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Monday, January 13, 2014

Disneyland (Anaheim) Trip Report - January 6 - January 11, 2014

Everyone who knows me well, knows how much I LOVE Disneyland.  It TRULY strikes happiness in my heart and soul. I totally agree with it being called "The Happiest Place on Earth"...

I tell everyone I know this story...and let me just say here that my "prologue" will be long on this report, I can't help it, sorry!

I first took my son to Disneyland in 1996.  He was six and I was thirty-one.  I never experienced vacations as a child, so I always dreamed of doing this for my son and really, for myself too (as a kid, I remembered Sunday nights watching Disney (below) and wanting to meet Tinkerbell at the Castle).

I had just left a relationship and booked this trip when my son ended Kindergarten for summer vacation before grade one...I remember feeling brave, scared and ecstatic about the thought of being single, and FINALLY getting to see the "Magic Kingdom"...

Pic from imaginaryforces.com

So, I remember our arrival to Disneyland like it was yesterday.  We didn't get there till just before sunset.  I was so excited my heart was pounding through my chest.  I remember looking around for a ticket window so we could get in with our Park Hoppers but couldn't find one open.  We walked closer to the park searching and suddenly these gates opened and people flooded out (a parade or show ended, I thought after I was familiar with the park).  I asked one of the staff at the gates how I could get in and they waved us in without asking for our tickets.  I remember feeling guilty, worried and giddy at the same time as we entered, passing by all the exiting people...

As I stood in the park...for the first time, I have never ever felt the feeling I did at that moment ever again.  I can't even put it into words, really.  I was in AWE, It smelled wonderful!  (Those heavenly "Main St. U.S.A. smells of baked goodies" and yes I know that smell is piped in, now).  I was DUMBFOUNDED, I felt the "MAGIC"...I honestly don't even remember what my son thought as it was suddenly all about ME, ME, ME!  :)  I remember that trip shopping in the "Main Street Emporium" and one of the staff said to my son, "Are you out shopping with your sister?" and then winked at me.  I remember when I realized that he was complimenting me, how good I felt and I had many more experiences like that while there...everyone made us feel special and happy.  It was pure bliss.  I remember my sweet son falling asleep in my arms as we sat on the sidewalk watching the Main Street Electrical Parade.


FAST FORWARD to 2003.  I took my son EVERY year after that back to Disneyland and one trip to Disneyworld too.  I could tell so many good stories and tales but I'd never get to this trip report!  Anyway, Christmas 2003 we stayed at the Grand Californian hotel and spent the holiday like celebrities doing things like watching "Fantasmic" on the balcony with a dessert buffet in New Orleans Square.  We had chairs at the Christmas parade and were served Hot Chocolate as the characters danced and waved at us.  We really lived it up that trip - it was the ULTIMATE Disney trip...

Also, on that trip, I lost my wallet in the park.  It had ALL my spending money - over $500 cash, our Park Hopper passes, credit card and driver's license.  I reported it to Security and and went back to the Grand Californian and started crying my eyes out.  My phone rang and they told me someone had turned my wallet in.  Nothing was missing, including the money.  I always wish I could thank those people to this day!  To whoever turned my wallet in, I will never forget it and thank you for saving our Christmas!!!  Only at Disney this stuff happens, I say...

When we got home, I remember saying to my son who now was thirteen about maybe next year we could go to Disneyland, Paris?  He told me, "Mom, I'm done with Disney.  How about we go to Hawaii?"  And I remember feeling like he slapped me in the face!  I realized then, at that EXACT MOMENT, that I was the Disney fan and not him...(we went to Hawaii next, a few times, and Honolulu is still one of HIS fave places, ever).

Our last visit to the park was in 2009.  I most remember our $300 Chef Table's Dinner at Napa Rose, unfortunately, more so for the money than the food (food was good, don't get me wrong - it was just the first time I paid that much for a meal).  We stayed for three days and then moved to Hollywood for the rest of the trip.

Monday, January 6th:

Our flight from (LAS) Vegas left at 2pm on Southwest.  We arrived at (SNA) John Wayne airport at three.  We took a shuttle that was $10 pp.  We were booked right across the street on S. Harbor Blvd. from the entrance to Disneyland.  We chose a Best Western.  If I can't stay at the Grand Californian then this location is next on my list.

Pic from anaheiminn.com

The front was being renovated so it didn't look like this.  Our room was at the very back of the property making it the farthest away from the park, of course.  It was fine, your typical older motel property.  It was a real step down from the previous weeks 5-Star accommodation in Vegas.  It did only take us 10 minutes to walk and be inside the park though so that alone was worth it.

We dropped our luggage and headed to the park.  It took about a half hour to get our 5 Day Park Hopper passes done and then it was time for dinner as we were starving so we decided to go to Catal in Downtown Disney.  It wasn't until we were seated upstairs on the patio that I realized we had eaten here before.  It was kind of like a "deja vu" moment.  Our waitress said she worked there for ten years when I told her I think she served us last visit.  I think my son even ordered the same dish he had last time too. (See, camera & blog is good for my memory...)


Our view from the balcony

Wedge Salad came with my Prime Rib

10 oz. Prime Rib (medium, a little chewy) with Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Chicken:  half chicken, mushroom fideuá cake, green olives, soft herbs, garlic aïoli, roasting jus

I ordered extra "au jus" and horseradish for mine.  It was good flavour wise but a little tough.  Had I known it would be, I would have ordered medium rare.  My son loved his chicken.  Said it was really crispy.  When he was finished he said, "Oh, I forgot to ask you if you wanted a bite".  :)  

We went to Disneyland and rode Space Mountain.  The stand by wait time was one hour.  The park was pretty busy Monday night.  The big Christmas tree was still standing at the entrance to Main Street U.S.A.


We ended the first evening at Golden Horseshoe with a Chocolate Sundae for my son.


Tuesday, January 7th:

We had an early start this morning and were in the park by 10am.


This was a good time to go as most of the rides were a wait of less than fifteen minutes and lots were walk on.  My son mentioned how happy he was to be here and that really made me smile.  We reminisced together of past visits a lot this trip.

We started our day with a usual tradition of breakfast on the patio at Carnation Cafe on Main Street.


 Spinach and Tomato Egg White Frittata

Chicken-Apple Sausage Links

Ham and Cheese Omelet

Breakfast was good.  I always find it comes out a little cold as it's all pre-made.  The setting is why we return visit after visit though.  I just love the scenery sitting outside.

The Market House is home to Starbucks inside now.  I didn't like that...


Drooling over the Mickey Bakery Goodies

We took a stroll through Toon Town

Then we made our way over to go on my sons favourite ride (below):



I told my son about how when we visited in the summer how he would patiently wait in line for two hours for this ride.  He said that he was much happier not having to wait like that this visit!

We stopped for lunch and split a bowl of Clam Chowder at the Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square.




We did a lot of walking today in the park and we seemed to be famished all day!  After we rode Indiana Jones, I stopped for my favourite treat in the park (below):


The heavenly Safari Skewer.  Mmmmmmm.

My son had the Banyan Beef Skewer which was nice & spicy.

We then went and rode the Jungle Cruise (below) which is always fun too in that corny joke kind of way.




Eventually we made our way to the Matterhorn (below) and then returned to the room for a freshen up and rest.


Our friends who we were in New Orleans with live about twenty minutes away from the park so we agreed to meet them at the Disneyland hotel at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.  We walked back to the park, headed to Tomorrow land and took the monorail over.


My son ordered this:  Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum:  Reserve Rum, Cream of Coconut, and Pineapple and Orange Juices dusted with Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Pu Pu Platter:  Tamarind-glazed Island Pork "Wings", Sweet and Spicy Asian Wings, Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans, Green Papaya Slaw, and Sriracha Aïoli

It was great to see our friends and I am always happy to spend time with them.  They took us to Food 4 Less grocery store so I could buy some cheaper wine/water etc. as the area we were in, the prices were ridiculous.  I got so excited at the wine selection I ended up forgetting to buy water!  They drove us to our hotel and we said good night.  I literally was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow!

Wednesday, January 8th:

We awoke, had a Baileys Coffee after showering and left for the park before 10am.  Today we went to California Adventure.  We immediately went to get our Radiator Springs Racers Fast Pass and it was a return time of 6:20 to 7:20pm that night.  The fast pass is actually located in a Bug's Land which was kind of weird too!


We like the "It's Tough to be a Bug" 3-D movie so we saw that with no wait and walked right in.  It reminded us of seeing this for the first time in Disneyworld when my son was 8.  He leaned over and told me someone had hit him but it was just one of the effects in the show.  We had a good laugh about it.

Cars Land is totally new since our last visit, so we spent some time looking at it.  Pictures below:







Luigi's Tire Ride - really LAME Bumper Cars


The town was cute.  We wandered around until it was time for our lunch reservation at Blue Bayou restaurant.  This is also a tradition with us.  We always go here for lunch every visit.  We like to go at 11:30am so we can get a seat water side and watch the boats for Pirates of the Caribbean go by.

At our table overlooking the bayou.

It is very, very dark in this restaurant so getting good pictures was next to impossible and I have a new camera that I didn't spend any time reading about how to take better shots with night views.

We always order the Monte Cristo sandwich here.  It is so decadent and really the best thing you can eat in the entire park in our opinion.  It is deep fried goodness!

Your sandwich comes with gumbo or salad.  I had the gumbo which was pretty full of rice as you can see below.


There were three dipping sauces this time.  The traditional Blackberry Preserves is what we know.  They have added Creme Anglaise and Strawberry Preserves (it might have been Raspberry, I can't remember now).


Le Special de Monte Cristo Sandwich (another view of it):  Turkey, Ham, and Swiss Cheese battered and fried to golden brown served with a Fruit Skewer. Choice of Blue Bayou House Salad or Cup of Signature New Orleans Gumbo - $25.49

This was soooo filling.  We took one full sandwich to go as we just couldn't eat it.  It surprised us because we've always been able to finish it on previous visits.  Perhaps it has gotten bigger?  Anyway, we took it back to the room and put it in the fridge for dinner later.

We came back and did the Cars ride with our fast pass when it was time.  We were a little underwhelmed to be honest.  The ride was cute but I guess our expectations were too high and ended up being let down a little.

The construction in front of the coaster & ferris wheel was like this in 2009 too!

In the evening we walked over to Anaheim Garden Walk and saw "The Wolf of Wall Street" at the UltraLuxe Cinemas.  The movie started at 9pm and ended at midnight.  It was deserted around there and I felt really uneasy walking back to our hotel.  Anyway, we called it a night after that.  My legs were really tired with all the walking we were doing.

Thursday, January 9th:

We started this morning again in California Adventure.  Our first walk up and get right on ride was Tower or Terror, below:



I love the Twilight Zone and I love this ride.  I always scream my head off as I'm afraid of heights.  This is one of my son's faves too.

The Hotel Lobby

We went to the Cove Bar (below) on the pier for lunch today.  This is part of Ariel's Grotto.


My son ordered this:  Barbecue Chicken Pizza:  Thin-crusted and topped with Jack and Parmesan Cheese, tender chunks of Roasted Chicken, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Pepperoncini, Onion, Tomato, and a hearty Barbecue Sauce

Lobster Nachos:  Tender Lobster Pieces atop fresh Corn Tortilla Chips, Black Beans, Pico de Gallo, Serrano Peppers, Cilantro, Chipotle Crema, and Jack and Cheddar Cheeses

My son said his pizza was really good.  I ordered extra Crema and Pico de Gallo as the nachos definitely needed more.  It was an ok meal and nice to be able to sit and have a drink of sparkling wine and and enjoy the pier atmosphere in front of the coaster.

We went back to Disneyland and saw a High school Marching Band on Main Street that was nice to watch.


I had a Restauarant.com voucher for $25 off dinner at Fire+Ice Grill & Bar.  It was at Anaheim Garden Walk so we walked over again.  It's a Mongolie Grill - All You Can Eat type place.  Put your ingredients in a bowl and they cook it up for you on a big grill (below).  


Complimentary Cheese Bread

Salad Bar is included too

My Stir-fry but OMG did I over do it with Garlic!!!!

My son's Apple Tart Dessert

With the coupon and three cocktails, the bill was under $40.  Of course we tipped on the full price and tipped the guys at the grill too.  Not a bad meal and would be good with a large group of people.  

We walked back to the parks, rode a few more rides.  Then we went to see Disney's "Frozen" movie at the AMC theatres in Downtown Disney.  We both LOVED it.  Such an improvement from the previous movie.  Then we retired for the evening back at the hotel.

Friday, January 10th, a.k.a. Last Day:

We awoke today and just repeated doing our favourite rides in the two parks.  Again, all rides in the morning were walk on.  The park started getting quite busy at lunch time.  The park was also open until midnight today.  The other days it was closed at 9pm except for Monday where it was open till 10pm.  California Adventure closed an hour earlier.

We ate at the French Market for lunch today.


My son had the Market French Dip:  Thinly sliced slow roasted Beef with crispy Onion Straws on a Potato Roll with a side of handmade Cajun Chips and Au Jus

Cajun Meatloaf:  A blend of Beef, Turkey, Pork and Andouille Sausage, Smashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, Worcestershire Cream Sauce - Served with your choice of fresh artesian breads (I got no choice)

The meals were good but could be a bit hotter.  They are made to order though of course it's all pre-made, they just dish it out for you.  It's cafeteria style.  Sitting outside was lovely and I was comfortable and I didn't want to move...

After wandering around, I took my son to the Golden Horseshoe again as I promised him a Rootbeer Float.  


We were so lucky to be in time for the show too (below).  It's so funny.  It's about "Sally Mae".  Her dad is trying to marry her off with blindfolded audience members.  I was glad we caught this again as we haven't seen it for quite awhile.


Star Tours was re-vamped since our last visit.  We really enjoyed it and were pleasantly surprised.


We met our friends in the park again about dinner time.  We all decided to go to Cafe Orleans for a bite.  My son and I each had French Onion Soup and shared some Garlic Pomme Frites (below).



Our friends graciously paid for dinner so I invited them for an after dinner drink at the UVA Bar in Downtown Disney.  We first went to Ralph Brennans but when the band was playing we couldn't hear each other talk so we decided to move.  

We had some good drinks and better conversation and then we said our goodbyes.  My son and I watched the Fireworks and then went for a snack at Earl of Sandwich.  We had to be up early as our shuttle was picking us up at 7:30am.  The park was pretty crowded too and I had had enough of crowds for the day.

Saturday, January 11th:  

The shuttle arrived on time and we were checked in, through security and had breakfast sitting in front of us by 8:30.  Our flight was at 11:30 and so we had some time to kill.  A Bloody Mary and a couple of Irish Coffees helped.

We landed at 2:10 and were home an hour later.  Very quick and painless once we touched ground.  

We had a great trip and it was so wonderful to spend time with my favourite person in the world.  I am very blessed to have him.  Until next time Disney...you will be in my heart and I will continue to treasure those fond memories you have given me over the years...


I wish I worked here.  ;)