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.