Saturday, April 19, 2014

California Debriefing next

I know, I know - you all are finding it difficult to move on with you own lives because you are wondering how our California vacation went.  Well, worry no longer.  I am finally here to at least starting telling you!  Now I just hope I remember correctly!  Maybe John will jump in if I am totally off base.

We left on a Wednesday, after the kids got home from school  Our direct flight didn't leave until 7:40 so we had plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and get through security.  Katie and I were seat buddies on this flight and Will and John were right ahead of us. 

We got into CA around 10:45 (their time).  There was an issue with baggage claim because it took FOREVER for anyone's bags to show up - we waited probably 30-45 minutes I bet.  Then we took a shuttle to the car rental place which was another long wait.  Not sure what the guy's problem was but he was certainly not very quick.  We got our car finally - and headed to our hotel near Disneyland which was a good 30 miles away yet.  On a positive note - the freeways were relatively clear at midnight.  Got the kids to bed so that we could do Disney the next morning!

The hotel offered a breakfast buffet - kids ate free with adults.  We ate and then walked to Disneyland because the entrance was only about two blocks away.  I must admit - I'm not a Disney fanatic, but I was fairly excited to be going to Disneyland.  It's easy to get excited because everyone around you is excited as well.    The guidebooks say to get there about 30 minutes before the park that's what we did.  Then we waited til 9 am for the park to open.

Waiting.....but it was a nice day!

First celebrity siting - Minnie!  We also saw Goofy and Daisy Duck.  We were making the most of our time in the park so we didn't get in lines for pictures.  The kids were well aware that it was just people dressed in costumes anyway. 

Sleeping Beauty's castle.
Thanks to Netflix and a DVD about Disneyland - we knew to walk through the castle and look for a steel nail driven into the walkway, which marked the exact center of Disneyland Park.
Before the trip, I had gone back and forth trying to decide between planning the day out, carefully picking which rides we should do at what time or just letting the day take us and do things as we came across them.  I read a few guidebooks from the library and both STRONGLY advised against the latter approach.  They said your wait time would - on average - for the entire day would be about 3-4 hours longer in total.  Well, that decided it for me.  So, I worked out a vague plan of what we should do that morning while the park had fewer people in it.  Then, later in the day, doing rides that we happen across or that we notice have shorter wait times. 
Along with the guide book, we used an app on my phone that updated people about wait times at certain rides.  We also took advantage of the FastPass option certain rides have.  You go to the ride, scan everyone's tickets and then they issue you a window of time to return later in the day to ride, at which time you won't have to wait in the regular line.  It isn't available on all rides, and there only a limited number for the day so it's best to get them early. 
Here's a list of rides we were able to go on -
- Peter Pan's Flight
- Snow White's Scary Adventure
- Star Tours (A Star Wars virtual ride...which was awesome!!!)
- Space Mountain (used FastPass)
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Autopia (The kids got to drive cars along a real road course while John and I were passengers.  It was terrifying!)
- The Haunted Mansion
- Disney Railroad
- Mark Twain Riverboat
- Big Thunder Mountain (used FastPass)
- Gadget's Go Coaster
- Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
- Pirate's of the Caribbean
I think that's it!  It's a Small World and the Indiana Jones Adventure ride were being refurbished so we couldn't do those.  We also skipped Splash Mountain because we didn't want to get soaked.  We tried to do The Matterhorn, (bobsled ride) but the wait time was too long and they weren't doing FastPasses for that. 
Space Mountain scored really high on our list of favorites as did Star Tours.  But it's REALLY hard to pick a favorite.  They were really awesome.  And yes, the wait times were long.  Snow White's Scary Adventures was the shortest wait - at about 5 minutes.....but we did stand in line up to around 50 minutes.  BUT Disney has kind of thought of everything and most of the time they do make waiting in line a part of experience.  So they have stuff to watch, and see while you move along in line.  They also weave you back and forth and in and out of areas so that the length of the line is very deceiving.  Sometimes you think you are SO CLOSE, but then realized there's an entire section of the line you haven't been through yet.  But I do have to say the kids (and John) were total troopers about waiting.  They didn't complain or whine while we had to wait - it made it much more tolerable!
C3PO spoke to the crowd at we waited in line for Star Tours.

R2D2 was there too!

Mark Twain Riverboat

Riverboat ride around the lagoon.
Splash Mountain action shot.
Will and I making our way down Main Street USA.

The kids wouldn't cooperate, but "I" wanted my picture in front of the castle!

Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster!  This one was wild and lots of fun -
Funny story....I got a FastPass for this one around noon that said return between 5:30 and 6:30 to ride.  So we went back to hotel around midday - went swimming, relaxed, snacked, etc. and then came back to the park to do some more rides that evening. The wait time in the regular line was WAY over an hour.  We walked past HUNDREDS of people while we were in the FastPass line and got right on!  It was great!

Every night there is a parade.  They suggest lining up for a spot an hour before it starts.  Well, you've seen one parade, you've seen them all.  We did sneak some peeks, but it was also a VERY slow we waited til we saw Mickey and then took off to do more rides.  If you squint you can see him too. :)
They didn't have fireworks that evening.  Oh well! 

Katie and Will had a giant pool almost all to themselves.  That's Katie back floating in the middle there.  We had taken along their life jackets - I just thought they might need them, not knowing how deep the pools would be, etc.  We never even unzipped them!  (
Note to me: Next time we'll leave them at home!)

Not even 15 minutes after we returned to hotel for the evening........

.....they were both out like a light.
Up next: Day 2!  We hit the beach and head to the desert!