21 Nov
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Take a Trip — Disneyland

The idea of going to the same vacation spot more than once doesn’t appeal to me, unless that spot is Disneyland. I realize that Disneyland isn’t for every family, but I could be the Disneyland Vacation Club president. We’ve been twice, July 2008 and March 2012, both times with little kids. Every time I hear friends planning their trip I get giddy all over again.

Disney, Mickey Mouse, Disneyland

In 2012, Disney’s tag line was “Let the Memories Begin.” That sums up my take on parenting. I want the kids to have experiences, from seeing orca whales playing in the ocean to jumping in a puddle to meeting Mickey Mouse. It truly inspires me to think what a man and a rodent accomplished. The gates that Walt Disney opened to storytelling in its many different forms is impressive. C was almost 5 during our last visit. I remember posing the kids in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle on the first day in the park and hearing C ask J if we could go find Sleeping Beauty’s bedroom because maybe she was still sleeping. As much as our daughter longs to be a princess in a castle of her own, I know our boys have had visions of their own of storming castles to rid the kingdom of evil.

Personal Pointers for Disneyland

  1. Research, research, research. Talk to people who have been. Read at least one book about the park. Our public library had several to choose from. My favorite was the Birnbaum Disneyland guide book. Obviously, I used the 2012 version, but it’s updated annually. A guide book will give you ideas about food options, descriptions on rides, running shows and even which line is best to stand in at the entrance. Disney is full of choices. You’ll feel less overwhelmed if you know what you’re getting into. Research will help you understand the Disney FASTPASS and switch rider options for rides. FASTPASS is a great choice for rides that always have a long queue like Indiana Jones Adventure. You’ll be given a ticket with a time slot for you to come back to the ride and your wait will be significantly shorter.Mickey bread Disneyland The switch rider option is perfect for families with younger children who may not be able to go on certain rides because of height requirements or just not wanting to ride. One parent can take children on a ride and then switch with the other parent at the end of the ride so that parent can go without waiting in a long line. Researching will also reveal some options around the expensive food in the park. You are allowed to bring snacks and bottled, unopened water into the park. We only bought one meal each day in the park. Our best food finds: giant Mickey cookie and bread. Both were large, like our family. The sourdough loaf was less than $8. We ate on it all afternoon, and it was some of the best bread I’ve ever had. We found it in California Adventure Park at Boudin Bakery. Our favorite eatery in Disneyland is Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue. It was pricey at over $80 for our family of 6, but it was all-you-can-eat BBQ. The food was excellent. We timed it to get there at the end of lunch to make it a little cheaper than dinner prices.
  2. Disneyland has random entertainment acts throughout both parks. We’ve witnessed a street show by the Green Army Men from Toy Story, a cleaning crew that transformed into a band, singing pirates and an act with the Incredibles. Some shows don’t run all year. If the Jedi Training Academy is showing, it’s a must-see for Star Wars fans of all ages. Billy Hill and the Hillbillies in Frontierland is also a personal favorite. While there are several musical numbers to catch while walking from one ride to the other, there are also options where kids are picked from the audience to “help” in the performance. B helped the Incredibles prove that everyone can be a hero. He ate up that moment.the Incredibles street show Disneyland
  3. No one does fireworks and parades like Disney. There are several parades to choose from in each park and a few times to catch them. I’ve never been disappointed in the parades. We never arrived too early for any parade and never had difficulty finding a good vantage point. Firework shows require a little more planning for prime seats, but it’s worth showing up early for a good seat.
  4. The details at Disneyland are plentiful from doorknobs to mailboxes to signs on stores. I could wander around looking at all the little things that make Disney, well Disney, for hours and thoroughly enjoy myself. Of course, that’s never happened because I’ve always been with my kids.
  5. Having a game plan makes life easier. We researched and looked at maps before heading on our vacations. We talked with the kids about what rides they really didn’t want to miss (especially helpful on the second trip) and came up with a strategy to best utilize our time at the park. This worked beautifully. Discussing it beforehand with the kids helped us to not have to deal with stopping at every ride we walked past. They bought into our system and trusted we’d see everything we wanted. We’ve never spent more than three days in the park. I’m not sure I would do more. The first time we went we wore pedometers and walked about 76 miles each. Disneyland is magical, but exhausting. Our first days we spend just in Disneyland. The second is spent in California Adventure Park. The third day we’ve always been able to use to do things again we really enjoyed and play on Tom Sawyer’s Island.
  6. Decide before you go if characters will play a part in your vacation. Our first time in the park, we took a few photos with characters but didn’t get any autographs. The second time we went, our kids were enamored by the characters. We stalked those poor, costumed people. Jesse autograph DisneylandBefore we left Wyoming, I decorated a notebook with Disney stickers and packed two black Sharpies in a backpack. We took photos with everyone from Sully to Buzz to Tigger. Our reserved J is not known for smiling or eye-contact. Put him with Disney characters and he’s sidling up to them, grinning from ear-to-ear. My husband and I digitally turned the autograph book into a scrapbook after our vacation. The longest wait we had at the park was at the Fantasy Faire at 50 minutes.  It was worth it to see our daughter’s face when she got to chat with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Mulan. The princesses take different shifts at the Faire, so you don’t know who you’ll have. Rapunzel was at her own house when we saw her and Flynn. They were my personal favorite characters. We had an amazing encounter with them where there was joking and teasing between the characters and our kids. I’m grinning remembering it.
  7. Decide before you go what you’re willing to buy. There are oodles of stores and street vendors in the park. Our kids know from past vacations we don’t buy souvenirs, and we’re not going to pay $6 for a corn dog. There was still asking for those things but no whining. Our favorite souvenir the kids collect are elongated pennies. Pressed penny machines are all over the country. Check here for a list. Disney has a plethora of penny elongating machines in the park. There are even a few quarter machines. The penny machines are $0.51. We keep a bag of quarters and shiny pennies with us when we travel. A map for the locations of the machines can be found at City Hall on Main Street, U.S.A. Also at City Hall, you can find badges for first-time visitors and birthdays. We picked up a first-time visitor badge for our daughter last time. Cast members would stop and ask her about her visit. She enjoyed the attention. There are also Disney Dollars you can exchange for at City Hall. They come in different denominations. You can exchange a $1 for $1 in Disney money that has a Disney character on it. The money is usable in the park, but we kept them as souvenirs.paradise pier Disneyland
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