A Disneyland Trip Review

We have a guest post today as I recently had some family go to Disneyland.  My brother Matthew was kind enough to answer some questions and send us a trip review.  Enjoy!

How many people were in your group and how long was your trip?

My in-laws surprised the whole family with this trip for Christmas, so we had 14 of us in all: my mother- and father-in-law, our family of three, and my wife Lisa’s brother and sister and their families. We had six kids total, my eight year old niece the oldest and then five boys ranging from a year and half to five years old. It was a fairly quick trip. We got there on a Wednesday and spent most of the afternoon in the park, had full park days on Thursday and Friday, and then flew home Saturday afternoon.

Tom Sawyer Island Big Thunder blue night

Give us a quick rundown of what you did each day and which day did you enjoy the most?

Our Wednesday morning flight was supposed to arrive a little after 11:00, so we were hoping to drop our bags and be in the park close to 1:00. Unfortunately, a delay on the flight and then a mix-up with our shuttle kept us from entering Disneyland until well after 3:00. We got a quick lunch and then rode a few rides. Pirates and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are the only one I’m remembering right now. We didn’t get a lot done that day, but we did watch Paint the Night and the Disneyland Forever fireworks, which were among the trip’s highlights for me. The park closed at 8:00 and we were ready for bed by then.

Thursday was our Magic Morning, which was good since we quickly learned 14 people do not move very fast through Disneyland! We did a few Fantasyland rides, Small World, Matterhorn and then Splash Mountain with a Fast Pass. We split up at that point and Lisa, Wyatt (our 17 month old) and I had a nice lunch before returning to the hotel for a nap. We returned with Lisa’s parents in the late afternoon but didn’t do a ton: Tiki Room and a long wait for Peter Pan were about it. We ended with dinner in Downtown Disney.

tiki room full

Friday was California Adventure time. The plan was to either Fast Pass or ride Radiator Springs Racers immediately, but screaming kids and indecision scuttled that plan. We ended up getting a Fast Pass for later before wandering around the pier and riding a few smaller rides. We had just got in line for California Screaming when they closed it, which was sad. We let the kids run around for a while as we made our way around the water. Eventually, a few of us went on Soaring while the others relaxed or shopped a bit. We got some lunch and then blew through Tower of Terror, Racers, and the finally-open Screaming before almost running to House of Blues, where we had a dinner reservation with Lisa’s aunt and uncle. We had hoped to spend a last few hours in Disneyland after dinner, but we were all exhausted, so we shopped for a bit and then walked back to our hotel. Wyatt and I did watch the fireworks from our hotel window, which was a sweet moment to end the day. Saturday was just packing up, with a couple of hours shopping and snacking in Downtown Disney before catching our shuttle to the airport.

sunset california screamin paradise pier

I don’t know that I had a favorite day, but both of our full days at the parks were great. Going with a huge group and so many kids wasn’t especially conducive to riding lots of rides, so there were some we missed, but it was well worth it to be with family and see the kids have so much fun. I’m lucky to have great in-laws and really enjoyed spending some time with my siblings-in-law and chasing my niece and nephews around.

Enough with these lame questions, what did you eat? Any favorites?

I like to think Andrew gets some of his love for good food from me, and normally we’d put some effort into planning meals and restaurants. WIth so many people, this wasn’t really the trip for that, and we made most of our decisions on the fly. We still ate pretty well, though. First stop was my father-in-law’s one request: the corn dog wagon on Main Street. Andrew’s ravings on this blog won him over, and it was indeed as good a corn dog as I’ve had. That was about it for food on Wednesday, unfortunately. We thought the park was open late and planned to grab something after fireworks, but I read something wrong and it was only open late for a private event. Wyatt wasn’t up for much of anything else that night, so I ended up eating delivery Mexican food in our hotel room. Not what I had in mind, but surprisingly delicious.

Thursday, we ate lunch at the River Belle Terrace, a perfect respite after a morning of running between rides. Andrew says it was recently converted to a table-service restaurant, and it was a good change, as the service and the opportunity to sit and relax on the patio by the river made it worthwhile. I ate ribs, which were good but not amazing, and Lisa had a pulled pork sandwich. She said it was her best meal of the trip. I’d highly recommend River Belle, especially if you want to sit and relax for a bit in the middle of your day. We got the obligatory Dole Whip while waiting for the Tiki Room that afternoon, and then had a late dinner at Naples, in Downtown Disney. I had salmon, my favorite entrée of the trip. We sat outside again, which was quieter and perfect weather-wise, and gave the unexpected bonus of a great view of Disneyland fireworks.

dole whip 1

Friday we all ate lunch in the Pacific Wharf area. Clam chowder in a bread bowl for me, rice bowl for Lisa, both of us satisfied. A frozen margarita was delicious on a fairly warm day. I really like this area, personally. The food’s solid, it’s nice to have multiple options with a big group, and it’s secluded but close to everything. Later in the afternoon, us “kids” and our kids stopped for Ghirardelli ice cream. We didn’t know they had added this and were quite excited to see it, Lisa especially. We always make an effort to go to any Ghirardelli we’re close to. Their sundaes and other treats are reliably excellent. Dinner was at the House of Blues with the whole group that night. I had jambalaya, which was, again, good but not great. Reviews from everyone else were pretty mixed. I’d put HoB in the upper half of the Downtown restaurants, but it’s nothing amazing. Sunday brought no dining of note, sadly.

Did the construction at Disneyland affect your trip at all?

It didn’t have a big effect. The one big negative was the closed path between Frontierland and Fantasy Land. That meant all traffic had to go back out to the circle, making for a longer trip and more traffic, especially at parade time. Also, I have happy memories of exploring Tom Sawyer Island as a kid, and it would’ve been a fun place for our group of boys to run around. Otherwise, no issues. Grizzly River Rapids was closed for maintenance, and Indiana Jones opened on our last day there, but those are the only rides we especially missed being able to ride.

fog grizzly river run

Out of all the new things you haven’t seen at Disneyland, what impressed you the most?

We hadn’t been in California Adventure since it was redone, and it’s much improved. Cars Land is a really immersive experience, and Radiator Springs Racers is one of the better rides in either park. All of the other changes helped a lot too, although it could still use a few more destination rides. Probably my favorite new things were Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever, though. We didn’t have a great view of the parade, but I thought its use of lights were amazing. Disneyland fireworks are always great, and this show was no exception. I loved the use of “Step In Time”, one of my favorite Disney movie moments.

Disneyland Forever cropped pink and yellow

What are you most looking forward to doing at Disneyland when you go back?

More rides. We missed a lot, just due to lots of kids and too little time. Luckily, we knew we’re going back this summer with my family, so we’ll have lots more time to do what we missed. A few other things I’m hoping for:

  • A better view of Paint the Night and seeing World of Color
  • Hitting more restaurants, hopefully a few we haven’t tried
  • Gumbo
  • Climbing the Matterhorn with Andrew (a tradition I’m looking to start)
  • Seeing more shows. We didn’t get to any of them!

Matterhorn night waterfall

If you could have any job at Disneyland, what would it be?

Tough question. It would be a fun place to work in general, but I don’t know if there’s a job that jumps out to me. It would be really cool to work with special needs and Make-A-Wish kids and help them through the park.

matthew & wyatt

Final thoughts?

Yes, because I clearly haven’t written enough already. Everyone talks about how Disneyland is different with kids, when you see it through their eyes, and it’s completely true. Wyatt was still too young to enjoy much of the park, but my favorite moments were watching him watch everything around him. He loved the parade and fireworks, and Small World captivated him (and made him sleepy). Wyatt was born three months early and there were moments we didn’t even know if he would make it. To be walking through Disneyland with him a year and a half later brought me so much happiness. I can’t wait for more Disney trips as he grows up.

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