Yes indeed – we are currently visiting the Happiest Place on Earth! We’ve been in southern California since Sunday visiting Jason’s parents and relaxing in general, but last night we moved into one of the two-bedroom villas at the Grand Californian with our friends Andrew and Beth (who used their Disney Vacation Club points to pay for the room and who we’ve promised our second-born child should we have one – the room is just that nice). Today is the official start of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, and beginning tomorrow morning I’ll be waking up and running with thousands of others through the parks of Disneyland Resort (and, come Sunday, the streets of Anaheim). It’s not the cheapest way to make sure I get a workout in while traveling, but it works.
Late yesterday we checked into our swank room (the entire hotel is done in California Craftsman style, so it doesn’t look like a typical Disney explosion) and explored the Downtown Disney area outside the parks. We bought four-day park hopper tickets, meaning we can jump between Disneyland proper and California Adventure without having to buy separate tickets, but we didn’t want to start using those until today. There’s all sorts of shops and restaurants in Downtown Disney to keep you busy, though, including a two-story Build-a-Bear Workshop, a giant Lego store with stations outside for building your own cars and racing them, and World of Disney, the largest store for Disney Merchandise on the West Coast. We settled on dinner at House of Blues before wandering through World of Disney and (in my case) picking up some merchandise.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to check out the private terrace for viewing California Adventure‘s World of Color show in the evening. The terrace’s view is indeed spectacular (most of what you’re seeing is the Paradise Pier section of the park; you can make out the rock formations of Cars Land to the left), but not that great for World of Color since it’s off to the side and things are projected on waterfalls and stuff which has a limited viewing angle. But still very cool; I can see how it would be nice to get away from the crowds up there.
This morning we got up bright and early to get in line at Disneyland; one of the perks of staying in a “resort hotel” is early admission into the parks. The two parks switch off, and today was Disneyland’s day. As soon as we entered the park we headed for Tomorrowland and Jason waited outside with Evan while we got in line and rode Space Mountain. “Line” is overstating it; it took us longer to walk through all the queue areas than we actually waited to board the ride. Yay, Extra Magic Hour! While we were in Tomorrowland we also rode Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (again, no line), and Evan sat through the whole ride with his mouth open.
After that we headed toward Adventureland to try and get in line for Indiana Jones Adventure, but the ride was temporarily closed so we’d have to wait for some other time. Since we were close by, we jumped in the line for Pirates of the Caribbean instead and practically stepped right onto the boat. I was worried about how Evan would handle it, because it’s pretty dark and there are some scary elements in addition to small drops, but the only time he fussed was when he got splashed a little at the bottom of a drop. He mostly enjoyed riding in the boat.
Jason’s parents hadn’t visited Disneyland in many, many years, so they joined up with us to see a few sights before taking Evan off our hands. In addition to getting some “adult ride” time, we also needed to visit the runner expo to get bibs and things, and since Jason and I are both running the 5k tomorrow morning and strollers aren’t allowed, Evan also gets a sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa! Jason took Evan to meet up with them at the park entrance, and Beth, Andrew and I jumped on the Disneyland Railroad to ride over to Mickey’s Toontown and Fantasyland to get some food and see some characters. We decided to stay on the train instead and ride it all the way around the park, and Jason, Evan and the ‘rents boarded at the Main Street station to ride to Mickey’s Toontown with us.
We were all starting to get hangry, so we stopped for snacks in Mickey’s Toontown and posed with a few characters. I was worried about how Evan would deal with the characters after our Santa experience, but he loved the attention and was nothing but smiles.
We decided to take the tour of Mickey’s house and get our photo taken, and it ended up being the longest line we’d encountered so far (I’d say we waited 20 minutes or so once we got through Mickey’s house and into the photo line). Evan also started fussing a bit, seeing as how he was hot and tired and his nap time was approaching, but once we got inside Mickey’s “dressing room” he had discovered a second wind.
After visiting Mickey, we said goodbye to Evan and his grandparents, and they jumped in an extremely short line for It’s a Small World (which they rode three times, we learned later, and Evan was asking for more) while we headed back toward the Indiana Jones ride as a foursome. Along the way, we made a few pit stops.
The line for the Indiana Jones ride was, like all the lines we’d encountered, pretty short. From the entrance the predicted wait time was something like 25 minutes; I think it actually ended up being only about 15, so we were in and out quickly. Then we headed to the Jungle Cruise ride next door, where a deceptively short line greeted us. The queue winds up and down a flight of stairs, so you can only see a very small chunk of the line from the entrance (everyone else is hiding upstairs).
Right on time, we headed to the Disneyland Hotel for the Health & Fitness Expo to pick up our race bibs. Beth and Andrew were doing the half marathon only, so we said goodbye to them while we waited in the 5k line. Then Jason waited with me for my half and 10k bibs before we headed upstairs to the expo second floor to get t-shirts and merchandise.
I was glad we hit the expo on the first day, because even then it was crazy. We cruised by a lot of booths and I picked up a headband from Sweaty Bands and some skirts I’d preordered from Sparkle Athletic before getting in the extremely long and winding line for official race merchandise. Apparently the official merch booth is usually a madhouse, so this year they were doing some crowd control. Jason was a trooper and waited with me, and didn’t even blink when I picked up several overpriced shirts and a race weekend pin. I also snagged photos of all the bling I’ll be collecting next month at the Princess Half Marathon Weekend.
Beth and Andrew had escaped the same merch line not long before us, and we met them in Downtown Disney for drinks at Uva, Catal‘s outdoor bar. Drinking at an outdoor bar in January? You’re amazing, California.
We dumped all our stuff in the room before heading back out into the parks, this time to California Adventure. The Grand Californian conveniently has an entrance directly into California Adventure, so we were able to capitalize and pop right into the park. We headed in the general direction of Cars Land to get in line for Radiator Springs Racers, and on the way stopped to ride Soarin’ Over California (if you guessed there was no line, you’d be right).
The Racers line trumped Mickey by a mile; we waited for nearly an hour for our turn. But it was worth it for me; it turned out to be one of my favorite rides and I hope we get to ride it again. There’s a good chance we will, because about 10 minutes before we got to the front of the line, Andrew had to bail to go to the bathroom and missed out. Here’s a great video of the entire ride, should you never make it to Disneyland:
After the ride, we headed out of Cars Land and toward Paradise Pier. There was no line at Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (a joke about our line mojo was born when we noticed all the line rides seemed to get longer right after we rode them), so we rode it really quickly and then headed to the midway section behind the ferris wheel to get in a ride on Toy Story Midway Mania before the park closed.
Tomorrow, Jason and I run our 5k!