So we went to Disneyland, known to many as 'the happiest place on earth'. And was it? Well... I can't quite say that it was. Don't get me wrong, we had fun, and it was neat to see all of the hype. However, Soren asked a few times if we could go back to Palm Springs to go to the pool, and Poppy wanted to go the the beach. We likely would have happily obliged, had it not cost us $400 CND for the entrance fees alone - and Poppy was free.
This may prove to be a verrrry long post, but I'll attempt to explain what we liked, and didn't like, about Disneyland. With a whole lot of photos:)
First off, we just went for the day, and arrived at the entrance around 8:30am, when the gates opened at 9. We expected crowds, but thought (wrongly) that a monday in february might be kind of quiet. Soren loved 'reading' the map, and trotted along beside me pointing out all of the exciting things he was seeing. When the gates opened, we headed to tomorrowland where many of the childrens rides are.
First dislike - the kids rides were REALLY scary! We went on Mr. Toads Wild Ride, Snow-white, Pinnochio, Peter-Pan, and Winnie-the-Pooh. Even Winne-the-Pooh was loud and scary - there are moments of total darkness or VERY loud claps of thunder. Needless to say poor Poppy was petrified. She would sit in the little cart burying her head into me while covering her ears. Soren was ok - but any kids who are nervous of darkness or loud noises would not like these rides.
Rides we liked - the carousel, flying dumbo, the haunted mansion (Soren and I - and surprisingly not scary. It was creepy, as to be expected, but it was really well done and just spooky - nothing jumped out at us or was really loud), and some rides in toontown, although again some were too scary for Poppy.
Fastpasses - we didn't plan out our day as I'd read we should... I figured the kids wouldn't really care what rides we went on, so if a line was too long we would just skip it. Tyler and Soren wanted to go on a new StarWars ride that offered fast passes, and it worked really well. At the entrance of the ride there is a machine that dispenses tickets (for free) with a time stamped on them that you need to come back at. So, we got fast passes for StarWars around 11am, and had to return between 1-2. We went for lunch and walked around some more, and then when we returned only had to wait in line for about 15 minutes. We used fast passes at a couple other rides and they were great.
Peyton Manning - So... it was PACKED! Us being Disney newbies we didn't know whether this was normal or not, until finally we realized that Peyton Manning was being honoured in a parade. I'm sure this contributed to the extreme business. He seemed really happy, and his kids rode on the float with him. Can you imagine what they were thinking?! Thousands of people, all screaming congrats to their dad, while they rode on a big float with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Food - While the waits for food were totally ridiculous, the food itself was not bad. Everything we had was somewhat reasonably priced - $36 for lunch and $55 for dinner - although looking at my credit card statement reminded me of the horrible US exchange rate.
Strollers - We had planned on bringing our stroller with both seats, but stupidly forgot the second seat attachment in Palm Springs. This was unfortunate as it was a very long day for poor Soren to have to walk. EVERYONE had strollers, and the stroller parking outside of rides was totally insane. I think I'd recommend bringing (or renting) a stroller until your kids were about eight. It's helpful to have somewhere to store your stuff, and you are allowed to bring in food and drinks, which is nice and saves money and time.
Entertainment - We happened to be near the theatre when a performance was starting - Mickey's Musical Adventure (?) - and decided to sit down to watch. It was great! It was around 25 minutes - a perfect amount of time for a two and a four year old. It was also nice to just sit for a bit, without flashing lights and bells going off every which way you looked.
We ate dinner in the New Orleans district, and a blues band was playing. The kids loved it, as did we, and Soren danced with the lead singer. The kids also got mardi gras beads tossed to them which they loved. We'd bought our Mickey Mouse ears by this point - thanks Dad! They are so adorable and I slightly regret not buying them earlier in the day. Soren fell asleep with his on after the night parade.
The night parade was fantastic. It was difficult to know where the parade route was, as they started roping areas off everywhere - but some of the areas were just to view fireworks. We were in the wrong area and got ushered out just as the parade was starting. As we shuffled with hundreds of other people down Main Street, I spotted a tiny spot and managed to sneak in. We actually had to duck under a rope and pretend we'd been there for hours. Not sure how parade seating works...
Anyways, the parade was probably the highlight of the day. It was 8pm, and we'd been at the park for nearly 12 hours. Poppy had managed a quick hour nap in the stroller, but Soren had been up all day. Their faces completely lit up as the familiar characters came down the street. "MICKEY MOUSE!!!!" Poppy screamed, "Me say HI! Hi Mickey Mouse!!!" Tyler and Soren spotted the Frozen float, and Tyler said 'hey look Poppy, guess who's coming?' Soren burst into tears - he wanted it to be a surprise for his sister:) It was very sweet.
At the end of the parade there are supposed to be fireworks, but we somehow missed them as we wormed our way through the crowd back towards our car. If you drive to Disney do NOT park at downtown disney... it took us 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot! But as a bonus, we somehow did not have to pay - saving ourselves $36.
Overall - It was an experience. The kids faces at the parade were totally priceless. The endless line ups to ride a 2-minute ride... I'll pass. The stress level for the parents is pretty much through the roof. Imagine thousands of parents, all trying to make this THE BEST DAY EVER, while managing hour-long line-ups, meltdowns, and sugar-high kiddos. Disney is something else, that is for sure, but we are thankful to have had the opportunity to go.