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Old 07-20-2014, 11:07 PM   #1
Earning My Ears
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"It's So Clean!" First Timer's July 2014 Trip Report

Hello and welcome to the story of our first “real” trip to Disneyland!

We visited from July 14-18th, 2014 and stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel. Before we even get started, I just want to say that we had an amazing trip, and furthermore the smoothest vacation I’ve ever been on. We were so incredibly lucky and I can’t wait to share the details!

First, I’ll introduce the vacation attendees:

My boyfriend Scott and I are seasonal cast members at the Walt Disney World Resort. We met while doing a College Program and worked there together for a year. Scott worked at Pirates of the Caribbean and I worked at The World Famous Jungle Cruise . We no longer live in Orlando, and this was our first trip “back to the Magic” since January. We knew we had to get over to California before our perks ran dry and that’s how this trip came to fruition.

Scott and I bought a new camera before this trip, as my last DSLR was defunct. We opted for the Canon Rebel T3i and we've been very happy with the results of the pictures from our vacation. Scott took about 90% of the pictures you'll see, and it was so nice having someone along who enjoys taking pictures…so I didn't have to worry about it!

My mom also came along, this was her second trip to Disneyland, but the first one was when I was 18 months old and only for a day. During my year working & living at Disney World, my mom came to visit…SEVEN times. So yes, she’s quite a fan of the Disney magic herself.

Scott and I are quite the Disney trivia and history connoisseurs, and that was the biggest draw of seeing where it all started. We’ve read many Disney books and we’d be hard-pressed to go a day (or even a few hours) without some mention of the parks. We were so excited to experience two brand new parks for the very first time, but also to see the difference between the two coasts. Personally, I thought nothing could come near to the experience of Walt Disney World for me…and I was wrong. The sole purpose of this trip report won’t be a simple comparison, as we’re more interested in having a way to remember a wonderful trip, but be prepared for discussion of differences between the two parks. It would be difficult for people who have spent 100+ days inside the gates of WDW to not do so!

Travel/Arrival Day:

Scott and I live a few states east of my mom, so we’d be meeting up at LAX. We also live a few hours from a major airport, so our travel actually began the day before our flight. We woke up very early to check in for our flights the next morning, and then headed to pick up breakfast. We watched Cars while eating, so the details would be fresh in our minds for our trip! We’d already packed a few of our outfits but we finished up, got ready, and headed out on our short road trip.

On the way we listened to a few DisUnplugged Podcasts. We stopped at Scott’s parents’ house where they gave me sweet birthday presents. Scott and I frequently check out Ebay and local antique shops for vintage Disney merchandise, so this was so thoughtful!

Then we stopped off at one set of Scott’s grandparents for lunch before heading to the other set to stay the night. Before bed we went to Scott’s Aunt’s house to watch…Big Brother! Afterwards we conked out super early in preparation for the next morning, or rather, later that night.

Our alarm was set for 3am and we got up with total ease, a sensation provided only by the promise of stepping foot in a Disney Park later that day. We got ready quickly and headed to the Park ‘n Fly we’d be leaving our car at. Moments later, we were on a shuttle and then quickly dropped at the airport. Within probably 15 minutes afterwards we were through security and at our gate. We hung out and read for about an hour until it was time to board. We flew Southwest and were in the first B group, but we got on quickly and chose our preferred window and middle seat combination. Our flight left at 6:15am and arrived about 20 minutes early in Las Vegas.

Once we landed we saw we had to go to a different terminal for the second leg of our travel. We landed in the B terminal but needed to get to the C terminal, I guess we could’ve taken a tram but opted for walking…and boy was it a hike! But it was also good to stretch my legs. Our next flight departed at 8:50am Las Vegas time and for this one we were in the second A boarding group. Again, we got seats easily, not that it would’ve mattered for the very brief hour-long flight!

After getting off the plane we headed towards the baggage claim to meet up with my mom, who had arrived an hour or so ahead of us. During that time she had arranged for us to get on a Prime Time Shuttle. I don’t know too much about the service, just that it cost $15 a head one way and offered shuttles to the Downtown LA area and Anaheim. Our shuttle was there within 15 minutes and we were with two other parties headed to Disneyland. I have to say, the experience was easy, but a little odd. The driver headed to the first location…and none of the parties belonged at that hotel. Apparently the driver had been given the wrong address? Not sure of the disconnect there, but a few minutes later we dropped off one party at a Best Western, where the driver made about a fifteen point turn in a very narrow alleyway haha! Next up was our resort…THE GRAND CALIFORNIAN HOTEL!

Originally when we had booked our travel, we were intending to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. But, we had to change our dates per my job, and the DLH wasn’t available with our discount. Wow, what a blessing in disguise…I think the resort is truly what MADE our trip. One step inside the lobby and there were tears in my eyes.

We’ve been very fortunate to stay at many of WDW’s deluxe resorts (thanks to our CM discounts) but we’d never gotten the opportunity to stay at the Wilderness Lodge, as it was always booked up! Well, I’m so thankful we hadn’t before, because it made our experience even more special.

I waited to check in for around five minutes and then spent about five minutes with the cast member. Now, we opted for the least expensive view option, so I didn’t do much research about the best views from rooms or anything. Even though we arrived around 11:30 am, our room was ready to go! We were put in room 4406 and given directions. The room was very easy to get to; we just exited the lobby door by the gift shop, walked by Storytellers Café, and went in the door to the left of Napa Rose. Once we got in our room, we immediately ran to the balcony and saw…

Next Post: What will our view be? How will we feel stepping into Disneyland for the first time?

Last edited by AlliGirl; 07-20-2014 at 11:31 PM.
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Old 07-20-2014, 11:28 PM   #2
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Oh I love first time to Disneyland reports! Following along!
Dec '99 & Dec '05 - Disneyland, Oct '08 - Disneyland Hong Kong, Dec '09 - WDW, 2011 - turned 40 at Disneyland in January!, Dec '11 - Tokyo Disneyland, Dec '12 WDW & Disneyland, Nov 2013 Return to Disneyland!, Nov/Dec 2015 -my mums first Disney experience - both coasts!
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Old 07-21-2014, 11:09 AM   #3
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Following along!! We leave Friday driving from Missouri!!
Pre Trip Report July 2014http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3237298

TRIP REPORT STARTED:http://www.disboards.com/showthread....2#post52056072
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Christmas 2012-1st Disneyland trip-hopefully many more to come
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Old 07-23-2014, 01:40 AM   #4
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And saw what? Please don't keep me in suspense!
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Old 07-23-2014, 07:02 AM   #5
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Last edited by aussiemumma101; 08-16-2014 at 10:32 PM.
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Old 07-23-2014, 03:23 PM   #6
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AGH - what did you see?! I must know!
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Old 07-23-2014, 06:22 PM   #7
Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
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Im so glad I caught this at the beginning! I'm ready to heard about the difference between DLR and WDW. Im excited for this TR!
Hi, I'm Meghan.

"Some days you eat the bear,
some days the bear eats you,
but always dress for the hunt!"

Past Trips: 5/96' Offsite with Family
11/05' With my highschool Choir -ASMu
5/08' Graduation Trip - Shades of Green
5/09' Memorial Week Trip - Poly
Nov 2014: Homestead for NASCAR + a lil Disney/UO
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:36 PM   #8
Earning My Ears
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Wow! Thanks for all the sweet comments everyone! We're planning on getting another post up very soon!
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Old 07-27-2014, 06:33 PM   #9
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4406 is an ASTOUNDING view....Such pixie dust!!!
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Old 07-27-2014, 09:51 PM   #10
Earning My Ears
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Part Two

So when we last left off, we were just heading up to our room at the Grand Californian Hotel. Since we didn't pay for anything besides the minimum (with our cast member discount!) I was just hoping to not be overlooking the parking lot. I once stayed at the Polynesian at WDW and our view was…the peak of the roof from the floor below us, so I figured anything would be better than that!

Once we made our way off the elevator and followed the signs to our room, we ran directly to the balcony (with our bags still in hand). We saw…a completely picturesque view of Grizzly River Run, a monorail track going directly under our room, and Tower of Terror!

WOW, we were blown away, tears instantly came to my eyes. I never in a million years pictured a view like this! We comically clambered to open the door for probably two minutes. We were all just so excited and totally missed the second lock because it was covered behind the curtains.

Once we got out on the balcony we realized why this room most likely was given away to us. If you looked to the left, there was a maintenance crew painting the balconies of the rooms around that side. But who would be looking to the left when you could literally see the expression on peoples' faces coming down a drop on Grizzly River Run?! That construction was the biggest blessing in disguise! Oh and, in case you were wondering, the monorail under our room didn't disturb us one bit! It wasn't too loud, we were actually excited to see it come through each time.

Here's where I have to say: point to Disneyland! You just can't get this kind of view & proximity at Disney World (save the Contemporary…but that's only close to one park). It's funny, people comment that they enjoy WDW more because of the "Disney bubble" but I've never felt more in the bubble than I did on our DLR trip! However, I think that feeling can be attributed to our choice in staying at GCH.

Once we had absorbed our unbeatable view, we began getting our park bags ready. We made sure we had pins to trade and took out all of the things we had needed from our travel day. We made our way downstairs and followed the signs hanging in the lobby directing us towards Disneyland. But once we took our first few steps outside in Downtown Disney, we realized we were being hit by something. Droplets of rain. What! Rain is for Florida! But we were undaunted…we were on a mission that nothing could derail. The rain turned out to be very very minimal, in fact, it never even reached a drizzle. Just a few droplets here and there.

We finished our short walk to bag check and took in just how close Disneyland and California Adventure are! Wow, talk about park hopping! We knew we couldn't start this trip off any other way than heading down Main Street USA, so we went to the Disneyland gates. There was almost no line to get in, this was around noon, and a very friendly cast member explained to me the procedure for cast member tickets at Disneyland.

Once we were past the turnstiles we had a moment of shock. Wow, this was really happening, WE WERE HERE! We walked under the left archway and surfaced onto a beautiful bustling Main Street. It was so pristinely beautiful! This would be about the time we all realized that we didn't have much of a park strategy for the day. So we moseyed down Main Street, trying to not get too overwhelmed by this entirely new theme park. Once we neared the end of the street, we knew we needed a game plan, but we were just too excited and in a daze to think of much!

We headed left toward Adventureland and wow, what a surreal experience. Scott and I spent a year of our lives in Magic Kingdom's Adventureland and here we were in a similar but alternate world! We decided on getting Indiana Jones fastpasses. We passed by the Jungle Cruise, and of course I got misty eyed!

After working with many guests attempting to acquire paper fastpasses from the legacy system at WDW, it was very humbling to approach the IJ fastpass machine and not know how to work it! At WDW, the machine takes your ticket fully inside and it can be inserted in any direction. But the DL machines scan the barcodes on your ticket, as I dorkily realized from the diagram on the machine. IJ fastpasses in hand, we decided we needed a quick bite.

I had heard great things about Bengal Barbecue and I knew it was a must do for me, so we hopped right in the non-existent line. We got to the counter and quickly tried to decide from the options. We ended up getting a Banyan Beef Skewer, a Chieftan Chicken Skewer, and a Bengal Beef Skewer along with some sodas. The cast member taking our order was very sweet, so I asked her about cast member discounts on counter service in the park. Let me say, HUGE point to Disneyland!!! In WDW, there are one or two counter service locations in each park that offer the cast member discount. In DLR, basically every location offers a 20% discount (just not the smaller carts)! We started chatting with the CM about it being our first time and she gave us three first visit pins. Great experience!

We sat down to enjoy our skewers and each one had great flavor. Although, Scott insists that the chicken was the best! In our trip journal he wrote it was "the bomb dot com." One thing, the hunks of meat on the skewer seem to be made to eat in one bite, one VERY large bite. So if you're thinking of sharing with kiddos I'd ask for a plate to cut it up since they're served wrapped in paper. It was a good protein filled snack and we decided to head to an Adventureland ride while waiting for our fastpass.

Since we were right there, we headed into the Jungle Cruise. I think the wait was posted at 20-30 minutes and we were incredibly impressed with how quickly their line moved! Anyone who has waited in the standby JC queue at WDW might know it can be a less than magical experience. Believe me, I heard it out of many a mouth! The DL JC line moved very briskly, though I did miss the Albert Awol narration. This was the first time I commented on the very narrow queue and turnstiles!

The ride was very enjoyable, the show scenes are in a different order than WDW and a few are unique to DL or WDW. We really enjoyed the Disneyland gorilla camp, I loved the gorillas shooting into the water! Throughout this ride I'm so familiar with, I really noticed just how better maintained it was than WDW's version. The animals felt so much more alive! Although, I think the rides have different focuses. WDW seems to be more skipper oriented while DL is more about the show scenes. Or maybe I was just so excited at everything I was seeing!

After our World Famous Jungle Cruise we headed to an attraction we were VERY excited for. The Pirates of the Caribbean! We've heard incessantly that the Disneyland version of this ride is leagues better so we couldn't wait to see. At WDW the pirates queue is basically all indoors, set in a fort, so this outdoor queue was all new to us. We were seated in the second to last row and it was quite wet.

The experience of PotC at Disneyland is simply wonderful, there was so much to see! I liked the two (as opposed to one) drops at the beginning of the ride and we loved seeing Davy Jones instead of Blackbeard. While many scenes of the ride are duplicates to the WDW counterpart, the beginning and end are different. One thing I noticed is that no show space was left empty. Even at the end of the ride, while waiting to go up the ramp, fun pirates hung around us shooting back and forth. We absolutely loved it! Even though our butts were significantly dampened.

After Pirates we headed to the Haunted Mansion. The outdoor part of the queue moved quickly and we were swept inside the stretching room. The elevator version of the room was preferred by all. The two versions of the attraction are very very similar, with just a few small differences. But this was one thing we decided we preferred at WDW, probably just for nostalgic reasons.

After getting off Haunted Mansion we walked through Frontierland, just taking in the sights. We got fastpasses to ride Big Thunder Mountain. We walked past the Big Thunder Ranch, saw the animals and headed on towards the castle. We did the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough and thoroughly enjoyed it. We love interactive elements so the moving door was a fun surprise! I also caught a glimpse of Maleficent's shadow that was a great effect!

After exiting, we headed back to Indiana Jones for our fastpass. This attraction had been spoken of very very highly to us, so our expectations were up. The fastpass really doesn't get you that far in this queue. The ride vehicle is the same as Dinosaur's over at Animal Kingdom and we love that ride. We missed having a preshow in the queue and I don't know if it was just this day but the interactive elements of the queue weren't functioning. Once we got on we enjoyed our ride and the huge showroom, but we weren't really blown away. I guess we had heard so much hype the attraction could never live up. But, we still really enjoyed it!

Afterwards we headed to use our Big Thunder Mountain fastpasses. I was so excited to see the effects added during the refurbishment. I noticed when the car pulled up that it was incredibly immaculate, and the bench seat was larger than the WDW counterpart. We had a great time on the wildest ride in the wilderness! We were very impressed with the effects…keep that in mind for our second ride a few days later!

By this point, we were hungry for a more substantial meal. We decided on Jolly Holiday back on Main Street. I got a Caprese Sandwich, which is one of my favorite things and it was delicious! Scott got a ham and cheese quiche which he devoured and gives a great review. My mom got a turkey sandwich, which wasn't as good as the other two items, pretty dry.

While we were sitting and enjoying our lunch announcements began for the upcoming Soundsational Parade. Since we weren't too familiar with the parade route, I didn't know how good our view from our table would be. But after the Frozen pre-parade we saw that it would be coming right towards us! While we couldn't see every last detail of the floats, we had shaded seats! We were really happy with our view and really enjoyed the parade.

After lunch we headed for Fantasyland and to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. The queue wasn't as quick moving as we had become accustomed to over the past few hours. Once we got to the cars, Scott hopped on one and my mom and I took another. Poor Scott, he was alone throughout all of those terrifying show scenes! This ride is truly scary! It had been years since I rode the Magic Kingdom version, so this was a bit of a shock!

We headed to check out the Mickey and the Magical Map theater as we wanted to catch the next show. There was just a smattering of guests waiting for the next show so we decided to walk around Toontown a bit first.

We got fastpasses for Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin and played with the interactive elements around town. We hadn't been in many shops yet so I headed for the Gag Factory and we found our dream souvenir! I was checking out the games and puzzles and found a puzzle of a map of Disneyland! We love park map artwork and puzzles so this was perfect for us! Before checking the price I was sure it would be around $20 and I was ok with that, but it was only $10! What! Steal!

We headed back to the theater for Mickey and the Magical Map. Cute show! Not too long and drawn out, fun, and a great break!

Afterwards we headed back into Toontown and used our Roger Rabbit fastpasses. We loved the ride! We only did it this one time and we've said it would be high on our list to do next time! Definitely some fun stuff in there!

Next up was it's a small world (always feels wrong typing that in lowercase). Beautiful ride. We loved the outdoor loading and got right on.

The ride inside is different from WDW in that your boat is on a small river cutting through each room while WDW's showrooms are all filled with water. We much preferred the DL version. We felt so close to the show scenes and loved looking for the characters!

We went to Pinocchio's Daring Journey next. We completely accidentally entered the queue while they were still coming back up from a down time. We felt bad, but no one outside the entrance told us not to! We definitely noticed a lack of the "greeter" position at DL attractions as opposed to WDW where someone is required to be at the ride entrance everywhere. We waited for the cast member to finish his check list and then hopped in. It was a cute ride, and not AS utterly terrifying as Mr. Toad's haha.

We rode Snow White's Scary Adventure next. Wow, Disneyland has so many dark rides! I love it! After the ride we headed back down Main Street. I stopped to get a fortune from the fortune teller in the Penny Arcade and wow was she spot on! She knew me! We went into Market House for coffee and I got an earful on the party line!

Well, after being up since 1am Pacific time we felt that we had a perfect day in the park and we should head out for some rest. Plus, we wanted to get back to our amazing hotel! We relaxed in our room for a little while before heading back out to Downtown Disney in search of dinner. It was awesome having so many options so close! We really just wanted something quick, so we went to the counter service side of Tortilla Joe's, the Taqueria. I got pork tacos, and my mom and Scott got nachos. You went down a topping line similar to many burrito places and I liked their selection. The meal was pretty inexpensive and I enjoyed it.

After dinner we headed back to our room, thrilled with the ease and magic of our first day in Disneyland. The memories will never cease to bring a smile to my face.

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Old 07-31-2014, 12:27 PM   #11
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Joining in!

You & your boyfriend make such a cute couple. I love the pic of y'all in your MNSSHP outfits. That's our favorite event in WDW & I can't wait to go back this year.

Anyway, I'm trying to learn all that I can about DLR since my family will be venturing there for the 1st time next year. I have us booked @ DLH but now you have me wondering if I should switch to GCH. We've stayed @ WL in WDW & liked it.

Sounds like y'all got a lot done on that 1st day! Love hearing all the comparisons between the parks by people who really know their stuff!
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Old 07-31-2014, 01:26 PM   #12
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I'm really enjoying your TR. I love first timers and CM's TRs lol Can't wait to read more of your eperience at DL
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Old 07-31-2014, 02:59 PM   #13
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Hi! I am joining in. I really am enjoying your trip report so far.
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Old 08-04-2014, 09:45 PM   #14
Earning My Ears
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Part Three

Tuesday, July 15th 2014

Our first full Disney day! We got very early to make sure we took full advantage of the Extra Magic Hour this morning at Disneyland. We were hoping to get a lot of Fantasyland crossed off our To Do list.

We were inside the park shortly after 7am and headed straight for the Matterhorn. We were excited to experience such a classic attraction. I love the look of the Matterhorn mountain and we all found ourselves taking many pictures of it throughout the trip.

When people compare Disney World and Disneyland, they’ll often assume that bigger is better when it comes to castles. Yes, I do have quite a fondness for Cinderella’s Castle. But I’ve heard someone say that Disney World is all about the castle, while Disneyland is about the “skyline” as a whole. The castle with the Matterhorn beside it is certainly a magical sight to see. It’s just a matter of preference.

Anyway, we found our way through the Matterhorn queue. There were already a decent amount of people in line, but we got lucky. We happened to be standing right at the fork between the two sides of the queue when they opened the right side, only the left had been opened previously. Here’s what Scott has to say about the ride: “It made my tailbone hurt!” I personally didn’t get too banged up, but I sort of sat on one cheek (hahaha) to avoid the tailbone issue. The ride through the mountain was certainly enjoyable but I have to say it wasn’t much of a thrill per say. Definitely a classic and probably something I’d do once per trip.

Next we headed to the recently refurbished Alice in Wonderland. We’d heard a lot about the changes made to the attraction over the refurbishment and we were very excited to see them in person. Now, as first timers, we had not ridden the ride pre-refurbishment so I don’t know much in the way of comparison there. But wow, delightful ride! One of our favorites from the entire trip! So many great effects to see in every show scene. Again, everything functioned so seamlessly and perfectly! It was a nice long ride too.

Afterwards we headed towards Tomorrowland, we were planning on just waiting to get fastpasses at 8am but the wait was only 20 minutes! We hopped right in line. We overheard other families balking at the 20 minute wait and leaving to go to other attractions and we couldn’t believe it! Only 20 minutes! And we hadn’t even run there first thing. We stood still for awhile in the queue, but now that I understand how they work the line it makes sense. We got on pretty quickly and had the time of our lives!!! Amazing attraction, everything about it is perfection. The music, the lights, the track, the pristinely clean seats, wow! After we got off we immediately got fastpasses for another ride later on.

By this point we were hungry for a breakfast break and I had noticed that the Tomorrowland Terrace was open, nearby, and basically a ghost town. My mom and Scott got breakfast burritos while I got a fruit plate. Scott says the breakfast burrito was just ok “a little too potatoey.” The fruit plate I got was one of the best assortments of fruit I’ve gotten anywhere! It had cantaloupe, pineapple, honeydew melon, blueberries, strawberries…and maybe a few others I’ve forgotten. It also included a cinnamon and honey greek yogurt dipping sauce (yum!) and a bran muffin. It was a lot of food for the price! I highly recommend getting one or even splitting one amongst other breakfast options to get some fresh fruit in for the day.

After breakfast we headed for the Storybookland Canal Boats. It was probably about a 15 minute wait. This was one of the attractions we wanted to be sure to do in the early morning because it closes in the afternoon for the parade. It’s a very enjoyable and relaxing ride.

Next up was Winnie the Pooh, which I was very excited for. Winnie the Pooh and his friends are some of my favorite characters. We basically got right on the ride into our adorable beehive. I loved the little baby heffalump on the back of the vehicle!

This was one ride I thought was better in Disneyland. Some might disagree and say they’re the same. Because essentially, they are, however this version was much better maintained. The show scenes in Magic Kingdom have sadly lost their motion for the most part while Disneyland’s animatronics were very alive.

After the ride we explored the large gift shop with a specific goal in mind. A Tigger Tail! We had heard many people call this one of their favorite snacks in DL. While it didn’t sound exactly like my cup of tea, everyone promised it would not disappoint. They were so right! This treat is large marshmallows on a stick dipped in caramel then crunchy white chocolate, dipped in sprinkles, and drizzled with dark chocolate. I know that might sound like far too much for some palates, but as someone who doesn’t like anything oversweet, I highly recommend it! Especially split amongst a couple people. We loved this snack and would have to get it on every trip in the future.

We headed back to Space Mountain for our second ride with fastpasses. It’s funny; we all noticed that we just couldn’t stop dancing to the music throughout the ride. Especially since it’s nice and dark so no one can see! This ride is much much better in Disneyland! Disney World’s Space Mountain is often painful; avoid the very last seat at all cost to your hipbones!

After exiting this ride it was around 11 o’clock and time for Innoventions to open. There was a pretty long queue to meet the Marvel characters but the Dream Home was empty.

After Innoventions we decided to head back to our room to freshen up before heading into another new Disney Park for the very first time!

Thanks for reading!
Next time: First Impressions of Disney’s California Adventure...
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:20 PM   #15
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WOW! I'm amazed by how much y'all were getting done that morning!

A 20 minute for Space Mountain on a July morning? That's incredible!

I'm excited to try one of those Tigger Tails!
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