Kelly McBride -- October 2002 -- Disneyland
Mom and I are die hard Disney fans and can't go more than a year or so without going to our "favorite" place on earth. After going to Disneyland as a family in September of 2000 we had planned to go back in September of 2002. We were very much looking forward to this as the last time we had gone I was 8 weeks pregnant and could not ride many rides and was suffering from terrible morning sickness. Also daughter Katy was 10 months last time and although I think she enjoyed herself we were looking much more forward to this trip. We also had seen DCA and were very interested in this new park but of course it was not yet open.
Well a month or so after I had booked our trip to Disneyland I got a fax talking about these great deals to Walt Disney World. As we live in California it is a great expense for 5 or 6 of us to go to Walt Disney World and we had originally planned on going when the kids were older to get the most of our money. With the events of 9/11 however the airfare was so cheap we simply couldn't pass it up and decided to go ahead and go for it. We did and I posted that report on Mouse planet. However after returning home mom and I just didn't have enough and we also missed some of the things about "our" Disneyland that weren't at Walt Disney World such as Indiana Jones and "our" Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. I thought a trip in 2003 would be good but mom just couldn't wait and soon we were planning another trip to Disneyland this year.
I had reserved a room at one of the economy hotels since we had just gone to Walt Disney World and spent a ton of money but then I saw an article on Mouse planet about deals through the travel agency and I decided to check it out. After having stayed at the Contemporary my mom is now hooked on staying "on property" and all the Disney magic and so she wanted to stay at the Grand Californian or Disneyland Hotel. Well I have never been that impressed with the Disneyland Hotel and told her if we couldn't get a deal at the Grand Californian then we might as well stay at one of the cheaper off property sites.
Well I got a hold of a great gal named Diane at the Disney Travel Company and we booked a standard room at Grand Californian with one night free and 5 day passes for the price of 3. We found out later however that we would have to get a Concierge level room since all the standard rooms were booked. Mom decided to go for it stating that she would save quite a bit of money on breakfasts by not having to buy them at the local restaurants and we could eat at the Concierge lounge. So that is what we did.
Day 1 October 21 (Monday)
Plan: Flight on SWA at 4:25 arrive at Orange County Airport at 5:50, shuttle to Grand Californian and dinner at Downtown Disney or Hotel. Possibly go to one of the parks and look around if time.
Well after deciding to take the day off work so that the kids could take naps and be fully rested we were off to the airport around 2:30. We arrived and had a small snack and then proceeded to wait for our flight. One thing we noticed is that everyone was saying no one was flying however we had quite a wait in security and the flight was nearly full. We were waiting to board and our first tragedy (minor that it was) happened. Katy (my 2 1/2 year old) was playing on this little wooden airplane that they have for the kids to play on and fell off hitting her face and getting a nice lump on her eye and a shiner. After a few tears though she seemed ok. Now on another side note both of my girls recently started preschool and daycare. Not even a week after doing this they both got sick. Katy got over it pretty quick but Shelby had had a terrible cough and runny nose for weeks but I figured it would just run its course. Unfortunately she was acting very ill on Sunday and I had to take her to urgent care only to find she had a double ear infection. Not something you want to deal with on an airplane. So I was pretty nervous about this whole trip based on this fact. Well she had her antibiotics and we were hoping for the best. We soon boarded the plane and even though I was going to have Shelby sit on my lap I placed her in a seat next to me and hoped that there were extra. Luckily there were and the short hour flight wasn't too bad. Upon arrival at John Wayne Airport we got to the baggage area and no shuttle driver. I had specifically requested a driver to meet us in baggage to help with all the luggage since my husband did not go with us. After a quick phone call I found out he was waiting outside. We used a company called Montemar Shuttle Company which the Concierge at the Grand Californian arranged. He was very nice and the cost was only 40 one way for 5 of us and he provided 2 car seats! I would definitely recommend him again!!
We had only been here 2 years ago but Disneyland has certainly changed. I barely recognized the place and they have done a lot to make the area more attractive and more resort like. Upon arriving at the Grand Californian we were very impressed and it is absolutely beautiful!!! We came in and checked in through the Concierge desk and were helped up to our room. The room was nice although not that large but quite nicely decorated. We had a patio off our room with a small table and chairs as well as a nice view of Downtown Disney. The room was quite quiet and we only heard noise a few times. They have a nice Graco portacrib in the closet for the kids and lovely robes but I never remembered to use one.
After getting settled in the room we decided to go straight to Disneyland since we had 5 day passes and were only going to be able to use 3 days and we still had an hour. So we journeyed downstairs and found our exit gate which leads you through Downtown Disney. This was also not finished when we were last here and it is very nice and fun. We got to Disneyland and went in and unfortunately the Parade of Stars had just started so trying to maneuver a double wide stroller down a crowded main street was rough. I got many dirty looks but I really wanted to get in a few rides and check out the Haunted Mansion Holliday. After struggling to get through we finally made it to the Haunted Mansion and all I can say is WOW!!! It is even more incredible at night. They have all these jack o lanterns lit up on the side by where the tombstones are and the decorations are incredible!!! They have a voice over outside talking about Jack Skellington and it is just awesome. Upon entering there are tons of neat Halloween wreaths and décor everywhere and you notice the difference even on entering the elevator. They have changed all the pictures to stained glass windows which upon going down they break and turn into scary pictures. They have changed the narration also and once it goes dark you see a huge Jack Skellington face on the ceiling. Very cool. They have also changed the pictures in the hallway to Nightmare Before Christmas themes and those are also very neat. The rest of the ride is also very neat and mom and I commented that we liked this better than the normal haunted house. I am not a big Nightmare Before Christmas fan and wasn't anticipating liking it that much but it is just incredible and I highly recommend seeing it if you can. We look forward to seeing it again next year when we go at Christmas time!
After leaving the haunted house we took a quick journey on pirates and noticed the changes there. This is a big favorite in our house and we remarked on how much better it is than the one in Florida (no offense!). After leaving those rides the park was about to close and we had not yet eaten so we journeyed back to our hotel. We were going to eat at Downtown Disney but it was quite busy so we decided to eat at Storytellers. This is a very nice quaint restaurant and the food was very good. Mom and I ordered the artichoke and mushroom ravioli and the waiter thought we wanted to share but it worked out ok because it is a large order anyway. It was quite good.
We then journeyed up to our rooms where we grabbed a few leftover cookies from the concierge lounge as well as some bottled water and hit the sack for the evening.
Day 2 October 22 (Tuesday)
Plan: Disneyland all day, possibly lunch at Blue Bayou, dinner in park or at Downtown Disney.
Well first thing this morning we stopped off at the concierge desk to find out about lunch reservations at the Blue Bayou and reservations for a character breakfast at the Plaza Inn for Thursday. We were able to obtain the lunch reservations and even requested a water view which we got (I'm sure being a guest at Grand Californian helped!) We also found that the Plaza Inn did not open any earlier than the park for the character breakfast and we did not want to waste time. Also we had been to 3 breakfasts at DW so we decided to pass. After making our reservations we made our way down to Disneyland. Oh and on a side note we did have breakfast in the concierge lounge and it was very nice. They have muffins, croissants, bagels and cream cheese, banana bread, several types of cereal, juice, coffee and fresh fruit. It was very nice and we ate there every morning. And of course they have bottled sodas and waters for you to take daily. Anyway upon arriving at the park we then started on our quest to do as much as possible. Unlike Walt Disney World we had to track down a gal to take our picture in front of the castle because we knew that would probably be the only picture of all 5 of us we got. After doing that we journeyed into Fantasyland and proceeded to do Peter Pan, Snow White and Pinocchio. Peter Pan had the longest wait but I would say it was no more than 15 minutes. We skipped Mr. Toad in favor of the Storyland Canal boats. This had a very long line and they were extremely slow. We knew we had lunch reservations and we cut it rather close. After leaving the boats we ventured to New Orleans Square to have our lunch.
We did receive our river front table and all was well until Lynn decided to come around to Shelby and knocked a whole tray of drinks over. I was mortified! Mom had the crab cakes and I had the Monte Cristo. Not exactly on my diet but it is tasty!! The food was good and it was fun as usual. We then journeyed back to the haunted mansion since we were so close and did a little shopping. My daughter Katy just HAD to have these little jewels and money. It was a bag of treasure that you got to pick out. She absolutely loved it and would not put them down the rest of the day but as I feared later that evening she dropped them and they were lost. We then did Indiana Jones which was as good as I remembered as well as the Jungle Cruise which is an old favorite. We next ventured to Tomorrowland and were about to do Star Tours but there was a huge group of disabled kids in the park that day and they came in groups of 50 or more and just walked in front of you. Now I have nothing against disabled people but many of these kids were simply underprivileged (not actually disabled) or whatever and it seemed everywhere we went there were hundreds of them getting to just walk in front of everyone and go on the rides. It took a lot of extra time and it is tough when I have little ones myself and am trying to do a baby swap. Ok enough griping. My stepdaughter and I then went on Space mountain and we decided to take the little ones on Autopia. I personally think this is a boring ride but knew the little ones would get a kick out of it. The wait was a little long but I let Katy steer while I did the gas. She LOVED it! Even Shelby who rode with mom in the other car enjoyed herself. We then took the kids to toontown but after waiting in line 30 minutes for Roger Rabbit were told that it broke down. By this time the day was almost over and the kids were really cranky. We had found that Shelby had had a bad reaction to her antibiotics and although her ears seemed better she was very crabby and had terrible diarrhea and had gone through several outfits. We decided to call it a night and went back to the room. We ordered room service which was ok but extremely expensive. We got a cheeseburger a large pizza (which is only 9") and a few drinks and it was 50.00. OUCH! My mother decided to take the kids clothes to the laundry since we went through so many in just the first day as well as Shelby had vomited on her blanket and she is like Linus and HAS to have her blankie. So I got the girls in their pj's and we went to the Concierge Lounge and they have a really neat milk and cookies thing where they put pillows and blankets on the floor and read stories to the kids. We got there a little early though and by the time the stories started the kids were restless so we headed back to the room and hit the hay.
Day 3 October 23 (Wednesday)
Plan: DCA, dinner at Downtown Disney or our hotel.
Again we got up bright and early and had our breakfast at the lounge. We then went and did a little shopping at the Acorn which is the shop inside our hotel. I bought the girls each some really cute Grand Californian sweatshirts and we bought some pins. The Travel company gave us each a lanyard and travel co pin and we got hooked. I bought several pins this trip. After our shopping we ventured to CA. We were able to enter the park through our own entrance which was nice and then we went and admired the Grizzly River Rapids log ride. It was very overcast and cold our entire trip so we never went on that ride. We headed towards Bug's Land but it was not open yet so we got fast passes to Soarin' over California and then went to It's Tough to Be a Bug. I wasn't sure about taking the little ones but took a chance and they did great. Mom was unable to see this show at Walt Disney World and she enjoyed it as well. We then went back and watched Soarin' which I agree with others that is is an incredible ride. I only wish I had a chance to go on it again. We then went back to Bug's Land and let the kids do all the rides there. None of them are very spectacular but I guess if you are a kid it is heaven. After finishing there we headed to Paradise Pier and were ready to eat and decided on Avalon Cove. It was a character lunch and so we went in and you get a starter (soup or salad) and an entrée. It wasn't bad and was 12.99 for adults. I had a great shrimp cobb salad and mom had a salmon sandwich. The kids got their lunch in a cute bucket with a shovel that they could keep. The characters were Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and the little mermaid. It was nice and we got to sit outside and enjoy the view of the Pier. There was hardly anyone in this restaurant so it was nice. We then went to the Pier area and Lynn and I rode California Screamin. This is very fun and since there was only a 5 minute wait we were able to go on it twice in a row. We then took the little ones on the carousel and then let Lynn ride the Sun Wheel and Maliboomer while we sat on a bench and enjoyed a break. We then got some drinks at the McDonalds and let Lynn take Katy on the Zephyr. Katy really enjoyed herself. We skipped the Jelly Fish and the Orange Stinger as Katy was too small and we wanted to get to the Hollywood area. We ventured over there and were headed towards the Animation exhibit but we got distracted with the Millionaire show since we didn't see it in Florida. We got fastpasses and then decided to do the Muppet Vision. The kids enjoyed this and then it was time for our fastpass. We really enjoyed the Millionaire show and had a lot of fun playing along. Didn't make it in the top 10 but we didn't know we were supposed to play along until after a few times. Oh well there is always next time! By the time this was done the park was about to close so we headed back to our room. We dropped off our things and then headed out to Downtown Disney to have dinner at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. Shelby was still not feeling that hot and we wanted something quick but we got seated right next to the stage which was hard because it was so loud. We did however have a nice meal and the pianist was very good. We then did a little shopping and enjoyed seeing all the Halloween and Christmas decorations in the stores. We made a quick stop at the World of Disney and picked up a few things and then headed back to our room. After a quick stop for some more cookies at the concierege lounge we headed to sleep.
Day 4 October 24 (Thursday)
Plan: Disneyland all day, character breakfast at Plaza Inn, dinner in park.
Well we were up bright and early once again for our last day and since we had already determined that the character breakfast was a no go we once again had breakfast at the lounge. We then headed back downstairs to wait with the crowds to get into Disneyland. We went a little early to do some shopping on main street. After picking up a few more items we decided to be a little more organized and go from land to land doing everything we had missed on Tuesday. We stopped at Star Tours first and there was no wait. Did the baby swap and while mom and Lynn rode I did a little shopping in the Star Trader. We then did Space Mountain and got some drinks on our way back to Toon Town. We were finally able to ride Roger Rabbit and we also took the kids to Minnie's House and Mickey's where they were able to meet with Mickey and get a photo taken. Lynn took Katy on Goofy's barnstormer which she really enjoyed. We then headed back to Fantasyland to do the teacups and were going to do Alice in Wonderland but the line was quite long so we headed to Frontierland for lunch. We ended up going on Big Thunder Mountain and while mom rode Katy noticed Woody and Jessie so we stood in line for a photo op. We then headed to New Orleans Square and after finding several places closed finally settled on the New Orleans Café for lunch. We had a great lunch including a cool thing called Chicken Six Feet Under which was chicken legs buried in mashed potatoes and a tasty gravy. We also had cheesecake with a big spider made of out rice krispies on top. After lunch we did pirates, haunted mansion and Indiana Jones again and then finally did Splash Mountain. We then did some more shopping and went back to Tomorrowland to finish some things we hadn't yet done and then decided to have dinner at the Pizza Port while we waited for the evening parade. After eating we got our place and then thoroughly enjoyed the parade. The kids absolutely loved it and it was very beautiful!! We then left and headed back to our room. This is where things got bad. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling ill and ended up spending the rest of the night in the bathroom. I truly did not think I was going to be able to get on the plane the next day!!
Day 5 October 25 (Friday)
Well the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. and I was so ill I just slipped a pair of pants on under my nightshirt and put on a jacket and said to heck with it. I was extremely miserable and was scared to death of getting on the plane being so ill. We checked out and got picked up by our driver. Of course our plane was completely full and Shelby would have nothing to do with my mom so I had to hold her. Luckily I had a lull in my sickness and made it home.
Conclusions: All in all it was a pretty good trip. Yes Shelby was ill a few times and even Katy had gotten sick once but I think it was because grandma gave her 2 bags of gummy bears (GEE!!) then of course I got the flu but in general we had a good time and there was never more than a 25 minute wait. The only thing we thought was disappointing was that several things were closed. Matterhorn, Small World, the Trains and the Carousel were all closed. Also many restaurants and snack vendors. It made the place seem like a ghost town. Also several things were closed at DCA and I hold the same opinion as many that it is nothing compared to Disneyland. Yes it is fun and has its good parts but it needs more e ticket rides to make it better and less midway rides. This is a good time of year to go though because of the crowd levels and also the Haunted Mansion was a big hit!!! Our next trip is planned for November of next year when we can enjoy the Christmas decorations! See you then....