The most magical place on earth can fit into 20 acres in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Disney World is known for being the most magical place on earth — and for its massive size. I think I’ve always associated part of its value with its 25,000-acre enormity. But as I walk around the entirety of one of the world’s oldest theme parks in 30 minutes flat, I realize that magic could be the size of your average park. In fact, being small might make it even more magical.
Though there’s more to Disney World than its size, Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark manages to pack an incredible amount of magic into its tiny 20 acres. To name just a few: oriental-themed gardens, a Turkish palace, water fountains, concerts, rollercoasters, a ballet, and an old-fashioned arcade all fit into Tivoli.
From the moment my husband and I buy our tickets, we realize this is a different sort of park. We pay just for entrance ($12) and buy a few individual ride tickets rather than spend the $30 for entrance and unlimited rides. It seems most people have the same plan — rather than filled with children and thrill seekers, this crowd is older, laid back and visiting for the restaurants, gardens and concerts.
We enter the theme park on a chilly weekend evening in the middle of the summer, I pull out the map to plan out the best way through the park — a big theme park mentality. I quickly realize it’s pretty small and rather than rush to hit all the highlights, we have plenty of time to walk through.
As we browse little China, drink at the Turkish café and ride a mini-coaster dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen’s works, the thing that surprises me most is the lack of lines. The concert area is packed, but we walk straight to our rides and hop on. If that’s not magical, I don’t know what is.
It’s changed over time of course. Hans Christian Andersen didn’t always have a ride dedicated to him. In fact, it was the gardens that inspired him first. He wrote the fairy tale The Nightingale after visiting the park when it opened in 1843.
The sense of wonder here carried on to 1951, when Walt Disney visited for the first time. Several visits and four years later, he opened Disneyland, hoping to bring Tivoli’s ambience to America.
Though I won’t be writing a fairy tale or opening a theme park anytime soon, I feel the inspiration too.
I can see all of little China with one glance, but Tivoli invites me to take my time. With no crowds to push through, I can glance up and see the paper lanterns, the detailed carvings on the buildings, and listen to the whoosh of a dragon-themed rollercoaster overhead. My instinct is to rush through the park to see as much as I can, but it’s the opposite of how one should visit Tivoli. Despite being small, I still won’t be able to taste it all, ride it all and do it all here. But to truly appreciate what I can do, I have to meander.
Sometimes by seeing less, tasting less and riding fewer rides, we can truly see a place better. We can take in the feel of it without the pressure to check off the most items. That’s what makes Tivoli magical — it’s not having it all, in fact, it’s having less. It’s getting lost without time or place, having the room to wander and not feel overwhelmed.
Though I’ve walked the entire place and have to leave, I already know I want to return to visit the Danish-style market, the Turkish palace and the aquarium. Besides, magic isn’t about doing it all. Magic is Tivoli.