Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 5 – Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plan: Tackle the left side of Disneyland, starting in Adventureland and working our way through Frontierland, New Orleans Square and Critter Country. Everyone except me and Jason will eat at Blue Bayou for lunch.


I woke up at 5:00am, about 30 minutes before the alarm was set to go off. I decided I could sleep until 5:45am, so I reset the alarm for an extra 15 minutes. Once I was up, I showered and dressed, then texted Jason that he could come over. Our room keys work for both room, which makes it super convenient. If we needed privacy to dress, we would just flip the deadbolt. Jason let himself into my room and settled down with his laptop. I ate one of the Mimi’s muffins and a banana while I checked my email and the MousePlanet forums.

We left the hotel at 7:07am and parked once again in Pinocchio. Security wasn’t open yet and there was a big line forming. We noticed that there were actually two lines, the long line that we were currently standing in and a much shorter line that ended when it reached a tree. No one seemed to notice the shorter line, so we left the long line and moved over. While we waited for Security to open we observed a large tour group led by a tour guide holding an Adventures by Disney sign. It was the Backstage Magic tour. I had listened to a podcast recently where someone reviewed their experience on this tour and it sounded amazing. They were really impressed with it and looking forward to taking it again.

We watched as security opened a special line just for them and they were quickly through the line and on their way into the park before it opened. At 7:30am the rest of our group arrived and joined us in line. Even though we’d been in this line for about five minutes, we were still hidden by the tree and no one else had joined the line behind us.

By 7:50am we were inside the park and lined up at the rope. Once the park opened, we headed left into Adventureland, where Matthew, Samantha and I picked up FastPasses for Indiana Jones with a return time of 9:15am. No one else was interested, it being too rough a ride for them.

Next up we all entered the Jungle Cruise queue and walked onto the first boat of the day. We had a fun skipper who did a great job of delivering the usual spiel.

Our next stop was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad where there was absolutely no line. Mom wasn’t going to ride, so she arranged to meet us at our next destination. Dad didn’t want to ride either, but he went along to take pictures. He was able to walk through the exit and take pictures of us boarding the ride vehicle. Then he walked around near the exit to take pictures as our train flew by. We were assigned to the last three rows of the train, a perfect spot for the Goat Trick. We shared the secret of the Goat Trick with Sandy, but she was reluctant to try it, since she has a delicate neck and wasn’t sure what it was really all about.

One ride was enough for Sandy, but the rest of us went around for a second, since the line was so short. We immediately boarded a train, this time in the front two rows. We prefer to be further back because by the time the end of the train reached the summit of the hills, the front of the train was halfway down the drop on the other side before it picked up any speed. Once again Dad took pictures as we sped around the curve and back into the mountain.

We all did Pirates of the Caribbean. Even though there was only a five minute wait, the CM packed us all into two rows. Mom was on the outside and managed to get soaked on her left side when we hit the bottom of the first drop.

After Pirates, Matthew, Samantha and I used our FastPasses for Indiana Jones. In the past I’ve always saved my FastPass for this attraction until later in the day and then we always have a really long wait, even when using the FastPass. The point where they merge the FastPass and standby lines is so far back in the line, that even though they hold many of the standby people outside, there are still enough of them inside the building that it makes for a really long wait. This time I wanted to use our FastPasses early enough in the day, when the stand by line was short, to reduce the amount of time I was standing in line. It was 11 minutes from the time we entered the FastPass return line to when the CM was doing the seat belt check.

We found the rest of the group sitting inside River Belle Terrace drinking coffee. Mom, Dad and I remained there while Jason, Matthew, Sandy and Samantha did Tarzan’s Tree House. Jason took a picture of a Hidden Mickey that wasn’t in Steve Barrett’s Hidden Mickey book. He showed the picture to Dad, who is an avid Hidden Mickey fan. I knew Dad would be heading into Tarzan’s Tree House to see the Hidden Mickey for himself before the trip was over.

Samantha and Matthew were starving so they headed over to Market House for coffee and cookies. Dad, Jason and Sandy took everyone’s park tickets and went to get FastPasses for Splash. Mom and I wandered slowly over to the park area near the New Orleans Train Station where we had all agreed to meet. Once we all regrouped, Dad handed back our park tickets and Splash FastPasses (which had a return time of 10:15am). While cookies were eaten and coffee drunk, we planned the order that we would be seated on the Splash Mountain log. Jason was opting out of Splash since he didn’t want to get wet. This solved the issue of us not all fitting into one log. We wanted to purchase the ride photo and didn’t want to purchase more than one overpriced picture. We also wanted everyone to be visible in the photo and it’s easy for someone to be hidden by the person in front of them. Initially, we thought we’d be seated in order of height, but Mom and Sandy were both very nervous about the big drop at the end and didn’t want to be anywhere near the front. As the shortest, I was slated for the front of the log, which was fine with me. I love the drop at the end and also didn’t care if I got wet. It was so warm out, that I was hoping to get wet. Even though Samantha should have been in row 4, she got bumped to row 2 by two of the people with more seniority in life than her. Sandy was in row 3, Mom in row 4, Dad in row 5 and Matthew in row 6. Once the order was established, we decided that I would lean slightly to my right, the person behind me would lean slightly to the left, and so on with everyone alternating the direction they would lean. This would ensure that everyone would be visible in the photo. Just to make sure everyone had it straight, we did a practice run with everyone lining up and leaning the appropriate direction. We were pleased with result and ready to move on to our next attraction which was the Haunted Mansion.

By now it was 9:50am and there was just a very brief wait until we entered the stretching room. Jason and I always make sure we stay together because it’s dark and once you leave the stretching room, things move fairly quickly and there isn’t time to be looking for each other. Mom was standing near us but wasn’t anywhere near Dad, with whom she planned to ride. We were very close to the boarding area when she realized that she better find Dad, but things were moving so quickly that she didn’t have a chance. Jason and I hopped aboard our Doom Buggy and thought Mom would just step aside and let others board until Dad caught up with her. We had just passed the loading area when the ride stopped. Jason and I were sure that it was somehow related to Mom. The ride started up again very shortly and we continued on our way. At the end of the ride as we stepped out of our vehicle we noticed that Mom was in the vehicle behind us, so the ride stop was unrelated to her. I don’t think she was able to think fast enough to formulate a plan for meeting up with Dad and just ended up riding alone.

Next up we continued around to Critter Country and rode Winnie the Pooh which had a posted wait time of three minutes, but we really just walked on. The CM wasn’t really doing a good job of loading the vehicle. I’m not sure if she directed Matthew, Samantha and Mom to row 1 or if Mom just followed them. Dad and Sandy went to row 2 and Jason and I were in row 3. I didn’t think three people would fit in one row so I said to Jason that we should just take the next ride vehicle. But someone said that the three of them would fit. Well it was very obvious once Samantha and Matthew actually sat down that there was no way a third person would fit. By then those of us in rows 2 and 3 were already seated, so there was nothing for Mom to do but to wait for the next vehicle. Our vehicle took off and as we entered the building we looked behind us and saw Mom seated all by herself in her own vehicle.

When we got off the ride we had to tease her about being too good to ride with any of us on both the Haunted Mansion and Winnie. She laughed, which made me feel better because I felt bad about her have to ride alone.

It was 10:15am and we were eligible to use our Splash FastPasses. I hadn’t planned on us using them until after lunch, but since we were there we decided to go ahead and save ourselves the walk back to Critter Country later on.

I think Splash Mountain has the most awkward FastPass line and any attractions with FastPass. It parallels the stand by line the entire way and I feel like people are resentful that we’re racing through the line while they’ve been standing in line for what is usually a very long time, although on this day, the stand by line was only about 15 minutes. When we reached the front I asked the CM if we’d be able to all be in the same log. She made sure that we were and soon we were on our way.

At the bottom of the first drop a huge wave of water washed over the front of the log and completely drenched me. I could hear groans from Sandy and Mom sitting behind me as they too were soaked. After we got off the ride we regrouped to survey the damage. All four of us women were wringing water out of our clothes while the two guys were only slightly damp. Fortunately, you couldn’t tell from looking at me that there wasn’t a dry inch of clothing on me. It took several hours for me to dry out completely but I wasn’t complaining. I was completely cool and comfortable. Our picture turned out great. Everyone was perfectly positioned so we could see the entire group. Sandy had her mouth wide open in a gigantic scream and she looked terrified. Mom went to purchase the photo while Sandy had her picture taken with Pooh and Tigger.

It was nearly time for Dad to check in for their Blue Bayou reservation. Initially, it was going to be just Dad, Mom and Sandy since Sandy had never eaten at Blue Bayou. Then Samantha and Matthew decided to pay their own way and go. Dad had tried to get them added to the reservation earlier in the week, but the CM just said to let them know when they checked in. They decided to head over that direction so they would be one of the first to check in when the podium opened at 11:20am, so that they would have a better chance of getting a waterside table.

Jason and I decided last year that we were through with Blue Bayou. We used to split a Monte Cristo so we would have room for dessert. We would usually share a cookie boat sundae, which I believe was around $8. When we first started doing this, they would charge a $4.00 split plate charge, but we would each get our own side dishes. We felt this was worth it because having our own entrée was way too much food for us. Then one year they still charged the $4.00 but you no longer got your own sides. I remember it was awkward because they only brought out one soup and two spoons. With tax and tip the bill came to over $40 and we basically just ordered on meal. We decided we could make better use of $40. Now they charge a $12 split plate charge and you again get your own sides

While everyone was off at Blue Bayou, Jason and I contemplated our options for lunch. We decided on bread bowls at the Royal Street Veranda. We both chose the Steak Gumbo and decided to split a trio of Fritters which came with a dipping sauce. We took our food over to the River Belle Terrace and found a table along the railing overlooking the Rivers of America. This was my first time trying the bread bowl and it was delicious. It was a little spicy and very filling. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed watching the Mark Twain and Sailing Ship Columbia pass by every so often. When we were hear in February, Rivers of America was still undergoing its refurbishment and was drained with walls all around it.

We lingered over our meal until the others were done with their lunch. Someone texted Jason that they were leaving the restaurant and he texted back that they should meet us at the Mark Twain. Jason and I walked over just as the Mark Twain was boarding passengers. We hoped the rest of the group would hurry so we could make it on, but it wasn’t to be. We waited and boarded the next time around. All of us except Dad and Jason found seats at the bow of the ship. They wanted to wander around and take pictures. It felt great to sit there in the sun because I was still very wet from Splash Mountain.

After Mark Twain we went over to the Enchanted Tiki Room. Jason and I had Dole Whip Floats, while everyone else had Dole Whips. The outside line at the Tiki Juice Bar was very long, but we went inside and there was no line at all. The inside line is reserved for people who are staying for the show. That’s fine with us as Jason and I love the Tiki Room.

When the doors opened to enter the theatre, Jason and I led our group to our favorite spot, the back row. Most everyone else seems to head to the front rows, but we prefer it in the back. The seats have padded backs and you get a great view of everything without having to crane your neck up.

After the Tiki Room, we had finished everything on our touring plan. Jason and I were heading back to the hotel for a rest. Mom asked if she could hitch a ride with us. In spite of my resolve after yesterday’s incident to just drop it, I once again tried to convince her to drive her own car back so she could park in the Toy Story lot later in the afternoon. I really was trying to save her wait time at the end of the evening, but she adamantly resisted the suggestion. After Dad and I both tried to convince her unsuccessfully, I gave up and told her that I’d be happy to drive her back. We made plans for everyone to meet at Coke Corner at 6:30pm.

On the way out we suggested that Mom swing by Buzz Lightyear and pick up a FastPass for later in the evening. While she did that, I stopped by the Candy Palace for my traditional piece of fudge. This time I chose Rocky Road.

Once we dropped Mom off and were back in our rooms, I made a cup of coffee, iced my knees and ate half of the piece of fudge. I’ve decided that Rocky Road is my favorite flavor. I read my book for awhile, watched some TV and then napped for a short time. At 4:30pm Jason came over and we hung out in my room until it was time to leave.

We picked up Mom and continued on to the Toy Story lot. At first they directed us down an aisle with everyone else, but when we reached the CM that was directing people into specific parking spots, he told us to continue on down the aisle to the handicapped area. I was very relieved as we would have parked near the very end of the row, far away from the bus loading area. Instead, we found a spot just a few places from the loading area and within minutes were comfortably seated in a cool bus.

There were no lines at the turnstiles so we were inside Disneyland within minutes. It was almost time for the parade to begin so we hurried up the street to Market House where we picked up a coffee refill. We crossed over to the other side of Main Street just in time. Dad had save us a table near the railing on the upper level near the AP processing center. We sat and watched the parade. Dad told that while watching the earlier parade, a mentally disabled man was very disappointed that he missed seeing Minnie in her special parade dress. So even though we all find this parade to be less interesting than other parades in the past, we kept a sharp eye out for Minnie. Sure enough she was wearing a very beautiful sparkly red dress.

After the parade was over, we decided to just stay put for the fireworks even though they weren’t due to begin for another couple of hours. We knew our view would be partially obstructed but it was shady and comfortable and no one felt like sitting in the hot sun in front of the castle. While we always had the majority of our group at the table, occasionally a couple of people would go off to do something else. Matthew and Samantha went to ride Space Mountain. Mom went to use her three FastPasses for Buzz. Dad and Sandy went to do Winnie the Pooh.

Matthew had been thinking about the bread bowl that Jason and I had for lunch so around 8:00pm he went and got one for himself and brought it back to the table. Around 8:15pm Dad and Jason went across the street and picked up hand dipped corn dogs and chips for the rest of us.

After we finished eating, Mom mentioned that she saw a Mickey shaped ice cream sandwich that looked good. Dad went in search of one for her and came back with a Mickey ice cream bar. Not exactly what she wanted, but she still enjoyed it. This got me to thinking that while I love, love, love the Mickey ice cream bars, I’ve never had one while inside a Disney theme park. When we visit Walt Disney World, I usually have one a day, but only back at the resort. I’m not sure why I never get one in the parks unless I’m worried about it melting in the warm weather.

We still had time to kill before fireworks, so I headed back to Market House for another coffee refill and an oatmeal cookie. One thing nice about the warm summer weather is that there never was much of a line at Market House for coffee. Compared to last February when the line could get very long, especially around parade and fireworks time.

When the fireworks began, we realized that we were sitting in a horrible spot. We thought the tree would only block part of our view, but it ended up blocking most of it. At one point I moved down to stand near the entrance to Coke Corner where I had a better view. There was a man standing there too. After a couple of minutes a CM told us that we couldn’t stand near the doorway. The man subtly flashed a badge at the CM, the CM nodded at him and the man stayed where he was. I had no badge to flash so I moved away from the doorway. I was able to see Tinkerbell and Dumbo as they flew between the castle and the Matterhorn, but not much else. We really should have moved to a better location, even if it meant sitting in the sun for awhile.

After the fireworks were over I went back and joined the rest of the family at the table. We waited a few minutes for the worst of the crowds to leave. Sandy, Samantha and Matthew decided to walk back to the hotel. Since we were all leaving at the same time, we decided to text each when we arrived at our hotels to decide the question of whether walking, parking in Toy Story, or parking in Mickey & Friends was fastest.

Jason and I passed through the Disneyland turnstiles at 10:02pm. Seven minutes later we were on a bus to the Toy Story lot. From our seats we could see a steady stream of Toy Story busses making their way to the loading area. As we exited Disney property and crossed Harbor Blvd, we received a text from the walkers to say they had just arrived at their hotel. Jason and I pulled into our parking space at exactly 10:30pm, with Mom and Dad texting their arrival at 10:41pm.

I was exhausted so I watched TV for about 15 minutes and then turned out the light at 11:00pm. Sandy, Matthew and Samantha will use the last day of their park hoppers tomorrow. They still have the Magic Morning, but so far only Sandy expressed an interest in getting up early enough to use it when the park opens at 7:00am.

Summary: Today just underscored the beauty of a good touring plan and the vital importance of arriving at park opening. When you visit during the off season you can be more relaxed, but during the busier summer months it’s essential. We were able to work our way through Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square and Critter Country with little or no wait times. At one point in the morning, Dad took a picture of the area in front of Aladdin’s Oasis and the Jungle Cruise that was totally deserted. He was absolutely amazed at how empty the area was. Even during less crowded times, this area can become a log jam of people.

Highlights: It was really fun going from attraction to attraction with almost no wait time. Jason and I enjoyed the bread bowls we had for lunch and didn’t miss the Blue Bayou at all. We had a lot of fun planning out how we were going to position ourselves for our Splash Mountain picture. I loved parking in the Toy Story lot and avoiding those horrible parking lot trams.

Pedometer Stats:
Miles: 4.19
Steps: 13,292

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