Disney really has it figured out. Of all the parks we visited, they were far ahead in all the mechanics of crowd motion. Parking was a joy (and how often can you say that?) – we found ourselves performing an intricate choreography with dozens of other cars resulting in every odd numbered spot being filled while every even numbered spot remained empty. This allowed extra room for families to get out of their car, gather the kids, strollers, and all their gear without bumping into each other. It was a brilliant idea since a huge percent of Disneyland's daily crowd arrives right when the park opens. Inside, the efficiency was much the same. We were twirled on and off rides by skillful handlers. In many cases, the rides didn't even stop
Our first ride of the day was "Buzz Lightyear" with very minimal waiting. When it came time to board, we simply stepped onto a moving platform then into a moving car. There are two riders per car and each is armed with a Regulation Issue Star Command Blaster and points are racked up by hitting targets with a laser light. As an aid to tracking Zurg and his evil minions, each car is equipped with a joystick that turns the car 360 degrees . The ride is always in motion - even when riders are exiting the cars. You step out onto the same moving platform you entered on and a new crew steps into that car a few seconds later. All four of us had a great time on this ride.
On our way to the north end of the park (towards the smaller kiddy rides), we passed the Matterhorn and decided to give it a go. We didn't remember that the Matterhorn was the 2nd most thrilling ride at Disney behind Space Mountain. All we knew was that the girls were tall enough to ride and the wait wasn't very long. As we got closer to the front of the line, we could see other riders exiting the ride. None of the kids were as young as ours but some were pretty young and none of them were in hysterics. Riders straddle a bench down the middle of each "log", two riders per section, with kids sitting between their parent's legs (leaning back against Mom or Dad). I think kids feel pretty secure riding like this and I appreciated that I was able to wrap my arms around my little ride-mate to help her feel safe if things got scary. The kids were fine with the clanking/bumping ascent and the dark tunnel and were only briefly freaked out by the first horrific drop (which actually freaked me out). The speed, g-force, and sharp turns were a little alarming but both girls settled in and started to really enjoy it – giggling with delight. At the end of the ride, the abominable snowman, with gleaming red eyes and a ferocious roar caused Maddy to dissolve into a paroxysm of tears. Were it not for the Yeti, we're pretty sure both kids would have been happy to ride again.
After experiencing the thrill of the Matterhorn, we thought the kids might think Donald's Boat ride is a big hairy snooze-fest.
Speaking of which, our next ride was Dumbo.
The girls were fascinated by the totem poles and Mommy and Daddy appreciated the air conditioning and seats. And we liked the show too. (I had trouble sleeping that night because the Tiki Room song was stuck in my head for hours!)
I remembered all the scary parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and felt pretty sure that the girls would be okay with all of it. However, I didn't know that the entire ride was revamped! It was dark and the special effects and eerie music made it really scary. I couldn't see the boat in front of us but heard people scream and knew we were about to go over the waterfall. (two boat drops in the new version of this ride). The kids were on the verge of crying through the entire first half of the ride. Gwen did the whole ride with Daddy's arm clutched in her two hands against her forehead so she could pull it down over her eyes whenever things got too scary. They only started to relax when the scenery got brighter and more festive (ie singing and dancing pirates). When it was over, Gwen wanted to ride it again but Maddy wasn't so enthusiastic.