Wrap-up of a WDW Vet’s First Trip to Disneyland – Part 3

| August 16, 2013 | 1 Reply

The PhotoPass pictures have finally arrived – it’s time for the final two blogs!  My family (my husband David and I, plus Jacob – 7, Jonah – 5, and Lydia – 2) recently 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; the second focused on the Burbank/Hollywood area.  And now, the long-awaited finale of our trip – Disneyland!

welcome plaque

Bright and early Monday morning, we packed up the van and left the Howard Johnson to check into the Disneyland Hotel!  This hotel is gorgeous and is classic Disney.  The Disneyland Hotel opened with the park in October of 1955 and just underwent a complete remodel, which was finished up last year.  The first thing you see when you enter the front doors is a huge map of Disneyland with light-up animations.  The boys could have stood in front of this for hours!

animated map

While we checked in, the kids found out that the waiting area has tea cup-shaped chairs!

tea cup chairs

Since it was only 7:30am, our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our luggage and headed to Disneyland!  One of the things that is so different between Walt Disney World and Disneyland is the close proximity between the hotels and the parks.  It only took us about 10 minutes to walk from the hotel to the gate.  As we found out later in the day, another option is to take the monorail from Tomorrowland to Downtown Disney.  We did that several times throughout the trip.  I’m not sure how much time it really saves, especially since you have to wait in line for the monorail, but it’s sure more fun than walking!

monorail

We all walked under the train station together; cheesy I know, but hey – it’s our first time here!  It’s hard to describe the feeling I had at this moment.  The kids were obviously excited, because they love Disney and were looking forward to going on the rides and seeing their favorite characters.  For David and I, it was a different kind of excitement.  We had wanted to travel to Disneyland for so long and we were finally there!  We could sense the history all around us and were so excited to start exploring!

sign

We hadn’t planned which attraction we wanted to do first, but right as we walked onto Main Street U.S.A., the horseless carriage pulled up to the curb.  Well, yes please!  We all climbed aboard and settle in for a relaxing ride down the middle of Main Street U.S.A.  When we got to the stop by the castle, no one was waiting, so we stayed aboard and traveled right back down Main St.!  It was a great little introduction to Disneyland and will always be a fun memory.

carriage

After that, we walked leisurely back towards the castle.  David headed into the camera shop to pick up our PhotoPass+ card and the kids and I went in search of First Visit buttons.  Once these were acquired, we stopped and took lots of photos in front of the castle.

castle

We decided to go to Fantasyland and see what attraction spoke to us.  We chose Storybook Land Canal Boats as our first ride, and what a great choice it was!  This original Disneyland ride was just adorable and allowed us to get a view of the area.  The boys sat on the front of the boat as Whale Watchers, which they loved.

whale watchers

After that, we used Rider Switch for the first time on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. David took the boys through the line, while Lydia and I got popcorn.  Then when they got back, I took the Rider Switch card and the boys and I got back in line.  When we got to the cast member, she told us that a Rider Switch card is only supposed to let two people back in line.  I had no idea!  We had been planning all along that this would allow both boys to ride everything twice in a row.  Luckily, she let us through this time since we were already in line.  I enjoyed the Matterhorn, but felt it was a little too bumpy for me (I’ve been having back problems for the past year).

After some more park touring, we met up with Mary Jo and the Johnson family for lunch at Carnation Café.  After a great lunch, we headed back to Fantasyland and rode several rides together.  Later in the afternoon, David and Jacob decided to go back to the hotel to get our suitcases unpacked a little and take photos of the room before we got it messy.

World Color

hotel

Before they left the park, Nancy and Mary Jo showed me how Fantasmic! seating worked and showed me a good spot to sit.  Jonah, Lydia and I grabbed a quick-service meal to go and settled in for a couple hours of spot-saving for the evening’s Fantasmic! showing.  While it was a pain to sit there for so long, especially when there was so much we hadn’t seen, it ended up working out perfectly!  David and Jacob brought back jackets for us, as the evenings turned out to be quite chilly.  We enjoyed the show so much!  We’ve never seen the show in Orlando as a family, so it was great to have a new experience.  The kids really enjoyed it and it was a great way to end our first evening at Disneyland!

Fantasmic

After Fantasmic! ended, we went back to the hotel and I got to see the room for the first time.  Wow!  It was absolutely beautiful.  The boys really enjoyed turning on the fireworks and music above the beds, though they were so worn out that they didn’t stay up very long.

bed

The next day we got up bright and early and were at Disney California Adventure by rope drop.  We had decided that for the first day, we were going to hurry back to Cars Land and not worry about taking our time to see everything.  We split up and David and Lydia headed straight for the Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass line, while the boys and I waited on the right side of the crowd.  We were so excited to be there early and we just knew we’d be able to get right on the ride.  Until… a cast member announced that Radiator Springs Racers was down and they weren’t sure when it would be working again.  No!  I quickly called Nancy and asked her where we should head next.  Her choice was Luigi’s Flying Tires, as that line can get long quickly as well.  Perfect, we’ll do that.  The rope was dropped, and we rushed back to Cars Land, only to find that Luigi’s Flying Tires was down as well.  Seriously??  David wasn’t back from the Fastpass line yet, so we took our time looking around Radiator Springs and getting some Photopass pictures taken.

tractor

Radiator Springs is simply amazing!  This is probably what our boys had been looking forward to the most and it did not disappoint.  We really felt like we had walked right into the movie and were walking down Route 66.  David did return with Fastpasses, so we were able to ride RSR a couple of times that morning, as well as the other attractions in Cars Land.  We all absolutely loved Radiator Springs Racers!  Such an amazing ride – it is everything that we had heard it was.  We didn’t get as many attractions done that morning as we had hoped to, but it was definitely time well spent.

DCA

For lunch, we ate at Carthay Circle Restaurant to take advantage of their World of Color dining package.  Lunch was an interesting experience.  The restaurant is beautiful, but we didn’t have too much time to look around as the waitress led us to our table.  She kept walking and walking and walking.  David and I even looked at each other and whispered, “How far away are they seating us?”  The restaurant wasn’t that busy, but we ended up in a huge room, completely empty except for us.  We made plenty of jokes about them wanting to keep the children as far away from other diners as possible.  As it turns out, our children were a little bit loud (especially for a fancy dining experience), so I guess it was a good thing!

Carthay

The food was great, albeit expensive, but we were expecting that.  Lunch for the 4 of us (Lydia was asleep in her stroller for most of it) was around $90, but the fact that we would have reserved viewing for World of Color made the price worth it, especially later that night when we saw the location.  David and the younger two took a nap back at the hotel, while Jacob and I spent the afternoon at Disneyland Park.  Neither of us are great nap-takers and on this occasion, this worked out perfectly for us!

We had walked back to the hotel with everyone, so then we decided to take the monorail into Tomorrowland.   We didn’t really have a plan for where we were headed, so we started walking towards the center of the park.  We stumbled across the Jedi Training Academy area, right as they were about to select the volunteers.  Jacob started jumping up and down and got himself chosen!  We’ve always wanted to do this in Orlando, but it normally fills up quickly unless you have Fastpass, and we’ve never made it a priority in our day.  He was so excited (and truthfully, so was I)!  He did a great job defeating Darth Maul and really enjoyed the show.

Jedi Training Academy

I was able to get most of it on video, plus a few photos, but was pleasantly surprised when a Photopass photographer handed me a card full of photos he’d taken of the whole experience!  After that, Jacob suckered me into asked very sweetly for a Jedi Training Academy shirt, which he put on right in the store and made sure to discuss with everyone we saw the rest of the day.

After we did a few more attractions, David and the younger kids called to say they were on their way back to the parks, so in our second instance of perfect timing for the day, it happened to be almost time for Mickey’s Soundsational Parade to start!  Jacob and I grabbed some Mickey bars (it would be a shame to have to wait for a parade at Disneyland and not be eating some kind of delicious snack) and sat down to save seats for everyone right on Main Street!  The timing worked out perfectly and the parade started five minutes after the rest of our family joined us.  We really enjoyed the floats and entertainers.  One of our favorite moments was when Cinderella, Lydia’s favorite character, waved and blew a kiss right to her!  I know she won’t remember it when she grows up, but it was a magical moment for me!

Cinderella

After the parade, it was time to head over to California Adventure and get ready for the World of Color.  We got to our reserved viewing area at 8:15, showed our tickets and walked right in.  Best “seats” in the house!  We were right in the middle of the show area, right behind a fence so no one could stand in front of us – absolutely perfect!  We had 45 minutes to wait, so we took turns going out to grab food for supper and before we knew it, it was time for the show.  Simply amazing!  I watched part of a video of World of Color when it first debuted, but I didn’t really want to watch the whole thing until I could see it in person.  It did not disappoint.  All of us watched in awe as the water rose and fell to the music, changing colors and shapes, all the while serving as the backdrop for Disney’s stunning animation.  It’s safe to say that if/when we make it back to Disneyland again, we will definitely be taking advantage of the Carthay dining package again to get this great location.

World of Color

The rest of the trip wasn’t as scheduled, so in my final blog, I’m just going to jump around and hit some of our highlights. I’ll have that one up in a couple days!

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

About the Author ()

Leah grew up in a little farming town in Illinois, right on the Mississippi River. Her Chicago-born husband, David, left the city for her, and they're now raising their three children (Jacob, Jonah and Lydia) just 12 miles from her hometown. As the Senior Editor of the DIS (wdwinfo.com), Leah spends a lot of time writing about, reading about, and discussing Disney. So, it should come as no surprise that one of her family's favorite ways to spend time is going to Walt Disney World and traveling on Disney Cruise Line. She also enjoys shopping, watching movies with her husband and doing crafts with and for her kids.
  • rn10950

    I am thinking a first time DL trip on 7/17/2015 (Disneyland’s 60th). Ive been to WDW 3 times and I feel this would be the perfect time for a DLR trip.