Vacation, Phase 1: Disneyland and California Adventure

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping and I have been torn about whether or not to do any California trip recap posts the way I had intended. I had a lot of thoughts, observations, tips, and memories that I felt like sharing, but as more time has passed the “have to” element is starting to feel burdensome rather than enriching. I took all the pictures though and thought of the tips…

We flew into LAX on a Wednesday, rented a van and then drove to Anaheim where we stayed in the Clarion Anaheim. I specifically picked the hotel because it had a little cafΓ© in it in which kids could eat free breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was no free breakfast for adults, but I figured that was outweighed by the kids also being able to dinner for free. The little restaurant was called the Palm Tree Cafe and it was so good. I read mixed reviews online, but the paninis we had there were truly the food-highlight of our entire vacation. We never ended up eating better food anywhere else that we stayed during the whole two weeks. Of course, hunger is the best seasoning and all and when we staggered in exhausted from our Disney fun, we wereΒ so grateful to have food that it was the best food on earth. The breakfast buffet was really good also with lots of fresh fruit and also bacon. And, the dishes were all real—cloth napkins, real forks, etc. I feel like the hotel choice was smart for the food, but it was longer walk from Disneyland than I anticipated and we ended up having to buy the ART pass after all so we could take a shuttle to and from the park. It wasn’t expensive and it was totally worth it.

We did walk to Downtown Disney on Wednesday night and we also walked home from the park one afternoon and to it one morning.Β  We accidentally were there during the Monster summer event (celebrating the release of Monsters University) in which the park was open 24 hours and it was also Memorial Day weekend. Pretty unexpected bad moves for us! Oh yeah, and it was also Grad Night on both Friday and Saturday nights, for which all the graduating high school seniors in the state were there for a special event (apparently 10,000 of them, I read!). In hindsight, since we had three-day park hopper passes, we totally should have gone to the park for half a day the day we arrived on a Wednesday, rather than going on the Saturday of Memorial Day for a partial day. I guarantee that Wednesday afternoon/evening would have been more “productive” than Saturday was. Thank goodness we had Thursday and a “Magic Morning” (get in one hour early) that day, because Friday night (the 24 hour event night) was insane and Saturday was pretty horrible after about noon (it only opened at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday too, which was a bummer).

Things I wanted to remember to say or wish I had remembered to do:

  • Needed long-sleeves for the kids–it was surprisingly chilly a lot of the time.
  • and needed hats to protect from sun. Mark, Alaina, and I all had one, but the boys did not.
  • the Ergo was an absolutely life-saver. I do not know what we would have done without it. Alaina rode in it constantly. I joked that I felt like I was “two years pregnant” because of how I waddled all over the park with her strapped to my chest. (I’ve never been one for the back carry with the Ergo—it puts pressure on my neck/shoulders that way and feels like it is pulling me over backwards. It also gives me tension headache-migraine-of-awfulness, which I had the entire first day, but ignored in the spirit of fabulous fun, even though a part of me imagined drilling several small holes in my skull to let out the pressure. On the front, we’re golden, except for the two-years-pregnant waddle and the slight ridiculousness of carrying a massive person around on your chest instead of back.)
  • a nice, everyone-wins compromise about expensive food in the parks is to get things to share so that everyone gets a “taste” of park food and then supplement with packed snacks or leave the park to eat other food. For example, we went to the Hungry Bear restaurant, but instead of getting a whole lunch for everyone, we got a chicken sandwich for the adults to split and one kids meal for the kids to split and two of the big, fancy lemon cupcakes for the family to split—so, everyone got to enjoy the satisfaction of eating a fancy cupcake, without actually having to buy five of them! This cut down on some of the bugging from the kids about buying food all of the time, but saved us money. And, btw, the boys didn’t even finish eating their entire pieces of the split-in-thirds $6 cupcake, so I’m triply glad I didn’t buy them each one!)
  • I read a tip online that if you are doing Disney with young kids, you should to go back to your hotel room for a midday siesta and recharge time–this would be during the hottest part of the day when things haven gotten crowded. Then, go back over in the late afternoon when daytime visitors are heading home. We did this on Friday and it was a good choice, because we were able to eat our beloved, life-saving paninis at the Palm Tree Cafe and rest a bit, before heading back into what had become madness.
  • If children are bugging for yet another treat, go to the Ghiradelli chocolate store at California Adventure and they’ll give you free chocolates!
  • Good shoes really matter. Even though they didn’t match my outfits, I brought my favorite pair of Teva Terradactyls to wear and never regretted it.

Here is my Facebook summary of our Disneyland and California Adventure adventure:

Thursday at Disney was great. We ran ourselves ragged and were exhausted and hungry, but we did almost everything there was to do at Magic Kingdom. We had a “Magic Morning” on our tickets for that morning, so we got in an hour early. Plus, we quickly learned that Alaina was our best “fast pass” ever and took the slightly scammish approach of collecting as many rider switch passes as we could in the morning when lines were short and then going back in the afternoon and actually using them when lines were longer. We felt like we’d gotten our money’s worth and fully “done” Disneyland by the end of the day on Thursday. On Friday, the parks opened at 6:00 in the morning and so we did California Adventure that day. It was pretty good in the morning though headliner rides were closed until 9:00, which was obnoxious, but smaller rides were walk right on affairs. The big Cars ride was a different story, but we worked the single rider line and the rider switch (because of Alaina) and got it done swiftly too. We also looked pathetic enough, I guess, at the Toy Story ride, which was the last ride we hadn’t done there, that the entrance guy gave us a special pass to come back in an hour and go straight through the fast pass entrance.

Most of the smaller rides remained walk right on or maybe 15 minutes—so, Little Mermaid was gone on like five times or more and the Monster’s Inc ride and Muppets 3D, etc. were all easy access as were all the little rides in Bug’s Land (Alaina’s favorite) and things like Mater’s Tractors in Cars Land. It was the night when it started to get insane–we went back to Disneyland thinking we’d do a few things before Fantasmic and it was an awful mob scene over there that was virtually unwalkable (but, it was how I worried the whole three days might be, so I shouldn’t complain that it was really only that time). We found a place for Fantasmic that was actually good viewing because we stood behind the chairs for the premium viewing, which meant people were sitting and thus we could see over them. And, the nice people in front of us said our kids could come stand in front of them so they could see even better. They actually closed access to Fantasmic then and wouldn’t let anyone else in to that section of the park. When it was over, we staggered slowly away through unbelievable crowds and out a “secret escape route” we were directed through that took us behind the kitchens and where the Jungle Boats are stored and stuff like that. Handily, we watched the fireworks as we staggered and then went gratefully to the hotel even though it was not even 10:00 and the parks were still open until 6:00 in the morning!

On Saturday, the parks didn’t open until 10:00 and were already pretty busy. We did as many favorite rides as we could and got some rider switch passes for big ones and fast passes for Space Mountain (Lann actually ended up going on Star Tours four different times thanks to our fab strategies), but it quickly turned into even 45 minute waits for things like Alice and Roger Rabbit. We went back to California Adventure and did some final rides there, either on the little kids stuff which still was only five-minute waiting, or to things we’d gotten switch passes for in the morning (so, we successfully did Cars with less than a 20 minute wait two different times, even though the regular line was 120 minutes and the line to even get a fast pass was crazy). So, it wasn’t really THAT bad, all things considered! πŸ™‚ We just had to push really hard and drag kids to things they were saying they were too tired for, because we knew it was getting worse all the time. We were worn out! But, we got our money’s worth anyway! Legoland was much slower paced.

In general, I feel like maybe we actually pushed too hard—I felt like we didn’t have enough food, enough clothes, enough water, enough sleep, or enough rest pretty much the whole time and the kids got pretty whiny and complained a lot more than I ever did at Disneyland as a kid (and my mom was the exact same kind of pusher that I was, so it wasn’t that I had a more laidback time—getting our money’s worth is a powerful motivator in this family!). We walked a LOT and got pretty exhausted and depleted (the kids more than the adults—I felt pretty hyped up and almost “manic” the whole time!). The kids all had colds and mild fevers for at least one of the days. Mark got horrible “burns” on the backs of his knees from his shorts rubbing against them and I got a similar spot on my shoulder from my hat. All of our feet ached like crazy by the end of the day even with our carefully selected good shoes–I felt like perhaps I wore my heels to the bone! I feel like our kids will mainly remember excessive walking and being hustled from one place to another and usually getting NO for an answer about buying more and more and more expensive snacks, rather than all the fun we actually had once we got on the rides!

While I toted Alaina around in the Ergo for hours (often while nursing) at Disneyland and Legoland, I also had a lot of reminders that she is not really a baby anymore: strolling up to real babies to check them out and saying gently, “hi, baby!” with her knees bent slightly, head inclined, and hand outstretched in friendly manner; riding on genuine rollercoasters at three theme parks while laughing and (fake) screaming and raising her hands in the air and saying “fun!”; crabby expression and raised hands and “yes, bigger!” when told she is too small to ride something…she’s a real girl now!

Pictures, pictures, pictures! (Click on any to enlarge to full size and then scroll through like a slide show, rather than peering at the tiny gallery pictures)

We left after the parade and drove to Carlsbad, California to prepare to go tourmaline mining!

8 thoughts on “Vacation, Phase 1: Disneyland and California Adventure

  1. Fun!! I’m so glad you shared! I bet if you asked your kids what they rember it will be the fun, not the endless walking/waiting/rushing.

    This makes me want to go to DL since it’s SO different than WDW!

    Can’t wait to read more. πŸ™‚

    • There’s a lot that would be super familiar to you about DL–they’re similar in lots of ways (Re-reading I see I didn’t mention many of the rides/things we did! One thing we did *not* do was Tower of Terror and we also didn’t do California Sceamin [roller coaster], but we did just about everything else, even the Tiki Room!). They have Soaring Over California too, which is a Star Tours tech-type ride but you are hang-gliding over CA sights instead, yes with feet really dangling! Also, DL has the Indiana Jones ride, which is one of my total faves. Great atmosphere with the sets! Something I read about the difference, since WDW fans are often dismissive of DL as somehow the “lesser” of the two, is that DL is the only park that Walt Disney actually designed and walked and was a part of–it was his place, so if you like Disney history, DL is unmatched! πŸ™‚

      • Soarin! Is my FAVORITE ride. We did it multiple times and the fact that its exactly the same in DL is why I know I’d have fun no matter what. I know some compare the parks and there’s a friendly competition but I’d like to see both and enjoy them for what they are independently.

        Can’t wait to hear about Legoland as we’ll be in the Florida park in just 80 days! πŸ™‚

    • I’m a fan of both and it makes me sad when people act like DL is the “runner-up” or lesser version of WDW! πŸ™‚ I’ll try to hurry with my Legoland post before you leave!

    • Oh, and I asked the kids what they remember and they didn’t mention the walking at all–though Zander’s highlights were: raspberry sorbet, seeing Storm Troopers, eating popcorn, and playing with the water. πŸ˜‰

  2. Pingback: Vacation, Final Phase: Pismo Beach | Talk Birth

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