There is no basketball court inside Space Mountain. There is, however, a pretty awesome roller coaster chock full of right turns. As a boy, I had no affinity for roller coasters. They simply scared me. It wasn’t until high school that I really rode them, and then it was love at first ride. My first experience on Space Mountain came in 2005, while I was at the park with my mom. We had thought the ride was still closed for its big refurbishment, but were told by a cast member in a Tomorrowland shop that they had just started its soft opening that day. I looked at my mom with a bursting excitement and enthusiasm in a plea to ride. My mom, definitely not a fan of roller coasters, agreed without noticeable hesitation. Great moms do that sort of thing. I had a blast, flying through banked turns and drops underneath the stars, and my mom survived. I think of that first time, every time I ride Space Mountain or walk by that shop in Tomorrowland. Thanks mom.
At the entrance to “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” mementos can be found of the place where the idea and the dream of Disneyland were born. Walt would take his daughters to the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round and sit on a bench, all the while thinking that there must be something for parents and their children to do together for amusement. I’m glad he didn’t settle for leaving that as a thought. The horse from the merry-go-round, the peanut cart, and Walt’s bench serve as tangible reminders that “dreams can come true, if we have courage to pursue them” (Walt Disney). I, like I believe many of us, feel a strong, personal connection with Disneyland and its beginnings. Each time I go to the park, I feel more in tune with the past, more hopeful for the future, and I make new memories to cherish. This ability to make a personal connection is what sets Disneyland apart. We make the experience our own and we should. In doing so, we uphold and honor the dream that Walt Disney poured himself out to achieve. The park bears Walt’s name, but in his opening day speech, he dedicated Disneyland to each of us: “To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land.”
One of the things that has always stood out in my mind about the Haunted Mansion is that Walt wanted the outside to look well kept. I believe his main concern was the overall appearance of Disneyland yet the almost charming exterior of the Mansion also serves another purpose, intensifying the experience inside. Potential riders are less likely to question entering a house that hasn’t fallen into disrepair. Once the elevator doors open, however, followed shortly by the monotone behest to drag your body to the dead center of the room, it’s a whole different ball game. I have to admit, I am one of those people that recites the monologue in the elevator along with the “ghost host.”
The first time I rode on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I was small enough to fit between my mom and dad in one seat… sort of. I remember hearing so many interesting sounds and feeling the rush of wind against my face. What I don’t recall is seeing anything except for these bones. I was far too busy being made into the kind of sandwich that had mistakenly been sat on on the way to school, with a slice of mom on one side and a slice of dad on the other. As a child, I was frustrated. I felt like I had missed out. But it is just that kind of memory that fills me with gladness and brings me back to Disneyland time and again. And you can bet when I have a child who is sort of small enough to fit between my wife and me, we’ll be headed straight for the “wildest ride in the wilderness” to have ourselves a sandwich.