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Kim Howe -- January 2003 -- Disneyland (Offsite)


Players

  • Kim – WDW veteran, 4th trip to DL, late 30s and trip report writer
  • Bill – WDW veteran, 4th trip, mid 40s and Kim’s husband

Accommodations

Offsite Timeshare Condo
Peacock Suites Resort
1745 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, 92805
Phone: (714) 535-8255 and 800-522-6401
www.peacocksutiesresort.com

 

A Long Time Planning

In March 2001 I logged a search with RCI for a timeshare exchange in Anaheim, CA for sometime from January – May 2003 to visit Disneyland again and see the new California Adventure and Downtown Disney. In December 2001 I bought and read Birmbaum’s Official Guide to Disneyland and checked out various websites and read trip reports for DL also. In February 2002 I got a confirmation notice from RCI for January 3 – 10, 2003 at the Peacock Suites in Anaheim. A few days later I called US Airways and used frequent flyer miles to book our flights to/from Orange Co./John Wayne Airport. It was very simple and I got exactly the flight times I wanted. I thought to myself that it does pay to plan early.

In early June 2002 I reserved an intermediate car through National using the Disney Club code and felt I got an excellent rate. The rate, $347 for two weeks (the second week we’re spending in Carlsbad, CA), was $100 less than the closest competitor and $300 less than the highest quote I got for the same car.

I spent the spring and summer educating myself on the Disneyland Resort from checking in daily with Mouseplanet and other web sites from time to time. I found it a little overwhelming and now I have a better appreciation of how intimidating planning a WDW vacation is to first timers after familiarizing myself with the much smaller Disneyland Resort. Disneyland Resort is very different from WDW in more ways than just the size of the two resorts and the differences between Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. Ticketing was the biggest surprise. DL tickets actually expire!

Mid-August I noticed a special on the official Disney website for a 5-day Disneyland hopper for the price of a 3-day, $114 that could only be bought on-line. The tickets were valid September 4, 2002 through January 7, 2003, the first use must occur on or before January 7 and they expired 13 days after first use. Well, maybe I’m thick or a little slow but I was unsure about them being valid after January 7 since we would want to use them through January 10. I sent an e-mail to Customer Service and the response made it clear that the ticket would be good until January 20, if first use was on January 7. That being the case, this would work for us and being a great deal, I bought them. Bill questioned whether or not there would be enough to do for five visits. Perhaps not but I like the freedom to come and go as I please without feeling as if I’m wasting a whole day’s admission on a half day visit. With such a great price, this won’t be an issue for me.

During my many months of studying I had made a list of the restaurants I was interested in eating at, attractions I didn’t want to miss and tours to take. At some point, I realized that the holiday decorations, parades, etc. would probably still be up and running during the first few days (Friday – Sunday, January 3 – 5) of our trip. I wanted to confirm this and get all the details. There were a lot of questions that, unfortunately, I couldn’t find the answers to on the official site or unofficial sites. I’d come to the conclusion that there just aren’t the up-to-date and comprehensive web sites available for DLR as there are for WDW.

In early November I started thinking about getting an itinerary together--planning our days and making reservations for restaurants and tours. I was pleased to find that the official site finally had posted the park schedules with opening and closing, parade and fireworks times. It also had info on the holiday events but I still had questions so I started making phone calls. When I want to make priority seatings or reservations for tours at WDW, I call a Disney Club 800 number so I thought I could do the same for DLR. Not so. The Disney Club DLR numbers didn’t provide me with the information I was seeking or the opportunity to make reservations. I was just given other phone numbers to call DLR directly and, of course, they were not toll free.

Here’s what I found out by calling Guest Relations and speaking to a nice CM at the DL park:

  • Reservations for restaurants or tours cannot be made until 30 days out, not 60 like I thought.
  • The Practically Perfect Tea was discontinued in September. The CM didn’t understand why because it was very popular and always sold out. He also said that the Paradise Pier Hotel was undergoing some renovations and that the “tea room” may be included. He recommended inquiring again closer to our trip since it could be made available by then.
  • Fantasmic ended November 2 and will reappear only for the summer season and also for holidays (but not this Christmas/New Years holiday season). I had read that it was going down right after the New Year and the river would be drained but was hoping this would take place after our trip. I wasn’t so disappointed about not being able to see the west coast version of Fantasmic as I was at the thought of the awful site a drained river would make. So, I asked if it was drained yet and he said no. I kept my fingers crossed that it won’t be when we’re there either.
  • He confirmed for me that there is a special Holiday Time tour which he had just gotten information on. It took him a while to locate it but he was very informative once he did. It costs $39 per person (plus park admission) lasts 3 hours, is offered 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., includes fast pass admission to the Haunted Mansion Holiday and It’s A Small World Holiday, reserved seating at the A Christmas Fantasy parade and Minnie’s Christmas Party show along with stories about the history of Disneyland, Walt's vision and stories of the various holiday traditions and decorations that can be found throughout DL.
  • The Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour had just been reworked and the new tours kick off December 16. It now costs $49, includes lunch at the patio of the Gallery, lasts 3.5 hours and is offered at 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Although I did finally get some answers, I spent quite a lot of time on the phone, both on hold, being transferred and then actually talking to the Guest Relations CM. Bottom line is, I have to wait until early December to make any reservations and I was left with the opinion that DLR doesn’t seem to have their act together like WDW does. I found it really difficult to get the information I was looking for with out being transferred many times or being referred to call multiple phone numbers--none of them toll free. Maybe it was sheer lack of experience with DLR on my part.

Also in early November, US Airways called to reschedule our returning flight because it had been cancelled. This was painless and we ended up flying out of San Diego (SAN) on the same day and similar time as our original flight out of Orange County (SNA). The location change was my idea since we would be spending the second week of our trip in Carlsbad anyway which is just north San Diego. It did create a problem, however, in my car rental reservation with National.

I kept my original reservation with National for pick up and return at Orange County just in case the flights got changed again and since it was such a good rate at $347 for an intermediate car for two weeks. I made a new reservation with National for pick up at Orange County and drop off at San Diego for the same dates and size car for $422, a $75 increase, ouch. I felt fortunate to be able to use the old Disney Club discount code (5901600) for the new reservation which reduced the cost by approximately $90. The new Club code (5042974) only reduced the cost by approximately $40. I assumed the new code did not offer as much as a discount because National was not supposed to continue as Disney’s rental car company, Alamo was.

When I received my 2003 Disney Club benefits, I used the new code for Alamo and got a better rate for the same size car than I had with National, $388, so I took it.

Finally early December arrives, 30 days before our trip, and I am able to make my reservations for tours and restaurants. DLR reservations phone lines open at 8 a.m. CA time which was 11 a.m. NY time. This is a plus over WDW since I didn’t have to be up at 7 a.m. to make my calls.

My first reservation was made for January 4 for the Holiday Time at Disneyland tour. I chose the 5:30 p.m. tour time on the advice of the CM I spoke to a month ago. He felt the park is prettier in the evening and this would enhance our tour especially viewing the parade. My VISA was charged $78 for two tours and the tickets were non refundable. Tickets are picked up at Guest Services outside of the park gates. I was instructed to have identification, my VISA and my confirmation number in order to get them.

A January 7 reservation for A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps was made a few days later. I chose the 9 a.m. tour because the park was scheduled to open until 10 a.m. that day. I thought, if this was the case, we would be allowed into the park before it opened and could experience/photograph it without the crowds. My VISA was charged once more. This time the total was a non refundable $98 for two tours. The instructions to pick up the tickets were the same, but I could pick them up prior to the tour date and was told to ask for them by tour date because that’s how they’d be filed. I planned to get these when I picked up the Holiday Time tour tickets.

On December 11, a few days past the 30 day mark, I make a 12 p.m. reservation for lunch on January 6 at the Blue Bayou. When I inquired what the lunch and dinner hours were, I was told there would only be lunch hours that day. I guess they are expecting light crowds for the week after the New Year. When I asked for the confirmation number she told me they usually just go by name but gave me a number anyway. That’s certainly different than WDW.

The arrival of the mid-December Mousesavers newsletter prompted me to revisit rental car reservations and try to get a lower rate using some new codes listed on Mousesavers.com. Through National using the old Disney Club I was quoted the same price ($422) for a full size car as I had reserved for an intermediate size car so I took it. Now I had three reservations with National! I made the last reservation in my name without thinking. Since I had the Emerald Isle membership, I called National to ask if my husband could drive the car, too, and was told he could if we lived at the same address. This was good since I navigate and he drives when we travel. Plus, with Emerald Isle we bypass the rental counter without him having to join the Emerald Isle program too.

Since Alamo was now Disney’s official rental car company and I already got a good rate with the Disney Club code, I thought I’d try again using a new rate code from Mousesavers.com. Wow, I was quoted $45 less for the same size car ($343), so I took it. This rate was even less than my original National reservation which I thought was great. Now I have a total of five car rental reservations!

The same day I played around searching for better rental rates, I ordered the 2003 Unofficial Guide for DLR from Amazon.com. The price was reduced from $14.99 to $10.49 but with $3.99 shipping, the cost was close to the same as buying from a bookstore. I went for it out of convenience since the closest bookstore that would carry the title is 45 miles away. I have always been a big fan of the Unofficial Guide for WDW and hoped the DLR version wouldn’t disappoint. I don’t know why I hadn’t though to get this title before! I had been busy with other things, believe it or not, and as a result had also been suffering from mind loss from time to time, so I guess that’s why. My husband says when I find my mind to look for his!

We watched The Nightmare Before Christmas on video the weekend before Christmas. Since we’d never seen it before, I though it would be nice to be familiar with the story and characters that the Haunted Mansion would be featuring during our visit. I didn’t think it was as bad as I expected it would be. Bill thought it was bad.

In between Christmas preparations, I started reading the Unofficial Guide. The section that really interested me was the descriptions of the attractions, especially those that were unique to DLR. I was disappointed, however, that there wasn’t more information in the dining section. Much of the rest of the book was very similar if not the same as the WDW version.

A few days before the trip, I cancelled three of the five car rental reservations. I kept the full size with National for $422 and the mid-size with Alamo for $343. My first choice is with Alamo, if there is a problem or a huge line at the counter, I’ll switch to National with my Emerald Isle membership.

New Year’s Day was spent doing laundry, packing, putting away Christmas stuff, and generally just getting organized.

The Trip
Day One, January 3, 2003

“Are we there yet?” was a question Bill asked numerous times before the day was out. The alarm went off and Bill got up and went to the kitchen to begin his usual routine of making coffee but was thrown off since he wouldn’t be making coffee this morning and didn’t know what to do. He was really tired and disoriented so I told him to lie back down while I got up and showered. Bill showered next and while he was, I realized that the automatic timer he had set for the bedroom light had screwed up the alarm clock and it was not 3 a.m. but really 12:30 a.m! No wonder he was so tired he’d only been to bed about an hour and a half! I broke the news to him while he was still in the shower. We disconnected the automatic timer and reset the alarm clock. At the time it was pretty frustrating but became pretty humorous by the end of the day—a long day.

We both went back to bed and I was able to sleep but Bill said he didn’t really. The alarm went off at the real 3 a.m. and we were ready to leave by 4 a.m. Pulling out of our driveway was the first, “Are we there yet?” It was snowing and the roads were covered which had been quite routine so far this winter. Another big storm was predicted this morning and we were hoping to get off the ground before too much snow had accumulated. Made it to the Park and Fly near the airport in the usual 45 minutes at 4:45 a.m. even with the snow—go Subaru! We were whisked off by the Park and Fly shuttle to the terminal and found a very short line at the US Airways ticket counter even though the curbside check-in was not open yet. We were asked to not lock our luggage since the new security screening/x-raying had recently begun. The check-in line had tripled in length since our arrival. Security also had a short line but we could see the crowd continuing to build behind us. I was glad we arrived when we did. We’re delayed a bit when Bill was pulled aside, wanded, shoes removed, the whole deal at security. He’s told he needs to be more security friendly meaning wearing his sneakers home instead of his big hiking boots. We hit McDonalds next at 5:30 a.m. I didn’t get anything since I was too nervous to eat. On to our gate and people watch while we wait. Soon we were boarding, deicing and taking off on time at 6:45 a.m.

We arrived in Pittsburg on time at 8:08 a.m. where it’s raining. Our connecting flight was coming from Harrisburg where there was freezing rain and the plane was delayed taking off in order to deice a second time. We people watch while we wait and I snack on some apple crisp I brought from home. Our gate is changed and departure time pushed back a half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. They are offering free round trip tickets (with 12 month expiration) for volunteers taking the next flight out to Los Angeles and then a shuttle to Orange County. We decline; even though we would leave Pittsburgh sooner and get to Orange County at the same time. I don’t want to be bothered with the hassle of the bigger airport or the shuttle—free tickets or not. Our plane finally arrives; we board and experience a smooth flight. I sleep most of the way thanks to the Bonnine I took for motion sickness and the early start this morning. We arrive at Orange County only 4 minutes late at 11:46 a.m. (PT—2:46 p.m. by our body clocks) nearly twelve hours since we started the journey. We have a long wait for our luggage and notice a small abandoned “box” on the carrousel. We wonder if it’s a bomb. Bill jokes not to call attention to it until our luggage arrives and we are leaving. Our luggage finally arrives but we don’t report the “box”.

We walk across the street to ground transportation and find it warm and sunny outside. National and Alamo share a small office and no one is waiting in line, so we go with Alamo (smaller and cheaper car). In no time we are driving off in a grey Mitsubishi Gallant.

I navigate and Bill drives the short distance to the Peacock Suites resort. Our room wasn’t ready but we take care of the paperwork and get directions to a Von’s grocery store. The front desk staff was very friendly and efficient. We set out again and have lunch ($27) at Joe’s Crab Shack down the street from Von’s. It is not busy at all and we enjoy sitting outside in the warm air and peel off some layers of clothing. We stop at Von’s before returning to the resort and pick up groceries for breakfast and snacks totaling $48. Our room is #318 and was ready, almost. We arrived to find the maid was not quite finished but we moved in anyhow and she rushed and left in a few minutes. We are here! We unpack and chill out. I have a wicked tension headache. Bill asks me if I’m excited and I tell him I feel as if I’m in a dream and feel disoriented with the lack of routine. I need routine.

We found the resort to be small but suited our needs. We only required a bed, shower, mini-kitchen and most of all, convenience to DLR. Bill would also include a TV! It is not the kind of resort where you can spend all week and not have a need to leave (like some in the Orlando area—Vistana, for example). It is a converted hotel and our room is slightly bigger than a typical hotel room (sleeps 6) with a sliding glass door dividing the sleep and sitting areas. The sitting area is set up with a sofa sleeper, table and chairs, mini refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, can opener, and toaster. There were two queen beds in the sleeping area with an armoire with an iron and ironing board, a TV and dressers. The bathroom area was just inside the door and had a large vanity with double sinks with a toilet and shower in a separate room which had a phone in it. We guessed in case of earthquakes. The pool and spa were on ground level but under the second floor, which I would think would be nice on really hot days since the sun wouldn’t be beating down on you. If you do want to sun bath there was a small sun deck on the roof. A continental breakfast was offered on the fourth floor for an additional charge. We checked it out one day but never took advantage of it and chose to have breakfast in our room each day. The area was quite small and appeared to be two rooms that had been opened up but not completely renovated to suit the purpose of a common dining area. The food was typical continental breakfast fare. A shuttle to DLR was also offered for $2 a day or $8 for five days. It stopped at other hotels along the way but did run continually during park hours. We also chose not to take advantage of this and instead drove and paid $7 to park each day simply to be able to come and go when we pleased. The shuttle drop off area was across from the parking lot tram drop off area and we did see many shuttles there.

While we are relaxing and I’m waiting for my headache to subside, we call Bill’s brother who lives in Hawthorne. We make plans to meet Jim and his younger daughter (age 6), Amanda, the next morning at 11 a.m. at Disneyland. We also call our friends back home, who are watching our dogs, and find out 8” – 10” of snow had fallen and it was still coming down strong with the storm predicted to continue through Saturday, maybe Sunday. We were VERY glad and lucky to have had such an early flight and got out when we did. Our friends are finding humor in our dogs and making fun of them because they are old and don’t see or hear very well anymore.

Housekeeping comes with white terry bathrobes and a picnic basket filled with water bottles, snacks (microwave popcorn, cookies, granola bars), paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils. Very nice and useful since we didn’t get any paper plates, etc. at the store. I wondered if our maid was supposed to leave these items in the room but since we arrived before she finished and she rushed out didn’t get a chance or forgot.

The local TV channel reports a record high temperature at 82 degrees at 5:20 p.m. Wow, and we were hoping for 65 degrees at best this trip. Bill is watching football, my headache is subsiding somewhat, enough anyway to want to head out to the Character Warehouse. After studying the tourist maps I picked up in the lobby and the directions I got from www.Mousesavers.com. I call CW to confirm the location and get directions: take Harbor Blvd. north, over 91, to Orange Fair Shopping Center, a right just before Orange Thorpe Blvd. Bill doesn’t want to go, so he stays and I go alone finding it with no problem.

Let me make note here that on my way, I drove past DLR and noticed the area around Peacock Suites and the resort is very nicely landscaped, clean and well lit. As I drove away from the few blocks surrounding DLR, the landscape changed noticeably.

The CW does have a “warehouse” feel. Much more so than the one near WDW. I chatted with another shopper as we were admiring the great buys and wound up comparing what was in our shopping baskets and giving each other advice on sizes/styles. This really gave me a warm feeling and I was grateful to have someone, even a stranger, to share the fun. I bought one Pooh watch originally $75 for $40, 2 DL tees one with Mickey and one with Pooh and Tigger for $8 each, a blue DLR Mickey folding hair brush (to match my pink Minnie WDW brush) for $4, blue fuzzy dice w/Mickey’s instead of dots for $2, a DL coin for $1, a lavender DL Tinkerbell sweatshirt for $16, a white Pooh visor for $1, six pairs of socks of various styles and characters for $2 a pair, and a Pooh and Friends frame for $5. My total came to $111. I’m glad I got the dice when I did because I noticed a guy in line behind me had a basket full of them along with large quantities of other items too. I thought he must be reselling the stuff to be buying that much of the same item.

Made it safely back to Peacock Suites, snacked on carrots and dip, took a couple Tylenol PMs for the headache and went to bed at 8:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. by our bodies).

Day Two: Saturday, January 4, 2003

Today we are visiting Disneyland. We wake up late at 6:50 a.m. I wanted to leave at 7 a.m. but we got ready quickly and were out at 7:45 a.m. We turned onto Harbor Drive to park in the Timon lot but were directed all the way through and around to Disney Way and to the Pinocchio lot (F8). We found this to be quite confusing since this was our first visit to DLR. The last time we visited DL we parked were California Adventure now is! Anyway, we found were we were supposed to go even though we were unsure most of the way. We took the tram to the Downtown Disney area taking in the nice landscaping along the route.

We are in the gates in no time with a quick security check and our hoppers swiping just fine. We stop for those infamous photos in front of the train station. First a couple by a CM with her camera and then she took a couple with our camera. Under the railroad station we go and although we’ve visited as children with our parents and together ten years ago, it felt like the first time. Our first impression was WOW, this is small, like “honey I shrunk the park” small to us Magic Kingdom regulars! The holiday decorations in town square and along Main Street were beautiful. We laughed at the size of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Cindy definitely comes from more money! We stop for photos at the partner’s statue again with a CM taking photos with hers and our cameras.

On to Indy where we get fast passes. We notice that the FP machines in DL, unlike WDW, do not have cups to catch the FP as it comes out of the machine and they fall on the ground if you don’t catch them yourself. The stand by line was short and we got in it and moved very quickly through the queue. I try and walk slower in order to absorb the theming which is so realistic that it reminds me of visiting Howe Caverns, a cave near where we live. The walls even look wet. I think that the ride is definitely better than Dinosaur at WDW even though some areas did not seem to be working. Our jeep would stop/pause in the dark but nothing would happen.

Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road is next but we get lost because it’s not in the same place as at the Magic Kingdom and so we wind up at the exit to Splash Mountain. But as luck would have it we find Pooh, Eyeore and Tigger! We join the short line and have CMs take our photo with Tigger and Eyeore together and then with Pooh. Yeah! We don’t normally do character photos but this trip we did it A LOT. We picked up fast passes for the Haunted Mansion on our way past it to BTMRR. As we would find throughout our visit, the queues for DL rides were different but the rides themselves were similar to WDW’s version. Some of the flowers in this area were blooming and very pretty.

A childhood favorite was next, Pirates of the Caribbean. During my very first visit at about age 4 ½, I thought for sure the dog holding the key was real! Enjoyed this slightly different version than WDW with an extra drop and floating by the Blue Bayou restaurant, cricket noises and fire flies and all. We back track to the Haunted Mansion which has a wonderfully done overlay for both Halloween and Christmas of the Nightmare Before Christmas--absolutely wonderful decorations with jack-o-lanterns and black garland everywhere. I loved the wreath inside the ride that has arms and reaches for you. I am very glad we did see the movie to help us enjoy/appreciate the theming, know the characters and the story.

Walking back toward Indy for our 10 a.m. FP, we take a walk through Tarzan’s Treehouse. I felt it was kind of cool how the refurbishment brought it up to date so today’s kids can relate to it better. We take a second ride on Indy and then a ride on the Jungle Cruise. It’s so obviously fake to me now but as a child I was enthralled. I recalled my first ride on Kilamanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom at WDW. At my first animal sighting, I shouted and pointed for Bill to look. Then I immediately felt embarrassed because this is Disney and it’s just make believe like the Jungle Cruise. Then, I remembered NO this IS real!

The time was drawing near to meet Jim and Amanda so we walked toward the hub to find Snow White’s grotto where we were to meet them. I was happy to see we could walk through the castle. I thought that was closed. We listened and heard Jiminy Cricket sing, “when you wish upon a star” too! We find the grotto but have 45 minutes until our meeting time at 11 a.m. so we wander through King Triton’s gardens where Bill enjoys playing with the water shooting across the path. I took a picture of him holding his hand so it would shoot through it, but it happens so fast I didn’t capture it. He looks like a dork in the photo holding his hand out with no water shooting across! We discovered Ariel with no line so we stop for a visit and photos with the CM’s and our cameras. We wander a bit more into Tomorrowland and see some of Club Buzz, then return to the grotto to meet Jim and Amanda. On the way I check my cell phone’s voice mail and sure enough Jim left a message saying they were running late and they would meet us at 11:30 a.m. instead.

So, we head down MS to the photo shop to check out our morning photos. I buy the one of us sitting at the partner’s statue. Behind us you can see the statue and the castle in the background. Ironically, I wound up enlarging and framing the one taken with our camera simply because the logo Disney puts on the bottom left hand corner of the photo looked terrible in the oval frame I wanted to use. I also bought one of the photos from in front of the railroad station for a total of $22. Now I had a bag to carry all day. In hind sight, I should have waited until later in the day to buy them. Live and learn. We cross MS to see if the Candy Palace has any homemade candy canes and Jim calls to us from the trolley, so we follow the trolley to the hub. Hugs all around and we meet Amanda for the first time. Later in the week I learned the home made candy canes were all sold out. Bummer.

We head into Tommorowland and get FPs for Space Mountain and then take the train from TL to New Orleans/Frontierland for lunch. I wanted to eat at the Hungry Bear but noticed the map didn’t list it as open, so we ate at the French Market instead. Later, while riding past on the train, I noticed it was indeed open. Bummer. Anyway, Bill and I got two bread bowls with chowder and split a spinach salad with one iced tea for $28. After lunch, we went next door to the HM to get FPs and then back to TL to ride SM. Wow, it is much faster than WDW’s version with less dips. I noticed the music was not playing. Amanda giggles throughout the entire ride. We backtrack across the park again. Although the morning was pleasant, it is crowded now and we have to rely on FPs in order to get on anything. We intended to pick up FPs for BTMRR on our way to HM but wound up at HM and missing the turn to BTMRR again. Drat! I took everyone’s passes and backtrack once again and get the FPs. When I catch back up with the others, we ride HM again. We found that there is so much detail, several rides are necessary to take it all in.

Up until this visit, Amanda has been too short to ride Indy. After she was measured and given the okay, we had to wait until our current FP window opened in order to get one for Indy. We used this time to wait in a really long line at Bengal Bar B Q for drinks and the mocha machine breaks just as we order them. Big time bummer! Oh well, at least one goal was reached—our FP window opened and we got FPs for Indy and then went to ride BTMRR again. After riding we split up.

Bill and I leave the park to get our Holiday Time tour and A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour tickets at Guest Services. The line is long and is moving slowly and we don’t think we’ll also have time to go to the car and drop off the photos and get our sweatshirts before we need to meet Jim and Amanda again, so Bill goes by himself while I remain in line and get our tickets. We make it back in the park in time to meet J and A and to find a great spot near the Matterhorn to sit on the curb to watch the 3:30 p.m. A Christmas Fantasy parade. I really loved this parade. We interacted with many of the characters by waving and calling out their names which made it even more fun. I shot a ton of pictures.

After the parade, we walked through Frontierland and around to Tarzan’s tree house. I took a funny picture of Jim, Bill and Amanda looking scared on the rope bridge. Then, on to Amanda’s first ride on Indy. She likes it, such a trooper for a 6 year old! When we come off the ride, we pose her under the snake which serves as the measuring post and take a picture to document her finally being tall enough for her fist ride. Funny, the grumpy adult male CM measuring at the time told us she wasn’t tall enough. Ha, too late!

It’s 4:40 p.m. now and Jim and Amanda want to ride Jungle Cruise and we decide to pass on that and head to City Hall for our Holiday Time tour. So, we say good bye and slit up again with a tentative plan to try and visit them tomorrow at their home.

We wander down Main Street and I get a Mickey bar in town square and eat it while Bill takes a rest room break. While I am eating and waiting a CM asks me to answer some survey questions such as: the first resort we visited, how far in advance had we made our trip plans, members of my group, are we southern CA residents and our pass type. When Bill returns I go in City Hall to check in for the tour and learn I need to do so at the guided tour cart outside which I do and get our tags for the tour. They are shaped like a Christmas tree and have the tour name on it making a nice souvenir and also Christmas tree ornament. Even after the ice cream, I needed popcorn, too, so I got a box of that and joined Bill who was sitting on a bench near the steps up to the Main Street Rail Road Station. He informed me that a couple of trouble making boys were shooting spit balls and hit him with one. He told them they were “terds”!

Soon enough out tour group began to gather and we joined in. Our guide is Taylor who leads us down MS, talks about various decorations and explains how scents are pumped onto the street--cinnamon at the bakery and vanilla at the candy store. We move on through Adventureland and to New Orleans Square where Taylor describes Club 33 and tells us there are 400 members and it costs several thousand dollars to join after waiting on a very long waiting list. He says that Walt Disney had planted microphones at the tables so he could overhear the conversations and used an animatronic bird to chime in on what was being discussed. Our next stop was the HM where we got in the FP line but had a long wait anyway. The standby line was so long they had entertainment for guest waiting in that line. Once we made it to the entrance we learned that one of the stretch rooms was not working. Our third time on HM today!

While waiting to board the next train, Taylor remarks that today’s attendance was slow, yet it seems crowded to us. We decided that we’d hate to see it crowded! He also tells us that the highest attendance was just reached the week before on December 27 with 108,000 between DL and CA. Prior to that, the last record high attendance was on July 4, 1987. He says that the maximum number of guests at DL are 80,000 while the Magic Kingdom at WDW is only 65,000 and the MK is bigger than DL. He told us that this is because at WDW guests have three other parks to go to and at DL there is only one and they don’t like to turn people away. The train finally pulls up and we board through the exit. Like this VIP treatment.

We ride around and get off at the Toontown Station. This area is VERY bright. There are lights everywhere! Toontown at night is as spectacular as IASW. The night sky makes it feel like we’re inside—like the casinos in Las Vegas. Minnie’s show is not running tonight because the theater is being used for rehearsal for Mickey’s Detective School show which will start running this week. I am disappointed at missing Minnie’s show. Instead, we are treated to a visit to the mouse himself. That’s right, we are back doored into see Steamboat Willie himself and we are lucky enough to have our picture taken with our camera. A ride on It’s a Small World is next and while we wait to board our boat we enjoy the beauty of all the lights. It’s just beautiful! I enjoyed the inside part, too.

Next we were ushered to reserved seat along the parade route across from IASW. We had real chairs to sit in and were served hot chocolate and a tree shaped sugar cookie while we waited for the parade to begin. During the parade the characters gave us a lot of attention. Santa heard Bill call out to him and then say something like he was going to try and be a good boy this year and Santa responded to him—just magical. We were sitting on the opposite side of the parade than we were earlier in the day so I was able to get photos of the characters I missed.

This was the end of our tour. We found the group as a whole to be very friendly and very knowledgeable and interested in Disney trivia. One of the members of our group was a CM at City Hall at the Magic Kingdom and gives the Keys to the Kingdom tours there. He spent quite a bit of time comparing notes with Taylor. We also spent some time talking to him and his mother and before the group broke up he gave us two Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2002 buttons. Wow, that was really nice of him and we were very grateful at his generosity.

On our way out of Fantasyland, I picked up a Rudolf Mickey antenna topper for Bill’s truck. We walked through Tomorrowland and got FPs for SM and then to Adventureland to Bengal Bar-B-Q where Bill got a beef skewer ($4). We headed to MS next where I got a foot long hot dog at Casey’s ($4.69). We view but decide not to purchase our photo with Ariel due to the cost and the fact that we already spent $22 on the two from this morning. I hoped that the one taken with our camera comes out okay which it did.

We shop on MS picking up some ½ off holiday items (sleep wear and ornaments) and I am able to use my Disney Club card for an extra 10% off without a minimum purchase. We found the stores on MS and throughout DL to be attractions in themselves with turn of the century antiques and collectables coordinated to the stores theme displayed in scenes or hung on the walls. Many of them where near the ceiling but worth stretching your neck to take notice. I even took pictures of some of the displays because I thought they were so beautiful.

At 9:30 p.m. we watch the Believe in Holiday Magic fireworks from a spot that Taylor recommended—by the clock ¾ of the way down MS on the right side. He was correct; this spot was perfect. It was a nice show and afterwards it “snowed” for a few minutes. More discounted holiday shopping followed until our SM FP window opened. By this point Bill is burning out after our 14+ hour day.

Let me note here that my original plan was to take a break in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we didn’t because Jim decided to join us today and we didn’t feel comfortable leaving them behind after only spending a couple of hours with them. We’re too nice. I had tried numerous times to set up times to get together with Jim and his family prior to our arrival but to no avail. He doesn’t seem to be able to think too far in advance--like one day in advance. Oh, well. We did enjoy their company, it just made a long day for us.

So back to Bill burning out…he gets set off by the last whack in the head he received by a balloon. Now, it wasn’t the first tonight and that probably had something to do with it! I realize it’s time to go after this last ride. While we were waiting at the area where the FP line joins with the standby line we hear a very cranky lady in the standby line telling the CM to not let any more FPers by that she’s waited long enough! HA! We laugh to ourselves. Sorry lady, but FP is available to everyone—it’s your choice. Even the FP line is long tonight, much longer than earlier in the day. Once we reach the boarding area we get to ride in the front car…or rocket. WOW, what an experience! Makes your eyes water you go so fast and it IS very dark so you can’t see the track and anticipate your next turn.

We leave the park, take the tram back to the parking lot, and reach the car quickly since Bill moved it closer to the tram stop when he came out earlier to get our sweatshirts. Back at the Peacock Suites at 11:15 p.m. CA time and we crash. A truly wonderful day!!!! It turned out to be our best the entire trip.

The weather today was excellent also with a beautiful blue sky, bright sunshine and temperatures in the 80s again. At home there was a big snow storm.

Day 3: Sunday, January 5, 2003

We wake at 6:30 a.m. and I catch up on my trip notes from yesterday. We do the usual morning routine—showers and breakfast including coffee, bagels and juice. We hear on the TV that 38” of snow fell in Cherry Valley, NY yesterday. That’s only about 20 miles from our house. Our weather prediction for today is sunny and in the 80s again. Woohoo!

We are out at 9:50 a.m. headed for DCA which opens at 10 a.m. Today we are able to park in the Timon lot ($7 please) off Harbor Blvd. Once in the park, we have our photo taken by a CM but don’t buy it. I am immediately very disoriented. Even though, I’d read a lot about DCA, I did not read the chapter in the Unofficial Guide! Duh! Very unlike me. I guess I was living on the wild side today. Bill tries to make me understand that life is not a guided tour, it is an adventure. Well, I’ve lived through some “Bill Howe adventures” and I prefer a guided tour!

Anyway, I am looking for Soarin’ Over California, but we wind up in the Paradise Pier area so we ride Mulholland Madness. We both agree that it is very short and has too much extreme breaking throughout the ride. We continue to walk around and ride the Sun Wheel. This is very slow loading but our wait is only 5 minutes. The ride itself was also very slow since it never rotated without stopping to unload and load more riders. We thought that was weird and something must be wrong. We rode in a swinging car and that was fun. I bet it is even more fun when you are not stopping all the way around. The motion of the wheel is very smooth and at times we were not aware of the rotation.

California Scream’n was next after a 10 minute wait. I enjoyed it but found it tamer than I expected. I noticed the music was not playing and did not play any of the times we rode during our trip. We got FPs too. We continue walking with SOC as our goal. We make our way through the Golden State area and walk around Grizzly River Run which is visually appealing. It’s too bad you get soaked when riding it. We finally make it over to SOC and find a 35 minute standby time and our window for CS FPs is not open yet. We wait for the window to open and get FPs then get burgers at Taste Pilot’s Grille ($20). It has a great topping bar and Bill built himself a huge sandwich. It was such a sight; I took a picture of him trying to bit into it. After we eat, we decide not to ride CS again on full stomachs.

Instead we stroll down the Hollywood Pictures Backlot until about a half hour before the next Aladdin show in the Hyperion Theater. Many people were already in line and we chose to queue up in the orchestra line. We are quite a ways back in the line but once in the theater we find two seats front and center. We just had to walk over/on a lot of people to get there. Hey, they should know to move all the way over and fill in every seat. We enjoyed the show and although it wasn’t Broadway quality, I felt it was excellent for a park show. After returning home and reading DLR updates on Mouseplanet, it seems that getting into the show was quite difficult or became quite difficult, I should say, because we had no trouble at all getting in to see the show with a reasonable wait time.

After the show we had to move quickly back to SOC where we found quite a long FP return line but we get inside quickly where waiting in the air conditioning is appreciated. It was bordering on being almost too hot out today, even with shorts on. We noted the singles line only had three people in it and decided that’s the way to go. We get in the first row and really enjoy the experience very much.

Our next destination is the Redwood Creek Challenge Tail but first we got ice cream and sat on a bench to enjoy them. My Mickey sandwich was hard as a rock and took a very long time to soften. I wound up biting through it and getting the chocolate cookie caked onto my teeth. NOT a pretty sight when I smiled. Bill was quite embarrassed to be seen with me. He told me to make sure I put my “ice cream sandwich teeth” story in the report. So there you have it.

Teeth sucked clean, we finally make it to the RCCT which is nice and fun to watch the kids. We wished we had stuff like this when we were kids. I wanted to take my shoes and socks off too and run through the water. Bill told me to, but I declined. We happened to catch Chip and Dale’s show about a skunk which was very cute. “Smell alert—PU (positively unpleasant)”!

The Pacific Warf area was next where we found a rock and roll band playing and lots of places to eat. It looked as if it would be a real “happening” place on the weekends, but it was kind of dead this afternoon. We do the tortilla factory and Boudin bakery tours and enjoyed the samples offered. I realized once we got home that we can get Boudin bread in our local grocery store’s bakery. I kind of liked this area and felt it almost had something going for it but it fell short somehow. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I didn’t mind the tours and actually enjoyed learning about the history of the canneries but it just needed more of something.

We wandered into a Bug’s Land after catching a showing of the Ugly Bug Ball which was cute but for the youngest set. Our wandering continued now around the Golden Vine Winery area but didn’t do any tasting or see the show. At this point we leave the park and head to Downtown Disney.

My opinion of CA after my first visit was mixed. I didn’t think it was as bad as others have made it out to be, but it was really lacking traditional Disney style and somewhat lifeless. It’s small and easy to get from place to place once you’re familiar with it. It seemed that we were always walking into the glaring sun and its light never seemed to be good for photos. I do think the park has some potential but it just got lost somewhere—budget cuts? The Paradise Pier area would seem more fun at night with a crowd but it was pretty dull during the day with no one around. Much of the CA theming was lost on me because I’m not too familiar with its landmarks.

Still wandering but now at DD, we find our way into the Grand Californian and walk around inside and out, take some photos and visit the gift shop. The hotel has a beautiful stained glass door off the lobby and the light was shining through it just right to make it even more attractive. The wedding garden area and bridal salon were no big deal compared to the island chapel next the Grand Floridian. I notice a window just outside the GC entrance to DD advertising that The Lion King Broadway production was now playing is LA. I had just seen it the week before in NYC. After leaving the hotel and continuing walking through DD, we wind up at the monorail station and decide to take a round trip ride. I asked if we could ride in the cab and was told that you couldn’t do that anymore. Yet, we saw other people riding in the cabs throughout the week. Once we did get on board and reached the TL station, we had to get off, walk around and reboard. The CM was cranky about it too. Sorry, we’re novices here, lighten up. Someone waiting in line with us to reboard told us that this policy was something new. While we were waiting to reboard, we had an opportunity to stare into the empty 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Lagoon. The DL monorails are much smaller and showing their age compared to those at WDW.

Once back at the DD monorail station, we continue our wandering this time toward the DL Hotel. We walk past the pool area but don’t really get close enough to check it out and then find the waterfall where I thought they have the light show. We were burning out at this point and began to head back through DD. We stopped in the Department 56 store and bought a bunch of ornaments at 75% off that we’ll save to give as gifts next Christmas.

I want to note here that we did not really care for DD. We felt that the shops and restaurants were trendy and expensive and didn’t seem to fit the interests and pocketbooks of a families visiting DLR. DD is better suited to rich twenty somethings. It reminded me of WDW’s flashy West Side when I prefer the quaint Market Place.

We finally make it to the tram station on the other side of the Esplanade from DD and to the car in the Timon lot. Back at the Peacock Suites, we munch on chips, carrots and dip and have some wine. I also soaked my tired feet before going to bed at 9 p.m.

I was very tired today, especially my feet. Bill thinks it’s due to the long day of traveling on Friday, jet lag plus our 14+ hour day at DL yesterday all of which made for a low day today. As I mentioned earlier, I had planned a break yesterday but that didn’t work out. We also should have taken a break today but I thought we would go to Jim’s house in the evening (he half heartedly invited us yesterday) and so I decided to stay at DCA longer in the afternoon since we wouldn’t have the opportunity to return at night. Obviously, we did not visit Jim’s today—Bill’s choice which he didn’t communicate to me early enough so that we could have taken an afternoon break and returned for the evening and seen the Main Street Electrical Parade. I’m sure a pattern is surfacing here—family can really screw up a good plan.

Day 4: Monday, January 6, 2003

We were up and about early but took our time with the morning routine before heading out for DL at 9:30 a.m. It was nice having the parks open at 10 a.m. so you could take your time in the morning in stead of getting up with an alarm to make early park opening during our WDW visits. We park in the Timon lot again today, are in the park before rope drop and in time to hear Walt’s opening speech. We notice the majority of the holiday decorations are still up, however, slowly but surely throughout the week there are less and less. Our goals today are Fantasyland and Toontown—both are met. We do Dumbo, Peter Pan, Snow White, Toad, Alice, Tea Cups, Storybook Canal Boats, and Pinnochio in an hour and 15 minutes. I felt we could have done it in an hour but PP had a long wait. We didn’t have enough time to do Toontown before our 12 noon lunch reservation at the Blue Bayou, so we head towards New Orleans Square instead.

Before checking in at the restaurant we jump on the PotC again. We check in a little early at the restaurant and find a huge crowd. No one has been let in yet and the wait seems to take for ever before anyone is called. Once we are seated, it is at a table along the water but on the end near the waiter station. We order the infamous Monte Cristo sandwich and a shrimp spinach salad and share both ($35 w/tip). Pretty pricey for one sandwich which we really didn’t care for, a salad and a beer. It wasn’t as nice of an experience as I’d hoped for.

Afterwards, we stayed in the NOS area and enjoyed browsing in the nice estate jewelry shop—Diane’s. There were some really nice pieces and we had a pleasant conversation with the CM too. It’s too bad there aren’t more shops with unique items in them instead of Disney stuff you find everywhere. While we are in the area, we notice the water level in the Rivers of America has begun to drop and Haunted Mansion is closed. I was very glad to have had Saturday to enjoy these areas.

We board the train to Toontown and are surprised that IASW is still open, since I thought it closed today too. We ride Roger Rabbit’s Spin after a 15 minute wait. Next we wander around playing with door knobs, buttons and mailboxes. We break off from that to catch Mickey’s Detective School show in the Fantasyland Theater. The show is cute and at the end confetti shaped like detective badges floats from the ceiling. I kept a couple to put in our photo album. Back in Toontown we jump on the Jolly Trolley, tour Chip and Dale’s treehouse, ride Gadget’s Go Coaster, and tour Mickey’s house. The line into Minnie’s house was too long so we moved on to peek in on Goofy’s bounce house. We really enjoyed this area of the park. It is much better than WDW’s Toontown Fair area.

On our way to the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, we walk in front of the castle and I take some more photos. It’s beginning to grow on me! Once at the saloon, we take a table upstairs and really enjoy the show by Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Adventureland is next for the original Tiki Room show. We noticed a group on the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour taking the show in too. We are taking it tomorrow and I bet Bill is not too thrilled that we’ll have to sit through it again but I don’t mind. Like the PotC, it’s another memory from my childhood. Still in AL, I get photos of Lilo and Stitch and of Bill with Timon and then we head toward MS.

While we wait for the next showing of the Walt Disney story and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, we check out the firehouse and take photos with Balou and Mickey. We enjoyed seeing Walt’s office and the short film. We were surprised that headphones like those used at Drew Cary’s Sounds Dangerous show at the Disney/MGM Studios at WDW are being used at the GM w/ Mr. Lincoln show. The headphones are kind of cool but we felt the dialog before the show was hokey. Being huge 19th century, especially the Civil War era, history buffs we found quite a few inaccuracies but enjoyed the show none the less. I’m grateful that it still exists and hasn’t been replaced yet like those poor Country Bears.

As we make our way back up MS, we stop in the cinema for quite a while and watch most all of the films playing in there. We’ve never taken the time to do this at WDW. Outside, we came across the Dapper Dans and enjoy their show too. Soon we are on to Space Mountain where we ride and get FPs also. In between rides we go into Innoventions and do the GM virtual reality commercial. I didn’t think it was worth the wait not only to get in Innoventions but for the ride too. After our second SM ride, we ride BTMRR again and run into some adult male line jumpers. They used the FP line which was closed and got quite a ways ahead of those of us in line. When we were queued to board the train they were getting off of, we called out “Line Jumpers” to them. They acted surprised—Jerks!

We leave the park at 7:50 p.m. and stop at Tony Roma’s and inhale two rib dinners ($47) before returning to the Peacock Suites.

The weather was sunny but very windy (Santa Ana winds) which made it seem a bit cooler out than it really was (76 degrees).

Day 5: Tuesday, January 7

This morning is our A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour so we are up early and out by 8:30 a.m. to allow plenty of time to arrive for our 9 a.m. tour. We are very surprised to find the Timon parking lot gates closed and locked! We don’t know what we should do—go somewhere else? but where? or wait?--so we wait and wait and wait until 8:50 a.m. when the gates are opened. Then the parking attendant’s printer wasn’t working so he could give us our receipt delaying us further until another attendant gave us one. We park and get on the tram quickly only to wait five more minutes before it leaves! We finally make it to the gate near the newsstand at 9:10 a.m. CM Kimberly was waiting for us and we explain why we were delayed. She says that since the park opens (at 10 a.m.) a hour after the tour begins (at 9 a.m.) and the parking lots open at the same time the tour begins, there is a special arrangement to park at the DD lot for A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour takers. Well, we never got that message when I picked up our tickets on Saturday from Guest Services!

After that stressed filled 45 minutes, we are let in the gate, our passes were swiped, tour tickets turned over, and lunch selected as we walked under the train station and to Town Square to catch up with our guide, Jolene, and the rest of the group (15 people) at the WD Story. We were embarrassed that the group had been waiting for us to begin the tour. During this time, they had been wandering around the exhibit and looking at the photos on the wall. Once we arrived, Jolene spoke about some of the photos and described Walt’s office before we sat down to watch the short film again.

Throughout the tour Jolene focused on the original attractions and mentioned many of the changes made in DL throughout the years. I don’t claim to recall everything she told us during the tour because SO much information was shared. Also, I don’t claim to recall everything one hundred percent accurately either. With the disclaimer in place…on with the tour:

We walked back out into Town Square to the flag pole. This is the site where Walt stood for the opening ceremony on July 17, 1955. Jolene explained that 1,500 guests were invited but over 20,000 showed up that day because original invitations were copied and distributed by the invited guests. Also, a ladder was put up on the north wall by that property owner and charged people $3 - $5 to climb the ladder to get in.

Jolene pointed out the eucalyptus trees seen behind City Hall and the Fire House and explained they are original to the property and that Adventureland was moved from its planned location where Tommorowland is now to utilize the trees in the AL landscape. Later she pointed out on early planning sketches of the park layout the originally planned locations of AL and TL.

The Fire House was the next topic and Jolene told us the second floor consists of Walt’s studio apartment. Although tradition has been to keep a light on in one of the windows as a remembrance of Walt, today it is not lit. It was, however, the evening we took the Holiday Time tour and Taylor pointed it out.

As we leave TS and head down Main Street, we notice that the Christmas tree has finally been taken down. We stopped in the cinema and Jolene talked about the early cartoons that are playing. Plane Crazy was the first and then Steamboat Willlie. SW was the fist with synchronized music. She also notes that Mickey and Minnie are now 74 years old. Back out on MS, she talks about the forced perspective of the buildings to make them appear larger than they actually are and of the significance of the names painted on the second floor windows. One in particular, on the Market Place, had the name Ron Dominquez on it. Jolene told us that his father owned the property and orange grove that the park was built on. The family home stood approximately where PotC is now. Walt agreed to hire the Dominquez children and Ron was a ticket taker.

We crossed the street and walked through the store in order to get around the crowd that was waiting at the end of MS for rope drop. We stood off to the side but in front of them and watched as the rope was dropped and one security CM told them to wait while the uniformed constable CM told them to go. Well, they didn’t know what to do! Finally the constable won. I thought that was poor show. I also noticed that the opening announcement that we had heard on Saturday morning was not played before rope drop. I was disappointed and glad we’d already heard it. I pointed this out to two CMs, who I guessed were in training for the tour, and they didn’t seem to have a clue as to what I was referring to. Oh, well.

Adventureland was our next stop where we entered the Tiki Room. It was not open to the public yet and so we got to enjoy it all by ourselves and even take pictures. Both Jolene and a CM working the attraction talked about it. The CM seemed to have worked the Tiki Room quite some time and was quite proud to share its history long with the history of animatronics. The newest animatronic is Hopper in A Bug’s Life and says the next generation will be able to walk around and interact with guests. She felt it would be in DLR and be either a bird or a dinosaur. We learned there are 200 birds in the Tiki Room with some always being refurbished. They are not electronic but rather puffs of air make them work. The chests of the bigger birds move to simulate breathing. The four main birds, Jose (Spanish), Michael (Irish), Pierre (French) and Fritz (German), all have facial details to fit their respective nationality. The feathers are real bird feathers. One of the children in our group started the show by tapping on Pierre’s perch but we only stayed through the first song. So, I was glad that we’d caught the entire show already.

From AL we moved on to New Orleans Square to Club 33 which is entered through the door next to the Blue Bayou. The number 33 was used because that was the number on the door, or its address in NOS, which Walt had to give in order to gain a license to serve liquor in the club. There is a bell to ring for club guests to announce their arrival. They are suppose to only ring it at the time of their reservation since the door will only be answered at that time. This is because anybody walking by can ring the bell and CMs would be opening the door all the time just to have to explain to passers by that it is a private club. We rang the bell and were allowed into the lobby area which was kind of dark and decorated in red and dark colored wood. There was a stairway and a lift (elevator) leading upstairs to the club. The lift was copied from a hotel in France. Walt wanted to buy THE actual lift but then the hotel would have been without one, so they didn’t want to sell it and he just had one made. The club is so small that it could not accommodate a tour group. We could hear the staff preparing for the evening. This evening would be the last before its annual renovation.

We moved on to the New Orleans Square rail road station next. As we walked by the HM, someone asked if the upper floors were just a façade and Jolene said they were. The stretch rooms really lower guests (unlike WDW where the ceiling rises) to the ride level which is located in a big green building on the other side of the berm. While we waited for the train to arrive, Jolene spoke about Walt’s love for them and about the DL engines. As we rode around the back side of the park we could see that the water level had dropped even lower in the River of Americas. We could now see the pipes that make the current/rapids around the rocks. There was also a large green wooden fence erected around the river from Frontierland past New Orleans Square to Critter County. We noticed this not from the train but as we walked from Adventureland to NOS. Back to our train ride…I asked about the former Festival of Fools show area and Jolene said that it was currently used for company picnics. Seems like a lot of wasted space to me.

We exited the train at Tommorrowland where Jolene spoke of the many changes over the years in this land. We saw a Segway being ridden by a CM on our way to see a large mural on the side of a TL building. The various paintings represent past TL attractions. We continued walking out of TL towards Ariel’s Grotto where Jolene pointed out the foundation of the former future house. It is pretty well hidden behind shrubby which she moved out of the way in order for us to notice it. The foundation was made so strong that it could not be destroyed when the house was removed.

Snow White’s Grotto was our next stop. Here Jolene explained that the marble statues of SW and the seven dwarves were an anonymous gift to Walt. SW is actually the same size as all the dwarves but appears larger because she is set at the top of the grotto next to a small deer with the dwarves at lower levels with a large rabbit and squirrel--another example of forced perspective. We used our fingers to measure SW and then moved the measurement to one of the dwarves and they WERE the same size.

In Fantasyland Jolene described the architecture of the building facades. Peter Pan and Toad are English while Snow White is German. All three of these rides were here when the park opened in 1955. The Dumbo ride originally only had ten flying elephants. In the 1980s the prototype Dumbo for the DL Paris was used to replace the original DL ride. The new Dumbo has 16 elephants. The sides of the elephant cars were cut away to allow small children to get in and out of them without having to climb over the sides.

We moved to the west side of Sleeping Beauty Castle and Jolene said that the original sketches of the castle had the top of the castle turned so what is now the front was the back and vice versa. Walt didn’t like the original sketches and told the imagineer to change it somehow. He just turned the top around and Walt loved it. It is small in size because Walt didn’t want it to intimidate people and it was not meant to be an icon and dominate the park.

Frontierland was our next stop where Jolene described the various areas: BTMRR is the gold rush era, Zocola restaurant is the southwest, and the GHS is the pioneer era. It was also in the park when it opened while the BTMRR area is a combination of three previous attractions. Walt and Lillian’s 30th wedding anniversary party was held in the saloon. Walt gave her a petrified tree (nice guy, huh?!) which she donated to DL the following year and is displayed in front of the saloon near the waterside.

We walk back to NOS and to the Royal Courtyard where stairs lead to Walt’s second apartment—20 Royal Street. The apartment was not finished when Walt died in 1966 but his family did so later. A gallery now occupies the space and was set up with The Nightmare Before Christmas artwork during our visit. We walk up the stairs which were meant to be the front or main entrance to the apartment but are now a back entrance for CMs. There was some unappealing stuff around—not good show. Once inside we were in a hallway which lead to the informal dining room and kitchenette. The kitchenette area is now the check out and the cash register is actually over the sink. Off the left side of the informal dining room is the balcony where the dessert buffet for Fantasmic is held. I was allowed out there to take some pictures. Back inside, on the left hand side of the hallway was the formal dining room. Back through the informal dining room and to the right was the living room where doors and a stairway where added to the original plans to make the current guest entrance. Behind the living room was a patio and off that was the master bed room with a bathroom off that. There were other rooms that were being used for office space. All the other rooms were being used to display artwork. We had lunch on the patio and filled out comment cards. This was the end of our tour and Jolene gave us A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps pins. We lingered in the gallery and bought a Nightmare Before Christmas key chain to use as a Christmas tree ornament.

We walked around NOS some more and Bill takes my picture with the sax player and he gives me purple Mardi Gras beads which I wear proudly.

After a check of the schedule, we decide to see another show at the GHS. This time it is a variety show. As we are walking from NOS to the saloon, we see Huck and Becky white washing the fence that’s been erected to hide the draining river. They were funny and I thought that was a clever way to “create an attraction” out of a closed area. Since we had some time before the show started, I take more pictures of the castle and in Fantasyland.

It’s 2 p.m. and we leave DL and cross over to DCA. There are only two turnstiles open and a long line has formed. I guess many people are through with DL and are hopping over to DCA. Soon more turnstiles are opened and we are quickly in the park. We ride California Screaming two times both walk ons. I got a bug in my teeth and Bill wanted me to be sure to include this in the report, so there it is. Soaring over CA was next via the singles line. We get right on and go in the same show on the same glider but in different rows.

We head into the Hollywood Backstage area where we visit the Animation Building. We wander around the end of the drawing area waiting to enter the screening area and see a movie about Walt. Isn’t this the movie they show in WDW at the Disney/MGM Studios in the One Man’s Dream exhibit? I thought so anyway. I also think this film should be shown to guests taking the A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour instead of the really short one in the Walt Disney Story attraction. Next we sit on the couches for a while enjoying the film clips before entering the drawing portion of the tour. Since we already toured the end of this area we zipped over to the Sorcerer’s workshop area. We do the personality test and find out Bill is the big bad guy in Mulan and I am Jane from Tarzan. We watched the petals drop from the rose in the library too. We watch a couple of girls with their mother sing along to a song from a Disney movie. We weren’t brave enough to do it ourselves.

Muppets was next and enjoyed as usual. We played Who Wants to be a Millionaire but didn’t make it into the top ten. It was getting dark, so we walked over to Paradise Pier which looks nicer at night and then left the park.

We hopped back over to DL and got ice cream from the Gibson Parlor ($8) and then ate it sitting on a bench in front of the castle bathed in pink and lavender lights. Yes, it is small but it is growing on me. We leave the park and take the tram to the car. Before returning to the Peacock Suites, we restock our munchie supply at Vons.

Today was another sunny and warm day. The Santa Anna winds finally died down somewhat by the end of the day.

Day 6: Wednesday, January 8

Up and out by 9 a.m. with just coffee and juice since we are planning on treating ourselves to breakfast out this morning. We are headed to Knott’s Berry Farm to do some shopping and expected to stop at a restaurant on our way or near KBF but never came across one. We park at KBF and it looks like their restaurant is also not open, so we walk through some of the shops that are open and put thoughts of breakfast aside. My mission here is to find some Snoopy items to buy for a friend who loves Snoopy (for her birthday and as souvenirs from our trip). I was very pleased to find they have an entire store—Snoopy Warehouse! Once it opened, I spent a very long time shopping and deciding what I would get. Bill sat on the floor and watched a number of Peanuts cartoons while he waited for me. I finally narrowed my selections down to $100—a sweatshirt, sleeveless denim top, socks and various small items liken pens, pins, writing pads, etc. Mission accomplished. She was absolutely thrilled with everything too.

Bill had finished watching cartoons before I was finished shopping so he wandered around a bit outside. When I meet up with him, he tells me that Mrs. Knott’s restaurant had indeed been open for breakfast this morning—DARN! Unfortunately, breakfast hours had just passed so we had her famous chicken dinner ($20) at 11:20 a.m. It was good simple fare. I remember coming to KBF and having chicken dinner during a family vacation/visit with my mother’s aunt and uncle who lived in Cerritos when I was a little girl. The atmosphere here this morning was very sleepy there aren’t many people at all shopping, eating or at the park. Well it is, after all, January mid-week!

On our way back towards DLR, we stop by the Character Warehouse so I can exchange a couple of tops I bought on Friday night. That was easily done and I even bought more stuff. No surprise there, huh! I got the Disneyland Memories of a Lifetime hardcover book and some Mickey shaped soaps for $20. I saw a similar book at the parks but they were DL “Resort” not just DL. It makes a very nice souvenir with lots of photos and history of Disneyland.

As we are leaving the shopping center, I notice a See’s Candies store across the street. I just have to stop there to get a box of peanut brittle ($12) for the office. One of my co-workers started this tradition after his visits to CA, so it was perfect that I came across the store. I had planned on looking one up next week while we were in the San Diego area but now I don’t have to worry about it. Back at the office, the box didn’t last much past my first day back!

I had planned on spending the afternoon visiting historic downtown Orange but those plans got scrapped since it started raining. Instead, we returned (2 p.m.) to Peacock Suites and Bill took a nap while I updated my trip notes. By 3:45 p.m. it had stopped raining so we headed out to Downtown Disney. We clocked in the DD parking lot near the DL Hotel at 4:06 p.m. and walked to DD. We bought tickets to see the movie Maid in Manhattan at 4:30 p.m. and then wandered around until show time. We really enjoyed the movie. Afterwards, we got our parking receipt validated at the theater so we would have an additional two hours added to the three hours of free parking you get.

Next it was time for serious shopping at the World of Disney. Believe it or not, I had a real hard time deciding on what to get. This store is not as big or as well stocked with a variety of merchandise as the WoD at WDW and wouldn’t you know, the sweatshirt that caught my eye in the Emporium on MS was not at WoD. I wanted to be able to use my Disney Club card for a 10% discount and struggled to reach the $50 minimum. Then Bill throws in a $50 fleece! Well if I knew he was planning on doing that, I wouldn’t have had to worry about the minimum! So, I put some things back and the total came to $92 with the discount.

From here we decided to get something to eat and the Rainforest Café was the only thing that appealed to us. There is a lot of entertainment throughout DD even on a rainy Wednesday night. We are watching the clock closely since we only have free parking until 9 p.m. and it’s 7:45 p.m. We are told the wait will be 10 – 15 minutes at the RC so we decide to stay and are seated at a table that is a little out of the way so that was nice and quiet. I got a pizza and I think Bill got ribs and a few beers ($46). We finish at 8:45 p.m. and make it to the car and out the parking lot at 9:01 p.m.—five minutes to spare. Yay, no charge! We made a game out of being out of the lot on time, fully realizing that we could have stayed longer but would have had to pay $6 each hour after in 20 minute increments.

Back at the Peacock Suites we watch some TV, have some wine and I update my notes. We’ve noticed over the week that there are lots of ads on the radio and TV for DLR. We don’t notice that at WDW.

The temperature today was around 66 degrees and was cloudy and rained a little. The days have gone by quickly. Tomorrow is our last full day at DLR.

Day 7: Thursday, January 9

Today is another DL day and we arrive at the parking lot at 9 a.m. We arrive at the gate and have to wait about 15 minutes until 9:30 a.m. before we are let into the park. While we are waiting, I take a lovely photo through the gate of the Main Street Rail Road Station and the garden with flowers planted in the shape of Mickey’s head without any people in it. Once in the park there are many characters in Town Square. Bill takes my picture with Alice (she is so little) and Sleeping Beauty.

We get some breakfast, coffee, milk and cinnamon rolls, at the bakery ($11) and sit on THE front porch on MS and eat them while the crowd gathers at the rope. After rope drop, we move on to Tomorrowland and get FPs for Space Mountain then walk on Star Tours. We go to Autopia next and have a short wait but the line builds significantly behind us. We backtrack to SM and ride twice with no need for the FP. I don’t even think the CM was collecting them.

Toontown was next and we were able to visit Minnie’s house with a short wait. We also had our picture taken with her on the front porch by a CM and with our camera. Unfortunately, the sun shaded the top half of the photo and bleached out the bottom so we didn’t buy it. The photo on our camera wasn’t any better. I think both Mickey and Minnie’s houses are different in DL and WDW. We wander through Donald’s boat—Miss Daisy?

The rest of the day is spent wandering with no real plan. In Fantasyland we catch the Sorcerer and the Stone show. We pick up FPs for Indy in Adventureland next the move on through New Orleans Square and Critter Country. I was hoping to find the Pooh Corner store but it’s no wonder why I didn’t notice it last Saturday, because it’s closed. Although there is fencing around the new Pooh ride, we could see the new cars from the train. Walking back through NOS we walk up the stairs to the Gallery to see over the fence and how low the water level has dropped in the Rivers of America. We can see the Mark Twain and Columbia tracks now. We have lunch at Rancho del Zocalo ($30) in Frontierland. I got a salad from the Mexican side and Bill got a large combo platter of something from the southwest side. We sat outside in a semi-covered area where there were heaters. We didn’t feel the need for heaters, but they were there and on. Back to Adventureland to ride Indy with a 10 minutes wait. Once again today, the CM didn’t collect our FP and just sent us down the standby line. We called Bill’s brother, Jim, from Frontierland to confirm arrangements to meet at his house later then we left DL and then hopped to DCA.

We saw It’s Tough to be a Bug and noticed the entrance to the theater is on the opposite side compared to the WDW theater. We saw the Golden Dreams show next and enjoyed it. I do agree with observations of others that it does have a real Epcot feel to it. In the Hollywood Backlot area we found Millionaire had a 60 minute wait and Goofy’s Beach Party was a half hour and it was 3 p.m. and we had to get to Jim’s at a decent hour, so we left DCA and returned to DL. We take a farewell ride on the train all the way around the park and then I shop on Main Street. I get the sweatshirt I wanted, a photo album and an ornament for $70 with 10% discount. We leave the park for the last time and take the tram to the car.

Back at the Peacock Suites we freshen up and then call Jim to let him know we’re leaving (5:20 p.m.). He tells us we should have left earlier and that we’ll be in a lot of traffic—too late now. We do hit heavy traffic and it is slow at first then it gets better and we find the house with no problem. We tour the house and then have dinner at a Benahana and leave for Peacock Suites at 10 p.m. There is considerably less traffic on the ride back. It’s been a long day.

Day 9: Friday, January 10 and Beyond

Our visit to DLR is over and it’s time to move on. We check out of Peacock Suites this morning and take the short drive to Long Beach to check into the Queen Mary for a one night stay. We are able to get into our cabin right away, have a late breakfast on board and spend the remainder of the day taking various tours of the ship.

We check out the next morning after breakfast and finish some touring we were not able to complete the previous day. We drive south to Carlsbad and check in to the Carlsbad Inn, our homebase for the following week. During the week, we visit San Diego, Temecula’s wineries and take long walks along the beach. I’d be glad to answer questions regarding our stay on the Queen Mary and our stay in Carlsbad, just send me an e-mail.

Afterthoughts

During the planning for this trip it became apparent, to me anyway, that DLR is not the world destination vacation resort that WDW is. My first clue was the lack of information available both on official and unofficial websites for trip planning and the difficulty in getting answers to my questions when calling the resort. I really found it frustrating to find the information I am so accustomed to having at my fingertips for WDW trip planning. DLR seemed, instead, to be more of a local or regional vacation destination. In my opinion, this was confirmed during our stay in the area and witnessing a large media presence geared toward local residents with advertising on TV, in print and on the radio for the resort. At WDW, however, it is pretty rare to see or hear an ad once in the Orlando area. Just my opinion, your mileage may vary.

Although a lack of maintenance at DL has been reported by some, I found the condition of the park to be not perfect but not bad either. Yes, it is showing some wear but with its age and the number of visitors passing through, it’s no wonder.

All in all, we had a wonderful visit and will return again—maybe for its 50th anniversary. That is, if there are some special events/attractions planned for it that are worth a trip across the country. I do not feel the draw to return to DLR that WDW gives me.

Next trip to WDW is just around the bend--October 18 – 24. I’ll post a trip report, hopefully, in a timelier manner than this one. Thanks for reading and I hope you could glean something to make your next trip easier to plan and more enjoyable.

Kim Howe

HOWEKM@Cobleskill.edu


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