We made it back home after 4 days at Disneyland. I went there with the expectations of my kids having a good time while my wife and I followed behind keeping track of the kids doling out cash for toys, trinkets, and food while counting down the time until we left to go home. If I was lucky I would be able to get a few nice runs in by the Santa Ana canal/trail system. If I am 100% honest, I would say that I had a fantastic time and this was probably the most fun vacation I have ever had. During this trip I had bonding time with both of my kids and wife that felt like new relationships with them were formed and set free. My 12 (almost 13) year old daughter wanted to spend time with me and go on rides with just me, I was no longer only the annoying rule making parent!
Since we were staying at a Disney hotel we were able to get in the parks an hour early, and then they had “magic hours” where you got an additional hour, so we got in at 7:00 AM each day. After walking who knows how many miles each day and standing in lines carrying a backpack loaded with around 35 pounds of gear when the park closed at midnight each night I was ready to come back early the next morning. I know it is corny but I the atmosphere of the park was real. I could feel it, see it, and breathe it. My brother in law Ryan came up with his family on Sunday and we had a discussion about people who go to Disneyland all the time and how crazy it is, especially people who don’t have kids. Now I can see why people who reside close go frequently. If we lived there and had yearly passes I can see us going once a month or even more frequently. I guess it would get old after a while but with the park making changes for the seasons and holidays it would stay current and fresh. When looking at the prices of the California Grand Hotel I was turned off, but when we walked in and I was dwarfed by the lobby and the truly grand scale that the hotel was done in I could see why it was so much more than the Disney of Paradise Pier hotels are. This is one nice place to recharge the batteries between sets at the parks. Plus the monorail goes through the property and it is on the California Adventure property.
Downtown Disney was pretty cool too. Ryan (brother -in-law) told us about a really tasty sandwich place, Earl of Sandwich.
It was so good we ended up eating there twice. The lines are really long (like Disney) but they get you through pretty quickly and have a lot of communal seating choices. Plus you can find somewhere in the downtown area to sit and eat. Good food, good choices, and not too expensive. We also ate at Tortilla Joe’s and Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria. Both were good and both were even better as they were sit down and be waited on places. Tortilla Joe’s had a great table side guacamole , and the large pizza ($30-a little pricey but tasty) at Naples was more than the wife and I could finish.
I will probably always remember Naples for something more than the food. Every once in while I have a “reality check moment” where I witness or see something that places my location in this life in order for me. Its like me reset button gets pressed. It will occasionally happen after a challenging trail race, or after having a particularly deep conversation with one of my kids. I guess some of these moments could be called common as they happen all around us on a regular basis. Some of these were the make a wish kids at Disneyland, the child slumped over in a wheelchair while Disney staff in suits with an AED defibrillator were frantically talking on their radios and ushering the child and family out of the park (I pray that the kid is ok now). Or the SUV we saw on the way home, overturned and crumbled on the side of the road where medics were performing CPS on someone. The Naples moment was different. If I had not been paying attention it could have easily gone by unnoticed. Maybe it was meant for me to notice it. Maybe these moments are always happening but I don’t see them. Anyway…we were seated in a booth by the large windows in front of the restaurant.
Note the menu by the front entrance, we were sitting near the end by the patio in the foreground. I know, where is this great moment? Picture this if you will. I am people watching out the window, hundreds of people passing by, when I notice an older lady approach the menu. I notice her because she is using a wheeled walker to get around and she is having some trouble getting close to the menu. Next I notice that she has large hearing aids in both of her ears. Now she is looking at the menu and I see that she is also struggling to read what is written on it as she has her face right up next to the glass and she is moving her head around looking like she is trying to get a better angle. Here I am sitting down with my family to eat. I have no problems walking through Disney for hours on end. I am losing my hearing but I don’t require any hearing assistance, and I have my glasses to help me see when my eyes are having trouble focusing. Side note-do you know that you don’t really see with your eyes? You see with your brain and your eyes are like 3D stereo cameras that focus on the word around us. Back to story- at this point I have my reality check moment and I realize just how fortunate and blessed I am in this life. I then had a feeling inside me, almost like shame for ever complaining about anything that happens to me that I don’t like or prefer. Then the hammer really hits me. Around the lady’s neck is a Disney lanyard like they sell everywhere at Disney for the collectors to put their pins on
I see her Disneyland park hopper pass sitting in the ID card sleeve. Damn, so this lady has all of these “disabilities” yet she is out and rolling through Disneyland. At that moment I almost wanted to ask her to go walk through the parks with us, but it would be creepy for her and for my family. But it was a nice thought if I do say so myself. Hopefully next time I start to whine, complain, or feel sorry for myself I see this lady looking at the menu and realize that it could be much, much different. I know,probably didn’t have as much effect on you as it did on me, but I wanted to put it out there.
As for the parks, both were alot of fun. The Radiator Springs Racers was a lot of fun. So much fun that we rode it 4 times. The last time we rode it the line was pretty long but we wanted to wait, and wait we did. Then when were were about 30 people from the loading area there was an announcement that the ride was halted with no ETA. We decided to wait it out and about 5 minutes later we started up again. I don’t know if I would ever wait in the choose your riders line, when we got off the last time the estimated time to ride was 150 minutes. I did meet Speed on the first day we were there.
We got lucky on several rides. Walked up right as the Tower of Terror opened and were being scared in under 10 minutes.
We passed on Pirates of the Caribbean a few times due to wait times, once while walking by to go to Pooh Village we noticed that there was hardly any line at Pirates but people were scrambling to get in line, so we joined in. Turns out that it had been closed and had just re-opened. We also got on the ride in under 10 minutes.
Several other rides were generous to us as we were able to get on with minimal waits, until Wednesday that is. Wednesday was a different animal as we noticed that it was much busier from the moment we got there and that trend continued through the day. I guess Wednesday is the start of getting busy for the weekend. Several tour busses and whatnot arrived Wednesday and Thursday morning. Glad we were there during a down time. We are thinking of going back around Christmas when the pars are decorated and the characters wear Christmas themed costumes.
While going through the parks I took an unofficial poll of what the most popular sports related clothing items were.
T-shirt Golden State Warriors
Hat San Francisco Giants
Baseball jersey -Toss up between Dodgers, Giants, and Texas Rangers.
Jersey NBA Kobe (could not go an hour without seeing one). NFL Raiders I did see a Browns Brady Quinn and several Peyton Manning too.
Shoes Nike free
Generic T-shirt Cali life
Looking over this it seems like it is getting a little long and boring, so I will round this up by saying that it is something that I hope to do again soon with my family, and if the State of Arizona ever sends me to a conference in Anaheim, I hope that they put me up in one of the Disney Resorts.
I will wrap this up with some of my favorite picture we took over the 4 days.