The Downside of “Moving to the Magic”
There are plenty of happily ever after articles about relocating to be closer to Disney Parks, typically Walt Disney World. This post offers anecdotal reflections of our experience living close to Disneyland for the last couple of years, which includes the downside–for me–of moving to the magic.
To my knowledge, there aren’t many people who express disappointment and regret about living closer to the parks. There’s probably good reason for this: Florida and California are relative paradise, and Disney fans love the ease of access afforded by being close to parks.
Even those with regrets might be reluctant to share them given that it’s a dream for so many and it come across as a “woe is me” or ungrateful attitude. Well, as a curmudgeon who can manage to suck the joy out of even unequivocally positive things like unicorns (just try keeping that white coat clean!) and sunshine (does it have to be so blindingly bright?!), I thought I’d share my thoughts, which seem to deviate from the norm.
I jest, but I should be clear up front: this article is about the downside (as a Disney fan) I’ve found in living a short drive from Disneyland, but it is not intended to be a woe is me piece. There is no regret or disappointment here. Moving to California was the best decision we ever made, and every day I wake up happy to be here. I likewise assume many who have taken the plunge and moved to Florida would agree with this sentiment–and it would remain true for them even if they took being close to Walt Disney World out of the equation.
Taking a step back, most regular readers are probably by now aware that we moved from Indiana to California nearly 2 years ago, as we’ve alluded to this in numerous posts. Given that we write a Disney blog, you might (understandably) assume that this was to be closer to Disneyland.
However, this was not why we moved to California. Actually, we moved to be closer to In-N-Out Burger…duh! 😉
Proximity to Disneyland certainly wasn’t on the “con” side of reasons to move, but it wasn’t our primary motivation. We fell in love with California during our first visit to Anaheim and Huntington Beach, and subsequent trips to Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, the Pacific Ocean, and other locales reinforced this, as did places unseen that we desired to visit.
We became intrigued by the prospect of living in California, and researched the myriad pros and cons of living here. I could write a treatise on why I love California, but that isn’t exactly germane to this post. Suffice to say, after a lot of consideration of where we were and wanted to be, moving to California just made sense.
A lot of people have asked about our move, and we haven’t shared much about it. Although we put a lot of ourselves “out there” on the internet, we still like to maintain some degree of privacy. Our move hasn’t been a particularly pertinent topic for the blog. With that said, we thought this post might share some of our post-move experience through a Disney prism…
As part of the move, we were definitely excited about the prospect of being within driving distance of Disneyland. I was also apprehensive that regular exposure would make Disneyland less special.
Despite taking multiple trips to Walt Disney World and writing about it on a regular basis, part of what I love about those parks is the feeling I get the first time I step onto Main Street and see Cinderella Castle in the distance. Or that sense of satisfaction and inspiration felt watching IllumiNations. I can’t necessarily pinpoint any singular reason for these feelings, but I assume it’s a mix of nostalgia, anticipation, and excitement.
In terms of the downsides (plural) of living closer to the parks, there really is only one downside (singular): familiarity can take away that excitement and anticipating, and make anything lose its luster (“familiarity breeds contempt” would be far too strong here). Also, I guess you could say that another downside I discovered was that “too much” (is that even possible?) Plaza Inn fried chicken and Yule Logs might be bad for wallet and waistline. 😉
Our first year in California, we visited Disneyland an average of about once per week. Living nearby presented a host of intriguing options at first, from dropping by for dinner without not doing a single attraction to going to the “Wednesdays with Walt” Annual Passholder event and meeting up with friends. It enabled us to visit the parks in a way we never had: casually.
There was never a sense of anticipation because our visits to Disneyland were seldom planned more than a few hours or a day in advance. Rather than arriving at rope drop and being excited to start our day with favorite attractions, we usually arrived in late afternoon with no agenda beyond eating or meeting with friends. The visits were more often preceded by the sense of frustration from fighting California traffic than they were nostalgia or any other emotion.
By the end of our first year as locals, visiting Disneyland had almost become mundane for me. It’s as if what made the parks so special when visiting as tourists had faded into the background, becoming instead a convenient place to socialize–a better themed public park, almost. If there is a word I never want associated with visiting Disneyland, it is mundane. I always want what makes Disneyland special at the front of my mind when visiting.
I know not everyone experiences this feeling. Heck, not even Sarah feels the same sentiments as I do. Some variant of “for me, personally” can (and maybe should?) be appended to virtually every sentence in this post. I am probably the exception, not the rule. We have friends who are born and raised Californians, and I don’t think that luster and sense of awe has ever faded for them.
We know people who moved to the Orlando area and have told us that every visit is magical for them. Others we know enjoy the relaxed feeling of slowly being able to explore everything Disney has to offer without feeling a sense of urgency to do and see it all in a week. For them, being a local offers freedom and a different way to do Disney. Not better or worse–just different.
This story is not intended to be a rebuke of moving to the magic. Quite simply, it’s just an anecdote offering my perspective. It’s obviously personal, and in no way some sort of definitive assessment of moving closer to the parks. It’s perhaps something to think about if you’re thinking of moving to Florida or California, but that’s such a highly personal decision that no subjective post you read is going to help you there. Just because this is how I felt doesn’t mean it’s how you would or will feel.
The same experience can provoke dramatically different responses in different people, and no one reaction is “right” or “wrong.” This is no value judgment intended or implied here. Certainly we’ve all been asked the sneering question, “why do you visit Disney so much?!” This post in no way seeks to perpetuate that judgmental type of thinking.
The sentiment that Disneyland was becoming mundane was one factor that led to us deciding not to renew our Annual Passes in the spring. I figured some time away might be good, helping me hit reset. I didn’t want to take Disneyland for granted, and wanted to find a way to “fix” that.
After reflecting upon our first year, I realized most of my best memories were those that were driven by a specific “Disney” purpose. One of our first days in California, we had the rare experience of a rainy day, and decided to visit for short lines, plus the combo of Christmas lights and puddles.
Another time, we went went first thing to see the new baby goats in Big Thunder Ranch, and made a day of that. After the Disneyland Half Marathon, I rope dropped the park, spending several hours doing things I hadn’t in a while, and getting probably vain on-ride photos wearing my medal. Before the first day of Halloween Time at Disneyland, we got a hotel and rope-dropped Disneyland.
Even just dropping in for dinner was memorable when it was a special meal at Napa Rose and we made the visit about that meal. Without spending time in the park, it actually built anticipation for a future trip to the parks. The commonality I found with all of these visits is that they had a clearly-defined purpose that focused on Disney rather than something that could’ve been accomplished outside of the parks.
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing Pilates in the Park for Disney Vacation Club Members at Disney California Adventure before the park opens. Originally, it was a way to get a “taste” of the parks while we don’t have APs (with “getting into shape” being a nice unintended benefit, I suppose), but it’s also been a great way to build anticipation for getting back.
As we’ve walked past Grizzly River Run, I’ve gotten excited about doing that. Same goes for dining at Carthay Circle, riding California Screamin’ at dusk, watching the Frozen Musical for the first time, and seeing the original World of Color again.
Now, we are both ready to revisit the parks. We’re excited for Halloween and Christmas. More importantly, I now know how to be a Disneyland local in a way that works for me, without diminishing the “magic” that makes the Disney parks so special.
While my apprehension about living closer to Disneyland was realized, I think I’ve found how to have the best of both worlds, living locally but having the excitement of a tourist–to have my cake and eat it, too. So, like most Disney stories, even this bit of a cautionary tale has a happy ending.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
What do you think of ‘moving to the magic’? Is it something you’ve considered? If you are a local to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, what has your experience been like as a local? Share any questions or additional thoughts you have in the comments!
On an unrelated subject, I would like to say I really enjoy your blog and find it the most useful and helpful of all the Disney related websites! I have used your advice and reviews to make many successful and enjoyable trips to the parks.
BUT, could you please date your articles clearly at the top and please please please could you label your awesome photographs with location info and possibly date as well????? Please?
Other than that, THANKS!!
I think there’s absolutely positives and negatives to moving closer to your favorite amusement park. I think so many people only talk about the positives, so I’m glad you shared your unique perspective.
We made the move a few years ago and never looked back. At the same though, we’ve also experienced that the more we go, the less excitement we feel. Thanks for your thoughts!
Hi Tom. My family (my husband, myself, our kids, 3 and 8), moved to Orlando a few months ago from AL. The opportunity that brought us here was my husband’s job–he was blessed with a brand new opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. However, Disney was the other main reason we decided to take the offer. We have no family or friends here, and it would have been a much harder sell for us if it had just been the company and not Disney. We now live 10 minutes from the “See you real soon!” sign–which is a complete dream and we feel so blessed to have this opportunity. We bought our APs the day we closed on our new home. We usually go to the parks a few times a week. We were just talking about when we vacationed here last year and how we do not miss that sense of urgency to get everything done. We can be leisurely and enjoy all the details. On a random tuesday we can hop over to HS and stand in line for Slinky Dog. We can have dinner in Epcot. We can ride 1 ride or 4. We still get excited, at least for now. I hope that doesn’t change. Although showing up for rope drop because it’s your vaca and you only have so many days is a very special excitement I can’t help but miss. What I do not miss is the tears when leaving—at the end of our vacation, I sobbed. Thankful I don’t have those feelings anymore! Right now we really do feel like we are living a dream–thankful our kids are submerged in Disney, practically on a daily basis. Hopefully that never changes, as long as we are here (which right now, can’t imagine not being here!). I feel like now we will get the best of both worlds–Disney whenever we want, and US/International travel at other vacation times–school breaks, etc.
I so appreciate this POV!! I’ve been entertaining moving from NY to FL for a few reasons (WDW being one of course) but always worry that it would lose its magic and luster for me. Even if I lived right outside WDW (Orlando and Tampa were two of our areas bc of schools for my niece and nephew and my husband’s work), I would still want to stay on Disney property. I did it twice where I went to Disney for the day and left and dinner and left and I HATED it. So I would want to staycation there and feel wrapped up in that magic, so I don’t know that being so close would be good for me lol. I appreciate you being so honest!
Interesting points! This will never be a worry for me as CA and FL are probably the bottom 2 states I would ever move to. But I think someday we may move to ve within a day’s drive of WDW and that would be fun for me to go twice a year vs. every 2-5 years. I think I would be like you and lose some of the magic if it was all the time!
I’m one of those born and raised Californians who has never tired of Disneyland! My husband and I had annual passes the whole time I was in college at CSU Northridge and would go fairly often. However we never went as often as you said (once a week on average). We avoided all summers and holidays and most weekends because of the insane crowds and how Disneyland can feel fairly claustrophobic in those conditions. I suppose that’s part of how I never lost that “magical” feeling since we would sometimes have several months in between visits.
I lived near Disneyland in college and it did lose some of the magic for me. Then I moved to Miami and was within 4 hours of WDW. This meant I could still visit several times a year but not make it anytime I wanted. Now we have a toddler and get to relive the magic several times a year. I cant tell you how awesome it was to hear her squeal with glee on our last trip when the castle came into view. It WAS magic! So that’s what I love…that there is always new magic to discover..weather it’s from trying a new experience at the parks or just seeing the parks again through your children’s eyes.
I was lucky enough to realize my dream & move from OH to FL & become an AP holder (albeit only for a year) 5 years ago & I loved it!
I’m sure the short time span kept things from becoming mundane (that & the fact that we had the low level AP, keeping us from visiting during the summer months, spring break, around the holidays etc) But being a bona fide Disney geek, I’m convinced that had I been fortunate enough to stay longer, I wouldn’t have tired of it. Disney holds a special place in my heart – I’m sure my childhood had something to do with that.
I grew up in the 70’s/80’s when WDW was new & all the rage. But my family never had the resources for such a vacation – so it was always a dream to go. A huge dream. One that I didn’t think I would ever realize. So you can imagine my over-the-moon excitement when I was able to take my children. I was & still am the most excited person in the bunch when we make our annual trip!
Like you & others have said, I loved the casualness of our visits when we lived there. No rushing around to make sure we hit everything. We just enjoyed being there, popping in for dinner when we scored a last minute hard to get reservation, walking around not doing the attractions, but simply taking in the ambiance or (and this was a wonderful perk) being able to meet family from OH when they came to visit the parks. I’ll make it back someday- & relish every minute of it
Tom, how has moving to Southern California impacted your sense of what and where your home resort is? Do you two still consider WDW to be home? Have your hearts expanded to embrace DLR and WDW together as both your home resorts? I mean, beyond the familiarity that you both already have with Disney parks around the world.
I ask because I read this while my partner and I, DLR vets from Chicago who didn’t enjoy WDW a few years ago when we had bi-coastal premier passes, were in the middle of a last-minute, amazing trip to WDW. The trip made us reconsider our biases about WDW so strongly that we came home with annual passes and a new sense of appreciation about the place. We never thought we’d feel at home at WDW, too, and now we do. So I’m just curious how your sense of “home” parks may have changed because of the move near to Disneyland.
Being a native Californian myself and annual pass holder. Me & my family visit Disneyland once a month and we only live an hour away. This is something we have done for many, many years and I wouldn’t change it. I still get that excited feeling every single time we go. That giddy as a school girl feeling. Maybe it is the fact that since I live close I do not have to rush to see everything or do as much as I can in 1 or 2 days. I am not scrambling to get on as many rides as possible or waiting hours for a particular show or parade. Why? Well to put it simply, I don’t have to. I know that we will be here again and again and I can see that show or ride that ride next time if I want to. For me it’s more the feeling I get going. Enjoying the music, the atmosphere, watching all the smiling faces, being with my family, sharing our love for Disneyland and Disney. It IS special to me and my family. Call me crazy but I wouldn’t change living closer for the world. It’s still as magical today as it was the first time I went as a child.
This is interesting as I’ve had almost the opposite experience (though probably for my own unique reasons!) – I grew up in Southern California going to Disneyland every year on my birthday. When I was old enough to drive, I got an Annual Pass and went as often as I could; then worked there for a few summers in high school; and through college and several years after kept an AP and went all the time with friends, whether for dinner, an evening out on a famously nice California evening, or just for whatever. It was great always having fireworks, an attraction, a lavish parade in my back pocket. Fireworks every week or so had become part of my life! Then I moved away to the Northeast for school/career – and now a Disney park is only once every other year or so.
Now I feel kind of stressed when I visit a park, feeling I have to catch all the shows, all the attractions I can to not miss out, whereas before I could just go get a little taste whenever I wanted. I’m anxious I only get to see Paint the Night once. Not to mention that if I pick World of Color one night I’ll miss out on fireworks, or vice versa. These are truly unique Disney Park-Geek problems 🙂
Perhaps its what one grows up having been used to: regular doses of magic, or a huge happy shot for special occasions. I’m super happy where I am now and might not be back in California until my career takes me back there, but I do miss regular Disney park visits!
That christmas tree in the rain is stunning!