Celeste Hari -- August 2001 -- Disneyland
Aug. 4 - Aug.11, 2001
We won the first part of our trip on a radio contest. That was neat. Since the first two days hotel, airfare, and three days at the Disney parks were already paid for, we decided to stay for the rest of the week on our own. We stayed the first three nights at the Paradise Pier (two paid for and one we paid for) and then moved for the next four nights to the Portofino Inn and Suites. We upgraded to Concierge service at Paradise Pier and it was wonderful. There was a recent article detailing this service so I won't detail it here. It was everything the article said. I will not make this a blow-by-blow report of each day, but I will touch on a couple of things that I think are important for readers to know or just fun for me to write about!
Most important is that if you are staying on a Disney property, they give you a room charge slip. Keep this with you at all times, even if you have no intention of using it for charging! We found out the hard way that this little piece of paper is your ticket to the fast lane on the monorail. Without it, you will not be allowed to board in the fast lane. The hotel neglected to tell us this little detail and we never use or carry these room charge slips. Because of this we were denied access to the fast lane on the monorail - in spite of the fact that we had our room key! It was very distressing, especially for our seven year old who was very hot and tired. My husband complained bitterly at city hall and catch this, they had no idea this was happening! Perhaps it will be remedied but then again, perhaps not. Better safe than sorry. Carry your room charge slip!
Second Disney hotel tip...there is no tram anymore going to the front entrance from the hotels. We asked. You now have to either ride the monorail to Tomorrowland from Downtown Disney (thus missing Main Street), walk all the way through Downtown Disney, or enter DCA and walk through it to get to the front of either park. It can be quite a hike to start the day. The trams REALLY need to come back. It was one of the wonderful perks of staying at the Disney hotels that made paying that extra money a little more "worth it".
Third tip...you can now make Fantasmic! balcony reservations up to 30 days in advance. After years of trying to get these tickets, this was a godsend! We ordered them about three weeks ahead and they were delivered to the hotel the day of our arrival. It was wonderful! This is one of my favorite parts of Disneyland. You are seated in the balcony according to your arrival time at the gallery. We got there at 8:00 for the 9:00 show figuring we were plenty early. We were the last to arrive. Although all seats are good, it is tough for a child to see the show well if they are in the second row behind a bunch of large people. It would have been nice if the folks had moved so the children (ours as well as a few others) could have had the front seats. I would gladly give up a front seat for a child, but these folks apparently did not have the same thoughts! We managed by having the kids sort of kneel on the seats so they could see over the linebackers. The desserts were absolutely fabulous. Not meant for those on a diet! Service was great. You also get to watch the stunning fireworks show from the balcony after Fantasmic. A once in a lifetime experience since the cost is pretty steep, $39.00 each, no child discount. But simply and truly wonderful. Be warned, there is no restroom up there so go before you get there!!!
Although we enjoyed DCA, it is definitely made for a different crowd than Disneyland. My kids are not thrill seekers and hence, there was not a lot for them to do. Soarin' Over California is terrific! We went on it twice. Huge lines for this attraction, use a fast pass or go right when the park opens. Same for Grizzly River Run. You will get wet on Grizzly River and there are no dry places to put your camera or purse so take a plastic bag for these items. This is a fun ride and we did it twice using fast pass. The pier rides were packed as well, but we didn't even enter those lines since the kids have no interest in the rides. California Screamin' looks terrifying up close and people sure do scream so it is appropriately named! I'm not even sure I would ride even if the kids were interested! King Triton's Carousel is beautiful and whimsical. It feels smaller than King Arthur's Carousel in Disneyland but I'm not sure if it really is. There was a wait to ride since this is about the only ride real small children can ride. The Golden Zephyr didn't run the whole time we were there because of the breeze. The kids did ride Jumpin' Jellyfish and really enjoyed it. Again, a pretty large line for this ride even though it does have a height restriction. Superstar Limo is a bust but the cars are cool looking. The Animation Building is fun. The line builds up fast for the Sorcerer's Workshop, but not for the other areas. The workshop is hands-on kid fun; the others are a movie and a semi-lecture. Entertaining, though not something the kids were thrilled about, they sat through and participated. Bug's Life is a carry over from WDW and as such is fun to see. We didn't see Golden Dreams because the kids thought the description was too much like a history lesson. As an adult alone, I would have gone in to watch. The Eureka! Parade is very lively and lovely to watch. It gets pretty crowded along the parade route. We did see several characters in the various parts of DCA. Minnie in Condor Flats, Max along the street, a couple of bears, Mulan and few others over by the Animation building. The park is beautiful and well done, but if you go there expecting Disneyland, you will be disappointed. If you go with an open mind and are looking for new and different, you will find it! This park will work if people give it a chance.
Disneyland proper has always been and will remain my favorite. The park was twice as crowded as DCA. It was a little sad to see the maintenance slipping. There was dirt where there had never been before, paint peeling here and there, the Tiki Room needs a complete re-thatch on the roof, and oh, the empty lagoon just made my heart ache! However, I still love the place. The preshow in the Tiki Room was up and running and the kids got a kick out of it. I was less than impressed with Tarzan's Treehouse. It could have been done better but you know, people were still streaming through it and the kids liked it. I guess that's what matters in the long run. The new Lincoln show is great. I was skeptical about those headphones, but once you see it, you understand completely why they are necessary. The kids even liked it. Go see the show, you will be impressed. We all enjoyed the new Autopia. The queue is sooo much better than the old one! My son was thrilled with his drivers license.
We were a bit put off when they closed Toontown for the fireworks. They closed at 8:30 and apparently that means that they want everyone out by that time. We tried to ride Roger Rabbit at 8:00 and were told the line was closed. I had two disappointed kids on my hands. If they want the place cleared out by 8:30, they need to state that it will close at 8:00. We caught the Parade of Stars instead. It was an OK parade, very pretty, but not too special in my opinion.
We do Disney or any theme park on the least common denominator theory. That is the pace of the youngest child. It saves our vacation and our sanity. Yes, we often are not able to do and see EVERYTHING, but what we do is much more enjoyable. We saw many, many families who could benefit by following the same theory. Just how much fun is anyone having if the parent is yelling at the child and the child is crying? The break in the day is an absolute must! Even if the child says they are not tired, they really are and there is a price to pay for not taking a break. A swim and a bit of downtime revives everyone.
We also chose not to do the early morning entry. It would have been at 6:30 am and that is just too early for the kids (OK, me!). Again, it made us miss some things, but was worth it in sanity and pleasantness. At night we did not try to stay out until midnight either. More like around 10:00 pm.
We moved from the Paradise Pier hotel to the Portofino Inn and Suites after three nights just for affordability sake. I would like to have stayed at Paradise Pier but the rate was pretty high ($265.00). The Portofino was fine, nothing fancy, but clean and roomy ($129.95). The plus here were the bunk beds for the kids in a separate room (French doors) with their own TV and a couch. The kids had to draw straws to see who slept up on top first!
We also hit LegoLand, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Medieval Times Tournament and Dinner. All of which were at a less frenetic pace than Disney. LegoLand is prime for about 6 -7 year-olds. Our 10 year-old got a bit bored. There are a couple of coasters and the rest are pretty much kiddie rides. The park is fun though. Looking at all that stuff made out of Legos is mind-boggling! It's been years since we were at SeaWorld and the changes are wonderful. It was almost peaceful there. Universal would probably have been better if our kids were a little older, but they still enjoyed themselves. Especially at the new Nickelodeon Blast Zone. The kids would have stayed there all day if we had let them. Another warning...this is a VERY wet place. Bring extra clothes or even a swimsuit because the kids will get drenched. There are nice bathrooms right there behind the water in which the entire family may change if needed. Medieval Times was great fun! Especially for our 7 year-old son. You eat with your hands; they don't even give you the opportunity for silverware. You yell and shout or boo according to your knight's performance. What more could a small boy ask for? The action is pretty real, although it is choreographed, one wrong step and these knights would be injured. It's thrilling actually. We just had a jolly good time. They do bring you warm, wet towels to wash with at the end of the meal. The food was pretty good too!
This was a lot to pack in to a week long vacation but the least common denominator theory enabled us to do this and still remain intact!!! We even had a beach day in there as well!