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Where You Sit Side by Side on Space Mountain


Stick around long enough with me and I’ll drag you to Disneyland. Kicking and screaming if need be, but to no avail. As Devyn learned before Ryan in 2005, the floodgates always open.

So now it’s Ryan’s turn. He turns the big 4-0 in early March, a milestone he’s been anxious about for months. I started my midlife crisis at 39, so by 40 I was all set. But for Ryan, I knew I had to take special measures. His anxiety coupled with lots of work stress set the light bulb off over my head about a birthday trip. But where?

I let the cat out of the bag early, because I didn’t want to take Ryan somewhere he didn’t want to be. He has this sense of not having seen much of the world and really likes big cities. But though we’ve been together for two years, we’ve only tripped as far as Cincinnati with each other. I offered a few suggestions: San Francisco; New York; Washington D.C.; Montreal…Disneyland. Then I annoyed him for weeks bouncing back and forth over the options when he had pretty much settled on San Francisco.

He knew better. We’ll get to Northern California. But there’s no better way I know for a stressed out person feeling/fearing their age to reconnect with their inner child and the joy said child entails than a flight to LAX followed by a drive down to Anaheim.

And I haven’t been back since 2005. So it’s time.

In the early 2000s before I moved to Chicago, I had an annual pass to Disneyland Resort–and I used it muchly, too. Sure, I’ve been to “The World”. I remember waking up upside down in my bed at the Polynesian when my sister (z”l) and her boyfriend took me to Florida for my third birthday in 1973. At Walt Disney World again when I was seven, with my Aunt Juanita and Uncle Ron and their family, I fell in love with the original Space Mountain, sharing a tandem seat with my cousin Darcy Ann Aunt Juanita [who reminded me on Facebook I rode with her and scared her because I didn’t make a noise on the ride!]

But as I learned in 2002, you sit side by side on the better Space Mountain–and that one’s at the park where Walt walked. Disneyland Park, at Disneyland Resort, in Anaheim. Which was cheaper to fly to from New York and stay at versus Disney World in Florida back then–and still is, too, from Chicago. It became my “home” park in my mid-30s. I’ve missed it for a long time.


The double seats on Space Mountain. The smell of the pine trees in Critter Country. The far longer, far better Pirates of the Caribbean. Monte Cristos at the Blue Bayou inside said Pirates. The tandem-seated original Splash Mountain. Haunted Mansion where the stretching room really is an elevator. Mad Hatter Tea Cups with no giant tent on top. The Matterhorn. The amazing facade outside it’s a small world. The “goat trick” on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Indiana. Jones. Adventure. Soarin’ Over California (its full name, thank you very much), Hollywood Tower of Terror, Grizzly River Run, and the brand new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.

And churros…everywhere churros.

Our trip is a weekend one over Shabbat. Back home in Chicago, we’ve tended to have angst-ridden visits to Six Flags Great America on the Jewish Sabbath. Usually ending with me complaining that, much as I like Great America, it’s sure no Disneyland. Violent thrill rides (some of which we’re too girthy to fit on and breathe) and ganging teenagers and rotten food and a less-than-classy atmosphere could ruin any Shabbat.

Disneyland isn’t those things. Sure, the height of a hot, crowded day when the lines are long and tempers are short can by trying. But Walt Disney created the place six decades ago to be an antidote to experiences like we often have at Great America. He wanted a place where families could go, escape the world, and connect with each other in an atmosphere of imagination, and wonder, and joy. And in the ‘land, girthy people fit on everything.

I can’t think of a better place to spend Shabbat and celebrate Ryan’s 40th birthday.

teacup spin

If your experience has only been the larger, emptier, Magic Kingdom park in Florida, it’s beyond an understatement to tell you, you really don’t know what you’re missing. The real magic’s in a completely different Orange County. (Yes, emptier. Disneyland Resort’s two parks have more rides and attractions packed into them than all four parks at Walt Disney World put together.)

I haven’t decided how many magical surprises I’ll spring on Ryan while we’re in California, but he already knows wearing his “First Timer” and “Birthday” pins from City Hall are non-optional. I’m hoping the magic works on him and helps him de-stress and laugh and relax and enjoy. It better. He has to come back home and live with me, and you know how I can get.

Guess maybe we’ll just have to keep going back.

Categories: Adventure Disneyland (Anaheim)

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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9 replies

  1. Great article! While I do agree with most of your points, even though I do live in the Orlando, FL area, Cinderella’s castle here at Disney World is amazing to me! Turning on to Main Street USA and seeing that huge castle at the end always amazes me. Then when I went to Disneyland in CA and saw Sleeping Beauty’s Castle I thought, what a let down, who squished the castle! lol My only other point would be the Haunted Mansion. Personally, I just prefer the Disney World exterior.

    I agree whole heartedly with you though about Pirates and the Blue Bayou’s Monte Cristo, Space Mountains music and double seats, Indiana Jones Adventure, Autopia, the “real elevator” in Haunted Mansion and the Mark VII Monorails.

    In other parks that I’ve researched I sure would like to ride Pooh’s Honey Hunt, a trackless ride in Tokyo Disneyland, Crush’s Coaster and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril Coaster at Disneyland Paris and then Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea. Then of course, there’s always Shanghai Disneyland opening next year?

    I’m excited here at Disney World for the opening of “The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train” any day now, Avatar Land being added at Animal Kingdom and the rumored “Cars Land” at Hollywood Studios…keeping my fingers crossed on that one! ha

    1. I totally want to try those trackless ride vehicles in Japan, too! In truth, I also prefer the larger Haunted Mansion in WDW, although I do prefer Disneyland’s graveyard scene and much less crowded loading area. the Temple du Peril coaster in Paris just seems kind of carnival-esque to me, though.

      What killed Cinderella castle for me (you may have read the gory details in this post: Why Two Disneyland Vets Didn’t Love Five Days in Walt Disney World.) was that it was inaccessible due to those loud awful stage shows. They really damage the vibe in the Hub at MK for me. When I got back to DLR after WDW last year, Main Street USA definitely seemed a lot less tall–but it was still “my” Main Street. I think maybe Main Street and the castle just imprint on you from your home Disney park and that’s that.

      Much as we didn’t like our WDW experience last year, there were things we did like, and I have a lot of affection for MK, though it’s so intensely different in feel than DL. As it turned out, I liked MK’s Matterhorn-esque original Space Mountain a lot, bumps and all.

      1. Walt Disney World didn’t have a stage when I went in 1997. The hub looked like Disneyland, with the trees & benches. But Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney World is bigger & better than Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. There’s nothing like seeing that from the monorail. Disneyland’s is underwhelming after seeing Walt Disney World’s. Lol! 😆

        1. You should probably read my later posts about WDW. The nightmare vacation one. And the later one where we fell completely in love with it. 🙂 At this point, I love both Space Mountains, and really thing the ride itself is better at Disneyland. But the overall experience from scale to the queue to the walkout? My preference is now for Orlando’s version. Besides, it’s essentially Matterhorn in the dark. That’s hard for a Disneyland fan not to love.

  2. Disneyland is way nice and yesterday rides are ell themed however, disney land California adventure, down town disney and the three hotels would all fit into magic kingdoms and it would still have more rides and stuff to do. To me disney world wins everything except in the case of being the first built. Disney world has 28 resorts 2 water parks, 4 theme parks, down town disney and more. Compared to disneylands 3 hotels, and 2 theme parks and a tiny down town disney. Now about Matterhorn its a great ride but it lost its greatness once expedition Everest was built it had so much new technologies and new effects that it blew Matterhorn away., mad hatter has a tent because it rains and people dont want to get wet. Twightlight zone tower of terror in disney world is sooooo much better it has more special effects more drops, etc. space mountain in disney world resembles a rocket better then a two seat per row in Disneyland. Disneyland is nice and was first built but disney world is way better and bigger and its more affordable. Disneylands car land would be nice if the radiator springs racers didnt break down evry 5 seconds.
    All in all
    Disneyland: old
    Disney world : new

  3. Michael – I have not been to Disneyworld, only Disneyland – but you’ve captured both what I like about it and what I HATE about great america. I didn’t know that the rides in FL are not the same as CA. My new home in CA is only about an hour away and I’m looking forward to a trip to ANaheim in June with a seven year old. Should be magical.


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