My Best Day at Disneyland ... Ever!

A voyage to the renovated Star Tours 3D tops a quick adrenaline-filled trip to the happiest place on earth

By Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: July 6, 2011

My Best Day at Disneyland ... Ever!

I'm about the same age as the happiest place on earth; that means, like many SoCal natives, I've been enjoying Disneyland throughout my life. Trips with my mom, dad and my five siblings every couple of years; school-day "field trip" excursions; and subsequent visits with my own family ... sons and daughters at first, and now with granddaughters in tow

The best day I ever had at Disneyland was the day I took my grandmother for her first and only visit. She was then in her seventies.

She didn't get into too many of the rides, but enjoyed the sights, sounds and colors and clearly had fun. Seeing her enjoying herself -- my stoic abuelita had a hard life and didn't smile much -- made the day most memorable.

Well, sorry, Abuelita, but I think that day's been topped.

I was invited to participate in the media preview for their 2011 summer special events and attraction openings. A two-day extravaganza to be among the first to check out their Soundsational Summer, which runs until now until September 5.

The experience includes a new parade rolling down Main Street U.S.A. and the launch of two new rides:
Ariel's Undersea Adventure and Star Tours' return in 3-D. Many of my media colleagues spent both days there, which included behind-the-scenes looks at upcoming projects and other fun stuff.

My time was extremely limited, so my photographer, Alicia, a Disneyland veterana whose all-time favorite birthday gift was with an annual pass, and I had a few hours and we made the most of it.

First, we squeezed through the morning throng waiting for the gates to open, followed by a race to Star Tours for a good seat at the press conference. In typical Disney story-telling style, a mini-Star Wars scene was played out on stage: A ticket taker announced that only one seat was left for the first Star Tours voyage, so a battle between a Jedi warrior and the baddest of bad guys, Darth Vader, was enacted. Any guesses who won?

After the show, Alicia and I ran to the ramp that led us down to Star Tours and after a short wait, we were in!

One of Disneyland's most popular theme park attractions, the ride was shut down for a year. The relaunched Star Tours now has new 3D footage and refreshed animatronics. What's best, the newer installments of the "Star Wars" saga, worlds and characters are incorporated into the 3D footage, which features 54 different story scenarios.

Our Starspeeders flight dodged through a bar fight in Tatooine, flew between the battling AT-ATs in Hoth's frozen wasteland and dove down to Naboo for an encounter with Jar Jar Binks. If all these terms are strange to you, you're certainly not a "Star Wars" saga fan. But for geeks like Alicia and I, the ride was engaging, exciting, a little scary and entirely entertaining. We would have loved to have gotten back in line and take our chances for another voyage, but we decided to move on.

I'll run by the rest of our morning (because that is essentially what we did). First, a quick trip up and down and around Space Mountain for more adrenaline rushes. The line to the Matterhorn was already winding around the mountain on both sides, so we cut through Fantasyland for Thunder Mountain...closed for renovation! So a quick trip to Pirates of the Caribbean slowed us down before a mad dash to California Adventure.

There's a lot of construction going on in that side of Disneyland Resort, most notably for an attraction based on "Cars" movie franchise. Our destination, however, was the theme park's fastest and scariest ride: California Screamin'.

Full disclosure: I don't really like fast and scary rides and it wasn't until my last trip to Disneyland in 2010 that Alicia finally talked me into riding the board-walk themed coaster, billed as the sixth-longest roller coaster in the world. OK, I did close my eyes during parts of the super-fast ride, including the loop, and embarrassed Alicia with my California screams, but after the ride, I felt really alive.

Unfortunately, our time was up, so we cut through the crowds, grabbed a couple churros, and got to our car.

Sure, our visit was short, but we had a great experience, just about my best Disney visit ever. We made the most of our time and got thrills that lasted the rest of the day. Alicia's going off to college this fall, so it's gonna be a while before we're able to hang out a D-land again. But when we do, we might try out the other new rides, but Star Tours is definitely a place we'll return to.

More info on Disneyland's Soundsational Summer here.

More on Disneyland here. http://disneyland.disney.go.com/

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