Week 28: The Happiest Place on Earth

I have been to Disneyland many, many times. Come on…I grew up in Anaheim Hills. Everybody loved to come visit us, and after a while my parents would say, “here are the directions, have a nice time.” I remember my Grad Nite where we (yes me too) rented tuxedos to wear for the heck of it. As a teen, we would go to the theme parks to go dancing (Knott’s Berry Farm had a great teen club deal too). We even went to Disneyland in college. Afterwards, when dating my future husband, we both played hookie from work and had a day at Disneyland (don’t tell O’Melveny).


Later when we moved to San Diego and my boys were young, annual passes were a staple. It helped that one of my sisters lived in Orange – cheap accommodations. Then, who cared if you took a day off from preschool or elementary. In elementary school we even visited Disneyland and California Adventure with one of our favorite teachers (not on a school day).

grad nite bus before

So when the high school was asking for volunteers to chaperone the annual senior Grad Nite trip to Disneyland…well, ya — I’m raising my hand. It didn’t matter that I did not have a senior, all the better, no kids to embarass.


There was a nice group of parents that were chaperoning (Brook, Dawn, Lisa C., Claire, John, Scott, Mary, etc.), and I was paired up with my friend Lisa-Marie. Our plan was to eat our way through Disneyland. You see, I did have on my 50 Weeks list to visit Disneyland without kids, because I wanted to eat and shop without kids dragging me around…not that I think my kids are a drag, but you know what I mean.


Luckily, our bus had a nice and fairly quiet group of kids. But we did hit some traffic on the way to Disneyland, so by the time we got there, Lisa-Marie and I were both starving. We started off sitting down to a meal at the Carnation Cafe — chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies. We were so hungry, by the time I remembered to take a picture, we were done eating. After sitting a while and people watching, we decided to do the same thing at another restaurant.

grad nite beignets

Yesss…I had been thinking about the Mickey shaped beignets at Cafe Orleans for weeks! Finally, the moment I had been waiting for, sitting down eating beignets, drinking hot chocolate, leisurely people watching. I love their beignets (reminds me of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans), so do my kids. Both Lisa-Marie and I had to buy extra beignets to go (note that by the time my kids had some the next day they were smushed, but were fine after heating in the toaster oven with a fresh sprinkling of powdered sugar). Lisa-Marie had a delicious plate of Bananas Foster crepes. We said hello to a few kids we knew walking by, and soon thereafter we were stuffed.


We figured we might as well enjoy some rides, so let’s see what was around that didn’t have too long of a line… oh yes, the Haunted Mansion. Love that ride, especially when they re-decorate for Halloween and the holidays. Then on to my most favorite ride ever — Pirates of the Caribbean! I was so happy when they made the Pirates movies, now they are my most favorite movies ever! While in line, we did what we hated seeing other people do, let a couple kids we knew cut in line. Hey, isn’t that what chaperones are for, to help the kids?

grad nite main street

The Indiana Jones ride was too long (we stayed in line for about a half hour and it was going no where), so we went on the Jungle Cruise instead. It could be ten years later and the jokes are still the same, gotta love consistency. But we all oblige and laugh anyway. Time flies when you’re having fun and it was soon time to head on over to California Adventure. People were lining the streets so looks like the fireworks show was about to start. Which meant that the shops were empty, so we took some time to browse the shops along Main Street. So many cute things. I would need my own Disney Playhouse in the backyard to decorate properly.

grad nite 2

The throngs of Grad Nite participants were all heading on over to California Adventure, because after they officially close at 10:00pm, it stays open until 2:00 am for Grad Nite kids and chaperones only. Woohoo! What to do, what to do? We head to the right and start off with Soarin’ Over California. Love the 4-D effect of smelling the orange blossoms. Then it’s over to the Grizzly River Run…wait, what it’s closed? Oh man, that’s one of my favorites (I love water rides). Ok, well let’s keep going, yes next is the Goofy’s Sky School ride for a nice dose of whiplash. My kids would go on this ride over and over and over again using the single ride line. For me, once is plenty. We do go on a ride I’ve never been on — the Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s like an arcade game as a ride and you rack up points shooting at targets. Anything that spells competition is considered fun in my household, so this was fun to me. The interactive rides are always our favorites (like the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland, I got a million points once…no really).


We continue walking to the other side of the Boardwalk, but looks like some of the sidewalk food stalls are out many food items. So we head on over to the Chaperone’s Lounge in Ariel’s Grotto. Lots of people were charging up their phones, some were napping. Outside we see a few other parents we know, and sit for a spell, enjoying sodas and snacks – yummy chocolate chip cookies, and I’ll save that apple for later, thank you.

grad nite cars

Then what I’ve been waiting for all night (ok, besides the previously mentioned eating of beignets), and that is Cars Land. That area wasn’t built when I was there last, so this was really exciting for me. I love that movie. (I’m using the word love a lot aren’t I?) The Cars movie actually inspired us to take a mini-route 66 road trip, including staying overnight in the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino. So even though the line was an hour long for the Radiator Springs Racers ride, we stuck it through. Apparently an hour wait is nothing for that ride. We kept occupied by listening to some of the high schoolers chant (I think we heard a UC, U Know in there somewhere), get appalled at the numbers of kids line cutting, and wondering if we were smelling alcohol on these minors breaths. Once on, the ride was so much fun, racing the car next to you was a blast. The cars actually went faster than what I had expected. Yes worth the wait.

grad nite cones

We watched the kids dancing to the DJ in that area, which was playing rap music. Then we noticed a girl passed out on the floor, but security was on it and an EMT was on the way. Her friends were gathered around, hmm exhaustion, alcohol, drugs? Even as chaperones, how do you really prevent kids from sneaking stuff in? Did you ever sneak such things into Disneyland, honestly? Actually, I don’t think I ever did. I was a good girl.

grad nite flos v8 kids

Next to that area we see the Luigi’s Flying Tires ride which neither of us had been on, so we go. It’s like an oversized tire bumper ride on air, and you move your body towards the direction you want to go. For me, it was somewhat hard to maneuver and I found myself jumping out of my seat, trying to bounce around. As we leave that area, we notice that the girl that was passed out was being attended to by the park medical team, and there was at least a dozen security guards encircling her. I hope she’s okay, you worry as a parent.

grad nite corn

We head on over to see what was happening at Hollywood Land, and that was were the action was…yes we found a street cart selling corn on the cob and chimichangas! So, of course, we were getting hungry again and had to split some. We take our snacks into the dance area where kids were head bopping with hands in the air to a DJ playing some techno dance music – is that what it’s called, I’m really out of it. As we eat, we watch the kids enjoy themselves. This is the area where I would tell  my son to go next year when he’s a senior. Some kids start break dancing, others splashing water on others heads. The joys of young adulthood. I had the urge to get into the middle of it all, but no, I stayed where we were, on the outskirts looking in, wishing we were young again. At least the drug dog didn’t sniff anyone out.

grad nite stage

    grad nite kids stage

Well, the close of the night was soon approaching, so now what. We stroll back towards the Boardwalk thinking we may have time for one more ride. We see a large group of the chaperones heading back, but most of the kids were staying to watch the “Last Kiss” World of Color show created for Grad Nites. We decide to stay and watch and it really was a spectacular show. We were standing towards the back of the group and could still really feel the heat from the fires. Disney really knows their special effects. It did bring me back to my own high school days when we would watch the Dancing Waters show at the Disneyland Hotel. Does anyone else remember those?

grad nite 1

Alas, time to go. The herds of kids quietly and orderly stream out the gates and to the lines for the trams back to the buses. We look at the lines and think, we’re chaperones, we can’t wait this long. We were about to walk back, but then we noticed a line where we can sneak up to the front. Okay, so we took cuts. The kids didn’t say anything. Shouldn’t there be a Fastpass for chaperones anyway? Luckily, the bus driver and the other bus chaperone got there ahead of us and let some of the kids in. All the kids slowly start meandering in, and looking at what they were carrying, many did not take the advice of shopping earlier in the day. Moms know best, take our advice.

grad nite bus home

Eventually, we checked in all the kids, and double-counted. We didn’t want to be the chaperones that left kids a county away from home. The kids were pooped out, and so were we, so it was a very quiet ride home. And before you knew it, we were in bed having our Disney dreams.




I really can’t believe I wrote this much about Grad Nite, and if you’ve read this far, then you must love all things Disney too, or really like my writing. Come on, Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth! (Now, if they built one in Hawaii, whoa, I’m applying for my retirement job.) I think us adults design these outlandishly fun places for kids, because deep down we are all kids. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!


Yes, I went as a chaperone, but we all love Disneyland so it was fun for me too. And there’s nothing wrong with reliving some of your young adult memories. So I give you permission to go to Disneyland without the kids. Have fun…and bring me back a beignet or two!




Disneyland and California Adventure, do I really need to tell you where it’s at? www.disneyland.disney.go.com

Prices: $96 for one-day, one park admission for age 10 and older, $150 for a park hopper; for a two-day $178/$217. You can get a Southern California Select Annual Passport for $289, but because of blackout dates, you can’t go most of summer, weekends, and holidays. The ultimate Premium Passport to go anytime with parking included is $699, yup, you read that correctly $699 for one year at the Happiest Place on Earth!


P.S. I also helped with the UCHS Grad Nite at the school. I spent all night at the Food Court and let me tell you that serving kids all night was way harder than Disneyland. (My feet are still killing me.) But all the kids seemed to be having fun, they were well-behaved, and appreciated all the food provided. I love that they ate up all the fruit platters. Oh, sushi a big hit too. Making these childhood memories for all our kids is what makes volunteering worthwhile.

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