The Triumphant Return - September 2021 TR


Aug 23, 2019
Welcome to my trip report! The only way to combat the post-Disney blues is to start a TR. :-)
We had a great trip to DLR from Sept 18-22, 2021.

I’m Kelly, aka Noodle. Here’s me and the kids. (DH avoids photos so you may or may not see him in this TR). DD is almost 8 and DS is almost 6. We live in Colorado and like all the outdoorsy things especially camping, hiking, mountain-biking, and swimming.


I grew up in southern California and my family went to Disneyland several times a year. My favorite ride, then and now, is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (Sadly, it was down for maintenance during this trip).

In my mid-20s I lived in Orlando for three years and got to know WDW pretty well then. My first summer there I had a random job at MGM Studios (back when it was MGM Studios and they had actual film studios on site) as a personal assistant to visiting professors that came in to film online college classes.

After Florida I moved to Colorado and met DH. He did not grow up on Disney like I did but I have made him a convert! We went to WDW for our honeymoon. But DLR has always been first in my heart.

We took the kids to DLR for the first time in November 2019. We had planned to go again in November 2020 but ended up switching to WDW at the last minute when DLR didn’t reopen. We had a great time at WDW, but we were all happy to be back at DLR again this year.

Day 1 – TRAVEL & DTD:

We flew in to John Wayne on Saturday, September 18. Our flight arrived on a time at 9:30 a.m. and we took a taxi to our hotel. We stayed at the HoJo this time. I was lured in by the very effective and targeted Instagram ads. We were happy enough with the hotel and might consider it again. We did a queen & bunk bed room which is a good setup for our family. And the kids did love the splash pad. The biggest downside is that I’d rather stay even closer.

Amazingly, our room was ready when we arrived at 10 a.m., so we dropped off our bags there and headed to Downtown Disney. The first thing we did was go to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. My BFF lives in the San Diego area and she came up for the afternoon with her kids (DD9 & DS6) who are like cousins to my kids.

We spent a long time in the World of Disney store and the LEGO store. We went to Black Tap for a late lunch and a Crazy Shake. This is DD’s favorite treat. This year we tried the Strawberry Shortcake shake. We also did the Halloween scavenger hunt, “Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit.” The kids had so much fun with this, and the travel mug prizes are really cute!


DD likes to try on all the ears.


Crazy Shake craziness.


I love this mural! DS is demonstrating his souvenir (a Halloween slap bracelet).

On the way back to the hotel I stopped by the ticket booths to have MaxPass refunded from our tickets and to add on ParkHopper. I bought these tickets on Black Friday sale way back in 2019. So glad to finally be using them! This is the first time we have ever done ParkHopper. We have always been completely happy doing one-park-per-day in the past, but due to Oogie Boogie we thought it might work out better to start at DCA on OBB days then switch to DL by 3 p.m.

The kids crashed pretty early due to our 4 a.m. wake up that morning.


Aug 23, 2019
  • noodle73

    Aug 23, 2019
    Here we go! Day 2 (Sunday, September 19th) we started at DCA. We had a quick breakfast in the hotel room (granola bars, bananas, chocolate milk for the kids) and were out the door at 7:10. We got to DCA at 7:20 and waited there until the gates opened at 7:30. We said hello to the Headless Horseman, then headed to the Cars Land rope drop.


    Along with everyone else we went to RSR. The line moved pretty quickly at we were off at 8:25. Radiator Springs was looking beautiful as always.


    We headed over to Pixar Pier and did:
    • Toy Story Midway Mania – We all love this one.
    • Incredicoaster – Everyone’s first time on this one and it was soooo much fun!
    • Jessie’s Carrousel – Basic, but it’s cute & the kids like it.
    • Pixar Pal-A-Round – Always the swinging cars! And look! Proof that DH was there.
    • Inside Out – The ride isn’t much but it’s one of our favorite movies so we’ll always do it.
    We had to stop at take some photos with Disgust to compare how much the kids have grown since our last trip! DS wasn't tall enough for the Matterhorn last time and he did the Incredicoaster this time!

    • Silly Symphony Swings – This was DD’s first “solo” ride now that she’s 7.
    • Jumping Jellyfish – Will probably skip this one in the future.
    • Goofy’s Sky School – Not my favorite, but the kids love it so we did it twice.
    • Golden Zephyr – Will probably skip this one in the future too.
    • Little Mermaid – I love the classic movie dark rides.
    All of these rides were walk-on to 5 minutes wait. It was about 10:45 when we finished up all those and everyone was hungry, so I put in a mobile order at Cocina Cucamonga for 11. I had the Queso Birria tacos which were delicious.

    After lunch we headed over to Mater’s but it broke down as we got there, so we took a few photos of Cars Land in all its Halloweentime glory.




    We went over to Monsters (15 min) and then back to Trolly Treats. DH and I split the giant Mickey candy corn sugar cookie and the kids had Mickey krispies with M&Ms.


    Then we went on to Soarin’ (said 20 but we waited 10). Somehow, we’d forgotten how much we like it because we all left saying “WOW! That was so fun!” I picked out my souvenir for this trip – the Grape Soda pin - at the shop across from Soarin’. I had been wanting that pin for a while. It is only my 2nd pin ever, but I love Up and I like how the pin is kinda a secret code to us Disney-folk.

    We headed to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail next. DH and I rested in the shade while the kids ran around doing all the things. They loved the rope bridges and the climbing traverse and especially the tire zip line. We were there for over an hour and only left because they were starting to close things down (at 2) to transition it to Villain’s Grove for OBB.


    And after that it was time to hop over to Disneyland! Next up.


    Aug 23, 2019
    Continuing on with Day 2... Afternoon at Disneyland.

    We got to DL at 3 p.m. The crowds had been very light at DCA in the morning but DL in the afternoon felt pretty crowded. We decided to do all the Fantasyland rides that were 20 minutes or less, which were:
    • King Arthur’s carrousel – I love this one. A classic! The horses are so beautiful and unique.
    • Pinocchio – Wouldn’t mind if they completely redid this one to a different movie.
    • Casey Jr. Train – Love seeing the miniature Storybook land.
    • Dumbo – Said 15 but was 25. Not worth it for me!
    • Mr. Toad – A family favorite always and forever! Here is DS showing us how he steers!
    • Mad Tea Party – Might let DH do this with the kids from now on. I get too dizzy!

    We paused for dinner at Jolly Holiday. I had the special Salsa Roja chicken sandwich with tortilla soup which was very good. DD had the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup. DS is a very picky eater and had the mac and cheese kid’s meal whenever possible.

    I did mobile order for all our meals except two sit-downs and it worked great. There were usually immediate pick-up times available. It was always ready very quickly after we hit “I’m here” and there was never a wait to pick it up at the counter. I did see long lines to do in-person orders at every location we went to and was always happy that we’d done mobile order. I did have to always double check the order when I picked it up though because they had forgot a small item several times.

    After dinner we walked through Sleeping Beauty’s castle. When did they update this? It’s beautiful! The kids loved going into the castle. DS insisted that we do this again the next day.

    The last ride of the day (#20) was Snow White. Overall, I really liked the updates although I do miss the scene when the evil queen is trying to push the rock onto you. That was my favorite part when I was a kid. The new scene through the mine is neat (although might be neater if you haven’t done Mine Train).


    One last photo of Snow White's fountain on the way out. We got back to the hotel about 7:30 p.m. and the kids were asleep by 8. Someday they might be able to stay up fireworks but it's not quite yet!
  • Jaina

    Actually, my name is Sara. It's a long, VMK story.
    Jul 22, 2005
    Right? My kids never could hang for fireworks either. The older ones are finally there, and I'm pretty excited about it! I like the new Snow White ride quite a bit! Of course now my kids are getting old enough that they don't scare as easily, but I remember being frustrated that so many of the rides they were big enough to enjoy were kind of scary. I wouldn't be upset if Pinnochio was rethemed either.


    Aug 23, 2019
    On Day 3 (Monday, September 20th) we started at Disneyland. We decided to leave the hotel a little later today and avoid waiting around so much before the park opened. We got the gate at 7:35 and there was no wait. We wandered up Main Street – the kids love the movie-themed windows at the Emporium – and got to the rope at 7:50.

    The kids wanted to do Matterhorn as our first ride, so we headed there at 8 and did it twice with no wait. Then we walked on to Alice in Wonderland and then Mr. Toad again.

    DD wanted to take a photo in the teacup.


    And here is DD showing us what it’s like when SHE’s driving!


    We paused at the Sword in the Stone, and then picked up some Churro Gears (YUM!) from Maurice’s Treats on the way to Frontierland.


    We did Pirates (10 minutes) and then got lucky on the way to Jungle Cruise. Indy had been down since opening but it started going right as we were passing by. The wait said 15 minutes but that is pretty much how long it takes to go through that queue. We didn’t get stopped until the very last set of stairs up and down to the loading area. I’ve only been on this ride a few times and forgot how fun it is! I like it much more than Dinosaur at WDW. DD loved it. DS was a little scared at times. I think it seemed a little too real!

    After Indy we continued on to the Jungle Cruise (15 min). I like the new scenes. Then we went over to Splash (5 min). DH and DS were in the front of the log and they got pretty wet. Even DD and I got more wet in the middle row than we have any other time we’ve gone on it. Last year at WDW we didn’t get wet at all. They were only loading one party per log then and we’d sit in the back so that’s probably why. At WDW Splash was DS’s favorite ride but he didn’t want to do it again this time.

    We did Winnie-the-Pooh next (5 min) and then headed back to Haunted Mansion Holiday.


    We watched The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time a few weeks before this trip and no one really liked it. (I HATE all things Tim Burton). However, the kids said they did want to try the ride since we kept seeing Jack and Sally and Oogie Boogie all over the park. The wait was posted at 30 but it was 11 minutes until we were inside the first room. We all liked the ride much better than the movie. I admit that it’s really well done, but we all prefer the original. In fact, we’ve decided to switch our annual trip to late spring starting next year and one of the main reasons is Haunted Mansion.

    After HMH we did a loop on the Railroad. DS loves dinosaurs so that part was a hit. After that we still had a few minutes before our 12:10 lunch reservation at River Belle Terrace, so we did a loop on the Mark Twain.


    I had the Burnt Ends Grilled Cheese for lunch and it was very good.


    After lunch we did the castle walkthrough again at DS’s request. We stopped to watch Maleficent and Sleeping Beauty for a few minutes on the way over there.


    The kids are not into the characters at all. They love Disney movies but have zero desire to meet the characters. The most they’ll do is stop for a quick wave before moving along to the next ride. This suites DH and me perfectly because we like rides more than anything else too.

    We did Mr. Toad again (10 min), then Peter Pan (a hot 30 min but it’s not a trip to DL without Peter Pan), and finally the Carrousel again before we headed back to the hotel for our 3:00 splash pad reservation.


    The kids played happily at the splash pad for an hour and a half.


    We got back to DCA around 5. We did Mater’s, grabbed some popcorn from the Cozy Cone, and then did Jessie’s Carrousel, the Symphony Swings, and the Little Mermaid.


    We had dinner at Pacific Wharf (bacon, cheddar, ale soup for me, DH, and DD - delicious!) and then got a brownie sundae from Ghirardelli for dessert. The sundae was great but I'd rather they serve it in a bowl than a cup. It was dark before we left and everything was lit up which was gorgeous and the kids loved it.


    Aug 23, 2019
    The last day! :sad:

    On Tuesday, September 21st we started in DCA again. We decided to skip RSR this morning. We all like the ride but none of us think it’s worth waiting an hour. And if you want to get on it first thing you do end up waiting about an hour between the gate, the rope, and the ride itself. Next time we might go ahead and pay extra to do the Lightning Lane for it once. I haven’t quite figured out what our strategy will be for Genie+ and the Lightning Lanes.

    We got to the park at 7:40 and walked right in.


    The kids wanted to take photos here even though we didn’t do OBB.


    We picked up some bananas and Babybel cheese for breakfast from the market by the entrance, and got in the rope drop line at 7:55. We headed over to Pixar Pier and did:
    • TSMM (x2) – I went once with each kid and they both beat me! Admittedly I’m not trying very hard…
    • Incredicoaster (x2) – Is this my new favorite ride??? Maybe.
    • Pal-A-Round
    • Silly Symphony Swings (x3) – I think this is an underrated gem. It looks so basic but I love how it feels like you’re flying.
    • Goofy’s (x2)
    We picked up pretzels (Mickey plus cheese sauce for the kids, jalapeno cheese stuffed for DH and me) from Bayside Brews at 10:30 and enjoyed them listening to the mariachi band in Paradise Plaza.

    Sometimes you're so hungry you start to eat an ear before Mom can get a photo.


    Then we moved along to:
    • Little Mermaid
    • Soarin’ (20 min) - Everything before this was <5 minutes.
    • Mater’s (10 min)

    We went over to Monsters (15 min) but it broke down when we were next in line to get on. So, we headed over to the Animation Academy. The kids liked the Beast’s Library. I kept an eye on Monsters on the app and when it re-opened, we went right back and walked on.

    Next it was time to hop over to DL for lunch at Carnation Café. I had the short rib with mac & cheese. It was so good! Could've used more broccolini though. I think my favorite meal this trip is a tie between this one and Salsa Roja sandwich from Jolly Holiday. DD got the potato soup, DH got the chicken fried chicken, and DS got the PBJ. Everyone was happy with the meal.

    After lunch we went over to Space Mountain. It was posted at 30 but we were on in 15. Is the DL version better than the one at WDW? I felt like the WDW Space was as rough as Matterhorn but DL Space felt comparatively smooth. And very fun! Then we did one last time on Mr. Toad (10 min) before going over to Tom Sawyer’s Island. The kids had a blast exploring the tunnels and the pirate’s lair.



    We were really hot after that so decided to do Pirates for some A/C. It was hotter this day (high 80s) than it had been the last two days (low 80s). We did Jungle Cruise after Pirates and then went over to Small World. I haven’t done that one since I was a kid and we’ll probably skip it again for a long while. It’s cute enough but goes on forever.

    We went to Galactic Grill for dinner. DH and I split the Loaded BBQ Pork Fries and we all shared the Blood Orange Slush and the Chocolate & Red Velvet Parfait. The slush was especially good on a hot day. Our plan was to do Space once more time before we left but it had broken down. We mooched around for a while hoping it would start up again with no luck. Eventually we just decided to go back to the hotel since it was feeling pretty crowded. We stopped at Candy Palace to pick up the giant Mickey churro cookie (which I split with the kids for breakfast the next day before our flight home).

    That’s all! It was a really great trip. I’d say it was our best with the kids so far. You’ll notice that we are all about the rides. And have zero interest in either Star Wars or Marvel. It’s kind of a bummer that the two biggest recent additions to DLR do nothing for us, but at least we don’t have to stress about boarding groups. I am looking forward to M&M’s Runaway Railroad whenever that opens.

    We are planning our next trip for next June and might tack on a day at Universal. I read the first three Harry Potter books to the kids over the summer and they are very into HP now.