Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2014 Southern California Trip: Disneyland Day 3

Day 3 of our Disneyland trip just happened to fall on Valentine's Day. I've heard that in past years Disney's had all the different fairy tale couples out for Valentines Day, so I was disappointed that they didn't have them this year. As far as I could tell, the park didn't do anything particularly special to celebrate the day, which is very unlike Disney. At least we got to celebrate our own Valentines Day! We had some good alone time enjoying the fireworks and Fantasmic thanks to mom and dad staying at the hotel with Tyler. It was like being on our honeymoon again.

But that was the end of the day. Let's start at the beginning. Thanks to staying at a Disney hotel, we got to enjoy early entrance into California Adventure that morning. Tower of Terror was the only thrill ride I hadn't been on yet, so that was my top priority. The rest of the family wanted to do Soarin' first, but since I'd already been on it twice the day before, we decided to separate. Mom offered to come with us to keep an eye on Tyler, but since she'd spent a lot of both of the previous days doing just that, I wanted her to have some fun first.

Only about 8 attractions are open during early entrance, and hotel guests enter through the CA Adventure entrance at Disney's Grand Californian. Even though we got there early, there was already quite a line forming, but fortunately it was quick moving. Soarin' is the closest open ride to that entrance while Tower of Terror is the furthest, so Soarin' had a considerably longer line than Tower of Terror. We had less than 5 minutes to wait once we got there.

On our way to Tower of Terror, we passed the fast pass area for Racers and saw that there was already a short line of about 20 people waiting. You're not allowed to get fast passes during the early magic hour, which meant these people were planning on waiting there an entire hour. This struck me as a bit odd since the standby line for Racers was only 45 minutes. Why not just ride stand-by rather than waiting 60 minutes for a fast pass? We decided to do it ourselves since Ty had fallen asleep in the stroller and someone needed to wait with him anyway, but I didn't see a single other person in line with a sleeping baby. The only logical reason I could think of is that these were just really nice people who were willing to let the rest of their group do the other fun rides and then have their fast passes ready to give them right when the park officially opened. Hopefully they were rotating with other members of their group so no one person had to miss out on their entire extra magic hour.

Oscar did the waiting first while I rode Tower of Terror with mom. Mom and I took the long way through Cars Land and Bugs Land since I hadn't realized there was a pretty direct route from where we were. At least we got a few cute mom and daughter pictures along our way. Mom seemed to really enjoy Tower of Terror, but it was pretty clear that she was terrified (in a good way). I saw her flailing her arms trying to find something to hold on to, so I grabbed her hand and put it on my thigh. I had a handle next to me on the edge seat, which in hindsight would have been the better place for mom to sit.

Mom then switched places with Oscar, and he and I rode Tower of Terror together. We'd also grabbed a parent pass, but since the line was still short and fast, we didn't bother using it. By the time Oscar and I had finished up, the Racers fast pass line was just beginning to move. Our passes weren't valid for use for another hour, so we decided to do a few other rides until our time came up. Ty was beginning to wake up, and I wanted to take him on Monster's Inc since it'd been shut down on us after waiting 20 minutes for it the previous day. We had to walk a decent distance to get there (enjoying the 5 dime musical group on the way), and the fast pass line for Racers had become monstrous! The end of the line followed us nearly all the way to Monsters. It still didn't make much sense to me why you would get in it. It would take you about 30 minutes to get through it, which then gets you in the fastpass line, which still takes about 15 minutes. If it were me I would have just gotten in the stand-by line while it was still under an hour. It's consistently about 2 hours long for the remainder of the day.
When we arrived at Monster's Inc, we saw the stroller that Mike and Shan had rented parked in the stroller parking area. I called Mike and found out Shannon had actually taken the kids on Monsters while the adults went on Tower of Terror. We never caught up with them, though, since they were already on the ride by the time we got there. Fortunately there was no line at all this time and the ride was perfectly functional. Ty was engrossed by it as he was with every ride we took him on.

We tried to see the Muppets 3D show after Monsters, but the last one had just started so it was going to be another 20 minutes before we could go in. I'd seen it and the bugs life show before, and of the two I definitely prefer "It's Tough to Be a Bug." If we were going to have to wait for a show anyway, I said let's go back for that one. We did, and luckily for us we only had about a minute of waiting before the theater doors opened. Ty really enjoyed it, though he did get scared and cried briefly when the cockroaches attacked the audience. It was his only negative reaction to any of the attractions, and he went back to being happily entertained by it as soon as the attack was over.

In the meantime, the kiddos were meeting and getting autographs from Frozone.

Mom and I posed with the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey before walking back to use our Racers fastpasses. Oscar stayed with Ty and fed him a pouch of solids while mom and I had fun. I just love our wild and crazy hair in this picture!
Although Oscar had grabbed a parent pass, he still had his fast pass, so there was no immediate need to use it. Parent passes are valid the rest of the day and allow for up to 3 people. Ty was definitely getting hungry in spite of his pouch of solids, but the solids at least kept him happy until I could walk to the baby care area. Mom and I got this cute pic on the right along the way.

Nursing Ty was so much better at the baby care area than anywhere else I had to nurse him at the park. He somehow knows when I'm uncomfortable and doesn't nurse as well, like when 20 minutes while I was standing in line weren't enough for him on day 1. It's nice and quiet with rocking chairs, so Ty could finally get a chance to relax and have his fill. He was so much happier afterwards too! Oscar had arrived just as I was finishing up, and Ty was super smiley and cute when he saw him. The ladies at the Baby Care area were really nice and completely doted over him as he had a few minutes to crawl around. It made for a pleasant break for all of us. I'd highly recommend taking advantage of it if you're ever there with a baby. Even if you don't nurse, they sell formula and diapers if needed, and they have high chairs for solids. They also have little toilets for toddlers. All of the toilets in Disney's restrooms have automatic flush, which often scares children. The toilets at the baby care areas let the kids do their own flushing.
Now that Ty was happy, we all went on the Ariel ride again as we worked our way back towards the special hotel guest entrance. Mom and Tyler were both getting tired and needed a break, so they went back to the hotel together while Oscar and I did the Grizzly River Run water ride. While in line we got to know an older couple that were celebrating their anniversary that day. We told them our anniversary was coming up in 3 days, and that we had spent our honeymoon at Disneyland.

As you can see from the pictures we posed for afterwards, Oscar and I got thoroughly soaked! Good thing it was a lot warmer than when we were here on our honeymoon! Grizzly River Run is my favorite water tube ride of any theme park I've been to, and I've been on the ones at Lagoon, Sea World, Animal Kingdom, MGM, and more. It shoots up a ton of water, has lots of dips and drops, and spins you around on the final plunge at the end.
I'd texted Mike to say we'd meet everyone somewhere over in Disneyland, but we never picked a spot and just ended up randomly finding each other at the Indiana Jones fast pass line. They'd already grabbed theirs' and had been enjoying a Dole whip as we were just arriving. After reuniting we all went over to ride Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Carribean. Ethan sat between Oscar and I on Haunted Mansion and enjoyed the part where a ghost appears in your car as you pass the mirrors. The ghost was right on top of him!
By then we were all hungry for lunch. Oscar and I decided to stay in the park while everyone else went to a pizza place in downtown Disney. There they met up with mom and Ty and came back into the park with them.

In the meanwhile Oscar and I went over to Pizza Port in Tomorrowland and grabbed a fast pass for Space Mountain that wasn't valid until 7:25pm that evening. We then went over to Innoventions and saw a photopass photographer that got us a shot with the Matterhorn in the background. The photographer was actually there for photo opportunities with Thor in 30 minutes. He told us to come back for it, but it would have been a bit too tight with our Indiana Jones fastpasses.
We enjoyed the Iron Man exhibit and Oscar loved the kitchen inside. This table would be absolutely perfect for him to experiment in! There's so much space, lots of storage below, a computer screen for entertainment or pulling up recipes, and a nearby sink. I didn't even have to ask Oscar to pose in it. He went into the nook entirely of his own accord to see what it would feel like to own one.
On our way back to Indiana Jones, we got a few Valentines pictures with the castle/statue in the background. They gave us a magic shot where Tinkerbell appears in our hands. Sorry if watching these flashing GIF files gives you a headache. Google+ makes these types of shots when it senses a motion pattern. They bugged me at first, but now I love them.

After doing Indiana Jones, Oscar decided it was his turn to take a nap and he went back to the hotel. I waited for the rest of the family to join me, and right as I'm getting out of the bathroom, I saw Mike and a few others coming towards me. Mike flashed me some fast passes and asked if I wanted to do Indiana Jones with them. They'd left mom and dad and the twins behind to walk at their own pace since they weren't interested in the ride. I'd told mom I'd meet her at the bathrooms, but she didn't know I'd gone on the ride with Mike. She spent awhile trying to find me, but eventually we all got back together.

From there everyone else decided to head over to Toontown, but I stopped at the baby care area to nurse and change Ty. Afterwards I tried unsuccessfully to watch the parade with him, but he wasn't content to sit in an unmoving stroller blocked from the parade by people in front of us, and he's far too heavy to be constantly held up and bounced around by me. The carrier had been accidentally taken out of the stroller and left at the hotel, so I couldn't wear him on me either. Watching the parade was not worth the effort I was making, so I made my way over to Toontown (which was not an easy feat during the parade), and called mom to tell everyone to meet me at "Mickeys Magical Map." This is a new show in the Fantasyland theater that sends Mickey through multiple Disney movies. It was lovely to be able to sit down, relax, and enjoy a good show, and Ty enjoyed all the music and dancing. Mike also entertained him and finally got some good uncle/nephew bonding time. Shannon's sister, Jessica, and her boyfriend D'Jon also came to the park that day and sat with us at the show. I still had my parent passes for Racers and Tower of Terror, but I knew we'd never be able to use them and get back to Disneyland for Space Mountain, fireworks, and Fantasmic that evening. Mike had a big dinner with some of his work partners that evening, so since no one else in our party could use the parent passes, I decided to give them to Jessica and D'Jon.

After the show, we all went back into ToonTown since everyone else had fast passes for Roger Rabbit. I'd planned to walk back to the hotel with them, but as Ty and I wandered around ToonTown, I saw the line to meet Mickey at Mickey's house was only 15 minutes (by contrast, it was 30 minutes for Minnie, which is pretty typical for character meet and greets). I couldn't resist the opportunity to take him in. Ty was super fussy in the line, so I nursed him to calm him, even though he'd nursed recently and probably wasn't hungry. Although some people are offended by public nursing (Ty and I were both well covered by my loose shirt), I figured the line would be much worse for them with a screaming baby than with a mother nursing her baby.
Whoever was inside the Mickey costume was wonderful! He was completely adorable with Ty! He'd whisper a secret to me, then play with Ty and give him a little pat on the nose or cheeks. In spite of being crazy grumpy the whole line, Tyler was completely enthralled by him. He was a little too interested, though, since it was next to impossible to get him to look away from Mickey.

The very best part of the experience, however, was not captured on camera. While the photographer was loading our pictures onto our photopass card, Ty grabbed Mickey by his cheeks and full on latched onto his big round nose! The people in line heaved a collective "aw!" while the line attendant yelled out "totes adorbs!" It was absolutely hilarious!

After meeting Mickey, I took Ty back to the hotel and got a little breather myself. Around 6:30 I nursed him and got him ready for bed, then Oscar and I returned to the park to use our Space Mountain fast passes. We didn't realize until later that evening that the quickest way to do that was by taking the monorail out of Downtown Disney, but I'm glad we came in through the front entrance since we had these lovely pictures taken from the top of main street.

Fast pass was really the only way to do Space Mountain that week since the stand-by line was always crazy busy (typically between 90 minutes and 2 hours). At Disneyland you can generally assume the three mountains will have the longest lines - space mountain, big thunder mountain, and splash mountain. Since the latter two were both closed for long term maintenance during our entire visit, this meant everyone wanting a mountain thrill was at Space Mountain. The lines in general throughout all of Disneyland were extra long that week since not only were those popular rides closed, so were It's a Small World and Finding Nemo. I thought it was an extraordinary amount of popular rides to be closed at once, particularly for a busy Valentines/Presidents Day weekend. Whenever I've gone to Disney in the past, there were never more than 2 significant rides closed for annual maintenance (on our honeymoon in 2006 it was Haunted Mansion, in 2008 it was Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World, and at Disney World in 2009, it was just Space Mountain). The extra long Disneyland lines were a large part of the reason we spent the bulk of our time at CA Adventure.

After that we tried to catch the Disney train since it was just pulling into the station and unloading passengers. We waited a couple of minutes, but they took off without loading up more passengers even though there were extra seats for them. Since it would have been 10 more minutes for another train, we walked over and grabbed a spot early for the fireworks show. You can view the fireworks from multiple places around the park, but I wanted to see the show from near the castle since it lights up all sorts of different colors and Tinkerbell comes flying across it. We found a spot on the left side of the castle, and while we were waiting, Oscar grabbed us a mac and cheese covered hot dog with a cream cheese filled pretzel. Yum!!! Then just before the show started, a man passed out! He must have been standing too much that day. Oscar darted through the crowd to help, but fortunately the man had already come to and Disney employees had been called to escort him over to 1st aid. This also allowed us to be a bit closer up since everyone had moved out of the way, and people let me through to join Oscar.
Unfortunately, though, our view was still incredibly obstructed. You can see from all three pictures above that the main fireworks were shot up from the left side of the castle, and the tall trees between the castle and Fantasy Faire were blocking our view significantly. We'll know better for next time to find a spot on the right side (which is where we'd sat at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World and had an excellent view). They also shoot up fireworks on the right and all around, but the best, biggest ones are on the left. Until the finale, the entire fireworks show is just what they shoot up from the left with the rest as mere accents.
The castle looks absolutely gorgeous at night. After the show was over, we saw a photopass photographer and waited a ridiculous amount of time to have our pictures taken. They have to get the go ahead that it's safe to enter, which the attendant told us can be anywhere from 5-25 minutes. Unfortunately, it was 25 minutes (maybe even more that that). They actually began allowing people into Fantasyland from Storybookland at least 10 minutes before those of us from main street, so I wonder if it was just a communication issue.

But I don't regret waiting for it since we got some beautiful pictures sparkling with Disney magic. In the pic on the far left we're attempting to make an 8 for our 8th anniversary. It just looks a little funny. We should have practiced it first.

We'd decided to see the 10:30 Fantasmic show as it tends to be less crowded, and it's a good thing we did since my sister later told me that the 9pm show they'd waited for was cancelled due to electrical safety issues. I'd been wanting a Dole whip for several hours after watching my family polishing them off when we'd met them at Adventureland. The line for a Dole Whip without entering the tiki room attraction was actually longer than the one where you're inside the gate waiting for the next show. We figured we might as well just see the Tiki show, but I missed having Tyler with me. I know he would absolutely love all the birds, colors, plants, and songs.

Fantasmic was wonderful as usual, but all that was left after we finished up in the Tiki room was standing room, and I'd been spoiled by seeing the show in the Disney Studios amphitheater at Disney World. I was tired from a long day on my feet and cold from having just eaten a Dole Whip and only having mom's light jacket on. Next time I'm going to make sure to get there extra early or to do one of the dining packages that gives you a spot of ground to sit on. It definitely made a world of difference in how much I enjoyed the show. At Disney World, I didn't want it to end, but that night, we left early just as the characters were coming out to celebrate for the last few minutes of the show after Mickey's defeated the dragon. The last monorail to Downtown Disney came at 11:00pm, and we knew we'd never make it in time if we got caught in the foot traffic following the end of the show. We saw the characters on the riverboat on our way out and booked it back across to Tomorrowland just in time to catch it.

To read about our trip from the beginning, click here

1 comment:

  1. Stacy again I was soooooooooo impressed by your blog. I loved reading everything and looking at all the wonderful pics. I can't believe how much you were able to remember. It is so fun to read as it brings the exciting time in Disneyland back to memmory. Love you so much and thanks again for that great blog.