Tuesday, February 23, 2016

(Our) Best Magical Moments at Disneyland

So we just returned from Disneyland last week...

Our first two days were scorched in 90 degree heat and crowded (lots of folks from Seattle!) who had the same great vacation idea we had evidently. But Disneyland is a special place where magical stuff happens.

  • Day 1 in California Adventure Park, Meeting Anna & Elsa: I had heard this experience can get mobbed and it even used to have FastPasses associated with it due to popularity. We were following our touringplans.com itinerary and had some time to wait before we did Turtle Talk with Crush (innovative and delightful attraction, btw) and wandered right by the place where you meet Anna & Elsa. I asked the cast member (employee) how long the wait was. She said, “There is just one family ahead of you and this will be the shortest line you’ll see all day.”  I was all, “KEN, HURRY OVER HERE RIGHT NOW WITH THE KIDS!!!” As our first character/princess interaction, I got a little choked up. The kids loved it and this experience set a great tone for meeting all the other characters during the rest of our trip.

Another notable character meeting...

  • Day 1 in California Adventure Park, Pixar Parade: Disneyland parades are spectacles of sight, sound and substantial production value. There are even tall poles with stage lights that magically ‘grow’ out of the surrounding buildings along the parade route--no detail left to chance. Lightning McQueen & Mater were Cal’s favorites as well as Toy Story. Sid loved it all, she said.

  • Day 2 in Disneyland Park, Navigation under pressure: At one point in the morning, I ran to get FastPasses for Hyperspace Mountain while Ken took the kids to Pixie Hollow where they were going to meet Tinkerbell and friends. While we were separated, he texted me that he’d forgotten the kids’ autograph books for the characters to sign. (This became hugely important to Sid and Cal every time they encountered characters.) He said he was toward the front of the line and to bring the books in a hurry. Disneyland is larger and has more hidden alcoves than California Adventure. So I put my targeting computer away and hoped I could find the exhaust port like Luke did. I started running out of Tomorrowland with no map or any idea where Pixie Hollow was in hopes that if I just used the Force, maybe I’d *feel* where I was supposed to go. Sure enough, I rounded a corner in my addled haze and there it was: Pixie Hollow. I charged up through the line of parents and kids like a relay runner--the books in my extended hand just as Ken and the kids stepped up for their turn to meet Faun & Tinkerbell. Totally out of breath and sweating profusely, I quickly had to regain my composure to snap pictures. The things we do for our children.

  • Day 3 in Disneyland Park, Parade Miracle: After the Pixar parade, Sidney was smitten with parades and wanted more than anything to catch the other big daytime parade in Disneyland. In a tragic turn of events which I will explain further on, we missed it the previous day. So by hell or high water we were going to see it on our 3rd and final day at the parks. Sidney and I arrived a whole hour early and staked our spot on the curb on Main Street. But what started out as a beautiful, temperate 73 degree day, by 3:45pm was fully cloudy (still warm though) and sprinkling. (By the way, these intermittent, inconsequential sprinkles caused a steady stream of people to head for the exits. Being from the NW has one advantage of not being bothered by that level of precipitation.) Anyway, it would sprinkle then let up, sprinkle then let up. I nervously asked a cast member (employee) if they would cancel the parade with these conditions but she said at the very least they would put the parade characters in trams so they could go by and wave. Parade time approached with minor intervals of precipitation but at 4:15 when the first amazing float started up the street, the rain held off as if it too had pulled up a blanket on Main Street to watch all the glorious floats with dancing characters and princesses pass by. Not 15 minutes after the parade ended, the sky opened up and dumped serious PNW caliber rain down on Disneyland for the rest of the night. The magic is real, people.

  • Day 1 California Adventure Park & Day 4 Paradise Pier Hotel--Character Meals: You have to eat right? You might as well save yourself a whole lot of park time that you’d be waiting in a line to see characters and do a meal like this. Our first one was with princesses and the other was with traditional characters. It was ideal: low stress, great pictures and no unnecessary waiting.

All About the Prep

My husband likes to say that I am too much of a planner sometimes--and that planning takes away potential spontaneity, fun and/or magic. However, Disneyland is not one of those places you want to enter unprepared. And the magic WILL find you even if you’ve made plans.

Since last August, I solicited advice and studied up on resources that would help make our trip as fun, memorable and smooth as possible. I am so thankful for all the advice from families who recently visited, especially Christina S., Kristina B., Shannon T. and Megan T. Their insights proved golden, especially gems like: “rent a stroller,” “don’t try to push a double stroller around the crowded narrow walkways, get two single ones,” “use touringplans.com,” “get a room with a park side view to see the night shows,” and “don’t miss Hyperspace Mountain”---well that last one maybe I could have done without. :) Additionally one of the best detailed blogs for smart Disneyland time-management and preparation is dlrprepschool.com and one of the best tools for in-park attraction & event scheduling based on a database and algorithms is touringplans.com.

I really enjoyed some of the legacy Disney rides for the nostalgia and novelty--Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean. [OMG, Enchanted Tiki Room--what a weird, cool concept.] There were a number of rides that were closed for refurb and dismantling in preparation for the new Star Wars Land. We are already planning to return in 4-5 years when the kids are eligible for all the rides and there is a whole new area to explore. I am quite happy with the trip as a whole, especially our accommodations, character meals, early mornings and time split among the parks. Obviously I would have loved the weather to be a tad cooler and the crowds to be less but I think a mid-week, non-school break time frame is the only way to ensure that. Now I get why people go on a more regular basis. Well, back to real life and normal responsibilities.

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