DISNEY PARK NERDS LOVE TO TRAVEL AND SEE THE WORLD!
We, along with our Nerdlings, love Disney parks. If you’ve read any of our posts, you might think we are a little obsessed with Disney parks. And you know what? You’d be right! There was not one moment where Disney parks became a passion, it was a “slow burn” that was nurtured over time and evolved into a fascinating way to explore the world.
Let us rewind the clock a bit. My mom took me to Disneyland nearly every year. Growing up in a Northern California suburb of Sacramento, this was a big deal! As a little kid, I was terrified of roller coasters and Disneyland was a park where I could enjoy every attraction (Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain were not in my repertoire until my teens) and get lost in the magic of the Disney characters with whom I had grown up.
Eventually, I would come to thoroughly enjoy theme parks and all theme park attractions (bring on the craziness that is Six Flags Magic Mountain!). I became interested in how they were developed, how they worked, why and how the parks moved people through queues the way they did. I wanted to know why Disneyland would open Big Thunder Mountain in the morning with two trains and slowly add trains over the next hour forcing the queue to back up while they ran the newly added trains empty for their safety check (I mean…why didn’t they do this before the park opened).
To be sure, there were theme parks in Northern California at the time, but getting to Southern California and some of the most popular theme parks in the world like Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios – Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain was special. Even then, Disneyland stood out to me above the rest – the quality of the attractions, the intricacy and beauty of the theming, the upkeep of the park and the emotional ties to the characters put Disneyland in a league all its own.
Because the trips were infrequent, I started reading books about theme parks and no park had more books available than Disneyland (this remains true today). I became fascinated by David Koenig’s books and the “business” aspect of the theme parks as well as the sordid tales he shared:
- Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland
- More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland
- Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks
As I tore through these books, I began to read business books about Disney like Michael Eisner’s Work in Progress and I even engaged Amazon.com‘s services (it was just a book seller then) to help me find older and rarer business books like John Taylor’s Storming the Magic Kingdom. I found myself being drawn into the corporate intrigue of the company dating back to Walt and Roy, all of this history helped fuel my fascination with the Disney parks.
Meanwhile, my girlfriend (now wife and fellow Nerd-to-be) was also a fan of Disneyland. In college, we had annual passes to the park and regularly drove the 366 miles from University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA to Anaheim – sometimes just for a day – to enjoy the park and the rides and just being somewhere together. At one point, we saved $1 a day for a year in order to go on a SoCal theme park extravaganza where we stayed at some pretty “rough” hotels, but it all seemed so magical. I still have a postcard from the Alamo Motor Lodge in Anaheim framed and sitting on my desk.
I had made one trip with my family to Disney World in October 1989 – and I distinctly remember waiting 3-4 hours in line to experience only a few attractions at the new Disney-MGM Studios park. I thoroughly enjoyed Magic Kingdom and Epcot, although we did not stay “on property” or explore much of the resort outside of the theme parks; I probably wouldn’t have even been interested at 13 years old – it was all about the rides.
The lynchpin was planning a trip with my fellow Nerd in 1996. Armed with more information and a growing passion for theme parks – and especially Disney theme parks – we planned a trip to Disney World. I remember buying a computer program called the Walt Disney World explorer and planning out every detail. I clicked and planned and researched tirelessly learning about the many elements of Disney World I never even dreamed had existed.
Our first trip abroad, including a day at Disneyland Paris, came in 2000 and by now I was hooked! Friends and family mocked our passion for Disney Parks – all in good fun – wondering why on earth we would spend a day at Disneyland Park when we were in Europe (more on that shortly). The next focus was going to Tokyo Disneyland. From there the Disney parks began to take off. In a short seven-year stretch from April 22, 1998 to September 12, 2005, Disney opened Animal Kingdom at Disney World, California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort, DisneySea at the Tokyo Disney Resort, Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Paris Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland. After this incredible growth that took Disney from six world-class theme parks to 11, it would be more than a decade before Disney added its next park, Shanghai Disneyland in 2016.
In this time, we moved to Southern California. Our house was a 5 mile/10 minute drive to Disneyland where we would often go after work to grab dinner, enjoy an attraction or just walk around (it used to take 10-15 minutes door-to-door and now with the parking structure and build-out of the resort, that same trip is almost 45 minutes). In 2004, our triplet Nerdlings were born, as soon as the doctor said we were “clear” to take them out in public, Disneyland was our first stop.
Disneyland became our neighborhood park and our “go to” with the kids. Some days, we would not ride a single attraction, but we enjoyed being in the park, walking around and sharing the magic of Disneyland with the Nerdlings – and introducing them to the Nerd favorite Mickey Pretzels (they never stood a chance).
I would finally get to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea in 2010 and Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland in 2016. In between constant trips to Disneyland and visiting Disney World every two or three years, the Nerdlings would eventually get to every Disney park in the world. This wasn’t just about visiting Disney parks, these trips became a way to show our kids the world by providing them with an environment to understand the differences and similarities of other cultures. It was a fascinating way to introduce them to the world in a way that was meaningful to them.
Disney parks represent the very best of theme park ingenuity combined with the emotional attachment to Disney stories. As the Disney brand has expanded to include characters and storylines from Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm, and Fox, we Nerds love the continuation of our favorite worlds by experiencing the attractions, stories, theming and beauty of Disney parks.
We find particular enjoyment in experiencing Disney theme parks through other cultures. There is something so unique – so eye opening – about taking an American icon like Disneyland and seeing how people from different parts of the world interweave themselves and their heritage into its attractions, food, layout and how they interact with one another at the parks. At the core, Disney parks are happy places where people go to enjoy themselves and spend time together with family and friends while enjoying the shared experience of being lost in fantasy. Inside these parks, language barriers melt away and it becomes easy to understand other people in other places by watching them experience a Disney park. Out of the hustle and bustle of major metropolitan areas around the globe, the Disney “bubble” at the parks helps us connect and learn about one another just by being with one another.
The Disney Park Nerds’ focus is providing insight into what is happening at the 12 major Disney theme parks as well as tips on how to enjoy them and their host countries. Our hope is that you will be inspired to experience the wonder that exists throughout the world all while enjoying the magic of a Disney theme park.