Wednesday, 1 February 2012

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Entertaining the Non-Rider - Rides You Usually Skip

Attacking a theme park usually requires a plan. If you want to see everything that there is to see, you'd better get there early and you'd better be prepared to spend a good chunk of your day waiting in line to see the major attractions. This isn't so much a problem when you're touring with a non-rider. Sure, some of the kids rides can have long lines too (I'm looking at you Dumbo), but whether or not you get on them probably isn't going to make or break your vacation. I've never come home from Disneyland and had someone ask me if we rode the Storybookland Canal Boats. Touring with a non-rider means that you get to ride whatever catches your eye, giving you a chance to try out those rides that you usually bypass because you're too cool, too grown-up, or (in my case) you just don't physically fit anymore. Believe me, when they tell you that you'll fit in one of the Casey Jr. Circus trains, they're just being nice.

I will admit though that I've been surprised at just how much there is that's actually worth seeing. Disney is the best at including stuff for kids, but every theme park you'll go to has something for the non-thrill seekers. Usually the rides will fall into one of three categories. There's the dark ride, along the lines of Winnie the Pooh or Snow White in Disneyland; there's the spinning ride such as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party; then there's the Cat in the Hat ride at Universal, which is what you get when you take the teacups and put them on a dark ride. Somebody earned themselves an eternal residence somewhere very hot for dreaming that one up. There's also the old standbys such as the swings or bumper cars. Be warned though...if you see Lori on the bumper cars, you may want to wait until the next round. That girl has no mercy.

If you're revisiting a park, you may need to add a little backstory to your day. My daughter knows Disneyland like the back of her hand, so we try and add a little intrigue to our visits. For instance, we might decide that we're going to be secret agents on a mission that day, and we'll try to relate everything we do to that. When we see Great Moments
with Mr. Lincoln, we're getting our top secret assignment direct from the president. Autopia and Mr. Toads Wild Ride are both high speed car chases as we attempt to outrun the bad guys, and when we need to make our escape we jump on the monorail, with bonus points if we can get the attendant to let us in to the top secret compartments at the front or back of the car (Don't ask him to hurry because somebody is chasing you though. That just puts him on edge.). We do our best to escape, but we both know that if things go wrong, the president will disavow all knowledge of us and we'll be captured and tortured, which in our case means back to back rides on It's a Small World.

I like to think that by avoiding pressuring my daughter to ride the big rides and spending time with her that I'm building memories. Of course you never really know how memories are going to come out. This summer I got a chance to share one of my all-time favorite childhood memories with my daughter as we were in Disney World, where they still have the Country Bear Jamboree. The Jamboree was gone from Disneyland before our kids started going, but I've told them all about it, and every time we ride Winnie the Pooh I make them look for the heads of Melvin, Max, and Buff, the three MC's from the jamboree who are still mounted in a hidden location on the ride. So this summer, while the other three were out in the pouring rain waiting to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, youngest and I sought shelter inside the Country Bear Jamboree. For a little bit anyways. About
 five minutes in my daughter was begging me to let her leave and go stand outside in the rain. I'll admit that the show wasn't quite as good as I remembered, but I didn't think it was "I'd rather catch pneumonia" bad. I guess animatronic singing bears aren't as cool as they used to be, and I now get mocked constantly for making her watch the show, but that's OK. I know that when she's older her kids are going to mock her for her love of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and explaining to them that she was trying to escape enemy spies isn't going to make it better.

Being on non-thrill ride duty isn't as bad as it sounds. The fact is, like a lot of life, if you don't focus on what you're missing out on, you'll probably really enjoy what it is you're doing. My daughter is gradually becoming more confident, and every trip we make to a theme park results in an expansion of her ride selections. I have no doubt that it's not long until we're zooming along side by side on Space Mountain, which is good. Speed and darkness should be the perfect combination to help us escape those enemy spies.

Up next: Entertaining the Non-Rider - The Games