A Visit to California = A Visit to Disneyland

Disneyana Gallery goes Steampunk: Disneyland CA
Disneyana Gallery goes Steampunk

I’ve finally gotten my kids to the point where they now automatically assume that every time we to Southern California we have to also go to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks. Alright, it wasn’t much of a task to convince them of that, but still, since I went so darn many times as a child, growing up in Southern California myself, it’s fun to have them become familiar with the parks, identify their favorite rides and even have favorite places to grab a snack.

Which reminds me, as I’ve written elsewhere, one of the things that characterized this particular trip to Southern California was that my 14yo son G- essentially had an upset stomach the entire time. A huge drag. The one day he was feeling better was the day we hit Disney.

So what did my little rocket scientist teen have for lunch at Café Orleans? A plate of garlic fries. They were good, I admit, but that plus cotton candy plus various other treats, it was no surprise that by the time we drove back to our Dana Point condo he wasn’t feeling 100% and the next morning was moving pretty darn slow. Aieeeee! Fortunately it didn’t slow us down at Disney, where we entered the park nice and early around 8.30am and didn’t leave until around 10pm. Yup, quite a marathon!

Though there are a ton of rides and attractions at both parks, I find that we gravitate to different favorites. For me, the must-ride attractions are Pirates of the Caribbean (one of the longest rides in the park, btw), The Haunted Mansion and Toy Story Midway Mania. Another favorite that appeals to my sense of humor is The Jungle Cruise, but it was closed, rather disappointingly. We intended to go on It’s a Small World too, if just to get that darn song stuck in our heads, but somehow it didn’t survive the ongoing hubbub with the kids and my sister as we kept debating what to do and where to go. We did, however, make it to Mr Toad’s Wild Ride (a super short, but really fun “dark ride”) and Autopia before we hopped over to California Adventure.

I have to ‘fess up that I do really poorly on roller coasters and motion simulator rides. Like “look, Daddy turned green!” poorly. So we have a regular routine that when the kids — and my sister! — want to go on a thrill ride I find something else to do and meet up with them afterwards. No worries, I like wandering the parks and people watching (and I snuck a Dole Whip at the Tiki Juice Bar while they were lined up for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad too, shhhh). They lined up for the Matterhorn Bobsleds but something went wrong with the ride and it was shut down 30min into their queue time. Not fun.

Golden Horseshoe Revue, Disneyland CA
Comic skit at the Golden Horseshoe Revue, Disneyland

Once we switched over to Disney’s California Adventure, there were all new rides to experience, though since we’re not as familiar with that park we realized afterwards that we’d missed some of the fun ones we’ve been on in the past like the hidden Monster’s Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue! dark ride. I’m still not sure where that is relative to everything else there!

Visually, California Adventure is gorgeous. I particularly love how they realized Radiator Springs, the buttes of the great southwest and the neon of a nostalgic 50’s. Considering that from the road you can see it’s all façade, it’s astonishing, especially at sunset. Between that and Paradise Bay with its reflections of the California Screamin’ roller coaster and Mickey’s Fun Wheel, it’s one of the most beautiful spots in Southern California. And me? I remember when I was growing up it was the overflow parking lot for Disneyland itself.

Much of what we did at California Adventure was thrill-ride related, so I got a lot of time to relax, which was nice. The kids went on California Screamin’ and they and Judi went on the insanely popular Radiator Springs Racers, for which we got a FastPass when we got into the park for a time-window almost 11 hours later. Their assessment of the former remains “awesome!” but the latter? They liked it but didn’t feel like the queue time — even with the FastPass — was justified by the ride itself. I can’t comment since I didn’t go on it.

chip n' dale: my daughter posing with chip
My daughter and Chip. How can you tell? His nose is brown!

For dinner we snuck through the back of Radiator Springs into the Pacific Wharf area by Paradise Bay. My 17yo daughter A- and I had delicious fresh-cooked Asian veggies over rice from Lucky Fortune Cookery, a fave meal of mine at the park, while G- and Judi had Mexican from Cocina Cucamonga, which neither was particularly impressed with, and my little one, K-, 10yo, had a breadbowl of splendid tomato bisque soup from the Pacific Wharf Café. Not too bad, all in all, though by this point G- was complaining about his stomach again and voted not to go on California Screamin’ a second time.

We had a really great time at Disneyland / Disney’s California Adventure. The crowds were, well, Disney crowds, but lines weren’t too bad, about 30-45 minutes/ride, and the people watching is terrific. There’s so much to watch, experience and enjoy — including a surprise highlight of the live show at the Golden Horseshoe Revue while we all dug into an ice cream sundae — that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of going to Disneyland or any of the other Disney parks. In fact, now that I think about it, it has been rather a while since I was last at Walt Disney World Florida. I wonder what my schedule looks like for early Autumn…

I also gave myself the assignment of taking interesting or unusual photos this visit, so here are a few. I won’t name where they all were taken and instead invite you to name ’em in the comments if you know:

Nighttime reflections off Paradise Bay, Disney's California Adventure
Nighttime reflections off Paradise Bay, Disney’s California Adventure

I’m particularly pleased how the above photo turned out since I was shooting handheld with my terrific Sony RX-100 compact digital camera. No tripod, no special processing, just a sufficiently steady hand.

Radiator Springs at Sunset, Disney's California Adventure
Radiator Springs at Sunset, Disney’s California Adventure
squirrel detail

And one more:

My sister Judi with a Street Entertainer, Entry area to Disney's California Adventure
My sister Judi with a Street Entertainer, Entry area to Disney’s California Adventure

Oh, okay, one more pic. A great one, of all of us having a splendid time. You can figure out what’s in the background:

Family Portrait with Iconic Background, Disneyland, CA
Family Portrait with Iconic Background, Disneyland, CA

Okay, so where was the squirrel pic taken?

Disclaimer: Many, many thanks to the fine team at Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for comping our park-hopper passes for the day. We’d go anyway, but saving that money so we can spend it on food and souvenirs is a splendid benefit!

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