Pam Baca -- December 2002 -- Disneyland
Cast of Characters
I booked this trip using MouseEars Vacations. I simply pressed the travel section on Mouseplanet, input my information and I received a quote back the next day. Tim, my Disney travel specialist, took care of everything. He had answers to my questions, checked and rechecked dates for me, re-quoted and re-figured the vacation for me. He was great. The end result was that I had just about everything included in my package price. I ended up being left with only off property meals and souvenirs to buy.
I also included a meal plan in our package. The meal plan covered most of our meals on property. It didn't cover our meal Downtown Disney, but we ate only one meal off property. The meal plan included 1 Character breakfast at the Plaza Inn, 1 Magic Morning breakfast, 1 $15.50 meal ticket, 2 $10.50 meal tickets, and 3 snack vouchers for $5.25 each. The child's plan included 1 $6.00 ticket and 2 $5.00 tickets, plus the breakfasts and snacks. We used all the vouchers but the Magic Morning breakfasts, which we would have used had we known the park opened at 10 am on Monday and 1 adult meal, 1 child meal and 1 snack. We would have used those, but we misjudged the closing of Redd Rocket's Pizza Port on Sunday night.
This trip was some long awaited quality time for my nephew and I. We had always enjoyed our "just Nan, (Jaden's name for Auntie Pam) and Jaden" time. However, since I got married, moved 17 miles west of town and had my daughter, we haven't had as much time to spend together. This gave us some much needed time together at a place we both love.
Friday, December 6, 2002
We left Trinidad by car at approximately 5:00 am to make our 8:40 am flight in Colorado Springs. We made it to the airport and checked in fairly quickly. We proceeded to the gate and made it past the security checkpoints. This was my first post 9/11 flight and I was pleasantly surprised by how easily we checked in and made it to our gate. Only ticketed passengers were allowed in the concourse, we had to say our good-byes to Mom, Dad and my sister, Dannette, (Jaden's mom), in the terminal. One last hug and we were off.
We waited in the terminal only about 20 minutes before we were boarded. The flight to Denver was very short and we proceeded to our assigned gate upon landing in Denver. We then boarded our plane to Anaheim. We arrived in Anaheim slightly ahead of schedule and we proceeded to the Super Shuttle island once we had our bags. The driver confirmed our reservation, loaded our bags and after about 5 minutes, we were on our way. The driver made two stops at two other resort hotels before dropping us off at the Tropicana. We checked into our room and were disappointed to find it was not the corner room we had requested. However, the room was closer to the front of the motel and the elevator. We had stayed at the Tropicana during our trip in June, 2002. While I am a big fan of staying on property, particularly at the Disneyland Hotel, the Tropicana was a great way to cut some cost from the trip, especially since we spent very little time in our room. We basically slept and showered there because we were in the park from opening to close. The room had two double beds, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, iron and ironing board in the room. The room was a bit cramped, (hence our initial request for a corner room, which is larger) but there was a separate closet area that kept the suitcases out of the way. Overall, the room was clean, comfortable and convenient.
Once we freshened up, we proceeded to Downtown Disney and the Rainforest Café. We arrived there at about 2:30 pm and were seated immediately. Jaden and I have been trying to get to the Rainforest Café for quite a while now and we immensely enjoyed the experience. We especially liked the thunderstorm. After eating, we decided to take the Monorail over to DL. We arrived in Tomorrowland and immediately boarded the train for New Orleans Square. As you might guess, our first priority was the Haunted Mansion. When we arrived, we found an hour wait. We got fast passes and headed for Indiana Jones. The wait for Indy was about 40 minutes, so we got in line. The ride was better than I remembered. As I had been doing some reading about Indy, the ride had more meaning this time around and Jaden just loves it. By the time we got off, we were in our fast pass window for the Mansion.
Now, I have been to DL 11 previous times and Jaden has been there 2 times before. We are both huge Haunted Mansion fans and have ridden the ride dozens of times. None of that prepared us for what we would encounter when Jack Skellington took over. We were beside ourselves with excitement just walking through the gates and hearing the scarols. We perused every wreath and every pumpkin. It was truly a whole new ride. I have been reading about the Mansion makeover on Mouseplanet for weeks now and that didn't spoil the ride for me at all. The new narration was wonderful and the Mansion seemed so much scarier than usual. The ride on the elevator had us on pins and needles in anticipation of what the new portraits would be. The anticipation turned to sheer delight at the huge Jack face on the ceiling. We took some time to look at the new changing portraits and then gasped in amazement at the colorful "13 weeks of 13 treats" calendar. We loved Zero floating about and we especially loved the singing plant heads and the monster wreath. We didn't know where to look first when we entered the ballroom-the bag of pumpkins, the gingerbread house, the tree, the library. It was all so wonderful. The graveyard had us squealing in delight at the snow bank full of pumpkins, the pumpkin angels, the singing pumpkin busts and Jack himself as Sandy Claws. My nephew was especially fond of scary teddy, who followed us through the ride. I have not been that excited by a ride in a long time. It was the Disney magic when I was 9 all over again. That joy was multiplied, however, several times over by the excitement on Jaden's face. That ride, the look on Jaden's face, feeling like a kid again-was worth the entire trip.
We immediately got off the ride and got another Fastpass for it. We then headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean. The line for Pirates was about 20 minutes, so we immediately got in line and happily "went seeking adventure and salty, old pirates", did we. We did some shopping and looking at Le Bat en Rouge, where Jaden got a beanie Barrel and I got a Mansion t-shirt. We then headed back over to the Mansion for our second ride. After the ride, we intended to sit on Main Street and wait for the parade. We caught the Aladdin Storyteller's show on the way. The show is really very good, but geared toward younger children. We found a bench on Main Street and a couple of cokes and two boxes of popcorn later, we decided the parade could wait while we explored more of the park. We made a quick call home to tell everyone we loved them, missed them and "ha, ha-we're at Disneyland and you're not" and then headed over to Small World. The ride had been closed for refurbishing when we were there in June. The walk down the promenade was beautiful. The promenade had already been roped off for the parade, so we had a leisurely, uncrowded walk. We saw the wait for Small World was over an hour and there were no fast passes left. We shrugged our shoulders and got in line. Midway through a cast member opened up the fast pass lane to the stand by line and we were on the ride in minutes. The ride looked as wonderful as I remembered from 1996 and Jaden was beside himself with glee.
We then made our way through the massive parade crowd and decided on go on Alice since there was no line. We then made our way through Fantasyland and found no wait on Mr. Toad either. We jumped on for a quick ride around Toad Hall. Jaden was dying for another ride on the Mansion, so we made our way over to New Orleans Square. The Fastpasses for the Mansion were gone and the line over an hour, so we used the pre-issued Fastpasses we got with our travel package. Each ride we noticed more and more detail. After our last ride of the evening, we headed back to the hub in front of the castle to wait for the fireworks. We got there about 15 minutes ahead of time. The show was great and really made the most of the Christmas season. We loved the snow. As Jaden said, "We've seen snow. We live in Colorado. But we have never seen snow in California!" After this magical display, we drug our tired bodies through the massive sea of humanity and back to our room. We had another big day ahead of us.
Saturday, December 7, 2002
The day started early for us with a 7:30 reservation at Goofy's Kitchen. We started out a little late from the hotel and had a quick walk over. I had made reservations about a month in advance and that was one of the best things I did. The food was good and the atmosphere better. We had tons of photo opportunities and we both loved it. After we finished, we had planned to head over to DCA, but we found DCA didn't open until 10 am. We decided to hop on the Monorail and head over to DL. We immediately boarded Autopia as the line was 15 minutes long. I, in all of my trips to DL, had never ridden Autopia. Jaden insisted I drive, as this was my first time and we had a blast! That little ride is so much fun! I will put it on my "must do" list from now on. After we exited our cars, we headed to the Premiere Shop to collect our free pins and buy a few new ones. We then saw Space Mountain had only a 15-minute wait. I was dying to ride Space Mountain, but Jaden was not. We waited in line and then he waited with a cast member at the queue while I rode. It was great solution. After Space, we headed over to Star Tours. The wait was about 20 minutes and the ride has really changed very little. Maybe a bit of freshening up here is warranted. After Star Tours, we headed to the lockers to stow our jackets. The locker room was very crowded and people were very rude. Lesson here-if you want a locker, get one right away. Nonetheless, we found an empty locker and headed over to DCA.
Once at DCA, we immediately got in line for Soarin' over California. We had missed this ride on our trip in June and we were determined not to miss it again. We waited about 35 minutes but the wait was absolutely worth it. The ride was breathtaking and we found ourselves enthralled with the scenery, the music and feeling of flying. The Disney magic was in full force once again. The ride is amazing. We got off and immediately got a Fastpass for later in the day. We took a few minutes to sit on a bench and have another Coke and some popcorn. We talked with the nicest cast member while we waited. We then headed over to Grizzly River Run so we could dry off in the sun in case we got wet. We waited only about 5 minutes and we did get wet, not drenched, but wet. We then walked in the sun to It's Tough To Be a Bug. After that, we decided to get some ice cream. We sat and rested in the sun and then headed over to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire-Play It! I had the honor of being in the ring of fire and Jaden was very excited with his front row seat and my seat on the floor. When the final scores were tallied, I was second on the audience board, one space away from the hot seat. I was so disappointed to hear the ending bell. Nonetheless, the experience was very exciting for me and I loved it. It was one more special memory on the trip.
By this time, it was time for our fast pass at Soarin'. The ride was as wonderful as the first time. I had made reservations for the Candlelight Processional Dining experience that week. When I called Wednesday morning, I was told by the Disney dining person the later show on Saturday was completely sold out and the earlier show almost booked. I was told there were numerous tickets available for Sunday. I was only given dining options for Storyteller's Cafe, Yamabuki and Napa Rose. I selected Storyteller's because that seemed the best suited for myself and Jaden. I was told there was a 24 hour cancellation policy and my card would be charged anyway if we failed to eat and get our tickets. When we arrived, we were seated right away. I had the filet mignon and Jaden had the child's spaghetti. The meal was very good. I explained we had reservations for the Candlelight dinner package and I was assured they would take care of the ticket. When the bill arrived, it was enough for only 1 ticket and there was no provisions made for children. The server explained to me they could not charge us for food we had not received. When I explained I had been told my card would be charged the $70 anyway, she immediately took it to her manager, who changed the prices and corrected the bill. The problem with all of this was the time it took. It took well over 1.5 hours to eat and pay for the meal. It left us with a sprint over to DL, a tense wait in the Candlelight line--which moved very quickly, and then a quick walk through the park. I would have preferred a more leisurely pace.
Once we were in the theatre, we were pleased to find we had priority seating. We had no trouble finding seats and there were several empty ones around us. Jaden, who had declared walking into the theatre that this was probably going to be really boring, excitedly exclaimed midway through the performance "this is kind of neat, but who is Mickey Rooney?" I took this as high praise from him. The music was wonderful and the show was better. It was a wonderful Christmas experience. All in all, we had a great time. It was something I had wanted to see and I don't know when I will get to experience it again. I loved every minute and was moved to tears a few times, just like Mr. Rooney. Though, at $35 a ticket, a complimentary hot drink would have been nice. A collectible something, a pin, maybe, would have been even better. However, Christmas and Disney magic were in rare form that night and we loved it all.
After the processional, we got back to the rides. Jaden and I were in desperate need of a Mansion fix, so we headed over to New Orleans Square. As the park closed at midnight, we still had most of the evening left. When we arrived back at the hub and read the information board, we were in shock. Almost every major attraction had at least a 45 minute wait. Some, like the Mansion and Small World, listed 2-3 hour waits. The only ride with a short wait was the Jungle Cruise, so we headed there. The wait was about 15 minutes and we enjoyed the cruise at night. After that, we got fast passes for Pirates of the Caribbean. Fast passes in hand, we headed back over to the Mansion to attempt a ride. The posted time read 135 minutes, but Jaden had this look on his face like he would die without another ride. So, we got in line and chatted for about 35 minutes with the nicest young women who were as enthralled with the Mansion as we were. After 35 minutes, we were just about in the Mansion. It was such a pleasant surprise to get there that quickly. When I mentioned the discrepancy in the wait time to the cast member at the door, he gave me a conspiratorial wink and ushered us in. After the Mansion, we headed over for our Fastpass at Pirates. The ride took very little time and we decided to do a little shopping. We then headed over to Indiana Jones, which had a 45 minute wait posted. We got in line and finished with Indy at about 11 pm. By that time, we were both extremely tired and decided to head back to our room.
Sunday, December 8, 2002
We had definite goals to meet today as this was our last day in the park. We arrived at the park shortly after 9 am and proceeded directly to the Plaza Inn for the character breakfast with Winnie the Pooh. The breakfast had been included in our meal vouchers and we wanted to be sure we took advantage of it. The food was delicious and the opportunity to meet Pooh and company was great. The breakfast was full, but not crowded, which made for a pleasant time there. Jaden insisted on snapping my picture with Piglet, my favorite and Eeyore had another guest take a picture of the two of us together. We had a great time and we highly recommend this to everyone.
After breakfast, we headed to the Astro Orbiter. I am not especially fond of this ride, but Jaden loves it. After that we headed to Fantasyland. We waited for about 40 minutes for Peter Pan. This ride really needs a Fastpass. We then got on Pinocchio and Snow White. We both loved these rides. We also took a ride on the Storybookland Canal Boats and we both loved the miniature Christmas decorations. After we finished in Fantasyland, we headed over to Toontown to have our picture taken with Mickey Mouse. We had intended to ride Roger Rabbit, but we never got back to Toontown. We got our pictures and headed to New Orleans Square. I was, once again, dying to ride Splash Mountain and Jaden was not. So, I got a single rider pass, which was great. You go in the exit and are boarded almost immediately. Jaden was able to wait right there in the loading area for me. Our total time was probably 15 minutes for a ride that had 1 hour waits the entire weekend. By the way, a quick thanks to the family who let me be a part of them for a few minutes.
After Splash Mountain, we headed over to the Blue Bayou for our lunch reservation. We were about 20 minutes early, but they seated us right away and we got the water table we had requested. I had the crab cakes, which were delicious and Jaden had the spaghetti. He was much too excited to eat, however. The salad was fantastic with the candied pecans in it and the dessert was incredible. It was called Jack's chocolate coffin. It was a coffin shaped chocolate mousse with Jack Skellington's head at the top. A cookie swirl was behind the coffin held in place with flavored whip cream. Raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries completed the plate. It was heavenly. We even took a picture of it. We took advantage of the 5 minute wait for Pirates and then staked out seats for the Christmas Fantasy Parade. We knew this was our last opportunity, so we found seats and had a great time. After that we headed off to do some shopping. We knew we couldn't go all the way to DL and not bring back some souvenirs for everybody, so we shopped and shopped and shopped-in 20 minutes. We then took our treasures over to DCA where we couldn't believe our luck in finding a locker. Once we had a locker secured, we headed straight for Soarin', which took us well over the posted 45 minute wait. As a result, we weren't able to catch the last Aladdin stage show, something we had really wanted to see. Oh, well next time! We decided to take in the last Millionaire show and I was again seated in the ring of fire, but my fingers weren't as fast this time. The lady seated next to me was very sweet and we had a great time playing together. We then found seats for the Electrical Parade and I went to retrieve the packages. The parade is one of my all time favorites and I would watch it every night if I could. To be sitting there with my nephew, who declared I was not just his Nan, but his best friend, too, was a highlight of the trip for me.
We then headed over to DL for a few last minute rides. We pulled a Fast Pass for Pirates, did some shopping for a stuffed Jack Skellington and then headed over for one last ride on the Mansion. After our last ride with Jack, we found seats for the fireworks and watched the incredible Believe! show once more. The snow enthralled us once again. We collected our belongings and headed onto Pirates for our final ride. Once we finished, we did one last bit of shopping. We had intended one final ride on Indy, but the line was over 45 minutes long and, while we made the 1 minute before closing rule, we were just too tired. We trudged on over to the hotel and ordered pizza.
Monday, December 9, 2002
On this last day, we had wanted a few last minutes rides. We had missed the Tiki Room, always a favorite of ours, the Teacups, Roger Rabbit and Big Thunder, (which I understand was closed for other reasons). However, our shuttle was scheduled to pick us up at 11:50 am and the park opened at 10 am. The time was just too close for us to get ourselves ready for the plane and get to the park. We did wander over to World of Disney for some last minute purchases and then we headed back. The shuttle arrived early and we were on our way. We were dropped off right at the skycap booth and we breezed through security. The flights were uneventful and we found ourselves back in Colorado before we knew it.