Monday, March 17, 2008

Disneyland 2008 - Day 1

Well, after a fun filled 2.5 hours in an airport followed by another 2 hours on a plane, we arrived in Los Angeles, caught our shuttle to the hotel and settled down into the California atmosphere by early Sunday evening. We wandered through Downtown Disney briefly to pick up our park tickets from Will Call and to find some dinner. Everybody's eyes started popping with excitement as we wandered from store to store looking at Disney magic and merchandising. After a brief deli counter meal, we went back to our hotel and settled in so we were ready for an early morning of fun.


Disneyland park opens at 8 AM and even with 3 young kids (Jason - 8, Andrew - 6, Julia - 3.9), we were moving through the main gates by 10 after 8 and making a beeline for New Orleans Square. After missing out on the "big kids rides" of her childhood on our last trip, Lynette wanted to make sure we hit them this time.

Our first ride of the trip was Pirates of the Caribbean. The wait was minimal (only ~5 minutes) and the ride was fabulous. All three of the kids were a little nervous with the darkness and the ominous setting, but they loosened up about halfway through. Andrew was still a little nervous as we neared the end and the pirates were firing their guns at each other right across our bow...he was worried we'd get shot. As we passed closer, he was less worried. Everybody admitted to enjoying the ride.

After popping out of Pirates, we headed for the Haunted Mansion. We toyed with the idea of skipping it in lieu of a "lighter" ride to help break the kids in slowly. But then we just bit the bullet and went for it. We literally would have walked right into the main lobby of the ride had we not stopped for a picture in front of the hearse (Brigham Young's hearse, if you know your history) and had the ride operator take a family shot. Julia was quite reluctant as we walked out of the portrait gallery and started down the hall to board our doom buggies. She definitely wasn't laughing by the end, but she wasn't shuddering with her head buried in her hands either, so she was okay and said it was a little scary, but she liked it.

Our next trek was to continue down the path and get into the line for Splash Mountain. The "wait" itself was nonexistent once again...we just had to wind through hundreds of feet of empty queue before finally reaching the boarding zone. Everything was going great until we hit the "roller coaster" style drop/rise just past the honey bees section. Julia didn't like that dark drop much at all. As we circled back past characters she lightened back up and really liked the big drop. Jason was the only one that wasn't a big fan of the big drop because "he couldn't breathe because of all the air." We went on it a second time to change up the picture a bit (I'll post pictures after I get home).

It was now getting close to 10 and we were tucked in the heart of Critter Country. The Winnie-the-Pooh ride was closed, so we promised a return visit and headed back towards bigger things. Andrew begged for Tarzan's treehouse, so we made the climb and then spent a few minutes playing in the campsite below. Afterwards, we hit the Jungle Cruise (which had been closed last trip) and everybody loved that.

After spending a few minutes in the various Adventureland shops and picking up a pair of requisite rubber snakes, we made a pit stop in the Enchanted Tiki Room. The kids have been humming and singing bits of the tiki room songs ever since.

Another bathroom break and we began our walk over to California Adventure for our character lunch at Ariel's Grotto. Along the way, we met up with some "photo pass" photographers and had a couple of pictures snapped. Depending on what we see/get, you may see some of those posted as well.

In Ariel's Grotto, the food wasn't spectacular (the kids barely touched their mac & cheese w/ hot dogs and their spaghetti..but the chocolate cake was great) but Julia was busting out of her skin to see the princesses come from table to table. We met Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Belle and got autographs and pictures with each of them.

As an added bonus, because it's Julia's birthday next week, we got a "It's my Birthday" button for Julia and our waitress sang happy birthday to her and she got a special princess birthday bucket with a little comb and brush, a "paper doll" magnet princess set and a "happy birthday" princess pin. She was in 7th heaven.

After lunch, we started back to the hotel to drop off some of our loot. On the way, we stopped in Bug's Land (after waiting for the High School Musical float/mini-parade to pass by). We rode on Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, Flik's Flyers and Francis' Ladybug Bop (I think that's the name). Then the kids wanted to play in some of the overgrown water they ran around under a giant water faucet and hose which managed to "leak" in various places and help soak the kids. Jason especially had fun getting soaked by hugging the center pole where water poured down in a waterfall.

After drying off, we were back in Disneyland Park itself for some more fun. Julia was both nervous and excited with the attention she received for her "birthday" button (cast members kept saying "happy birthday julia" to her, which surprised, excited and scared her all at once. :)

Knowing that Tuesday morning was our "magic morning" (we could go into the park an hour early), we didn't want to make a super late night. As we arrived back in the park, they were setting up for a parade...a moment later, princess Giselle (?) from Enchanted came riding down the street in a horse drawn carriage. Julia shrieked with excitement (she loved seeing the movie in the theater and has been singing songs from it ever since). The rest of the parade was a bit delayed, but she insisted on waiting for it. A half hour later, the Parade of Dreams started with a giant train engine being driven by Peter Pan with Tinkerbell laughing on top. There were great floats from major characters: Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, Little Mermaid, Lion King, Alice In Wonderland and one or two others I can't think of right now. Then we finished up with the princesses on a giant castle float with Mickey and Minnie up on the balcony in white and crowns. Very cool.

After the parade, we spent a little time in Fantasyland scoping our plan for the early entry the next morning and then wandered through Frontierland and Adventureland before heading "home" for an early night's sleep.

Everybody was excited but also worn out, so they were all out by a bit after nine, dreaming of a fun filled new day to come.

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