* Time of Year: Winter
* Travel Method: Personal Car
* Resort: Howard Johnson
* Ages Represented in Group: Adult
* Disneyland Experience Represented in Group: Veteran
* Comments: Patrick and his sister spent a few days in a pre-Christmas visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. The report covers alot of detail on the time the two spent in the park.
Day One: Thursday 12/18
The first day of the trip was fairly uneventful as we drove down from our home in Stockton, California to Anaheim. We checked in to the Howard Johnson's (our first stay) around 8 and then went for dinner at Coco's. We had some problems with the room, we had asked for two queens and they gave us a room with only one, but they fixed it quickly and gave us a new, larger room with a park view.
Day Two: Friday 12/19
The park opened at 10 and we were there at the opening. One nice touch was Pluto dressed as a reindeer standing at the tollbooths of the parking lot waving at all of the kids (and us older folk too). Kind of a fun way to start our day.
We had decided that since we take several trips a year that it was best for us to get annual passports, and happily for us our parents decided this would be our Christmas presents. We paid for the passes at the front gate and were directed to the Main Street Bank for processing. A few minor problems with filling out our information in the computer delayed us slightly, but it all went quickly, no more than 20 minutes for the whole procedure.
We proceeded out to Main street and were stunned by the fantastic decorations (to appear on a soon to be created web site). A huge tree stood right up front, with lights, garlands and just about everything else turning Main Street into a Norman Rockwell picture. Another nice touch was the flag at half-mast in honor of Lillian Disney, who had died a few days earlier.
Our first target was It's a Small World, due to the stories of crowds. We made a quick stop to reserve lunch at Blue Bayou, and then proceeded to IASW. The park was only moderately busy, so we got into the ride quickly.
In both of our opinions, they did a fantastic job with this one. I won't go into great detail on the inside, as others have already done so, but I was very pleased. I was impressed with how well they incorporated the theme. For example, IASW vets will remember the goat on the top of the hill that rocks his head from side to side. The clever folks at WED simply stuck a 'naughty and nice' list in his mouth, so now he appears to be eating the list. A very clever touch.
Our next ride was Country Bear Christmas, which did not impress us as much. It was certainly a nice show, and it was good to see them follow the basic pattern of the regular program. But it didn't have the same toe tapping spirit of the regular show, and didn't leave you with that special feeling.
Lunch was next, we split a Monte Cristo at the BB, and it was once again wonderful. They seem to have fixed up the dcor inside, cleaning and replacing any worn material, and it looks very nice. Also pleased to see this pattern elsewhere in the park. The cleaning crews are again quick and efficient (for example, we saw a wind gust blow napkins off of a table, and in a matter of minutes a cleaning person was sweeping it up.)
We now decided to do New Orleans Square, so we first went on Pirates. The ride is much smoother than last time, so they appear to have worked out any kinks from the rehab. We had a good group on our boat, joining in the singing throughout the ride (always extra fun).
Haunted Mansion was next, and we FINALLY got to see Maynard. He was, as we have been told before, wonderful. Amazing how he can establish such a real character in only a few minutes. They have also rehabbed this ride, adding some details to the rooms, including a 'shadow' figure on the piano (which Lori thought was neat).
We moved on to Frontierland and did Splash Mountain (ok technically Critter Country), and then Matterhorn. Both had been worked on this fall and while we couldn't pick out any new stuff, the rides looked nicer and more cleaned up.
We moved on to Toontown for an afternoon snack and loved the characters in holiday dress. Pluto and Donald were particularly spirited today and it was fun just to watch them interact with all of the kids (and adults <G>) around the town.
We made a quick run through Fantasyland, riding the Teacups and Snow White. Neither ride much different than before, but a nice break in the day. We then rode the monorail over to the DL hotels.
The hotels were just as decked out as the park. Inside each hotel were nice trees and some of the most convincing Santa's I've seen in a long time. The marina is again an ice rink, with another huge tree on the center dock. We looked around the hotels for a while, did a little Christmas shopping and then headed to the Monorail Caf for dinner. On the way we stopped in the DL hotel lobby and watched the kids with Santa. This was one of the real tricks we found this time, how much fun just sitting and enjoying the atmosphere is, not always rushing from ride to ride.
Dinner was good, we both had burgers and fries, with Mickey Mozzarella for an appetizer. For the two of us, including drinks, ran around $ 25. It was here that we discovered that the rumors are true. The whole area around the caf is being torn down next year for the park expansion. So far they have NOT confirmed a new location for this landmark, so we all need to stop in at Main Street and the hotel lobby to push for saving the ML Caf.
We returned to the park to see IASW at night, and it was even more impressive. The whole faade is decked out in holiday lights and is amazing to see. Another note on IASW Christmas, I was interested at how wide a range of people rode it. Usually IASW is kids, older folks, and die hards like us. But this time it was everyone, and they all seemed very impressed. On one ride through we had a group of teenagers ahead of us who started out making the usual jokes about the corny ride. But about a third of the way through they stopped, and by the end they were as impressed as anyone.
I guess the basic rule is if you like IASW you'll like this, and if you don't like IASW you might be surprised. If you really hate IASW, then you probably won't like this.
We then went to watch the Christmas parade and were again impressed (how many times have I said impressed??)_. The music was lively, the floats beautiful and the characters (just about every Disney character you can think of) were really spirited. The ride ends with Pluto as Rudolph towing Santa in a sleigh that 'flies' about 20 feet off the ground.
The rest of the evening was quiet; we looked around the park, soaked in the holiday spirit. But we ran into problems heading back to the hotel.
We normally had gotten a schedule when we checked into hotels, but this time we didn't. We assumed that since the bus picked up on the 00 and 30 that it would leave DL on the quarter hours. When we got to the stop, it was about 5 after the hour. We waited, and waited, and waited until the bus finally arrived, but it was not marked. We only found our ride by asking each bus if they were our ride. In the end it took nearly an hour to get back to the hotel.
When we complained about the wait and the lack of information given to us, the response was pretty much 'well if you can't figure it out, too bad'. This seemed to be the attitude about everything. When we found that the maid had not taken our old towels away, we left them in a more obvious place, but again she didn't take them or clean up the papers on the floor (from all of the pizza joints trying to get our business). As a final straw, they do not (unlike everyone else) provide the Disney Channel. Needless to say, we will not be staying at HJ again and would advise against staying there.
Day Three: Saturday 12/20
Today we got in a little later, slept in due to late night previously and also figured park was open until midnight. Park was a little more crowded, but still not real bad. Weather was nice. We were pleased to see a lot more of the 'Disney' kind of things around the park. Brass bands on Main Street, jazz bands in NO Square, performers in Frontierland, strolling characters around park, and so on.
We hit Fantasyland big today, rode all of the rides and really enjoyed them. While I hardly want to make lines longer, I would encourage people w/o kids to give FL more of a chance. Some of the best detail and beauty are in the FL rides. The Casey Jr. train is real fun at night, as it passes the Storybook land area.
Did our photo stop in Toontown, and got some great shots. Lori is a big Donald Duck fan, but forgot her DD shirt. When she explained her mistake to 'Donald' he looked at her, tapped his feet and shook his finger at her. It was a cute moment.
Toured Tom Sawyer Island and rode Columbia Riverboat. Again it appears they have cleaned things up and added more details to the area. Nothing super spectacular, but lots of little details that make the ride more enjoyable or the tour of TS Island more fun. Many of the details that were broken earlier in the year, such as the Indian Chief on the Riverboat cruise, were again working. Rode Splash Mountain again and they have really fixed it up, cleaned up a lot of the anamatronics and repainted the riverboat.
Despite the crowds, the attitude of all was much nicer than early in the summer when people seemed more on edge. Probably the holiday, but a nice addition to the fun.
Found that the old Aladdin Oasis is now running a very cute Aladdin and Jasmine show, but this is not shown on Disneyland Today or at Main Street. Watch for the show times outside the theater (just to your left, past Tiki room, as you enter Adventureland from the hub).
We did Jungle Cruise, Indian Jones, Star Tours, looked around Tommorowland (the main entry now open, you can look over Orbitron and hear Rocket Rods being tested above head).
Lunch today was at the Hungry Bear, in Critter country. It's always a fun place to eat and the best place to go is downstairs by the water. We sat there and watched the boats go by on Rivers of America. The ducks will come up to you and you can feed then fries from your lunch (not too many though or they'll get high cholesterol).
Dinner was at the Hauf Brau in Fantasyland. This has to be one of the prettiest places in the park, lots of nice woodcarvings, paintings and so on following the Pinocchio theme. Also some of the best pizza I've eaten.
Went over to DL hotel for tree lighting. A fun ceremony and a pretty sight as the whole marina lights up.
(By the way, the Christmas stuff goes on through 1/4/98, so after that ignore these details).
Day Four: Sunday 12/21
This was more of a 'fun' day in the park. We had ridden most of the rides before, so it was pretty much a day for doing rides we liked again (POC, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, etc). We also saw touring carolers around the park who sang with Mickey and then greeted guests. No matter how cynical you might try to be, it was impossible to not sing along.
As I commented to Lori, this was very much a Disney spirit day. People were all happy, the outside world did not exist. I don't know how he might feel about everything with Disney, but Walt would have been very pleased if he came back on this day.
We did have a little rain, but it only lasted about 45 minutes. This did keep crowds down, which we were pleased with. I was amazed at how empty the park was compared to how I would expect at the holidays.
One real trick we learned was the importance of using DL transportation. It may not seem worth it to ride the Omnibus down Main Street, but you really appreciate the rest on your feet and not having to maneuver through the crowds.
Day Five: Monday 12/22
Didn't do much park touring today, just our shopping for Christmas. This was lucky as today the park was packed. Probably double of Friday's crowd. Just goes to show that the day to day crowds really vary, but we got lucky this time.
One disappointment was that we wanted some Disney Holiday 1997 shirts with Tigger and Pooh, but they didn't have them left in large. If anyone hears word of availability of these sweatshirts in large sizes, let me know.
Anyway, that's pretty much our trip. This was my first Trip report, so I hope it is fairly readable and useful. If you have questions, feel free to E-mail me and I'll do my best to answer them. Also I hope to have a web site up soon with pictures from the trip, I'll keep you posted on that.