Girls Only Getaways

Things I loved and hated about Disneyland. . .

Okay, first let me say we all absolutely loved our time at Disneyland for MisManner’s third birthday. I truly have a newfound love for the Happiest Place on Earth. There were things we enjoyed and some things we could have done without and here I will share them with you.

THINGS WE LOVED

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We actually enjoyed a birthday lunch when we arrived at the Rain Forest Cafe in Downtown Disney. It was MisManner’s first visit and although the food is pricey, the ambiance alone was great for her. She was able to blow out her candles and enjoy her birthday celebration among the elephants, giant butterflies and beautiful aquariums. She didn’t particularly care for the thunderstorms that occur every 30 minutes, but seeing the life-sized animals come alive was a treat for her (and her older sisters).

Disney Jr. On StageAfter watching record marathon episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, and Sofia the First, I must admit I was a “tad” bit excited to see Disney Jr. Live on Stage. I went in fully expecting life-sized characters dancing and singing on stage, but what we saw was even better. The puppets took me back to my childhood when I first saw the Letter People in Kindergarten. The show was great and not some cheesy rendition of the cartoons. It was great how they integrated all of the shows together to make a fun interactive theme for the kids. I found myself singing and dancing along!

Captain AmericaWe were looking for an indoor attraction as a reprieve from the cold, windy weather so we stopped in “Innoventions.” This was a great interactive experience that had something for everyone.  BabyGirl (11) loved the Iron Man exhibit that gave her a look behind the Iron Mask. She is a lover of all things adventurous, so that was fun for her.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get in line soon enough to meet Thor which had us a little disappointed, but we did get to meet Captain America who thrilled MisManners because she loves all things superhero. But the best part of this exhibit was the Dream Home. OMG!! They had a room set up for a teen that included a projection wall that allowed her to virtually display different locations on her wall, virtually try on clothes from her closet, virtually try on make up and new hair styles, Skype and do all things technology and teen in the room.  There also was a story room that came alive as a storyteller came out to share a story, and interactive the kitchen was simply amazing. We all agreed we wanted to live there!

Disney’s “Frozen” area was fabulous. They really took their time to create an experience for the fans of the movie. From Olaf’s Frozen Fun, to the Meet & Greet with Elsa, Anna and Olaf, and the “First Time in Forever Frozen Sing-a-long,” we all had a great time. I was extremely thankful for the Fastpasses which cut down our wait time significantly. The two youngest girls enjoyed the snow area and MisManner’s favorite part of the entire weekend was the sing-a-long…. believe you me, she absolutely loves the movie, “Frozen” so the sing-a-long was right up her alley. Great job Disney!

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Christmas Fantasy ParadeThe parades were great. Hands down the Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland was better than the Pixar Play Parade at California Adventure Park which I found to be dated and in serious need of new characters.  But seeing Santa on his sleigh in the Christmas Fantasy Parade was great, We only caught the tail end of that parade, and even that was great, so I can only imagine how fantastic the entire parade was.

it’s a small world” is a fan favorite for all ages. It was beautifully decked out for the holidays and was definitely worth the 45 minute line. The good part is the line was continually moving so it didn’t seem that long of a wait. Seeing the diverse cultures and the animated figures beautifully displayed made me fall in love with the attraction all over again. If we had time, we would have gone again.

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THINGS DISNEYLAND COULD IMPROVE

Star Tours FastpassWe need MORE Fastpasses. Actually, I’m not sure why all the rides don’t have the Fastpass Option. Although the lines we stood in moved fairly quickly for the number of people in line, some of the lines were still ridiculous and we opted to visit those particular rides another time. Also, if I have to wait more than 2 hours to return for a Fastpass attraction, I should be able to pull another Fastpass immediately instead of waiting 3 or more hours to pull another. It was frustrating for us to have to wait until we could pull another pass because we didn’t strategize correctly. And it must have been frustrating for others because we saw hundreds of “Your fastpass is on hold until such and such time because you already have a fastpass” tickets on the grounds near the machines. I felt kind of bad for all the wasted paper.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience at Disneyland needs some help. I thought it would be a cute idea to have an appointment to have MisManners transformed into a princess, but then I thought about the logistics of her walking through the park dressed in a costume, would she be overly sensitive to her “gown” getting crushed or dirty? And what about the hair??? So I opted out of the experience, but made sure to stop in to disneyland-bibbidiboppididothe boutique to see how it worked, so maybe during our next visit…. Ummm…. SO GLAD I DIDNT do this. Don’t get me wrong, seeing all the little princesses throughout the park was cute. However, what was not cute was the RAT’s NEST that the Boutique put in the top of these little babies’ heads. I don’t know who told them that was cute, but it looked a hot mess to me and these moms let their daughters walk around with this terrible weave in their hair. Now let me preface, I am sensitive to putting any synthetic hair in my daughter’s heads (MiniMe couldn’t get braids until she was 15 or more) because I think they should embrace what God gave them naturally. However, if I did sign my daughter up for this experience I would want her hair to at least look like the princess’s in the movies, not some over teased cheap clip in weave. I was appalled and glad I didn’t have to go off on some unexpecting stylist who was simply doing her job of cutting and pasting on these little princesses.  I think  simple braid and tiara would be a better option than what they offered.

The World of Color Fastpass experience, in my opinion is a joke. You get the same pass that about 800 other people get despite the time you pull your ticket and if you don’t get in line early to get a front row seat, you will see absolutely NOTHING. So unfortunately for MisManners and BabyGirl (actually MiniMe is only 5’4″ so she didn’t see much either), they didn’t really get to enjoy the amazement of the show. Thank God for the Made with Magic hats that drew their interest as they synchronized with the other hats and the lights of the show. But because everyone stood instead of sat down, and the projection is very low, you can’t see a thing at the back. Maybe if they put the projection just a tad bit higher, got portable bleachers like they do at parades for people to sit, or heck just ask everyone to SIT on the ground, you could see a little better. But alas, since we didn’t get the notice and didn’t line up early for the show, we were in an unfortunate position… the back!

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Overall, we enjoyed our time and really had a great time experiencing the magic of Disney!

Also, before I go I wanted to share with you a “Yay” or “Nay” list of the rides we enjoyed. Keep in mind these all were rides that my three year old could enjoy because it was her day and we all wanted to be sure the experience was focused for her.

Disneyland Park

  • “it’s a small world” – FAVORITE
  • “Peter Pan’s Flight” – Okay (a little scary for the little one)
  • “Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough” – Yay (great to read the story as you walk through)
  • “Snow White’s Scary Adventure” – Okay (a little scary for the little one)
  • “Disneyland Railroad” – Yay (great to tour the park)
  • “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” – Yay (Okay not really for the little one, but the animated Mr. Lincoln was amazing!)
  • “Chip ‘N Dale Treehouse” – Yay (if you’re little one likes climbing)
  • “Donald’s Boat” – Okay (not much to do here but climb up and look around)
  • “Goofy’s Playhouse” – Yay (MisManners enjoyed running around and exploring. Especially playing the piano.)
  • “Mickey’s House Meet & Greet” – Yay (when we first went through Mickey greeted us at the front door… not sure why he wasn’t in the photography area, but we went through twice so we could get the Official Mickey Photo.)
  • “Minnie’s House” – Yay (I think probably one of her favorite areas. She loved the house and really didn’t want to leave!)
  • “Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin” – Okay
  • “Autopia” – Yay (she loved being able to get in the car and take a spin.)
  • “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” – Yay (she loved looking at the fish, despite my claustrophobia, I survived the ride.)
  • “Innoventions” – Yay

California Adventure Park

  • “Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train” – Yay (a little short though, probably best for babies.)
  • “It’s Tough to be a Bug” – Okay (Needs to be updated.)
  • “Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies” – Yay (MisManners got to drive and had a blast!)
  • “Liugi’s Flying Tires” – Yay (floating around was great fun.)
  • “Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree” – Yay (We all enjoyed this ride. It wasn’t too much for MisManners, a little scary for her at first, but once she saw me having fun, she had fun as well.)
  • “Redwook Creek Challenge Trail” – Yay (MisManners and BabyGirl (my 11 year old) both enjoyed exploring this area, despite me being tired.)
  • “Olaf’s Snow Fest” – Yay (What’s better than inside snow?? They also had a sledding area, unfortunately every time we tried to get in line it was closed.)
  • “The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure” – Yay (This was one of my favorites as it retold the story.)
  • “Toy Story Midway Mania” – Yay (My oldest, MiniMe (19) loved this ride. Trying to shoot the targets was fun.)
  • “Disney Jr Live on Stage” – Yay (My absolute favorite. Seeing all of MisManner’s favorite shows come to life on stage was great fun.)
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Categories: Disneyland Resort, Girls Only Getaways | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things I learned at Disneyland

Sleeping Beauty's CastleThis year, my youngest turned three December 30th. As a big fan of Mickey Mouse and all things Disney, I thought what better gift than a trip to Disneyland on New Year’s Eve? I’d heard from co-workers and other friends that Disneyland at Christmastime was one of the most beautiful places on earth and that the fireworks show was probably one of the best in the nation. Add that with the “Frozen” themed displays and this would be a magical visit to commemorate her third birthday! I was sold.

What I didn’t realize when I began planning the trip was that Christmas and New Years are Disneyland’s busiest times of the year. By the time I had realized this fact, “MisManners,” as we call my youngest, had already been talking for months about meeting Mickey and seeing “her” fireworks at Disneyland…. so I couldn’t possibly change my plans. Instead, I had to research, find all the tips I could and prepare for two days of nonstop action filled with tons and tons of CROWDS.

I am so thankful, I did do my research because we actually had a great time despite the number of people and the cold weather. Even though we didn’t hit all the items on my to-do list, we were able to navigate the crowds, enjoy minimal wait times (considering the time of year) and were prepared to make adjustments as we went along.

This was an eye-opening experience and here are a few takeaways I learned from this trip:

1. PLAN EARLY!

So yes, I decided in January/February to take MisManners to Disneyland for New Year’s Eve. When I initially looked at the package prices, they were reasonable and the payment plan made sense. I should have booked then. But believe it or not, I didn’t take my own travel agent advice, book now or pay more later!  I let me skill at procrastination take over and waited until September to book.  By that time, the reasonably price properties, DisneyIand Hotel and Paradise Pier were sold out and the Grand Californian Hotel was out of my budget, so I had to opt for a “Good Neighbor” hotel and purchase tickets through the military.  But as I discovered, you are really only saving less than $10 a ticket with the military discount, so having paid for a package through a payment plan would have been a better option than paying outright for all of the tickets the week before our trip. Especially since it was Christmas time and it was difficult not to spend the birthday trip money on Christmas expenses.  Had I done the payment plan everything would have been paid for a month before Christmas and I would have had less budget worries.  Anywho, we got a decent rate at the Staybridge Suites for 4 days and 3 nights. It was a great option because of the free breakfast and daily evening receptions, as well as the full fridge, stove and sink to make our own meals. It also was easily accessible to the ART transit. What I didn’t realize until we actually started planning our itinerary, was that we didn’t need the stove at all because we ate the free breakfast each day and would be spending the entire day in the park because we didn’t want to risk not being able to get back in the park if it reached capacity. So there was no time to cook or even enjoy the evening receptions.

2. WEIGH THE COST OF STAYING OFF THE PROPERTY, VERSUS THE CONVENIENCE

staybridge-suites-anaheim-resort-00-fullIf you absolutely must save money, then staying at a Good Neighbor hotel or even a condo rental may be a good option. But if you are going during one of the busy times, then staying on the property may be worth the extra money. You can purchase a 3 day ticket so you can get the hour of Magic Morning, but being extremely close to the park gives you the option of actually leaving and returning. You don’t have to worry about the extra time of waiting for the shuttle, and then navigating to your room only to have to do it all over again and wait for your shuttle to get you back to the park.

I did read a tip that if we arrived at the park 30 minutes prior to opening, we may be able to get in early because they often open the gates. Despite our plans to leave the hotel by 7 to get to the park at 7:30, both days this was a FAIL. Traveling with 2 little ones (3 & 11) they were never able to get up and actually move around prior to 6:30 am (especially after the first late night in the park). Then they had to get dressed, eat breakfast, argue like siblings do, and do whatever they can find to waste time and delay us from actually leaving. Couple that with going through the buffet line at breakfast, collecting all our things, waiting on the ART bus and finally arriving at the park, we were lucky to get there each day by 8:30 am.  Which actually wasn’t the worst time because we still had about 3 hours before the park actually got packed. But I figured if we stayed on the property, we could cut down the commute time 30 minutes and maybe, just maybe risk going to our room mid-day to return in the evening refreshed and ready for part 2 of the day, instead of having to roam around the park for 12 hours because we didn’t want to run the risk of not being able to get back in.

3. STAYING OFF PROPERTY? STAY ON HARBOR DRIVE! YOU’LL THANK ME LATER.

So while the Staybridge was a great option and the clerk at the front desk was very friendly and helpful, 12 hours at Disney three days in a row can take a toll on even the most patient person’s patience. So when you are leaving the park, the very last thing you want to do is wait 45 minutes for the shuttle back to your hotel. You’ve spent probably a total of 5 hours or more in lines that day and the last line you want to wait in is the shuttle line. It was cold and rainy the first day we left the park and people were pushing trying to clamor onto the bus for fear they’d have to wait another 45 minutes for the next shuttle. Your kids will be trampled and you’ll be packed onto the bus like sardines. It appeared the Manchester route, which is the route for Staybridge runs less frequently and we had a much longer wait. While there always seemed to be buses ready to depart for Harbor Road properties. Our last day there, I was OVER it all! Despite the great service and convenience at Staybridge, this shuttle thing convinced me never to return to the Staybridge.

4. LEARN AND STUDY THE FASTPASS PROCESS

What a great idea to institute the Fastpass for attractions that usually garner a long wait. Although, I must say the lines really weren’t that bad for the rides we got on (45 minutes or less). Yes they were long, but they were constantly moving which at least made the time go by more quickly. And I have to admit, if the wait said more than 45 minutes we opted to save that ride for next time. While the Fastpass process is not perfect, and not all the rides had Fastpass options, we learned the first day that you have to strategize in order to get the best use of the passes.

We arrived at Disneyland and decided to go straight to Mickey’s Toontown so we can get the Mickey and Minnie Meet & Greet out of the way. That was a very good decision because the wait to see each of them was less than 10 minutes. Most of the tip sites said to wait until near closing time, which I’m sure was a great time too, but going early enabled us to get that out of the way and enjoy the rest of our day.

Star Tours FastpassAfter we visited Mickey and Minnie, we grabbed Fastpasses for Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and walked around Toontown while we waited the 30 minutes to return to get on the ride. That was great! Next we decided to go visit Tomorrowland to get Fastpasses for Autopia. However when we walked through we saw a huge line for Star Tours, so we grabbed those Fastpasses instead. This was a little after noon, Our return time for that ride was 8:25 that evening. Because we had those passes, we couldn’t pull another Fastpass until 3:20 pm!!  Which meant we had to either find short lines for the next 3 hours or waste time in long lines for the next 3 hours. Add that to the fact, we bought the Fantasmic Dining Plan to get the Fastpass for the 8:45 Fantasmic Show, so chances were we couldn’t use the Fastpass for Star Tours anyway. That was a lesson learned. Don’t just willy nilly grab Fastpasses. We should have done the shorter lines first or gone and got Star Tours as soon as we entered the park to get an earlier return time.

5. THE FANTASMIC FASTPASS DINING OPTION IS TOTALLY WORTH IT

Although, we didn’t get to see Fantasmic because it was cancelled due to the rain and wind, the convenience of it all was worth it. We made reservations at Aladdin’s Oasis for the On-the-Go meal. When we arrived, we were given about 3 adult meal options and 2 kids meal options. For $19.99 for the adult and $13.99 for the kids, you get your meal, dessert and a drink. For Disneyland food prices, it really was a great value. I think the On-the-Go meal option was new because there wasn’t a line when we arrived and it seemed that everyone there was trying to figure it out like us.Although it was a to-go-meal, we ate it in the restaurant that was nearly empty, so we didn’t have to fight for a table.  We got the baked chicken with green beans and salad. It was surprisingly tasty. The chicken was grilled and not dried out and actually seasoned. Now, this was by no means a 5 star cuisine, but for theme park meals and the cost, it was a tasty option. (Please note the girls thought the cookie was disgusting though… I guess it was the purple icing. lol) Had we been able to enjoy our Fastpasses, it would have been even better.

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6. PACK SNACKS TO ENJOY WHILE AT THE PARK

This was probably one of the best tips I found. I was not aware that you could take food and drink into the park until I read it on one of the tips sites I found. So we decided to eat dinner in the park each day and to pack snacks and sandwiches for lunch. The original plan was to get a locker so we wouldn’t have to drag the food through the park. But I’m glad we opted to pack our backpacks with food. We were able to eat our snacks and sandwiches in line while we waited. This was great for MisManners because she was able to enjoy a snack and have some juice which distracted her from the torture of waiting our turn.

7. LINE UP AT LEAST 30 MINUTES PRIOR TO YOUR FASTPASS RETURN TIME FOR FANTASMIC AND WORLD OF COLOR!

With the rain and wind during our Disneyland day, we heard rumblings of Fantasmic being cancelled. We asked several cast members who said they knew for sure the fireworks show was cancelled, bummer, but hadn’t gotten word definitely regarding Fantasmic. So we decided to roam around until we were absolutely sure. We had passes for the 8:45 show that said return between 7:45 and 8:45 for the show. We ended up riding some rides that took a little longer, but since we had Fastpasses, I wasn’t really concerned about arriving exactly at 7:45. In fact I thought we could let the line die down a little and arrive by 8 and be okay. WRONG! At 8, we got in line that snaked, twisted and turned a million times and was extremely long. We stood in line about 15 minutes and then they informed us the show had indeed been cancelled.

The next day at California Adventure Park, we get Fastpasses for the 8:45 World of Color show. Again, I decided we could loosely return at 8:00 instead of 7:45 for the show since we had the Fastpasses, WRONG. While we didn’t have to wait in line, the area was so crowded and we ended up behind a bunch of people making it nearly impossible for the little ones to see anything. The images are projected low, so if you’re not going to be in front, don’t even waste your time trying to get a spot to see anything. Of what we were able to see, it was a great show, but highly disappointing for the little ones who couldn’t see a thing. Lesson learned, start lining up at 7.

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So after 3 days at Disneyland Resort, we actually survived. No one got lost, we all did something fun and most importantly we created great memories for MisManner’s third birthday! What will I do differently? I will opt to stay at a property hotel, I will definitely get the 3 day passes, probably not the hopper passes, but we can do one park each day and then decide which park we want to revisit for the third day. We will strategize to make sure we can get in all the rides we don’t want to miss and we will get in line EARLY for the Fantasmic and World of Color shows.  We got the Made with Magic ears for the girls that sync with the light shows and that was exciting to see them enjoy the “Magic.”

We all had a ball and are already planning our next trip in the Spring!!!

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Categories: Disneyland Resort, Girls Only Getaways | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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