Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"It's a Small World" Closing For Most of 2008

Hey all you "It's a Small World" fans, and parents of fans, looks like the attraction will be going down in January through about October of next year for some much needed refurbishment. Below is a link to the msnbc story:

Apparently the expanding size of people is causing boats to bottom out, which is a problem Disney must deal with so the boats don't get backed up. Disney is too tactful to say all of this in that way....but come on....I think this should worry all of us. We are getting too fat for Disneyland. That is enough to make me want to drop a size or two!

I know there will be a lot of disappointed people over the next year, sad that their favorite attraction is down. Our kids will ride on "Small World" over and over, and we try to go at least once per day on our 6-day visits. Even if the song can get a bit tiresome, what a relaxing time to just sit, relax and float along the water that attraction always is for us.

It is said that the refurbishment will involve replacing the entire flume (river-like pathway) inside the attraction and replacing the boats with lighter more buoyant ones. Let's hope there are at least some visible upgrades to the "quaint" dolls and sets inside. I know there is love for the nostalgia of the entire attraction, but I have often felt bringing it into the 2000's a bit more would be a welcome improvement.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Missing Blogger Returns with a Fun Disney Tip

Wow - talk about playing disappearing blogger! I apologize to my loyal readers for being remiss in my postings. I fear law school is reaching its peak demands this semester with papers due and presentations to prepare, so my personal life has fallen a bit by the wayside. Let me see if I can come up with something quick and fun in the way of a useful kid-friendly tip.

OK - here's a good way to keep kids busy in the airport or in the Disneyland lines. Make up your own Bingo Cards.

Using pictures from the internet, or magazines, or just words if your kids are old enough, make up 5x5 or 6x6 grids of things people are likely to see on vacation. In an airport you might consider a restroom sign, a no smoking sign, a trash can, a backpack, and a camera. In Disneyland you could select the Mickey Head shape, an apple, a water bottle, a Tigger T-shirt and a specific character. Each person playing gets a card and whenever they see an item from their card, they draw an X through the picture (or word). Whoever completes a row first wins. Or, to make the game more challenging, have players complete the entire card. Our son loved playing this game, and when he was tired of it, he made up his own game (rules known only to him) using the spare cards.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Disney's California Adventure Seeks New Adventures

Hey - more Disney equals more fun! This is certainly not a place to find late-breaking Disney news, but in case you haven't heard, Disney's California Adventure is in for a BIG remodel. This is already a fun park, but in part because it is not as crowded as Disneyland. Will the big changes bring much bigger crowds and eliminate some of the more laid back feel, or will it result in an overall better park? Check out the article on the improvements in the OC Register.

The new attractions sound fun to me. Guess that means many more trips to the Disneyland Resort as each new attraction is unveiled!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sounds of Disneyland

I thought a fun Friday morning activity would be to come up with the first five sounds I think of when I think of the Disneyland resort. So, here they are:

1) Sound of the log hitting the water at the bottom of Splash Mountain.

2) Song: It's a Small World

3) Background sounds - kids laughing, people talking, people screaming as they descend Splash Mountain

4) Disney's Electrical Parade (formerly: The Main Street Electrical Parade).

5) The voice of the ghost host in The Haunted Mansion.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Balance Between Good Parent and Sensible Parent

I was thinking about eating habits at Disneyland the other day, and thought of an experience I wanted to share with other parents. As most may know, food is really expensive at the Disneyland Resort. Also, kids are picky. While on vacation, we tended to go by the "one a day" rule. That is, we'd have a breakfast of yogurt drinks, granola bars, fruit, a bagel, or something similar in our hotel room, know we'd have some snacks during the day, and try to get in, on average, one good meal per day. That meant a full sit-down meal, even if it was just a cheeseburger, fries and a drink. (Although, for our family, pasta is more certain to make our kids happy!) This is a reasonable strategy, and helped us keep from spending a ton of money on food.

Thinking over that though, this is not the best strategy for all kids,and sometimes wasn't the best for ours. Our kids can be really hit and miss with eating. Just because they usually like chicken nuggets doesn't mean they will today, or just because I buy a $10 cheeseburger meal does not mean they will eat it even though they like some cheeseburgers sometimes.

It feels like a good parenting thing to do to make sure the kids sit and eat a real meal. Why? Maybe the sensible thing is to let them have 2 yogurt parfaits, 3 cheesesticks, a carmel apple and milk over the course of the day. Steady input keeps their blood sugar at a more constant level, and making sure kids do not go too long without food lest crankiness set in is really important. It's also sensible to not have to argue over eating while on vacation. I don't really want to have to constantly remind my kids to eat that kid's meal I just spent $10 on and waited in line for 25 minutes for. It's not worth a fight, or the stress it will cause.

Maybe it is more important, when possible, for everyone to get something they will be happy eating, at least part of the time. If that means the adults go to a place they enjoy eating and order the kids nothing but 2 slices of cheese and some applesauce, because that is what they will eat, then so be it! Don't see 2 slices of cheese on the menu? If they have cheeseburgers, they have cheese, and most places will figure out a way to give you what you want. (Particularly at a sit-down restaurant.) Maybe the kids don't have to eat "real food" at the real restaurants. It might not be so bad for them to get just fries or dessert while the parents enjoy a nice meal, and they can have some "real food" later (or earlier). That way, the cost of a full meal for the kids is not wasted when all they do is pick at it, and everyone is much happier!

What is the point of all this rambling? Be flexible! You are on vacation. Don't force your regular eating preferences and rules into what is really an un-natural eating situation - few selections, all overpriced. Sometimes being a good parent means breaking out of the regular rules and doing what is most sensible at that moment in time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Little Splash Mountain Break

From my chair, if I am too busy to think about Disneyland, I am just too busy! I spent a crazy weekend doing nothing but law school homework while my family visited relatives a few hours away. As you may have noticed from the slowing of the posts, all law and no play make for not nearly enough Disney dreaming or Disney advice. So, what's a Disney fan to do?

My answer - take a nice, relaxing ride through Splash Mountain! Well, more of a virtual ride, I guess :) Check out the video here, and soon you will be in your own laughin' place! This is sure to put a smile on your face and a song in your heart....or at least, in your head!

How do you do?
Fine. How are you?
How you come on?
Pretty good sure as you're born.
Pretty good sure as you're born.
Pretty good sure as you're born.

(From "How Do You Do?" that plays as you are splashin' along.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Disneyland Packing Tip

Hey there! Now that summer season is over, those without children may be thinking about a somewhat quieter trip to Disneyland. Or perhaps, those with children would like to take them out of school for a couple of days now that the crowds won't be quite so overwhelming for everyone. Great! Any time is a good time for Disneyland!

Seems like this is also a good time for another quick tip. This one is about packing. It works best with children's clothes, but can work on some adult items, too. For each day you will be gone, pack an entire outfit into a large Ziplock bag - pants, shirt, underwear, socks. Each morning, all your child, has to do is grab a bag and start getting dressed (or you can grab it for dressing the younger ones) - no wondering where the socks have gone or what shirt goes with what shorts. The bag can be saved and taken into the park for a variety of reasons: storing leftovers or sticky candy to be eaten later, stash a wet or dirty shirt that you've replaced with a new souvenir shirt, put your camera in it on Splash Mountain...etc. Not only does sorting clothes into bags save time and energy when it is time to get dressed, it makes the clothes easy to pack into the suitcase!

Happy packing!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Quick Disneyland Tip for Big Groups

This is a fun thing I've seen large groups, actually, even small families do to help keep the group together and easy to spot: All wear matching T-Shirts. You could get them at Disneyland on Main Street and put them on right away, or buy them for use the next day, or purchase before your trip. This might be the best option if you want to choose a really bright color that will be easiest to spot. I've seen fun ones celebrating someone's birthday that were customized with a message like "I went to Disneyland for Erin's Birthday," or "Jane turned 25 at Disneyland."

Matching T-shirts are also useful if, God forbid, your child gets lost. You can easily point a Cast Member to another member of the family and let her know the child was wearing a shirt just like that one. (Having a recent picture of each child with you is also a good idea.) Usually the child has just gotten captivated by something and has wandered a little too far, and an easy-to-spot T-shirt will be a good way to track him down!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Delightfully frightful! You know you wish you were there now, descending in the Stretching room; anticipating your ride on the Doombuggy; awaiting greeting by your Ghost Host. For a little taste of the haunted magic, you may want to check out , which provides a photo-narrative of the entire attraction, plus bonus features such as the history of, and Walt Disney's inspirations for, The Haunted Mansion. A fun way to spend some "Disney Dreamin'" time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Disneyland Vacation Planning DVD

This weekend our 2-year-old found the Disneyland Vacation Planning DVD in our drawer of puzzles and videos.

"Me watch Disneyland!" she proclaimed, handing the disc to me.

I plugged it into the player and soon, we were reliving the magic :) The Magic Hat at the Disneyland Hotel, the Disneyland Railroad, the characters, the restaurants...I confessed how I was trying to find a way to get us there for Christmas.

"We just go! Go Disneyland now!" says our daughter, full of answers.

I would love to have just booked the trip then and there, but alas, my practical side says - pay off the last Disneyland trip first! The quest for cash continues.....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Real Disneyland Advice to a Friend

Ever wonder if bloggers are their "real selves" when they blog? Well, today I have opted to share an email that I sent to a friend who asked me for Disneyland advice for her family of four. You may recognize some of the tips that I have shared on this blog.

So, here it is, what I really told a friend:
OK - this is long, but here are some considerations that will affect your budget/price:

You have a few different good options. You can book through the Disneyland Resort site and pick a Good Neighbor Hotel to save big
bucks over the Resort hotels. Their process assures you have considered everything - airfare, airport transportation, Resort tickets and you'll usually end up with some package perks. If anything goes wrong, their customer service takes good care of you:

Price is usually pretty competitive.

Great rates are available through Getaway Today:
You may have to do some things on your own, such as arrange for a
shuttle. I've not used them, but recently did some price comparisons, and they were the best. I have read this is often true. and are both reliable and depending on when you are traveling, may have great rates. You will need to buy resort tickets on your own, unless you specifically book a package deal that includes them. (I am not sure if they always offer packages with tickets, or not.)

Sometimes AAA (if you are a member). or Alaska Air has
really good deals.

Depending on how much time you plan, I would check the Disneyland
site, Getaway and Orbitz, just so you know you did some price comparisons. If Disney is close, go with them for the peace of mind.

For us to go for a family of four, staying at the Disneyland Hotel for 6 nights near Christmas, we'd be looking at about $3600 for air, transportation, hotel and tickets through You could do it for at least $1000 less by staying at a less expensive hotel. We've decided that we are spoiled and don't want to do it that way ever again since we go for the total experience, not just the park.

A top choice is Candy Cane Inn. Good rates. Decent breakfast included, plus rooms have refrigerators and microwaves, as I recall. Nice toddler-size pool and within about a 2 block walk to Disneyland, without crossing a busy street. They also have their own free shuttle. We did not like that one bed is right next to the window - bathroom in the back of the room - motel style - so you get noise from the parking lot and people passing by your window. A lot of people do not experience this problem, but we did. This is a motel, but it is consistently within the top 5 hotels/motels near Disneyland according to They are a great place to research hotels in all
price ranges.

Look for a hotel that offers its own shuttle and that is close enough you could walk if you wanted to. I personally have not enjoyed it when we relied on the local bus transportation system, ART. (Anaheim Resort Transit.) Some people don't mind it.

Depending on your boys themselves, I would plan on taking 2 umbrella strollers. You can use them in the airports and all throughout the park, and if they do get lost or stolen,
you aren't out much. Normally its not a problem. Last year, when
K was 4, he used the stroller a lot. It just makes it easier when they are tired, or when crowds are heavy, such as after a parade - put 'em in and push your way forward - easier than them getting stepped on.

I like to be sure the hotel also has a refrigerator - that way you can keep leftovers for another meal, or order a pizza, and know you don't have to throw away leftovers. You could also buy some milk and cereal,or whatever, at a local convenience store.

Food is expensive. A bottle of water at Disneyland will cost you about $4.00. A burger around $8-9. CandyCane Inn is within walking distance of a Denny's, a McDonald and a Subway, for less expensive options. If you are going for more than a couple days it may be worth ordering through or and having some easy food and water delivered to your room. We often got away with under $100 per day for food by taking our own snacks, water and relying on delivered food or the hotel's continental breakfast. (Candy Cane Inn's had a bit more
than just muffins and donuts - a variety of cereal, bagels and cream cheese and oatmeal, as I recall.)

Souvenirs are up to you, of course,but they add up fast. Expect everything to cost more than you think it should. I have heard of people that budget $1000 per day for food and souvenirs. Right. I wish!

You may find some other useful information on my Disneyland blog:

Let me know what you decide...or what the two of you decide, rather :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finding Balance at Disneyland

I have started back to law school this week. I find I am on a ride of a non-theme-park nature. For the rest of the year life will consist of nearly full-time work, 12 credits of law school classes, and precious little family time. This brings to mind a concept simple in theory, difficult in practice: BALANCE.

Balance is a wonderful thing to have in life - balance between work and personal life, earning money and spending money, taking time for your partner and time for your kids...etc. Balance can also be something to strive for on your Disneyland vacation.

Before you surf on to your next favorite blog, convinced that I am cracked, give me a moment. Many of us spend hours upon hours standing in lines at Disneyland, even with the FastPass system, right? We are all about experiencing as many attractions as possible. There's nothing wrong with that, but when was the last time you stopped to watch a show? The entertainment is great at Disneyland and Disney's CA Adventure. Breaking up your day by mixing in some entertainment along with your thrill rides can be one way to achieve balance.

Another way is to really think about how you are spending time with your family. Is everyone enjoying themselves? Balancing rides, shows, parades, shopping and eating to meet the desires of every member of your family is important. Also, down time is really important, especially during busy seasons in the parks. Consider if your family would enjoy the evening parades and rides on Pirates and Splash Mountain more if you spent a couple hours in the afternoon at your hotel's pool rather than surrounded by the Disney crowds. Sometimes to get the best quality time at Disneyland, you have to sacrifice some quantity, depending on your family's needs.

Balance is a worthy goal in all areas of life, even at Disneyland. It's something to think about, right?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

5 Quick Things I Miss About Disneyland

I'm sitting at my desk, my mind starts to wander, and where does it land? Disneyland, of course! Here are the first five things that pop into my mind that I miss and wish I could experience today:

1) Churros.

2) Watching Fantasmic!

3) Careening down Splash Mountain.

4) Walking right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A.

5) Watching my son get his picture taken with Mickey, or Goofy or Pluto...wait...change all of those to "and" rather than "or." I know his face would be the very picture of happiness as he stood proudly next to his favorite friends.

What are the first 5 things that pop into your mind that you'd like to be enjoying in Disneyland today?
(I suspect that if you asked me later, my answers would be completely different!)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hidden Mickeys in Your World?

Since our trip to Disneyland last summer, our kids are constantly finding "hidden mickeys" in our world. I was informed this weekend that Jordan, our dalmatian, has not one, as we'd always thought, but instead two hidden mickeys on his body. Also, my son discovered that if we put my head, his head and his sister's head all together, we create our own hidden mickey.

Pretty creative for a 5-year-old, right?!

Now THAT is a proud parenting moment :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Disneyland in Your Soul

Thanks to mwaybob's comment about Disneyland getting into your soul, I find myself with something to chatter about this fine Friday morning.

Disneyland does get into your soul. When I first thought about this, I wondered if it had to do with going as a child vs. not going as a child. I was 6 when I first went, so I've been indoctrinated since a very young age. Then, I remembered my wife. She was 30 before I got to take her on her very first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. She'd never really even wanted to go. She was under the misguided notion that it was more like a big amusement park (not unlike parts of CA Adventure, now that I stop to think about it). I'm happy to say that she was quickly hooked and has not looked back!

So, what is it? I wonder about the mix of childhood nostalgia of stories and fairy tales, blended with music of Disney and other mass media movies (Disney knows how to make music work to tug at our hearts,right?), and something more....What is that something more? I guess THAT is the magic. I think most of us want to believe in magic, believe in the goodness of human beings, want to suspend disbelief long enough to imagine we're flying through space or hanging out with swash-buckling pirates, or that a walk down Main Street really will put our minds at ease.

The wonderful people behind all of the magic have worked hard decade after decade to bring to reality something that is as close to perfect as we are likly to get amongst so many humans. That doesn't mean it is perfect - rides break down, people get hurt, people get cranky, people throw their trash on the ground...but due to the extreme efforts, we still see the human desire of perfection around every corner, and that in itself, is close enough to perfect.

During our then 4-year-old son's first trip to Disneyland, on our first morning waking up at the Paradise Pier Hotel, he got himself dressed, brushed his teeth, and brought us breakfast in bed (Pop Tarts and juice) before the rest of the family was even up. If I'd ever doubted it before, here was living proof of the magic of Disney. Yes, it really is the Happiest Place on Earth, and at ages 1 and 4, Disneyland is already a part of our children's souls.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thought of the Day

As you sit in your office, or your car, or your home with the hot sun streaming in on you, here's an image to dwell upon:

You are seated in a log, and have just slowly, painstakingly climbed the final hill of Splash Mountain. Poor Bre'r Rabbit appears to be done for...As you crest the hill, you can see across all of Disneyland when suddenly - -


You plummet with breakneck speed down the mountain and into the refreshing mist at the bottom of the briar patch. (Did you take a breath in time to scream or was it too late?)

Soon the happy sounds of "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah" reach you.

You know you're smiling.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Enjoying Disneyland from a New Perspective

Disneyland is for everyone, but not everyone enjoys it in the same way. Last year, on our kids’ first trip to Disneyland, we made an important discovery: kids enjoy different things than we do. This is no less true at Disneyland than in the rest of life. (You enjoy that gourmet meal, but the kids are great with mac and cheese for the fifth night in a row!) As an older child, teen and ABC (Adult Before Children – I just made that up – like it?), I was all about the rides, or as Disney prefers, “attractions.” The goal, particularly as an adult appreciating a few days away from work and trying to cram as much in as possible, was going on my favorite attractions again and again and again. Once, my wife and I went on Splash Mountain 7 or 8 times in 2 days, during a very busy weekend in the park. How we managed it was by getting lucky and going 5 times in a row during the late Fantasmic! showing.

Our children, ages 1 and 4 last year, were not really old enough for many attractions, so rides were not the biggest part of their Disney adventure. They liked them, for certain, but even more, they loved the characters and the parades, and even their favorite “rides” were character-based (Buzz Lightyear, Winnie the Pooh). Our son totally delighted in getting autographs and pictures taken with all of his favorites, and made it a mission to find characters he’d never even heard of before. Both kids loved the parades – the larger than life characters, floats and music. I couldn’t remember ever in my life slowing down long enough to watch a full parade, other than the Main Street Electrical Street Parade. Seeing this part of the Disney experience through my children’s eyes was refreshing and magical. Watching the sparkle in my son’s eyes as he met Disney princesses was heartwarming beyond belief. Slowing down to enjoy what I’d previously considered only peripheral aspects of Disneyland has changed my entire way of experiencing the park.

Sure, I still MUST go on Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion, but now I see the benefits of sitting down on the curb to enjoy the parade, or rushing over to take advantage of a photo opp. with Mickey, or just feeding the ducks down by the Hungry Bear Restaurant. It’s all part of the magic and there is no “right way” to enjoy Disneyland. If you find yourself frazzled and not enjoying yourself, stop where you are, alter your plans a bit, and just enjoy what is around you. Maybe you’ll discover the Penny Arcade that you’d never stepped into in your rush to get to Indiana Jones, or a little table in New Orleans Square where you can sip on a mint julep and listen to some live jazz. Soak up what’s around you and you are sure to have a good time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lockers in Disneyland

I've never rented a locker in Disneyland, but I have friends who swear by it. You'll pay $7-15, depending on the size of the locker, but that price is easily recovered if your stashed sweatshirt saves you from purchasing even one new one at $40. Consider this - after the sun goes down, it can get downright cold in the Happiest Place on Earth, especially if you've gotten wet on Splash Mountain, or watching Fantasmic! Unless you had a stroller with you, you probably do not want to lug around sweatshirts for the whole family all day. Instead - rent a locker, put in sweatshirts, maybe some water bottles and non-perishable snacks, and you've saved a ton of money for the day!

Lockers can be found both in Disneyland and CA Adventure near the main entrances. I've heard they fill up fast, but can't confirm that from firsthand experience. To be safe, grab one as you are going in the park.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Haunted Mansion Might be Scary

Last summer we took our four-year-old into the Haunted Mansion for the first time. I carried him in, as he was a tiny bit nervous. As the stretching room was going down and about to reach the end, I told him it was about to get dark, and I held him close. We seemed to have survived the blackout and screaming well, and the rest of the ride was fun. Fast-forward to a couple days later when Moms are hoping for a return trip through the Mansion. No Way! This continued on our next trip 2 months later. It wasn't the Grim Grinning Ghosts that scared him, it was the dark (and the screams). We even got as far as "next to get into the elevator" when our boy totally freaked out about going inside and we had to take him out screaming like we'd been torturing him. It was sad, and maddening all at the same time.

I heard there used to be a way to by-pass the elevator for wheelchair-users and freaked out kids, but no more. I'm told some Cast Members will allow a little one to hold the CM's flashlight to help ease fears, but I wouldn't want to count on that, just in case.

Sometimes, it is hard to remember what it must be like for young child experiencing Disneyland for the first time. Mostly, it is magical, but also, it can be overwhelming, and what might not frighten a child under ordinary circumstances might scare them when they are tired or taking in a whole range of new experiences. Remember your patience, parents! The kids will be big soon enough :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

10 Great Reasons to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel and 10 Great Reasons to Stay Somewhere Else

By Dakota D

One of the top questions people have regarding going to Disneyland concerns where to stay. There are countless hotel reviews to be found on the internet. Simply do a search on “Anaheim hotel reviews” and you’ll soon have more than you'd imagined. I personally really enjoy reading the reviews at They are written by real travelers (we believe, but of course, this is the internet) so both good and bad comments can be found on most hotel researched. Some travelers will have loved it; others will have hated it – but the individual experiences and reasons for their opinions are fun and informative.

Where to stay, however, is not the focus of this article. Instead, I wanted to highlight 10 great things about staying off the Disneyland Resort property and 10 great things about staying on the Disneyland Resort property. Reflect on these lists and really consider which reasons are most important to you before booking your next vacation.

Reasons to Stay Off the Disneyland Resort Property

1. Generally, this is a much less expensive option.

2. It is possible to find lodging where breakfast is included.

3. The hotel may have its own shuttle which will take you almost to the Main Gate, which will be a shorter walk to Disneyland than staying at the resort hotels.

4. You can find a room with both a microwave and a refrigerator. Most Disney Resort rooms have refrigerators, or they are available upon request, but they do not have microwaves.

5. Better views of the parks and fireworks on some off property rooms than some on property rooms.

6. Some hotels have nicer pool areas, especially for kids, than Paradise Pier does.

7. You may be closer to fast food and other restaurant options than staying on the Resort.

8. It can be relaxing to get away from the Disney crowds, especially if you stay a little ways away from Disneyland and find a hotel with its own shuttle.

9. You can find rooms bigger than the Disneyland Resort hotel rooms, and some even have separate bedroom suites available. This is really nice if you have kids. (Note: Disneyland Hotel does have very limited number of suites.)

10. Lower expectations means less likelihood of being disappointed. People may build such high expectations of staying on the Resort property that they will not be happy with minor imperfections and inconveniences, and will ultimately have a better experience staying off property.

Reasons to Stay On Disneyland Resort Property

1. You will constantly be immersed in the Magic of Disneyland. All Disney – all the time!

2. Disney themes greet you around every corner – the bedrooms, bathrooms, restaurants, public restrooms, music, and more.

3. The Disneyland Hotel has a great pool area – The Never Land Pool, plus two other pools that include a sandy “beach” area.

4. The Disneyland Hotel features a great shady waterfall area with caves to explore and a wonderful mist to cool you off. Even in the middle of August, this area tends to not be crowded.

5. The Grand Californian has a private entrance into California Adventure. Guests at any of the Disneyland Resort Hotels can use this entrance.

6. Purchases made in the parks can be sent to your hotel.

7. Paradise Pier has wonderful views of California Adventure, and the Grand Californian is essentially in the California Adventure Park.

8. Disney character wake-up calls.

9. Disney character dining experiences available in your hotel.

10. Child activities and childcare offered on-site.

So, there you have it, 10 great reasons to stay off or on the Disneyland Resort property. Really, unless you are a person that needs to get away from “the Disney of it all,” the choice generally comes down to money and room availability. Staying at the Disneyland Resort is going to cost you some serious bucks, especially when compared to some of the budget-oriented options available in Anaheim. Is it worth the extra money? For me and my family, it’s been worth every penny.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Top 10 Not-So-Common Not to be Missed Things in Disneyland

by Dakota D

There is a lot of advice about what attractions not to miss when visiting Disneyland. It’s easy to figure out you need to visit Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Matterhorn, and a host of other attractions whose order will vary by individual. What if you are more into appreciating the subtleties of life, or just aren’t much into rides (even if they are called “attractions”)?

Here’s a “Do Not Miss” list for you:

1. Churros – delightful deep-fried donut-like pastries that are long and filled with cinnamon-sugary goodness.

2. The Penny Arcade on Main Street – old-time movie machines with flip-pictures and a light bulb, penny smashers for low-cost souvenirs, old-fashioned sports games that were precursors to pinball, and a fortune-teller.

3. Fantasmic! – Wonderful live-action water and light show put on, literally, on the Rivers of America. Great effects and wonderful music! (Beware - if you are very close to the river's edge, you may get wet.)

4. Mint Juleps – a no-alcohol version of the southern treat, served up in New Orleans Square.

5. The Disneyland Railroad – not only a great way to get around the park, but a relaxing way to unwind as you see glimpses of various lands. Look out for dinosaurs! (Don’t worry – nothing jumps out at you, it's just a diorama.)

6. Disney Dollars – trade in your “real world” money for the local currency. No exchange fee and these dollars are fun to shop with or to save as souvenirs. They are available at all Guest Relations areas in the Disney parks, and some other resort locations. If you have a Disney Store in a mall near you, you can get them there too, in preparation for your trip. Some folks like to use them to save money - exchange "real" cash for Disney Dollars and you can't spend them anywhere else until your trip!

7. Dole Whips – delicious frozen pineapply wonders that are served outside the Enchanted Tiki Room. They are sort of a cross between pineapple sorbet and soft serve ice cream. (I used to think they were healthy. I found a list of ingredients. Uh, not so much, but they are still delicious!)

8. “Partners” Statue and surrounding mini-statues in rotunda in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle – features bronze sculpture of Walt and Mickey, and smaller statues of other Disney favorites. A wonderful tribute to this amazing team. Be sure to look around and enjoy the view from this scenic area.

9. New Orleans Square – not only the home of pirates and grim grinning ghosts, but here you will find really great architecture and French Quarter atmosphere. Enjoy a mint julep (item #4) and spend some time soaking up this small, but detail-rich area.

10. Disneyland at Night
– the fireworks are great, but so are all of the lights, sounds and smells that happen after dark. It’s really beautiful – take the time to notice and enjoy the magic.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Living the Disneyland Dream

Thought for the day:
Do we go to Disneyland to escape reality, or to enjoy the very best of what reality has to offer?

I like to think it is the latter. For me and my family, we often have our very best family times, best behavior from the kids, best fireworks, best smiles, best laughs, best parades, most wishes come true, best purchases, and best evening strolls while on vacation at Disneyland. Is that why so many families go back time after time after time? Want great rides? There are a lot of theme parks to choose from. Want a great overall experience that brings out the best in us all, and celebrates human genius? It's Disneyland, hands down.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Disney Magic Story of Two Hotels

I'll start this with an admission. Last summer, for the first time, we stayed at Paradise Pier, one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels. We've now been ruined for all others...

After pouring over web page after web page of reviews, I finally chose the hotel we'd stay at for our second big Disneyland adventure of the summer. We chose Candy Cane Inn, the self-described "luxury boutique hotel nestled 250 yards from the main gate to the Disneyland® Resort." It has the number one Trip Advisor rating for Anaheim hotels , which includes extensive user reviews. I was aware of it's downfalls, such as really being more of a motel, situated around a parking lot, but the lush landscaping, free breakfast, comfy beds and more seemed to outweigh the drawbacks.

First let me say, that this is NOT a luxury hotel, despite their description. It was nicely landscaped, the beds were VERY comfortable, the toddler pool was nice, and breakfast was quite decent. The location is great, on the same side of the street as Disneyland, so its an easy walk to the park. There is also a very reliable private shuttle. Since we were paying around $150 instead of the $250 and up for more of a true luxury hotel, some flaws could be overlooked. I was ready to deal with that fact.

Our shuttle experience to the hotel was horrendous - with a crazy driver who had wanted to pack way more people into the shuttle than would have been safe (his airport counterpart talked him out of it, thank goodness) talked on his cell phone, didn't use traffic signals, and zipped in and out of traffic like he was driving a sports car. So, we arrived in a bit of a nasty mood, with my Wife feeling totally carsick. Check-in resulted in receiving keys that did not work, which meant towing along two hot, tired kids (ages 1 and 4) for the walk back to the front desk to get new keys. Still, we were almost in Disneyland. We shook it off, and went to grab some lunch at Denny's before heading into the park.

There is a lot of traffic along the main street you must walk to get from the motel to Denny's or McDonald's or any other place to eat. This shouldn't be a huge deal. We had strollers; we know how to cross streets safely; no one tried to run us down. It didn't SEEM like such a big deal. Ends up it was. You'll see.

Denny's was fine. What more can be said?

We walked back across the street, ready to enter Disneyland! Let me cover our kids first glimpse of the Magic at another time since that isn't what this is about. I will say, we had a wonderful afternoon/evening.

When it was time to go back to the park, it was a fine walk back - next to the busy street. As my wife got our kids ready for bed, I walked to a sandwich shop, across the busy street, to pick up dinner. It was a lovely evening, and I enjoyed the feeling of being in Southern California. We don't live there, so I always enjoy the palm trees and the excitement of being away from home. I even picked up some Malibu Rum and orange juice from a convenience store for a little in-room celebration of our first night. (Can't buy alcohol anywhere other than at liquor stores back home, so that was fun.) We had a relaxing dinner and the kids were soon out.

The neighbors, which we'd heard earlier in the day, arrived to their rooms around the time we tried to go to sleep. Yes, I said rooms, plural. We were in the middle of a family reunion; they were on either side of us, separated by a room on both sides. The adults had no qualms about shouting down the outside corridor to each other. The children could not seem to keep clear on which rooms were theirs, and kept trying to open our door. We were irritated, but it finally quieted down.

Let me spare you all of the details of the next day, and say their noise continued. I asked the front desk when our neighbors in ###room would be leaving as they were quite noisy. It would be another couple days. Great! We were booked for 6 nights, and they would be there for at least half of it. The front desk person did not ask if there was anything she could do, nor offer to move us. I did not ask to be moved.

By mid-afternoon, when we went to our room for a nap with the kids and our noisy neighbors were shouting again, my wife and I realized we were both cranky. We hated the neighbors. We hated walking next to the busy road. We hated that one of our beds was right next to the outside corridor window, which overlooked the parking lot. We realized we'd been spoiled to traditional hotel rooms that put the bathroom as a buffer between the hallway and the sleeping area. We hated the smell that was coming from under the bathroom sink. (Note: even Paradise Pier has this smell from time to time.) We hated getting on and off the shuttle. This was a lot of negativity coming from two people who should be thrilled that they were on the totally unexpected splurge of a second fantastic vacation of the summer.

I jumped out of bed where I had been unsuccessfully trying to nap and said I was calling the Walt Disney Travel company to see if we could be moved to a different hotel. Thank God we'd booked through them. (The travel consultant I use, who books through WDT is listed to the right.) They were wonderful! First, they tried to work it out with the motel, since that is what they are supposed to do. The motel manager offered to move us, but by this time, I did not want to waste more time, in case the same problem happened again. I was already losing part of an afternoon. There was availability at the Disneyland Hotel. The price difference was considerable, like around $1200 more.

"Do it."

She did. We did. Within a couple hours were were packed, had checked out of the Candy Cane Inn without so much as a nod from the manager, had taken a taxi to the Disneyland Hotel, and were checking in, where we were informed we'd been upgraded to a pool view. Nice! Ahhhh.....the Magic is beginning. I could feel it washing over me.

We walked into our room and it was PARADISE. The little Disney-themed touches in the wallpaper, on the armoire, the Mickey lamps in the bathroom, and more were so much appreciated, and our view was excellent. This was worth every extra penny we spent, and we had only just begun to realize how much.

By now, it was getting to be evening and we wanted to get back to the parks. We walked from the hotel, under the Magic Hat (Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in gigantic size greets visitors at the edge of the hotel as they head towards Downtown Disney.), and into Downtown Disney. Our then 4-year-old son asked for some KettleKorn, and we accommodated his wish. Both kids had been fairly good through this move, but the adult tensions were just starting to flow away. Then it happened. The Real Magic.

"Mom, would you like some of my popcorn?"

This boy had been going through a phase where he rarely shared willingly. This offer was a clear sign that the Magic had hit us. We were in the Happiest Place on Earth. We all happily munched on KettleKorn as we strolled through Downtown Disney and into Disneyland for a night of fun.

Over the course of our stay, we found many reasons to be happy about our choice to switch hotels. We realized a big part of going to Disneyland for us is absorbing ourselvs in the whole Disney experience. We want to get away from the traffic, the noise, the hustle of the outside world. Disneyland certainly has its own noise and hustle, but it is different. Disneyland is an escape - and for us, once we're in, we may as well go all the way, as far as our dreams will take us.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Disneyland Podcast

From the official Disneyland Resort site - podcasts from the park. Way fun! Download to your iPod, or listen on your computer. Check out Podcast #10 for some great quick tips to make your visit more enjoyable. It is fun seeing people enjoying Disneyland, and hearing the sounds of the magic right on your own computer. While I love some of the personal podcasts and video clips that people post, I often wonder about copyright infringement issues (I'm a law student), so I'll stick to supporting this official podcast. It's quite good.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Keeping Cool at Disneyland

A friend just got back from Disneyland and was expressing "sticker-shock" to me - $4.00 for a bottle of water, $56 for a McDonalds meal for her family of four (not including drinks), $3 for a soda. Again, you have to go in knowing it is going to be expensive and you may have to say "no" to a lot of things you might, in a different location, say "yes" to. Anyway, one of the best tips that came to me as we were talking is the following:

You know those spray bottle that you fill with water and there is a fan on the top so when you squirt the bottle the water comes out as a cool mist? Disneyland price: $17. I was quite sure I could easily come up with something less expensive on-line within minutes. I did not. I came up with similar items for $20. However, my friend and I are both sure we've seen them at local stores for only a few bucks a piece. Would they withstand being packed in your luggage and do you have room? Your call - but those water misters sure are nice!

Other places to cool off - the water rides - Splash Mountain in Disneyland and Grizzly River Run in CA Adventure. Also the Puddle Parks in CA Adventures. See last week's post about kids running around. Also, thank God, or Walt Disney, that the attractions are air-conditioned. Get on a long ride, such as It's a Small World or The Pirates of the Caribbean, and you'll be feeling fine for a good 11 minutes! Take in a Show, such as Aladdin in CA Adventures, and coolness is yours for 45 minutes!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Unique Disneyland Souvenirs - Cheap!

Yes, your trip to Disneyland is likely to set you back some serious cash. Know that going in - no way to sugarcoat that fact. HOWEVER, there are ways to save money, eat smart, and make good spending decisions while still having fun. Here is a great one - make a point of doing several of the pressed penny machines that can be found throughout the Disneyland Resort. You know the ones - put in a penny and two quarters, pick from a few different pictures, turn a crank, and soon you have your very own, custom-made pressed penny with a cool Disney character or other theme on it. Kids LOVE doing these, and at only 51 cents each, you can do several for the price of a soon-forgotten plastic toy or balloon. (Or, to refer back to my post of last week, you can get 7 for the price of a bottle of water.)

I've seen reports that there are over 100 penny pressing options at the Disneyland Resort, though I've not been interested enough to try to count them myself! They are fun to collect, easy to store (display books available, of course), and making them creates fun memories with your family. We do penny pressing at almost all the vacation destinations we visit. They are like a family tradition, everyone gets to participate, and a few times throughout the year, we look through our pennies and remember our travels.

If you get really addicted, there are website and clubs, such as The Elongated Collectors to help you feed your obsession. For now though, just toss along some extra pennies and quarters when you pack for your next trip to Disneyland, and see where it takes you.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

At Disneyland? Relax and Breathe

One thing people tend to notice at Disneyland, especially during the summer or Holidays, is the crowds. Yes, there are often a LOT of people around you. You might be hot, tired, hungry, and tired of standing in long lines. You might feel overwhelmed if your toddler is throwing the third tantrum of the day and you have no idea where to find something he will eat. You might be rushing from attraction to attraction so quickly that you are missing some of the very best "stuff" that Disneyland has to offer.

My advice? Stop and Breathe. Take a nice deep breath, look around, and remember that you are in Disneyland. You may have waited months or years for this moment. Take a few moments and look at whatever is right around you. Really look. Check out the details of the wrought iron gate, or planter, or flowers, or wall that is right there. Absorb the fact that it is probably absolutely the perfect whatever-it-is for that location. Realize that it is there for your enjoyment. Enjoy it! People are in Disneyland to have fun, and if you are not having fun, change what you are doing so you can have fun. Realize it will be more fun to sit and eat a Micky-shaped ice cream bar and watch people pass by than to run from Main Street to Splash Mountain while your child is crying about the ice cream you just said no to in your attempt at being efficient.

While you are sitting, watching, you never know what you might see. It might be that very moment that Mickey strolls by and you get a perfect chance for an autograph and photo (granted, your child is now covered in melted chocolate), or you look up and notice a group of characters scaling the Matterhorn. It's worth it to take the time to stop, breathe, and absorb the Magic!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Disney Tip Worth Remembering

I promised tips, here's a big one: Bring at least a couple of bottles of water with you into the park. Are you supposed to? Technically, probably not, but we've been searched and never had them taken away. Disney does not want to be responsible for heat stroke and dehydration. Is there water in the park? Sure - but it will cost you $3-4 per bottle. It will be cold and wonderfully delicious, and we found ourselves doing this a time or two on the really hot days. Still, tossing a bottle or two of your own into the diaper bag will save big money if you are going to be in the park for a few days. Plus, once your bottle is empty, you can either refill it with water from a fountain or faucet, or use it so the kids can split the bottle you just shelled out $3.50 for. (You know they won't share nicely, and half will end up spilled unless they each have their own container.)

Just got into town and don't know where to get water? Ask at your hotel. There may be a convenience store nearby, or your hotel may offer bottled water for less than you'd pay in the park. Want to know what we do? We order two cases (yes, cases) of water bottles from, along with other groceries we'll use during our stay, and have them delivered to our hotel on the day they arrive. Each of us can then grab a bottle of water to drink anytime we want (the local water is not great if you are not used to it) and we can take a couple to the park each day.

Did you catch the Albertson' idea there? More on that one to come, but let's just say the $10 delivery fee is well worth having some easy food available in your room.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kids Need to Run Around

Disneyland is not the place for it.

I adore Disneyland, but I really wish it had more open areas and areas designed for kids and families to run around, lay in some shade, and just relax. Did I say "more"? I could revise that to "any." Disneyland does not have places to let your kids burn off their energy, or just unwind, not really. Well, I guess Tom Sawyer Island qualifies - and is the best option, but still not great due to crowds and the trails are not necessarily safe to let little ones nagivate alone. (Disneyland and littles ones - never leave 'em unattended.)

California Adventure has a couple decent options for running around and cooling off. Since the park is less crowded than Disneyland, in general, it is a better place to relax and get some space between you and thousands of others. Our kids - OK and me, too - loved the Princess Dot Puddle Park. It's in A Bug's Land - nice vegetation - leaves taller than my kids - and its like playing in the sprinklers. This is a great place to cool down! My two kids and I got totally soaked. We brought a change of clothes for them. Not for me. I walked around in wet clothes and underwear (Not so comfy!) for about an hour until I dried off. Heck - in August I think my shirt was dry in about 15 minutes!

The other really good place to let kids be kids is in The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. There are trails and bridges and lots of shaded room to run around in. Even during busy days, this area doesn't seem to get too crowded. It is also very close to a major attraction - The Grizzly River Run. So, if part of your family is too short to ride (42" height requirement), or doesn't like getting wet - this is a good place for them to hang out while the taller and more adventurous do the River Run.

Special note: There is a single rider option on Grizzly River Run. Two adults who both want to go on the ride but someone has to watch the kids? Leave one adult with the kids at the Redwood Creek Trail, the other goes up the exit stairs and tells the cast member on the loading platform they are a single rider. They get loaded in a boat with some others, almost immediately. That way, the boat doesn't go down only partially loaded and some lucky person didn't have to wait in line for an hour or more. (Sometimes there is a single rider ticket near the fast pass line. Look for a cast member near the entrance to the attraction and inquire about it. If you can't find one - you are probably OK to enter without one and the cast member on the loading platform can tell you where to get one next time. Just be polite. They deal with a lot of people.) After the first person goes, trade places with the adult who was just playing with the kids on Redwood Creek Trail.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Disney Magic

I know there are adults out there who have never been to Disneyland. There are some who probably never should go, or do not enjoy going. This post, in fact, this entire blog, is not for them. You are much more likely to enjoy my writing if you still believe, even just a little, in wishes coming true, in fairy dust, in grim grinning ghosts, in rocketing through outer space, in jovial pirates, in the child that still lives in you.

There is nothing quite like the excitement of walking through the gates of Disneyland, spotting the steam engine on the railroad tracks high above you and hearing the conductor shout "All Aboard" as you walk under the tracks and into the magic of Mainstreet U.S.A. I can literally feel the stress of daily life rolling off of my shoulders and the lightness of a Barbershop quartet tune filling my soul. A smile spreads across my face and I am in the land of Disney. Sure, I get that around every corner a specific experience has been manufactured for me, that what I am witnessing is not reality, and for that, I am grateful and willingly hand over my hard-earned money to be a part of the experience. I want to immerse myself in the fantasy and help my children do the same. Judging from the crowds, I'm not the only one!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Live Cam of Disneyland / California Adventure

Here's some fun for your Friday...or Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday.....

Live pictures from the Howard Johnson in Anaheim:

For those of us far away, this is a little escape to paradise.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Back from a Quick Trip to the Beach
We took a quick trip to the beach, just after I started this blog, so haven’t had a chance to update this since then. The beach is not exactly Disneyland, but we did have a fun trip and a chance to play in the waves. The beach was often nearly deserted, despite really good weather. How nice! That is one thing that is really missing around Disneyland – open space to just relax. Perhaps that is a topic for another day. Anyway, just wanted to say, “I’m back!”

Friday, July 13, 2007

I Need a Disneyland Vacation Now!

Who doesn't , right?

Welcome to my new blog! About 2-3 years ago I had a what I hope was a really useful website that was a guide to planning a perfect Disneyland vacation for your family. I'd researched a lot, put together great information about Disneyland, about entertaining families, and about including families in vacation planning. To supplement this, I had an ebook that was in its testing stages. I had good traffic and the responses to my ebook were really positive. Then a funny thing happened - I started law school. At that point, all my extracurricular activities ceased. Not hard to imagine since I have a wife, two small children and was still working full time. I closed the website, put the pdf on the mythical "back burner," and went on with my life.

We live in the Pacific Northwest and do not get to Disneyland nearly as often as we'd like. As a special treat, after the first year of law school, we took the kids, and ourselves, to Disneyland. It was magical - spectacular - just as I'd remembered from the days before children. It was so magical, that we went again that same summer - just last year. Talk about blowing the budget! We learned so much that summer that I realized I could make the book I'd written so much better. The book, as it read, had lots of tips and facts, and a playful tone, but it lacked a certain something. I wasn't sure what it was until I recently pulled it out again, thinking it was time to revise and get it into reader's hands, or at least, on their computer monitors.

What it needed was heart, and candor, and confessions from a real family who, though they were having the time of their lives, sometimes wondered how they could ditch their 1 and 4 year olds and have some real fun. I am in the process of rewriting, but I thought what might really help my process, as well as provide me with feedback, is a blog that I could start sharing stories through and seeing how others respond.

So, that's my story, or at least, the start of it. Please stay tuned, and feel free to post comments about this topic at any time.