Q. Bryce Randle and his six-year-old son, Derek, collaborated on this unique, personal guide to Disneyland. They present twelve months of "missions" to share what they've learned while visiting the park once every month for a year, and exploring the magic as a team.
Walt Disney created Disneyland as a place for families to have fun together. The Randles took him up on it. Father and son bonded over thrill rides and dark rides, popcorn and corn dogs, and the joy of being together in the Happiest Place on Earth. Part guidebook, part journal, Making Magical Memories is a blueprint for parents and an engaging read for children.
In twelve "missions", each developed to take advantage of a particular month at Disneyland, the Randles spotlight the best attractions, food (both inside the park and out), and photo ops for a parent/kid day in the park, plus cool things to look for and challenges to test your Disney knowledge and powers of observation.
Mission I: The Day of Tomorrow
Mission II: Critters, Ghosts, and Jungles
Mission III: Drop and Drive
Mission IV: Underwater in the Sea or Flying in the Sky
Mission V: The Golden State
Mission VI: Enjoy the Scenery
Mission VII: Kid Yourself
Mission VIII: Nostalgic Animatronics
Mission IX: Cool Yourself Down
Mission X: Scare Yourself Silly
Mission XI: High Flyin' Show Tune
Mission XII: The Most Wonderful Time
My son, Derek, and I wrote this book because we love Disneyland. We love the atmosphere and we love the attractions. Whether we go and walk all day until we can’t feel our legs anymore, or just pop in and out for one quick ride—we love it. When you love something that much, you want to share it with other people. As news travelled to our friends that we lived closer to the Disneyland Resort than the hotels people stay at when they visit—seriously, sometimes we just walk to the Toy Story parking lot instead of driving over or having someone drop us off—we’ve received a lot of questions about our experiences, and requests for advice. Being so close has been a unique experience for our family, and we want to share some of that magic with you.
This book isn’t really a journal, but it could be. It isn’t meant to be a complete guidebook, but it might serve as one. We do not boast to be a replacement for books such as Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort: Expert Advice from the Inside Source or mobile apps such as Mousewait or Touring Plans. To be honest, I don’t really know how to label this book, other than to call it an introduction to some of the memories Derek and I have created together.
So I struggled with the title for quite awhile. Originally, I called it Continuing the Vision, because I wanted to convey the idea that what Derek and I had created when visiting Disneyland together was what Walt Disney envisioned the park would be: a place for parents and children alike to enjoy themselves together and create memories. As we’ve worked to capture that spark, we’ve felt the title needed tweaking so that it could reflect what the book means to us, and hopefully to you.
Welcome to Making Magical Memories: A Father & Son’s Handbook to the Disneyland Resort. We know that as you follow the guides we have created, and play the games we have played, you and your child can create memorable experiences at the Disneyland Resort, the Happiest Place on Earth.
The whole point of this book is to help parents and their children build lasting memories. While this book has a father-son theme, we know that others will find that the principles and ideas in its pages cover an umbrella of Disney-fan groups, from daddy-daughter to mother-son to date night, and even family reunion getaways. As Disneyland progresses by adding attractions and removing others, we will continue to visit the park and provide the best advice that we can to create great experiences.
This book has been split up into 12 themed trips, which may serve as an excuse for you to use your annual passes once a month. While the trips are “assigned” to specific months, they really can be used whenever you’d like. Do keep in mind that specific attractions were selected for specific months, based on how busy the park would be. If you are only at the park for a couple of days, use the trip layouts to go from one part of the park to the next in an organized fashion. Derek and I will go on a visit to the park for as little as two hours to as long as a full day. These missions are designed to take between two and four hours.
Each mission is organized into eight sections:
It is best to read through this section before you head to the park; hold a family night to go over the upcoming park visit. If you have a map to the park available, pull it out for this section. We will go over routes, give hints related to timing, and discuss why we chose specific attractions for a particular visit. A map of the park is available on Disneyland’s website if you do not have access to a physical map from a previous visit. As you enter the turnstile of either Disneyland or California Adventure, grab a park map and schedule. These items go hand in hand with this book, especially if you do not know the resort like the back of your hand.
This section is meant to be with you while you’re in the park. Here you’ll find ideas of what to talk about or look out for just before, during, or after a particular attraction. There will be thoughts and questions from Derek and myself. While the questions are intentionally thought-provoking, some questions may have answers you just don’t know. There are several cast members stationed at each attraction and they are usually well-versed in the attraction’s history and are happy to educate.
Attractions listed in this section are by no means on the junior varsity team. The Alternates list is another group of attractions that are, for the most part, in the same general area as, or follow a theme similar to, those the Attraction Adventures for that trip. If a particular attraction is closed, or your child isn’t ready for it yet, you may select an attraction from the Alternates to keep your journey going. Space Mountain is awesome, but it’s listed as an alternate because of how intense it is. If your child isn’t tall enough or doesn’t want to tackle all attractions, the Alternates list will be a great tool for you.
Because there are more attractions at Disneyland than California Adventure, there are more alternates to choose from on the Disneyland trips than on the California Adventure trips. This section will have a combination of what would be in the Getting Around and Attraction Adventure sections.
Each of these sections provides an opportunity to experience the atmosphere of the park, or do something that isn’t in plain sight on a park map or advertisement. How about letting your child run the trip for a while? If your child is old enough to read, this will help you stay organized and not waste the time you paid for at the park wandering in circles.
There are many great places to take pictures around the Happiest Place on Earth. Each mission contains a suggestion of where you should be sure to snap a photo. Don’t be shy. Stop a stranger and ask them to take a picture. They will most likely ask you to do the same in return. Cast members, even those with cameras, are always happy to take a picture with your own camera.
Though I don’t remember every single trip to the park (after a while memories tend to bleed together), when I come across a picture or video from our various adventures, trips become individualized. Always take the time for a photo op.
Each chapter comes with four dining ideas: two meals and two treats. Two of these are inside the park and two of them are outside the park. Keep in mind that this is vacation food. While there may be healthy food options at each locale, we did not write the food section with any diet or lifestyle in mind.
The food suggestions outside the park are among my favorites; our friends in Orange County showed some to us and we’ve discovered others on our own. Some are smaller chains and others are one location only. Most will take a few minutes to get to, so plan accordingly.
Often times, I’m attached to my iPhone. I have tried to make it a point to not use my phone while in the many queues at the park, but rather to interact with Derek. Some trips are better than others. I’ve found that what you give is what you get. It’s easy to stand in line and check your e-mail or to look down at the ground while you walk. Zoning out in the queue will cause you to miss all of the amazing things there are to see and cost you valuable bonding time with your kids. It will take some thought to light the spark of your child’s racing mind, but this section will help you fill the void of waiting in line, heavy traffic, or long walks.
The topics range from Disneyland’s past and your nostalgic experiences at the park, to attraction design and general Disney fun. If you are unsure of where to start, cast members are willing to help answer any questions. You can also hand the book off to your child and have him ask you the questions, or be the one to start the conversation.
My hope is that with this handbook, parents and children can detach from the technology that is so readily available to them and enjoy the world that is Disneyland in front of them.
Rather than make your trip a checklist of things to do, this section is to guide you to make some new memories of your own. There are some interesting extras to see and do inside the park that are off the beaten path. If you are just passing through Anaheim and cannot resist the temptation of visiting the resort, or are a “blacked out” Annual Passholder, there are also some fun things to do and see in the resort area that are not necessarily in the parks. You might even find a few things you’ve passed over in a rush to get inside.
Each mission contains a few things to be on the lookout for while in the queues or while walking around. Some of the items are easy to find, while others are much more challenging. For example: find a can of Pepsi. (Why is the can of Pepsi so hard? Disneyland doesn’t sell Pepsi products, which means someone would have had to bring it into the park on their own!)
The purpose of this section isn’t for you to complete the task or locate the object yourself, but to play with your child. Do not expect to find everything the first time you play. Have You Seen Its are designed to be revisited over several trips to the parks.
Q. Bryce and Derek live in southern California. Bryce is a film and television editor and Derek is contemplating his next big career move while working on elementary school. They frequent Disneyland and Anaheim Ducks games as often as they can.
On this particular mission, ideally undertaken in February, Q. Bryce and Derek tame Disneyland's critters, brave its ghosts, and venture deep into its jungles.
This mission has a ride that Derek isn’t quite convinced on riding just yet: Splash Mountain. Around this ride (and the other bigger rides he hasn’t tried), we focus on enjoying the other fun stuff in the area. Believe it or not, this helps ease him into riding more daring attractions. Once he’s familiar with the shops, different music areas, and general atmosphere, he’s a lot more comfortable. That being said, I try to let Derek decide whether or not he’s ready for a ride. I think every parent has a sense of how much to encourage their child to try something they are apprehensive about.
Today, enter Disneyland by going underneath the Disneyland Railroad and then heading to the west side of the park, where you will find yourself deep in the heart of Critter Country. As you walk toward Splash Mountain, take note of the current wait times for each attraction on the agenda. Splash Mountain or the Haunted Mansion will be the longest line of the day—depending on the weather and hour. Splash Mountain is likely to be busiest in the afternoon (especially when it’s hot out), but it has a FastPass option.
Across from the entrance to Splash Mountain you’ll find the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which always has one of the shortest waits in the park. Even in the peak hours of summer, you may only have a 10-minute wait to see Pooh. My view is that this ride belongs in Fantasyland with the other dark rides, as that is where it can be found in Walt Disney World.
Haunted Mansion only has a FastPass during peak seasons, but that’s ok—we actually enjoy the standby line for this attraction more than any other in this mission. Derek likes exploring and reading the silly names on the headstones and crypts. It has been a good lead for teaching him that while the ghosts may be scary at first, they just want to have a party with their Disneyland guests.
Our last attraction is Tarzan’s Treehouse. Expect a short line here, too, because it is a walk-through attraction with several sets and interactive displays. The only wait you may have is for other people in front of you to finish—it’s a good opportunity to teach your children about waiting and practicing patience.
Continued in "Making Magical Memories"!
Q. Bryce and Derek have learned a lot during their year spent as father/son guests at Disneylands; here are just a couple of their "Randle-isms":
If you find a great deal on tickets that seems too good to be true, that’s probably because it is. Authentic Disneyland tickets are either full price, sold as a package from a travel agency, or discounted from hotels or cast members. If you aren’t buying from one of those sources, there is a good chance your ticket may not work at the entrance turnstile (especially since Disney has recently heightened ticket authenticity at the gates).
So when you ask a Disneyland fanatic about how to save on tickets, don’t be surprised if they tell you they don’t have much advice. If you plan on going to the resort twice a year for a number of days each visit, a deluxe annual pass might be your best bet. If you are a southern California resident, there are deals now and then at Costco, grocery stores, or the front gate of Disneyland.
But those deals come and go and you can’t rely on them to work with your schedule. The best way for you to save on tickets is to look for savings elsewhere in your budget.
For the freedom to come and go, we prefer to park our car at the Disneyland lots. There are several options—Toy Story, Mickey and Friends, Timon and Pumba—so check a map of the resort area and see which one is most convenient for you. You may be close enough to walk to one of the lots from your hotel, use the trams and buses there, and not even have to park your car—just walk in through the entrance and head straight to the bus or tram station! Anaheim Transit may be a viable option, but if you have four or more people in your party, parking may be more cost-effective than these buses. Just educate yourself and you may be able to save more.
Continued in "Making Magical Memories"!