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Steve Ruedy -- April 2003 -- Disneyland (DH)


Cast of Characters
  • Steve: 40-something, 8th trip to Disneyland
  • Renee: 30-something, Steve’s significant other, 2nd trip to Disneyland but first trip in 30 years
  • Danielle: 3rd grader, Renee’s daughter, 2nd trip to Disneyland in two years
  • Brian: 1st grader, Renee’s son, 2nd trip to Disneyland in two years

Before I talk about our trip I need to thank a couple of people, first and foremost, I need to thank the love of my life Renee for inviting me to go to Disneyland with her and her two wonderful children. Renee, you don’t know how much having you and the kids in my life means to me, I am so fortunate to be with you and many, many times I wonder what I have done to deserve such a special woman and her two special kids in my life. Thanks for making all of my dreams come true. I love you, Steve

Secondly I need to thank one of my best friends and a frequent Mouse Planet trip report contributor, Lance Caros. While planning for our trip I must have called or e-mailed Lance a hundred times or more. As the walking Disney encyclopedia at our place of employment he answered all of my questions with a great deal of patience and promptness. All I can say is thanks buddy; it’s great sitting next to you again! Steve

Now onto the trip report.

Pre-trip Planning

Renee first told me of her plans to take her kids to Disneyland during the latter part of summer 2002. One of her main goals of the trip was to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. What a great mom! She wanted to take Danielle and Brian down to Anaheim during mid-winter break, which is in mid-February here in the Seattle area where we live. Since I have been to Disneyland many times Renee asked me for any advice I could give her while she planned out their trip.

The first alteration in her plan came when she saw the kids school schedule for the upcoming school year in September. Instead of having a full week off for mid-winter break, the school district changed it to a portion of one week and a portion of a second week. At this point, Renee felt that changing her trip to Spring Break with a full week off in early April was a better option. Knowing the weather would be a little better in April in Southern California I enthusiastically agreed with her.

Once the decision was made to go during April, it came time to look at airfares and hotels pricing. During the 4th quarter of 2002, Renee looked at some prices but the majority of them were only good until year-end. So, she waited. In the meantime, for her birthday in the fall, I bought Renee the book “Disneyland with Kids” which is packed with a lot of good information. I think she and the kids wore that book out looking at it and reviewing it and deciding all of the cool things they wanted to do once they went on their trip.

Sometime in early January as I was driving to work one morning I heard an ad on the radio for Alaska Airlines promoting a Kids Fly Free vacation package. I told Renee about it and obtained some literature for her. The prices and options looked good to Renee but she didn’t make reservations for some reason. Hmm, I wonder why?

Now, have I mentioned that at this point the trip was just going to be Renee and her kids? I really wanted to go with them but I had to respect Renee’s wishes and if she wanted to have a special mom and kids vacation only that was ok with me. I volunteered to watch her beautiful Golden Retriever Sierra and take them to and from the airport when it came time for their trip but who was I kidding, I was secretly hoping for an invite.

Well, my wish finally came true in early February when Renee asked me what I was doing the week of April 7th, needless to say I gave her the quickest Yes answer to a question that I ever have in my entire life.

So, now that we knew it was going to be the four of us it was time to finalize the plans. I called Alaska Airlines a day or two after Renee invited me and found their lines jammed with callers. Thinking that it might be quicker to use a travel agent Renee and I spent a portion of our lunch hour the next day at a travel agency near where we both work. What was funny is the travel agent had to call Alaska as well and their time to hold for a customer service representative was longer that what I would have faced a day earlier. Oh well, live and learn.

We were able to book a room at the Disneyland Hotel for the time period Renee had in mind, 4 nights beginning April 7th. Besides the kids flying free, the Alaska Air travel package included 4 5-day park hopper tickets, a 30-minute phone card, a small disposable camera and some other assorted goodies. The one minor setback to our reservation making was all of the flights into and out of Orange County Airport was booked solid for any combination of days we looked at. Alaska was only offering the Kids Fly Free promotion on limited flights and those booked up quickly in January. So, we were given alternative options of flying into Ontario Airport or LAX. Having flown into and out of both airports it was an easy decision for me to select Ontario as the airport that we wanted to use. LAX is a zoo and since we were going to be arriving Monday during rush hour and leaving Friday night during rush hour I wanted to avoid LAX as much as possible.

So, for a great package price and with limited hassle, we were booked and ready to go, other than of course clothes shopping, getting things ready, making our plans, asking Renee’s parents to watch the dog, getting cameras ready to go, deciding what we wanted to ride first, where we wanted to eat, etc.

Monday April 7th

Our flight to Ontario was scheduled to depart Seattle-Tacoma International Airport around 2:15 PM. Given the notorious Seattle area traffic and heightened security checks combined with traditionally slow check in times at the airport, I decided to pick up Renee and the kids at her parents (who were going to dog sit) house in North Seattle at 11:15.

I got over there a little before 11, Renee and the kids said their good-byes to everyone and we were rolling South to the airport around 11:15. Even though it was a rainy day, the traffic moved at the speed limit and we got to our off-site airport parking around noon. Being an experienced business traveler, I prefer the off-site parking to a shuttle van. I also had a discount coupon for the spot we parked at. The shuttle picked us up immediately and we headed to the airport. The car security that was in place was basically a checkpoint where we slowed down got a wave from the security man and then drove through.

After the shuttle van dropped us off, we crossed the skybridge and entered the terminal. At this point, I took my friend Lance’s advice and used the Instant Check-in Service offered by Alaska Airlines. Similar to the Fastpass kiosks at Disneyland, the instant check in was a breeze. We gathered our boarding passes and luggage and headed to bag screening and the next security checkpoint. The last time I flew on business it took my 30 minutes to go through the line but not so on this day. There was NO ONE in line, how lucky can you get? We walked to the front of the line and went right through.

So much for slow traffic and long lines, we were inside the airport with our boarding passes by 12:15! In all my years of traveling I have never had a smoother check-in. I told Renee that she and the kids were my good luck charms. Since we had about two hours to kill until our flight, we decided to stop for a bite to eat. There’s not much variety in the Sea-Tac airport concourses so we decided on pizza at the small Pizza Hut restaurant that is located there.

After fueling up on pizza, pretzels and pop we began the long walk to the end of Concourse C where our flight awaited. When we got to the waiting area we overheard another passenger asking the gate agent about the flight being moved to another gate. Sure enough, they announced a gate change and as it turned out a concourse change as well. So, we had to take everything back the way we came and down to concourse D and our new gate. Talk about a lot of walking! At least it was a good way to get us in shape for the days ahead.

Our flight was crowded but we had no problems boarding or finding storage for any of our carry-on luggage. We decided to each take one carry-on bag and not check any luggage to save time and it paid big dividends. Our flight left a few minutes early and we got into Ontario around 4:30 which was 20 minutes ahead of schedule. You can’t beat that in this day and age of delayed and cancelled flights!

I had made reservations for a Super Shuttle van in advance of our trip. We walked out to the transportation island at the airport and told the transportation captain our confirmation number and he called Super Shuttle for us and within 10 minutes the Shuttle arrived to pick us and another couple up and whisk us away to Anaheim. While we were waiting I was marveling at the nice weather. It sure felt good to be standing in shorts in the sunshine and warm air after the cool, damp spring we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest.

The shuttle ride was a breeze, traffic was light and we were dropped off at the Disneyland Hotel around 6 PM. When Renee and I made the reservation, we had requested a room in the Bonita Tower since we had read it was the quietest of the 3 towers at the Hotel. For those of you not familiar with the Disneyland Hotel, there are 3 towers arranged in a U configuration. The Northern Tower where you check in is the Marina Tower. The Eastern Tower is the Sierra Tower and the Southern Tower is the Bonita Tower. The latter is located away from the pool and overlooks the koi ponds and waterfalls on one side and a parking lot on the other.

As we checked in, the desk person told us they had no views left in the Bonita Tower, in fact all they had left was a view of the parking lot. We were mildly disappointed so we asked her if they had any view rooms available in the Sierra Tower. She left the desk to check, after a few minutes although it seemed more like five minutes to me, she returned and told us they had a pool view room in the Sierra Tower on the 8th floor. We jumped at the opportunity. So, after leaving my credit card number for room charges, picking up our keys and park hopper passes, we headed to the room.

Our room was very nice. It was located at the far southern end of the Sierra Tower. It featured 2 queen size beds and a nice couch. The bathroom had a separate shower/bathtub and toilet area. Our room faced west and overlooked the Never Land pool. It had a sliding door that opened out to a small perch, not a deck but about 2-3 inches of space. You had just enough room to get half a foot outside the door. I’m not sure why they bothered with something like that, maybe to let you open the door and hear all the sounds of fun in the area?

After putting some of our clothes away we decided to check out the grounds of the hotel and grab something to eat. We discovered that at our end of the tower was an additional set of elevators. This turned out to be a great blessing. It seemed like every time we walked by the centrally located elevators in the tower, there was a line of people coming and going. Our own private elevator rarely had anyone on it. Talk about lucky! We really enjoyed that aspect of our hotel stay.

We went downstairs and checked out the pool, then decided to eat dinner al fresco at Croc’s Bit’s ‘n Bites which is a fast food take out place at the hotel. Renee and I each ordered the chicken strip dinners, Danielle had nachos and Brian had a kid’s burger. With 4 drinks the damage was $32.50, OUCH! Renee and I talked about the food prices and decided then and there to try and eat something cheap for breakfast everyday, try for a smaller (read cheaper) lunch and then splurge on the dinners.

Even with the price, our dinner was good and afterwards we strolled around the lush grounds of the Disneyland Hotel. During our journey we checked out the Horseshoe Falls area where the kids had a fun time running up and down the staircases that crisscross the falls. We walked over to the Koi ponds and looked at the Koi fish, some were as big as salmon! From there we looped around and headed back to our tower but not before we looked at the Game Arcade and Remote Controlled boats. We also wandered over to the Cove Pools and Beach area but they appeared to be in some state of repair and were closed.

After our stroll it was time to head up to the room so the kids could change into their swimsuits and hit the pool. Renee joined her aquatic stars in the water while I played pool boy getting everyone nice clean towels and relaxed a bit from our day of travel. The kids and Renee swam for about 30 minutes than jumped out. We were back in our room before 9 where everyone got settled down a bit and we tried to get some sleep in anticipation of our first day at the park.

Tuesday April 8th

I was up early at 6:30 to take a shower and get ready for our first day at the parks. I had scouted out the Captains Galley snack shop at the hotel the night before. It carried a wide variety of cereals, breakfast bars, juice, etc. My plan was to head down there first thing after I got dressed and pick up our breakfast.

With my chief assistant and buddy Brian in tow, we took the elevator down around 7; walked up to the door of the Captains Galley and it was closed! It turns out the Galley is not open until noon! Laid back Californians! Luckily I had done a full scouting job the night before and I had a contingency plan in mind. Brian and I walked around to the other side of the pool and into the Coffee House snack bar. Similar to the Galley but they only sold breakfast items and more importantly they were open. After taking a look at the disappointing cold cereal selections (only 3 choices), Brian and I decided his mom and sister would like Cinnamon Rolls. So we purchased four of those along with some chocolate milk for Brian and Danielle, some hot coffee for Renee and OJ for me. Total damage $22

We headed back to the room where the four of us enjoyed our breakfast. Once we were finished, Brian and I headed back outside to wander around the hotel property and take some photos while Renee and Danielle got dressed. We enjoyed seeing all of the shrubbery shaped to look like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and others. I took some photos of the shrubbery and also some of Brian in front of the big star and under Mickey’s Sorcerers hat at the North end of the Sierra Tower. The jumping off point to Downtown Disney and the parks.

After enjoying our time together, Brian and I headed back up to the room where Renee and Danielle were ready and raring to go. We headed out of our room around 8:30 to Disneyland! Yippee!

Rather than take the monorail, we strolled leisurely through Downtown Disney, Renee and I were surprised at how close we were to the Rainforest Café and the ESPN Zone. We hadn’t noticed that the night before when we walked around the hotel grounds. Our stroll took us past the other restaurants and stores that make up Downtown Disney not to mention the Grand Californian. We arrived at the gates and after a brief wait and a thorough security check of my camera bags and Renee’s fanny pack we were inside the gates and entered the park. We walked down Main Street to where the crowd was gathering. I was trying to be tour guide to Renee, asking her if she remembered things from her previous visit 30 years ago, telling her about the forced perspective architecture of the buildings on Main Street and taking still photos and shots with the video camera. Needless to say I was very busy!

As we waited the crowd grew larger. We were in the middle of the pack by the time the 9 AM opening rolled around. I always get a chuckle out of the announcement to walk and not run when the rope is dropped, and what happens when the rope drops? The people in front take off running. That always cracks me up. Anyway, the trumpet music started playing on the loudspeakers, the crowd started clapping and finally the rope dropped right at 9 and we were on our way!

Following a plan we had drawn up a few weeks before, we walked to the West side of the park and our first ride, Indiana Jones. There was no line at this early part of the day and we walked all the way through the queue area and after a short wait onto the ride. It was great as usual! The last time I had ridden Indy was two years ago and at that time I was in a hurry as the park was closing so this time I really marveled at the details and special effects. We all loved it, especially Renee; she told me later that it was her favorite ride at Disneyland.

After walking out of Indy, we walked over to New Orleans Square and my favorite ride, the Pirates of the Caribbean. Similar to Indy, we walked right up to the front of the line and after a moment’s wait entered our boat and began our adventure. Even though the kids had been to Disneyland the previous year they had not been on the Pirates as it was closed for maintenance so I was glad they finally got to ride it after I had talked about it at length.

Of course my favorite part of the ride is the Bride’s Auction. Especially because Renee, like the very attractive bride is a beautiful redhead. I told her that I agreed with the pirates when they shouted, “we wants the redhead” except that she was the redhead I wanted.

From the Pirates we walked over to the Haunted Mansion. From all outward appearances it looked closed. The standby and fast pass signs were not working and after starting up the walkway we decided it was closed and we reversed course and headed towards Splash Mountain. While walking in front of the mansion we glanced over and saw people going in the front door so we reversed direction again and walked right into the entry foyer. Once again we had timed it right and we saw the Haunted Mansion. The kids loved this ride. Renee and I liked it as well but after riding it a bunch of times it kind of loses its appeal to me.

After the Mansion it was a short walk to Splash Mountain. This posed our first dilemma of the day. The stand by sign said a 30-minute wait, and the Fastpass sign had a return time of 11:30. It was now nearing 10:00 After a short discussion we decided it would be better to stand in line now and ride it rather than come back and ride it later and to tell you the truth it was the correct decision. We only waited about 20 minutes, plus it was nice to actually stand in a line and do some people watching. We all get wet on the ride, Brian and Danielle more so because they were riding in the front of our log but since the temperatures were climbing and the sun was out none of us minded too much. One note to people with motor drive cameras. I burned through half a roll of film on the drop on my motor drive setting. Something to keep in mind when you’re wondering where all your film went to.

After exiting Splash Mountain it was time for our first extended walk of the day, around the Rivers of America to Big Thunder Mountain. It sure was nice to see some water in the river after all the photos I saw on Mouse Planet of the refurbishment prior to our trip.

When we reached Big Thunder we had a 15-minute wait in the stand by line which didn’t bother us in the least. Then it was time to ride another one of our favorite rides. The kids loved it as did Renee and I. On this ride rather than shooting with my still camera I pulled out the video camera and filmed for the duration. I actually learned a good lesson for future use. Don’t put the viewfinder up to your eye. I tried it at first and it kept bouncing off of me giving me a nice oowweee! Instead I held it away from my body and just filmed away. It actually didn’t turn out that bad either.

By now we were approaching 11 AM. Renee and I decided it might be a good time to grab something to eat and take a break before the restaurants got too crowded. So the big lunch decision, where to go. We ruled out Rancho Del Zocalo for this day and decided to try one of the many places on Main Street instead.

Remember Mr. Tour Guide from the morning. Well, I told Renee and the kids I knew a great spot on the corner of Main Street and the town square. I knew right where it was so we walked over there, the tables were outside, the lines weren’t too bad, now all we needed to do is see a menu…hmm, no menu. Where we were I have no idea. I thought it was a restaurant at one time, maybe not, but now all you can get there are annual passes and who knows what else, but the main thing is there was no food there.

While I looked around for some place familiar we all walked next door to the Refreshment Corner. Since the kids weren’t that hungry, Renee decided to buy each of them a pretzel and one for the two of us to share and some water as it was getting awfully warm for us cold blooded Seattlites. While Renee waited in a very long line I walked down Main Street to see if there were any other options and I stumbled across the Carnation Café. It was packed so I walked back to the refreshment corner and told Renee to go ahead and get the pretzels. As it turned out the pretzels and water hit the spot and we needed the break time after hitting 5 major rides in two hours!

After our enjoyable snack we walked over to the Matterhorn and entered an extremely long line. No Fastpasses available here. The line was not moving and it was very hot in the sun. I exited the line and walked up to the front to see how long it was. I asked a few people in line and they said approximately 30 minutes. We decided to wait, thinking it might help our stomachs settle a bit before hitting the twists and turns of the Matterhorn bobsled course. We slowly but surely made our way to some cover from the sun under the roof of the Matterhorn chalet. In looking back on it, this was our longest wait not to mention the hottest wait that we endured for a ride at Disneyland during our stay. It actually felt pretty good to finally get into the bobsleds and enter the cool shaded tunnels on the mountain. Like Big Thunder Mountain, I used the video camera to film our descent and lo and behold I got some fuzzy pictures of the Abominable Snowman. I wonder if Ripley’s Believe It or Not would pay me for that?

From the Matterhorn we debated over Star Tours or Space Mountain. Since Star Tours had the shorter standby line we decided to ride it first. We waited maybe 15 minutes all of the time spent in an air-conditioned building. That felt good. Did I tell you I’m a hot weather wimp? We were in the last row of the shuttle on Star Tours. After riding it a bunch of times, I can definitely say the back row does not have the same motion sensation as the front rows. At least it seemed that way to me.

From Star Tours we walked next door to Space Mountain. The stand by line was 30 minutes but it moved quickly. As we entered the launch room and made our way down to the loading area the lights came on and a cast member announced that the ride was experiencing problems and would be down for 30 minutes. A sign of things to come (see Thursday for more details).

Since we were so close to the front of the line we waited. We were down low enough that you could see part ways into the inner portion of the mountain. Various cast members went out in groups and brought the powerless cars back to the launch base. Finally after about 15 minutes, the lights went off and they announced the ride was operational again, which resulted in a big cheer from those of us waiting in line.

I have ridden Space Mountain dozens of times so what happened next surprised me. Whether it was the heat, the pretzel snack, riding the Matterhorn, Star Tours and Space Mountain in succession or something else but half way though the ride I got about as sick as I have ever been on a ride. I thought I was going to lose it. Nausea came over me and I started sweating profusely. I’ve never been so glad for a ride to end as this one. In fact my experience on Space Mountain would contribute to a major ride decision later in the week.

Since it was nearing our 2:00 turnaround time and since I wasn’t feeling so good, we decided now would be the right time to take our mid-day break. We walked over to the monorail and boarded it for the 2+ minute ride back to Downtown Disney. We were back in our room shortly after 2:00 where Renee and the kids changed into their swimsuits and we all went down to the pool for a much needed break.

Talk about crowded! Every chair and table was occupied. Since the kids were enamoured and rightly so with the pool slide, we found a curb alongside the small pirate ship that is part of the charm of the pool area to sit on and that’s where we put everyone’s clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen which I watched over. The kids had a blast with the slide and swimming in general. Renee joined them in swimming for a while then she got out to watch them have fun. About this time we noticed some of the lifeguards huddled together and within minutes they told everyone to exit the pool.

Everyone got out and kind of stood around, some people picked up their stuff and began leaving. The lifeguards made no further announcements so I walked over to one and asked him what was wrong and he told me there was a problem with the water and the pool would be closed for nearly an hour while they took care of it. That’s nice! I sure wish they had announced that as well. It was my duty to tell the kids that our swimming for the day was done. I did find out the next day from talking to one of the lifeguards that there was some foreign debris in the water, which caused the temporary closure.

Back in our room we all took a break, the kids watched TV, Renee snoozed and I read my Birnbaum book still trying to figure out what restaurant used to be in that space on Main Street. Sadly I was as clueless as earlier in the day.

By 5:00 we were all re-charged and raring to go so we headed over to one of the kids favorite spots, the Rainforest Café. We were seated immediately towards the back next to one of the huge fish tanks. While Renee and I relaxed and talked, the kids played in the store finding all sorts of cool items they wanted to buy for themselves. They would bring things back to the table to show to us. They really liked the store as well as the restaurant. The food was good, Renee and I had pizzas, Brian had a burger and Danielle had chicken fingers.

After dinner we headed back to Disneyland. As we walked by the monorail station Renee commented on how deserted it was, don’t worry I said, the re-admittance at the park will be a breeze, no one will be in line. Well, within 10 minutes I was regretting those words. There were large lines to get back in and nearly every line had 2 or 3 strollers in them. The reason I mention that is the security procedures in place. All strollers are searched. I can understand the reasons for this but it sure adds a lot of time for everyone waiting in line.

After taking at least 20 minutes to get re-admitted we decided that we would take the monorail back to the park for the rest of our stay.

As we walked down Main Street, crowds were already gathering for the 7:00 start of the Parade of Stars. We asked the kids if they wanted to watch the parade but they wanted to go on rides so we headed to the West side of the park again and decided to go on one of the classics, the Jungle Cruise.

We waited about 15 minutes before boarding our boat and did we ever luck out. An absolutely hilarious, enthusiastic skipper! He had the whole boat roaring with his comments, some of them I have heard many times before and some new ones as well. My favorite joke had to be when we first left the dock and he pointed at the Indiana Jones temple and said it was the biggest bathroom in the world. Just then some people were coming out the exit line of the ride and he shouted lets ask these people how they liked it. Of course they responded with enthusiastic “it was great” and “wow, that’s fun” comments which really set the tone for the whole boat ride.

After the cruise while Renee took a break, the kids and I climbed up to the top of Tarzan’s treehouse. The kids liked it, especially the interactive parts with the pots and pans and wheels and ropes but I miss the old Swiss Family Treehouse. Oh well, maybe it will be resurrected one day.

Since it was still warm even with the sun heading down we decided to try and get on Splash Mountain. Unfortunately it was an 85-minute wait in the stand by line and the Fastpass tickets were no longer available. Since it was nearing 7:30 and the park closed at 8:00 we backtracked and decided to finish our day with the Haunted Mansion and Pirates.

The Mansion was another walk on like the morning. We were out of it by 7:45 and headed over to the Pirates. Much like the Mansion and much like the morning we walked right up to the boats. I was in the front of the line and stepping off the dock and into the boat when the lights came up and the announcement was made that the ride was experiencing technical difficulties and would be closing for the evening. From the disgusted shouts of the few people in line behind us I surmised this happens frequently.

I was about ready to call it a night when my better half asked me what time it was and what the procedure was when the 8:00 closing rolled around. I told her it was 7:50 and that if we were in a line before 8:00 we’d be able to ride whatever ride we were waiting for. She suggested Indiana Jones so we made a beeline over there and walked into the queue area. We had maybe a 15-minute wait but got on the ride. What a great way to finish the day, with a great ride and the same one we began our day with 11 hours previously.

With that ride completed we could finally call our first day over and started walking with the masses back down Main Street and out into Downtown Disney and to our room at the Disneyland Hotel. We were back in our room by 8:30 where we re-hashed our day and all of the rides we liked and what fun all of us had. All in all it was a GREAT first day!

Wednesday April 9th

Since we were planning on spending Wednesday at California Adventure, which opened at 10 AM, we slept in until a little after 7. Then in a repeat of Tuesday, Brian and I got up, dressed and ran down to the Coffee House where we picked up an identical meal to the day before, cinnamon rolls, juice, coffee and chocolate milk.

After the four of us finished breakfast, Brian and I once again went out to do some exploring while Renee and Danielle got ready. On this day we drifted over to Downtown Disney and looked around. As we did, I was struck by two things, the already very warm temperatures and the blaring music from the loudspeakers set up around the area.

On Tuesday we had experienced 80-degree plus weather and for 8:30 in the morning, it was well on its way to topping that on this day. As for the music, what would have been a peaceful stroll and talk for Brian and I was rudely interrupted by the continuous soundtrack playing. I guess I could understand something like that going on at night but so early in the morning? When it’s otherwise so peaceful and quiet out? That was disappointing.

While we were out, Brian took me into the Rainforest Café, which was open for breakfast to show me all of the cool toys he was thinking of buying. He was very interested in a stuffed animal, a white tiger that was very large but reasonably priced. While we were looking at the tiger, a nice woman who worked there came by and handed Brian a Rainforest Café refrigerator magnet. Remembering his sister, we asked for and received a second one for Danielle. That was very nice of that woman and made up for an experience I had later in the day at the Rainforest.

With that we ran back to the room to show Renee and Danielle the magnets and gather our belongings for our first day at California Adventure.

We left the room around 9:45 for the 10-minute walk to California Adventure. Whether it was the later opening time or something else, the lines to get in were much longer than what we had faced at Disneyland. After about 20 minutes and another thorough security check we entered the park to the tune of Randy Newman’s “We Love L.A.” coming from the loudspeakers set up by the Golden Gate Bridge replica. How appropriate.

Our first stop was Soarin’ over California. Already at this early hour the stand by line indicated a 20-minute wait time but we didn’t mind. As the queue wraps around outside, a cool mist sprays on you similar to the misting devices in the produce sections of grocery stores and with the temperature already soaring upwards it felt really good. Once inside we made out way past the Legends of Flight gallery. My one small complaint with this attraction is that portion. Both times we went through the gallery quite quickly and I did not have enough time to read all of the great stories of the aviation pioneers in the Golden State. As an aviation buff, I wish we had more time to do so.

Be that as it may, we were soon in line waiting to board our hang-glider. The short film you watch leading up to your entry is funny and well done. Finally the doors opened and we were seated in the second row. What can you say to describe this ride? It’s outstanding. I’m not even from California and I nearly had a tear in my eye from some of the various scenes. Between the scenes, the soaring on the hang-glider and the smells of the pine forests and orange groves, I have to say what an incredible experience. All of us loved it immensely!

When we exited the ride, Danielle and Brian had fun playing in the Rocket nozzle spray outside Soarin’ and they even talked their mom into joining them for some fun and cooling off. The rocket nozzle is a huge nozzle from what looks like the Space Shuttle or another spacecraft which sprays a fine mist of cooling water on passerby’s. It’s a great way to cool off on a warm day.

Speaking of cooling off, our next stop was Grizzly River Rapids. While Renee and the kids got in line, I searched for a locker to store my cameras in. After reading about how wet you get on this ride, there was no way I was going to take a chance with $500 worth of camera equipment. A friendly cast member pointed me in the direction of the lockers and once there I couldn’t get any of them to work. The harder I tried the more frustrated I became as none of them opened. Seeing Renee and the kids snaking their way towards me in the line, I ran over to her and said I would not be able to go on the ride, as I couldn’t get the blasted lockers to work.

As Renee and the kids said goodbye to me, I decided there was no way I was going to miss this ride, I made another dash to the lockers, calmed down and read the instructions and finally got the lockers to work. That’s all it came down. What a bonehead! I threw everything in and took off for the ride. I jumped into the line and then told everyone I needed to meet up with my family and made my way up to where Renee, Danielle and Brian were waiting.

They were all glad to see me and within minutes we were on the ride. What can I say, but another great ride! On a hot day, the splashing water and rolling rapids really felt good. While I went to retrieve my cameras, Renee and the kids ran over to the bridges that span Grizzly River and proceeded to get soaked even more than they had on the ride. Talk about fun! We all loved it, the kids favorite spot was standing on a bridge that overlooks the final drop on Grizzly River Rapids where when the rafts come down they throw up a splash that nails anyone standing on the bridge. A definite must place to see and be on a hot day.

From there we walked over to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Another great spot for kids. From climbing up to the lookout tower to riding the tire swings, to climbing on the rocks and logs, Danielle and Brian loved the whole area.

After letting the kids play for about 30 minutes, we gathered them up and headed towards Paradise Pier and a ride on California Screamin’ As we walked towards the area, we looked at Screamin’ and noticed the ride was not operating. A readerboard at the entrance to Paradise Pier indicated the ride was down. Since it was about 11:30, we decided we’d take a lunch break. I remembered reading about the food court area at Hollywood and Dine in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot so that’s where we headed.

As we walked down Hollywood Boulevard, the crowds were getting quite large, a lot of people were headed to the Hyperion Theater and the Aladdin Showing. We skirted around the long line of people waiting to get into Aladdin, walked over to Hollywood and Dine and it was closed! The entire area! What’s up with that? The largest food spot in Hollywood Pictures Backlot and it’s closed?? Hey, at least I was two for two in picking lunch spots!

We decided there were a few things we wanted to see in the area so we found a street vendor selling pretzels and bought four of them and some water and found a shady spot on the sidewalk to eat and rest for a while.

After our snack, we headed over and got fast-passes for the Who Wants to be a Millionaire show. Since out wait time was about an hour, we went over to the Disney Animation area and checked things out. What a great experience! The kids loved the sorcerer’s workshop. We all took turns with the personality test seeing which Disney character we were most like. Renee was Cinderella, Danielle was Mrs. Potts, the teapot from Beauty and the Beast, Brian was Scar, the bad lion from the Lion King and I was Tarzan. We also tried our hand at singing at Ursula’s Grotto before our Fastpass time was upon us and we headed over to Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

The cast member out front did a good job of getting everyone into the trivial question answering mood, asking all of us in line various Disney-themed questions with the winners being able to sit at floor level during the show. None of us were able to answer the questions so once inside we found seats about mid-way up in one of the three-bleacher seating areas. I have to stop here and say that I love trivial things and have a fairly good memory so I was looking forward to see how I would stack up against other people.

The first question to get onto the hot seat was to take four dog breeds that were shown and arrange them by height. I glanced at the breeds and knew right away that I would get this one right. As soon as the Regis-wanna be said go, I smoked through the keyboard punching in the dog breeds in their correct order of height. In fact, I did it in a little over 6 seconds! Yeah! I knew I was going to be in the Hot Seat! Wrong!!! I did make the top 10, seventh to be exact but six people were faster than I was. Ouch! And that was as close as any of us made it to the Hot Seat. We all scored fairly well, Renee did great but none of us were fast enough to build up enough points and make it to the Hot Seat. Of the 3 contestants that did make it to the Hot Seat, the best any of them did was get 6 or 7 questions right.

With the sun beating down on us, we headed back to Paradise Pier and California Screamin’ Since the stand by line was 45 minutes, we got fastpasses with a 3:00 return time and decided to explore the rest of the area.

Danielle was interested in riding the Sun Wheel but the stand by line was 45 minutes so we continued down the pier to the Maliboomer. Now, I need to stop here and say I am afraid of heights, especially when my feet are not supported underneath me. I was a little queasy in the morning on Soarin’ but I knew I would have big problems on the Maliboomer so I wisely told Renee and the kids to ride it while I found a bench in the shade to wait for them. The stand by line indicated a 10-minute wait but it turned out to be far longer. Renee related to me later that the ride was having problems including once when they were loaded on and ready for liftoff! They got pulled off and sent to another unit. Renee said the ride was an experience! The kids loved it!

Since we still had time to kill, we kept checking things out. The kids rode Orange Stinger while Renee and I waited and they wanted to ride the Golden Zephyr but for some reason it was closed. I overheard someone saying it was too windy but all the other rides were open so who knows. At this point we decided to pick up some new sunglasses for Danielle as the pair she brought from Seattle was not doing a good job of protecting her eyes, so we ducked into Dinosaur Jack’s Sunglass Shack and she bought herself a new pair of sunglasses.

We were getting close to our Fastpass time so we started the trek back to Screamin’ but not before doing a little souvenir shopping at Man Hat ‘n Beach. Finally it was time to hit Screamin’! All afternoon I had been getting nervous about this ride after my experience the day before on Space Mountain. With that in the back of my mind and worrying about holding onto my camera equipment on the loop I decided to pass on the ride. Renee and especially the kids were disappointed in my decision. I felt it was the best decision at the to make at the time. Anyway, they all went on the ride and had a blast, the kids said it was their favorite ride in the parks and considering how many rides they liked that’s saying something.

Since it was around 3:30 and very hot we decided to head back to the hotel. Along the way we bought the kids some frozen lemonades which cooled them off a bit. Danielle was developing a nasty little sunburn on her face so we decided that swimming in the afternoon was probably not a good idea so instead we lounged around the room and decided we would spend the evening in Downtown Disney eating and shopping.

I looked at Birnbaum's book for restaurant ideas but other than the Rainforest Café and the ESPN Zone there wasn’t much to choose from. While everyone rested in the room I waked over to the ESPN Zone and checked out their menu. It did not appear to be as diverse and kid friendly as the Rainforest so when I got back Renee and I talked about it and decided to head back to the Rainforest Café for the second night in a row.

What happened before dinner is something I’m not very proud of. I’d like to say it was the hot weather or I was tired but those are excuses. All I will say is rivaling the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in our beautiful state, I had a bit of a meltdown with the host and the way they were handling people waiting in the line to get into the Rainforest. Luckily for me, Renee and the kids had already gone inside to look at the stuff in the store and did not see my explosion. After my meltdown which none of them witnessed but a lot of other people did, I walked into the store found Renee and the kids and told them we were going to the ESPN Zone.

I must say whether it was our abrupt departure from the Rainforest or the less than stellar service at the ESPN Zone, our meal was nothing to write about. About the only thing I can remember were the small private TV’s tuned to ESPN in the restroom. I can’t recall what anyone had to eat nor did I write it down in my notebook. So much for that place and meal.

After dinner we strolled around Downtown Disney and did some souvenir shopping. Our first stop was the Lego Store where Brian bought himself a small Lego basketball. From there we wandered down to the East end of Downtown Disney and checked out the World of Disney store. It is huge! We didn’t buy anything but looked around for about an hour and got some good ideas. We made our way back towards the Disneyland Hotel, stopping at Build-a-Bear and Marceline’s Confectionery. Again, not buying anything but just getting some ideas.

After spending a lot of time there, the kids wanted to stop at the Rainforest and buy some of the items they had been eyeing. Embarrassed about my behavior earlier in the evening, I let Renee go in there with them while I checked out Starabilias. We met outside Rainforest about 30-minutes later. Danielle had bought herself a small necklace and a small box of stretchy reptiles while Brian had purchased the white tiger he had been eyeing the past two days. He appropriately named his new friend “Snowy.”

We finally got back to our room around 8 PM. Although neither Renee nor I wanted to go swimming, the kids did. After a quick change into their swimsuits we headed down to the pool. It was practically deserted which made it very nice. Danielle and Brian swam their hearts out while Renee and I waited close by. We were back in our room at 9 where Renee did some reading with Danielle and I did some reading with Brian before we turned out the lights around 10:00

Thursday April 10th

Another day, another breakfast from the Coffee House. The same foods too, kind of like our own little Groundhog Day. And since the breakfast was the same, so was our routine, Brian and I wandered around the Hotel grounds and Downtown Disney while Danielle and Renee got ready.

Today was going to be our second day at Disneyland. We made the now familiar stroll through Downtown Disney to the park, unlike California Adventure we zipped through the line and were stopped by a friendly cast member who asked us if we wanted a family photo taken in front of the train station which we did and he obliged.

From there we entered the park and walked to about the same spot we had stood at on Main Street on Tuesday. We listened to the music and the excited cheers from the other park goers and when the rope dropped we were on our way.

Much like Tuesday, we headed for the West side of the park and Indiana Jones. The line to get in was a little larger than our prior day, in fact from the looks of it there appeared to be a lot of high school kids there, on a field trip perhaps? Anyway, the wait was not that long and once again we enjoyed the ride immensely. I really liked the air darts part. The blows you feel across the top of your head are enough to make you duck.

After exiting Indy we walked up to and right onto the Pirates. Whatever was ailing the ride on Tuesday night was no longer in evidence. The same group of teenagers we saw on Indy was riding in our boat on the Pirates. We had a very animated group of teenagers that swayed back and forth and sang “Yo-Ho a Pirates Life for me.” It brought a smile to my face to see them enjoying the ride that much.

Our next stop was supposed to be the Haunted Mansion but on a hunch we by-passed the mansion and headed over to Splash Mountain which already had a 20-minute wait. We decided to ride Splash Mountain and catch the Haunted Mansion on our way back. The wait time was right-on as they were on most of the rides that week. Renee wanted a photo of us going over the last drop so for a change I put my cameras away and really enjoyed the ride. As we plummeted down the final drop and hit the bottom a large wave crested over our log missing everyone but me! I got drenched! Renee, Danielle and Brian really enjoyed that! They said they didn’t duck but how does a wave miss everyone sitting in front and just hit me?

After picking up our photo, which turned out great at the photo place outside of Splash Mountain, we headed back and picked up the Haunted Mansion. Again, no line to speak of although they sure did herd a lot of us into the entry foyer. It was packed in there.

From there, we decided to hit Big Thunder Mountain again. While we were walking along the Rivers of American I took my favorite photo of our trip. Renee and Danielle were walking along in front of me holding hands. I quickly snapped a candid shot, which shows the love that exists between them. Mother and daughter in Disneyland having a great time!

The wait for Big Thunder Mountain was 15 minutes, which was not too bad so while we waited in line we debated what we wanted to do next. Since it was still early in the day (10:30ish) we decided to go over to Tomorrowland and ride Star Tours and Space Mountain before going to lunch and hopefully we’d avoid a repeat of my problems on Tuesday.

Upon exiting Big Thunder Mountain, we walked over to Tomorrowland and like Tuesday, a small line awaited us at Star Tours with maybe a 10-minute wait. The weather was fantastic for the third day in a row so I can’t explain why there weren’t any crowds on the majority of the rides. We were in the second row on Star Tours and you definitely notice a difference being up front, at least I did.

From there we walked over to Space Mountain. I was lagging behind a bit putting my cameras away when I noticed Renee and the kids stopped at the entrance. A cast member was there talking to people and a chain was up over the entrance queue. Was the ride broken again? I lingered behind and saw Renee coming back over to me. What she said shocked me, the ride was not just closed today, it was closed for the next two years! Yes, we were there the day Space Mountain closed. I’m sure some of you have read about it on this site and I can tell you there was no notice, no warning, nothing. The ride just closed!

We took two very disappointed kids over to Honey I Shrunk the Audience as it was just starting. The special effects and stories brightened everyone’s mood. I must say the mice scurrying around and the dog sneezing on us were the best effects. I’m not sure Renee and Danielle would agree with the former.

Since we were in the area, we decided to ride the Matterhorn before lunch. We walked over and entered another slow-moving long line. I sure wish this ride had fastpasses or a better loading system or something. We were on the opposite side of the Matterhorn from our Tuesday visit and rode the quicker, rougher bobsled course. I didn’t like it as much as the other side but at least now I know which line and side is which.

After all of those rides and walking around it was reaching noon so we decided we’d take a much needed lunch break. I told Renee I had been dying to try Rancho Del Zocalo, in my previous visits I had always enjoyed my meals there. Of course it was known as Casa Mexicana back then but it had to be the same, right?

The first thing I noticed when we walked up was the change from a buffeteria style restaurant to selected menu items, but that’s ok I love Mexican food so no problem. Hey, it’s lunch with Steve, there has to be a problem, right?

We got into the line and things were chaotic to say the least. Some people were standing in one area, some in another. I looked over the ordering/serving area and noticed two separate signs; one said Nachos and the other said Burritos. Since we were ordering both, I told Renee she should get in one line and I would get in the other. She didn’t think that was right but took my word and what can I say, I was wrong as usual and she was right as usual. There was only one line but when you got close to the front they would call you out to one side or the other depending on how long the lines were. Renee got back into line with me and we ordered our food, waited a few minutes to get it and piled it onto a couple of trays. We were all loaded down and the trays were small and as I was standing in line to pay, my tray shifted and whoops! There goes my large coke! With a splash rivaling Splash Mountains’ final drop it splattered all over. Ugh!

I went to re-fill my coke and re-joined everyone in line where we paid and went outside to sit down and enjoy our lunch and relax which is exactly what we did. The portions were huge! Renee and I each had the chicken burrito and it was way too much for one person, we talked about how we should have ordered one and shared it. The nachos the kids had was a huge portion as well.

After lunch, we walked over to the Main Street Photo Shop where we purchased our photo that was shot in the morning and from there we walked down to the Train Depot where we boarded the train for it’s loop around the park. It was warm and we were all tired and dragging a bit. Being a big train buff, this ride came at an opportune time. After making the complete loop, we departed the park for our mid-day break and walked back to the Hotel arriving at our room around 1:30.

I had promised the kids a couple of times that I would go swimming with them and today was the day. We all jumped into our suits and headed down to a packed pool. Renee decided to sit this one out so she found a place by the water slide and the kids and I jumped in. I rode the water slide a bunch of times and it was a blast! No wonder the kids wouldn’t come out of the pool! We all had a great time. Worried about my pale skin I headed back to the room early to try and solve a minor crisis we were facing.

The night before on our way back to the room, Danielle was showing me her purchases from the Rainforest. I’m not sure if she dropped her necklace, or misplaced it but whatever the reason, the necklace was gone when we got up in the morning. Brian and I searched the path we had taken the night before when we went for our morning walk but had no luck in finding it. I called the Hotel Lost and Found after I got back to the room from swimming and described the necklace and they did not have it. When everyone returned to the room to change, I told them the necklace had not been found so, while Brian took a snooze and Renee rested, Danielle and I walked over to the Rainforest where she re-purchased her necklace. Needless to say that brought a big smile to her face.

After eating two straight nights at Downtown Disney and still being full from our lunch we decided to head over to the park and grab something to eat there, so we left our room around 5:00ish and walked over to the Monorail entrance in Downtown Disney. Remember what I said about Tuesday and the large lines at the park re-admittance and no lines at the Monorail? Well, we went through the entry with no problems and no line either. We climbed the stairs and the monorail was sitting there. It was fully loaded but not moving. There were people on the loading platform waiting to board but no one was doing anything.

One of the cast members was running back and forth and talking on the phone to someone. Finally after a few minutes he got on the loudspeaker and told us that one of the monorails had broken down and they were deciding what to do. After another few minutes wait, he informed us that the monorail sitting in front of us was the only operational one so it would be taking off to Disneyland and returning in 10 minutes which turned out to be about 20 minutes. We debated about walking to the park but since we were towards the front of the line we waited.

Finally the monorail returned and we boarded it for our trip to Disneyland. Both of the kids wanted to do some souvenir shopping and having popped into Star Traders earlier in the day we started there. On our walk from the monorail station to Star Traders we checked out the lines at the Autopia. Unfortunately, the stand by line was 80 minutes and the Fastpasses were no longer being distributed for the evening.

After not finding anything at Star Traders we headed over to It’s A Small World Toy Shop. Danielle has an incredible memory like her mother and remembered visiting this store on her previous visit. She was able to find a few items, which she purchased. While I waited outside and people watched, the skies began to cloud up and a brisk wind began blowing. For the first time on our trip it actually started to feel a little like home.

No one was really hungry for dinner yet and Brian wanted to ride Big Thunder Mountain again, so we walked over to Frontierland and got in the stand by line. It said 15 minutes but it seemed like it took 30. They were funneling trains to both sides of the station so I’m not sure what took so long. But by the time we exited the ride it was nearing 7:00 and Renee and the kids were feeling like a snack while my svelte body was feeling like dinner!

Renee found a churros cart and she bought some churros and water for herself and the kids. Meanwhile I was scouting around for a restaurant and spied the Stage Door Café. I walked up to it and they doors were closed. There were still a few people in line waiting for their burgers and fries but they were the last ones getting food. Closed at 7:00 PM. That’s not a good sign!

Since we were heading back to the West side of the park, I thought about the Hungry Bear restaurant. Hurrying ahead of Renee, Danielle and Brian, I walked up and saw that it was closed as well. So, we decided to go into the Haunted Mansion since the lines were short and when we exited, I bought some popcorn and a soft drink and we all shared it while sitting on one of the benches outside the Haunted Mansion.

It was now 7:30 so we walked over to the Pirates and rode it again. By the time we exited it was a little before 8:00 We stopped in the Pieces of Eight store where Brian purchased a fake skull and Renee got her fortune from the pirate fortune teller. While we were there they started shuttering up the windows and doors and we exited a little after 8 and made our way back down Main Street to Downtown Disney.

Renee and the kids wanted to do some more souvenir shopping and since I was still hungry we parted ways. I walked back to the hotel where I looked around for something cheap and fast to eat. Croc’s Bits ‘n Bites was a bit more than I was looking for. I didn’t want to try any of the nicer restaurants on site so I ducked into the Captain’s Galley. None of the pre-made sandwiches looked good so I grabbed a candy bar and an apple and walked around the grounds.

We had talked about checking out the Fantasy Waters show at the hotel but had not been able to so far. I decided to go to that and hoped Renee and the kids would be able to join me for the 9:00 showing. During the pre-show, the recorded message said that no flash photos were allowed and to stand well back from the water. Well, you can guess what happened. Some yo-yo got right in front of everyone and proceeded to take a bunch of flash pictures. Lame! After about 10 minutes, I was getting kind of cold and went back to the room.

Renee and the kids came back to the room about 9:30. They had arrived at the Fantasy Waters show right around the time I was leaving and had stayed for the finale. Talk about missed connections. Once we were all back in the room we did a little pre-packing and organizing of things since we would be checking out of our room on Friday morning. Everyone was in bed a little after 10:00 and we finally turned out the lights around 10:30.

Friday April 11th

For a change of pace on our last day of vacation and at Danielle’s suggestion we decided to go out for a real breakfast rather than having cinnamon rolls from the Coffee House. While everyone got dressed I ran down to the Hotel gift shop and picked up two souvenir books for the kids and one for myself.

We decided to try breakfast at Hook’s Pointe at the Hotel. The breakfast and the service were outstanding. The portions were very large for both the adults and the kids. The only drawback was the price, nearly $45 with tax and tip. Yikes! Even though it was our last day, I still couldn’t get over the food prices.

After breakfast we walked over to the pool, as I wanted to get a picture of the kids there since I had forgotten to do it earlier in the week. Sadly, the gate to the pool was locked so we headed back to our room where we all finished packing. We made our way downstairs one final time around 9:30 and dropped our bags and Snowy the Tiger off at the Bell Captain’s desk. (our shuttle back to the airport was not supposed to pick us up until 2:30) and while I paid off the outstanding items on our Hotel bill, Renee and the kids walked over and looked around the Fantasia Gift shop in the Hotel.

With everything taken care of we were off to California Adventure under cool, cloudy skies. This was definitely the coolest day of our trip. It would remain cloudy most of the day with the sun not making an appearance until after the noon hour.

Once again like Wednesday, the entry lines at California Adventure were long and slow. We finally entered the park and walked over to Soarin over California. The misters were thankfully turned off this day and we entered the gallery of aviation greats and made our way down to the ride entrance. The ride queue seemed to move slower this day. I was not really watching the time but we finally entered and sat in the front row. It’s definitely better if you’re sitting there.

We loved the ride just like before and upon exiting headed over to Grizzly River Rapids. Due to the cool temperatures the stand by line was 5 minutes so we quickly boarded our raft with a single rider who had been giving a poncho by a departing guest. The single rider and I sat on one side of our raft while Renee, Danielle and Brian sat on the other side. The ride was great but with all of the weight on one side, the single rider and myself got soaked on the final drop.

After departing the ride and allowing time for me to pick up my cameras in the storage locker we headed over to Paradise Pier for one last ride on California Screamin’ and as it turned out our last ride of the trip. The line was quite large when we arrived a little before 11:00 The Fastpass line had a return time of 12:15 while the stand-by line said 35 minutes. Renee and the kids opted for the stand by line while I sat this one out and people watched.

The line seemed to be moving very slowly so while I waited I wandered around the midway area and checked out a few of the stores one last time. When I returned to the ride I scanned the queue and Renee, Danielle and Brian had barely moved. So, I walked over to the Grizzly River area and checked out Rushin’ River Outfitters.

I went back to Screamin’ and the group had moved a little bit but the line was definitely moving slowly this day. I found out from talking to Renee later in the day that the Fastpass machine had distributed far too many tickets in the morning so that was causing the standby line to move very slowly.

After a long, long wait, Renee and the kids finally got on the coaster. I walked over to the lagoon and took some great videos of them sitting in their seats before their launch up the track. When everyone got off the ride we decided it was time for a snack so we stopped at a nearby churros cart and commandeered a bench and ate and rested for a while.

It was about 12:30 when we started to make our way back out towards the entry plaza and we did some serious souvenir shopping. In order, we stopped and roamed around Treasures in Paradise, Rushin’ River Outfitters, Fly ‘n Buy, Greetings from California and Engine Ears Toys. Phew, I think that’s all of them!

One of the things the kids had been looking for was a ball on a string similar to a large yo-yo that they had seen other kids playing with. We had looked in a lot of stores at Disneyland and California Adventure and had no luck in finding them. As we exited the park around 1:30 and began our stroll back to the Hotel we looked at the first kiosk near the parking trams and lo and behold, they were selling the balls! The kids each purchased one and happily played with them as we walked through Downtown Disney.

Since we still had some time to kill before our shuttle picked us up, Renee and the kids wanted to make one final stop at their favorite store, the Rainforest Café. While they went inside, I sat outside and people watched and kept an eye on the time. Right on time they all popped out of the store and we strolled the remaining distance to the Hotel.

Snowy the Tiger had done a great job of guarding the luggage for us. The Bell Captain brought it out with Snowy on top and we boarded the shuttle for our ride to the airport. The ride was a bit longer going back to Ontario then it had been coming the other way. I’m sure Friday night traffic had something to do with that.

The airport did not have an automatic check-in so we went through a short line where we found out our flight had been delayed an hour and a half. This pushed our return time to Seattle from 8 PM to 9:30 PM.

While we waited in the airport we took turns grabbing something to eat at the only place open, a Round Table pizza restaurant. We also conversed with a young man from one of the high schools in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Dustin was a hit with the kids with all of his stories and his interacting with them. Finally we boarded our flight, said goodbye to California and took off for home.

The rest of the evening was uneventful, the flight was fine, catching the shuttle to the car was fine and the drive to Renee’s folks was fine. I dropped Renee, Danielle and Brian off around 10:00 and got to my place around 10:45. And so ended our vacation.

As I read other trip reports on this site, one of the things I liked was people who listed their likes and dislikes about their trips. With that in mind and since I am a big Clint Eastwood fan, here are mine:

The Good

Disneyland Hotel — I have traveled extensively on business the past eight years and can honestly say the Disneyland Hotel was by far the best hotel I have ever stayed at. The service was impeccable, the rooms clean, the staff courteous and friendly and the pool was a blast. Even though we had a room that faced the pool and the Hotel was filled with families like us it was the quietest hotel I have ever stayed at as well. All of us give it two thumbs up as a great vacation destination.

The Rides — What can you say, the Disney ride experience is still magical. We enjoyed every ride we went on, there were no duds. True, we didn’t go on everything or experience everything but what we did see made us want to come back for more. Each night before going to bed I asked Renee, Danielle and Brian their favorite rides or attractions of the day. They each picked out a few but between them they covered all of the rides we went on. We had a great time.

Going to Disneyland with kids — Speaking of magic, there’s something extra special about going to the parks with kids. To see the smiles on Danielle’s and Brian’s faces, to see the excitement in their eyes and the joy they experienced made this vacation my most memorable. Thanks again for inviting me Renee! It was the experience of a lifetime.

The Rainforest Café store — of all the stores we stopped at, the Rainforest store was the one that the kids had the most fun at and bought the most items at. It became a daily stopping place for us. The selection of merchandise was varied and outstanding and very kid oriented.

Downtown Disney and California Adventure — After reading all of the comments on this website and others I was anticipating the worst. Instead I was surprised at how nice everything was at both sites and how much fun we had. Yeah, there are some things that seem out of place for a Disneyland property but for those of us who don’t visit much or who aren’t Disney fanatics we liked them both and feel they are a much valued and needed addition to the resort complex.

The crowds — Although I’ve mentioned it was crowded and we did have to stand in lines at times, not once did someone step on me or crowd us or rush us or push us. All of the crowds were very orderly and well mannered and that’s saying something in this day and age.

The Bad

The Music in Downtown Disney — call me an old fogy or worse but I didn’t enjoy the music blaring early in the morning at Downtown Disney. It’s so peaceful out early in the morning and we’ll be facing enough noise later in the day, I don’t understand why music needs to be piped in at such an early hour.

The number of broken down rides — I guessed we might see one or two rides down or out of action while we were visiting but not to the extent we experienced during our visit. Who’s in charge of ride maintenance anyway? Which brings me to…

The Closing of Space Mountain — probably the biggest Bad of the bunch. To have no advance warning of the closure, to see the disappointed looks on Danielle’s and Brian’s faces not to mention countless other folks was a real downer during our trip. I know Space Mountain was scheduled for maintenance later this year, I just wish they had given people more notice so we could have planned around the closure.

The food prices — I had anticipated high prices for food but still, talk about some price gouging! Yikes! I know we live in the Seattle area, but not all of us are Microsoft millionaires.

The closing time for restaurants — Why close an hour before the rest of the park? I bet a lot of people would buy food at 7 PM. I know I would have given half a chance.

The same merchandise at the stores — Since when did every store begin selling the same merchandise. I recall some variety on my previous trips but now you’ve seen one store, you’ve seen them all. Probably a big reason a lot of our souvenir money was spent at the Rainforest café store, they had selection!

And The Ugly

Blowup at Rainforest — No more needs to be said, I was wrong and wish I could apologize to the hosts of the Rainforest especially because of all the other positive experiences we had there.

That wraps up my trip report. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I would be happy to answer any and all questions about our trip and experiences.

Steve Ruedy

sruedy@msn.com


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