Family Vacation – Day 1

A fun day at Disneyland

We generally try to take a “big” family vacation every other year. Big is defined as “going someplace out of state or someplace expensive”. Our kids have been bugging us to take them to Disneyland and we figured that even though we really could use the money for other things, a kid should be able to go do Disneyland at least once in their lives. (Actually, Emily and Anne went to Disneyworld in Florida with Aunt Melissa a couple of years ago. Caroline was just a baby back then). The problem was what to do with Baby and Samuel. Samuel is just too young to appreciate going to Disneyland and we didn’t want to hassle with diapers and a stroller. Taking Baby to Disneyland would be a complete fun-killer. Fortunately, my sister Lori graciously agreed to take Baby and Samuel for a few days so that the rest of us could have fun.

The next question came down to whether we should drive or fly. Flying is expensive but it would basically save us a complete day to drive down to Los Angeles and a complete day to fly home. We eventually decided to bite the bullet and book the lowest fares we could find (on Southwest). It turned out that flying was the most expensive part of the trip but not having to drive to L.A. and back with three kids made the trip so enjoyable that it was definitely worth it.

The kids were excited to fly on the plane and were having discussions about who had flown the most (not that they could remember the times they had flown), who got the window seat, etc. It was raining in Salt Lake before we left and the forecast called for rain in Anaheim for both of our days at Disneyland so just before we left to catch our plane I drove to Walmart and bought ponchos for everyone. Buying ponchos turned out to be one of the smartest moves of the whole trip. You can buy ponchos at Disneyland but the $2.00 poncho I bought at Walmart worked just as well as the $10.00 poncho for sale at Disneyland.

Waiting for the shuttle bus in the rain at SLC airport

We had tried to keep our destination a secret from the kids and had only told them that we were going to a park in California. Unfortunately, Emily caught me researching Disneyland ticket prices on the Internet and quickly put two and two together. As we started our trip it became increasingly difficult to hide the fact that we were going to Disneyland. Here is a sample conversation while getting on the plane:

Stewardess (to Anne): Where are you going?
Anne: We’re going on vacation!
Stewardess: Oh, are you going to Disneyland?
Nancy: Umm, err, umm, err, well, umm.

Car Rental Driver: Are you guys going to Disneyland?
BYUFan: Umm, err, umm, err, umm.

The kids had basically figured it out but they still weren’t 100% sure until we pulled into Disneyland and then they were excited and bouncing around in their seats (who doesn’t get excited when they pull into Disneyland?). Disney’s California Adventure was basically built where the old parking lot used to be and now both parks share a huge 6 story parking garage. The usual trams take you from the parking garage to the parks where you wait in line to get your bags checked, wait in line to buy your tickets, and wait in line to enter the park itself. Fortunately, everyone is so excited and generally in such a good mood that nobody seems to mind the wait.

The day started out sunny and nice so we took the traditional Disneyland entrace picture, put on our sunscreen, watched Mickey Mouse lead a brass band down main street, and finally set off to cram as many fun things as we could into two days. Our first stop was at Tomorrowland where we got in line to do the Star Wars ride. I didn’t tell the kids (or Nancy) that it was a roller-coaster type ride (you actually sit in a little theater that jerks around and up and down while a movie plays on the screen but it is very realistic and feels just like you are hurtling through space) and convinced them that it “didn’t go fast”. Once we got on the ride I just kept hoping that none of the kids (or I) would barf and that they wouldn’t get too scared. Caroline sat through the entire ride without making a noise and I think the kids enjoyed the excitement although they didn’t want to ride it again. In the end, Caroline turned out to be a good little roller coaster rider as long as you didn’t tell her before-hand that the ride was a roller coaster.

Caroline at Honey I Shrunk the Audience

After the roller coaster ride we went to see Honey I Shrunk the Audience. HISA is a 3D presentation in a theather that is actually pretty cool. Everyone puts on 3D glasses and watches in amazement as things come shooting at you from the stage. My favorite part is when a big dog sneezes on the audience. They’ve rigged the theater somehow so that every seat has a little mister built into it. When the dog sneezes every seat puffs up a little bit of mist and it feels like the dog sneezed right in your face. I think that once the kids realized that stuff wasn’t really going to explode in their face they sat back and enjoyed the show.

Waiting in line at Autopia (Notice the lack of long lines)

The next ride we went on was the Autopia where kids get to drive a car. Neither of our girls were tall enough to drive their own car but they could drive if Nancy or I rode with thim. The girls loved the Autopia so much that we ended up going on the ride 3 or 4 times. Caroline even got to drive the last time we went (while Emily frumped in the middle of the car because she wanted to have all the turns).

I had heard that Disneyland was less crowded in the rain and it turned out to be true. The entire time we were there, we never waited more than about 10 minutes in line for any ride. Some of the rides were so empty that you could just walk right up to the entrance. Because of this we were able to ride our favorite rides 3 or 4 times each (I think Nancy went on Pirates of Caribbean about 4 times). Unfortunately, the other major attraction in Tomorrowland (Space Mountain) is closed for refurbishing until 2005 so that was about it as far as Tomorrowland went.

Waiting in line at the Haunted Mansion

We next headed over to Adventureland/Frontierland to do Pirates of the Carribean, Indiana Jones, the Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Winnie the Pooh, Tom Sawyer Island, and Splash Mountain. The Haunted Mansion was all decorated up for Halloween/Christmas at the same time. They had replaced all of the ghosts and music inside with haunted christmasy type things which Nancy thought was a bit wierd but which I rather enjoyed.

The Haunted Mansion decorated for Halloween and Christmas

We also convinced all the kids to go on Splash Mountain and took up an entire log with our family. We had fun looking at the picture of ourselves that is automatically taken as you drop down the log flue. Nancy liked the picture so much that she wanted to get a copy of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that the pictures only lasted an hour so when we went the next day to get a copy of it we were too late.

Hanging out with Winnie the Pooh

I also convinced Emily and Anne to go on Indiana Jones with me by telling them it wasn’t a “fast” roller coaster but only a “bumpy” one. Unfortunately, Caroline didn’t meet the height requirement so she and Nancy waited for the three of us while we went on the ride. Afterword Anne said she hated the ride but Emily said she liked it.

On the Carousel:

After lunch in New Orleans Square (majorly expensive) we went to Fantasyland where we rode on the Carousel, Snow White, Mickey’s ToonTown (the Goofy Rollercoaster was closed because of rain) and rode on the Autopia again. (Caroline later said the Carousel was her most favorite thing to do on the whole trip) We didn’t see Small World because it was closed in order to get its own set of Christmas decorations.

Waiting for the parade

When it got close to parade time we picked out our spots on the curb and sat down to wait. We were disappointed when we found out that the regular parade was cancelled because of the rain and that there would only be a “short” parade called Mickey’s Rainy Day Cavalcade.

Waiting for the parade

When the Disney people said “short” they really meant it! The Rainy Day Cavalcade consisted of three vehicles with Mickey in the first vehicle, Donald Duck in the second, and a couple of other characters in the third. If you ever go to Disneyland on a rainy day, don’t bother waiting to see the Cavalcade.

The effects of a fun day at Disneyland

By the end of the day our feet were sore from walking and the kids were tired from so much excitement and fun. We drove back to the hotel and the kids were asleep before their heads hit the pillow. We like staying at the Towne Place Suites (especially when we can stay for free on Marriott points) because Nancy and I get our own bedroom without the kids. The older two girls slept in the hide-a-bed in the front room while Caroline slept in a little bed made of couch cusions on the floor. All in all it was a fun first day at Disneyland. The rain didn’t bother us too much, the crowds were very light, nobody whined or complained too much and everyone really had fun.

Caroline in her “cushion bed”

Tomorrow: The California Adventure

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