There were times, in our week in Orlando, Florida, when I wondered if my 45+ year love affair with amusement parks in general, and Disney parks specifically, was coming to an end. Nearly half a decade is a good run. Perhaps every passion eventually fades.

I understand the skeptics and haters, because who isn’t a little grossed out by the endless over-the-top-ness. The distraction and commercialism that drives the fantasy. Standing in yet another line, waiting for a fireworks cruise in the dredged-out swamp in front of the Magic Kingdom, thinking about how the bank account is literally bleeding out, I wondered if my heart was finally hardening, that flame started in 1971 in Anaheim, finally cooling. What is this awful waiting room for the damn cruise, unseasonably cold, filled with my grumpy children and the even worse grumpy children of others?

I resolve to soldier on, but silently vow this will be my Very. Last. Time.


Finally we get on the boat, they ply us with champagne and all the dessert we can eat, cruising around and the fireworks start up over Cinderella’s castle in the distance. Sort of small. Then matching fireworks spring up further around the lake, and there’s a cascade of sparkle, explosion after explosion, higher and bigger and… were those elipses? Squares? Squiggles that end in fizzy cascades. Jaden’s on a treasure hunt with a special UV flashlight after learning card tricks from the magician. I remember my first magic trick, purchased from the Main Street Magic Shop (where Steve Martin used to work!), and I know I can’t stay mad.

The thing about Disneyland, and the 40 square miles of Disney World, is the incredible thought and detail that has gone into every part of it. Everywhere you look is something clever, surprising, or beautiful. From the jewel-like details on the buildings of Main Street to the rusty cannons jutting out of the Spanish fort by the pool, you’re stepping into a dream of reality, fully realized.

The new Star Wars “Galaxy’s Edge” feels like you’ve touched down on another planet, the long line for the ride snaking around and under a life-sized Millennium Falcon (the modified YT-1300 Corellian light freighter which has been primarily commanded by smuggler Han Solo).

Our non-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving was burgers on the “beach” at Typhoon Lagoon, a water park with an absolutely huge wave pool, and real sand. Periodically there are 6-foot swells that will knock you down. And yes, that’s a fishing boat stranded on the far peak.

The whole time you’re in the parks and surrounding properties, you’re immersed in a story, and if there’s not a minute of quiet from the Mickey waffle breakfast to the late-night bus ride back to the hotel, there’s a rich life beckoning you. What Caribbean Island is this? Was that a team of dancing, drumming Green Army Men toys that just marched by? Might I be rescued from this tower by a handsome prince?

And let’s face it, even if after a week we come home exhausted, completely wrung out… how many places can you take your 12-year-old who’ll barely speak to you, and see this?

That’s the kind of magic I can use.

Happy, Merry, and Goodness to all.