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Dana Greenberg -- May 2003 Disneyland (GCH)


The Players

From Seattle:

  • DG: mom, 40, DL veteran
  • DH - dad, 36,
  • HH: daughter, 7, DL veteran
  • AH: daughter, 3, DL mini-veteran

From California:

  • DG's dad and stepmom,
  • DG's mom and stepdad,
  • DGs brothers Doug and Dave

Pretrip planning:
May 14 was looming and I was going to turn 40! My husband offered to plan a huge party for the event, catered or on the ferryboat where we had our wedding reception. Was he kidding! Once I figured out that he was planning to spend some serious $$ I started to check out trips to Disneyland and WDW. Alaska Airlines was running a special that allowed the four of us to fly from Seattle for 5 days, stay at the Grand California Hotel concierge level, park tickets, and little extras (you only turn 40 once you know!). Because my parents live 10 minutes from Disneyland we had never stayed in any of the hotels so this would be sooooo perfect. We made the reservations.

When my parents found out we would be in California for my birthday they made their own plans--more later!

I called from Seattle to make a few priority seating arrangements for Ariel's Cove and The Trattoria. Also, from reading the discussion boards at The LaughingPlace website I found out about the Disneyland Vacation Planners who will do just about anything for you to make your trip a special one! I called and had a planner purchase mouseears, guest of honor badges, and autograph books to be in our room for my girls when we arrived.

Then I spent several long months reading all the boards and second-guessed my concierge decision (since everyone seemed to think it was not worth the $$). Oh well - we kept the reservation but I did call ahead and ask to be placed on the 6th floor near an elevator!

Day 1
My Birthday - How crowded can it really be at DCA??

Revelation of the Day
I really like DCA - except when there are more than 100 other people in the park!

Players--DG, HH, AH, GP

Our kind friend Dena dropped us off at the airport in plenty of time to make the flight. As we began to unload our luggage when I realized that we forgot our stroller. Last summer we park-hopped quite a bit and it was so much easier with our own stroller. Oh well - just goes to show that AH is walking much more than strolling these days!

Our flight from Seattle was pretty uneventful (thank goodness) and we landed at John Wayne/Orange County airport at about 2:00pm. I made reservations for a private van - we had a lot of luggage and three-year-olds typically do not like to have a lot of stops between point A and point B! The private van was pretty pricey ($60 w/ tip) but was probably worth it for comfort and expediency.

Within 20 minutes we were approaching the Grand California Hotel- woo hoo! Reading the boards as I do, I knew that someone from the hotel staff would be out to greet us in true concierge style. Alas, no such greeting. We went inside and got in line to check in. About 5 minutes later I heard someone call my party's name over and over again - it was the concierge rep. She took my family over to the guest services desk for check in and to exchange our voucher for 5-day hopper passes. There was an envelope waiting for me containing a Happy Birthday Button and an autographed picture of Pooh and the gang- nice touch! Our room wasn't ready so we checked our luggage and decided to go to DCA. After all, it was Wednesday in the middle of the afternoon --how busy could it be??? I thought we could go on 5 rides and then have dinner at Storyteller's Cafe.

WRONG!!!! I have never, ever, ever seen so many people at DCA - and I normally go in August at the peak of summer vacation. Of course it was the last day of the Southern CA two for the price of one park ticket deal. EEEK. There was even a line for Golden Dreams (my kids never knew there was an activity associated with that pavilion - they have always called it the echo place because it is always empty and a perfect place for little ones to try to echo!). We all looked at each other and decided to go to AH's favorite - the carousel. We could not believe it - there was a 15-minute wait. To put this in perspective - normally we just get to stay on as many times as we would like because there are so few people in the queue. Let's just say that we abandoned the 5 ride plan and headed back to GCH to get our room assignment.

Room 6401 - ok up the lobby elevators we go and then we walked and walked and walked--our room was as far from the elevators as it could be (I thought). And, when we got into the room, the Disneyland Vacation Planners had not visited so there were no surprises for the girls. Grrrrr--this was not turning out to be the vacation of my dreams! While we waited for our luggage I tried to call the concierge lounge - no answer. Finally I spoke with a cast member from guest services and she figured out that there was a second bank of elevators very close to our room that would let us out near the DCA entrance, the pool, and the hotel restaurants. Ok - things were starting to turn around!! Our luggage arrived and the young man who brought it suggested that we needed a little frig (everyone at the hotel warns you not to touch the honor bar frig - why do they even have them???), more robes, more towels, and more pillows. What a helpful young man (big tip for that fellow!).

Feeling well cared for yet hungry we used the closer elevators and went to Storyteller's Cafe. The restaurant fit well in the hotel theme of Arts and Crafts. The girls enjoyed their dinners - the ubiquitous mac and cheese. I had ribs and a half salad - yum. DH had a burger. Our server brought out a little mickey mouse mousse - and sang a silly birthday song (my girls loved it). Dinner was approximately $75 with tip.

On to the pool - although there was a breeze (read - burrrrrr) the girls were bent on swimming. Up we went to our newly furnished room - all of the Disney Vacation Planning shopping had arrived - the girls had mouseears, guest of honor badges, autograph books, balloons, and autographed pictures of Pooh and the gang! We grabbed suits and robes and headed to the pool. The pools are open 10-10pm but the slides are only open until 6pm so my 7-year-old was a bit bummed. They had a blast in the pool though and we stayed for over an hour. Happy birthday to me!

End of the day reflection: One can only plan and anticipate so much...all if you look at the cup half full it always seems to work out!

Day 2
Off to Disneyland for the Day - Did I say I only got to ride 4 rides??
Revelation of the Day
Two children, four years apart and highly opinionated = mom must take an entirely new pace at Disneyland

Players--DG, DH, HH, AH

The Concierge lounge was handy this morning. I went in at about 6:45am and stocked up on breakfast for 3 (including lots of coffee). I hauled my booty (no trays) back to the room and set up breakfast for the gang, put the coffee by my husband's head and told him I was off for a jog. Woo Hoo! For those of you who jog I must say there is something about coming around a corner and seeing the Matterhorn! Of course I had to cross over I-5 twice to see that view but it was worth it! I stopped back by the lounge on my way back to the room for more coffee for the husband. Sure enough - it was needed!

The girls and Dad were ready to go by 10am (coincidentally the same time that Disneyland opened). Boy were those gates crowded! Once we rented a stroller we were off! We decided to go to Fantasyland with the idea that it would become busy later - ah the plans of a commando (quickly to come to an end :)).

I love Main Street in the morning - everything looked lovely and clean and well painted! Approaching the castle we spied Belle and the Beast on the left. Evidently there are princesses stationed on either side of the castle for a good part of the day now - at least it is easy to find a princess when you need one! The girls wanted to say "Hi" so we joined the line. Before too long Beast had to go (something about playing chess with Cogsworth) but Belle stayed and graciously chatted with my girls. No mention of autograph books so I did not pull them out - I had decided that the girls would need to figure it out and ask for the books or I would return them at the end of the trip.

First ride - Peter Pan! AH and I rode together and she loved it! I noticed (perhaps for the first time) that the ride stop/start was very jerky and sure enough my hand was not fast enough to block AH's lip from the safety bar - ouch. She bit the inside of her lip. Now if that were her sister we would have lost half the day (the queen of drama) but AH recovers quickly. And, I learned to always have my hand in front of her face at the beginning and end of every ride. We then strolled over to Dumbo but HH would have none of that - ah to be sophisticated at 7! She and her dad headed over to Mr. Toad (and covered Snow White and Pinnochio too). AH loved Dumbo and especially enjoyed holding the feather (that indicates that you get a seat on the next round). We saw DH and HH heading over to Casey Junior so we joined them - but alas he wasn't feeling well and the ride closed temporarily. What to do??? AH said she wanted to go on the rest of the Fantasyland rides but she didn't really and I didn't force her. Off to Frontierland. DH and HH traveled ahead so they could ride on Big Thunder Railroad. Then I suggested a ride on the Mark Twain - groans from the family!

Now, everyone who reads the various discussion boards knows that you can pilot the Mark Twain. However, every time I have tried to get up to the pilot house something has happened to prevent me from becoming a pilot and today was no exception. The Disneyland Marching Band marched on right the Mark Twain before me and the cast members said it probably wouldn't be a good time to pilot. Oh well. My family was relieved that they wouldn't have to ride a "boring" ride.

Fast Passes for Splash Mountain and off to wait in line for Winnie the Pooh. AH adored the ride - she even enjoyed the line. HH thought it was ok but not worth the number of repeats she was forced to endure during her visit! Our thought was to eat at the Hungry Bear restaurant but it was closed - so we trudged back to the Stage Door cafe. AH fell asleep in the stroller so the three of us had lunch -burgers, fries, chicken nuggets - about $22. Back to Splash Mountain so DH and HH could go to a laughing place. I got more Fast Passes for Pooh - they were for much later.

AH woke up right in from of the Pooh meet and greet area (ah timing) and wanted to talk with Pooh. She asked for "the book" - seeing all the other children waving books at Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore. Out came the autograph book and the wait began. 40 minutes. No joke. Meanwhile DH and HH used our other two Splash fastpasses. Adding insult to injury they came off that ride, spied us in line and said something about the Haunted Mansion and off they went. Meanwhile AH said that she had to go potty (oh bother) and so we had our places held in line while we dashed off to the Hungry Bear potties. Back in line we witnessed yet another set of Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore come and go. We made friends with the other families in line and I just hoped that when we finally made it to the front that AH would actually want to interact with the characters. I had a hard time admitting it but THIS WAS WORTH THE WAIT! She spent time with Eeyore and Tigger (some people only wanted to take a picture with Tigger--poor Eeyore) and they were very fun and silly with her. Then, she walked around the corner and saw Pooh and walked up to him and gave him the cuddle of her life. She got his autograph and pictures and she was in heaven!

Ok - where was the rest of my family?? I decided the AH and I needed a treat so into the new Pooh store we went and came out with a Pooh Pez (for AH) and a Hunny Pot rice krispie treat that had peanut butter and chocolate for me! Our cast member/salesperson Michael gave AH some stickers too. That Hunny Pot had to be one of the best things I have ever eaten at DLR!

We headed toward the Haunted Mansion and I asked AH if she wanted to go into the Mansion with the pretend ghosts. We made it to the threshold of the stretching room before the imprint from last summer jarred the mind of the three-year-old who screamed "get me outta here." Ok - we got some popcorn instead and finally spied DH and HH (who had journeyed through the Mansion twice). Back to the Pooh ride. DH and HH wanted to go on BTRR but it was temporarily closed. With only 4 rides under my belt and the sun starting to set on our Disney day I was getting tired and cranky. I wanted to go on some rides too!!!! But AH is at the stage in life where only mama will do [at least according to AH and her dad :) ]- and I guess it was better to keep the peace then to go on a ride and hazard eruption! We were off to the carousel (an AH favorite). The ride was beautiful --very shiny said AH!

On our way out of the park we saw Snow White's stepmother - someone I had not seen at the parks ever. Perhaps she only is cast when someone comes along who would be perfect for the part. She was truly distainful - and AH was apprehensive about visiting with her. I held her and walked up - and she said "I have no smile for you AH." AH loves to tell that story! She did get her autograph, as did HH.

An aside - HH loved wearing her guest of honor badge and every cast member made it a point to say hi to her by name - and she made it a point to say hello to him or her by name as well! AH would not wear her pin so everyone had to call her "princess." I wore my badge but did not get as many hellos as the children - I got over it!

Before we went back to GCH we stopped by a small kiosk to ask where our paver was located. I forgot to bring the information along (it was my birthday present last year!). The cast member was quite helpful and then told us about her family's picture of their feet around the paver. We thought that would be a great picture for our holiday cards! We ended up taking several pictures at different times of the day to try to eliminate the shadow factor!

We stopped by the concierge lounge to check out the wine/cheese hour. My husband considers wine a bit of a hobby and decided that he was not going to drink whatever pedestrian wine they were pouring (this saga continues...). I grabbed some waters and back to our room we went to figure out dinner. We ended up at Naples in Downtown Disney. It was packed with overwrought children and adults - much like us! We had pizza and salad (and a few beers for DH) and the bill was about $70 with tip. The service was good but the food was pretty mediocre - I do not think we would go back.

Could we go to bed early?? No - the children had to go swimming. So, down we went, swam for an hour, a quick stop by the lounge for cookies and milk and then upstairs to bed!!!! I spoke with my parents (who live in Anaheim) about meeting them for dinner the next evening. Also my younger brother, who recently moved back home, said that he could possibly wake up early enough to meet us at Disneyland for the day! The girls would be thrilled with a visit from Uncle Doug.

End of the day reflection: Although I ended the day with only 4 rides under my belt I realized three lessons of the day (1) HH and DH have a great time together at Disneyland now that HH will ride any ride [and is certainly tall enough to do just that!]; (2)AH has quite a memory; and (3) given my new pacing -- people watching and eating Hunny Pots can now be construed as having a great day at Disneyland.

Day 3
Disneyland Replay

Revelation of the Day
Family is fantastic!

Players--DG, DH, HH, AH , stepmom, dad, Uncle Doug and a surprise!

I love routine. I grabbed breakfast for 3 at the Concierge lounge, jogged, stopped for more coffee and rallied the troops. We tried to get to the Disney gates by 9am and actually made it by 9:30am. I should add that the bag searches seemed more thorough than last summer (perhaps it was because there were older cast members working the lines - I am not sure). Both DH and HH agreed that I should get to go on more rides today - especially if it meant that HH got to ride some rides twice by using fast pass and the baby switch (a pass that allows you to bypass the regular line after your party has ridden - switching the baby to the other parent!).

Did this actually happen? No - got our stroller and journeyed to Autopia to get FPs. Alas, Autopia wasn't open yet (so no FPs) so we went to the Matterhorn. I got a cell phone call from my brother Doug who said he was just purchasing his ticket so I told him to meet us by the teacups. AH had a mini fit about my leaving her with Dad so I let DH and HH get in line and took AH to one of my favorite rides - Alice in Wonderland.

Now, last summer AH loved the Alice ride and we have watched Alice in Wonderland several times at home. Today she acted as if I was torturing her - real tears and everything. I felt like everyone in line was staring (ok - they were) but I held my ground - this was my last stand. I knew she would love the ride once we were on but if she won the battle it would be another 4 ride day for me. The cast member gave us our own pink caterpillar (AH's favorite color) and off we went down the rabbit hole. Suffice to say that by the time we passed through the tea party little Miss AH wanted to go on again! I was exhausted from the experience!

AH and I waited by the teacups for Doug or Dad or sister (shades of yesterday). As we waited I noticed someone lurking over by the old motorboat area. Now, before I had children I probably wouldn't have noticed this person but now I have this continual mommy radar going that picks up any suspicious movements within a quarter-mile radius of my children. Anyone with questionable movements is instantly detected (maybe I should get a job as Disney security). Anyway, I lowered my sunglasses to get a better look at this person and figure out the threat level and - to my surprise - it was my brother David!!! He drove down from Oakland on the grand occasion of my birthday and was trying to surprise me! He couldn't believe that he was detected but came over for the big hug from his sister and niece. Where were DH and HH?? DH had our cell phone so I called him and found that they had gone back to Autopia and would meet us in NOS.

Well, AH wanted to go on Pooh again so the four of us went over to Critter Country for Pooh and then back to NOS. Finally we met up with DH and HH, got FPs for Splash and then hopped on a raft to Tom Sawyer's Island. I do not think that HH had been on TSI so this was quite a treat. Of course both my children got hurt (see - no matter how much safety goes into these things kids will find a way to skin a knee or slip) but it was quite fun. The caves seemed the same to me but then again I hadn't visited the island in quite some time. It was quite fun to be on the bridges but while AH made it across the suspension bridge she needed to be carried across the pontoon bridge (which, by the way, is slippery). We did notice that they had planted more shrubbery around the stream near the treehouse. Both my brother David and I have fond memories of my dad taking off his shoes to soak his feet in the stream while watching his children climb all over the island! Dad would have a harder time doing that today.

Starving (and no food on the island) we hopped on a raft back to NOS. They had just put a second raft in commission and the driver of other raft totally missed his dock and floated way downstream near the canoe entrance. Oooops. The other cast members really gave him a razzing! Anyway we hopped off the raft and headed over to the Hungry Bear for lunch (roast beef, burgers, chicken nuggests, fries, drinks for 6 = $45). AH fell asleep (again) so we had a quiet lunch and planned the afternoon. We decided that DH, HH and the brothers would ride Splash and then I would go back with my brothers and HH using the remaining FPs and the rider switch card. We were able to ride Splash while AH finished her nap (two vultures and a good splash)!

What could six of us do together? The jungle cruise beckoned to us! On the way we got FPs for Indiana Jones (Uncle David had never been on - HH was still not ready for that ride - she loves coasters but not scary-themed rides). We got on and off we journeyed- even AH had a good cruise. We got off and Bob beckoned us to come in and hear the tale of Aladin. Now, I had heard about the hoopla at DCA about the new Aladin show but the Adventureland Aladin show has always charmed HH. The show is in the old restaurant next to the Tiki Room - the room is slightly converted (it has the jaguar's mouth and looks a bit like a bazaar). There are three actors, Aladin, Jasmine, and the storyteller (who portrays several characters in the story) and a few children from the audience are invited to participate during the show. The story is straightforward, sweet, and about 15 minutes. The children loved the show (HH sat down on the floor on pillows with the other children, AH was firmly ensconced in my lap) and the older boys loved looking at Jasmine. I admit she was certainly something to look at - great abs! Both Jasmine and Aladin stayed after to visit with everyone who wanted to chat and have a picture - that was a very nice touch. Our girls were last and AH kept asking everyone why there was no fire coming out of the jaguar's mouth - she was quite concerned that any minute there could be flames all over the place. Everyone was very patient in his or her explanation of the dangers of real fire at Disneyland!

After fortifying ourselves with pineapple juice (my favorite!) we headed back toward the Haunted Mansion. This time I rode with my brothers and HH - and several girls that could not stop screaming all the way through the ride. I will tolerate screams in the stretching room but through the ride. I gave them the "if your mother was here" look and that seemed to subdue them for a bit - but not for long! Meanwhile DH had gotten FPs for Pooh (again) and when we got out of the Mansion we ambled over. HH refused to ride so AH and my brothers went to see Pooh one more time. I couldn't resist one more Hunny Pot rice krispie thing - yum! Everyone who tried it thought it was pretty delicious too!

We decided that it was about time to head for the hotel and meet my parents.

Now, my husband thinks these trip reports are silly and questions my writing them but this time he did ask me to add this little story. While I took my folks and the girls back to our room for a bit DH took my brothers (ages 37 and 21) to the concierge lounge to have a glass of wine. He thought since they were pouring such bad wine that the least they could do was assist the boys in a wine tasting. So he asked the cast member if the three of them could try some merlot and some cabernet. Language barrier, wine confusion, well we are not sure what happened but the cast member came back with three glasses and a sincere smile. Apparently he had mixed the merlot and cab according to my husband's directions. Let's just say that at this moment DH decided that concierge was not worth $100 extra a day!!!! The boys brought their "cablot" down to dinner! BTW - they drank it - ugh!

We had dinner at Storyteller's Cafe (again) and I had the ribs (again) and it was delicious (again)! Dad picked up the tab (thank Dad)! The boys and little girls went swimming and I had a chance to catch up with my folks. We grabbed cookies and milk from the lounge and headed off to our room.

End of the Day Reflection: Having my brothers tag along was perfect - gave us a few more options for rides and made me feel a bit less isolated from all the fun! I used to take Doug when he was HH's age so that made the experience even more fun!

Day 4
Disneyland/DCA Commando Style

Revelation of the Day
Everyone has their interpretation of Disney magic - I love the atmosphere, characters, and rides - parades are an excuse to ride more rides. However, magic for my husband is to view parades- as many as possible!!! Different strokes...

Players--DG, DH, HH, AH , mom and stepdad, Uncle David.

My mom and stepfather live in the SF valley and decided to drive to the GCH for lunch and to see the grandchildren. Uncle David had enough Disneyland but agreed to meet us for lunch.

Disneyland opened at 8am today so I skipped the jog and rallied the troops and we got to Disneyland by 8:30am. First off, lots of characters so the girls naturally wanted to stop but I thought that a visit to Toontown would take care of characters this morning. We did some shopping on Main Street (had everything sent back to the hotel - gotta love that feature)! On our way to Toontown we realized that we had not gone on IASW yet. So off we went.

Now, as reported in my trip report from last August, my husband did not go to DLR last year and appeared quite happy about it. However, we did call him when in line for IASW and he had us call him back once on the ride so he could gather his pals together to listen to the ride - all 3 minutes! This year he decided he would call himself and leave the song as a message. He would then use the song in various messages in the future. What a planner! He delighted in listening to the song when we got home - he is turning into a Disney guy after all!

We got to Toontown and Mickey was sitting on his front porch - hurrah. Last time we waited about 40 minutes to go through the house and see him in one of his rooms! We went through the house after pictures and autographs and then saw Goofy and Pluto too! Then off to Goofy's Barnstormer - HH rode once with dad and once with me! Then we headed toward Roger Rabbit. Last summer I was uncomfortable with AH on the ride (we put three of us in one car and the CMs kept saying "make sure the little one is secure." Of course I heard it as "your kids could die on this ride - beware.") but this time I thought it would be fine - she had other memories and decided to pass! We played around the town - opening doors and pulling apart bars until dad and HH appeared.

Now, I planned to meet my mom at 12 - she thought it was 11 and chronic early person that she is she actually got to DLR by 10:30. She phoned when she was on the freeway and she phoned when she was on the off-ramp and in the parking lot etc... Hearing my cell phone ring at Disneyland was quite disconcerting - I guess it took me out of the moment. Anyway, we finally agreed on 11:30 at GCH and I called my brother David to wake up and go spend some time with our mom for crying out loud!

Meanwhile, we took the train back to Main Street and went to DCA - it was probably 11am. Now folks posting on the discussion boards have really talked up the Aladdin show at DCA--recommending that you dash for FPs at park opening. When we went through the entrance we encountered not one, not two, but four CMs trying to hand us FPs for the show. Hey, no means no! And, what's up with the circus barker trying to fill up the playhouse? Is the run over? 40 minutes is really stretching AH's patience so we passed (plus we love the Adventureland version) but I just thought it was odd how they were really pushing the show. HH and dad saw that the wait for the GRR was 5 minutes so off they went. It was more like 20 minutes but they had fun (it is one of HH's favorite rides). I got FPs for Soaring (I have been to DCA several times since it opened and had not been on) and I also checked on the Playhouse Disney schedule (oy).

We met the folks in GCH, showed them the hotel and ate (you guessed it) at Storytellers! I changed my order to something with chicken and it wasn't great :(. By now the girls were pros at this place so they enjoyed themselves. We had some quality time, a few pictures in the gardens and off went the parents with my brother :) Back to DCA for us!

AH and I sauntered over to Playhouse Disney and dad and HH went to Mullhulland Madness (2x). Now, AH had visited the potty at the restaurant so I thought we would be fine but we weren't. She, of course, did not want to miss a thing so I was not informed of the impending peril until it was too late. Seeing that no one else was performing wardrobe changes in the audience I sat with a wet child on my lap until the show was over. She was not very interactive - although Jamie tried to get her to dance - but we were close to the stage and enjoyed the streamers and the bubbles. After the show we beelined to the bathroom!

We thought AH would like the little rides over in Bug Land - and she did like the Chew Chewtrain (thank goodness there was no wait - although she did not seem to notice how short the ride was I did!). However, she was intimidated by the rest of the rides - in a land developed for people like her! Who did the focus groups - or the marketing. Oh well, HH liked the novelty of a new area.

As an aside - remember when AH was in line for Alice and screaming like a Banshee? Well, another Disney guest did - she recognized me from that line encounter and came over and asked if AH was having a better time in the Magic Kingdom. Now, I know a lot of people but I drew a total blank and said "do I know you?" She explained that she was the mom of the family behind us in the Alice line and was just so concerned about the cute little girl with the loud vocabulary! I told her that AH had announced that Alice was her favorite ride and we needed to go again ASAP! Really! She smiled that "knowing smile" - every parent knows the trauma of Disney and 3 year olds!

We needed carousel rides after that - and did our usual 6 rides without dismounting (now that's what I'm talking about!!)

Time for the Soaring over California FP. I took HH and off we went. We were in the third row but it didn't really matter - we both thought the show was terrific (and saw the hidden mickey on the golf ball). I guess we had passed over this ride because people compared it to Startours - and she HATES that ride!!!! We switched and dad went with HH - they had the 2nd row and he really enjoyed it too!

While they were riding AH and I went to confirm our PS at Ariel's. Once AH loses control over the potty situation the rest of the day is pretty shot. Of course by dinner time I had run out of dry clothes so we went to the store directly across from the grotto and bought some tinkerbell pjs (the only thing that looked like little girls shorts in the whole place - no Ariel clothes!). We all gathered at Ariel's and took the first available table.

Ariel's represented our first official character meal (Mary Poppins tea is in a league of its own!) and I must say that we should have had this meal at the beginning of our visit. The character interaction is so worth the $$. And, given the characters and the quantity of food the price was reasonable. Ariel's provides a three course meal and you can select from various starter, main course, and dessert options - so do the children. Even though they serve dessert they seem to think it necessary to serve a huge plate of cotton candy at the end of the meal - and I saw people taking it with them (not the kind of leftover we pack for home!). Goofy, Chip, Minnie Mouse and Pluto cruised the tables and Ariel sat on a throne at the entrance. Somehow the meal is timed so that you are greeting the last character while eating dessert (perfect). I think the meal ended up costing $75 or so - and we were incredibly full!!! The girls loved eating with the characters and we would have saved a lot of time in the parks if we had done this earlier (we had already met everyone except Ariel at Disneyland - in a line!).

Then dad announced that we would be seeing all of the parades - he loves a parade. We headed to Disneyland for the Parade of the Stars and asked a Main Street crowd control CM where she would sit if she were going to watch. She was holding a rope that she was going to extend across the street and told us to wait a minute and we could sit behind her rope for a front row seat - woo hoo! After the parade passed us by we were up and back to DCA for the Electric Parade - along with everyone else from Disneyland. We found a spot right at the beginning of the route - of course I had to tell kids and adults alike that there was a Disney film about Pete's Dragon (did I even see it???). No one seemed to know Prince John - although my children love that movie and explained all!

By now it was after 9pm and we hoped that AH would show signs of slowing down. Earlier in the day the rest of the family had decided that I would get to have a Saturday night out with HH - we vowed to stay at Disneyland until the park closed! Of course AH wanted to go back to Alice (I vaguely promised she could go back when it was dark and she remembered...).

While we were in line we encountered a great piece of Disney magic. The fireworks were going off and our show was a bit obstructed - ok with HH who isn't a great fan of the fireworks. Meanwhile, I noticed that the top of the Matterhorn popped open - we would be in a perfect position to see Tinkerbell if the line didn't move too fast. Well the girls in front of us were being loaded (but we held them back so they could see too!) and down flew Tinkerbell - perfect!

After Alice was over (I love that ride) AH insisted on Pooh. HH rolled her eyes - our night out was being taken over by the 3-year-old! On the stroller ride over Ms. AH fell asleep and dad said go go go!!! So, off we went, picking up FPs for Big Thunder RR on our way to the Matterhorn. Of course both of us were starving so we picked up some cream cheese-filled pretzels on the way (oy!). We rode on the Matterhorn (HH's first time at night - fun) and then the AstroOrbiters. I cannot remember the last time I went on the ride and it will be another similar span of time. We are not big people and it was quite a tight squeeze for us in the little rocket - ouch! Then we high-tailed it over to BTRR - it is the best at night! Back to Main Street to shop and then, with the clock inching closer to midnight, we decided to call it a night - it was a long walk back to the hotel. For the first time in recent memory, HH was asleep before her head hit the pillow!

I stayed up a bit to pack everything up so that we could have more time in the parks tomorrow before we had to go home!

End of the day reflection - We can still comando!!!!

Day 5
Last Day - Pick your favorite ride!

Revelation of the Day
No matter how long you stay it is never long enough!

Players--DG, DH, HH, AH

I woke up a bit earlier than usual to grab breakfast for the gang at the Concierge lounge, jog, and stop for more coffee to rally the troops.. I stopped to pick up our packages from the front desk and to check out (love the prepaid vacation - no bill at the end - well except a VISA bill but that would come later...). We left our bags with the front desk and hit the parks!

For our last day (actually morning) we decided that each of us could chose one ride. I chose Soaring so we ran over and got FPs. HH chose Mullhulland Madness so we went on over. DCA was empty at 10:05 am!!!! We took turns riding Mullhulland (perhaps riding 3x) and then went back to Soaring. I rode with HH (2nd row this time) and I have to say that it was not as fabulous as the first time. I love simulator rides like Star Tours (a ride that I could do again and again) but this one was just ok the second time around. Dad went with HH and agreed with the analysis.

Then we high-tailed it over to Disneyland to go on...Alice! AH chose the ride and boy did it have a long line for so early in the morning (maybe because it was a Sunday??). Dad wanted to go on Autopia but there were no FPs left for our timeframe and the line was already 30 minutes long. We needed to meet my folks at 12:30 at GCH so dad and the girls rode the horseless carriage down Main Street while I did some commando shopping (the joke store for a few of the boys back home!).

We said so long to Disneyland and met my dad, stepmom, and brothers at GCH. After pictures and fooling around we went to La Brea bakery for a leisurely lunch ($135 including tip - there were a lot of us!), shopped a bit in downtown Disney and went back to the hotel to get our luggage.

Everyone journeyed out to the airport with us and we had plenty of time to roam around and visit the bathroom before our uneventful flight back to Seattle.

Overall Impressions

  • I love Disneyland and DCA - and being a real tourist staying in a hotel was quite a treat!
  • While we really enjoyed staying on the property and loved the GCH we would not pay for concierge level again. The overall hotel staff was quite helpful and friendly - the only times we encountered any problems were when we were dealing with the concierge staff. This may be a service worth paying for on a WDW trip but I would use the $100/day to pay the Disney Vacation Service people to leave treats in our room and upgrade to a room with a view.
  • Next time I might have the girls make a short list of their priorities. It has been almost a month since the trip and AH is still reminding me that she did not have her picture taken with Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. I didn't realize that she would love the characters sooooo much. HH would have ridden certain rides with certain people.
  • On that note, I think we would do a character meal as soon as we got to the parks - even if we are not staying in the hotel. Quite a timesaver if you have children that are into the autograph/picture routine (I know - I didn't have to buy the autograph books so I shouldn't complain :).
  • HH had saved quite a bit of $$ for the trip and spent every last dime. I think that next time we will set a limit as to how much she could bring. Also she had inherited a figurine collection from me and always added to it but this year she wanted to switch to snowglobes. I ended up buying her a lot more that usual with all the switching and begging. I need to read a book on children's finances.
  • My family had a hard time following the Brian Bennett afternoon off philosophy. Maybe it makes more sense when the weather is super hot or when the kids are old enough to pull it together to go back at night. We found it was best to do as much as possible and then come back to the hotel and play.

Well, we are hoping to go and visit my dad in August so perhaps there will be another trip report soon! If you stuck with my lengthy prose I thank you and wish you the best in your disney planning!

Dana Greenberg

danaeg@comcast.com


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