It has been over 25 years since I last visited Disneyland. It was a trip I took with my soon to be wife as a day trip when we were in Palm Springs. I was excited to see how things have changed and looked forward to sharing the experience with my daughter before she went off to college. She has been to Disneyworld quite a few times since she was 2, but this would be her first ever visit to Disney on the left coast.
We spent some time planning the trip as I always like to do so that we would be sure to fit all the activities into a quick weekend, including a trip to the beach and an Angels game (I wanted to check another Major League stadium off my list). We decided we would do the ball game the Friday night we arrived, visit the parks on Saturday and go to Huntington Beach on Sunday before we drove to the airport.
We took an early flight to LA from Chicago and arrived at before noon. I had gotten a good price on an Advantage rental car from www.autoslash.com, so we took the shuttle over form the airport to pick up the car. A word of advice if you are renting from the. Their location is a good 10 – 15 minutes away from the airport, dropped in the middle of an industrial neighborhood so make sure you make note of the address and put it in your GPS if you have one. It is NOT easy to find on the return and my Google maps took us to the wrong place (similar address the first time). We secured the vehicle, a KIA soul, or toaster as some call it, which Jenna was not too thrilled about, but I enjoy driving something different when I have the chance, even if it look weird. Weird is good.
I had reservation at the Sheraton with a high floor facing the Disney parks and we were not disappointed with the floor to ceiling windows with gave us a great view of the fireworks each night. What we were disappointed with was the amount of time if took to get into the room. It ended up taking more two hours to get into our room, but luckily I had suggested to Jenna that we grab out suits, stow the baggage and head to the pool instead of waiting around in the lobby. We went up to the pool, it is on a deck in the center of the U shaped hotel, and got some California sun and a drink while we waited.
After about 90 minutes our German/Irish skin exposed to some color, we headed back down to the lobby to try to check in. Still not ready so we grabbed a coffee in the lobby Starbucks and waited another 20. We finally checked into the corner room facing the parks and although we had a view of the Cinderella castle the hotel is far enough away that the castle is only about an inch tall in the distance. We were not here for the view so it was no big deal but just be aware that you do pay a premium for park view and now with the addition of Cars land, you are looking at the back of Radiator Springs which is just a view of a bunch of rust colored girders.
We got cleaned up and drove about 2 miles down the road to Angels stadium for the ball game. I had not purchased tickets ahead of time so there was a brisk line of people buying same day seats. The stadium is now part of the Disneyland half marathon so you get to run into and out of the stadium if you decide to run that particular race. It was a perfect night for a game and we enjoyed some of the local ballpark fare ( some Rudy’s Steak sliders and a strawberry shake) for dinner and walked all around the park before heading back to the hotel. The Angels ending up winning in extra innings.
The next morning we were up early so we could be at the park for rope drop. Early AM is not Jenna’s favorite time of the day so I appreciated her indulging me on this trip. We planned on Disneyland first to hit the classics and then California Adventure in the afternoon to see some of the new rides, some of which we had experienced already in Florida.
I made my first mistake early which I have done once before in Disneyworld. I got on a motion ride first thing, with no food in my stomach. I have a pretty wimpy dizzy factor when it comes to motion rides so I need to be careful. I hate to say no to the kids but there are just some things I can never do, like Mission Space in Disneyworld, and sometimes not even Expedition Everest. This morning we decided to do Space Mountain first as there was no line out of the gate and The Matterhorn was closed for renovation (sad face).
The California version of Space Mountain ‘seemed’ to be darker and faster than the Florida version, plus it is two seats wide instead of a single. It took me about 1 minute before I was dizzy and trying to keep from throwing up what little I had in my stomach from the night before. We exited the ride and I had to sit down for a minute to stop the spinning before we walked a few yards to the Nemo submarines.
Jenna was too young to remember the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subs at Disneyworld so she was excited to try this one and enjoyed the effects of the Finding Nemo characters projected into the water outside the sub windows. I enjoyed the subs in Florida so this brought back some good memories.
Next was a ride you can only do in Disneyland now as they closed the one in Florida; Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. This was another one that she really does not remember as it has been closed for a while. The joke in our family is that the ride was closed because of my wife. On one of our trips to Disneyworld. Lorie was on the ride with Matt while I was sitting outside with Jenna. The ride stopped as they sometimes do for various reasons, so they were both stuck inside the non moving ride while the doors between rooms continued to open and close with the music still playing. The recording to stay in your cars played occasionally as they waited for a good 10 minutes for the ride to start. Lorie is a bit claustrophobic and Matt was getting a bit upset himself, so Lorie decided to get out of the car with him and try to find the exit. That is a Mickey No No. As soon as they got out of the car and headed for one of the doors, the ride started up, but it was too late to get back into their original car. They had to press up against wall, wait for a door to open then rush into the next room avoiding the passing cars. The repeated this process until they found the exit and walked out to some very surprised cast members. She received a scolding and was on her way. The next year we visited the park the ride was closed. Thanks Lorie.
After Mr. Toad, we headed for my two favorites; the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. They were both as awesome as I remember, except for the insertion of the movie characters in the Pirates attraction. It was nice to share them with her for her first rides on the classics. I had always wanted to eat at the Blue Bayou restaurant which you see when you first get in the boats for the Pirates attraction so we had made a reservation for that evening. I will come to find later that the kitchen that serves this restaurant also servers the private Club 33 which you can see from any of the outside tables at Blue Bayou.
We spent the rest of the day hopping back and fourth between the two parks trying things we had not done before and comparing rides we had experienced in Florida like Soarin’. As the lines started to get longer we were able to do less and less rides so we just walked around and did some people watching until dinner.
One of the areas we went to was the animation exhibit where we me a new friend. I really like the fact that Disney has the cast members put their home town on their name tags. I always look for towns I know and have even seen a cast member from Downers Grove where we live. This time as we were entering the animation area, I noticed the gentleman (Disney Dan as he calls himself) was from Niles, IL. I struck up a conversation with him and we talked for a good 30 minutes about what brought him out here, what different jobs he has done over the years and how he landed with Disney. Turns out he is a member of Club 33 and offered to get us in for dinner there. Now this is no simple feat as it is a private club, and I felt bad turning him down as I had wanted to eat a Blue Bayou for more than 30 years. He made me promise to take him up on it next time I am here, with advanced notice. I agreed and was happy to have made a new friend. We have kept in contact and I plan on getting out there soon to take him up on it.
We headed off to Blue Bayou and had just an outstanding meal. as we were dining I noticed a set of stairs and a terrace up and to our left where may of the wait staff were going with trays of food. I asked our waiter what that was and that is when I found out that our kitchen also served Club 33. I now have that to look forward to next time I/we visit.
After our fantastic dinner, we crossed over to California adventure where they had set up a Tron Legacy area that was open only in the evenings. They had a Flynn’s arcade were we spent some time playing some of the classic arcade cabinet games, like Zaxxon, Frogger and Robotron.
Just outside the arcade in the court yard they had created a large dace area and bar like Zeus’ club in the movie. They had cast members dressed as Tron characters including Zeus with his cane and had thumping music and light shows. I grabbed an adult beverage with a light up ice cube, Jenna had something soft and we enjoyed watching everyone do their best ‘ You Got Served’ dance moves. A nice way to end the evening before our walk back to the hotel.
The next morning we checked out, got in the car and headed for Huntington Beach so Jenna could see the Pacific and the beach scene. We lucked out and there was a HUGE pro surf competition, so the whole town and beach was packed with every shape, size and color of humanity. We wandered around the beach and pier before we grabbed some lunch at one of the little sidewalk cafes. Jenna grabbed some souvenirs for her friends and we were off to the airport for our flight home.
Although it was a quick three days, we packed a lot in and I had a fantastic time with Jen. It took me a long time to get around to writing this post, but the upside it it gives me time to go through the whole weekend again, which is why I am typing this with a big smile on my face.
Thanks Jen, I had a great time.