Saturday, December 06, 2008

DLR in a Day: Morning

We managed to surprise the boys with a one-day visit to the Disneyland Resort - for more on how that worked (and some spiritual ruminations on it from yours truly), you can check out my post Surprise! at the NewLife Community Church website.

This post will be a trip report (of sorts) of our day at DLR... if things work out like I want them to, I'll get the boys to help me fill out these comments in a second post so you can get a kids-eye perspective of the experience. But for now, you're stuck with me.

Parking - I'm still blown away by the Mickey & Friends parking structure... even though we got there early enough (8:15 am) that we actually parked in the open lot next to the tram stop (Pinocchio).

Stroller Rentals - In the past, we've always brought our own "umbrella" stroller because we've been walking back to the hotel or the shuttle. This time, since we were only going to be in the parks for the day, we "rented" a DLR stroller. (I put quotes around "rented" because one of the perks of a Disney Visa is free stroller rentals.) The stroller was comfortable, sturdy, easy to handle (even on the tracks down Main Street), and best of all we didn't have to re-rent a stroller at California Adventure... we just drove it over to the other park! The stroller gave us a great place to park coats, drinks, snacks & an extra change of clothes for Collin... and gave Collin enough breaks that he had the "juice" to make it through 11 hours of DLR.

No Meltdowns - Let me just stop right here to note that neither Collin nor Braeden (our 7 year old) had any kind of major in-park meltdowns... they were WONDERFUL.

When Shari & I went to WDW back in 1996, we made up a game while waiting for the parade to start of finding families/individuals who fit various descriptions: "family with twins," "family where the parents are more exhausted than the kids," "family who didn't check the weather before coming to the park today," etc. For years, we've joked about the category "couple most likely to get a divorce before they reach the end of Main Street"... the only real meltdown of the day was in the World of Disney store after the park closed trying to find souvenirs - and that was me. Luckily, we'd already gone past Main Street.

Rope Drop - While we learned that WDW almost always drops the rope early (anywhere from 5-20 minutes early, depending on the anticipated crowd), I've yet to see that happen at Disneyland or California Adventure. They wait right until opening time (9 am on Wednesday) before letting people past the end of Main Street. Of course, this might be because I haven't been to Disneyland on a "busy" day since sometime in the '80's.

Finding Nemo Submarines - I wasn't sure if I wanted to split the family up first thing... but Shari (wonderful wife) reminded me how much Collin (our 3 year old) had loved it last year. So he & I took off in the mad dash for Nemo when the rope dropped - last year, the wait had been 30+ minutes if you reached the line within a minute or two of the park opening. This year, we managed to get on the first sub (evidently, the demand has eased a little bit).

It's a great ride - the effects are wonderful, esp. the angler fish & the jellyfish. I caught the throwaway homage line to the old ride finally, when one crewman asks another if they should log anything they've seen: "No, they'll just expect us to see mermaids & sea serpents next time."

Buzz Lightyear - The Space Ranger Spin was probably the favorite ride of the boys last year - it's a cross between a video game & a Disney ride and it proved good enough this year for two runs - one early in the day & one shortly before we left. (Part of the attraction of the attraction is that the line moves at light speed, thanks to the continuous loading... there's never a long wait.)

Star Tours - Collin is now 41 inches tall, which means he was able to ride a number of rides that he couldn't a year ago. His first request was to ride "the Star Wars ride" - Star Tours. Braeden is Star Wars-obsessed (we just re-watched Episodes 4-6 a few weeks ago) and Collin is catching the obsession from his close proximity to his brother.

Shari doesn't ride bouncy movie rides - the old CircleVision movies (which still exist down at EPCOT) make her greener than a St. Patrick's day beer. So it was a boys-only trip to Endor via a Star-Speeder. The loading area bothered Collin a little bit - in fact, this was the only place I saw him edge towards balking about a ride, but Braeden & I talked him into going on.

We sat in the front (important safety tip: if you don't like the bounce/bump part of Star Tours, sit in the front row, it's much calmer) which gave the boys an unobstructed view... and once Cpt. Rex (the robot) appeared, Collin was fine. All three of us came out with big grins... and Collin was even singing along with the Star Wars theme playing in the exit area. (Watching Collin "direct" the orchestra when the theme from Star Wars is played is a real treat, btw.)

Autopia - I realized that I've been riding & driving in these cars for forty years... weird. Braeden is old enough now to drive on his own, but he enjoyed being my chauffeur. There was some major traffic jams this time (it felt JUST LIKE L.A.) but that actually gave the kind lady in the car next to us a chance to take our picture. (not like L.A., unless you replace the camera with a loaded weapon.) I still think the combining of the two old autopias to make one long road was a brilliant idea.

Matterhorn Bobsleds - Collin's next request was to ride the Matterhorn so he could "go scare the monster." (He was remembering the technique we used last year to help Braeden deal with his fear of the Yeti - we suggested he "growl at the monster & scare him" - Collin evidently thought this was a great idea.) Braeden had a bit of trouble with this one - it's not the turns & drops that bother him but the monster... but he was brave & went for it. We rode the Tomorrowland side which I believe is slightly faster than the Fantasyland side... and a better ride.

Collin was telling church friends on Thursday night that he saw the white monster & the black monster in the Matterhorn - it took me a minute to realize that he thought that the first time you see the monster (glowing red eyes in the dark) that the monster was black. Smart kid.

And with that, it was time for lunch at Redd Rocket's Pizza Port... I didn't go into any detail about Shari & Braeden riding Peter Pan or the Astro-Orbitor, or about Shari's trip to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (which she believes needs to be retired), but that gives you a good picture of our morning... lots more to come!

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