Oh Disneyland, my Disneyland

It's a field trip report for those of you who care about such things... find it under the jump... (with some cute pics, as well!)

It was just Ben's birthday, and is my wont, I took him for a trip. Theoretically, these are "father/son" trips, but this year Ben wanted Mama to come along as well, and since it's HIS birthday, we went along with his plan.

Like last year, we headed south for Disneyland (but I'm not set on this being a Disney trip every year... taking ideas for next year already, folks!), but because Mama was with us, we made it a little more of a production number than last year.

Last year it was a "day trip" -- we went in the night before, went straight to bed at a motel, then spent the whole day at the park. THIS year, we left butt-early on Sunday, and came back on the last flight on Monday night, giving us two full park days.

Also, because Mama was with us, we decided to not stay in the cheap motel across the street (I liked the Park Vue Inn... it is a clean place to sleep, about 1/3 of the price, AND it is actually physically closer to the front door of the park), and instead stayed at the Disneyland hotel. The only real advantage there is that the Disneyland hotel has a MUCH nicer pool, with a huge model of Captain Hook's pirate ship, and some water slides (which, uh, Ben can't actually use because he doesn't KNOW how to swim [yet], and we can't slide down in tandem). We made a point of getting in an hour or two at the pool because of that... but it really isn't worth the triple price by itself.

I've noted Ben's affection for Ariel from THE LITTLE MERMAID, which, can I say, it sorta surprises me that she doesn't have a bigger Disneyland presence, as she appeals to both boys AND girls, and she basically single-handedly saved Disney animation in the 1980s...

But she's got a little statue by the (heated!) little kid's pool, so here's the first of the cutie-pie pics....

From CE

(let's hope that worked... thanks to Jeff Lester for putting the pic up and giving me the HTML...)

Anyway, we started the first day at the California Adventure park, the newer of the two parks on the complex. We did this because, mostly, we'd never been there before (either together, or singly). It's alright, and it looks and feels a lot more like a "traditional" amusement park -- it sure felt to me that there were longer walks between rides, and it doesn't have that super-compact feeling that, say, Fantasyland has.

We started the morning by beelining to the... well, I don't remember the proper name, it's something like "Grizzly Mountain White-water rafting", and it's your basic water-coaster, except that it spins a bit, like a whitewater raft. It's fun, but we probably should have done the "Flying over California" ride first thing, because by the time we got back there at the end of our day, the line was WAY too long to wait through. Oh well.

We went over to the pier area, and no one was willing to go on the Sky Wheel with me (chickens!), not even with the non-moving cars. Bah. We did some sort of rise-and-drop ride, which Ben liked, but I was bored with, and Ben couldn't go on the big coaster (height reasons), so we opted for standing in line for the "hot new ride", Toy Story 4-D. That took nearly an hour (ugh!), but it was nearly worth it, as it is a really clever updating of the Buzz Lightyear Astro-Blasters in dland proper. With a 15 minute wait, we'd have done it several times, it was that cool, but the line was really hellish.

Then Ben wanted to go on the Merry-Go-Round, so we did that (it was King Triton themed, about as close to Ariel as we could get), and the ride operator decided, unprompted, that Ben should be "Prince Ben", and he got a little crown and was announced to all of the other kids on the ride. That was nice for the boy, though I noticed when he repeated the ride (no line for a carousel!) that the operator wasn't naming a prince or princess on each go round, so not sure what the thinking was there. Still, nice surprise!

By then we're hot and tired, so its food time. Ugh, this is the real difference in staying two days -- you're basically eating three meals a day on dland property, and they are EXPENSIVE. Yikes, brutally so...!

(I thought Tzipora's burrito was horrific, but my Chinese Chicken Salad was pretty decent)

We then wandered over to the "Bug's Life" area (so much space devoted to such a minor movie!), which is okay-ish, but is really aimed at teeny kids. Ben will be too old for that next year, but this year he was fine with the gentle rides, and the joke of a bumper cars, and especially the "sprinkler park" (which purported to teach you about how irrigation worked in large scale farming, but was mostly an excuse for kids to get SOAKED). It was a hot enough day that by the time we walked to the next section, Ben was mostly dry.

I quite liked the "Hollywood" area, which has this GIANT illusion of a summer day, and a street receding into infinity down it. Must be 60 feet high, and Ben and I talked about how they do that kind of visual trickery for film, so it was almost even educational. Had we more time, I kind of wanted to go into more of the exhibits in the Hollywood area (how animation is done, that kind of thing), but the day was quickly creeping closed, so we limited ourselves to the Monsters Inc ride (a classic "Dark ride", which like all of them, doesn't make a ton of sense if you haven't seen the movie) (Ben hadn't... but wants to now), and the Muppets 3-D thing which is AWESOME. Seriously, that one alone is worth the price of California Adventure admission, and if we had more time, I would have gone through it a few more times. It was both hysterically and injokey, but it also had some of the best 3-D I've ever seen anywhere, as well as environmental things happening in the theater. Great great stuff.

I wanted to do the Twilight Zone "Tower of Terror", but neither Tzipora or Ben did, and I got outvoted, so we headed back to the hotel for some swimtime. Overall, the Hollywood area was the only part of the CA park that I actually *liked*. the rest was fun, but not stellar.

After swimming for a while, the family was bushed. We ordered in some room service (ugh, expensive!), and Tzipora and Ben crashed, hard.

I was still awake enough (it was barely 9!), and Disneyland was open until midnight, so I left them sleeping and went on the prowl with myself. It's fun walking around by yourself in a park at night with your iPod giving you your own soundtrack, I have to say!

I tried to hop back over to CA, to do the TZ thing, but that park closes at 9. Um, OK. Dland it is, then!

Since I knew he was too small for it (4 more inches to go!) I made for the Indiana Jones ride. The first pass through was about a 30 minute wait, but after that a staffer said to me that the ride had a "single rider" option, and I could skip the line if I wanted to do it again. Which I did. Three more times.

Here's a good place to note this: most of the rides (in both parks) SUCK for three people. Why? Because most of the time most rides only seat two across, which meant one of us rode with Ben, while the other was stuck alone. And, OF COURSE, Ben wanted to do most of the rides with D-A-D-D-Y, leaving Tzipora as the third wheel. Not fun for her.

(Indy seats 4 across, which is why they can do single rider to fill in the holes)

So: go to Disneyland in multiples of two if you want to have the best time, is the lesson!

(And, ask for "single rider" on Indy, instead of standing in the line the first time!)

I also did the Haunted Mansion solo (twice), since I just love the Nightmare Before Xmas decorations this time of year.

I missed the fireworks, though, because I was waiting for Indy...

Anyway, we get up early on Monday to pack as much in as we can. Monday was the first time I'd ever personally experienced the Santa Ana winds. HOLY COW. Now I understand how those SoCal wildfires happen. Especially standing at the monorail station in "downtown Disney", it was like being inside of a shotgun, the wind was blowing so hard!

Once in Disneyland itself, it wasn't too bad, but man that monorail station was a rare form of torture!

Last year we went mid-week, and the lines were all pretty small -- except for last year's "hot new ride" (The Finding Nemo Submarine ride), which was at least an hour, and we skipped) -- nothing took more than, say, 15-20 minutes. THIS year we went during Columbus Day, so lines were AT LEAST twice as long. Another lesson learned! We did about 20-25 rides in '07, but this year I think we made a dozen?

Knowing my boy's taste, we stuck mostly to the Jungleland/New Orleans Square area in the morning -- Haunted Mansion (twice!), Pirates of the Caribbean (this is where Tzipora started to say "Wow, this is amazing!"), then Ben and I climbed around the Tarzan treehouse while Tzipora used the Single Rider trick to do Indy. (She was GLOWING after that one!)

Tzipora still wasn't done with indy when we were ready, so I talked the staff into letting me and Ben "do the line" for Indy. The line area is at least as cool as the ride itself, going through an "archeological dig", with runes on the walls, and spike traps and stuff, and even Indy's office in the back, where the normal line doesn't actually go (that's where singles and Handicaps line up). Technically, they were breaking the rules, but we got a personal tour of the Dig, and Ben was happier than a pig in shit, even without being able to do the RIDE. We got through it at about the same time as Tzipora did the ride, so we exited as a family which was nice.

It was hot then, and definitely Sit-Down time, so we did a no-line "Jungle Cruise" (Which Ben adored more than I would have imagined), and also did the Enchanted Tiki Room. It's easy to dismiss those kinds of rides as an adult, but 5 year olds really do seem to love them, plus they rested and refreshed us.

Off to Tomorrowland, where we did Star Tours, and Buzz Lightyear (twice!), and Space Mountain (Tzipora vows she'll NEVER do a coaster again, but Ben loves the mountain just like his Daddy, yes!). If the lines hadn't been so long, all day long, I probably would have tried to do Honey I Shrunk the Audience and the World of Tomorrow, but we were beginning to run short on time.

Tzipora, for some reason, was dead-set on doing Nemo, so I let her and Ben do that while I took a little chill-out time for myself, hurray. They said it was worth the 45 minute line, but I doubt that, myself.

Then it was the big one: Jedi Academy.

This is an outdoors, in-the-round kind of show, where a "Jedi Master" picked 10 or so kids to be "Padawans", and taught them how to use a lightsaber. They do this maybe 5 times a day, so only about 50 kids a day get to participate, out of the 10k+ that go through the park. Last year, I steered around it, but this year Ben was eager to try.

What's cool is that the floor opens up and Darth Vader (and sometimes Darth Maul?) comes out, and "fights" the kids.

Long story short, Ben was lucky enough to be one of the kids picked (it prolly helps that he looks like a young Luke Skywalker... and that his dad was standing behind him waving HIS hands as well!)

Let me tell you, as an American male who was 9 years old when STAR WARS was released (and I saw it 2 weeks-ish pre-release, too, with the print we watched having the Biggs-on-Tatoonie scenes), there was nothing NOTHING that's given me as much as a thrill since seeing Ben BORN, as watching him fight Darth Vader! Yah, boyeeee!

Now you can thrill as well...:

From CE

Our day was approaching done, but we had time for ONE more ride, and we picked a (probably THE) classic Fantasyland ride: Peter Pan. I wanted Tzipora to see a "classic" Dark Ride, and I think we picked well.

Then it was time to start heading back (already?!?!), with us still not making it back to Toon Town for the second year in a row.

FOR SURE *if* we go back again it will be midweek (I'll pull him out of school, if I need to) for the smaller lines mean being able to do a WHOLE lot more rides.

I'd say we had a great time -- Ben certainly did, which is the important thing, and he got to be a Prince, speak to Jack Sparrow, and fight Darth Vader, which was more than was on his agenda in the first place.

Bringing your wife, staying on dland property, staying for two park days, all of that QUADRUPLED expenses from last year, but I have no problem working a little harder to give the little guy that much fun. Next time (IF), we definitely go back to doing it CHEAPLY, however.

That was my trip, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it.


(oh, and Virgin airlines? Very nice carrier. I'd take them again anytime, for sure)