Day 8: Disneyland to Catalina Island (Part IV of IV) [Video]

Ethan and Grandma ride the Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train

Day 8: Disneyland to Avalon, Catalina Island | Total Drive Time: 2 hours | Total Distance: ???

Final day at Disneyland and we found Ethan’s favorite ride: Cars Land Radiator Springs Racers. Laura and I both agree that it was also our favorite.

We had planned on doing the Racers today since we had an early 7am pass to California Adventures, but after arriving at the park, signs showed that the Racers would not open until 11am due to maintenance. We weren’t going to wait until then without a Fast Pass. Lines without a Fast Pass have been 2-3 hours for the 5 minute ride. I jumped into the Fast Pass line where I had to wait 50 minutes (Fast Pass line opened at 8am) to get a 11:35 am-12:35 pm time slot. Continue reading “Day 8: Disneyland to Catalina Island (Part IV of IV) [Video]”

Day 7: Disneyland (Part III of IV)

Splash Mountain: Ethan’s first time on a 50 ft. drop

Day 7: Disneyland and California Adventures | Total Drive Time: 0 hours | Total Distance: Lots of walked miles

We opened Disneyland at 7am. Closed Disneyland at 12am. What a long, exhausting, and terrific day!

I’ll let the photos do the talking, but here are some highlights of our second full day at Disneyland and California Adventures.

  • Ethan rode his first “adult roller coaster style” rides. These include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. He loved both of them.
  • Ethan met Tigger and was very giddy about it.
  • Ethan loved the Pixar Parade. Autumn cried and hung out as far as possible from the roaming characters. Continue reading “Day 7: Disneyland (Part III of IV)”

Day 6: Disneyland (Part II of IV)

Cars Land

Day 6: Disneyland and California Adventures | Total Drive Time: 0 hours | Total Distance: Lots of walked miles

Yes, it was a great day! Our feet are sore from a ton of walking, our bodies are drained from a lot of sun, and our children are passed out in bed without a single peep for the first time on our vacation because….today was a great day!

I’ll recap our day by providing our schedule and what we did. No doubt it was a busy but a very fun day.

6am: Wake up; dressed and out of the hotel by 6:40am.

7am: Hotel guests get into California Adventures 1 hour earlier than the general public. We hung out in Cars Land and rode a couple rides. Autumn loved Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree so much we rode it 3 times. We’ll visit Cars Land again tomorrow, and probably Wednesday since the kids are so familiar with the Cars characters.

8:30am: Breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. The is buffet style where anything from pancakes, bacon to peanut butter & jelly pizza or smoked salmon are available. It’s a very wide variety of food options. Some of the Disney Characters are available to walk around and take pictures with, unless you’re Autumn. She decided to have no part in having the Disney Characters stop by our table and cried anytime one came nearby. We did get a few photos.

10am: Entered Disneyland for the first time on this trip. We rode Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, and Star Tours. Ethan loved Star Tours…a lot. The kids took in all the sites and sounds. I have to say I love the sounds of Disneyland Park. There is always music playing and that is awesome.

1pm: Swimming and some lunch at the Disneyland Hotel. The kids needed a break from the Disneyland atmosphere and swimming offered the perfect opportunity. The hotel has a set of water slides that the kids thoroughly enjoyed. Ethan did all of them while Autumn tried the small one.

3pm: Headed up to our room for down time. The kids relaxed and I crashed out.

4:30pm: Back to Disneyland. We took the Monorail from downtown Disney to Tomorrowland. We rode It’s A Small World, Dumbo Ride, Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan, Snow White, and the Carousel. If you asked Ethan what his favorite ride was today, he’ll say “All of them!” Though he got a bit scared on Pirates of the Caribbean and Toad’s Wild Ride, he still talks about the rides.

7pm: Leave Disneyland and get dinner. We opted to pick up a few slices of pizza from a restaurent in Downtown Disney and take them to our room to eat.

Success! Ethan asleep after walking from the fireworks.

9:30pm: Disneyland Fireworks. We decided to keep the kids up late tonight since after baths and getting ready for bed it was almost 9pm and only 30 minutes until the fireworks show started. We put Ethan in the stroller and Autumn in Laura’s ergo carrier and headed to Main Street U.S.A. By time we reached Main Street Autumn was sleeping. Ethan was wide awake and unsure what to expect since loud noises generally make him nervous. If I could’ve captured his expressions during the fireworks show, they would have showed a 4 year old boy who was in awe, excited, and happy with such a spectacular show. He loved it! Halfway back to our hotel room he fell alseep.

10pm: Transfer both kids to their beds where they will sleep soundly all night with sweet dreams.

Day 5: Disneyland (Part I of IV)

Made it to Disneyland Hotel

Day 5: San Jose, CA to Disneyland Resort | Total Time: 7 hours | Total Distance: 400 miles

We arrived at the Disneyland Hotel today. Except for Laura, who stayed here as a child, none of us had been here before. Having plenty of relatives in the area always meant I never stayed in a hotel when visiting southern California as a child. This trip was going to be different because Grandma wanted to make it special for the grandkids on their first visit to Disneyland. Sold!

Our drive from San Jose took about 7 hours along the 101 route. Normally, we take the I-5 via 152 but due to 3 hour delays from road construction, we opted for the scenic coastal 101 route. Along the drive, I was reminded of the many cities my band played (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Ventura, Isla Vista, and Santa Barbara) and how I hadn’t been through some of these towns since 1999 or 2000. It was a great trip down memory lane.

Disneyland, Disneyland Hotel, Downtown Disney, California Adventure….it’s all the same to our kids. They were freakin’ excited to be driving down the street that led the Disneyland Hotel parking lot for goodness sake. It eventually all leads to Cars Land or Pirates of the Caribbean at some point during our stay. That’s all that matter.

Everything we did this evening has been exciting for them. This includes the hotel suite, view of the pool from the hotel suite, seeing Goofy in the hotel lobby, visiting Trader Sam’s, walking into Legoland at Downtown Disney, Uncle Mark purchasing Mickey Mouse Ears balloons, visiting with my cousin Rich,  his wife Katie and their children (all around the same age), and, what I feel is the highlight, having the bed headboard play music while the lights twinkle. We did that last one a lot before bed.

The kids are ready for tomorrow. We have a pass to get in the gate 1 hour early. We’ll be up at 6am and at the front gate to California Adventure at 7am so the kids will get an opportunity to enjoy Cars Land with few crowds.



Day 4: The Calm Before Disneyland

“Happiest Place on Earth”

Day 4: San Jose, CA | Total Time: o hours | Total Distance: 0 miles

Tomorrow we head to Disneyland. This will be Ethan and Autumn’s first visit to “The Happiest Place On Earth” (happiest?…except for our house, and some killer National Parks, and….nice marketing Walt!) We’re not so much looking forward to our experience as we are very excited about the kid’s reaction to their first experience.

In 2006, we took Hranush to Disneyland for the first time. She was an Armenian high school exchange student who had never visited such a place. She knew the movies, especially Pirates of the Caribbean, but this would be a whole new experience. We were excited about the experience just in seeing how much she enjoyed it. There were a lot of firsts for her, and laughter and excitement to along with it. This is how we feel about taking our kids, espeically Ethan since he’s almost 5 years old and will remember this.

In planning this trip a few months ago, we wanted to build excitement for our visit to Disneyland. Perhaps, we built it up too much since Disneyland is all Ethan talks about, eventhough we are visiting a bunch of other places on our trip. Here are a few things we did to get them excited:

  • YouTube: Yep, you read it right. We visited YouTube and found videos that people created showing their experience in the park. Some of the more clever videos are the ones specific to a ride. Here’s the playlist we created that Ethan and Autumn watched a lot.
  • Disney Soundtrack: My brother Mark got us this Disney soundtrack a couple years ago. Not until recently did we start to listen to it. Wow, this moved to the kids #1 slot for favorite albums. They sing the songs, dance around, and ask us to skip past the “Indiana Jones” song because it sounds scary. Fair enough.
  • Free Disney Vacation Planning DVD: I went all touristy and ordered a free DVD from the Disney site months ago. The perk is that it captures the entire experience (hotel, pool, Disneyland, California Adventure, and more) in a quick easy to follow format. The kids watched this DVD a lot. Oh, and it was free. Did I mention that?

You may think, shouldn’t they have already been excited without all the hassle of YouTube, Disney soundtracks, and more? Probably, but our kids know very, very few Disney movies and we hardly have any Disney memorabilia so it’s understandable if four months ago you told them we’re going to Disneyland, they looked at you kind of funny. Tell them today that we’re going to Disneyland, and they are jumping in the car, ready to go!

Besides preparing for our drive to Disneyland tomorrow, we enjoyed some quiet time either with friends or family for most of today. Laura, the kids, and my mom spent the morning at the San Jose Children’s Museum. They took the light rail (always a hit with kids) downtown and spent a few hours in the area. The kids had a blast running around.

I headed up to Boulder Creek where I enjoyed good company with my friend Kim at his house for most the day. He and I go back to the mid-90’s when he was my college professor in the West Valley College Park Management Program. Ever since taking many of his courses I’ve kept in touch with him. We have a history of rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, and engaging conversation. It had been at least 4 years since I’ve met up with him. Hopefully, it will be a lot sooner before we meet up again.

This evening Mike and his family came over for dinner and swimming. The cousins played very well together. Though we see each other once every year or two, we do our best to keep in touch via Skype, mostly so the cousins continue to know each other. I think it works very well when you see how easily they play together as if there was never a time gap in seeing each other.

I’m off to bed since we have a 7am start tomorrow as make our way on our 2nd leg of the journey: Disneyland and Catalina Island for the next week.

Ready to ride the light rail downtown
Ethan and his Grandma Lynda
San Jose Children’s Museum
San Jose Children’s Museum
San Jose Children’s Museum
Swim time in Grandma’s pool
Trying to not tread water
Autumn enjoys the sun.
Mike gives Caitlynn some air time
Laura, Brett, Olivia, and Mike