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Old 08-17-2012, 03:09 PM   #1
nrichards
Earning My Ears
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 33

A True Rookie Family's Take on Disneyland

Hey everyone!

Yes, this is my very first post on Disboards, but I've spent the last several weeks reading through everybody's trip reports to help with planning our very first trip to Disneyland. So I wanted to say how grateful I am to all of the information everybody's provided through their reports, and I hope some of you enjoy our take, as people that have never been to a Disney park before.

Who "we" are:

My name is Nathan, and I'll be the one writing this report. I just turned 30, and have a degree in math and science education, but am not currently working as a teacher. I'm also a gigantic nerd and spent an insane amount of time planning this trip to every last detail.

Also coming along with me are my girlfriend, Stephanie and our 8 year old son. When I said that we had never been to a Disney park earlier, that's not entirely true - I haven't, and our son hasn't either, but Stephanie used to live near Orlando as a kid and had an annual pass to Disney World one year, but it has been 25+ years. A lot of the specific information I got in planning specific activities came from her sepia-toned memory of that magical year.

We live in Seattle, and are very much west coast people. It really is the best coast, as far as we're concerned. All three of us love the culture, atmosphere, and the natural beauty that surrounds us all the way over here.

We were only gone for four days (August 8-11), but make no mistake, this trip has been in the making for many years. We wanted to wait until DS was truly ready to enjoy Disneyland on his own terms. He is such a free spirit, that until this year he would not have understood why he wasn't allowed to do certain things, or why we had to wait until the next day to go on a particular ride. Now that he's old enough, though, this will almost certainly not be our last trip to what must, indeed, be the happiest place on earth.

I want to thank everyone for reading and indulging me in this report, as writing it is allowing me to relive some of those amazing moments that only Disney can stir up. I also want to apologize for the fact that I unfortunately don't have a ton of pictures to share. I'm not a particularly skilled photographer, and was often too busy gazing in wonderment to remember to pull the camera out. It's a shame, because so many of you have such amazing photos, and I've enjoyed very much being able to visualize Disneyland before I'd even set foot there.

I'll be back soon to talk about our first day, and both a grown up's an eight year old's first visions of the oasis in the big city that is Disneyland.
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Old 08-17-2012, 03:52 PM   #2
DisneytheKid
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Hi Nathan. I'm looking forward to hearing about your family's trip and seeing the, albeit limited , amount of pictures!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nrichards View Post
Hey everyone!

Yes, this is my very first post on Disboards, but I've spent the last several weeks reading through everybody's trip reports to help with planning our very first trip to Disneyland. So I wanted to say how grateful I am to all of the information everybody's provided through their reports, and I hope some of you enjoy our take, as people that have never been to a Disney park before.

Who "we" are:

My name is Nathan, and I'll be the one writing this report. I just turned 30, and have a degree in math and science education, but am not currently working as a teacher. I'm also a gigantic nerd and spent an insane amount of time planning this trip to every last detail.

Also coming along with me are my girlfriend, Stephanie and our 8 year old son. When I said that we had never been to a Disney park earlier, that's not entirely true - I haven't, and our son hasn't either, but Stephanie used to live near Orlando as a kid and had an annual pass to Disney World one year, but it has been 25+ years. A lot of the specific information I got in planning specific activities came from her sepia-toned memory of that magical year.

We live in Seattle, and are very much west coast people. It really is the best coast, as far as we're concerned. All three of us love the culture, atmosphere, and the natural beauty that surrounds us all the way over here.

We were only gone for four days (August 8-11), but make no mistake, this trip has been in the making for many years. We wanted to wait until DS was truly ready to enjoy Disneyland on his own terms. He is such a free spirit, that until this year he would not have understood why he wasn't allowed to do certain things, or why we had to wait until the next day to go on a particular ride. Now that he's old enough, though, this will almost certainly not be our last trip to what must, indeed, be the happiest place on earth.

I want to thank everyone for reading and indulging me in this report, as writing it is allowing me to relive some of those amazing moments that only Disney can stir up. I also want to apologize for the fact that I unfortunately don't have a ton of pictures to share. I'm not a particularly skilled photographer, and was often too busy gazing in wonderment to remember to pull the camera out. It's a shame, because so many of you have such amazing photos, and I've enjoyed very much being able to visualize Disneyland before I'd even set foot there.

I'll be back soon to talk about our first day, and both a grown up's an eight year old's first visions of the oasis in the big city that is Disneyland.
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Old 08-17-2012, 11:06 PM   #3
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I look forward to reading your trip report.
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Old 08-18-2012, 12:51 AM   #4
nrichards
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Day Zero: July/August 2012

Thanks for sticking around!

This post was going to be about our first day of our vacation, but I wanted to share a little background information before I dive in.

The dates for our trip were essentially chosen at random. To be more precise, they were chosen for us by the on-line travel companies. August 8-11 were, at least when we booked, by far the cheapest four days to travel from Seatac to Orange County. We also looked at 3 and 5 day stretches as well, but they were all more expensive. Actually, some of the 3 day packages may have been a little bit cheaper, but not enough to justify cutting a day out of our vacation. I don't consider myself cheap, but I do have a personality tic where I won't buy anything unless I'm sure I'm getting a deal. I spent weeks finding the best days to travel, and even then booked through two separate sites to shave like 20 bucks off the final cost. Yes, it borders on impractical sometimes.

I spent almost as much time trying to figure out a way to get park ticket prices down in any way I possibly could. Unfortunately, I wasn't ready to purchase back in May before the price increase. I finally decided to buy 800 dollars worth of disney gift cards from Safeway, where they have gas rewards - you spend $100 and get $.10 off a gallon of gas. Gift cards at the time were worth 4x their purchase price, meaning I got a full dollar off per gallon on three separate occasions. I drive a pick up truck with an 18 gallon tank, meaning I was able to save about 55 dollars on gas. I figured, if I couldn't save any money on tickets, I should be able to save some money on something. I then went to the local Disney store, gift cards in hand, to purchase the tickets. It was a lot of fun being able to let DS take his own ticket off the shelf and pay for it himself (with the gift cards I gave him, of course).

Our overall strategy for the trip was pretty simple: to be able to do as many different things as we possibly could. The idea was to do everything that we might have wanted to do at least one time. Since we had never been to Disneyland, we thought we should try as much as possible. Plus, we had no idea if we'd be back any time soon. I'll spoil at least this much: we had a blast and are working out ways to make it back as soon as possible. We did use Ridemax to develop itineraries for each day, not knowing how much or how little we would actually follow them. One advantage to using the software was, since I'm a crazy nerd and made a gabillion itineraries in the month before leaving, I was able to suss out the natural patterns the park traffic followed. That way, if we got off itinerary, I would pretty much know what would have low waits at any given time.

How well did our strategy hold up? Well, you'll just have to stay tuned!
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:22 AM   #5
JCricketismyfav
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Costs needed

We live just north of Bellingham in Canada and I'm wondering which airline you booked with and what the deal was. We too are planning a trip in February and are looking to shave off money.
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Old 08-23-2012, 01:08 AM   #6
nrichards
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCricketismyfav View Post
We live just north of Bellingham in Canada and I'm wondering which airline you booked with and what the deal was. We too are planning a trip in February and are looking to shave off money.
We booked through Hotwire, which near as I can tell is the only site that doesn't charge a fee for booking a round trip flight using two different airlines - Alaska on the way there, United on the way back. Alaska's the only airline that flies direct from Seatac to John Wayne Airport. We had a layover in San Francisco on the return trip. In retrospect, I don't know that I'd have made the same decision: our experience with United was pretty terrible, and we've had good experiences with Alaska.

Our tickets were a little less than 200 per person, which isn't bad considering we don't fly often and don't have any kind of mileage plan.
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Old 08-23-2012, 02:14 AM   #7
nrichards
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Day 1: August 8, 2012

Our journey begins before dawn, which is tough to do this far North in the summer months! My alarm was set for 3:00 am, so I could get ready and get DS and DGf up at 3:30. It was very important we left the house by 4:00am, at the parking lot we had reservations with by 4:30 (for those of you in the Seattle area, Extra Car can't come more highly recommended - the cheapest rates by far - much cheaper than a shuttle or a taxi, and very professional clerks and shuttle drivers) and to the airport by 5:00. Our flight left at 6:50am, and we don't fly often (in fact, this would be DS's very first plane trip!) so I wanted plenty of time to deal with checking bags and getting through security. Plus, Stephanie doesn't function at all without coffee in the morning, so asking her to wait until we got through security to grab a Starbucks was a very big sacrifice on her part.

Everything went exactly according to plan, timewise, and dgf and ds were even cool with getting up that early, since it meant going to Disneyland! We got to the airport almost exactly at 5, and proceeded to check our bags. We had to wait a little while for the guy in front of us to check his two coolers of fish, both of which were 2 pounds over weight, so while the understandably grumpy clerk dealt with that, another line opened up where we met the first of a great many very friendly people on our trip. The new clerk asked ds where we were headed, and when he told her Disneyland, she seemed genuinely excited for us. This is very much a recurring theme that will be revisited many times on our trip.

The security line went as quickly as can be expected and without incident. I told ds to think of it as a practice line for Disneyland. On the other side, Steph was finally able to get her Starbucks. This is another theme that will be visited often on the trip. Everywhere we go, I always make sure I know where the nearest Starbucks are. I opted to just fill up my water bottle, as I felt it was too early even for coffee.

Thankfully, after just a little bit of sitting at the gate, we were able to board. Living in Seattle, we fly Alaska most of the time, since SeaTac is its hub and flies nonstop to way more places than any other airline flying out of there. This time out, we were on a 737. DS was super excited, and asking a million questions about how flying worked: how high up were we going? How come we don't fall out of the sky? You know, the usual 8-year old questions that demonstrate unlimited curiosity about the world around them.

I must admit, we were a little nervous about the flight - dgf gets terrible ear pain on flights, but she suffers through it with ear plugs and as much will power as she can muster, and I was afraid ds would be the same way - the poor kid had chronic ear infections as a baby and had to have tubes put in. They must have worked pretty well, because he didn't experience any discomfort at all. He didn't even notice his ears pop until half way through the descent.

We landed right on time at 9:30 am, got our bags before 10:00 and since local temperature was already around 80 degrees, did some quick changing into shorts and sunscreening in the airport bathrooms (very clean, by the way), and grabbed a taxi to our hotel. This is a decision I had debated for quite some time on: shuttle or taxi. The shuttle was a bit cheaper, but since it only departed every hour, and made several stops, I decided that the convenience of the taxi was well worth the extra money (which was really only maybe $10 more each way).

A brief aside - we've had really bad experiences with multi-stop shuttles before - we took them two different times in Las Vegas. The first time, we stayed downtown and took a shuttle that stopped both at strip hotels and downtown hotels, and it took over two hours to get to the hotel. We ended up taking a taxi on the way back. The second time, we stayed on the strip and were going to take a taxi, but the line at the taxi stand was over a hundred people deep, so we wandered over and decided to bite the bullet with the shuttle. Since we were staying at one of the properties nearest the airport, we figured we'd be one of the first stops. Except they forgot to add our hotel to the list, and we ended up being the last stop, after we had made it all the way to the other end of the strip. That too, was over an hour and a half trip. Only to end up 3 miles from where we started. Needless to say, we took a taxi back that time too.

So, since our time was very valuable on this short trip we splurged just a little and took a taxi. This would turn out to be a fantastic decision, as we watched the shuttle leave right as we walked out the door to the ground transportation area. Our taxi driver was very courteous, and the traffic was very light, and made the trip to our hotel in about 20 minutes. It was quite the departure from the taxis I've taken in Seattle - those guys are crazy!

We dropped our bags off at our hotel (the Clarion, for those who might be interested - I'll have some words about that particular property a bit later). We were itching to get to the park, obviously, but it was also very nearly lunch time, especially since we had been up about 8 hours by that point. Being from Seattle, we're all big seafood fans so we were hoping to try the Bubba Gump restaurant at some point on the trip, so we made the quick walk over and they were just opening as we got there. Perfect timing! Stephanie was drawn to the place because they had a dish called "Of Course We Have Scampi," which she thought was too cute by half. When we got there, though, she opted for the stuffed shrimp. She said it was quite good. I'll take her word for it - it has crab in it, which I can't eat for very convoluted reasons - so I didn't try it. I had cajun shrimp, which was also pretty good. I'm a sucker for anything even a little spicy. DS had....well, something from the kids' menu...I want to say fish and chips probably.

I must say, that up to this point I was quite proud of how well I had anticipated where we would be at any given point. My plan had us making it to our first ride of the trip at 12:15, and we left lunch at 11:50. Would we make it? I can honestly say I started writing anticipating that I'd answer that question in this post, but I don't think I can subject you all to an even larger wall of words at this point in time. Next time: our very first steps into that magical place known the world over as the Happiest Place on Earth. Plus, some pictures!
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Old 08-24-2012, 11:09 AM   #8
DisneytheKid
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Great so far
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Old 08-25-2012, 08:56 PM   #9
nrichards
Earning My Ears
 
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Originally Posted by DisneytheKid View Post
Great so far
Thanks so much! I'm having a lot of fun reliving our trip!
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Old 08-26-2012, 12:03 AM   #10
nrichards
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August 8, 2012: Day 1, Part 2

Please bear with me, as I seem to have misplaced the notes I took from our first day at the park. I'm pretty sure I've remembered everything, but the order may be a tad funky.

So we left the Garden Walk around 11:45 or so, intent on making it to Disneyland as soon as possible. I had set our Ridemax arrival time to 12:15, and I was determined to follow that plan as closely as possible, at least the first day, since we really had no clue what to expect or really what we were doing.

I've got a pretty good sense of direction, and was convinced that I could shave off valuable minutes of walking time by leading us through the Garden Walk's parking structure. Unfortunately, though, parking structures are designed to confuse, it seems, and I steered us into an alley. Yeah, not my proudest moment. We somehow made it back up to one of the main mall levels, where I was able to find Disney Way. After a brief adventure, we were on our way toward Harbor Boulevard. Stephanie, upset though she was about me leading us to our sure doom, was eternally grateful that I rescued us just as surely.

As we rounded the corner into the transportation area just before bag check, the smiles on all our faces seemed to triple in size. Steph and I spotted the giant green cones, and had to exclaim "Those could have been guests at our wedding...They were cones!" Which is a quote from a movie, and something we're compelled to say every time we see cones. You'll find we have a lot of these bizarre compulsions.

The timestamp on the first photograph of the day says 12:33 pm, but it appears to be nearly half an hour off. So we were doing great on time.



This seems to be my default pose...seriously, I've got hundreds of pictures of myself in a variety of locales doing this exact thing. I have no idea what it means.

We made it through the bag check and all shouted "We're in Disneyland!" Not particularly caring that the people around us must have assumed we were certifiably insane.

We were in a bit of a hurry to make sure our plan went off without a hitch, but we did slow down a bit as soon as we made it on to Main Street, of course, to check out the sights. I must say, walking in to Disneyland for the first time is surely a sight to behold. All the people bustling about, horses working diligently, music playing...it really is pretty magical. Crowds naturally make us a little nervous, but there's something about Disneyland that makes me not mind them quite as much. That's not to say I was willing to wait in hour long lines for attractions, though.

Our first order of business was to head over to Tomorrowland and get Fast Passes for Autopia. Let me sidebar here for a brief second - DS has had virtually no experience with the types of rides you'll find at Disneyland. He's of course been to carnivals and the like, but had a healthy fear of thrill rides. I didn't want to traumatize him right off the bat and possibly scare him out of going on any rides for the rest of the trip, I wanted to load the first day up with less intimidating rides (with a couple of exceptions) so as to ease him into the idea of going on some of the more "exciting" rides that he had been saying he wanted to go on before we left (The rides he thought were "must do" were Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Tower of Terror).

Now, unfortunately, no amount of planning before the fact can really prepare you for exactly where things are. Photographs just don't really do relative positioning justice. So I also got a little lost finding the Autopia fast pass machines. This wouldn't be the last time I got lost today, but overall I was pretty pleased with how intuitive the layout of the park was, and how easily I was able to navigate.

After retrieving our fast passes, the next order of business was to hop over to Fantasyland and take a ride on the carousel. We're suckers for a well constructed carousel, and I think this is the first one we've been on that has four rows of horses. We were on nice and quick - we just had to wait for the current ride to conclude, and made it on the very next trip around. Stephanie was very excited to find out, when we got home, that each horse had a name . I was going to look up which horse she was on, but when I asked what color she responded "Pink. Or orange. Or maybe green." So she just picked the name she liked best and decided that was her horse.



Stephanie grabbed a quick shot of the back side of the castle, and headed over to Frontierland for our next stop. It was definitely some walking, but if it meant fewer lines, we were all for it. Next up was a ride around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain (or the Columbia, whichever happened to be porting first). We grabbed a Sprite at the stand right outside the loading dock, and experienced our first instance of sticker shock: over $3 for a pop, seemed excessive, but we knew going in that prices would be high.

The Mark Twain was pulling in as we walked onto the dock, and we got right on once again. We were stoked: a total of maybe one minute waiting in lines thus far. Granted, they weren't the superstar attractions that many go to Disneyland specifically for, but we wanted to experience as much as we could, and we had plenty of time. Strategically, it made sense to start off our first afternoon with lower key rides.

I personally loved the Mark Twain! It's so calming, with its leisurely pace and time period details. The narrator of the ride had the perfect late 19th century Southern gentleman voice. It was a lot of fun watching the canoes go round the river as well. Stephanie wondered out loud if the cast members that ran the canoes did it all day, and I responded "just look at that guy's arms." His biceps were as big as my head! Fringe benefits, am I right?



Tom Sawyer Island - I was really hoping to check it out this trip, but we unfortunately never made it over there.

After Mark Twain, we were supposed to head back to Tommorowland to use our Autopia fast passes, but I figured I'd save a bit of time and get the next fast passes on our list - Indiana Jones. I knew Frontierland and Adventureland were right next to each other, but I didn't really know how they connected and we found ourselves lost for the third time in just a couple of hours. We ended up in Critter Country, which as you all know, but I didn't at the time, ends in a dead end. We stopped in the shop over there next to Winnie the Pooh, and Steph and I ended up asking two separate cast members the same questions (do you have a map, and how do you get to Adventureland?), and got exactly the same answers from the very friendly folks that worked over there. I was very, very impressed at how friendly almost everyone was down here. So back through New Orleans Square and over the bridge we went. We quickly grabbed the Indy fast passes and popped back over to Tomorrowland (for those counting, this makes the third criss-cross of the entire park in just a couple of hours).

Autopia...I gotta admit, I almost forgot about the ride altogether before I checked out my notes. I do remember we measured DS's height before we left, and the only thing he was too short for (by two inches) was actually driving the Autopia cars. He was a little upset, but the rules are the rules, and we've always taught him to follow the rules, so he happily hopped in the passenger seat with his mom while I drove the car solo behind them (I do remember mine was a VW Bug). This was the first time so far in the trip we'd really had to wait in line at all, but with the fast pass it was really only about a 10 or 15 minute wait.

I've driven go karts all my life, and I was surprised at how different this felt. The single pedal in the left foot position was pretty awkward for a taller guy like me. It was fun enough, though, I suppose, but not something we felt like we needed to schedule again this trip.

It was also, by this time, very hot outside - somewhere around 95 - and the exhaust and gasoline smells were making this corner of the park particularly oppressive. So we were hankering to do something inside with air conditioning. Buzz Lightyear had a posted wait time of 15 minutes, so we decided that would be a good choice.

I gotta say, I'm pretty impressed at how steadily those omnimover rides load guests. The line wrapped around the outside of the building, over towards what I think was Pixie Hollow, but was pretty constantly moving. As soon as we got past the animatronic Buzz Lightyear, a tour guide stopped us to let her tour group on, intending for us to follow past her groupbut we didn't realize that was what was going on.. We thought we were being stopped there for...well, we didn't really know why. After about 30 seconds, the tour guide ran back and had us continue, horrified at the thought that she had stopped the line dead. We all had a good laugh, and continued to the loading area.

Buzz Lightyear ended up being one of DS's absolute favorite rides in the park - he loved the interactivity of the ride. I ended up getting the high score between the three of us, but I suppose that's to be expected given how many hours I wasted on video games in my youth. About half way through, my blaster stopped working, and I mentioned that to the cast member as I was unloading, just intending to be helpful. The cast member, though, must have assumed I was griping, and they just said "yeah that happens sometimes when we have to stop the ride." I just responded with an "oh gotcha" and we went on our way.

By this point, we were ready for a short break. We headed back to Main Street for a snack and to sit for a few minutes. I grabbed a Mickey Mouse pretzel - I'm a sucker for a pretzel, and didn't feel too bad about the price - $3.50 is about what I'd pay at a ball game, and the Mickey pretzel has more pretzel, on account of his ears and mouth. I also asked where the nearest water fountain was, and the cast member wasn't sure. She asked the other cashier, who told me, but I promptly forgot since they handed me two ice waters without asking. Good customer service is often about figuring out what the customer wants without them coming right out and asking, so I was suitably impressed. We sat down at the tables on Main Street nearest the hub, kind of where the big piano is. Honestly, I'm not sure what that place was called. After a few minutes, Mary Poppins came strolling through the area.



DGF had a bit of a chat with her, complimenting her dress and whatnot. Soon after, Burt came around. I was especially impressed with his terrible cockney accent. It's hard enough impersonating a regular accent, but it must be doubly hard to perfect a bad accent. I snapped a picture of them and a young couple on their honeymoon, and left them to go about their business.

By this time, it was still not quite time to use our Indiana Jones fast passes, so we wandered through Fantasyland, trying to find a ride with a short wait. DGF is enamored with Fantasyland, as she loves the dark rides that feature those classic Disney characters. Luckily, one of the ones she remembered from her youth at Disney World - Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - had a pretty short wait time of maybe ten minutes or so.

DS and I were in the front car, with Stephanie in her own car. I don't remember a whole lot of details about it, but whoo boy was that a wild ride. Almost like being a passenger when DGF is driving (ba-dum-bum)! I kid. I did worry about some of the imagery being a bit dark for DS, who can be sensitive about things like that. But he seemed fine afterward even if he wasn't sure it was his favorite ride in the world. It is impressive how your brain supplies all the details you need in some instances, like when you're about to run into a train that is really nothing more than a light bulb in a dark room. The folks at Disney really don't do anything halfway, even on the less popular rides.

By this point, it was time to start thinking about heading back to the hotel to get checked in and take a little bit of time to recover. But before that, we needed to take advantage of our Indiana Jones fast passes.

Even with the fast pass, this was easily the longest line of our day so far - I feel like it was probably close to 20 minutes. But boy, is that ride worth it! What a marvel of engineering. The idea of a motion simulator that's also moving on a track - it's crazy! DGF, who doesn't like thrill rides of any kind (her first roller coaster was the Manhattan Express at New York, New York in Vegas about 6 or 7 years ago), loved this ride. DS is a bit of a different story. He wanted to like it, since he loves the movies. And he definitely wanted to give it another shot. But it was his first time on any ride that might be even remotely considered a "thrill ride" and he definitely was a little bit freaked out, closing his eyes in a couple particularly intense parts. But he was game to try more, and to try this one again, so I considered it a victory.

After the ride, we headed over to the transportation center. I figured that since the Toy Story parking lot was right across from our hotel, we could take their shuttle and walk the rest of the way. That's just what we did for most of the trip. I was a little worried that they would get mad at us since we weren't parking in the lot, but on one of the occasions where we were walking over to the loading area, a gentleman on a golf cart hopped out and asked us if we parked there or came from the hotels across the street. I wasn't about to lie, so I told him that I came from across the street, totally prepared to have to meet DGF and DS at the park (they had already boarded, and I assumed they were going to make me walk), but he just wanted to tell me the best place to get off on the way back. Just another example of an extremely helpful individual at Disneyland.

I had fully expected this post to take me to the end of our first day, but I apparently had a lot to say! So I'll end it here and finish the day up on another post.
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Old 08-26-2012, 12:53 PM   #11
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I love hearing first time stories, I'll be popping in to see how your trip went. Don't worry to much about the lack of pictures. It's far more fun to be a part of the story rather than looking at it through a camera lens
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Old 08-27-2012, 12:15 AM   #12
nrichards
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August 8, 2012: Day 1, Part 3

Day One is flying past us at this point, and we figured we needed to get into our hotel room. So we made our way back to the Clarion. I had my reservations about this particular hotel based on reviews online, but I figured that we aren't particularly fancy people and really just needed a place to crash at the end of the night. So with some trepidation, I booked this place after finding a really good deal.

The Clarion was, well, okay is really the only way I can describe it. It served its purpose, but it wasn't the greatest place in the world. When I went to check in, we were the only people in the lobby, but I had to wait for the two people behind the desk to finish their 10 minute phone conversations. It also took what seemed like an unnecessary amount of time to get our bags from their bag room. The biggest complaint, though, was the water temperature - it would fluctuate from scalding hot to freezing cold with just the slightest adjustment. We considered asking about a different room, but we're not big on making waves, so we made do.

We took some showers, changed some clothes, and generally lazed about. We don't have cable at home (with Netflix and other streaming sites, it's the easiest 50 bucks a month I've ever saved), so DS was excited to watch Cartoon Network. I'm sure my parents said the same thing, but cartoons these days...I just don't get them.

Feeling re-energized, we hopped on the shuttle back to the park. We made a stop at McDonald's across the street for a quick dinner. What a zoo that place is around 5 or 6 in the evening - kids just running around like it's a playground, playing with the drink fountains. I gotta say, it made me grateful that ds, though he has his difficult moments like any kid, is one of the most considerate people I know - adults included.

Our first order of business when we got back to Disneyland was to head over to New Orleans Square and ride Pirates and Haunted Mansion. These were two more rides that Stephanie remembered fondly from her youth. And ds is an 8 year old boy, so pirates rank pretty high on his list of potential future careers at the moment.

As we strolled past the Rivers of America, we were shocked to see people already waiting to see Fantasmic! We had wanted to see the show on this trip, but not if we were going to have to wait three hours to see it!

We got into the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean, and practically walked on - I think we may have had to wait for one or two boats, but certainly no more. I was shocked, since it's one of the classic Disney rides (and I'd seen 15-20 minute waits for it earlier in the day) and there were so many people milling about that area.

All three of us were definitely big fans of Pirates. The atmosphere is incredible, and even the chlorine treated water managed to add to the flavor of the ride. DS loved trying to find Jack Sparrow amongst the pirates. I kept waiting for the little dog with the keys - it was the only part of the ride that I knew about. Well, that and the rather un-Disney dress of some of the ladies. When the dog finally showed up, I smiled and Stephanie laughed at me. It's the simple things, you know. I also think riding it at night adds some atmosphere, even though it's simulated night time anyway.

We headed over to the Haunted Mansion, where we again encountered no wait time at all. We had to laugh at the cast member ushering us into the elevator, as it seemed like it was his job to stand there and look creepy. If that was his job, he was doing a darn good job. We all loved this ride too, but it definitely felt a little more dated than Pirates. Not in a bad way...it felt like we were riding through one of those old cheesy Vincent Price movies. DS was sitting in the middle of the car, right where the hitchhiking ghost was, and he got a kick out of trying to get rid of it.

At this point, the crowds in the area were getting opressive, and cast members were directing traffic. We were forced over into Critter Country, and seeing no line at Winnie the Pooh, we decided to give it a shot. It was a ride we hadn't necessarily planned on going on, as ds outgrew Pooh several years ago. But since there was no line, we decided to take a ride in a honeypot. I don't remember a lot about the ride, to be honest. I do remember reading how it had been maligned by a lot of the Disneyland fan community, but I'm not quite sure why. As far as dark rides go, it's pretty cute. The heffalump scene is creepy, but it was in the movie too.

We decided to see what else had a short wait - we figured the Fantasyland dark rides would be our best bet, so off we went. We found Pinocchio with a five minute wait, so we went for it. Pinocchio isn't our favorite Disney movie. The Pleasure Island scenes always creeped me out. Something about kids turning into donkeys...shudder. Plus Stephanie can't stand that song, "I've Got No Strings." That being said, I thought the ride was kinda neat. I understand it's a relatively old dark ride, but I think the technology has held up pretty well.

At this point, most of Fantasyland was closing up for the fireworks show, which was a little bit frustrating to us - this phenomenon was a thorn in our side at various times during the trip. I understand the reasoning, but in all my research, I had never read about rides closing early for the various shows. We decided to head across to Main Street to check out the fireworks. We soon realized, though, that we had the time wrong - they started at 9:30, not 8:30. We weren't about to wait around for over an hour, so we set off to find another ride. I had gotten fast passes for Big Thunder Mountain earlier in the day (some time before we left the first time I think), and I wanted to give it a shot.

It should be noted that I had done my research, and knew that the ending time on the fast pass wasn't enforced, but dgf was incredibly nervous about using them, preferring greatly to abide by the return time. Sometimes that just wasn't possible, though. This ride would be ds's first roller coaster ever. And it was probably a mistake. He was not happy going so fast, and had his eyes closed most of the time. He was still being a trooper, though, and even though he hated the ride, was still willing to give other rides a shot.

I, on the other hand, liked the ride quite a bit. I'm not big on the thrill rides, either, and there are a few I'll refuse to do, but I really wanted to give most of the Disney ones a chance. My biggest problems are with big drops and inversions, and from what I could tell, there weren't really any of these at Disneyland, except of course for California Screamin'.

I liked the theming so much on this ride...it really felt like we were on this runaway mine train in the mountains of the west. It was impressive.

I was surprised to see Disney selling the same cheap light-up junk that you see vendors peddling at your local 4th of July fireworks shows. You know, necklaces, light sabers, etc. Stuff that really has nothing to do with Disney at all. DS is obsessed with this stuff; every 4th, he bugs us to buy him something. We always said no before, because it's obviously cheap junk that will break after five minutes. This time, though, ds was definitely feeling kind of blah after the Big Thunder Mountain ride that freaked him out a bit, plus having been up for 18 hours at that point, and just generally having an over-stimulated day. So I bought him one of those light-saber thingies. I was feeling a little like I betrayed him a bit by taking him on a ride he hated. But that lightsaber cheered him up like nothing else on the planet.

With that, though, we were about done for the day. We just didn't think we could handle the crowds for either Fantasmic or the fireworks...I don't know where all those people came from, because the walkways were just as crowded as before, but with the addition of all the people in roped off areas waiting. Do a lot of locals come just for the fireworks or something?

So we headed back to the hotel, since I was determined to use our Magic Morning the next day. Stephanie really wanted to go on Peter Pan (her very favorite ride as a kid), and Magic Morning was the only way I could figure out how to do it without waiting a half hour.

I was nervous, since even though I'm very much a morning person, ds and dgf are very much not. Will we make it back to the park at 7:00? That question and more answered in the next installment!
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:20 AM   #13
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Great report so far! You are a talented storyteller!
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:27 PM   #14
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Keep it up nrichards! You've got me laughing along at all of your one liners
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Old 08-27-2012, 03:12 PM   #15
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Subbing in! Great TR so far.
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