After years of trying to fit in a DL trip, we finally made it happen. Turns out my Dad wanted to take my sister's kids to Disneyland, and he invited my wife and I along. I tried to talk them into picking a different time of year other than Christmas, but my kid sister is a teacher and only had Christmas Break available this year...
As a bit of background - I haven't been to the DL resort in over 10 years, and my wife hasn't been for nearly 15. School, careers, other vacation desires, etc., have kept us away, and we really needed a compelling reason to head down there. I've always been a big DL fan and have stayed up to date on the news, etc., in the interim, but this trip was my first real chance to get feet on the ground and check out all the new stuff for myself. It was also my first trip as an adult... changes things a bit too!
Anyhoo, with the expectation of busy crowds in mind, and the hope of a few quiet days, we made our travel plans to head south. From our island in Alaska this is a bit of an endeavor - 3500 miles, 3 planes and 20 hours of travel in total for us to get there. My Dad and sister live in Washington State, thankfully they only had one flight and a little bit of a drive.
We left for the airport at about 3:30pm on Christmas Eve and found that they had moved us onto the 4:30pm flight, which was quite a bit earlier than anticipated and we had to rush around to finish a few last minute details. We made it back to the airport just in time for boarding and started the first leg of our trip to Anchorage, grabbed dinner, then boarded a flight to Portland, grabbed breakfast, and continued on to Orange County. We had hoped to sleep on the flights, but that didn't happen. There was a medical emergency on our first flight, and a very annoying guy on the other that kept heckling our flight attendant.
We hit the Santa Ana / John Wayne / Orange County / Whateverthehellyoucallit airport at about 9:30am on Christmas Day, a few minutes earlier than scheduled and collected our luggage. A quick taxi ride brought us to the Anaheim Hilton, where the kind front desk staff let us check in early at about 10am. I had some energy reserves somewhere and felt like heading over to DL, and my wonderful wife agreed, provided we took a minute to change clothes and get settled in.
After getting unpacked, we took the ART shuttle over to DL and started our first day at 11:30am on Christmas Day. Given the lack of rest and long travel times, we planned to only stay for a few hours then head back to the hotel and get some sleep. We grabbed fast passes for Indy right away, then walked over to Splash Mountain and had about a 15 minute wait. My wife hadn't been on Splash in 15+ years, and it had been at least 10 for me - still one of our favorite rides, and we thought it was an awesome way to start our first day. Every bit as fun as I remembered.
After Splash we hit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, and then used our Indy fastpasses. The fastpass line was a mess - stretching back to the entrance for Tarzan's Treehouse. It was a definite sign of things to come.
We called it quits right around 3pm, then headed back to the hotel. I called my dad and sister to make sure that they made it in and made plans to meet them at 7:30am the following morning, then fell soundly asleep. Slept good for at least a few hours, but after a bit of rest I started getting excited for the next day and kept waking up every 30-45 minutes to look at the clock. Sigh.
My lovely wife was sleeping much better than I and elected to sleep in late, while I woke up at 6:30am and headed over to the park. I met up with my sister, niece, nephew and dad at 7:30am, and then we hit Disneyland at opening in what would become a massive tour-de-force. By 6pm or so, we managed to work through every major attraction at least twice (Indy, PoC, Space, Splash, ToT, HMH), caught the 3D shows (HISTA and MV3D), and tacked on a few random rides for good measure (Pooh, Monsters Inc, Autopia, Star Tours). Sister, Dad and kids left at around 6pm and my wife and I rode a few more rides (Indy, and Pirates) then caught the 10:30pm Fantasmic. After Fantasmic we rode the DLRR over to Fantasyland and walked onto Matterhorn for an awesome nighttime ride. Called it a night at 11pm after 15 hours in DL and DCA.
Crowds were heavy the entire time, but a lot of flexibility and efficient use of Fastpass let us do more than I've ever managed to do in a single Disney day. It was exhausting, but a blast. I don't think we waited more than 15-20 minutes for anything.
Managed to forget about eating dinner and ended up ordering pizza at the hotel at 1am. Oops.
I was pretty burnt out from the night before, but was still having trouble sleeping and woke up around 7:30am again. Walked back to the park at about 8:30am or so, and knocked out Mr. Toad's wild ride and Teacups solo before meeting up with my Dad, Sister and the kiddos to hammer out a few more rides. Astro Blasters still had a short line and we were in the area grabbing Space Mountain fast passes, so we made sure to take a spin through. This was my second time and I managed to score 915k and the #2 spot on the leader board for the day, and was pretty stoked (at least until later in the afternoon when I had been kicked down a few notches!). I know I can break 1million next time, easy =) Nephew had something like 27k... we need to work on his aim.
My wife met us again for our noon Rainforest Cafe reservation and we had a nice lunch before the girls split to go to Sephora for some make-up shopping. We had foolishly ditched the stroller at the TL monorail station and had to go back to pick it up, much to the dismay of my nephew who's feet had started to bug him considerably. Lines inside of DL were ridiculous, and we ended up walking back to the entry plaza to meet up with the girls and give the kiddos feet a rest.
My exhaustion from the previous day finally caught up with me, and by 2:30pm or so I was ready to call it quits. My wife and I said goodbye for the day to the kiddos, Dad and Sister, and headed back to the hotel for a nap. Wife ended up grabbing a massage over at Gardenwalk while I slept, and then we had a rockin dinner at the Ruth Chris Steakhouse. Cowboy Ribeye FTW.
Wife had been begging me to sleep in for a day, and we finally accomplished that on the 28th. We rolled out of bed around 10:00am or so to get ready, and made it into the park by 11:00am or so to catch our PS reservation for Blue Bayou. We passed Pirates on our way, and the line was stretched all the way out to the HM and doubled back on itself. Insane.
After lunch we used fastpasses to catch BTMRR, Splash and Space again with the family, then my wife headed back to the hotel while I went over to DCA again with the rest of the group. We hit the Golden Zephyr and SS Rustworthy, and found a great spot in the entry plaza to watch the Pixar Play! Parade. Kids loved it - now that's a parade!
Afterwards it was approaching 6:00pm or so and we headed back into Disneyland to see what was going on. Lines were terrifying again, and the place was wall to wall people. Tiki Room was uncrowded, so we ducked in there and caught the show. We had intended on checking on BTMRR/Splash or HM fastpasses, but the Rivers of America area was jam packed to the hilt. Dad had mentioned that they wanted to stay for the fireworks, and it was clear that large numbers of people were already camping the area for the 9pm Fantasmic!. After a little bit of hemming and hawing, we parked ourselves on the rail behind the French Market light tower and decided to wait it out - kids were tired anyway and it gave them a chance to rest. Not much of a chance to ride anything in the area anyway - Fastpasses were either on 3 hour + return times (if available at all), and standby times were 1 hour + for everything but Pooh in that area. And forget about moving anywhere - it took me 15 minutes to make it to the Pirates bridge from the French Market, even cutting through the NOS
Wife and I stayed with the family until about 8:15pm, then bugged out before the Fantasmic! crowds really started settling in. I left Dad and Sister with instructions to hit the train as soon as the fireworks ended for the easiest way out of the park, which turned out to be an excellent plan. Can we say gridlock?
Checked in with Dad and Sister the next day - they all loved Fantasmic! and the fireworks, and the spot we picked for them gave everyone (including the 7 year old nephew) an excellent view. My 4 year old niece managed to sleep through both Fantasmic! and the fireworks... she must have been exhausted.
My wife and I had set this day aside as an "us" day, and spent most of our time relaxing at the hotel and not worrying about a whole lot. Prior to the trip, we had made a reservation at the Napa Rose for the Chef's Counter, and had a wonderful meal. By this time I had caught a bit of a cold and my taste buds weren't as active as I would have liked, but it was still great. Sat next to a great older couple and had pleasant conversation throughout the meal.
After our 2.5 hour + meal, we headed into DCA in an attempt to take advantage of shorter line times prior to park closing. I guessed correctly - by 8:30pm the parade route was packed and very few people were standing in line. In the last hour and a half DCA was open we hit California Screamin, Mickey's Fun Wheel, the Maliboomer, and Soarin' Over California. Had a great trip on the Fun Wheel - just my wife and I in one of the swinging gondolas, and the fireworks started just as we boarded. Was fun watching the fireworks from the wheel!
This was our day to check out of the hotel and start our trip back home, so we had only planned on heading to the park for an hour or two. We ran inside DCA around 12:30pm to try to find fastpasses for either ToT or California Screamin, but the ToT Fastpass was already for 5pm. Screamin had a 2:00pm return time, so we grabbed that and headed into DL to do some shopping and have ice cream. We also checked on Alice, but the (laughably) light "rain" closed the ride. My wife and I checked out the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk through, which was very enjoyable and not crowded at all. Afterwards we headed back into DCA and used our fastpasses for California Screamin'. What a great coaster.
Crowds were much lighter in both parks then they had been in the previous days, but everyone looked miserable. What was obviously a nasty winter day in SoCal = a decent summer day for us.
Whew... k... next post with a few thoughts from the trip.