Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I'm Going To Disneyland

Well, I guess actually "I've been to Disneyland!".

Nobody said anything, so I guess I'll talk a bit about our vacation, the Disney part of it (since many families are apt to want to go there at least once).

One thing I would strongly suggest to anyone thinking about a trip to Disneyland or Disneyworld is to invest a few bucks in a book called "The Unofficial Guide". The Guide is great. It goes over travel arrangements, describes the hotels around, describes all the rides and reviews them, describes all the fixed dining areas and reviews them, and provides many handy tips of a miscellaneous nature. Examples of miscellaneous tips include hidden quiet areas in the parks, short cuts, and things to look for when on the rides. The books also include itineraries to use in order to get in as much as possible as efficiently as possible. Some folks might be put off by that, but if you only have a single day to spend in the park, it could mean the difference between a fun (if exhausting) day and a series of incredible frustrations.

This was our third trip to Disneyland (plus one to Disneyworld) so we are getting to be old hands and didn’t use the books. One thing I'll put in up front: If you can stay in the park, or very close by, and especially if you are spending more than one day there, try and take a break in the early to mid afternoon. Go back to your room and hop in the pool or take a nap for an hour or two. The park stays open till 10pm or even Midnight, and is much much cooler (Southern California is a desert area, and so is very hot in the day, but cools off fast at night) than the afternoon. If don't or can't, you'll probably hear yourself saying things like "Shut up and have fun, dammit!" by 8pm…

By the way, Disneyland is sort of two parks these days. The old Disneyland, and California Adventure, which is a more like your average theme parks (more doesn't mean exactly -- plenty of the extra touches which set Disney apart even today). Adventure was never as crowded as Disneyland proper, and I expect it filled more with locals or people like us who were staying three nights or more. Oh, and make use of Disney's call-ahead service if you plan to eat in the resort area. The nicer and more popular places can fill up quickly, sometimes even days ahead of time.

We decided to take three days this time, and stayed at Disney's Grand Californian. Very Nice. For some reason this summer three nights there was only 50-75 more than three in the older Disneyland hotel, so we went for it. Gorgeous. Jacob had a bunk bed all to himself. Our room would have suited a larger family just fine, as the kid's bed was a bunk with a trundle; three could have slept in it just fine. My and Trish's bed was supposed to be a queen, but it seemed more like a double to me.

We did pretty much all the thrill rides. Trish wasn't prepared for what the California Screaming roller coaster did and took an hour to recover. Later I rode it, but I'd gotten so much scary talk beforehand the actual ride was not that bad.

We did the Tower of Terror, which is one of those dropping elevator type rides. The first time I didn't know where the handholds were, and was trying to keep my hat, camera and T's bag from flying everywhere. It was disconcerting. The second time we did know where the handholds were, and although I think I got very sore muscles it was okay for a ride. The bad part is the fast ride up, 'cause you know its going to stop suddenly!

We rode lots of times on Star Tours, and Indiana Jones. I think Indy is my favorite ride.

We did the new Space Mountain. It's a little darker, or at least harder to catch glimpses of anyone. They've added speakers to the seats and play fast music while you're in it, and I think its just a bit faster. The line was always very long, except early in the morning. Our first night we waited well over an hour, and I don't think it was worth that.

Another major piece of advice is to use your Fastpasses! The FP tries to manage lines by giving you an hour-long window later in the day to skip most of the line on a particular ride, allowing you to go elsewhere and ride something else, eat lunch, or whatever. Depending on the popularity of a ride, your "return time" could be in 15 minutes or 6 hours later. The really popular rides like Splash Mountain and Space Mountain get FP times running late in the day very quickly, and usually run out at some point. Oh, and some rides don't use them (like Matterhorn, and almost everything in Fantasyland). I won't go into all the limitations and strategies now, since they change from time to time, but read up on the rules when you go. Judicious use of these little guys really helps a lot.

As I said this was our third time. I found it interesting how standing in line was not all that bad, most of the time. A 45 minute wait was no big deal. It might have been helped by the fact that this time around, Jacob was able to read. So we brought some paperback books into the park with us (Harry Potter, which Trish had purchased so she could read them in the tub without worrying about inadvertent soakings) which he would read while we waited. This kept him entertained and allowed Trish and I to talk. We have several pictures of him in line at various rides sitting or standing with his nose in a book.

It was Trish's birthday while we were there. I told our check-in person, and got us some "autographed" pictures of the Disney characters, a birthday button, and a few other little extras. Trish wore her button into the park, and got a zillion "happy birthday's", plus a couple of free desserts.

We had fun our three days. It was nice to not be in a rush to see everything we could. I think we could have done a fourth day as well, but five would have begun to get a bit stale, I think. Unless we took a day off from the parks just to hang out. There are certainly things to do just outside the parks and in the hotels.

For example, about the coolest thing that happened there was at the hotel one afternoon while we were resting from the parks. Jake and I did the "Grand Quest". Its a very simple scavenger hunt-like thing in the hotel where you go round and collect words and phrases from different locations, then go on to the next location give them your word or phrase, then they give you a new one for the next area. We did it and got free cookies. But that wasn't all. The cool part was that (maybe because only two groups did it) we got to be Grand Family of the Day! This meant some extra goodies (chocolate, ballons), AND admission to the Concierge Lounge that night to watch the nightly fireworks show from Disneyland, complete with music. Plus all the treats and drinks we wanted from said lounge free. Pretty cool.

Man, I'm sure I'm leaving out something else interesting and or useful, but there was so much that went on. Well, if I think of something or Trish reminds me, I'll add it in.

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