Disneyland is 50 years old, in fact this summer it will actually turn
51!! But it has been the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth" as Disney
has been celebrating the 50th birthday for Disneyland since May
2005. Being the Disney buff that I am, I tend to visit this magical
place as close to annually as possible. Every time I visit the
Disneyland Resort, I still learn something new.
I'm not sure if it is age or wisdom or a combination of both, but I
try to visit Disneyland during the off-season and try to avoid the
weekends and it has proven to be the best trips I have ever had.
I'm not crazy about lines or crowds and this game plan helps to avoid both. We were there Sunday-Tuesday.
We started our trip with an early morning flight out of Oakland into Long Beach. This is the new kept secret that I
will share with all of you. Jet Blue is the airline that services this route and they are a wonderful airline:
comfortable seats, your own personalized TV screen, direct TV to amuse yourself during the flight, friendly crew
and a choice of snacks (not just peanuts or chex mix). The flight left and arrived on time. Arriving into Long
Beach puts you back a bit in time-- the "terminals" are simply portable buildings and you actually walk down the
ramp or stairs from the plane onto the tarmac and then into the terminal. BENEFIT: they unload the plane from
both front and rear exits, so you are in the terminal and off the plane in a much more efficient and timely manner.
We only had carry-on luggage, but I would be willing to bet claiming baggage in Long Beach is as simple as
everything else. It took 5 minutes to walk to the car rental place, sign the paperwork and walk to our car, no lines
whatsoever. Prior to the trip, I had investigated the cost between renting a car vs. Taking Super Shuttle. The
shuttle for 2 of us would have been $80 plus tip round trip, I was able to reserve a compact car with tax for $71,
plus another $8 to fill up the gas we had used and we had the freedom of driving ourselves and on our schedule.
Driving to the Disneyland resort from Long Beach airport, could not be any simpler. One right turn out of the
airport, another left turn and you are on a street that 10 miles down the road turns into Katella, which is one of the
streets that goes right by California Adventure. One more left turn on Disneyland Drive and you are there at the
resort hotels and Downtown Disney--gateway to both Amusement Parks.
We stayed at the Disney's Grand Californian hotel. This was my third stay at this fine resort hotel and I am sure it
won't be my last. It has the ambiance of the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite and the hotel is completely
non-smoking. It is also equipped with wireless Internet access in the public areas and each room is equipped with
Internet access/phone hook-up. The rooms are tastefully decorated with the "Bambi" theme, keeping with the
great outdoors feel of the hotel. The staff is typical Disney mannered: always friendly, happy, attentive and ready
to assist with whatever you may need. This hotel is conveniently located to both parks and Downtown Disney.
They have their own direct entrance to California Adventure Park, which takes you into the park right near the
Grizzly River Run attraction/water ride.
Our first day we went into Disneyland, because it was a Sunday and typically the most crowds we would
encounter during our stay, we decided to avoid the front gate and walked to the Downtown Disney monorail
station. By doing this, we would arrive into Disneyland at the Tomorrowland Monorail Station, close to the first
ride we wanted to experience--SPACE MOUNTAIN. Side note: for first time visitors to Disneyland, you really
should go through the front gates and get the feel for walking down Main Street, it is part of the whole experience
for first timers. Space Mountain- this has always been a favorite ride of mine and it had been closed for the past
couple years undergoing renovation, it was FABULOUS!! I can't even begin to tell you the G-force, the speed, the
smooth side banking turns and of course all in the dark-- we rode this ride about 10 times over the 3 days--a must
ride for any roller coaster lover.
Other favorites: Big Thunder Mountain (although a bit jerky, still a fun roller coaster), the Matterhorn Bobsleds
which have been around for 40+ years (there are 2 entrances/tracks to this ride, for a more "hairy" ride, enter on
the left side of the ride), Splash Mountain (yes in February we rode, we got a little wet, but it was 80 degrees that
day), Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (new from 2005 and lots of fun as you have your own Astro Blaster to shoot at
targets and rank up your score: friendly competition amongst you and your loved ones), Pirates of the Caribbean,
Indiana Jones and Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin.
We did stay late the first evening to take in the Fantasmic show, which is always a wonder to see, full of lights and
water fountains, pyrotechnics--you name it, this show has it. And as is the case with Disney- everything has a story
behind it! Afterwards, we watched the fireworks; however, due to the Orange County fires that day, the sky
wasn't cooperating for a very viewable firework show.
With 10 minutes left after the fireworks before the park was to close we
ran to Space Mountain to get one more ride in for the night- it was
perfect with very few people in line. After that, we walked back to our
hotel (we were too late to get on the monorail).
Something to note with regard to the monorail: currently the monorail is
running one-way along the outside of Disneyland as part of the track
area is currently shut down from power due to construction in the old
Submarine ride. They are currently in the process of constructing "Finding Nemo, a Submarine Adventure" which is scheduled to open in 2007. There will come a time later this year that the monorail will be completely shut down as they will be re-building the Tomorrowland Monorail Station in alignment with the Finding Nemo attraction.
Our second day, we went to Disneyland for the morning and then ventured over to California Adventure for the
remainder of the day. I was very excited as I was anxiously waiting to try out the newest attraction: Monsters, Inc.
Mike and Sulley to the Rescue. This was a very cute ride and any kid or kid at heart will love it. We spent the day
walking around and riding favorites like: California Screamin' (the Mickey Mouse roller coaster- starts out high
speed as you go flying up the first climb of the coaster), Soarin' Over California (non-thrill, but awesome effects
making you really feel like you are on a hand-glider soaring over parts of California), The Tower of Terror (my
favorite ride in the park, storyline from the Twilight Zone television program with amazing elevator drops--it is
really unexplainable, you have to ride it for yourself). We did venture on the Grizzly River Run, the water ride in
the park and I experienced my first Disney ride evacuation. There had been a power surge in the area and
everything in both parks and surrounding areas had lost power for a moment. But Disney putting safety before
everything else, had to shut down all rides and put them through testing before re-opening. That meant evacuating
everyone on the ride (right before we got to go down the best drop)!!
But they were true professionals, safely getting everyone off the ride
(after they drained the water out of the area) and then presented each
of us with a "get on your next ride" free card, basically a FASTPASS for
any ride we wanted during our stay. Have to say, I wasn't terribly
disappointed missing out on the biggest "wet spot" on this ride as it was
getting close to 6pm, the sun was down and it's February-- it was
Day Three, we were back at Disneyland park and did more of the same
from the previous two days. I would almost say that because the lines
were so short, we were probably there too long--we literally did
everything that we wanted to do--and had plenty of time leftover.
DINING around the resorts is always fun. Our first day we opted for breakfast at the Plaza Inn at the foot of Main
Street and home to "Minnie & Friends" Character breakfast. If you have never done a character meal, you really
need to, it is the best way to mingle with your favorite Disney friends and get quality pictures without having to
stand in long lines to do so. Over the years, I have been a big character buff, and this year was no different. I had
to get my pictures taken with my favorite characters-although you can never find Roger Rabbit around town
anymore. It is very magical to see the characters
as they interact with all the patrons dining at the
restaurant. We ended up taking a late breakfast
that day, so lunch consisted of Churros, Popcorn
and Ice Cream throughout the afternoon and then
dinner was chicken strips from the Stage Door Cafe
in Frontierland. They also have yummie
Our second day, we also decided on a late breakfast.
and it was so late that it turned into lunch. Time flies when you are having fun!! We ate at Club Buzz in
Tomorrowland and had burgers and fries. They had the DJ playing and people were dancing on the dance
floor-which was quite entertaining. We also got to see "Push" the trash can with a mind of its' own as it was also
dancing around the dance floor and everyone was trying to figure out how this trash can was moving all by itself.
Hmmmm. We then ate dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. As most of you probably know, this is
a chain restaurant, and we have one here in San Francisco, but I had never been and it was very nice, food was
excellent, we all enjoyed our meals and the service was excellent. Being the dessert lover that I am, I couldn't wait
for us all to indulge in the "Volcano" dessert. Brownies, Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, Chocolate and Caramel Sauce!!
For our last day of dining, we tried out a new breakfast option- Granville's Steak House. The
one thing that Disney has been lacking since the build of the new hotel and park, was a nice
place that you could go, sit down and order breakfast from a menu vs. a buffet. We used to
have this when the Monorail Café existed. Disney has listened to the constructive advice and
Granville's Steak House, which used to be a dinner only place, now serves breakfast and it was
quiet, service was impeccable, food was reasonably priced and you were served a nice hot
breakfast made specifically for you the way you ordered it to be. It was fabulous!!! Lunch that
day was the Pizza Port in Tomorrowland-which was mediocre. I love pizza, it was edible, but
not the best pizza I have ever had for sure. We left that day around 330pm to get our bags, car and head back to the
airport. Again, the ease of the Long Beach airport, it took all of 10 minutes to drop off the car and get our boarding
passes and seated at the gate waiting to board our flight.
I don't think I have ever had a more relaxing trip to Disneyland, no stress at any point in the trip. We all had a
fantastic time. I was traveling with my fiancé, my brother and his two boys. My brother and his boys actually
stayed two days longer than we did and I think rode Space Mountain 20 times and the Matterhorn at least 15 times!
Disneyland really is the "happiest place on earth" and I really look forward to my annual visit with my character
friends. I now look forward to putting together a picture collage of my family over the years in pictures with
characters. It was an idea I had a few months ago and when shopping around the resort this visit, I stumbled upon
collage frames with "Disney" decorations on them, that will help me with this task.