Sunday morning, we picked up and took an Uber over to Anaheim to the Grand Californian Hotel. The traffic was pretty awful and our driver was pretty jerky, but we survived. The check-in process wasn’t particularly smooth, probably because the itinerary was supposed to have us start the adventure at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, but since the Oscars ceremony was on Sunday they moved us. We checked in to our room and then walked around Downtown Disney and ate lunch at Taquería at Tortilla Jo's. The food was ok, nothing great, and then the kids chilled in the room while Andrea and I explored the area.
For dinner, we met with our tour group for the first time in a conference center at the hotel and we all introduced ourselves and then ate a delicious buffet dinner. We typically don’t like buffets, but they had a lot of healthy options and the food was hot and flavorful. Andrea had volunteered this trip to introduce our family, but Connor was called on to do it by one of our guides and he did a good job with it.
Monday morning we had to wake up super early to try and beat LA traffic. Paige and I ate with the group in the conference center and we sat with some of the other adventurers that had teenagers, so it was a nice opportunity to get to know them. After breakfast we all boarded the bus to drive to Hollywood and although we left at 7:15, we still ended up it the thick of rush hour traffic. We eventually made it to the Chinese theater, where we watched a short movie about the theater and looked at some of the Hollywood memorabilia.
Next, we went to the Jim Henson studio to meet a Muppet puppeteer and take a brief tour of the studio. Paige and some of the other kids bought some Muppet Puppets and Paige named her green guy Waldorf.
We took the bus to the Tam O'Shanter restaurant which is over a hundred years old and was one of Walt Disney’s regular lunch spots. We all had the prime rib for lunch and then the bus took us to Griffith Park to see Walt’s barn and mini railroad hobby. Walt's mini train hobby was apparently a big inspiration to him that he should build a theme park where people could meet his characters and ride family friendly rides.
While there, we met one of the original Disney animators Floyd Norman, who worked with Walt and had some interesting insights and stories to tell. He was 87 years old and looked great and was still active and articulate.
Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped again downtown Hollywood and enjoyed some ice cream at the Ghirardelli’s store.
The ride back took a while with all the LA traffic, and we definitely were wishing that we’d been able to stay at the Loews since it was super close to everything we saw on Monday. Overall, the day was so-so. There was quite a lot of sightseeing and ancient Disney history, which was interesting but perhaps a little dull. We liked seeing the city and Hollywood, but there quite a few people that were filthy and openly using drugs on the sidewalk, as well as gross trash and litter everywhere.
After lunch at the employee commissary we did some shopping and then boarded the bus to head over to the Imagineering Campus. The lunch at the commissary was one of our favorite meals. We were allowed to pick an entrée, side, drink, and dessert. There were a lot of options to choose from, including Walt's favorite chili, which he apparently ate all the time when he worked there.
We toured the Imagineering Campus and they showed us how they design light shows with software and simulations, and how they use a sound stage with surround sound to design the music and sound for rides and attractions. We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but our guide took a picture of us along with the original Snow White and Seven Drwarf statues in a room where clay sculptures were designed and stored.
We headed back to the parks for the evening and went with our group to tour Walt’s apartment above the fire house just inside the entrance of Disneyland. The apartment was quite small and still had many of the original decorations and personal effects from when Walt spent time there.
We took a picture together in the room and then our guide had us look out the window where Walt's lamp famously sat and illuminated his apartment's window.
It was a cold and rainy night, but we still ran around the park to get our first taste of Disneyland. We tried to mostly ride things that were indoors or somewhat dry, with a focus on things we hadn’t ever ridden before at other parks.
We rode quite a few rides and the lines were short since the weather was miserable.
- Star Tours
- Pirates of Caribbean
- Haunted Mansion
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- Snow White
- Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway
Some of the rides were familiar and some like the Snow White ride were fairly slow and boring, but we were able to do quite a bit in the evening.
Wednesday, March 15th, we got up fairly early and met our group in the lobby. We headed in to the California Adventure park for breakfast at Pym Test Kitchen, where we had eggs, French toast, and some of the special lemonade.
After eating, we walked through the park with our group and did a tour of the garage area backstage where the Cars ride vehicles are serviced and listened to a presentation from one of the mechanics. Afterwards, our entire group got to go through the Lightning Lane to ride the ride, it was definitely one of our favorites in the entire park.
It wasn’t pouring, but there wells a steady drizzle and it was chilly, so we decided to go back to the room for a nap, which was an awesome idea.
After a couple of hours, the sky had cleared up and the weather was absolutely perfect for the rest of the day. We ate some big burgers in Downtown Disney before heading back to the California Adventure park. There were a few familiar rides, but most of them were completely new to us. We all loved the Cars racer ride, which is similar to the Epcot test track, but way better and way cuter with the Cars theme. Paige absolutely loved the Incredibles Rollercoaster, which had a blast off start and was super long with a loop near the end. Andrea was not planning to ride it after learning there was an upside down section, but she joined us and we all rode together and screamed together as a family. Quite a few of the other rides were a bit boring and slow, made more for a little kids and families. We enjoyed trying them since they were new, but they were not rides we would probably ride again.
In the evening we joined back up with our tour group in the middle of the Disneyland park to enjoy the parade in a reserved area. We haven’t bothered with a parade in quite a while when we go to the Florida parks, so it was fun to experience it at Disneyland.
We finished up our day with a few more rides in the dark, including Radiator Springs lit up in neon and the Radiator Springs Racers.
Wednesday Rides and Activities:
- Web Slingers
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Backstage tour of Cars garage
- Lunch burgers at Black something
- Soarin Over California
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Incredibles Rollercoaster
- Ferris wheel - Paige and Shawn
- Parade at Disneyland
- Golden Zephyr Swing ride
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Emotional Whirlwind - like Dumbo
- Radiator Springs Racer in the dark
We didn’t stay up too late on Wednesday since we needed to be up early for Thursday.
Thursday, March 16th, we met our tour group at 6:45 so we could all go in to Disneyland before anyone else for an exclusive photo opportunity. We took family photos in front of the train depot at the entrance to the park, in the middle of an empty downtown, and in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. We actually almost ran out of time as some of the other hotel guests were let in eventually and started running through people’s shots. Thankfully we got pictures without a lot of people in the backgrounds.
For our group shot, our guides passed out Mickey ears for everyone and afterwards we took them to the Mad Hatter shop to have them embroidered with our names.
For breakfast we went to the Plaza Inn to meet Minnie and her pals while we enjoyed a buffet breakfast.
The food was pretty good, I liked the oatmeal, Paige loved the Mickey waffle, Andrea liked the biscuits and gravy, and Connor snarfed down the scrambled eggs.
After breakfast, our group went backstage again to see the Indiana Jones ride vehicles and we got to play with the switches that controlled the hydraulic systems. The Indiana Jones ride was going through an overhaul and update, so was unfortunately closed on Thursday, but was supposed to reopen for Friday. Once the tour was complete, we rode a couple of the older rides that we’ve never ridden before. Alice in Wonderland was cute, but a little slow and boring. The Storybook Land Canal Boats took us through a canal by some miniature Disney scenes.
We didn’t see anything else at Disneyland that looked very exciting so we crossed over to the California Adventure park for the rest of the day. Everyone except Andrea rode the Incredibles coaster twice, then we all rode the Cars ride with the last of our lightning lane passes.
In the evening, we met our group for the farewell presentation and watched the slideshow that our guides put together with pictures from our trip. For dinner, our group had a beautiful outdoor spot at the Lamplight Lounge and although it was a little cool out, it was one of the nicest restaurants in the park.
Andrea had actually noticed it the day before and had commented that she thought ABD should take the group there for a meal, which turned out to be a fairly prescient statement. I had delicious bao buns for an appetizer and chicken as my main dish. Connor had a couple of the fun drinks and a big burger. Andrea and Paige split a chicken nacho and Paige unfortunately had an upset stomach so didn’t eat much. It may have been all the rollercoaster riding, but she was still eager to go again and after dinner she and I got back in line to ride the Incredibles Rollercoaster one more time before she reconsidered and we left the line. Probably a wise choice.
After dinner, our group met up and our guides took us to a reserved area to watch the new light show at Pixar Pier, World of Color - ONE. Our spot was front and center, but slightly back from the splash zone area where people get soaked by the spray from the fountains. We’d learned about the light show when we were at the Imagineers HQ, and it was a treat to see it live and in person. The show consisted of huge fountains and sprays of water combined with lights, lasers and projectors. The mists from the water would sometimes act as screens for the projectors and it was on an enormous scale.
After the show, some of the guests had planned one last excursion out in the park that evening and they invited our guides to join us. Connor and Andrea went back to the room, but Paige and I decided to go along with them to ride Splash Mountain one more time before it was due to get shut down for refurbishment and changed to be “Princess and the Frog” themed. The logs were different from Disney World and were single row and tandem, with no seatbelts or straps. Paige nervously asked me about that just as we departed on the ride, and it made me nervous too. I ended up in the second spot from the front with Paige right behind me and we got soaked with cold water, our shoes were squishing when we walked off the ride and the water had found it’s way inside my raincoat. It was silly fun, and Danny told us a few more Disneyland tidbits that came to mind as we walked back, so it was a nice tour bonus as well. Paige said it was one of her top moments of the Disneyland visit so I'm glad we went.
Friday morning, March 17th, we had one more early morning with the group before saying farewell. Connor had been tired of getting up early every day, so we let him sleep in. The rest of us were supposed to meet the group in the lobby at 7:20, but we had 7:30 in our minds instead and missed them completely. We rushed to catch up with them at the Disneyland Hotel which was across the street from our resort. We arrived just in time to get our picture with Goofy and to be seated together with everyone, thankfully we walk fast!
The breakfast was probably the biggest and most delicious of the week. There were lots of breakfast foods, and lots of sweets and desserts to choose from as well including cinnamon rolls, donuts, waffles, pancakes, and even ice cream. Minnie, Chip, Dale, and Pluto came by our table for pics and I’m glad we had a character breakfast. It was something Andrea had been hoping for, and she was so cute and excited for it, I’m glad we didn’t miss it.
When we finished our meal, we said our farewells to Danny and Ralph. It was a relatively short ABD tour compared to some we’ve done previously, but we got to know our guides fairly quickly and they were both friendly and made us feel welcomed. Danny was quite a character, with his little mustache, big personality, and unique voice. Among his acting roles, he previously had performed as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin production and I believe it was a perfect fit for him. Ralph was a bit quieter, but maybe that was just in comparison to Danny next to him. He also obviously carried a love for all things Disney, and performed alongside Danny in the Aladdin show as Iago (Jafar’s parrot). We took one last picture with them and then headed to the park for our last day at Disneyland.
Before we set out, Paige encouraged me to check in with another family to see if they were interested in riding the Indians Jones ride with us. Their family had three half Asian kids: Caleb who was a junior in high school, Ellie an eighth grader, and Hannah who was in fifth grade. Being a shorter trip, it had been a little difficult at times for the kids to find opportunities to get to know each other. Early in the tour, our guides had arbitrarily split the group in half. The kids that were similar in ages with our kids were separated from us on the occasions when it was necessary to split up for space constraints, for instance in Walt’s small apartment. One of the families had been friendly with us, but we’d only had one brief opportunity to eat a meal with them, and although Andrea and I had chatted with the dad Eugene and the mom Katy, the kids had been too shy to say much. The tour was technically over, and many of the families were heading home, but their family also had planned to stay an extra day in the park. They happily agreed to go to the Indiana Jones ride with us, and we all headed in to the park together. On the way through the park, we rode the Small World ride and the Storybook Land Canal Boats, and then moved on to the Indiana Jones ride. We’d had a Lightning Lane pass for the ride and were excited to take advantage of it, but the ride broke down twice while we were in line and we probably spent an hour waiting. It was a particularly uncomfortable wait since the ride is designed around the Temple of Doom, was creepy with skeletons everywhere, and the line was underground with no cell service. Connor had woken up around this time and we’d asked him to meet us at the ride exit, and there was no way to contact him to tell him what was going on. We got to know our new friends a bit better during the wait, and then we finally boarded the big jeep vehicle which we’d learned about the day before backstage. The ride was pretty fun, and very similar to the Dinosaur ride at Disney World.
We said farewell to our friends after the ride, as they had lunch reservations, and we met up with Connor and headed over to the California Adventure park to do some shopping and walk around. We rode the Little Mermaid ride and then our friends texted us to see if we’d be interested in riding the Incredibles Rollercoaster together. Andrea and Connor decided to head over and ride the Luigi ride in the Cars area, and Paige and I rode the roller coaster. Paige rode the Guardians of the Galaxy ride with friends, and then we said farewell again so we could catch up with Andrea and Connor in Downtown Disney for ice cream and a pickle.
We did a little shopping and then started packing up everything so we could be ready to depart in the morning. Our friends texted again to see if we were interested in joining them for a ride on the Grizzly River Run ride as a final wet ride for our visit. Andrea was too cozy in the room and wasn’t interested, but Paige was eager to go. Connor was finishing up his workout and was not interested, but I dragged him along anyways. The line was short and we ended up riding it twice. The ride consisted of a circular tube raft where the eight of us sat facing each other. The raft spun like crazy whenever it bumped the rocks, and it was entirely random who would get wet depending on whoever was lucky (or unlucky?) enough facing the water when the raft hit the waves. The first time through, a few of us got some minor splashes, but the second time through a big wave came over the side and landed between Connor and Paige. It was a fun way to end our Disney experience and afterwards we warmed up in the room and went to bed.
Our travel home went well and we didn’t have any major delays. Our new friends had a flight delay, and we actually ran in to them and got to say farewell one last time before getting on our flight.
Overall, our Spring break adventure was a success and we all enjoyed it. There were some moments when we didn’t agree or get along, and some stressful moments like Connor’s eye infection, but overall the kids are fun to travel with and we are happy that we finally got to experience Disneyland together.
Andrea and I chatted briefly about how this trip compares to our other ABD adventures and we both would rank them with Costa Rica #1, followed by Iceland, Disneyland + Wyoming tied for third, and Arizona/Utah probably last. The Hollywood/LA portion of the tour ended up being a bit boring for us, but the parks and Disney definitely made up for it. The Disneyland parks were both fun and were more different than the Florida parks than I expected. Staying where we did, sandwiched between the parks, was so convenient and walkable. It never felt like anything was too far away, and I think we actually enjoyed the smaller compact parks versus the large and sprawling Florida parks. The weather was cool, and we made a mistake not packing our rain boots or umbrellas. Thankfully we’d been able to buy some umbrellas before the rain came through, or we would have been incredibly uncomfortable. Usually we overpack, but this time we also could have packed some warmer gear, but that ended up being a “shopportunity” as Danny would describe it.
We are so happy our vacation was a success and already thinking about where to go for Spring Break next year!