Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Disneyland Trip Report, Day 1

Living within driving distance of Disneyland is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because flying to Southern California from the SF Bay Area is nearly as expensive as flying across the country. It's a curse because the drive takes around 6 hours, a distance that makes it feasible for a weekend trip to Disneyland, yet cause immense suffering for parents willing to make the trip.

Punky plays with his laptop and munches on a cookie during a pit stop

Russell gets his chocolate milk from Grandma as he reads his LeapPad electronic book

We left for our first family trip to Disneyland on Saturday morning. I rented a Chevy Uplander minivan for the trip, as our car can only carry 4 passengers comfortably with very little room for luggage. The minivan was perfect for the job, and we arrived at the Disneyland Hotel after a 6-hour drive and no serious incidents. The Brewster Boys didn't complain much, since they had plenty of toys, food and music to keep them occupied.

The Disneyland Hotel is a Disney-owned property, so it commands a premium relative to the other hotels in the Anaheim area. There is nothing truly unique about the hotel itself, which resembles a typical Holiday Inn or a lower-end Hilton in appearance and amenities. But it's convenience to the Disneyland theme parks and especially the monorail--which takes passengers directly to the interior of Disneyland (Tomorrowland, to be exact)--made it essential to our travel plans. In order to minimize our meltdown count, I knew that I had to minimize the distance we travelled to-and-from the park both at the beginning and end of the day, and during our planned afternoon siesta. In this respect, it proved to be the best decision I made.

At the hotel, we were met by the Goofy, the Official Greeter of the Disneyland Hotel. Russell and Punky were initially weary of Goofy, but when Goofy sat down on a lobby sofa to watch cartoons, Russell's curiosity got the best of him. He walked over to Goofy, and then proceeded to sit on his lap as I checked in. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me at the time. Once inside our hotel room, we unpacked and relaxed for a few hours before dinner.

Russell and Punky bounce around the hotel room upon our arrival

The view from our hotel room

I made dinner reservations at Goofy's Kitchen, an onsite buffet-style restaurant which features Disney character dining. The food was more than adequate, but the highlight of our dinner was a visit every few minutes by a Disney character. Fresh from his friendly encounter with Goofy at the hotel, Russell grinned from ear-to-ear when Chef Goofy strolled over to our table as our first visitor. Punky also gave the enormous character a huge hug. However, we narrowly averted disaster when Russell tried to place his hand in Goofy's mouth. I quickly grabbed Russell's hand as it briefly entered Goofy's mouth, and all was well.

Russell with his old pal Goofy at Goofy's Kitchen

We were later joined by Minnie Mouse, Dale (the chipmunk), Peter Pan, and Belle (in a blue dress). From their enthusiastic responses, I later learned that both Russell and Punky think highly of Minnie, and less highly of Belle when she is not wearing her yellow, ballroom dress.

Punky smiles when he realizes that Minnie Mouse is at our table

Russell shakes Belle's hand after dinner

After dinner, we did some shopping at the hotel's Disney Store and then strolled over to the next-door Downtown Disney shopping and dining district, where we listened to a live Latin band playing next to the Rainforest Cafe. All-in-all, it was a good ending to a long day.


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