Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Disneyland Trip Report, Day 2

The gang in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Our plan for Disneyland was to see the park in just one day (Sunday 2/11). We intended to divide the day in 2 halves, with a nap for the kids in the middle after lunch. That's because Russell and Punky meltdowns tend to occur after 4 plus hours of continuous activity. We adults also wanted to get some rest as well.

The day began with a steady drizzle that soaked us within a few minutes of our 9AM arrival at the park. The good news is that the rain appeared to keep the crowds away from Disneyland during the morning. We took advantage of the sparse crowds by hopping on Snow White's Scary Adventures and It's a Small World in virtually no time flat. Then, we headed off to Mickey's Toontown for a visit to Mickey's and Minnie's house. The kids (and Jenny, too) really seemed to enjoy touring the House of Mouse.

Russell seems a bit apprehensive on Snow White's Scary Adventures

This is in the Southeast Asia section of "It's a Small World"

Russell and Punky on "It's a Small World"

Meeting with the head mouse at Disneyland, Mickey

In front of Minnie's House

Minnie's refrigerator was full of cheese

On the way back to Fantasyland, we stopped by for a visit to the Princess Fantasy Faire to see if we could meet either Belle, Snow White or Mulan. We didn't get to see all three, but we came close. After waiting in line for 30 minutes (our longest wait of the day), we were fortunate to be at the front of the receiving line as Belle and Mulan started their shifts. Unfortunately, Snow White left at that precise time. But Belle and Mulan were a huge hit with Russell and Punky as they hugged and held hands with their movie idols. I'd have to say it was the highlight of their day.

Russell and Punky meet Belle

Russell and Punky meet Mulan

It stopped raining when we got back to Fantasyland, so we rode on the less-crowded rides Pinocchio's Daring Journey and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. We wanted to ride Peter Pan's Flight, but the crowd at that point meant waiting more than 30 minutes. Given that we barely averted a meltdown at the the Princess Fantasy Faire, we decided to have an early lunch (noon) and then head back to the hotel room to rest. We had lunch of fried chicken and green beans at the Plaza Inn at the tip of Main Street, USA.

Russell rubs Mr. Toad's belly for good luck

The ride back on the monorail was a real treat, as we were able to catch a bird's eye view of Disneyland and the huge crowds that were making their way to park once the rain stopped.

No one really got much rest back at the hotel, but we were at least able to change into dry clothes and feed Punky his lunch, as he had fallen asleep right before lunch. We got a late start back to Disneyland as the monorail happened to breakdown just as we arrived for the ride back to the park. To compound our problems, Russell chose this time to have a meltdown because we neglected to bring a stroller with us on the the return trip.

With Russell in a grumpy mood, we finally got to ride Peter Pan's Flight. I barely had time to enjoy this ride as I had to hold Russell down in his seat throughout. We chose more wisely at the next stop, the Storybook Land Canal Boats. This ride seemed to calm Russell down and smiles came back on all of our faces. Our last ride before dinner was the vastly underappreciated Jungle Cruise across the park in Adventureland. The ride through a simulated African jungle was so realistic that Jenny's mom thought the animals were real.

Punky and I go for a ride on the Storybook Land Canal Boats

Aladdin's home town as seen from the Storybook Land Canal Boats

After a quickie dinner in the Frontierland's Stage Door Cafe (Fish and Chips), we headed back to Main Street, USA to catch the Parade of Dreams. I thought this parade was extremely well choreographed and performed by Disney characters riding by on floats. We had a front-row seat for all the action.

Goofy stops by during the Parade of Dreams

We were able to catch only one more ride, the world-famous Pirates of the Caribbean, before we had to line up for viewing the open-air performance of Fantasmic! Pirates of the Caribbean did not disappoint, although Punky got scared and began shouting "I want to go home" in the middle of the ride. Of all the events of the day, I'd have to say that Fantasmic was the most disappointing, as the "laser show" I'd heard about was really just cartoons projected onto artificial fog, and the huge crowd made it difficult to catch a good angle of the performance. I managed to convince Jenny that it was a good idea to head back (it was 9:30PM) to the hotel, as the kids were pooped and barely moving.

On the way back, we could see the fireworks show from the monorail and the walk back through Downtown Disney. I knew the kids were finished for the evening, as they fell asleep within a few minutes of our arrival back to the hotel room. All-in-all, it was a very productive day made possible by bad weather in the morning and detailed planning from yours truly. We missed seeing only one ride on our original agenda (the Haunted Mansion), and experienced only one meltdown during the entire day. Plus the kids ate whatever we fed to them.

It might be a bit premature, but I would like to come back to Disneyland again sometime in the next 2-3 years. We would not hestitate staying once again at a Disney hotel, but next time I think we might stay for three days instead of two.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Year of the Pig to everyone from the Brewster Boys! I'll be completing Day 2 of our Disneyland Trip Report soon, I promise. In the meantime, enjoy these pictures from our preparations for New Year's dinner with Jenny's family and the painted faces from a birthday party this weekend.

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.