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Oct, 2010

DISNEYLAND!! Family Fun... Even In The Rain!
Here’s our whole crew with Minnie Mouse!

My brother, sister-in-law and nephew, David, recently came to for their first family visit to SoCal, so naturally, Aubrey and I joined them in a day at Disneyland and a day at California Adventure.

I am fortunate to be invited to a fair amount of Disney events and shows, but this is the first time I went to Disneyland and California Adventure just for the sake of going. This is also my first official review of Disneyland and California Adventure and I’m not putting it lightly when I say, man did we have fun!

Sampling the rides in Tomorrowland

My Aubrey is 3 and her cousin, David, is 4-1/2. They are terrific playmates and are both old enough now to really make a day at Disneyland a full, memorable experience filled with activities and rides that are just right for them.

We definitely had favorites together and apart. David being a little older and less fearless than my sensitive little girl, rode Pirates of the Caribbean TWICE and loved it. Here is the dialogue post rides:

David: Auntie Amy! Guess how many times I rode Pirates of the Caribbean!!
Me: How many? Twice?!
David: NO! I rode it TWO times!

He was pretty darn impressed with that ride.

I think Fantasyland is Aubrey’s favorite!
And they didn’t even fight over who got to make Dumbo go up and down!

Aubrey was really in love with King Arthur’s Carousel and David and Aubrey got to do several rides together like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the iconic “Teacups”. 

Two really special things happened for Aubrey on this day in Disneyland: we got front row viewing for the opening for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle when the band plays and the characters come out to dance. They invited some children to come up and dance with Alice and the Mad Hatter and some older kids beat Aubrey to the punch. She was sadly turning to walk back to me when Donald Duck noticed her and quick grabbed her hand. She got to dance alone with Donald Duck during the entire song and that cast member’s quick thinking made a super special memory for my little girl rather than a sad one. We were both so happy! I caught it on video too:

The other really special thing that happened was we got to sit right up front for the night time Celebration parade down Main Street (we waited alost 40 minutes to get a good seat on a Mon night) and Aubrey got to dance with the characters and dancers, play a drum and lead a conga line! She also got hugs from Goofy and Pluto. It was such a fun time! I also caught this moment on video and then accidentally deleted it from my iPhone, gone forever. Wahhh. Oh well. At least it happened. 

Cheese Spoiler: At the risk of sounding like a TOTAL cheese ball, as a mom, I can’t really describe how great it feels to watch your child experience something magical. To a three year old, these moments are unbelievable and bigger than life. The excitement and joy in her face is something I’ll never forget and I hope she remembers some of it too. 

I think the most exciting moment for me of our day at Disneyland was taking Aubrey on her first real roller coaster ride in Toontown! It’s a little bigger than a kiddie coaster with a decent sized hill and fast turns and twists. I wasn’t sure if it would be too much for her, so I put my arm around her, but she LOVED it and begged to ride it again. We didn’t have time as it was late in the day and we had to get ready for our big day at California Adventure and the Mickey And Friends Character Breakfast the next morning.

Now that’s a kid friendly waffle

Doing a character meal is something I probably wouldn’t have thought of as a local. You just zip down to the OC, hit the parks and head home. But since we had out of town family with us, they thought it would be fun to try a character breakfast before hitting the California Adventure park. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little spendy, but it was totally worth it. For one child and adult, it cost us an even $50 with gratuity included, but we definitely got bang for our buck.

All together now: AWWWWWW!

Disney has a reputation for doing things right and they certainly didn’t fail us this time. While the food was good and nothing really special, it was an all-you-can-eat buffet and there was a good variety of healthy and indulgent including Mickey Mouse waffles, eggs, potatoes, fruit, pastries, cereals, etc. However, the whole point of doing a character dining experience is to meet the costumed characters up close and get to take photos, hug, high five them and dance with them. It’s the perfect way to dine with a kid because periodically throughout the meal time, a cast member comes out and introduces different characters and leads activities for the kids like dance parties, rug surfing, hula hoops and more. 

I was also SUPER lucky to discover that the cast member running the Surf’s Up themed activities is a friend of mine, Reggie De Leon! He was so great and made sure Aubrey and her cousin got an amazing experience. I could tell he really loves his job and he has the perfect demeanor for kid friendly fun. He’s such a sweet guy!

With my friend, Reggie at the Mickey and Friends Breakfast!

After an exciting morning of frolicking with Mickey, Minne, Pluto, Stitch California Adventure is really cool, although there are some parts under construction right now which makes it not quite as easy to navigate, HOWEVER, I believe they are building a new Pixar Cars area which should be awesome for the little ones. 

The biggest problem of our day at California Adventure was the weather. Of course my relatives came all the way from MN to get rained on in SoCal. Oh well. We still had a blast, but my kid does not enjoy being cold or wet. Cold AND wet is a real problem, so there was a lot of whining and crying during the morning.

On a positive note though, we did some indoor things that we might have overlooked had it been sunny. Aubrey and I ducked out of the rain to catch the Playhouse Disney show which was perfect for her. We saw Handy Manny, Mickey and Friends and the Little Einsteins come to life with music and dancing and Aubrey went nuts when bubbles came down from the ceiling and confetti fell at the end. Your preschooler will dig this show. I’m not kidding.

We also checked out the Muppets 3D show which I loved (until Aubrey decided Sweetums was too scary so we had to leave) and my nephew really enjoyed too.

After that, we got a break in the rain so we took the kids to A Bug’s Land for the kiddie rides and we also made it over to Paradise Pier for more rides and a bite to eat. The California Screamin’ roller coaster is really a great ride. I’m a roller coaster enthusiast and this one is on my list of favorites for the blast up the hill and the smoothness of the track. 

On Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train at California Adventure

My brother’s family and I split up for a bit since Aubrey was just an inch too short for some of the rides. It was at this point that I took Aubrey back to A Bug’s Land to ride the ladybug ride when we got drenched. A literal downpour hit us while we were on the ride and Aubrey was miserably cold. I had to leave the park early anyway as I had a red eye flight to Wisconsin that night, so we decided to hit the road. I ran Aubrey, in her stroller, through the rain back to our hotel about a mile away (she’s lucky her mommy is a runner) and the good people at the Alpine Inn were very helpful in lending me towels to dry off and letting me change my child in the lobby. 

Even with the rain, we had so much fun, but I don’t think I’ll take Aubrey back to California Adventure until she grows an inch. She was pretty bummed she was too short for some of the kid’s rides, like the Jumpin’ Jellyfish and Soarin’ Over California . She keeps asking me when she’ll be big enough to ride them and at the rate she’s growing, we should be good to get our Jellyfish on by the spring. Unfortunately, we had to skeedaddle before the much talked about World Of Color show, but my brother’s family got to see it and they said it was awesome. Many of my mom blogger friends have seen it too and they all say it’s amazing. Fortunately, my boyfriend and I will be heading to California Adventure sans three year old, in a couple weeks and we are really looking forward to a grown up day of amusement park frolic, including the World Of Color show!

I can’t recommend a family trip to Disneyland enough. Yes, the hype is true. It is “The Happiest Place On Earth” and magical things really do happen. Also, I know in this economy, it can be hard for families to afford a trip to Disneyland, but one money saving hint for those of you from out of town, the hotel that Aubrey and I stayed in is one of the best kept Disney adjacent secrets in Anaheim and I’m about to share it with you…

The Alpine Inn!! So inexpensive and nice, quiet and clean. No frills and the “continental breakfast” is coffee, juice and Little Debbie Snack Cakes but it is all you need to get you close to the parks. The Alpine Inn is a goofy looking little log cabin-y motel with fake snow on the roof, just around the corner from the Disneyland main entrance. It is a decent 10-15 minute walk over and according to Yahoo maps it is .87 miles from the entrance. The staff is kind and knowledgable and our room was really comfy. Seriously, it was cleaner than many 3-4 star hotels I’ve stayed in and we paid $30-$90+ less than all the other walking distance hotels I called that week. Come on, isn’t this picture worth a thousand words?

Dreaming of Flying Elephants and Spinning Teacups!

We are so happy with our experience and Aubrey really can’t wait to go again. She talks about Disneyland and California Adventure all the time now – even the parts that were a little scary for her are sort of fun to reminisce about – and I know we will be back to visit soon. I hope you and your family get an opportunity to visit the Magic Kingdom too!

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Oct, 2010

Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland!
Aubrey’s First Time to Disneyland
December 2008
Pretty exciting.

I’d like to start by saying: AHHH!!! So much fun! I’ve only been to Disneyland a few times. Once as a very young child in the 70s. Another time in 2001 when I first moved to Los Angeles. It was only a couple weeks after 9/11 and the park was like a ghost town so I got to ride EVERYTHING! Then I went again a couple years ago when my daughter was a toddler. I got to ride NOTHING, but Aubrey had a fun time sitting in a circle cut out on a wall by the rest rooms (see above) and eating a hot dog in Toon Town. I won’t go into the story of how my family (6 people in a rental car) tried to drive to Disneyland from Arizona, circa 1976 and when we got there, it was closed. You think I’m kidding? When the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation came out in 1983, we were thinking of suing for stealing our family story.

Needless to say, now that my daughter is three, we need a little more Magic Kingdom in our lives. From the time I was in 4th grade through college, I had a pen pal from Glendale, CA. His name was David Driskill and I’m still trying to find that guy. Anyway, we sent letters back and forth from Excelsior, MN to Glendale, CA for approximately 10 years and he used to tell me how he and his sister would go to Disneyland on the weekends! Like it was going to McDonald’s or something. I grew up thinking Southern California must be some kind of magical kid paradise to live in where you can just go to Disneyland whenever you feel like it. Now that I live here, I can confirm that in many ways, it is! Phooey on “high standard of living” in the midwest! We are fortunate enough to live only 50 miles away from the Mouse, himself so I’m making a point to Disney indulge as much as I can and Aubrey and I are just beginning to explore and discover Disneyland together.

Disneyland at Halloween!!

This past Friday, I was lucky enough to attend a special event at Disneyland with Aubrey – Mickey’s Halloween Party. While getting into the park was a bit of a hassle with long lines and crowded waiting areas, we knew we were in for something great. 

We started our evening on Main Street taking photos with Disney characters dressed up in Halloween costumes. Here’s Aubrey with Minnie Mouse. In case you were wondering, Aubrey is dressed as a chef. She just didn’t want to wear her matching hat. We also saw Pluto and Donald Duck!

Pretty darn cute, huh?

Then on to the rides and the Halloween decorations in New Orleans Square! We LOVED the Haunted Mansion (my three year old sat that one out with our nanny) and Pirates of the Caribbean which we stupidly took the three year old on, having forgotten how scary it was. Oops. I get to hear my daughter talk about pirates and skeletons for the next several months. Live and learn… but the grown ups still had fun.

Aubrey pretending not to be terrified. She’s such a trooper.
Ahhh… The Teacups!!!

After accidentally horrifying my poor child, we hit the Mad Tea Party teacups and Dumbo the Flying Elephant rides for Aubrey and she still can’t decide which one she liked best. I think the teacups! After a bite to eat at the Hungry Bear it was time to head to one of the highlights of Mickey’s Halloween Party – the Halloween Screams Fireworks Spectacular. It really was one of the best fireworks displays I’ve ever seen even though it also scared my child. I’ll spare you the photo on this one. Once again, the grown ups still had fun.

Shortly after that, we caught the end of the Character Cavalcade which was also scary for Aubrey… starting to sense a pattern here? Seriously though – it’s just my kid – no one else’s three year old seemed to be screaming and crying and it you ask my mother, there is a famous Anderson family story of a young girl named Amy who screamed her head off all the way through It’s A Small World, so maybe it’s genetic.

A ride on King Arthur’s Carousel pepped her right back up and overall, the night was truly magical for us all. 

She stayed awake until park close at midnight!
The walk to the car was the end of an exciting night.

Some of the other highlights of Mickey’s Halloween Party that DIDN’T make my daughter cry were the trick-or-treating throughout the park (both with candy AND healthy treats) and the dance parties (Aubrey LOVES dancing and jammed with some really groovy space ladies in Tomorrowland while we took turns going on Space Mountain.

Mickey’s Halloween Party is a separate ticketed event with prices ranging from $49-$59 and children under age two are free. The party is happening every Tuesday and Friday night and Halloween night from now through October 31st and everyone is encouraged to dress up in a costume! Just remember, even though the scare factor is Disney-Mild, there are a few things that may be a little intense for preschool aged children. 

Just do as I say and not as I do and check before you go. There is a lot to do at Disneyland and you can’t cover it all in one night. I think it’s a great idea to research online and make a game plan for what you want to tackle in the amount of time you’ll be there and what is age appropriate for your crew. You’ll have a blast and make memories to last a lifetime!

To buy tickets now and print them at home 
CLICK HERE or call: (714) 781-4400 

Happy Halloween everyone and I hope you can make it to Disneyland soon! And if anyone knows my old pen pal, David Driskill formerly of Isabel Ln in Glendale, CA, a white guy with wavy hair and in his mid 30s, let him know I’m looking for him.

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