It was Halloween time at the park, which means they decorate everything in pumpkins and whatnot and re-theme the Haunted Mansion for The Nightmare Before Christmas, Space Mountain becomes Galaxy Ghost, and everything in general has a Halloweeny theme. It was loads of fun and not crowded at all (the benefits of going in the off-season).
I think I will probably break the trip down by days for the highlights, as that way I can keep it all straight! If I got anything out of order or incorrect, forgive me... it's a lot to remember!
Travel TO Disney: We managed to make it through security with our zillion bags and kids in tow, and the plane ride was relatively calm. We entertained the kids the whole 2hr flight as neither one slept, but they were pretty manageable. By the 2hr mark though we were ALL ready to get off the plane! We arrived around dinner time and the kids were little troopers...Ellie fell asleep on our short 20 min Super Shuttle ride to the hotel, so we carefully transferred her sleeping self in her Britax onto the curb from the van and into the hotel. She woke up in the process and we stuck both kids in the stroller and had dinner at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express in Downtown Disney. James LOVED this giant eye that was looking through a telescope mounted over the Disney store, go figure. While eating, we heard live Hawaiian music by the very same person whose CD I have at home already and listen to often! It was a great way to kick off the trip. To bed, though, Disney in the morning!
Day 1: Disneyland! I put the kids in Rapunzel and Flynn Rider costumes (from the movie Tangled). We got to the park nice and early, in with the early crowds before the "rope drop" if you will (people wait on main street for the rest of the park to open and then rush to their rides as soon as the official park opening time hits). We made a beeline for Alice in Wonderland.... it was James's first ride, so I made sure it was Ellie's first ride too! I'm not sure she knew what to think of it, but James looked pretty happy sitting with Mimi and Papa. After a spin on the Matterhorn, we met up with Alison and Andy and took a ride in the Teacups (which James was thrilled about, he kept asking to ride them!). After each ride, James kept saying, "I want to go on more rides!" We visited Rapunzel in her house... Ellie kept losing her little stuffed Pascal that I got her for her birthday. The cast members (Disney employees) commented on how James's costume was the best Flynn Rider they had seen, and how adorable Ellie was in her little dress. In fact, we got a lot of comments about the costumes throughout the day!
We did a number of rides that day...Peter Pan (James loved flying in a boat!), It's a Small World (James's favorite for the big clock in front and the things on it that spin... he kept asking to go to the castle with the clock, and that's what he meant), Haunted Mansion (we called it the "Pumpkin House" to make it less scary for James, and he loved it!), Pirates of the Caribbean (James called the drops "going down the slides"), Splash Mountain (we ALL got wet), Winnie the Pooh, Indiana Jones, Jungle Cruise, Tarzan's Treehouse, and last but not least Space Mountain at the very end of the night (which had the Galaxy Ghost thing and was seriously terrifying for me... I can handle the roller coaster, but not the freaky ghost attacking me!). We also had a great lunch at the Hungry Bear Cafe, where we got to watch the train and the steamship go by, and I enjoyed my fried green tomato sandwich and lemon honey bumblebee cupcake!
At dinner that night, we had a chance to celebrate Ellie's first birthday at Cafe Orleans. They brought Ellie some Mickey-shaped beignets and whipped cream, and Mimi got her a cute little pumpkin mug. The tree kept dropping some mysterious squishy berries on us the whole meal, but the food was excellent and the French Quarter ambiance relaxing and peaceful after such a long day on our feet.
The kids slept well that night, as did we!
Day 2: Cars Land Day at California Adventure Park! The kids costumes were Lightening McQueen (James) and a Nemo dress for Ellie. This park has been totally transformed, from the 1930s (40s?) styling of Buena Vista street to the new Cars Land that opened in 2012. We had never seen it before and, let me tell you, Disney has truly outdone themselves. Cars Land is almost an exact replica of the main street of Radiator Springs in the movie Cars. That is where we made a beeline to in the morning... there was a MASSIVE crowd of people headed to Radiator Springs Racers, the big car racing ride, but we sent Eliot to stand in the Fastpass line for it and instead rode Mater's Junkyard Jamboree with James (Eliot made it just in time to ride with us). It is a fun ride where you sit in tractors and they whip you around and you feel like you'll run into other tractors. James was smiling the whole time! We spent the whole morning at Cars Land... Radiator Springs Racers (which James was too short to ride) basically went through the Cars movie plot with a fun high-speed race at the end. It is easily my new favorite ride. James hung out with Eliot and Ellie and watched us race by him, and to this day he still talks about how he watched mommy race! :-)
After getting wet at Grizzly River run, we ate lunch at Flo's V-8 cafe, which was delicious and just so much fun. Then I watched as the others took a spin on Luigi's Flying Tires while Ellie napped in the Ergo on me (she took a lot of naps in our Ergo baby carrier). The flying tires are kind of neat because it is like a giant air hockey table only you are sitting on the tires and have to lean to make them go whatever direction. OH, and James got to meet Mater that day, and Red the fire truck. We tried to meet Lightening McQueen, but every time we tried he was switching with Mater. :-(
In the afternoon we went on the Monster's Inc ride (James LOVED the giant doors outside and visiting "Monsters University", and the kids went to see the Muppets while Eliot, Alison, and I went on the Tower of Terror. Then we went on Soarin', which makes you feel like you are flying over California, and took James and Ellie to see the Disney Jr Live on Stage show, which was fantastic. Basically it is a room full of toddlers and preschoolers sitting on the floor watching their favorite tv show characters come to life. James saw Mickey's clubhouse open up before his eyes and laughed as bubbles, "dabloons" and streamers fell from the ceiling. Ellie enjoyed crawling around on the floor, and I think it was one of their favorite things about the parks. After a quick stop at Ariel's Undersea adventure (where you ride in a clamshell and go "under the sea" and James asked to go on it again) and a brief viewing of the Pixar Play Parade, we headed to eat.
We had dinner at the Wine Country Trattoria, and while the food was good, the service was so slow it took us TWO HOURS to have dinner, effectively ending our evening for us since the parks close at 8pm in the off season. We got some ice cream and coffee at the Ghiradelli ice cream shop and settled in to watch the World of Color show, a water and lights spectacular that is just truly amazing. The kids were tired though, so we left as soon as it ended and headed to bed.
Day 3: Easy day at California Adventure. Ellie wore a Snow white costume and James just wore a Cars t-shirt. James had gotten the stomach bug and had been up sick most of the night, so we took it easy. We went on a lot of rides in Bugs Land, including Fliks Flyers, Heimlich's chew chew train, the Ladybug Boogie, and Tuck and Roll Drive' em Buggies (Papa went on that last one with James, which was James's first time ever "driving a car"!). The kids explored the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, which is like being in the redwoods with all kinds of activities for kids... slides, rope bridges, obstacle courses, etc. Ellie enjoyes standing up a bit while James slid down the "rock slide." We had lunch at the Pacific Wharf area where Ellie posed for her photos as Snow White with a red apple, We also met Donald, went on the California Screamin' roller coaster (which Papa was brave enough to try), went "up up up up in the big wheel!" as James would say, and had Ellie go on her first carousel ride at King Triton's Carousel. Alison and Andy had to leave us then for other adventures, so we braved it alone after that, visiting a few more things in cars land before calling it a day and trying to get the kids to bed early. Ellie wouldn't cooperate though, and Eliot and I were dying for some alone time, so Papa graciously decided to help us with a wailing Ellie (Mimi wasn't feeling well). Eliot and I raced back to the park and had just enough time to get some chili cones at the Cozy Cone motel, eat them in 5 min flat, get our pic taken in front of city hall, and then run to get in line for Radiator Springs Racers right before the park closed. The ride was SO much fun at night, and the whole town was lit up with neon! I wish James had had a chance to see it... oh well, next time!
Day 4: Disneyland again! Ellie was Minnie Mouse and James and Eliot were Sulley and Mike from Monsters Inc. We started out the day in Tomorrowland... Astro Orbiter for me and James! James got to pull back on the stick and make us go up the in the air, or in his words, "we're going way high!" Then we did Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, which is a fun ride where you shoot at targets with little ray guns. Ellie delighted herself in spinning my and Papa's car around with a joystick while we aimed (I beat Papa... we'll have to have a rematch, dad!) and in the end JAMES beat Eliot! :-)
I think sometime in this day (although it could have been another day or time) we rode on the Pinocchio ride, or "The one with the clocks!" Pinocchio was James's favorite movie at the time we went, and we rode it twice in a row. We also braved Mr. Toad's Wild ride, and James loved the car! Ellie loved trying to turn the steering wheel. That girl makes me smile. :-)
We traveled over to Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage, and after going down in a submarine (which James thought was amazing), Eliot took him driving at Autopia, which I heard James loved (how could he not?). Dad and I took Ellie on the Casey Jr. Train. She just LOVED that, she was smiling the whole time. I loved it too... it was so special just to be with her and watch her enjoy herself.
We met up with the others and headed into Toontown. I think this was one of James's favorite places, because there were so many things to explore, and it all looked cartoony and fun! He tried to open every single door in the town, ran up and down Donald's boat and chip n dale's treehouse, and insisted I take him on Gadget's go coaster, his very first roller coaster ride! He wanted to ride it again when we got off but the line was 20 min for a 30 second ride, so we moved on. Eliot and Papa rode on Rodger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, and we had fun watching James and Ellie run around Goofy's house (Mimi parked herself there in a premium shady spot as she was recovering from her bout of illness). The highlight of the time there for me though was meeting Minnie and Mickey and watching James run through Minnie's house exploring. Ellie visited Minnie's makeup vanity and had a grand old time. We would have gone to Mickey's house but it was closed. Oh, and James loved all the cartoon cars in town... he had to sit in all of them, multiple times.
From there we went to It's a small world (again, for James) and the Tiki Room, where James laughed at the silly eyes on the totem poles and knew the songs well since we'd sung them at home before. For dinner, we ate at the Jolly Holiday Bakery and had some excellent sandwiches with homemade chips while watching people (and ducks!) wander by through the hub. James was a big helper, helping to throw away any trash I'd give him and then come back. He thought it was a great game.
Eliot and Mimi decided to turn in early since they hadn't been feeling well, and Papa and I decided to run out the clock with the kids to get them good and tired. So we asked James what ride he wanted to do, and we ended up going on Pirates of the Caribbean again (where James said, "I don't want to go down any more slides, ok?" and then to the Haunted Mansion, which was quite a sight at night with all the pumpkins lit up!
We tucked the kids in bed and slept ourselves, although I got sick that night and was awake almost the whole night with a fever.
Day 5: Disneyland park! In the morning, the kids wore Tinkerbelle and Peter Pan outfits, and in the afternoon we all wore matching Mickey and Minnie Halloween shirts that I made.
I don't have too much to say about this day, because I was in a feverish haze and asleep for most of it. Eliot told me they went to Pixie Hollow to meet Tinkerbelle, where James got in trouble with Tinkerbelle when he opened her "secret door" behind her! They tried to find Peter Pan but couldn't locate him. I know they visited Goofy's house, rode on It's a small world again, and did some shopping. They came back for a swim after lunch and I managed to get myself dressed and walk all the way to the park for one group shot of all of us by the castle before quickly picking up a few things at the gift shop and collapsing back into bed at the hotel. We all missed the fireworks and Fantasmic that night, but we managed to get all our stuff packed while James had a sleep over at Mimi's room. So even though we missed a few rides and things we wanted to see/eat, I think overall we did what we could handle with all the illness.
And so there you have it. We flew back the next morning early with no real complications, and Ellie even slept most of the flight. It was exhausting, a whirlwind vacation with two small children (and illness to boot), but it was certainly memorable and fun. Despite getting sick, I think it was a tremendously enjoyable vacation. The memories I have of Ellie smiling with the wind in her hair on Casey Jr, James saying, "Go on more rides!" again and again, riding Splash Mountain with my dad and laughing at getting wet, Flying aorund in Dumbo with Mimi and James while watching him wonder at making us fly, James's face lighting up when he saw Peter Pan for the first time, and riding the Matterhorn with my sweatheart (oh, and the crazy cozy cone chili dash!) are ones I will cherish always.
I can truly say, it was all worth it. <3 p="">
A link to our Disneyland photo album (with new pics I added today!):
And a TON of videos for you to enjoy! They may take a few minutes to load.