Jacque Hogue -- December 2002 – Disneyland (Offsite)
December 26, 2002-January 4, 2003 (Dec. 29-30 at Disneyland/California Adventure)
We are avid University of Oklahoma football fans and have been season ticket holders for years. When filling out our ticket request for post-season bowl games we never dreamed that we would actually be going to the Rose Bowl. When the bowl bids were announced we immediately began making plans for our trip to California. We decided that since this might be the only opportunity we would have to go to the L.A. area during the holiday season we would take in the Rose Parade, the Rose Bowl Game, and of course, Disneyland and California Adventure. We figured that the parks would be very crowded the week after Christmas, but we weren’t going to miss the chance to “do Disney.”
We don’t spend a lot of money on hotels when we’re on vacation, so Motel 6 is usually our choice for accommodations. We didn’t have any trouble getting a non-smoking room at the Anaheim Motel 6, even though we didn’t make reservations until the Sunday the ‘Bowl Bids’ were announced. The motel was adequate for our needs, although a little noisy since it is so close to the freeway. But, it wasn’t that far from the parks so we were satisfied.
I grew up in Southern California and visited the Magic Kingdom quite often as a child. We used to go every time my Dad, a Navy chaplain, got back from a tour of duty in Vietnam. The returning servicemen got special books of tickets that were good on any of the rides, back in the A-E ticket days. However, I haven’t been back since the 30th anniversary celebration. Don and Aubrey have been twice during trips to California for family reunions that I was unable to attend. This was a big nostalgia trip for me, as well as an opportunity to experience California Adventure. Don and Aubrey had a lot of good things to say about the park after their 2001 trip. They really enjoyed their time there, which made me quite curious to see it since so many things that I had read about it were not as positive.
DAYS 1, 2, and 3 - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 26 - SATURDAY, DECEMBER 28
Spent on the road, driving from Oklahoma City to Amarillo, TX, then to Kingman, AZ, and finally into Anaheim on Saturday, December 28.
DAY 4 - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 29
At my insistence we were up very early. We stopped at Winchell’s for doughnuts on our way to the park, and ended up second in line waiting for the parking lot gates to open. The gates were opened at precisely 7:00 AM and a long line of cars wound their way through the streets to the parking lot. We had a front row parking space in the Pinocchio lot and were on the first tram out of the parking lot that morning.
Since we were unable to purchase our tickets in advance, we waited in a very short line to purchase our one-day pass to Disneyland. We then got in line behind about five other people and waited for the gate to open, which they did at precisely 8:00 AM. After a short security check of my bag, we were in the park. In all the years we lived in California we never visited the park during the Christmas season, so the decorations were a wonder to see. The huge Christmas tree was marvelous and the wreaths were fantastic. I’m a huge Christmas buff so I love Christmas decorations.
We headed straight for Indiana Jones, since I had never experienced this ride before. We walked straight onto the ride, which was nice, but I didn’t get to see as many of the details of the waiting area that I normally enjoy, because we were walking so fast. The ride was a blast with really great effects. Disney needs more rides like this one!
After exiting Indiana Jones, we headed for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but it wasn’t open yet. The cast member at the gate gave no details, just said try again in about 15-20 minutes. So we headed over to Splash Mountain. The line was very short, only five minutes from entry to getting on the ride. The logs are different from the ones at WDW, but the ride was great. I don’t usually enjoy rides with big drops, but Splash Mountain as a whole is so enjoyable that I endure the drop. Of course, Don and Aubrey love to look at the picture they take, because I always have a petrified look on my face.
The Haunted Mansion Holiday was next up, and the 15-minute wait was not bad at all. The line moved quickly and I really enjoyed the “Christmas” carols that were playing in the queue area. I had read about how great the decorations were for this special event and they truly are fantastic. I must have used up half a roll of film before we finally entered the mansion. I have always loved this ride and the Christmas version is just wonderful.
Next up was Pirates of the Caribbean. They have done so much remodeling in the last 20 years that I almost missed the entrance to one of my old favorites. I like the Disneyland version better that the WDW version. It just seems to have more detail, as well as two drops instead of just one. Of course the adults in all the boats were singing the song, even though the kids were all embarrassed by their parents behavior. Only a 15-minute wait here too. The morning was moving much more quickly than we expected.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was finally open and after a 10-minute wait we were on board and speeding through the ride. I think I prefer this version of the ride better than the WDW version, too. It seems longer and has more “stuff” to see, although I tend to close my eyes a lot during roller coaster rides, so I don’t get to see all of it.
We headed over to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain, but it was about 11:15 and we were getting hungry, so we grabbed a FASTPASS and went to eat. This was my first time to use the FASTPASS system. The lines for entry to Space Mountain itself and the FASTPASS distribution area are so close together that it was very confusing. People were in line to get a FASTPASS thinking they were in line for the ride and vice-versa. We finally managed to get through and got three FASTPASSES for 2:05.
We grabbed a bite to eat by the Club Buzz Stage. The three of us shared two hamburgers and french fries and three drinks. By the time we got done eating Aubrey noticed that there was no line at Space Mountain and insisted that we ride it. I opted out, since roller coasters right after food is not something I like to do. After Don and Aubrey got off the ride, we took a stroll through Toontown, which I had never seen. It was cute, but too young for Aubrey, so we didn’t stay long.
It was getting a little warm so we decided to grab an ice cream treat and eat while waiting in line for “it’s a small world”, since the posted wait time was 60 minutes. It’s a good thing we ate fast, because it was actually only 30 minutes until we boarded the boat. Saw the only unpleasant cast member of the whole trip in this line. An older female cast member was asking people to split into two lines and not being very pleasant about it. By the time we rounded another set of chains, she was gone. The gentleman in charge of releasing the boats into the ride was great (I think his name was Gerry). He was teasing everyone and generally having a great time doing his job. The holiday version is great, mixing ‘Jingle Bells’ in with the “it’s a small world” song made the ride more fun. I loved the holiday decor and costumes. And the lights outside were absolutely the best decorations in the park!
We squeezed in rides on Mr. Toad and Pinocchio before it was time to use our Space Mountain FASTPASS. King Arthur’s Carrousel was still being remodeled and made getting around in Fantasyland a bit difficult. This time I did ride Space Mountain. It was fun and we all enjoyed a good scream.
Next up was “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!” The host here, named Maynard, was hysterical. He was the best part of the show, as my seat must have been defective, because I felt none of the special effects during the show. Oh well, it was fun listening to everyone else scream.
Aubrey and I rode Star Tours (not as good as the Studios version in Florida) and watched the Club Buzz Show, while Don went to see the afternoon parade. The show, “Calling All Space Scouts - A Buzz Lightyear Adventure,” was really cute. Even my blase 11-year-old enjoyed it.
We caught up with Don and went to get a FASTPASS for Indiana Jones. It was for 8:30 PM. The line was horrendous, so we were glad we rode it first thing. We walked straight onto the Jungle Cruise, which I had never done before. Then Aubrey and I climbed the tree house (I am definitely getting too old for that). However, I stopped to take a picture of the crowd from one of the platforms, because I could not believe how many people were in the park. We have been at WDW during the middle of July and have never seen so many people.
It was now dinnertime and we were afraid it would take us forever to find somewhere to eat. We sort of stumbled into the ‘River Belle Terrace’ restaurant and had no trouble ordering or finding a seat. I enjoyed my Delta Stack sandwich. Aubrey ordered the Tom Turkey dinner and Don had the Chicken Dinner. They ended up sharing with each other. There was really quite a bit of food for the price ($36.57) for three people.
I insisted on riding Peter Pan’s Flight, one of my favorite rides and this ended up being our longest line all day, 60 minutes. Even though it was dark, I also insisted that we ride the Storybook Land Canal Boats because I adored this ride as a child. I coveted all of those little dollhouses. They were beginning to set up for the parade by this time and we were the last three people they let on the ride. Although it was hard to see everything due to the lack of light, I still enjoyed the craftsmanship that went into creating this ride.
After exiting the ride, we staked out our spot for the parade right outside the ride. We got front row spots next to two really nice families from northern California. My biggest pet peeve when visiting Disney parks is pushy people at parade time. Inevitably someone wants to put their child in front of us two minutes before the parade starts and they get really upset when we don’t give up our spot. The last two times we were at WDW and this time at Disneyland we were ask to “just let my little boy/girl sit here in front of you.” People look at me like I’m rude when I say “no,” but I learned after one experience that the one little child ends up being the entire family by the time the parade is over. Sure enough, the lady who wanted “just her little boy” to see had her whole family standing in front of the family who let him in before the parade was halfway over with. I figure if I stood up for an hour saving my spot, they could do the same thing too. Okay, enough of that.
The Christmas Fantasy parade was really wonderful. Even though we were freezing by the time it started, we really enjoyed it. The three cast members who played Cinderella’s evil stepmother and two stepsisters were absolutely fabulous. All of the characters that interacted with crowd on the parade route were great. We really enjoyed this parade.
After the parade, Aubrey wanted to ride Autopia, so we stopped by on our way back to Indiana Jones. The new cars were so much quieter that the ones I remembered and the ride was longer also. I noticed there has been a lot of discussion about this ride on Mouseplanet lately and I can see why. They really do need to do some safety updates. I did notice several people, kids and adults, getting out on the wrong side of the cars.
We headed back over to Indiana Jones to use our FASTPASS, but we were all so tired that I don’t think any of us really enjoyed it. Aubrey was looking for a specific souvenir so we stopped in some of the main street shops on our way back to the parking lot.
All in all, it was a great day. We got to ride almost everything we wanted in spite of all the crowds. I do regret missing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Matterhorn. We didn’t stop to visit or take pictures with any characters, although there were many opportunities, because my daughter insists she is now too old for that. And what in the world happened to Tomorrowland? They really need to do some work there. The Christmas decorations were amazing; it even snowed on Main Street while we were there. Don’t miss Christmas at Disneyland!
DAY 5 - MONDAY, DECEMBER 30
Today was our day to visit California Adventure. The park didn’t open until 10:00 AM, so we did get to sleep in later than we did yesterday. Then Don decided to stop at Carl’s Jr. for breakfast, which ended up taking longer than anticipated. We didn’t arrive at the parking lot until about 9:30. This time we parked in the Timon lot. There was a longer line at the ticket booth this morning, too, so we were way back in line when the park opened at 10:00. After a more extensive purse/coat search than yesterday we entered the park.
Don and Aubrey insisted that I had to experience Soarin’ Over California. The line was awful!! We waited for 1 1/2 hours (the longest I have ever waited for any ride at any Disney park) for a ride I wasn’t too sure about anyway. I’m not that fond of heights and Aubrey’s description of the ride was not too clear, something about flying over stuff and dangling legs. The ride itself doesn’t look like much when you take your seat, just lots of chairs, a concrete floor, and big white screen. Then the lights go out, the chairs lift off of the floor, and WOW!!!! This ride is truly amazing. It was well worth the wait. Can you imagine what they could do with this concept and all the countries in World Showcase at WDW? Imagine flying over China, Norway, Morocco, etc.
The weather was really warming up when we left the ride, so Aubrey insisted that our next stop was Grizzly River Run. We had a 30 minute wait, just so we could get wet, but it was a fun ride. It was 12:45 when we got off the ride and we weren’t sure we could make the 1:00 PM show of Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It! but we decided to try. They were filling the last 40-50 seats when we arrived, so we made it just in time. This was my favorite part of the day. I loved being able to participate in the show, and my number actually appeared in the number 10 spot once during this show. I was hooked!!! I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to get back here and play again, while still enjoying the park with Don and Aubrey.
Next up was California Screamin’, the reason Aubrey loves this park so much. I picked up two FASTPASSES (I absolutely refuse to ride anything that goes upside down!) while Don and Aubrey waited in a relatively short line. The line moved so quickly that I almost didn’t get to see them at the take off point. Got a really great picture of them just as the coaster took off. We walked around this area of the park (they really need more to do here), and then rode the Golden Zephyr, while waiting for the FASTPASS time to arrive. Then Don and Aubrey rode California Screamin’ again.
We intended to eat a late lunch and catch the 5:00 Millionaire show, but saw the line for the Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular while we were eating our hotdogs and decided to catch the 4:45 show of that instead. The Hyperion Theater is huge and was almost full for our show. We were on the bottom floor in the back under the mezzanine level, so we did miss some of the flying carpet effects. Don’t sit under another level if you can avoid it. The show, however, was quite good. I wasn’t sure how they were going to do all the special effects necessary for the story line, but they pulled it off. The actor playing the Genie was very good, as was Jafar and Aladdin. The actress playing Jasmine was OK, but her singing voice didn’t match that of the others. This is a definite must see!!
When the show was over with, we decided to catch the 6:00 show of Millionaire. This time Aubrey got on the board once and I got on twice, never in the top spot though. The male host, can’t remember his name, wasn’t as good as the female host in the earlier show. He was somewhat condescending to the audience and just not as much fun. I decided that I wanted to catch the last show at 7:00, so I got back in line as soon as the show was finished. Aubrey and Don went to grab a snack and made it back in time for the 7:00 show too. This time I was actually number 3 on the board at the end of the show! This attraction is a big hit, as the stage was filled for each of the shows we attended.
We staked out our spot for the 8:45 Electrical Parade. Boy did this bring back memories. I really love this parade. It is a true classic.
We were too tired to do much else after the parade. We did stop in at the big ‘World of Disney’ store in Downtown Disney before heading back to the truck. We were definitely ready for a good night’s sleep.
California Adventure reminds me a lot of Disney Studios back when it first opened. What they have is good; there’s just not enough of it. Hopefully they will keep adding to the park and make it as attractive as other Disney destinations. I wish I had gotten to see Disney Animation and It’s Tough to Be a Bug! and a second ride on Soarin’ over California would have been fun too.
DAY 6 - TUESDAY, DECEMBER 31
A day of rest! (I was perfectly willing to go back to California Adventure and catch all seven shows of Millionaire, but Don and Aubrey refused to take me. Oh well.)
DAY 7 - WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2003
We were up very early (2:00 AM) to get to the parking lot in Pasadena. After a nap in the car, we walked to our seats for the Rose Parade. What can I say? It was unbelievable. After watching it on TV for years, to see it in person was quite an experience. I cannot believe how beautiful everything was. If you have never seen a Rose Parade in person, go! After the parade, we took the shuttle bus over to the Rose Bowl. What can I say about that except Boomer Sooner, go OU!
DAYS 8, 9, 10 - THURSDAY, JANUARY 2 - SATURDAY, JANUARY 4
We headed back home, with early stops each evening so that Don could watch the Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl games.
Although we were a little hesitant to go to Disneyland / California Adventure at such a busy time of year, it was definitely worth it. The parks were very crowded, but if you get up early and get in the parks right when they open, it is amazing how much you can experience. The decorations were incredible and the holiday parade was great. I can’t believe we never visited Disneyland during the holiday season while I was growing up. Everyone should experience it at least once.
I do hope they get some leadership within the Disney Company that will put some love and care back into the parks. Disneyland needs some perking up, especially Tomorrowland. California Adventure just needs more.
The trip as a whole was a fun one for our family. We wouldn’t mind doing it again someday.Jacque Hogue