My hopes for a lighter crowd were crushed when we got off the 5 freeway at the Disneyland exit, and the flyover to the parking structure was backed up almost to the street. We went ahead into the structure anyway and ended with actually decent parking because the idiots in front of us decided that parking faster was better and pulled into spots early, whereas if they'd actually gone all the way down the row, they'd have gotten spaces near the front, making for a shorter walk to the escalator and a shorter walk to the car when it was time to leave.
The wait for the tram wasn't too bad, so we made it to the front entrance of Disneyland fairly quickly. As we walked under the railroad tracks, we noticed a lot of people in Town Square, and then we quickly realized that it was because there were so many characters out for meet-and-greets. There are sometimes a few characters out there, but I've never seen this many - there were ten characters out in total, including some that we rarely see, and definitely not in Town Square. The characters out for pictures and autographs were Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Stitch, Pinocchio, Captain Hook, Rafiki, Pooh, Jessie and Woody.
We stopped into Disneyana and browsed around a bit, and then as we were passing by Central Plaza (aka the hub), we noticed several more characters out - one of the mice from "Cinderella", Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Brer Bear and Pluto (again). And Mary Poppins was out with The Birdies in front of the castle doing their show. Characters everywhere!
We went to the Buzz Lightyear ride to get Fastpasses to use later. When I put my AP into the machine, it spit out a "not valid for use" ticket and then a regular Fastpass ticket and then three more blank tickets, which I thought were pretty cool, so I kept them as souvenirs. Yeah, I know, I'm a dork.
We then headed to Rancho del Zocalo for lunch. It was a little later in the normal lunch time, around 1:30pm, so it wasn't very crowded at all. One interesting thing - I went back in to get a refill of my soda at one point, and as I walked past the cashier on my way back out, she greeted me with a friendly smile and then asked if I could show her my receipt. I told her that it was in my purse and did she want me to bring it to show to her, and she said yes, that she was required to do that. Luckily, we had a table very close by, so I left my soda with her and went to grab my receipt to bring back to show her, and she thanked me nicely. She was very pleasant throughout the entire thing, so I was just surprised at her request since I've never been asked to show a receipt before when I've gone to get a refill. I guess it's something I'll have to keep in mind whenever I go back for a refill at any dining location.
After lunch, the husband had some tortilla chips left over, so we decided to go feed them to the ducks. We stood at the Rivers of America for a while after finding a mother duck and her one duckling. I was surprised that there was only one, since I usually see a mother duck with several ducklings. I wonder if she ended up losing the other ones. Duckling wasn't so much interested in the chips, but mother duck was. When she'd had her fill, we decided to head over to the Hungry Bear Restaurant, where a larger contingent of hungry ducks congregate.
On our way there, we passed by the Harbour Galley, and we noticed that the new menu had been put up. We used to love the Harbour Galley when they served Mickey-shaped fried mozzarella and other goodies, but we were not fans when they were serving McDonald's french fries, so we had been pleased when we'd heard that McDonald's was going away. It's nice to know that the chowder bowl can now be purchased from another location, and that there's also the added choices of chili and another soup. The salad choices look good too, and I'll be interested in trying them. I don't know when the location is supposed to open though.
We went to the lower level of Hungry Bear, and as the husband stopped to feed the ducks, I headed towards the back. Sometimes, it's blocked off, so you can't go back there, but it was open today, all the way to the back so that you could also come down the stairs from the top level of Hungry Bear. That back section underneath the upper seating was a favorite hangout for some of the cats who live in Disneyland, so I went to see if they were still there, since it had been some time since I'd been back there. I didn't see any cats or the houses that used to be there as well, but as I got closer to the back, I noticed something in the water and so went for a closer look. I was surprised to see a boat parked back there, with "Disneyland Fire Dept." on the side and "rescue jet" on the back. I'd never seen that before, so I thought it was interesting that they had one at all, and that they'd parked it there. On all of my previous visits back there, there was a canoe parked there, which the ducks liked to sleep in.
I called the husband over from where he was feeding the ducks so he could see the boat, and he noticed that nearby were the kitty houses, which had apparently been moved back there, away from where guests could get at them. There was a sign on one of the houses that said "feeding station" and that had a picture of a cat silhouette and some wording that I couldn't read.
And then the husband said, "What's that in the tree?" There's a tree (nearby where the boat was parked) that kind of looked like a bush because it didn't have one big tree trunk but rather had many branches coming out from the ground. We saw a fuzzy lump far out on one of the branches, overhanging the water from the River. We couldn't really tell what it was, and we were wondering if it was a cat or a possum or some other critter. We made some noise, and it stirred, and its head popped up, and there were the tell-tale ears. It was indeed a cat who had ventured out there to have a nap. It didn't pay any attention to us, had its head up for a little while, and then put its head down and went back to sleep. The Columbia came by a bit later and fired off its cannon as usual, and a train rumbled by on the tracks, and neither of those events even made the cat flinch. I expect it's probably used to those sounds. We thought it was pretty funny that the cat had found such a nice napping spot and bid it goodbye.
The husband had gone to feed the couple of ducks who had come over in that area, and I showed the husband the little fish that I'd seen in the River. I've never seen them before, and I only noticed them because I was noticing unusual single pops in the water and looked to see what was causing them. It was the little fish biting at a piece of bread in the water. They kind of looked like guppies, though the husband said he thought they could have been tadpoles, but they seemed too big for that, and I've never seen a frog in the River area before. I was just surprised that there were things living in the River.
It had been so long since we'd been back there, and I'd forgotten how nice and peaceful it was. You get the boats (Mark Twain and Columbia, both of which happened to be running this day) coming by periodically, as well as the canoes of people, and you get some noise from the people eating upstairs, but otherwise, it's a nice place to relax and enjoy a "natural" setting at Disneyland.
It was then time to head back to Buzz since our Fastpass time had arrived. We had fun, and it ended up being the only ride we went on, but that was ok.
Afterward, we ended up going past Tomorrowland Terrace just before the start of Jedi Training Academy, so we decided to stop and watch it. It wasn't very crowded, so as I looked around for a good place to watch the show, I noticed that the floor section was actually less than half full, so we made our way down there to the back and sat on the floor.
When the show started, the Jedi Knights came out, and then they began the selection process of kids to go up and participate in the training academy. There were two boys (each of whom was about 6 or 7) to our left, one who was wearing a Clone Wars t-shirt and had a paper birthday hat on, and another who was dressed in a Star Wars costume, who tried to get picked, but unfortunately, neither did. While they were dressed to be noticed, their actions (or rather, non-actions) didn't get them any attention at all, since they were mostly just standing there, whereas others were jumping up and down, trying to get the attention of the man picking volunteers. I did notice that they picked far fewer participants than usual, which surprised me, but when each of the two boys realized they hadn't been picked, they were very upset and were actually in tears. I felt really bad for them but unfortunately, while they were dressed for the part, they didn't show enough enthusiasm to get noticed, even in the smaller crowd.
As the show progressed, I realized that Darth Maul wasn't in the show like he normally was, which was why they picked fewer participants. Usually, half of the participants fight Darth Maul and the other half fight Darth Vader, but since only Vader was there, they had only picked half as many participants as usual. I was surprised that one of the people picked was older than I'd normally seen - he was probably 13 or so, but he had half his face painted like Maul, so maybe that's why he was picked. I did laugh that initially, they had given him a very small Jedi robe to wear, but later, one of the Jedi Knights brought him a larger size.
They went through their training exercises, and then Vader made his appearance, and it was time for each of them to have their battle with Vader. The first person that the lead Jedi Knight chose was a little boy who was maybe 4 years old. He looked tentative anyway, but when he actually saw Vader and was being led closer to him, he had this terrified look on his face and started to cry, looking out into the crowd for his family to save him from this monster. There was definitely a mix of laughter and "awwwwww" coming from the audience. When they stopped in front of Vader, and the Jedi Knight realized the boy was crying, he tried to coax him into using the moves he'd learned earlier, and asking him to turn on his lightsaber seemed to work, because though the little boy still cried for a little while, he did activate the lightsaber and went through the moves as directed by the Jedi Knight. When he was done and had defeated Vader, the audience burst into applause for the little boy. He was just so darn cute.
I hadn't caught it, but later, the husband mentioned that at one point when the Jedi Knight was encouraging the little boy, he told him to use his anger to fight Vader, and we all know that a Jedi Knight does not give in to his anger when using the Force. I thought that was pretty funny. I guess the Jedi Knight was preoccupied with trying to help the little boy through it and forgot the lessons he was supposed to be teaching!
After the show ended, we headed to Main Street, and we caught a little of the "Celebrate" parade. I hadn't been very interested in the parade after reading some descriptions of it, so even though it's been out for a while, I still hadn't seen it. We stopped and watched a few segments of it, and I just couldn't get into it. Maybe I'm just too indoctrinated into old-school Disney, but it just didn't sit right with me to watch Wendy doing "the swim" and to watch Mary Poppins singing along to songs she had no business singing. The balloon floats were cute, and it was nice seeing the plethora of characters out (including Clarabelle and Clarice), but I don't really have any desire to see any more of the parade again.
We went into the shops on Main Street until the parade was completely done, and then we went to take our seats on some benches to wait for flag retreat. That was very nice, though with a smaller contingent of guests who came out when the various branches of the armed forces were announced. It was also nice to see some of the very young children in attendance with their parents, and the kids were really paying attention to what was going on, and with the Disneyland Band, and they stood very quietly and still for quite some time as they were watching.
After that, we left Disneyland and headed into DCA. We stopped to look at the little gift shop right outside the Muppets 3D attraction, and I noticed a cute new Stitch plush. He's popping out of a cupcake, so there's a candle on his head. Really adorable, and I'm not even a Stitch person.
We looked at the Monsters, Inc. ride, but the wait was longer than we wanted to do. We noticed that the Wall-E photo opportunity was gone from the back by the restrooms. The Disney Animation building closed at 5pm today for some reason unknown to us. We had thought about heading over to the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, but we figured the wait would be much longer than we were willing to do, so we just decided to head out of the resort.
I only got one ride in, but I also got to see the Jedi Training Academy show again, and the other experiences we had today, some that we had the luxury and good fortune to have because we were at a very leisurely pace, made the trip completely worthwhile.