There is not a word in the English language for that emotion you feel at the end of a good vacation; that mixture of happiness over the memories created, the sadness that the creation of those memories has come to and end, and the complete exhaustion that comes from traveling with small children for several days in a row. After a year of saving, research and preparation, we took the girls to Disneyland and it was, in a word, magical.
I did not grow up going to Disneyland. I knew it existed but it wasn't something that interested me much. In architecture school the word "Disneyland" became shorthand for anything unauthentic. And to be fair, Disneyland is a completely synthetic environment. The animals on the Jungle Safari are not real. The rocks of Thunder Mountain are not made of stone. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is not really a castle. And what is more you, have to pay a large sum of money (and go through a metal detector) to experience all of these things that, again, are not real.
No, the environment is completely manufactured at Disneyland, which is to say it is completely designed. That's what struck me about the place more than anything; the thought and care that went into every detail. Whether it was the choreography of the experience of waiting in line (to make waiting entertaining) or the addition of a musical LED nightlight to the headboard of beds at the hotel (to make even bedtime special), throughout our time at Disneyland we have felt like we were in the hands of skilled designers who cared. I feel this even more so as I sit in a overwhelmingly generic La Quinta hotel next to LAX. Here I do not feel as if I am in the hands of a skilled designer who cares - I feel I am in a cheap motel room.
I'm sure I'll have more to say about this trip in future posts but what the trip has reinforced for me more than ever is that design matters. Story matters. And more than anything, caring matters - both in Disneyland and in the real world.