Disneyland is any kids dream. I remember always wanting to go.
When Josh and I finally made it to Disneyland in Anaheim in 2007 we were impressed, but not floored. There was a lot of kids rides and well we were two 20 something adults.
Across the way was California Adventure Park, which was way more up our alley, and we enjoyed that a lot more with their adult rides and fabulous shows.
2012 we find ourselves back in Anaheim. This time with a 4 & 2 year old. My excitement levels were high because I knew that this time we were going to love it. It wasn't about what I wanted to see or, perhaps in a way it was, because instead of wanting to see attractions I was after reactions.
My kids would want to meet every character and hug them. They would want to see where Mickey lived and what car he drove. This time my little daredevil 4 year old would want to go on all the rides my husband wouldn’t and I didn't have to be alone.
So what can I write about this day? What do you want to know? There are so many posts about how to skip queues and where to visit first and when to visit and well, I don’t want to do any of that. I just want to let you know that Disneyland Anaheim is everything that Hong Kong Disney wasn’t and more. And to top it off the season we visited made this place magical. The Christmas activities and decorations just added more charm to an already fairylike land.
Perhaps let me partake our days with you so that when your time comes you can somewhat mimic our successes and limit your own failures.
We had a quick breakfast and walked across the road to Disneyland just after opening time at 9am. The City Pass we got included one magic morning, which allows you an early entrance to the park at 8am, however since we were a bit late on the first day we decided not to use that.
We visited the stroller place without our stroller only to find out that Disneyland does not offer double strollers. This is a huge shame! When I asked them why they told me it was because the park was so old that the roads were not wide enough for double strollers. That turned out to be bollocks as we walked the park we saw plenty of privately owned double strollers and not one had problem going anywhere. Be aware of this and bring your own stroller, no point paying for a single!
After some advice we started the park clockwise, as most people head straight to Tomorrowland heading counter-clockwise. We got through the first few lands rather fast before stopping briefly in an enchanting Christmas village where Mia got to decorate Christmas cookies while the rest of us were visiting with the Mickey Mouse.
The main area where kids have an absolute blast is in Fantasyland and by the time we got there the place was absolute crazy town. All the rides had long wait periods so we decided to skip it. And kept powering through.
We were unsure how to handle our first day and just powered through the entire day. Of course the kids were exhausted by early evening and so we left Disneyland early. We visited Downtown Disney looking for a nice restaurant for dinner since it was my birthday. We ended up at Rainforest Café for an amusing meal in which the kids oscillated from entertained to frightened the entire time.
Finally we carried two sleepy kids back home to rest before another day.
California Adventure Park is now Disney California Adventure Park and that was our starting point today.
This park has a super kids section as well with lots of shows including the kid’s favourite Disney Junior show starring plenty of characters straight from the channel.
We started the morning heading to the brand new Cars land. It was packed. Josh went into the line for the new race ride while the kids and I went in line for Mater’s ride. It took a long time. The staff member kindly informed us that it was brand new and the reason it was so busy was because everyone was headed there just for it. She recommended we head to the other parts and there would be no queues. She was right.
My brave 4 year old came on the Hollywood Tower of Terror with me, which is a seated ride like an elevator that goes up and down and up and down at frightening speed in the dark, with the occasional door opening to views over the park. She desperately wanted to come on the fantastic roller-coaster ride California Screamin, however was too short. There were many tears on that. But that roller coaster is freakin awesome. You don’t have to miss out, because I taped the whole ride for you!
There is a little Goofy rollercoaster that Mia and I did 3 times using the FastPass. The FastPass you can get anytime through the day (if they are not sold out) and it gives you a time to return and you can go to the head of the queue. As Caius was too small and Josh doesn’t like roller coasters Mia and I went on several times.
By early afternoon we decided to try something different from yesterday and hubby took the kids home for a nap while I went on all the big scary rides I could by myself. Josh came back late arvo for a new show we had been asked to attend. It was a great show where we worked with animators to create new characters and a new story.
Our reward was a FastPass to the World of Colour. This exquisite show is held every night at about 8pm over the water. It’s a laser/light show with projection and pyrotechnics. It’s a brilliant show, but it is hard to see and we had some of the better seats. Not that they are seats, you do have to stand the entire time and for the kids to see they needed to be on our shoulders, so it got painful.
Around the end of the day people start ditching the strollers anywhere. There is no deposit on these things and so there is no need to return them. This is great if you wish to stay later. We grabbed a stroller on our way out of the Adventure Park on the way to Disneyland and finished our day over there.
We managed to pull ourselves out of bed early to head over for our Magic Morning. Our plan of attack was to hit the more popular rides. We raced straight to the Finding Nemo ride and were very happy with no wait time. The ride is a submarine that goes under water. The result is underwater projections telling the Nemo story. It was a fantastic ride, although I was expecting some live fish under there somewhere, which didn’t happen.
After that the kids and I rode Dumbo and a few other things in Fantasyland while Josh went and got some fast passes for Space Mountain (a complete dark roller coaster) and Autotopia (where kids can drive their own cars). Soon it was 9am and the rides were all busy again.
We were quite surprised how busy the days were considering the time of the year. But there is one thing we have noticed about ourselves. When Josh and I use to go theme parks it was about doing absolutely everything. I am not sure when it changed, perhaps its just the fact that now we have children we are use to slowing down, but our theme park days no longer revolve around getting on everything and scooting around as fast as possible. Now we are happy to take our time and if a line is too long we skip it and move onto something else. It was a great way to visit the park and lessen the pressure.
Josh, once again, took the kids home for a nap and I went on Space Mountain a few times and also made my way back across to Disney California adventure Park to wait in the queue for brand new Radiator Springs ride in Carland. The best part about this ride is the single line. As mentioned on previous posts with theme parks they usually have a single riders line, which is a lot shorter and faster. This ride it was not as short as expected and the wait was still over half hour, however it moved very quickly.
The cars are arranged for 3 seats, so often couples are left with a free seat and the single line filler is used on nearly every seat. The ride was awesome. You sit in a racecar that slowly visits canyons and other Cars movie characters until finally you are spruced up and another car comes alongside of you for a pedal-to-the-metal speeding race. It was fast, fun and even better when you have a scared old man beside you to torture and laugh at.
I headed back to Disneyland about 4pm to save my family seats for the 5pm Parade. The place was packed and I managed to score a tiny spot next to some very friendly New Zealanders. I had to fight for the spot the whole hour before Josh and kids finally made it after the nap, minutes before the start of the parade.
A more magical parade would be hard to find. Not only were all the Disney characters there in style, but also they were all dressed Christmassy & Santa was there too. The kids loved it and were screaming every name as they went past.
After the parade we had dinner reservations at Ariel’s Grotto for Mia’s 4th birthday. This restaurant is in California Adventure Land on Paradise Pier overlooking the water where World of Colour is held. The menu is set and both the kids were free. There was a lot of food and it was amazing! All the Disney Princesses come out and visit each table talking with the kids and having photos. It was a beautiful birthday party that Mia still talks about, as she had all the Disney princesses attend. I would highly recommend this restaurant for any special occasion, it’s also a great spot to see World of Colour, however the meal is more and you need to book a few days in advance.
Once we had eaten an extraordinary amount of food we headed back to Disneyland for the fireworks. The fairy-tale castle was charming, lit up with twinkling Christmas lights, while the exploding fireworks light the cold night sky. Then several machines above our heads went off and fake snow started to fall from the sky. Truly memorable. And super crowded. Keep an eye on your little ones. If you plan on watching the sky, perhaps have them in the pram or on your lap so you don’t lose sight of them.
We had done it all. 3 days and 3 nights and we were very satisfied with our stay at Disneyland. We were all exhausted, but also all very happy, dreams coming true at every corner. A kid’s dream world, an adult’s revisit to childhood and a magical birthday spent in a festive spirit. Other than slightly warmer weather, we couldn’t have asked for anything more.
There is so much one could write on Disneyland and so much advice I could give. If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them, so please contact me or feel free to write them in the comments. I hope you get there. And whether you make it as a child or make it when you are older, the magic doesn’t stop so do not stress, any decade will find this place the happiest place on earth.
As always there is a ZILLION photos on our time at Disneyland, which can be found in our Photo Journal! Get the kids to look through and build the excitement for your trip!
There's also some other videos available on our You Tube Channel.
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
Your story of the first visit to Anaheim sounds eerily similar to ours. We visited at Christmas time also, and the crowds in Disneyland were crazy, so we spent most of our time in California Adventure. We returned last year and were amazed by how much California Adventure had changed, and this was even before Cars Land. Glad you enjoyed it...Hong Kong is on my list, but I'll probably wait until they actually make it a proper park...
We went to Disney World in Florida at Christmas time once, and it was so fun to see everything decorated & so festive! I went to Disneyland in California as a toddler, but haven't been back since...would love to make a trip to California!
We've not been to Disneyland, but I'm sure it's every bit as remarkable as Disney World. We visited last year in December and I enjoyed all of the beautiful decorations almost as much as I enjoyed the theme park itself. I love your picture from the World of Color, that display is stunning. Thanks for linking up to the Best of the USA blog hop. :)
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