Sherry Gannon -- April 2001 -- Disneyland
Saturday April 28, 2001
Cast of Characters
This is a trip report of a very quick one-day visit to Disney's California Adventure on Saturday April 28, 2001. We drove to from Arizona to meet my husband's brother's family who flew to California for a business trip.
I am a huge Disney park fan. My husband had found out his brother's family was going to be at Disneyland and my husband asked me if I would be interested in making the drive (the answer was YES!). This was our first car trip with our daughter (6-months at the time) and we had some major first time parent concerns. I must admit I was a little disappointed when our niece and nephew selected DCA over Disneyland. Although I wanted to check out DCA, it had been getting such bad press that I wanted to go to Disneyland if I only had one day of park touring. But the kids got to choose.
We did not have much time to plan. I did manage to get 4 free tickets into the park. They were not "park hopper" but the key word is "free." I went to book a hotel online. I have stayed at the Best Western and Park Inn International before. When I checked expedia I found the Howard Johnson for $55 a night. Good price so I took it. I was a little concerned about it being further down Harbor Blvd than the other hotels, but it turned out not to be a problem.
DCA was earning a reputation for not having enough attractions for the very small child. I emailed Disney off their website about height limits on the attractions. They quickly sent me a response with all the height requirements for both parks.
We drove I-10 from Phoenix, Arizona. We did not leave until after work on Friday. Things never go as planned and we left several hours later than we wanted. It turned out to be the best thing. The baby slept the whole way with the exception of a break to nurse when we got gasoline for the car. If your baby sleeps in the car I would HIGHLY recommend traveling during baby sleeping hours.
We got to the hotel after midnight. I should explain we had a very mild winter in central Arizona. By the end of April it was already hot (I even went and bought the baby a special outfit that would cover her, but was made of very thin material. We did not want her to overheat). I checked the forecast for Anaheim and was expecting Mid 70's. I packed both pants and shorts but we did not bring any jackets. When we got to the hotel is was drizzling and COLD. Okay it was cool to most people cold to a wimp that has lived in Arizona too long. The guy at the counter even commented on my shivering saying it was not that cold (In my defense, I was wearing shorts).
We found the room at the Howard Johnson to be good sized and the refrigerator in the room was very helpful. We did not get to sleep until 2:00am.
We were scheduled to meet the family outside the park at 11:30am. This did not fit my "commando" touring style. I figured the three of us could get some touring in before we met the family. When I got up around 7:00am neither my husband nor the baby was showing any signs of wanting to be awake.
I decided to go ahead and walk over to guest relations by myself and pickup the tickets. I got there before the park opened and there was no one in the guest relations line for DCA. I got our tickets without any problems. I wandered around a little bit letting my Disney anticipation build. There were all the families getting ready for their fun at the "happiest place on earth."
When I got back to the hotel my husband was laughing at how I was dressed. Remember I was cold. It was still cold in the morning. Sure there were people in shorts, but I am sure they were from cold places where 65 degrees and overcast in April seems warm. Anyway, I was wearing my flannel pajama top as a jacket. To say it didn't match is an understatement. Thankfully we did have extra layers of clothes for the baby.
To the Park
We headed over to the Park much later than I wanted. A little baby really cramps "commando" touring. I believe we got to DCA around 10:30. When we got there we headed directly to Hollywood Pictures Backlot. We went to ride Superstar Limo. My husband was very concerned about taking our baby on any rides. We parked our stroller (we brought our own) and left all of our non-valuables (diaper bag) in it. My husband even asked the CM if he was sure it was okay for a baby to ride.
I do agree with what I have heard about Superstar Limo. The ride is not that great. I still enjoy Peter Pan and Snow White, so I can appreciate a Fantasyland "dark ride." This ride was just odd. Then half way through it stopped. It was weird, the first ride with the baby (and we were already worried) and it stopped. The CMs were very cool, they walked by us and told us they would get us going in a moment (they even tripped a sensor to stop some of the scenery movement- it was funny). They came back a few minutes later and got us out of our Limo and gave us a walking tour of the rest of the ride. It was a very interesting experience.
After the ride/walking tour it was time to go outside the park and meet the family.
Meeting the Family
My husband told his brother we would meet them "outside DCA" at 11:30am. I was not at all comfortable that we would be able to find them (I thought we needed to pick a place like the L in CALIFORNIA). But the crowds were so thin it worked out.
I did not know that my husband's brother would be bringing a guy from the convention he was attending and that guy's friend. They were both from Orange County and AP holders.
Touring with four adults, two teens and an infant was already a concern (remember I come from the park "commando" line of thinking) but adding two people was not something I was counting on. Plus, I had done all the research, now we had two guys who had already been to DCA several times. My role as leader was gone.
These guys were very, very nice and very helpful. They headed us off to Soaring Over California. One of the guys had a "non-visual disability" that let him (and 5 of us) use the fastpass line on all the rides. I felt really bad using the access at first (having heard all the stories about people taking advantage of wheelchairs, ect) but as the day progressed I learned that this was not something the man was faking. He had to use the restroom after every ride (sometimes before too). He could not have waited in the lines. I am sure people do take advantage of the system, but before people get upset about people who do not look "disabled" getting access, try to remember you do not know what is really going on with them. Okay, I will get off my soapbox.
Soaring was a great ride. It is one of those rides that just makes you feel happy. We headed toward Paradise Pier. We skipped Grizzly River Run because it was too cold. The mad mouse coaster was not open. Neither was the Zephyr.
This probably doesn't make sense but I don't like heights or spinning, yet I love roller coasters. That meant there was no way I was getting on the Maliboomer or the Sun Wheel. The rest of our group went and loved them. Except for my husband who HATES roller coasters and scary rides (he thought Space Mountain was terrifying). For some unknown reason he got on the Maliboomer. I think it was a "near death" experience for him.
We finally got to Screaming California. I loved it. It is all the things I like about roller coasters. Since I am afraid of heights (and I got stuck for about 4 minutes on the first hill of the Shockwave at Six Flags over Texas) the scariest part of a roller coaster for me is the big hill. Screaming just shoots you up then takes you on a smooth ride. It was not a scary coaster at all. It is about up there with Space Mountain.
We went to the tortilla and bread demonstrations. Yes, they were blatantly commercial, but for what they were I thought they were OK. The teens in our group were not complaining (but they do seem mature and well behaved for their age. Actually they seem like smaller adults, so they probably aren't the best judges of that teens think). We ate in that wharf area before heading off to see "It's Tough to be a Bug." We ate Mexican and it was alright, nothing special.
We went through the farm area that is frequently criticized. I must say it was incredibly funny to watch a 40-year-old man chase his teen son through the water maze thing, trying not to get wet. One of the other guys got into the maze as well. We spent more time than I expected in this area. The 15 minutes was quite enjoyable.
"It's Tough to be a Bug" was great. The baby got fussy while we were waiting for the show so my husband ran to change her. When I met him after the movie he was raving about the changing area in the baby center. He mentioned this several more times. It really made a lasting impression on him. I watched the movie again with my husband (and took the chance to nurse my baby in the dark theatre).
We went to the Disney Animation Studios. The teens and adults in the group really got into finding out what character they are most like. We also had a blast singing along with scenes from the Disney classics. We also saw the interactive movie presentation and the movie (sorry I can't remember the names) and enjoyed both.
We rode Superstar Limo again (this time we got to see what the end of the ride was really like) and saw the muppet 3-D movie.
For the rest of the day we rode our favorites again. Mainly Soaring Over California, California Screaming, Sun Wheel and Maliboomer. We never did get a chance to ride GRR. It was just too cold. I believe somebody in our group rode every single ride that was open (except GRR) and our group never separated. We even watched the Eureka Parade. We did not see any of the stage shows.
Highlight Hints and Tips
I know DCA is being compared to a Six Flags type park. I am not sure that comparison is totally fair. The year Six Flags Fiesta Texas opened in San Antonio (I don't believe it was owned by Six Flags yet, it was just Fiesta Texas) it was a lot of open hot pavement with few rides. DCA is a MUCH better park than Fiesta Texas was when it first opened (I have not been back but I understand Fiesta Texas has developed nicely). Disney does have the opportunity to build in some Disney magic into DCA. I guess the only question is, "will they?"
My bottom line: Since I did not have high expectations for DCA, I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself at DCA.