Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mother/Son Disneyland Trip

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Every October I have a chiropractic technique conference.  The last several years it's been held in Newport Beach, California.  We usually either all go or just I go, but this year Marc had the idea for Jacob and I to go together.  We jumped right on it!  

The gang dropped us off at O'hare Airport at lunchtime.  We easily checked our one bag and made it through security.  It felt like we were traveling super light and we were free as birds.  

We had almost two hours before our flight was scheduled to leave so we decided to have lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express.  Jacob decided to be an adventurous eater on this trip.  We split a salad and a Pepperoni Pompodoro pizza.  Jacob carefully considered the ingredients and decided he would like to try the carmelized onions and basil included on this pizza.  And he did like it. 

 We had an excellent waiter who engaged Jacob in drawing.  Without even knowing we were going to Disneyland today, he asked Jacob to draw Mickey Mouse.  Jacob took a unique approach and started with his feet.  He did a very nice job.  Then the waiter drew Mickey's head in profile and gifted Jacob the nice drawing pencil. It was an unexpected nice experience to start our trip!

Since most vacation meals require dessert, we made one more stop before boarding the plane at Rocky Mountain Candy Factory to get a Cookies and Cream Caramel Apple to share.  I would have picked toffee, but this is Jacob's special trip, so it was his choice.

You may have noticed already that each picture is like a selfie of Jacob (except I took them.) Get used to it.  There are a couple pictures without him in them, but most will be like these.  He's reliving his 18 months of being an only child on this trip.  

The airplane looked new.  It was pretty nice.  We both enjoyed the individual TVs in the seat backs.  There was a free choice with basically nothing to do, a $4 Disney choice with little kids programming and games, a $5 choice with better games and I'm not sure about shows, and then pay per view movies.  Jacob picked the $5 choice and played games the whole time.  I stuck with the free choice as long as I could and caved for the $5 choice with only an hour left in flight but I just couldn't take the boredom anymore.  I really think they should have included the movie they normally play in their free choice.  

Arrriving in Orange County around 4pm PDT, we picked up our bag and hopped in a taxi in rush hour traffic to Anaheim.  Our hotel arrangements are a bit complex on this trip.  I'll explain as we go. We checked into the Holiday Inn adjacent to Disneyland.  You can't actually see Disneyland from there, but they describe it as adjacent.  We put our stuff in our room and headed to the Disneyland Hotel for dinner.  We payed close attention to how long the walk was as  we would be checking into this hotel in the morning.  

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar allows children until 8pm.  We went for the ambiance.  We ordered fancy drinks...a HippopotoMai-Tai for me and Gorilla Grog in a souvenir cup for Jacob.  Since Jacob was looking forward to trying new food, I took advantage of that while I could.  We split a Pu Pu Platter (Sweet and Spicy Asian Wings, Glazed Portuguese Sausage Bites, Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans, Tropical Slaw, and Sriracha Aioli) and Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin Ginger Sauce.  Delicious!  Surprisingly, Jacob thought so too and it filled us up.    

The place is very small but lots of fun.  While we couldn't shake the feeling that tiki gods were watching us, we experienced a couple of volcano eruptions and felt the ocean spray us as a ship in a bottle sunk before our eyes. 

Re-energized simply by being on Disney property, we just had to take a walk around Downtown Disney before settling in to sleep. It was an absolutely beautiful night and the moon was full and huge.

People who know Jacob well, are probably wondering how I got Jacob to smile for all these pictures.  They were completely spontaneous even though Jacob hates being caught with a smile on his face.

Finally we returned "home", to rest up for the next busy day.  
Jacob really liked having a whole queen sized bed with lots of pillows to himself.  This is how he slept every he made a nest out of fluffy clouds.  Couldn't even see him.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

This is what Disneyland Hotel looked like this morning when we checked in at 5am.  Yes, 5am.  The whole reason we decided we must stay here is to take advantage of the perk of getting to enter the Disney parks an hour early.  Early entry to California Adventure was at 7am this morning, so we needed to get a very early start.  We got our room keys and left our luggage with the bell desk since, as expected, our room was not ready.  
Cute lobby

Jacob couldn't resist the cartoon area while we waited.  I love this in between age.  He's almost 10 and it's the perfect age for a mother-son trip.

We didn't realize there would be nowhere to get any breakfast until 6am.  We ambled through Downtown Disney to Starbucks to await its opening.  The area was busy with workers stringing Christmas lights.  Everyone was so cheerful and polite.

Finally we got our breakfast, waited in line at baggage check and then traded our ticket vouchers for real tickets minutes before California Adventure opened at 7am.  As soon as it opened, we dashed right over to Radiator Springs Racers.  It's an awesome Cars themed ride.  We would ride it three times before the end of the day.  The wait times exceeded 90 minutes at certain times throughout the day, but we got around this by splitting up after this first ride and going in the single rider line.  We couldn't ride together then, but we actually got to race each other once, so that was pretty cool!

Luigi's Tires

Not too old to meet Mater

 We finished up Cars Land with a quick ride on Mater's Junnkyard Jamboree before going to Paradise Pier.  Next we booked it over to Toy Story Midway Mania, the second most popular ride in this park.
We found being a party of two to our advantage a few times as they skipped us to the front of the line from a ways back.  Funny how no one's ever looking for a party of seven.

Jacob has gotten significantly better at this game.  At one point he was about 20,000 points ahead of me.  Luckily I pulled it out for a win on the last screen.  So close!  

We were able to get one more ride on Toy Story with very little wait before moving on.

This roller coaster, California Screamin' is another of our favorite rides.  We were able to get the front car with no wait,  It was an awesome ride as always!  I think Jacob and I could ride this all day, but we settled for the one ride with so much left to do in the park.

Next up was Mickey's Fun Wheel (of Terror!)  It looks like an innocent ferris wheel, when in all actuality, the way the cages swing and no seat belts makes this one of the most frightening rides in the park.  Even knowing what to expect, we're always kind of surprised.

 We rode Goofy's Sky School and  then obtained that Fast Pass for another ride on  Radiator Springs Racers that we never ended up using.  Didn't want to skip that though in case you're using our blog as a ride strategy guide.  
 Next up, Tower of Terror.  We' basically walked right on rides for the first three+ hours this morning.  It was awesome!

We rode Soarin' Over California and noticed that there's a new video with Planes while you wait for the instruction video to start.

Grizzly River Rapids was next.  I've never been on it for various reasons on past trips but am glad I finally got a chance.  It's your typical raft ride, but Disney always makes everything nicer.  There is one drop that was higher than I was anticipating.  Nice scenery and an overall enjoyable ride.   

At  about 11am, Jacob and I were hungry.  Not ready to sit down for lunch, we decided to get a snack to tide us over.  Max's favorite food in all of Disneyland Resort is sold here in these cones in Carsland. So in honor of Max we got pretzel bites and in honor of Marc we got grape soda with foam.  It has a fancy name, but who knows what it is?  Let's call a grape soda, a grape soda, shall we? 

The crowds have hit now.  This park is extra busy today since Disneyland closes early tonight for the Halloween Party.  We waited in the longest line I've ever seen for Monsters Inc.  Still, it's a fast moving line and we've got plenty of time having already done all the big rides.  
We walk right off of Monsters Inc. and into the Muppet Theater which was just about to start.  Great timing again.  I don't think we would have waited the 20 minutes or so until the next show since we've seen it so many times, but it's always a cute show when you need a break.  By now we were tired and it felt good to sit down.  

Jacob really wanted to go in the Animation Studio even though we have the past couple times we've been at Walt Disney World.  He always likes finding out what Disney character best fits his personality (hint:  It's always a villian since he answers that he'd rather eat nice people for lunch than eat lunch with nice people.)  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We tried something new this time. We did a voice over for characters in a scene from Aladdin.  That was pretty fun.

We opted for a good lunch while we waited for our Radiator Springs Racers Fast Pass return time.  (Yeah, the one we never used.)  
We were able to be seated without waiting at Wine Country Trattoria.  Jacob wanted to split the Caprese Salad.  We didn't know when we ordered it that it wasn;t the traditional version.  Instead it was red and yellow cherry tomatoes with a few small balls of mozzarella.  Our server here was very inattentive.  Our entrees arrived before the salad and we had to ask the food runner for a bread basket too.  The food was good though.  Jacob did opt for the kids pasta which was just sauce and noodles.  We skipped dessert deciding we'd find a Mickey Ice Cream Bar later.

We checked back a couple of times throughout the day to ride Screamin' again, but it was closed down each time we checked.  Once, both sets of cars were stuck on the tracks.  Yikes.

Finally it was 3pm and we could use our RSR Fast Passes.  Excited, we got in line but soon realized the Fast Pass line was super long and not moving quickly.  We hopped over to the Single Rider line and were pleased with how much faster it went.  After our ride, we handed our Fast Passes to a man who was explaining to his wife that all the FPs had been given out for the day.  I'm sure they were happy to get them.
Radiator Springs Racers
 Hot and tired now, we decided we were going to go get settled in our hotel room and go for a swim.  Having seen the cool slides the night before, Jacob wanted swimming to be a priority.  No problem.  At this point we had had a ton of fun..  You might even say a perfect day and I didn't care if we stayed in the pool the rest of the night!  Jacob's heels were sore from these shoes with no socks (Marc's idea) so we stopped to buy socks in Downtown Disney.  We did find socks, but Jacob opted for new Crocs instead.  Those really are the best,most comfortable theme park shoes.

Our room was in Frontier Tower. I have no idea if there is a difference between the towers, but it was very nice.   Again we picked this hotel simply because of access to early entry for our two park days, but of course it was as nice as you'd expect from Disney.

 The pool was great.  You can see the monorail themed water slides in the background here.  Jacob enjoyed them.  It was a beautiful eighty degree day, but the breeze had picked up and it had started cooling off by the time we actually made it in the pool.  It was a quick dip for me and a little hot tub time.  Jacob joined me in the hot tub after a few trips down the slides.  
We had a couple options for the evening.  We could either go to Goofy's Kitchen for a dinner  (a Disney character buffet right at this hotel)  and then watch World of Color (California Adventure's nighttime show) or we could go back to the park and ride a few more rides and watch the show live.  It was a tough choice but...
 We just couldn't resist the urge to be there in person.  After all, we just can't waste Disney time.  Also Jacob had dragged his Glow with the Show ears all the way from home particularly to wear at World of Color.  No matter that we would be buying yet another pair of shoes at the gift store tonight, this time for my sore feet.
 We checked on Screamin' again, and it was just coming back up after another closure.  The single rider line was 25 minutes and we didn't want to miss a nighttime ride on Radiator Springs Racers, so we skipped it.

 It was just dark enough for all the lights to be on when we got to the front of the Single Rider line.  This is the time that Jacob's and my cars got to race each other.  His car won.  Fun!  Carsland is really beautiful especially at night. It feels like you're right in the movie.
Jacob was bummed that his ears would not turn on tonight.  We had replaced the batteries just before we left, so we knew that was not the problem.  We stopped to ask a cast member that was selling the ears if he had an idea about how to fix them, and he graciously just gave us a new pair!  Jacob could not have been happier!  Not only did he have working ears now, but there have also been design improvements since we bought his ears two years ago that he really appreciated.  Way to go Disney!

We went to Corn Dog Castle and got a couple of corn dogs for dinner.  Did you know that you can get them without the side of chips or apple slices for less?  Can't tell you how many apple slices we had leftover on our last trip.   Good corn dogs as usual!

With our World of Color fast pass section located (yellow) we had time for a quick ride on The Little Mermaid before taking our spots for the show.  (Tip:  You should always grab a fast pass for WOC if you think you might go.  They are not connected to the FP system, so they don't prevent you from holding another FP at the same time,  So why wouldn't you get one?)
Of course we were not the only ones with this idea since this ride is right by the WOC viewing area.  The line was like nothing I've seen before.  It wrapped out the door, around the side of the entire building and had a winding queue in the back.  Whoa!  It was fast moving though and it left us with little time to wait for the show by the time we were done.

The World of Color show is excellent.  We've been spoiled in the past with having a room at the Grand Californian Villas with a balcony that overlooked the show, so we saw it every night.  Mostly I enjoyed just being there taking it all in with my amazing 9 year old son.  He said, "This is the best theme park trip ever, even though it's only two days."  My heart melted.  Such great mother and son time together!

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We got up super early again this morning.  We had to pack our stuff up and check out of the hotel before going to Disneyland this morning.  We left our bags at the bell desk again so we could return in the evening to retrieve them and catch a taxi to a hotel by the Orange County Airport where my conference was being held.  

Early entry this morning wasn't until 8am though, so we were able to get breakfast right away at the cafe at the Disneyland Hotel but I waited until Starbucks to get my coffee.  We took our leisurely stroll through Downtown Disney.  Occasionally others walked by us this morning with their Starbucks orders presumably returning to their rooms for the rest of their groups.  

Every time we passed by Anna and Elsa's Boutique we would think of Ella and Zoe.  They would love makeovers here!  

 We were first in line for bag check this morning.  Even though we didn't have bags to check, they don't let you wait in the courtyard until shortly before the park is ready to open.  Once they let us in, we were first in line at the gate too (since we didn't have to stop to get tickets today.)
While waiting, we were teasing Marc that if he were here instead of me, they'd still be getting breakfast and would end up in the line that reached all the way to California Adventure's gates before they let us in.

We had to snap a few pictures in the nearly empty park on our way in

 We arrive to our first destination, Peter Pan and ride with no wait.  Do you see the sign for 30 minute wait and the huge queue they have ready?  That's because if you're ten minutes behind us, that's where you'll be standing, (Marc.)

We opted to skip the other Fantasyland rides for now except Alice in Wonderland which has had some updates since the last time we were here.
 The Matterhorn was just opening up as we got in the queue.  It is a nice classic ride.  I just wish it wasn't so jerky.  

We did not ride Under the Seas with Nemo this time.  It sucks too much valuable time out of a two day trip.

 The massive crowds caught up with us at Space Mountain.  It was a substantial wait given that it's still early entry hour.  I didn't time it, but I'd estimate 20 minutes.  

The park was just opening to the general public when we arrived at Star Tours.  We decided to get a Fast Pass to return later and try to get to Indiana Jones over in Adventureland which was just opening up.

This was Jacob's first ride on Indiana Jones.  He loved it!  And I loved being part of it.  This is a great ride espeically when you consider it's about 20 years old.  I only know that because Marc and I came to Disneyland on our honeymoon and we didn't ride it then because it was new and the wait was three hours long!
We walked right on to Haunted Mansion Holiday too.  This used to be Jacob's favorite ride.  We both like the Nightmare Before Christmas themed version even better than the original.

 And Winnie the Pooh was also still walk on with no wait at this point.

It's a cute ride, but the big draw over here was the sweet shop nearby.  We choose to share a Maleficent inspired Chocolate Caramel Apple.  We couldn't even cut it with the plastic knife they gave us.  Somehow we managed to devour it on our walk back to Tomorrowland.

Star Tours with a Fast Pass

Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters was a 15 minute wait down from just after park opening

On our walk back through Adventureland to use our Splash Mountain Fast Pass, we picked up some skewers from Bengel's Barbeque.  One is chicken with a sweet sauce, one is beef with teriyaki sauce, and the other is bacon wrapped asparagus.  Jacob was not a big fan, but he liked the chicken.  My favorite is the asparagus.

 A selfie of us on Splash Mountain.  Virtually no wait with the fast pass.

 I noticed the characters here didn't have handlers.  I think this new.  I know they always have a handler at Disney World.  It's kind of cool, but sometimes I saw them get mobbed on their way to their destination.
A picture to show the crowd.  It was a very busy day.

 We grabbed a Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain then tried to decide what to eat for lunch.  We hoped for some Disney Magic and checked to see if we could get into Cafe Orleans.  Voila!  A 15 minute wait and we were in!  We shared their famous Monte Cristo Sandwich minus the turkey.  We also shared Mickey shaped Pumpkin Beignets with vanilla bean sauce.  Perfect!

After that wonderful lunch, we used our Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  It took us exactly seven minutes from the time we got in line to get on the ride.  I was surprised, not remembering that there were some updates to it since last time.  It was great!  Our favorite ride of the day.  We got off of it and pulled another fast pass for later.  

Tired now and my feet hurting even with the different shoes, we contemplated leaving.  We knew we definately were not going to make it to Fantasmic or fireworks tonight.  It's been a great but exhausting few days!  Jacob wanted to check out the fall festival at Thunder Mountain Ranch.  

 We decided to go back to Fantasyland and ride whatever wasn't busy.  

We had to pause and take a picture of the Anna and Elsa meet and greet spot.  It's right off of Pinocchio's  Village.  It's cute that they have snow not only over the Frozen cottage but also on the adjacent areas of Pinocchio's Village as if it were suddenly frozen by Elsa.
 Since it was such a busy day, the Pinocchio ride was about the only thing without much wait.  We rode that and went to It's a Small World since no visit to Disneyland is complete without riding that.
 The sign said it would be a 15 minute wait but I think it was more like 25 minutes.  I like to compare and contrast California's versions of rides with Florida's versions.  Overall I think I like Florida better for this ride but I do like how they have small versions of Disney characters  in many of the countries in California's ride.

The wait was hot in the sun.  We got an Icee to drink while heading over to Jedi training. Can you see the hidden Mickey?   We've never checked this out before, but Jacob wanted to today.  Unfortunately he wasn't picked to participate and he didn't want to stick around to watch it, so we left.
We kept thinking of "one more" thing we needed to do before leaving the park. We couldn't leave without having a Dole Whip Float.  The line was crazy for that on both sides of the hut, but we had nowhere to be, so we waited.  

 Then we had to use our Fast Pass for one last ride on Big Thunder Mountain.  Then even though the line was ridiculous all day, we couldn't leave without going on Pirates of the Caribbean!  We sucked it up.  The line said 25 minutes, but by the way it snaked out around New Orleans Square, I knew it was lying!  It probably wasn't much more than that and it was a good way to end our trip.

We would have ridden the monorail, but Jacob needed to buy his souvenir from the Disney Store in Downtown Disney.  We left around 6pm, hobbled through Downtown Disney one more time, and ate dinner at Earl of Sandwich before going to my conference hotel.   Jacob is not a sandwich fan, but declared his pizza sandwich, "the best sandwich ever."

I have to add that while eating dinner we saw these little toddlers on super fast scooters roll by.  While wondering who was watching them, finally their dad came running after.  So funny!

This really was a fantastic trip!  Not just because we had two wonderfully executed Disney days but because of the special time connecting with my wonderful son.  I look forward to individual trips with each of my kids.  Not sure any will be as easy to hang out with as Jacob. (We are SO much alike in all of my good ways.) But getting to know my kids on a deeper level and hear all their thoughts is so cool!