Abraham L. Rocha -- August 2001 -- Disneyland
Dates: August 25 - 30, 2001.
Travel Mode: Personal Car from Post Falls Idaho, to Spokane, Washington. Then Airplane from Spokane to Los Angeles and Super Shuttle from LAX to Anaheim.
Resort Hotel: Disneyland Hotel.
Accommodations: Marina Tower, 7th floor, Room 2503. The room faces the parking lot, and is to the left of the main entrance looking out from the balcony. It does have a view of Splash Mountain and the top of the Matterhorn. The room had 2 full size beds, a crib (Graco Pack N' Play - this is important because it is considered a "safe" hotel crib), a fridge, and other neat details mentioned later.
Introduction and Planning:.
I wanted to take a trip to Disneyland for quite a while, especially since my wife and I are both big Disney fans and it had been 7 years since I my last visit to the 'Land (much too long). We originally planned to take the trip in May of 2001, right after my graduation from law school and before I had to start studying for the Bar Exam, but I really wanted to be able to enjoy my time at Disneyland and not worry about the test while on vacation. So, we decided to schedule our trip for early August - one week after the bar exam.
I did some internet searching for deals, and called a couple of travel agents looking for the best price. A tip when searching for vacation deals: if you find a nice price on the internet, print it out. The travel agent I decided to deal with told me if I could fax her the information that I had, she would beat the internet price by $50, so I faxed her the information and she beat the price by $100! It pays to do your homework. Also, Graham became very sick several days before we were supposed to leave for Disneyland, he was still very sick the day before the trip and we had to re-schedule it for two weeks later (Graham's health was our first priority). Luckily, we had trip insurance, so we were reimbursed the full amount we paid (minus the cost of the trip insurance). So, lesson learned: if you purchase a vacation package and trip insurance is available, buy it. Also, our neighbors were supposed to go the Disney World the week after the World Trade Center attack, and they had trip insurance so they re-scheduled their trip too.
Day by Day Trip Schedule:.
Since we had 5-day passes, we knew that we could enjoy everything at a leisurely pace. This was very nice because I intended to do some relaxing on this trip and Disney vacations tend to be on the busy to insanely hectic side. I must admit, we did get to do more things each day than I thought we could do going at a relaxed pace, mostly because (A) we used the Fastpass system, (B) we used single rider lines and rider switch for rides that Graham could not go on, and (C) the flexibility that comes with a leisurely pace allowed us to take advantage of shorter lines on different attractions at the spur of the moment without ruining a rigid ride schedule [honestly, I don't understand those "Ridemax" people who try to ride every single ride in the park in 1 day - that's just not fun for me]. Since we did not feel like we absolutely had to ride certain rides, we were able to come back to them when the lines were shorter. This last factor, "C", was the one that I underestimated - it was very effective for minimizing our time spent in queues and allowed us more efficient use of our Fastpasses. Enough of my drivel, on with the schedule!.
Saturday August 25, 2001.
I won't bore you with travel details except to say that we woke up at 5:45am so we could drive the 30 miles to the airport and catch an early flight. Note to self - schedule later flight in the future, Erin was not thrilled with me to get up that early. We finally arrived at the Disneyland Hotel (hereafter "DLH") at around 2pm. Coming in the driveway and seeing the hotel tower over us was awesome, especially as we approached and saw the giant Mickey statue in front of the hotel (Erin had to tell me to put away the video camera - hey, I'm a dad, it's my job to film stuff). Anyhow, check-in was quick, the cast members were very nice, and the hotel lobby was great to look at (Bronze Mickey rules!).
2:20 pm In the room, unpack a little, let Graham run around.
2:30 pm Abe went to Croc's Bits N' Bites for burgers and fries to eat in room.
3:00 pm Relax on the bed, set up voicemail box.
3:30 pm Ready to go to Disneyland and head to parks through Downtown Disney.
4:00 pm Made it to Disneyland - below is what we did: Hung out on Main Street and caught the "Parade of Stars" to help set the tone. Walked around, checking out the sights and sounds, got the "lay of the land". Dinner at the Plaza Inn, used Disney Club Discount (10%) and had a nice meal. Hung out in Tomorrowland, checked out cosmic waves, rode Astro Orbiter. Caught part of the nighttime version of "Parade of Stars", Graham loved it. Walked back to Hotel, made it back in time to catch "Believe" Fireworks show. 10:30 pm In bed to sleep off a long day.
It was really nice to be able to watch the fireworks from our room. This made it really special for us on our first day at Disneyland, even though it was an abbreviated day. I thought it was worth it to use one day of our passes that day, mostly because we were able to relax and resist the urge to run around and see everything. It kind of felt like when you come home after being away for a long time and you just want to sit and enjoy your surroundings and talk to the family you missed. I really felt at home.
Sunday, August 26th.
We had planned to get up early this morning to really get in and spend a long day in the park, but the whole 5:45 am thing on Saturday really sunk that idea (again, next time I will not schedule a flight that early - live and learn!). I think that the park opened at 9 am, but Erin told me I was crazy if I thought we would get there that early (sigh), she was right. If memory serves me right, we left the hotel at 9:45am and got to Disneyland at 10:25 am. We checked out the shops in Downtown Disney because we couldn't resist them like we did when we walked by yesterday, then on to Disneyland and the Baby Care Center at 10:30am to take care of Graham's "needs". It was this day that we saw Mouseplaneteers Adrienne and Doc Krock at the BCC - what a nice time! (more on this at the end of the report).
Onward and upward with the day, this is what we did: Rode Indiana Jones using the Single Rider line and waited only 15 minutes versus the 50 minute wait in the standby line!. Explored Tarzan's Treehouse - this is a cool upgrade from the Swiss Family Treehouse because of all the interactive stuff at the end. Took ride on the Jungle Cruise, it had a 5 minute wait - loved it and so did Graham!. Lunch at Bengal Barbecue - skewers were great, so were the fruits, but plan on eating a big breakfast or early dinner if you eat lunch here because the portions are small. Checked out the shops in Adventureland and Frontier Land, then back to Hotel. Nap @ Hotel for about two and a half hours. Back to Disneyland, late dinner (6:30ish) at Rancho Del Zocalo (Disney Club Discount here - 10%). Rode Pirates of the Caribbean, my favorite ride - only 10 minute wait. Checked out the shops in New Orleans Square. Waited for Fantasmic, Erin complained about waiting for 45 minutes just so we could have a good spot to watch the show (obviously, she had never seen Fantasmic before). After the show, she was really glad we waited - I knew she would be!. We watched the "Believe!" fireworks from Frontier land after Fantasmic, what a way to end a magical day!. Took Graham to get his silhouette done, it is a cool souvenir (inexpensive too). Rode the monorail back to Downtown Disney and walked the 1 block back to DLH.
In bed by 11:00pm, Erin gave me a hard time about turning on all the lights in the room so they could "charge" up the glow-in-the-dark Tinkerbell wallpaper border. It was fun to look at the glowing pixy dust trail just before falling asleep, try it if you have the chance!.
Monday August 27th.
Today was our first real chance to use "Magic Mornings" (early entry) and we were able to take advantage of it - a little. The nice thing was that the "season" had changed from summer to fall and so the parks were running shorter hours - I know, you may be thinking "what do you mean nice? That's less time in the parks!". This was actually good because the park opened at 10am instead of 8 or 9am and that meant that early entry started at 8:30 am instead of 6:30am! You get the picture. Besides, the park was supposed to close at 8pm and it was fun when the announcer came on the Disneyland announcement system and said "Attention all Disneyland guests, today Disneyland will be open until 9pm!" - everyone in the park cheered loudly, and it put a little spring in your step for the next few minutes. (This happened on Tuesday and Wednesday during our trip too - I guess attendance was higher than expected) We did not get into the park as soon as early entry was available, but we did get in with about 30 minutes of it left. It was fun to walk past all the people waiting behind the rope when we got to walk right into the castle and on to Fantasyland!.
Strolled around Fantasyland a bit, Abraham unsuccessfully tried to pull the sword from the stone (again). Then went to the rope separating us from Toontown to wait for rope drop there. Rode "It's a Small World", making this a true "Disney" vacation. Went to Mickey's House (of course) - 15 minute wait. Rode Roger Rabbit's Cartoon spin - 10 minute wait. Hung out in Toontown, bought Graham his first Disneyland hat and I actually found a Disneyland pin with my name on it! (It says "Abe" and has the castle, Mickey, Donald, and Minnie). Almost got stuck in Chip n' Dale's treehouse (hey, you try going through there with a backpack on!).
Had lunch at the Village Haus - this was one of my favorite restaurants because of the neat Pinocchio theme. We had burgers which were pretty good. We discussed watching Animazement because today was our last chance to see it (not showing for the rest of the time we were in Disneyland). Erin really wanted to hit the pool and I was a little tired, so we missed Animazement.
Went back to DLH after lunch and hung out at the pool for two and a half hours - it was awesome! Graham loved playing in the sand at the cove pool and I liked the water slide and little mermaid hot tub.
On the way back to our room, we saw Goofy in the lobby of the hotel and we hung out with him for a few minutes (did I mention I love this hotel?). Cleaned up, went back to Disneyland via the monorail (about 5:45pm). Ate dinner at Redd Rockett's Pizza Port (Disney Club Discount 10%)- good food and very filling. Spent the night in Tomorrowland - rode Star Tours. Space Mountain - used Fastpass and rider switch, waited 15 minutes.
Strolled back to DLH after park closed, we liked walking through Downtown Disney at night, seeing the cool shops, walking under the monorail track, and just after we cleared the monorail track we could see the giant Sorcerer's hat and stars all lit up at the base of the hotel. The cool pixy dust trim at the top of the hotel would be all lit up at night, giving off a nice glow on the hotel (incidentally, it matches the wallpaper border in the rooms - see what I mean about details?).
Tuesday, August 28th.
This was the day we really took advantage of our "Magic Morning" privileges in Disneyland (I'm not sure, but I don't think DCA has early entry yet). Our plan was to hit Fantasyland today and really get some ride volume under our belts, as opposed to our more casual days where we did not feel compelled to do as much. The park did not open until 10am, so early entry was at a merciful hour - 8:30am. We got there at 9am, which was not a big deal because park attendance today was lower than the 3 previous days we were there.
Rode in on the Monorail for early entry - nice and fast way to get to Fantasyland and saved us the energy we would have spent walking, it also allowed us to bypass the lines to get into the park (even though they were relatively small lines, you still enjoy skipping lines at Disney parks!).
Rode Alice in Wonderland first, the line was kind of short and went quickly - about a 12 minute wait. Dumbo was next, Graham loved watching the ride work! I have never ridden Dumbo before and I must say that despite its simple concept, it was wonderful! It is well done and it was fun to zoom around Fantasyland with sort of a "bird's eye" view. 15 minute wait for Dumbo. Next, we rode Pinocchio's Daring Journey - it had no line, we just got on the next car. Then on to Snow White's Scary Adventures - also no line, this one was not what we expected and probably the least favorite of the Fantasyland rides for us - more "scary" and less "Snow White". Peter Pan's Flight was next, and that ride had a bit of a wait - almost 20 minutes (mind you, it is sort of the off season and we really haven't had to wait in any traditional "Disney-length" lines up to this point). After Peter Pan, Erin wanted to ride Storybook Canal Boats, but I vetoed it and we went over to Casey Jr. Circus Train, but that was closed. At that point, all other guests had entered the park and it was time to leave Fantasyland because the flood of people was coming!.
Note: We never did get to ride Casey Jr., or Mr., Toad's Wild Ride, and Erin vetoed the Mad Hatter's Teacups (must be that story I told her about when I was in college and I ate all those burritos before going on this ride...). Well, at least I have an excuse to come back soon!.
We exited Fantasyland and walked around to the back of Frontierland to go get Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We walked past the "Festival Arena" and I was really sad when we went by because it is unused and all the stuff from the Hunchback of Notre Dame live stage show (I think it was called "festival of fools") was looking rather abandoned. There was an article in MousePlanet about the old show, and from the article it looked pretty good. It's such a waste to just leave everything hanging there unused; I wish that "the management" would put something in back there.
Went to Baby Care Center after obtaining Fastpasses. Back to Rancho Del Zocalo for lunch - again, got the Disney Club discount. Rode Big Thunder Mountain, then got some Conestoga Fries (McDonald's fries from a covered wagon). Back to Main Street to walk through shops, then to train station where we rode the train around the whole park. Split up - Erin to DLH for a nap, Abraham and Graham to Disney's California Adventure for the first time!.
Graham and I walked around the whole park so we could see everything there. This was quite a hike for the 4th day of theme park adventures, especially during our regularly scheduled relaxation time. Graham slept in the stroller, reclined and in the shade, while I hoofed it to each attraction to see what everything looked like in person.
I liked the Paradise Pier concept, I know most people don't like it, but I thought that Disney had a nice take on the boardwalk thing. It would be nice if they would take out some of the dumb carnival games and put in a real attraction. It's a shame because this would be a nice place for people to hang out if you gave them a reason..
I did the Tortilla Factory "tour" (if you could call it that) and it sucked; Disney knows they are beating a dead horse here - there was a cast member standing at the entrance beckoning to people to come take the tour - frankly it was embarrassing. While I am on the subject, I think that they would make the park 10 times better if they did something with 3 areas: The Farm, the Wharf, and The Bay Area. All those places are badly in need of some re-working. Badly. What this park lacks is the attention to detail that Disneyland has - that is very evident walking from the Grizzly Peak area (which is really cool) to the Bay Area (which has nothing going on). At the bay area, there are little shop and storefronts just like Disneyland's Main Street - the problem is that there's nothing in those shops or storefronts. It is plain old storefront façade with nothing inside - just dead. Golden Dreams is not good, and must be replaced.
All the negatives aside, I liked the Grizzly peak area (which should just take over the farm and put in more rides), I liked condor flats, and the Hollywood pictures backlot was good (though it could use a little more substance in the form of another ride and not another show).
When Erin re-joined us just before Dinner we watched the "Eureka!" parade, which was strange, but fun. We checked out Disney Animation, which I loved, but it bored Graham so we left early (darn!). Went to the baby care center (not as cool as Disneyland's), and checked out the Millionaire attraction. We really liked the Millionaire attraction, it was fun to play along.
We ate dinner at Don the Beachcomber's and it was decent. Got the Disney Club Discount here. We relaxed during Dinner and then staked out our spot for the Disney Electrical Parade. The parade was the best part of DCA, I'm glad it's back! This was the whole family's favorite part of DCA, especially Graham - he was learning to say "Oooooh!" and he said it every time a new float came along. Graham also clapped for all the floats and pointed at them and was very attentive the whole time. Erin and I were really proud and we had a nice warm feeling about our little family!.
I was really dragging to get back to the hotel after this day. Playing "Disney Commando" on the 4th day takes its toll on you. I am glad we took advantage of the early entry privileges; finishing 5 rides in Fantasyland in 1 hour is pretty impressive! We stopped at the "World of Disney" shop on the way back to the hotel (I love this store, we stopped at it several times during our trip - I got to see the solid gold Mickey statue on display, it was pretty impressive). I slept like a log this evening and I was very glad that there was no early entry the next day!.
Wednesday, August 29th - Our last day in the parks.
Today there were no "Magic Morning" privileges, so we planned to have breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen. I really wanted to get into a character meal so I could get some buffet style food and score some good pictures and video. Erin wanted to have a big breakfast, so this made Goofy's kitchen our prime target. I called at 8:30am to ask for a priority seating time, but the cast member told me they were only taking walk-ins and the wait was 20 minutes. "No problem", I thought, and we went down at 9am, only to find that the wait was now 50 minutes! There were a lot of unhappy looking parents and hungry kids standing around in the packed waiting area, so I asked the cast member if he would call "Breakfast with Minnie and Friends" character meal over at the Paradise Pier hotel to see what their wait time was. This was the best move I made all day because the wait was 10 minutes and we were only a 5 minute walk from the restaurant! When we walked out, I heard a woman with 4 kids ask the cast member what I was talking to him about - she apparently overheard our conversation and wanted to know about the other character meal; incidentally, I saw them arrive at Breakfast with Minnie about 5 minutes after we were seated. When we got to Breakfast with Minnie, the cast member put our names in for a 5 minute wait, and by the time I parked the stroller, we were in! Flexibility pays off once again! The food was great, and it was nice to have so much character interaction - one thing I will note though: all the restaurant reviews I read about this place said that it was noisy and they weren't lying! There was a lot of noise, but the kids around us liked it and I thought it was kind of fun. We were out by 10:30am and headed to the park for our last day at Disneyland:.
Rode the train around the park - We really enjoy the train, it lets you see everything and has a certain charm to it. It also affords you the chance to relax a bit. Innoventions was next - this would have been more interesting if Graham was older, there are neat things to do here, but Graham got bored quickly (and so did Erin). Rode Autopia - Graham and Erin loved this ride (Erin got to drive). Headed to Critter Country, Fastpass for splash mountain, rode Haunted Mansion. Watched country bear playhouse (sad). Hungry Bear Restaurant was closed, which was disappointing since I had read some pretty good reviews of that place, but it turned out to work in our favor.
Lunch at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, Erin was chosen to be part of the show. The two-man show was great! The guy made fun of Erin being from Idaho, and he cracked some pretty good jokes (I won't do any spoilers - they really are funny). The food was good quality and reasonably priced - this was a great place to eat. Rode Splash Mountain using the Fastpasses.
Waited for pooh, took pictures with him, Tigger, and Eeyore - this "attraction" was just a character greeting area with an organized queue. The wait to see these guys was long the whole time we were at Disneyland and this turned out to be the longest line we waited in at 32 minutes! Mind you, this is just a character greeting spot and nothing really special goes on; at least at Mickey's house there are things to look at and enjoy. Erin just had to do this and I couldn't say no because the characters were cute and the photo op was great (the picture with Pooh sits on our mantle).
Rode Matterhorn - a classic!. Rode Small World again, then headed back to the hotel to meet my aunt for dinner. We walked through the castle to say goodbye to Disneyland. We strolled down Mainstreet slowly (and we were sad to leave, so we really dragged our feet getting out).
We met my aunt in the hotel lobby and walked over to have dinner at Yarriba! Yarriba!, this place serves tapas, which are sort of like appetizers, and a meal is really just everything ala carte and everyone shares the food. The food was good, but it was a little expensive for what you get. A meal for 3 adults that consisted of 3 dishes, an order of rice and an order of beans came out to about $60. So, If you are really hungry, this is not the best place to eat unless you have money to burn. The visit with my aunt was nice and we turned in early. I was noticeably sad from the time we left the park and although the visit with my aunt was nice, I did get the "vacation is over" blues.
Thursday, August 30th - Check out and travel day.
Today we spent the whole morning packing after we woke up late. We checked out, but left our bags with the bell desk and we were allowed to keep one room key so we could use the pool until we left (our flight was at 6pm and the shuttle picked us up at 4pm). We went to the ESPNZone for lunch since I am a sports nut and Erin promised that we could visit. Luckily, we got there early enough to get seats in the Studio Grill, where they were taping the show "Up Close." It was cool to be a member of the studio audience and to see the Celebrity guests (it was Hasim Rahman and Lennox Lewis - two boxers). The lunch was very good (we had teriyaki chicken burgers) and the bill was $30 with a generous tip. I tipped really well because our server was excellent, even while the two guests on the show fought and destroyed the set! Needless to say it was the most exciting meal I have ever had (my wife video taped it while I took our son away from the action, so now we have proof we were there!). After lunch we wandered back to the hotel to decide what to do next. We had fully intended to swim today, but we never made it to the pool because I did not want to swim and Erin wouldn't go without me, and we just argued about it (you know the drill). We were all a little irritable today because our park passes ran out and the end of the trip was near. We did decide to go back to Downtown Disney and take one last stroll through the World of Disney store (a dangerous move, I know). We then trooped back to the hotel, picked up our bags, and headed home..
Supershuttle driver nearly killed us in California afternoon traffic; note to self - schedule a flight out that does not require driving through rush-hour traffic to get to the airport!.
The flights were long and we got delayed in Seattle, so we got home at 1:30am. I wasn't angry or anything because I fly quite a bit and have been through worse. It was nice to be home after more than 10 hours of travel (worth it, of course).
I have to say that our trip was a great success and Erin thanked me for planning such a nice vacation (we really did have a great time!). Using MousePlanet for much of my research and the Birnbaum's guidebook for light reading and to carry around, I had a good balance and volume of information that proved to be more than helpful for our trip. Though Erin did not really care for DCA, I thought it was okay and would visit it again, but only for 1 day (I hope they improve it before I return). I am really very thankful to have had the opportunity to visit this wonderful resort, next on my list is Walt Disney World - hopefully during the "Walt's 100th"celebration. I am seriously considering buying AP's for Disneyland though, since my family lives relatively close and airfare isn't that high to get there. The baby care center was a blessing, and 5 days in the parks was sufficient to see everything, but I wanted to stay longer (this was Erin's sentiment too). You can't beat the original baby, as they say "Disneyland, where the magic began..."!.
The Disneyland Hotel was awesome! The price was pretty steep, but it really did make a difference to stay at such a wonderful hotel. (more on this in the "Things that were Cool" section) Paradise Pier Hotel was nice and quite tastefully done - but nowhere near as nice as the Disneyland Hotel; I would consider staying there to save money if I couldn't pony up the extra cash for the Disneyland hotel (I think it has rooms for about $50 to $60 less per night than DLH). The Paradise Pier Hotel guests do have access to the Disneyland hotel's wonderful pools, it has great proximity to the parks, and gives you early entry privileges along with package express delivery to the hotel, so I think it might be a pretty good value. The Grand Californian is a really, really nice hotel and the details are excellent. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I can tell you, it looks exactly like something you would find in the wilderness here, but kicked up several notches! It is a luxury hotel though, so unless my law practice really picks up in the future and I increase discretionary income, I wouldn't spend a lot of time there. The Grand Californian does have the really cool perk of being in a theme park and next to Downtown Disney (there is a Downtown Disney entrance to the hotel) - it is impossible to be any closer to the parks than staying at this hotel and if DCA gets "fixed" and becomes a better theme park, look for rooms at the Grand Californian to be super tough to book in the future.
Things that were either negative or annoying:.
Things that were cool:.
And Finally, things to do next time (stuff we missed) and some advice:.
Abraham L. Rocha.