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When my Dad announced to my sisters and I that he had inadvertently become a member of the and we were all welcome to use the points anytime, I rolled my eyes. Come on, Dad, please, I’m a dignified world wanderer who reads Paul Theroux while sighing over the romance of traversing developing continents overland and prides herself on the ability to properly use squat toilets, obviously I wouldn’t enjoy something as pedestrian as prancing through an artificially created cartoon land where people are just unapologetically having a great time!

Except, it turns out, I really really would.

When a friend’s Palm Springs wedding prompted my first trip to California in over a decade, my dad’s offer echoed in the back of my mind. I hadn’t seen my Los Angeles-based friend Lindsay since we partied it up in Thailand last year — suddenly a free weekend in Anaheim didn’t seem like such a bad idea. I proposed the idea to her almost apologetically, but was buoyed by her enthusiastic response. Two twenty-something girlfriends going on a getaway to Disneyland — were we nuts? According to in the New York Times, no — nearly one-third of Disney-goers are adults sans children.

Disney Vacation Club works much the way any timeshare scheme does, I assume, as someone who has never participated in any kind of timeshare scheme whatsoever. While our “home hotel” is actually in Florida it was easy to look up the various point values and call and book the hotel of our choice (though considering I was traveling in South America at the time we were planning this, and calling involved conning a Danish guy into pretending to be my dad via Skype, I would have preferred to be able to book online). There are three Disney hotels in the area — , , and — and while the Grand Californian is regarded as the most upscale, after much debate I settled on the classic Disneyland Hotel, which was much more my style.

We arrived on Friday night, with me fresh off a flight into LAX. Collapsing with exhaustion in our room, I tipped my hat to the old mouse. The hotel was filled with Disney charm and details, from the cleverly-shaped faucets to the light up castle headboard we didn’t know lit up until after checkout.

Though staying in the Disney hotels grants you access to the “Magic Hour,” sixty minutes in the park before the doors open to the general public, at this stage in our lives the magic hour is the extra one that you get to sleep in a dreamy hotel bed with blackout curtains. We strolled towards the parks mid-morning, with Lindsay taking the lead as our resident Disneyland expert.

Compared to Disney World, where I’ve been about a dozen times thanks to our annual trips to visit my Florida-based family, Disneyland is a very manageable size. The two parks, and , were a short walk from our hotel through the lively Downtown Disney area and with our Park Hopper day passes we could pop between them as we wished.

I have to admit that the only research I really did for this trip was memorizing the , so I pretty much trotted behind Lindsay while she led us through the Disney California Adventure highlights, starting at Paradise Pier. We didn’t even attempt to do all the rides, but instead focused on hitting some of the big popular ones with Fast Pass lines (Soarin’ Over California theater, California Screamin’ roller coaster, and Radiator Springs Racer), some of the classics (Mickey’s Fun Wheel and the Silly Symphony Swings), and some personal Disney classic favorites (It’s Tough to Be a Bug 3D Theater and The Little Mermaid’s Underwater Adventure were my faves).

Otherwise we just strolled through the park and enjoyed the scenery unfold. The designer in me couldn’t stop marveling at the attention to detail, the omnipresent branding and the whimsical atmosphere the magic-makers had created. Certainly different things than my younger self admired while romping through a Disney park, but one thing hasn’t changed — I’m impressed.

After a late lunch in Disney California Adventure (they serve booze!) we strolled over to Disneyland. It was a Saturday afternoon and the crowds were pouring in. There was a noticeable difference in the feels of the parks, with this one obviously being the more traditional and classic Disney-feel.

I admit it — after  an obligatory shot in front the of the castle, a spin on the Mad Tea Party teacups and a ride on the Matterhorn, we were wiped. The combination of crowds, heat and general frenzy inspired us to seek refuge in a nap back in our hotel room. But with Disney California Adventure closing at 10:00pm and Disneyland closing at midnight, we had a whole second shot to run rampant through the parks.

And so we did. We arrived back at Disneyland after dark and marveled at how the park had changed under the glow of a billion tiny bulbs. The lines were still pretty crazy for all the rides we were considering so we picked just one to brave: Alice in Wonderland, of course. It was worth the wait.

But we soon popped back to Disney California Adventure and the lure of mouse-approved nightlife. I was intrigued by the promise of the Mad T Party which a brochure described as a “hip, high-energy nighttime experience.” Upon arrival, I described it as a Disney rave. A high energy band rocked out to great covers onstage, a bar served creative cocktails with fanciful presentation (a neon light up ice cube? yes please!), and the crowd, including us, loved it. Who knew?!

But we didn’t stay long — we had a Fast Pass reservation to World Of Color. This was another event I was skeptical of, perhaps again because of that brochure description — an “immersive water spectacular combining water, color, fire, music and animation in a kaleidoscope of fantasy and imagination.” Um, right. So we scooted our way in to the massive crowd that had gathered in front of Paradise Pier and waited to be wowed.

Guys, WE WERE WOWED. I don’t know if it was that Mad T Party cocktail or what, but I was moved. The show is basically an aquatic nostalgia bomb, and I apologize for the proliferation of this adjective throughout this post, but here it is again — it was magic. When I heard Ariel’s voice piping through I think I might have teared slightly.

Laughing at ourselves for how thoroughly we had converted, we made our way to in Downtown Disney, which I’m noting because you need to know it has the best happy hour hours ever — 10pm to close! Only in Disney do you get a bar actively trying to get patrons to stay later. The cocktails and appetizers were great and there was a fairly lively atmosphere kicking off.

We capped off our night with a final cocktail at , our favorite find of the trip. There are no generic sugary drink mixes here — these were creative and fun, beautifully presented cocktails. And the atmosphere was pretty unbeatable as well. My obsession was validated when I later recommended the place to two friends in town who just happen to be New York bartenders and self-professed cocktail snobs, and they reported back that they loved it too. Kudos, Disney.

And then it was Sunday Funday! We immediately made our way back to Trader Sam’s to order up some poolside cocktails and nab some daybeds. While I expected the place to be mobbed by kids, we were pretty pleasantly surprised — turns out, most families hit the parks early and then make it to the pool in late afternoon, right around the time we’d be driving back to LA. Score!

It turns out I can love Disney as an adult. Sure, the lines were sometimes long and the crowds sometimes tedious, and we spent a lot of time slapping our hands over our mouths after accidentally cursing in the presence of toddlers. But Disney was a part of big part of my life growing up. I thought that phase was over. But through a captivating blend of nostalgia, creativity, decadence, and damn good cocktails, Disney won this eye-roller back over.

Would you do Disney as an adult?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Note: I received two media Park Hopper passes courtesy of Disney. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill (and no, Disney does not endorse the use of curse words in this post.)

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58 Comments...
  • Caity
    May 23 2014

    Love, love, love this post…and Disney! My sis and I went to Disnesyland Hong Kong a few years ago which is puny in comparison to all the others, but it was great running around filled with the happiness of youth again! If cocktails were involved I don’t think we would have left! ; )

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Nice! I’ve only recently learned about the Disneys in Paris and Hong Kong. I can imagine that would be quite the novelty! Glad to hear you had a great time too.

  • Meihoukaia
    May 23 2014

    Perfect Disney trip! Trader Sam’s is my favorite. I would recommend if you get to go back, try the Napa Rose in the Grand California Hotel. Not a cheap meal but they do a wine pairing that is amazing!
    Meihoukaia recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      I LOVED Trader Sam’s. I don’t think I’ll ever return to Anaheim without a night there! It kind of made our trip! And I was shocked by how reasonable the prices were too.

  • Shaun
    May 23 2014

    I was recently at DisneyWorld and after traveling it just feels overly artifical. It’s great for families but I would really need a bar crawl to get me in to the vibe there. However, the water light show looks very cool.

    Btw, that statue of Walt Disney reminded me of the statue of Vladimir Lenin in St. Petersburg.
    Shaun recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Well the bar crawl did indeed help 🙂 I also think that the manageable size of Disneyland (as opposed to Disney World) made a huge difference. A weekend at Disneyland is perfect (we did one day in the parks, two would have been better), whereas a week at Disney World is just barely enough to scratch the surface. I was expecting to feel the way you did but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself!

  • Emily
    May 23 2014

    I had done Disneyworld as a kid and so was very hesitant when a friend invited us to celebrate their 30th at Disneyland. We did have a blast, so I agree with you (though I still have to say Disneyworld is my favourite of the two…).
    Emily recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      This trip inspired me to make a return to Disney World at some point soon, actually, so I’ll be interested to compare the two as well! It’s impossible to try to stack them against each other now when my Florida visits were all as a munchkin and my only California experience was as an adult. Glad you had a fun trip with your friends!

  • wow that looks so fun! Regardless of age.. i wouldn’t even be skeptical of any of it! I’m dying to go but have a feeling it won’t be until i have my 5 kids.
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Ha, I can’t wait to see you out there with your fanny pack, Rachel! (And just so other readers don’t think I’m being mean, Rachel totally mentioned a fanny pack in another Disney post.)

  • Steve
    May 23 2014

    It shows that we are all big kids at heart. Glad to see people enjoying themselves.
    Steve recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Yes, it did warm my heart to see all those smiling faces running around 🙂 Happy times!

  • Linda
    May 23 2014

    I just love your photography. And the bathroom fixtures cracked me up!

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Thank you! And yes, I loved those too. I was in the shower yelling to Lindsay, “Hey! Mickey Mouse is in here!” Ha.

  • Maddy
    May 23 2014

    OMG when I was going to school in LA we had season passes to Disney and would go down after classes for an evening of rollercoasters, pineapple whip (SO GOOD), and fireworks shows. It was so much fun! I love adult Disney.
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      That sounds crazy fun! Did they give you a student discount? I hope so! I’m sure you made up for it buying all that pineapple whip 🙂

  • Justine
    May 23 2014

    Haha! I stayed in that exact hotel a few years back. Somehow I scored a free week there so I just decided to go for it. Did you notice that the headboard actually lights up and plays a lullaby? The giant Mickey Mouse hands holding the lamps in the bathroom kinda freaked me out though! But I do think it’s kinda fun to do Disneyland as an adult. It was a hilarious experience!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      We didn’t realize the headboard lit up until I looked at the hotel’s Instagram later! I was so annoyed we missed it! Well… just an excuse to go back 🙂

  • Dad
    May 23 2014

    Your are welcome! Photos are fabulous

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      THANK YOU DAD 🙂 We had the best time. You’re the best. xo

  • Aww love this getaway Meihoukai!! Yes I’d definitely visit Disney as an adult. I love the embroidered pillows touch – (a dream is a wish your heart makes). this post makes me nostalgic.
    Jean | Holy Smithereens recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      I loved that little touch… among the many others! Even the darn drawer pulls were whimsical! Disney doesn’t miss a beat.

  • Joella J in Beijing
    May 23 2014

    Yup I’ve also enjoyed Disney as an adult. I loved it as a kid and didn’t think I would as an adult. But I went a couple of years ago when visiting Justin’s family in Newport Beach and it was really fun! But the queues were so long and two rides broke down ride before it was our turn! I complained and we we got some passes to skip to the front! 🙂
    Joella J in Beijing recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Nice! Good to hear their customer service is up to snuff… I can imagine they could be total jerks to people and they’d still be slammed every day, so it’s nice to know they go the extra mile.

  • becky hutner
    May 23 2014

    these are fantastic photos. i just love the desaturated color treatment (at least that’s what it looks like on many?). i can’t speak to disney but did recently return to universal studios & was really surprised how much i loved it. as an adult you appreciate these things on a whole other level — all the work & imagination & technology that goes into these attractions. & of course as in childhood, they are just plain fun!
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      YES you described it perfectly! As a kid you’re basically like “whee!” and as an adult you’re all, “hmmm, how did they make that handle bar and where did they come up with those uniforms?!” It’s a whole different kind of fun!

  • Ron
    May 24 2014

    I must confess I am a huge and lifelong Disney fan, both coasts. I have not been in a while but have been to Disney, CA over a dozen times, and FL Disney several times. Now my son is grown we are not visiting the mouse as much, but I am sure we will go again.

    I still have fond memories as a boy riding Pirates of the Caribbean with my Dad and have memories as an adult a few years back riding that same ride (different coast) with my son!

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Wow, that is very nostalgic Frank, and I think Disney themselves would love that story 🙂 It certainly is a place that knows how to tug on the nostalgic parts of your brain!

  • Lucy
    May 24 2014

    I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this post – I’ve never been a huge “Disney Girl” (in fact I find myself constantly eyerolling when I hear someone describe themselves that way), BUT I will admit, visiting Disneyworld when I was a child was one of the most incredible, magical experiences of my life. And your post captures the magic as well as the transition from kid to big kid so perfectly.
    Time for a trip to Disney!
    xx
    Lucy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Indeed it is, Lucy! I agree… while I’m never going to be one of those honeymooners running around with his and hers mouse ears, I definitely think I’m going to be back before I know it!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    May 24 2014

    I would totally do Disney as an adult! Wait, scratch that, I already have! 😉 I think Disney has been such a huge part for many of us growing up that visiting Disneyland when we’re older is just the perfect way to be a kid again and reminisce about the old days. And I love all the little Disney details in your hotel room!
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Yes indeed, it’s one of very few places where you can really go back in time like that! I love it!

  • Breanna
    May 24 2014

    My first ever trip to Disney was as an adult. And I still got unapologetically excited every time I saw a character. It’s magical at any age.

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Glad to hear I’m not alone in my Disneyfication, and that you all don’t think I’m a dork for my Disney getaway 🙂

  • Alouise
    May 24 2014

    You know I would have never really thought of going to Disneyland for a girlfriend getaway, but it sounds like a lot of fun. That World of Color show sounds great, and I’d so tear up hearing Ariel too (The Little Mermaid was my favorite movie as a kid).
    Alouise recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      I feel like the Little Mermaid sometimes now! That music is beautiful 🙂

  • I was also surprised at how much I loved Disneyland. Because I happened to go on the hottest day every recorded in LA (about 45C!) there were hardly any lines. My brother and I had a ball and it is definitely somewhere I would go back to. I love when places surprise you.
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 25 2014

      Ha! I would love that too. Southeast Asia has given me the gift of being indifferent to temperature. I’d totally trade scorching heat for no lines!

  • Diana Edelman
    May 25 2014

    What fun!!! Jealous!!
    Diana Edelman recently posted..

  • Rashaad
    May 25 2014

    I would do Disney as an adult – but it’s not a high priority as I would rather spend the money visiting other places. I’ve actually talked about visiting Disney with some other folks and I was telling them I wouldn’t go nowadays because I don’t have kids.

    But now that I think of it, I went to Disney I would have lots of fun. It’s just that I would rather not spend the money on Disney now.
    Rashaad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 28 2014

      Yeah, that’s how I feel about cruising… would love to do it if it fell into my lap but I’m not sure I’d throw my money into it when there are so many other things I want to do! That’s why I’m so grateful to my Dad for this one 🙂

  • Caroline
    May 25 2014

    Great post Meihoukai! I currently work in Walt Disney World in Epcot (I’m from the UK, but working the UK section for year, although heading back home soon). I am actually off to Disneyland on Thursday for my Birthday! 🙂 I think Disney does have so much to offer for all ages – the resorts here in Florida are beautiful, so even if you don’t want to spend too much time in the parks there are plenty of other options!

  • Jen
    May 30 2014

    Looks like you really really enjoyed it! I was reluctantly taken to Disney California as a moody teenager by my parents. Since the I have visited EuroDisney in Paris and me and my close friends spent our 30th birthday celebrations in Orlando with 8 parks in 10 days. It was epic and some of the best fun I’ve had in my entire life.

    • Meihoukai
      May 30 2014

      Sounds like you are a Disney convert as well 🙂 I’ll have to make it back to Orlando next!

  • Surya Bhattacharya
    June 1 2014

    Aaaaah!! There is SO much I envy about American life (I’m from India) but Disney tops that list by faaaaaaar!! I’ve been to DisneyWorld twice (once when I was 10, and again when I was 17) and I picked Magic Kingdom both times (we just had a day). Idiot, right? I remembered everything the second time and felt stupid.
    I’m 25 and I would MORE THAN DEFINITELY do Disney as an adult (am I an adult already? :O ). Someday I’m going to visit allllll the parks and stay on one of the on site hotels. SOMEday!!
    Surya Bhattacharya recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 2 2014

      Sounds like an awesome trip, Surya! Hope it happens for you soon 🙂 The mouse is waiting!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    June 1 2014

    I love me some Disney. I’ll never tire of the magic =)

    Right before I left California in 2011, I made my first jaunt to Land, having grown up going to World annually (my family also has an Orlando/Florida timeshare, though it’s not Disney-affilliated so no swapping for Anaheim), I was surprised by how much I liked Land even though it was only about half the size. LOVED all the rides in California Adventure!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 2 2014

      I almost like it MORE because of its size. Way more manageable for someone like me who is easily overwhelmed!

      • Camels & Chocolate
        June 2 2014

        What I mean is that you get probably as many visitors at World as Land and to think of cramming that many people into a space half the size gives me claustrophobia-induced panic attacks at the mere thought!
        Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          June 2 2014

          Gotcha… I can DEFINITELY see your point there!

  • Helen
    June 1 2014

    I’ve been to Disney twice in Orlando and Paris. Both times with my other half! Love it! The first time I was 25, second time 33. No kids! #nevertooold 🙂
    Helen recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 2 2014

      I love it Helen! Glad to see I’m not alone 🙂 So much diversity in your travel experiences!

      • Helen
        June 2 2014

        Ha ha, yes I’m a bit weird like that! Equally happy wearing a pair of Minnie Mouse ears and riding Space Mountain, or out in the African bush! 🙂

  • Kristen Noelle
    June 4 2014

    I haven’t been to Disney World/Land in agesss but I used to love it. Who knew it could be just as magical as a grown-up? (Or perhaps even more!)
    I’ve definitely gotta grab my friend and check it out now that I’m LA living.
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 4 2014

      You’ll love it Kristen! I can’t think of a better getaway from the seriousness of LA 🙂

  • Jen
    June 23 2014

    I LOVE Disney, and I’m not ashamed to admit it as an adult. I actually think I enjoyed my trip as an adult with my Mom two years ago more than I ever enjoyed a trip as a kid! So much fun!

    I’m so glad that you had a good time… and more importantly, that you blogged about it. So many adults get bitter about Disney.

    • Meihoukai
      June 23 2014

      I was pretty disenchanted before this time.. but I got re-enchanted hardcore 🙂 I’m not worried about losing my street cred, not sure I had any to begin with, ha!