Wrap-up of a WDW Vet’s First Trip to Disneyland – Part 2

| June 26, 2013 | 2 Replies
My family (my husband David and I, plus Jacob – 7, Jonah – 5, and Lydia – almost 2)  just got back from our first trip to Disneyland and Southern California! We’re Walt Disney World experts, but relied on the Disneyland podcast team to help us plan this trip.  We did an audio trip report segment on the Disneyland Edition of the DIS Unplugged, which you can listen to by clicking here.  In my first wrap-up blog, I talked about our stay at Legoland near San Diego; this blog will focus on the Burbank/Hollywood area.  Read on to hear all the details!
Hollywood and Highland
Image: Hollywood and Highland

When I left off last time, we had driven up the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway and were now headed to the Howard Johnson Anaheim.  As we got to Anaheim, we made a wrong turn.  As luck would have it, we ended up driving right past Angel Stadium!  The team wasn’t in town, but there were a few cars in the parking lot, so we pulled in and got out to take some photos.

Angels stadium

Image: Angel Stadium

The boys loved this happy surprise, as we are huge baseball fans.  The outside of the stadium is really neat and we got to see the big Mickey statue (we have a smaller Cubs version in our family room at home), so that was really cool.


Image: David, Jonah and Jacob outside of Angel Stadium

Of course, the boys wanted to come back for a game, but what they didn’t know, was that they would be going to a Dodgers game in just a couple of days!  After we checked into the Howard Johnson and got into our room, the boys found out the next surprise – we had a view of Disneyland from our balcony!  This was so fun, and such an interesting vantage point for us WDW vets.  We always hear about how everything is right across the street from Disneyland and until you see it, that’s really hard to imagine, especially considering how Disney World was built with so much separation between everything.

Howard Johnson room

Image: Our room at the Howard Johnson Anaheim

view of Disneyland from our balcony

Image: The view of Disneyland from our balcony (you can see the Matterhorn peeking up behind the trees)

The next morning, we slept in and just took our time in the morning.  David and Jacob walked over to pick up breakfast from Mimi’s Café next door, and then we drove to Burbank to meet Nancy Johnson at her house.  Nancy and one of her daughters hopped in our van with us and we set off on a tour of the area.  Nancy knows everything about the history and significance of the sites we were seeing, so it was really a great day.  We got to see the The Walt Disney Studios, the hospital where Walt passed away, Warner Brothers Studios, Dreamworks Studios, the Hollywood Sign from an outlook up on Mulholland Drive, the Hollywood Bowl, and several landmarks in downtown Hollywood.

Hollywood Sign

Image: The Hollywood Sign

For lunch we stopped at one of Nancy’s favorite places, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.  The food was great – I’m seriously craving one of those amazing waffles right now just writing about it!

fence post

Image: Fence post at The Walt Disney Studios

Disney Animation

Image: Legends Plaza at The Walt Disney Studios

Warner Brothers

Image: Warner Brothers Studio

Crossroads of the World

Image: Crossroads of the World building – the inspiration for the one at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

After lunch, we went to Forest Lawn Cemetery and found Walt Disney’s grave.  This may seem like a weird thing to do on vacation, but surprisingly enough, it was actually our boys’ idea.  They love Disney history and were really interested in seeing the grave site.  Forest Lawn is beautiful and is such a peaceful spot up in the hills.  It was nice to pay our respects to a man who has impacted not just our lives, but the world in general, in such a positive way.  If you’re interested in more information on Forest Lawn and Walt’s grave, Nancy did a great blog about it a couple of years ago.

Walt Disney's grave

Image: Walt Disney’s grave site


Image: Walt Disney’s grave site

When we were leaving the cemetery, we noticed a sign for a museum exhibit called, “The Art of the Brick.”  We stopped at the museum and checked this out. It was really neat and we’re so glad we were able to see this on its opening day!

The Art of the Brick

Image: The Art of the Brick exhibit

The Art of the Brick

Image: The Art of the Brick exhibit

The next day, we drove back to Burbank; this time, Mary Jo was going to show us around.  We drove through some of the same areas as the previous day, which was fine with us, as she is just as informed as Nancy, plus we wanted to take more photos!  We went to Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park, which is a train yard dedicated to educating the public about the development of rail in the United States.  The kids loved riding on the small train, which took us all around the grounds.

Travel Town train

We then headed to the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.  This was one of our most-anticipated stops on the trip, because this is the location that inspired Walt to create Disneyland!  I’m going to just let Walt tell the story in his own words:  “Well, it came about when my daughters were very young and Saturday was always Daddy’s day with the two daughters. I’d take them to the merry-go-round and as I’d sit there, sat on a bench, you know, eating peanuts, I felt that there should be some kind of an amusement enterprise built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started.”  The actual bench that Walt sat on can be seen in the Opera House on Main Street at Disneyland, along with one of the carousel horses and the peanut cart.

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Image: Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Image: Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Image: Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.  This is where Walt’s bench originally sat.

Walt's bench at Disneyland

Image: the actual bench is now at Disneyland

It might seem silly to some, especially to my friends back home who don’t “get” it, but seeing these Disney historical sites really meant a lot to us.  We try to teach our kids to respect and honor the past and Disney is something that’s a big part of our lives.  It was so neat to see the beginnings of the theme parks and to think about this amazing vision of Walt’s that would eventually become something so big.  Without Disney, our lives would be so different – my job obviously completely revolves around Disney and parts of David’s do as well.  But the biggest impact is that we’ve met so many friends from all across the world because of this shared common interest.  We even have friends we haven’t met yet (all you DISers know exactly what I mean!).  It was really special to ride on the carousel with my family and Mary Jo, one of these friends who we met because of Disney!

Mary Jo took us to the Hollywood and Highland area for lunch at California Pizza Kitchen (one of our kids’ favorites).  After lunch, we walked around and looked at the Walk of Fame, trying to see how many Disney-related stars we could find.  In front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, we compared our handprints and footprints to the celebrities’ in the cement and the boys got their picture taken with “Iron Man.”

Disneyland star

Image: Disneyland’s star

We checked out the front of the El Capitan Theater and we walked through the Walt Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store.

Hollywood and Highland

Image: View of the Hollywood Sign from Hollywood and Highland

El Capitan

Image: El Capitan Theater

As one must do in Hollywood, we took lots of cheesy tourist photos – I pretended to be walking the red carpet at the El Capitan, I pretended to be a star headed to the Oscars on the stairs up to the Dolby theater…  Ok, so I guess I took lots of cheesy tourist photos!

walking the red carpet

Image: “Walking” the red carpet at the El Capitan


Image: Walking up the stairs to the Dolby Theater, home of the Academy Awards

After that, we headed back to Nancy’s house for a barbecue.  There were a couple other DISers in town, as well as some locals, so we spent our evening enjoying their company and Nancy’s great food – she made the chicken from the luau at the Polynesian! It was a fun evening and it was nice to reconnect with some folks who we normally only see at official DIS events.  After dinner it was time for our goodbyes and the drive back to Anaheim.

On Sunday, we had our first taste of Disneyland!  We had breakfast reservations at the Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends at the Paradise Pier Hotel.  We thought it would be a good idea to schedule this before the official Disneyland portion of our trip so we didn’t “waste” any park mornings.  Breakfast was really fun and the food was great.  We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of character interaction that was possible.  At Disney World, we are so used to everything being very structured.  There are always character attendants present and I often feel like we have a very limited amount of time to interact with the characters.  Here, the characters moved from table to table like we’re used to, but they didn’t seem to be in a rush.  Our kids had plenty of time to talk with them and take photos.  They were all very good with Lydia, who only liked them if I was holding her, but they realized this and stayed far back enough so she wouldn’t be frightened.  We got to see Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Pluto and Stitch.  Every 20 minutes or so, Mickey went up to the front and all the kids got to come up and have a little dance party with him.  Afterwards, kids could go say hi and get their photo taken with him, without feeling like he had to rush back to another table.

Surf's Up! breakfast

Image: Surf’s Up! breakfast at Paradise Pier Hotel

Surf's Up! breakfast

Image: Surf’s Up! breakfast at Paradise Pier Hotel

After breakfast, David and the boys left for the Dodgers game.  Lydia and I stayed at the hotel so she could get a good nap that afternoon.  She wouldn’t have cared about the game anyway, so this allowed us to get caught up on laundry and get some needed rest.  The guys all loved the game.  The Dodgers were playing the Cardinals, so it was a fun chance to root against our rivals even while on vacation (we’re Cubs fans.  Go ahead and start the jokes now, we can take it.).  They enjoyed getting to see an iconic ballpark and came home with some new Dodgers t-shirts.

Dodgers game

Image: Dodger’s game

A couple tips for those of you who might want to catch a game while on the road: If you purchase your tickets from stubhub.com, you can pick your actual seat.  This is important when taking kids and you want to sit on the aisle, or in the front row of your section.  Also, most, if not all, ballparks will give you a “First Game” certificate as a souvenir.  Check with one of the ushers and they should be able to direct you to the correct office.  Another neat thing that Dodgers stadium does (in the same office) is to give kids a bracelet for parents to mark with their cellphone number and seat location in case the kids were to get lost.  What a great idea!  They didn’t end up staying for the whole game, but they really enjoyed it and were definitely glad they were able to go.  When the boys got back, we walked to Downtown Disney for dinner at Earl of Sandwich, then spent awhile playing in the splash area at the hotel.

HoJo pool

Image: HoJo spool/plash area

We ended the evening by watching the Disneyland fireworks from our balcony!


Image: Disneyland fireworks from our balcony

I’m going to stop there for now, so make sure you check back in to read the last installment of my wrap-up blogs, where I share the details of our week at the Disneyland Resort!

To listen to our audio trip report segments from the Disneyland Edition of the DIS Unplugged, click here!

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Category: Disney World, Disneyland