WDW 2021 & Disneyland 2022 – Misc. Info & Lessons Learned

This post has turned into a combined post of misc. information from the Walt Disney World trip my mom and I did in October 2021 (Part 1 and Part 2) and my recent Disneyland trip.

Everything below didn’t have a logical home in any of the 3 above linked posts, and includes some FAQ I get from folks in my life – enjoy!

Trip Stats From Walt Disney World:

  • Miles Walked: 8 per park day
  • Pins Purchased: 17
  • Puzzles Purchased: 2 boxes, 5 individual puzzles
  • Mugs Purchased: Shockingly 0
  • Churros Eaten: Somehow only 1

How did we book our Walt Disney World trip?

We went through our dear friend Traci Taylor who is a travel agent specializing in Disney and lives near WDW. The only thing we did not coordinate through her was booking our flights and that was due to using credit card points.

What did we do well in planning our Walt Disney World trip?

We were fortunate enough to be able to add one buffer day after flying to Orlando and before we started our park days, and after our park days before our travel day back to California. Both my mom and I felt like that made a huge impact on our trip as far as avoiding burnout and avoiding impulse / now-or-never buying.

We also did a lot prep work before the trip and went into each park only having 1-2 required rides / attractions and 1-2 food items we prioritized, in a couple of cases having reservations. Again, this removed impulsive choices and buying or spending time debating a bunch of food we weren’t sure if we wanted. It also made sure that rather than rushing from ride to ride we had our “must-do” items and could just experience the rest of the day without pressure to hit XX rides in order for the day or trip to feel “worth it.”

For me, what worked best was to create a Google Sheet so we could filter & prioritize. I had one page for food and one page for rides / attractions. Filters included park, land, and “details” about why we wanted to go to a specific restaurant / stand. I had the app downloaded to my phone so we could filter each day and mark what we completed.

What do we wish we would have done differently for Disney World?

I have two regrets from the trip. One was buying a margarita in Pandora. It sounds silly, but I forgot how Disney proportions their adult beverages and if I were a regular tequila consumer I would have been happy. The other was not preparing better for Epcot. We opted for being more opportunistic and had the intent to sample a bunch of things, however that led to far too many options and lots of indecision (which is funny given the spreadsheet mentioned above), coupled with a very hot day. The Epcot one is more of a lesson learned.

How expensive are your trips?

It depends, and I’m going to start the breakdown with what they look like with my partner. Back in 2017 / 2018, Levi & I were both Annual Passholders paying ~$60/month each for our tickets with our only blockout dates being around Christmas / New Year. We stayed at the same Marriott a little further away from the parks every time, and with our AP tiers we had free parking in the garage. Approx. 2017 was also when I got my Disney Visa.

My birthday in 2018 I bought a Dooney using rewards money and we had some left over for incidentals, too. Back then I was making about 30% of what I do now, and had very little as far as expenses go. Our trips back then were the cost of hotel, gas, and food in the park – incredibly minimal, and why we went as often as we did.

When we went for our anniversary this year, we did splurge on hotel – in part because of that massive bathtub – as well as dinner and a few of the souvenir items we got. We did also have to pay for park tickets out of pocket, and plane tickets for Levi. I also had boarding for the dog. We had budgeted for this, and ended up spending about what we had anticipated.

With my family, it’s very different. My family started going regularly after my dad retired for the first time in 2009 as we didn’t have a ton of family trip time like that prior. We did have annual passes back then, and the cost per person with no blockout dates was <$650 if I remember correctly. With my dad’s mobility being what it was (pre-knee replacement) and having the income, it was worth it on many of our trips to stay at Grand Californian, order room service, and do what was needed. We did eventually start staying off property but still in the same block, and it was a choice contingent on there being a shuttle for my dad. I do want to note that was all occurring from 2010 – 2012 when the cost of Disney was much less than it is now. When my mom & I took my grandma in 2018 for her 80th birthday, we made a similar decision to those we had for my dad and stayed at Grand Californian for mobility purposes.

When my mom & I went to Disney World, we spent a very long time discussing what we wanted in a trip and what our non-negotiable features were. For this trip, exploring the parks and Disney Springs were the most important to us, so we were cognizant of modes of transportation available at each resort area. Food and souvenirs were also a priority. My mom did also make the decision that class when flying was a non-negotiable. Where that landed us was flying first class, making reservations at the nice restaurants we decided we wanted to try, mapping out what mobile order food we wanted outside of that, and choosing a hotel that was near the Skyliner and would be comfortable which ended up being Pop Century. We heavily debated Animal Kingdom Lodge and Riviera, but every time we came back to the fact that our goal was to spend time absorbing the parks. As a result, spending all that money on a room we planned on using as a landing point to sleep, store items, shower, and get ready in did not make sense, and we were very happy with that decision in the end.

When we went to Disney World, I had nearly $800 in rewards money which covered most of our pricy meals and souvenirs, and had nearly $200 left over with how I broke things up. I had just under $400 built up by the time Levi and I went to Disneyland and that paid for our 3 reservations. Having credit cards that earn points for things that matter to you are important, and I’m happy with my choices in cards.

In both cases, I did have cash for tip.

Are you planning on getting back to your previous Disney trip frequency?

Honestly, no. Part of it is location, part of it is money, and part of it is time spent. Disney still holds the same weight it has, and I’m at a point where I would rather have one trip of the exorbitant quality I want it to be per year than to go for quantity of trips.

How do you think the parks compared?

I am thankful that I didn’t compare them nearly as much as I thought I would and I do treat them as separate entities.

Things I did notice:

  • PhotoPass people are EVERYWHERE in WDW.
    • PhotoPass was still pretty sporadic in comparison at Disneyland outside of the Sweetheart’s Night event. I’m interested to see how this shifts with character meets coming back.
  • The ride queues are prettier at WDW – there is a lot more covered queue area and I’m sure there’s a weather related reason.
  • The churros at Disneyland are better – this is not up for debate.
  • The castle in FL is massive. You can look at height comparisons and pictures all you want, seeing it in person is different.
  • Expedition Everest > Disneyland Big Thunder Mountain, and Thunder is one of my favorites so that says a lot
  • Mine Train > Disney World Big Thunder Mountain
  • Facade of Disneyland Haunted Mansion > Facade of Disney World Haunted Mansion
  • Interior of Disney World Haunted Mansion > Interior of Disneyland Haunted Mansion

Disneyland Anniversary & Valentine’s Day

February 2022 was the first trip I was able to make back to Disneyland since September 2018. If you would have told me back then that my next trip to Disneyland would be under this collective of circumstances, I would not have believed it. Despite that, I’m grateful for what brought me back, and that is what this post is about.

Going into this trip, both Levi & I knew it would be emotional. The last time we were at the parks together was July 2018, and that trip was emotional for other reasons. There may come a day where we discuss that topic further as I do think there are important lessons from that story, as well as how & when we got back in contact, but for now we are going to refrain – if you need a refresher on my boundaries, click the link to Disclaimers Moving Forward.

Disney Day 1

Levi flew in to Phoenix on the 11th. The next morning, we took miss girl to boarding, picked up the food we had called in ahead of time from Snooze, and arrived back at my place to finish packing and pack the car (successfully keeping the little miss in the dark that we were going somewhere without her). We drove the ~5 hours westbound and made it to our hotel around 3p.

Once we had a quick dinner via room service & got our bags unpacked, we changed to head into the park for the evening before our dinner reservations for our Anniversary.

We made it to the park, I changed my shoes from flats to my heels in the esplanade, and then we walked through park gates. It felt very surreal.

The first PhotoPass person we encountered had us do a prom-esque pose and it turned out really cute, so I’m here for it.

Once we got pictures in front of the train station, we walked hand-in-hand down Main Street, USA, which was an experience that had its own set of deep emotions tied to it.

After getting pictures and doing a couple of rides, we made our way to Grand Californian for our 8:30 reservation at Napa Rose. Dinner was absolutely amazing and we got everything our hearts desired to eat (note from the link – they do rotate the menu options).

We each got a Central Park West to open the adventure & accompany our starters – he ordered the butternut squash ravioli and I got the diver scallop. With the main course, we got glasses of wine to go with the filet he ordered and my pot roast. To close out the meal he got the up-side down pear cake and I got the creme brûlée.

To answer the inevitable question by this point of the post, yes, dinner was expensive. Disney Rewards were key here. If you read my Walt Disney World – Part 1 and Walt Disney World – Part 2 posts, you already know we had a lot of pricey restaurants & merch on that trip, Rewards are to thank & there will be a post coming on that part of the adventure coming.

After dinner we debated going back into the park, but it was already after 10 and we knew we wanted to rope drop California Adventure the next morning, so we walked back to the hotel.

Disney Day 2

We started our morning by making it to California Adventure in time for rope drop. As one does, our first order of business was Radiator Springs Racers & a picture with the Cars Land sign.

As it was Sunday, I had planned – clearly not well enough – to get Cars themed waffles from Flo’s because waffle Sunday must continue even if I’m not home. Unfortunately, through the reopen, waffles had not made it back and I was actually very sad about this. Internet is free and I did not use my resources. Whoops.

We decided to pivot breakfast plans and instead mobile ordered from Pym Test Kitchen. Mobile ordering food easily became my favorite post-closure park adjustment when my mom & I went to Disney World and that continued with Disneyland. I got the Impossible Quantum Garden Breakfast and Levi got the Ever-expanding Cinna-Pym Toast which weirded me out because it had blue flakes. Both items were delicious and had amazing presentation.

We continued our day going on rides & looking through shops. Midday we went by the hotel to change because it was H O T before heading to Downtown Disney for a late lunch at Ballast Point on our way to our later afternoon Trader Sam’s reservation.

Like the hooligans we are, we split an Uh-oa, and for our second round I got a Krakatoa Punch and he got a Zombie. On our way back through Downtown Disney we stopped in a lot of stores and my one rule at the start of the day was that my credit card does NOT make an appearance after Trader Sam’s, which I held to.

After drinks we went back into the park and I absolutely crushed Web Slingers (scored 240,000). We also did the Silly Symphony Swings. We ended up back in Cars Land for a Bacon Mac & Cheese cone, a ride, and souvenirs before wandering back to Avengers Campus to close the day with Guardians.

That night as we left the park, we got a Pirates of the Caribbean Thomas Kinkade puzzle in Cars Land, and we purchased a Tangled canvas painting by Thomas Kinkade that we had seen earlier in the day at Off the Page. It was the last one they had & we did not see it anywhere else in the parks, so naturally it had to come with us. It now lives on a wall in my apartment that will be featuring pin boards & my ear headbands in the coming weeks.

Disney Day 3

Valentine’s Day in the park was an experience in and of itself. I had managed to get us 8:30a reservations at Carnation Cafe, which was a huge accomplishment and made that the first stop in our day.

This morning was very calm as we had already processed the initial emotions of being back in Disneyland together on Saturday evening. After breakfast we got pictures in front of the partners statue before making our way to rides & churros.

Following a morning of rides and browsing shops, we made our way to Jolly Holiday to collect a mobile order for lunch before taking a midday break back at the hotel – also avoiding the cavalcade for the Super Bowl MVPs. Later in the afternoon we made our way back to the park for more rides, food, and to get checked in for Sweetheart’s Night.

Neither of us had done an after-hours event before and were really excited to share this experience. Leading up to the event we had seen a couple sneak peeks of some of the photo-ops and character sightings and knew it would be perfect.

The first order of business when we got back into the park was our Lightning Lane return for Rise of Resistance. We ended up being held in the room with the Storm Troopers for about 15 minutes, and I personally think this is one of the coolest places to get ‘stuck.’

Following that ride we picked up our mobile ordered lobster rolls from Harbour Galley and sat on the patio that is wrapped around by the river to eat. With food on board we made our way to Tomorrowland to get checked in for the Disneyland After Dark event.

After getting checked in, we made our way over towards Adventureland to ride Pirates and Jungle Cruise. After Jungle Cruise we made our way to the Tropical Hideaway for Dole Whip and the PB&J Mochi (which was surprisingly good). I am a big fan of the adjustments they made on Jungle Cruise & the use of the space for the Tropical Hideaway.

Following the food stop, we decided to go on Matterhorn and in my opinion that was a mistake. That ride is not the same ride I remember taking my 80 year old grandmother on in 2018 and that unfortunately became the last ride of the night – we had planned to also do Space Mountain.

As we got off Matterhorn and the park was cleared of everyone who was not there for the event, we sought out the site for our most important photo-op – the Tangled lantern scene.

Back in 2017 is when the Rapunzel & Flynn comparison started, so hearing that there was a photo staged for one of the most significant scenes in the movie was a part of the event we were most looking forward to.

The above photo is CLEARLY pre-COVID because we’re up close & personal / not masked with face characters. Also note my same shirt from Disney Day 2 of this trip & how early in the Loki-look-alike hair growth journey Levi was.

We absolutely resonate with the characters in individual personality and in their relationship having an outward appearance of being between people who are opposites. I have also said to him many a time that I always knew the ‘Eugene’ side whereas his public presentation is more like that of Flynn.

ANYWAY, enough with the mushy explanation. Have some mushy pictures & then we will close out this post.

After we got those adorable pictures, we did another ride, went to the photo spot by Haunted Mansion, and then closed out our must-do events in the shops of New Orleans Square.

The prompt here went from smiling to deadpan and we actually startled the Cast Member with how quickly we adjusted.

When we got back to the hotel, my back was screaming at me from the not-very-arch-supportive shoes I wore all day long. Comfy? Yes. Supportive? No.

Overall, the After Hours event was great and I’m so glad we decided to follow the impulse & buy tickets.

Post-Disney

Tuesday, Feb 15 we took our time checking out of the hotel and then went to Downtown Disney for final purchases, lunch at Naples, and to snag coffee for the drive back to Phoenix. The rest of the week was incredibly busy with Trujillo wedding prep and general life things. The following Waffle Sunday at home was really nice and featured Levi before he flew back and my parents before they started their drive.

Fun Facts & Little Accomplishments:

  • Both full days in park we walked over 10 miles each day
  • We had many churros on this trip. Disneyland Churros > Disney World Churros. No contest
  • My red anniversary shoes are the same brand as the ones I wore for Dapper Day Spring 2017 at Disneyland but not the same shoes
  • Levi made it all day long on Valentine’s Day in a white shirt and didn’t spill anything on it
  • Pre-planned – we splurged on small, complimentary, everyday wear jewelry pieces on this trip
  • I finally bought one of those damn Mickey-shaped foam soap dispensers

Disneyland for Grandma’s 80th Birthday

When I moved back to California, I wanted to have more time for Disney trips, so I made it. The more I shared my adventures with my grandma, supplemented by my mom’s experiences in the park, the more vocal grandma got about wanting to go to Disneyland herself. In 2017 we decided that we would take her for her 80th birthday that was in August of that year.

Unfortunately, that fall stayed too hot, and by the time it cooled down enough for us to be comfortable taking her, the holiday madness in the parks started. With that, we decided to make the trip in the spring. We opted for the period of time after spring breaks ended and before Grad Nite season started. This meant our trip would have to take place in the last two weeks of April.

In planning this trip, we decided that we would dedicate Monday to driving down, Tuesday and Wednesday to being in the parks, and that Thursday would be for driving home. We also went into the trip with a list of pictures we knew we wanted, food we wanted to try, and rides that were important. We are proud to say we accomplished everything on our lists!

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Everybody loaded in the Subaru ready to go to Disneyland

My mom and I picked up grandma at her house just before 10 a.m. on Monday, April 23rd. From there, we made our trek down to Anaheim. Quite a few stops were made along the way, and we finally made it down to the hotel just before 3 p.m.

For this trip with grandma, we decided to really splurge and stay at the Grand Californian – proximity to the parks, bell/valet services, room service, and amenities played a big role in our decision here. Of the Disneyland Resort hotels, this one truly is my favorite.. since the room renovations, the showers are to die for!

Once we got settled in the room, the three of us went into Downtown Disney for dinner. We made our own “family style” experience at La Brea Bakery, and it was just the right amount for each of us.

From dinner, we made our way through Downtown, pausing to go into some of the shops. We made it to the other end and found our next destination: Trader Sam’s.

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Despite it being around 6:30 or so, we lucked into a table inside! This meant grandma got to experience the activities that accompany some of the drinks (for those who are unfamiliar, this includes brief changes in lighting, yelling by the bartenders, and other special effects).

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Teacup chair by registration for the Disneyland Hotel.

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When we left Trader Sam’s, my mom wanted to go into the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel to see their teacup chairs. This was a brief detour because by this point we were all very tired from the traveling of the day. We made it to the room and called it a night shortly after.

In the Parks – Day 1:

The next morning we all got up early and started getting ready while we waited for room service to arrive. During our trip the parks closed a little earlier and opened a little later – this kept us from having to rush ourselves and grandma first thing in the morning, and kept us from staying in the parks too late.

We were at the entrance to Disneyland about a half an hour before the park officially opened. After getting through the gates, we took advantage of the fact that the park wasn’t technically open yet and wandered through the Emporium that sits on the corner near the City Hall at the start of Main Street.

After stopping to look in the shop, we made our way down Main Street to get castle pictures before it got crowded.

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We crossed the bridge into Fantasyland and went to Snow White’s Scary Adventures. When we finished there, we decided to move on to the Mad Tea Party, which grandma got a kick out of!

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When we finished our spin on the teacups, grandma expressed interest in the Matterhorn, and after mom and I weighed the pros and cons (i.e. how jerky it is, the lack of real padding, etc.) we decided to get in line.

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She ended up liking that one too!

When we were done there, mom wanted one of the chocolate churros that are a limited feature for Pixar Fest inspired by Coco (which I still haven’t seen), so we stopped at the churro cart in Frontierland. Once the churros were consumed, we went to Adventureland to do the Jungle Cruise.

Following the cruise, we made our way through New Orleans Square. While walking through the square, we witnessed a proposal at one of the caricature stands, which was adorable! Once we had passed through, grandma and I made our way to Haunted Mansion while mom waited elsewhere. When the ride was done, we met with mom where I waited in line for one of those Toy Story Alien popcorn buckets.

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I kept referring to him as my child, since he is about the size of an infant

That day we had reservations at Carnation Cafe for lunch, which was phenomenal! From there, we headed across Main Street to the silhouette shop.

The silhouettes at Disneyland have to be one of my favorite souvenirs, and I’m so glad my mom brought up wanting to do one while we were in the parks with grandma.

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Left to right: me, mom, grandma

It had been a long day already, so we started our trek to the hotel so that at the very least, grandma could have some down time. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in World of Disney, followed by the Starbucks Reserve in Downtown.

Once we got grandma back into the hotel room, I decided to look at ride wait times for some of the more intense rides that were not a particularly great idea to try and take grandma on. At that point in time, the wait time for Guardians of the Galaxy was allegedly only 45 minutes. I decided I was going to go, and I knew mom wanted to as well, so we left grandma to rest and wandered into the park (which was particularly convenient coming from the Grand Californian).

Turns out the wait time was closer to 90 minutes, which was okay overall because grandma got to really rest. When we finally got through the ride, we made our way back to the hotel room to pick up grandma so we could head back into California Adventure with her.

Our first ride stop when we were back into the park was the Little Mermaid ride. After that, we decided to take grandma on the Silly Symphony Swings. She LOVED those – they would end up being the only repeat ride with grandma the whole trip.

From the swings, we moved on to Cars Land as it was nearing dusk. The only ride we did in Cars Land that day was Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. After our ride, mom wanted a Neapolitan shake from Flo’s V8 Cafe. We walked through Cars Land with the lights on, and I made sure we walked around the back side of Flo’s toward the wharf so that grandma could see they way that the Cadillac Range gets lit up at night (a personal favorite of mine).

We got back to the hotel relatively early that night, which was good because it was a long day. According to my phone, we had walked just over 5 miles that day.

In the Parks – Day 2

Day 2 of fun in the parks started similarly to day 1 in that we got room service and went to Disneyland first. We only had one objective for that park when they opened at 9 a.m. – get a picture with the Mickey flowers in front of the train station.

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After we got our picture, we hit California Adventure. Once through the park gates, I took our park tickets and got FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers while mom and grandma took their time walking up Buena Vista Street. From there, they met me at the entrance to Cars Land so we could get a picture with the Buzz and Woody cars by the “Welcome” sign.

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With our picture taken care of we made our way to Toy Story Midway Mania, which only had a 5 minute wait time. Once that ride was marked off the list, we made our way back around the pier the long way (construction is still heavily underway) to the swings so grandma could ride them again.

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Mom and grandma went on their way to do Soarin’ and I made my way to the Starbucks location in the park. When we met back up, we headed towards Hollywood Land. On our way to our next destination, we took a little detour to take a picture by a mosaic wall near Schmoozies, ride Mike and Sulley to the Rescue (a ride mom and I had never been on) because grandma likes Monsters Inc, and to grab a hot dog.

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Around that time was our return time for our Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses, so we made our way there through Bug’s Land so that grandma could experience that. Mom and I also paused to get FastPasses for a second round of Guardians later that afternoon. Following our race, I wandered to the Cozy Cone for a bacon mac & cheese cone and my mom went back to Flo’s for another Neapolitan shake which grandma had a little bit of.

At that point, we had finished most of what we wanted to do in California Adventure, so we headed back across the plaza to Disneyland. Our first order of business in the park was to take the railroad on a round trip. Once we made it back, we walked up main street and got pictures in our Minnie ears with the “Partners” statue.

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That day was particularly warm, so we made our way towards Adventureland to get some Dole Whip and sit through a Tiki Room show. After the show we walked across the park to the Monorail. We rode the Monorail to Downtown Disney, and made a stop in the new Disney Home Store as we made our way from the station to the hotel.

With grandma at the hotel to rest once more, mom and I made our way back to California Adventure for our Guardians FastPass return. After the ride we got back to the hotel (much faster than the day before) and gathered grandma to get dinner.

We walked back to the park entrance of Disneyland and jumped on the train for a 3/4 trip to Tomorrowland. Dinner was at Pizza Planet (which is fantastic rebranding in my opinion) where mom got pasta and grandma and I got slices of pizza. Mom also got one of the Alien macaroons. After dinner, we got back on the train to go to Main Street and head back to the hotel.

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Based on my phone’s tracker, we walked just over 6 miles the second in-park day of our trip.

We had room service delivered Thursday morning before we left and were thankful for bell services to help us get our stuff back down to the car. As might be anticipated with typical LA traffic, it took us an hour and a half to get the 30 miles from Anaheim to Downtown LA. We ended up making it home in just about 5 hours.

We all had a great trip to Disneyland, and I’m so grateful that I have those memories with my mom and grandma!

Dapper Day Spring 2017 at Disneyland

Though I have always been intrigued by the Dapper Day events at (not hosted by) the Disney Parks, it has been a dream of Hannah’s to go to Disneyland during Dapper Day and participate. After she took me for my birthday in March 2015, we decided our next trip together would be sponsored by me so we could celebrate her birthday, and so we could do Dapper Day. The serious planning phase started around February 2016, and it was agreed that the soonest we could make the trip would be the spring of 2017.

When we learned that the Spring 2017 Dapper Day “Outing” event in Disneyland would be April 23, we planned around that. We discussed and concluded that our best bet would be to drive down Saturday, be in the park Sunday and Monday, and then drive home Tuesday.

As planned, Hannah and I left my house on Saturday around 9 a.m. with the intention of being able to avoid the traffic through LA on our way down (unfortunately, that is never actually the case). We checked in to the Disneyland Hotel around 2 p.m. and quickly settled into our room. That afternoon, we opted to walk Downtown Disney before returning to the hotel to camp out at Trader Sam’s.

Headboard lit up at night

The next day we got up early and headed to the park, all decked out in our Dapper Day outfits, ready to participate!

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While I had done a partial day in flip-flops in the park, heels were a new mountain to conquer (spoiler alert: I lasted an hour). For those who are interested, we both got our dresses off of amazon.com and our shoes from DSW (my shoes are Journee Collection, Hannah’s are Crown Vintage).

From pictures, we went to the walk-up Mint Julep bar in New Orleans Square to get Mickey shaped beignets for breakfast. This particular Disney food is a favorite of Hannah’s that she got me hooked on during our 2015 trip together.

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How great do these look!

Once we were done, we started on rides in Adventureland and New Orleans Square. The morning included Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. We also walked through Tarzan’s Treehouse.

Before leaving that area, we checked out a fun detail in the park to the right of the FastPass line for Indiana Jones – the home of Peter Begorra, a little man of Disney that had his own “gold book.”

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We moved towards Big Thunder Mountain and Fantasyland from there. For this trip, the rides we had to do were Alice in Wonderland and the teacups. We ended up adding on the Storybook canal boats and Casey Jr. train, and Hannah got to see her favorite princess.

After that, we both needed beverages from Market House *wink wink* and so we went there before heading toward the plaza outside Town Hall to wait for the Dapper Dans. At 1:15 on the dot we heard their voices carrying down Main Street U.S.A from where we had just been, so we wandered down. After their set, we were lucky enough to get a picture with them!

As we left the Dapper Dans, my dear friend Paul made it to the park, so we met him near the Plaza Inn. We made our way to the Mark Twain Riverboat for pictures – Hannah and I begrudgingly put our shoes back on and the three of us boarded the boat. On the second floor of the three floor riverboat, there was a live band performing. It’s interesting to see how Disney doesn’t put on Dapper Day themselves, but they are active participants and do what they can to not only acknowledge the event, but contribute to the experience.

From the Rivers of America we made our way across the park to Tomorrowland so we could ride Space Mountain and drive through Autopia. After that, we switched parks and rode Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, got pizza, and all three of us squeezed into a clam shell to go through Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Around that time we all parted ways and Hannah and I went back to our hotel room to get ready for dinner. We wandered downstairs for our Steakhouse 55 reservation and were seated almost immediately. Hannah got filet mignon, I got the salmon, we split a side of parmesan scalloped potatoes, and then had a vanilla bean creme brûlée for dessert. We both got adult beverages to accompany our dinner – Hannah got a sangria and I got a Maker’s Mark and Coke.

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After dinner, we changed and headed back to the park. Originally, the intent was to see the 8:30 showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade, but we didn’t even make it to the park until then, so we beelined through Adventureland ahead of the parade path on Main Street U.S.A. to ride Indiana Jones and Haunted Mansion a second time. After hearing an announcement that it was too windy for fireworks, we made our way to Main Street to find a place on the curb for the second run of the Main Street Electrical Parade. We found a spot outside of the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Hannah went inside and got us ice cream, and we waited for the parade to start. Being the second run of the night, it went from the Fire Station back towards Small World (rather than the opposite, which is the path for the earlier showing).

Super Honest Confession: I wasn’t impressed with the parade. at. all. If you know me, you know this is historically one of my favorite parades to the point where I refused to sit through Paint the Night because I thought it was going to be a knockoff. I have vivid memories of being 3 on my dad’s shoulders watching the parade from Main Street, and throughout my childhood wore out a VHS tape of the parade because I loved it so much. I understand that over the course of decades, things will degrade, but for the love of all that is sacred, please do not think it is acceptable to give Tinkerbell and her fairy friends a section of the parade when they were not a focus of Disney until the 2000’s, nor is it necessary to add dancers to the Pinocchio section. If the floats are down, drop the area entirely or keep the parade off the lineup until the problem is remedied. Despite that rant, I do have a few accolades. I was so happy to have the original feelings I had upon seeing the train coming down Main Street, the Alice in Wonderland section with the little animals was still as adorable and quirky as I remember, I appreciate that the characters now have a few extra lights incorporated into the costuming (especially the headpieces so you can see their faces), Pete’s Dragon was present in all it’s glory, and the America finale float and it’s dancing troop were seemingly untouched. I was also excited to see the Dwarves and the mine train intact, and to see the Cinderella section was mostly untouched.

When the parade was over, we decided we had gotten our money’s worth for the day and headed to our room for the night.

The next morning, the parks opened a little later, so we got to sleep in (for us) a little bit. Our plan was to go into Disneyland and have Plaza Inn for breakfast, but when the lines for Disneyland entrance were all the way across the plaza to the entrance for California Adventure at a quarter to nine, we opted to go to Starbucks in Downtown Disney instead. This reserve store is SO cool, and being a nearly 6 month partner now, I have a different appreciation of how the store is set up and everything they offer.

When we finished we headed into California Adventure, which was not slated to open to the public until 10 a.m., but we got a magic morning for staying at a Disney hotel. Once inside, we got a FastPass for Soarin’ and then made our way to Toy Story Midway Mania. I know many people who are upset that Soarin’ Over California was done away with and it changed to a world view, but I have to say, the new version is beautifully done.

Once we left Soarin’ from our FastPass usage, we moved to Ariel’s Undersea Adventure for a second ride. PSA: If you’re in line for a ride, it is rude to hold up that line (which is otherwise essentially a walk-on) so that it backs up onto a major walkway to take pictures of a mini-show for 15 minutes. If you want to watch, exit the line, the ride will still be there.

Following our trip under the sea, we got in the queue for Cove Bar, and I opted to wait for a table on the water. Paul joined us once more on our adventures. All three of us ordered drinks off the *official* secret menu. From left to right, Hannah got a Neverland Tea, Paul got an Earthquake, and I got a Fun Wheel, all of which are plays on a Long Island Ice Tea.

After Cove Bar, Hannah and I needed to swing by the room, and Paul joined us (he hadn’t seen the rooms in the Disneyland Hotel since the remodel). On our way back out, we opened the elevator doors to find Pluto wandering the halls, so naturally we asked if we could take a picture with him.

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After our brief trip to the room, we opted to go to Disneyland for the Tiki Room and some Dole Whip. We rode the monorail from the hotel into Tomorrowland (something I hadn’t done in years) and by that time they were doing test runs on the Matterhorn which had been down for refurbishment, so the water was running. I got the lovely picture below while walking down the steps from the monorail platform..

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After the Tiki Room, Paul had to leave us once more. Hannah and I made another pass through Haunted Mansion before walking through the shops in New Orleans Square. I also took the opportunity to do something I’ve never done before – I got a diagnosis from Shrunken Ned the Jungle Witch Doctor in the Adventureland shops and paid for a fortune from the Pirate near Pieces of Eight (but I ended up with 3).

Hannah’s list of things she had to do on the trip included walking through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, so we made that the next stop on our tour.

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We decided to make Cars Land the next stop from our Castle walk-through, so we headed toward that park. We took a few detours, however, to walk through some of the shops in Hollywood Land. After riding Radiator Springs Racers, I realized I needed mac and cheese in a bread cone from the Cozy Cone Motel.

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#sorrynotsorry #carbsarelife

After my cone, we wandered over and rode Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, followed by a final round of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

We went back to the hotel from there because it had cooled off significantly in the park (truth be told, the whole day had been relatively overcast). When we got back, we went to Disneyland because Hannah had the idea to get castle pictures at dusk. This was followed by dinner at Pizza Port in Tomorrowland. From there, it got dark quickly, so we decided to make our way over to Big Thunder Mountain. On our way, we stopped to get a picture of the “Partners” statue with the castle lit behind it.

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Big Thunder Mountain is one of the rides in the park that only gets better as the night goes on, and we were lucky enough to get the last row on the train for this ride.

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The last thing on Hannah’s to-do list was get a Mickey pretzel and cheese, so we made our way to the nearest pretzel stand. We got her pretzel and moved on to sit by the Rivers of America outside the entrance to Pirates so we had a view of Frontierland and the Riverboat lit up.

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Once the pretzel was consumed, we decided to take one last trip among the dead at the Haunted Mansion and one more trip through Pirates of the Caribbean (two days after the fact we were very upset that we missed Johnny Depp on his most recent ride-crashing by one day). After Pirates, we called it a night on our Disney trip.

Tuesday morning we both got up relatively early and explored the grounds of the hotel prior to checkout. The Rose Court had just been visited by the landscapers and looked beautiful.

Overall, the trip was great and Dapper Day was a major success. I am definitely going to be looking for more reasons to wear my dress and shoes from the day, and am not opposed to participating in Dapper Day again in the future.

My Take on How to Keep Families (or Groups) of All Ages Happy at Disneyland

One of my coworkers recently planned a family trip to Disneyland that would be the first where both of her kids are able to participate in and remember the experience. As an avid Disney-goer who has gone with groups as small as 2 people and as large as 8, I offered her advice to make the most of their time once they had made the base decisions, which include where they’re staying, how long they have in the park, budget, etc.

This was a welcomed challenge for me because she has younger kids and I do not have kids, nor does my family have young members (of those we frequently see & travel with, the youngest human member is 19). Despite this, I do know the parks and how to coordinate group trips. No matter the age range, the first step in planning any Disney trip is figuring out how many days you will have in the park and if you will be getting park hopper or single park tickets. The group I was advising had 3 day park hopper tickets (which is plenty of park time to accomplish a lot with a group of any size and age) and were staying in one of the most conveniently located off-site hotels.

With this information, I compiled a list of things that I believe are essential to a successful Disneyland trip. In this version of the information, some of the points are linked to where they can be found on the Disney website. The key to having a successful group trip is figuring out what is important to your individual group members and “planning” time in the park accordingly. To accomplish this, there are a few rules of thumb I like to follow:

  1. Try to limit yourselves to one big show per day (unless they’re in the same park) for a couple of reasons; the first is that a lot of the night shows overlap, so it’s only physically possible to see one, the other is that you don’t want to overload on shows. The shows in the same park could be done on the same night if you wanted to because the only available ones are staggered in the same location. Example I gave for their trip for February of 2017: It would make sense if you wanted to do the Electric Light Parade and the Firework show the same night if you wanted because the Electric Light Parade is at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Main Street and fireworks run at 9:25 p.m. Friday night and Saturday night in front of the Castle. World of Color shows in California Adventure at similar times to the shows in Disneyland so it is not possible to see all of both shows.
  2. Make sure everyone is fed and hydrated. I know the coordinator of any group is going to be a “mom” type figure and that goes without saying, but it is honestly amazing how moods can change if one of those things doesn’t happen, even with adults.
  3. Don’t forget to alternate between people’s interests, but also make sure you’re not jumping back and forth across each park or between parks each turn to accomplish this. One way to get through this making sure that everyone is happy is to take turns picking rides. This can be a whole day or part day “rotation” and it is completely up to preference if the choices are just the kids, all members of the group deciding together, or between the kid’s individual choices and a “family” activity (or any other variation thereof).
  4. Although this is a trip intended for the group to be together, there will likely be times where splitting the group and meeting back up is the best choice. For my family, this means that while my dad and brother ride Star Tours, my mom and I will go shop, get snacks, meet princesses, meet with friends, or go on another ride the boys are less interested in like Alice in Wonderland. When we’re done, we would head to a pre-determined location to regroup and decide where to go from there. Also, there were times the line for Star Tours would be short when the boys were done and we had no plans at a set time after, so they would get back in line and text us that it would be another 20-30 minutes or so. For my coworker’s family, I gave the example of taking her daughter to meet Elsa and Anna at Disney Animation in Hollywood Land while her husband and son do California Screamin’ (a ride her daughter might still be too short to ride and I know she has no interest in doing). This way, everyone gets to accomplish something they want to without forcing other group members to do something they don’t want to, and it gives everyone a little break.

Although these seem inclusive of a lot of park decisions, these are not the only things to consider while planning.

During your trip, DO:

  • As a group coordinator, make sure everyone (including yourself) gets to do something they really want to before you stop to have lunch, and everyone gets to do something they really want to do before leaving the parks for the night. This doesn’t have to be a ride, it can be meeting a character, seeing a show, or eating a pretzel (or churro, or Dole whip).
  • Make sure everyone stays hydrated and fed (I know I said it before but it’s important). Bring snacks in a backpack that are easy to eat in line, and bring your own water bottles (you can refill them at drinking fountains throughout the parks) and cups of ice water are free at quick service restaurants.
  • Ask people to take pictures for you. The Disney PhotoPass employees are always happy to take pictures using your camera or phone in iconic locations throughout the parks (it’s literally what they get paid to do.. they will also take some with their cameras that you have no obligation to purchase later). In more obscure park locations, offer to take pictures for other families, and if they don’t offer to do the same, ask them.
  • Give each person an opportunity to get a souvenir that is meaningful to them to commemorate the trip. There are a lot of shops throughout both parks and downtown that offer products of all types and price ranges. One that has always been a fun one for me is using the penny presses, which are very inexpensive. img_0478
  • Spend some time in each park at night just taking in the sights; I think there is something truly magical about Main Street and Cars Land lit up at night.
  • The first two days of the trip should start in different parks. It is a personal preference where to start and can be influenced by the time each park opens and whether or not your tickets have a Magic Morning, but those first two days should not be the same starting park. Any days after that you can start wherever you want to, but each park deserves to be experienced right at open at least one day of the trip. With park openings, we have found that in California Adventure, literally at park opening is the best time to go on Radiator Springs Racers (if you don’t want to get a FastPass) or Toy Story Midway Mania, and in Disneyland this is typically the best time to do Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, and Star Tours if you’re not wanting to get a FastPass, and Peter Pan because it doesn’t have a FastPass option).

During your trip, I RECOMMEND:

  • Taking a break in the early afternoon to go back to your hotel room for a nap/breather (even just an hour will do), especially on day 2 or 3. This has a few perks; it keeps you out of the park during the heat of the day (not as big of an issue in winter) and will help everyone refresh mentally and physically so you can happily make it to park close on the nights the park is open later.
  • Limiting the amount of soda you drink (it loops back to the hydration idea).
  • If it might rain during your trip, go to the Dollar Store before you leave for your trip and get ponchos there. These easily fit in backpacks and are a much better strategy than waiting to buy them in Anaheim or in the parks.
  • Taking band-aids for blisters. Another good trick is putting athletic tape over band-aids to help them stay on in the park. This also significantly cuts down on further rubbing and pain experienced.
  • Bring entertainment activities that aren’t necessarily electronic. Some rides will have longer wait times that are unavoidable. You know your kids/family members and what will keep them occupied best to help ease the wait time. You may not need these type of things at all, but it’s definitely something to consider when packing.
  • Talking to and interacting with employees. Everyone – characters, attraction workers, guest relations, staff cleaning, and more. Main Street just beyond the tunnels is home to guest relations, a fire department that you can explore, and museum type attractions. Ask employees about everything you see; you don’t have to be on a tour to get “tour” type answers. My example here is the gallery right next to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln which has very expensive artwork in it; there is a massive safe to the left of the register that had an actual function when the park opened, a fact I learned while talking to the cashiers.
  • We like using day 3 of a 3 day trip to do “finishing touches” type things. To do this, we treat the first part of the day as the time to make sure we visit the rides and attractions we haven’t gotten to yet and really want to experience while there, and the rest of the day is used for repeating any rides we want to hit for a second (or third, or fourth) time. This is also the time to make final decisions about souvenirs.  
  • Go to traditional photo places, but look for alternate angles. For example, castle pictures are just as good taken from one of the sides as they are from directly in front of the castle.
  • Go up seemingly obscure paths. There is no part of the park that goes without thought, and there are fun surprises and things to see everywhere.

During your trip, DO NOT:

  • Eat every meal in the park or on park property (hotels, Downtown Disney). Sure, the locations are convenient, but this is a major unnecessary expense. When you are eating in the park, consider splitting entrees between group members or having the meals slightly later than usual because of portion sizes.
  • Feel like you have to buy a ton of Disney Merchandise. It all adds up really quickly, and character preferences will shift as kids grow up. The Dollar Store also has little Disney things that you can get and take with you to give to the kids during the trip (we even do this for travel Kleenex, Q-tips, band-aids, etc. that we want on theme).

Along with this, I offered some other helpful tips:

  • Bring your own water bottles and food into the park. The only rule is that you can’t bring glass (with the exception being pre-packaged baby food jars and smaller things along those lines) or alcohol into the park.
  • As you enter the park, grab maps & show schedules when you get your ticket scanned.
  • Download the Disneyland app for current wait times in both parks. The app also has times for shows, street performances, and events, as well as park hours, character locations, restaurant hours and menus, and bathroom locations.
  • If you don’t want to use the app (or just don’t want to pull your phone out), there is a kiosk with up-to-date wait times outside the Jolly Holiday Café in Disneyland and one on the far side of Carthay Circle in Disney’s California Adventure.
  • The monorail runs between Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland and is particularly useful if you want to spend some time exploring Downtown closer to the Disneyland Hotel and want to go right back into the deeper parts of Disneyland.
  • There are lockers of different sizes available for rent in both parks; these are a good idea for storing bulky sweaters you might need later, coolers (you are allowed to bring small coolers into the park, I recommend using this for cold sandwiches or keeping additional bottles of water cold that you don’t want to carry around all day), stuff you don’t want to carry around, etc.
  • Make sure any and all backpacks/bags/coolers are easily accessible for the security staff checking bags as you enter park property (also keep in mind you now have to go through metal detectors when entering park property, so plan what you wear and how you pack accordingly).
  • Turn your phones on airplane mode if you’re in indoor lines (like Indiana Jones and Soarin’). The buildings aren’t made to receive cell phone reception and your phone will drain it’s battery looking for reception.

A dear friend of mine whose family also frequents Disneyland added that it’s wise to set a daily budget, it will help you watch your spending for the whole trip.

I do my best to make every Disney trip I take a little bit different. Sure, there are staples that must happen on every trip like taking pictures just inside park gates by the flowers and in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, riding Big Thunder Mountain and the new-ish Little Mermaid ride, and eating my weight in churros. Despite that, each trip ends up having it’s own theme which in the past have included my brother’s childhood best friend’s birthday, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, a girls trip with my mom, best friend, and her mom, variations of “Brittany & Hannah Adventures” (the next installation of which is coming April of this year), and my mom’s birthday; almost all of these trips end up having special guests (namely Paul, Emily, and Dani).

I know this seems like a lot of information, but once you’re in the parks it feels much more intuitive. No matter what details your trip includes, what is most important is that everyone enjoys their time.

 

Disneyland Diamond Celebration: A Birthday, Graduation, and Well-Deserved Vacation

Hi, I’m Brittany, and I’m a Disney Addict. *Hi Brittany!* Some of my earliest memories consist of sitting on the floor in front of the television in my living room watching The Little Mermaid until I literally wore out the VHS tape. I was a touch obsessed.

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Take a special note of those rockin’ slippers

I used to go to Disneyland more frequently than I do now. Usually, I go with my family. (Fascinating tidbit: one of our past family trips was actually planned for us to arrive September 11, 2001, but for obvious reasons we didn’t go and got the trip refunded.) Over the years various friends have gone with us, been there at the same time, or have been working there, and as such have joined in on the adventure. Though, 3 of the 4 trips I currently have “planned” are with friends.

This trip was different from past trips for a few reasons. For my mom, it served as a birthday present and a more than deserved vacation for her after taking care of my couch-bound father for 4 months. Another purpose was to celebrate my college graduation. It was also the first trip to The Happiest Place On Earth we took without at least my dad and brother. As such, we wanted to make sure we took the time to do a lot of things we hadn’t done before.

 

Day 1: Sunday, August 21

We got to Anaheim around 11 a.m. where we checked in to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. Once our stuff was unpacked, we walked through Downtown Disney, looked in some shops, and had nachos at Tortilla Jo’s before heading towards the Disneyland Hotel.

At the recommendation of the internet and friends who were at Disneyland the week before us, we went to Trader Sam’s which is located between the pool for the Disneyland Hotel and the hotel’s Rose Garden.

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Imagine that the Tiki Room replaced the music for alcohol and chanting – that is Trader Sam’s. They also serve food and non-alcoholic beverages, and have both indoor and outdoor table service.

We decided to order an Uh-oA! which they recommend only be ordered by 2+ people (rightfully so, I might add) and they light on fire once they deliver it to your table.

After partaking in things that angered the tiki gods (or so we were told), we went to the Steakhouse 55 lounge and had lobster sliders for dinner. Shameful admission: I was in bed by 7:30 p.m. that night.

Day 2: Monday, August 22

My mom and I started our morning with a 6 a.m. power walk through California Adventure. As early as it was, I really liked it because it was a completely different way of experiencing the park. The 2 mile walk was a loop from the park entrance inside the Grand Californian that went through most of the park. As we walked through, we saw the workers power-washing the walkways, performing maintenance, and trucks delivering things throughout the park. After seeing the work that goes into preparing the park for opening, I have a renewed appreciation for the hard work behind the magic of Disney.

Once the parks were officially open, we headed over to Disneyland. Since it was just the two of us, we spent a little bit of time wandering through the stores. We then made our way to the Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones before getting Castle pictures.

After Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, we made our way to Hyperspace Mountain, followed by  mac & cheese hot dogs (shame, shame, shame *ding-ding-ding*). Round 1 of Thunder Mountain concluded the morning in Disneyland.

The afternoon started in California Adventure where we looked in shops and went to the Cove Bar.

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My mom and I decided to split an order of Lobster Nachos and a Funwheel (it starts off being about 4 different colors.. I had started mixing it before the picture was taken), both of which I would recommend 10/10.

When the evening rolled around, we headed back to Disneyland for some rides and Dole Whip, then crossed back over to California Adventure for Tower of Terror and Soarin’.

Distance Walked: 8.15 mi + 2 mi power walk

Day 3: Tuesday, August 23

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Park day 2 started off with a churro on Main Street (believe it or not, I only had 2 the whole trip). Our first stop was Fantasyland and then we moved to Toontown, followed by the Matterhorn.

For lunch, I met my dear friend, king, and favorite Disney employee Paul at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. I must say, the people watching in this part of the park is PRIME.

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If you need to find the FastPass Distribution for Space, he’s your guy!

Later that afternoon, my mom and I went back to Trader Sam’s. This trip, we sat outside and got a Piranha Pool, which was a far more reasonable drink for people who want to be a functioning park guest for the remainder of that day. When we returned to the parks, the rides included Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (which were ADORABLE), The Little Mermaid, Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain, and Hyperspace Mountain.

Distance Walked: 10.58 mi

Day 4: Wednesday, August 24

On our last day we used the Magic Morning we had to go into California Adventure before park open. We beat the crowds to Toy Story Midway Mania (151,000+ points for me!) and a second round of Soarin’ which was followed by a collection of repeat rides once the park was fully open.

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I met a friend from high school who has since moved to the LA area at the La Brea Bakery for brunch in Downtown. After that, my mom and I returned to Disneyland for more rides, shopping, and pictures.

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The late afternoon was spent in California Adventure doing a few more rounds of some of the previously mentioned rides, which was followed by dinner at the Storyteller’s Cafe in the Grand Californian. We returned to DCA after dinner to ride the trolley and Tower of Terror in it’s current state one final time before heading back to Disneyland for a last call on purchases and rides.

In Disneyland, I bought a pair of 60th Anniversary ears. I had bought a pair of ears when my family went in 2005 for the 50th Anniversary, and it is now my goal to have a pair of ears for every 10-year anniversary from the 50th through the 100th [which I already tentatively have a trip planned for].

Distance Walked: 9.56 mi

 

Trip Stats:

Different Rides: 22

Total Ride Count: 38

Approx. Total Distance: 30.3 mi

 

Looking back at everything we did, I realize we did a LOT of park-hopping. We didn’t go on as many rides as we might “normally” have, but we experienced other things the parks and park property had to offer. On this trip I did realize that I am getting too old to have 3 full days in the park, as my joints and muscles are still on strike.

 

Side Note 1: Throughout the park they had set up some really cute 60th Anniversary photo spots for some of the more iconic attractions that I honestly wish were up for more than just the occasion.

 

Side Note 2: While the re-theming of Tower of Terror is something that I am not personally thrilled about, it caused me to take some time to look at the little details of the current facade before they go away. For a number of reasons, I thought it was fitting that I found this sign on the upper level.

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