Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Disneyland Resort: Christmas 2003 (Thursday)

Days like today (the fourth day of our visit to the Disneyland Resort) is why you spend 5 days here - this was a "clean-up" day as we had the opportunity to ride a number of rides again and take in some new rides & experiences that we had previously missed.

It's also a good argument for the Park Hopper tickets which allow you to jump from park to park. ("Regular" tickets are good for only one park per day.) While this is pretty important in California, it is vital at Walt Disney World (Florida), what with four different theme parks to be enjoyed.

Mad Tea Party: By now, every time we walk by the tea cups (they sit at an intersection between "flying Dumbo" and the Matterhorn), Braeden has me check to see if the line is short so we can ride them. It is, and we do. Thankfully, he still hasn't figured out that rotating the disc in the middle of the cup makes it spin.

Dumbo: Shari finally gets to ride Dumbo with Braeden - and I get the chiropracter-inviting joy of flying in the elephant in front of them to try & get a picture. (Which, as you can see above, actually worked pretty well.)

Storybook Land Canal Boats: Remember, Braeden has been checking out Monstro the Whale (the entrance area for Storybook Land) since Monday night - and as you can see by the picture to your right, it's pretty scary. Of course, I am completely behind my son on this one, as one of my most traumatic memories of Disneyland as a kid was going through Monstro's jaws.

Anyway, we finally talk Braeden into this... and as we leave the dock, he starts to weird out a bit. (Again, look at the picture. If you were 2.5 years old, this would pretty much look like your parents had lost their ever-loving minds, right?!) Shari managed to calm him down by engaging him in an extended conversation about Monstro's dental hygiene: "I bet Monstro brushes his teeth every day to keep them this white. Do you see any dirty teeth?"

Once we're through the whale, Storybook Land is actually a very sweet boat ride past detailed miniature houses from a variety of Disney films. Since it's the Christmas season, some of them have tiny Christmas decorations & trees... cool.

It's A Small World: This time, Braeden is narrating his favorite parts of "the doll house"...

Minnie's House: Since we didn't get to meet Minnie when we were in Toontown earlier, we went by her house again & got a family picture with her. Braeden, even at 2 & a half, is showing a "boy" level interest in a girl character.

Right after we toured Minnie's house (once again playing with the cake & the dishwasher), we ran into Goofy & Chip (of Chip'n'Dale). Unlike Minnie, Braeden was genuinely happy to see these guys.

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train: We trekked back across the park, through the entry area & into California Adventure to hit some highlights there - which, of course, included Heimlich's train. ("Mmmm, candy corn!") I think we rode it two or three times in a row...

Flik's Flyers: More spinning - Mom chickened out this time, so Dad (that's me) got to ride around in a circle over & over & over... sigh.

Ugly Bug Ball Show: One of the nice things about having lots of time at the parks is the ability to slow down & enjoy the shows... this A Bug's Life themed audience participation show was fun. Braeden's pretty shy about getting involved in stuff like this, but he liked watching the characters dance. Shari & I liked the break from walking.

Sun Wheel: A second trip on the Sun Wheel for us - again with the "still" cars. Braeden has obviously not inherited my fear of heights, as he would have bounced around the car like a rubber ball if we hadn't asked him to take it easy. (This isn't really as much for his safety as it is for our personal peace of mind.)

We took a break for the afternoon (lunch & nap) and then returned to Disneyland for our last night.

Tom Sawyer Island: I have fond memories of playing on this island as a kid... exploring Injun Joe's cave, walking across the suspension bridge with my dad making it rock, "shooting" at the passing boats from Fort Wilderness. So when we arrived in the late afternoon & the rafts were still leaving for the island, I insisted we make the trip.

Braeden wasn't interested in the caves at all (right, Dad... they're dark & spooky - you're the same guy who took me into the jaws of a whale this morning!) but climbing on the rock formations was endlessly exciting. (Many parts of the island have been "closed off" for safety reasons... which is disappointing but understandable. The island is currently - spring 2007 - being refurbished and turned into a pirate island to tie in w/the Pirates movie franchise, so I expect that it will be both safer & cooler when we visit in December.)

Tarzan's Treehouse: We ate at the Bengal Traders in Adventureland (it's been a great place to get a relatively healthy bite to eat for a long time) and Braeden & I climbed the treehouse again. (Again, you say? Yep, I don't know when we did this earlier - probably the day we rode the Jungle Cruise - but it didn't end up in my notes.) Braeden liked all the Tarzan figures - and enjoyed being scared by the leopard roaring at him. I still have a weird disconnect with it as this was the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse when I was growing up... and some of "their stuff" is still in here.

Haunted Mansion Christmas: There were a few rides I really wanted to go on that Braeden was just not old enough to try... and the Haunted Mansion was one of them. So while I Fastpassed my way in, Shari & Braeden went down the way to Winnie the Pooh (Braeden still remembers the room with the Heffalumps & Woozels... he was telling Collin about it the other day.)

Every October - December, the Haunted Mansion is given a Nightmare Before Christmas "facelift" - which is delightful. I've ridden the Doom Buggies enough times to have parts of the ride narration memorized ("And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows, and no doors... which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out!"), so the added stuff is a lot of fun. I esp. liked the pile of presents in the load-in area and the Oogie Boogie man (my favorite character from the film).

A gamer-y side note: I'm not sure he's done it yet, but I know that Frank "Moo" Branham has seriously considered a Disneyland vacation JUST to see this makeover, as he's possibly the world's most fanatic Nightmare Before Christmas fan.

It's A Small World: Again. 'Nuff said.

Autopia: Even with the Fastpass, we waited a long time for this. Of course, it's more fun to ride at night, as it feels faster in the dark & some of the elements (the off-road section) come as a neat surprise. They give each person a "driver's license" - Braeden still has his.

This is a good time to note that the Fastpass for Autopia only cuts down on your wait if the line is long - the place you enter the attraction is still 20+ minutes from driving if there is a decent crowd.

Fireworks: One of the great things about the Christmas season is the nightly parade and fireworks. There is also a very cool effect over Main Street where it "snows"(from some nifty machines mounted way up high). Our plan was to find a place on Main Street to watch the fireworks over the castle and let Braeden experience the snow.

But, as Robert Burns wrote, "the best laid plans, yadda yadda yadda"... Main Street was packed with people. The crush got so bad that we backtracked into the ice cream parlor and worked/shoved our way back out of the snow zone into the hub. (It was pretty scary - neither Shari or I are "crowd" people and it felt like Braeden was gonna get smushed and/or suffocated by the mass of people who were not exhibiting Christmas and/or Disney spirit.)

We found a nice place to watch the fireworks - which, to top it all off, scared Braeden. Once again, Shari saved the day by asking him questions ("What color is that one?!") and distracting him a bit. Shari is Super Mom.

The fireworks show is shorter (darn!) but still good - though for my money, the best Disney "end of the night" show is still at EPCOT.

So, tired and happy, we ended our last full day in the parks.

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