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Friday, June 8, 2012

Southern California - 2002 - California Adventure

          Disney's California Adventure, July 8 2002
This is a re-print of an original post to the ThompsonFamilyWeb site about a trip we took to Southern California in July 2002. It is mostly unaltered from my original post.

Angels Baseball game
Old Towne Orange
California Adventure
Downtown Disney
Harbor Blvd Hotels

I don't know why this is true, but to me you don't get the same feeling of total-immersion while staying at the new Disneyland Resort as you do staying at Walt Disney World (WDW.) Maybe it has to do with size, or maybe it's the fact that, no matter what you do the outside world still encroaches into the resort. That aside, there's still no better way to do it than to stay at a hotel that is right there within walking distance of the park. And I'd say that the only hotel with a better location than the Best Western Park Inn (where we stayed) is Disney's Grand Californian (DGC.) Even the Disneyland Hotel isn't better, IMO. There simply is no better way to do it than to leave your room and stroll right over to the parks. Not having to do battle with Southern California Traffic is reason enough to do it this way.
We had coupons for free breakfast at a restaurant next to the hotel, but after checking it out we decided that "free" was too high a price to pay. Instead, I suggested that we go to the LaBrea Bakery in Downtown Disney (DD.) Andie and the girls got scones while I got a sticky bun. We got OJ for the kids while Andie and I enjoyed the first decent cup of coffee of our trip. I enjoyed the sticky bun, but Andie complained that the scones were too dry (a common problem with scones.)
We finished our breakfast and headed over to Disney's California Adventure (DCA.) We picked up our tickets and, as the park had not opened yet, we hung out in the plaza for a while. Once they opened we went in and were greeted by that awesome aroma of roasting coffee. I just can't believe that there are those who don't like that smell. There were 2 conveniences that we took advantage of in the Sunshine Plaza. First, there was a Cast Member (CM) handing out Fastpass (FP) tickets for the 1:00 showing of Blast! I had seen Blast! On my last trip to DCA and wasn't too impressed, but I thought the kids would enjoy it so we got tickets. Also, they have this new device that determines a child's height range so that a CM can give the child a color-coded wristband that determines which attractions they can go on. A very good idea. Charlotte's band was green, indicating she could ride pretty much anything we had intended to go on except California Screamin'.

The first thing on our agenda was to pick up FP tickets for Soarin' over California (SoC.) SoC is easily Andie's favorite attraction in any Disney park, and it's certainly in my top 5 as well. Nat also loves it and Charlotte is now tall enough to enjoy it as well. When we arrived the FP machines were not on, but the line was non-existent (not surprising) so we just went on. Charlotte loved it as well, and when the ride was over the FP machines were on so we picked up tickets. Even though the park was not crowded, the line for SoC was already getting longer.
We headed over to Paradise Pier, and upon spying it Charlotte proclaimed she wanted to ride Jumpin' Jellyfish (JJ.) I think we were the first to ride JJ for the day, and Nat & Charlotte had the entire ride to themselves.

One PP attraction that I really wanted to experience that we had not done in any of our previous trips was the Sun Wheel. I was especially intrigued by the swinging cars. There wasn't much of a line so we went on. What a mistake. I really like thrill rides - roller coasters and such - and this thing even bothered my stomach. Nat and - especially - Andie were very nauseated. Andie would spend most of the day with a slight upset stomach. I think I would go on the Sun Wheel again, but next time we'll definitely do the stationery cars.

The ladies sat down to try to recover from the Wheel, while I went to get FP for California Screamin'. Things really worked out well weather wise, the day we spent at Disneyland was very nice and warm but not too hot. Our day at DCA was promising to be very hot, and of the two parks there are many more opportunities for cooling off at DCA. It was already quite hot, so we got water and soda from Malbu-rito's to cool us off (and settle our stomachs.)

Still, more cooling off was in order so we went over to the SS Rustworthy. One of the areas that DCA has received criticism for among Disney park enthusiasts is the plethora of low-key play areas such as this as opposed to the big high-ticket items. I strongly disagree. In fact, in my mind it's attractions like SS Rustworthy, the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, Bountiful Valley Farm and even Disney Animation that make the park more than just a "half day park" - as long as you have kids. On this trip as well as our previous trip to DCA we would end up spending more time in these interactive play areas than anywhere else. The kids don't know - nor do they care - that these types of attractions are cheaper to build and maintain. They only know that they're fun.

Well, it was still hot and getting hotter as we disembarked from the SS Rustworthy and, upon seeing a picture of a milkshake on the Burger Invasion menu board, the kids just had to have one. I got in line and bought a strawberry for them to split while Andie went to Sunglass Jack's in search of a new pair of shades. We re-joined Andie, who was still shade-less. It seems she didn't find a pair she liked.

We strolled over to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (RCCT.) Andie and the kids went in while I got FP for Grizzly River Rapids. Upon returning to RCCT it took me a while to find them. I actually found Nat first, they had gone up to climb around in the myriad of rope bridges and tunnels and Nat made it down first. I joined them climbing through all the rope bridges. I should mention here that the girls had picked up a map at the park entrance with spaces for stickers that they could collect by visiting various attractions in the park. If they collected all the stickers they would get a free collector's pin. It was actually rather hard to find the place there the stickers were being given out at RCCT, but we did find it.

I have already sung the praises of these interactive play areas at DCA. Well, let me say that RCCT is the best of the bunch. The kids absolutely loved it and I think we spent about an hour there. And Andie and I got our days worth of exercise! 

We then backtracked through the Sun Court and head over to Hollywood Pictures Backlot for the first time of the day. We immediately headed to Disney Animation where we did some of the interactive displays including the Beast's Library (where we discovered that Charlotte most resembles Nala and Charlotte is a Tinkerbell) and Ursula's Grotto (where Nat & I re-created a seen from Beauty and the Beast and we all sang "Hi Ho".)

It was time for our Blast! Show so we went to the Hyperion Theater. Despite our FP tickets we still had to wait outside for a few minutes - I suspect we were directed to the wrong spot. Once we got inside, however, the air conditioning provided a nice respite from the heat. Andie & the kids enjoyed the show although I don't think anyone was bowled-over. I think the kids got the biggest kick out of the fact that we were right on the aisle and some of the performers came down right next to us.

After the show we were all hungry, and we felt like a sit-down lunch, so we went to the Wine Country Trattoria (WCT.) Now, in all my years of going to Disney Parks I've had a few decent meals, many many mediocre ones and quite a few bad ones. Well, maybe it's because it's the most recent example, but I have to say that our meal at WCT was the worst yet. Absolutely awful. The food bordered on inedible. Still, we were hungry and we didn't figure we'd do any better by trying something else on the menu so we just ate it and chalked it up to experience.
After lunch we strolled around the Monterey area for a while, making the obligatory stop for fresh tortillas at the Mission Tortilla Factory. The heat had already gotten to us again so we decided it was time for a trip down the Grizzly River Rapids (GRR.)
GRR, along with its WDW counterpart Kali River Run, are more examples of attractions that I think are unfairly criticized. Could GRR be longer? Sure it could. But still, this ride is FUN. On a hot day like this one it simply can't be beat. After the ride we all agreed that it was a favorite of us all.

Nat was itching for a ride on her favorite - California Screamin' (CS) - so we made our way back to Paradise Pier. Charlotte couldn't ride and Andie didn't want to, so the went over to King Triton's Carousel. We actually had 4 FP tickets for CS so we could have ridden twice, but experience has taught me that I should not ride coasters with a lot of up-and-down motion more than once in rapid succession. So, much to Nat's dismay. We only did one ride.

We hooked up with Charlotte and Andie again and did some shopping. Nat wanted a CS pin. First we tried Man Hat 'n' Beach, but with no luck. We then tried Treasures in Paradise where Nat found these cool CS pins that come in 3 interlocking pieces. She was thrilled.

We were all pretty bushed by then so we started on our way out. As we were heading out the Eureka parade was starting so we sat on the curb and watched the parade. That was it for our day at DCA - we went back to the hotel for a rest and a swim in the bathtub of a pool and came back to Downtown Disney for dinner that evening. It was actually nice to visit DCA during hot weather when we could really enjoy attractions like GRR and SS Rustworthy.

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