Kelly Pierce -- July 2002 -- Disneyland
The last time we went was Christmas 2000. I was generally speaking disappointed in many areas including lack of maintenance, lack of entertainment, trash everywhere, rude cast members, etc. etc. etc. The "people traffic" was so chaotic for the fireworks and "snow" that I felt trapped and ended up having one of the worse Disneyland experiences of my life so we decided that it was time to take a self imposed break from Disneyland for a while. As many times as I have been to the park I felt that maybe I had my expectations too high, maybe I had Disney burnout (although I never believed such a thing possible), and that I should wait and see if my attitude changed.
HOW THIS TRIP CAME TO BE
I am the Children's Pastor at our church as well as the Camp Director for our organization. Jr. Camp was coming up July 22 - July 26, I just finished fiscal year end at work, and I needed to "run away" for some quiet rejuvenation time. My husband sensing that I was having some issues took Saturday off work to support me. My husband and I threw a couple of outfits and our Bibles in a suitcase and took off driving south on I-5 around 6:00 pomp on Friday night. We knew we were heading to Southern California but didn't know where we were stopping. The traffic was very light with no problems which was a shocker for a Friday on a Holiday weekend. Around 9:00 p.m. we arrived in Anaheim and decided "why not go to Disneyland" even though in my mind I am thinking a Holiday weekend Saturday BIG MISTAKE! We got a room at the Holiday Inn by the Park at $65.00 and got settled just in time to watch Disneyland's fireworks from our balcony. All in all it was a very relaxing end to the day.
NOW THE TRIP REPORT
Knowing that the Park was opening at 8:00 a.m. we awoke around 6:30 showered packed our one suitcase in the trunk, checked out of the room and then rode the Anaheim Resort shuttle to the park. That was a new experience in itself I have always driven and parked. The shuttle was surprisingly efficient and the driver an older man seemed friendly and helpful. We were the only people on the shuttle and he started telling us the park hours and trying to explain the different parks and stuff to us. I'm sure he was just doing his job and I didn't have the heart to tell him I had been dozens upon dozens of time and knew everything he was saying. Since our hotel was the last stop we were dropped off at the park within 5 minutes.
First item of business was two tickets. Since it was already 7:30 I figured that 1) there would be a significant number of people there and 2) the ticket gates would be open and everyone would be lined up on Main Street for the drop. Imagine my surprise that there very few people and there is no longer a rope drop and when the gates open at 8:00 the park is literally open. Right at 8:00 the Disneyland Marching Band along with various Alice in Wonderland characters arrived to officially open the park. It looked like they were searching all backpacks and purses as we entered and doing a fairly efficient job of it. To see Main Street so vacant upon entering was quite enjoyable. I really didn't expect to see that again since Early Entry had been cut.
Space Mountain was our first destination. I wasn't paying attention when we were placed in the front seat. Big mistake! My husband is fairly small but I am plump and was very uncomfortable. The legroom is significantly reduced compared to other cars. The music wasn't working but my husband didn't notice or care. Next stop was Star Tours and then off to the Matterhorn bobsleds. It only took as a little over 30 minutes to do all three rides but by this time I was feeling extremely nauseous and sick which is VERY odd for me. Deciding that I for some reason needed a break we headed to Fantasyland.
We then did several of the Fantasyland rides. The carousel picture spot was a nice addition and I imagine that little girls would love it. As an adult I thought that the cardboard cut outs on the border surrounding the carousel spot were nice additions and better than just plain gray walls. I personally always love the "Killer Ducks" attacking the villages in the Storybook Canal Boats. Woody and Jessie were really hamming it up on the trail that connects Fantasyland to Frontierland and there were several kids as well a some adults enjoying the performance. On to Thunder Mountain which even though it was now 10:00 or so only had a 10 minute wait. There were people getting Fastpass at this point and I really question why considering how short the lines were. At this point we decided to stop for breakfast.
We decided to have breakfast at the Riverbelle Terrace. As far as food goes it was average. I ate my pancakes but ended up giving my husband 1/2 of my bacon and eggs because he was still hungry. The portions were fairly small. The waitress Ashley from Clovis, CA was actually very friendly and efficient. I enjoyed the birds inside the restaurant. You expect them on the patio but inside was kind of cute.
Next stop one of my favorites, Pirates of the Caribbean. We were in the back of a boat that had either a group of friends or a family because they kept clapping their hands and singing "A Pirate's Life for Me" it was actually pretty funny to me but I'm sure that some people would have found it annoying. We then went on to one of my husband's favorites, "Haunted Mansion" which was closed still due to "disruptive ghosts" according to cast members positioned outside the closed gates. On to "Splash Mountain" another favorite. After reading the many stories about the new logs I wasn't sure what to think. To be honest I didn't find them uncomfortable at all even though I am large sized. My husband actually enjoyed them more than the original design although I miss the cozy aspect of the previous seating arrangements. The single rider line is a nice addition and I noticed several kids taking advantage of it.
My husband was starting to get warm (he had on a long sleeved shirt) so we made our way towards Main Street to get a locker stopping in Adventureland along the way. We got Fastpass for Indiana Jones and then off to the Jungle Cruise. Our skipper was probably one of the worst I have ever had in all my visits. She looked like a Valley Girl who was bored with her job and was so hum drum in her presentation. It was like she was playing a recording when she gave her spiel very disappointing for our first Jungle Cruise ride of the day. Then on to the Tiki Room. Our hostess was Katie and she seemed to really enjoy her job and was quite cheerful with energy. By this time our Fastpass were ready so we headed to Indiana Jones which is always enjoyable.
After getting the locker (there were still plenty even though it was well past noon) we headed to see the new Walt Disney Story/Great Moments w/ Mr. Lincoln. I personally like the renovated attraction. I feel that the brief Disney video along with the photos and awards are a nice replacement for the aged Owl and Wonderful World of Nature (or whatever it was called). It just seemed weird though having only 1 office not 2 in the waiting area. The attraction itself with the different effects was enjoyable.
Off to the Haunted Mansion which was finally open. I didn't get the cast members name that was manning the elevator but he was really good. I younger guy kind of stocky with short light colored hair who really seemed to be enjoying his job. I noticed the crow was working and the Hidden Mickey in the ballroom scene was messed up. We then went to get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain. It was mid afternoon at this point but the pass was for 10:00 at night. I don't think I had mentioned this before but there were cardboard cut outs on the barriers surrounding the former Country Bear home. One had Melvin and the rest of the gang talking about how the Country Bears had decided to take the show on the road and were making a movie but a new attraction would be coming. Then another one a little further down had several of the bears in a Beverly Hillbillies type truck with Hollywood or Bust on the side. Not exactly great themeing but better than nothing and I would think good publicity for the movie as far as children go.
The Mark Twain steamboat was the next stop. In the dozen or so times my husband has been he had never ridden it so I told him to ask if we could ride up with the captain. The approval was given and my husband had the time of his life pulling on the whistle and the horn. Our captain was a very friendly gentleman who reads MousePlanet. We had a nice conversation. It has been a while since I had ridden up there and I'll have to it again soon I had almost forgotten how good the breeze felt. One thing odd that I noticed was that there were two of the Country Bears signing autographs on Tom Sawyer Island. Seemed a little odd with the signs up around their former home.
Stopped for a late lunch/early dinner. Clam chowder bread bowl for me and a turkey sandwich for my husband. It was a little warm for clam chowder but I just couldn't resist. It was a little spicier than I remember but still good. I was quite full after the bread bowl and a small salad.
Off to what's left of Tomorrowland so my husband could ride the Autopia. BAD MISTAKE. The ride itself was fine but at the end we were totally stopped and this idiot plowed into us full force at full speed. I was in tears the impact hurt so bad. I've been rear ended before but this time flat out hurt. The offending party was chastised but I doubt anything else was done to them.
We then went to ride the train. The Grand Canyon scene is starting to look really ratty to us. Also I don't remember ever before riding the train with a little girl crying hysterically during the Grand Canyon and Dinosaur scenes and hopefully I won't have to deal with it again for a long time. After riding the train around two full circles and relaxing we got off and had some ice cream in Toontown. I noticed that some areas of Toontown had been painted but that there were several areas that were still really run down. They did have the Jolly Trolley out and running for the afternoon.
We then headed to back to Tomorrowland for a ride on the Monorail. My husband wants to go to California Adventure (why I'm not sure) and wanted to see what we could see. From the air it wasn't very impressive and there were few people. He still wants to check it out though maybe at Christmas or if I get AP's this year. Once back at the park we went and did a little more Fantasyland.
Then onto New Orleans to do Pirates again. About this time I was really wishing that I had brought the money to have dinner at Blue Bayou but since this was a spur of the moment trip oh well. We went to the Haunted Mansion again and I felt sorry for any new visitors with us in the elevator. There was a group of idiots who kept talking louder than the host during the entire spiel and when the lights went out they kept screaming and screaming like idiots. It is just a shame that people ruin it like that for everyone else. About this time Fantasmic was getting ready to start so once we cut through traffic and went on the Jungle Cruise again. Lisa was our captain this time and she was pretty funny much better than our earlier guide.
We went and got some water and then off to Main Street to find a spot for the fireworks. The fireworks were greatly enjoyable as always. After they ended was another story. Talk about a nightmare of traffic congestion. They would not let people enter except through Frontierland but people were allowed to exit all directions, cast members were getting threatened it was generally speaking a nightmare. We finally got through all that and then off to Splash Mountain to use our Fastpass from hours earlier. When that was done we did one last ride on the Jungle Cruise. This guide was hilarious as well, I believe his name was Joey. The second Fantasmic had started at this point so there was a significant number of people in that area of the park and we had no problem exiting down Mainstreet. I don't ever remember leaving almost two hours prior to park closing but since we had a 3 1/2 hour drive home it seemed like the responsible thing to do.
I think that when you do visit often you tend to have higher standards than the average visitor which can detract from your experience if you are not careful. The self imposed year hiatus was a good thing. We didn't do much shopping because it was a spur of the moment trip and we didn't want to charge up the plastic. However when browsing through the shops I noticed what seemed to be a higher amount of generic merchandise. I also noticed quite a bit of merchandise from Disneyworld. What was up with that? I think it will be a while before I see the Disneyland I grew up with as far as maintenance issues go but in conclusion Disneyland still has it's magic.