The main objective for our vacation in Los Angeles was to take my nieces, ages eight and five, to Disneyland. They have never been to California, nor to any of the Disney parks, and the last time my sister went was at least two dozen years ago, so it seemed like the right time.
At their California location, Disney now has two theme parks: the original Disneyland and California Adventure, which is more geared to the Pixar characters than the classic Disney ones. Since there were two parks, we decided to get a two-day park-hopper pass. One thing we learned was that you do not have to use the passes for consecutive days. This is helpful because going to an amusement park can wear you out. Doing it two days in a row with young children can be overwhelming. As I observed while walking around the park, Disneyland may be the “Happiest Place on Earth” but it is also the most tearful!
We arrived a few minutes before opening time the first day, a Thursday, tickets already purchased online and printed out at home. Thankfully, the typical Southern California weather pattern known as the “June gloom” lasted most of the day, giving us cool temperatures (around 70 F) and an overcast sky that made walking around the park a pleasant experience.
Crowds were not too heavy and we used the FastPass system to secure tickets to the most popular rides – the recently reopened Star Tours, for example – so that we did not have to wait in line for a long time. One thing we learned is that when the park opens, most people head to their right into Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, and not to their left into Frontierland, Adventureland, and New Orleans Square. If you want to beat the crowds, head to the left and do those rides first.
I was shocked to discover a sign leading into Mickey’s Toon Town that has a spelling mistake! Do these things really happen in the Disney organization?
For lunch we ate at Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square. For amusement park food, it was pretty decent eating. I may write a post with the pictures of the food later on. For now, I will share a picture of the Mickey Mouse shaped beignets.
Among my niece’s many objectives was collecting autographs from the various characters, including the princesses. At the back of Fantasyland is a Princess Pavilion, which offers various princess-themed activities as well as the opportunity to meet princesses from the different Disney films throughout the day. Ava and Emily met Belle, Cinderella, and Mulan (pictured above), to name just a few. I’ll give credit to the young ladies who play the princesses: they do an amazing job of being tirelessly friendly, gracious, and engaging for their young guests.
Something fun to do at Disneyland is to look for the hidden Mickeys. These are representations of the Mickey Mouse silhouette that are intentionally, but subtly, placed throughout the park. Can you spot the hidden Mickey in the above picture of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?
Our first day at the park went very well. We were there about twelve hours – from opening to closing – and except for one minor bit of lunchtime moodiness by niece number one, everyone was in good spirits the whole day. Above, the section of the It’s A Small World ride that is themed after Thailand.
The following Monday we headed back to Anaheim, this time to spend most of our day at Disney’s California Adventure. This newer park is themed around various areas of California, including Hollywood, the aviation industry of Southern California, the beach boardwalks and amusement piers found along the coast, etc. As you can see from the above picture, it was a sunnier day. While the temperature was only about five degrees higher (75 F), the intense sunlight made it a much tougher day for everyone.
There is an area of the park called A Bug’s Land, themed around the Pixar animated film, A Bug’s Life. It offered a number of fun rides that were perhaps just a little too juvenile for our nieces. The above ride is called Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, named after the caterpillar in the film with an insatiable appetite.
On the Hollywood Studios Backlot, the girls pretended to talk to each other on a variety of different phone booths ostensibly used in different movie sets. With the hot sun shining on us and a greater amount of open space reflecting that heat, we experienced some after-lunch defections. Tawn left the park and went to the next door Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment district to seek out some air conditioned comfort in a movie theatre and my brother-in-law and older niece went back to the Disneyland park, which has a bit more shade.
My sister, younger niece, and I persevered, though, and took a ride on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This drop tower thrill ride is a lot of fun and my adventurous five-year old niece (who is only an inch taller than the minimum height requirement), announced upon exiting from the ride, “Let’s go again!”
We concluded our visit to the Disneyland parks by stumbling into Mickey Mouse back on Main Street USA, letting the girls collect their most prized autograph of all. Hindsight being 20-20, I think we could have stuck with just a single day of Disney, visiting Disneyland and not the California Adventure park. But it was a fun visit nonetheless and was probably the highlight of the trip.