Saturday, January 24, 2015

Disneyland - January 2015

Our Disney trips have gotten a little bit out of control. Before last year, I had been to Disneyland twice, once at 6 and again at 13. Fast forward 25 years and I've tripled that within 6 months. I can remember liking the park as a kid, but I love it as an adult. Seeing the chiquita light up with every experience is indescribable.

As much as I love the park, I do believe in limits. After our holiday visit, I had decided that we wouldn't go back again until Halloween or Christmas next year. Boy, was that short lived.

One of Leeloo's best friends was headed to the park for her 3rd birthday celebration. After some hemming and hawing (very little), we agreed to go up and join them. I swear, twist my arm. In the end, we didn't even just go for the day, we went to both parks, and stayed two nights on top of it. The girlie is spoiled, I am spoiled, the spoil is acknowledged. With that said, we had the best time.

Every trip to Disney has been different. Each time there has been a new discovery and a slight variance of perspective. This visit was the first time it was just the chiquita and I. I would have loved to stay at an actual Disney Hotel, but the splurge was too much to justify. I wanted something convenient, but not too pricey. I found a Best Western across the street (maybe a 5 min walk), for just over a $100. I booked one night and decided we could head up Friday and come back Saturday evening.

We carpooled up Friday morning, dropped our friends at the Disneyland Hotel (luckies), and headed to the opposite side of the park. Harbor Drive borders the parks and is all hotels and restaurants. It's kinda crammed, a little dingy, but ever so convenient. After the car ride, stopping at one hotel and then driving to another, Leeloo was super impatient (it's hard to explain hotel check-ins to 3 year olds). I tried to make the process quick and painless, but wound up at the wrong Best Western. I was unaware that there were 6, yes 6, in the same area. Ours, was two doors down. We had to climb back into the car, head into traffic, and make a couple of U-turns until we were in the right place. Fortunately, the lobby was empty and we were headed into the park after a few minutes. Much to the little one's happiness, it was time.

We met our friends at the entrance and right away the girlies wanted to ride the train. I think the train is strange, it's nice that it circles around the whole property, but the weird little interludes are just a little too much. However, Ripley loves the dinosaur bit, dramatic music and all. Since these trips are not for me, I let her lead the way, so train it was!

After that, we had to head to one of the chiquita's favorites - the Castle. A princess girl's dream come true - an actual castle! She loves it - but it took me a while to realize that she's a bit confused by it. She keeps asking if we can go inside. We've done the Sleeping Beauty thing, but she's still adamant. Last visit she would go through the gate, circle around and go through again, asking, where'd the castle go? It finally occurred to me that she's expecting to see the INSIDE of the castle. A grand hall, thrones, a ball room, staircase etc. I had to explain that it was a pretend castle. I dunno if she understands, but she stopped asking. Whew!

One trip around the carousel and then we were off to another big hit, the Fantasy Faire, aka hall of princesses. Snow White is the main staple at this hall and the other two princesses are revolving. This time Leeloo got to meet Mulan. Mulan is one of my favorites, so I was equally excited.

Leeloo is really starting to have fun with the characters now. Before, she'd slowly and shyly walk up, maybe giving them a hug and pose for a pic. Now she has whole conversations with them. This time her and Cinderella discussed shoes.

Another new face was Donald Duck. She may have been more into her lollipop than the actual greeting, but she played along anyhow.

We ran into Donald on the way out of Disney and on our way to California Adventure, aka the new Frozen home. Anna, Elsa and Olaf had all relocated across the way, and we were excited for the girlies to experience it. However, we didn't take into account lines and the need for Fast Passes. Since we were getting close to nap/resting time we opted to try again in the morning. We decided to head across the street to the Animation building instead.

Our last time at Cali Adventure the Animation building was one of our favorite spots. The place was so empty and dark, it was so nice to be able to stop in and mellow for a bit. This is no longer the case. We walked into a sea of Frozen dresses which swirled around small couch islands of exhausted parents. We had found Anna and Elsa's new home. Despite being packed, the girls still liked it - they were instantly mesmerized by the giant screens. 

While they were transfixed, a stranger asked us if they had met Anna and Elsa yet. Before we knew it we had extra Fastpasses and we were in line to meet the faves. While begrudging the location at first, I was so thankful that the girls had something to watch while we were in line. The movies made the wait go so much faster.

Anna and Elsa seemed much happier in their new location. The room was nice and big and very bright. The girls went in together and each got to have conversations with the royals. Once again Leeloo talked about shoes :)

After that, we wandered back to the hotel for a break and a late lunch. I'm sure the chiquita could stay awake for a full day at the park, but neither of us would enjoy it. After a couple of hours of downtime, we headed back just before the parade so we could squeeze in some Pirates time. The line wasn't so bad, but when we got to the front, the ride broke. Sad face. Leeloo loves the ride so much we waited in line 20 more minutes before I convinced her to go do something else. 

We went back to Fantasyland so we could be close to the parade route. The teacups were a big hit and then our friends met up with us again. 

Leeloo loves the parades. She dances and waves and has this constant smile. It makes me so happy that I make every effort to make them. 

After the parade we did manage to make it back to Pirates. The first rotation was perfectly normal. On our second trip we got stuck. Twice. Leeloo wanted to go on a third time, but I didn't wanna spend our night stuck under Disney. Besides, it was almost time for fireworks - my favorite part of the night. 

If you're familiar with Disney, leaving Pirates before the fireworks is kinda crazy. The Fantasmic show happens on the water at that time, and there are thousands of people. I had to put the chica on my shoulders because of the crowds. Also, things are roped off, so you're squeezed this way and that. Once I reached where our stroller was parked I realized that it was now three deep. It was quite the feat to roll out the other strollers (which were all on a steep incline), avoid the masses of people being ushered by us, in the dark, with Leeloo on my shoulders. Oh the fun parts of theme parks.

By the time we made it back to Mainstreet we had about 15 minutes before the bangs. I opted for ice cream. Something about the ice cream at Disney is so yummy. It's rich and creamy with little bits of ice. Just my style.  Leelo asked for vanilla with whipped cream. Yum and yum.

I never know where to head for the light show. The fireworks are so great, but thousands of people are all jockeying for position. I decided to just allow ourselves to be shuffled along the roped off maze while the bursts were above us. It turned out great because got to experience the show from different angles, and by the time the finale happened, we were right in front of the castle without a soul in front of us. It was truly breathtaking.

The ice cream was big enough to fuel us through the Peter Pan line. Thank goodness too, I love love love the ride, but the line is always so long! By the time we left Neverland it was almost ten. We had Fastpasses for the 10:45 Fantastic show, but I could see that the chiquita wasn't gonna make it. She begged me for one more carousel ride, and fell asleep in my arms while we were waiting for it to stop. She slept all the way to the room and straight on to morning. Such a good Disney day.


To my surprise the girlie was up bright and early. By 7:30 she was already climbing in her stroller telling me it was time to go. The parks didn't open until 9, but I figured we could check out of the hotel, find someplace for breakfast and make it into the park right at opening. It seemed like a good plan but I didn't take into account the Star Wars marathon that was happening that day. Thousands of people wandered by us (in great costumes!), and all the restaurants had lines out the door (hungry racers!). Good thing I packed fruit and snacks, because we were headed straight into the park. 

My plan was to jump on the Monsters, Inc ride before we met up with our friends for the day. On our way we got detoured by the Frozen Sing-along. It was the first show of the day and no Fastpass was required. How serendipitous! We headed in and were met with another sea of dresses. Leeloo begged for hers and luckily I had it packed in the stroller. A quick change later, and the girlie was twirling around the waiting room, performing her "magic" for strangers. The children stared at her and the adults laughed, a couple people told me she was charming. I just have to roll my eyes and smile, too much like her mama!

The show was fun. Some live action actors intertwined with song clips from the movie. The chiquita sang along to all of them, and when Love is an Open Door came on, she told me it was my turn, and that I was Hans. Haha. 

The finale, of course, was the best, and there was a surprise! This made the whole trip for her!

She loved the show so much that she wanted to do it again! By that time our friends had made it into the park, we all grabbed fast passes for the next available time and decided to wander about while waiting. We went through Bugs Life, then through Cars Land, straight through to the Little Mermaid ride, after that we had just enough time to take a spin on the carousel on the boardwalk.

The carousel may have been a bad idea because it was a very brisk walk back to the other side of the park where the sing-along was. We made it with moments to spare and we were all set up for round two. Which also did not disappoint (big high standards for 3 year olds).

Oh the magic!

The park was starting to get a little congested by that time (did I mention the marathon?), so we decided to try our luck back at Disneyland. The girls wanted to go hang out with Tinkerbell, so we were off to Pixie Hollow!

Our first pic in front of the Train Station.

The Pixie Hollow line always takes much longer than the sign says. 10 minutes? No - 25. 20 minutes? Maybe 30 - 1 hour. I understand it, meet and greets are hard to time. Some kids linger, others take the quick pic and are off the the next thing. I, however, have learned to at least double the expected time and pack to entertain. On this particular day in line we: changed Leeloo's clothes, ate snacks, blew bubbles (which is always a big hit with the other kids in line), and colored. It was definitely longer than the quoted 20 minutes. Go prepared folks - just think, I wasn't even a boy scout!

The fairies were fun as always. Silver Mist is so sweet, and Tinkerbell is spunky and silly. The chiquita really wants to see whats in her house, but Tink does a great job at distracting her. The girls spent a long time with the pixies, more reasons the wait is so long!


It had been a long morning. By that time the taller folks in the group were ready for lunch. The chiquita complained for about 2 whole minutes, then climbed in the stroller and fell asleep. 

Her nap gave mommy some much needed down time. We ate outside at Catal in Downtown Disney. I had steak and fries (er frites), and a nice big glass of wine. The glass may have helped my final decision to stay another night. Since she was napping, I knew she'd be ready to head back into the thick of things when she woke up. I had originally planned to watch the Pixar parade and then head back home. Staying meant that if we wanted to make the parade, I would first need to: feed her, find a new hotel, walk to the previous hotel and fetch our car, check-in, and find our way back. We had two hours, no pressure. 

Just after lunch the chiquita woke up. I stopped at the Grand Californian so she could dig in to the to-go box I bought her. While she ate, I used Expedia to find a hotel. The Marriott had rooms for about $30 less than we spent the night before (although they charge $30 for parking, and $5 for the shuttle, so it evened out). I booked the room, she finished lunch, and we started the walk back to the car. Somehow I took a wrong turn and ended up at the California Adventure entrance. Oh well, I thought, we'll take the short-cut. Ha. The path to the entrance was closed for construction. Of course. I continued through the park at full speed, while trying to explain the course of events to the little one. Car, hotel, parade. Car, hotel, parade. It was our mantra. It was our mission.

After weaving through the crowds we reached the car fairly quickly. What I didn't take into account was the very small parking lot and my very large ride (Toyota Sequoia). I think I made about 5 attempts to pull out of the space without hitting the row of parallel cars parked behind us. I failed. Ultimately I had to google the hotel, call the front desk, and ask them to send someone. Seriously. The maintenance guy who came to our rescue kinda snickered at us for two seconds until he tried the task himself. It took him about five minutes and a 10 point turn before he wiggled us out. Good thing we weren't in a hurry! Haha. 

The Marriott was only a u-turn and a few lights away. Valet and check-in went fairly quickly. Our room was on the very top floor, all the way at the end of the hall (because that's the way the universe works sometimes). But, despite all that, we were actually doing great on time. I was kinda impressed. I changed the chiquita into warmer clothes, and we were on our way. Until, that is, the 3 year old factor came into play. Leeloo had to poop. Yup. Right then. And in situations like that, no matter what you're rushing to do, your only option is to wait. And wait.

By the time she was finished we only had about 20 minutes before the parade. Not entirely hopeless, but not very promising. After the shuttle, the beeline to the gate, the jockeying through the crowd, and walking around almost all the park because of the parade route detour, we made it. We even had time to ham it up for the camera.

Watching the Pixar parade.
After all of that I was ready to slow things down. California Adventure looks so beautiful at night. The boardwalk is all lit up, and Cars Land is amazing. We took a lovely stroll around the perimeter, riding a few rides along the way. Mostly we snacked and took in the sights. 

We had ended up in Cars Land, and had just finished the Mater ride, when our friends met up with us once again. We decided to try to meet Olaf and see snow. Ugh, my only regret of the trip. We waited in line (which was expected), but when they let us into the building, they informed us that we had to wait in yet another line. And then, when I asked about meeting Olaf, the cast member told me that I would have to go back outside, to get into a third line, so I could get a pager that would buzz in about 40 minutes. So we left. I'm still kinda grumpy about the whole fiasco. Big exhale - bygones.

It was really pretty inside the building. 
We walked out of the building and I looked for the first thing that would de-grumpify (it's a word) me. Turtle Talk with Crush was just across the way. Once again, the 10 minute wait was closer to 30, luckily the girls found other kids to play and pass the time with. You could tell that it was getting late, the giggles were screechy and the kiddos were kinda crazed - the last push of excited adrenaline. But once the doors opened things settled down quickly. Good thing Crush was there to mesmerize them!

Somehow the time between Mater and Crush was about two hours. Oh the theme park time suck! We said goodbye to the birthday girl and ventured back into Disney for one last hoorah. It was just about time for the fireworks so I decided to head towards Fantasyland and watch from behind the castle and crowds. The booms started when we were walking past Monstoro, we settled by the Dumbo ride which was still moving during the whole display! It was fun to see a new perspective, but my favorite is still in front of the castle with the music - must be why there are tens of thousands jockeying for that position!


The rest of the night was a blur. I happened to have some out of town friends that we met up with for a split second. They did happen to be in line for Alice in Wonderland - which we had never experienced. Not only was it great to see them, they introduced me to a new favorite. I didn't even snap any pics cause I was so into it! They also led us into the Mad Hatter. Another first for me. The chiquita beelined for a pair of pink mouse ears. They are so cute (and any doubt that I have not caught the Disney bug has been eradicated)!

We didn't last much longer that night. By the time we wandered out and caught the shuttle to the hotel it was 11:30. Leeloo was even scolding me from the stroller "Mommy is in so much trouble. I'm so  tired. I'm not in bed. Mommy is in big trouble...". By the time I got her into bed all she did was say goodnight and roll over with her eyes already closed. Once again, Disney magic.

Last pic of the castle on the way out.

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