The day after we put our house on the market, we flew off to California for trip to the Disneyland Resort, our reward for getting that big task done. We’d intended to go in September, but that was part of our road trip that we cut in order to work on the house. Still, we did want to be there during Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration, so we squeezed it in, booking only a few weeks before we left. That was a pleasant option to have as opposed to the months of planning one needs to do for an optimal Walt Disney World trip, what with the dining reservations for popular places there booking up 180 days in advance and Fast Pass Plus slots needing to be grabbed 60 days out for some attractions. With Disneyland, there is no Fast Pass Plus and the Disney Dining Pan hasn’t ruined the sit down restaurant experience; I was able to get us reservations at all of the restaurants we really wanted to eat at only a week before we left.
The day we left, I adorned my nails in a Disney-appropriate manicure, using stamping plates that I’m pretty sure are not officially licensed products but which look like they could be.
We flew into the charmingly small and much more convenient to Anaheim than LAX John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana that afternoon/evening. Because we’re now on our retirement budget, we checked into an off site motel for the start of the trip, something we hadn’t done for a Disneyland visit since our honeymoon in 1986. It was not super fancy, that’s for sure, but it was one third the price and only about five more minutes walk to the security check for the parks than the Disneyland Hotel. We scouted the walk to the parks that first night, taking a route that turned out to be not the most direct and grabbing dinner at an IHOP before heading back on the shorter route and collapsing into bed.
Our first day in the parks, we went directly to Disneyland (DL); well, directly after getting through security and buying our passes. It was a beautiful southern California day, not so smoggy as other times we’ve visited, and we set about experiencing attractions, starting with ones we don’t have on this coast like Casey Jr. and Alice, and ones I hadn’t felt I’d seen enough of last time, like Star Tours. It was fun, of course, but the park felt crowded, more crowded than we expected when we’d planned the trip. There were also signs that the maintenance budget and effort hadn’t kept pace; we saw little details like burnt out light bulbs that weren’t in keeping with the Disney we remember from earlier eras. I was very happy that we’d booked a lunch at Aladdin’s Oasis, which truly was a welcome refuge of cool and quiet from the chaos and crowds elsewhere in the park. After lunch, we popped over to Disney California Adventure (DCA), seeing it for our first time since the big renovation was completed. We’d unfortunately not come back in time to see Luigi’s Flying Tires in Carsland, which closed early this year, but enjoyed seeing the rest of the changes. We couldn’t ride Radiator Springs Racers, the headliner attraction, due to a very long wait even in the singles line but got on a couple other rides before returning to Disneyland for the afternoon parade, more rides, the Fantasmic show, fireworks, and the nighttime parade. It was a long but very satisfying day, especially the new nighttime parade, Paint the Night, which pays homage to our old favorite Main Street Electrical Parade but uses modern technology in wonderful ways to play with light and color. The Christmas overlay on It’s a Small World was great, too; it takes a ride which is already full of visual interest and adds even more stuff, plus the classic earworm song is interspersed with holiday tunes so not as likely to get stuck in one’s head.
The next two days were very similar, splitting time between the parks, seeing shows and nighttime spectaculars, experiencing attractions with crowds of other people. The days were warm and sunny; the nights got chilly but not so cold for northerners like us. We grabbed Fast Passes when we could and even made it to DCA one day for opening (we are not morning people, you may recall) so we could finally experience Radiator Springs Racers for the first time.
By Friday night, I was dragging, and by Saturday, I was legitimately sick. I ventured out to Target Saturday morning with Mr. Karen to buy cold remedies and comfort items like soft facial tissues and herbal tea and then spent the rest of the day napping in the hotel room while he went to visit with his sister who was in town to see her daughter and granddaughter (our niece and grandniece). Sunday was not much better, though I did venture out for an “I am not going to miss seeing the ocean no matter how bad I feel” trip to the beach for a short walk along the sand as the sun set.
We moved to the Disneyland Hotel for our last two nights, having used a code on Orbitz to get a room for less than the heart stopping rack rate. We checked in at 7-something in the morning so we could use the early entry perk for DCA that day. This week was also the official debut of Season of the Force in Tomorrowland, which only added to the throngs we faced when we hopped over to DL. At some point that first day, we returned to the hotel to go up to our room after getting a text that it was ready, and in a touch of Disney magic, we’d been upgraded to a theme park view, so that night we fought our way out of the park after the evening parade to see the fireworks from our room. That might have been one of my favorite moments of the trip, actually. What I thought was going to be a favorite moment, eating at Blue Bayou, was not. We remembered it as a peaceful experience, but this time we were bothered by the loud jazzy background music which detracted from the meal (and it wasn’t just by our table; we walked around to see if another area would be quieter).
It seems like five days should be enough to see most things we wanted to, but with the crowds and our preference to not drive ourselves completely crazy running around (slightly crazy, yes) and my preference to see the Paint the Night parade multiple times, there were things we never did experience. Some will be there next time we go; some will not. Thus is the way of the world. Or the land, in in this case.
Of course I’m glad we went, but it wasn’t quite the trip I’d hoped for. I hate to think the Disney parks are losing their shine for me, so I’m going to blame being sick for most of the trip as the reason I’m feeling it wasn’t the happiest place on earth this time.
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