessons were learned and a great Aunt perished en route. Was it worth it? Clark would say it was. I would agree.

But, why?


In today’s world, we are challenged to preserve innocence and to find a simple goodness that is becoming more and more scarce each year. Disneyland provides exactly that. The original Magic Kingdom allows us to escape real life and for one brief pause in our busy over-scheduled, over-analyzing, over-posting routines, we get to live in the moment with our children.

We spin in a teacup, ride gentle boats through small worlds, dip down in the sea to find Nemo and brave thunder mountains.

And, we return to do it again and again.

I often read (and surprisingly enjoy) entertaining posts that poke fun at Disneyland and people like us who return to Disney parks seeking the magic. I don’t understand the need to criticize us for our storybook obsession, but I do enjoy a snarky commentary. So, carry on haters. You’re just less people I have to worry about getting the last Matterhorn Macaroon in the park when I visit.

I watched Saving Mr. Banks recently and enjoyed it a second (or third?) time. It got me thinking. What if Walt had not kept that 20 year promise to his daughters? What if the story of Mary Poppins had not been told? What about all of the other stories?

Would the world be alright? Of course. But, it wouldn’t be quite as colorful.


I sit in the park now once a week watching people walk up and down Main Street in the morning. It’s such a joy to witness these tiny fragments of peoples’ lives spent in what will likely be an experience they will remember forever. I watch them walk in and out of the Market House for coffee, starting their day with such noble ambition. We’re all Clark Griswold during that initial walk down Main Street toward the best day ever.

Morning moves on and the crowds thicken a bit. I see tiara-clad little girls adoring princesses, offering up autograph books with hopeful eyes. Little boys look to super heroes for power, strength and courage. And, more and more, I see little girls turning to super heroes and boys to princesses. What a wonderful time we live in. Teenagers fumble with their phones, posting to Instagram and Snapchat and occasionally even put the devices away to join their families.

Skippers tell terrible jokes through jungle waters. Indiana saves the day, as he always does. Jack Sparrow peeks at us behind barrels and the Haunted Mansion beckons us in with her happy haunts. 10956051_10205051602282831_609486916_n

A family poses with Mickey Mouse on their first ever vacation. Space Mountain lines build. (You can’t not ride Space Mountain.) The Matterhorn whisks people through an icy mountain, giddy with laughter. Little ones fight Zurg with the help of Buzz Lightyear.

A thousand smiles all at once arrive when the parade starts. Popcorn kernels burst furiously, filling the air with that perfect salty aroma, as we wait in anticipation for our favorite characters. The music is just loud enough. Anna and Elsa appear and it’s almost too much for our little ones to take in. Fathers look down to see their joy and everything all at once clicks – this is why we do this.

This is why we come to Disney parks.

Finally, my favorite time of the day arrives. Sun sets over Tom Sawyer Island and I watch it from a wooden bench while people decide on dinner. There’s a fresh hope that arrives with nightfall. It’s an entirely new park as the lights come on, slowly warming the lands through the eventual Southern California chill that creeps in with the dark.

Break out the glow sticks! Everyone needs a necklace. Fantasmic! will arrive soon. Let’s make one more trip to Fantasyland for the dark rides. We can’t miss Snow White.

Fantasmic! thrills everyone and Mickey wins the battle over evil. With tired feet and now sleeping children in strollers everywhere, I wander through a more empty park now and notice small details that I haven’t in previous visits. Where is the Halloween tree again? I wonder when the cats will emerge to keep the rodents at bay, in the house a mouse built.

Cali 5 100I walk back down Main Street now, noticing someone in the chair I sat in 12 hours before. I hope she’s had a good day. I wander through the candy store and into the Emporium because I have to each time I visit. No purchases for me today, but I see people buying coffee mugs, t-shirts and refrigerator magnets. They’ll take them home to Connecticut, Alabama and Australia because holding a small piece of the park makes the visit last a little bit longer.

Life is all about grand gestures. And, while Disneyland is not for everyone, I encourage those who have the means to take kids – young and old – to see the magic firsthand. Don’t wait until your children are “old enough”. Go now. I encourage you to go without children if you’re able. I encourage you to get to Main Street as fast as you possibly can. Start planning today.

The years go by quickly, friends. I’ve found they’re much better spent with a churro in hand.

Take a look at how Get Away Today can help with your vacation


  1. Casey,
    This touched my heart. It was a beautifully written snapshot of a day at Disneyland, and why it’s important. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. So great Casey! You truly captured the feelings of our first visit, our littles’ first visits, and even our most recent visits. The Disney spirit truly comes over you like magic the moment you cross under the bridge onto Main Street, each and every time!
    Can’t wait to start planning our next trip down that magical memory lane ??

  3. So perfectly written. My feelings into words that I could never express. When clients sit in my chair and are baffled that I spent a week at Disney World for my honeymoon, a small part of my heart feels sorry for them. Everyone should be able to feel the kind of magic that Disney provides. It is life changing. The kind of happiness that truly feeds my soul. I am eternally grateful for Walt Disney and the Magic and the Dream he had. I am happy for him that he was able to make it a reality. I can’t think of a legacy who will touch more hearts and spark joy in more lives than Walt does every single day. Thank you for writing this! ??

  4. Just found your site and this article. Hope you still see comments.

    I grew up in Orange County and I’m only a couple of years younger than Disneyland. As a child, a visit to Disneyland was such a powerful experience that my parents would keep it a secret until we got there. I would get so excited that I became totally out of control! For me, I think a Disneyland visit was more exciting than Christmas!

    Of course, growing up nearby led to complacency and although I still enjoyed the park, I think I lost the magic. Then it got expensive and crowded and we quit going for ten years.

    Last year, my wife’s father passed away and our friends wanted take us to help us cope. We reluctantly agreed and while waiting to buy our tickets they offered to apply the cost of our tickets to the down-payment for passes. That was five months ago. 20 visits later, we’ve found that Disney magic again!

    Your story hit home for me. I’m often overwhelmed with emotion there. Watching the families, especially the children. Now we’re taking our 6 year old granddaughter! What memories we’re making!

    We had passes to other theme parks in the interim. Meh. There is no place like Disneyland!

    Thank you for your words!

  5. You said what I have been thinking for years. I go every year and have for the past 50+ years. The feelings, smells, sounds, and tastes create memories for a lifetime. Thnak you for your words and for sharing.

  6. I love this! You know my son and I just got AP last year. It’s been the best thing ever! This my third and youngest son is my most challenging one. I’d find us bickering with each other all the time, both resenting each other for our actions and just struggled with our relationship until now. He’s 12 and we have spent the most fun relaxed days days at Disneyland. We now have the one thing in common. The one place that settles our differences, we now spend talking about everything and anything, cracking jokes, taking selfies and hugging and HOLDING HANDS all while walking around and standing in lines at the happiest place, Disneyland!!! It’s quality good time with him, just him. Spending this time with him has created memories we both will treasure. ??

  7. Thank you, Casey, for your amazing words. I’ve been many times, growing up, but haven’t been since 2010 and will be taking my 4-year-old for his first time next June. I’m a single mom and yes, I will have to scrimp and save to do it. But it’s completely worth it. You couldn’t have explained the feeling Disneyland gives you any better.

  8. I am a grandma who has spent their life going to Disneyland. My mom spoke of me as a baby enjoying the Tiki Room. I’ve brought my kids here. Now my kids are grown. I don’t want to wait for my kids to invite me along on their vacations. I want to go. Sometimes I feel like a freak who wants to go to Disney a couple of times a year. I love going without kids. I have taken my grandson without his parents. It was fun. I have a trip planned in less than a month with just my husband (he loves me) Why do I feel like a freak?

  9. Disneyland suspends your disbelief and opens your mind to possibilities. It is a fast-track to happiness!
    I was skeptical before my first visit, and within 30 seconds of entering the park, I became infatuated with the amazing attention to details & the creative part of my brain exploded with excitement.
    It is the most emotionally engaging holiday experience of my 55 years and it is what I work for every year.
    If I could, I would move to Anaheim and spend my last working years in the happiest place on earth!!!

  10. Thank you for writing that. I go often as a local and get lost in the magic. For a short while the worries of the world go away while I am there. I have met so many great friends who are more like family now. I get to reset my day, my mind and destress. Not everyone understands but it truly matters to me that I have this magical place to go.

  11. So beautifully put. The joy that I knew as a kid in the 60’s and a teen in the 70’s floods back every time I step on the property. All of the aggravation with traffic and parking, all the disappointment of the day melts away as I enter the world that Walt built. I cry when I see the light of childhood dreams spark in my grown children’s eyes as they meet the characters, or watch the parades, or see the fireworks. I am delighted to walk through the park or stand in line as my 20 something year old baby girl sings a Disney song loudly. There may be other places to see and things to do but I always come back.
    Thank you Casey for this perfect explanation of we who know the “Magic” but can’t express why.
    May I share this?

  12. This is a great post Casey. I’m 62 and just got back from Disneyland yesterday. I’ve been many times – sometimes even with littles ? – but this time, before I came back to reality, I just sat in front of the castle and took it all in. It’s ‘my happy place’. After all these years I’ve started asking myself why do I continually want to go back. I don’t ride as many rides and I tire a little quicker but it’s still my favorite holiday. Sitting in front of the castle with the beautiful California sun on my face I realized it’s because of the feeling I get going there. For a moment in time life as we know it stops and you’re in a different space. Some people will never get it cause they don’t allow themselves the privilege to let go and just spend some time with their imagination. Their loss. As for me, Disneyland will always hold a very special place in my heart ??

  13. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

    I grew up in Central CA, and we went to Disneyland on a yearly basis, so the park is full of nostalgia for me. I can’t walk under the train track into Main Street without tearing up, and New Orleans square makes me happy.

    And now I have a stack of new memories and magic to keep bringing me back, my wife and I had our first date there in 2015, and just did a Christmas trip for her 40th, since she’d never seen it decked out for the holidays.

    Disneyland will always have my heart.
    Thanks for this.

  14. Great comments. We had been to Disneyland for our honeymoon. We came back this past August for our 40th wedding anniversary with our sons and their wives. It was a wonderful experience.

  15. Great job of putting the Magic into words. We’re planning an April ‘families get-together’ visit – our 5yo grandson’s and 6yo granddaughter’s first. So looking forward to it, planning it, & being reinvigorated by memories from past visits! Thanks for your website!!!

  16. I went to Disneyland for the first time last July 2016, when I was 46 years old. My daughter had been with her dad for one-day trips, and my husband grew up in L.A., so they were both familiar. I grew up on Disney, the Wonderful World of Disney on ABC, I had the subscription Disney books of the 70’s, saw all of the movies, had all of the toys.
    We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and were there for 5 magical days. To be immersed in a place where I had no worries, where everyone seems in a good mood, where even crowds are tolerable, was hugely impactful on my life. It was like walking into my 7 year old self. I haven’t had that kind of unadulterated joy in …a long time. We are planning to go back this September. I save all year, and will do so every year for as long as I am able. Disneyland is my happy place but so much more than that. Thank you for putting that feeling into words. You captured it! <3

  17. We will be taking our first out of state vacation this November for my son’s 5th birthday. I have been saving for five years for this trip and I cannot wait to see the joy on his face when he first sees Disneyland. He is a lover of the classic characters and has his heart set on meeting Goofy. I am so fortunate to be able to give him this magic and your post cements why we are going. So we can be 5 again with our son. To let our troubles slip away fwhole we are. To giggle and act silly. To believe that the world is always happy and magical. Disney gives you that hope and dream to hold on to. Thank you Casey for sharing it with us every day. I always look forward to your new posts and often share the pictures with my son so he can start to understand what a magical place Disneyland is.

  18. We will be taking our first out of state vacation this November for my son’s 5th birthday. I have been saving for five years for this trip and I cannot wait to see the joy on his face when he first sees Disneyland. He is a lover of the classic characters and has his heart set on meeting Goofy. I am so fortunate to be able to give him this magic and your post cements why we are going. So we can be 5 again with our son. To let our troubles slip away fwhole we are. To giggle and act silly. To believe that the world is always happy and magical. Disney gives you that hope and dream to hold on to. Thank you Casey for sharing it with us every day. I always look forward to your new posts and often share the pictures with my son so he can start to understand what a magical place Disneyland is.

  19. I’m taking my 2 (almost 3) year old daughter for the very first time in two weeks and I’m sitting here SOBBING reading this post! I grew up in So. Cal and Disneyland was always such a huge part of my life and means just everything to me. To share it with my little girl and see it inspire her the way it has always inspired me is something I am looking forward to tremendously. Thanks for all the information you give to help families get the most magic possible from their trip!

  20. We are really looking forward to our first Disney vacation with our children (12, 9, and 6) and my parents the last week of March (2017.) It’s the first time I’ve been back to Disneyland since I was in 5th grade, and although I am not a fan of big crowds, I am so looking forward to the magic taking over. This post explains exactly why this vacation is so important to me. Thank you so very, very much for the work you’ve put into this website. It’s eased a lot of my anxiety, and I feel like I’m well educated in making our plans to experience all the magic that Disney has to offer!

  21. I love this post. I’m 31 and went to Disneyland with my family when I was about 6/7 but I don’t remember much. I went to Disney World when I was 17 with my cheer squad for Nationals. I remember more from my second trip but I can still feel “the magic” all these years later. I’ve been reading your articles and pinning them to my Pinterest board and can not thank you enough for all the info. We’re planning our first family vacation for next year and so much has changed! I’d be lying if I said it gives me a little bit of anxiety thinking about planning it but I feel more confident with every bit of info that you give me.
    My husband has NEVER been on a family vacation. EVER! Needless to say, explaining to him why everyone NEEDS to experience a Disney resort AT LEAST once is difficult. He doesn’t see why it’s totally worth the small fortune we’re about to invest in. It’s expensive, yes, but there is nothing like a Disney adventure! Thank you for this post and for your helpful tips! I appreciate it more than you know!

  22. This is still my favourite post by you, Casey. I am sitting here, having had a rough couple of days, longing to be able to pick up and just GO, and I’m in tears. There is just something about Disneyland that will never be able to be replicated.

  23. Love this and is so true for my family from Australia, I’m heading over in November for my 7 time I think 🙂 this will my first time with my daughter and people think we are crazy for one going with a 18month old and two for going so much( like hello not enough) there is so much magic there and is truly my happiest place on earth

  24. I love this so much! Our trip is in less than 3 weeks and the sounds of Disneyland BGMs have been filling our house, the countdown is on the chalkboard and our kids have started behaving just a little bit better as we anticipate the excitement of this trip. It’s just “that place” where we all feel love, magic, happiness. It’s where my boys who argue at home become best friends again, my husband and I fall in love again (especially during fireworks). It’s where we as grown-ups play as kids with our kids…I think it’s where we get to behave like we wish we could everyday. It’s literally the only thing our family (Mom, Dad and boys ages 16, 12, & 10) agree on. Life is hard, go to Disneyland.

  25. THIS IS PERFECT. We are going in May and I can’t wait to see the looks on my kids faces. Only problem is, I cry (with joy) every time I see anything Disney. Watching the Disney parks show on Christmas Day and I was bawling! So embarrassing. However, this article sums up the exact reason why- innocence, happiness..there’s nothing better..thanks Casey!

  26. Wow, what an amazing article. Disneyland fills my heart with so much joy, I was wiping away a tear at the end of this post. I love reading your articles and planning my trip, even if I don’t have a specific trip planned between you & Fresh Baked I get my Disney fix every day. Would love to bump into you in the parks when we’re there in December.
    Thanks so much for your dedication to and love of Disney!

  27. Thank you Casey for a lovely article. Living in Australia makes it a bit harder to visit but I have been 3 times now & planning a 4th in March 2016. As a little girl my grandparents went and my grandma came home and said that all she thought about on It’s a Small World was how much I would love it. I finally visited for the first time at age 20 and understood what she meant. I always tear up on that riding thinking of her as she passed away 10 years ago. I am finally doing one of my bucket list items next year – bringing my two daughters to experience the magic together and over three days instead of the usual rush of 1 day & will hopefully see WOC for the first time. The girls don’t really understand why I am planning so far out but to me that is half the fun & so we get to see & do as much as possible, so that they can look back with life long memories. Thanks for all your tips – keep up the great work!

  28. This was perfectly written. It brought visions of the past 2 times taking my daughter and the few times I went with my mom. Disneyland is a place where the present meets the past with joyful looks to the future!

  29. Hi Casey,
    We met you in Fantasyland yesterday evening and just wanted to say thank you for spending the time with us, to share some new facts about Disneyland. You were kind and gracious and sweet and we loved talking to you. We’re looking forward to reading your blog and will share it with our Disney friends.


    Don, Connor and Lucy Low

  30. Fun to meet you at California Adventures this evening!

    We had a wonderful time experiencing the magic of Disney – Thanks for all the tips and advice…

  31. this is a positive site and no backlashing about Disney’s price, food and how crowded it is. I like to see the positive side for once

  32. I can certainly relate to this article. In 2010 at the age of 57 I told my husband I had to go to WDW..a life long dream. He did not want to go..but did and said this is a one-time only trip. We have been back 3 times in the last 4 years and I am planning again for 2016 as I want to wait for Disney Springs to be complete. Also have a tear while waiting for the magical express to come pick us up and take us to the airport.

  33. My EXACT sentiments! How well written. As we walk under the bridge each time we feel like we have returned to OUR playground, ready for new adventures in the places we have seen countless times before. As I leave each time, I take a minute to stop at the statue of Walt and Mickey to think about the happiness he has brought to my family. He has provided a positive influence that has helped bond the 36 of us like no other. After reminiscing about the thousands of hours of happiness he has brought into our lives, I always say “Thank you, Walt”. At the end of each trip it is hard to leave without wiping away a tear of gratitude and sadness at leaving while hoping for a quick return.

  34. facebook problem, but wanted this information to get out:
    So, the April Fools Joke is on us. Many had expected Captain America and Thor to move to another location (probably the Starcade) after Innoventions closed yesterday.

    Both are listed as “Schedule Unavailable” today through May 13.

    • Hey, Gerry. I wasn’t expecting them to the move to the Starcade, but I was hopeful they’d find a place. Cast members have all hinted at something amazing coming. Wish I knew what!

  35. Nothing but love for this magical place. So very blessed to have grown up here, worked as a CM for a few years and now take my kids often as Annual Passholders to pass the tradition. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Well said and thank you!

  36. This an inspired piece of work! You have managed to capture everything any Disney lover would say from their hearts about the parks they love. I am sometimes asked the question by people who have never been or haven’t been in a while, “What’s really so great about Disneyland?” You have captured the magic and spirit of Disneyland right here! Bravo!

  37. I LOVE this! And I completely agree with every word. Our parents took us many times while we were growing up, and now that we have 5 kids of our own, we have taken them all once (after a VERY long 8 year hiatus) and hope to go late this year again. I’m so glad we’re able to take them to experience it while they’re young. And I’ll openly admit that there is nowhere else on earth that I would want to vacation!

  38. This is exactly the feelings I get at Disney this is why we choose this place as our family vacation place every time…. Where else in this sad messed up crazy world can we feel like everyone is happy full of hope and joy??? No where but Disney ????my son 2year old son passed away last January after a long 16months in hospital and a year at home with us which was the best year of out lives, but after he passed we wanted to do something special for our daughter who spent countless hours at the hospital and was really put second alot due to the high needs of Lukas… So after going for our honeymoon and 1st wedding anniversary, we drempt of taking our children there, it wasn’t the dream I thought but I knew this place would do something good for all of our hearts I knew that as soon as I witnessed my daughters face as she walked through those gates the first time, that joy would enter my heart amongst the pain that was settled there,… I was so right all three of us felt joy happiness and we all laughed, something we felt impossible to do before…. So long storey short I love this place it’s our place and no other will compare?we head back there April 16th yay before we try for another baby and then my dream will be to return asap with another little I can share the magic with

  39. This is an amazing article!! I could have written it as it’s totally how I feel! I have the apps, books, maps, support groups…oh wait…discussion board groups…and notes to go with it. I have a laminated (!) map of DL and DCA in my purse that I study and memorize in preparation for our trip in 144 days (I have an app that told me that this morning!)…. I don’t want to roam aimlessly looking for that churro! It’s such joy and such magic and I love it all! Planning is half the fun…it brings all this joyous mahic to me each day for the months leading up to a Disney trip. Life is good…and adding Disney magic to that is even better! Hugs, Casey, thanks for a great read!!