Dec 19, 2011

Disneyland - Day 4, plus Final Thoughts, Lessons & Observations

If we thought we were slow moving on Day 3, we really were Day 4. When we called Cameron’s mom, she, Joe and Connor were already on the road headed home, as Joe was still not feeling well, and they’d been there longer than we had. When I walked down the hall to check in on my parents and London, the report was that London had just woken up 15 minutes before – I’d been up for an hour! The silly girl was still in her PJs, as was my mom. My parents wanted more time with her so they watched her while we all got ready and packed. Then we loaded up the stroller for two trips down to the lobby to check out, check our luggage and load my parent’s car with theirs. After a few goodbyes in the garage, they were on their way home and it was just the 3 of us.

The day before hadn’t involved any true meals, so we decided to make the most of Downtown Disney and went in search for a real breakfast. As mentioned before, we landed at the Rainforest Café again, where London was mesmerized by the large fish tanks. It happened to be cleaning time, so there was also a scuba diver to captivate her.

The Rainforest Café is located next to the Monorail station, so we boarded the next train after breakfast to head into the park. On our way in, we could visibly see it was much more crowded that day than any day previous. This was a great reminder to us why we went primarily during the week. A few more hours in the park reminded us why we will probably never go on a weekend ever again.

The monorail drops you off in Tomorrowland, but we were actually headed for Frontierland to see Santa and his reindeer. While it looked like a long line, we got to see Santa relatively quickly, but not without spotting a true hidden Mickey. When we had been with Matt & Lynde, Matt used an app to find all the hidden Mickey’s on each attraction we were on. In a book at one of the stores, I’d learned the difference between a hidden Mickey and just decoration. This one is a true hidden Mickey.

Yet somehow between the time Cameron took the picture above as we were entering Santa’s house, and the time we sat next to Santa, the camera got switched from auto to manual and so our Santa pictures came out blurred. The one shot by Disney wasn’t much better so we opted not to pay the elevated price for it. This was the best we could do.

By the way, it was a good thing we didn’t bother with any other characters and the lines they attract. London was not sure about Santa at all until I sat next to him. And combined with the fact that she barely holds still for us to get a picture any way, it would have been a huge waste of time and energy!

London was more entertained by the eight reindeer in the corral. They were gorgeous. Of course, Cameron would love one on our wall at home – I told him if he ever does go on a hunt for one of these he can’t call them reindeer if London is young enough. We agreed if this ever happens, we’ll call them Caribou. But it we do end up with one on our wall, I reserved the right to hang sleigh bells on it at Christmas time.

We made one more effort to find Cameron’s straw hat before we took in the Castle Walk-through tour that tells the tale of Cinderella. I’ve always read about it before we go to Disneyland, but had never seen the door to it until this trip and did not want to miss it. This turned out to be the worst day to do this tour. We ended up in front of a group of obnoxious locals. They had gone through here several times and knew exactly what was coming before we even got to it. They were kind enough to loudly announce what was coming up – which meant it ruined the surprise for us. Plus, they were so loud it was hard to interact with London to show her everything and hear her reaction. Add in the fact that they were breathing down our necks the whole time and we just couldn’t get out of there and away from them soon enough. Cameron would mention this during a transaction later on and the cast member said to report it immediately afterward – they do their best to remedy a situation for those that were annoyed.

At this point, the crowds were definitely getting to us so we wandered in and out of the shops on Main Street, looking for those last souvenirs. At the Emporium we looked for some ears for London, but they didn’t have the right size. Luckily, across Main Street was another Mad Hatter location, which did have the right size, which was “Infant” for London’s small head. We opted not to get her name on it, as we knew we were lucky to get one good picture with them on her, and then they were going to end up in a shadow box memory frame. I probably should have gotten her Minnie over Mickey ears, but I grabbed the Mickey’s ears first so that’s what she got. I also grabbed the Hidden Mickey book for myself to read leading up to our next trip – whenever that is.

After 3 full days of walking in and around the parks, our feet were exhausted and sore, so we found a bench just past Main Street in the big circle that leads to all the lands and people watched. This is when Cameron and I agreed that 3 full days was enough for us, and our feet. Plus, we agreed never to go on a weekend day ever again. Too many people. Big crowds annoy and stress both Cameron and me out.

Before we made our way out and over to the big Downtown Disney store, we had one last task to accomplish inside the park – trade in one of our original Ariel souvenir pins for another. See, our travel package, and my parents travel package, had included two vouchers each for a souvenir Disney Trading pin and lanyard. We’d traded in the voucher for the pin and lanyard and all of us got the same Ariel pin. This wasn’t something my parents were too interested in holding on to for their own memories, and after my dad talked the sales lady up, learned how the whole Pin trading worked so that he and my mom could give their pins to us and we could work on getting some different pins for London. We had given one of our pins and lanyards to Connor so we had 3 Ariels and one lanyard – two Ariels to trade away. We’d been able to trade one away in California Adventure for an actual California Adventure pin, and now, we needed to offload another. We found a worker and got a cute Mickey Mouse for London instead.

This actual did get us somewhat interested in the whole pin trading thing. But, while we looked at the pins available in every store, we didn’t purchase a single one. We figure when we go back with London again, we’ll buy through the travel company again and hopefully get the same voucher. Then we’ll let London keep one pin and we’ll trade away the duplicates again. Until then, her lanyard and pins are hanging in her room.

I did find one flaw with the pins – the darn Mickey-shaped backs; they fall off too easily. As we had been getting on Toy Story Mania the day before, London had ripped one pin off the lanyard and was trying to pin it to her leg! We were able to get the pin away from her before any damage was done, but lost the back in the process. They don’t just have replacements either – you have to buy a pack of 12 for 2.99 or something. I wasn’t willing to pay that for a bunch of backs I didn’t need – I just stuffed the last pin in the diaper bag in a way that it wouldn’t poke us.

But, since they do fall off so easily, I was also lucky to find one while we were walking through the park on this last day. I think I’ll go to Michael’s and get a pack of regular pin backs that needs two fingers pinching them to release them from the pin post. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about Disney Pin Trading, but it was a big take-away for us.

At the large Disney store in Downtown Disney we made the last of our purchases – two bubble guns that flash neon colors when blowing bubbles. We got one for London’s daycare class – those kids love bubbles, especially London. It’s one of the few words she uses. The other was for London…and Jake…and Tulley. It’s hilarious to watch the three of them around bubbles with London giggling and Jake howling and Tulley snapping at the bubbles. The bubble gun now multiplies this fun by 10! We’d already bought some other souvenirs the first night we were there, including our Christmas ornament to commemorate the trip. I’d really hoped to find a Christmas CD of the music played in the parks – some of the songs were such beautiful arrangements, but didn’t find anything along those lines.

We wandered Downtown Disney the rest of the time, having another nice sit down and relax lunch at the Pizzeria and then headed back to the hotel to catch a cab to the airport early. Traveling with a toddler, you don’t mind getting to the airport early.

It was raining when we did make it home, so London and I played in the arrivals terminal until Cameron made it to the car and back. In the end, we were all exhausted and happy to be home. It was also nice to have a full day back at home before going back to work.

Taking London to Disneyland at 1 ½ was amazing – just watching her eyes light up and take it all in was such a gift. We were also quite thankful to have the grandparents, especially being able to sneak in a date night and have my parents and London stay just down the hall at the hotel. And we can’t wait to take her back. Cameron and I both agreed that she has to reach some height milestone first though, either 36” 38” or 40”, we’re not sure which one yet – it will depend on how many more rides either height gets her on, probably. And, I think next time we’ll let her dictate the pace a little more and make more of an effort to fit in naps and time to relax by the pool if need be.

While there are plenty of hotels to stay at around Disneyland that aren’t priced like the resort (even the Hyatt, which Cameron and I enjoyed last time), we did enjoy the resort experience. The Paradise Pier was the cheapest option and was great, so we’ll consider it again. It did help to have the play yards included. Guess that will depend on London and what she needs to sleep in next time. Also, if we have a stroller in tow again, we’ll definitely want a hotel within walking distance. I couldn’t image having to get it on and off a shuttle. The airport shuttle is enough.

We are also glad we dragged along the big, bulky stroller with storage space. It was much more comfortable for the long days in it for London and was good for storing her coat, any purchases and the camera when we were walking around – I just wish the monorail accommodated strollers better. We did have to fold it up each time we rode that.

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