WDW Vets go to Cars Land … Have we been converted?
Who: Me, DW, DD7, DS3
What: Our First DLR Stay
When: January 26-February 1, 2013
Where: DVC Rental at The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (VGC)
Day 1: Saturday, January 26th -- Arrival
We arrived at John Wayne airport and took the Disneyland Resort Express (DRE) to the VGC. We had $5 off coupons, so the $90 round trip cost us $70. We didn't want to bring a car seat on this trip since we weren't renting a car, so the bus option worked well for us. I’d use them again under the same circumstances.
What can I say; we checked in and were immediately blown away by how amazing the Grand Californian Hotel (GCH) is. It's the nicest Disney hotel we have ever stayed in. Thanks to fellow DISer Nonsuch's recommendation of putting 6504, 5504, 4504, and 3504 down for our room request, we did that and got room 3504 (my room request list actually went 10 deep, thanks to the helpful recommendation of one of my DVC member friends from home named Todd). We walked into our room and starting cheering -- a perfect view of Mickey's Fun Wheel and Paradise Pier.
And a special thank you to our great DVC owner, Geoff, who rented us DVC points for this amazing trip. Thank you Geoff! I highly recommend renting DVC points for your next Disney vacation. I can walk you through the basics if you need assistance.
Anyway, we went down to White Water Snacks (WWS) for dinner, and the chicken nachos were as good as everyone says (thank you DIS boards!), and my kids loved the nuggets and grilled cheese meals. We had the restaurant to ourselves on a Saturday night. I couldn't believe it, considering how great the reviews are. A wonderful Cast Member (CM) named Lalani brought us our food, and threw in two Mickey-shaped Chocolate covered cookies. It was a great bit of magic to start our trip. We then got our DS3 to sleep, and DD7 and I went exploring a little before heading up to the VGC’s 6th floor Paradise View Deck to watch the 8pm World of Color show. It was great to have the music piped in. My DW watched some of the show from our balcony. Overall, it was a great arrival day. We couldn't wait to get up early the next day.
Day 2: Sunday, January 27th -- Our first day in the parks
We made it to the Disney California Adventure (DCA) main entrance at 6:50am, and we were first in one of the 8 or so lines for the 7am Extra Magic Hour (EMH).
We went straight to Cars Land. What a land! Next to Fantasyland, in our opinion it's the best land at any Disney park in America, and we did all three rides and ate breakfast at Flo's V8 Cafe. Radiator Springs Racers (RSR) is now my, my DW, and my DD7's favorite ride. My DS3 barely made the height restriction, and got to ride it, so we were happy about that. But he was a little young for it, and it was a little too intense for him. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is a great ride we all enjoyed.
As WDW vets, we next found out that the ease of park hopping at the Disneyland Resort (DLR) is both a blessing and a curse. On Sunday alone, we each park hopped to entrances 6 times. Each park hop was relatively quick, but the cumulative effect made it feel like we didn’t get to enjoy either park. So we learned to park hop less. We made sure to ride the Mad Tea Party teacups a couple times that day, since it was closing the next day for a refurb. We had dinner at the French Market. We had a great day, seeing the Bayou Bash concert, going on the new-to-us Ariel ride, seeing my DD7 go on California Screamin', seeing World of Color, and then over to Disneyland (DL) for the only fireworks show on the schedule during our vacation.
Even though DL was open until 11pm, we headed back to the room before 10pm, after a great first day in the parks. On the way back, we stopped at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express for some late night beignets. We did that a couple times on our trip, and based on all the white paper bags seen around the resort, we weren't the only ones. Very good.
Day 3: Monday, January 28th -- 2nd day in the parks, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) and Ragtime Piano Playing
We had breakfast at WWS before heading to the main entrance for another day with EMH at Cars Land (never use the GCH entrance for EMH!!). My DD7 and I rode RSR again and met up with my DW and DS3 to do the rest of Cars Land and then onto A Bug's Land before heading over to the Monsters, Inc. ride and the Disney Visa Meet & Greet. After that, it was on to the BBB, where my daughter dressed up like Belle. We love the BBB. We then ate lunch at the Plaza Inn (fantastic fried chicken), before my son napped and my daughter did the Princess Walk twice.
My DW and DD7 then had a magical moment with Robert, the Ragtime piano player at the Refreshment Corner on Main Street. They went over there to meet Mary Poppins and Bert and started speaking with Robert about my DD7’s first year of piano lessons. They told him she knew how to play "It's a Small World", and he asked my DD7 if she wanted to play. She said yes and got to play! My DW teared up with pride in our DD7. What a blessing to have that opportunity. Here is a video of DD7.
That night we spent at DCA. Thanks to the DISboards, we knew that the Radiator Springs lighting ceremony would happen just after sunset (3 minutes after to be exact), and we knew the sunset times before we arrived and went just in time to see it. It's great to see the progression of neon lights come on and cruise with the kids down Route 66 to "Sh-Boom". Be sure to time it right when you are there.
We then got front row seats for the Pixar Play Parade and ate at the Pacific Wharf/Corn Dog Castle. Next was Ariel's ride again before heading over to a near empty Turtle Talk with Crush. My DD7 got selected to talk with Crush, and my DS3 couldn't stop laughing the whole show. He now loves Crush and sleeps with a Squirt plush toy. One person in the audience asked a great question to Crush: can you name all 65 of your kids? His answer was funny, as he rolled off dozens of humorous names. Try it out next time.
We got in the Toy Story Midway Mania line in the last 5 minutes before the park closed (a great tip for the short days, or any day, is to save a long line for just before the rides close, as it artificially extends the park hours a little bit for you). After that, the shops on Buena Vista Street were open for an hour past 8pm, so we did some shopping before calling it a day. Another wonderful day.
Day 4: Tuesday, January 29th -- 3rd day in the parks, Character Breakfast
The day started out the night before, when I called Guest Services to request a reservation at Surf's Up Breakfast with Mickey and Friends for the very next morning. I was told sure, any time was open. What a difference between WDW and DLR. I like it.
Before heading over there, we turned into the GCH front desk one of Trivia worksheets that Guest Services offers. It was about Ariel's ride, and my DD7 and DW had done it together. Later that day, a signed picture of Ariel, a button, a writing pen, chocolate coins, and some jewels were waiting for my DD7 in our room. What a nice touch, so ask for it when you check in to a DLR hotel. They have them for other rides too, like the Nemo Subs, Pirates, and the Jungle Cruise.
At the breakfast, there were maybe 6 families in the entire restaurant when we got there, so we had ample access to the characters. Great interaction. And the food wasn't bad either. I even tried the chilaquiles on the recommendation of the DISboard Disneyland Podcast, and they were good.
We enjoyed the EMH at DL. We went to Peter Pan first, as recommended by the DIS Boards. And then on to other Fantasyland rides (we were the only guests inside the whole Pinocchio building), Nemo subs, then the Train over to New Orleans Square to eat at the Stage Door Café and watch Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. We then went over to Toon Town to ride Gadget's Go Coaster before DW and DS3 went back to nap. Then DD7 and I went on the Matterhorn 3 times in 30 minutes (first 3 of 7 bobsled rides for DD7), Space Mountain (first of 6 of those for her), and over to Soarin'. We all then went to WWS for dinner (more chicken nachos!) and were joined by my aunt (DA), uncle (DU), and 91-year-old grandmother (DGM), who were to join us the next day for DL. After that quick visit, we headed back into DL and watched Mickey's Soundsational Parade (MSP) and went back to Toon Town for what ended up being a special private room with Mickey. Toon Town was more like a Ghost Town, and we headed home after another fun day.
Day 5: Wednesday, January 30th -- 4th day in the parks, Family Joins Us
We started this fun day by renting a wheelchair from the hotel for my DGM, and all 7 of us went to the Chip 'N Dale Critter Breakfast at Storytellers Cafe. It was ok, pretty standard character breakfast, except for the rare characters. We saw Miko (Pocahontas), Kenai (Brother Bear), Rafiki (The Lion King), Geppetto (Pinocchio), Chip, and Dale.
Enjoying Disneyland with a manual wheelchair was very easy. We went to the Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Winnie the Pooh ride. A few of us rode the Indiana Jones ride while my DW and DS3 went up the Tarzan Tree House. After a train ride over to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain while some went into Innoventions, we ate a light lunch around the corn dog cart and Refreshment corner. Good stuff.
After lunch, my DW and DS3 went back to nap, and my DU and DGM went to watch the Voices of Liberty and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Me, my DA, and DD7 went and rode Matterhorn a few times, Space Mountain, the Astro Orbitor, and Star Tours. After that, we all went back to the hotel. DA, DU, and DGM all went to the great Stone Hearth in the GCH Lobby where the hotel unofficially hosted a daily event that I called the Slow Down & Rest Power Nap. Something several others joined them in. Very comfortable chairs, all facing the fire.
We then went back in the park for a Carnation Café dinner. We all enjoyed our meals there. We'll go back there next time, and I recommend that place for a reasonably priced table service restaurant inside DL. After that, we enjoyed a funny night time Jungle Cruise (those can be hit or miss, but our guide was great) and then went over to catch a front row seat for the MSP parade. A great place to see the parade, if you don't have a chance or want to get there early, is across from the Alice in Wonderland ride, near the Matterhorn. We showed up about 1 minute before the parade and got several front row spots. Of course, this is the off season, so take that with a grain of salt. My DGM loved the parade, as did we all. After the parade, we went to Fantasyland and all rode Peter Pan's Flight and the Carousel, before all but my DGM and I went on Dumbo. We split up for one more ride right before closing (DW and DD7 rode Space Mountain and DU and DA rode Star Tours), before calling it a night. My DGM did amazingly well all day. She was such a great sport. I hope I am having fun going down drops on Pirates of the Caribbean when I’m 91.
Day 6: Thursday, January 31st -- 5th and Final day in the parks, DCA Power Walk, Lunch with Friends
Our final day started with me doing something crazy and getting up and walking an extra 2 miles at 7am. It was the Get Up & Go Power Walk through DCA and Cars Land. I posted my review of it here.
After that, my DA, DU, and DGM came back and met us at WWS for breakfast. It was good to see them one last time, before heading over to DL EMH. Soon after the hour, we headed back to DCA and picked up RSR fast passes before riding Mater's and Luigi's again, getting a picture with Red the Fire Truck.
We then heading over to Paradise Pier for the worst ride experience of our entire vacation -- the swinging gondolas of Mickeys Fun Wheel. My DS3 was clinging to me for dear life. A ride on which we later found out routinely has to have vomit cleaned up. Never again on the swinging gondolas. That ride would not end. Try the non-swinging ones please.
After that, we met our good friends from Austin for lunch. Flo's V8 Café was down for an unexpected 5-day refurb, so we went over to the Pacific Wharf area and some of us ate at The Lucky Fortune Cookery and the others at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. After lunch, DD7 and DW went to the Aladdin Show while DS3 and I went back for a nap (5 for 5 in naps ... phew). My DD7 sat on the 2nd row aisle for the Aladdin show, and all the characters that walked by interacted with her. The Genie was funny, talking about the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, and iPads, amongst other things. DD7 and DW then hit Cars Land to use a couple of the RSR Fast Passes and rode Soarin', Goofy's Sky School, and went on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. They came back to the room and surprised me with a "The Music of Cars Land" CD. We love it, and we've listened to it each day weve been back in Texas. "Hey, Big Bulldozer, you can't catch me!!" :) .
So for our final night, we headed back into Disneyland and got some silhouettes made of the kids from 39-year CM Bonnie on Main Street. It only took about a minute to have it made and maybe 10 minutes for the whole transaction. After that, we rode some Fantasyland rides, and DD7 and I hit Space Mountain one last time before grabbing a quick Village Haus dinner and getting our favorite front row spot for the MSP parade. We really liked that parade, and loved seeing it 3 times. So by then, we were down to our last half hour.
DW and DS3 went shopping on Main Street some more. My DW was looking for classic round Mickey head stickers to give as gifts for our kids' friends and classmates back home. She asked a CM at City Hall who didn't have any, but told her some more would be delivered there soon. My DW went on shopping, and 10 minutes later, the CM found my DW and gave her dozens of the free stickers. Just another reason you cant beat Disney service.
DD7 and I went pressed penny collecting on Main Street, and then with 15 minutes before park closing, we left DL, went into DCA, got a few PhotoPass shots along the way, and made it into the RSR stand-by line at 7:55pm. Late night walking to a ride before closing is a lot of fun. The wait was only 25 minutes, and getting to ride RSR at night was a treat. It was my DD7s 5th ride and my 3rd ride, and my first time to get the Ramone's paint job option. I'm glad I got to see that. I told my DD7 it was a great way to end the trip.
Day 7: Friday, February 1st -- Departure Day, The worst day of the year
The kids slept in a little, and guess what, we ate breakfast at WWS. Love that place. CM Lalani was there, and she brought us out a complimentary fruit tray with our order. We took a picture with her to say thank you. We caught the DRE bus back to SNA, and made it back to Austin, exhausted, and a little sad that we weren't at Disneyland any more. But that sadness is fleeting, and what remains are the incredible memories made at Walt Disney's original park.
Misc.: **We did the Photopass Plus (PP+) pre-pay for $69.95. We would do this again, even though there are fewer PP photographers at the DLR, and there are glitches in the system. For instance, be sure to record all your ride photo numbers down on your phone, as only 9 of our 11 ride photos made it onto our account. We ended up with over 200 photos plus about 40 stock Disney photos that included professional Cars Land shots. One tip if you do PP+ is that since you are getting ride photos each time, be sure to ask to sit in the front row for those attractions. If not, the pictures might not be good ones since some smaller kids get blocked by the seat in front of them, and anyone can get blocked by someone in the front row with their arms up.
Summary: The more you go, the better you get. We made some mistakes, but we'll learn from those mistakes for next time. And to answer the question posed in the title -- we came into this vacation thinking we had to see Cars Land, but that once we did this, we likely would go back to going exclusively to WDW. But because of many things, like the intimacy and closeness of the parks, and how great the Grand Californian Hotel and Cars Land are, the Disneyland Resort is not just a one time visit for us WDW veterans, but now will be a destination to which we alternate our Disney vacations.
In HydroGuy's great DLR Guide for WDW Vets, he addresses WDW's Disney immersion, and how it's hard to replicate at DLR, but staying onsite will get you the closest. I have to agree and go a bit further ... the Disney immersion we felt at the VGC was equal to what we get at WDW. I mean, pretty much the only street light we saw for 6 days was a blinking yellow light, and I think every third blink was slower. We'll be back, and we can't wait.
Thank you for reading. And thank you again to all the Disneyland DIS Boarders, as this vacation could not have happened as successfully as it did without the help of the DLR veterans. I appreciate it and hope to pay it forward to others planning their DLR vacations. Thanks again. --Cory
Your family is adorable! I love that your GM was able to join in the fun too.
Great to hear everyone enjoyed themselves and you will make it to the DLR again.
Great report :thumbsup2
Glad you had a great time. So many people ask which resort we like better DL r WDW and we always say they are two different things and that you need to take each one on its own merit.
We do love being 15 minutes from Disneyland, but also love going to Disney World.
Great review, it so funny your DS covering his ears my DS2 did this every time we got close to Red so he wouldn't honk too loud and scare him.
Great to see you guys had a wonderful trip....makes me sad and I want to be in DL now, lol
And yes, we still wish we were back at DL. Such an awesome place.
Thank you all for reading the TR.
Great report. Glad you had such a great time!
What a great report and trip! Our kids are close to the same age, and I sure hope that my DD3 takes naps as well as your DS3 did.
So, you don't recommend using the GCH entrance into DCA? Why?
Thanks! Our first day at DL is in just 4 weeks. Your report is really helpful for my final planning.
Great report! We'll be there in two days for our first DL trip with similarly aged kids, and an extra one in the middle for good measure!
I LOVE that video of DD on the piano. You had the perfect angle to get Mary and Bert watching and singing along in the background. :goodvibes
Your son's face in that last pic is priceless! pixiedust:
Love the pics! Really really cute kidos! :)
And the GCH entrance into DCA is great, except for Extra Magic Hours. This is largely due to the bottleneck issue, where the GCH entrance has only 2 turnstiles while the main entrance had about 10 open. Also, the GCH is physically farther away from Cars Land than the main entrance.
We walked right past people who had been in the GCH EMH line for 45 minutes when we were headed to the main entrance. When we got to RSR, we saw them about 50 places behind us in line.
Enjoyed the TR! Cute family you have. I really like the picture of the PPH view, it made my decision harder for when I go, DLH which is closer but has weaker views, or PPH which is a but father out but has spectacular views. When do you plan to go back?
Great review! More pictures!
I can't believe I have never heard about the trivia sheets at the front desk of the DLR hotels! My kids would love this and it sounds like a great way to kill time in a line.
And we call the swinging cars on the ferris wheel "Mickey's Not-So-Fun Wheel" -- and this from kids who have tackled every Disney coaster on two coasts! Never again ...
Although that room view is from the DVC wing of the Grand Californian Hotel, I would say the park views at the PPH are better than any view at the DLH. However, I haven't stayed in either, so that's conjecture on my part.
And loosely we go to Disney once every 2 years. So we'll likely go to WDW in 2015 and back to the DLR in 2017. It's depressing to think about how far away that is.
we came into this vacation thinking we had to see Cars Land, but that once we did this, we likely would go back to going exclusively to WDW.
This is exactly our thoughts going into our trip. I am so happy to read your trip report and what an amazing time your family had! We are staying at the VGC for the first time in December. My daughter will be 7, and son 4, so this gave me a great idea of what to expect.
Did I read it right that you lined up for EMH just 10 minutes before it opened? That would be fantastic!
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