Monday, June 4, 2012

Disneyland Vacation, The adventure begins + Day 1

We had such an awesome time on our trip to Disneyland last month! My Mom joined us for a week at Disney May 13-19 and it really was one of the best vacations ever! Dean was so good and had so much fun - and it was so fun experiencing it all with him! A couple of observations - I really think it was a good decision to wait and go when he was 5 instead of going earlier. He was old enough to ride almost everything (and he literally rode EVERYTHING except the 2 rides he wasn't tall enough for - Indiana Jones and California Screamin'); also, I know for a fact that Dean is going to remember this trip for the rest of his life. 

I have SO MANY pictures to share from our trip, so I'll probably break this up into 4 or 5 blog posts, just about one for each day of our trip (hopefully getting them posted this week), in order to get them all posted. Also, I'm going to write A LOT of detail about the trip and what we did each day. Most of you probably don't care about that much detail, but remember that this blog serves as a kind of journal for me too, and that's the purpose of this. We want to remember these details, so I'm writing it all down here while it's still pretty fresh in my mind. Feel free to skip over all the jibber-jabber and just enjoy the photos!

We left Maui just after lunchtime on Sunday May 13 and flew directly to LAX. Because we were staying at the Disneyland Resort (the hotel we stayed at was the Grand Californian Resort and Spa) and were planning on spending our entire vacation at the Disney Parks, we didn't rent a car. Our trip package included a shuttle from the airport to the hotel, which was interesting. (All I'll say about that shuttle ride is that I seriously thought we were never going to leave LAX! I was ready to ask the guy to stop circling the airport and just let us out and find a cab, regardless of how much it cost, just so we could get the hell out of that airport. I'll also say that the people in the LAX airport are not at all friendly - not the workers, not people traveling, not anyone - we did not encounter a single friendly person. People everywhere were extremely rude, there was cigarette smoke EVERYWHERE - something we're not at all used to, and I was terrified we would be killed in a car accident before we ever even left the airport because people were driving like crazies! So glad I don't live in a place like that! Anyway...) We finally arrived at our hotel around 10:30 p.m. California Time Sunday night. The Grand Californian was amazing! It's kind of a lodge-y type of hotel with a gigantic fireplace in the main lobby, lots of stained glass windows and Tiffany-like lamps, and a bunch of wood. Other than our room being a little smaller than we expected, we were overall pleasantly surprised by how nice the hotel was. By the time we got all situated in our room we were starving, so we ordered some delicious room service, then went to bed!

We found out that because we were staying at the Disneyland Resorts, we got early entrance into Disneyland on Tuesday and Thursday and California Adventure Monday and Wednesday - this meant we could get into the parks an hour before they opened to the general public! Very cool. We decided to spend our first day at California Adventure. Our hotel sits literally right next to California Adventure and has it's own private entrance into the park, which was really nice! We had a really yummy breakfast at Whitewater Snacks near the pool at our hotel, then when it was time for our early entrance, we just walked right into California Adventure! The first thing we rode was Soarin' Over California (first people in line for the day), where you're strapped into a seat that's suspended in the air above an Omnimax projection dome that shows a "movie" of some of California's sights - it's a virtual reality type of ride that feels like you're soaring over California in a hang glider - for about 5 minutes - and there's a breeze, they pump in smells that coordinate with the sights you're flying over (orange groves, eucalyptus forests, etc). It was pretty cool! Next we rode the Little Mermaid ride. There was absolutely no line - we walked right up and loaded into our seashell and set off into the undersea world of Ariel. We then just walked around a little bit trying to get oriented (there was a lot of construction going on at California Adventure because they were remodeling the main entrance and also preparing for the grand opening of Cars Land, which we just missed by about 3 weeks!), then headed over to Paradise Pier.

Joel and my Mom walked right up and got on the California Screamin' roller coaster - it's the big roller coaster you can see in the background of the pictures above. Again, there was hardly any line at all. The signs said 5 minute wait for most of the rides Monday, but the majority of that was eaten up by how long it took to walk through the maze to get to the loading area. We rarely waited more than 5 minutes for anything on Monday. It was perfect! Joel and Mom rode the roller coaster 2 or 3 times in a row while Dean and I walked around Paradise Pier and scoped out some shops, other rides, and possible snack places. (BEST PICTURE EVER below).

After California Screamin', we headed over to the Tower of Terror ride to see about getting Fast Passes for later in the day (we had heard there is usually a really long line for that ride), but there was only a 10-minute wait, so Joel and my Mom decided to go ahead and ride it while Dean and I headed over to A Bug's Land to check out some kiddie rides. Dean decided he wanted to do the Bumper Cars, which he didn't like because it was "too boring". (although you'd never guess this judging by the smile on his face)


By the time we finished the bumper cars and took a bathroom break, Joel and my Mom were done with Tower of Terror and we headed over to see the 3D show "It's Tough to be a Bug". Dean HATED that. I mean really really hated it. He cried and wanted to leave during the show. I kept trying to tell him to just take off his glasses and close his eyes, reminding him that it wasn't real. It didn't help that the theater sprayed water on you when the poisonous bug supposedly sprayed you with poison and the seats "crawled" up and down your back and legs when the theater supposedly filled up with cockroaches, etc. Of course my Mom was cracking up laughing the whole time and loved it! There was no way we were getting Dean back in there! After that, we had some lunch (again, really yummy food!). Everyone talked about how expensive the food would be at Disneyland but we didn't think it was expensive at all. Maybe it's because we live on Maui where everything is expensive and a value meal at McDonald's costs $9, but to us, the food was really reasonable - especially considering it was all really good. A hamburger, fries and a soda was about $12. I had a really big delicious salad for about $7. Nothing outrageous to us. We were really happy with the food the entire trip - both the quality and the price. Anyway, after lunch we headed over to Grizzly Peak where Dean finally got to run around the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, one of his favorite things at California Adventure!

After all that running around and climbing we were all pretty hot and sweaty, so we decided to finally ride the Grizzly River Run, which is a river rapids type ride. We got SOAKED! But it was so much fun and Dean loved it - he laughed and laughed, probably harder than I've ever seen him laugh! He thought it was the coolest adventure ever! After getting soaked, we walked back to our hotel to rest for a couple of hours (so nice to be able to do that!).


Before our trip, we had purchased a VIP Picnic Package thing for the World of Color show at California Adventure for Monday night. Joel and I picked up our picnic dinners and took them back to our room to eat after we rested, before we headed back to the park for the evening. After our rest and our picnic dinner, we headed back to the park around 6:00. Dean wanted to ride a few more rides, so we decided to give the Toy Story Mania ride a chance. I had avoided it initially because I knew it was an interactive 3D ride and I thought it was a shooting type of game (we don't do guns and shooting play), but Dean really wanted to ride it, so we had a quick discussion and I was talked into it. It is NOT a gun thing - it's more like a fair / midway game type of thing where you just pull a ball on a string and try to aim at things like balloons to pop with a dart, plates to break with a ball, you toss rings onto little spacemen, etc - but it's all virtual reality. It's SO COOL. It ended up being one of our favorite rides of the whole trip! So glad they talked me into giving it a try! Here's Dean waiting to board the Toy Story Mania ride with his 3D glasses on:

 We walked around Paradise Pier a little more after that, enjoying seeing everything all lit up at night, and Dean rode a few more rides - a really disappointing Jumpin' Jellyfish with Tutu, and then the Zephyr ride with Joel (so glad Joel is able to ride all those spinning rides! I can do roller coasters all day, but can't even watch something that spins without feeling sick!).

Then it was time to find a place to sit among about a couple thousand other people to watch the World of Color water and light show. We had to jostle around for a good spot a good hour or more before the show even started and Dean was one pooped out little boy! He ended up falling asleep right there on the concrete before the show even started! We were all exhausted to the point of probably not really appreciating the show as much as we should have and we were glad to get back to our room and fall into bed around 9:30! But it was a pretty perfect first day. We had big plans for Tuesday - our first day at Disneyland!!

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