For the amount of Disney trips I’ve gone on, I’ve never done one with a group of more than six. That all changed last week as my parents, brother, sisters, cousin, nephew, wife and I all made the trek to Southern California for a trip to Disneyland. All together, there were nine of us (including my nephew who’s about to turn 2.) The trip was a graduation present to my cousin who had completed high school in June. He had never been to a Disney Park before (or California for that matter) so we were eager to take him!
Planning for a big group is certainly more difficult. Everyone has different opinions and needs, as they should, so coming to a compromise or decision on some aspects is more difficult with nine people than it is with two. Even with all of the people I really enjoyed the planning stages. I’ve said it before and will again, Disneyland is much easier to plan for than Walt Disney World. All this to say, if you’re weary of taking a trip to Disney with a big group, don’t be. Now, on to the trip report!
We started our trip with a night and day at Huntington Beach, as well as Laguna Beach. While I won’t go into detail on what we did since this will mainly be about the parks, I would encourage everyone to at least spend an evening at one of the Southern California beaches. I got in the water several times and it felt wonderful. The beaches are a little bit of paradise and a relaxing alternative to the parks. Huntington Beach is about thirty minutes from Disneyland and extremely enjoyable.
After staying at the beach we headed to our hotel for the week, the Anaheim Desert Inn and Suites. I’ll write a review of the hotel soon, but we thought it was a decent place to stay with an incredible location. After checking in we headed over to Downtown Disney to grab a quick bite to eat. I ate at the consistently solid Earl of Sandwich and enjoyed my Holiday Turkey sub.
This was about the only time I spent in Downtown Disney and I can’t say I’m sad about that. That area is in desperate need of a renovation or at least a few new and unique restaurants. Seeing what has happened in Walt Disney World with Disney Springs, I’m hopeful that there is something in the works for Downtown Disney. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to sleep and get ready for our first day at Disneyland.
We entered the park the next morning right when it opened. We were headed for Indiana Jones Adventure, but that was temporarily closed so we walked on to the Jungle Cruise instead. Our skipper was especially good that morning, rattling off some jokes I’d never heard before. He was an older fella, reminiscent of Steve Martin. After we cruised the rivers of the world, Indiana Jones was open and we walked right on to that attraction. I’d never had to utilize rider swap until this trip. It is incredibly easy and seamless. If you don’t know what that is or how it works, check out one of our first posts here.
On this trip it seemed like Indiana Jones had more effects turned on. That made for a pleasant change to our usual ride. That attraction is timeless and doesn’t grow tired. I wonder if they’ll ever change the story up, with a new slate of Indy movies coming out.
After we were done with Indy, we did Pirates, Haunted Mansion and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It was fun to see my nephew, Wyatt, really enjoy Winnie the Pooh and my cousin, Tyler, be impressed by the amount of detail put into Pirates. I enjoyed my first look at the Hatbox Ghost in the Haunted Mansion and thought he was a great way to incorporate a little Disney history into a classic attraction.
We then went on to Splash Mountain, happened upon a Winnie the Pooh meet & greet and went on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Even with a bigger group, we were able to accomplish quite a bit on a hot, summer morning. While I’m not a morning person, going to a park at opening is the best way to accomplish a lot of attractions. Not to mention, it’s cooler at that point in time and easier to navigate through crowds since there are less of them.
Ignore my sister’s arm in this shot from Big thunder Mountain and enjoy a quick view of the Star Wars/Rivers of America construction. There weren’t a ton of places to get a good view on the work they’re doing, but it was easy to tell the amount of land they’re working on is humongous. While I’m still somewhat on the fence about this project, I’m impressed by the speed that they’re working at. The amount they’re doing in the timeframe they are shooting for is unlike Disney from the last couple of years. It’s good to see them work a little faster.
After Big Thunder we went to the Plaza Inn for lunch. We already have a review of it on the blog, but it was even better this time. I had the fried chicken again because I couldn’t pass it up, and it was fantastic. This was one of the better meals of the trip and while I like to try new places, I’m glad we ate here.
After lunch we were about ready for a break, but decided to stick it out for a few more rides. I saved the galaxy with Buzz Lightyear and then took Tyler through the weirdness that is ‘it’s a small world’. Maybe it’s getting older and me being sentimental, but that attraction grows on me every time. To be cheesy for a second, seeing this attraction in the world we live in is always hopeful and a nice reminder that we should all just get along. Not to mention that this is a nice way to cool down. Boy, did we need it as the temperature those first few days was in the mid-90’s. While it never became unbearable, the heat definitely can zap your energy.
We headed back to the hotel and took a break for a few hours. I went back to the park a little earlier than the others and took an hour to take photos. While I may not have accomplished any great feats in photography, I was pleasantly surprised at all of the little paths I found throughout Disneyland. Every trip I feel like I find another one of these little areas to walk through that not many others take advantage of. For Disneyland packing so many attractions into an area, it’s nice that there are still areas to get away from all the people for a brief moment or two. Anyway, here are a few photos I took while walking around that afternoon.
After meeting back up with my family we rode Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and then headed to my favorite place on earth, TOONTOWN!!! Just kidding. While I don’t like ToonTown I did see the appeal of it while visiting with my nephew. He loved playing in the stationary cars that they have throughout the land, and he seemed fond of Donald’s boat. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but while we were there we chased Wyatt around and took photos. It was easily the most fun I’ve had in ToonTown, although that’s not saying much.
After ToonTown, it was time for dinner. I headed to the French Market for dinner and enjoyed my red beans and rice. I’ll update our review of that restaurant with my new entree in the next few days. After dinner we tried to find a spot for Paint the Night and were only moderately successful. We were about 10 people back from the curb, but you could still see the floats as they passed. I think this was probably the hardest part of going with a big group. With 2 people you can squeeze into a good spot to watch the parade. With 8 or 9 people, that doesn’t work as well. We had to plan a little harder to get a spot for the parade, which we would do later in the trip.
We were much more successful in finding a spot for the fireworks. We were in the middle of Main Street parallel to the Jolly Holiday Bakery and had a great view. At least we thought we’d have a great view until some people decided that they needed to let their balloons fly throughout the show. I have very few pet peeves when it comes to Disney Parks, but I don’t like it when kids are on parents shoulders or when people have their balloons way up in the air blocking the view for the people behind them. I can understand the kids on parents shoulders at least, kids should get a chance to see the parade and I understand that it’s hard to hold children a different way for 20 minutes. Last time I checked, balloons are really light. Holding a balloon below your chin doesn’t take much effort and is way more considerate of the people around you. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox. At least I will once those balloon holding people get off my lawn!
Anyway, I didn’t get many shots of the fireworks that night due to said balloons, so I’ll shave my fireworks photos for another night. Disneyland Forever really is great and I came to appreciate it more this trip. I think when I first watched it I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t focus on Disneyland. Knowing what to expect this time led me to marvel at the technology. It’s a shame the show is going away.
After the fireworks I headed to the back of the park to watch the second showing of Paint the Night with my mom. Everyone else went back to the hotel. Before the parade began we took another ride on ‘it’s a small world’. The cowboy and Native American standing side by side is one of my favorite parts of this attraction.
After the ride we sat on the ground near the back of Fantasyland and waited for the parade to come. This area is without a doubt the best spot to watch the parade if you want to be close to the floats. The second showing is much easier to get seating, as well. We got there 10 minutes before the parade began and were set up right along the parade route. I was able to set up my tripod and get some long exposure photos of Paint the Night. I won’t rave about the parade right now because I’ve already done that in our review. I do love the parade though and am very curious about its future. Here’s a few of my favorite photos from that night. Click on any of these photos to see my Flickr, where there are way more photos than the ones that I’ve put in this post.
After the parade we took a leisurely stroll while exiting the park. I took a few photos through Fantasyland and enjoyed the limited crowds. We didn’t have many plans the next day so I wasn’t in a hurry to get to bed. All in all we had a really nice day and I was surprised at how much we accomplished with a big group that included a toddler.
That’s it for Part 1 of this Trip Report. Part 2 will include an off day and our 2nd day in the parks! Thank you for reading and if you have any questions about trip planning or Disney in general leave them in the comments. Also, if there’s something you’d like me to include in these trip reports please let me know!