Friday, April 13, 2012

Disney Family Vacation 2012 - Trip Report - Day 1

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since my last blog post and as you may have guessed from the title of today's post, it's because I was off on vacation. Over the next couple of posts I'll give a recap of our festivities filled with plenty of pictures. These posts will largely just be a travelogue for myself and my family and mostly just an excuse to post lots of cute and fun pictures. This "first day" post will be the longest and most detailed…I'll not likely go into as much depth on future posts. But if the length overwhelms your reading sensibilities, just scan through the pictures and live vicariously through our vacationing joys.

And now, as they say, on with the show!!!!

Disneyland Vacation 2012 - Day 1

The fam and I flew on down to sunny Southern California for tons of Disney Theme Park fun in Anaheim. In addition to Lynette, myself and our kids (Jason, Andrew & Julia), we brought along a niece Sarah, a nephew Ethan and an aunt Karla.

Ethan and Sarah hadn't been to the big D-land before, so Lynette offered to bring them along. Karla had been to Disney before but not for a long time (though she did recently work as an intern down at Disney World in Florida). She agreed to come along not only for the fun of the trip but also to help keep the child-to-adult ratio a little more manageable for us. :-)

The vacation excitement actually began on Sunday night as we discussed a general plan of attack (especially concerning the kids spending their souvenir money and then wanting more) and went to bed 'early' (or at least we tried). Everybody was super excited so there was some trouble getting everyone to sleep, but somehow we managed.

Monday morning bright and early…well, dark and early actually, we hit the road to the airport. Getting 5 kids and 3 adults up and going pre-dawn was a bit of a trick, but knowing that Disneyland was at the other end of our journey helped to motivate everybody although we did start out about 10 minutes later than we hoped which meant skipping a McD's breakfast on the road in lieu of getting something at the airport to make sure we didn't cut it too close.

Once at the airport, I left my bag with Karla and took the van to long term parking. As Karla worked her way through security, she got wary looks from the security agents as she was genuinely confused by the various electronic contents of "her" bag. The payback came when I came through a few minutes later and was one of the lucky winners of a personalized individual random search. Very non-invasive and professional, I assure you.

Finally, we were on the plane. Ethan and Sarah were very excited. Not only was it their first trip to Disney, but it was their first plane ride. We offered each of them window seats and watched their mix of excitement and nerves as the plane moved out onto the runway. The morning was gray and overcast but in a few minutes we were pushing up and out of the clouds into bright blue with a carpet of clouds beneath us. There was a little mild turbulence, but nothing too bad.

A little less than two hours later, we were walking out into the fresh California air at the Long Beach Airport. A rainstorm had just finished up so the air was clean and cool and the ground was wet.

I'd never been to Long Beach before but we opted for its better prices and easier Anaheim access (LAX is just crazy every time I've gone their). I liked the cozier feel of Long Beach Airport. I wrangled the bags while the kids posed in front of the palm trees and Lynette tracked down our shuttle and we started cruising down the highway towards Anaheim.

We booked 2 rooms at the Anaheim Tropicana Inn which is right across from Disneyland. Due to the size of the Disney parks, a lot of hotels can claim to be right next to Disneyland and yet still be a mile or more away. Tropicana is right on Harbor Blvd and is literally across the street from Disney..just across from the corner between Tomorrowland and Main Street.

We've stayed here before…it's one of the cheapest that's also this close to the park. They keep their prices down by charging for Internet and some of their "continental breakfast" items (pastries and OJ are free, but you pay for milk and cereal). Any cons are definitely outweighed by the price and proximity. From our hotel door, we walk a half a block to the crosswalk that takes you straight over to Disneyland. Very nice.

When we got to the hotel, it was still hours prior to our official check-in time. Luckily, one of our rooms was already prepped and ready for us. So we dropped off our bags and took a minute to freshen up and gather necessities (cameras, cash, good shoes). Then we were off to Disneyland!

We were going to spend 6 days in Disneyland and California Adventure. With that much time, we were pretty sure we'd see and do everything we wanted to. But we still wanted to stay organized and stay together. It was already midday when we finally got to the park, so there were plenty of crowds…even though it was a Monday, it was Spring Break season so still lots of people.

Anyway, the first place everybody wanted to go was the Indiana Jones ride so we hopped over to Adventureland. The line was ~50 minutes so we grabbed some Fast Passes and then made a pit stop at Bengal Barbecue for lunch. The kids were enamored by the idea of skewers but they weren't a big hit.

Jason and I got the "spicy" version (I can't remember the name) but it turned out to be too spicy for him and he picked at a few scraps the others threw at him. As the kids finished eating, they wandered into the Adventurer's Outpost and were quickly overwhelmed by the tons of souvenir options. We reminded them that we had another week to decide where to spend our money.

We still had a while before our Fast Pass time so we wound our way towards Tomorrowland to pick up our "free pin and lanyard" as part of our travel booking. While we were so close, it was suggested that we climb into Tarzan's Treehouse, but unfortunately it was closed because of the wet storm earlier in the morning.

So we circled around through Fronteirland and back out to The Hub. The kids spotted the Shootin' Exposition in Fronteirland so we made a brief pit stop for the kids to unload a few rounds.

As we walked back out onto Main Street, it was time to see the Castle up front and personal. We snapped a few pictures and then walked through the portcullis to gaze on Fantasyland.

A few people were still focused on getting the lanyards, so we wound back out and over to Tomorrowland.

The line was short for the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster's which just happens to exit into the Little Green Men shop (which is where our lanyards were), so we hopped in line for some space ranger action. The adults had the top scores with Karla nearly double the next competitor (yes, Lynette beat me, I admit it).

We popped out into Little Green Men and picked up our lanyards and special "Cars Land" pins.

From there we worked our way back to Indiana Jones by way of Fantasyland making a pit stop on the Carousel and the Pinocchio ride, neither of which had much of a line at all considering it was the middle of the day. I guess everybody was at lunch.

It was now Fast Pass Indy time, but first we hopped over to Splash Mountain to get a new Fast Pass for that ride. I love the Fast Pass concept! It really makes it possible to optimize your fun time. Not that standing in line isn't fun sometimes (yes, Disney tries to make their queues as interesting as possible), but why stand in line if you don't have to.

Anyway, we now made our way into the Indiana Jones Fast Pass queue. We were through the tunnels and caves and into the jeep within 5-10 minutes. Last time, Jason was the only kid tall enough to ride, so while the other kids were excited based on his recommendation, they were also a little nervous.

A couple of the scenes gave them a little scare here and there (the giant snake that lunged right at Andrew's side of the jeep made him cringe a little), but everybody came out giggling and overjoyed at the adventure.

After Indy, I wanted to hit the Jungle Cruise but the line was winding out into Adventureland as well taking up the entire queue inside. With plenty of time before our Splash Mountain Fast Pass, we decided to take a small break back at the hotel to officially get into our second hotel room and get the luggage and sleeping arrangements all squared away.

The break was a little longer than planned because upon sitting in the soft cool hotel room, it became apparent that our bodies were more tired than our minds were acknowledging. Still, we were determined to make the most of each day, so we only relaxed for a half hour or so before heading back to the park. Plus we had our Fast Passes calling us.

Back in Disneyland, we still had some time before Splash Mountain, so we paused in New Orleans Square to visit the Haunted Mansion. We were again granted a fairly short line (only ~20 minutes) and made our way inside. We all huddled into the "dead center of the chamber" and had a hauntingly good time winding through the Mansion.

Hopping out of the Mansion, it was a straight shot into the Splash Mountain queue. I love all the classic Disneyland Attractions from my childhood. Of the "newer" rides (yes, I know, it's approaching 20 years), Splash Mountain is one of my favorites.

I love the fun little messages in the queue and the general attitude of Brer Rabbit, not to mention the wily Brer Fox and the oafish Brer Bear. It's great fun. Add to that a huge drop with plenty of water and it's good fun. The kids loved it as well.

With plenty of time before our Splash Mountain Fast Pass, we walked down to visit Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood. Julia was overjoyed. She was only 4 on our last visit but she remembered this being one of her favorites. It was certainly whimsical fun. We made a quick pit stop in the shop at Pooh Corner. The candy making area in the back corner reminded some of us that we were hungry, so we decided it was time for dinner.

I suggested the Cafe Orleans (I haven't ever had the famous Monte Cristo and vowed that I'd get one this trip) but I was the only one who liked the menu so we walked back to Critter Country and had some burgers at the Hungry Bear.

After dinner, we appeased the wishes of the kids and did our official hat shopping. Julia opted for a mini mad-hatter hat but the other kids each got Mouse Ears…though not the traditional black ears from the past.

Andrew opted for the Lightning McQueen eyes with Mouse ears; Sarah got a headband with pink ears and a flowing princess veil; Ethan grabbed the "bottom half" option with Mickey's pants (complete with tail) topped with ears; and Jason went for Donald's "lower half" with ears. The adults held off on their hat buying for another day.

At the same time our Splash Mountain Fast Pass was ready.  Karla wanted to stay dry so she hopped back into Pooh Corner for a poncho and some plastic bags for our other belongings and then we slid into the queue.  As I mentioned above, I love the Splash Mountain queue, particularly the little quotes along the way that tell the story.  It's so fun.

The ride was fabulous and everybody had fun.  Nobody got terribly soaked (we saved that for a later day).  I did notice a couple of places where the ride needed some repair (Brer Rabbit on his little hand-pump train car, for example wasn't running) but overall it was just as fun and whimsical as I remember.

After the plunge in Splash Mountain, it was decided that the one other "must ride" attraction for day one was Space Mountain. By the time we got to Tomorrowland, the sun was nearly setting. The line promised a 50 minute wait, our longest of the day.

Since everybody was fighting jet lag and a long day of travel and fun, we decided to go ahead and wait in the normal line rather than getting a fast pass and then head back to the hotel for an early bedtime. The line moved pretty quickly though it was dark by the time we reached the main entrance to the building. Just as we started inside, we heard the first booms of the nightly firework show.

The kids absolutely loved Space Mountain. Its speed and fun pumped them up a bit and I was worried at first that we wouldn't convince them to go back to the hotel and to bed.

In fact, there were some requests to ride more rides or camp out for the later Fantasmic show. But we reminded them that we had an early morning the next day as we were going to Goofy's Kitchen for breakfast. With that, we made the trek back to the hotel and quickly fell asleep dreaming Disney dreams.


And that…was day one. Stay tuned for the next update. This was certainly longer than I intended or even thought it would be. Don't worry, as I mentioned earlier, they won't all be as detailed as this first one. Or at least I don't think they will be.


Today's Quote from Quoting Quotes:


1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

oh wow man thanks for this...we are hoping to do this next spring with our boys...