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Old 03-24-2010, 04:33 PM   #1
gethane
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First trip to Disneyland - March 19-22

Our last (and only) Disney experience was at Disney World 7 years ago.

The trip down from the Bay area: We left our apartment just north of Berkeley at 2:15pm on Thursday the 18th. We were still undecided about whether to take I-5 or 101 S. We decided to go with fast and took the I-5 exit and both of us immediately regretted it and so we curved back around to meet up with 101 S. Such a pretty drive! We lucked out and arrived near Pismo beach at 6pm just an hour or so before sunset and hadn't eaten supper yet so we stopped and walked out onto the pier, taking pictures and letting the kidlets (boy 6, girl 4) stretch their legs until the sun set. Then we ate at a restaurant near the beach. It was my first ocean sunset though I've lived in California for 19 months now. We got back on the road at 8 pm. Finally, the kids fell asleep. We originally planned to stop at Santa Barbara and get up in the morning to drive our van and stuff to the Hojo, but with sleeping kids, and light night traffic, we continued on (saying in unison upon coming across a car pulled over "That car is on fire!" I'd never seen that before). I hotwired a hotel around 10:30 pm when we stopped for gas and we got to the Hilton Anaheim South around 11:45.

Hilton's beds were great and I liked their soap, shampoo etc. The $15 dollar parking fee for 9 hours of parking kinda sucked though. We decided against an alarm, figuring starting our Disney trip fresh was more important. We woke up around 8 am and were in the van by 9:15 or so. We drove up to the HoJo, checked in, left our bags, and made it to Disneyland around 10:30.

Disneyland: We had fun. We arrived Friday around 10:30, Saturday around 6:55 for early entry, and Sunday about 7:50. We stayed too long each day, even though we planned to leave between 1-3 to go back to the hotel for a rest, it just never worked out that way. It was pretty warm Friday and Saturday but Sunday it was hazy so never felt as warm.

Lots of rides were down, lots of times, inconveniencing as we trooped back and forth according to our Ridemax schedule to pick up or use our fastpasses. Indiana Jones was down on two separate days when going back to use fastpasses and Buzz was down once. Roger Rabbit was down the one time we went up to toon town. The monorail was also down when we trooped all the way across downtown disney to use it to go to Tomorrowland when we were going to go and upgrade to Annual Passes (since we hadn't yet ridden it)
.

Friday: since we arrived so late, and had had printer problems before leaving so I couldn't print out our Ridemax schedules, we just kinda wandered but did have some pretty good luck. We started out on the train, exiting right by the Princess Faire and going on It's a Small World first. Perfect! So cheerful! We then went on the Matterhorn Bobsleds (less than 20 min wait) though the 4 & 6 year old were less than thrilled. No crying though. We wandered by the Jedi Academy which totally enthralled my 6 year old and while they stood and watched, my 4 year old and I hit the bathroom and figured out the Autopia fast pass thing. We then did Nemo subs (30 min wait) only because my 6 year old was insistent. I actually hadn't planned to do them at all. While wandering, we also grabbed some Thundermountain fast passes and did it later, again not thrilling the young'uns but they were troopers. We waited around 20 minutes for the Haunted Mansion which both kids enjoyed. We also hit the Carousel at some point, maybe a 10 min wait. As we were leaving we had ice cream and watched the flag retreat ceremony. We went to the hotel to meet up with my 15 year old daughter who flew in from Nebraska to join us and the kids splashed in the Castaway Cove. We stayed too long probably. We headed to downtown disney for supper, settling on Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. It ended up being a 45 min wait, but we were seated outside and got to watch the fireworks while we had desert.

Saturday: We knocked out 11 rides right off the bat, most of the rides were walk-on or pretty close to it. Peter Pan, Dumbo, Alice, Teacups, Toad, Pinnochio, Snow White, Astro Orbiters, Buzz, Star Tours, Space Mountain (edit: all by 9:15 or so!!) and the Storybook Canal ride. Then we went to Pirates of the Caribbean, had breakfast, then back to Jedi Academy. We didn't get there early enough (10:20 for the 10:30 show), and didn't have signs. My son did have a homemade Star Wars t-shirt, bright orange. He didn't get picked. My husband did some coaching, and they stayed to wait for the 11:35 performance while I and my 4 year old went to rent a locker, meet up with the 15 year old who hadn't wanted to get up so early, saw the Queen of Hearts and Cruella DeVille, climb through sleeping beauty's castle, rode Pinnochio again, did the Circus train, and my husband messaged that my son did get picked for the 11:35 show. All the kids that had signs there did get picked.

I don't exactly remember what everyone did next. We hit Pixie Hollow (20-30 min wait). My teen and I did Space Mountain again while my husband and two littles built light sabers. We went on Star Tours again. At one point we traded off to ride Indiana Jones. The teen took the littles on Tarzan's tree and they watched musical chairs with Peter Pan. At 3:30 or so my dh took the littles back to the hotel for swimming while I took the teen to downtown disney for some eyeliner at Sephora. Some friends from San Diego came up to stay at the same hotel, and they had a 6 and 2 year old and we all splashed at Castaway Cove for a couple hours, then went over to Mimi's for supper.

Sunday: we re-did some of the kids' rides, this time with our friends and their kids. Plus we went up to Toon Town for the first time for our pictures with Mickey and Minnie. Roger Rabbit was down so we couldn't get FP or ride. My littles were too freaked out by the bigger coasters, we couldn't get them on Gadget. Also hit Jungle Cruise.
Comments: My kids did not find Snow White to be too scary. Matterhorn and Thunder Mountain are too jerky. I loved Space Mountain, Star Tours and Indiana Jones. Not enough characters were around the park, imo! Too many rides were down. But Disneyland is so very clean and friendly. With the 4 and 6 year old, I was very happy at how compact Disneyland is, easier on their little (and my old) feet! We didn't get a stroller, but I think maybe we should have had one for them to switch off on. By Monday and DCA, they were BEAT. Since lockers were $7, I would have rather just rented a stroller and used that as a moving locker plus a place for the kids to take turns resting. I wish we had hit some of the shows, Princess Faire, and some penny machines but we just ran out of time and steam. We had reservations for Minnie's bfast on Monday but I called and canceled because we just could not do another early morning.

Disney's California Adventure: After 3 hard days at DL we really enjoyed the more relaxed and less crowded pace here. It was also cooler. We arrived right at rope drop, did Soarin' (fabulous), then Toy Story Mania, King Triton Carousel, Screamin' (loved it), Mickey's fun wheel (fixed gondola - very lame, totally not worth the 10 minute wait), Jellyfish jumpers, FP for Mulholland, then lunch at Farmer's market. Then Mulholland (6 year old loved this, I was surprised, but I did narrate it, telling him what was coming up), Jumpin Jellies again (my dh and son were honorary Scuba Divers), Tough to be a bug, Flik Flyers, Ladybug Boogie, baby bumper cars, Screamin' again, Grizzly (everyone enjoyed!) Redwood play area (two thumbs up, wish we'd taken a longer break here but we were running out of time), Monsters, Inc (expected a little more honestly), and Muppets 3d (much needed break). Took pictures with Stich, Woody, safari Mickey (or whatever the California equivalent is) and Donald Duck. Hubby and teen skipped Tower of Terror because the 4 and 6 year old desperately thought they wanted to go on it but we knew it was just not going to be a good situation. I didn't realize Aladdin was only Thu-Sun and was desperately disappointed to miss it. My 15 year old caught it the day before, though, and said it was awesome. I hope its still there in May when we visit with a different teen daughter .

RideMax: First, if this is your first trip, you must get this program! Don't let any suggestions/critiques I mention later dissuade you from getting this. It was great for so many reasons! There is no way we could have gotten so many rides in on Saturday morning especially without the schedule and its hints and tips, both general and specific for the itinerary. My friend who joined us for Sunday said that it was great to be able to hit so many short wait times. I had also read the Unofficial Guide and many of the suggestions on this forum and the combination really made a difference. I like to have "a plan." But we also need flexibility.

In order (mostly) of the things I'd like to see added/changed: (note: the program may do some of these and I just didn't know)
  • Ability to email and/or text a compacted list to yourself! My printer was being naughty before we left and so I had to resort to *gasp* pen and paper. I'm the person that has been typing and printing her children's absence notes for 15 years and just signing them instead of handwriting them.
  • Ability to weight your ride priorities to high, default, and low.
  • Ability to designate acceptable wait times for each ride separately.
  • Ability to handle gaps in the middle of the day with, say, a 30 minute leeway window. Or designate something like, 4 hour gap sometime between 11 and 5. That way you wouldn't run into the situation where you say you want a break from 2-6 but the program was going to tell you to get a FP at 2:15 so instead of suggesting that anyway (since its in a leeway period) it returns with the "too many attractions" message, etc.
  • Ability to add shows and/or food selections and/or planned meal times and places.
  • We absolutely did not need to arrive at the park 40 minutes before opening to do our itinerary and I'm glad we didn't follow that tip. But perhaps during busier times you "must" to really get going. (I didn't use the times so much though, as using it as a "do it in this order" sort of thing).

Food:
Carnation Cafe: good! Get priority seating though if you know when you want a break. We had to wait too long for the littles at 1:30 for lunch.

Cafe Orleans: Closed when we tried to hit it

River Belle Terrace: this must be where we had bfast on Sat, though I don't recall the name. Eh, so so. Kids liked the Micky mouse pancakes.

Pizza Port: GROSS, do not eat there!

Golden Horseshoe: No seating so didn't stay, no mozz sticks on menu!

Stage Door cafe: pretty good corndog, the two that got fish and chips really liked it. No mozz sticks! Told to get them at Farmer's Market in DCA.

Village Haus: good breakfast on Sunday. I did get a lot of fruit on the fruit plate. The kids enjoyed the french toast sticks, my dh, however, did not care much for the bfast burrito

Farmer's Market @ DCA: eh. Chicken caesar's salad ok, but not great. Mozz sticks, didn't even eat them all, yuck. If these are the same as the Golden Horseshoe, I don't know what all the fuss is about. Kids seemed to like the corndogs and fries.

Turkey Leg @ DCA: good but VERY salty!

Pretzel at Wertzel @ DD: good!

Peet's coffee at Haagen Daz @ DD: needed a taste of home. We drink Peet's religiously here in Berkeley

Jazz Kitchen @ DD: Delicious but expensive. The specialty dessert is worth it! Husband had filet mignon, 15 year old had jambalaya, I had the creole onion soup and chicken pasta thing. The creole onion soup was good, just not quite what my mouth was wanting. Appetizer of garlic cheese bread with a bit of lemon juice was good.

Mimi's: due to exhaustion and proximity to HoJos, we ate here three times. It's reasonably priced, a varied selection to suit many tastes. The food was good enough, but WAY UNDERSTAFFED! Our servers were really trying to keep up but just couldn't. All three times, different servers, many things we had ordered were forgotten. The kids didn't get dessert the first night, I didn't get my French Onion soup until asking the second night. Beer was forgotten on the 3rd. And they ran out of dessert on the third night but the server really made up for it by giving us a 6 pack of muffins for breakfast the next day.

HoJo:
The good: First, very clean. Beds were good, but frankly not as good as the Hilton South's were. Castaway Cove a HUGE hit with the kids, and very nice that they put the Jacuzzi in there for the grownups to relax in while the kids play. Our Disney View room (1-411) was pretty good for the fireworks, but there was one branch, that from pretty much any angle on the balcony, obstructed the big round ones. We still were happy though with the decision to get the Disney view rooms. The little ones were beat and I didn't want to miss fireworks.

The bad: The staff, though friendly, was either overworked, or forgetful. I asked for three keys (and wrote it down on the check in sheet), got two, so had to go back. Our coffee maker didn't work, and though we called our first night, no one got to it. Finally on the second night someone got to it, but I don't know why we bothered, its awful! I was really looking forward to trying Keurig but wow, I think I'll stick with my pot and grinder. The tv channel selection was pretty poor. I'm glad we brought movies and a laptop for the kids to unwind to. And worse, I had called inhouse to arrange for a town car to pick up and drop off my 15 year old at the airport. The town car luckily arrived fine on the pickup but never showed up to take her back. The staff person at the front desk however, was very helpful, and they got someone there in plenty of time for her to make it to the airport (for a flight that was later canceled ). And it is not a 10 minute walk to the parks. More like 15. Which didn't matter a bit in the morning, but at the end of the day, that last 5 minutes was pretty awful on sore and tired feet.

The ugly: The internet connection was completely unusable. I barely was able to connect long enough to update RideMax before making plans every day. Couldn't connect to Facebook, any news sites, any forums, or email myself a text list of RideMax schedule. If you are computer people, and we are, this is not the place to stay. My husband and teen daughter both said that the hotel was "pretty awful." I didn't think it was awful, because the littles really loved Castaway Cove, and it was very clean and pretty, but unless I get the ENT rate, I won't stay here again (we had it 2 of our 4 nights). Maybe not even then unless I hear they've upgraded their internet access. My husband might even veto it. And he never takes an interest in vacation preparation. On our last morning, my hubby did say that perhaps the cable in our room was bad and maybe we should have called to ask. So maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't regret staying there, and I personally would again because of Castaway Cove.
The End. We upgraded to (deluxe) annual passes because of our unique life situation. First, my oldest teen, almost 19, was able to visit DL last year with a friend, and now I flew my 15 year old out. My 17 year old is coming in May and wants to visit colleges in LA and Santa Barbara so we're heading down anyway and its cheaper to upgrade than to buy all new hoppers for us. (well, we will have to buy a hopper for her). Next year is my last year in law school (for the curious, this is why my teens don't live with me -- they wanted to stay and finish high school where they grew up) and probably my last chance to take some family trips. This will allow us to see Halloween themimg and Christmas theming with a couple quick trips (that avoid blockout days of course).

If it hadn't been for those circumstances, however, I don't know that I would have upgraded since it is a pretty long trip for us to travel from the Bay area. I was disappointed by the number of times we ran into non-functioning rides. However, I am happy we did it. The annual pass people were really nice and I am looking forward to planning our next trip to hit some of the (lots of) things we missed!

Last edited by gethane; 03-24-2010 at 04:50 PM.
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Old 03-24-2010, 04:57 PM   #2
chttyangel
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I really enjoyed your report. I am going next week with a 4-year-old and two teenagers so it was nice to read about someone with experiences the same time of year and same age groups. We are also using Ridemx so I was excited to see you review that. I also found a few things about the program frsutrating; such as not being able to add shows, not being able to select an early start time on MM, etc but I am excited to see if it really keeps are wait times down. My 4-Year-Old is not the best about waiting, imagine that. I think I am bringing the DVD player for him to watch in line!

It was also interesting to see you mention the subs. We missed that last time (it was opening day for them) and I wanted to do them but was nervous after the warnings I read.

Glad you had a nice time and thanks for the tips!
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Old 03-24-2010, 05:37 PM   #3
deejdigsdis
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Enjoyed your report! I had to laugh when you mentioned Mimi's forgetting things. We stayed at Hojo in Nov. (no internet connection problems for us) and went to Mimi's 3 or 4 times. One or two of the times we did take-out. Every single time they forgot 1 - 3 things. It was ridiculous. I really enjoyed their food, so I kept going back, but my husband was ready to give up on them after the first night. He went to pick up the take-out our first night and I sent him back 2 or 3 times. (Yeah, I know, it should have just been once. I guess I was tired and not paying attention very well.)

Too bad there were so many rides down. That's frustrating.
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Old 03-25-2010, 11:04 PM   #4
gethane
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thanks for reading and thanks for the comments!
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Old 03-31-2010, 05:05 PM   #5
blackjackdelta
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Very enjoyable trip report.

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