Monday, July 30, 2012

Back in the USA Part 2: Disneyland & California Adventure

What is it about Disneyland that’s so magical?
Kai me denim jacket

My granddaughter Kailyn is six years old, so it was time to take her to Disneyland. I hadn’t been there since I took my daughter Nicole and her friend in 1997, and I wondered how much it might have changed. What I found out is that it’s still the Happiest Place on Earth, well managed, and any changes are for the better. And now, there are two parks –Disneyland and California Adventure, which opened in 2001. For some reason, when you go there, you can’t help but enjoy yourself, even when you’re waiting in a long line.

Back in March, I told Kailyn that I would take her to Disneyland this summer. Her big eyes got even bigger, and she said “Let’s go now!” No, we have to wait until I come back this summer, I said. Winter ended and spring began, and  Kailyn’s mom Kerri and I began to plan the trip.
Waterfall girls

Both Mommy and Daddy (my son Brian) were going, and I asked Kerri to invite a friend for Kailyn. Kids have a lot more fun, and remember it better, when they’re with a friend their own age. Kerri suggested Kailyn’s best friend Hannah. They are kindergarten friends, but Hannah’s daddy got transferred, so the family moved from Concord to Petaluma. This trip would be a great way to keep the Kailyn – Hannah connection over the summer.

We got a package deal through our Costco membership, which included three hotel nights, a two-day Park Hopper pass, bus transportation, a “character meal” (more about that later) and early entry on one day. They send the tickets to your home, but since I was out of the country I had them sent to Brian and Kerri.

Disneyland 028

We drove from Concord, California to Anaheim in about seven hours, and got to the park the next day about an hour after it opened. The first thing we did was get in line for a popular ride, Splash Mountain. I’m not a big fan of roller coasters or other rides with a big drop but I thought, “What the heck?” Although Kailyn was a little scared, it was a good way to start. And I must say that the strategy of getting as far inside the park as early as possible is a good one, because by 11:00 a.m. the waits for the popular rides are long. We also got onto Pirates of the Caribbean before there was a long wait.

Even though they are six years old, the girls are still pretty young for many of the rides, which were too fast or too scary for Kailyn or too big Hannah, who is only 40” tall. Also, the girls were little enough to get tired pretty easily. The first day, we went back to the hotel to “rest,” but the girls wanted to swim, which certainly made them even more tired. That night we were all exhausted, and ended up sleeping in the second day, missing our “early entry” opportunity. So on the second day, we stuck it out for the whole day until after the Magical fireworks show, about 11 hours.
Here’s a list of what we did in our two days there.
Disneyland rides
  • Splash Mountain
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Autopia
California Adventure rides
  • Francis’ Ladybug Boogie
  • Flik’s Flyers
  • Tuck and Roll’s’ Drive ‘em Buggies
  • Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train
  • Luigi’s Flying Tires
  • Radiator Springs Racers (didn’t actually get on the ride, but waited in line for 2 hours until it broke down)
Shows and Parades
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Pixar Play Parade
  • World of Color
  • Magical Fireworks Spectacular
  • Ariel’s Grotto Princess Celebration
  • Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill
  • Carnation Café
  • Tomorrowland Terrace
  • Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor
Fortunately, the rides are only part of the Disneyland experience. Over the two days we were there, it seemed like we only rode a few rides but the parades, characters and shows were what made the trip. Looking back, I can see there are tons of things the girls would have loved, that we didn’t have time to do. Should we have made it a week-long trip? Probably not; the girls would have been overwhelmed. And so would I! So I guess that’s why people go back, year after year.

At the end of our trip, Kailyn said she's going back when she's 12 years old. Why she picked that age, we don't know. The grownups said we might want to go back sooner.

The Pixar Parade video that I promised earlier is finally on YouTube. But be careful, you or your belongings may get a little wet!

Cars Land just opened in June of this year, so it was very crowded. Fortunately, I just saw the movie – Kailyn let me borrow her Cars 2 DVD to watch at home in Nevada, where I didn’t have any TV or Internet. So I knew all about Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, and all the rest. I recognized everything from the movie! It’s just like being in Radiator Springs.

The last thing we saw was the fireworks show.

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