Instead of having a big party for the twins’ birthday this year, Grammy and Grandpa came out from Utah and we all went to Disneyland and California Adventure for a few days to celebrate. Theme parks and Disney, in general, are not my thing, so I have to admit, the thought of crowds, long lines, junk food, life-size animals breaking into song, and cranky, overtired kids was not making me super excited about spending three days at the “Happiest” Place on Earth.
Growing up, Disneyland entailed a long road trip and was a very special occasion, but around here, many of our friends have annual passes and treat it like going to the park. “Playdate at Disneyland? Meet us at 3:30 for a few rides and dinner!” are the group texts I receive all the time. No big deal! I can’t imagine braving traffic, parking, lines and crowds on a regular basis, but I do understand the appeal of not feeling the pressure to make it to every single ride, show, parade and attraction.
Despite the crowds, lines, heat, junk food, cranky kids, and basically everything else I had counted on, we did have many magic moments, particularly for Meredith, who was mesmerized and delighted by the chaos and characters. Being more of an introvert and sensitive to noise, crowds and constant sensory input like myself, it was all a little overwhelming for the twins, even though they did have fun.
Case in point: at the end of our Disneyland extravaganza, the girls said their favorite part was the pool. So what you’re telling me is…. WE COULD HAVE STAYED AT HOME AND GONE TO THE POOL FOR FREE?? I’ve heard more enthusiasm from them about the beach and zoo! Hence, we will not be getting annual passes anytime soon. Still, having Grammy and Grandpa there for the girls’ first Disneyland experience and reliving our childhood memories was all worth it and, even amidst the chaos, spending such a solid chunk of time just being silly as a family was priceless!
After preschool and naps on Monday, we packed up and braved the traffic to Anaheim, with three hungry, cranky kids whining the entire 45 minute drive. It was the perfect start to our vacation…
Jake and I figured that in order to make it through the next three days of corn dogs and “It’s a Small World” playing ad naseum, we needed a nice, adult dinner out. We loaded the kids on Grammy and Grandpa and sent them to Goofy’s Kitchen for a character dinner at the Disneyland Hotel, where we were staying, while we enjoyed a peaceful kid-free and kid-food free dinner at Napa Rose over at the Grand Californian. No characters, mac and cheese or Disney songs in sight!
Meanwhile, at Goofy’s Kitchen:
Grammy and Grandpa reported that the singing and dancing characters were playful and fun with the kids.
Zipidee Doo Dah… glad we weren’t here!
I love how nonchalant the twins and Meredith were. Like, no big deal people. We see this all the time.
Meredith had the best time out of everyone and was enchanted with the life-sized, dancing animals.
The twins were too busy pigging out on gummy worms to interact with Pluto, but Meredith just HAD to see what those whiskers were all about.
Fascinated with Minnie’s nose.
Such troopers for letting us have a nice evening out!
Predictably, the twins were shy with the characters, but having an enormous buffet of food and desserts in front of them helped.
Paralyzed by the choices.
This explains why everyone was a nightmare getting to bed that night!
Walking around the hotel while Mommy and Daddy were still at dinner.
Grammy injured her ACL a few months ago and will likely be having knee surgery soon, but fortunately, the Dland Hotel had scooters you can order ahead of time and have delivered to your room. The girls were excited to try it out!
Our first night was a total disaster trying to get everyone calmed down and ready for bed. We usually stay in a condo or somewhere with a separate bedroom for the kids, but since this was a regular hotel, we were all smushed together in the same room. We started out with S and A sharing a bed, but quickly realized that was a bad idea after they spent an hour giggling, wrestling and pinching each other, with Meredith screaming in the meantime because she couldn’t sleep with all the noise.
We moved Samantha to the couch, where she continued to tell jokes, tease Amelia and ask random questions, and eventually sent her next door to Grammy and Grandpa’s room. I am not a happy person when I don’t get sleep and was already freaking out since we were hours past bedtime and needed to be up at the crack of dawn in the morning. To top it off, our room overlooked Downtown Disney and we had to endure some very LOUD and annoying music the entire time we were trying to put the kids to bed. I was in tears thinking we were never going to sleep, and Amelia was still restless from the noise. About 9:30, Jake went down to request a new room, at which point the noise from outside stopped as the concert was over. Amelia finally conked out and Grammy reported that next-door, Sammy had stayed up chatting for a bit and then passed out. Since the kids were asleep, we decided to keep our room that night and switch in the morning, and, to their credit, the hotel gave us a discount after we complained. Still, it was a stressful first night.
If you stay at one of the Dland properties, you get an “Extra Magic Hour,” where you get in one hour before the general public. This was totally critical since we didn’t have to deal with any lines that first hour and got a ton done. On top of that, you have to get to the gates at least half an hour before the extra magic hour, or you’ll waste that extra hour going through security and waiting in line to even get into the park.
We literally woke up, threw the kids in the strollers and raced out the door to make it to the gates by 6:30 a.m., along with a thousand other crazy people! While in line, we got the girls dressed, hair done, and ate breakfast, until at last, the gates opened and we scurried to Fantasyland. Definitely worth waking up for! It was magical being there in the early morning, especially compared to later in the day when it was so packed, we could barely move.
Four out of seven people in our group were in wheeled vehicles ha!
With this itinerary, we had a lot of ground to cover the first day:
First stop: Peter Pan since that has a wait of 45+ minutes later in the day. Even with the extra magic hour, there were still a lot of people in line, but fortunately, this ride had a special wheelchair access line and we got on immediately, thanks to being with my mom! Because many of the rides had special wheelchair access lines, we didn’t even need fastpasses that first day and were able to bypass hours of lines. An injured knee did have its advantages! Thanks mom!
You can fly…you can fly…you can fly…
I totally admit that as cynical as I am about Disneyland, I did tear up a bit going on this ride and thinking about how grateful I was to relive childhood memories with my own little family!
Meredith was enchanted!
A simply gorgeous spring day at Disneyland.
Our three princesses.
The girls, Grammy and Jake raced each other on Autopia.
Meredith napped in the stroller while the twins explored Toon Town. Next to Nemo’s Submarine Voyage (SO boring, but totally the girls’ speed!), climbing around Chip n Dale’s treehouse and exploring all the silly cars and shops in Toon Town was the twin’s favorite part of the morning.
Since they were celebrating their birthday, they received special birthday buttons and cast members gave them a special birthday greeting wherever we went.
Snack time before Small World. I got the girls cheap autograph books and sharpies before our trip because I thought they would be less shy about going up to the characters. The girls got autographs from characters at Goofy’s Kitchen, but didn’t really understand the point, so thereafter, their autograph books because the perfect little coloring books while we were waiting in lines or strolling around. Grammy also found these cute SafetyTat identification tattoos to give us a little peace of mind in case we got separated, which turned out not to be a problem since the girls stuck to us like glue.
Sammy LOVED small world and knows the entire song, because one of her teachers at preschool always plays it on the guitar and sings.
Some of the Dland blogs suggested getting a balloon to tie to your stroller so that you can always find it in the crowd or when you park it during a ride, but after following this advice, I have to say it was more annoying than useful! It kept hitting trees and people as we were walking around and just created more hassle when the girls wanted to hold theirs. They deflated after the first day, but Dland will give you new ones for free, which at $9 a pop, they better!
Even though bedtime had been rough, nap time was surprisingly easy! Meredith took her morning nap in the stroller and by 1 p.m., we all headed back to the hotel where I put the twins down (as long as they weren’t in the same bed, they fell asleep quickly), while Grammy and Grandpa walked Meredith around. Then, as soon as the twins had conked out, we brought Meredith in to sleep in the pack n play. We had switched rooms to a much quieter room, but it wasn’t ready yet, so Grammy and Grandpa hung out by the pool with some refreshing Dole Whips, while the girls used their room to nap.
After naps, we hit the park again in the late afternoon. Meredith was instantly drawn to Cinderella!
Getting around the park in Grammy’s scooter was a lot more entertaining than the stroller.
In line for the Jungle Cruise, still as cheesy as ever.
While Jake and the girls were on the Jungle Cruise, we went to grab a table at River Belle Terrace.
A mac n cheese disaster for the ages!
Meredith’s favorite part was watching the ducks. Again, we could have stayed at home for free!
By nightfall, all three were beyond exhausted, but we stopped for one more ride on King Arthur’s Carousel. We found a last minute spot to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, in all of its catchy music and 1970s technological glory. Meredith fell asleep in her stroller, while the twins watched, half-asleep, from atop our shoulders. I will now need permanent chiropractic work.
Meredith stayed asleep transferring her inside the hotel, and thankfully, the twins went down quicker than the night before, still with a good amount of giggling and “SHE PULLED MY HAIR!!!” before finally settling done amidst our threats to take away the Mickey bubble wand and puppy stuffed animal souvenirs they bought using some of their chore money. I’m sure images of flying elephants, animal parades, princesses and churros filled their dreams that night and they all slept like rocks before getting up for another full day!
Lots of love,