Hi All, this is my first ever attempt at a trip report so please bear with me. And I don't think I have pictures yet... at least not ones that I can figure out how to attach here! Also I am not sure about organizing this post so it might ramble.... here we go! And this is going to be terribly long... I can already tell!
Arrived in Anaheim on Saturday October 13th. Me, my two boys (8 and 5), my parents, my sister, her husband, and their two kids (3yo boy and 1yo girl). We checked into the Anaheim Plaza Hotel. My first time staying there (my sister had been there once before). Initial impression... old (which I knew beforehand) but staff was pleasant enough... room was not particularly spacious but they did honor our request to have adjoining rooms which was nice. Both rooms had the rectangular fridges and one had a microwave. TONS of counter space in the bathroom... separate tub/toilet room... the entry way was a little cramped especially with the adjoining doors open. Requested more towels which arrived promptly and then later more pillows which also arrived promptly. Any staff we dealt with were pleasant. My sister chose the hotel because of its price and location. The grounds are actually quite pleasant to walk around... we were in the 400 building on the ground floor and it was nice to have all the greenery in the breezeways and on the grounds. Large pool which we did not get a chance to use. Basically, the hotel is old. But for us it's just a place to sleep and maybe nap so perfectly sufficient to our needs. The tub drain actually DRAINED (IDK if anyone else ever has a problem with this in hotels) so that was a plus. Shower head old and LOW. I hate ducking down to get my hair wet. As I said, it was cheap... I think 79 for Saturday night and 59 for the subsequent 3 nights.
My mom and 5 year old and I walked to DTD the first night. It was crazy! I don't go often enough to know if this is normal Saturday night crowds or not.
SUNDAY OCTOBER 14
Sunday morning I had arranged to meet a friend at La Brea Bakery at 8. My kids chose to go with me and we agreed to meet the rest of our party at 10 at DL opening. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. That Sunday was the CHOC Walk (which I knew about ahead of time) but I had no idea what kind of crowds it would bring. We had a difficult time getting through all the walkers both in the Esplanade area and especially on the DTD side of security... we had to wait for a CM to break traffic so we could go into the bakery. Whew! And the bakery line was INSANE so I didn't get a chance to eat there. Bummer.
Can't remember what time the boys and I left the bakery ... older son wanted to go visit the Lego store and getting down there with the walkers was difficult. Getting back was even more difficult. I felt like a herd of cattle. There were CM's everywhere literally directing foot traffic thru DTD. I'm sure it was an awesome event but as a park visitor I was overwhelmed! FINALLY got through back to the esplanade and holy cow the lines at the turnstiles were insane looking! I can't remember what time it was (still before 10) but I texted my sister (back at the hotel) and told her they better hurry if we wanted to hit Fantasyland before it got insane. We all had three day parkhoppers... so we had a MM on Tuesday... more on that later. The boys and I made the mistake of being in the line right in the middle that doesn't actually have turnstiles... which we didn't know when we got in it. We eventually moved to the one next to it which was moving a lot faster (maybe 18?) In any event the boys and I exchanged our paper printed tickets for our parkhoppers (I was asked to write our last names on them, but was never asked for ID at any time afterwards) and we were off! I haven't been there at park opening for a long time so this was really fun! There were CM's on main street with the big Mickey gloves giving "high fours" to incoming guests. That was fun!
I needed to get my Photopass+ taken care of so we walked into the photo shop at the end of main street. There were already two groups of customers being helped and a CM all alone closer to the door, so I stopped and told her what I needed. She took my voucher and handed me a receipt... I thought I was done but oh no, I still had to stand in one of the other lines to actually get my Photopass+ lanyard. I must say I really hate standing in line in that shop. It just takes FOREVER!!!! We did, however, make it back out onto Main Street in time for rope drop! It was really neat to hear the announcement come on and see all the excited people waiting to get in. We went straight for Dumbo because I was planning to exchange my parkhopper for an AP and would thereby lose my MM with the rest of the group... so I wanted to get the Fantasyland rides in with my boys while I could. We probably waited through 2 shifts of Dumbo before we boarded. Fun! By the time we got off, the rest of our group had made it in and were just getting in the (still short) line for Dumbo. The boys and I walked on to the Teacups. We waited for them and then everyone got in line for Peter Pan. That line... ugh! In reality we probably only waited about 20 minutes. I did have the book, "Lots to do in line at Disneyland," and we started it, but honestly we didn't need it with all the constant talking and corralling of children, etc. I think somewhere in between my BIL went to get Fast Passes for Space Mountain. Then shortly after that I left the park to go exchange my ticket for an AP. I didn't want to lose the MM but I did want to start getting the discounts right away. Let me tell you, this process is a pain!!!! You do have to go all the way back out to the ticket booths and wait in those lines.... it's amazing to me how many folks still buy their tickets at those booths and how long it takes!!!! I had a $200 Disney gift card that I got for opening my Disney VISA account plus 2 $50 Disney gift cards that I had purchased at Target with my Target Red Card (thereby getting 5% off!). So that made the additional $219 less painful (I am not local and got the deluxe). Anyway I finally made it back into the park. Whew! Now I was an official AP holder. Never did manage to get my picture taken tho. Next time! It was funny how some restaurants asked for photo ID with it and others didn't. Ah, consistency! But love love love getting the 10% discounts everywhere!
I honestly can't remember what order the rest of the day went (sorry) but I do know we hit Space Mountain... after having been on it fairly recently (July) I can now say I really don't like the Ghost Galaxy overlay. For me (and I didn't get to see it on this trip) the stuff they did on the outside of the mountain after dark was much cooler. The last time I saw that was two years ago though so I am not sure if that has changed at all. I liked the sounds and the effects that made it look like something was putting dents in the mountain.
I know we stayed in DL the whole first day. They were open until midnight I think.... my older son, nephew, BIL, and dad stayed until closing and I think they rode Splash Mountain about 4 times in a row. The less stalwart of our group (including myself) went back to the hotel fairly early. At the moment I can't remember where we ate! I think we had lunch that day at Hungry Bear... I loved the sweet potato fries... and my dad said his cheeseburger was better than the one we had had for dinner at Johnny Rocket's (Gardenwalk) the night before. My kids are all about the Kids Power Packs so that made them happy. Dinner was at Rancho... well I don't want to get the name wrong, so the Mexican place near Big Thunder... along with fish n chips from the Stage Door Cafe (and more kids power packs). Oh, we did take advantage of lots of cups of ice water to fill our water bottles! This is the first time I have known you could do that, thanks to the helpful folks here on Micechat!
Some of our party (not me) tried out the new Matterhorn... BIL said he was actually more comfortable than in the old sleds but it gave my sister a headache that lasted into the next day. My older son said he still enjoyed it. I think he must have gone twice total because I am pretty sure he said the Fantasyland side seemed slower... which always seemed that way to me. I always preferred the Tomorrowland side myself. I have not tried the new sleds so I can't offer an opinion there.
The park was crowded, but nothing was too horrendous IMO. I knew from reading here and other places that it has been more crowded this fall than "usual" so I was mentally prepared for it. It was pretty warm.. it was predicted to be 89 although I never did check once there to see what it actually was. We definitely used sunscreen!
We did Jungle Cruise (awesome skipper) but wow I have never seen that line before! I didn't even know it HAD a second level and boy are they devious with it!!!! We made sure to get on right before dark because my sister pointed out it's hard to see the animals after dark. None of the kids said one way or the other if the new netting obstructed their view.
We also decided to visit the Enchanted Tiki Room. While we were waiting I decided I was finally going to try a Dole Whip since i had never had one. I (following the advice of Micechatters) got in line on the Tiki Room side. THAT IS THE SLOWEST MOST INEFFICIENT LINE I HAVE EVER STOOD IN. I gave up. I have to say that from where I was standing (and I do mean standing, because I was not moving), the young CM's at that stand had absolutely no regard for any of the customers. There was no speed, no sense of quickness... NOTHING. How can a stand that only sells 3 or 4 items move so slowly? There were at least 3 young ladies working back there. Unbelievable. That was probably our worst experience... just seeing the apathy there. I didn't even interact with any of them and it kind of set me off. Oh well. Dole Whip will remain on my list of Disney non-experiences I guess.
MONDAY OCTOBER 15
Monday morning we had our first ever character breakfast with Minnie and Friends at the Plaza Inn. Thankfully (also thanks to info on this board) we knew to go to the farthest left gate. (I didn't ask when I made the reservation online - most convenient thing ever BTW- and I bet tons of people wait in the regular gates. Park opened at 8 and our reservation was for 810. There was another family there who supposedly had reservations for 745 and mom seemed upset that she couldn't get in yet but I don't think that could be right as my understanding is the earliest reservation is for 10 minutes after park opening. In any event, we were let through the turnstiles at the exact same moment as everyone else... it's just that our "line" was maybe 15 people long total! We just sailed up Main Street to the Plaza Inn where we were immediately checked in... stood on the porch for our group photo (included in the Photopass+!) and were given buttons and red Minnie balloons. I paid in advance for 5 adults and 3 kids for a total of about $150. We were shown to a large table in the glass enclosed area overlooking the Astro Orbitor (probably the best seats we could have had, IMO) and were immediately visited by Minnie! We saw Minnie, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, Eeyore, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Chip, Geppetto, and Max. Hope I didn't forget anyone. I have read a lot of reviews that say the food at Goofy's Kitchen is better or that there is larger selection. Clearly they are pickier about breakfast than I am! I enjoyed a made to order omelet and some AWESOME bacon. Kids didn't eat much but they did try the Mickey waffles and watermelon. The pastries I saw didn't look particularly appetizing but there was plenty of hot food, coffee, cranberry juice, skim and 2% milk (skim milk??? awesome!) and overall I thought it was quite a good breakfast. I highly recommend this breakfast!!! As I said, it was our first ever character breakfast and we loved it! I can't afford to do it every trip but we will for sure do it again sometime! Obviously the Fairy Godmother was the only face character so she was the only one who spoke (I was away from the table for Alice), but she spoke to the kids and all the characters were just great! I do recommend getting that first available reservation because we practically had the place to ourselves and were able to spend some extra time with Minnie (I think she came to our table twice actually) as well as get to the omelet station before it got crazy busy. Such a fun time!!! And the free balloons were a hit with the 1yo niece who is obsessed with them! If you see folks walking around with red latex balloons with black Minnies on them, you'll know where they had breakfast that day!
I am not sure where exactly we went after that... but we did at some point venture over to DCA... got FP's for Soarin' Over California... let the kids run amuck in the play area (it changed names... I can't think what it's called now)... and spent some time trying to convince my very timid younger son to go on GRR. He refused... my BIL insisted... he was tearful but we put him on it anyway (yes I kinow there are strong opinions on that!) ... and in the end he loved it and went on 4 more times! We did NOT wear our ponchos and it felt great in that heat to be soaked... which we were. I had, however, insisted that my kids change their sneakers for flip flops because walking around in wet socks and sneakers is a great path to blisters! My older son and I went over to get FP's for CS later on while everyone else went on Ariel's Undersea Adventure (is that the right name??) and got a picture taken with Mickey's Wheel of Death... I mean Mickey's Fun Wheel... in the background. At some point we had a late-ish lunch over in the Paradise Pier area... from the pasta place... can't remember the name. Tons of seating, much of it in the shade.... we sat almost right under the Goofy's Sky School coaster. I had the pasta with chicken and sun dried tomatoes... boys had the mac and cheese and a spaghetti. Food was good... setup in there was terrible IMO! The having to balance your trays and everything and wait in the line to pay is backwards, I think. One thing Disney has apparently not mastered is FAST, EFFICIENT food service! I thought my pasta was great! Very pleasantly surprised. Soarin' needs to have its screens redone... it really bugs me that you can see what I assume are holes in the screen??? but still a great attraction! Some of us did Tower of Terror and I did the bumper cars (bumper bugs?) in Bugs Land with my younger son... twice...*sigh* We did get in the FP line for CS and just as we were lined up to load (probably one car out), it came to a halt and they unloaded everyone and we had to leave. My poor son was trying so hard not to cry! Thankfully it came back up later in the afternoon and we got to go on it twice. That is his favorite ride!
We ventured into Cars Land (knowing we would not be trying RSR that day) and visited the Cozy Cone... what I wanted was a slushy drink in a cone for my kids but apparently the only things available in the cones are sodas, which they don't drink, so we contented ourselves with Red's Apple Slushes in plain boring cups. Very sweet but tasty and they put something on top which makes me think of apple pie. Yum! The kids got their pictures taken with Lightning McQueen and each got a different button, although the characters on the buttons must be from Cars 2 because I didn't recognize any of them. That evening was a MHP night at Disneyland so we spend the rest of our afternoon/evening in DCA. My BIL graciously offered to keep ALL THREE BOYS (his and my two) with him after the rest of us returned to the hotel and I am reasonably certain they rode GRR at least 3 more times! No report on how crowded DCA got with MHP going on across the way. Boys ate cereal for dinner in the hotel room upon their return.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 16
MM for everyone except me (sob). I told everyone that I would get up early, wait in line with them at the DL gates, wait for them to go through, and then take their (now scanned for the day) tickets over to DCA, wait in line for another hour, and try to get FP's for RSR. It was super foggy that morning and I took a couple pictures from the DCA gates of the foggy esplanade with my phone. If I ever figure out how, I will post them here! I was probably the 10th person in line at my gate. There was no EMH that day so I felt like I was in a pretty good position. They let us in through the turnstiles probably around 730 or so (park opening was 8). I admit.. I jogged to the FP line for RSR. I was still standing under the awning of the Carthay (is that right?) right next to the hordes of people that were waiting for the rope drop. While we were standing there waiting, a CM came through our line reminding us that our park tickets must have been scanned IN DCA for them to work at the FP machines. I knew (or at least hoped!) from info on this board that they needed to be scanned into ONE of the parks, so I held by tongue and hoped for the best. It was fun to watch the "rope" for the other group... manned by about 8 young male CM's and finished on either end by a gas pump! Anyway the recorded greeting came on.... and the line started moving. I am not sure about the other group but the FP line moved very quickly and efficiently. There was a CM at the front of the FP area essentially directing traffic and CM's at almost all the FP machines to make sure we dumb guests didn't clog up the queue by not knowing what to do! I did ask the CM about my other park tickets having been scanned only into DL and she just said, "They won't work". I asked her to try and lo and behold, it worked! She was surprised and said she had not seen that before. Which just underscores some of the ignorance of many CM's as mentioned on these boards. Thankfully her ignorance didn't affect me negatively! So here it is, 9 a.m. and our FP return time was from 945-1045! I texted my sister and they said they'd head over. I was GOING to get a Starbucks while I waited for them but the line was CRAZY already (and I know what Disney food service is like) so I parked it on a bench on Buena Vista Street for a bit and watched the world go by as I waited. They showed up shortly thereafter and we made our way into Cars Land. We couldn't all go together because of the baby and I knew the seats were three across and wanted to go with my boys, so the boys and I and the baby (in her stroller) hung out for a bit near the back of Flo's to watch the cars go by. We grabbed a table at Flo's in the shade and had a snack while we waited. When they came off the ride my sister said someone (not sure if a CM or a guest) had recommended her 3 yo sit in the middle in the back so he could see. Apparently this was a mistake because she said he could not, and also that it's impossible to see him in the ride photo. Good to know. Then it was our turn! I noticed that there was no stand by time posted at the ride entrance so I am not sure how long it was at that point.. but I was very glad I was not in it. We had seen parts of the queue and it seemed long and HOT. We walked right up almost to the loading area (I think this is where the FP and stand by lines meet) and when we were loading I asked to sit in the front. The CM accommodated our request just the tiniest bit rudely ("you'll have to wait awhile" while gesturing off to the side) but then almost immediately said "oh you can go right here" so that was all right. I had my boys on either side of me since I wasn't sure how the little one would do and wanted to be near him. We were in a light blue car and we got new tires. IDK enough about the ride to know which effects were working and which weren't but when we were in the tire shop and looking in the "mirror" to the left, there was another curtain to our right that was closed. Not sure if that was supposed to be an effect or not. The waterfall was not working (bummer, because that would have been visually stunning and gone so well with the music!). The animatronics (must have spelled that wrong, sorry) were pretty incredible!!! I am not sure about the tipping tractors but there was one already tipped over as we drove past, so that might have been a malfunction. As far as I could tell, everything else was working! We were on the left side and our car won. It was a great ride and I am really glad we got to experience it with no hassles and no breakdowns... but there is no way I would have waited in a 2 hour line for it. After we got done my BIL went back to see if he could get another FP for later and I guess he was the first person they turned away. It would have been fun after dark!
We went back into DL and had our 2nd Hungry Bear lunch... this time we managed to find seats downstairs on the water. Nice view but not as convenient to the napkin/straw station, which for some reason is only on the main level. There was a rather aggressive duck who jumped up to the post and sat and eyed us the whole time as we were eating. It was... weird. I'll just leave it at that!
At some point everyone decided to go to Tom Sawyer's Island. I elected to stay behind (by this time it was just a lil too much family for me) and I wandered to the little food window (the name of which I have forgotten) and ordered steak gumbo in a bread bowl and a large coke. The only empty table was under the stairway to the Dream Suite right up next to the Pirates' queue. It was a lovely 45 minutes of peace and not being beholden to anyone else. I am going to ENJOY this AP and my first chance to take a solo trip!!!
Dinner for everyone else that night was Stage Door Cafe again. My dad is super picky so that has a lot to do with our dining choices unfortunately.
Later that evening while everyone else wanted to ride Splash, my younger son and I went back to Fantasyland and rode the King Arthur's Carrousel (twice) and had some cute pictures taken by a random Photopass photographer in front of the Sword in the Stone with the castle all lit up in the background. I am not sure I had ever spent any time in Fantasyland after dark! It was lovely.
My sister texted me saying that because I had the Photopass+ lanyard with me, they were unable to get their last Splash ride photo added onto it. I was thinking we could do it later on line so told her not to worry about it.
Eventually we met up with the rest of our group and trooped out of the park. It closed at 8 that evening and there was no Fantasmic! and no fireworks. (Not that we were planning on either, anyway. I am just not up to sitting and waiting for hours and hours. Maybe if I go alone....)
After we got back to the hotel, I got into my Photopass account from my phone and discovered that the photos they had taken of my son were not on there. Not to panic! I could now go into the park the next morning since I had an AP! So while my dad was driving sis and family to the airport, I went back in (can't remember if they opened at 8 or 9 that day) and went straight to the photo shop where there was... one CM working and already a customer ahead of me. *sigh*. Eventually while he was waiting for her pictures to load (I am not sure what she was looking for but it took FOREVER) he came over to help me. I explained which location I had had pictures taken at and an approximate time frame... and eventually he found the 6 shots of my son at the Sword in the Stone, which he loaded onto my card for me. HOWEVER... the Splash Mountain photo would have to be retrieved from the Splash Mountain photo booth. Wow. So I trucked it down there and Splash was... CLOSED. Thankfully the photo booth was open. Unfortunately the CM working told me that they normally purge the photos overnight! Thankfully they hadn't and I had the correct number and we found it and she loaded it only my card! Score! And then... I had time for a solo breakfast!!!! I ended up at the River Belle Terrace and accidentally ordered the wrong thing but it was still very tasty... it was so delightful to sit in a shady spot outside overlooking the ROA and watch the world go by. Marvelous! Then I had time to locate a churro on main street and do a little last minute shopping before heading back to the hotel to help with the final loading.
Amazingly, there were things we just didn't have time to do. But that was more due to too many people in the group as opposed to crowds or anything. We didn't do:
Billy Hill and the Hillbillies
Eat the chicken dinner at the Plaza Inn
Turtle Talk with Crush
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
Ride the Red Trolley in DCA
Share a Halloween caramel apple
Find anything my kids wanted to spend their allotted money on besides candy!
See Mickey in his house (by the time we got there the last day the line was soooooo long)
Thoughts on the Photopass+: totally worth it if you have a large group and/or a trip you're not going to make often. It's a little disorganized at times but overall I am pleased. We got a couple different ride photos each from Splash, Screamin', Space, and one from ToT. Plus the group one at the character breakfast (which for some reason doesn't include a character... weird). My sister thinks they should give TWO lanyards to each family but hey... that would be too easy! I will say that later when I checked my account again the latest photos of my son were there... along with about 100 other ones taken by the same photographer before and after. Oopsie.
Thoughts on efficiency: the Dole Whip thing and the converting the ticket to an AP were not the most efficient use of anyone's time. I am just glad the AP conversion is done and I don't plan to ever attempt Dole Whip again.
Thoughts on food: Overall I am quite pleased with the food offerings, but I have a very unsophisticated palate.
I think I covered the hotel already.
We had a great time... older son is already asking if/assuming that we're going again next October.
I can't wait to go alone!
Hope this was useful and/or interesting to someone. Sorry I don't have pictures but they're mostly the Photopass variety anyway so nothing new or exciting there.
And yes I did get the "Star Wars 77" t shirt that I have been coveting since July!!!!
Thanks for reading and sorry it was so long!
I guess some of the photos need to be resized and IDK how to do that so these are the ones it let me add!