Trey Walters-- August 2005 -- Disneyland (Offsite)
This is a five-part trip report detailing our trip to DLR on August 1-4, 2005. The five parts are broken into an overall summary and a detailed report for each of the four days.
In addition, I have posted some auxiliary information about RideMax, FastPass and DCA in separate messages:
This five-part trip report will be of particular interest to the following people:
1. Families with children in the 7-14 age range
Overall Summary of Trip
Our family consists of myself (42), DW (38), and four sons 13, 12, 10, and 9 (see a few highlight pictures). We stayed at the Best Western Park Place Inn (BWPPI) directly across the street from the DLR entrance. My DW and I grew up in Southern California and went to DL many times as children, always on day trips. We now live in Colorado. We have gone to DLR twice before as a family. In the summer of 2000 we went for three days and we stayed at the Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel. In the summer of 2003 we went for two days and we stayed at the Howard Johnson's on Harbor.
We decided to make this a four-day trip because we wanted to see all of the parades and shows and still get to go on a lot of rides, because it is the DLR 50th anniversary, and because our kids are quickly passing into teenagerhood and this would be our last DLR trip with them still essentially all children.
We decided to not stay at a DLR hotel because we stayed at PP before and realized that when we do DL, we only use our hotel for sleeping and the extra cost of staying at a DLR hotel is just not worth it for us. In addition, the DLR hotels seem to be setup for families of five or less. While we liked the HoJo's in 2003, we walked back and forth from HoJo's to DLR twice each day, and the extra 5-7 minute walk up Harbor each way took its toll (one midnight in 2003 I had to hire a taxi for $10 to give us ride from DL to HoJo's!). So we wanted to be closer. We chose the BWPPI to keep our walking to an absolute minimum, and we were very happy with this decision. I suspect we will stay there from now on.
Space Mountain was closed for refurbishment in 2003, so we did not ride it on our previous trip. During our trip in 2000, Space Mountain had some trouble and closed on the first of our three days without us ever riding it. While my DW and I had ridden Space Mountain many times in our younger days, our children had not. It was thus a high priority that we ride Space Mountain on our next DL trip. Our trip planning began in February 2005 when I began to do Internet research for the trip. Before that I had never heard of MousePlanet. I began to lurk on MousePlanet, and was dismayed to hear that Space Mountain was not due to open until November 2005. Based on that I was considering delaying our trip until 2006.
However, rumors started to circulate about Space Mountain reopening in July. When the July relaunch was announced in March, we set our trip date for August to avoid the July 15-17 anniversary crowds and get there before school started. I started to lurk on MousePlanet more often, and finally registered in May 2005. Ultimately I spent way more time on MousePlanet than I would have ever thought, but enjoyed it all very much while gaining lots of valuable tips.
Our goals for the trip were:
We accomplished all of the above goals with the exception of missing California Screamin' due to the accident on July 29 and its subsequent closure for investigation, and the Block Party Bash at DCA which was not a high priority for us.
We rode all of the rides at DL at least once, all of the major rides at DL and DCA at least twice (and some of them four times), and never waited in a line for more than 20 minutes. At 11PM on Day 4 we rode the King Arthur Carousel, and that was the only DL ride we had not yet ridden on this trip, thus completing our goal of riding all DL rides. We spent 20-25% of our time at DCA, and really got to know the park a lot better. On the previous trip in 2003 we spent about 3-4 hours in DCA.
Our room at the BWPPI was a mini-suite with two queen beds and a rollout queen bed, a microwave, and a small refrigerator. Eating all your meals at DLR can be expensive and time consuming, and we decided to make good use of the microwave and refrigerator for meals. On Sunday morning, July 31, before we drove to Anaheim, I went to the grocery store to pick up meal food, snack food, and drinks. We arrived at the Best Western at about 7:30PM on Sunday July 31. We had one day for Early Entry (EE), and we had already decided to use that on Monday, Day 1 because we expected to have the most energy and could get to bed early the night before. This worked out great. We got checked in and moved our stuff into the room. Based on MousePlanet suggestions, we requested and got a room on the side opposite the Captain Kidd restaurant. We had a calm, quiet evening and got to bed at 9PM. Wake up was 6AM for kids, as we wanted to be in route to DL at 6:25AM to be at the gate early for our 7AM early entry. See the Day 1 report for details.
While many people choose to avoid the summer high season at DLR, I think it is a really fun time to go. The park is open for long hours, there are shows galore, all of the rides are usually operating, and the warm weather means one can wear shorts and tee-shirts from morning until midnight and experience water related rides without fear of getting wet.
Before the trip we bought a water bottle belt for each family member, walkie-talkie radios for each family member (we used these successfully in previous DLR trips and the decision to have each child with their own radio really paid off one evening when we lost our nine-year old on Main Street - see Day 4 report), and spray bottles with fans (the ones at Target are much cheaper than the ones at DLR). I carried a larger fanny pack that held water bottles and snacks for everyone. On our 2003 trip I was the FastPass manager, and this meant keeping track of everyone's entrance tickets and all the FastPasses. I used my pockets for this in 2003, but this was not ideal. On this trip I brought a ticket holder that goes around one's neck that I use for airplane travel to hold my drivers license/passport and tickets. This worked GREAT. The ticket holder has a zipper compartment to store stuff, and is transparent on one side, so I could always peak through to make sure I had not misplaced the tickets. The peace of mind this gave me was worth ten times what I paid for the ticket holder.
I bought the RideMax software in May 2005 ( see www.ridemax.com ). As a software developer who works in the field of optimization, I was intrigued by RideMax, and began experimenting with it. I ended up using RideMax in two ways. First, I used it to create conventional itineraries for Day 1 (which we planned to spend at DL) and Day 2 (which we planned to spend at DCA). Second, I used the RideMax itinerary data to create approximate wait times for rides throughout each day. This data was dumped into Microsoft Excel, and I used curve fitting routines to populate an Excel spreadsheet. See the screen capture here http://hydroguy.smugmug.com/gallery/724783 for what this looked like. Note that the screen shot does not show the actual printout I used. It shows false data to protect the RideMax proprietary data. I printed this out for each day, with DL wait time data on one side of the sheet, and DCA wait time data on the back. I stored this in my ticket holder around my neck, and referred to it numerous times throughout each day for guidance on which ride to do next. In summary this data was very helpful.
Our kids saved money for much of the summer for this trip, working chores at home and around the neighborhood such that DS2 had $170, DS1 had $140, and DS3 and DS4 had $50 each. My DW warned me in advance that they wanted to spend most of their money at the DLR stores. So we had to allow flexibility for many, many, MANY store visits in the park.
We were really fortunate on weather. The first two days felt like the temperature peaked out in the low 80's, while days 3 and 4 felt like they peaked out in the mid-80's. It was warm, but never felt super hot.
While one could spend many days at DL, DCA is not that type of place. Yet. Right now it is more of a one day destination. We went into DCA for parts of each of our four days, and spent a good chunk of Day 2 there. Rather than detail my views here, I have posted them in another thread (see http://mousepad.mouseplanet.com/showthread.php?t=46203 ). In short, DCA will be a part of all of our future DLR trips because there are a number of things there we really enjoy.
We saw the Remember fireworks show on Day 2. For those of you not aware, Remember celebrates many of Disneyland's classic rides and shows. It turns out we had done all/most of the rides the previous two days, and I think that enhanced the fireworks for us. I cannot remember them all, but the fireworks gave tribute to the Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones ride, Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Main Street Electrical Parade and Fantasmic.
On Day 2 our DS4 (the 9 year old) started to complain about his ear. It has been several years since our kids were of an age that ear infections were commonplace, but my wife recognized the symptoms and began to call our family doctor in Colorado with the hope of getting antibiotics prescribed. Prior to the DLR trip we had spent several days with family in Southern California who had hot tubs and pools, and our kids had been swimming for the previous four days. We were unable to get a prescription from our family doctor, and by Day 3 we had DS2 complaining about his ear as well. We stopped by the Disneyland first aid office, and they gave us the card of a local medical service who dispatch doctors to your hotel. We called them at 10:30AM and set up an appointment at the BWPPI for 1:15PM in our room. Details are given in the Day 3 report, but in summary this absolutely saved our DL trip. All four kids had ear infections, and would have been down on Day 4 without prompt medical attention. The doctor not only prescribed medications, but carried antibiotics with her so that we did not need to go out to a pharmacy.
Day 1 of 4, Monday, August 1
1. Day 1 Summary
This was our Early Entry (EE) day. We arrived at the DL gates at 6:45AM, a little behind schedule. We got on 7 rides during EE, and 29 in the entire day. We took a break of almost five hours in the afternoon, from 1:15-6PM. We stayed until midnight. The weather started off overcast in the morning, which burnt off mid-morning. It never got very hot, and felt like the high temperature was low 80s.
This was planned to be our biggest "ride day". No shows or parades. Before we came to the park, we sat down and made a list of all the "must do's" for Day 1. The reason is that rides break down, and if one did, we wanted to have hit the favorites on Day 1 to make sure we got on each favorite at least once. We also wanted to go on rides during the parade and fireworks, when the lines shorten. And we wanted to ride Space Mountain in the morning of Day 1 because we missed it on our 2000 and 2003 trips and did not want to take any chances that it might go down for the week like California Screamin'. Finally, we wanted to get on the big favorites twice if possible.
We were attempting to get to the gates at 6:30AM for the 7AM EE opening, but forgot something in the hotel room and ended up getting to the gates at 6:45AM. This actually was still pretty good. We were about the 10th group in line, and were through the gates soon after 7AM.
During EE we rode 7 rides. Because Peter Pan and Dumbo lines get so long, we did these first and second. In order, we did:
Space Mountain (SM) was open for EE this day, as was Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (BLAB), but each of these were FastPass (FP) rides and, as much as my children wanted to hit these during EE, I overruled with the logic that we should not use EE time for rides with FP. This was a very good decision in that we got the seven FL rides done.
It was 7:57AM when we finished Snow White, and we could have done one more FL ride, but I wanted to get to SM at 8AM to get a FastPass (FP). So I headed for SM and my family made their way to the Indy standby line, where I met them and we rode Indy. We got back to ride SM at about 10:50AM, got another set of FPs for SM, and rode SM again later in the evening.
We took a break at 1:15PM, and we had already ridden Space Mtn (using our first set of FPs), Indy (standby at 8:10AM, a 5 minute wait), Splash Mtn (standby at 9AM, a 19 minute wait), and Big Thunder Mtn RR twice (standby at 8:50AM and 8:55AM, both with 2 minute waits). At the 1:15PM break, I had FPs in hand for SM, Indy, Splash, BLAB, Tower of Terror (ToT - at DCA) and Grizzly River Run (GRR - at DCA), all to be used during our evening. To see how I gathered so many FastPasses, read the thread linked at the top about "Getting the Most Out of FastPass During High Season".
We ate lunch back at the hotel, went for a quick swim, and then took a nap. When we woke up we ate a little more so we would not need to do a sit down dinner at DL. We got back to DLR at 6PM. I was planning our afternoon breaks to be more like 3 to 3-1/2 hours, but they were usually 4-5 hours. Today's was 4 and 3/4 hours.
We had never ridden ToT before, so we decided to ride ToT upon our return from our break. We entered DCA at about 6PM. We used a FP I had picked up before our break. By the time we finished ToT and got over to DL, it was almost 7PM and the Parade of Dreams was just about to start its way from Main Street back to Small World. This slowed us down a bit.
My DW ran out of gas at 11PM, and returned to the hotel alone. We only went on rides after 11PM that we had already done, as we all wanted to ride each DL ride and with her gone we could not go on anything new. She stopped into Captain Kidd's for something to drink, and said she really liked it. We trudged on until midnight, as the lines are so short at this time that you can really go on a lot of rides.
We got to the Haunted Mansion at 11:56PM, our last ride of the day. They took us in the last group. I got a chuckle from some other guests when I mentioned that our group was "dead" last.
We thought BLAB was lots of fun. As many of you know, Disney is trying to make rides more interactive, and I think they hit the mark with BLAB. The ability to e-mail your photos at the end of the ride is a great idea. We did not know you could do this, and walked right past it the first time we rode it. When we rode it again on Day 2 we figured it out, and e-mailed the photos to ourselves (see BLAB photos at http://hydroguy.smugmug.com/gallery/726692/1/31909301 ).
We also really liked ToT. The CM who boarded us was very cool, and when he found out it was our first time on ToT his grim facial expressions were hilarious.
We also had many spontaneous stops in stores for various items such as swords, clothing items, drum sticks, pictures, lollipops, etc.
Alice in Wonderland (EE)
DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Tower of Terror
None on Day 1.
Day 2 of 4, Tuesday, August 2
This was our day to spend a good chunk of time at DCA and do some of the DLR shows. Rides were a lower priority today than on Day 1. In all, we got on 6 rides at DCA and 5 at DL, and saw three shows. We got to DLR at 9:15AM, spent the daytime hours at DCA, and left DCA at 3PM for a break. We got back from our break at 7PM. We stayed at DL until midnight.
Weather was fairly clear in the morning, and high temperatures felt like low 80s. This was the only day we followed a RideMax itinerary, and that was only up until our break at 3PM.
Our nine-year old started to complain about pain in his ear.
Since we were out so late on Day 1, we decided to skip DL on Day 2 morning and just go to DCA. But I wanted to pick up one of those coveted FastPasses (FP). So here is what we did - we entered DL at 9:15AM. My DW and kids immediately exited DL and got their hands stamped, and then got in line for DCA. Once we passed through the DL gates and our admission tickets were scanned, the tickets were initialized and I could get FPs. So while they waited in the DCA line, I walked quickly to Space Mountain (SM) and got FPs. We planned to use these during our evening return to DL.
I quickly walked out of DL and joined my family in the DCA line. DCA usually opens its gates 30 minutes early, so the 10AM official opening meant a gate opening of 9:30AM. We were about the fifth group in line and through the gates at 9:33.
DCA usually opens Soarin' Over California at 9:30, although all other rides are not started until 10AM. We rode Soarin' (this is a great ride) and got off at 10:05AM. We then went on some more rides, including Grizzly River Run where we used the lockers DCA provides, but did not get very wet.
We got in line at 12 Noon for the 12:30PM Aladdin show. We got seats in the mezzanine, in the second row in the left section. The seats were pretty good, and the show was excellent.
After Aladdin, we went to the Animation Studios. My kids (and DW) loved this place. We spent 90 minutes there. Turtle Talk With Crush (just opened July 15) was a lot of fun. Highly recommended for families with kids (and adults for that matter). My DS4 sat down in the front, and Crush called on him during the Q&A. He asked Crush what his favorite animal was. Crush admitted to bias when he answered "sea turtles".
By 3PM we were ready for a break. We returned to the hotel and ate a late lunch. Our kids are 9-13 now and well past the age when ear infections are common, but DW was starting to suspect that DS4 had an ear infection. So she called our doctor in Colorado in hope of getting a prescription. But he would not do it. More on this on Day 3.
Originally we planned to see the Parade of Dreams (POD) at 7PM, the Remember...Dreams Come True fireworks and laser show at 9:25PM, and Fantasmic! at 10:30PM. But that was assuming we would get an earlier break. Since we did not break until 3PM because of the long time we spent at the Animation Studios, we decided to skip the POD and plan the parade for Day 3. This allowed us an extra hour for napping. We got back to DL at 7:05PM and again got tangled up in the POD. We made our way down Main Street on the left and wanted to cross into TomorrowLand, but could not because of the POD. So we waited in the hub area for the POD to end.
Our time frame was to get back to the hub at 8:25PM, one hour before the fireworks show so we could get a good spot. So we decided to use some BLAB FPs I had picked up earlier. Then we tried to use our SM FPs at about 7:30PM. What we did not know was that SM had been down multiple times that day, and there was a large backlog of people wanting to ride. So the wait time for FP holders was 30 minutes! We decided to put off our SM ride until later and instead we did HISTA (Honey I Shrunk the Audience). We had never seen this before, and it is something everyone should do at least once. My DW freaked during the mouse scene. Really freaked. With prolonged screaming and the whole bit.
After HISTA we did a little shopping at the Star Trader and got to the hub at 8:25 as planned. I had heard that the hub was the best place to see the Remember...fireworks show because of the castle projections. And I have to agree. You need to get a spot where you can see Sleeping Beauty's Castle, which is tough because of all the trees in the hub. In most spots everyone stands up for Remember, and I was concerned that my 9 and 10 year old would not be able to see over the adults. It turns out that this concern was valid. Based on advice from MousePlanet folks, I got a spot in front of Coke Corner towards the Adventureland entrance and on the curb of the hub. The curb gave my 9 and 10 year olds a 6-inch advantage over those in the street, and this was enough for them to see the castle pretty clearly. And the Remember...Fireworks show was extremely cool. Highly recommend you see it from the hub.
I knew that Remember gave tribute to some of the DL attractions, but did not know which ones. In fact, I purposely avoided finding out. The fact that on Days 1 and 2 we had already gone on all of the rides celebrated in Remember made the show better for us. I would recommend you try to do the following rides and shows before you see Remember: Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones ride, Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Disney Electrical Parade (at DCA) and Fantasmic.
After Remember, we fought our way out of the hub through the FrontierLand entrance and made our way over to see the 10:30PM Fantasmic show. We got there at 9:55PM, and got good seats down in front in the sitting only section, just left of center. As usual, Fantasmic! was really good. At this point my DW again ran out of gas, as did DS3, so they returned to the hotel while I took the other three boys on some more rides until midnight. Last ride was POTC, which we walked on to at 11:40PM.
Big Thunder Mtn RR (with FP, w/o DW and DS3)
DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Fantasmic - 10:30 showing
Day 3 of 4, Wednesday, August 3
This was Wednesday, and so no one had Early Entry (EE) or ToonTown Morning Madness (TTMM) today. It was thus a good day to get into DL early, do more FantasyLand rides, and do ToonTown early. We got to the DL gates at about 7:35AM and were the third group in line. We took a break from 1:00 until 4:15PM, and had waterside seats at the Blue Bayou for lunch. Again, we stayed until midnight.
In all, we got on 14 rides today and saw 3 shows/parades. The weather was slightly warmer than Days 1 and 2, still a bit overcast in the morning but cleared early, and felt like high temperatures were in the mid-80s.
Yesterday, DS4 was complaining of an ear ache, and now two more kids were complaining as well. My DW was sure they had ear infections, and they did. We were able to get a doctor to come to our hotel at BWPPI to diagnose them (all four had ear infections) and prescribe antibiotics. This did not help Day 3 very much, but it saved Day 4 because we would have had multiple kids sick in bed. More information on this is given in the Discussion below.
We got to the DL gates at about 7:35AM, and were about the 10th group in line at Gate 18. Today the even numbered gates were open. However, at the gates near the middle (where Gate 18 is) there are some trees that kind of block the gates. So they apparently open Gate 17 and 19 in addition to the even numbered gates, which is just to the right of center. So we hopped in the Gate 17 line and were the third group in line. We were through the gates by 8:01AM.
This was Wednesday, and so no one had Early Entry today. It was thus a good day to get into DL early and do some of the FL rides we had missed. Also, no one had Mickey's ToonTown Morning Madness (TTMM) which, when it is available, opens at 8AM during summer hours prior to the regular 9AM ToonTown (TT) opening. So we planned to get into FL early and be at TT at the 9AM opening.
My wife stopped to buy a photo at the photo shop at the end of Main Street (taken the previous day by one of the DL photographers) because there was no one in line (these lines can really build up – as she showed me later when we walked by). While she did this, I walked over and got Space Mountain (SM) FastPasses.
We met at the Astro Orbiters and walked on to the first ride of the day. Then we walked onto Autopia where we were the second group in line. If you go to Autopia first thing in the morning, what you find out, like we did, is that they cannot start the ride until they get a critical mass of people to put in all the cars and thus move them out of the way. So we had to wait a couple minutes until this happened.
After Autopia it was over to FL to ride the StoryBook Land Canal boats we never got to on Day 1. Then we headed to TT at about 9:05AM. We immediately went to Mickey's House and got our pictures with Mickey, where there was only one family in front of us so we only waited to see Mickey for a minute or two. We cruised through Mickey's house (I had never done this before - my kids had though) and went to Minney's house and got our pictures with Minney. Then we walked onto Gadget's Go Coaster.
At this point it was about 9:20-9:30, and I could get another FP (I could have gotten one as early as 8:55AM, but it was not convenient at that time). While my kids bounced around the other TT fun areas and did a bit more shopping at the store there, I made my way over to Splash Mtn to get FastPasses. But Splash was down that morning (they opened about 2-1/2 hours late) and when a ride is down they do not give out FastPasses. Thus I was out of luck for a Splash FP. So I went over to Indy and got FastPasses. Then I met my family back at TT, where they were finishing up after having done everything in TT except Roger Rabbit, which we had already rode on Day 1 and no one wanted to ride again. It was about 9:45 by this time. We waited in line at the DL Railroad TT station, and when it finally came they boarded the train but then said there was a problem with another train and they would not be leaving for an indefinite time. So we left the DLRR and set out on foot.
As mentioned previously, we now had three kids complaining of ear aches, and DS4 was in a very bad mood (his ear ache had started in earnest the previous day). Prior to the DLR visit we had visited my and DW's parents in Southern California and our kids had spent four days in hot tubs and pools. With their ages of 9-13, it had been quite a few years since ear infections were commonplace in our family. My DW tried valiantly over her cell phone to convince our family doctor in Colorado that our kids did have ear infections and to call in some antibiotics, but the doctor insisted that the kids needed to be seen by a physician. That meant a visit to a local emergency room or urgent care facility that afternoon. What a bummer.
So, at about 10:30AM we stopped into the DL First Aid station at the end of Main Street near the hub, and they could not help us directly. But they gave us a business card of a local medical service that will send a doctor to your hotel room. So we called them and set up an appointment for 1:15PM at our BWPPI room. More information on this is given below when we took our afternoon break.
You can make reservations (aka Priority Seating - or PS) at certain DL restaurants 60 days in advance, but apparently Blue Bayou (BB) is not in super high demand. I made PS reservations about 5 weeks before our trip for 11:30AM, right when they open. I requested waterside seating, which is tough for a group of six. Apparently they only have two tables that can seat six. After TT and time on the phone with doctors, we got to the BB at about 11AM. My kids hit the store right there at the exit of POTC and next to BB for I think the third time on this trip. I checked into the BB and reminded them of our request for waterside seating. We got waterside seating, and were seated shortly after 11:30. Four of us had the Jambalaya, which was really good. The service at BB was outstanding. Due to previous experience when my DW was my DGF (girlfriend), we avoided the Monte Cristo sandwiches.
As we left the BB, I noticed that the Mark Twain was just unboarding people and would launch again soon. So we rode the Mark Twain. I had heard on the Disney forums that you can request a ride with the captain and help "drive" the ship. We asked about this as we came on the ship, and we were first to ask so they took us. We went straight up to the captain's area at the very top, and CM Frank was very cool and we had a good time ringing the Mark Twain bell and the ships whistle (only at specified times). After the Mark Twain it was approaching 1PM and we needed to take a break and meet the doctor at 1:15.
The doctor (her name was Dr. Klyd, a former ER physician) showed up promptly at 1:15PM and examined the two most serious ear aches first which were DS2 and DS4. Each one had an ear infection. Dr. Klyd prescribed antibiotics and some ear drops, but also carried the antibiotics and ear drops with her, and was able to give us the medications right there in the hotel. This saved us a visit to a local pharmacy during our DL time. Very cool.
So Dr. Klyd did all of the paperwork for the two ear infections, and then graciously volunteered to examine the other two boys without doing the paperwork. They both had ear infections as well. But since she did not do any paperwork for them, she did not need to charge for the other two which saved us or our insurance company about $700. We had Dr. Klyd talk to our doctor in Colorado to let them know what was happening so we could get more antibiotics for the other two, and we picked these up on the way out of Anaheim on Aug 5. In the meantime, we used the antibiotics and ear drops prescribed for DS2 and DS4 for all four boys.
The medical service we used and now recommend is: HouseCall Physicians, (800) 362-7911. Their website is www.housecallphysicians.org. This saved our DL trip, because we would have had four sick kids on Day 4 which would have been a real struggle.
After Dr. Klyd left, we all took a long nap and got going again at about 4:30PM. I and DS1 left a little before the family to get a spot in line at the Golden Horseshoe for the 5:30 Billy Hill and the Hillbillies show. We got to the Golden Horseshoe at about 4:45PM. The rest of the family joined us at about 5PM. We were the fourth group in line and got seats at one of the front tables. We ate dinner there (the food was OK), and the show was fine but my expectations were pretty high from what I read on Disney Internet forums. As I said, the show was fine, but not to the level we were expecting. This was Wednesday, and supposedly the BH group that day was one of the better ones. We might do BH again, but it would not be a priority for us. It was a little disappointing.
After the Golden Horseshoe, it was 6PM and we wanted to get some good seats for the 7PM Parade of Dreams (POD). The 7PM POD starts at Main Street Station and ends at Small World. We got a spot in the seats across from the Matterhorn and towards the hub in the entranceway from the hub to FL and TL. This had several advantages. First, we had seats to sit in for the next hour and for the parade itself, which finished up at 7:30PM in our area. Second, it was fairly narrow there so you could see the floats well. Third, two of the floats stopped right in front of us for a show stop, including the final Mickey and Minney float. Fourth, it was in the shade. And finally, I was worried that people would stand up in front of us and our 9 and 10 year old would not be able to see the parade, so the seats gave us something for them to stand on if necessary. But nobody stood up.
The first disadvantage of the spot is that the road curves away from you here, and so you could not see the parade until it was almost right on top of you for the 7PM show. This spot would have had better views for the 3:15PM POD when they came from Small World. And second, the people on the other side of the POD were more numerous and visible than the few on our side. So in some cases the POD characters paid a little more attention to the people on the other side of the parade route.
The parade itself was very good. We enjoyed it a lot. Highly recommended.
After the POD we did some more rides in FL we missed earlier and headed over to DCA at about 8:30PM for the Disney Electrical Parade. We saw the DEP at Sunshine Plaza and, when it finished, made our way to Tower of Terror. We rode ToT on Day 1 during the daylight. We wanted to ride it at night. It was about 9:30PM by this time and dark. We had FastPasses I had picked up earlier in the day. The consensus in our family is that ToT is more fun at night.
After ToT it was nearing 10PM closing at DCA, and DW was ready to call it quits. With the ear infections, DS2 and DS3 were ready for bed as well. So they headed back to the hotel. So I, DS1 and DS4 headed back into DL at 10PM. We had six FastPasses in hand for Space Mtn, Splash Mtn, Indy, BLAB and BTMRR. With only three of us left, we could ride each FP ride if we had enough time. But we decided not to. We rode Indy and gave away three FPs, rode Space Mtn and gave away two more, walked past BLAB and decided to skip it so gave away five FPs there, and then rode Splash where we gave away three FPs. The three girls to which we gave our FPs for Splash ended up on the same log as us, and we gave them three of our BTMRR FPs as well because we had decided to conclude the night with a Matterhorn ride. We got in line for Matterhorn at 11:56PM, and there was an 10 minute wait. They were still running both the TL and FL tracks, but feeding from the same line on the TL side of Matterhorn.
DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Tower of Terror (with FP)
POD - 7PM parade, near Matterhorn
Day 4 of 4, Thursday, August 4
Arrived at DCA gates at 10AM and went on a few rides. We left DCA and entered DL at about 11:30AM. We took a break today from 3:30-8PM. We lost DS4 on Main Street in the evening, but found him using the walkie-talkie radios each family member had. We rode the King Arthur Carrousel at 11PM, thus completing our goal of riding all of the DL rides during the four day trip. Stayed at DL until midnight.
We rode 14 rides and saw the Snow White show. The weather was the warmest of the four days, with the sun shining in the morning (no early clouds today). The temperatures felt like mid to upper 80s.
Our original plan was to arrive at the DL gates at 7:30AM for the 8AM opening, but with the ear infections (see Day 3) and the midnight return on Day 3, I let everyone sleep until 9:30AM. We thus had to skip another DL morning, which was disappointing in that we could have ridden a lot more rides in the morning when the morning lines are short. Instead we just went straight to DCA at 10AM. I went through the gates with my family, which initialized our entrance tickets so we could use them at either DCA or DL for FastPass collection. My DW took the boys to Orange Stinger, which they had seen on Day 2 and wanted to ride. After passing through the DCA gate, I immediately left DCA and got my hand stamped, and entered DL to get a SM FastPass for potential use later in the day. After getting the SM FP, I returned to DCA and picked up some Grizzly River Run (GRR) FastPasses and then met my family at the Redwood Creek Challenge (RCC). We had never done this before, and it sounded like a cool place for kids. However, we were disappointed. We live in the mountains in Colorado in a forest, have two tree houses and a zip line. So the RCC just was not very interesting to my kids. We skipped the Brother Bear show.
After RCC we saw Golden Dreams, which my DW and I liked, and then we rode GRR using FP. We skipped the lockers this time and got a lot more wet than the first time on Day 2 (when we used the lockers - go figure), but it was hotter today and that was fine with everyone.
We left DCA at 11:30AM for DL. In order to ride all DL rides we had missed so far, we needed to make sure to do the rides that are only open mid-day such as Davy Crockett canoes, Columbia sailing ship and Tom Sawyer Island. So we did these right away. We also made it to the 1PM Snow White show over near Small World. We went to Tom Sawyer Island last, spent 30 minutes there, and left the park at about 3:30PM. I tried several times to get Indy FastPasses during this time, but it was down for four hours mid-day and so no FastPasses were distributed. Right after we got off the Columbia I went over to Indy again, and it was up so I got some FastPasses. Heading out at 3:30 got us tangled up with the POD for the third time in four days on Main Street, this being the early parade. We had to fight our way down Main Street, and cut through the stores on the right to find a way out.
We snacked during the morning and until 3:30PM, and then finally ate some lunch when we got back to the hotel. With the ear infections starting to feel better, the boys still needed extra sleep so I just let them sleep the rest of the afternoon. We did not make it back to DL until 8PM.
At 8PM we got on the DLRR at Main Street, and rode it around to TomorrowLand. We exited and spent 45 minutes at Innoventions. We had never been to Innoventions before, and being that it was mostly a bunch of video games our kids liked it but my DW and I thought it was a waste of time - except for checking it off our list. The only potentially worthwhile thing was that three of my kids used the VMK area to create virtual characters. When you create them at DL, they get some special features because they were "born" at DL.
After Innoventions we reboarded DLRR at the TL station and rode it back to Main Street. As we walked towards the Disneyland First 50 Years theater, our 9-year old (DS4) continued up Main Street. We were in the theater building when we realized we had lost him. As we went out to look for him, he called us on his walkie-talkie radio and we told him where we were. He found as at the theater entrance.
We watched the Disneyland First 50 Years show, which was quite interesting. I would recommend you take 20 minutes to see this. Then we walked up Main Street to the King Arthur Carrousel, the only DL ride which we had not ridden. We rode the carrousel at 11PM thus fulfilling one of our goals.
After this we split up, with DW and DS3 heading to TL with 6 SM FastPasses. They were going to try and ride SM three times in the last hour, but ended up deciding to do it only once. I and the other three boys finished out the night in NOS and rode Indy at midnight.
An interesting thing happened when we were waiting to go into Innoventions. While I ran off to check for BLAB FPs (they had just ran out at 9PM), my DW sat down on a wall and struck up a conversation with a woman of similar age with several children. When I got back, the woman looked up at me and called me by name. Turns out she was an acquaintance from college days who lived in the same dorm as I did. I would not have recognized here, but did remember her after we figured out where we knew each other from. When she referred to me by name, my kids were surprised and assumed I had corresponded with her on MousePlanet or another Disney Internet forum.
Davy Crockett's Canoes
DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Snow White 1PM (got there at 1PM and sat in back)Trey Walters