Cast of characters: 13 of us in total
Me (35), DH (33), Bert (11), C & K (newly 7)
Gma (58) & Gpa(56) & babySis (23)
YoungerStepSis(31) & BIL(32)
OlderStepSis (37) & her two kids newpherA(15) and nieceF(6 1/2)
Reason: January marks Gma and Gpa's (yes we're a blended family) 25th wedding anniversary.
Arrival: BabySis flew in from SanFran area Monday 12/26 night, and departed first on Wed night. OlderStepSIs and her kids all flew in from MI Monday also, and departed Thursday am.
Everyone else drove down from SF Bay area on Monday am. My crew and Gma and Gpa ended up driving home Saturday 12/31
Dates: Monday 12/26 to Saturday 12/31.
Hotel: Ramada Maingate for all of us.
Background: My parents at Christmas 2010 announced their plans to bring everyone down to DL to celebrate their 25th anniversary which is in early January 2012. The only time that worked for all (school for both grandkids and my sister who's a teacher) was the week after Christmas!! UGH! I love Christmastime but boy, they picked the one week I would avoid at all costs. They were graciously offering to pay for everyone's trip however- tickets, rooms, meals, spending $ etc. So, it was agreed and all was put in place to bring their four daughters and kids together to celebrate.
All the Bay Area crew departed by 9:30 or so Monday morning. Trip down went smooth but OY! was the 5 South crowded. Not a nightmare, but traffic was thick and just about every stop had quite a wait for gas or McDonalds. Etc. Still, we made decent time... my hint: IF the 5 south thru burbank/Los Angeles city isn't bad with traffic, but to avoid that almost always slow leg through southern LA County, we sometimes take the 710 S to the 91E to 5S. This route proved our friend again and with three short stops we made it there in 6 1/2 hours to the motel. My parents had arrived before us by about 10 minutes and had all the check in done. Quick as we could we dropped our stuff off and then hightailed it to Company D because we still had some last minute shopping for Christmas to finish! It proved a success and my only wish was that I never got to make it back for a 2nd trip. By 6:30 everyone but BabySis was in town and picked up from John Wayne and we had a feast of a dinner at the Tony Romas which is literally at the front of the parking lot of the Ramada Maingate. It was a delicious meal. Belly's full, we headed back to our rooms. The only firm plan was to meet in the a.m. at 9:15 to get in line for DCA.
DH pleasantly surprised me! My parents were purchasing their PAPs that next morning...and everyone else had two days worth of hopper tickets... except for me and my fam. For the first time in a few years, we had actual 3 day hopper tickets and that meant we could do Magic Morning. DH was actually gung-ho to get up at 6:30, throw clothes on and get out the door and use it! YaY! The best part is that it actually happenened.
Tuesday: We made it in the park past really really long back check lines by about 7:20. We stopped and got C's GAC at City Hall and then took photos on Main Street then went down to Star Tours. Wait time? 5 minutes! WooHoo. The only other thing we really wanted to do was Pirates... so we made it over there just after 8 a.m. and had a short wait for that as well. After that, I made a few unsuccessful attempts to get coffee. Wow, the folks were POURING up Main Street. The line at BRB was huuuge...same with the line at Market House...I had to give up the idea of getting coffee short of going to La Brea Bakery. But by now we really didn't have time to do much else anyway, so we headed out of DL to meet up for DCA. I'm hoping this works, a few good shots. I noticed right away how we actually managed these few pics with no other guests in view.
We finally all got met up out front of the gates, but we got some bad news (that sort of plagued the trip). NephewA had woken up in the middle of the night and either was ill from too many beef ribs or had the flu. He was there but looked pretty rough. My mom was also starting to get sick (she's prone to sinus infections). Grrrrreeeat. We made it through the new route into the park (can't wait til that's over!) and had runners go ahead for Fast Passes for WOC and Soarin'. We then went to Ariel's and even though it was before 10 am, it was open and it was "walk on" so the various groups all ended up getting to go with zero wait. From there we grabbed some quickie breakfast and more coffees, while the thrill seekers in the group (not my girls who are too short, me, my bigstepSis or her sick son) went on Screamin', then Toy Story. Toy Story wait was pretty quickly getting longer (it was about 40 minutes by 10:30), after TSMM we sent runners again for FPs to Screamin' and TOT. NephewA by this time was done in by TSMM, he wasn't feeling well at all so he had to head back to the motel room. We met up at Soarin' and had a short wait with our FPs. After that it was about 12:30 and time to head toward the Rainforest Cafe, since not everyone had seen the Grand (in fact my OlderStepSis hadn't been to DL since pre-DCA) we took the scenic route (not to mention, good LUCK being a fish heading upstream to leave the park anyway thru the front gates) to Downtown Disney.
Rainforest this time was the best meal I've had there...I got the shrimp skewers. Yummy! Kids had a blast of course and we we all very satisfied with our meals and appetitizers. We were seated in a small out of the way spot that didn't give us a good view of the main forrest area, BUT it has a lovely big aquarium right by our table and it was fun to look at. After lunch it was back to DCA. We finished the Paradise Pier area and hit the swings, Jumpin Jellyfish, Goofy's SS, Gma&Gpa and C&K got to see Goofy and get pics with him. We finished off with the Carousel for the littles and Screamin again for the thrill seekers. Then we went off to ToT, where all three little girls did NOT want to go on... they killed some time with my DH (ToT is the one thrill ride he doesn't like). That ride scares me EVERYTIME. As we were walking away from ToT, DH had Celeb Sighting #1- he's a HUGE MMA fan and he instantly recognized "Joe Daddy". He got his pic with him. I hope this pictures works, it's great (yes he really had been wearing K's pink ears almost all day)
We hit up Monsters Inc, and at this point Gma had to leave because the cold night air was not helping the chest/sinus infection setting in, so we were now down two of our group. We checked out Flynn's Arcade. I dunno, I'm not that big on Electronica.... but I LOVE that arcade now that Starcade is so pathetic. We were cutting it SUPER close but headed to WOC and got there less than 20 minutes before the first show.
I mad dashed over to the Garden Grill (was really deadset on trying it based on the good reviews I had read here) and was very glad I did. DH hadn't been keen on it but I reassured him it was probably just about the best quick service place in the park, and he loved it! Anyway, we let the kids nibble as the show was starting on their kabobs. Ironically, despite the total lack of wait we got GREAT spots in the very back with an almost dead center and unobstructed view. This continues to reaffirm my belief there really is no "sure" strategy with WOC viewing and that it's such a crapshoot as to how long of a wait= viewing experience. EXCEPT my tip: if you really want a good view, don't want crowds, book dinner at Ariel's, pay alot, but get your Priority/Prefferred Passes for the LAST show of the night and you also can get a very good view and no wait REALLY needed. Esp on a weekday night. Half our group was seeing WOC for the first time, and everybody was impressed. That ended our night, aside from attempting to procure a WOC candy apple for DH sister. They were NOT to be found, in fact, we found out there really isn't even a candy shop IN DCA right now... and absolutely no WOC apples on the resort. We ended our night there and headed back to the motel. In total, for a busy day, DCA with key Fast Passes was managable and we got a lot done.