The best and worst part of being a parent is watching your children grow up. Of course, you want them to thrive, to learn, to explore. Yet, simultaneously, you ache at the thought that one day your precious little ones will inevitably frustrate, challenge, and then, leave your nest.
At night, I gaze at my daughter, my youngest child, asleep in her bed. I watch her sweet cherub face, illuminated by her Anna and Elsa nightlight, and I remember when she, as baby, slept beside us in our bed. But, that time has passed. She’s outgrown that.
Since my daughter’s childhood is fleeting, I cherish each moment. And, for the time being, at least, Disneyland remains the Happiest Place on Earth for us. Living in Orange County, approximately 18 miles away from the park, my two kids are comfortable navigating down bustling Main Street, U.S.A. For me, Disneyland’s thoroughfare can be overwhelming at times. (Remember, I’m one of those crazed moms maneuvering a stroller with toddlers in tow. Plus, let’s be honest: It’s sensory overload for everyone – “Mom! I want a balloon!” “What about popcorn?” “I’m thirsty!” “Mom?!”)
But, this visit was different. Once we passed the Emporium, I happened to glance down at my daughter’s glowing face. She had spotted Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. As she beheld its majesty, I couldn’t help but smile, too.
Holidays at Disneyland are magical. Both parks, decorated in seasonal regalia – a profusion of glittering lights, shiny oversized ornaments, green pine wreaths, and cheerful characters donning festive sweaters – effuse joy. No matter what time of year we visit, there is always a delightful array to behold. The excitement will surely grow this year with the opening of Star Wars Land in summer 2019. For my young Padawans, the new addition is highly anticipated. After all, who doesn’t dream of visiting far off galaxies? Plus, we can jaunt into deep space without ever leaving Orange County.
During our visit, my daughter spent the morning transfixed at the magical makeovers taking place inside the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Fastasyland. Little girls selected their favorite princess attire and Fairy Godmothers-in-training transformed them into sparkling – they were literally covered in glitter! – spectacles complete with graceful top knot buns and tiaras. My Princess was engulfed with excitement as she pranced around Fantasyland. Soon her giddy toddler self grew tired. It was not long after our lunch at the Plaza Inn that she started to wane. One thing was certain: It was naptime!
Normally, this would equate disaster. However, this time my husband and I opted to stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. The resort, which features 948 rooms, including 44 suites, connects directly to Disney’s California Adventure park. As hotel guests, we took full advantage of one great perk: early access entrance to both parks. We leisurely enjoyed our visit and when the kids needed a break, we retreated back to our suite for a nap. Not to mention, our family enjoyed additional amenities such as the Mickey Mouse-shaped children’s pool, which my four-year-old son reminded me is a “must see” attraction.
When my little princess and I retreated upstairs to our room, my husband and son decided to stay at the park. They enjoyed a “guy’s afternoon out” at Disneyland – complete with rides on Star Tours, blasting alien invaders with Buzz Lightyear and a whirl around Autopia. When my pint-sized Sleeping Beauty awoke, she danced around in her princess gown and glittering Cinderella slippers. As we walked back into the park, she belted out snippets of “Let It Go.” Every cast member we encountered called out to her:
“Good afternoon, Princess!” “Hello, Princess!”
Each time we heard this chorus, my daughter smiled and wiggled with delight. My heart melted. I forgot my “momlife” woes and I reveled in the moment. Disneyland did it again. Just please don’t grow up too fast, Princess.