The Happiest Place on Earth: The Magic of Experiencing Disney As a Grown Up

I was very much an ‘indoors kid’ when I was a little girl. I spent most of my school holidays with my younger sister inside, playing make believe, playing Barbies, and watching movies. Lots of movies. Every week, mum would take us down to our local video rental shop, and my sister and I would pick out our favourite movies to watch.

This is when my fascination with Disney started. We devoured Disney movies, one after another, and would watch them over and over again. When we weren’t watching Disney movies, we’d be playing Disney inspired games together, playing with our Disney toys and I’d write and draw my own versions of Disney stories.

A screen grab from a Disneyland commercial, circa early 90's. Image via YouTube.
A screen grab from a Disneyland commercial, circa early 90’s.
Image via YouTube.

There was just one thing I wanted but couldn’t have. And that was to be the little girl that was in the ads on the video tape, before the main feature started. The little girl being embraced by Mickey Mouse, holding hands with Cinderella, walking into the Magic Kingdom and spinning around in a teacup, wearing Minnie ears…

I wanted to go to Disneyland. I asked my mum every time the ad came on. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t possible. Mum would say that it was ‘very far away, and costs lots and lots of money and we can’t afford it’. Of course none of those reasons make any sense when you’re six years old – but visiting Disneyland remained on the top of my wish list for many, many years….

Fast forward 20 years, and I now have a better understanding as to why my mum had said no to my repeated requests as a 6 year old. My dad worked 6 days a week, my mum was a stay at home mum to me and my sister, and they were saving for a house. An overseas trip to the United States to visit Disneyland? It just wasn’t an option, not for us as a family and not for most families – and I understand that now.

However, visiting Disneyland was still one of the higher ranking dreams on my wish list – so when we confirmed our travels to Japan, I knew that the first thing I wanted to do in Tokyo was to visit Tokyo Disney Resort. We made our plans, sorted out dates, and booked two tickets online – the countdown was on!

Follow me too Disneyland...
Follow me too Disneyland…

As we hopped aboard the monorail to Tokyo Disney Resort and I grabbed a hold of the Mickey Mouse shaped handle above my head, the reality set in – this was actually happening. My biggest dream as a little girl was finally coming true – I was going to visit Disneyland!

I can’t describe the feeling as we hopped off that train – I was immediately transported to another world.

The thing about a Disney Park, is that the magic surrounds you completely. Every single one of your senses is heightened, so much so that you can’t help but feel happy. Everywhere you look – the beautiful Cinderella castle, the manicured gardens, the incredible detail in the themed lands – it blows your mind. The laughter and chatter of other visitors, and in the background, a familiar Disney tune playing. The sweet smell of caramel popcorn and cinnamon churros wafting past your nose. The warm embrace of a Disney character who has graced your screen a thousand times.

It was magical.

After purchasing the obligatory Minnie Mouse ears, we set off to explore the park. Studying the park map, we first made our way to Tomorrowland to obtain a Fast Pass for some of the more popular rides. It was only after getting the pass and learning that we couldn’t ‘accumulate’ passes for different rides (there’s a waiting time before you can get another one) that we realised we’d gone about it the wrong way. We should have gotten passes for the more popular rides first up, and line up for the ones that have fairly short queues. Rookie error!

Quickly deciding that we didn’t want to spend our day lining up for hours on end, we made our way to Fantasyland – home to the more recognisable Disney characters and themed rides. It was here we spotted our first Disney characters – Gepetto and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio. I didn’t care that it was really a small, Japanese person inside that costume – as far as I was concerned, they were the real deal and I had to have a photo with them!

Mike & I meeting Gepetto, Jiminy Cricket and Donald Duck!
Mike & I meeting Gepetto, Jiminy Cricket and Donald Duck!

We jumped on the carousel, took a tour of Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall, and went on an adventure with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We visited Minnie’s House in Toon Town, and then took a boat ride on It’s A Small World – a ride that made us smile the entire time! Jumping the queue using our second Fast Pass at the Haunted Mansion ride was so satisfying – as was the ride, an incredible display of robotics and puppetry and animation.

Living a childhood dream of riding on the carousel at Disneyland!
Living a childhood dream of riding on the carousel at Disneyland!
The beautiful Cinderella Castle - the centrepiece of Disneyland.
The beautiful Cinderella Castle – the centrepiece of Disneyland.
Visiting Minnie's House!
Visiting Minnie’s House!

The highlight of the day was the parades. You could not wipe the smile off my face as the music started and all the Disney characters I grew up with came past on the most beautiful, elaborate floats. Everyone from Aladdin, to Snow White, Pooh Bear and Woody – they waved to the crowds and I couldn’t help but wave back. Mike laughed and asked if I was having fun, and I honestly nearly burst with tears of happiness.

Belle and Cinderella
Belle and Cinderella
Buzz and Woody from Toy Story
Buzz and Woody from Toy Story

After perusing the glorious shopping and oohing and aahing over all the merchandise, we went back to Tomorrowland to jump on our last ride of the day – the one we’d secured with our very first Fast Pass (Monsters Inc – totally fun and totally worth it!), we lined up for the night time parade, which was even more glorious than the day one. The night parade – titled ‘Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights’ featured floats lit up with millions of sparkling, colour-changing LED lights – it was so incredibly beautiful to watch!

Tokyo Disneyland Electric Dreams Neverland (1 of 1)
Peter Pan and his friends!
Aladdin and Jasmine
Aladdin and Jasmine
Flynn Rider & Rapunzel from Tangled
Flynn Rider & Rapunzel from Tangled

We finished the night by watching Once Upon A Time, a spectacular feature where the Cinderella castle turned into a giant storybook, with Disney scenes projected against the building, complete with fireworks, lasers and other other effects. It was an incredible way to end the day.

I loved my visit to Disneyland so much that two days later, on my own, I went back – this time to DisneySea, a nautical themed Disney Park which has been widely acclaimed due to its unique theming and experiences.

Visiting the park on my own was very different to the visit with Mike – I LOVED experiencing the magic of Disney together, but at the end of the day, Mike isn’t a huge fan of theme parks! Visiting on my own I was able to make use of single rider lines on various rides, and I didn’t mind lining up for other rides and character meet and greets. Over the course of the day I went on five rides, watched four different shows and had three character meet and greets!

Meeting Minnie, Daisy Duck and Pinocchio!
Meeting Minnie, Daisy Duck and Pinocchio!
Starstruck meeting Ariel!
Starstruck meeting Ariel!

DisneySea was an incredible park, very different to Disneyland. It felt somewhat less busy and there were less families visiting. Once again, I made the wrong calls and used my Fast Pass for the wrong rides and missed out on getting any for the more popular rides I’d hoped to jump on. While I didn’t mind lining up for a certain amount of time – 210 minutes was just too long!

The highlight for me was Mermaid Lagoon, a themed area based on The Little Mermaid – my favourite Disney film. The new King Triton’s Concert show was spectacular, a mix of live puppetry, animatronics, projection and live actors – it might have been all in Japanese, but to sit in a theatre as Ariel swam around above me – it was magical! I then had the privilege of meeting her – it was my childhood dream come true, and I made sure to tell her that!

King Triton's Castle, the centrepiece of the Mermaid Lagoon themed area - it felt like I was in the movie!
King Triton’s Castle, the centrepiece of the Mermaid Lagoon themed area – it felt like I was in the movie!

I will never forget my first visit to Disneyland. Japan will always hold a place dear in my heart, for having given me these precious memories. There is something so joyous about experiencing the fantasy world that surrounded you as a child, as an adult. It reminds you of a time when you were happy, carefree, imaginative, creative and full of dreams – things that as we grow older, as we grow up and assume all the responsibilities of being an adult – we tend to lose.

Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, do so – your inner child will thank you.

The happiest place on earth!
The happiest place on earth!


  • How to get to Disney Resort?
    Tokyo Disney Resort is located Urayasu, China in the south-east of Tokyo, Japan. The nearest station is Maihama, a short walk to the Disney Monorail. You can access Maihama station by train or bus. Use Hyperdia to look up the best route from the station closest to your accommodation.
  • Where to stay in Tokyo?
    There are Disney hotels on site which I would have loved to stay in, but they were a bit out of our price range. However, staying here gives you the benefit of being close to the parks and being able to get in early. Otherwise, staying in central Tokyo will provide the most direct route to the park.
  • How much does it cost?
    A 1 Day Park Pass will set you back 7400 JPY / $90 AUD. This cost is all inclusive of the parks rides, however keep in mind food and merchandise is additional. We saved money by bringing our own snacks and food to the park. And by not buying merchandise. Well, not much anyway.
  • Disneyland or DisneySea?
    If you only have one day, you’ll have to choose between the parks. If this is your first time visiting a Disney Park, then definitely opt for Disneyland for that ‘Wow, my childhood come to life!’ feeling. If you have visited a park before, then visit DisneySea – it’s incredibly unique and from what I’ve heard from people that have visited all parks – it’s one of their favourites.
  • Top Tips for Visiting

    The park board at Disneyland showing the wait times for various attractions
    The park board at Disneyland showing the wait times for various attractions

    I still am very much a rookie when it comes to knowing the insider secrets to visiting Disneyland, but my advice would be to arrive early to try and beat the crowds. Do your homework and visit the park website before visiting to determine what rides you’d like to try the most (you’ll never do them all, so pick your favourites), and then utilise the Fast Pass feature effectively by getting one for the more popular rides, and lining up for other rides in the meantime. As soon as you’re eligible to get another Fast Pass, register it for the next most popular ride and so on… this way hopefully you cross your top rides off your list and don’t spend 210 minutes of your day lining up for it!

What do you think – did you visit Disneyland for the first time as an adult? What did you think of it? What’s your favourite Disneyland park? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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