When I was younger, my mother, brother and I made annual pilgrimages to Disneyland. But between college and work, I hadn't been to Disneyland since a one-day visit (courtesy of a friend who was a CM at the time) in July 2000. But my mother insisted on going for her 50th birthday year (since she was born in 1955 too), and I decided it was high time I made it back to the park too! So we got our reservations and plane tickets, bought our 4-day park hoppers, and made our way to Disneyland!
We flew in to Anaheim late Wednesday night (my mom couldn't get off work any earlier) and stayed in the Ramada Plaza Anaheim, which is only a few blocks from Disneyland. The room was fine; the maid service was slightly spotty, and the desk had its quirks...(it came that way...)
We took the ART in to Disneyland on Thursday morning (11/17), which was a bit of a mistake IMO because it took 30-40 minutes to get us to the front gates, since we were the first stop. But it was probably good for my mother, who can't last as long as I can, so a bit of a rest probably helped her. They had the heater on for some reason, but other than that the trip was OK.
I was under the impression that only Fantasyland would be open for Early Entry, so I wasn't all that keen on getting there early (even though I know a serious tourist should make every effort to be in the park at opening!). But to our delight we found that Space Mountan and BLAB were both open, and we rode each. Space Mountain was as good as ever (though I kind of miss the glow-in-the-dark cars). I wasn't really wowed by BLAB; I can see where it would be fun for smaller kids but I'm not very good at shooting and the sets were a bit cheap. Still, the kids like it and I have nothing against it. It's neat that you can e-mail your photo to yourself. We then went on the Matterhorn (did anyone ever notice one of the shields has a priest that looks an awful lot like Michael Jackson?). And I apologize a million times to anyone we accidentally cut in front of, but the cast member didn't seem to be directing anyone so we just filed in... ^^;;;;;; I felt guilty for the whole ride which almost spoiled it. My mom got bruised so I don't think she'll be doing it again. And after that my mom was tired so while she rested I showed off my laughable dancing skills in the Starcade. (I can pass almost any 7 foot song and some 8s, but in the arcade I usually only do 5 or 6 footers, which is good because I was sweaty enough after 3 of those. :P )
We then rode Space Mountain again, courtesy of the magic of Fastpass. We did Indy on standby (only about 10-15 minute wait), then went to New Orleans Square for some delicious fritters. My mother adored the Christmas decorations there. We followed that with the Haunted Mansion, which I thought was quite neat...the first time through I hardly even noticed that it was overlaid the existing attraction, so much of it seemed to belong. My mom liked the colors so much she was tempted to actually watch "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (though that didn't happen :P ). Then we did Pirates of the Carribean, which can never be ridden enough. In retrospect, since Thursday was such a light day traffic-wise, we probably should've saved the Disney Gallery for later, but we were in the area so we went up to see the exhibits. (It was a little crowded up there, but when I went on Sunday it was almost empty, go figure.) Somewhere in there, we did the Pooh ride, which was better than I expected. From all the negative reviews I'd expected it to be bad, but it was nicer than most the Fantasyland dark rides. I guess the problem is that it's not as good as Tokyo's, and a dark ride doesn't seem right in Critter Country... But I thought it was pleasant enough.
Then we walked on to Big Thunder Mountain. We went all the way back to Main Street to shop I guess, and had lunch at the Blue Ribbon Bakery (pretty decent but expensive). I got a few pressed pennies at the Penny Arcade and we did some shopping. After that, we did the Jungle Cruise (it had been on my mom's "list", and it said wait time 5 minutes, though it was more like 15). I don't even know when the last time I went on was, probably 10 years ago. The pirhana effects were quite nice and our skipper was pretty funny. We then went on the Mark Twain near dusk and I got some nice video footage of Frontierland and NoS on my little digital camera. In this still regular shot you can see how relatively empty the park was.
We went to Toontown and then got some pictures. Then we saw the projections on It's a Small World (very cool, though I personally think it's a little odd for people to clap for a light show that doesn't have any live performers, unless someone has to flip the switch to turn the music and projections on). Then we saw the Parade of Dreams from the area. The parade was very nice, though I got distracted because my camera couldn't take good pictures due to its recharge time and the fact that we were too close to the street. Oh well. It was very pretty, though I wish I would've just put the camera down to look at the detail on the floats.
Though everyone else had the same idea, I suggested we then go to It's a Small World. We waited in line behind a lovely Japanese couple with a little boy who loved the ride so much they'd been on it 5 times that day. THAT'S sacrificing yourself for your kids! I still find it a bit creepy to see and hear all the little international dolls singing Christmas songs in English, but it's not bad.
Then we took the last train of the day (except the sweeper train) from Toontown to Main Street. I'd heard what a great spot the train station is to view the fireworks from, but and hadn't quite reckoned on the Christmas tree, which obscures the entire castle area. So we made our way to the hub. We were somewhat in front and to the right of the Partners statue in the hub itself; unfortunately there was no place for my exhausted mom to sit during our 40-minute wait. They warned the fireworks may not happen and then said they were delayed, and I knew from reading MiceChat that they might be cancelled due to wind--and I think my mom was just getting more and more annoyed with having to stand and wait, and I got more and more worried that they might not happen. But they finally started! The view was quite good, and it's a very good thing I forced my mother to see it because they didn't run the fireworks again our whole trip! She said it was the best fireworks show she'd ever seen. My tastes may not be refined, but I found the very beginning a tiny bit dull. Once Tink came out and then they did the attraction fireworks, though, it was spectacular, and definitely worthy of all the hype! And my mom was glad I forced her to watch them. My pictures turned out terribly; my silent video was just slightly better (if I'd had better skills I could've done better; it's not a bad camera).
It snowed (not quite as sudsy as I'd been led to believe from some of the threads here, but thick enough--luckily we weren't really in the path of any of the machines, so we just got light bits of foam that the breeze sent gently towards us, instead of being blown by mechanical fans). We walked back to the hotel at the end of the night.
All in all, the crowds were quite light, and I'd go so far as to call it a perfect day! The weather was a bit chilly at the end of the day (not like the rest of the trip, which was hotter than Phoenix :P ). And the crowds were light enough, I actually saw some CMs talking amongst themselves since they had no guests to wait on. I was glad to see that because I know they've been overworked lately. They were all polite too, and I think the day (week?) might have given them a tiny bit of a rest which they definitely deserve.
I'll probably type up the rest of the days' reports later, for my own memory, but not sure if anyone else is interested; I guess I'll post if I feel like it.