Waking up was tough. I do not think my body moved the entire night and I woke up feeling tight, stiff, and sore. On top of that, my knees were not feeling any better and walking was painful. Nonetheless, we had ONE day to do as much as we could at Disneyland so I got up, took some ibuprofen, ate a blueberry muffin, and got on with the day.I made sure I had the handy Disneyland App too which provided a map of the parks, wait times on rides, character locations, pictures from the park photographers, and 100 other things. It was a cool app and very helpful! I still grabbed a physical map though… always a good idea.
We had wanted to get there right when they opened but I wasn’t the only one feeling sore so we arrived just shortly after. We decided to tackle California Adventures first so that we would end our day in Disneyland with the parade and fireworks that evening.
The park was still empty so we ran through Grizzly Peak to the big rollercoaster ride in Paradise Pier, California Screamin’, and got in line. This rollercoaster and I have some history… prior to my family’s trip here many years ago, I had not been on a real rollercoaster nor had I ever wanted to. The idea was terrifying. I wanted to make the most of that trip though and decided to just go for it. I enjoy a good thrill and I was confident my cart wouldn’t go flying off the loop, so I rode it. I remember those initial moments so well, too. The ride starts off slow, for just a second, to get you to the ‘take off’ zone. Once there, it’s a clear shot into the rest of the ride BUT you’re stopped. You’re stopped on this ‘runway’ area with a taunting countdown. I remember sitting there and just wanting to get off of the ride. The anticipation was brutal. Then, before I knew it, we were off. 0 to 60 in .1 seconds, it seemed. That rollercoaster was the moment I realized I loved rollercoasters. Now here I was, years later, returning to the scene of it all. This time, the runway was not so scary and that feeling you get in your stomach was excitement, not fear. We rode the ride twice. My bra was showing in our first ride-picture (dang shoulder straps) and Kelsey and John totally posed in the second… I promise he wasn’t asleep nor was she scared!
Just for fun, here is a picture of me when I was on this ride for the first time in 2004. Don’t let the smile fool you… I was nervous.
The park was starting to fill up and we wanted to do as many rides as we could so we headed toward the Silly Symphony Swings next. I had never been on a ‘swing’ ride before! It was definitely silly and not as thrilling as a rollercoaster, but it was fun. It is a little scary though as you are not nearly as strapped in as you would be in another ride. Kelsey said it was one of the closest feelings you get to flying and she was definitely not wrong.
Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the big ferris wheel, was next on our list. There were two types of carts: ones that could swing, and ones that could not. Us being us, we got in the swinging line. The idea of a swinging cart on a ferris wheel may not sound intense but let me tell you, it was. On the first go around, we barely moved because the ride had to stop at each cart to let more people on. When we went around entirely without stopping, we swung A LOT. It was slightly terrifying and I was holding on to the cage and had my feet up. Something about swinging over water and looking like you’re about to plunge to your death really gets your heart racing.
We were nearby the Toy Story Midway Mania and the line was long (which caused us to take way too many selfies), but not overwhelming so we decided to check it out. If the line was long, it must be a good one right? Plus, who doesn’t love Toy Story? It was a 3D ride where you sit in a cart and it spins you around to a series of games. Each cart held 4 people with 2 guns on each side (each side being back-to-back) that you used to shoot for each game and score points. The game itself was silly but fun anyway. I could have done without so much spinning but the stops for each game made it bearable. I also wish I didn’t have to sit alone on my side of the cart but that is the life of a 3rd wheel. John got the highest score in the cart, to no one’s surprise.
We walked through the Pacific Wharf section (no rides there!) and through Cars Land. The line for the one thing we wanted to do in Cars Land was over an hour so we bailed on it and continued on to A Bug’s Land. Cars Land was our first stop of the half marathon so it was cool to be back though and get to enjoy the area instead of running right through it.
The “It’s Tough to be a Bug” show, a 4D short-movie experience, was starting in 2 minutes so we ran over to it and got there just in time. I remembered this one from our family trip too but not completely as parts of startled me more than I am proud to admit. For those that don’t know what 4D is… you watch a 3D flick but there are also real-life experiences that go along with it (e.g. if it is windy on screen, you get wind blown in your face). I won’t ruin it for anyone who doesn’t know but some of those 4D components got me. It had us all laughing though and with us being so sore, it was nice to sit for a few minutes. The other attractions in the section targeted a much younger audience so we continued on Hollywood Land.
Short backstory: John likes Halloween, a lot. He likes all things scare-related and especially haunted houses. Kelsey enjoys them too but I don’t think to the same extent. She isn’t scared. Me? I will take a hard pass on all of it. I do not like when things pop out of no where. I do not like scary movies. I do not like any of it. Every year, they try and get me to go to a haunted house and every year I decline and fight them on it. We went to Fiesta Texas in San Antonio once and I did the haunted houses with them and that was enough. It is NOT my thing. This is important because the next ride we got in line for was the Hollywood Tower of Terror.
Y’all, this ride was insane. I had NO idea what to expect but I can honestly say the wait was worth it and it was one of my most favorite rides. It started with an intro video about the Twilight Zone. I was already freaking out. After the video, we moved into another line that took us through the tower. Alright, I could handle that. Nothing scary there. Finally, we ended up at the front of the line, ready to board the ride… in an elevator. To my dismay (but to their delight, probably), we were in the front row of this death contraption. I buckled in with a single waist strap and thought, “surely this won’t be like the Dungeon Drop (a ride at the now extinct Astroworld in Houston) because we don’t have any shoulder straps.” NOPE. I WAS WRONG. THE HOLLYWOOD TOWER OF TERROR DOES NOT CARE ABOUT SHOULDER STRAPS. This thing took us up a floor, showed us some hologram ghosts, took us backwards, showed us some other stuff to distract us, then dropped us like a hot potato. There was nothing to grab onto so poor Kelsey’s arm had to bear my death grip. It then shot us straight up to the top of the tower to where we could see outside (where it so conveniently snapped our photo at the height of my terror) only to drop us again and again and again, my body so far out of that seat that it felt like a free-fall. The rush was intense and once I stopped screaming, I could not stop laughing. 10/10, would recommend.
After the death ride, we continued on through Hollywood Land but didn’t ride any of the attractions. It was lunch time and we were hungry!
There was a burger place back in Grizzly Peak so we ate there. We really wanted to do the Soarin’ Around the World ride next door but the wait time was close to 2 hours so we decided it was best to call California Adventures complete and use our hopper pass to hop on over to Disneyland.
This year was Disneyland’s 60th anniversary and the signage and decorations to celebrate it were everywhere! We walked in and made our way down Main Street USA, enjoying the sites.
Our first ride on this side of the park was the Indian Jones Adventure in Adventureland. The line was reasonably long but shaded and comfortable. My ibuprofen had worn off and I was in serious pain so I had to take some more. This line was especially difficult because walking down anything was what hurt the most and this line had us going up and down stairs and ramps. We finally made it to the front though and got on the ride. It was fun but jerky. I don’t know why the darkness and whatnot in rides like that one don’t scare me but something like the Hollywood Tower of Terror do. I’m a mess. The ride finished and were the next jeep (cart) to unload and exit but suddenly the ride SHUT DOWN. Seriously, y’all. It shut down. Lights came on and everything. I am so thankful we were at the front and not stuck somewhere back on the ride’s path. That would have been traumatizing. We were only stuck for about 10 or 15 minutes but it sure felt a lot longer. Once the ride started up again, we were able to exit. We learned later that the rides at Disneyland are not allowed to operate without a working phone and for whatever reason, half of the phones at the park had gone out. Our ride was not the only one temporarily out of service so while I was thankful to not be stuck in a compromising place on this ride, I was even more thankful to not be stuck on a more complex ride! I can’t imagine.
We continued on through Adventureland, making our way to New Orleans Square. This big river in the area was shut down so several of the rides in New Orleans Square and Frontierland were temporarily shut down. The Haunted Mansion was also not open for the season yet (whew). That was upsetting to John because they had it decked out in Halloween decorations. With not many options, we hopped onto the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It was fun but not a thriller by any means.
The last ride we wanted to do (well, I wanted to do… they were a little more hesitant) on that side of the park was Splash Mountain in Critter Country. You can’t go to Disneyland and not go on Splash Mountain! I knew we would get a little wet so long as we weren’t in the front but wasn’t too worried about it. A little water never hurt anyone and we’d dry quickly. We didn’t buy a Fast Pass and it seemed like this was a Fast Pass only ride as they would let 5 regular people on the ride for every 45 people with a Fast Pass. It was kind of crazy but luckily only took an hour instead of the 85 minutes posted on the sign. I somehow ended up in the front spot but noticed a younger girl with her parents toward the back of our log and asked her if she wanted to trade. She happily accepted and definitely took the brunt of the water. The rest of us got wet though at a random turn that caused water to poor over the right side, soaking our shoes. Just a little water, we’d survive. That 50ft drop though was awesome and we celebrated with some churros.
We stopped to take pictures in front of the castle on our way to Fantasyland. We wanted to meet some of the princesses but it seemed they were on break so we bailed and headed toward the next ride. I don’t think we were the target audience, again, for this area as several of the rides were very simple.
We did manage to go on Snow White’s Scary Adventure (not a thriller by any means but could seriously traumatize a child) and Peter Pan’s Flight (a wait time of 40 minutes that took well over that). Our day was running out and we still had not made it to the other big rides yet!
It was important to us that we meet Mickey Mouse but it was more important, to me, to meet Minnie Mouse. The app told me that Minnie was at the front of the park until 7pm and it was already 6pm so while Kelsey and John took a ride on It’s A Small World, I made my way to the front. People were already lining up for the parade so Main Street had turned into quite the maze. When I finally made it up there, the park employee told me that the line had closed and I could come back at 10pm. I was really disappointed but there was nothing I could do so I back to John and Kelsey, stopping along the way for a few more pictures.
The 3 of us headed over to Mickey’s Toontown next to meet Mickey. The area was pretty empty and there was no wait to meet him. We snagged some pictures (they aren’t great quality but we have good ones coming soon from the professional photographer there) and after touring his house. My phone died right before we toured Minnie’s house which was disappointing because I wanted to show my nieces her house. Thankfully, John let me use his phone.
We got another round of churros before getting into the short line at the Matterhorn. The line was quick and the ride was great. The Matterhorn is a Disneyland staple so I was glad we had time to do it but unfortunately, it was getting late and we were running out of time to do much else. There were several rides in Tomorrowland that looked fun but had long waits and new ones (e.g. the Star Wars one) that would have been cool to do, even though I know nothing about Star Wars. Kelsey and John really wanted to see the parade and walk through the stores so we headed back to Main Street to do a little shopping. I ended up buying my nieces Minnie Mouse dolls and I bought a small Minnie Mouse snowglobe for Bailey. I know, I know… it was not fair to buy an extra thing for her but I just knew she’d love it. Her 3rd birthday party was a Minnie Mouse theme, I had to get it.
After shopping, we found a spot on the sidewalk to watch the parade. Kelsey left to find dinner but for whatever reason, I was not hungry. I sat on the sidewalk why the two of them ate and John left before the parade started because his foot was hurting him. We think he fractured it during the race and it had been bothering him all day. He didn’t want to take medicine though and he couldn’t stand the pain anymore so he went back to the hotel. Kelsey and I stayed and while I hated waiting so long (time we could have used riding Space Mountain, another Disneyland staple), I’m glad we were able to watch the parade. It was actually pretty cool to see. I think if we had more days at the park I would have been more into it. It was late and we were both tired and cold.
Everyone crowded onto Main Street for the fireworks show after the parade. We had read online that Disney recently re-did the show and while you could watch it from several places in the park, Main Street was the best because they projected colors and images onto the buildings. The internet proved to be true because it was the most amazing fireworks show I had ever seen. The buildings lit up for each new song and the crowd sang along. The fireworks matched the song in color and timing and had some of the most beautiful “bursts” I had ever seen. To give you an idea, when Under the Sea came on, the buildings turned blue and green and blow-up seaweed appeared from the tops of the building. When Finding Nemo happened, there was a giant Nemo swimming around the castle. The most amazing one was Frozen though, to no shock of anyone. The buildings turned while and blue and foam sprayed over us like snow. The associated fireworks were outstanding. It was overall just very impressive and even though we were both over the day and grumpy, each for our own reasons, it made me smile and I couldn’t help but sing along. It was great.
It was almost 10pm by the time the fireworks were finished and if you recall, Minnie Mouse was back out at 10pm. We ran over to the line and discovered there was not going to be a photographer there. The Disneyland app allows you to download pictures the professional photographers around the park take of you at different locations and to download the ride pictures. We had been relying on it for a good portion of the day but now there was no one! Also, if you recall, my phone had already died. To our luck, Kelsey’s phone died just before the fireworks show. So there we were, in line to meet and take a picture with Minnie Mouse, the one thing I wanted to do, with no camera. I wanted so badly to be able to tell my nieces I met Minnie Mouse and score some serious Aunt points (not that I need MORE Aunt points) so I had to do something miles out of my comfort zone: I had to befriend a stranger AND ask them for a favor. Sigh. The people in front of us looked like a nice couple so I explained to them our situation and they agreed to help out. They took our picture with Minnie and Mickey in their special 60th anniversary costumes and all I could do was to hope and pray they would follow through and text me the pictures.
We left Disney and headed back to the hotel afterward. It was a long, busy day and we were tired. I plugged in my phone, packed up my things, and got ready for bed. When I turned my phone on, I was so happy to see they texted us the picture! There are good people in the world!
I had such a fun time at Disney. I would have done a few things differently so we could have been more efficient with our time but it was still a good and we were able to do and see a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time with Kelsey and John over the years and we always joke about me being the 3rd wheel but there were times today where I wished that wasn’t the case. When rides only held 2 people in a row and I had to be by myself, when photographers asked “just you?” when I went to take a picture, when I had to resort to taking selfies just so I could have a picture, etc. It felt like as the day went on, they would have been happier without me so I ended up keeping to myself a lot. I enjoyed being at Disney and all of the rides but it would have been nice not to be alone. None of that negates the fun long weekend though.
I still can’t believe we ran a half marathon! My knees still hurt but I’m proud of myself and enjoyed everything about Disney. It’s difficult to explain but there is something about being there that just makes you happy. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how tired you are, how [insert whatever] you are: being at Disney makes you happy.
Unit next time,