Britta in front of the Disneyland Castle
mrmouse, hpjenorama, Melanie & I left my house in Santa Clara 12:30pm on the dot, checking into the Paradise Pier Hotel around 8pm, getting into the park via the Monorail right as the fireworks were starting, then the Matterhorn, then the required Fantasyland Mad Hatter stop to get silly hats. This time we decided to match with trendy squashed straw cowboy hats - you know, the kind that have been trendy since Madonna wore them for the "Music" video from her last album... ;) Since it was too late in the day for any FastPasses to be distributed, we stood in line for Indiana Jones, did some shopping on the way out, then left after the park closed at midnight.
We were told when we checked in that as hotel guests we could get in to Disneyland an hour before opening which was 7am, but we knew there was no way that would happen. We thought we did really well leaving our room by 7:45! We hightailed it to the Carnation Cafe, where I gave my order to the others, then took everyone's tickets so while waiting for our food to arrive I could grab as many FastPasses as I could, especially for Space Mountain. None of us had ridden Space Mountain in several years since it's been closed for the 50th anniversary refurbishment, so we were excited for that. I used my long legs to race over to Tomorrowland, got FastPasses for Space Mountain & the new Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters ride, but Star Tours wasn't issuing FastPasses due to short lines. I got back & they had just ordered - whew! When we were done eating our yummy breakfast, especially my tea to help my sore throat & cough (still leftover from the darn Caribbean cruise!), we got to Space Mountain, where the line was only 15 minutes, so we saved our FastPasses for the next time around. By the time our first ride ended, the line was already much longer, so we used the FastPass then, with silliness now that we knew they take a ride photo, then we grabbed yet another FastPass for use later in the day.
We now interrupt this travelogue for a FastPass commercial break - skip if you know all the scoop on FastPass, but even you might learn something! ;)
As mrmouse commented Saturday afternoon "FastPass owns my soul!" hahaha! But if you haven't been to Disneyland in the past several years, you're probably wondering by now, "What the heck is a FastPass?" For certain high-demand rides, there are FastPass machines where you use your entry ticket to get a FastPass to come back at a later time to stand in a shorter line than the regular line. After about noon, when the regular lines are often 90 minutes or more, the 15 minute-max FastPass line is wonderful. Unfortunately, FastPass is only available for multi-day entry tickets, not single day. The extra story to this is that they have changed the FastPass program over the years so that normal ticketholders are only allowed one FastPass out at a time, which means you must choose your rides & your timing wisely. There was still a 3-day Park Hopper pass that Disney Travel sold with packages that would allow multiple FastPass tickets out at a time. However, I was told last fall that for whatever reason, Disney stopped selling those packages themselves and only AAA Travel was selling them. When planning for this trip, I did some online research via Google finding message board explanations, then when I navigated the AAA Travel Disney packages, I understood what the details meant. The only people who can get the super-special unlimited FastPass tickets are those who stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel and book the hotel & ticket package through AAA Travel! We did try for the slightly cheaper option of a Disney Good Neighbor hotel, but since this was Spring Break time, all those were totally full except for one, which wasn't much cheaper, would charge us for parking, and was a longer walk. Since it was 4 of us in one room anyway, we decided to pay the extra for the Paradise Pier Hotel which had the bonus of the special FastPass...and boy we were glad we did! :)
...and now back to our regularly-scheduled programming...
We all decided a third go at Space Mountain in a row was bit much for our equilibria, so we got on the new Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters ride...very cool! It's yet another "story" ride where you're in a car moving through scenes, but each car has two blaster guns that interact with the scenery for points. I got the lowest score since I was concentrating on shooting photos instead of shooting targets. ;) Unfortunately Pirates of the Caribbean is closed for refurbishment, of course opening the weekend before the new movie opens this summer, so we rode the Haunted Mansion twice while the line was still short...not a 15 minute wait, mind you, but a 13 minute wait...hah!...then we just collected FastPasses like they were going out of style. See, the other tip I had read was that they will take FastPasses all day long as long as you are not earlier than your window begins. This means a FastPass for 11:30am could still be used at 11:30pm if you wanted, and this makes a difference since if you wait until later in the day, FastPass times are already so far out that at noon your return window might be after 4pm! We headed over to California Adventure to collect FastPasses for Tower of Terror, Soarin' Over California & California Screamin' before it got too late. Since we had just about everthing possible FastPassed for both parks, I insisted on a photo fanning them all out...haha! We each had a much-too-large-albeit-delicious corn dog, then back into Disneyland for finally reaping the rewards of our FastPasses...very nice! I lost count of how many times we zoomed past the people stuck in the standby line, hearing them say "We should have gotten that FastPass thing!" The weather was nice enough we even braved Splash Mountain, since Ben had never been on it before. Melanie got absolutely soaked in the face and I got an attack of the "Laughing Place" giggles that wouldn't quit...heehee! As I saw Woody in Frontierland, I begged for a photo with him, so the others patiently waited while I crammed my way through the crowd of kids to get my photo...hey, I got a photo with Buzz back in 2000, so the least I could do is give equal treatment when I had the chance! ;)
We had enough time to use a large chunk of our FastPasses before an early dinner at the Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. We discovered this place on our last Disney trip in Nov 2004, and we just got lucky that time that we happened across it early enough in the evening that we were able to sit up on the New Orleans-style balcony, and the food was delicious. Even though we got there this time at 4:45pm, we still had to wait 45 minutes for a balcony table, so we took turns napping in the sun while waiting. Dinner was great again, and the place was packed when we left, so good timing! Back into the parks for a ride or two, including California Screamin' and the Tower of Terror, then since Jen had never seen Fantasmic, at 10pm we got lucky with a good spot, so we hung out until it started at 10:30. We ended the day with Space Mountain, using our FastPass almost 12 hours later, then Jen & Melanie decided to call it a night while Ben & I just had enough time to stand in line for Peter Pan, which he had also never ridden before. Can't miss flying in a pirate ship over the night skies of London! ;)
Luckily I had read Robert's comment on my Treo (thanks Robert!) while still in traffic on Friday, so Saturday afternoon we asked about reservations for the breakfast buffet at the Grand Californian Hotel. The price wasn't bad & it was something new for all of us, so we figured why not. Very decent buffet, $25/person to add tax & tip, and there are characters who roam the room. Since he had bought a Chip pin for his hat after all, we forced Ben to have a photo with Chip, then Dale came by who wanted to wear Jen's hat, then so did Brother Bear! The funniest though was when the little bear Koda came by, he did his schtick without asking about the hats, then as he moved to the next booth, Melanie joked "Sorry, you're too young for us"...Koda heard, stuck his face back around the edge of the booth & gave her a raspberry - Pffft! haha...
We had seen the long lines before for the new Monsters Inc ride, and there was no FastPass for that, so we headed straight for that after breakfast. Hilarious detail while waiting in line and on the ride! The handwritten multi-eyed smiley on the transit rules sign, the Harryhausen's menu, and the Behemouth poster were some of my favorites...heehee! The ride itself was another car through scenes, but very well done, especially all the doors flying around while searching for Boo's door to get her home.
After another visit to the Hollywood Tower Hotel, including the planned "hold onto your hats" Tower of Terror photo, we spotted Mr. & Mrs. Incredible zooming along, obviously on a mission. The others said I'd never catch them, but they don't have my long legs. ;) As I tried my best to get a shot while they were walking, lo & behold they stopped at the corner for photos! I ended up 5th in line, with my friends nowhere to be found! I begged the crowd for anyone to use my camera to take my photo with the Incredibles, and a nice Australian woman did. Not the best character photo I have, but sure better than nothing at all! :)
It had finally gotten warm enough to use our FastPass for the Grizzly River Rapids, where Melanie got the worst soaked yet again! After Ben & I rode the freefall Maliboomer while Jen & Melanie took a break & waved to us from down below, since we couldn't FastPass anything else, since all the times were past when we planned to drive back up north, we decided for one last Fantasyland ride before leaving, so it was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Like Ben's recreation of the original 2003 version with his "Ben Hair" photo the night before, Melanie wanted to recreate a photo from her past by posing with Mr. Toad. As Ben & I used our last FastPass for the little Mulholland Madness roller coaster in California Adventure, Jen & Melanie went shopping in Downtown Disney, then we met back in the Grand Californian Hotel lobby to rest our weary tootsies and take our final hat photos to show the pins we suckered ourselves into buying over the weekend. ;)
Cool 50th Anniversary Stuff
The Disney Gallery of course had some special things, including a Thomas Kinkade "Painter of Light" painting of the Sleeping Beauty Castle decked out in 50th anniversary attire. Temporarily replacing the Lincoln show is a 50th anniversary exhibit and short movie that is definitely worth watching. As you are waiting to enter the theatre, there is a large exhibit of original concept artwork for Disneyland, memorabilia from the past 50 years, including different eras of "cast member" nametags, tickets, character costumes...did you know that Steve Martin worked at the Disneyland Magic Shop in 1959? He hosted the movie, and there was a photo of him in the magic shop to prove it! My favorite part of the movie was the time-lapse of clearing the Anaheim orange grove & building Disneyland in less than one year! However, as cool as the exhibit was, my favorite were all the pictographs everywhere in both parks! I remember a couple years ago that Disneyland was requesting photos from anyone who wanted to send them in to be part of their 50th anniversary project. They took those thousands of photos, sorted them by color & contrast, and made these photo collages! Two stood out especially - the one of Mickey & Walt at the exhibit entrance, which was made up of old photos of Walt, and the recursive pictograph where Steamboat Willie was made up of photos of people who were again made up of smaller photos of people! That was a LOT of work, but a very impressive result, and an excellent way for the 50 years of Disneyland guests to participate in the anniversary. Now I regret not getting any of my own photos submitted, but there would be NO way I'd ever find myself anyway... ;)
Final Disneyland Musings...
Just a couple last musings before I'm done... I've seen this before on other trips, too, but it always hits me that the cross-section of Disneyland "guests" is truly astonishing. There are people I would never expect to enjoy Disneyland obviously having a grand old time. All ages, all races, groups of friends, all shapes & sizes of family units...I can't think of a stereotype I didn't see this weekend. There was a gangsta rapper-styled teen wearing giant white Mickey gloves, and even a goth/punk family, with Dad with a head full of black footlong spiked hair, Mom with red & black striped hair pulled back with bowl-cut bangs and their black stroller (I didn't see Baby), was in the entrance line in front of us!
Now, before I get too deep about how It's a Small World, which ironically we didn't ride this weekend, I think I need some quality sleep! ;)