We woke up early in our room at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Resort, rested and ready to jump into the madness that is a one-day park-hopper pass to both Disneyland (which takes at least a day) and Disney’s California Adventure (which takes another day). Before I start talking about Disney, I have to say that the HoJo (as they call it) is a really good place to stay, across the street from Disneyland — you can even watch the fireworks from the pool, as we did — and has a great water play area for younger kids that all of mine enjoyed quite a bit. I posted a pic on Instagram: Splash!
Up we got and after a line to have our backpack checked (we’ve long since learned the value of bringing a mostly empty backpack into an amusement park. We do tend to accumulate stuff as we go…) and a quick pop by Guest Services to pick up our will-call one-day park hopper passes (so, so sweet!) we were surprised to not bump into the iconic Disneyland sign that used to be in the middle of the park plaza. It was there in February, when we took the first picture of my last writeup to Disneyland here on the blog [see the first photo in A Passage to Disneyland] but now it’s all gone, and there’s no indication that it’s going to return any time soon. Bummer.
After a passionate debate, we decided we’d go to Disneyland first, then California Adventure later in the afternoon and stay there for fireworks. That meant a long day, it was around 10am and the fireworks started at 9.45pm. But, hey, Disneyland. Really. Totally worth the time spent!
My relationship with Disneyland goes back decades. Growing up in Southern California it turned out that just about every time family visited us, they’d make the trek to Disneyland and somehow I always went along as the “tour guide”. That meant I had a shoebox full of Disney tickets, back when they had “A” thru “E” tickets. Of course, we’d use all the “E” tickets first (the best / most expensive rides) and the box would be full of “A” and “B” tickets (good for the Carousel, etc) but still, if I had that box today, I’d be listing them all on eBay, not typing here. 🙂
I’ve never been a big rollercoaster fan, so I’ve never been on Space Mountain or the Matterhorn. I know from experience that when I do decide to “try it out” on even a mild coaster, I come off green and queasy. So when it’s time for a really fast ride, I’m one of those parents who hold everyone’s stuff while they queue up. No worries, I just find other things to do.
In fact, when the kids queued up for the Indiana Jones Adventure I stepped into the Jungle Cruise queue, intending to go on it while waiting. They showed up a few minutes later, however, something had gummed up the works on Indy and the line had stopped moving. K-, my little one, said “They said a SNAKE GOT LOOSE ON THE RIDE!!!” to which we all had a good giggle.
So we all went on the Jungle Cruise, which has always been one of my favorites due to the wry and punny banter, as well as the amusing set pieces, like this iconic one:
One thing I did notice was that our guide riffed with his own jokes much more than I am used to hearing, even skipping famous one-liners like the story of Schweitzer Falls (named after the famous explorer Doctor Albert Falls, of course). More attitude, less classic patter. Is that the new “improved” Jungle Ride?
Our favorite rides at Disneyland haven’t varied much either: The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Autopia. We did all those, and were surprised by the lines not being too bad. In fact, I think the longest line we endured was about 30min, which on a hot summer’s day isn’t bad at all.
We also had queue entertainment, including our family challenge of making the same pose as Mr. Toad.
G- won, as you can see:
Since my oldest just got her learner’s permit, I couldn’t resist the suggestion that her driving the Autopia car would count as hours behind the wheel.
She didn’t buy it, but I did notice that she drove, rather than her little sister…
For my part, my general approach to Autopia is to not steer at all and since there’s about a 30″ side-to-side play on the track for each vehicle, it bounces crazily as you go down the road, something I just find really amusing. They’re probably watching me on the close circuit monitors (yes, every ride has video monitoring systems, including the dark rides. There are no hidden corners at Disneyland) shaking their heads and saying “another California driver, jeez.”
I used to like the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland, with its signature tune “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” (the ride originally was part of the 1964 NY World’s Fair, for you trivia fans) but that had been replaced years ago by “America Sings” (which was more lackluster in my opinion) and now it’s been replaced and refurbished again, open as the West Coast version of Disney World’s “Innoventions”.
It’s a good update, there are lots of fun interactive tech exhibits from various sponsor corporations, including a great interactive computer graphics exhibit themed around the blockbuster Iron Man series.
Heck, they even have Tony Stark’s Hall of Armor:
Having said that, I do also have to say that I was surprised that given Disney now owns Marvel, there’s almost no branding, no theming, no rides from any of the Marvel properties. We want an interactive Avengers ride, please!
Almost exactly six hours to the minute we decided we were done with Disneyland and wanted to head to Disney’s California Adventure, with its own set of favorite rides.
Just to find out that we were going down Main Street just minutes before the parade.
So we, of course, stopped and enjoyed it…
That was the first of two parades we saw, actually. Two parades in the same day. Nice!
The second was the Pixar Magic parade over at California Adventure. Quite different, but fun too:
It was about this point that my camera’s battery went kaput and I stopped being able to document our, well, California adventure except for with my slowly dying iPhone camera.
We had a great time as always and I was impressed that my kids all braved California Screaming, even to a false start on the coaster that shoots 0-60 in about 5 seconds. It counted down “5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. SCREAM!” and… nothing happened.
Then it did the countdown again and they were off like a bullet out of a gun. All reported it was awesome and that they wanted to go on it again.
There were some rides I’d never had a chance to experience before because Cars Land was under final construction when we were there in February, and The Little Mermaid ride was also just going through final ride tests.
We went on The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure ride, though I was more enthused about it than any of the children. I was impressed with the ride, it’s big and complex, and it’s great to see how much better the audio-animatronics have become from old rides like the Haunted Mansion, but it was also surprisingly not popular. On a busy day the queue was barely 5 minutes, which doesn’t bode well for its longevity in California Adventure as it’s a prime piece of real estate in the park.
I was also surprised how close together the “shells” are: One thing I love about Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is that once you’re in the ride, you never see any other cars or riders, it’s just you and the ride itself. On The Little Mermaid we were shell-to-shell like some sort of weird Disney version of rush hour. Particularly given that it wasn’t a hugely popular ride, it seems like it’d be easy to have things a bit more spaced out so you could focus on the ride not the other passengers.
I have also heard that the ride was pretty scary when first opened and that it’s tamed down. It’s possible that it’s now too tamed, actually, as it was extraordinarily benign, particularly when compared to most of the other rides at the park.
We made it to Cars Land as the sun was setting and I have to say that the theming is breathtaking. It’s gorgeous, just stunning, what the Imagineers have done with this corner of California Adventure. Hard to imagine it used to be part of the parking lot for Disneyland.
We were all set to jump on Radiator Springs Racers when we saw the queue time. 180 minutes. Yikes. Now that’s a popular ride! Instead, we went on Luigi’s Flying Tires, which was fun but would have been better if we could have gone faster. Perhaps we need to do it again to master the “lean to go” navigation. 🙂
We also queued up for one of our favorite rides at Disney’s California Adventure, Toy Story Midway Mania. That’s just a crazy fun ride, a 3D interactive shooting gallery where every single rider has a pop-gun and you compete for score. I did pretty well with 114,000 points, but G- beat everyone with 143,000 points (and better accuracy than me too, harumph!). I need more practice, a day when the park is empty and I can go on the ride a dozen times or more!
All in all, we had a splendid day at Disney, as we always do, and we have proof, thanks to Disney’s Photopass service (a service that’s very, very worth doing. If you’re at the park, have them take as many photos as possible. You only pay for the ones you like, if any!). Here’s ours, which I paid $14 for a digital download I can print, share with friends and family, and even post here on my blog:
We decided we’d rather watch the fireworks from Disneyland, on Main Street facing Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, so we hustled through and got a great spot. Great fireworks, fun music, and beautifully synchronized, as I expect from Disney. And we enjoyed it the next night from our balcony at HoJo’s too.
Time to leave but… one last ride! We went on It’s a Small World before we left. By this point, alas, G- had picked up a bit of a head cold so he was getting sniffly and running low on energy. He endured, but by the time we got back to HoJo and our spacious room, he was hunting for boxes of tissues. Still, he eventually fell asleep and slept through the night. Worth it, and we all had great Disney-fueled dreams after 13 hours at the parks. A fabulous day!
Disclaimer: Howard Johnson comp’d us the hotel room while we were at Disneyland, and Disney Corp gave us the one-day park hopper passes so we could enjoy the park. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t spend a ton of money on food, souvenirs, and other stuff. But that’s another story. 🙂