Anaheim, California, US: Why there's really no age limit to visit Disneyland

In Finn's eyes, we've left the best till last. After a month-long road trip around the American south-west, our final three days before flying home from Los Angeles will be at Disneyland.

But it isn't just my 11-year-old son who has been eagerly anticipating a visit to Disney's original theme park in Anaheim. After a childhood where my three brothers and I religiously spent Sunday nights watching The Wonderful World of Disney with cheese toasties on our laps, I'm also looking forward to it.

Back then, nearly 50 years ago, Disneyland was the single place I wanted to go to if my family ever managed to save enough money for an overseas trip. I desperately wanted to see the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty's castle and to have my picture taken with Mickey Mouse. I longed to ride the monorail and to slide down water chutes in a log raft. Even the twirling teacups looked like fun.

So my first night ends in disappointment. Disneyland Park's Space Mountain indoor rollercoaster, a Disney institution since 1975, is closed for renovations. The castle is undergoing a facelift behind a printed facade. And the fireworks are cancelled due to strong winds at high altitude. Fifty years, I've waited!

There's no point in dwelling on what's lost, however, so we instead focus on what we can do. Using the Disney phone app, we zero in on rides destined to bring out the 11-year-old in my wife and I. Finn and Michelle challenge me on Autopia's race cars, we speed through darkness on the Matterhorn Bobsled, the first thrill ride ever incorporated into a Disney theme park in 1959 and we float through Fantasyland's "it's a small world", which resembles the Myer Christmas windows in Melbourne, albeit an enlarged version.

Overnight, Finn scans maps for the two parks – Disneyland and Disney California Adventure – working out which rides to attack over the next two days. I purchase MaxPasses to reduce queuing times.

Other Southern Californian theme parks arguably contain more thrilling rides, but the Disney factor has an inestimable pulling power – not just for kids. I lose count of the number of grown men I spot walking around with Groot dolls sitting on their shoulder. Honeymoon couples walk hand in hand wearing matching Mickey and Minnie T-shirts and bow ties. Hen's parties get around wearing Minnie Mouse ears that cost $40 each. Entire families dress in clothing emblazoned with characters from The Incredibles or Star Wars. And adults celebrate milestone birthdays – sans children.

Finn isn't overly interested in the many shows on offer, or having his photo taken with Donald Duck or Goofy; Mickey's 90th birthday celebrations mean nothing to him. Unlike me, his formative years haven't been indoctrinated with all things Disney. Pikachu and the dragon slayers of Berk compete for his attention. Instead, he'd rather squeeze in as many rides as he can and he's happy to try everything.

He grins from ear to ear when we exit Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout, and proclaims Incredicoaster to be "the best roller coaster I've ever been on, by a long way". He wants to jump back on straight away while I want my head and stomach to settle first.

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We go on rides honouring Indiana Jones and the Pirates of the Caribbean, and travel across the globe on a flying chair in Soarin' Around the World. But by the end of our third day, the two adults in the group want to slow down a bit. It's then that we sit inside the teacups on Fantasyland's Mad Tea Party, just like I'd imagined doing all those years ago.

TRIP NOTES

Mark Daffey visited Anaheim courtesy of Disney Destinations International and Visit Anaheim.

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traveller.com.au/usa

visitanaheim.org

VISIT

Single day tickets to Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park start at $151 for visitors aged over 10.Multi day tickets are available, starting at $99 for visitors aged over 10. There is a surcharge for Park Hopper tickets, which allow visitors to move between parks on the same day. Disney MaxPasses cost an extra $21 per day.. See disneyland.disney.go.com

STAY

The Sheraton Park at the Anaheim Resort hotel is 15 minutes' walk from the Disneyland entrance. Rooms from $170. See marriott.com.au/hotels/travel/snaps-sheraton-park-hotel-at-the-anaheim-resort/

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