Jill and I just got back from a week at Disneyland for her 5K and half marathon. This is my outline of what we did so I don’t forget.
Wednesday, May 6
After having spent the previous few days packing, we woke at 4am. Jill’s running friend Katie picked us up at 4:45 to bring us to the airport. We flew Southwest Airlines from Orlando to Las Vegas to the Santa Ana airport, and arrived just before noon local time.
We took a shuttle to the Anabella Hotel, which is right across the street from Disney California Adventure. Literally, right across the street; from the front desk we could see the California Screamin’ roller coaster as well as a homeless person camped out on the sidewalk. The hotel was nothing remarkable, barely above “motel” quality, but it was clean and convenient. (Only really unusual thing was that the room floor was laminate, not carpet.) We had room 8115 on the first floor.
Everything at Disneyland is much smaller and more compact than it is at Disney World. The parks and resorts are all right next to each other within walking distance. We walked from our hotel to Disney’s Grand Californian hotel and had lunch at Storytellers Cafe (we were shocked to be able to walk right in and get a table; it wasn’t very busy), then we walked around Downtown Disney for a while until we returned to the hotel and went to bed early.
I was surprised by the huge amount of Avengers merchandise at the shops. Pins, clothing, even kids’ costumes with a tag that said “this costume comes with a face mask but you’re not allowed to wear face masks inside the Disney parks.” Even the Build-a-Bear shop had Marvel costumes for the bears. We also saw signs everywhere which said “WARNING: The Disneyland Resort contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” Great, Disneyland causes cancer.
Thursday, May 7
We woke at about 4am local time (which would have been 7am home time), which gave us plenty of time to shower and get ready for the day.
Our plans were to stay at the Anabella on the first and last nights of our stay, but for the four nights in the middle we were sharing a vacation home about a mile away with a few of Jill’s running friends. (This saved us a lot of money – a Disney resort would have been $300/night; the Anabella was half that, and four nights at the vacation home cost us about $300 total.) Also, we figured we wouldn’t need a car for most of the trip, but we wanted to visit some of the Disney studio stores on Friday, so we decided to rent a car from Thursday until Friday.
We went to the Alamo office at Downtown Disney and rented the car (a white Toyota Camry, which had very long doors that made it awkward to park close to other cars). Returned to the Anabella and got our luggage, checked out, then parked in the “Mickey & Friends” parking garage and walked to the Disneyland Hotel for packet pickup for Jill’s events. There were a lot of booths selling run-related stuff – Jill got running shoes with Tinkerbell wings and pompoms on them. My shoes were hurting me (this was a new pair I hadn’t broken in yet, and I think they’re not wide enough for my feet), so I bought some insoles with arch support, and they helped.
We met up with Jill’s friend Julie at the expo, and then the three of us walked around Disneyland for a while. I have to take a moment here to express my utter shock and displeasure that the entry gates of Disneyland are turnstiles. No RFID readers! No biometric scanners! The cast member had to print tickets for me and my guests, and if they wanted to re-enter the park they would have to get their hands stamped! What is this, 1955?
We had lunch at the Carnation Cafe on Main Street. We didn’t have reservations, but our wait wasn’t more than a few minutes. This would be unheard-of at Disney World, where getting a table without a reservation is crazy talk. We asked our server at lunch about the water shortage in California. She told us that she’s only allowed to bring glasses of water to the table if the patrons ask for it. If they don’t ask and she brings water anyway, she could be written up.
We met up with Jen and Jason/Mel/Elizabeth/Charlotte and rode Roger Rabbit’s Toon Town Spin and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with them, and Jill, Jason, and the kids went for a spin on the teacups.
Did I mention that it was VERY COLD in California? When we left Orange County, Orlando, the temperature was in the area of 90°F, so that’s what I packed for. In Orange County, Anaheim, the temperature was in the mid sixties, dipping at times to the mid fifties. By evening, I was VERY COLD. We stopped by the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney again so I could buy a Disneyland jacket.
Finally we drove to the vacation home (2063 June Place), hauled our luggage to our second-floor bedroom, and called it a day. It was a cozy little home. Yanni and John took the master bedroom, their two daughters (Maya, 7 and Andra, 9) and their au pair (from Australia, but she had already lost her accent) took another upstairs bedroom, Jill and I took the third upstairs bedroom, and Armando took a sofa downstairs, and Julie used an air mattress behind it. I found the place interesting in that it was decorated entirely with third-party Disney artwork (several abstract movie posters by Manon Pradier) and decorations (none of them licensed), and that there were absolutely no closets in the place. None. It was entirely purposed for vacation renters. Its attempts to be friendly and comfortable made it feel more cold and sterile, somehow. The whole complex was that way: nice enough on the surface, until you realized that none of the homes had any decorations in their windows or on their mailboxes, no kids’ toys on their front lawns, no bumper stickers on any of the cars. It was perfectly Pleasantville.
Friday, May 8
The day started very early; we got up somewhere past 3am so we could get everyone to the 5K which started at 5:30. Jill did great! I hung out in the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel and soaked up the ambiance. Afterwards, all of us had a buffet breakfast at Storytellers Cafe at 7am.
I was blocked out of bringing guests to the park that day, so we planned shopping instead. Jill drove me and her friend Julie to Mickey’s of Glendale, the Imagineering store, where we met up with my former coworker Peter who’s now an Imagineer. We had lunch with Peter, then he went back to work and we three went to the cast store on the Disney Studios lot (corporate headquarters – we looked around a little, too), and finally we went to the Team Disney cast store next to Disneyland itself. The highways were a complete mess of slow traffic – I can’t imagine having to deal with them on a regular basis.
We had dinner at In-n-Out Burger. Jill’s and Julie’s first time there! I told them about the secret menu and the secret Bible verses hidden on the wrappers. Then we came back to the vacation home and went to bed early again.
At this point we also decided to keep the rental car for the rest of our trip, because it made getting around so much easier. Yes, everything’s close by, but after all our walking, it’s nice not to have to walk a mile and a half on hard concrete back to the condo.
Saturday, May 9
This was the day of the 10K run, but Jill wasn’t doing that, so we got to sleep in a little later. Then we hopped in the car and parked in Goofy 9D on the fifth floor of the parking garage, about as far as one can get from the escalators.
Today was also the special Tomorrowland movie premiere at Disneyland, so we went to Disney California Adventure instead. Our first full park day! Last time I was here, it was a parking lot. We had breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe, we took pics with Red the fire engine, we rode Radiator Springs Racers, we had mac’n’cheese and bacon bits in bread cones at the Cozy Cone Motel, and we found several Hidden Mickeys around Cars Land (which is beautifully done).
It continued to surprise me that there was no in-park WiFi network. Cell signal was good enough, but it’s a good thing I brought a USB battery to top off the phones now and then.
Julie met up with us after she finished the 10K, and while she and Jill were riding Radiator Springs Racers again, I went into A Bug’s Land to sit and chill out for a bit. While I was checking messages on my phone, a cast member came up and said hi, and for some reason he started up a conversation about how he doesn’t trust MagicBands. I confessed that I am a Cast Member and that’s part of my project, and I put on the MagicBand I had brought with me for just such occasions, and I explained to him how they work and that he has nothing to fear. He was a smart guy – his name was Chris, he said he knew I’m a CM because he noticed my ID in my iPhone case. And we talked about technology. He says he had three Cisco certifications by age 18 and was well on his way to a great start in business, but he’s a thrillseeker and he wiped out on his mountain bike going down a hill at sixty miles an hour and had a concussion so bad he couldn’t remember his name for three weeks. That was seven years ago. He lost all his Cisco knowledge and has been working on relearning it. I wished him all the best.
Jill, Julie, and I saw the Aladdin stage show and walked around Paradise Pier for a while. We saw Mickey carrying his suitcase, and we saw Donald out for a stroll, neither of them with any handlers nearby. It seems the characters here are much more free to walk around without being mobbed by guests, and Disneyland guests themselves seem a lot more polite than the ravaging hordes who stampede through Disney World. This was strange and different to us.
We had dinner at the Naples Pizzeria restaurant at Downtown Disney, then returned to the vacation home and went to bed early again.
Sunday, May 10
This was the day of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. We got up at some unholy hour again. Jill had a parking pass for the Simba lot from someone who had paid for some higher tier of half-marathon goodness but then decided not to use it. And the race finish line was in the Simba lot. How’s that for convenience?
While Jill and company half-marathoned, I sought a place to keep warm. I camped out in a gazebo in front of the Disneyland Hotel for a while, but that was still too cold, so finally I found a comfortable spot in the hotel’s Adventureland building and zoned out there for a while. I carefully watched her progress (using iPhone’s “Find My Friends”) and met her at the finish line.
We had breakfast at a nearby Denny’s, stopped by the vacation home to clean up, then went to California Adventure again. (Funny thing – the parking garage that we were directed to was closer to the vacation home than it was to the park; we took a free “ART” shuttle from there.) We got our photos taken with Oswald (whom we hadn’t ever seen before, because he’s not at Disney World!), we said hi to my coworker Patrick and our friend Keith who were also out there for the races, we rode the Monsters Inc. ride, and then we went to the Paradise Pier area where Jill and Julie rode some of the thrill rides while I explored. We had dinner at Ariel’s
Ghetto Grotto with everyone. I won points with the kids by telling Maya that I’m going to call her “Secret Agent June” and Andra that I’m going to call her “Secret Agent May” and that their au pair is now “Secret Agent April”. The kids decided to name me “Secret Agent November”.
Finally, we walked around Paradise Pier a while longer until we could get into our dining package special seating for the World of Color show, which was spectacular.
On the way out, long past dusk, we swung by Cars Land again to see it lit up for night. So much neon.
Monday, May 11
A somewhat late night blurred into another rushed early morning. Jill did a heroic job of packing, somehow squeezing all our purchases into our luggage. We packed up the car, returned to the Anabella Hotel and checked into a room (8118, just three doors down from our previous one) and dumped our luggage there, fueled up the car at an Arco (which didn’t accept any credit cards, only debit or cash – how weird!), then returned the car to Alamo, all in time for a 9:20 character buffet breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. Stuffed from that, we took the monorail (decorated for Tomorrowland) from Downtown Disney to Disneyland Park and we rode the Finding Nemo Subs and the Haunted Mansion, took a break for a 1:30 lunch reservation at the Blue Bayou where we stuffed ourselves (again) with Monte Cristo sandwiches, and then continued with the Pirates of the Caribbean, the steam train, and an attempt to ride small world … but, sadly, at this point in the early evening we had to wrap things up and get back to the hotel. There were so many more treats we wanted to taste (I wanted a churro, I miss Bengal Barbecue, and we’ve been told not to miss corn dogs at the Corn Dog Castle at DCA), but we were still very stuffed!
A few more observations about Disneyland:
- Main Street has gas lamps with real flickering flames. Nice touch.
- There were a surprising number of trees and other greenery in the parks. It must be difficult to give up that land when there’s so little of it to spare, but the trees helped define areas and keep down the noise somewhat.
- The rides out there tend to have old-fashioned queues (winding back and forth between stanchions and chains) instead of the new-style interactive queues, and the rides don’t exit into shops.
- The Main Street Emporium is a neat store-within-a-store, where inside walls divide up the various kinds of merchandise.
- The park had a faint, but pervasive, scent of horse manure – from Main Street all the way back to Toon Town. Obviously from the horse-drawn carts, but not very pleasant.
- The maps are the old “hand-drawn” versions, not the new “Google Maps-correct” style of the ones we have at Disney World. The map for California Adventure is oriented south to north. Since there’s no Disneyland online app to show you where you are, I guess there’s no need for the paper map to match what you see on your smartphone.
- I was very surprised that a lot of the shops at both parks didn’t connect. Disney World’s shops, especially along Main Street, are long, multi-storefront affairs that encourage browsing and let you pay for all your stuff at any register. At Disneyland, we found shops that were small and narrow and had only one doorway.
All in all, what we saw at Disneyland makes me appreciate my home parks better. It was a mashup of familiar elements in different places and arrangements. A cast member at one point told me that if you total up all the attractions at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, it’s only one fewer than the total number of attractions at Disney World. When I got home I asked my coworkers about this and someone was able to come up with the math to back this up.
Another cast member asked me if I knew how many rides there are at Disneyland. “Only one,” he said: “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, because everything else is an attraction.” Not sure if I agree with this, because – for example – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad claims it’s “the wildest ride in the wilderness.”
Anyway, we made another quick stop at Downtown Disney to get a few tsums and a handful of park maps, then – exhausted, and all of us with hurt feet by now – we took a taxi the mile back to the Anabella. The three of us chilled in the room for a bit while watching “X-Men: Days of Futures Past” on the in-room HBO while we could hear a special preview performance of the Disneyland Diamond Anniversary fireworks show going off across the street. (Only open to invited cast, so we had to miss out, but Jill will catch it when she’s back at Disneyland for the next run in September.) Then Julie caught her shuttle to the airport. Jill and I showered (and had to call the hotel maintenance guy because the tub wasn’t draining), finished packing, then caught a few hours’ sleep.
Tuesday, May 12
Our flight left Santa Ana at 8:40am, had a stopover in Phoenix, and landed in Orlando at 6:20pm (local time). A whole day lost to travel … ugh!
Jill drove up to her friends’ house to pick up Lily, who had spent the week there with their three big dogs. Apparently she ignored them, and they all got along fine. I went to the pet food place to stock up on cat food. We were both so tired that I don’t remember anything else from the rest of the evening.