California Dazzling: A Roadtrip Vacation Spectacular - Last Update and Final Thoughts 11/8


Sea days are just so relaxing!
Sep 8, 2006

Welcome to my newest trip report! In the past I have written about Walt Disney World, Disney cruises, Disneyland… Links can be found in my signature if you were interested. But this trip report will be different. While it will include a Disneyland portion, it also will cover other areas of California – and even some things in these other areas that have Disney connections. I hope you will enjoy reading about all the different adventures we had! And I hope some of you, who might think of planning a trip to Disneyland and California, might find this trip report useful. If you have any questions about planning a trip, feel free to ask, I will be happy to help and share our experiences!

Let’s start with some introductory remarks and a disclaimer: This trip report will start out with a lot of text, but I promise, there will be plenty of pictures later on!


Me: I am Magdalene, your trip report writer. I am from Germany and am lucky to live 10 minutes by foot from a real castle. I still have a great love for fake ones though – and the parks surrounding them. I have been to California three times before, twice as a teenager to visit my aunt. The second of those trips was with my lovely sister Katharina, otherwise known as @nodnol. That was also our first ever visit to a Disney park, we spent two fantastic days at Disneyland with my aunt in 1992. And then the third trip was with my best friend in 2005 – when we got to celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary.

This is me:

Michael – my boyfriend and co-writer (and editor, so any typos are his fault!) – get’s to introduce himself:

I'm Michael, your co-author, fact checker, designated driver (of three count them uno, dos, tres ... THREE rental cars!) and translator. I currently live in Florida, but am working on changing that. I used to live in California and was a DL local. Indeed, many places on this trip are simply among my favorite things. But there were a few places that were completely new to me, including one that I find a bit embarrassing. Oh, and I like my pretzels the way God intended ... with mustard on them, not butter!

Yes, and I will start with an edit right here. It appears as if your intrepid trip writer has totally forgotten about her LAST trip to California. Weird since it happened just a little over a year ago and involved a 15-night cruise through the Panama Canal and a week in SoCal with ME and a trip report for all of YOU!!!

Oh!! I guess I kind of see the 2014 visit to Disneyland as just that: a visit to Disneyland, not a California vacation. Or I was just tired when I typed my introduction… Not sure what happened there… :confused:

Michael does not like his picture to be posted on the internet, so just picture him to be the most handsome man in the universe!

Michael will comment throughout the trip report. He started that in my last report when I told a story about an ice cream experience the wrong way and he felt that he had to put that right. Ice cream is kind of a magical food to him, I guess, and I did not give it enough importance somehow…

All food is magical, but ice cream is especially wonderful.

You will be able to recognize Michael’s comments by the brownish colour - in contrast to my lovely blue.

There were also a number of other people around for parts of the trip, friends we met, friends who were there at the same time as us, Michael’s brother and my aunt.

Why California?

How about because it is soooooooooo much better than Florida (and most places!)?

Besides it being beautiful and obviously being a favorite destination for German travelers (it felt like half my country was visiting at the same time as me), we had several other specific reasons for visiting California.

Germans were everywhere. I thought it was an invasion. ... But still not nearly as many as from China.

The first one came up in summer 2014. Michael lives in Southern Florida. Florida summers are known for high temperatures combined with massive humidity – and thunderstorms. Every summer our regular phone calls between Germany and Florida are taken over by Michael spending half the time moaning about the horrible weather. Long-distance relationships are not necessarily always fun (and we are working towards changing the distance in the future). And they are even less fun if you have to listen to complaints about the constant thunderstorms and the humidity and the heat and how he rather wants to be in the mountains or in Alaska.
Awe .... doncha feel awful for her? I don ... no, really ... I do (not). Especially if you yourself have a rather cold and rainy summer. By mid-August I was quite fed-up. And I decided that I would not want to be the loving and supportive girl friend again all through the summer of 2015. So, the solution would be to get Michael out of Florida for the summer. Preferably to the mountains or to Alaska (as he kept mentioning these). The mountains he was dreaming about again and again were in Yosemite. I knew from reading @podsnel’s trip report from her trip that if you wanted to stay in Yosemite Valley you needed to get a reservation a year in advance, just when it opened for booking. So, that’s what I did. Mid-August 2014 I got a booking at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls for August 18-25, 2015. The reservation could be cancelled or adjusted without penalty, so it was easy to do and secured us the option. And once I had the reservation it kind of made it definite that this is what we would do in August 2015.

Yosemite is flat out one of my favorite places on this globe. When I lived in SoCal, it was a regular vacation destination. But somehow I hadn't been there since 2005. It was about 4-5 years past my 'return by' date.

I had a second reason though. I knew that 2015 would bring the Disneyland 60th anniversary. I loved my trip during the Disneyland 50th. It kind of was the start of my personal collection of “park birthday trips”. I was at DLP for the 15th and the 20th anniversaries and at WDW for the 40th. So, I really wanted to go to Disneyland for this anniversary. (And yes, I am planning my future Disney trips with certain years in mind: 2017 will bring a trip to DLP, 2021 one to WDW and I guess the next real must do trip to DL will be 2030 for the 75th anniversary!!).

How about this fall for HKDL's tenth? Or next year for TDS's 15th? Or just heading to SDL for opening? ... Oh, and WDW turns 45 next year, but you ignored that just like the Disney Company will!

I guess the rule must be that anniversaries count only after my first visit to a theme park! :thumbsup2 (Isn't it great to just make up your own rules?!) And since I share a birth year with the Magic Kingdom and don't find my 45th birthday that is approaching far too soon very spectacular, I am ignoring it on purpose!!

And then there is a third reason: my aunt. As I mentioned, she lives in California, in the northern Bay Area. She moved there in the 60s when she got married to an American. She and I have a special connection as she only has a son and would always have loved to have a daughter. And I kind of look similar to her, so I look like I could be her daughter. She is getting older and she has some mobility issues, so traveling to a country that is full of cobblestones and stairs (like Germany) is not what she wants to do anymore. So, if I wanted to see her, I had to travel to California.

Good enough reasons? I think so!


Ok, so far you only know that we traveled to California, but what did we do? I am going to give you a brief overview of the main parts, so that you know what you can look forward to.

August 6-15:
Anaheim (Disneyland and surrounding attractions, D23)

August 15-18:
Drive to and stay at Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park

August 18-22:

August 22-24:
Gold Country and Wine Country

August 24-27:
San Francisco

August 27-29:
Pacific Coast Highway

August 29-30:
One last night in Anaheim before I fly back home


Ok, this part will be some background on how I planned the trip and which resources I found useful. Besides the obvious websites of National Parks etc., there are a few things I wanted to mention:

Previous trip reports:
The DIS, and especially this not very well known section called “California and the West Trip Reports”, has some really great and helpful ones which definitely helped me in planning this trip and getting a feeling for of what to expect. So, I would like to mention them here in case you are looking for further reading material:
I already mentioned @podsnel and her report can be found here: California Dreamin'-A 14 Day Odyssey to San Fran,Yosemite & DL! 8/2013
One was on the DIS in single day installments, but it is much easier to read on the posters website here.
And finally this one: Our Awesome Yosemite & Monterey Bay Trip Report ~ 5/2009 ~ Lots of Pics!

DISUnplugged Disneyland Podcast:
The DIS has now a whole family of different podcasts. I have been listening for the WDW edition now for 7 years or so. In preparation of this trip I started to listen to the Disneyland edition. While I really enjoyed the weekly news show, my favourite shows are the ones that are part of a series called “Day 6 Drive”. The title comes from the fact that if you want to do a one week vacation at Disneyland you will have one spare day, as Disneyland’s longest ticket is a 5-day-ticket (well, with the exception of an AP, but those are very very pricey!), so you will need to find something to do on day 6. Mary Jo is responsible for these and she lives in the Disneyland area, but loves exploring other sights as well. I loved all of the podcasts from this series and especially the ones on Yosemite and Sequoia National Park were outstanding and I listened to them a couple of times each to be sure to get all the information!

Travel Guides:
I love reading guide books and therefore decided to get the newest edition of the Lonely Plant Guide for California. I spent some happy hours reading through it with my highlighter and taking notes of interesting sights. I found the book pretty reliable. In hindsight I think I should have used it more while we were there to look up stuff, but I kind of forgot about doing that even though I had it in the car with us.

My prep was limited to stopping at the local AAA office and getting new Tour Guides and maps. I came through spectacularly.

Yes, well done!!

Up Next: The Long Way to a Grand Vacation!


Sea days are just so relaxing!
Sep 8, 2006
Table of Contents:

Introduction: page #1

August 6, 2015 - Travel Day, Manhattan Beach, Villas at the Grand Californian Hotel:
The Long Way to a Grand Vacation! - page #2
Trying to Defeat Jet Lag - page #2

(These are not links since those only will lead you to the page number anyway currently. If you want to navigate to a page number that you don't see displayed at the top of the page, click on the little dots before the last number and it will scroll through the numbers displayed.)
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I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
Nov 15, 2009
Yay! I'm so glad you started this TR, and I can't wait to hear all about it!

ETA: And I'm the first one to the party! :cool1:
  • GoofyFan1515

    DIS Dad #174
    May 23, 2012
    Here....excited to read!


    Love the intros! Magdalene, I've never seen you looking better! For that matter, I can say the same for Michael too! :rolleyes1 :rotfl2:

    I can't wait to read all of your updates and see your pictures. I have experienced almost every one of the locations you visited, but it has been a number of years, so I am looking forward to seeing them once again............... through your eyes! :goodvibes
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  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Just checking in. I could not resist it. This likes a really great trip and I can't wait to read all about it.

  • Steppesister

    DIS Veteran
    Dec 27, 2013
    Very nice start to a trip to my growing up (and very much still a huge part of my heart) state. Sadly, my "hometown" has gone to trash (Hemet). But the weather in all of Cali is wonderful; no doubt about it! I especially love dreamy Yosemite, and can't wait to hear all about your adventures.


    I am alive, sometimes I wonder too.
    Jan 6, 2008
    Finally here. I agree with Marv- you are looking great and I guess I will imagine Michael as the last time I met him...

    Love the intro and while we are heading to San Diego and Palm Springs this fall I am looking forward to seeing and reading all about your trip. :yay:


    DIS Veteran
    Jun 22, 2009
    I'm finally here - but haven't missed much yet! Thank you for slow updating!
    Looking forward to read about your trip! Maybe I can fill alway in what happened simultaneously at your apartment...


    Sea days are just so relaxing!
    Sep 8, 2006
    Yay! I'm so glad you started this TR, and I can't wait to hear all about it!

    ETA: And I'm the first one to the party! :cool1:

    And I think you definitely deserve the number one spot on my trip report considering that you are going to feature in it!

    Signing on! I'll have to come back later to read the intro., but looking forward to it!
    :welcome: Glenn! Great to see you here!

    :jumping1: woohoo!!!!!!! Ready to go on this trip!

    Now going back to read your intro. ;)
    Herzlich Willkommen Karin!

    You might find one or two useful pieces of information for your trip to Disneyland next year!


    Sea days are just so relaxing!
    Sep 8, 2006
    Here....excited to read!


    Love the intros! Magdalene, I've never seen you looking better! For that matter, I can say the same for Michael too! :rolleyes1 :rotfl2:

    I can't wait to read all of your updates and see your pictures. I have experienced almost every one of the locations you visited, but it has been a number of years, so I am looking forward to seeing them once again............... through your eyes! :goodvibes

    And thank you very much for the nice compliment! :flower3: And I guess Michael is saying thanks, too! ;):rotfl:

    I'm in! Thanks for the bat-signal. Now I'll go back to read up.
    :welcome: Mark! Happy to have you here!

    YES! Let's go! :
    :welcome: Liesa! You managed to sign up - hope you will find the time to peek at this trip report now and then in between working hard for your last year of school!


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