Robin -- August 2004 -- Disneyland (DH)
Dates: August 8th, 9th, & 10th of 2004
Hotel: Disneyland Hotel
Pre-trip report: I originally planned this trip for the week of August 7-14, as just a week down at my parent's house in San Jose, CA. My husband was going to be gone doing his two weeks annual training with the Army Nat'l Guard, and I thought the kids and I would drive down to San Jose (about an 11 hour drive from Portland, OR), and spend a few days at the beach, and a few day trips to N. California theme parks. When I told my older son about our plans, he just could not comprehend that we were going to California, and not to Disneyland! I started to think about it, and decided we could swing 3 days and 2 nights at Disneyland, as it's about a 5.5 hour drive from my parents house. Not too terrible if I did it in the middle of the week and rested between drives at my parent's house. I was going to meet up with a long time friend on the Thursday of the trip, and a new friend I met on one of the Disney Boards I frequent, who happened to have grown up in kind of the same crowd I did in San Jose, but since she was a few years older than me, we didn't know each other as teens. I made reservations to stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim, with a park view room for $86 a night, August 10-12th.
Well, plans change.
Around the 12th of July we got word that Bob's Nat'l Guard unit would be deploying to Ft. Bliss, TX on the 16th of August, to go onto Iraq for one year in February 2006. On top of that news, we had just two weeks before decided to try for baby #3 and oh no, were we successful the first try?
Uh, yes. Call me Fertile Myrtle. I found out I was pregnant on July 20th. Oh boy. Or, oh girl?
We decided to all go to California and Disneyland as one final family hurrah. Bob had never stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and really wanted to. I had stayed at both the Paradise Pier (since it's first incarnation as the Emerald Hotel) and the Disneyland Hotel and we made a reservation with his military status for 3 nights at $208 a night. Ouch. I checked Expedia daily, and sure enough, exactly 14 days before our departure date, I got a rate of $140 a night the first two nights (a Sunday, Monday) and $149 for the Tuesday night. Yay! I booked that and cancelled my other ressie. Bob bought us park passes through the military at a discounted rate of I believe $78 for an adult 2-day hopper, and $55 for a child 2-day hopper.
We really had no strong meal plans, as there just isn't as much to plan for at Disneyland than Walt Disney World. We both have been so many times, we know what there is and what we like and dislike. We planned on leaving Sunday morning, as to be in Anaheim around 2 or so. Sunday afternoon we would swim, shop at Downtown Disney, eat dinner at one of the resort restaurants and go to bed early.
Sunday: We left Bob's mother's home in south San Jose about 8:15 AM. At 10:45 we stopped at a S. Cal hot spot, In and Out burger in Kettleman City and had an early lunch. Lines were huge (I couldn't believe it! It wasn't even 11 yet!) We got 3 burgers and fresh cut fries- it's a very simple menu, and it's very popular but we didn't get the appeal. The burgers were quite heavy (read greasy) and sat in our tummies for awhile. We hadn't been there since high school and I guess our digestive systems just aren't as sturdy. Sigh.
At 1:45 we rolled into Anaheim, making excellent time. There was awful, awful traffic going north-bound out of LA; we figured it was just people heading home after a weekend in LA. We crawled through a few sticky spots along the way, but nothing too terrible. I always forget how far it is to Anaheim from when you first come into LA; it's easily a good 45-60 minutes more on the freeway. Bob saw the Matterhorn first as we exited I-5 and we all saw Tower of Terror, the monorail and such while making our way up Harbor Blvd to a Target. At Target we got some snacks and breakfast items, along with some swim trunks for Bob. Don't you hate going into a new Target and it doesn't have the layout you're used to at "your" Target? I was all turned around at this one, but I found what I needed. We headed back to the DL Hotel at 2:30 and checked in. I very kindly asked our CM is there was any way we could get a room with any sort of view. (I was doubting it highly since we booked through Expedia). He walked into the back area for a few minutes, came back and said, "Yes, I can give you a room with a view of the fireworks." (I had told him Bob was leaving for Iraq and this was our last hurrah- I can't help but wonder if he was talking to a supervisor in the back as he was gone at least 5 minutes). So, we went up to our 7th floor room, #2535 and sure enough, it was a corner room, facing North, and we could see the back of Splash Mountain and the top of Big Thunder.
We loved the details of the room. It was a very large sized room, with two queen beds, a small desk and chair, a daybed/sofa, a vanity, a large armoire that not only held a TV but a nice sized fridge! At the Contemporary at WDW we paid $10 a night for the dinkiest fridge and this was way bigger than that and no extra charge! There was a Tinkerbell wallpaper border, and the dust she sprinkled around the room glowed for a while after we turned the lights out at night. The bedspreads were my favorite; it was kind of toile inspired, with vignettes of different Disneyland attractions weaved into the design; I took a picture of the Pirates and Tea Cups design in the bedspread, I liked it THAT much! The armoire had the original park design stained/etched on it, and the headboards had the castle on them. In the bathroom there was topiary type wallpaper, with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto topiaries going up and down. And Mickey's hands held our bathroom lamps in place. I loved it!
We toured the property in the afternoon, and then did a little shopping at Downtown Disney. Sam got a Bionicle Lego guy at the Lego store, and we shared some pretzels at Wetzel's Pretzels. They had about 10 different icee type drinks swirling, and yet only one was available! Bummer- I really wanted to try the Pina Colada flavor, but I guess they weren't icy enough to serve.
We went swimming in the crowded Neverland pool. It was a very cute pool, but the chlorine was so strong it made me ill. I had to lie down for a while afterwards to regain some composure. The early pregnancy wooziness didn't help either and it was HOT. About 90 or so. We had planned on eating at Hook's Point for dinner, but everything sounded so huge and heavy I just couldn't go through with it. Bob and I always seem to argue about at least one meal on our vacations and this was it. He was disappointed I backed out because I told him I was feeling better. I said, "Let's go to PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier" thinking it was California Cuisine like wraps, pastas, lighter entrees, Asian stir-fry (this is how it is advertised). We get there and sit down and it's literally boring burgers and sandwiches. I wanted to leave, and I should have. It was over $10 for a kid's meal with a drink!!!! Outrageous! I had a turkey club and Bob was not happy with the place and just ordered a dinner salad. Sam had a make your own pizza & Josh had grilled cheese. About $40 with tip. Just the whole experience was disappointing- the service was spotty, it is not the cuisine they advertise it as in the Birnbaum book, and it was very overpriced; trust me, we are used to Disney prices, and this was expensive for what it was.
Monday- I got up at 6:50 and so did Bob. We got Sam and then Josh up and got them dressed and fed. At 7:45 we were in line for the monorail and boarded on the first one to go to the park at 8:00 sharp. We got off the monorail in Tomorrowland and our first ride was the Matterhorn. I thought we should go on Dumbo or Peter Pan first, but Bob said, "We're right here and there is no line; let's do it!" Sam hated the abominable snowman and this was Josh's first roller coaster experience and he was quite unsure and scared- I don't think he has ever felt so out of control before! Afterwards he couldn't stop talking about it and wanted to go on it again. (Although he would always preface his request with "Mattahohn re-wee sca-wee"). The ride jostled Bob around so much is broke his cheapie sunglasses!
We bee-lined to Dumbo and only had to wait for one round- I love DL's Dumbo cause it has nice fountains and trim work underneath the Dumbos vs. the boring cement in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. We went on Peter Pan next, and Josh was freaking in the dark- almost crying. I started seeing a pattern that he didn't like dark rides or loud ones either. Great. That's ¾ of the rides at DL! We went on the canal boats next, a favorite of mine, and the kids liked that well enough. Josh was a little frightened right before we went through Monstro's mouth, but the Cast Member took a second and reassured Joshua that we would be a-ok and sure enough, we were fine.
We walked over to Toontown next and Goofy skipped along with Sam at the entrance- a magical moment! We got plenty of pics with Goofy & the boys and then went in Mickey and Minnie's house, where they were both waiting out front for guests. The kids bounced in Goofy's Bounce House and then we all went on Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin. Guess what- Josh didn't like it so much cause it was dark and loud. He wasn't flipping out, but I think all of this is just so new to him. His last trip to Disneyland he was only 4 months old, and when we went to WDW in 2003 he was only 20 months- still too young to really be afraid of things, you know? We headed to Small World and thank God he liked that- especially because it had giraffes in the Africa scene. They are his favorite. We hopped on the train to Frontierland. I was afraid Joshua would have a mini-whimper fest at the Dinosaur part (mostly because it is LOUD) but he did okay as I told him to cover his ears. We went on Pirates and waited for 20+ minutes! I don't remember the last time I waited more than 10 minutes for Pirates- it was only about 10:30 AM at this point. We grabbed lunch at French Market- I had a French Dip and a side salad, Bob has a shrimp cocktail and salad, the boys had nuggets. With a round of drinks it was $40. We walked over to Splash and it had a 90-minute wait and fast pass time wasn't till 3 or 4 that afternoon, so we passed and went on Pooh. Cute enough for us. I looked for the guys from Country Bears but couldn't find them either time. The whole ride I am craning my neck backwards looking for the Moose, but no luck. We got treats in the Pooh candy shop- lollypops for the boys, a heath bar/pretzel stick thing for Bob, and a white-chocolate raspberry cookie for me. Next up was the Haunted Mansion. A 30 minute wait this time! Geez! And in the hot blazing sun, too. Josh was the most semi-hysterical on this ride. We had been listening the music a lot in the car, so I thought since that would be familiar to him, he might be okay; but he was half whimpering, half crying though the whole thing. I felt a little badly, but I know my kid and I know that he just has to realize that things can be a little dark and scary, but that you are OKAY in the end. And he was learning that with each ride we went on. Afterwards, he talked about Haunted Mansion afterwards and said he wanted to ride again! Sam and I walked up Tarzan's (formerly Swiss Family Robinson's) Treehouse and when we were halfway through we saw Jane up on the bridge waving to folks below. I love the "You'll be in my Heart" song. Makes me tear up every-single-time. TONS of characters out and about- more than I can name! We waited 30 minutes for the Jungle Cruise, and both boys loved this as well. I love this corny ride; it always makes me grin as it's just so "Disney" to me. We headed back to Tomorrowland for the monorail and hotel and swam and rested until 4:30 or so.
We headed to California Adventureand got fastpasses for Soarin. Bob and Sam got in line for Grizzly Rapids and I walked around as Josh had fallen asleep. We walked down to the new Tower of Terror and only a 15-minute wait there. It was 30 for Soarin and 40 for Grizzly. I met up with my DISBoards pal Susan while walking to Tower- she recognized me, and it helped that I had my son's name boldly writted on an opened backpack, and we chatted while walking around and agreed to meet up around 7:45 for the Light Parade. I swapped off Josh with Bob so I could ride Grizzly and I got SOAKED. We walked back to Tower and I decided I shouldn't ride due to pregnant status so I walked back to Bug's Life Land and by that point Josh was awake so we went on some of the kiddy rides. We shared popcorn and a soda while touring. Cute theming. I walked over to California Screaming, the big roller coaster, and got FP's for Bob and Sam. I met back up with them at Soaring and they rode first while I waited for the swap. Then Sam and I rode and Bob walked over to the Carousel in Paradise pier with Josh. I must say, that the Soarin Over California made me simply happy. I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time- I LOVED IT! I didn't go on it the last time we went to DCA as Josh was an infant and I just didn't want to deal with the baby swap. It is just a phenomenal experience. We found Bob and Josh on the carousel, and when they got off, Bob and Sam rode the California Screaming while I went and got the boys McDonald's at the outlet tucked into Paradise Pier. SLOWEST SERVICE EVER. I mean, same McDonald's food, with inflated prices, and it seriously took about 15 minutes with two parties in front of me to get two Happy Meals and a vanilla milkshake. (over $12 by the way!) I was getting very irritated, as I was late for my meet time with Susan for the parade, and I was hungry, but McDonald's food just sounded yucky (hence the milkshake). Bob said he wasn't feeling well, and begged off to go back to the room instead of the parade. I found Susan and we had a good time chatting while waiting for the parade to begin. The parade was great, as usual, and both boys really loved it a lot. They also were very well behaved waiting for it to begin; the McDonald's helped and Susan's niece Danielle entertained them.
After the parade was over, I said goodbye to Susan and made my way thru the Grand Californian to try and find a sandwich to eat for dinner. I loved this hotel- quite Wilderness Lodgey feeling. I found a chicken salad sandwich for $5.50 (along with a free cup of water as I was so thirsty) and we made our way thru Downtown Disney, back to the room. Bob had gotten ill I guess from the heat, but was feeling better. I have to say that the trek from the parks to the Disneyland Hotel is a long one. I wish there were trams in addition to the monorail. We all were asleep by 10.
Tuesday: Up and at em at 6:50 again and this time we walked to the gates. We swerved left to Adventureland and Bob and Sam went on Indiana Jones while I walked on to Splash Mountain area. I tried getting FP's but the machines weren't open yet. So we hung out for a while, and greeted Tigger, Pooh and Eeyore. Josh literally had them all to himself! No huge lines like there is the rest of the day- the characters were just milling in the middle of the walkway! Finally I got the FP's at 8:33 and then I went over to Tomorrowland cause Bob and Sam were going on Star Tours and I wanted to see if Ariel was out at her Grotto. No Ariel. Shoot! So, Josh and I went on the Rocket Jets and then I checked for Ariel again. Nope, still not there. I bought these $5 Ariel stickers for my scrapbook and I couldn't find her to take a picture! We met up with Bob and Sam and got in line for Autopia, which already had quite the line at 9:20, and took our drive around Tomorrowland. We headed back to Splash (I was already tired from all this walking and it is only about 10!) and Bob and Sam went first while Josh and I hit Pooh again. Then Sam and I went on and had a great ride. Bob made a reservation at Blue Bayou for lunch while Sam and I were riding and I got a caramel apple to snack on after Sam and I got off of Splash. For some reason I really liked that Pooh Candy Shop- I think I went there 3 separate times! We met up over in New Orleans Square, at the Royal Street Veranda where Bob and Josh were sharing a juice. We went to Fantasyland and went on Casey Jr. Circus Train, the Carousel (where Mary Poppins was greeting guests) and Pinocchio. Josh did okay on this dark ride! He's overcoming his fears! We bought the boys some hats- mouse ears for Josh and a pirate hat for Sam, but the embroidery lady was on a break, so we were told to come back later to get their names on them. Alice in Wonderland had a HUGE line, so we skipped it. I was hoping when we came back in the evening the line would be shorter, as this is my favorite dark ride and my favorite Disney heroine. We went to the petting farm in Big Thunder area and looked at goats and a Belgian horse, which they were training to get used to people, but he was still a little skittish. TONS of characters were back along the path- at least 7 or 8. Sam posed with B'rer Bear, as he loves Splash Mountain. We found Woody and Jessie over by Big Thunder and Josh greeted them while Sam & Bob went and bought a Indiana Jones dressed Mickey he wanted in Adventureland. We headed to our 12:20 PS at Blue Bayou (a restaurant inside Pirates) and Bob and I got Chicken Florentine over pasta, Sam got corn dogs and Josh got nuggets. The kid's meals were cheaper here than that stupid PCH grill! Great service, decent food, nice atmosphere. It was about $55 for lunch.
We shopped on Main Street and got a few souvenirs, and made our way back to Tomorrowland again, to see the Buzz Lightyear show. We got there way early, so we bought some treats for the kids, and they danced around in their hats. Cute and funny! The guy behind us said they needed to go try out and be an opening act in Vegas or something. The show began and Josh was thrilled to see Buzz. The second the show ended people SWARMED to the stage and Bob and I didn't get it….well, turns out Buzz does a meet and greet afterwards, and there were already 100+ people in line! Forget it. We left via monorail. We rested and tried to rejuvenate. I was feeling ill again so I just showered and laid down instead of going for a swim. We made the kids lie down for about 40 minutes, and that wasn't easy, but I insisted.
We headed back to DL at about 6:40 and Bob bee lined to Frontierland to try and get a good spot for Fantasmic. I took the boys to the Teacups and also got their hats embroidered. The line for Alice was still HUGE so we made our way to Village Haus and got mini pizzas and such for dinner. It was okay. About $20 for two pizzas, a salad, 2 drinks and a kid's meal of nuggets. We walked over to Frontierland and found Bob, with a PERFECT seat for the show. I relieved him of waiting duty and he and Sam went on Pirates. A Fantasmic traffic director CM talked to me and Josh for quite some time and was very nice. At about 8:35 Bob came back- so many people tried to shimmy into our space even though I told them no- it was frustrating, annoying, and just RUDE. We stood (sat) our ground though- it stinks to sit there for 2 hours, and have people come in 20 minutes before show time and expect to crowd their way into a good seat. NO WAY! (And I am not talking young children here….I am talking groups of 4-5 adults trying to cram their way into a space for maybe 1 adult and 1 child).
The show began and it was great. I really love Fantasmic at Disneyland- it gives me the chills. I did not care for it when I saw it last year at MGM Studios. Disneyland just has some different elements (mainly the Pirate ship scene which just rocks), and maybe because you are closer in and more "intimate" with the stage it makes it more exciting. We just stayed where we were and watched the fireworks and decided to leave. I really had wanted to go on one more ride, maybe Pirates, maybe the Jungle Cruise, but Bob was ready to leave, and the kids were tired, so I concurred. I was quite sad leaving the park as I truly don't know when we will be back as a family. A lot of major changes were going to happen once we returned home, and I am not sure how a Disney trip will fit into our plans for the next 2-3 years.
The next morning we decided to go to Goofy's Kitchen for breakfast. I suggested we call the night before for priority seating, but Bob poo-pooed me, saying he had seen it practically empty the day before. He was WRONG! We were given a wait time of 15-90 minutes! Big window! We were seated after about 25 minutes, which was good, because any longer than that would have made us late for checking us out of the room. The food was plentiful, and a much bigger variety than I expected, but the character interaction was very slow and not so great. I also thought it was very expensive- it was $66 for me, Bob and Sam. Josh wasn't charged. We ate at several character type meals at Disney World, and it was perhaps that much for dinner, but not for breakfast! After we ate (and finally got to take some pictures with Goofy, Donald, Pluto and Aladdin) we ran back up to the room, as it was 11 on the dot, and checked out. I bought some more lollypops for all the neighborhood kids and we were back on the road to my parent's house in San Jose.
I should mention that Big Thunder Mountain was still down, and Space Mountain was going through its 2 year rehab, so I think that is why some of the lines were so long. I kept reading that numbers were way down for this summer, but it didn't feel like it with the length of the lines. The FP machines were also shuttered for Pirates and Haunted Mansion, which is probably a good thing since those lines do move quite quickly. It made it kind of confusing though for some guests who don't read Mouse Planet or other web sites (which is most guests), because on the maps it still showed those attractions as having Fastpass available.
I had a 4-day trip to Walt Disney World planned & booked for myself, my mom, and a friend I met over the internet, Patti. She and I actually started writing a year and a half ago when she read my original trip report posted here on Mouse Planet! Hi Patti! We just became really good friends through e-mails and phone calls and we were going to meet up at Disney World in October, and get to experience the Food and Wine Festival as well as Mickey's Halloween Party. But, with Bob being activated, I felt I just couldn't leave my kids behind for 4 days while I gallivanted around Florida, and I couldn't afford to take them with me this time. The great thing about Disney is, it's always ready to welcome you back, and the magic never leaves. I am sure our next trip will be absolutely fantastic, because it will mean my dear husband is home safely from his tour in Iraq, and we will have a third beautiful child joining our fun-loving family.
Until next time, I will enjoy living vicariously through all of the great trip reports I read here on Mouse Planet.Robin