Our first day at the “happiest place on earth” dawned bright and early. D’Arcy & the boys had gone to the Disney Welcome Centre the night before to check about our tickets. Six years ago, when we took the boys to Disney World, we had bought six days worth of no-expiry tickets, but used only four. (We ended up going to the night launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor while we were there.) Back in August, I had contacted them to see about transferring the tickets to Disneyland, and they did! They also honoured the price of the original tickets, saying, “We would never penalize your children for growing up!” This meant that we only had to buy tickets this time for the two girls for two days, thankfully, as Disney is not cheap.
At the Welcome Centre, they had been given advice to be at the park as much before the 8am opening as possible, as they were expecting a near-to-full capacity day. Full breakfast was included in the price of our hotel, but because it was Sunday, it wasn’t served until 7am, and we wanted to be walking to the park by then. As usual, we were running behind, so Alex was able to grab a cinnamon bun for the road and the rest of us had a quick bite in our room.
When I booked our hotel, one of the things that had appealed to me was that it was only four blocks from Disney and an “easy ten-minute walk”. We started out full of energy and excitement. As we were walking, someone announced, “I don’t think this is a ten-minute walk”. No kidding! Those Disney blocks are huge! We are good walkers, and it took us half-an-hour. To make matters worse, I second guessed myself about where the main gates were and we took a detour around the block which meant we had to go through Downtown Disney before getting to the gates. Inside, we had trouble finding guest services to get our tickets, so by the time we actually entered the park it was 8:30. That might not sound like a huge deal, but on a full capacity day, those few early morning hours are critical for getting on more rides. (Did I ever mention we are a family of adrenaline junkies?)
Our early morning walk in Anaheim. Excited for the day ahead.
It was fun to see the palm trees and experience the new landscape.
Beautiful palm trees, providing the street & sidewalk with shade.
As we entered, Main Street was beautifully decorated for Christmas. We stopped at the Christmas tree to get a photo, and are still teasing D’Arcy that he looks pretty cranky for someone at the happiest place on earth. We saw Mickey Mouse and debated getting into the line to get our photo taken, but decided that it wasn’t worth it. We were sure we’d see him again at some point. Instead, we went straight to Space Mountain to pick up our “Fast Passes” to ride without waiting in line, stopping quickly to take the girls’ photo in the sunshine in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. At that time, the wait for Space Mountain was listed at 15 minutes and we should have ridden it right then, but I wasn’t in amusement-park-efficiency-mode yet. We pocketed our fast passes and made our way to the Matterhorn Bobsleds and got into that line which was only a few minutes long.
We were happy we had waited this long to take the girls to Disney as they were mature enough and tall enough to ride all the rides. They LOVED the rollercoasters and the look on their faces in the various photos over the two days was priceless!
After the Matterhorn, we rode the teacups, the Alice in Wonderland ride, and then went to Autopia. Sarah was tall enough to have her own car, but stalled it on at least one occasion. Olivia was my driver (she was in charge of the steering wheel) and got annoyed with me if I lifted my foot from the gas. It was fun.
At least some of us were happy to be at the happiest place on earth…
Our princesses in the sun in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
Before Splash Mountain
By this time, our fast pass return time had arrived, so we went to Space Mountain and bypassed the line which was by then up to 40 minutes wait. Space Mountain is a ride that is found in Magic Kingdom in both Florida and California, but each is slightly different. We agreed that we found the California Space Mountain better and more intense. As we got off, we were all laughing and collected another fast pass so that we could ride again in the afternoon.
This photo of us on Space Mountain is my favourite – the expression on Sarah’s face is priceless!!
We wandered through the thickening crowds, over to the other side of the park, stopping for a snack and some water along the way. As we were eating, we dropped some crumbs on the ground, and a cast member came along and swept them up right then and there!
Next, we went to Splash Mountain and waited in a line there. It’s always interesting to watch the people around and how they experience the park. Personally, I can’t imagine going to Disney with very young children. In my opinion, it would be a nightmare maneuvering strollers, and watching that they don’t get lost in the crowd. We reiterated to the kids that if we were to get separated, then they were to stay still and we would come find them.
Fun on Splash Mountain
When we got off that ride, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Eyeore were out in Pooh Corner and the girls wanted to get photos with them. We tried to convince them that the line wasn’t worth it, but Olivia was insisting. As we got into line, the boys went off to see about getting fast passes to Indiana Jones. While we were in line, the characters switched out and Tigger and Eyeore went inside, and Rabbit replaced them. Olivia was happy enough to leave the line and do some shopping instead. We looked around in the gift shop, but did not buy anything. Outside the shop, there was one of those machines where you can put in a penny, and it will press it with a design. Each girl spent 51 cents to get a penny pressed with a Winnie-the-Pooh character. That was the extent of our souvenir shopping the first day.
By this time, the park was very crowded and we were getting hungry for lunch. Disney is known in the food allergy community for being one of the safest places to take your food-allergic child. Each restaurant is knowledgeable and aware. We checked a couple that I had read about online, and ended up at the Village Haus near the carousel where we were able to get a decent, mostly healthy lunch for the six of us for $69. It felt good to sit down. Olivia had a pure beef burger on a whole wheat bun with carrot sticks and apple slices. I had a delicious flatbread with tomatoes, garlic, smoked bacon, caramelized onions, basil and cheese.
After lunch, we made a bathroom stop, and by this time it was downright crowded. We had to be careful that the adults didn’t run over the kids after one woman elbowed Sarah in the head. She wasn’t fazed as much as I was though, because she saw Elsa and Anna from the new Disney production, “Frozen”. We got out of that area as quickly as we could and headed back toward Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Along the way, we stopped to watch a high school marching band from Alabama who would be taking part in the Rose Bowl Parade. There were a few hundred kids involved – they were amazing!
We walked toward “It’s a Small World”, but the wait was estimated to be an hour long. We watched part of a stage show featuring singing and dancing by different Disney princesses: Jasmine, Rapunzel, and Pocahontas. Then there was a “Little Mermaid” medley.
We went back to the Matterhorn and waited 35 minutes to ride it again before going to the Innovations exhibit. It’s like the Discovery Centre in Halifax, but on steroids. The girls, for whatever reason, were intrigued by the “Iron Man” exhibit of his costume over the years. One area was set up with Playstations, although I can’t imagine why you’d pay money to go to Disneyland and then spend your time playing on a Playstation. Call me crazy.
A view of the Matterhorn and some of the crowds from the balcony at Innovations.
At the Ironman exhibit – Olivia is displaying her superpowers
When we left Innovations, it was almost the time that we could redeem our fast pass for Space Mountain, so we stopped next door at the “Captain EO” 4D short film. It was fun to see a young Michael Jackson and feel the seats move under us. Olivia kept reaching out, trying to grab the 3D effects.
3D glasses for Captain EO
Our second trip on Space Mountain was fun as well, but when it was over we were ready for a break. It was late afternoon by this time and we made the half-hour walk back to our hotel.
When we got there, we all chilled out for a while. Evan wasn’t feeling well; fighting a cold, so I gave him an antihistamine and some advil. D’Arcy went to the grocery store while I took the kids to the pool which was something I had promised them we’d do when they went to bed the night before. The boys played some basketball with kids from another family of four and then we all got into the hot tub. Upstairs, we had what we call a “munchie supper” of ham, grapes, apples, clementines, crackers, and cheese before playing Uno. We all decided we were too tired to go back to Disneyland for the fireworks, so had an early night to get ready for California Adventure Park the next morning, instead.
“Off to see the World”
Main Street USA on the way out. The girls would have liked a balloon, but understood we could not take it on the plane.
Take 2 – in front of the tree on the way out. Happier now.
Swimming in the pool in the evening while snow was falling at home
Before going to sleep, I did some research and made a mental note of our priorities at the park the next day. The only highlights we had wanted to do that we missed at Magic Kingdom were the haunted mansion and “It’s a Small World”. (Although, in honesty, D’Arcy and the boys were somewhat relieved they didn’t have to go on the latter!)
It was a magical day; the decorations were amazing and it was nice to hear Christmas music being piped through the speakers as we walked through the park, making a festive holiday atmosphere. However, if we were to go back again, I would avoid Christmas week and the excessive crowds.