With an entire week dedicated to the rest and relaxation of Nebo School District students and faculty, 2012 Spring break seemed like the perfect time to plan a trip to the happiest place on earth, Disneyland. Jason and I also decided to keep the children completely in the dark about our plans until the moment we put them in a pre-packed van to head to the west coast. Man, we had such a great time!
So...here's my dilemma. How do I decide which pictures best represent my family's week long Disneyland trip when I took over five hundred total? Needless to say, this will be a "photo heavy" post. Enjoy!
"We're Going to Disneyland!"
Jason and I woke the boys early Sunday morning to see what the Easter Bunny brought. We then gave them a present to open from us. Inside was a souvenir keepsake can (like others they already have) with a label that read, "Memories from our family vacation. Disneyland, April 2012." It took a while for the realization to set in. Spencer was the first to clue into the fact that we would need to fill the can, and that's when we excitedly informed them to get dressed and get in the car 'cause we were GOING TO DISNEYLAND!
Surviving Driving Straight Through
We decided to drive straight through to California without spending a night at a midway point. We did stop off at Barstow for some lunch at Carl's Jr, though. Because of the early start and favorable traffic, we made incredible time and arrived in Anaheim just after our available hotel check-in time. Because of the early start, all children were crashed out as we pulled in to our destination.
The Amenities of the Clarion Hotel
This trip, we tried a different hotel that was located two blocks away from the park. It had an outdoor pool that we played in after we checked into our room. We also enjoyed free full breakfasts each morning with our stay. The distance from the park necessitated a shuttle bus transport, but the rooms were much larger than our hotel of choice from past visits (which is right across the street from the main entrance). It worked out to be just fine, I thought.
Ella's First (Official) Visit
The last time I came to Disneyland, I was in the early weeks of my first trimester of pregnancy with Ella. This time around she was beside me, and loving every minute of it, although she did scurry to clutch on to my shoulder anytime a ride would get too dark for her liking or make sudden changes in direction (namely, the drops in Pirates of the Caribbean and backing down into the cemetery of The Haunted Mansion). She was such a trooper when it came to waiting for others to go on the big rides, and she was justly rewarded when Cinderella and her fairy godmother emerged from the castle right in front of us for a fabulous photo op.
I anticipated huge crowds when I learned that park hours were extended to accommodate Spring Break groups, and regular season pass holders had blackout dates for the week we were going to be there. But just look at this picture of Main Street just before park opening! There's, like, nobody there! We were able to get so many rides in during the morning hours, I couldn't believe how lucky we were. (It probably helped that we went on Monday through Thursday.) Yes, the crowds picked up by mid-afternoon, but by then we were working the fast pass and rider switch pass system, and we didn't have to wait in a line more than fifteen to twenty minutes. Absolutely fabulous!
We were able to get so many rides in, that it didn't bother us one bit to spend a little time to stake out a good spot for the Main Street Parade. Ella sure looked fascinated with the Princess float. Personally, I loved seeing Mary Poppins on a motorized carousel horse.
California Adventureland seemed to have all of the rides and events that we've never been to. World of Color was fantastic, The Little Mermaid ride was adorable, but we were most impressed with the laser show that was part of the Electronica night party event. We made a point of going back to see that a second night. It is a truly innovative spectacle. I highly recommend it.
So, yeah, I just love this picture. While everyone else is holding on for dear life on the Hollywood Tower of Terror, I convinced my boys to do a cool pose with me before the elevator shaft was dropped thirteen stories. MY KIDS ROCK!
All of that thrill seeking did take its toll, though. After back-to-back rides on Screamin', a swinging gondola on the giant Ferris wheel was just enough to send some of our party over the edge. We had to rest for about fifteen minutes until everyone regained their "land legs." (Oh and did you know the gondolas are equipped with barf bags?)
Passing the Time
Garrett and Ella were really good sports when it came to waiting around for the big kids to go on the big rides. Of course, the time was passed by riding other rides and playing with Garrett's newly acquired bubble gun. That gun turned out to be the best souvenir ever.
Two-Time Jedi Padawons
During our last visit, one of the highlights was when both Brevin and Spencer were selected to participate in the Jedi training. This time, the Jedi master must have "sensed" that the two would make worthy apprentices. As he walked onto the stage, he did not hesitate to call them both up very first thing. I love, love, love this live show. I grew up on Star Wars, and it's fun to share that interest with my children. It's also really cool to see Darth Vadar and Darth Maul emerge from the stage platform in all their Dark-sided glory.
Trying Something New
While I've already stated that California Adventureland had many attractions that we'd never tried, I didn't mention a newly discovered area of the park. There is a Wilderness Explorer Camp (inspired by the Pixar film Up). You are given a brochure with all sorts of questions and tasks to complete that include rock wall climbing, a zip line, net bridges, slides, and all sorts of things that little explorers would love. "Adventure is out there!"
Everybody's Favorite Rides
This is a picture of Brevin just outside one of his favorite rides, Indiana Jones. Turns out, it is a favorite of most everyone. When asked after the trip, "What was your favorite ride?" these were the responses I got:
Jason- Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Splash Mountain ("and Little Mermaid was pretty cool, too.")
Brevin- Star Tours, Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones
Spencer- Indiana Jones and Space Mountain
Garrett- Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Monsters Inc. and Pirates of the Caribbean
Ella couldn't say, but she seemed to like Small World and Heimlich's Chew-Chew Train most. As for me, I love the Hollywood Tower of Terror, Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan.
While Garrett looks adorable in this Goofy hat, we did not buy it. We did, however, purchase the aforementioned bubble gun and a Mickey Mouse light saber. Brevin and Spencer got to build their own light sabers and both also picked out a cinch sack backpack, a notebook, and pirate sword pen. Ella came home with a collection of miniature princess figurines. Jason and I got a magnet for our fridge (that says 2012), a Pirate Mickey Mouse car antennae ball thing, and a guidebook with clues to all the "hidden Mickeys" in the park. Let me just say, once you learn there are hidden Mickeys in the park, you become a little obsessed with looking for them.
The Food. Ahh, the Food!
For the most part, we ate breakfast at the hotel each morning, took snacks into the park to hold us over, then ate one meal at a park vendor. Of course there were a few treats like suckers, popcorn, Dole whips, and churros thrown into the mix.
Some of the places we ate during the week included Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express where the beignets (pronounced ben-yays) are divine. Order the bag of ten. You can thank me later. We tried a hand-dipped corn dog from the Little Red Wagon. Yum! We also stopped in at the Hungry Bear Restaurant, The Pizza Port, Taste Pilot's Grill, and the Plaza Inn. All were really good, but I think the Plaza Inn chicken dinner was the best value overall.
Lifelong Family Memories
To say that we had a good time on our trip to Disneyland would be a total understatement. I hope my children will look back on this weeklong experience with fondness. I know I always will!