Pam Baca -- September 2004 -- Disneyland (DLH)
Cast of Characters
The Armijo's Kids:
This was quite a tripa "honeymoon" for 15 people. It started innocently enough when Dannette and Erik, our adorable couple, decided to forego a romantic Hawaiian honeymoon. (Gotta wonder about that.) In honor of the new Giles' family, they decided to take a trip to Disneyland instead. At this point, Jaden announced he couldn't go to Disneyland without his Nan (Pam). Dannette said if Jaden was taking his Nan, she was taking Hallie. That snowballed into the rest of the family, with Robert kicking, screaming and digging in his heels at the rear. (As some of you might remember, Robert is not nearly as enamored of all things Disney as his wife is.)
This is where, as usual, Tim Larison stepped in and made sense of everything. He provided terrific customer service and packages for us. Everyone's issues were accommodated and the packages we got were very reasonable. Tim, as always, is travel guy extraordinaire! The only glitch with the packages came when we received our documents. The packages included vouchers for only 1 character breakfast per person. When we booked our package and researched the issue, we had been under the impression we would receive 2 character breakfasts per person. According to Disney Travel, each package came with 2 breakfast vouchers total. Disney did provide two additional vouchers, but that was all.
The trip itself was going to be a Herculean effort given the timing of the situation. Dannette and Erik's wedding was on Saturday, September 25th and we were scheduled to fly out the following Monday. To say we started this trip exhausted would be a gross understatement. We left Trinidad late Sunday night. We found our hotel in Colorado Springs and checked in without incident. The only hiccup was that Expedia listed our motel as being close to the Colorado Springs Airport. Expedia doesn't mention that Peterson Air Force Base is in between and the airport is actually much father away because you can't go through Peterson. Nonetheless, the rooms were clean, comfortable and there's something nice about going to bed to the sound of "Taps" being played.
Day One, September 27th, 2004
We picked up our luggage, (everyone's bag made it to CaliforniaYay!), and we headed to the SuperShuttle kiosk, where two vans were waiting for us. We arrived at the Disneyland Hotel and checked in. We were disappointed to find we were booked in the Bonita Tower. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but I like the Marina Tower best. Disney took our group package to mean our priority was adjoining rooms. Our priority was staying in the Marina Tower, not adjoining rooms. They did get us into the Marina Tower, but we were on different floors. Dannette and Erik were in the Sierra Tower because they were on concierge level. They loved their room. Though I never saw it, I heard the room was spacious and had a spectacular view of the parks.
After some quick unpacking and freshening up, we all met at Croc's Bits and Bites for a quick meal. At this point I will interject something about meals at Disneyland. To preface thisyes, this is Disneyland and anytime you eat on property, it is going to be expensive. This is vacation and to a certain degree, you go to spend money. That being said, one of the most disappointing aspects of fast food at DL is that a drink is not included in your meal combo. You order a combo thinking, like every other combo, your drink is included. Most servers even ask what drink you want. Then you find out your drink is not included. I can understand charging the high price for a separate drink. Well, I can't understand it, but I accept that's the way it is. I can't see that for someone already willing to buy an extremely overpriced burger and fries. OKI'll step off my soapbox now and back to my trip report.
After our quick meal, we headed to the Downtown Disney monorail station. We all boarded the Monorail and headed into Tomorrowland. No matter how many times you have been to DL, there is something so special about boarding the Monorail and seeing the Matterhorn as you cruise over Fantasyland. In a sense, you have come home. We exited the Monorail and made our way over to Star Tours. We all enjoyed it and I even caught a broad smile on my husband's face. We left Tomorrowland and headed over to New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates was still as enthralling as ever. The only bad part was that the CM got all 15 of us into one boat. That boat was sitting, um--a little low in the water. When we went down the second drop, Dannette and I, who were in the back row, got the wave of water into our seats. Oh, funnothing like wringing Pirates out of your jeans!
Since we were wet already, we headed over to Splash Mountain. We managed to get Hallie, Caleb, Dannette and Rob into the logs and off to the Laughing Place. Caleb handled the ride much better than Hallie and Dannette did, though I think Hallie's problem was getting wet more than the drop. However, she did spend the rest of our trip asking, "Is there a big drop on this one?" Nothing like traumatizing your child on the first day. To make up for it, Mom treated her to a Mickey crispie, Pooh crayons and a blue Heffalump. To calm everyone's nerves, we headed to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. As this was almost everyone's first time on the ride, the ride was a new experience and everyone loved it. After this, we headed over to Indiana Jones. Hallie and Caleb were too short, so Jerry and Rob, who was also traumatized by Splash, took them to the Jungle Cruise and Tarzan's Treehouse while the rest of headed off for the Temple. Indy looks great and the ride was fantastic, even without the new snake.
After our ride, we found Jerry, Rob, Hallie and Caleb. A good time must have been had by all because all four of them arrived with goodies, mouse ears and light spinners. We then headed to Main Street to catch the Parade of the Stars. The park was closing early, as it does in off season, so we thought seeing the Parade was a good idea. We found a nice bench, not particularly close, and watched the parade. By the time the parade was over, the park was almost closing. We all did a little shoppingBride and Groom ears for Dannette and Erik. We all had a good giggle and then headed to Downtown Disney to find dinner.
We browsed a bit in World of Disney and decided on Naples for dinner. We had about a 30 minute wait, so we browsed around Downtown Disney. The dinner at Naples was terrific. The gnocchi was especially good and the 4 cheese pizza was a big hit. The kids devoured their pizza. The dinner was not terribly economical because our appetites are not small, but the food is so good it was worth it. We finished our dinner and headed back to the Disneyland Hotel. We had a very early morning the next day.
Day Two, September 28, 2004
When we left, we still had about an hour before the park opened. On the way, we met people from Trinidad. You have to live in our small town to know that, no matter where you travel, you will find someone from Trinidad and we did. We entered the park and headed directly up to the train station. It is quite a site to see Main Street from the train station at rope drop. The park in the morning has an ambience all its own. Another cheer went up when Dannette and Erik, who missed breakfast, found us on the trainby accident. Go figurewe just all love each other so much!! We took the train to Toontown and used our Early Entry to enter a nearly deserted Toontown. We were able to snag several pictures with Mickey and Minnie together. We also took several rides on Gadget's Go Coaster and got on Roger Rabbit with virtually no line.
After ToonTown we headed to Fantasyland. We stopped first at Small World and it looked fantastic! We also managed to get Peter Pan, Pinocchio, the Teacups and Snow White under our belts. We then headed to the Fantasyland Theatre for Snow White. The theatre, while full, was not packed and had plenty of viewing. We loved the show. After that, we decided to head back to the hotel for a swim. We had a blast in the Neverland Pool. Even the old ones had fun coming down the slide. After swimming, we headed back over to Disneyland. We split up and half of us had dinner at the Plaza Inn, half of us at the French Market. Apparently, the chicken at the French Market left much to be desired, but the Plaza Inn food was good, as always. We browsed a bit at Le Bat en Rouge and picked up our pictures from that morning at the picture store. As Hallie had fallen asleep, Rob took her back to the hotel and Caleb soon followed. Mom, Dad and I browsed Main Street and joined Dannette, Erik and Jaden in World of Disney. We had Universal tickets for the next day, but no early breakfast call.
Day Three, September 29th, 2004Universal Studios
Once we got our boarding passes and got on our bus, it was an hour ride to Universal. Our driver was great in traffic and kept everyone entertained throughout the trip. We did a little looking and shopping upon our entry and took some pictures with Dora, Shrek and Beetleguise. We then headed to the Universal Tram Tour. After that, we headed to the lower lot and Jurassic Café for lunch. The Jurassic Café has expanded its offerings to Pizza Hut, Panda Express, sushi and chicken, along with burgers and fries. The meal was a good change of pace. We then headed for Jurassic Park. The $3 ponchos were well worth it. Jaden and I got three rides in before everyone decided to head to Revenge of the Mummy. Though the line was posted at 20 minutes, it took at least 40 minutes for us to ride. The queue is great, but the ride is short and under-themed. The coaster in the dark is fun, reminiscent of a very sparse Space Mountain. After the take-off, which is fantastic, the track basically twists twice and goes up and down twice, then backwards. The main show building has two holograms, but there is nothing to hide the fact you are in a dark, empty soundstage.
After Mummy, the crowd headed to Backdraft. Caleb, Hallie and I, however, took a bathroom break and missed our entry into Backdraft, so we had to take a Dippin'Dots break while we waited for everyone else. That was the best 15 minutes of the whole tripfor all of us! After that, we headed to the upper lot, where we all split up and agreed to meet at Terminator. Part of us headed to Back to the Future and part of us headed to Shrek. Shrek was fun, but the seats either didn't move at all, which I didn't like, or moved too much, which Hallie didn't like. On the way to Terminator, Rob and I passed this guy who asked us if we would mind watching a TV show and giving Universal our opinion of it. So, Hallie went with the gang to Terminator and Rob and I watched TV. The experience was a lot of fun and worth the $10 they paid us. After that, we waited for the gang outside of Van Helsing and headed off to do some last minute shopping. I found Rob a "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" shirt. I had written for Jay Leno tickets months before our trip. I figured we could scoot on over to Jay Leno while we were at Universal, as I understand they are very close together. We did get tickets, but for the wrong day. After our last minute shopping, we found our bus and settled in for the ride back to Anaheim.
We asked our driver if he could get us back by 8 pm for our reservations at the Rainforest Café. Despite heavy traffic and 2 accidents on the way, he got us back with 30 minutes to spare. We all took some time to freshen up and headed over to the Rainforest for dinner. We were seated immediately near a huge fishtank. The only drawback was that we couldn't see any animals. That was OK. Everyone enjoyed their dinner and then headed back. We had another early day on Thursday, so we all headed back to the room.
Day Four, September 30, 2004
After breakfast, we had a lot of time before either park opened. We passed the time strolling through Downtown Disney, taking photos in the nearly deserted Esplanade and shopping on Harbor Blvd. This was our DCA day, so we headed over there. Mom and I shopped in Greetings from California, where we did package pick-up before DCA opened. The group reconvened shortly after 10 am and we headed to Soarin'. As the group had missed this the last time, everyone was anxious to try it. Everyone absolutely fell in love with Soarin', just like Jaden and I are.
We took two rides on Soarin' and then headed to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Half of us headed to Playhouse Disney and the other half to Tower of Terror. The plan was to do Tower during the time until Playhouse Disney, but the timing was a bit off, so we missed Playhouse Disney. The kids loved it. It was a nice break for them to be able to jump and dance around. The Tower of Terror is amazing. We all admit we scared ourselves more than the ride actually did. It is serious fun and not nearly as scary as the whole thing sounds. My advice to anyone taking a trip to DLdo Tower of Terror. You'll regret it later. It is an absolute blast and it isn't that scary.
After Tower, we headed over to Aladdin. We were very excited because we had Priority Seating and this is a great show. Too bad Disney policy about Priority Seating isn't as good as the show. We arrived about 35 minutes before the show and got into the Priority Seating line. Two members of our group were let through and then the rest of us were stopped. The CM stated only 75 people are allowed Priority Seating for any given show. Huh? Nothing on the voucher says that! Just "Please arrive 30 minutes prior to show time", which we did. We tried to talk to the CM's, but they were flippant and dismissive. To make matters entirely worse, we had to walk up 4 flights of stairs, with two toddlers, along the outside of the building to the upper mezzanine. Once there, we watched as people who had been behind us in line filled in the sparsely filled orchestra seating. We asked to go down there and the CM refused to let us. So, there we were, priority vouchers in hand, watching folks who may or may not have had priority seating fill up the lower orchestra section while we remained captive in the upper mezzanine. Bad show, bad show, bad show. I have to admit I didn't enjoy the show nearly as much and our view was very limited.
After that debacle, a few of us headed back to Tower, while the rest of us went in search of food. We all met up at Taste Pilot's Grill, where the jury is still out on the ordering screens. The burgers and chicken sandwiches were still good. After lunch, we split up again. Part of us headed to Paradise Pier. Part of us headed to Grizzly River Run. (This would not be me, if you've read my last report.) The rest of us headed to MuppetVision and A Bug's Land. Hallie loved the Muppets and It's Tough to Be a Bug. (She even teased her older cousin when he went to see it for the first time--"Watch out for spiders, Jaden" with this evil little voice and wiggling fingers.) We also did the rides in Flik's Fun Fair. We all met back at Soarin' where we took one more ride before heading over the Disneyland.
Once at Disneyland, we decided to grab some snacks and some curb for the Parade of the Stars. Not all of us were theresome of our group had taken a few more rides on GRR and need to go back to the hotel to change. (Wet! And why Pam doesn't ride GRR anymore.) The rest of us shopped, had some goodies, got silhouettes done. (For those of you who haven't gotten a silhouette portrait at DL, I highly recommend you do. It is a very treasured souvenir in our home and pretty inexpensive--$7 per person in the portrait.) The Parade was very enjoyable. Maybe I haven't gotten terribly jaded to it since I've only seen the Christmas one for the past two years. After that, we decided to head back to the hotel. A few of us headed out for a few more rides. Hallie was already nodding in her stroller, so Rob headed back with her. We decided to order pizza once we got back.
This is where the Disney Magic took over for Jaden and me . It always seems to do that. We had both been dragging around Disneyland once we saw everyone with their Zero lanyards on, preparing for the Haunted Mansion Holiday after-hours event. I had been asking every CM I encountered all day if there were extra tickets. For most of the day, I was told it was sold out. The last word I got from City Hall was that, as of 11 am, there were tickets left at the Disneyland Hotel. Unfortunately, this was at about 7:00 pm, so I figured that was probably old information. Surely, they would be sold out by now since they had been sold out for weeks.
Jaden went with his mom and dad to Indy to help brighten his mood and I headed back to the hotel with Mom and Dad, but my mood was getting no better. I even wore Jaden's Buzz Lightyear hat with the scowling face as an expression of my mood. I still wanted to be in New Orleans Square so bad I could taste it. All the way back through Downtown Disney I kept seeing people with their Zero lanyards and these cool shopping bags with Haunted Mansion Holiday on them. It was depressing because Jaden and I wouldn't be there. Or so I thought…
I imagine if I had looked up right then, I would've seen the pixie dust floating over my head. When I got back to the room, Hallie was sound asleep and Rob was comfortably ensconced on the bed watching TV. I ordered the pizza and told Rob I was going to walk around the lobby. I figured I would walk around, see if I could score a couple of those cool HMH bags and meet the pizza guy. I wandered around the hotel, past Goofy's Kitchen, up into the conference centerdidn't see a thing. I wandered up to the front of the hotel and I saw people walking along the sidewalk with HMH bags and lanyards. I headed out the doors and immediately saw the HMH event sign pointing me in the right direction. I followed the signs and found the right place. I tried three sets of doors to get inall were locked. The last set of doors I tried refused to budge at first, as though they were locked too, then one door gave way and opened.
I headed forward into the Exhibit Hall and saw HMH merchandise displayed in glass cases. I moved in to look around and saw several people packing up for the night. I headed for the closest group and asked if they had bags. The woman I spoke with went to go find some bags for me. While I was waiting for her, a gentleman approached me and asked if he could help me. I replied that I wish he could. He looked at me with a confused expression and asked why. I stated I had wanted to go to the event, but I understood the event was sold out and now I was about a thousand years too late. He looked at me, smiled and said, "Maybe not." He pointed me over to a group of women packing up a cash register. He had me ask for a CM, whose name escapes me now, and he explained I wanted tickets to the event. She looked at her watch, said I would just make it and asked how many tickets I wanted. I said, "Two" and, in a flash, two Zero lanyards, entry passes, itineraries and FunBooks sat before me. She took my information and smiled as she told me I had about 30 minutes before they would be letting people in. I literally hugged my lanyards to my chest and raced to find Jaden. After all, who else would I go with?
I raced upstairs and tried to find someone. I located my aunt, who was going for pizza. I practically threw money at her and raced to my room. I grabbed my parents' cell phone, which I had for the trip, and prayed there would be enough charge for one call. I knew the phone might not work because it hadn't been charged for days. Wonder of wonders, it worked just long enough for me to call Dannette's cell phone, which was just as low on power and told her to meet me at the ESPN Zone. I told her what was going on and a few "Oh my God's" later, I raced out of the hotel. I was a little worried about finding them, my sister insisted they were already passed the ESPN Zone, but there is nothing after the ESPN Zone, but the hotel. When I didn't find them under the big hat, I figured I would just keep walking. I saw my brother-in-law's hand shoot high into the air near the Monorail Station, where Jaden and I hugged and did a celebratory dance. It was then Dannette told me Jaden had been as depressed as I was. We donned our lanyards, packed away our fun books and passes and headed off.
We arrived at the picnic area right outside the gates and waited with the crowd of people. Everyone was in high spirits. A few minutes later people began to line up near the gates and soon after, we were let in. We followed the cast members down a deserted Main Street still blazing with lights. It was so different to see Main Street uncrowded and park so quiet. We proceeded to Adventureland, where we stopped for a few moments near the Bazaar. As we began to walk toward New Orleans Square, we became aware of ever enveloping fog. Once we got to the bridge and headed down toward the Rivers of America, the fog was thick and multicolored lights illuminated the water. High above the river was a huge, bright full moon with Oogie Boogie's silhouette on it. All around were Halloween decorations and spooky ghouls beckoning us to play their games. We walked around the crowded walkways to orient ourselves and grabbed a couple of free Cokes and popcorn. We got in line to play a game when we noticed CM's distributing the "prizes" to people who didn't want to play. We quickly ran around and collected the prizes and then got in line for the highlight of the eveningthe first ride on the Mansion!
The Mansion was amazing! There was fog all around, glowing with purple and orange lights. High up on the second floor, stood Jack and Sally, waving and talking to the crowd. The CM's were in fine ghoulish form and there is nothing better than walking into the foyer for that first ride. There was very little that was changed this year, but everything looked great. We once again enjoyed the stretching room and changing portraits. Zero was in fine form floating down the hall and we once again delighted in our favorite, the man-eating wreath. Jaden was, as usual, looking around for Scary Teddy and found him everywhere. Leota looked great and the ballroom was amazing. The new gingerbread house was probably the best of the three, though they were all pretty spectacular. The names of the folks with the higher packages were located on the wall of the attic and if you look hard there is a miniature bride. The graveyard looked as good as ever and by the time we got to Oogie, the ride just seemed too short. Good thing we could just jump right back on. We jumped right back on for two more rides.
After our rides, we went over to the French Market to get our Zero treat, which was a bone shaped rice crispie with a chocolate Jack on the front. We just couldn't eat them. We got more Coke and popcorn. We also found the most delicious chocolate and coconut treats. We munched for a few more minutes and then headed back to the Mansion. We rode another 3 times and then headed over to the souvenir cart to bring home more goodies. We wanted to go into Le Bat En Rouge, but I confess the line back to Tarzan was a bit intimidating. They literally closed the Mansion gates behind us and then we headed back to the hotel. The Rivers of America were still foggy and Oogie still gleamed high above us on the moon. New Orleans Square was awash in colored lights. It was beautiful. We walked back through Adventureland and down an empty Main Street. We couldn't resist just stopping and staring at everything. We could hear and see work on the Matterhorn, but the whole area was just quiet and glowing. It was the best time at Disneyland we have ever had. We headed out the gates and collected our gift. Most of you know by now it was a set of Nightmare drawers with a pin in each drawer. I don't know what was more funthe gift or opening that red velvet bag. We headed back to the hotel and stopped at the Lost Bar to gush about the whole thing to Dannette and Erik. What a night!
Day Five, Friday, October 1, 2004
I told the hostess when we checked in we wanted a water table and was told there was an hour wait for our group. I explained I had requested this previously, but to no avail. We haggled and got nowhere, so we accepted another table away from the water, but still very nice. Lunch was very good. I think the gang was mixed on the Blue Bayou. Some of us loved it, some of us were happy with the experience but wouldn't do it again. The prices had a lot to do with that. For those in our group who were not adventurous, the Cajun/Southern menu offered little variety for them. We all agreed the crab cakes and Monte Cristo were both the best dishes to order. Overall, it was a great experience.
After that, we shopped for a while in Le Bat in Rouge and then split up again. Most of the gang headed to Splash, while Rob, Hallie and I headed to the Teacups. By the time we got to Fantasyland, she was asleep. I should have headed back to Splash with the others, but I think fatigue took over my brain. We sat for a while near Snow White's Grotto and then headed to the Emporium. By that time, we met up with everyone else. Half of us headed to DCA and half went back for warmer clothes for the Electrical Parade. Mom, Dad, Rob and Hallie wanted to see It's Tough to be a Bug again, so I volunteered to save seatsall 15 of them. Luckily for me, Stitch kept me company until the gang got back. Erik, Dannette and Jaden arrived and we decided to try Tower. When we got to Tower, the line was too long, so we headed back. The Wave Runners entertained the crowd before the parade and I had a blast watching Hallie try to Hula Hoop. The Electrical Parade was as great as ever and then we headed back to Disneyland.
I had no idea there could be so many people heading back to Disneyland for the fireworks. We somehow managed to get separated and then met up again at the Hub. We sat and watched Imagine and I concurit isn't as good as Believe. After the fireworks, Hallie was falling asleep again. In spite of two Mansion Fastpasses, Rob, Hallie and I headed back to pack. I stopped at Basin and got a couple of Bath Bombs and then looked around Department 56.
Day Six, Saturday, October 2, 2004
Jaden and I had a bit of culture shock. We went from our usual 2 to 15. That does create some problems, but if you roll with the changes, everything usually turns out ok. We did miss a few rides, but not many. This is a great time to go during off seasongreat weather and not a lot of rehab being done. The rehab that was going on was more due to the 50th than the time of year. The lines are short and that makes things very comfortable.
Customer service needed some work this time around. Maybe it was the 15 of us that made things more difficult. Kudos once again to the HMH Event staff who made the trip an unforgettable memory for Jaden and I.
FinallyTinkthanks a lot for the pixie dust you sprinkled on Hallie's Daddy and all of us, for that matter. Rob may not admit it, but the sparkle in his eyes and the laughter in his voice give him away. He had a great time and even asked if we were going to that "50th Anniversary thing". Yes, Robwe are.Pam Baca