Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Happiest Place on Earth

Haven't blogged in awhile, so I thought I'd send this shout-out from my family's hotel in DISNEYLAND while my family sleeps in!

For various reasons the Reynaldo brood didn't travel to see family this Thanksgiving or Xmas, so rather than stay holed up at home, we decided to go to Disneyland for a small vacation. We made it into a surprise for the kids (the eldest is 5), via a note that Santa left for the kids Xmas day. We left for Disneyland Xmas evening and spent the day at the park the day after the holiday. (In the past, in such situations, we've also gone skiing at local mountains, but we made this decision so last minute, it would have been impossible to make reservations at this late date. Plus, of course, the youngest who is one-and-a-half is probably too young to take to the snow yet. Not for him, but for mom and dad who'd have to carry him most of the time on ice and snow!)

As a sign of our secular times, it's surprising how many people do this. We went to Downtown Disney Xmas night to get tickets for the next day in advance and it was packed with holiday shoppers (Downtown Disney is basically a high end outdoor mall outside Disneyland that feeds into the main entrance; but you can shop there without having to go inside the park). And Disneyland was packed too.

As expected, Disneyland was packed, shoulder to shoulder at times and in certain areas of the park. However, because we wanted to be sure to get in and beat the crowds, we arrived at the park's opening at 8 a.m. (that's why we arrived the day before--we were close enough to walk into the grounds from where we were staying). As a result, we got to go on tons of rides before noon, with no wait longer than 20 minutes (remember, because of the kids, we generally only hit the kiddie rides).

Since we planned to be there into the evening, we went back to the hotel at about 1:30 pm to let the kids nap. Believe me, as much as I love Disneyland, it was nice to relax a bit. We then had dinner at the hotel (another smart move for us) and got into the park by 5:30 pm.

I was pleasantly surprised that we actually hit some major rides with no major waits in the evening. A lot of rides go in cycles and some rides that we avoided because they had an hour wait, suddenly had waits of only about 15 minutes or even nothing! So we hit the Jungle Cruise (cool at night) and my daughter and I waited only 15 minutes to get on the Matterhorn!

As this suggests, my oldest girl is now tall enough to go on more of the "real" rides. We realized this because my wife wanted to take her on Star Tours. And even though the sign said the wait was 45 minutes, they ended up waiting only 20 minutes, so they ended up going twice. While there, the person who measured my daughter's height (you have to be 40" tall, so she just made it), said that she was now big enough for almost all the rides at Disneyland (the only major exception was the Indiana Jones ride--I think yhou have to be about 50" for that ride). As a result, when we noticed that the line for the Matterhorn was so short, we got on it. (BTW, she liked the ride, but didn't like the Abominable Snowman that's featured in it, so she didn't want to go again). Believe me, my daughter is more of a daredevil than I ever was at her age! When we got off the ride, the Disney Christmas parade with all the characters had started, so my daughter watched that from my shoulders. And by pure coincidence, we ended up watching the parade only a few feet from my wife and little boy, who had gone off to do their own thing when I took my girl on the Matterhorn!

The other cute thing that happened is we actually saw a lot of the major characters around the park, and at one point Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto walked by and patted my baby boy's hand as they walked by as I was holding him. Later, we took a family photo with Minnie Mouse; afterwards, he stood by trying to get her attention by dancing and batting his eyes. A lot of people noticed him flirting in this way, and Minnie rewarded him quite a bit by waving back to him, which he loved. It was very cute.

Our first and last rides at the park was It's a Small World, which my daughter loves. It was especially dressed (and re-recorded) for the holidays, so it was quite festive, and my daughter sings along the whole time. When we were on line for It's a Small World that night as our last ride, we also got to see the holiday fireworks show with accompanying holiday music -- and we were standing at one of the best places to enjoy it. So it certainly brought our visit to quite a fitting conclusion.

Anyway, it's back home today!

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