Just the Two of Us: A Spectacular Visit (DLR + Universal) - final thoughts added 7/17

shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Background

My son and I got back from 3-day trip to Disneyland last week. This was our third trip since the parks opened up after the pandemic closure, but first time going just me and him (DH had to work and isn't as Disney-obsessed as us). I enjoyed writing up trip report for our last trip, so I thought I'd share all the details and photos again.

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Here's a pic from our last trip! We had such a good time and going to the parks just seems to get easier and easier for DS each time we go (he qualifies for DAS and has challenges with new situations).

I wasn't really planning to go back to DLR so soon. But... I just got a new job starting this summer and was taking a few weeks off before starting in late June. I won't have as much vacation time the first year, so it only made sense to squeeze in another trip! Plus all the nighttime spectaculars were starting back up. I've never seen World of Color or the Main Street Electrical Parade and DS hasn't seen any of them (even the Fireworks since they always get cancelled on us).

My son also really, really wanted to go to Universal Studios Hollywood. He is completely obsessed with the Simpsons and was campaigning hard to make a Universal trip this summer. I was a less excited about that plan – mainly because it meant less time at Disney and new things can often be hard – but was looking forward to the Harry Potter portions.

Table of Contents

Planning is Half the Fun

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins (Arrival/Hilton/CityWalk)

Day 2 - Universal Studios


Day 3 - Disneyland/Fantasmic

Part 2: "Butter my Biscuit" (Fantasmic Premium Dining)

Day 4 - California Adventure/WOC


Day 5 - Conquering All the Mountains


Day 5 - Main Street Electrical Parade


Day 6 - Returning home

Final Thoughts
 
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shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Planning is half the fun!

Since 2020, I seem to always be planning a future Disney trip (most of which have been cancelled). DLR shut down the day after we were supposed to start our trip in March 2020 and I planned multiple scenarios for future trips to WDW and DLR in the interim. It got to the point where I had to make a spreadsheet of all my different hotel and dining reservations to remember what to cancel!

For this particular trip, I didn't start making any firm plans until I got the tentative job offer in March. The big wrinkle was that I had no idea when exactly I'd need to start the new gig. It is a federal government job requiring a background clearance, which I was told could take 30-90 days. We were hoping to possibly overlap with some friends of ours who were also planning a summer trip, so we started looking at the week of Memorial Day. They later had to move their trip for medical reasons, but we ended up keeping those dates.

ADRs: Given the uncertainty around dates, I missed the 60 day opening for making advanced dining reservations. This wasn't too huge a bummer as we ended up cancelling most of our ADRs on past trips and I wanted to focus on dining packages, which hadn't been released yet. I did eventually book a few Wine Country Trattatoria reservations just in case they ended up working with World of Color.

Dining Packages: Seeing all the nightime shows was my number one goal, so I was very interested in booking various dining packages. Especially since DS can't wait for things easily and I could imagine trying to stake out a viewing spot hours in advance. I was so excited when they announced that WOC packages would open up on April 20. This is my birthday and I had the day off. I also took it as an auspicious sign that I should splurge on the WOC dessert party to celebrate. As I waited in the waiting room on my laptop that morning, I realized I could book directly in the app, so I snagged a few different dessert party reservations as I still wasn't certain of my park dates. I didn't realize it was prepay, so I was quite surprised when I saw my credit card bill.

Checking in with the Disboards each day also paid off when the Fantamsic packages unexpectedly opened on May 5. I jumped into the waiting room before even knowing what would be available and by 7:30 am had booked the River Belle Terrace Premium package. I didn't even know what this package would entail! I also grabbed a Hungry Bear package just in case, since it is always a wildcard knowing if DS will eat anything before I see the menus. That same day some Main Street Electrical Parade packages through the Plaza in opened and I grabbed one.

Tickets: Now that I had secured the dining packages, I guess it was time to buy some tickets. I had been debating getting an annual pass for quite some time and decided rather than purchasing the Enchant Magic Key to start, I'd rather upgrade at the park once I knew how well traveling just me and DS went over (since my husband would unlikely want to come often enough for his own annual pass). Little did I know that Magic Keys would be taken off of sale our first day!!

I had a good experience with Undercover Tourist on my last trip so I decided to use them for both our Universal and Disneyland tickets. I ended up getting a 3 day park hopper for DLR (which I later regretted as I didn't really use the hopper) and the Express Pass for Universal since we were slated to do that on the Memorial Day holiday and I assumed it would be packed.

Hotel: We have stayed on site at GCH in the past and I was debating either checking out the Disneyland Hotel or staying at the Tropicana across the street. I ended up booking at DLH with the Disney Visa discount after noticing some of my days were already booked up in the regular reservation bucket. About a week before we left, I saw some GCH reservations open up for not much more and jumped on it figuring it would be so much easier to be somewhere familiar and close to the parks when on my own with DS.

For the Universal portion of the trip, I was debating between the Hilton Universal, Sheraton, and the Garland. The Garland looked super cute, so I originally booked there but I started to worry about how well the shuttle would work out for us since it only looked to be scheduled to run once an hour. With the long holiday hours, I wanted an easy option to take a hotel break and go back at night, so staying closer made sense. I ended up choosing the Hilton Universal as it was the closest.

DAS: My son has qualified for DAS on previous trips, so I registered via the video chat about 3 weeks before our travel dates. I got the same castmember as our last visit and she remembered us! She helped us set up some advanced ride reservations (Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Soarin, Grizzly River Run, Big Thunder Mountain, Matterhorn), although I knew there was a significant chance based on our last trip that the times would end up actually working out.

Fly or Drive? We live in Arizona, about an 7.5 hour drive away, so I spent a lot of time debating whether we should fly or drive. We usually drive when it is the whole family as it is pretty easy and saves money, but with just two of us, I felt torn and concerned about driving the whole distance solo. In the end, I missed out on cheaper fares, so it became a moot point. DH did offer to drive out with us just for the Universal day and then fly back (he had the begining of the week off work, but not the latter part). This seemed like a great solution to me, but DS was really digging his heels in on wanting it to be just me and him like we originally planned...
 
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shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Day 1: The Adventure Begins! (Arrival, Hilton, CityWalk)

Our departure day finally arrived! Unfortunately, I had the worst night sleep ever the night before. I think I over did things physically getting things ready the day before and my shoulder was hurting and kept me awake until almost 2 a.m. Then DS excitedly woke up in the 5 o'clock hour. Ugh!

I tried to remain positive that we'd at least be able to make an early start, but as the morning dragged on I became increasingly worried about whether I could safely tackle the drive solo. A shower and breakfast just wasn't giving me the energy I hoped. DH was still willing to head out with us and fly back using his frequent flyer miles (he had actually booked a ticket back from LAX just in case, figuring DS would decide he wanted him to come).

The kiddo was still pretty upset at the idea of changing our original plans. I eventually had to tell him this was an adult decision and that for safety reasons dad had to come. DH quickly started throwing some things together while I went and booked him a Universal ticket.

We hit the road just after 9 and I was so, so happy to have another driver. DS seemed totally happy with our unexpected guest as well now that it was all decided and he excitedly filled dad in on all the details about Universal as we drove. We stopped for Taco Bell and gas in Blythe and overall had a very smooth, quick drive other than some crazy winds and blowing dust storms along I-10.

We arrived at the Hilton Universal just after 5 pm. I had gotten a notification that I could check in online while we were driving, but I was never able to sign into the app to do so. Thankfully there was no real wait to check in at the front desk. DH went to self-park the car and we had a very nice bellman help us with the luggage. We had just booked a standard room with two double beds and I had in the morning to ask for a rollaway ($35/night) since the beds are small and DH and I both sleep better in separate beds (I move around a lot, he sometimes snores).

Our room was on the 10th floor. When we walked in, I was at first concerned about the view from the window of the freeway (and associated traffic noise at night), but then I looked to my left and realized we could see the park! Getting the view of Hogwarts really got me really excited for going to Universal for the first time.


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The bellman gave us some helpful advice about how to walk to the park area and also for using the shuttle (runs every 15 minutes, but not until 30 minutes after park open).

DS, of course, wanted to go to the park right away, and I had to remind a few times that our tickets weren't until tomorrow. He excitedly sat at the window and got to see some special effects from what we later learned was the Water World show. I quickly got us unpacked and we got ready to head over to Universal CityWalk to find some food. I also called down to the front desk to inquire about the rollaway and they assured me it would be delivered soon.

We walked over to the park area and I was relieved that the up hill part didn't seem so bad. You basically walk around the hotel, down to the street and then up a bit to some stairs with a bridge.

CityWalk was super crowded (not surprising given that it was holiday weekend) and we didn't have reservations anywhere. DS suddenly decided he wanted to do sushi (note he has never really eaten sushi), but it looked like it would be quite a wait. We settled on the food court upstairs with Pizza Hut for him and hot dogs for us. I went to Pizza Hut first thinking it might take longer, but they were very fast (and expensive! I think it was over $20 for the pizza, 3 breadsticks and a drink). There was a longer line at Pink's and the "Beyond" dogs take about 8 minutes, so DS was done with his food by the time we got our veggie dogs. The dogs were worth the wait though and came with tomatoes, onions, and guacamole.

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After eating, we walked around CityWalk a bit. DS and I stopped at this dance challenge related to a TV shows (maybe Dancing with Myself?). You basically dance along with what is on the screen for like 30 seconds. We danced very badly to a Shakira song. I think DH managed to get the video of it emailed to him, but I haven't brought myself to watch. He'll probably torture me with it some day.

We popped into Things from Another World comics and loved looking around at all the different things. DS posed for a photo with the life size Iron Man.


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DS rushed into a few other shops without realizing there were lines (oops!). He spent a long time in the Universal shop thinking about which Simpsons merch he might get the next day. I unfortunately could not interest in looking at any Harry Potter stuff.

We walked back to the hotel and stopped for a photo in front of the Universal globe outside the park. The walk back is downhill and only took a few minutes.


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We were disappointed when we got back to the room to find that our rollaway still hadn't come. I called down to the desk again and they said someone would come up right away. This time they actually did and we headed down to the first floor to visit the pools. Brrrr. It was very, very cold (probably heated, I'm just a wimp). We opted for the hot tub instead.

It was getting late, so I got DS ready for bed and then I quickly fell asleep after. I usually get really crummy sleep in hotels, especially the first night. But with a white noise machine, ear plugs, and being so very tired, I slept great! Just what I needed to hit Universal the next day.
 
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Helene_C

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 2, 2017
There’s nothing better than a just the two of us Disney trip! I have wonderful memories of going to WDW with my oldest when he was 3, 4, and 8 and now I’m planning a just-the-three-of-us trip to Disneyland and Universal this August with him (now 12) and his brother (7), so your report is incredibly helpful for planning.
 

shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Day 2 - Universal Studios (part 1: Wizarding World)

We slept great and DS woke us up by pulling back the curtains (so bright!) around 6 a.m. He was raring to go! We still had 3 hours until park open though, so he watched some videos while we slowly woke up and started to get ready.

Breakfast options at the Hilton include a breakfast buffet you can pay for (over $25/pp), the cafe with ala carte items, and room service (except we didn't see any info in the room about room service so I figured it wasn't happening still). We had also learned from someone else's trip report on these boards that there was a coffee kiosk open in the mornings, so we headed down there around 7 to scope it out. DS loves to making tea/coffee with the keurigs in the room (and even sometimes drinks the coffee), but he was bummed that our room had no green tea.

The coffee shop is on the main floor over by the ballrooms and the elevators that go to the parking garage. They had a small selection of pastries, plain bagels, coffee, tea, and juices. The Hilton website said they also had smoothies, but this wasn't true when I asked. DS got a green tea with milk and a doughnut and we also got a toasted bagel for me and DH to split (total cost $13.59). We don't eat cream cheese, so we planned to add peanut butter to it that we brought from home.

We ate our food back in the room and finished getting ready. We left our room around 8:30 and DS was so excited. He asked to get a photo in the lobby with a Universal Studios banner. The walk over to the park was again quick and easy. Security consists of some kind of x-ray check of bags and walking through a metal detector.

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They were already letting folks into the park at around 8:45. We scanned our tickets from my phone and the person at the gate explained that we would use the app to show our Express Pass at the rides as well. My plan was to hit the Harry Potter rides first when the lines were short and save the Express Pass in case we wanted to ride again later.

DS of course wanted to go right to Simpson's land, but he relented for going to the Wizarding World. The theming is amazing! I only wish we had more time to stop and look at things. We quickly walked to Hogwarts to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Along the way I checked that Three Broomsticks was open as I've heard they rarely do breakfast and I possibly wanted to check it out for late morning food.


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We wanted to go through the regular queue for the Forbidden Journey rather than use our Express Pass as I had read that there are many props and cool things to see from the line. The line had not built up yet being first thing in the morning, so we were able to walk through without stopping most of the way. I kind of wish there were more people so we could go slower and take it all in. I unfortunately wasn't able to get many photos as we were moving fast and many areas were too dark.

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The line slowed right around the room with all the portraits and DS was excited to see some of them moving (he actually loves Harry Potter, but that fact is totally eclipsed by the Simpsons). He was excited to see the portrait of the "Fat Lady" and was a bit bummed that he couldn't go explore the Griffindor common room and dormitory.

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We quickly moved to the ride loading area and I was starting to get nervous about the actual ride. I had read this one can cause motion sickness and I am prone to both dizziness and vertigo although most rides are fine for me. I almost declined to ride when I saw the video in the queue showing the ride action and realized that the contraption almost dips slightly upside down! But I persevered.

We loaded into the ride and were off! I definitely felt a bit queasy during the ride and at several moments just had to close my eyes. There was so much going on and I felt like I missed at least half of it. A lot of the theming is pretty scary and I was silently praying to myself that DS was going to be ok with all of it. But when we got off the ride he pronounced it to be "epic," while I was thinking to myself "never again" (although I'd probably do again on a future trip).

The line for Flight of the Hippogriff was posted as 5 minutes, so we ran over to the queue rather than using our Express pass. The line turned out to be more like 10 minutes, but we enjoyed seeing Hagrid's Hut (you can hear Fang behind the door).

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We also got some beautiful glimpses of Hogwarts from the queue and we loved seeing all the other theming. DS stopped for a photo of a cart that had a jug of Fleshing Eating Slug Repellent.

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The ride itself was fun, but incredibly short. Like less than a minute? I'd probably be unhappy if I had stood in line for an hour for it.

I wanted to check out more of the Wizarding World, but DS's desire for Simpson's land could not be contained any longer. We managed to get at least one family photo before heading over to Springfield.

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shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Day 2 - Universal Studios (part 2: Springfield At Last)

Our first foray into Wizarding World only lasted about 45 minutes and then we could not keep DS from Springfield any longer. Thankfully it was only a short walk away. I don't think I've ever seen him so happy.

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DS had spent hours and hour watching YouTube videos about the Simpsons land at both Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando. He was excited to rush around and show us all sorts of little details, like the button you could push to cause a nuclear accident (which of course he immediately pushed and revisited numerous times throughout the day.

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We saw a Homer Simpson character outside the Kwik-E-Mart to get meet him and get a picture. The staff member was nice and offered to take a photo with our phone.

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DS really wanted to do the midway games, but they weren't open yet. The Simpsons Ride line was already at 40 minutes, so we decided to use our Express Pass. This ended up being the longest line we stood in all day as it took about 15-20 minutes (making me wonder if the ride actually didn't open until 10 or something). Thankfully there were fun Simpsons cartoons to watch while waiting.

I was worried about motion sickness on this ride and I had good cause to be. I was still feeling off from the Forbidden Journey but I persevered. The story with ride was fun, but I had to close my eyes several times due to nausea.

I felt like I needed some food to settle my stomach, so I convined DS to make a quick trip back to Hogsmede for a late breakfast. The Three Broomsticks was still open and serving breakfast. We ordered one kid's American breakfast plate with Pumpkin Juice to share, plus the adult fruit plate (about $32 total).

We sat on the nice shady porch outside for a few minutes while eating. The American breakfast had scrambled eggs and potatoes, plus a scone and croissant (we asked for no bacon/sausage). It was plenty for us all to share and the potatoes were particularly good. The fruit plate was also really good with watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, and blueberries. I tried to save some of it in a ziploc bag, but it didn't really make it to the end of the day.

DS had some bites of eggs and good amount of fruit and croissant, but he was wanting to get back to Springfield to eat at Krusty Burger. So we packed up and headed back to Springfield.


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The midway games were just getting started and DS had saved up a bunch of cash just for that. But boy are they expensive! They really push the $18 for 7 tries with the last try being the "moneyball" with double points. Most of DS's money quickly disappeared. He did one round where you throw a ball to knock over these Willie dolls and I was impressed that he knocked over three, while dad only got one! He had enough points to win one of the (scary looking in my opinion) Willie dolls.

He also tried a game where you toss the ball in a tub (another $18, but they all bounced right out).

We tried to distract him from the games, but going over to meet Bart Simpson by the Kwik-E-Mart. So we got another character photo with the Willie doll as well.


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DS had been planning all of the food he wanted to eat on this vacation before we even decided to come. First up was Krusty's Ribwich (even though he mostly eats vegetarian at home). It has some kind of meat, BBQ sauce, and coleslaw on a hamburger bun, plus fries on the side. And, of course, he had to get a Buzz cola (total cost $22).

We were able to find some shaded tables in Duff gardens across the street. DS says the ribwich was really good, but he only ate about half.

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It seemed like a good time to do the Studio Tour as it was close by. We hit the restrooms and then used our Express Pass. We got the first seats in the tram right behind the tour guide.

I vaguely remember the tour from when I was young, but found it much more fascinating as an adult. We drove past the clock tower square from Back to the Future and I enjoyed all the tour guides details about how movies are made on sound stages and different types of sets.

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Another highlight was seeing some different cars that have starred in movies, including the 1960 Ford Anglia 105E featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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The tour now has some attractions built in, where the tram basically drives into a sound stage, locks it's wheels into a mechanism, and everyone dons some 3D glasses. The King Kong vs. T-Rex portion was pretty exciting and something I would do again. I'm not familiar with the Fast in the Furious movies, so that part mainly just made me feel dizzy.

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Someone on the tour pulled the emergency cord during the portion where we were in the subway sound stage with a simulated earth quake. There were some tense moments where the tour guide was trying to figure out if things were a true medical emergency and then had direct a man to get back in the tram as he tried to exit. We later learned he had dropped his phone. We were relieved everyone was ok and it was interesting to watch all the special effects reset as we sat waiting.

We decided to head down to the lower lot after the tour and check out some of the big attractions. We were able to get on the Mummy with the Express Pass in under 5 minutes. It was very fast, very dark, and the type of ride that I was just hoping it would end soon the whole time.

Next up was Transformers. I had heard the 3D on this one can cause a lot of motion sickness, but it actually didn't bother me so much.

DS had been anxiously talking about the drop on the Jurrasic World ride since the night before. He has an intermittent fear of heights and usually has to work his way up to anything with a drop. I reassured him over and over again that he didn't have to ride, but he insisted that he wanted to.

We got in the Express Pass line with virtually no wait and loaded on the boats. But as soon as we sat down, DS asked if it was too late to get off. We tried to get the attendants attention, but they had brought the safety bar down and his anxiety was getting quite high. Thankfully, they had everyone raise their arms so they could release the bar and allowed DS and DH to exit. I decided to stay and ride, although immediately got anxious about the drop myself once we were underway.

It ended up being my favorite ride at Universal possibly because it one of the few with out a motion simulator. The animatronics are well done and the drop was just the right amount of thrill ride for me. I even got to see DS and DH watching as I got to the bottom. I got only a bit wet, which was welcome as the afternoon was heating up.

I explained to the attendants that DS had changed his mind before the ride started and that we had already used our Express Pass. They graciously gave me two anytime passes that we could use for that specific ride in case he changed his mind or if DH wanted to ride alone.

We headed back up the escalators to the upper lot and DS wanted to get some (more) lunch. He originally had the Bumblebee Man's Taco Truck scheduled on his personal food list, but decided to opt for Luigi's pizza in Springfield instead. I got in line there, while DS and DH headed over to Moe's in search of the Flaming Moe. The website menu had noted that the Meat Hater's Pizza was vegan (I avoid dairy), but it sure looked like real cheese to me and was only marked as vegetarian on the menu on premises. I wasn't able to get anyone's help to ask about it, so I just opted for a slice of cheese for DH ($10.50).

They were unfortunately out of Flaming Moe's and Springfield was completely packed. There were no free tables anywhere, so we wandered down and found a wall to sit on closer to the front of the park. DS and DH stayed there while I ran in search of something vegetarian for DH and me. I got a bit lost looking for the French Street Bistro, so I hit the Palace Deli instead and grabbed two Vegan Bánh Mì sandwiches from the grab and go case ($28 for two). I met back up with the DH and DS and we gobbled our food quickly. The sandwiches were pretty meh but at least they were food.

Since we were in Springfield again, DS of course wanted to play more midway games. He used up the last of cash on a game where you try to pop balloons with a bean bag. He did decently well, popping 3 of them, and chose a small Simpsons pillow as his prize.

He had a gift card to use up as well and we popped into the Kwik-E-Mart to shop. He quickly chose a Duff hat (with a bottle opener on the brim) and some Homer Simpsons slippers. Thankfully they gave us a big bag to carry all our merch and prizes in. DS also really wanted to get one of the huge Lard Lad doughnuts. The line looked long but moved fast. I hung out in the shade and finished my sandwich, while DS stood in line.

We really needed to take a hotel break soon, but decided to head over to the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride on our way out. It was fun, but I was getting pretty tired of motion simulators.

As we exited, I saw that the new Secret Life of Pets ride had no more virtual que slots left. I checked at the entrance though and was told we could still use our Express Pass so we jumped in the queue. This reminded me more of Disneyland dark ride, so I found it relaxing and enjoyable even though I don't know the movie.

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It was almost 3:30 and a hotel break was sorely over due. We didn't really know where the shuttle picked up so we decided to just walk back to the hotel. We hoped to recharge for about an hour before heading back to the park to catch the Water World show and dinner. Little did we know...
 
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shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Day 2 - Universal Studios (part 3: All's Well that Ends Well?)

(apologies for the lack of pictures in this section, it was the end of a looonnnggg day)

Our feet were tired as we walked back to the hotel so we vowed that we would take the shuttle on the way back. Our goal was to get out of the heat and unplug for about an hour before heading back in for dinner and to catch the 6:30 Water World show. DS was particularly excited for that since we had seen the giant column of fire and other special effects from our hotel window the evening before.

I suggested a swim, but DS wanted to chill with his iPad for a bit. Before I knew it, he was fast asleep! This kid usually only naps in cars and really long theme park days, so I guess we overdid it by staying in the park so long. I figured he'd wake up after 30 or so minutes and we'd get ready. He often wakes up incredibly grouchy, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that the grouchiness wouldn't last long.

But 30 minutes came and went and he was still zonked out. DH and I started having normal voice conversations thinking it would rouse him... nope. This gradually escalated to me gently rubbing his back and talking directly to him... nope. As 6 o'clock came and went I resorted to trying to (still gently) shake him awake. It took several tries!

He finally did wake, but the grouchiness was in full force. He immediately wanted to be at the Waterworld show, even though it was too late to make the 6:30 show and we needed to eat. He was probably low blood sugar by this point and went into the most EPIC meltdown he has ever had to date. I won't describe every detail, but he moved from fight (trying to destroy the hotel room), to flight (escaping the room, beating us down the elevator, and attempting to run to the park), and freeze (laying on the parking garage ramp sobbing).

I'm still slightly amazed (and bewildered) that no hotel staff/security got involved. I did ask the concierge if he had seen a very upset child run through the lobby, but he said no and didn't offer much help. The 10 or so minutes when I could not find him felt like hours.

He eventually went back to the room, but it took maybe 30 more minutes for him to calm down. He just wouldn't believe me that there was another show at 7:45. Once I finally coaxed him to have a granola bar, he came back to his senses and we made a plan to take the shuttle back to the park, with the hope of maybe grabbing some quick food before the show.

We headed down to the area outside the lobby and the bellman told us the shuttle should be there in about 8 minutes. A large group gathered and I was a bit nervous when the fairly full shuttle pulled up (the Hilton is the final stop after the Sheraton). But there was plenty of room for everyone.

The only stop at Universal is outside of CityWalk, so it was still a bit of a walk to the park entrance. Walking would have been much easier/faster for us. We briefly considered a stop at Jamba Juice, but there was a line and there was no way I was going to risk missing the last show.

We made it with a few minutes to spare and quickly got seated. We sat just on the edge of the green splash zone (but outside of it) and really had no idea of what to expect. DS kept darting over to the splash side and then back as he saw how completely soaked the audience over there was getting as the actor were dousing them with hoses and buckets of water regularly while we waited for the show to start.

The preshow was super fun and I totally get why folks say this show is worth it. The stunts and special effects were pretty amazing! I'm glad we didn't miss the last show. My only regret (besides that hole crazy meltdown) is that we didn't take any photos. Honestly DH and I were both starving and emotionally overwrought by this point.

Our main mission after the show was to get food and we were disappointed to find that some things had already closed (Mel's Diner where I was wanting to try the BBQ Beyond burger closed at 6). Springfield was open though so we headed there. The line for Lard Lad's donuts had gone from long to totally insane, so if you are wanting that do it earlier in the day.

DH took DS back to Luigi's while I hopped in line at Krusty Burger. There weren't many people waiting but they only had one register open. I ordered two Mother Nature burgers ($32, note the fries are not vegan). We once again ate outside at Duff Gardens (food was just ok) and saw some fireworks up in the sky. I remembered reading that they sometimes do some kind of evening show over Hogwarts on weekends where they are open late, so I was excited to check that out.

But first, DS wanted to do one more round of throwing money away on midway games. DH floated him the cash for one last round. He also wanted to check out the "secret" room above Krusty Burgers, so we headed over and upstairs. I'm not sure it is very secret, but there are fun animations all over the walls signed by the animators.

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We also wondered through the upstairs of Cletus' Chicken Shack and DS was excited to find Spider-Pig from the Simpsons.

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DS and DH both declined to go back and try the Jurassic World ride. I think we were all spent and DS mainly wanted to look in shops. I convinced them though to head back over to Hogwarts to see if we could catch the light show/fireworks. We made it just before it was about to start.

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The projections on the castle were really cool, so I'm glad we caught it. They do projections for each of the different houses, so I learned that DS self-identifies as Ravenclaw based on his yelling "that's me!" when they did Ravenclaw (even though Pottermore previously sorted him as Hufflepuff). The whole presentation was short, but worthwhile if you can catch it (and compared to Disneyland, very easy to just walk up and see).

I had checked the app for Olivander's wand show at dinner and it didn't appear to still be happening. But as we walked by noticed two staff members outside, so I stopped and asked about it. They said we could still do it and directed us to wait in the empty line queue. Or at least I thought it was empty, a gentlemen stepped out of the shadows and greeted us in a British accent. He was dressed what both DH and I thought was period costume-wear and a bowler hat (Harry Potter bounding?) and we assumed at first he was a staff member.

They quickly ushered us in Olivander's and it was just our family and this fine gentlemen. He was carrying a leather-bound notebook, which he opened once we were inside. I'm not sure how common it is to do the wand show with such a small group, but I was excited since I was guessing DS would get picked to try out the wands. He had not idea what to expect as the shop keeper (Olivander, I guess?) called him up and asked if he was there for a wand.

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He had DS try out a few different wands with different magical effects each time (boxes moving, cupboards opening), each time saying this is not the wand for you. Finally, he found the right wand, a rather plain looking one made of Ash, and ushered us into the main part of the shop. We looked around a bit and I was relieved that DS actually didn't want to buy the magical wand, especially since we wouldn't have much time to play with it before leaving the park.

We started heading out of the park and used the Express Pass (not really needed this late at night) for the Kung Fu Panda short movie (I was so tired I don't really remember it). We also made a quick stop at the Hello Kitty store. DS wanted to get popcorn or some kind of snack, but we didn't see any stands open as we walked to the gates.

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We stopped for one last picture with a minion statue on our way out and then ran into the gentlemen we saw at Ollivander's right as we were leaving. He remembered us and said hello. We are guessing he was a Harry Potter enthusiast not a staff member after all as he had a backpack and airpods and was heading out as well. Maybe it will inspire me to up my park-wear for a future trip. I always think about Disney-bounding but never seem to have the energy to pull it off.

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After walking back to our room, we took a short dip in the pool (well only up my ankles and then the hot tub for me). I was exhausted and happy to make it to bedtime and excited about the second leg of our adventure tomorrow as DH would head back home and DS and I would go to Disneyland...
 
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BroadwayHermione5

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 9, 2017
I am totally shocked no hotel staff saw or heard anything! Even a guest not hearing anything was bizarre!

I’m happy everything worked out in the end and you had a great time! And when I go later in the summer I’m gonna have to look for spider pig!
 

shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
I am totally shocked no hotel staff saw or heard anything! Even a guest not hearing anything was bizarre!

I’m happy everything worked out in the end and you had a great time! And when I go later in the summer I’m gonna have to look for spider pig!
I'm sure several guests saw and heard things. At least a few walked by and stared during the portion when we were outside. And there was a portion when he was running through guest hallways screaming. Maybe most people were at the park?

He usually is much more regulated and contained in public situations. And his anxiety usually keeps him right by my side. So the elopement was quite a shock. I'll have to mentally prepare a game plan on what to do it ever happen again.
 

BroadwayHermione5

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 9, 2017
I'm sure several guests saw and heard things. At least a few walked by and stared during the portion when we were outside. And there was a portion when he was running through guest hallways screaming. Maybe most people were at the park?

He usually is much more regulated and contained in public situations. And his anxiety usually keeps him right by my side. So the elopement was quite a shock. I'll have to mentally prepare a game plan on what to do it ever happen again.
I just hate that no one said anything. Or even just went to quickly investigate. I feel horrible for all of you.
 

Jess_VacayMode

Earning My Ears
Joined
Jan 5, 2022
That must have been a lot for you to process and deal with at the same time. I am thankful "the switch flipped" and he was able to understand about 2nd showing and self-regulate. Glad the rest of y'alls evening went well. I am enjoying y'alls TR. Thank you for sharing it with us....the good, the not so good, and the sensory overload. I get it.
 

shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Day 3 - Disneyland (part 1: Arriving at our Happy Place)

Our first Disneyland day was here! DH woke up around 6 to get ready for and catch a Uber ride to LAX so he could fly home. He got off smoothly and now it really just was the two of us. I was super excited to get to Disneyland, but also a tiny bit nervous for the freeway drive and the 72+ hours of solo parenting ahead of me.

DS and I were in no rush, in fact we wanted to miss the rush hour traffic. I was also determined to not overdo things today and have a more relaxed pace. I was considering our breakfast options while I was packing up the room and luckily found the info that came with our keys at check in about Hilton room service. It was just on the jacket on the key cards and I had missed it before. There was a QR code that took me to the menu and I called room service to order some scrambled eggs (no bacon) and a side of sourdough toast

The food came fairly quickly, boxed up in to-go containers. There was unfortunately bacon in the container with the eggs, but I removed it. DS only ate a few bites of the eggs (because they totally tasted like bacon), but had some fruit and toast. I made some oatmeal in the room.

We were all packed up and ready by 9, so I called down to bell services for help with the bags. They were able to bring the cart down to the self parking area and DS got a kick in handing the bellmen the tip.

I set Google Maps for the Grand Californian and we were off! This was the part of the drive I was dreading (don't like freeways in big cities) but it was actually easy and smooth. DS fell asleep in the back and woke up right around the time I was getting off I-5. The journey took maybe an hour and 20 minutes.

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And then we were here! This was not our first stay, so we were already familiar with how arrival goes. We had already checked in online and I knew our room wasn't ready from the app. We stored our bags with bell services and parked ourselves in front of the lobby fireplace (we were the only ones! for a few minutes to figure out our game plan.

DS wanted to wait for the room to be ready, but finally agreed to go into the park once he realized we didn't have to drag the luggage along. I had a park reservation for Disneyland, so we headed through Downtown Disney and entered the park a few minutes later.

We always enjoy taking vehicles down Main Street, so we hopped on the double decker bus (our first time).

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Before the trip, DS wanted this trip to focus on riding everything we had never done before. He had in fact emphatically insisted that we wouldn't repeat any rides from earlier visits until we had completed the list. So I was quite surprised when he first asked to do Haunted Mansion right as we exited the bus (we've ridden it many times already). I quickly booked a DAS on my phone.

We decided to grab lunch in Tomorrowland while we waited, so I mobile ordered some pizza from Alien Pizza Planet for DS and a veggie wrap from Galactic Grill for myself. As we walked into Tomorrowland, DS asked to ride Astro Orbitor and it looked to only have a short wait. Unfortunately, they cleared the line right after we got in it, so we just headed over to pick up our food.

We should have grabbed a table at Galactic Grill since Alien Pizza Planet was much more crowded and hard to find a shady spot. This was probably the worst food we would have during our trip. The pizza ($7) looked terrible, but DS ate it just fine. I usually like the wrap at Galactic Grill ($10) but this time wrap part was kind of falling apart and it was just so so.

While we were eating DS decided he wanted to ride Hyperspace Mountain since he could see the sign. He has never ridden Space Mountain, but was excited for the Star Wars overlay. I cancelled our Haunted Mansion DAS and booked a new one for Hyperspace with about an hour wait.

DS asked to ride the "car thingy" and it only had a 5 minute wait listed in the app so we headed over to Autopia. The line was indeed short and fast and we each took our own car around the course.

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We realized that we left DS's jacked at Galactic Grill, so we headed back that way. While we were walking we saw that Captain Phasma and some storm troopers had just come out and were interrogating some members of the crowd that was forming. We luckily found his jacket and then went back to see Captain Phasma. We stayed a watched for about 15 minutes as I think DS was hoping to get questioned – he didn't, but it was still enjoyable to watch all their interactions with different guests.

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We noticed a Boba Fett photo sign over by where we did the Disney Visa card member photo opportunity on our last trip, so we went to check it out. There was only one person waiting and anyone can do the photo opportunity. You get to sit on Boba Fett's throne and have your photo taken (which you can then get if you have the Photo Pass). They did both individual shots and ones with both of us.

Looking back, I wish I had gotten Genie+ just for myself this day, so I could have the photos from this shoot. I thought I would be able to buy just a one day photo pass after the fact, but they now only sell the full week photo pass ($78) or purchase each photo individually. Here's one of the photos though just to show what the area and photos look like.

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After the photo shoot, it was time for Hyperspace Mountain. We entered through the Lightning Lane and were on the ride in under 10 minutes. It has been more than a decade since I rode Space Mountain and had never done the Star Wars overlay. The ride was faster and scarier than I remember, but also super fun. I enjoyed the Star Wars Elements. DS thought it was awesome and said he might want to ride it again in the future.

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I had booked a Haunted Mansion DAS from the Space line, so we headed over toward New Orleans Square. The Lighting Lane was longer than our previous visits, but took less than 10 minutes. Right before we got into the "doom" buggies the ride was stopped for a few minutes. It resumed and we got on, but DS and I both noticed that the ride was moving much slower than usual (is a "slow mode" a thing? maybe for wheelchairs?).

This slower pace lasted our whole ride and was kind of neat because I saw so many details I never noticed before. I also recently watched a "Behind the Attraction" episode about the Haunted Mansion on Disney+, so it was extra fun to be look out for all the things I learned about the ride.

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I was excited to hear DS mention possibly doing the Davy Crockett Explorer canoes since he wouldn't do them on the last trip and I ended doing them alone. There was a short line when we got there and we waited about 10 minutes.

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We ended up at the front of the canoe and had a great guide. His corny jokes had DS in stitches and probably my favorite part of the whole trip was hearing my child laugh so much.

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After the canoes, we headed to Tropical Hideaway for some Dole Whips. There was a very long line but it moved pretty quick. DS tried the watermelon and I had the original pineapple. I booked us a DAS for Indy in case DS wanted to ride, but I had gotten the notification that our room was ready and he was ready to head to the hotel. We ate our treats while walking out of the park. We stopped at the Emporium briefly along the way to check out the merchandise for the Main Street Electrical Parade.

We were assigned a courtyard room as requested (wanted to avoid park-facing rooms due to the late Grad Night events), although I should have also requested for a room close to the elevators. It was a bit of a hike to get there, but we were easily able to open our door with the digital key on the app with my phone.

Now our task was to rest (but not actually nap!), before heading back later for our Fantasmic reservation at Riverbelle Terrace....
 

CandyMouse

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 21, 2008
Enjoying your trip report, sounds like a great time! How hard is it to get the DAS pass? We'll have a group of 7 going in November, it will be my Niece and her kids first time. My Great- Nephew will be 9 when we go and might need it because of his Autism and ADHD I believe. We'll still get Genie+ for my Adult family, but was wondering if the DAS would be helpful for my Nieces family?
 

shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Enjoying your trip report, sounds like a great time! How hard is it to get the DAS pass? We'll have a group of 7 going in November, it will be my Niece and her kids first time. My Great- Nephew will be 9 when we go and might need it because of his Autism and ADHD I believe. We'll still get Genie+ for my Adult family, but was wondering if the DAS would be helpful for my Nieces family?
You can pre-register starting 30 days before your trip through the website – the DAS holder needs to be available for a photo at one point during this process. Otherwise you can request in the parks at Guest Services when you arrive. You could also see how things go and then request DAS if need be.

It is not based on diagnosis (and they don't ask for specifics on that or medical documentation). Instead you need to be able to explain why the person needing the DAS cannot wait in a traditional line and how the DAS accommodation would help them.

DAS has been very helpful for my kid, but keep in mind it does not eliminate all waiting. He has to wait the a similar amount of time to the standby line time, but can do so outside of the traditional line. For bigger attractions, you enter through the lightning lane and that can be a 10-20 (sometimes even 30 or more) minute wait depending on how busy the parks are. And of course there are also lines/waits for food, characters, shows, etc. Having a plan for how to handle those waits is helpful (games, mad libs, disney app, etc.)

You can have 5 people on the DAS in addition to the DAS holder. So for a family of 7, you may not be able to put everyone on it (unless one of the kids is 2 and under). You can always check with Guest Services, sometimes they will allow a larger group.
 

CandyMouse

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 21, 2008
You can pre-register starting 30 days before your trip through the website – the DAS holder needs to be available for a photo at one point during this process. Otherwise you can request in the parks at Guest Services when you arrive. You could also see how things go and then request DAS if need be.

It is not based on diagnosis (and they don't ask for specifics on that or medical documentation). Instead you need to be able to explain why the person needing the DAS cannot wait in a traditional line and how the DAS accommodation would help them.

DAS has been very helpful for my kid, but keep in mind it does not eliminate all waiting. He has to wait the a similar amount of time to the standby line time, but can do so outside of the traditional line. For bigger attractions, you enter through the lightning lane and that can be a 10-20 (sometimes even 30 or more) minute wait depending on how busy the parks are. And of course there are also lines/waits for food, characters, shows, etc. Having a plan for how to handle those waits is helpful (games, mad libs, disney app, etc.)

You can have 5 people on the DAS in addition to the DAS holder. So for a family of 7, you may not be able to put everyone on it (unless one of the kids is 2 and under). You can always check with Guest Services, sometimes they will allow a larger group.
Thank-you I'll let my Niece know to possibly check into it. I'm not sure if my Great-Nephew will want to do a lot of the bigger more intense rides anyway. Do you happen to know it we got the genie+ and he got the DAS would we be able to go on the rides at the same time?
 

shosh1530

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Thank-you I'll let my Niece know to possibly check into it. I'm not sure if my Great-Nephew will want to do a lot of the bigger more intense rides anyway. Do you happen to know it we got the genie+ and he got the DAS would we be able to go on the rides at the same time?
For the bigger rides that are on Genie+, you should be able to time things so that your Genie+ window and DAS return times are similar and then all enter the Lightning Lane at the same time. Your DAS return times do not expire (except for the ones booked in advance when you register online).
 

fireworks fan

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jul 31, 2007
Just wanted to say I’m enjoying your trip report. My family will be visiting for the first time over Christmas so I’m trying to soak up all tips!
 









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