Sunday, April 15, 2012

Disney Family Vacation 2012 - Trip Report - Days 2 & 3

Welcome back. Hopefully I didn't scare off too many readers with that VERY LONG post recapping the first day of our vacation. Don't worry…the rest of the vacation post(s) will be significantly shorter, at least in text. I do have a ton of photos I'd love to post, so today's post (and any future posts) will likely have big chunks of text but will then end with a big string of photos.

But that's all beside the point. You're not here for an intro to the post, you're here for the follow-up to the previous post. So, without further ado, let's get going.

Disneyland Vacation 2012 - Day 2

Our second day started fairly early as we had booked a character breakfast. There are a number of character dining options available these days. They're definitely pricier than a normal meal, but in addition to the food you get meet-and-greet time with the various characters as they come to your table. On our last trip, we actually did a couple of different meals. This time (mostly to keep costs down), we opted for just a single character meal. Our choice…breakfast in Goofy's Kitchen.

We'd done the Storyteller's Cafe last time and the kids didn't go for the food choices. Ariel's Grotto was great but definitely geared more towards the girls, so the boys protested. We went for Goofy's Kitchen for the variety of characters and for the very kid friendly food (plenty of normal breakfast staples like eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, but supplemented with mickey waffles, peanut butter and jelly 'pizza', and plenty of other Goffy-esque sweet treats).

We trekked across Downtown Disney (the kids were a little sad to walk right pass the entrance to the Disney Parks) and over to the Disneyland Hotel for breakfast in Goofy's Kitchen. While waiting for our table, the kids posed for the requisite shots in the Autopia car in the hotel lobby and then we got our chance to go back. We paused for a photo op with Chef Goofy himself and Julia was super excited that he seemed to remember her from last time.

Breakfast went well with most of the kids eating fairly well. There was plenty of excitement as we were visited by the Mad Hatter, Chip & Dale, Snow White and others. I saw Rafiki making his way around and was a little bummed that he ended up going back in the kitchen and not coming out again by the time we left.

Last time we were there, there was an interlude from time to time where Goofy brought out a bunch of pots and pans and invited the kids to help create a kitchen utensil band with him. That was lots of fun. This time they didn't do that, but instead every ~20 minutes or all the characters paused for a little dancing by the tables, which the kids thought was great.

Even more fun, since this trip coincided with Julia's birthday, the meal ended with Julia being brought a cupcake with candle and having the cast members sing Happy Birthday to her.

After breakfast, it was back into Disneyland for more fun. The kids had already determined one of their favorite rides was Indiana Jones so our first stop was to grab a fast pass for Indy.

I was determined to get us on the Jungle Cruise and the line wasn't very long at all, so we hopped on board for a whimsical boat ride. We had a great skipper and a lot of fun.

We then noticed that Tarzan's Treehouse was dried out and open, so we climbed through the branches for a great overarching view of Disneyland. From the top of the treehouse, I spotted the peaks of Big Thunder and decided we needed an action packed ride.

The Big Thunder line was moderately long but not awful (30 minutes) so we just got in line. While we were waiting, the kids were VERY entertained by a family of ducks in the area.

Initially the ducks were just in the rocks and bushes along the path but as we wound closer to front of the line the ducks had decided they wanted to ride as well and were waddling slowly up the middle of the queue with the human guests making room for them. It was pretty funny. Once the ducks were out of sight, the kids paid attention to the train and were excited for the ride again.

After Big Thunder, everybody was giddy with excitement and dying for more fun and we were just in time for our Indiana Jones Fastpass, so it was back around the bend to Adventureland for another journey into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

It just so happened that some other family members happened to be doing a Disneyland vacation with days that overlapped ours and they wanted to meet up with us on Tuesday.

After a bit of back and forth, it was decided that we'd meet a little after lunchtime at California Screamin, so we decided we'd head over that way for the rest of the morning.

We took a leisurely stroll over to California Adventure and worked our way around the Buena Vista Street construction into the main thoroughfare. As we passed by Grizzly Peak we noticed that the Fast Pass time on the River Run was set for about an hour after our meeting with the other cousins, so we grabbed some on our way towards Paradise Pier.

It was still a little early for lunch, but we knew California Screamin' would have a wait, so we made a pit stop at the Corn Dog Castle for some lunchtime goodness. I'd never done Corn Dog Castle before and was a little wary, but I must admit that was probably the best corn dog I'd ever had. I approve. :-)

After lunch, we worked our way down the Pier towards California Screamin. Due to some apparent miscommunication, the cousins were already in line and close to the front. Rather than line jump, we told them we'd meet them later (though sadly we never did). 

Instead we grabbed our own Fast Pass for Screamin, took a quick ride on King Triton's Carousel, then walked back down the pier looking for a few quick items to bide our time before Grizzly.

We found a VERY short line for the Little Mermaid ride. It was a well done ride…a nice throwback to the fun and cute classic Fantasyland attractions. We did get paused briefly on the line…I liked that Sebastian was the one to announce the problem (that Ursula must be causing problems).

I love that Disney makes even a temporary breakdown into a decent experience. After Little Mermaid, we looked in a couple of shops and then rode down the Grizzly River Run…getting soaked, as per expectation.

While in the Grizzly Peak area, I was interested to see what was in the Reedwood Creek Challenge Trail area. Only two of the kids (Ethan and Julia) were interested in coming with me, so we ventured inside. The area is actually pretty fun…sort of like California Adventure's parallel to Tom Sawyer's Island.

As we went in, we were given a little activity map/sheet outlining the different areas with the promise that if we completed each activity, we'd get a "merit badge." The whole area was a big forest/mountain theme with various wilderness tasks like identifying tracks, reading about old indian legends, etc. The kids had a lot of fun on the rock climbing wall and the large set of rope/net bridges and paths. It was pretty fun.

It was now our turn for a ride on California Screamin'. I hadn't been on this ride before. When it was first built, I remember having mixed feelings about Disneyland having such a "traditional" style roller coaster without the added theming that they usually include. However, I felt like the whole Paradise Pier atmosphere helped mitigate that by creating the theming of a more traditional boardwalk/pier-side amusement park. 

There was a lot of brave talk as we approached Screamin. Sarah had voiced that she wasn't going to go at all, but everybody else was ready. However, at the last second, Ethan decided to sit the ride out as well (Jason pressured him the rest of the trip to go on bigger rides…and eventually he does). The rest of us hopped aboard and blasted off. That coaster is fabulous. It's not particularly innovative as far as coasters go, but it is a lot of fun. Very smooth. Very fast. Gotta love it.

The rest of the day was more low-key. We spent a little time in A Bug's Land…the kid's nostalgically remembered Heimlich's Chew-Chew Train and they enjoyed it once again, though with a different scale of humorous comments during the ride. After Bug's Land, we went into Hollywood Land to check the line on Tower of Terror. It was packed and even though they offered Fast Passes, we decided they were offered a  little too late considering the early morning, so we continued on into the Disney Animation building.

Over the course of the trip, we actually made a number of stops in the Animation Building. Everybody loved trying to create their own animations in the Sorcerer's Workshop. I don't know how many times everybody took the character quiz in the Beast's Library. Everybody went at least twice…to find their "hero" character and their "villain" character. For my hero persona, the library decided I would be Flik from A Bug's Life and my villain ended up being Jafar, which was kind of creepy cool. :)

We also made quite a few visits into Ursula's Grotto. The kids loved ad libbing their own words into the "karaoke" style sing/act machines and then seeing the classic Disney characters be even sillier than normal. One of my favorite parts of the Animation building is the Toy Story Zoetrope. It's such a cool display of how animation works…absolutely stunning to watch.

Our following day was back into Disneyland and a quick trip into Toontown for some Toontown Morning Madness where we became Honorary Toontown citizens.

We got our official meet-and-greet with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto as well as catching glimpses of Donald, Goofy and others. Toontown is a super fun land. I love the attention to detail to the nth degree there. It's super fun. We made sure to ride Gadget's Go-Coaster and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon spin while we were there as well.

We spent a little time on Main Street watching the magician in the magic shop (he's super smooth…I also learned that Steve Martin had once worked in the Magic Shop, which was a cool bit of trivia).

We made a quick pit stop in Main Street Cinema to re-educate the kids on classic Disney cartoons. In between the other adventures of the day, we took a break at the hotel for some naps and I went over to the pool with the kids while waiting for our Autopia Fast Passes to be ready.

After the Autopia ride (I'm still recovering from the whiplash of letting Julia drive me around *grin*) we did dinner at Red Rockett's Pizza Port and then prepped for our Star Tours Adventure. Lynette sat the ride out since 3D doesn't bode well with her…which I was a little bummed about. Mostly I'm bummed that they forced the attraction into 3D.

Quite frankly with the effects they used, the 3D didn't really seem to gain much for them…at least on the voyage we took. I liked the idea of there being a "rebel spy" on board our transport. That was pretty fun. After the ride, Jason decided to build his own lightsaber in the Star Trader and we all hopped around the corner and contributed our faces to some classic Star Wars images.

That night we camped out a little early by the Rivers of America for near-riverside "seats" to watch Fantasmic. We had a great view not only of Fantasmic but also of the preceding Fireworks show (there were only a few of the low hanging effects that we couldn't see…and we could only catch small glimpses of Tinkerbell flying to/from the castle).

I love Fantasmic and I'm glad its become a staple at the parks. So much fun. After Fantasmic, our group got separated (there were still adults with each kid, don't worry). My group took the more leisurely trek back to the hotel…by way of some shops in New Orleans Square. ;)

And that brings us to the approximate midpoint of the trip. Plenty of fun so far, but still a lot to see.

So stay tuned…for another post. :)

In the meantime, keep scrolling for random fun pictures from the days outlined in this post.  Just keep scrolling.  :)

Today's Quote from Quoting Quotes:


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