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Victoria Kahler -- December 2002 -- Disneyland


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year at the Happiest Place on Earth

Disneyland Resort -- December 15-20, 2002

The Cast

  • Victoria: Trip planner and report writer, Disney addict, 26
  • Mae: Sister, Disney Store Cast Member (CM), Disney addict (certifiable!), 37
  • Mom: Loves to collect anything and everything, especially Disney stuff—origin of daughters' Disney addiction, 68
  • Dad: Goofy fan, strangely supportive of family's mania, 65

Introduction

In April 2001, Mae and I vacationed at the Disneyland Resort (DLR) to check out the new park, Disney's California Adventure (DCA). We had a wonderful time and were inspired by what we saw. We visited the Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square and were reminded of childhood dreams to visit Walt Disney World (WDW). We also rode Soarin' over California and oohed and aahed over the sight of Sleeping Beauty Castle and it's a small world decorated for the holidays.

As a result, 2002 was definitely a Disney year for the two of us: We made a dream- come-true first vacation to WDW in January 2002, we went to a couple of Disney on Ice shows, we made a spur-of-the-moment trip to DLR in the summer, Mae got a job at the local Disney Store, I joined the Disney Club, and we made plans to visit DLR in December with our parents. Instead of counting down the days to Christmas, we eagerly awaited the day we'd drive down to Anaheim.

I had a lot of fun keeping notes and then writing the trip report for our WDW vacation, so I decided to write about our days at the Disneyland Resort. Here it is . . . .

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Highlights of the day: Arrival and Disney's Electrical Parade

The night before we left, the four of us were like those kids in the WDW commercial: "I'm too excited to sleep." We woke up early and were on the road out of the Silicon Valley to Southern California at 5:30 a.m. The weather in Northern California had been stormy, so we were worried about road conditions, but only light sprinkles of rain met us. Once we left the Pacheco Pass, the sky was pretty much clear. We stopped at the Carl's Jr. near Harris Ranch for a bite to eat and made it to Anaheim by 12:00 noon. We headed straight to Company D, the cast member store a few miles from Disneyland.

Mae had heard a lot about Company D. Everyone said it was huge and the sales were outrageous. It was a good-sized (not huge) store with items 50 to 90 percent off. Dad stayed in the car and snoozed while Mom, Mae, and I stood in line to enter (there was a big watch sale that day, which generated a bit of a line) and then shopped for a couple of hours. Between the three of us, we spent about $300, which I don't think was too bad. We certainly bought plenty. Mae and Mom each bought a watch (75% off that day), and I was inordinately proud of a $10 DCA sweatshirt purchase. I saw it later in the park for $56!

At 2:00 p.m. we checked in at the Tropicana Inn and Suites. We had desperately wanted to stay at one of the Disney hotels, but the prices were a little too high for us. For this trip, we chose to spend on pins and other merchandise rather than on a hotel room we'd basically only need for sleeping. Our room was clean; the staff was very friendly and helpful. The only complaint we could have had was the VERY firm mattresses. The short walking distance to the parks more than made up for that.

We unpacked quickly and then got my Dad's wheelchair ready. He's had knee replacement surgery and has terrible constant foot pain so his doctor recently prescribed a wheelchair for him. In Disneyland, we rented an additional chair for Mom. She was already a bit winded just walking from the motel to the park, and with her arthritis, Mae and I agreed we needed a second wheelchair. We were able to get a complimentary one with Mae's CM identification. Most of the week, I pushed Dad's and Mae pushed Mom's. We never realized how "hilly" the Disneyland Resort is: Those uphill pushes really gave our arms a workout!

Disneyland
By 3 o'clock we were in Disneyland. Main Street was packed since it was a weekend day (Sunday) and the parade was just beginning. Mae got very excited when she saw the toy soldiers and wanted to stop and watch. I scolded, "Don't look! Don't look! It's on the schedule for another day!" Hee.

We headed to the Premiere Shop in Tomorrowland to redeem the pin vouchers that came with our vacation package. Right then, I knew I had created a monster: Mom, pin collector. She immediately started trading and buying. By the end of the week, she had to buy a bag since her three lanyards could not hold them all. Okay, Mae and I have bags too and have been known to run and yell "Super Pin Trader!" at the sight of a vest-wearing CM. I guess we encouraged Mom a bit.

Hungry, we stopped for corn dogs at a cart on Main Street. Disneyland seemed overcrowded so we hopped over to DCA. We had to first turn in the rented wheelchair and then show the receipt at DCA to obtain another for use in that park.

Disney's California Adventure
Soarin' over California is the best ride in DCA, and on Mae's and my top-five ride lists. Of course we headed there first. It was that ride that made the family realize that we were on our long-awaited Christmas vacation. I sat next to my dad and I swear he teared up a bit; I definitely did. Mae and Mom are a bit more vocal and kept exclaiming "How beautiful!" and "Oh, smell the orange groves!" Smell-o-vision really is great.

We strolled around DCA so that Mom and Dad, never having been there, could see the park. It's not Disneyland, but we enjoyed it more than any other non-Disney theme park in California.

We met Aviator Minnie and a nice CM who told us about new pins being released. He noticed Mae's Beauty and the Beast collection and gave us a few pictures that could be used to display pins from that movie.

The sun had gone down, so we headed over to Paradise Pier, which is so beautiful at night. We rode the Sunwheel; once we pointed out the stationary gondolas, the parents were agreeable. The sight of the resort all lit up for the holidays was breathtaking.

After a quick walk through Flik's Fun Fair (cute!), we ate churros and waited for the Electrical Parade. Tired from the long day, we went back to our hotel room when DCA closed at 8:00. From there, we saw the fireworks and called it a night.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Rain, rain, go away!

Disneyland
We had pastries and coffee in the lounge of the Tropicana and then headed over to Disneyland, picking up Special Assistance Passes (SAP) and a wheelchair first.

I had decided to collect pressed pennies so I had collected pre-1982 pennies for a few weeks. I went into the Bank of Main Street to use the one free press in the park. The girl in line ahead of me offered me one of her shiny new pennies. I said, "Thanks, but I have pennies from before 1982 since they are all copper. Or else they'll have silver streaks." She said something about them not being as shiny. I told her I had shined mine in some cola to which she replied, "Wow, you must be really serious about this!" I felt both proud and embarrassed.

In Tomorrowland we went straight to Star Tours. They split us up into pairs so that Mom and Mae rode in one and Dad and I in another. The CM said they are only allowed one SAP per ride for evacuation purposes. I guess that makes sense.

At Honey, I Shrunk the Audience Mae and I forgot about all of the effects in the show and our parents sat in their wheelchairs instead of the theater seats. The show wasn't quite as good for them, but both enjoyed it anyway. It's cute.

Mom and Mae were hungry just before noon, so we headed over to Rockett Redd's Pizza Port. They shared some bread and chicken fusilli, which is delicious. Dad and I had cocoa and then decided we should split up. Mom and Mae finished their lunch while Dad and I checked out Innoventions. It was okay. I think this building could have better uses. I tried to make a fireworks show but the directions weren't very clear. We bypassed the General Motors "simulator." There is a reason I've never seen anyone smiling during that experience. Bo-ring! Next, Dad and I rode the Monorail. That was cool because he hadn't been to Disneyland since '92 so I pointed out some of the changes. He barely recognized the Monorail station at the Rainforest Café; he remembered it being closer to the Disneyland Hotel. I also saw the big crocodile that is used in Fantasmic backstage and got a little sad that the show was on hiatus.

Back in Disneyland, we were hungry and shared a sandwich at the Village Haus in Fantasyland. We met a nice lady, also from Northern California, who was staying at the Grand Californian. That hotel sounds really nice. She said it's very quiet and the service is excellent. Sigh.

After lunch, it began to rain. Actually, it poured. The Village Haus suddenly became very crowded as people entered to escape the downpour. Neither of us had jackets or ponchos. We were supposed to meet Mom and Mae at the Fantasyland Theater in an hour but decided to go early in case they had headed there too. I hoped that Mae, who had our room key and tickets, would go back to the hotel room and return with some dry things for us in plastic bag. She didn't. I bought Dad and I ponchos so that we could keep warm. We just stayed waiting in the Theater, as did a lot of other people. It really was raining hard. To make matters worse, the CMs there would not let anyone sit down. Everyone had to stand in huddles at the entryways. They said that they could not allow anyone any further in the Theater "due to insurance reasons." They needed a lead's permission and claimed all the leads were on break. After 45 minutes a CM announced that seating would be allowed. A big cheer went up. They also announced that the stage was wet, so Minnie's Christmas Party was cancelled for the afternoon.

Mom and Mae finally showed up, also wearing new ponchos. Mae said she didn't even think to go back to the room for all of our rain gear. Oh well. We went back to the Tropicana. It was pouring even more heavily now. Our shoes, pant legs, and sleeves were absolutely drenched by the time we got to our room. Dad did enjoy the brisk ride though. I practically ran the whole way, and he yelled "Whee!" every time he rolled down a sidewalk ramp or through a puddle.

Mom and Dad decided to relax in the room for a while and stay out of the rain. Mae and I never let anything, even torrential downpours, stop us at Disneyland, so we put on dry clothes and shoes, bundled up in gloves and sweaters, topped it all off with the old ponchos we had brought, and headed back to the park.

Many people had left so it was fairly empty. It had stopped raining, though the sky was dark and dreary. We walked onto Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and Splash Mountain in short order. Space Mountain is one of my favorite rides, but I don't appreciate it as much as I used to. I rode it once in '96 when the music was working and now am always a bit disappointed with it. The music has not been on any time that I've ridden it since then. The Haunted Mansion, likewise, is another favorite of mine. I would rate Haunted Mansion Holiday as equal to it. I loved the many changes they made for Nightmare before Christmas, especially the soundtrack (The stretching room's music gave me chills).

I collected pressed pennies in Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Adventureland. The latter is my favorite because the machines are themed to the land with an elephant making a loud bang for each penny pressed. While I was pressing pennies on Main Street, the park announced Mickey's Rainy Day Cavalcade. Music began to play and a few CMs walked down Main Street to clear the way. It was funny to see how quickly people gathered on the sidewalks for this impromptu parade. A few of the Main Street vehicles followed, loaded with characters. Mae loves the characters and called out to a few as if they were old friends. "Hi, Eeyore, hi!"

We had a priority seating at 8:30 at the Disneyland Hotel so we left to go pick up the parents. Dinner at Hooks Pointe was wonderful. The food was delicious. The restaurant was not at all busy, so we got especially good service. At the end of the meal, we took a few pictures of the restaurant and with our server.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Highlight of the day: meals at the Bengal Barbecue and Blue Bayou

Disneyland
After a quick bite to eat at the Tropicana's lounge, we headed to the park. On the way to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Woody and Jessie of Toy Story 2 strolled by. Mae pushed Mom in their direction, running to meet them. Mae exclaimed, "Jessie, it's so good to see you again!" and gave her a big hug. On our last two trips we met Jessie in Frontierland, so I guess she is an old friend.

After Big Thunder, we visited the Enchanted Tiki Room, one of Mom's favorites. The CM there, Kym, was really nice and seemed very proud to work at that attraction. We commented to her later that she was doing a great job. She said the Tiki Room is an important part of Walt's legacy and she loves being a part of that. She was so sincere, we were touched.

The Jungle Cruise was fun. At one point, the CM said, "In case of emergency, use the red floatation devices you are sitting on. There are no flotation devices? Well, then everyone hang on to the girl in the red sweatshirt," referring to me. My parents got a kick out of that joke. It was early in the day, so the CM didn't seem bored with his schpiel. Most times that I go on this ride, the CM has this really monotone voice. Saying the same thing all day must be really monotonous.

Neither of our parents had been on Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. I had told them about the never-ending queue, but Mom still remarked that it was quite a walk. It has several inclines as well, so they walked part of the way too. Dad was especially quiet throughout the ride, which worried me. The last time he rode Space Mountain in '92, his face was positively green when he disembarked. I feared Indy would make him sick as well. When we got off, I asked how he felt. He replied, "Fine. It was bumpy though."

By noon, the Tropicana's muffins and croissants must have digested so all of us were starving. Mae's and my favorite place to eat lunch is the Bengal Barbeque in Adventureland. I only wish it had indoor seating. It was sprinkling, so we scooted a table under an awning and ate A LOT. The beef skewers were not available that day, but we had chicken skewers, veggies, snake (cinnamon) twists, and—the best—bacon- wrapped asparagus skewers. I highly recommend the food there.

We then went on Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion Holiday, the Disneyland Railroad, it's a small world holiday, the Storybookland boats, and Alice in Wonderland. Pirates never disappoints; Dad especially likes the part when the pirates on the ship shout "Fire at will!" since his name is William. I know it's corny, but we always get a good laugh out of it. The parents weren't as impressed by the Haunted Mansion's makeover since they aren't Nightmare fans like Mae and I are. Everyone liked it's a small world a lot. Mae was quite proud of finding the so-called hidden Stitch.

After those rides, we had a hard time agreeing on what to do next. Finally we chose Autopia but didn't ride. Unlike most rides, there is no SAP entrance. The CM told us to go through the regular queue. The entrance to that queue has an incline, and we didn't feel like navigating the long line with our two wheelchairs. Instead we shopped in Frontierland and pin traded until our 6:30 priority seating.

Dinner at Blue Bayou was as good as always. Our waiter was very cheerful. Whenever we said we liked something, he would put his hands up and say "Wooo!" as if he were on the good part of a thrill ride. Also Mae befriended a couple of pin traders at another table and showcased her collection. She nearly forgot her pin bag when we left; she became pale and her eyes got really wide at the thought. I told her the bag was on her back and she laughed with relief.

We watched Believe There's Holiday Magic in the Stars in front of the castle. After a false start, they announced technical difficulties, but the show went on a few minutes later. I liked it, but the usual show is better. Also, we thought we were under one of the snow dispensers, but it didn't work, so we watched others enjoy the snow.

Wednesday, December 18

Highlight of the day: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Play it! and the holiday shows

Disney's California Adventure
The weather was beautiful. The sunshine made it a perfect day to visit DCA. Mae and I were at the rope drop and skipped to California Screamin'. When we embarked, I was really happy. "The music is working!" We both cheered. The ride was as smooth as ever.

We met up with Mom and Dad at the wheelchair rental and walked around the park for some time looking for a place to eat. Most of the restaurants did not open until 11, so we strolled for an hour and did some pin trading and buying.

I had never been on Grizzly River Rapids, so we went on that first. This time, we were equipped with plastic ponchos though there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Mae hates water rides and even with her rain gear on she screamed like a little girl every time she came close to getting wet. We all laughed a lot during the ride. I thought the tunnels with the sound effects were the best part. The camping gear at the top of the mountain was a cute touch.

Finally, restaurants had opened and we ate nachos and tacos at Cocina Cucamonga. Very good.

We again strolled through Flik's Fun Fair; I found the four-leaf clover. This land is really cute and better to see on a sunny day. The rides are intended for little kids so we all felt funny about riding. This is the same reason I've never been on Gadget's Go- Coaster in Toontown; in fact, we rarely visit Toontown except when Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin is working. Anyway. Then we went to see It's Tough to Be a Bug. Mae and I had more fun watching the parents' reactions to the stinkbug and bee sting than watching the show itself.

In Disney Animation I am always overwhelmed when I first walk into the building. The sight of the screens displaying the scenes from Disney's animated films is so beautiful. The music, too, just makes you feel enveloped by the art of these films. We went into each of the sections. In Drawn to Animation, the animator said she took the test in the Beast's Library and found she was Ariel (a real princess, likes to swim, combs her hair with forks;) and asked if anyone in the audience had taken the test. Only Mae and I raised our hands. The animator looked nervous when we said we were the Evil Queen (me) and Yzma (Mae); apparently the test is 100% accurate. We didn't tell her that we took the test another time and found we were Jane of Tarzan (me) and Nala (Mae). We like commanding respect/fear. Hee.

In the Beast's Library on this trip, we had Mom and Dad each take the test twice to find out what villains and hero/ines they are. Mom was Tinker Bell and Maleficent. I found this very suspicious because Tinker Bell is her favorite character. How did they know that? Could it have been the Tink lanyard she was wearing? Also, I was jealous that she was cast as Maleficent, my all-time favorite character (she's very elegant and beautiful once you get past the horns and green skin, you know! ;). Dad was Jiminy Cricket—just Tink's size!—and Captain Hook.

Next we watched Muppets 3-D and then used the preferred seating vouchers from our vacation package to get in the Fastpass line for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Play It! Last time, Mae was chosen to be in one of the Ring of Fire seats by answering the CM's question (What fictional TV show did Woody of Toy Story star in? Woody's Roundup), so I was determined to get a seat this time. The CM said, "The last animated film Walt Disney supervised . . ." My hand shot up. ". . . is my favorite . . ." the CM continued and then looked at me puzzled, "How do you know my favorite?" I said, "You want to know the last one, right? It's The Jungle Book." I was right! I got to sit in the Ring of Fire. Another CM asked if I knew the film after that. "The Sword in the Stone?" I guessed. No one knew. I later found out my guess was wrong; it's The Aristocats. Oh well.

Disneyland
We left DCA and found seats for the Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe in front of it's a small world. We could not have had a better location. Right next to us was the preferred viewing area for the Christmastime at Disneyland Tour. So, if it's good enough for them . . . . While waiting, we ate cheeseburgers and apple pie poppers from Club Buzz. Both shows were really cute. Believe is better in front of small world than the castle. Unfortunately, the snow dispenser in that area was not working either!

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Highlight of the day: Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour

Disneyland
The day before, I had been told that in order to take the Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour, we had to check in at 9:30 in the morning. Our vouchers for a tour were called "complimentary" though paid for with our vacation package, so no reservations. I really wanted to take the tour and today was our last chance. So Mae and I were first in line at Disneyland's gates. When they began letting people in at 9:30, I ran to Tour Check- in. The CM was on the phone and looked up, startled. "What's wrong?" I told her I wanted to take the tour. She said that she thought there was some emergency. How fast had I been running?!

With our spaces reserved and the CM's assurance that the entire tour was wheelchair accessible, Mae and I shopped for bit at the Emporium and the Premiere shop. We met up with Mom and Dad at the wheelchair rental at DCA.

Disney's California Adventure
First we ate at Pizza Oom Mow Mow. I liked it there. It's very nicely themed and the pizza is good too. Then Mae and I went on the Maliboomer (Yes, we have strong stomachs). On other trips, it's usually just the two of us, so it was nice to have Mom and Dad around to take pictures of us on this ride.

Dad then decided he wanted to ride Mullholland Madness. I was a bit leery, but he later said that ride was tame. Mae's Mickey Ears flew off during the ride and she pouted about this for a bit. A CM told us to report it at Guest Relations. We did and the hat was found and mailed to her a couple of weeks later. After another soar over California, we park hopped to meet the tour.

Disneyland
The Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour was better than we had anticipated. It included a light dinner and a commemorative pin. Yeah! The Tour Guide was very knowledgeable and made sure that those who lagged behind (um, the two people pushing wheelchairs, us) kept with the group. We crisscrossed the park a few times in the space of the 2/2.5 hours, visiting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Main Street Cinema, the Tiki Room, Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Railroad, and—drum roll please!—the lobby of Club 33.

We ended up at the Disney Gallery/Walt's apartment. To get to the second floor, the rest of the tour walked up the stairs, but those of us with wheelchairs got to take the service elevator and walk through Club 33's kitchen. Ooh, a sneak peek! It was small and crowded and a bit messy.

We ate our picnic dinners on the Gallery's patio. The whole tour was really great, though tiring. However, I recently read an article on Sleeping Beauty Castle on miceage.com by Kevin Yee and some of the information given on the tour is supposedly rumor/urban legend; it was not presented as such though. Now I wonder whom to believe . . . .

We ended the night shopping at the World of Disney, realizing that we hadn't really seen Downtown Disney on this trip. Next time, I guess.

Friday, December 20, 2002 Goodbye, Mickey

While packing to leave, I needed one last Disney experience. Our tickets did not have any days left so a character breakfast was just the thing. I called the Storyteller's Café at the Grand Californian and made a priority seating for breakfast with Chip and Dale. The food was great and, again, our server was so nice. He answered Dad's question about how to tell Chip and Dale apart. Chip's nose looks like a chocolate chip. The server did not seem to like it when I said that Dale is the dumb-looking one; I remember it by the D's.

After a final trip to Company D to buy, buy, buy, we had to say bye-bye (sorry:). We all had a wonderful time and I can't wait to go back. Christmastime is definitely a wonderful time to visit.

The Bad

  • Pushing a wheelchair uphill
  • VERY firm mattresses
  • Innoventions
  • No Fantasmic!
  • Rain
  • Non-working snow dispensers

The Good

  • Pushing a wheelchair downhill
  • Company D
  • Pins included with our vacation package
  • Smell-o-vision of Soarin'
  • Cheerful Cast Members
  • The food at Bengal Barbecue, Blue Bayou, Hook's Pointe, and Storyteller's Café
  • Holiday décor on it's a small world and Haunted Mansion
  • My family + Christmas + Disneyland

Victoria Kahler

vakahler@hotmail.com


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