The Middle: The Teeny, Tiny Land of Disney

Spoiler: If you are planning to go to Disneyland anytime between now and Halloween, this may be a spoiler. Further, I am taking Disney down a notch here. Don’t read this post, if you don’t want to have your World of Magic sullied a little. Just call me Grumpy.

This past week I flew to California to visit my 20 year old son, Middle Man, and bring his dog Gracie home (Read previous post, The Things We Do For Love). He couldn’t keep her in the dorms; I agreed to come get her. There are plenty of folks who will think it odd that I would fly down to get a dog, and I know that not everyone can do it. I appreciate that I am lucky to have the option.  A visit with my boy was icing; and I like icing on the cake I have, and get to eat too.  I flew down early Wednesday and was returning  Saturday. Middle Man had classes Wednesday and Thursday, and one evening with his dorm was already planned, so we agreed that we’d have dinner alone on Wednesday; I’d take him and a group of friends out for dinner on Friday, to meet his friends and hang out with them; and, we’d spend all of Friday together, as he had no classes that day.  I don’t just want to hang out on campus all day though, I told him. “Me either,” he agreed. You want to go to Disney Land? I asked, thinking he’d nix the idea. “I was thinking the same thing!” He answered. Oh, my Mom heart skipped a beat.

Disney World, spring 2012. Me, Denmark, China and Little Man.
Now THAT’S a castle!

<– This image of the Disney World castle doesn’t even show how big it is. This was taken from a distance.

We don’t go to Disney much anymore. Our kids are nearly grown. We went last spring, when we had two exchange students living with us, and who wouldn’t take exchange students to see Disney? It’s just so American.  My husband, Smart Guy, doesn’t like Disney, however. He doesn’t like Disney World, which we’ve visited countless times over the years; and he has no desire to visit Disney Land. Smart Guy doesn’t like Disney. Period.  (I know; right?)  I love Disney! I especially adore the world that Disney creates in their parks. I appreciate that for a few hours it seems like big Goofy dogs are real, and a Mouse is a rock star. I love it all.  All of that flies directly in the face of my usual, snarky, sarcastic, somewhat cynical self; and I love Disney for that as well. L-O-V-E Disney.

So when Middle Man said yes, I was thrilled. How often do you get a day alone with your nearly grown children? And how often do you get to spend it at Disney Land? This was a first for me. I was practically giddy. I had only been to Disney Land once, when I was five and a half. We lived in northern California in 1968, and my little sister had just been born. The delivery hadn’t gone well, leaving my mother very sick. My three year old brother stayed with our (paternal) grandparents and my Mom’s mother, my grandmother, flew out from Boston with my aunt (only five years older than me) to help. Grandma took both my aunt and I to Disney Land.  It was the thrill of a lifetime for my five year old self! I still remember that trip clearly, and was excited to see it all again.

<— Middle Man and I on Main St. with the Castle in the background. What? You can’t see the castle? It’s that tiny thing right over my head.

They say you can’t go back, and in this case that turned out to be very true. I had built up Disney Land in my mind. Built it way up. Big up. Having visited Disney World many times, I figured they’d be very similar, and I’d also have all kinds of wonderful little kid memories of my previous visit, so long ago. Only part two was true. The very first thing that struck both Middle Man and I was how very teeny, tiny the Land is, versus the World. They look a lot alike, many of the same attractions and rides, but Disney Land is shrunk way down in size… way down! We entered the gates, and I took Middle Man’s hand and swung our arms in excitement! Remember when you were little? This will be so much fun! I crowed. He grinned his nearly man grin, but I saw a sparkle in his eyes. He was excited too. As we headed down Main Street Disney; everything looked the same. Then, we saw the castle. The teeny, tiny, that-can’t-be-the-castle-Castle! I guessed it was about 1/3 of the size of the castle in Disney World, maybe smaller? Neither of us could believe it! I felt the air go out of my Disney balloon instantly. Pfssst. What! Is this really it? I moaned. “I can’t believe it! It’s so… small.” Middle Man stared incredulously. We took a picture, to show everyone how small it was, not because I actually believed Tinker Bell, or Sleeping Beauty, or any Disney character would choose to live in it. They all live in the Disney World Castle, I can assure you.

Halloween Disney

The rest of the park was the same way. Small. I had been too scared to go on the Matterhorn when I was a kid, so I pulled Middle Man along and insisted that we do that first! It looked big, and I was going to overcome my fears, 40+ years later. It was a baby ride! Seriously. I suppose it feels like what an actual bobsled might feel like, but slower and smaller. Fear in check. The park was entirely decked out for Halloween and that was fun. Space Mountain, my favorite ride and seemingly a bit more thrilling at Land versus World, had all kinds of ghouls and images to scare you, instead of the usual space lights and scenes, in honor of Halloween. We found a glitch in the Fast Pass system and rode back to back. It was the biggest thrill of the day, and Middle Man and I laughed like giddy kids, as we bypassed the 50 minute line.  We whooped and screamed, with our hands in the air on both rides. Disney Magic.

The Castle, in all its teeny splendor. Not much bigger than Walt’s statue, in this photo.

Walking from one end of the park to the other at Disney Land is not the schlep it is at Disney World. It can take a long time to cross the World, but it’s a quick jaunt in the Land. Teeny. Tiny. There were pumpkins everywhere, and lots of kids and adults dressed in costumes, especially near the end of the day. The park was closing early for a Halloween party, and the costumes kicked Disney butt. I saw one R rated Disney costume (I know, right?), but most were really fantastic efforts to be all Magical World again. Being there at Halloween time was definitely a bonus!

We ate lots of bad food (but the best chocolate-covered, frozen banana ever!); we rode every ride we could, and just when we were leaving, the Magic happened. Mickey Mouse! Minnie! I shrieked, five and half again. Right there, in front of us. Both of them, greeting the crowd and shaking hands (“No autographs please”). Look! It’s Micky!  I’m pretty sure I actually jumped up and down.  Middle Man snapped a couple of pictures to post to Facebook, and we both left grinning ear to ear.  I can’t fight it; I’m a Disney girl at heart. I love the clean, colorful, plastic, perfect world that these parks create. I love that Magic seems real when I’m there. This was a bit disappointing because I’ve come to like that Magic on a grander, bigger scale. Nonetheless, it was a fun day with my boy, and I’m glad we went; but from now on I won’t settle for less than the World!                                                                                                                           (Here’s the real Magic: M-I-C-K-E-Y!  And some Costumed party goers, not employees.)


(For the record, I checked: Disney World castle is 189 ft tall, Disney Land is 77 ft tall- Not to mention the other dimensions!)

Have you been to Disney Land or Disney World? Both? What did you think? Is this a place that makes you sing happy little songs, or cringe? Share your thoughts!

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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18 Responses to The Middle: The Teeny, Tiny Land of Disney

  1. Oh memories of Disney experiences. One sister and I remember meeting our then much older cousin at DL on a trip to CA– he arrived on a motorcycle and we were (about 8,10?) just bowled over by him and the place. Fast forward a few decades. We plan a surprise weekend for the boys to DW in Orlando– got all the books on how to beat the crowds, etc. All went well except when we arrived at Space Mountain and misdirections from staff, …. etc. etc. full blown explosion by husband, vowing never to return. Years later I took Lydia myself but it wasn’t the same as going w/ everyone. Then we went to DL Japan when we were in Tokyo.. very disappointing. Not a fan, glad you had fun though!


  2. I LOVE all things Disney. My first trip to Disney Land was when I was 15, my parents had just divorced and so my dad took my younger sister and I to California, you know, to sort of make it up to us. That may be the only good memory I have of my father. haha!
    Since that time I’ve made a pilgrimage to Disney World almost yearly since my children were very little. It feels like our home away from home. We stay at the Beach or Yacht Club resort with the sand bottom pool. It’s the best! Each year I try and figure out a way that I could move to and live on the grounds of Disney! LOL! Then, this past year, they opened Disney World residences. Too bad they start at 1.5 million. Sheesh! 😦
    When I tell people I love Disney they look at me like I’m a loon. The thing is, it’s a different vacation each time, and as the kids have gotten older it involves a lot of facials and massage treatments! Ha! We’ve got it down to a science. Now they’re opening a Four seasons Hotel! Wow!

    After reading your ‘about’ page I’ve determined we have much in common. I also have a love of the ocean. ( Boy, I’d really like to know where you live exactly – I’m moving from Illinois to the West coast and it sounds like you have a little slice of heaven.) I’m guessing we’re about the same age. I just turned 50 in July. Ugh. Not fun. I love music, writing, and I’d die to go on a pilgrimage to India. Anyway, it sounds like we’re in the same transitional space, if you want to call it that?
    Have a great day!!


    • You hit the nail on the head Lisa. My love for Disney started as a kid, when The Wonderful World of Disney came on, each Sunday night. I love seeing the opening, with Tinker Bell and the fireworks over the (World) castle! I love Disney for all the fun, Magic, wonder it provides. I love the suspension of reality for a while. I love Tinker Bell! Facials, oh my! I should meet you there and see YOUR Disney. I don’t go often anymore, and these past two (unexpected) trips in Spring and last week, involved me saying: I probably won’t be back until I have grandchildren… but maybe I’ve got it all wrong. The big problem is that Disney World is SO far now. It’s a 12+ hr trip!!

      I live in Bellingham, WA. It is a BIG, fat slice of heaven. We lived in Chicago for 7 years, and MI for 6…. the Midwest is not my scene. Why are you moving, and where? I turn 50 in January. Feh. India is where I feel most alive, though my life here is pretty damned good. I think we are transitioning on very similar tracks. 😉 Dawn


      • My daughter, Lily, got married last August and married a Canadian. They reside in Victoria, British, Columbia. (BEAUTIFUL!) My husband works in California 1/2 the year and my son just graduated from college and wants to stay near his friends in Chicago. That leaves me wondering where I should move for Chapter two of my life.

        So, the west coast seems pretty obvious. I’ve been here 15 years, and though I’ve grown to love it, I feel restless, like I need to change my life in a big way. I’ve been considering the Portland/Lake Oswego area of Oregon, Northern California (so expensive and ridiculous), Los Angeles (BLECH!), Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Sammamish, Redmond, etc. I like the idea of hopping on a ferry to see my daughter. I’m VERY curious about Bellingham. I haven’t looked that far north yet. Is it expensive? What kind of weather do you get? I love the ocean but I also love a blue sky. That’s the only reason I even entertain the idea of California. I can deal with gray skies for 1/2 the year, but more than that might kill me. LOL!

        I’m so intrigued about India. It seems so magical and exotic. There’s a part of me that’s slightly intimidated by the idea of it. I think if you’re a sensitive and intuitive sort of person you can pick up vibes while visiting certain places. Some places just feel right to the soul. That’s very cool that you feel at home there.

        Sunday night Disney was the best! And wasn’t Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on right before it? With Merl Perkins. LOL! I say the same thing every year and then I find myself back there with some new reason for going! I just found out Lily’s husband has never been! I know, it’s a crime. haha! Oh well, I guess I’ll have to give him the big tour. : )


        • Victoria is spectacular, but a I still love Bellingham more. We have ferries that go directly from here to Victoria though, so we can go up when we want. We are 20 minutes from the border, and an hr to downtown Vancouver (THE best city!). Yes, we get our fair share of gray, but this week marked the 10 weeks with no precipitation. The skies have been BLUE and it’s been unseasonably warm. Today, cold and gray and I’m prepared for the rain that will come. The rain here is not like the rain you know, however. It is mist. Mist. We rarely use umbrellas. We get 33% less rain in B’ham than in Seattle. It is often nice here, when it is raining there (my sister lives in Lynnwood). I do wish we had some more of the sunshine that CA gets, but then I really don’t like CA… for many reasons! North or South. Portland is an awesome place to live too!

          You should see the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if you haven’t already. The most wonderful India movie. I LOVED it. Really captured so much about what I love. When I took my daughter, we stayed in the North. Middle Man and I went 3 yrs ago and we did the Golden Triangle and then flew to the Kerala region, and saw more of Southern India. I will take my youngest son next year; he’s too immature for it this year. It is an intimidating place, and not for everyone, but I love all the raw, visceral color and life that’s there. Can’t imagine not returning!

          Let me know if you’re going to be out here… I’ll show you around. We have a nice guest room too. 😉


          • This is great information, Dawn. I had no idea that Bellingham was less rainy than Seattle. It sounds like it gets the same weather as Victoria? Lily said it hasn’t rained since August. A late summer sounds good to me. I agree about California, it’s too high a price to pay for extra blue sky. Hopefully I’ll be out there within the next 6 months. I’d love to meet you and have you show me around Bellingham. That would be wonderful!
            So how long does the ferry take from Bellingham to Victoria? 20 minutes? That would be AMAZING! An hour to Vancouver -WOW! What airport do you fly out of and does it have flights to LA? Or do I have to fly out of Seattle for that?

            I LOVE “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” I’ve seen it 3 times! haha! That’s what I would expect of India so having you confirm that is very positive. Most importantly I adore Indian food. It’s probably my favorite. Maybe a trip is not too out of the question. You could help me with an itinerary.

            This is why I love blogging, meeting wonderful people like you. I had a little bounce in my step today. 🙂
            Hope the rest of your day is great.


            • The ferry to Victoria is about 2 hours, not 20 minutes… but gorgeous! Through the islands and up to Vancouver Island. We can see Vancouver Island from our deck, but getting around the islands is another story. You can also drive up and take the ferry, just over the border. I believe that is faster, but not as pretty. We have had not real rain since Late July. Even then, it was very light, so we are in “drought” conditions right now. Bellingham has Wester Washington Univ. (WWU), as well as the Community college, so we are the classic “College town.” Consistently ranked as one of the top places to retire, in the US, for many reasons. Sunset called our Farmer’s Market the Best in the West (I posted about it last summer, and recently). We have live theater, artsy film theaters, live music, lots of dining options, and a generally great culture. Lots of writers in town, some of them famous. We’re not Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland or the Bay area, but for wild nature, extreme beauty and a wonderful place to live, I would not move.

              Yes, lots of fun meeting new bloggers! Wonder what happened to Harper? I missed him all summer, and now his blog is down. Hope he fixes it soon! My direct email is


              • Bellingham sounds wonderful. Next time I go exploring Washington, hopefully within the next 6 months, I’m definitely going to call you and check it out. I guess my husband could fly into Vancouver? It seems closer than Seattle, right?

                I was so happy when Harper returned and now he’s left us high and dry again. I guess he said it was his internet… a likely story. haha! By the way, I always thought he was older than me, like maybe 60 or so. I thought that because he always seems so wise and seasoned. Then one day recently he revealed that he’s just about to turn 50. I couldn’t believe it!! He’s no old timer or sage soul, he’s a 1962’er. It just goes to show you that we might not be aware of our own online persona. People probably think I’m schizophrenic. LOL!


                • You’re not schizophrenic? I’ve been talking so gently… just in case. 😉

                  Yes, Vancouver is easier than SEATAC, from Bellingham. The B’ham airport has more and more direct flts to CA, as well. I flew direct to Palm Springs last week.


  3. We moved from Orange County earlier this year, so a return to Disneyland was natural. We did it the best way – a birthday gift to our 3 year old niece and her parents including overnight at the Pier. Disneyland for adults is nostalgic, of course. Disneyland with a little girl (including the Princess Lunch at Ariel’s Grotto) was magical! Just watching her struggle to keep her eyes open after six hours was kind of funny, too.
    Psst – after they went home my wife and I used our last day to take the Toy Story ride. That was WAY COOL! I guess there is something for kids of all ages at Disneyland.


  4. mamaheidi60 says:

    I have been to Disneyland, 3 times, once as a 16 year old, once in my 20’s and once when my daughter was 5. All before I was educated about the Disney corporation. Can’t say I’m a fan at all. I don’t allow Disney books or toys in my classroom, with a few exceptions because there have to be exceptions to the rule. Here’s a blog I followed some time ago: Of course, I enjoy reading your blog!


    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      I always love your feedback mama! You know I love you, so your opinions matter. I have long struggled with my love of Disney. I know a lot about them that should make it impossible for me to love them so… it’s clearly a wish thing. A wish for a world as clean and bright and happy as Disney paints itself. I know it’s not real, but I wish it was. Sort of. Thanks for the link, and for taking the time to keep enjoying my blog. Check out the newest post. THAT is right up your alley dear friend. 😉


    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Got reading the Disney blog you provided… Fascinating! Really interesting. I still love Tink, but I get it.


  5. I love Disney World, but I was a little disappointed in Disneyland. Of course, since it was his first park with a tenth of the square footage available, it is remarkable of what his mind was capable of creating. I think the evolution of Disney – from Disneyland to Disney World – is awesome. I do love the emphasis on family time and happy characters who seem to come to life at the parks! 🙂


    • I suppose it was most disappointing for me because I had high expectations… if I go back, I’ll be ready! I love Disney, despite all the reasons I shouldn’t. There was an amazing blog about a family that went without Disney for one year (became very famous) and it was truly eye opening… I try not to think about all the bad things Disney did, and focus on Tinker Bell! 😉



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