Who: Me - Kathryn (19), my mom - Mary (48)
When: December 18-21, 2011 - Flew from Seattle to John Wayne on the 18th and back on the 21st
Where: The Grand Californian
I'm currently a student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA (Go Zags!) and grew up in Redmond, WA (near Seattle), so when my mom and I purchased our first Premium Annual Passes in July of 2011, we promised that we would make a few trips down to Disneyland through the year to make our passes worthwhile. After a big family trip (aunts and uncles and cousins, oh my!) right after we bought our passes in July, we were ready for a more low-key Mom and me trip during my Christmas break from school. My mom's birthday is December 20th, so this was also a fun chance to celebrate her birthday in our favorite place! As the resident Disney expert in my house, I was in charge of making all of the reservations for the trip, which resulted in reservations for breakfast at Carnation Cafe, dinner at Blue Bayou, and our new Disneyland standard (thanks to MousePlanet!): dinner at the Napa Rose chef's counter. I've been here on MousePlanet since I was 13 years old and helping plan my family's trip to Disneyland for the 50th anniversary, but this is my first trip report, so here goes!
Sunday, December 18th:
We flew out from Sea-Tac early Sunday morning and landed at John Wayne around 9:30 AM. After a quick taxi ride to the Grand Californian, we checked in amidst the gorgeous Christmas decorations in the lobby. The Cast Member at the front desk had a birthday button for my mom, but she didn't want to wear it until her actual birthday on Tuesday. We headed to our room and found that we were in a part of the hotel that we'd never stayed in before. Instead of taking the main lobby elevators up to where we usually stay, we walked past Pinocchio's Workshop and the arcade to an area of the hotel that's right up against Goofy's Sky School. We could actually see the top of our ride from our room's patio. After dropping off our bags, we headed through Downtown Disney straight to Disneyland, entering the park at about 11:30.
Our first stop was to pick up some Fastpasses for Star Tours and then we were off to what we hoped would be our first ride: Pirates! When we got there, we discovered that it was closed with no estimate of an opening time. I wasn't sure if it had been closed since opening or if it had opened with the park and then gone down. We decided to ride Haunted Mansion Holiday. The wait was 50 minutes, which was a little longer than we're normally willing to wait for HM, but we were ready to get on a ride, so we decided to wait. After about 30 minutes, we were in the final switchbacks just before going onto the porch of the house when we noticed people streaming out of a door tucked into the crypts that make up the walls in an area behind and below the queue. Having come out of that door on previous occasions when the ride has gone down, we assumed they were evacuating the ride. Sure enough, CMs came out not long after and told us that the ride was down with no estimation of when it would reopen. We decided that we would wait 20 minutes or so since everyone around us seemed to be staying and we really wanted to get on our first ride. After about 25 minutes, a couple different CMs came out and recommended that we go enjoy other areas of the park since they really had no idea of when they would reopen or if they would even reopen at all. So, not letting this get us down, we left to continue seeking out our first ride!
We walked through New Orleans Square and when we came out, Pirates had reopened! There was a mass crush of people outside the entrance to the queue which we joined. The CMs did a nice job of having people press toward the river so they could put up some ropes to guide the line a little more. The wait was about 25 minutes and we were finally on our first ride! Pirates is my mom's favorite ride and we always love humming along to the song. Having had a few bad experiences with flash photographers in our boat, I'm always on edge when I see someone holding a camera when we board the ride, but, more often then not, people are courteous and don't take flash photos.
We headed to Big Thunder next. The wait was pretty long so we got FPs. Throughout our whole trip, it helped to know that those were off the grid and so we pretty much always had Big Thunder FPs. I think I saw on the boards awhile back that Big Thunder is back on the grid now, which is a bit of a bummer! After that, we headed to my favorite ride, Space Mountain, and picked up some FPs. We were starting to feel hungry so we had small snack at Bengal Barbecue. Between the two of us, we shared a Polynesian chicken skewer and one bacon wrapped asparagus skewer (Yum!). We headed back toward Main Street to watch a family favorite: Great Moments with Lincoln. The parade was going on so we decided to stop and watch some of it. I've found in recent years that one of my very favorite things about Disneyland is the music, especially the music from the parades, fireworks, and Fantasmic! One of my personal favorites is the Parade of Dreams song. Some days I just find myself randomly singing it and it always cheers me up.
Right after the parade, we headed to Lincoln. My mom really loves this show and were so glad they brought it back after the very extended run of the Steve Martin 50th anniversary movie. The doors to the show were about to open right as we got there so we didnt have a chance to look around the lobby and chat with the CMs. It's never very busy in there so I usually get a chance to talk to the CMs and learn a few things about Walt and the park. After the show, our Big Thunder FPs were ripe, so we headed to Frontierland! We requested the back row of Big Thunder, but we unfortunately had a bad experience back there. The three rows in front of us were filled with a group of kids who were there together and were turning around and spitting at each other during the ride. It caught me in the face a few times and I couldnt believe people would actually be doing that at Disneyland. It was completely rude and disgusting. The majority of people that I encounter at Disneyland are kind, friendly, and well-behaved, so I always just think of situations like these as exceptions to the rule and I never let them get me down.
As we exited Big Thunder, the Laughing Stock show outside of the Golden Horseshoe was going on and so we stopped to watch. I've seen so many different incarnations of this show. I remember when the actor who now usually plays the Sheriff used to play Sally May - I think I liked him better as Sally May than the actor who I usually see playing her now. After the show, we headed to get Indiana Jones FPs and then it was time for our dinner reservations at Blue Bayou. We checked in at about 4:45 for a 5 PM ressie and had to wait for 20 minutes or so. We were seated and met our very nice waiter David (my brother's name). We weren't at a waterside table, but we were in the second row next to the water and had a pretty nice view of the boats going by. I ordered the surf and turf and my mom ordered the filet. After all of the rave reviews that I've seen on here, I was surprised that I didnt like the Blue Bayou potatoes very much. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I thought there might have been some blue cheese in them, of which I am not a fan. The lobster tail in my meal was delicious very flavorful and well cooked. The steak was a little peppery for my liking and overall, it was just way too much food for me to finish. My Mom and I joked about how next time I should just order Surf and Surf because I devoured the lobster tail, but didn't make much progress on the "turf." My mom liked her filet and especially liked the green beans that came with it. The dessert menu didnt sound appetizing, so we passed on that and decided to go back to the room to put on some warmer clothes and drop off the leftover steak. It was much chillier out than we had thought it would be! As we were leaving the park, the evening parade was going on, so we were directed through a backstage corridor behind the Main Street buildings. I'm pretty sure that this is a common occurrence during the busy times of year, but I had never exited that way so it was a new experience for me!
We dropped off the food, put some sweatshirts on, and headed back into the park to use all of those FPs!! Our first stop was Star Tours. <slight derail> Our trip in July 2011 was the first time that we had been there since the opening of the new Star Tours and since my uncle John (HUGE Star Wars fan!) was on that trip, I would estimate that we rode Star Tours at least 4 times every day. Our main goal was to see every possible location, and we managed to see all but one by the second day. The one that we didn't see until our very last ride on our last day in the park was Kashyyyk. I can't even count how many times we saw Tatooine (pod racing) and Geonosis (Death Star and Boba Fett). Alright, end of my derail. After Star Tours, we headed to Space - a ride that I will never get tired of. We exited Tomorrowland and watched the castle lighting at 7:30. The small touches like the lighting ceremony just make me realized how special Christmas at Disneyland is. Since we were unsuccessful in the morning, we headed over to ride HMH and when we exited, we caught the end of Fantasmic! We finished off our night with Indiana Jones and Small World Holiday. It had been a long day, so we headed back to our room for some much needed sleep.