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Michelle Carr -- March 2002 -- Disneyland


Pre-Trip Plan


  • Me - Michelle, 31 - trip planner, loves Disney
  • DH - Mike, 35 - Also loves Disney, gives his input but leaves the details to me


We have not been to DL since we moved away from California in 2000. Before that we had annual passes and grew up going to DL often. We have not seen the new DD and DCA.

Pre-Trip Planning:

We booked this trip for DH's birthday.


Great deal at Paradise Pier. Lower than DC normal rate and one day free passes on our 3 day hopper.

The Plan:

  • Day 1, Friday, March 8: DH to pick me up from work at 4:15 to head to airport for 6:25pm flight to Ontario. Check in at PP and go to DD for dinner at ESPN Zone. Walk around DD.
  • Day 2, Saturday, March 9: Get to DL at opening. Bkfst at River Belle Terrace, Dinner at counter service at DL
  • Day 3, Sunday, March 10: DCA, breakfast ??, dinner at Vineyard Room at DCA.
  • Day 4, Monday, March 11: Park, leave for airport by 2pm for 4:55 flight home

I didn't plan as I would for WDW. We also aren't planning to eat at as many sit-down meals as we normally would. We'll just see how it goes.

Day 1, March 8

The Plan:

DH to pick me up from work at 4:15 to head to airport for 6:25pm flight to Ontario. Check in at PP and go to DD for dinner at ESPN Zone. Walk around DD.


DH picked me up right on time at 4:15, and we were at the airport by 4:20. I did curbside check-in while DH parked the car. We met at the security gate. It only took 25 minutes from when we arrived to check our bags, and get through security. Not bad for a Friday afternoon. The airport was crowded as ASU, UA & NAU were all starting spring break, as well as many of the local schools. I had thought when we planned this trip that we would miss the spring break crowds by a week, but we soon found out that wouldn't be the case.

Check in at the Southwest gate was easy. We were in the first boarding group. So after we got out our boarding passes we headed to the bar for a drink while we waited for our flight to board (which was now running 5 minutes late).

DH was really nervous about flying. He hasn't flown since our WDW trip last May, so this is his first post 9/11 flight. I have to travel for my job about once a month, so I had to get over any fears very quickly after 9/11.

Our flight finally left at 7:10, (about 45 minutes late), but they managed to get us to the Ontario airport only 30 minutes later than our scheduled arrival. At least we gained an hour due to the time difference. We picked up our bag and hopped on a Hertz shuttle to pick up the rental car. Since I have a Hertz gold card, we went directly to the car and we were off to Disneyland! But first we would have to sit in traffic. After some detours around the traffic, we finally made it to Paradise Pier about 8:30 pm.

We haven't been here since the new park and Downtown Disney have opened, so we were a little turned around trying to find the entrance to PP. Check-in was quick. We were in room 746, with a nice view of....the Downtown Disney parking lot. Oh well, I didn't pay for a view, I took the great rate instead. Although, if we stay at PP again, I would opt for the theme park view. DCA looked pretty at night when it was all lit up.

After quickly unpacking we found our way to DD. It was a lot closer than we thought. It was about a 5 minute walk from the hotel to the Disneyland hotel side of the DD entrance. DD was crowded. It was Friday night and I'm sure in addition to the tourists there are a lot of locals. I know we would have probably frequented DD a lot if we still lived in So. California. DH wanted to eat at ESPN Zone so we headed there first. There was a 75 minute wait and of course we are starving. But we go ahead and put our name in. We looked around a little. DH was mesmerized. Although, 2 minutes earlier he was cranky because he was hungry. Now I'm getting cranky. There was no place to sit at either bar inside ESPN Zone so getting an appetizer here was out of the question. So, I drug DH out of there in search of something to tide us over. We grabbed a pretzel to share at Wetzel's pretzels. The DL fireworks were starting so we watched them while we ate our pretzel.

We went back to ESPN Zone and found a couple of seats at the bar. We both ordered beers (they were huge). This ESPN Zone is much larger than the one at WDW. There are two separate dining areas. One has a big wall with screens and in front are recliners where some lucky people can sit and watch their favorite game. There are also 2 bar areas. Upstairs is a video game play area. We never made it up there. There is also an ESPN Zone store.

We were finally called for our table at 10:20. By now I'm really tired and can't decide what to eat, since I am no longer starving. I ended up having Buffalo wings and DH had a cheesesteak sandwich. My wings were good, although I didn't eat many of them. We were both exhausted so we headed back to the hotel right after dinner. We were quickly off to sleep, with dreams of Mickey dancing in our heads.

Day 2, March 9

The Plan:

Get to DL at opening. Breakfast at River Belle Terrace, dinner at counter service at DL


I woke up at 6:10 (the time difference helped). I worked on the trip report until the wake up call at 6:30. Yippee! Mickey calls here too! Just like at WDW!

We left to walk over to DL at 7:45. We stopped at the café at Compass Books for OJ and a pastry to share to tide us over to our late breakfast. We walked through DD to DL. We were very excited with DD. We haven't been here since this all opened, so everything was brand new to us.

Walking down Main Street I noticed that the castle seemed so small. I had never noticed that before, but compared to Cinderella's castle in WDW is much smaller. We went straight to Indiana Jones and got a FP. Then we got in the standby line. We were on the ride in 5 minutes, mostly the time to walk through the line. Next we headed over to BTMRR, which was pretty much a walk in. There are a lot of rides closed right now, Splash Mtn, Space Mtn, and POC being 3, some of our favorites. This ended up being extremely noticeable later.

Next we headed to Matterhorn. We were both able to get our own seats, which made the ride much more comfy! :o) After the ride we headed back to IJ, as it was our fastpass time. Next we headed to Haunted Mansion. It was now 9:50, so we decided to go have breakfast at the River Belle Terrace Restaurant. The line was very long. So DH waited while I found a good table for us outside. We both had pancakes, eggs & bacon for breakfast. We sat at a table overlooking the Rivers of America. We lingered over our breakfast and coffee and people watched. I love eating breakfast here, and enjoying the scenery. I think I read somewhere that Walt Disney used to eat breakfast here every Sunday. It is a great place to relax and people watch.

It was starting to get crowded so we were glad to have most of our must-do's behind us. After breakfast I wanted to go on Star Tours and DH wanted to go on Autopia. Both lines had FP return times in 45 minutes or stand-by lines of 45 minutes. I can't stand the Autopia line, so we got a FP for that and got in line for Star Tours. The line was about 25-30 minutes. There were lots of teenagers today. They were hanging all over each other and a lot of the girls were half-dressed. It was definitely getting crowded.

After Star Tours we used our FP for Autopia. We still waited about 10 minutes. The ride was okay. It is neat to see the monorail come by and some of the theming, but this ride is not worth waiting 45 minutes for. We next headed to BTMRR for a FP. We decided to ride the Liberty Belle Riverboat as it was just loading. We haven't done this in years. So this was a nice way to relax for a few minutes.

After the ride we still had a 20 minute wait until our FP time, so we decided to ride the train. The line was long. It ended up taking 3 trains to be able to board. We hadn't done this in a while, so this was nice also. We had done the Steam Train tour at WDW, so we now noticed the differences in the trains that we probably had never realized before.

After taking the full train loop, we exited in New Orleans Square and headed to BTMRR. The line still looked to be about 15-20 minutes for FP. After we were in line for 5 minutes the ride broke down. They were telling people to come back later as the ride would be down at least 25 minutes.

We bought a popcorn and soda to share and walked toward the monorail. We stopped in Fantasyland and sat at Pinocchio's Village Haus to finish our popcorn and soda. It was very crowded in FL. Additionally, they had the carousel boarded up, so navigating through FL was very difficult. We headed to the monorail station, and saw there was an express line for hotel guests, so we were able to bypass the line and walk up to the platform. Very cool! We took the monorail back to DD. We went to the Uva bar at Catal Restaurant. We had a couple of beers and enjoyed the afternoon. The Uva bar is an outdoor bar in the middle of DD. It was a great place to relax and people watch. It was a beautiful afternoon. The only complaint about it was how expensive it was. DH and I each had 2 beers, me 2 Coors light, him a Coors light and a Sam Adams. I think it was $25+ for the beers, and these were just normal sized beers. But, it was still worth it for the atmosphere.

I decided to head back to the room and nap. DH wanted to go to ESPN Zone to watch hockey. It was a nice walk back to the hotel. The weather was perfect. After I got back to our room, I couldn't sleep so I watched TV and updated the trip report.

DH returned from ESPN Zone at 5:15. He was mad because someone stole his sunglasses. (They were never turned in either). He had watched some hockey and had a Bloody Mary and nachos.

After showering we walked over to DCA through the special PP entrance. This was very convenient. The entrance brings you in right next to Mullholland Madness.

We walked around for a little while and tried to make a reservation for the Vineyard Room the following night. We had tried from the room but we were put on hold for what seemed like forever. We found out we had to call for reservations not made for the same day. You can now make PS for all sit down's now, even in the theme parks. This was not in any of the information we were given, so we thought that we had to make the PS in person.

We walked over to Taste Pilots Grill for dinner. We both had Blue Cheese burgers and shared fries and onion rings and each had a beer. The burgers were really good. Pilot's Grill has a topping bar for the burgers, which we both thought was pretty good.

It was about 6:50 pm when we finished eating, so we decided to stake out a spot for the Electrical Parade. DH went to find us some coffee, but when he got back the coffee he got for us was cold, so I told him to hang on to our spot, as people were edging in. I went to a different place to get us some coffee.

The parade was so great. We hadn't seen it in years. The lights were beautiful. We got some great pictures.

After the parade we walked over to DL and got a great spot for the Believe There is Magic fireworks.

I had read that the best spot was at the end of Main Street in between the Kodak shop and Casey's Corner (I think that is what it is called. I know that is what it is at WDW). It was a great spot to watch the fireworks. We hadn't seen the fireworks in a long time. Seems like we always skip fireworks and parades to go on rides. This trip we wanted to do some of the things we hadn't done in a long time.

After the fireworks we walked to the monorail station. The priority line for hotel guests is great. To me it made it even better to stay onsite. We took the monorail back to DD. We checked ESPN Zone to see if DH's glasses had been turned in (No). And we walked back to PP. We were back in the room at 10:15. We were both tired. This is the most time we have spent at a theme park in one day in years. We also walked 11.5 miles today. It was a beautiful day, in the mid-70's. I updated the trip report and hit the pillow.

Day 3, March 10

The Plan:

DCA, breakfast ??, dinner at Vineyard Room at DCA.

Actual: We woke up to another beautiful day. I was awake at 6:10 am even though we had set the wake-up call for 7:30. So much for sleeping in. I decided to study the map for DCA, since aside from last night we had never been there. DH woke up at 6:30, so we ended up getting ready and left the room by 8. We walked over to DD and had breakfast at La Brea Bakery. This was a nice (but expensive) place to have breakfast. We enjoyed eating on the patio. They have a sit down restaurant and express service side. Both have tables outside on the patio. We ate at the express side, where the patio overlooks the entrances to DL and DCA. DL opened at 9 this morning, so the entrance plaza started to get crowded soon after we got here.

For breakfast DH had a cinnamon roll and I had some French toast. We shared some fruit, and both had juice and coffee. I thought it was a bit overpriced for what we got (about $28). We paid a little less and got more for our money inside DL yesterday. Oh well, we're on vacation.

We read the paper while we ate and at 9:25 we walked over to the DCA line. DCA was to open at 10, but they started letting people in at 9:30. We went to the store first (Everything Under the Sun) and DH found some sunglasses to replace those he lost at ESPN Zone yesterday. I got a Mickey Mouse scrunchie, which I wore all day and got several compliments on :o).

We finally got over to SOC. The wait said 35 minutes, but we didn't think it looked that long so we got in line. They weren't handing out FP's yet. The wait was really about 10 minutes. This ride was incredible. I am afraid of heights a little & I did get a little anxiety at a couple parts, but the scenery was so beautiful. I definitely want to do this again.

We started walking to CS and noticed that GRR was open. It was supposed to be down for refurbishment. DH was happy because he really wanted to go on this. He says he really likes raft rides, I think he really just likes to get me soaked :o) I noticed that they have lockers just outside the ride to store your stuff. They are free for the 1st hour than $1 every half hour thereafter up to $8 max. I assume they make it so expensive to detour people from leaving their stuff there all day. The ride doesn't have anyplace to store your things to prevent them from getting wet. We had our digital camera so we would have to use a locker.

We decided to ride a little later and finally went over to CS after a couple of stops along the way. The wait said 35 minutes but it was only 15. DH sometimes has problems with roller coasters, but he was okay on this. We both really liked this ride.

Next we went over to Maliboomer. This ride shoots you up in the air and then bounces you up and down a few times. DH was not doing this. He got sick after TOT in WDW, so he wasn't having any of it. I went by myself. I was a little nervous and almost chickened out. I sometimes have a problem with heights, but I really wanted to try this ride. The line was only about 10 minutes. DH filmed me on the ride with our digital camera, so I will be able to watch it. He also took a picture of me waving at him when I was in the air.

We walked around Paradise Pier and decided to go to GRR. The line was long now so we got a FP. It was 11:40 the 1st millionaire show was at 12, so we headed over there. We stopped at the winery to check it out for later, and then walked on to the Hollywood backlot and got in line for the show. They let us in after about 10 minutes.

No hot seat for me this time. (I made it to the hot seat in WDW). The first contestant was a 9 year old girl. Her father got to come down and play with her. She got to the 32000 point question and missed. She actually answered most of the questions on her own. The next contestant missed at the 16000 point question. She had used all of her lifelines and had to phone a complete stranger who had absolutely no clue as to the answer. The 2nd player's questions were much harder than the 1st player's.

After the show we went over to GRR to use our FP. After putting our stuff in a locker, we pretty much walked on in the FP line. I got wet but not as soaked as I usually get on these types of rides. It was fun though. After freshening up we both decided we were hungry. We went over to Avalon Cove. They have a character meal in the restaurant, but we headed for the patio bar. They have a few appetizers on the menu. The patio was very pleasant. We choose a table overlooking the water and paradise pier. We shared some lobster nachos (very good) and a California roll (so-so). We both washed it down with a beer. We relaxed over lunch as we decided on what to do next.

After lunch we went to the Treasures in Paradise shop to get our pins and lanyards that came with our vacation package. Then we walked over the Pacific Wharf area. We got a margarita at Rita's blenders and went through the tortilla factory. Next we did the sourdough factory tour/show.

We walked through the Bountiful Valley Farm, which was somewhat interesting. After that we decided to see what the wait for SOC was. The line was long and the FP return time was already for 7pm (it was 2:30). We used our pre-issued FP we received with our package and got in the FP line. This time I had no problem with the height fear. I think it was because I already knew what to expect. Also, we were in the 3rd row so we weren't as high. We learned that the 1st and 2nd rows are the best. The 3rd row is at the bottom and you can see the sides and bottom of the screen as well as feet dangling above you. After the ride we got a FP for return between 7:25-8. We figured we could use them after dinner.

We went over the vineyard area and saw they were doing a wine tasting at 3:15. Since it was 3:05 we decided to do it. For $7 each we had 4 generous samples. I always enjoy doing wine tasting, because you always learn something interesting. We tried a Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Barbera. All of the wines except for the Chardonnay were by Robert Mondavi (the winery sponsor). The wines were all good. After the tasting we went back to the patio area and ordered a glass of Riesling and sat at table and relaxed. We started talking about how we could delay going home tomorrow. We thought about changing our flight to fly home Tuesday morning so we could stay one more night or taking a later flight. After a lot of debate, we decided to change our flight to as late as possible tomorrow. I can't believe how fast the weekend is going.

We decided to do our shopping now, so we headed over to DD. After picking up a few things (ok a lot of things) at WoD, including a couple of screensavers of DL and DCA, we walked back to the hotel.

We got cleaned up and changed for the evening. We walked back to DCA through the private entrance for PP guests and wandered around. We ended up going back to the Golden Vine Terrace and having a glass of Fume Blanc before dinner. We noticed some of the tables had been roped off and asked about it. Apparently you can get preferred seating for the EP. It would be a great unobstructed spot to watch the parade and enjoy some wine.

It was about time for our PS at the Vineyard Room, so we headed upstairs. The Vineyard Room serves 3 or 4 course meals with or without wine pairings. The 3 course meal with wine was $62 and the 4 course meal with wine was $85. We opted for the 3 course meal with wine, as we thought the 4 course meal would be too much food. For our first course we had a choice of an antipasto or salad. I had the Wine Country Sampler which included cheese, salami, marinated vegetables, grapes and olives. DH had the seafood bruschetta. Both were very good, the portions were very large so we were glad we decided on the 3 course over the 4 course dinner. We both chose Pinot Grigio as our wine for this course. For our second course we had a choice of pasta or specialty of the house. If you choose the 4 course meal you choose a pasta and a specialty. I chose a salmon dish with horseradish mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. The salmon melted in your mouth, YUM! DH had beef short ribs with an au gratin type of potato. He enjoyed his meal. We both chose a cabernet sauvignon for our wine choice; the other choice was a chardonnay. For dessert I chose a scrumptious flourless chocolate cake and DH chose a lemon custard type dessert with a fruit medley. We both chose a moscato for the dessert wine. It was very good. The other wine choice was a port. After dinner we could have stayed and watched the EP from the restaurant. But since we saw it last night, we decided to use our FP for SOC. We left the restaurant and made it to SOC before the parade came through. We noticed the park seemed much more crowded tonight than Saturday evening. We figure everyone was at DL on Saturday and DCA on Sunday. Well maybe they will all go to Knott's tomorrow :o).

We went to SOC and walked through the FP line. We were going to be seated in the 3rd row, so we asked for the 1st or 2nd row and had to wait for the next ride. Ok with us :o). The 1st row is the best and that was where we ended up. After the ride we left the park and headed over to DL. We went to IJ and got a FP then went to BTMRR. We had about a 10 minute wait and we got a row in the back. Next we went on the Matterhorn and after about a 15 minute wait we each got our own seat again :o). Next we went to IJ. By this time we didn't need our FP. We walked right on after the long walk through the line. I must have been getting tired, because I thought the ride was extremely rough and I have never had a complaint on this ride.

After IJ it was nearing closing time. We decided to walk back to the hotel instead of taking the monorail, so we walked through DD and back to the hotel. We were exhausted and fell asleep immediately. We had walked 9.4 miles today, so our feet were tired. So sad, tomorrow we have to go home.

Day 4, March 11 - Last day :(

The Plan:

Park, leave for airport by 2pm for 4:55 flight home


I woke up at 7:10 to another gorgeous sunny day. We got up after Mickey called at 7:30. DH called the airline to change our 4:55 flight to the latest flight we could get. The last flight out was at 7:10 pm. Oh well at least we get a couple more hours at the Mouse House :o).

We showered and I packed up everything, including all of our souvenirs (don't ask me how). We were going to DL first but we had missed the park opening. We did express checkout. Yippee! Only $2 on the bill, I love prepaying. We left our bags at bell services and walked over to the monorail station. We got on the second monorail that came and got into DL at 9:40. We decided to use our breakfast vouchers that came with our package. So we went to Tommorowland Terrace or Buzz something I think they call it now. We both had French toast sticks, bacon, juice and coffee. What is the deal with the coffee at DL? It is horrible. Anyway, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and people watched. It looked like it was already very crowded so we decided to go over and spend the rest of the day at DCA.

We walked down Main Street one last time for this trip. We browsed in some shops along the way. We said goodbye to DL and walked across the plaza to the DCA entrance. We checked out the stores at the entrance and then wandered over to SOC. The sign line said it was 45 minutes, but it didn't look that bad, so in 20 minutes we were once again riding SOC. We got the front row again. We got a FP for 1:15-2:15 as we left.

We headed over to the Hollywood Backlot area but it wasn't open until 11:30. They were handing out FP for Millionaire and tickets for Blast so we got one for both. We weren't sure if we would be able to do them or not. We didn't feel like waiting in any lines, so we thought we would go over to Avalon Cove and get a Bloody Mary. It wasn't meant to be because it didn't open until 11:30. We sat on a bench and watched an acrobatic show across the lake. We walked around some more then went to Pacific Wharf. We got a light beer at the Karl Strauss beer truck and sat at a table along the water. We enjoyed the scenery and our drink.

After finishing our drink, we walked over to the ice cream place in the train car. We both had a scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone and did some more people watching. We walked over to the Hollywood Backlot area and browsed through the shops. We watched most of Goofy's Beach Party Blast, which was cute.

We had missed our FP time for Millionaire, so we just walked through the rest of the shops and headed back to the winery.

We sampled another wine and sat in the winery patio and did some more people watching.

It was our FP time for SOC so we headed over and got in line. One last ride and we got the first row again. We loved this ride. After our ride we decided to head over to DD and have some lunch.

We walked over to Ralph Brennans Jazz Kitchen and requested a table on the patio. We had to wait about 20 minutes, even though they weren't very busy.

We both ordered shrimp po'boys. I had a glass of Bonny Doon Riesling, and DH had a beer. It was a nice way to finish our trip. After our long relaxing lunch we walked over to the Dept 56 store and looked around. DH's mom has a Christmas village that she had done, so we took some pictures for her. Then we walked back to the hotel to get the car and luggage. We had walked 5.5 miles so far today, not too bad.

We headed back to the airport and hit a little traffic. We dropped off the car and took the shuttle to the terminal. The airport was empty so security and check-in was very easy. After an ontime uneventful flight we were back in Phoenix a little after 9pm.

Final Thoughts

We were very happy with the Paradise Pier Hotel. I was worried it would be older and not worth the money. We were very pleased with the hotel. The rooms were large and the service was great. We didn't pay for a view but it was fine since we were hardly in the room. The walk to DD was easy and the private entrance to DCA was convenient.

DCA - we loved it. We don't have to go on a bunch of rides to enjoy ourselves and we found a lot to keep us entertained. We especially enjoyed the wine terrace.

The Electrical Parade - We hadn't seen this in years. It was a treat. Following it up with fireworks on Main Street was also magical.

The Grand Californian is someplace I would definitely love to stay. (We will be when we go back in August. :0) )


  • Not many. Really only being very tired on the first night.
  • Not being able to stay another day.
  • It would have been nice if not so many of our favorites were down at DL. We still had fun with what rides were open and we enjoyed some things we hadn't done in a while.

'Til next time...

For pictures from our trip go to: http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?m=65412708403&n=1703270839

You will have to sign up if you aren't a member, but it's free.

Michelle Carr


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