Disneyland & Winterfest Water Polo – February 2016

Click here for the Full Photo Album

Day 1 – Thur 2/11

One of the advantages of our move is that we are a lot closer to the Denver airport – only about a 30 minute drive instead of 90. So we only had to get up a little earlier than normal to catch our 8:30am flight. I had originally booked a flight two hours earlier, then quickly thought better of it. Not much good would come of making rope-drop if we did so completely sleep deprived and grumpy.

We always park at an off site lot because it’s usually easier and faster, but we ran into a strange little traffic jam on the road leading up to the lot, and then the shuttle bus was slower than normal getting on its way. So we were cutting it a little closer than I would have liked by the time we got there.

Once through the ordeal of security, we grabbed a quick breakfast and didn’t even have time to finish eating it before it was time to board. Owen had actually been being a little whiney all morning, he’s not usually the one we have to worry about! Lily, on the other hand, had been a big ball of cheerfulness, who switched my kids???

But he may have just been hungry, because once he ate his breakfast on the plane he cheered up, and was quickly engrossed in playing Minecraft on his iPad, and later in a Transformers show.

The flight was pretty uneventful, and short! Just under two hours, so only half the time it takes us to fly to Florida. I could get used to this, for sure! We spent some time on the flight making use of the wi-fi to shop for a new kitchen table. Since moving, we have bought new living room furniture, a new mattress for us, and new bedroom furniture for Lily. At this rate, we’re going to end up replacing the whole house, lol! But I didn’t totally realize until we got it into a nice, new house, just how old and ratty our furniture had gotten. We kept having to pass my laptop back and forth across the aisle (Brian was sitting on the other side with the kids) and I think the dude next to me thought this was weird. But we actually have very little “down time” at home to sit and look at stuff together, so it seemed perfectly reasonable to me. We found a couple we liked, but didn’t settle on anything yet.

We  landed a few minutes early, and our luggage was already coming down the belt when we got to baggage claim. Wow, as long as the car rental went smoothly, we were going to be at the park in no time! Except that after a few minutes, we realized everyone from our flight had left. And all the bags were gone. And we still didn’t have Owen’s suitcase!

We went over to the Southwest baggage office and almost immediately they remembered getting a message about a bag from our flight – apparently there had been a mix-up and it was coming on the flight later that afternoon. At first I thought she was saying that we were going to have to come back to the airport in a few hours to get it, but she assured me it would be delivered to our hotel. So, that cost us a few minutes, but at least it was getting resolved.

I’ve mentioned a few times on previous trip reports how much I hate the car rental process. It’s never pleasant or easy anywhere, and our last experience in Florida had been an absolute disaster. We somehow stumbled our way to the Advantage office, which was in the parking garage instead of being in the terminal with the others. At least we didn’t have to take a bus like last time, though! It took the usual amount of time to go through all the paper work, and I was thinking that this actually hadn’t been so bad.

But as I finished signing, the guy helping me said, “Okay, I’ll let them know to start getting your car cleaned and fueled up.” Seriously??? They didn’t even have a car ready for us?? Grrr. So we stood around for a while, 15 minutes maybe. Finally, another gal working the desk handed me the keys, and pointed to the car that had just pulled up outside the door, indicating that one was ours.

But as we started walking up to it, it drove away. So… if that wasn’t our car, what was?? The original guy finally figured out that we had the keys to the VW Beetle convertible. Ummm, that wasn’t exactly what I ordered! It had a tiny trunk that I wasn’t even sure would fit our luggage, and I really didn’t have an desire to ride around in the wind. So, I made him give us a different one. It didn’t even have a full tank of gas yet, but he said they would just note that in our account, and we wouldn’t have to bring it back full. Somehow, this seemed like a rather unorganized operation. Oh well, finally we were on our way!

Driving and navigating in an unfamiliar city is always a little nerve-wracking, but with the help of Google we made it to our hotel, only about 20 minutes away. I checked us in, and of course our room wasn’t ready yet. But that didn’t matter,  all we needed to do was grab the parking permit so we could head out!

It really was the closest hotel to the park entrance. Right at the intersection where all the busses turn in from Harbor Blvd. The kids were bursting with excitement by now, fortunately both were in a pretty good mood. Our plan was to go to California Adventure both today and tomorrow, then Disneyland next week after Lily’s water polo tournament (which was the reason for coming out to California in the first place). It would have been nice to alternate parks, but the schedule just worked out better this way for various reasons.

The entrance looks just like Disney Hollywood Studios. Actually a lot of the park did, it had a very similar vibe. And the two parks (DCA and DL) really are right across from each other, with just the entry plaza in between them. Park hopping must be super easy here, though we had only bought base tickets.

(We were looking into the sun so I couldn’t get a good picture of the entrance, this is from Wikipedia. Looked very similar to that when we arrived though – not crowded at all)

The tickets I had bought online (through a discount program Brian gets at Google) said that we needed to exchange our confirmation page for actual tickets, but specifically said not to go to the ticket window, that we were to go directly to the turnstiles. This seemed odd, but sure enough that was right! I was glad there was no one behind us in line, because it took a while. The CM had to take each of our pictures, and issue us a new ticket, right there at the turnstile. Definitely seems like the kind of thing they would want to handle at the window. But finally, we were IN! And it was not even noon yet – another advantage of coming west, the time change helps us instead of hurting.

Everyone was hungry, so I knew our first stop had to be lunch. I hadn’t made an ADR because I didn’t know what time we would arrive, but I had looked at the map and knew there was some type of counter service place close to the entrance. Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, I believe it was. The menu had listed several types of sandwiches,  so I figured we could make it work. I didn’t realize until we were in line, that it really is just a Starbucks. The sandwiches are the boxed ones they have in the cooler case. Oh well, it was food and it was going to have to do! Even if the only vegetarian option was the kids pb&j.

We scarfed down our food pretty quick, and were ready to head out for some fun! The park wasn’t busy at all. One of the reasons I had wanted to come a day early – the crowd predictions for today were much lower than the rest of the week. Both kids wanted to ride Tower of Terror first, but we must have taken a slightly wrong turn and ended up at Monsters Inc instead. It only had a 5 minute wait so I convinced the kids to do it first.

I was really excited for Monsters, of course it’s one we don’t have at WDW, and Monsters Inc. is one of my very favorite movies. I didn’t actually know anything about the ride yet. It was cute – you ride in a taxi car through a lot of scenes from the movie. The animatronics are really good, and it brought back a lot of good memories from the movie. At the end, Roz is watching everyone leave, and makes comments to specific people about what they are doing and wearing, obviously more than just a robot, lol!

Now we made our way to Tower of Terror. (And happened to see Sully walk past us on the street!) I had thought we might get a fastpass, but the wait was only 15 minutes, so no need. Owen had actually been determined to ride this for several weeks. But suddenly in line, he started getting nervous. Just over a year ago, I had trouble even getting him onto Peter Pan and Small World, so this did seem like a bit of a stretch. But, despite seeming scared, he wasn’t backing out.

He was a little shaken when we came out of the movie room, and I tried to assure him that the movie was the scariest part. Little white lies, I know, lol! I could tell he was still scared, but got into the elevator with no argument. The ride had seemed identical to the one at WDW up until now, but I do think there is a minor difference once it starts. I was thinking that at WDW, once it takes you up, don’t you move forward along a track a ways before getting dropped? This one just dropped from where it was, caught me a bit off guard actually.

Partway through the drop sequence, I looked over at Owen – surely he was having fun now- he usually likes fast rides. But poor kid, he looked terrified! Sure enough, once it was done, he started crying and said he “never wanted to go on that again”. I felt really bad for him, but told him I was still very proud of how brave he had been. He shook it off quickly, and was ready to go have more fun by the time we were outside. (When Lily had a similar reaction to BTMRR years ago, it had ruined the rest of the evening. That’s the difference in their personalities though.)

We went generally in the direction of Paradise Pier, but had to go through Bug’s Land to get there. And of course Owen wanted to stop at the kiddie rides there. Lily was a little grumpy about it, but since he had just endured ToT, I figured we owed him one. He picked the Tuck and Roll’s Drive Em Buggies (bumper cars). We bumped and crashed for a few minutes, and even Lily was smiling by the end.

We continued on to PP. We passed the entrance to Radiator Springs, but the FPs for Radiator Springs Racers were already gone, and we weren’t going to wait 90 minutes in standby. So we would have to hit that one tomorrow.

Everyone was ready for a drink and snack by now. Paradise Pier is a boardwalk area, with lots of little food carts. So after far too much wandering around and indecision, Brian finally ended up with a corn-on-the-cob, the kids and I got frozen Mickey bars.

I wasn’t so much hungry as just HOT! The high for today was supposed to be 91, and we must have been right at it.  Before the trip, I had assumed it would be pretty cool and a little rainy, since that is supposed to be “normal” for this time a year. Instead, the forecast called for 6 straight days of nothing but sun and heat. Go figure. Highs would be between 89 and 92, with no chance of rain. I guess this is practice for our summer trip to WDW, minus the humidity at least.

Owen really wanted to do Mickey’s Fun Wheel, and we went ahead and got in line with our food, since with a 20 minute wait we would easily have time to finish.

I had never been on a ferris wheel where the cars move around. It was actually a pretty big thrill rush when the wheel would tilt us so that we went flying down a track, and the kids were both squealing with delight the whole time. Brian almost got motion sick at the end though, probably good that it ended when it did.

We had managed to forget Lily’s sunglasses, and I had been keeping an eye out for some ever since we got in the park. It seems like they are usually everywhere, until you are looking for them, lol! We finally found some in a shop there at the Boardwalk, and Brian by now had gone off in search of a cold bottle of water.

With that taken care of, we went to the Silly Symphony Swings. Since Owen was too short for the individual seats, he had to ride in the tandem ones. Which actually meant that we got to skip most of the line, since they give priority to any groups needing those. Lily asked as we were about to lift off if I would be scared on this – I tend to get a little freaked out when my feet are dangling free. I assured her that no, this was tame enough. But I have to admit, those first few seconds after my feet left the ground were a little unsettling! It really is a fun ride though.

We were right across from Goofy’s Sky School– a small roller coaster. It’s sort of like a cross between Barnstormer and Primeval Whirl, minus the spinning. The wait was about 15 minutes. And FPs were only 25 minutes out, so I guess we should have done that instead, but oh well. We were already out of water again by now, so I knew what our next stop would be. Man was it hot!

Owen loved the Sky School – it hit right as his thrill ride threshold. And then we stopped at another snack stand afterwards. Kids and I got churros, while he got some kind of cheese-filled corndog. I wasn’t really hungry though, and couldn’t even finish mine.

We continued on around Paradise Pier and came to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Owen has always hated this ride at WDW, but actually was excited to ride it here. Luckily it only had about a 5 minute wait. As we were boarding, the kids jumped into a clamshell by themselves. I didn’t think the CM would let them get away with it, since they are both just under the age cutoff. But no one stopped them, and I thought maybe they aren’t nearly as strict about it here.

For whatever reason, Owen LOVED the ride here. Even though, as far as I could tell, it was identical to the one at WDW. It would end up being one of his favorites, and he’s never even seen the movie.

I had just been thinking that everyone was getting along really well and in a good mood, but I must have jinxed it. I have no idea what set it off, but Lily suddenly became very grumpy. We ended up making another circle around Paradise Pier and she sulked the whole way, doing everything in her power to antagonize her brother and generally be a brat. Oh well, I knew this would happen at some point.

We stopped for another ride on Silly Symphony, then did Jumping Jellyfish and Golden Zephyr. Lily was doing her best to make sure Owen didn’t have any fun – mocking him, poking him, and I suspect worse when we weren’t looking. Tormenting her brother is her favorite pastime when she’s in a bad mood. Of course Owen loved all of them anyway, and Lily, well, you can probably guess, lol!

We were all still so hot, a ride on Grizzly Peak sounded wonderful. (Similar to Kali River Rapids at AK). I made a FP run while everyone else hung out in the shade and played with some bubbles. The FPs were only about 25 minutes out, with a posted standby time of 40 minutes, so that was a no-brainer!

We slowly wandered that direction after meeting up, taking in the vastly different theming in this area, compared to PP.  And stopped for our first Photopass picture.

Owen started getting really nervous again once we were in line. I ended up bribing him to go- told him that we would let him shop for a toy afterwards. I had initially said he had to wait until at least tomorrow, but I was willing to bend a little if it meant we could all cool off.

We ended up in a raft with a really nice group of ladies. They tried to relax Owen by chatting with him, but he was still pretty scared. Luckily, Brian ended up getting the most wet. So other than being a little shaken from some of the bigger drops, Owen was no worse for the wear when we got off. Still said he didn’t like it, but at least once again, he had been brave enough to do it anyway.

We went back to the store on the Boardwalk where he had seen some stuff he liked earlier, and he picked out a Mickey punching hand. We had done an awfully lot of walking back and forth though – I think this was our 3rd or 4th lap around Paradise Pier.

Brian and Lily and been wanting to do California Screamin’ but it was having some issues and closed multiple times throughout the afternoon. Actually, I can’t remember exactly when it was, but at one point they were in line, and with only a couple cars in front of them it broke down again, and they had to evacuate people off of it. I had seen it happening from below, and knew they had to be either on it or very close. Hopefully it would be working better tomorrow.

We headed towards Radiator Springs, thinking we could at least do Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. It’s right at the entrance to RS, and the posted wait time was only 10 minutes. I think one of the sides broke down though. There was some confusion as to whether it was still running at all, and we ended up waiting over 30 minutes. It was a fun ride though, and I’m glad we got to do it despite the wait. You are being towed in a trailer behind a tractor (the kind Mater show Lightning how to “tip”) and it runs on these circular tracks that whip you around in every direction.

We didn’t explore any more of RS, knowing we would need to come back to it tomorrow. So for the first time all day, I found myself with no plan at all. So I thought it might be a good time to split up. Brian took Lily back to Tower of Terror. (It’s her favorite ride, she would be content to ride it all day).

Owen and I were going to head to the Animation building, but got distracted coming back through Bug’s Land. He wanted to do the other rides there – Flik’s Flyers and Francis’s Ladybug Boogie. We ended up waiting at least twice as long as the sign said for both (this was a common problem between both parks, the whole trip. The posted wait times were NEVER accurate!)

By the time we were done, Brian and Lily were waiting in the Animation building already. On our way there, I realized the Pixar Pals parade was just about to start, and there was actually still plenty of room right by the curb. I called Brian, and it turned out he had the same thought and was already trying to call me at the same time. Lily, however, did NOT want to watch a parade. And was fuming mad that we were “making” her. Sigh.

I was a really good parade though, and I’m glad we got to see it. And Lily even seemed to enjoy it, despite herself. We split up again afterwards. Lily was still a little down, but seemed willing to be conciliatory at least. And really wanted to go shopping. I detest shopping “just for fun”. If I’m looking for something specific it’s different. But browsing aimlessly has always seemed to pointless to my hopelessly logical brain. Trying to take advantage of her slightly improved mood though, I sucked it up and put on my happy face anyway.

She wanted to go to the Tower of Terror gift shop. Actually, she would have loved to ride, but the wait was 30 minutes and I wasn’t willing to wait in it. She looked around the shop for a while, being rather tempted by a purse and a mirror. But couldn’t decide if she was ready to part with her money yet. Another thing I dislike about shopping, it creates so much angst and stress. But ultimately she decided to wait.

We met back up with the boys, and it was time to make our way to dinner. I had made an ADR at Ariel’s Grotto, mostly because it included reserved viewing for the World of Color show that evening. We were about 20 minutes early when we got to the podium, and the CM wouldn’t let us check in yet. So we wandered over to another store, and Lily finally picked out some Star Wars comic books. Owen was pretty whiney about not getting anything, but I reminded him that he had bought his punching hand earlier, and he didn’t have much money left.

Once we checked in for dinner, it was only a couple of minutes before our pager went off. (One of the things I have to say we got spoiled with here, we almost never waited more than a couple minutes at any of the TS restaurants). I could tell Owen was fading fast, he kept trying to curl up and sleep in his chair. Thankfully, he rarely throws fits when he is tired now (like he did when he was younger, we had a couple of really rough trips to WDW a few year ago), he just tries to fall asleep wherever he is.

We had gotten the very latest dinner seating, which meant we weren’t going to have much time to get to the viewing area and ready for the show. The service was moving along pretty quickly though, right up until the end. And we had a really hard time getting our check! So I was feeling pretty rushed by the time we left. The food was fine – nothing particularly notable. Obviously you are paying for the location and WoC tickets more than anything else here.

When we got to the roped off viewing area, it was pretty full already (30 minutes before showtime). We picked a spot by the front rail, with only a couple of teenage girls in front of us. I figured it would be easy enough to hold Owen so that he could see over them.

The time passed slowly, but finally the show was about to start, in just a couple of minutes. And just then, a big dude with two young kids managed to push his way to the front, crowding in right next to me, in such a way that I couldn’t see around him at all on that side. And then proceeded to put his young daughter on his shoulders. I shouldn’t gripe about it, I know, but really? You just pushed your way to the front, does she STILL need to be on  your shoulders? Oh well.

The show really was amazing. They make a screen out of water, and project images onto it. A lot of scenes from movies, footage of Walt Disney himself, and Neil Patrick Harris is the host. Colorful fountains of water erupt all around, synchronized with the music. It had some similarities to Fantasmic, but still quite different than anything at WDW. This was the reason I had wanted to come to DCA today. The show was at 8:15 tonight, for the rest of our trip they weren’t doing it until 9:45pm. And I was afraid that was just too late, especially for Owen. Seeing as how he barely made this one, I think that was a fair assumption.

The park had already closed by the time it was over. Which was good, because we couldn’t be tempted to stay despite our exhaustion. I think I ended up carrying Owen a good part of the way back to the hotel. It is nice not to have to worry about catching a bus or boat though. It was probably only a 10 minute walk from the WoC theater to our hotel, even in the exit crowds.

We had to stop by the front desk to get our keys and room assignment, but that was quick and we were settling into bed within a few minutes. And they had Owen’s suitcase waiting for us at the desk. Not quite the Magical Express, but quite a relief to have not lost it. It had been a marathon day, and it was only the first!

(One of several reasons I chose this hotel – bunk beds means that the kids don’t have to share sleeping space, which makes both of them happier.)

Day 2 – Fri 2/12

Our hotel had a free “hot breakfast”, it was one of the reasons I picked it, in addition to being so close. It actually turned out to be pretty good. We were worried that “hot breakfast” meant they had a waffle iron. And they did. But they also had real eggs, bacon or sausage, and hash browns. In addition to the usual staples of cereal and toast. We ended up eating there every morning, and it mostly took care of our breakfast needs.

We were hoping to make rope-drop today, and were not the only ones! The breakfast room was packed already when we got there shortly after 7am. The park opened at 8, so we tried to eat as fast as we could. Having a waffle iron meant that I had to make 3 waffles though – a tedious task when it’s crowded. We were on our way by 7:40, later than I would have liked, but with only a short walk to the park entrance we were still there before 8. The kids were both in a great mood, and even snuggling with their dad throughout the walk.

As we came to the turnstiles, they were playing the Soarin’ soundtrack! That was the reason I wanted to come back here today. It is currently undergoing it’s transition to Soarin’ around the World, and they only have it open a couple days a week (still playing the original Soarin’ Over California). I was bummed when I thought we were going to WDW in March and Soarin’ would already be completely closed there. Then when we planned this trip I thought I’d get another ride afterall, but my excitement quickly faded as it looked like it would be closed here as well. But in the last few weeks a pattern had emerged, open Fri-Sun, closed the rest of the week. So this was our chance! It’s my favorite Disney ride ever, so I was so happy that I would get one more ride before it changes.

They let us through the turnstiles to a holding area further down Buena Vista Street.  Obviously everyone in our corner of the rope-drop area was heading to Soarin’, as it was the only thing in that direction. So we just followed the mob once they let us in. Except that when we got to the ride, there was much confusion over which side was the standby line, and which was the line to get FPs. Just a quick aside here, this was a common problem in both parks. I’ve heard that DLR in general is considered much more of a “local’s park”, so maybe that’s why things aren’t labeled as well, they assume you’ve been there before and know where to go. It wouldn’t be the last time we couldn’t figure out where the line was. In any case, we finally got ourselves sorted out in the right place, but a good number of people had gone in ahead of us in the meantime. Oh well. We were riding regardless, I don’t care if it takes all day!

The theming inside is quite different from the queue at WDW. It looks like an old-fashioned airplane hangar. The WDW one reminds me more of a futuristic space port. We ended up waiting about 20 minutes, which I still thought wasn’t bad. And we got sorted into the middle row! I love being in the middle because you can’t see the top or bottom edge of the screen, makes it feel more realistic. And we’ve only managed that a couple of times.

I actually started feeling a little emotional in line, even though I guess that’s silly. I’ve always had a nostalgic connection to the ride since I rode it for the first time on Lily’s first trip in 2008. So it reminds me of that trip, which was one I doubt we will ever be able to match. I’m sure Soarin’ Around the World will be great, but I’ll miss the California one for sure. Neat that I got one last ride actually IN California.

As the ride started, Owen was ecstatic. He immediately recognized several of the landmarks (having just been in San Francisco last year) and was having a blast calling them out. All too soon, it was over and time to move on. Really glad I got to ride it one more time though. That was special.

The next important task was to pick up FPs for Radiator Springs Racers, before they ran out like yesterday. The FP machine is in a totally different part of the park. Which I guess makes sense because the ride is buried all the way in the back of RS. But if I hadn’t known that already, it could have been frustrating. We got FPs that would work for right after lunch, so that would be perfect.

After this we split up again. Brian and Lily were off to ride California Screamin’. Owen wanted to do Silly Symphony Swings again, but before we got there he spotted Little Mermaid and opted for another ride on that one instead. He was really fascinated by how they indicate you are going underwater with all the bubbles over your head, then do it again when you come up for the land scenes. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have even noticed that detail if he hadn’t pointed it out. Clever kid.

It turned out that California Screamin’ was closed again, so we met back up and did the Swings. Then I took Lily back to Tower of Terror while the boys went to Toy Story Midway Mania. There just doesn’t seem to be a way to ride that one without a 30-40 wait, as they don’t have FP for it. But Owen was willing to wait, Lily of course was not.

Although our wait for ToT ended up being that long too, despite the sign saying only 15 minutes. Again, I had to learn not to count on those being good for anything. While we were waiting, I started feeling quite ill suddenly. Not sure what was going on, but out of nowhere I felt queasy and almost feverish. Now I’ve never been prone to motion sickness, but was this really a good idea? Hopefully I was just dehydrated and not coming down with something.

We were put in the first row this time, I always seem to be in the back. I definitely seemed to notice a lot more of the theatrics that go on before the big drop. And of course the exact drop sequence is different every time. This time we seemed to get just a few long, uninterrupted drops instead of lots of choppy ones. Owen would not have liked it for sure. I had been worried it would make me sick, and I was definitely feeling a little lightheaded by the time we came back, but it seemed to have shaken the queasiness right out of me, at least!

I called Brian afterwards and suggested that they head over to the Wilderness Explorers area that he had spotted yesterday. Lily was wanting to shop some more, so I told him we would meet them there when we were done.

(I’m almost always the one with the camera, but Lily briefly took it while we were walking and snapped one of me with my phone in my hand, because she says I’m “always” like that. I told her I can’t help that the park map is digital now, otherwise I’d just have my head buried in a large piece of paper, lol!)

We wandered around a couple of shops. She ended up buying a necklace that says “Believing is just the Beginning” and a long-sleeved Disneyland shirt. And I even bought something – a ring that spells LOVE with Mickey ears. I actually don’t normally wear a wedding ring, for several reasons, but I figured if I was going to wear this one I might as well put it on my ring finger.

Lily insisted on wearing her new shirt, even though it was like 100 degrees outside. Okay, maybe only 90. But still. I thought she was crazy. We made our way over to the Red Creek Challenge Trail in the Wilderness area, where the boys were. I felt a little bad that I actually didn’t know much about this. Brian had seen it yesterday and thought Owen would really like it. I did try to research the park as best I could before we left, but obviously I had some gaps in my knowledge.

When you come in, they give you a map with different adventures you have to complete, and if you complete all of them, you get to go to a ceremony and become a Senior Wilderness Explorer (from the movie “Up”). The adventures were things like climbing through a net course, doing a zip line, scavenger hunt, rock wall, etc. Owen was almost halfway done by the time we got there and he was having an absolute blast. This was his element, for sure.

He showed us around the ones he had done already, and we watched him do the rest. I couldn’t get Lily to participate at all, but at least she was being pretty patient. We had to really hurry through the last one, which was solving some riddles, because the ceremony was about to start and the next one wasn’t for a couple more hours.

Owen got to go up on stage and do the Wilderness Explorer Pledge, then later Russell came by! It was actually set up to get pictures with him afterwards, but Owen wasn’t interested so we slipped out and skipped that part. He was so proud of his completed map though, I think it ended up being his favorite souvenir, and he spent a lot of time throughout the weekend looking at it and remembering the stuff he did. So this one was a hit, for sure.

It was almost time for lunch, so we went on to check in at Wine Country Trattoria. We were actually a few minutes early, but they still seated us almost right away. We had the choice to sit inside or out, but I really need lunch as a break from the heat and sun.

The food here was surprisingly good, one of my favorite meals of the trip. I didn’t have anything too fancy, just some veggie pasta. But it was yummy. And the kids were being a bit goofy, but still in a good mood. So far, it had been an almost-perfect mood day for Lily. Knock on wood!

Our FP time for Radiator Springs Racers had just started when we finished, and Carsland was right across from the restaurant! We stopped for another Photopass picture, then headed on into Radiator Springs.

I have to say, I was a little blown away by what they’ve done here. It is literally like they plucked Radiator Springs right out of the movie and put it down here, in DCA. Right down to every last detail, it is truly like being there. Owen was so obsessed with Cars a few years ago, it’s a shame we couldn’t get him here then. But really glad we got to see it. Brian thought it was great that the flashing yellow light really WAS longer on every third one, lol!

We continued all the way down to the end, where the entrance to Radiator Springs Racers is. (Again, if I hadn’t just been following the crowd, it would not have been obvious that it was back there). Our wait with the FP was still about 15 minutes, but standby was 75.

All I really knew about the ride was that it was similar to Test Track, but with a Cars theme. It turned out to be really cool – probably the most impressive ride I’ve seen from Disney. While the cars and track are obviously built just like Test Track, the ride itself is nothing like it. The first part takes you through Radiator Springs and some scenes from the movie, and the animatronics are so life-like that it’s hard to believe you haven’t just stepped inside the animation. Then for the fast part on the track outside, you race the car next to you! I think we lost by less than a second, but it was tons of fun. And the whole things takes place inside this giant canyon – looks just like the scenery from the movie. I suppose I can see why people are willing to wait so long for this one. But I’ll still take a FP, lol!

Not my picture, but you can see what the cars look like…

We didn’t have much time before we were going to have to leave for Lily’s water polo game. The kids decided on another ride of Little Mermaid (Owen’s 3rd!). Unfortunately, this time the CMs were being more strict and after Owen and Lily were already in the clamshell, they stopped the whole ride and made us switch. Oh well.

We headed back to Paradise Pier  – at some point Brian and Lily had picked up FPs for California Screamin’… maybe it was before we rode Little Mermaid but I can’t remember for sure. But they weren’t good until 2pm, and I had said we needed to leave at 2:15. So they needed to use them right away, then we’d have to head out. And hopefully it wouldn’t break down this time!

Owen and I went for one last ride on Silly Symphony Swings (he said that was one of his very favorite rides after the trip). Then once we got back over to Screamin’, he really wanted to to the photo-op, even though he couldn’t do the ride. Brian and Lily had finally gotten to ride – I think this was their 4th attempt! I don’t know if it’s common for them to have this much trouble keeping it running or if it was just having a bad couple of days. But they seemed to have enjoyed it.

And then, our time was up and we had to head out. But we had pretty thoroughly covered the park. My only regret was that I never got to spend any time in the Animation Building. Brian and Owen had explored it briefly while Lily and I shopped and said it was really cool. But we did a lot, and today especially, I think everyone had a really good time.

We walked back to the hotel and got our stuff ready for the game. The coach had already prepared us for the fact that the newer players probably wouldn’t play much if any tonight, since for tonight only, the team was able to use 3 of their more advanced players who would be in a different division for the other games. But it would be a good experience for her to see what a real game is like anyway.

The pool was about 30 minutes away, and not knowing where we were going I wanted to allow plenty of extra time. So we got there about 20 minutes early. Had to take a toll road for part of it – a minor gripe here – the toll rate wasn’t posted anywhere, the signs just gave a website and said to go there and pay online within 5 days. I didn’t realize until I got home that you have to actually remember exactly what days you drove exactly which portions of the road and figure out your tolls accordingly. We ended up driving so many pieces of it at different times, there’s no way I can pay these tolls accurately! That seems like a totally unfair system. In Colorado, they just send you a bill every month.

The game ended up being very close, but our Rocky Mountain Neptunes pulled out a 5-4 win. That would put them in a good position to win their bracket tomorrow, and made it much less likely that they would come in 3rd, and thus only get 4 games instead of 5. (Though I selfishly admit that part of me hoped they DID come in 3rd, because then we would have had almost all of Sunday free, lol!)

I really don’t know much about water polo, but was starting to figure it out. And to my pleasant surprise, I actually enjoyed watching more than I thought I would. I will say it’s more interesting than watching heat after heat of the same swim race. Though I think Brian and I are both still struggling to come to terms with the fact that she walked away from the sport that we had all helped her put so much into for so many years. “C’est la vie”, I suppose.  Mostly it’s just hard to watch her go back to being a beginner, when she was becoming one of the best swimmers on her team before.

We had a rough trip back to the hotel. A very long, loud argument between Brian and Lily. I’ll just leave it that, lol!

They had mostly calmed down by the time we got to the parking lot. We managed to get it together enough to go out in search of dinner though. I hadn’t made any plans tonight because there had initially been some talk of having a team dinner, but that apparently never materialized.

We were in no mood to do anything complicated or far away, so I suggested Tony Roma’s, which was next door to the hotel. Being a Friday night, I was worried it would be swamped, but it actually wasn’t busy at all and we were seated right away. So, we did manage to salvage dinner for the most part.

Owen, as usual, had just remained silent during the worst of the fight. But by dinner, saw his opportunity to go into cheer-everyone-up-mode. He is such a little ball of sunshine. He just wants everyone to be happy, and will give hugs and kisses and tell jokes until he makes it so.

And talking about Owen, I have to add the cute story once we got back to the hotel. Unlike Lily, Owen is already very much convinced that he wants to have a family when he grows up. To the point that it actually stresses him out a little. He was asking us all sorts of questions about what if the person he married didn’t want kids, or only wanted one kid (he wants at least 3!), or what if he wasn’t a good enough dad and didn’t know how to take care of them, or what if he didn’t know how to find Disneyland to take his kids there, etc. Deep conversations for a 5 year old, lol! But it was so cute.

Not long after going to bed, I heard a sudden series of booms outside. Gunfire??? Wait, no, we’re across the street from Disneyland, must be fireworks! Sure enough, we had a perfect view of them right out of our window! Both kids jumped out of bed and watched for a while. Brian said it was just like the Disney World commercial with the kids saying they can’t sleep and watching the fireworks in their pajamas. Pretty sure that was taken at a theme-park-view room at the Contemporary. And yet we were getting the same perk at our cheap little offsite motel, lol! A much better ending to the night than how it had begun, at least. 

Day 3 – Sat 2/13

The Neptunes had a game this morning, but not until 9:30 so we were able to take our time a little more getting up and ready. The morning was pretty uneventful. It was already HOT by the time we got to the pool, even though it was still morning. We always had to get there an hour early for warm-up, so we would end up watching the game before hers too.

The game started off rough – after the first few minutes they were already down 0-3. Not having their 3 most advanced players (who were playing with the older kids’ team today) meant that they had very little confidence and leadership in the pool. But somehow, they figured it it out, and by halftime they had taken the lead! Lily got to play a little, and while she certainly isn’t the star player, she actually looked like she mostly knew what she was doing out there. They ended up winning in a nail biter, 6-5. So they won their initial bracket, and would continue to the winner’s final bracket with 3 more games.

We had enough time after the game to go get lunch, and Brian had been wanting to make it over to the beach too. Lily was struggling though – she is not used to swimming in an outdoor pool, and since they don’t wear googles or any type of eye protection, the glare from the sun off the water had really gotten to her. She was in a lot of pain, so I figured that spending more time in the sun (on the beach) was not a good idea.

We got a quick lunch at Mod Pizza, then checked a couple of different stores, looking for some eye drops that would help her. We did get some at Walgreens, though they didn’t seem to help much. No one was in a good mood by now. Brian and Owen wanted to go do something fun, Lily just wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately we were too far from the hotel for that to be practical, since we had to be back at the pool in just over an hour.

We ended up driving to a park and let the boys play, while we hung out in the car. It was so HOT though! I really don’t think this is normal for this area in February, did we really have to come on a week with a freak heat wave??

She was still in pain by the time we made it back to the pool, but put on her happy-face for her team, and toughed it out. Unfortunately they ended up losing this game. The other team had one player who was just unstoppable – he was more than a whole head taller than everyone else and just massive. They didn’t stand a chance. Without their star player, I think they could have beaten them, as the rest of the team wasn’t anything special.

The silver lining, I pointed out to a few parents, was that by losing, their game tomorrow morning was an hour later. More sleep is always a good thing. 

So, we seemed to be cursed when it comes to leaving these games. You may remember what happened last night. Brian was still wanting to go to the beach, since there was still plenty of sunlight left. Lily, however, had gotten it in her head that we were going to go back to the hotel and go to Downtown Disney. And totally flipped her lid when the beach suggestion was made. And totally threw a screaming, two-year-old style temper tantrum about not getting her way. Another 30 minutes of screaming.

After the dust settled, we did end up going back to the hotel, since Brian wasn’t in the mood to enjoy the beach at that point anyway. But, there was no way I was going to reward her behavior with a trip to Downtown Disney. The boys went down to the pool, and Lily finally went down to join them, though her mood hadn’t improved much, and she was still looking to pick a fight with anyone and everyone. 

I came down to watch them for a bit before dinner. Owen was having a blast as usual, doing crazy jumps in off the side. Lily was still sulking and being snarky.

We had dinner reservations at Catal, in Downtown Disney. I made it clear that this was just a dinner trip though, no shopping after the episode earlier. We had more drama before we could leave. Her eyes were still bothering her, but she was determined not to wear her glasses, she wanted her contacts. But would scream in pain every time she put one in, then take it right back out. This went on for about 15 minutes. She finally left with them in, but was in so much pain by the time we got to the restaurant that she took them out again. And conveniently didn’t have her glasses with her.

Downtown Disney is right next to the parks. From our hotel, there was a sidewalk leading up the the entry plaza and ticket windows. On the right side of the entry plaza is Disneyland, on the left is California Adventure, and straight across on the other side is Downtown Disney. Definitely much more compact here than at WDW.

It was packed walking through DD, and we had to hold hands to have any hope of staying together. We finally got to Catal, and had to wait a very long time for the hostess to come back to her stand. She had disappeared after talking to the person in front of us. Then she simply told us to go upstairs and check in there.

Ultimately, this ended up being our least favorite dining experience of the whole trip. It was the only time we had to wait at all after checking in. It wasn’t too bad, maybe 10-15 minutes. But it was just so crowded in the waiting area, partly because half of it was taken up with parked strollers. And we got scolded a bit for standing in one of the aisles by a waitress, and I not-so-nicely retorted back that I’d be happy to wait somewhere else with more room.

The food was okay, but rather bland. And the service, even once we were seated, was pretty slow. The restaurant certainly tried to act pretentious, but I don’t think they are nearly as good as they act like they are. So, definitely wouldn’t come back here. And the kids were exhausted by the end. I even carried Owen out because he was falling asleep standing up. Though strangely enough, at the first mention of stopping by the candy shop next door, he was wide awake, lol!

He did make a really cool picture while we were waiting for our food. Actually, most of his artwork these days look something like this. He says they are buildings – he definitely has his own style! Maybe he’ll be an architect one day.

We went into Marceline’s Confectionary, thinking we’d just pick up a quick treat to eat on the way back. But it was packed too, and had a line of about 30 people to get to the counter. Owen ended up getting an airplane toy filled with candy, Lily and I picked something from the case. She got a cupcake, and I got one of the special 60th Anniversary cake-pops. I’ve only ever had one cake-pop and it was gross, but this one was so pretty I had to try it. I should have taken a picture – it was a blue Mickey head with glittery ears. Definitely better than my first cake-pop experience, lol!

The rest of the night was uneventful. We crashed pretty quick after getting back. though we did get to see the fireworks from the window again. Today definitely stood out as the “bummer” day of the trip. The good news is, it all gets better from here.

Day 4 – Sun 2/14

We had another game this morning. Unfortunately, it was very foggy and all the tables at breakfast were wet. (Most of the seating is outside). Pretty uneventful getting to the pool otherwise, though. The fog had completely cleared by the time we got there, and Lily said her eyes were feeling fine this morning. I begged her to wear her sunglasses as much as possible though, and try to stay out of the sun whenever she could. Advise that would probably fall of deaf ears though. 

The team they had lost to last night was playing during warm-up (since the winner of that game got the earlier one this morning) and the other team they were playing against almost got their coach kicked out. Let’s just say he was not being very nice to the refs, lol! Or some of the kids for that matter. He did get a warning card, and I would actually have loved to see him get thrown out. Definitely a different sport than swimming – as I had never seen a swim coach be anything but positive and supportive at meets. To the kids and the officials.

They ended up losing again – they just couldn’t seem to get themselves organized and made a lot of desperate-looking and poorly-thought-out plays. Oh well. Lily did play quite a bit and was looking more comfortable each time she went in. One more game to go, regardless.

With everyone in a better mood than yesterday, and having an hour longer than we had in between games yesterday, we decided to head to the beach. Laguna Beach was about 15 minutes away. It was a madhouse over there though, and it took us a while to find parking.

It was almost lunchtime (right around 11am) and as we were walking past BJ’s, Brian wondered out loud if they were open. The host just happened to walk outside to the podium at that moment and overhear, and answered that yes, in fact they were! So that was an easy lunch solution. Maybe not too original or unique, but we were hungry and it would work. Lily had bought a souvenir mini water polo ball earlier, and everyone played with it at the table while we waited.

After lunch, we walked across the street to the beach. It was still very foggy over here, but I actually didn’t mind since I wouldn’t have wanted to sit out in the sun anyway. The water, of course, was pretty cold. But Brian and Lily ended up wading in a bit anyway. Lily was still in her water polo suit, but Brian just ended up going in with his clothes on.

Owen mostly played in the sand, (and pretended to dig up treasure and fossils) but did get his feet wet a little. Overall, it ended up being a nice and relaxing couple of hours, playing in the sand and waves.

We got back to the pool for the last game. Luckily, Lily’s eyes were tolerating the sun a lot better today. There was no fog here, that would have been nice actually as it was HOT! Even in the covered stands.

Unfortunately, they ended the tournament with yet another loss. They played hard, and actually looked better than they had this morning. But it just wasn’t enough. Lily actually got the ball several times, and even made a shot at the goal! The goalie stopped it, but it was still a decent shot, and I was proud of her just for getting in a position where she could even try for one. Not bad for her first tournament!

Near the end of the game, I happened to be taking a short video (just because I realized I hadn’t taken any yet) and during the 10-second clip I took, a player from the other team got kicked out! That was the first time we had seen that happen, and I had it on video, lol! You can’t hear what he is saying, but in the video he is obviously yelling and arguing with the ref over something.

For once we had no drama on the way back, but we didn’t emerge totally off the hook… the drama just waited until we got back to the hotel. The plan was for Brian to take the kids swimming, while I stayed in the room. I was feeling so drained, physically and mentally and just wanted some dark, quiet time in the room before dinner.

But it was not meant to be. Instead Lily and I ended up having a very long and deep conversation about some very heavy topics in the room while Brian and Owen swam. I did my best to talk openly and honestly about the challenges we face, and the choices we make. I can only hope it did some good. She at least seemed to be more at peace after a while, and decided to take a shower instead of going down to the pool.

The boys came back and we got ready to go back to Downtown Disney. I had originally wanted to get 5 day tickets, thinking we could spend a couple of hours in the park tonight. But we had decided it wouldn’t be worth it. In hindsight, I think we made the right call. We were definitely up for something more relaxing.

We left early enough that we could do a little shopping, as I felt like Lily had earned back her chance from yesterday. We wandered into World of Disney, and quickly split up since the kids were going to want to shop for different things. It was so busy in there, it was hard to even look and get around.

Lily has mostly been into buying clothes lately, but must have been in a reliving-her-childhood-mood, because she suddenly decided that she wanted to get a Shellie May bear (Duffy’s friend). Owen ended up picking out a 60th Anniversary Disneyland hauler truck. It was really more of a collector’s item than a toy, but that didn’t phase him. Though he was disappointed that it was attached to the box with screws, so we couldn’t get it out until we got home. Oh, and without Owen knowing, Lily bought him a Thor tsum-tsum and gave it to him at dinner. She really CAN be sweet sometimes, lol!

Tonight, we had reservations at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. I hadn’t been able to make the ADR until earlier in the week, because I didn’t know what the game schedule would be. And this was the only thing in Downtown Disney that had any availability by that time. (It was Valentines Day, no doubt making reservations harder to come by) Once I had found out that they wouldn’t even have the latest game tonight, I tried to move the ADR to an earlier time, but had no luck.

We checked in and were given the option of inside or out. Normally I prefer inside, but the temperature outside was so perfect, and the atmosphere in DD was fun so we chose that. We were given a pager, but it buzzed before we had even found a place to stand and wait. It ended up being a really good meal, much better than last night. Ironic, since Catal was the one I picked specifically, and this was the one I settled for. You just never know, I guess! I had the veggie jambalaya, and while spicy it was really good. Then we got beignets for dessert, yum!

So today had definitely gone better than yesterday. Tomorrow we were headed to Disneyland, and it definitely felt like tonight, that we had all slipped back into vacation mode again.

Day 5 – Mon 2/15

Finally we were headed to Disneyland today! After two days at DCA and then 2 days of water polo, it felt like the highlight of the trip was just now getting here. I admit I had a hard time getting used to the fact that the park itself is called “Disneyland”, not Magic Kingdom. I actually hadn’t realized that until I started planning this trip. Maybe that’s why so many people in FL will refer to MK as DisneyWorld. (As in, “No, we didn’t go to Disney World, only Epcot”) It’s always driven me crazy, but now it makes more sense.

Anyway, another 8am opening, and being President’s Day it was bound to be busy. A 9/10 according to touringplans.com. I think the busiest days we’ve done at WDW were only 8/10, so this should be interesting. And it was going to be another scorcher – predicted high of 92. But, we were determined to make the best of it and have fun!

Breakfast was the usual ordeal of making waffles for 3 people and cereal/juice/toast/etc for 2. But we still got to the gates just before they opened. Lily had decided to bring Shellie May along for the day. Which of course means that she’ll end up in my backpack for most of it, lol! I did refuse to bring the fleece pullovers today, since even the low in the evening wasn’t predicted to be below 65. They take up most of my backpack, and I suspected I would need it for other things.

We were let in the park a little before 8. My first reaction entering Main Street was that something was wrong. Very, very wrong. It was like we had just entered some sort of dystopian version of Magic Kingdom. It looked enough like it to convince me we were there… but nothing was in quite the right place. And the buildings weren’t the right color. And everything was just so… small. And old. And squished together. It was very disconcerting. The other lands would be different enough that they stood on their own, and I didn’t get the same uneasiness. But this was downright creepy, lol!

And the Castle of course, is so small it’s almost comical. It looks like a dollhouse. But I had seen enough pictures to be expecting that, at least.

We headed towards Tomorrowland, but were being held back at a rope there until 8. And we were pretty far back in the crowd, making Lily very stressed and pessimistic. We were waiting right next to the outdoor seating at the Plaza Inn, a character meal that we were doing tomorrow. We saw Tigger and a few others, and they even waved to us from the other side of the bushes! Not to be a negative Nelly, but I was disappointed to see the state of the restaurant. The tables looked old and a little rusty, and the umbrellas over them were faded and even torn in places. The ground looked dirty, lots of dead leaves scattered around. It looked more like something I would have expected from a local amusement park, not Disney.

Owen had been so excited for weeks to ride Space Mountain, so we were headed there. I was glad actually that he could ride it here first, since the seats are in rows of 2. The single seats on the one at MK still make me nervous, even with Lily. And, they currently have the Hyperspace (Star Wars) overlay on it, so it should be extra cool!

Finally we made our way in, and as usual, had we not just been following the crowd, it might not have been obvious, as it’s buried way in the back of Tomorrowland. As we went into the line, Owen suddenly started getting nervous, and at one point wanted to back out completely. He had been so excited for this, I was afraid he would really regret it later if he didn’t at least give it a try.

The first part of the queue is outside, and man was it HOT already, even in the shade! Owen continued to whimper a little all the way through the line, but got on without argument. At least he is being brave and trying to get past his fears this trip. Though, I’m convinced that if he would relax, he would enjoy things a lot more. This was no exception. He was almost in tears when we left the loading bay, and as soon as we were done, he very emotionally declared that this was a “No-Liker!”. Poor kid. At least he can say he did it. I thought the Star Wars stuff was really well done, and even the track itself lends to a more fun ride than the one at MK.

Not one to dwell on things (unllike another child I know, lol!), he quickly shook it off outside, and wanted to do Star Tours, convinced that it was the non-scary Star Wars ride. The standby wait was already 45 minutes, with FPs only an hour out. So we picked up one instead.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was right across from it, and it’s standby wasn’t too bad yet so we headed there next. As with most of the rides here, a lot of the queue is outside. I know, I’ve already mentioned it was hot, I’ll try not to whine about it too much, I promise! It was a fun ride. Owen was actually beating my score by a lot until about halfway through – I think he got tired of shooting and just watched the rest of the ride. And I think Lily actually outscored all of us after hitting some sort of mega-points target.

We rode Astro Orbiter next, right outside Buzz. It’s right at the entrance to Tomorrowland here, actually. Overall, I definitely like MK’s Tomorrowland better. This one was arranged very differently, and felt much more cramped. It looks like they used to have a People Mover, you can still see parts of the tracks and loading area when you are up high on Astro Orbiter. It’s actually a little creepy that they just left it all there in such a state of disrepair.

We still had some time before our Star Tours FP, so we went over to the Finding Nemo Submarines. This is one we don’t have at MK, so I wanted to be sure to do it here. Only about a 10 minute wait. Outside, but at least the line wasn’t long enough to extend past the shaded areas.

It was a really neat ride. Every person has their own porthole window in the sub. The first part takes you through a tropical reef, then to an inside part where the story of Nemo plays out. Really immersive and well done, I thought. It ended up being another of Owen’s favorite rides.

Almost ever since we got there, we had been wanting to pick up a cold bottle of water, and Brian was already wanting a snack. Unfortunately, none of the snack carts were open yet, which we found a little frustrating. There was absolutely no place in all of Tomorrowland to get a drink or snack for the first 2 hours of the park being open. We had to make do with a couple of water fountains.

Then it was time for Star Tours. The FP only helped a little, all we got to skip was the outside part of the line. Though, in terms of comfort, that’s probably a big deal today, lol! It was still about a 20 minute wait inside. But the queue is really neat. A droid is doing baggage security and making tons of funny jokes about what the scanner picks up inside the bags. Owen thought it was hilarious.

I had heard that Star Tours was getting an update based on the new movies, but couldn’t remember if DL had the new one yet or not. At first, the movie and storyline seemed the same. But then BB-8 showed up briefly. Wait… was BB-8 really around at the same time as Darth Vader? I guess its possible, we just didn’t see him until Episode 7, but it still felt like a bit of an anachronism. Owen loved it of course, though was mildly annoyed that we had helped a rebel spy escape. He wanted to turn him over to the Empire – no secret whose side he’s on, lol!

My plan after this had been to head into Adventureland and Frontierland. But Owen was already saying that he didn’t want to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Lily used this as an excuse to get grumpy. As we were coming by the Castle, one of the fire truck vehicles was just arriving, and Owen was mesmerized. Brian said we had to let him ride it, lol! Honestly, I’ve always seen “Main Street Vehicles” listed as an attraction, but never really even knew what that was, much less considered putting it in the plan.

But Owen loved it. It took us all the way back down Main Street to the entrance, which wasn’t where we had intended to be, but oh well. A nice lady chatted with us during the ride, she was from nearby, and had already decided the park was too hot and crowded for her today, and was already leaving.

And Mickey Mouse came out and was following our car for a few seconds! The driver gave Owen a sticker, and he was so proud of it that he wouldn’t put it on his shirt, wanting to be able to “keep it forever, even when I’m a grown up”.

We started wandering back up Main Street, and luckily passed the Main Street Fruit Cart. So we could finally get our drinks and snacks. Nice that they had lots of healthy options here instead of just ice cream and churros. It did a lot to refresh everyone and restore good moods.

Now we headed towards Adventureland. We passed the restaurant (Aladdin’s Oasis) that I had a lunch ADR for, and I made a mental note of how to get back to it. Then we picked up Indiana Jones FPs for Brian and Lily. Owen wanted to go to Tarzan’s Treehouse which was right next door, but I convinced him that it would be a good thing for me and him to do while they were at IJ. It was so cute when he declared “Okay, then. Sounds like a plan!”

We were headed to Pirates of the Caribbean, which looked to be nearby on the map. But again, we had an awful time trying to figure out how to get into the line. It’s not at all obvious, and we weren’t the only ones wandering around confused. It turned out that we needed to go down underneath the bridge we were walking on, which was in front of the ride. (So, we actually were too close to it. Who would think you have to walk away from the ride to get to it, lol!)

Owen was getting nervous again. I had to keep my disappointment in check. It’s easy to compare his fear to the fact that there were tons of younger kids in line and happy to ride. But compared to where he was just a year or two ago, he’s still come a long way.

The theme of the ride is a little different here, at least in the beginning. It starts out in the swamp and bayou.  In fact, the building it’s in looks like a Louisiana mansion. And the first part of the ride goes by the seating for the Blue Bayou restaurant. Reminded me a lot of the Mexico ride in Epcot.

Then it turns more pirate-y. Overall, I thought the ride was a lot more well-done than MKs version. It seemed longer too. It had several pretty substantial drops, which Owen didn’t like at all. I think he was traumatized from ToT, lol! So, this one was NOT his favorite, but he tolerated it, at least. It IS progress.

I felt like we owed him a not-scary ride now though, so we headed to the very back of Frontierland to ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. (Yeah, I’m sure you believe that I was doing that for HIM, lol!) Most of that section of the park is closed for refurbishment, so it’s about that only thing open back there. It was still weird for it to be in Frontierland instead of Fantasyland though!

As usual, it was an outdoor queue and loading area. And the cars are larger beehives instead of honey pots. Otherwise, the ride is almost identical once you get inside. It’s always one of my favorites, and Owen was bursting with excitement both before and after. Maybe I’ll have a Pooh-loving buddy afterall. I could never get Lily interested.

It was time for their Indiana Jones FP, so they headed there while Owen and I explored the Tarzan’s Treehouse. It’s very similar to the Swiss Family Treehouse at MK, but has scenes from Tarzan. Maybe just because I’m more familiar with the movie, I enjoyed this one a lot more.

At the bottom, they had a bunch of stuff for the kids to play with, and ropes to climb. We killed some time doing that, then I figured we better go wait for Brian and Lily. It turned out that we still had to wait quite a while, and they just barely made it out in time to get to our lunch ADR. One thing I suppose I needed to remember – while FPs usually seemed readily available, they didn’t save you as much time as at WDW. They would typically get you past the first half of the line, but that still meant a significant wait.

We arrived at Aladdin’s Oasis about 10 minutes before noon, which is when they opened. This was a fairly new offering that was part of their Paint the Night dining packages. So I hadn’t been able to get much info on it beforehand, but knew that it would get us reserved viewing for the parade. And even though there were only 3 menu choices, they looked good, so I figured it would work for us.

We checked in and ordered our food at the podium, then were given the option of taking it to go or eating there. I’m not really sure where you were expected to eat it if you took it to go… but we took a table in the seating area, which looked like it could be used as a theater. Nothing going on with it currently though, I guess. The Genie did walk through a couple of times, obviously en route to his meet&greet next door.

I thought the food was pretty good. Indoor, A/C seating would have been nice, but at least it was shady. There seems to be very little in this park that is indoors, actually. Lily hadn’t been in a good mood though most of lunch though. She kind of mentioned not feeling well, but with her, its often hard to tell when “not feeling good” is more of an “I don’t want to be here”.

We decided to stop by the Tiki Room next. I know it’s cheesy, but I’ve always loved it. Again, though, the line was not obvious. And it turned out that for a few moments, I was actually waiting in line to get a Dole-Whip instead of being in line for the theater. Seriously, would it be that hard to put signs at the entrances to the lines? It just seems so much more obvious at WDW.

Anyway, the show was cute as always. But Lily was falling apart afterwards. I don’t know if it was just being hot and tired, or if she really didn’t feel good, or if she just wasn’t in the mood to be there right then.

But I offered to take her back to the room for a bit, and she agreed.  Owen immediately declared that he didn’t want to go, so Brian was happy to stay at the park with him.  I made him promise me multiple times that he wouldn’t let Owen get too hot or worn out. I left him with a full, cold water bottle that I had picked up right before lunch, and we headed out.

I was thinking as we walked back that if we are going to do Universal and possibly some WDW this summer, afternoon breaks are going to have to be a non-negotiable. We’ve gotten away from doing them in recent years, but we’ve also been spoiled to go when it was cooler.

We stopped in the store at our hotel and picked up some snacks. Then just chilled in the room for a couple of hours. I actually made good use of the time, getting our stuff organized and packed, as we would need to check out early in the morning. Lily mostly laid on her bed playing Minecraft on Owen’s iPad (for some reason she hadn’t brought hers). I was starting to think that she was going to be content to do that all day. And while I hadn’t minded a short break, I DID want to get back to the park at some point. So she willingly, though unenthusiastically, agreed to head back.

She was in a better mood by the time we got back to Main Street though, so hopefully the break would do her good and she could enjoy the rest of the day. We stopped for a photopass picture with just the two of us in front of the castle.

We finally got in touch with Brian – they were in line for Peter Pan and he thought they still had another 15-20 minutes to go. The posted wait time had only been 20 minutes, but as usual it had become obvious that it was much longer. It ended up being over 40.

We rode the carousel while we waited, since it was the only thing without a long wait. By the time we got off, they were done and waiting for us by the sword. Which Owen tried heartily to pull out, with no success.

While we were gone they had ridden The Storybook Canal boats, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan. They had run out of water in line for PP, and were definitely ready for a drink, and maybe a frozen treat. Owen really wanted a lollipop (that’s about his favorite thing in the whole world) but I made him get a popsicle because it would be cold and more hydrating. Mean mom, I know, force feeding my kids popsicles, lol!

We ate our treats in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It had been so long since I had ridden this one, as MK got rid of theirs years ago. Owen rode in the car with me, and I let him “drive”. He had a blast, I think he really thought he was steering! Too bad we don’t still have this one at WDW, it’s so much fun. Lily had read the book a few years ago, so she really enjoyed the ride just for the theming.

We headed to Small World next. Again, outdoor queue and loading. I guess that goes without saying by now, lol! I probably wouldn’t notice so much if it wasn’t so dang hot. It’s a Small World seems like a much bigger deal here though. The front facade is huge, and it completely dominates that part of the park. I imagine if you were used to the way it is here, it would seem like a big letdown at MK, like it’s just an afterthought there.

In the loading area, there was a duck that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in the water. Owen was worried we were going to hit him – but smart duck had figured out that since the boats alternated which side they came from, all he had to do was swim a few feet back and forth each time so that he was always in front of the boat that wasn’t moving yet. I wonder if he really does that all day long, lol! It was pretty funny to watch.

I thought the ride itself was better too. The scenes had a lot more detail in them, and we had fun trying to spot the Disney characters that were integrated. We saw Lilo, Cinderella, Belle, Nemo, Alice, Woody & Jessie, Pinocchio, Jasmine, Pumbaa & Timon, the 3 Caballeros,  and I’m sure we missed a few others. And it just so happened that we got the front 2 rows of the boat, so Lily and Owen sat together in the very front, it’s always such a better and more immersive experience that way.

We headed back towards the Mad Tea Party and Alice in Wonderland. A parade was about to start, but since we were committed to the parade that evening, I wasn’t planning to make the kids sit through this one. Maybe we could catch a little bit of it from wherever we ended up at the time.

As it turned out, we had just gotten on the teacups when it came by, and we actually had a great view of the first float with Mickey Mouse! It was a little bit surreal to be spinning our way through most of the rest of the parade, catching dizzy glimpses of it occasionally. I knew that we needed to get in line for Alice before it was over and all the people watching it swelled the nearby rides. So we made a mad dash next door when we were done, and beat the rush by about a minute.

Owen seemed to really like this one, mostly I think he just thought it was neat that we got to ride in a caterpillar. But another ride we don’t have at WDW, so I’m glad we got to do it here. It’s a lot like Pooh in that you ride through various scenes from the story.

We still had a little bit of time before dinner, and I wasn’t sure we should try to ride anything since everything had long waits. But coming back through Fantasyland, Owen and Brian both really wanted to ride the Casey Jr. Circus Train. The posted wait was only 15 minutes. I know, I know, I shouldn’t trust it. Even the touringplans app was only predicting a 12 minute wait. Well, it ended up being about 35 minutes. And we could see it the whole time, it never broke down. That’s just how long it takes to get through that many people, so there’s really no excuse for the time being that wrong.

It was a cute ride, and the only chance I would get to see the Storybook village since I never made it over to the boats. But we were already late to dinner when we got ON the train, so we were going to be quite late by the time we got over there. At least I felt like I had a good excuse, lol!

Dinner was at River Belle Terrace. And we arrived exactly 14 minutes after our ADR. They didn’t seem phased by it though, and we were still seated within just a couple of minutes. As the name implies, it’s mostly southern style bbq food, and was actually pretty good. Nothing fancy, but a nice break inside (with A/C, yea!) and the service was fast.

By the time we were done, it was almost time to go claim our spot for the Paint the Night Parade. We had a reserved viewing area, but that still didn’t guarantee us a front-row spot within it. We did make a quick stop at Snow White’s Scary Adventures. We rode it on our first trip to WDW with Lily, but soon after that they took it out. So it was neat to get to ride it again here. Although we laughed a little about the way the storyline of the ride goes. It focuses mostly on the Evil Queen, then suddenly says “they lived happily ever after”, making it a little unclear (if you haven’t seen the movie) WHO lived happily… the queen? After she succeeded in poisoning Snow White? Ride-making has obviously come a long way since this one, lol. But still a fun classic.

The reserved viewing are for the parade was across from Small World, and we easily found a spot next to the railing. It was a raised area, so as long as no one in the area directly below us stood all the way back against the rail, we should have an unobstructed view.

It was still about 30 minutes until it started. But it was a really cool parade! Lots of Pixar characters and princesses. Brian said he felt like it was meant to be the sequel to the Main Street Electrical Parade. It did have some of the same melodies in it, but a more modern and stylized version. My camera battery died about halfway through, so I had to switch to using my phone. But the pictures were about as good anyway.

It was only about 20 minutes until the Disneyland Forever Fireworks once the parade was done, and I was assuming that we needed to get closer to the castle. We wandered that direction, but the CMs were blocking almost all the paths that went anywhere, and telling people they should watch from in front of Small World. Well, darn. We should have just kept our spot from the parade.

But we ended up out in the main path in front of Small World and still had a decent view. Before and a little bit during the fireworks, they lit up Small World in all different colors, similar to the way they do the castle at MK. As I mentioned, Small World is a much bigger deal here.

I held Owen up during most of the fireworks, partly so he could see better, but also because he was just a little bit nervous. But he did enjoy them, and we had fun watching together. We had seen them a couple of nights from the hotel room, and recognized a lot of the different shapes. But seeing it with the music and lights was much more mesmerizing.

The park was open until midnight, but Owen was exhausted. Brian and Lily wanted to stay, so I took him back to the room to get ready for bed. There was no way I would get him back for EMH in the morning otherwise, and he was too tired to enjoy anything anyway. We had to take the long route back to the entrance, through Tomorrowland, because a lot of the paths were still closed.

We slowly made it back, with me carrying him for a few minutes at a time until my arms gave out. Back in the room, he was quickly settled into bed. I realized after we split up that Brian didn’t have a room key. They had given us two, but for some reason he never took one, so I would have to let them in whenever they got back. I didn’t really think I would be able to go to sleep before they were back anyway, but it turned out that I must not be quite the worry-wart I thought I was, because shortly after midnight, I was awoken from a deep sleep by their light tapping on the door.

They didn’t talk too much about their evening as they were both exhausted, but they seemed to have had a good time, and I think they rode quite a bit. Pinocchio & Storybook Canal boats (so I was the only one who didn’t get to ride either of those, oh well), Matterhorn, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear, Star Tours, and Space Mountain (they said the posted wait time was 70 minutes, but they only waited about 20. Again, those signs were useless)

I was really glad they got to spend some time together and have fun. I just hoped we hadn’t sabotaged the next day by keeping Lily out so late. Tomorrow is an EMH/ Magic Morning, and even though we weren’t staying onsite, our multi-day tickets allowed us to participate in one during our trip. So, another 8am park open, and we had to be packed and checked out of the hotel before we left.

Day 6 – Tue 2/16

I knew it was going to be hard to get Lily going, with less than 7 hours of sleep. Though groggy, she DID get up and claimed to be okay. We did the usual breakfast run down the hall, and I was a little concerned to see how busy it was. Far more people there than had been yesterday. The crowd predictions said that today should be a little better, but this didn’t look better!

Lily struggled again with her contacts, and again, refused to give up and wear her glasses. And was already complaining about her shoes, but also refused to wear her more comfortable Sketchers. I tried to have extra patience, since I had known she was going to be difficult this morning.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet, but that I noticed every morning walking to the park from our hotel… There were always lots of CMs going in with us from the across the street, all in their different uniforms for the different rides and lands. It was kinda weird to just see them out on the street like that, mixed up with each other and us “normal folk”. I’ve never seen uniformed CMs wandering around on the streets outside WDW, must be a different system there.

We ended up not making to the gates until 7:40 for the 8am EMH open. Holy Moly, we were not the only ones to have this idea! And by the time they opened the gates, just before 8am, there was already a long line at the turnstiles next to us of people that couldn’t even get in until the regular open at 9. Was this really going to be busier than President’s Day??

Coming into Main Street I was again struck by how “wrong” it felt, but at least this time I had been prepared for it. Owen was wanting to ride Star Tours again, so that was our plan for the EMH. It was already 8:30 by the time we got into the park, thanks to the long lines at the turnstiles, though we didn’t have a much longer wait at Star Tours than we had with the FP yesterday. And again, Owen loved watching the baggage droid in the queue.

All was seeming as normal on the ride until the end – I guess I haven’t ridden it enough to know that there are multiple possible endings. The few times I have ridden it it’s always been the same landing in the rebel fleet. But suddenly, we were on Naboo and racing underwater and almost hitting Jar Jar Binks, and finally crashing into a Nabbo starfighter which shattered our windshield! Glad we got to ride it again and see one of the variations.

As we were leaving we had to drag Owen through the store – he really wanted to shop but he had spent all of his money, and was a little whiney about that fact. Just as we made it outside, Lily suddenly panicked. She didn’t have her Shellie May bear, it must still be on the ride!

So, she and I raced back through the exit of the ride (ignoring the “Do Not Enter” signs), but were stopped by a CM as we got close to where the ride exits. We explained what happened and she told us to wait there and she would see what she could do. Once the ride that was currently underway finished, another CM came out with the bear. Relieved to have it taken care of, but still a little annoyed that we had lost so much time, especially when it was looking to be such a busy day.

We finally found Brian and Owen again, who had wandered off while we were inside. Owen was actually really wanting to ride Space Mountain again, despite having been so scared yesterday. Or maybe not, he kept changing his mind. And Lily was about to lose her cool – I think she was wanting to ride SM too, but frustrated by Owen’s indecision.

Everyone was a little grumpy, and in the commotion I almost missed two Stormtroopers come marching by! Owen is fascinated by stormtroopers, they are his favorite character from Star Wars. (Little aside – we saw the new movie when it opened in December, and he cried about the part where there is an explosion that presumably kills a bunch of stormtroopers. When I asked him if there were any other “sad” parts of the movie, he just shrugged and said “No, not really”. If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why this is proof that he’s on the Dark Side, lol!) I wish he had been in a better mood to enjoy seeing them here more, though when I remind him about it now he does get a big smile on his face, so maybe he got more out of it than I realized at the time. (And I wasn’t fast enough getting my camera out since they caught me off guard, only got their backs)

So, we had a few unpleasant minutes of arguing and trying to figure out what to do. Lily and I finally decided to try to get FPs for Space Mountain, since the standby wait was over an hour. When we got to the entrance, the line was all the way out of the building, and we couldn’t figure out how to get up to the FP machines, which are farther up the queue. We finally were told by a CM that the line outside WAS the line to get FPs, and she estimated that it would take about 30 minutes to get up to the machines. The times being given out were already for after lunch, and moving back by 5 minutes at a pretty rapid pace. Which meant that even if we stood in the line, they would likely be giving out FPs for after we had to leave the park by the time we got up there.

The sign for the standby wait had stopped working during this time (not that I trusted it anyway), and while we were talking to the first CM, a couple other CMs who had been working on the sign came up and said they thought standby was around 90 minutes. So… this probably wasn’t going to work out.  I was really missing FP+ right about now, and again annoyed that it was so hard to figure out which line was for what at so many of the rides.

We thought about doing Buzz Lightyear instead, but it was broken down when we walked by. And Tomorrowland was quickly becoming so full that it was hard to even walk. I do believe it’s going to end up being more crowded than yesterday!

Brian and Owen were in line for Astro Orbiter. We gave them the bad news about Space Mountain and Buzz, and decided to just wait and watch them ride since it would have been awkward to  work our way through the queue to meet them by then.

While we were waiting the Evil Queen walked by right behind us. That sort of thing seems to happen a lot more here than at WDW. I tried to snap a quick picture as she was going by, and spotting me, she called out “Don’t worry dear, ALL my sides are good!”. It was pretty funny.

We still hadn’t gotten to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Owen was already acting nervous, but we headed over anyway once they were off of Astro Orbiter. I convinced Owen to stand through the line with us at least, and assured him that if he changed his mind, I would bail with him before we got on. He was almost in tears throughout parts of the line, despite us showing him all the smaller kids who were excited to ride. I thought maybe he was going to want to skip it once we got up there, but he got in the car and sat down instead.

But by now, he had himself so worked up that there was no way he could enjoy it. I guess we should just stop telling him anything about the rides before we get on. I could have just told him this was the train and left it at that, he probably would have been fine, lol! So, he wasn’t too happy when we got off, but as always, didn’t dwell on it and was in a good mood again within a couple of minutes. Thank goodness for small favors, at least. And Brian and I actually thought the ride was better here, better theming and the track is more fun.

We had a late breakfast ADR at the Plaza Inn, and with not much time left before we needed to be there, there wasn’t time to ride anything right now. So Owen wanted to take his dad through Tarzan’s treehouse that he and I had done yesterday. They had fun exploring, but Lily got really grumpy again towards the end, mostly frustrated that her brother was “ruining everything” (i.e. existing).

She and I ended up outside the tree house long before the boys, and she was complaining more about her shoes. I had been carrying her Sketchers in my backpack all week because I suspected this would happen at some point, and I finally convinced her to put them on, even though they looked “stupid”.

So far, the morning had been a little challenging. We’ve historically had what I call the “last day curse” on Disney trips, and things just never seem to go well. Maybe we should have just gone on home this morning. Or maybe the day was still salvageable. I had been really excited for this ADR at the Plaza. It was the lone character meal of our trip. No one else in the family was interested, but I told them they had to indulge me just this once.

We checked in at the podium, and after getting a family picture, were sent inside where we went ahead and paid at a register. I was thinking that this at least would prevent the whole “waiting for the check” ordeal. But it turned out that the reason you pre-pay here, is that once you are seated, you are on your own. Everything is self-serve, so no waitress coming around to check on you.

We were seated outside in the area we had seen yesterday waiting to go into Tomorrowland. There is some seating inside, but we weren’t so lucky as to get it. And is was already HOT! At least we were in the shade, but oh how I would have loved a break in the A/C by then.

Tigger was the first to make it to our table, and he was a lot of fun, doing some bouncing and acting excited to see us.

Unfortunately, I felt like it was all downhill after this. The area we were seated in was pretty empty, there were only a couple other families out there. And of course no servers. So it felt kind of lonely, and the characters didn’t seem to be following any sort of set pattern that would have assured a visit. They seemed to wander more randomly. And maybe since our section was pretty empty, they kept skipping it.

We did end up getting visits from Max, Minnie, Rafiki, and Pluto. But at different times since we came in, we had also seen Eeyore, Pooh, Fairy Godmother, and Captain Hook wandering around. I was really wanting Owen to meet Captain Hook since he’s been a fan for years, but by the time we were done eating he was no where to be seen, and everyone else was ready to move on. I did think it was cute that Rafiki got so excited when we called him by name – I wonder if he’s not as commonly recognized? But Lion King is one of our favorites.

So, I can’t say I was a big fan of the character meal here. It seemed a lot less organized than the ones we’ve done at WDW. The combination of the outdoor seating and being so far from the buffet made it seem a lot more tedious just to eat too. But, at least we got a couple of character photo-ops. Neither kid had had any interested in doing the meet-n-greets, so I knew this was my only chance.

My most important agenda item for the afternoon was Toon Town, since we don’t have that anymore at MK. I tried to warn everyone that all of the rides had long waits by now, so we were just going to have to be patient.

The first thing we came to after passing under the bridge was Roger Rabbit’s Toon Car Spin. They were doing some construction and it actually wasn’t even obvious what it was, but I had researched this area enough beforehand that I was familiar with the layout. The kids seemed hesitant to do it, since they don’t know the movie at all. And it had a 30 minute wait. But I reminded them that if they weren’t willing to wait in a 30 minute line at this point, we might as well leave.

The queue itself ended up being really fun. It winds all over, through different scenes from the movie. And it made the wait much more enjoyable having things to look at and talk about. Brian now thinks we need to show the kids the movie. And they did like the ride, Owen especially. He squealed with delight the whole time.

Afterwards, Owen stopped to explore some of the buildings and cars as we made our way deeper into Toon Town. I think theirs is better than what we had at WDW for sure. I wanted to make sure we did Gadget’s Go Coaster, which is a lot like Barnstormer. For some reason getting in line, Owen suddenly got scared and said he didn’t want to. I think we’ve traumatized him this week on so many thrill rides.

We luckily managed to convince his that this was NOT scary. He seemed uneasy, but didn’t argue. Though a few minutes later, he suddenly had to go potty. Right then. I could see the restrooms just across the way, but knew there would be no easy way to get back to Brian and Lily in the line. No choice though, off we went. And then had to do the So-Sorry-Excuse-Me-Trying-To-Get-Back-To-Our-Family shuffle through the line afterwards. Only got a couple of nasty glares at least.

Owen ended up loving this one, as I knew he would. Said it was one of his favorites and wanted to go again, but I wasn’t willing to dedicate another 30 minutes to standing in line for a second ride.

I did really want him to see Mickey’s house, since he never got to see it at WDW. The sign outside said a 60 minute wait, but I correctly suspected that the wait was actually to meet Mickey, not just walk through his house, which is all I was interested in. His house was almost empty, no waiting at all for that!

It’s a MUCH better house than what they had at WDW. Puts it to shame really, and I’m not so sad now that they took it out. His California home has multiple rooms, and tons of things you can sit on and explore. Unlike the one at MK, which had almost everything roped off. So much more fun stuff and detail here. Brian was really impressed that in one of his bookshelves he had a certificate for Alpine Climbing, lol! Maybe he would make a good mountaineering buddy.

We explored his back yard and garden a little before finally reaching the line to meet him, at which point we escaped back into Toon Town. Minnie’s house must have been set up a little differently, because we would have had to wait in the line to see her just to get in it, so we didn’t bother.

On the way out of Toon Town we stopped to play for a bit on Donald’s Boat. Too bad there isn’t actually a place there to get wet – boy was it hot!

Owen had asked several times to ride the Finding Nemo submarines again, so we slowly made our way towards Tomorrowland. As we were coming by Small World, the clock was about to do it’s quarter-hour show. Brian had come to really enjoy these, so we stopped to watch.

Before getting in line for Nemo, we stocked up on some more frozen treats, hoping that would help keep us cool in the outdoor and only partially shaded line. Well, cool was too much to hope for by now, but maybe keep us from totally melting at least. It seemed totally unfair that we happened to be here during a week that the temps were almost 20 degrees above normal.

While we were in line, a Star Wars show was going on next door. I’m assuming it was the Jedi-training. I tried to talk Owen into doing that before the trip, but he said he was “too-shy”. I hadn’t realized that it was a full show even without participating, so maybe we should have tried to see it. Though it looked like most of the viewing area was in full sun, so maybe it wouldn’t have been a good idea. We can try to catch it next time we’re at DHS, anyway.

After a hot, 40 minute wait, we were finally on a sub! (And thankfully they are well air-conditioned) We happened to get seated on the opposite side, and I had been wondering how the view differed over there, since the shape of the lagoon made it impossible that it could be the same. We were definitely closer to the wall, so didn’t get the grand, sweeping view across the whole thing, but there was lots of other fun, colorful stuff to look at on that side, so I was glad we got to see both.

We didn’t have much of a plan after this, and I was starting to again think that we just simply had too much time here. But we wandered into Star Wars Launch Bay. Still couldn’t get Owen to meet any of the characters, but he did have fun wandering around some of the models and displays. He already knows far more about Star Wars than I do, and more than once he scolded me for calling something by the wrong name, lol! And he would look so intensely mad while correcting me, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Lily was not enjoying this though. She either wanted to ride or shop. And everyone ended up getting a little grumpy again at the indecision. We finally wandered back onto Main Street, where Owen wanted to ride a trolley. I figured that would take us down Main Street and maybe we could shop or at least find a snack there.

We ended up back at the same fruit stand from yesterday, and sat down at a nearby table to eat. The break really did do us all a lot of good, and we were in better spirits by the time we left.

There were a couple of theaters that I wanted to check out on Main Street. We walked into the Main Street Cinema, which was showing 6 different screen of old black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoons. It was interesting, for a few minutes, but we were quickly ready to move on.

Owen really wanted to see the fire station, so they spent a few minutes exploring it and climbing on to the fire truck. I don’t actually know if they have anything like this at WDW, honestly we’ve never spent much time on Main Street there. Maybe we should explore more next time.

Right by the entrance (where Tony’s and Town Hall “should be”) was the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln theater. I had no idea what it was, but we were looking to kill time by now and I was guessing it would at least be cool in there.

The first room has a large model of the original Disneyland. We spent several minutes looking at it and seeing which rides were original to the park. It definitely looked very different than it is now!

Wandering a little further back, I realized there were doors to a theater, so we waited around for the next show. They also had a marble model of the Capitol building in the waiting area.

The show was really good, and I’m so glad we took the time to see it. It reminded me a lot of American Adventure at Epcot. Even had a couple of the exact same scenes from it. (Brian said afterwards that he felt like AA was made as the sequel to this one) Similar animatronics to Hall of Presidents, but of course this one specifically focused on President Lincoln and the Civil War.

We didn’t have too much time before our early dinner, and we had to leave the park right after that. And not a single ride in the park had less than a 30 minute wait, so we just spent some time slowly wandering Main Street. Stopped to watch a band performing at one of the cafes, Owen made a pressed-quarter, and Lily wandered through some souvenir shops.

We had an early dinner ADR at Carnation Cafe, since I figured we might not get a chance for a real meal at the airport. We checked in, and I actually asked to sit outside because I was hoping to catch a few glimpses of the parade that would be starting any minute.

The food was pretty good – Owen especially liked the build-your-own pb&j sandwich. The service got really slow at the end though, and we were a few minutes later getting out than I would have liked. We could see a little bit of the parade from our table, and more as we were walking down the street towards the exit. Unfortunately, we timed it just wrong after a potty-stop and ended up leaving the park as the parade was ending. Along with just about everyone else who had been there, lol! But we did still stop for a photopass picture in front of the entrance. There hadn’t been a photographer there either morning, and I was determined to get one.

So, that was it – our Disneyland vacation had come to an end. Today obviously hadn’t gone as well as yesterday, but I’m still really glad we go to do Toon Town and the Lincoln show. I think the whole day was worth it for those two things.

Our trip back was pretty uneventful. We had a late flight back to Denver. Lily started feeling sick as we got to the airport and I worried that we were in for a rough flight, but she seemed okay once we got on the plane, thankfully.

And for once we didn’t have to wait an extra hour to get the carseat from baggage claim. (Denver airport is notorious for that, it’s a horrible system) We only waited about 15 minutes after getting our suitcases, which is far quicker than it’s ever been before.

We didn’t get home until after midnight, and everyone had to be at school and work the next day. Luckily, the kids’ school starts a little later on Wednesdays, so that would help at least.

All-in-all, a successful trip!

Wrap-Up.

Of course this biggest thing on my mind is how this compared to WDW. The best summary I can give is actually exactly what I had always heard. Many of the individual attractions are better here (Small World, Toon Town, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, just to name a few). But the overall atmosphere and theming just doesn’t compare.

It feels smaller, more cramped, and just older. Not quite down to the level of a Six Flags, but doesn’t have the other-worldly feel that I get at WDW. The one exception to that is Radiator Springs at DCA, THAT is some incredible theming. Maybe one day the rest of the two parks will catch up.

I do suspect that a LOT more of their visitors are local, or at least within the state. In fact, I don’t think we talked to, or even overheard another group that was from somewhere out of California, and most said they lived in Orange County. A couple of CMs even acted shocked when we told them we were from Colorado, even commenting that they “don’t get that much”. So, not the worldwide destination that WDW is, for sure.

The kids had their usual challenges of course. Keeping Lily is a good mood is almost, well no, just completely, impossible. But she still had a lot of fun, despite a few meltdowns. And Owen is still scared of some stuff, though he has made a LOT of progress in the last year. There actually wasn’t a single ride that he refused to go on, and even though he didn’t like some of the more intense thrill rides, he took it in stride and didn’t let it stop him on the next one. So, we’re getting there. Slowly but surely.

I’m definitely glad we got to come, and I do think we made the right decision to give up Spring Break at WDW. (though I may disagree when that week comes and I’m sitting at home bored, lol!) But I’d been trying to get here for years, and finally I’ve done it. Though it’s not something I feel a huge need to come back to, unless we just happen to be in the area again. It makes me feel a little bad for people that talk about going to DL all the time and how much they love it. I’m like, Oh you have no idea what you’re missing at WDW, lol!

I actually felt like I was ready to come home at the end. Though, I do have to admit that for the first few days back, I found myself missing it more than I thought I would.

Of course everyone knows that the only way to combat post-Disney-blues is to plan the next trip! Actually I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. Universal Studios is our main plan for this summer. (This trip has been moved around so much. Originally we were going to go last summer, then we thought we’d wait and go last Christmas. With the move, we then pushed it back to the upcoming Spring break. Then with our DL trip popping up, we pushed it back to August. Then I realized Brian gets a couple days off for 4th of July, so we are now planning to go then. I really hope this one sticks!) With Lily being older and finally getting into Harry Potter, this will hopefully be good timing.

But we’ll have a couple of extra days, and so maybe we can slip in a little Disney too. (Afterall, DHS just announced some new Star Wars stuff for the summer, and the new Rivers of Light show should be running by then at AK) And if not then, we’ll have another chance in December since we’ll be going to FL again for Christmas.

In short, as long as I’m around, there will always be more Disney somewhere on the horizon!