Friday, July 31, 2009

Fourth of July (and a lot more) trip report from the Disneyland Resort

So it's no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I spend a lot of time at the Disneyland Resort (which I usually just refer to as "the resort" since it's not just Disneyland now, it's DCA [Disney's California Adventure] and DTD [Downtown Disney]). The husband and I generally average a visit every other week, and the visit can range in duration from just a couple of hours to a much longer day. But then there are the occasions when we spend A LOT of time there.

First, to explain a bit, I feel very comfortable at the resort. I know where stuff is, I know what I like to do given various circumstances like crowds and how I feel and if something particular is going on. Our visits to the resort are generally fairly easy-going. We might have particular reasons for going on specific days, but it's not a tourist kind of thing. We visit often enough that there's no need for the panic, no feeling that you have to get the most of your time there because of the day-ticket you've purchased.

But, even with how much the resort feels like home, there are still the occasions that arise that make me feel just as excited to go and be there as any first-time tourist.

For the past multiple years (probably 10 years or so now?), the husband and I have spent the Fourth of July at Disneyland. Yeah, I know, some people think we're crazy for doing that, but we enjoy it. Disneyland does great fireworks anyway, but their Fourth show is even more amazing. It's generally very crowded, so we don't do rides at all, and we know how to navigate our way through the park to avoid the most crowded conditions.

In the early years, when it was crowded enough that there was a danger of Disneyland hitting capacity and not allowing entrance to new visitors or even people who'd already been in the park and had left for a time, we spent ALL DAY in Disneyland, usually trying to find some out-of-the-way place to hang out for much of the day. In the years following, the crowds weren't quite as bad, so in the afternoon, we'd go hang out in an out-of-the-way place at the Disneyland Hotel in the afternoon, where they have air conditioning and comfy chairs, and then go back into DL around dinnertime.

In recent years, with the rise of DTD, we've been going to a movie at the AMC Theatres in the afternoon. This year, though, we weren't sure what we were going to do. Fourth of July this year was on a Saturday, which tends to be the worst condition for crowds. In addition, the resort has been *very* busy in recent months, partly due to the free-on-your-birthday promotion this year as well as the regular locals promotion and the new monthly payment option for annual passes offered to locals as well. We were concerned that all of those factors would result in DL being super busy, and leaving in the afternoon might be a dangerous thing to do if there was a chance we might not get back in. And as if that wasn't enough, Disneyland was planning an even more spectacular fireworks show for the holiday. But wait - there's more! Last year, they had the regular fireworks show and had gotten a bit into the special Fourth show when the winds got too strong for the fireworks to safely continue, so we never saw the entire show. This year, to hopefully avoid that, Disneyland had decided to run a special fireworks show over the four nights surrounding the holiday. Not just a special section after the regular fireworks - an entirely different show just for the holiday.

Since the Fourth was on a Saturday, I had Friday the 3rd off as a company holiday, and I was also let go early on Thursday the 2nd. The 2nd was the first night of the special holiday fireworks, and I really wanted to see them, so I left work around 3pm and then headed down to the resort. There had been some talk that it was expected to be very busy that night because it was the last night that the second level of APs could still go before they were blocked out for the rest of the weekend, so I was surprised that there was no line at the parking structure.

After I parked, I made my way over to the Grand Californian Hotel and the Napa Rose restaurant to check on a reservation I had called in for a couple months down the road. As I stood there perusing the menu for the Vintner's Table (yeah, I always do that, just for the heck of it), I vaguely noticed a woman had come into the restaurant, and she was talking to the host staff. I heard her say that she knew she was really dressed inappropriately and she was sorry but she just wanted to ask a question. I figured she meant that she didn't feel she was dressed up enough, but it was at that point that I noticed she was wearing a bathrobe. I figured out that she was a guest at the hotel and was wearing a hotel bathrobe and must be going back to her room from the pool. Turns out her husband and kids were waiting outside, and she was just checking on the availability of a table for later, and they ended up being able to accommodate her and her family.

After that, I wandered through the World of Disney for a bit, and I noticed that they had a new antenna topper, Mickey dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow. It was so cute, and I especially loved his little feet!

I then met up with the husband, who had just gotten off work, and we decided to go on the Nemo subs for a rare daytime ride. We then had dinner in the park, and about 45 minutes before the fireworks, we made our way to the front of our preferred section on Main Street. On the Fourth of July, we normally watch the fireworks from in front of it's a small world because it's much less crowded there and Main Street is normally a nightmare. That was the other reason for visiting on this night - we'd be able to see the show from Main Street without quite the hassle of the Fourth. I was concerned, though, because it was really windy, which meant there would be a chance the fireworks would be cancelled. But normally, they'll play an announcement cautioning that the fireworks could be cancelled because of weather conditions, and they never played that announcement at all. As it turned out, it was windy during the entire show, but it was just windy on the ground - up in the sky where the fireworks were, there was hardly any wind at all, with the smoke from the fireworks pretty much just sitting there.

OMG. The fireworks were AWE.SOME. It wasn't the same show as any of the ones they'd done in previous years. It was an entirely new show, with one section that particularly pleased the husband and myself because it reminded us of Rod Miller, a former Main Street piano player who retired several years ago. The show was very Main Street-centric, so I was glad we were able to see it from there. We would have missed a lot if we'd just seen it from it's a small world.

I liked the show so much that there was a tiny little part of me that considered going again Friday night, but it was a thought I just kept to myself. We already had plans for the entire afternoon, so we'd have already had a full day.

And then, as it turned out, one of our friends who had planned to be at Disneyland on the Fourth had a change of plans and wouldn't be able to come, so she decided to go down on Friday instead so she could see the fireworks. OK, that sealed it - I wanted to go too. I mean, she needed company, right? Yeah, that was my excuse anyway.

We had a great time in the afternoon with our plans and pretty much got home in time just to change and head out again. We met up with friends, had dinner and then were back on Main Street in pretty much the same spot to wait for the fireworks again. The show was just as good the second time around.

On Saturday, the Fourth of July, we headed down to the resort mid-morning. It hadn't been that crowded on Thursday night or Friday night, so we weren't sure what to expect on Saturday. We figured we'd gauge the crowds and decide how to spend our day and see whether it was safe to leave the park. We were shocked to get to the parking structure and find that there was no line to get in, and then there was no line at the tram that would take us to the front entrance. Where was everyone?

It was seriously not crowded at all, even for a regular weekend day, much less the Fourth of July. We met up with friends and decided it was fine to leave the park, so we had lunch at Catal Restaurant's Uva Bar in DTD.

After lunch, we decided to head into DCA, and as we passed the ticket booths, we were amazed that there were ZERO lines at shortly after 2 in the afternoon.

A wider view picture. The booths are open and CMs are inside with nothing to do.

We wandered around the Pacific Wharf area of DCA and then met up with other friends as we headed to Midway Mania to check out the line. If it was too long, we'd skip it like normal. At about 3:15pm on Saturday, the Fourth of July, the posted wait time was 10 minutes. We really could not believe how uncrowded the resort was. But we definitely took advantage of it.

We eventually headed back to Disneyland to wait for flag retreat, which included the Dapper Dans and the All American College Band.

After that, we wandered around Disneyland for a bit and then it was time for dinner, and we decided to go to Plaza Inn. Some of the friends we were with hadn't seen the fireworks show yet, and they really wanted to see it from Main Street. We decided that since it wasn't nearly as bad as usual, we would brave Main Street as well. Well, all the people who hadn't been at the resort earlier in the day APPARENTLY showed up in the evening. At shortly after 8pm, our normal section on Main Street was already full with people sitting down, so we ended up staking out a section further back. However, because of the expertise of some friends, we eventually ended up making it back to our regular section, a bit behind and to the right of our normal spot. It got more and more crowded as people packed into the space. We had about an hour to wait, and we had a great time amusing ourselves. Yeah, I know, not hard.

It was another great show. There were a couple of extra segments and a different ending from the shows we had seen the prior two nights. After the fireworks, we hid out to the side as seemingly the entire population of California exited the park. There was a third scheduled Fantasmic that night, and we had decided to try to catch that. There was still space at one of our regular spots that has a decent view, but again, because of the expertise of friends, we ended up in a section with a truly awesome view. Unfortunately, the new Croc was a no-show that night, but seeing the new Flotsam and Jetsam from there was pretty spectacular. It was also fairly windy, because even though we were a bit back from the edge of the river, we still got pelted during the water screen sections. I can't imagine how wet the people got who were closer to the river.

After Fantasmic, we headed for a ride on Haunted Mansion, and then we hung out on Main Street for a bit so a friend could renew his pass. As we were on our way out, we ended up running into Rod Miller at Coke Corner! How coincidental was that? It was nice to see him, even though the conversation itself was a bit on the odd side.

Because of a merchandise release on Sunday, we were back at the resort before noon the next day even though we'd been there quite late the night before. It seemed really quiet that day.

We happened to be in the DTD area for shopping, right by the monorail station. We had heard the reports from that morning about the tragic monorail accident that had occurred that morning at Walt Disney World, and we weren't sure if that would affect the Disneyland monorails. The station seemed to be up and running normally for business, and then I saw monorail blue pulling into the station, and there were even people in the nose and tail cones.

We then went into the park and decided to try out the new Harbor Galley for lunch. It's too bad they don't offer an AP discount, and there doesn't seem to be a particular reason for that. The husband had the salmon salad (which he enjoyed), and I had the broccoli cheddar soup in a bread boule, which I really liked.

We sat at a nearby table to enjoy our lunch, and we had a nice view of the river. I joked to the husband that normally, if you hear screaming and a gunshot, you'd call the police. In our case, it just meant we were sitting by Splash Mountain and the Rivers of America.

After lunch, we headed over to Fantasyland to see if we could get a ride on Peter Pan that we'd never gotten around to the night before. The wait time was really good, only 20 minutes, but even with that unusually short wait time, we just didn't feel like it. We'd been at the resort a lot over the past four days, and as much as we love the resort, we'd had our fill and were ready to leave.

As we walked to the tram stop, we noticed that the kiosk vendors in DTD were bored out of their minds since there were no customers coming by.

Our marathon trip to the resort didn't quite end as well as we would have liked. As we were leaving, we took the flyover that crosses over Ball Road, so we were a bit alarmed that there was a car coming in the wrong direction as we were leaving. Luckily, we were in the right lane and the other car was in the left lane. The flyover is usually a single-direction road, but the direction of access changes during the day. The husband said he's seen it used for cars going in both directions, but then, there are cones in the middle between the two lanes to delineate them. When we had gotten to the resort around 12:30, it still looked like it was still usable as an entrance going into the structure since no cones were up, but the overhead lights had "X" and "no entrance" lit up, so we decided not to chance it and didn't take the flyover going in. When we left, the lanes were set up completely as exits from the structure, with the cones and red lights set up to block it as an entrance from the other direction. The car that drove past us must have been driving on the wrong side of the street for a little while to get past the cones that were set up to block off that kind of entry. Seeing that car made us a little nervous about any other cars that could also be coming the wrong way, but luckily, that was the only one. And we didn't hear any kind of noise behind us, so we hoped that meant there was no accident caused by the car going the wrong way.

It wasn't exactly how we wanted our visit to end, but it certainly didn't diminish the fun we'd had over the previous four days.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

Are you sure those are Mickey's feet? From the picture, they look like dreadlocks made out of beard hair, tied in pigtails.

I'm glad that I could be your excuse to see the show on Friday night, and thanks for joining me!