Theme Parks

When I was four, my parents decided to take me to "the happiest place on earth," Disneyland. At the time, I had been pretending I was a princess, like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. For the upcoming Halloween, I had insisted on dressing as Belle, from Beauty and the Beast. I felt ecstatic that I would finally get to meet the real Belle. Upon arriving at Disneyland, we began the mad dash from one ride to the next. I loved the Teacups and went on them until my dad almost lost his lunch and insisted we stop riding them. Later in the day we went on Space Mountain, and I bawled my eyes out from the moment the ride started until after it came to a stop!

After lunch I could not wait any longer, and so we went to see Belle. My jaw dropped to the floor when I set eyes on her gorgeous dress. It was golden, puffy, and covered in sparkles; every little girl's dream dress! It made my day -- no, my year, when I had my picture taken with her. After we'd returned home, I looked at the Belle dress my mom had sewn for me to wear that Halloween. I looked at it and then said to my mom, "Where are the sparkles?" A little bratty, I know, but I must have looked pretty darn cute because my mom sewed rhinestones on my dress that night. -- Emma Seemann, Carlsbad H.S. graduate

I've been to Disneyland more times than I can remember, but if I had to guess, I'd say about 30 to 40. I was there with my family on July 17, 2005, the date of the park's 50th anniversary. I was about three years old when I walked into SeaWorld, the first theme park I ever visited. I don't remember much, but a picture of my family includes me with a banana sticking out of my mouth. I was about four years old when I took my first steps into Disneyland. My mom told me about how I ran full sprint toward the Rivers of America, the long, circular river where the Mark Twain steamboat chugs along. I tried to jump in the boat, but my mom's boyfriend caught me.

Several years later I went back with my family. My brother was dying to go on Space Mountain more than once, but we rode it only once. After I came home that night, I had a horrifying nightmare based on the "Fantasmic" nighttime show: Monstro (the whale from Pinocchio) was outside my bedroom window, peering in to look for me. Then I looked down, over the edge of my bunk bed, and saw a ghost pirate staring at me.

My most unforgettable visit to Disneyland was the time my brother invited a friend. I was in fifth grade at the time. On the road trip to Anaheim, we had a broken window, so it was really cold. When we got there, my brother and his friend got to be in the front row of every ride we went on, which I wasn't too happy about. The best part of the trip was the Rocket Rods ride (now discontinued); we traveled along the skyway all over Tomorrowland in a futuristic-looking car at speeds between 60 and 80 miles per hour (or so it seemed).

Besides Disneyland, I've visited Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. Now I work at SeaWorld, which is fun and exciting. The best part about working there (besides making money) is that you get to explore the back lots and secrets of the park. The best thing about the Disney theme parks is that sense of escape from the real world. After you walk through those gates, it's "hakuna-matata," and I hope that feeling stays with me even after I become a 30-year-old adult, married and with kids. -- Jonathan Cardeiro, Point Loma H.S.

The first theme park I can remember going to was Disneyland when I was about five. My grandparents took care of my one-year-old brother, and my parents and I drove up to Anaheim the night before. We stayed at the Candy Cane Inn that night and went to the park the next morning. The only things I can remember from that trip are riding Dumbo the Flying Elephant with my dad and coming home happy and very tired. Since then, I've gone to Disneyland only three times. Two of those times were surprises. The morning started the same as usual, except that Dad didn't go to work and we didn't take the usual turns on the way to school. According to a Disneyland employee, the first Wednesday of December is the least crowded day of the whole year (shhh! don't tell anyone!), so that was when we went. The other time I went was with a friend last year, soon after Space Mountain reopened.

For a couple of years my family had memberships at Legoland. It was nice because of its close proximity; we could go for a couple hours after school or on a busy weekend and not "lose" money. I've long since outgrown Legoland, but I definitely enjoyed it for a while.

The only other theme park I've been to is Knott's Berry Farm. I went two years ago at the beginning of summer break with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. That was probably my favorite theme-park experience because it was the only one with really big roller coasters (sorry, Matterhorn, but you don't measure up). I went on one ride (the Silver Bullet) eight or nine times, and two others (Montezooma's Revenge and the Accelerator) four or five. -- Kyle Landau, Carlsbad H.S.

Because I've got a weak stomach, I hate amusement parks...

and I've tried them all. I've been to Disneyland, Six Flags, Disney's California Adventure, and Knott's Berry Farm, and each one was as sickening as the next. Whether I was going sideways on the Teacups or upside down on the Superman ride, the results were the same: I'd vomit and then run to the restroom in shame. The first time I visited Disneyland I was six years old. I should have known trouble was in store when I got carsick on the way there. Disneyland sucked; the screaming kids and the sticky floors...the annoying mascots and the screeching rides. "The happiest place on earth" turned out to be anything but.

Luckily, I was with my brother, who not only rode the Indiana Jones ride 27 times but also believed he was Indiana Jones. So, as I toured Adventure Land with my ten-year-old brother who's got an obsession for speed and amazing persuasion skills, I began to realize that I was probably on my own Last Crusade. I got through that land, and then the next, and before long I was sure I was home free. Unfortunately, there was Tomorrowland. Despite my pleas that we try it "tomorrow," I was coaxed on to Space Mountain.

"It'll be fun," my brother told me, "it's not even scary. You'll love it." He grabbed me and threw me into the car. That's when I barfed for the first time on a ride. I was embarrassed because I spewed on the person next to me, but I had earned my "I survived" T-shirt and action-shot photo. At least no one could call me a coward. -- Andres Perez, Valhalla H.S.

Even though I can't remember the first time that I went to a theme park, throughout my childhood, until the year I turned 11, my family would go every two years or so to Disneyland. These visits were infrequent enough so that each time we went I could hardly bear to leave. Then came the chance to go to Disneyland with my choir, when I was in sixth grade. I confess that I switched my elective (originally band) around October when I learned that, in the spring, the choir would go to Disneyland. For the majority of the year, then, I anticipated the trip. I got into Disney in general, watching all of the movies and buying all kinds of memorabilia.

After the trip had come and gone, I realized that it wasn't worth all of the preparation that culminated in this single, one-day event. It wasn't long before I started begging my mom for our family to go to Disneyland. For the past several years my mom, my three younger sisters, and I have gotten annual passes. It is mostly thanks to me that we were able to get all of these passes; I paid for most of them with money that I earned.

However, I've come to be sick of Disneyland. I've been there too many times; most of the charm seems to have gone right out of the place. Now that our most recent annual passes have run out, I don't intend to visit the park for a long time. -- Michele Diaz, Poway H.S. graduate

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