Written by Angela Brya.
This winter, my husband Greg and I decided to take that dreaded step of introducing our daughters, Lauren (5) and Lexie (2) to Disney. As you may recall, we did a Disney Cruise and had an absolutely wonderful time. However, I am sure that many of us have mixed emotions of the first family vacation to a theme park. The anticipation of endless lines, long days, whiny kids and the expense of the whole trip. But isn’t it worth the priceless moment of seeing the twinkle in your child’s eye when they see Mickey Mouse or Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, that talks each one of us into it?!
Because our daughters are so young, we decided that Disneyland in California would be the perfect introduction to Disney. It was! First, from Detroit the flight to Orange County is only slightly longer than traveling to Orlando. Second, we had experienced Disneyland ourselves two years ago with the Classic Travel Gang and knew that Disneyland is on a smaller scale than Disney World and also has California Adventure. This made it much more manageable with youngsters in tow.
There are three Disneyland resort hotels, Paradise Pier, Grand Californian and the Disneyland Hotel. Since we were only going to be there for four days and we knew the majority of our time would be spent at the parks and not at the hotel, we decided to stay at one of the off site hotels. We stayed at the Howard Johnson Plaza. It worked out great! The hotel was conveniently located within a 10-minute walk to the main entrance and at half the cost of staying at a Disneyland resort hotel.
We were able to see two of the resort hotels. We enjoyed a character breakfast with Minnie, Pluto and Max (Goofy’s son) at the Paradise Pier Hotel. This was a great way to start the day and worth every penny. We also strolled around the Grand Californian, which has direct access into Downtown Disney. Both of these hotels were beautiful. The Grand Californian is very elegant. I vow to go back when I have more time to indulge in the luxury. Downtown Disney is located between the theme parks and the ultimate in entertainment, dining and shopping.
There are several options for admission to the two theme parks. We got a deal, purchasing a 3 day park hopper ticket, allowing 5 days admission and full park hopping privileges. Another advantage was that ages 2 and under are free.
Traveling during a busy, President’s Day weekend, we strategically elected to go to California Adventure on Saturday, hoping to bypass large crowds. There were very few lines and all quite short. California Adventure has Hollywood Pictures Backlot, A Bug’s Land Flik’s Fun Fair and the boardwalk of Paradise Pier. A few favorites were seeing the musical Aladdin, “It’s Tough to be a Bug 3-D show and a fishing game where for $2.00 everyone is a winner (Lexie won the largest prize). Of course the highlight was the famous Electrical Parade.
On to bigger and better things, Disneyland! The walk down Main Street and seeing Sleeping Beauty’s Castle quickly set the tone. The girls were giddy with excitement. Everyday upon entrance to the park Lexie would state “We’re at Disneyland”. Lauren, after being measured, was thrilled to find out that she was tall enough to ride all except one ride. Even Space Mountain, if her Mom weren’t so leery. She quickly took advantage by testing out Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster. Although a favorite for all was Autopia, where you drive a car yourself around a track. I think we hit that 4 or 5 times. Some other must were, It’s a Small World, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Not to mention a tour of both Minnie and Mickey’s houses where you got to visit each character. Most rides, except the roller coasters are geared for all ages, with an adult.
The trip would not be complete without seeing the “Parade of the Stars” where you see every Disney character you can think of, while enjoying the wonderful music too. Of course seeing the Disney Princesses, such as Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty put them in awe. We saw the parade 3 times in four days and to be honest, Mom and Dad were the biggest fans. The fantastic “Believe” fireworks show was a pleasant end to an amazing trip.
We created many magical memories on our first trip to Disneyland. I will always treasure seeing the twinkle in their eyes and grins on their faces. This was another wonderful travel experience.