I have been wanting a family vacation for a while. We take lots of trips to visit relatives, but we never have taken the time to hang out as a small family unit. D was on board and he suggested Hawaii. We have a friend with a house there, so all we needed were plane tickets. Hawaii. In the summer. The tickets I found were just under $7000 for all of us (round trip)! Crazy talk. I just wanted something simple, that we could all do together, and wouldn't make me feel like we were wasting valuable college funds. Immediately I thought of Disney.
It's been 25 years since I've been to the Magic Kingdom. D had wanted to wait until Leeloo was older (5-ish), but with that comes older (and probably more angst-y) boys. D also suggested that we only drive up for the day. I wanted a vacation. Time together. Non-rushed, relaxing time together. I looked up packages and found that for nearly a third of the cost of Hawaii plane tickets, we could spend a week in Mickeyland. D was in.
We drove up on Monday evening after D came home from work. The traffic was great and it only took us an hour to get to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. The hotel is a little extravagant, but my main concern was being able to easily access a room at nap time. This hotel isn't near the park, it's practically IN the park, there is even a private entrance to California Adventure. It was ideal.
The Grand Californian is beautiful. It's rustic and impressive. And, of course, so much is tailored for the kiddos. As we checked in the kids were seated in small rockers watching Disney cartoons. There is also a resident pianist that plays all the favorites in the lobby. Check-In took a little longer because they didn't have the room we requested right away (that included a Queen, Bunk Beds & a Trundle - 4 beds in all), but they were quick to alleviate the situation and we were settled in in no time.
|All ready for the trip!|
|Kids lobby corner.|
The First Night:
Our first priority was food. Downtown Disney was right out the door, so we headed into the melee to find a restaurant. I was fairly amazed at how well Disney immerses you in the experience. There were lights, music, and everything just seemed fun. We wandered and smiled, and Leeloo pointed out every character picture she recognized. The boys pointed out everything they thought was "so cool". All of us were feeling the buzz.
The boys chose to eat at ESPN Zone (with TVs and a full size arcade). Luckily, we sat outside so we weren't too bombarded with stimulation. It was great to hear the music and people watch. We were already tallying how many girls were princesses. The dinner wasn't fantastic (food was really an issue for me the whole trip), but it was edible.
That night we played games, shopped around and saw the Disney fireworks for the first time. It was a perfect way to start our trip.
|The Super Lego Store|
|Wall of Legos. Every brick, every size.|
|Racing Lego cars.|
Day 1 (the first official Disneyland day):
Another Disney hotel perk is Extra Magic Hour. All guests get to enter the parks one hour early. It was so nice to start the days off without ginormous lines!
Our first stop was Fantasyland. Right away we rode a handful of "dark rides" without a wait. I have to admit that I don't understand these rides. Especially Snow White and Pinnochio. They are terrifying! Even Mr. Toads Wild Ride ends in Hell. What's up with that Disney? The kids liked them though, and the chiquita found her favorite word for the trip: "again!".
We also rode the carousel, Dumbo, and Casey Jr.'s Circus Train. All without more than a 15 minute wait. The only drawback of Magic Hour is the timing. The gate opens at 8am, so to get the full hour you have to be there ahead of time. That means getting three kids up, dressed and fed by 7:30 (and without a kitchen). The first day we decided to head over and then eat at the park. It sounded like a good plan until we kept getting distracted by rides without lines. Eventually we opted for packed snacks and fruit.
|Playing with princesses.|
|Waiting for the carousel.|
|Casey Jr's Circus Train|
Just after nibbling we met up with some friends who drove up to spend the day with us. Kiddie time was over. It was boy time! They all got fast passes for Space Mountain, then we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean. Little did we know that Pirates was gonna be Leeloo's favorite ride in the park. We rode it NINE times during our visit. Nine. Every morning she wakes up and asks, "Mami, arg?", and I have to explain to her that the Pirates are far away for now.
|Pirates of the Caribbean.|
|So excited about her first Pirates ride!|
|Yo Ho, Yo Ho!|
We finished our afternoon with the Haunted Mansion and the chiquita and I left the boys to catch a nap. We caught the train to the entrance and she rode the stroller back to the hotel. Again, staying at the Grand was our best decision ever.
|Mommy's treat: wine and Netflix.|
The chica took a 3 hour nap and I enjoyed air-conditioned quiet time. As soon as she was up we headed back to find the boys. They were in Tomorrowland and just about to jump on Star Tours (which Ripley is too small for), so we headed towards the Buzz Lightyear ride, Astro Blasters. Ripley loved trying to shoot the targets, even if she had a high score of zero!
|Buzz is one of Ripley's favorite characters.|
|Dum dums - mommy's long line distraction.|
The boys were then ready for something sweet, so we went back to main street, and in perfect time to see Ripley's absolute favorite - Elsa and Anna! (There is actually a whole Frozen meet and greet, but the lines were always around 2 hours long! I didn't want anyone losing that much time!)
The Frozen float was such a highlight for Leeloo. I don't know if I've ever seen her so starstruck before! We finished up the evening with It's a Small World (longest ride ever - it goes on and on and on), Toon Town, and Pirates yet again. Not bad for our first day.
Back at the room we turned on the TV and Snow White told us a bedtime story.