In 2004, Disney's California Adventure, an oft-ridiculed addition to Disneyland in dire need of something, anything, new to get people in the gates, opened The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I was in college at the time, had an Annual Passport to both parks (thanks to slinging smoothies at Jamba Juice and working at an independent bookstore) and would go to Disneyland almost every week. California Adventure? Never. Maybe once or twice to ride that roller coaster. But when Tower of Terror opened? I waited over four hours for a ride that lasted three minutes. It was worth it. Many consider the opening of the ride (ahem, attraction) to be the beginning of California Adventure's renaissance, the catalyst to things like World of Color, Cars Land, and Ariel's Undersea Adventure. But this past October, Disney announced that the ride would be getting a new overlay and name, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, featuring scenes and characters from Marvel's film of the same name (Disney owns Marvel Entertainment). Fans of original ride, myself included, reeled at the news. And today, it was time to bid farewell to the Tower of Terror. For those unfamiliar, the Tower of Terror takes guests through a narrative that's inspired by The Twilight Zone, hence the attraction's name. While it doesn't actually draw from an episode of the storied TV show, riders are pulled into a paranormal fantasia that involves the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel getting struck by lightning. For reasons unknown, you're placed in service elevator that rises to the 13th floor (spooky) and you plummet down — and go back up — while you scream your head off. In total, you fall 130 feet and, naturally, your photo is taken at the top while you get a panoramic view of Anaheim, CA, and the rest of the Disneyland Resort.
I waited over four hours for a ride that lasted three minutes.
It's not just that it's a great ride, because it is. Even my dad, who hates waiting in line and theme parks and who would rather just watch YouTube videos, loves it. And because it's so tall, visitors to the Disneyland Resort and California Adventure can see the tower from just about anywhere. You can even see it when you're not in the parks, because it's one of the tallest buildings in all of Anaheim. You can see it while you're stuck in traffic on the 5 freeway, beckoning you to ditch your day's plans and fall to a fictional doom instead. The Tower has become an icon for many. For me, it's a symbol of super-hot summers, escaping the grind of finals and smoothies for a quick respite, and a way to feel totally weightless for a few seconds. Plus, I grabbed a churro every time I stepped through the park's gates, so that's a plus, too. Today, riders ascended the elevators for the very last time. The lines were three-plus hours again. Goodbyes are always tough, but spirits seemed high for those waiting for their go on the Tower. While the ride lives on at Disney World in Florida (the original), Tokyo DisneySea, and Disneyland Paris, SoCal's Disney fans have had this stalwart for the last 13 years, so it's tough to let things go. And while we all wait for the reveal of Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, which I'm sure will be amazing (it's basically the same elevator-drop ride), we'll be looking at the Tower and remembering those three-minute rides into the Twilight Zone.