Disneyland/DCA Trip 5-01

Our family consists of Me (Mom), 30s, Dad early-40s, Daughter; 11, and Son; 10.

We live approximately 60 miles from Disneyland, and go at least once or twice a year. Although we could easily drive home after our day at the parks, we like to stay at the hotels and spend 2 days so we can take our time. This trip, however, we had Disney’s California Adventure to experience, so we added a day to our trip! We have never been to Disney in May before and thought we would like to try it. We planned our trip for the first Sunday, Monday & Tuesday of May. We were thrilled to hear about the new hotel built along with the new park and decided to stay there.

Planning:

With 2 nights to plan for, and so many things I knew we’d enjoy – I had to narrow it down. I decided to have a nice dinner somewhere at the new Downtown Disney our first night. There were many choices; and since the crowds were not huge (Sunday night) I didn’t think it was necessary to have reservations. The second night we had reservations for Medieval Times (if interested in what this is: http://medievaltimes.com/) Planning the days was easy, too. We only had 3 days and 3 day hopper passes! I knew we should go to Disney’ California Adventure on Sunday – we were all aching to see it. Monday would be early entry for Disneyland. Tuesday we could do either! So that was it for the itinerary planning!

Arrival and Check In:

We left at approximately 9 for our drive down to Anaheim. We hit absolutely no traffic and arrived at the Valet Parking/Front Entrance of the Grand Californian Resort at 10am! We could not believe it only took us an hour – great time! The valet at this hotel is awesome. They actually come running over to open your doors! We had one guy for each side of the car. They wear cute little green knickers and off-white shirts. They all looked very nice. They helped us unload the car, and they took our luggage in for storage until we could get checked in. They didn’t seem to think a room would be ready so early, and to be honest, neither did I. But it was worth a shot. Please note that valet parking for hotel guests is $10 per day, they will charge this with your room charges. Regular price was $40 a day, if not a resort guest! 

As you walk into the resort, there is the most beautiful stained glass doorway that automatically opens when you come near. I took a photo or 2 or 3 of it! As you walk in to the actual building you are immediately immersed in beauty! Its wide-open spaces, similar to the Wilderness Lodge in Orlando. The colors of the woods (a mahogany type wood) were warm and inviting. Spectacular details everywhere – from the interesting lighting fixtures, to details on the plaques for the room numbers, very neat designs! The lobby area had couches, chairs, small sitting areas, for casual conversation or just relaxing. There were fireplaces going, and a grand piano (music played nightly). The lobby is in the middle of the resort, with hallways leading off in many directions.

The registration/bell services desk is right inside the stained glass doors. There was one person ahead of us in line, and immediately another check-in cast member moved up to her area, so that we could check in. The entire process took about 5 minutes. She explained a little about the resort, gave us our room keys, a map, and that was that. We asked for a Bunk Bed room, and they had one! We were happy that the room was ready! We went up to the room and unpacked a little. We got ourselves all set up for the day. The bellperson brought up the wrong luggage, however. It made us a bit nervous. They lost it already! But low and behold, after describing what our luggage looked like, he came right back up with the correct stuff! He apologized over and over. We were not upset in the least, but I guess he thought we would be.

Our Room:

Our room was on the 5th floor. After exiting the elevator, we turned right and had a gorgeous view of the lighting of the lobby area, and the lobby area below. Spectacular view of the lobby! Then we went down a long hall (all the way to the end) to our room. We spent about 10 minutes checking out the room. It was gorgeous. The colors were inviting. Same mahogany colored woods, greens/tans in the carpet, bedspreads, etc. Since we had bunk beds, we had plenty of floor space. The bunk beds also have a trundle bed under the bottom bunk – lots of places for KIDS to sleep. The other bed was a queen bed. Beds were comfortable. The bathroom was a normal sized hotel bathroom. The toilet/shower – bathtub area had a pocket door, for privacy. There were 2 sinks in the vanity. It had a dark green marble top, with wood accents/shelves. They had a coffee maker, built in blow dryer, pull out magnifying mirror and plenty of lighting in the vanity area. The bathroom itself had a nice size bathtub, tan tile with green tile accents. The fixtures were chrome and very pretty. Inside the closet was a foldup crib, fold down ironing board with iron, extra pillows and blankets, and 2 robes for your use during the stay. There also was an armoire with the tv/refrigerator in it. It was also used for a dresser. The table and chairs were to the left of the tv armoire. This table was a nice-size table, you could easily play a board game or something on it. We used it for the laptop (the extra phone cord extension was right there for that purpose & an extra electrical outlet). We also stored all our fanny packs on that table! Each bed had a sliding light control. So you could have your bed’s lights on bright all the way down to a very dim night light effect. Very useful. The only negative thing about the room was our view. When we looked straight out, we had a roof of the bldg below. It sloped up and was pretty ugly to look at. If we strained over and looked to the right we could see part of Downtown Disney. If we looked way over to the left we could see the main entrance area of the hotel, valet parking, etc. So the view sucked! If you were interested in what the standard view is – think we got it! Would have been nice to have something else to look at, but we aren’t really in our rooms very long so it was ok. Was thrilled actually to have the bunk beds, so that made up for it. With kids, the bunks are the way to go – they made bedtime so much easier! No fighting over who was sleeping where, with who, etc..

Crowds & Weather:

I was shocked at the crowds. I really didn’t expect many people to be in the parks on Monday or Tuesday. There were many groups in Disneyland – they had several Tour groups, and also a large amount of Disabled/Developmentally Disabled people. Disneyland still allows people in wheelchairs to enter rides via the exits (which I think is great!!!!!!). I was shocked at WDW that they made the wheelchair bound wander through the regular lines. Anyway, the crowds were quite high considering it was not a weekend, after spring break, and before summer! Weather was fabulous! In the 80s during the day, and only went down to the 50s at night. Even 10 at night, the weather was comfortable. Mornings were a little chilly, but we wore shorts and short sleeved shirts with no problem.

Day One:

Day one was Sunday, our arrival day. We left our room about 10:45, and walked over to Disney’s California Adventure. It was a very short walk once we got downstairs. We had to walk through the lobby, down the hallway out towards the pool area, and then through a short hallway and into DCA! This entrance dumps you out right near the Soaring Over California Ride! The line was only 15 minutes, so we rode that first. Loved it! It’s a great simulation of hang gliding over different regions of California. It was very realistic feeling (never did hang glide, but what I would think it would feel like). We were impressed by this ride. Got a Fast Pass when exiting so we could ride it again later. There were not too many people in the park at this time. From there we went over to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area. We crossed the main entrance area, which is really neat looking. They had a small replica of the Golden Gate bridge, this huge sun shaped thing, a train with stores and restaurants inside and a beautiful fountain. The Hollywood Pictures Backlot area is neat. It sort of resembles the Hollywood area, similar types of bldgs and things. We stopped in the Animation Building. They show you a short show called Drawn to Animation, you can do some hands on things in Sorcerer’s Workshop, they have animation art to look at, and an area called the Screening Room. In the Sorcerers Workshop you can take a short personality test, and the result is which Disney character is most like you! I was most like Jane, from Tarzan! My husband was most like Captain Hook. My daughter was like Tinkerbell and my son was most like Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast. It was fun. They also had an area where you could do voice overs to short Disney animation. We did a scene from Bambi. It was weird hearing your own voices to a Disney movie! After we had enough of the Animation Building we walked around and looked at all the other things in the area. Took some photos of the kids with sitting in director’s chairs, near the wardrobe trailers, and things like that. Despite my warnings, my husband wanted to try the Superstar Limo ride. What a dumb ride! A complete waste of time, I had read not to waste your time on it, but the kids really wanted to try it. You go around in a slow limo type car looking at a Disney version of Hollywood’s Wax Museum. Corny at best. We did not have to wait at all, in fact the people had to wait for US to get on the ride. There was nothing else for them to do, I think they were thrilled to have some suckers to ride the ride! We saw the Muppet 3D movie after that, which is very cute. I think it’s the same as the one in Florida. No line to see that either. We then had some lunch at Award Weiners. Cute name! The hot dogs were not very good, however. Rubbery tasting.

From there we walked over towards the center of the park, to Sunshine Plaza which is where the huge brass looking sun is. Took a few photos and then wandered over to the Bountiful Valley Farm area. They have some cute sprinker/fountain type areas for kids to get wet. We let the kids play there for a few minutes. It was pretty warm, so they were more than happy to get wet. They had wine tasting in this area, we were not interested so we passed. They also had an area to see how to make tortillas, which we have seen on field trips to the Mexican Mission areas, so we passed on that, too. But we did see the Tough to Be a Bug show, very cute! Then we decided we wanted to go ride the big roller coaster- California Screamin. First we got a Fast Pass, because the line said it was 40 minutes long. Our hour time frame for Soaring over California had just started, so we were able to get more Fast Passes. As we got the Fast Passes the man told us that the line was really only 10 minutes long. So we rode it. What a fun roller coaster. It was pretty smooth, very fast, and lots of fun. Has a loop in it, which adds something to it! When we got off the ride, we went back to ride the Soaring Over California again. Got almost the same exact seats. We were in the 3rd row, which ends up being the bottom row in the ride. I felt like these were good seats. Then we went over to ride a few more rides. We rode; Jumping Jellyfish (kids rode it), Orange Stinger, Maliboomer and that was it for that area. From there we went over and let the kids run around and play in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This is a neat play area, with slides, ropes to climb, tires to ride on, and more. Dad and I got to relax a little and the kids ran off some steam. We went back and rode our Fast Pass California Screamin’ and then that was it! By this time it was about 5pm. The kids were begging to go swim. So that’s what we did. Dad stayed up in the room and did some work, rested, and got cleaned up for that night. We got back up in the room at about 7. Got cleaned up and headed out to Downtown Disney to find some place to eat. Downtown Disney is right outside the hotel. You walk down a few halls and you are right there! 3 minute walk from the lobby to Downtown Disney!

We walked around to see what was there, and what looked or smelled appealing for dinner. There were so many places to choose from, it was hard! This being a Sunday night, most places were not very busy. We did take a detour stop in the Lego Store. Its incredible that they can make the things they do, completely out of legos! Bought the kids a crown type hat there. Kind of cute! Then as we walked out of Lego Store we saw Rainforest Café. We had so much fun at the one at WDW, we decided to eat there. They had quite a group of people outside waiting for tables, but we decided to put our name on the list. It was going to be about 45 minutes. We went over to the ESPN Zone, to spend some time. We also got $10 ESPN credits with our vacation package, so we redeemed them. $10 gets you 40 credits, which isn’t bad. Most of the games in the arcade area were 6 or 7 credits. We played some games, and my daughter decided to do the Rock Climbing Wall. She made it to the top – I was impressed. She was very proud and everyone watching was cheering her on. It made her day! At 8:45 we got called to our table at Rainforest Café! This restaurant has 2 stories, unlike the one near Animal Kingdom. We got a table overlooking the downstairs area, and close to the animatronic elephants (we had the elephants right by us when we ate at the Animal Kingdom Rainforest Café, too!). We had wonderful service, and great food! I had a Plant Sandwich – it had grilled veggies, and a layer of Caesar salad on foccacio bread – very good! My son had mini hot dogs from the kids menu and enjoyed them. My daughter had mini cheeseburgers from the kids menu and she said they were delicious. My husband had fish and chips and said it tasted very fresh and he liked it! You hear so many negative comments on these restaurants, but we are 2 for 2 so far with excellent service and food! From there we went back over to ESPN Zone to play a little longer. The walk back to our hotel was nice. Downtown Disney is very pretty at night, with all the lights on. We didn’t get to bed until close to midnight.

Day Two:

Our second day was Monday, and an Early Entry morning at Disneyland. We got up and showered and were ready to leave our room by 8:10. Early Entry was at 8:30. Its about a 10 minute walk to the park from our hotel. We took our time walking to Disneyland, enjoying the fresh morning air. It was going to be close to 90 degrees, so we knew we should enjoy the cool air as long as it lasted. We were shocked to see LINES of people waiting to get in for Early Entry. This was a Monday morning! We have never seen this many people on a Monday for Early Entry. I guess other people had the same idea as us, go after spring break and before everyone else gets out of school. Oh well, still not as bad as a Saturday! We stood in line and waited our turn to be let in the park. We also took some photos by the letters by California Adventure. If you don’t know, they have huge letters spelling out California in front of the entrance to the park. I mean these letters are probably 12 feet tall. I am sure someone out there knows exactly how tall they are! We had our Early Entry Plan of attack all set – with the typical rides for EE in our plan. One problem – many of the rides we wanted to ride were NOT open for EE this morning (Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain). Change of plan – we will do Tomorrowland instead! Star Tours, Space Mountain, Autopia… We were pretty hungry so right before 10 we had breakfast. This Tomorrowland Terrace (only place they serve breakfast during EE times) was so accommodating. My son has lactose/milk allergies. It may seem easy to avoid milk proteins, but its not. They have 5 combination breakfasts, you just choose one of them. All of them had things he could not eat – the nice lady that was helping us arranged to have some substitutions made for my son. She had another very helpful cast member go get the ingredient book to check on what was in the muffin that came with the meal. They let us substitute fruit for the muffin, and overall went way over and beyond to help us! I was so impressed, of all the places we have eaten in the past 2 years or so, this as the most helpful anyone has been regarding his allergies! Kudos to the Tomorrowland Terrace!!! Their food was very good, too. I will remember this, and we will eat there again! I plan to write a letter to Disney commenting on the wonderful service we received!

We arranged to do the Walking in Walt’s Footsteps Tour at 10:30. We met our tour guide, Steve, near City Hall. He was a very knowledgeable person, shared some neat history about Walt Disney. It was hard to pay attention, however, we would stop in areas and he would tell us about that particular area. They were all areas with tons of activity all around. My kids’ interest was lost after the first ½ hour or so, so I had to constantly watch what they were doing. This tour was 2 hours and 45 minutes long. We did learn a lot of neat things, and all in all, was a good tour. Not one for kids, really. No excitement value. I think the kids enjoyed learning some of the background information, but it was presented in an adult sort of format so most of the time they were not really even listening. My husband really enjoyed the tour, and I am sure he will share everything he learned with us as we take future trips. The tour was over at about 1:15. We were hungry again. All this walking really helps you work up an appetite. We ran over to Splash Mountain and got a fast pass. It was for 2:50-3:30.  We ate at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. Its not really a restaurant, it’s a walk up food counter sort of place. They have normal sorts of foods, hamburgers, chicken, corn dogs, salads. The food was fine, nothing special. My husband did really enjoy his double cheeseburger with onion rings on it. He commented later about how good it was, so it must have been! My daughter had been bugging us to do the canoe ride all morning. We gave in and let her and my son do it after we ate lunch. They had a great time. I remember it being really hard work when I did it (probably 15 years ago). They came back and said they didn’t have to work much at all, that there was some sort of motor under the canoe. I guess that’s why people still ride it! By the time they were off the canoe it was almost time for our Fast Pass at Splash Mountain, so we wandered on over. The Fast Pass line bypassed people who had probably been in line for an hour! We heard many of them comment on how ‘next time’ they would do fast pass! We got in the boat within 5 minutes or so. Fun ride! We didn’t get very wet, we were hot and kind of hoped to! We did Haunted Mansion next – no line whatsoever, walked right in! The ride kept stopping, which was annoying, but not a big deal. The ride stops to help people into to cars, people that need additional assistance. From this ride we went over to Disneyland Railroad and rode the train around to Main Street USA. This is where we would exit the park and go back to our hotel.

The kids wanted to swim, and my husband had some work to do. Timing worked out well. We got back to the hotel about 4:30. We had reservations for Medieval times at 7, had to leave about 6:15 or so to get there in time. We were not sure how long it would take to get our car out of valet, and how much traffic we would hit driving over there. So the kids got to swim for about an hour, while I sat in the hot tub. I met a lady from UK. She was very pleasant to talk to. She brought her niece along with her and her husband. They were enjoying Disneyland, and were not planning on going to Disney California Adventure at all. She heard all sorts of horrible things about it on the internet (can you imagine that??) LOL- I am so glad we gave DCA a chance, and went to make our own mind up about it. I told her our experience, and that we liked it. But she also had a smaller child, and there really isn’t much for the little ones to do.Well, I chatted with her and let my muscles unwind a bit. Before I knew it, it was time to get the kids out of the pool and upstairs to get ready. Medieval Times is a kick! Look at the website to learn more about it, I wont go into detail here… http://www.medievaltimes.com/  Came home directly from the show, and went to bed! We were all pretty tired.

Day 3

Last day, Tuesday! We woke up and got ready for the day. I packed everything up so we could check out. Its always so sad checking out. The kids finally decided they wanted to do some pin trading, so I made them wear their lanyards with the free pins we got from Disney Travel Co. We got 4 altogether, so I gave the kids each 2. Then I bought them each a pin to have as a starter pin. They each traded with one of the people at the checkout counter. They had fun. Check out was a breeze, they checked our luggage so that we could come get it later. There was a mistake on our bill, they corrected it immediately without any questions.Now that we had checked out, pin traded, got our luggage stored, we were off to Disneyland again. Half way to Disneyland my son realized he left his hat in the room. So he and I ran back to get it. The maid was already in the room cleaning. She had his hat on the table, and told him she was glad he came back to get it. Then he and I RAN back towards Disneyland to catch up with Dad and my daughter. We made it just in time, they were just about to let everyone in. We decided to take today slow, we only had a few rides on our MUST DO list (Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Autopia and Splash Mountain again. The rides for EE changed again. You would think they would stay consistent. We rode Thunder Mountain and then walked over towards fantasy land, they had most of the Fantasy Land rides open today. We rode Mr Toads Wild Ride, and the Teacups (that song is still stuck in my head). Then over to Autopia, again. The kids each drove their own cars, without us as riders! They did well. The new Autopia cars are very cute. Chevron sponsored the rides changes, and there is a short little ‘commercial’ area for Chevron that you look at while you are in line. It was interesting that half the cars (blue row) have their steering wheels on the left, while the cars in the red row had right hand steering. Much easier to drive the left hand steering if you are right footed, that gas pedal is hard to push down with your left foot for too long! After we drove the cars we went back to eat at our favorite spot – the Tomorrowland Terrace! This time the kids didn’t want a full breakfast so they got Rice Crispies squares! Husband and I got breakfast. I was starving for some reason. I am not a big eater, but I wanted some FOOD! We hit splash mountain from there. The ride was not open, they were having technical difficulties. There was a man out by the ride queue telling everyone to check back in a half hour. We heard them testing the ride and decided to stay there in line. Within 10 minutes they let us in! So we lucked out. Rode the ride, then went over to Pirates of the Caribbean to ride that. Very short line there, too. Then Indiana Jones, we used our pre-issued fast pass that came from Disney Travel Co. About a 5-10 minute wait. I love that ride, lots of fun to ride! Jungle Cruise was next. The kids don’t remember riding it, its been years. They enjoyed it. I always like hearing what corny jokes the drivers of the boats will tell. This guy we had was funny. That was the last ride for us. We went to Main Street and did some souvenir shopping, and then left.

The kids were dying to find someone else to pin trade with, and we saw a couple Cast Members standing at the Disney Info booth outside the parks, both were wearing pin lanyards! So we went over and chatted with them, and the kids each traded a pin with them. I could definitely see how this could get addicting. We had no idea which pins to try to get or anything, but it was fun. We had reservations at the Storyteller Café back at the Grand Californian for a late lunch. I had heard that they have really good food, its expensive but worth it. So we gave it a try. I must say that I agree. The food is not cheap, but it was very good. I had a 4 cheese ravioli, with artichokes and shitake mushrooms. Very good! Husband had Prime Rib and he said it was delicious! It was served with smashed potatoes and grilled veggies. Son had a Make your Own pizza (used medication so he could have dairy), which he enjoyed and my daughter had mini cheeseburgers. They served fresh breads and my husband had a very good salad. They had a vinagrette sort of dressing, and walnuts on the salad, too. Interesting! I told everyone I was not cooking dinner tonight, so they had to eat all their lunch! They did!

We went and got our car out of valet, and our luggage from bell services and said good-bye to Disney! As always, we were sad to leave. The trips are never long enough. We had a wonderful time, got to do lots of fun things, eat lots of good food, experience some great Disney magic and get away from everyday life a little!

Final thoughts:

Disneys California Adventure: Fun park. Its NOT Disneyland, nor was it designed to be. I think if people go and just enjoy it for what it has to offer, they will like it. We did! It is completely different from Disneyland, so comparing it would be stupid. The rides are fun, only one real thrill ride, but the others are fun. The shows are good, there’s a lot to see and do. It’s probably a 6 hour park – not really worth $43 or whatever admission is, but it is fun. I am glad we went, and we will go again! We had hopper passes so we could go back and forth between the parks (although we didn’t end up doing that). I am sure that as time goes on, they will add more rides and attractions. Must-ride rides: Soaring over California, California Screaming. As we were driving around the Disney property, we were amazed at how they got all that new stuff into such a small area. Thinking that all that use to be a parking lot, and now it’s a gorgeous theme park and a hotel, Downtown Disney, etc. Great plan!

Disneys Grand Californian: Beautiful hotel. Spectacular service, wonderful rooms, great ambiance, so much to offer – including the perfect location! This is definitely a 5 star resort, and we wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again!

Disneyland: Fun, as always. Lots of little changes here and there, which is what we look forward to finding. Still a magical place, and we love to visit! Walking in Walts Footsteps Tour is definitely not a tour for younger kids. For adults who have been to Disneyland numerous times, a great tour! Lots of great info! Tomorrowland Terrace, great place to eat! Must ride rides: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Star Tours, Indiana Jones

Downtown Disney: Not nearly as big as Downtown Disney/Pleasure Island area in Orlando. Not as big as CityWalk in Universal. Small, but good selection of stores and restaurants. Seems to have good crowd control. Didn’t see too many crazies! Rainforest Café is a great place to eat! ESPN is a great place to spend some time playing arcade games or watching sports! Lots of neat little design features, including these really neat lamp posts (see photo). Nice walkway between the Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian Resort and the theme parks. La Brea Bakery is very crowded in the morning, must serve a good breakfast!

I would be happy to answer any questions, if sent to me via email to Kimmi@disneyzone.net Hope you enjoyed my report! Make sure you check out the photos we took!

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