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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Disneyland Take 2!

We finally made it back to Disneyland/CA Adventure, three years after our first visit.  I think it took us that long to forget how challenging the first visit was, ha!  But seriously a trip to Disney for us is more about our kids having a good time than us.  My joy was seeing it through their eyes.  I know many adults who LOVE Disney and go, even without kids.  But....the rides and lines just aren't my thing.  I do love the characters though!

Now back to this trip.  We did a quick 4 day trip.  One day to drive out, 2 days at the parks (Park Hopper passes) and one day to drive back.  We chose Sept 5th-6th to be at the parks because the attendance calenders projected that those would be LOW attendance days.  This was crucial because hey, no one likes long lines!

The upside to this timing was that the park was only at 50% capacity, so the lines were very doable.  Many rides we just walked on or waited <10 min. The longest wait was for the Star Wars ride which was about 40 min.

The downside was that the park was HOT.  Now we may be from Arizona but our heat is DRY.  CA heat was humid and..uncomfortable.  It was much better by the evening but if there was any line waiting in the direct sun it was unpleasant.  The worst was waiting 20 min in the SUN to meet Minnie Mouse.  

Tips for Sunny Days
  • Powder sunscreen - This stuff is fantastic, easy to pack, easy (non messy/smelly) to apply/reapply and the kids don't complain.  It's pricey but perfect for this type of occasion.
  • Layers - Make sure you can take something off.  Wear light breathable fabrics.  Perhaps re-think having the kids dress up in costumes, I saw quite a few sweaty and miserable princesses walking around those days.
  • Frozen water bottles - Bring your own water bottles from home.  My $1 Dasani bottles from home cost over $4 at the park!  Freeze them overnight in your hotel room and carry that bottle with you.  You can also get ice water (for FREE) at the restaurants/kiosks, just ask.
  • Backpack - This collapsible backpack comes in handy for so many adventures, including Disneyland.  I had the (frozen) water bottle on the outside so everyone could reach it.  Inside I carried our own snacks, etc.  It was comfortable all day!
My girls were 6 and 9.5 for this trip and this was their/our assessments of some of the ride highs and lows.


Highs (favorites)
  • Peter Pan
  • It's a Small World
  • Star Wars
  • Finding Nemo
  • Teacups 
Lows (never go on again)
  • Mr Toad's Wild Ride (uggg)
  • The Matterhorn (too bumpy, gave us a headache)
I did most of the Disney rides with my girls as my husband only made it 3 hrs into the 2nd day before going back to the hotel.  I didn't mind most of them but was happy to get out of the sun in the afternoon by hopping back to CA Adventure for an (indoor) show.


Before we left parks we made it to the Disneyland parade.  It was fantastic and my girls LOVED all the characters, dancing and music.  

  • Sit in front of the ice-cream parlor.  During our parade they brought out FREE ice-cream to give someone in the crowd.  
  • Try to find a seat along the route where you can sit, as the parade can go a little long.

CA Adventure

  • Cars Ride (we walked right on!!)
  • California Screaming (note: only my oldest and husband rode this one, 2x in a row)
  • Toy Story
  • The Little Mermaid (kids loved it)
  • Bugs land Bumper Cars (too easy)
  • Swinging Chairs (made me nauseous)
My bummer for CA Adventure is that so many of the rides are tea-cup type, so they spin around.  This is a no-go for me as I get nauseous.  Fortunately their dad was able to take them on rides.  My oldest could have gone alone but my 6 year old couldn't.  The rules are 7+ are okay alone but under 7 needs a 14yr old + to go with them.  Tricky.

One of the best parts about CA Adventure was the shows.  We saw the live Frozen show and were very impressed with the lighting and special effects.  Pretty awesome for a show that's included in your ticket price!  Remember to get their at least 30 min early (that was for a non-crowded day) to get in line for seats.  

The other show that we saw was the night World of Color light/water show.  We made sure to get fast-pass tickets that morning (doesn't effect other Fast Passes) so we could have better spots.  It's a standing show and you may need to put small kids on your shoulders to see.  Also, many areas are "splash zones" so you'll get a little wet.  We didn't mind a bit this time, it felt like rain here and there.

Tips for Night Shows
  • Bring your own glow sticks or wands.  Light up toys cost $$$ at Disney so plan ahead and buy yours at Target or a Dollar Store.  
  • Wear layers.  It can get cold or wet, pack a poncho for water shows.

Pin Trading

Another fun activity that we tried for the first time this visit was Pin Trading.  Disneyland (and other parks/places) sell Disney pins.  You can buy/collect your own of course but you can also trade them!  In the parks you can trade with Disney Cast members that are wearing lanyards, or you can ask for trading boards at the stores.  If that store doesn't have a board they'll tell you who does.  

Pin Trading Tips
  • You can only trade real Disney pins.  They're supposed to check the back for authenticity.  
  • If you don't see pin traders ask a Cast Member.
  • Trading Pins happens in Downtown Disney and both parks.
  • Buy (real) pins ahead on places like eBay for much cheaper so you have pins to trade.  We found some cute pins at a local Antique mall for only $1.50-$3 each.  At the park individual pins start at $8.99 each!
  • If you can't buy ahead get the pin collections, at $30 for 8 they end up being less than $4 each.
  • Check the backs frequently while wearing the pins, they often slip off and you'll lose the pin!  My girls had pins fall about 6x during our visit, and 1x we never found the pin. :(
  • If you do lose a back you can buy a package of replacements, but also as if the stores have just one back. We were able to get 3 backs (separate times) that way.

Character Autographs

Remember how I have been working on decluttering and minimizing?  Part of that process was going through childhood boxes at my childhood home.  This summer I discovered my Disney Autograph book from 1986.  Oh yes, it's a beauty.  I used it on my first visit to Disneyland in 1987, although the autographs are less Disney and more random.  For example the pilot who flew us to Burbank, CA, my grandparents, etc.

We brought the book back to life by bringing it to Disneyland this trip.  The girls had SO many characters sign it, and many of them noted the unusual (old) design and asked about it.  Anna and Elsa from Frozen took time to thumb through and look at who signed it. 

They ended up getting the signatures of:
  • Anna & Elsa
  • Chip & Dale
  • Minnie
  • Mickey
  • Tinkerbell 
  • Cinderella
  • Ariel
  • Snow White
  • Rapunzel & Flynn Ryder 
  • Pinocchio
  • Doc McStuffins
Not too shabby for only 2 days in the park.  The highest concentration of signatures are available in the Royal Hall in Disneyland.  After waiting a few minutes we were able to meet 4.  They also met Gaston but he refused to sign their book saying that he couldn't read or write. 

Signing Tips
  • Find a book ahead, they cost more at the park.  Some books have space for photos on the side, which would be lovely if your kids did a photo op/signature.
  • Bring a pen (and an extra)!  We lost ours and were able to borrow but it was challenging sometimes to find one quickly.
  • Have your kids ask for the signature instead of you.  The characters were more apt to talk to a child than a parent.  

Disney Grand CA Hotel

My last tip has to do with where to stay.  Once again we stayed at the Disney Grand California hotel and spa.  It is the closest hotel to the park and even has it's own entrance to CA Adventure.  This was a HUGE perk for running back to the hotel if we forgot something and for my husband who didn't join us all day each day.

The Disney hotels offer Magic Hours each morning at the parks (alternating).  The extra hour is really lovely to get your morning off to a good start.  The day we visited CA Adventure we walked right onto the Cars Ride!

Staying at a Disney hotel also gets you a few freebies like a lanyard with Resort pin.  Our package had a certificate for a free photo (we did the Cars Ride) and discounts on Downtown Disney restaurants.

  • If you are getting a standard room try to get one closest to the front lobby.  That gives you quick access to the Downtown Disney entrance.
  • They are phasing out bunkbed rooms (Sigh), but there are still a few left if you're traveling now.  You can request a bunkbed room.
  • Use the pool your day of arrival, you'll probably be too busy to use it on park days.  Or plan to stay after checkout at the pool for a bit, they'll happily store your luggage for you.
  • You do not need to bring your own flotation device for your kids, they have life jackets available.
  • Don't refuse the turndown, they give you chocolates! :)
  • The Storytellers Cafe restaurant in the hotel had great healthy options and a nice atmosphere for lunch and dinner.  You many need reservations if you are visiting at a busy time, we were able to walk in.

Hope this information is helpful!  We're feeling pretty Disney-ed out right now but are considering a Disney Cruise sometime in the future. We'll see. ;)

2014 Disneyland Tips and Tricks

For information on Disney's Hawaii Aulani Resort Check out:

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