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Friday, June 8, 2012

Southern California - 2002 - Disneyland

          Disneyland, July 3 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

"Welcome to this magical place we call... Park."
Anonymous Disneyland Cast Member 
The Jungle Cruise CM quoted here was pointing out the identity problem that Disneyland has. Disney can't really refer to the entire resort as simply "Disneyland" because there is so much more now to the entire property than just the one park. I suppose they could have called it "Disney's California Resort" or some such thing, but Disney knows all too well that doing so would negate the great name recognition that Disneyland enjoys. So, they called it "Disneyland Resort". But what does that make Disneyland? If you continue calling it Disneyland you might confuse your guests. WDW has never really had this problem - there are those who insist on calling The Magic Kingdom "Disney World", but WDW has been, from the beginning, more than just one theme park. So, the original Disneyland becomes "Disneyland Park". That's fine and dandy.
But it will always be Disneyland to me.
I haven't done so as much lately, but for a while I was fairly involved in web communities of Disney park fans. The Disneyland web community is especially vociferous and critical of changes to their favorite park. Whenever Disney puts in a new attraction you could count on a drumbeat of criticism of how Disney doesn't make them the way they used to. Now sometimes I think the criticism is justified - look at that horrible flying carpet ride that's been stuck in the middle of Adventureland.
Still, sometimes I get the feeling that every new attraction has to be a "headliner" - that if Disney puts in something that's simple and charming they are criticized for being cheap or lacking imagination. OK, so what's my point? My point is this - if you go to any Disney park with young children you quickly learn that often it's the little things that make the experience so magical. Our day at DL this years was a perfect case in point. Sure, we went on Splash Mountain (SplM) and Star Tours (ST) and several other "headliners", but the experiences that made the day special were the simple pleasures of attractions like Tom Sawyer Island (TSI) and Davey Crockett's Explorer Canoes.
The day we went to Disneyland was not the day that Andie and I had originally planned to go. As a result Instead of walking across the street from the hotel we would be staying at in a few days, we drove through 90 minutes of Highway 91 rush hour traffic from my brother's place - 6 of us crammed into our rental car. Oh joy, what fun THAT was.
We arrived, and for the first time I parked in the new "Mickey & Friends" parking structure. I have to say, in true Disney fashion, that thing has got to be the best run parking structure I've ever used. We took the tram to the main entrance and I got tickets for Andie & me and the kids (Todd and Kim have yearly passes.) The CM asked if I wanted to by 3 day Park Hopper (PH) passes instead, but as we would only be there for 2 days we didn't do it. Mistake. First - in what was I must say an unusual lack of pre-planning on my part - I didn't realize that the PH passes were good for 2 years. The last time I wen to DL they were only good for 14 days. Also, if I'd bought them at the hotel we would have saved even more on the kid's passes and the price would have been only a few more dollars that the 2 days worth of day passes. Of course I wouldn't have found that out until we went to the hotel Oh well…
By the time we got to the park I will confess to being in pretty bad mood. The long drive had taken its toll. Todd suggested he run to SplM to get Fastpass (FP) tickets - which seemed like a good idea. The rest of us waited at the Plaza. Andie and I got muffins for the kids, and ourselves but when Todd got back we announced he wanted a "real" breakfast, so why don't we just meet in an hour? Don't get me started…
Now, a bit of a "spoiler" is in order here. At this point our day in the park was looking pretty gloomy. I was in a pretty bad mood. I was concerned about the heat and the holiday crowds. Well, as it turned out, it would be what Andie and I both agreed was the funest day we'd had at Disneyland as a family. The weather was wonderful and the huge crowds never materialized. It was quite simply a picture-perfect family outing.
Andie and I took the kids to Fantasyland as we were concerned that the crowds later would mean long lines. On our last trip to Disneyland we went on the Storybookland Canal boats, and as the line wasn't too bad we decided to do that again. The kids got to sit up next to the boat operator. As usual, it was a fun ride. After that we went on Alice in Wonderland. I haven't been on this in a while, but I have been on it since it was re-done some years ago. Still, I kept waiting for the "half a cup of tea" - one of my favorite effects as a kid. Well, it's no longer there. I'm sure when I go on the ride again in 10 years I'll be looking for that again…
After our visit to Fantasyland we walked over to the "Merlin's Magic Shop" to meet up with Todd and Kim. We decided to head over to New Orleans Square and take a voyage with the Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC.) After our voyage we went over to Tarzan's Treehouse (TT.) Now, I haven't been in the treehouse since the Robinson family vacated the premises in deference to the new tenant. As much as I loved the old treehouse - and I really did despite the fact that we rarely bothered to climb it in recent years - I have to admin I think the new attraction is an improvement in many ways. I'm not real crazy about the new vignettes - I think I would have preferred the old treehouse's approach of making it look like you walked in on a place that is currently occupied. However, I do like the new, more interactive nature of the treehouse. This makes it especially fun for the kids. We especially liked the interactive campsite at the base of the treehouse.
After our visit with the ape-man we went on a trip down the Amazon (and Nile and Ganges…) to see some audio-animatronic animals. We then headed over to SplM. Our FP time had already expired, but I told Todd and Kim that you can use the ticket any time after the first time. They did not know this. It's an important thing to remember when planning the use of FP. Basically, get as many tickets as you can and don't worry about the end time. Anyway, it was Charlotte's first trip on SplM. One recent change is that the logs now have backrests. I don't know why they put them in - perhaps one of those American litigious safety concerns? - but they are a pain. Well, Charlotte is about the same age that Nat was on her first trip down Slippin' Falls, and she loved it as much as Nat did.
After getting splashed we decided it was time for lunch, so we headed over to Rancho del Zocalo (RdZ). RdZ has the same location as a favorite from the old days, "Casa de Fritos". The food quality is similar to the old Casa (poor man's Mexican), but of course the prices are much higher and you don't get the free bag of Fritos. I will say this for it; the portions were pretty large.

After lunch we headed over to the Haunted Mansion. When we were done partying with those Grim Grinning Ghosts and walked back into daylight, the kids saw the Davey Crocket River Canoes (DCRC) and declared that they wanted to do that. So, off we went to paddle around the Rivers of America. DCRC is cool because it really goes back to the idea of the simple pleasures that can make a trip to DL so special - those little pleasures that are easy to forget as an adult. It was really nice to make the circuit around the river, doing it under your own power. It was a very fun experience on a beautiful day in the park.
Keeping that theme going, after all that exercise we decided to hop a raft for a stroll around Tom Sawyer Island (TSI). I haven't been to TSI for years, although my friend Kirk and I did go to the WDW version during our trip last year. TSI has been fairly ravaged over the years in the name of progress (and political correctness), and the teeter-totter rock section was closed for repairs. Still, it's another of those simple pleasures and we spent a pleasant 45 minutes or so there.
We had picked up FP tickets for The Indiana Jones Adventure (IJA) earlier in the day, so we headed over there. Charlotte was too small and Andie has never had a desire to experience IJA (and I don't think she'd like it), so they sat it out. Nat had gone on IJA on our last trip to DL, and didn't like it (too noisy and scary.) Still, this time she decided to give it another try. Well, she still didn't like it. She's a funny kid in that way, she loves thrill rides and roller coasters, but she absolutely hates anything real noisy.

After our adventure we headed over to Tomorrowland for the first time of the day. The first thing on the agenda was Star Tours (ST.) Nat had ridden ST on our last WDW trip and really enjoyed it. Charlotte has developed into a HUGE Star Wars fan over the course of the last year, so of course she wanted to go as well. Andie wanted to sit it out, and truth be told I've been on it dozens of times before and felt like taking a rest, so the two of us sat it out while Todd & Kim took the kids. They all returned a few minutes later and the kids (especially Charlotte) had nothing but the highest praise. This would be the ride that Charlotte would request return visits to for the remainder of the trip (she'll have to wait until next time.)
The FP time for Space Mountain (SM) was only about 30 minutes away, so we got tickets and killed some time shopping at the Starcade, using the restrooms and such. Once our FP time was up Todd, Kim Nat & I rode SM while Andie & Charlotte got in line for the Astro Orbiter (AO.) Again, Andie didn't want to ride SM and Charlotte's eyes lit up upon seeing AO at the Tomorrowland entrance and just had to ride. After blasting through space we went to AO and found Andie and Charlotte still waiting in line (our whole adventure had only taken maybe 10 minutes), so Nat joined them in line. A few circuits later they were happily spinning over Tomorrowland (OK, Andie didn't lookthat happy.)
We were all a bit worn out and hungry by that time, so we all agreed it was time to leave. Todd told us that the rush-hour traffic would be horrendous that time of day so decided to head over to Downtown Disney for dinner. After surveying the choices we all agreed on Arriba Y Arriba. We ordered several different items from the Tapas menu and shared them all. The food was very good and the restaurant was quite fun - with Latin influenced musicians providing the entertainment. All in all a perfect ending for what (to my surprise) turned out to be one of the best trips to any Disney park that we've enjoyed as a family.

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