I’m a California Girl and California Girls don’t go to Disneyland on weekends or holidays. We go to Disneyland on overcast, slight chance of rain days, in the middle of the week.
My family moved from Southern California when I was 11 years old. I am not sure that I ever really became a Utah Girl, but that’s not really the point. Once in Utah, I was struck by my peers’ conversations about Disneyland. “How many times have you been?” They were one-upping each other on the bus. “Four times” or “five times” produced dropped jaws. I kept quiet. I shook my head. Oh, those poor theme-parkless kids. They’d never believe me, even if I could add up all of those trips and produce a number for them.
Now, I have Utah Girls of my own. And I get it. Disneyland is no longer a mid-week, skip school, stay for fireworks and drive home exhausted kind of thing. It is an event. It is a… dare I say it? A long weekend kind of event, now that we live in Utah. My cute girls have no idea of the personal rules I break for them. Taking on Disneyland on a weekend? Sheesh!
Nevertheless, we do these things as parents… we do them for our children.
But… I still have an unfair advantage over the rest of you who are investing hundreds of dollars on a weekend, where your kids had better have fun, they’d better like it, and they’d better behave because it costs a small fortune just to walk through the metal detectors and finally cross the threshold to the Happiest Place on Earth.
Yes, it’s true. I have an unfair Disneyland advantage… I have a child in a wheelchair.
Now, if you can’t hack this conversation, click away. I’m just telling it like it is. 😉
It used to be that a wheelchair, in Disneyland, was akin to a free ticket. Not “free” free, but pretty close to it. This fancy wheelchair used to allow us to walk right up the exits of rides, wait a car or two and then ride away in complete bliss. Especially blissful when you realize how many other folks were left juggling tired children, backpacks, strollers, and $6 sodas for hours on end, often for one short spin on Dumbo.
Well, things have changed a bit at Disneyland. Each time they update a ride, they also manage to bring it up to code. California Adventure, for example is so stinking accessible, we get to wait in their wheelchair-width mazes just like everyone else. Don’t waste your time trying to get an accessibility pass in California Adventure, go to Disneyland for it.
When Lucy and I went to Disneyland, we went with our friends Emily and Millie. You might recognize Millie as the little cherub on the cover of Baby Signing Time.
I was already in California. Emily, Millie and Lucy flew in together and met me there. Lucy and Millie held hands throughout the entire flight!
They arrived and we immediately went to the poolside restaurant.
Lucy ordered jumbo shrimp cocktail, her favorite.
I was performing the following day, so they came along to watch.
Emily spotted Scott Baio, she said that she had always wished he could baby sit her… (“Charles in Charge” reference folks) Lucy, in the background, was unimpressed.
The booth located right behind our Signing Time spot was a company called Cade Christian. Here’s the funny thing. Each year that I have presented at the Baby Celebration Los Angeles, I have drawn a good sized crowd of Signing Time Families. This crowd (Yeah, you guys) stays after and creates a substantial line for over an hour, waiting to take a photo, get an autograph and buy products. And each year some of the neighboring vendors have complained about the big, long line of parents and children standing beside their booths. (I’m not kidding.)
So, this year. I gave the Cade Christian folks a heads-up of what was to come and they said, “Oh we heard about that, so we requested to be right near your booth. They thanked me for bringing so many families to the event. And then they hooked the little girlies up with hats and sent one for Leah as well. Then Em and I bought some for ourselves.
Next stop, In-N-Out, on our way to Anaheim.
We arrived at Disneyland and checked in at City Hall to get our “perma-handi-fastpass” <---- not what it's really called, just what it does. Now, if you have just a regular kid in a wheelchair, maybe a broken bone or something, you don’t get much priority. If you have a child in a wheelchair who might have a difficult time waiting in long lines you get a little upgrade. They gave us the Super-Duper-Upgrade <---- not what it's called, just what it does- when they realized that Emily and I not only had Lucy and her wheels, but that little Millie is deaf. And we were off! We let Lucy lead the way. It was one of the few times I felt uninvested. If she wanted to ride "Dumbo" 35 times in the next 48 hours, so be it. This was about her. And by the way I stopped counting after we rode "Dumbo" 8 times. [caption id="attachment_1872" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Dumbo at Night"][/caption]
So, here are some things I didn’t know before this Disney trip.
“It’s A Small World” has been updated, and I don’t just mean the inside. The boats are all new and they have a special, wheelchair ready boat! Lucy was the queen of the world. I also stopped counting once we had ridden “Small World” 8 times.
If you have a child with special needs and you need a place to handle toileting, go to the First Aid Station (behind the hand-dipped corndog cart and past the Carnation Baby Care Center) They have cots, where you can lie your child down to change them in a private room with a sink and a toilet. They also have cold drinking water for free. They are cold water pushers. You almost can’t escape without cold water coming with you. This was Mecca! You have no idea how much time I spend scouting inconspicuous locations to do a quick-change for my 9 year old.
In the very accessible California Adventure, the newest ride “Toy Story Midway Mania” has wide lanes, so we got to wait with everyone else, BUT they have one car that will accommodate a wheelchair. We didn’t use it the first time, because they asked if we could transfer. I said, “Yes,” because we can transfer, but seriously that was the worst experience ever! The cars make hard lefts and hard rights with no warning. You are supposed to be shooting, but it doesn’t go so well when you are hanging on to your child who cannot sit independently. It was physically exhausting and our score was terrible! 😉 When we unloaded I let the guys running the thing know that “Can you transfer?” was not an adequate pre-requisite. I suggested they ask, “Can your child sit unassisted?” I am sure they were enthralled to hear my quick explanation of trunk control and head control and how Lucy may have just sustained whiplash and how I may have thrown out my back trying to keep her from getting her bell rung on the side of the car.
But… then they offered their fancy-schmancy-wheelchair ready car and that was a blast! Lucy sat in her wheelchair in the car and they strapped her wheels down. To make up for the first ride, they let us go two more times without waiting. But I think that was because it was easier to just let us keep riding than to maneuver that fancy-schmancy thing on and off the track. Lucy could shoot her own gun by bopping a button on top or yanking on a cord. I totally crushed her score though.
The parades were great. Lucy is not of fan of anything in costume, especially bigger than life costumes. She even hates Hopkins at our Signing Time shows… Hopkins!
And of course we got to relive memories of the infamous submarine experience in Mexico, but this time with the promise of Nemo below. And this time I wasn’t worried.
For those who cannot maneuver through the tight spiral staircase, there is another option. There’s a room that shows a movie of what you see under water. We tried both and we all agreed that being in the sub was much more fun.
Lucy really wanted to see Ariel, so we stopped by the restaurant Ariel’s Grotto on the first day. We asked about reservations for dinner the following day and were told by the hostess that reservations were not necessary. But, when we arrived for dinner the following day, all of the seatings were filled! Lucy was bummed. I explained what we were told the day before and today’s hostess said, “Reservations are not necessary, but they are recommended.” If your kiddo is an Ariel fan, don’t make this same mistake. Make a reservation.
The moral of the story is 1 in 1000 kids are born with spina bifida- if you are lucky enough to get one, then you are also lucky enough to park in the front row at Costco, even during the holidays. You also get to ride Dumbo and Small World countless times without waiting!
If ever you get stuck going to Disneyland on a busy holiday weekend, Lucy and I are available for rent.