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Disneyland Article
Can You Teach An Old Theme Park New Tricks

Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln
Julie Tremaine
April 9, 2022
April 14, 2022
As much as it might be nice to think otherwise, we’re all basically creatures of habit. We choose the same foods over and over, drive the same routes to the same places, sit in the same spots even when there are other options.

It’s no different at Disneyland. Those of us who visit the park frequently tend to fall into the same patterns every time. Maybe we’ll mix up the order of our favorite rides, but we’re going on the same ones every visit. Maybe we’ll rotate the restaurants we eat at, but we’re probably going to stick to the couple of places we like best.

Let me tell you a secret: I go to the parks every week or two, but if I’m being totally honest, I wouldn’t be there that often if it weren’t for work. After a particularly long stretch of recent back-to-back trips, I was feeling some burnout.

The same rides, the same foods, the same, well, everything. I was leaning hard into my habits and, quite frankly, a little bit bored.

I needed to shake things up. Was it still possible to get a new perspective on a place where I feel like I’ve seen and done everything? I set a challenge for myself: have a Disneyland “yes day,” during which I would say yes to any new experience that presented itself, and say no to anything I had ever done before at the parks.

The day turned out to be a completely different experience than I expected.

When I get to Disneyland, my day always starts the same way. I scan through the gate, then take the right-hand entrance and beeline to the bathrooms next to the Disneyana store in the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln building.

On my yes day, I say no. I’m going to do everything — every single thing — differently, starting with going left underneath the sign that says, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”

I head to Maurice’s Treats, the cart in the Fantasy Faire area to the left of the castle, for breakfast. I’ve never been there, even though I’ve heard great things about their churro gears. I order those and the cheddar garlic bagel twist people rave about. “Anything else I should get?” I ask the cast member at the register. She recommends a side of marinara for the bagel (which can be “a little bit dry,” she says) and the boysen apple freeze.

The churro gears are pillowy doughnuts, but churros they are not. The marinara definitely helps the bagel twist, but really, it just tastes like plain bread.

The real star of the show is the boysen apple, and not only because of the clever play on “poison apple” in its name. The drink is frozen apple juice with dastardly-looking boysenberry syrup and whipped cream. My expectations are very low for this, but it’s absolutely delicious, with a nice tart balance. A lot of times when I’m trying a new food at Disneyland, I only take a few bites — I’m looking at you, peanut butter mac — but to my surprise, I drink the entire thing.

I never walk through the Fantasy Faire because I’m not really interested in the princess meet-and-greets that are the only attraction in that area, but while I’m there, I can’t resist stopping to take a photo with the Evil Queen, who is greeting guests in all her glorious turpitude. This is not normally my style, but it’s a yes day, and how can I resist a rare villain sighting in broad daylight?

Next, I walk into Frontierland, another area I’m usually walking through on my way to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or New Orleans Square. I head into the Pioneer Mercantile store, where I have been but have never truly stopped to explore. I had heard there was an antique music machine you can still play, which is what inspired my whole “yes day.” When I saw the photo online, and had no idea where it was inside Disneyland, it made me question all the other things I had been missing in the park.

The mercantile is easily one of the best themed stores in all of Disneyland, and I had been walking right past this whole time. There are vintage-styled “Toy Story” games and lots of Wild West memorabilia. I find the Nelson-Wiggen Style 6 Orchestrion, which Disney History 101 says was installed in the park in 1976, only to discover the quarters I had left out for myself to take to the park today are, in fact, exactly where I set them out so I wouldn’t forget them — on my kitchen table. Oh well. Even if I didn’t get to hear one of the six old timey songs like “Someone is Losin’ Susan” that the machine plays, the time I spend in the store is well worth it. (Side note: if you’re ever cold or in need of a replacement shoe, head to that store, the place is stocked with blankets and a huge selection of flip-flops.)

So far, I had eaten from a cart I’ve never been to before and shopped in a store I had never shopped in. It was time for a brand new (to me) attraction. I had always skipped Tom Sawyer Island because it’s for little kids, and it’s all walking and no ride, which seemed like a low payout for the effort of getting there. It turns out the island is delightful. The few minutes you spend on the raft to the island is a refreshing moment of breeziness and water in a day otherwise filled with hot concrete, and once you get there, it’s all shady trees and pirate caves. I had no idea what I had been missing, but as of this moment, I am officially a convert.

On my way over to Disney California Adventure, I stop at Main Street Cinema on the way out of Disneyland. They’re showing “Steamboat Willie” as I walk in, and I’m soaking in the historicity when I hear a man say to his kids, “This was made before grandma was born.” It’s a reminder of one of the things I love the most about this place. I go to Orlando often and I enjoy the Florida parks, but to me, getting to experience the entertainment people enjoyed in eras past is the secret ingredient that makes Disneyland a more enjoyable experience than Walt Disney World.

I have friends in the park that day who serendipitously want to meet at California Adventure's Sonoma Terrace, where I have never been. I always skip Sonoma in favor of Mendocino Terrace on the other side of Wine Country Trattoria, which has shorter lines and a much bigger wine list. Over glasses of champagne, we discuss the finer points of Smoke Tree Ranch mythology in the parks.

My yes day demands that I find something in California Adventure I have never done before, but it turns out, there’s a lot more than I realized. I walk over to "Mickey's PhilharMagic," a show I saw once at Disney World nearly 10 years ago and thought was a total snooze.

This show absolutely blows that one away. The 3-D effects are incredible, and I love that the show still has the spirit of “Fantasia” without the original’s habit of putting me to sleep. There are also elements of “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and “Coco.” It feels so modern and fun while still having the spirit of the old one, which is pretty much exactly what I want in any Disney attraction. As I’m walking out of the nearly empty theater, I hear several little kids exclaiming, “That was so cool!” and, “That was so good!”

Afterward, I pop into the Avengers Super Store, where I hadn’t been since it was just the Backlot Premiere Shop before the park reopened. I’m greeted by the $8,000 Iron Man suit. I had always wondered where that thing was. Now I just need to know who would ever buy it.

I longingly stare at the Monsters, Inc. ride as I walk by, which is off limits today since it’s my favorite California Adventure attraction, and head through Avengers Campus into Cars Land. I’d normally beeline to Radiator Springs Racers, but today, I stop to take it all in. I’m rewarded with finding a new-to-me Hidden Mickey inside Flo’s Cozy Cone Motel, and with a spin around Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters that is so silly and fun I can’t help laughing the whole time, even though I’m riding solo.

Then, it’s time for the Animation Academy, where they teach you how to draw Disney characters. The last class of the night is a Jack Skellington lesson, and I’m surprisingly nervous. But the class is so fun and encouraging that not only did I keep my drawing of the Pumpkin King, I put it up on my fridge when I got home.

As I walk out for the night, I look at my “yes day” list. The day before, I thought I had seen it all in the parks. Today, I realize I haven’t even made it through half of what I’ve never done before. (And I did it all without Genie Plus or waiting in a single line.) It turns out there’s a lot more discovering to do.

Attractions Referenced

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln

Fantasy Faire

Main Street Cinema

Tom Sawyers Island

Restaurants Referenced

Maurice's Treats

Shops Referenced

Davy Crockett Pioneer Mercantile


Lands Referenced


New Orleans Square

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