Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fantasmic! End of Day 1.

Almost there!

We went home for a nap before the Adventureland action, so we were pretty perky for the evening's activities.

Disneyland tip: In the off season, there are a few days each week that the hours for Disneyland and California Adventure parks are short (our first day, California adventure was open 10-6, Disneyland 10-8). Some of the activities are curtailed, too. There was not a big fireworks display during our five day stay. The Fantasmic show did run, which was spectacular!


This was hands-down a favourite for my kids. All the guide books I read said that it was a definite must-see, and some had complex strategies for securing a good vantage point which mostly involved sitting in the same place for hours. There even is an option to have preferred seating for this event at $50.00 per person (adult) for a seat and a dessert box/beverage. I must admit, I did much internal eye-rolling about all that, until I saw the show. If I were going to Disneyland once, and it was high season with record gate attendance, I would fork over the $200.00 to secure one of those preferred seats my kids liked it that much. Yup, I'd ditch the Princess lunch or dinner in favour of the Fantasmic preferred seating.
While the smallest child and I sat and played Poly Pocket Disney princesses while the boys caught a few rides, including Big Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones.

Warning: capturing images at this event was close to impossible. The darkness coupled with the distance away from the action (due to the pyro part) makes for a challenging photo op. Plus I had a moderately scared five year old on my lap. If there is a next time, I'll have some fabulous photos for you, mostly involving a bigger lens and a tripod and someone else to cuddle the little one.


Basically it is a hydro-pyro (my word) show, with live action, music, dancing, video, huge puppets and projected light images onto fine mists of water.

It has a theme, like many a great story, of good vs. evil.

Good Mickey versus

various incarnations of Disney evil, like the Snow White villainess, dragons,



and snakes.


Is Pinocchio good or bad? How about if he is 50 feet tall?

There was an epic pirate battle as the Columbia sailed by - live action Hook and Peter Pan on the rigging!

And just when the little one was pretty much done with all the stress of good vs. evil, the good stuff morphed into love & princessess and a few boats with beloved Disney Princesses and their Princes floated by. No John Smith and Pocahontas though.



Finally, there was the Mark Twain steamboat finale, with all your favourite characters in one place at one time, from Aurora to Mickey to the Toy Story crew. And the music - a fabulous Disney score, that the kids and I were humming all week. It even banished the "Its a small world" song from my head!





And fireworks - the end!

We made our way home, but as we had napped, we appeared to have lots of energy left. Luckily (heh) Downtown Disney was open. It was open whenever we went there, allegedly as late as 2:00 am on the weekends. It is an area full of shops and restaurants that is open late. One of the shops is actually a consolidation of all the souvenir stores in Disneyland under one roof, called 'World of Disney'.

For my children right now at this age, there is only one thing better than Star Wars and princesses - and tht is Lego.


And for my boys, this is topped by only one thing: Lego Star Wars!



Disney tip: If you have a Lego fan in your house or that you need to buy a gift for - this is the place. They have everything, and I mean everything available there. The store had all the stuff that Legoland's Big Store carried. And at the back at the till, there is a place you can order some commemorative Lego bricks, which are bricks engraved with your name or phrase on then. Very good for families like mine who don't have common names.

They had a Mommy store, too. Open late - as in after the kids are asleep in your hotel room.

I was a girly girl at some previous point in my life, and this was a fabulous place to indulge that long lost inner-person. And to get some nice souvenirs for the kids' teachers who so graciously allowed the kids to skip a few days of class. It probably won't be as exciting for your trip to Disney if you are into this, as the newest location of Sephora will be in Vancouver this July, 2009.

And with that, we bade California goodnight!


Friday, February 06, 2009

Day 1 Part 3

We had our touring itinerary in hand for day one, but the park was amazingly empty, so we sort of tossed that out the window.

Basically, all the line-ups looked like this:

No line-ups today at Disneyland. The 10 minute wait was really for the walk to the ride.

After riding some of the Fantasyland rides (Dumbo, Mad Hatter's Tea party, Peter Pan, etc), we headed over to the rides favoured by my boys (and that would require some waiting for the girl). We are just going through a Star Wars phase here, so this section was a dream come true!

Disney tip: People warned me, you warned me, but I was still utterly amazed at the opportunity to load up on souvenirs. Indiana Jones hats after the Indy ride, amazing Star Wars gear after Star Tours, and beautiful and expensive princess gear after the Princess Fantasy Fair. And some of the tchotchkes were ultra cool - you'll see in a later post. Our modus operandi was to let the kids know that our second to last day at Disneyland was the day we would buy them a souvienir, and that they should keep a prioritized list of what they were interested in so that we could choose on that day. For those of you laughing your heads off, it actually worked! We oogled all the neat stuff, but there wasn't any whining or stamping of feet in the gift shops.

Ewoks! So cute, even cuter all lined up and begging to be given a home.


Yoda, rendered cute rather than creepy (I watched the first round of Star Wars at an impressionable age). I took the one on the right home.

We next headed to Adventureland, where we made the only error of our trip. We didn't know that Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island closed down at the first hint of rain, so we didn't head there right way. Perhaps we were dazzled by all things Star Wars? Since Tom Sawyer is my oldest's favorite book, it was indeed an unfortunate call on my part.

We ate our first Disneyland meal here in Adventureland at a skewer place named X that cost (I have to look up the receipts still). The place was very SLLLLOOOOOOW, but the food was great! We had chicken skewers, and one of every other kind. Only one of the beef ones was spicy enough for my kids to notice, and the veggie one was divine! Asparagus, mushroom & tomatos - yum!

Disney tip: Bring walkie talkies! The kids and I were able to ride the the Jungle Cruise and explore Tarzan's place while Kev waited (a very long time for a 4 pm lunch) for our meal.


The jungle cruise was fun, and going on it broght back many memories from my trip 30 (!) years ago. And the guide was so pun-ny!



The Tarzan area was really cute - and a great workout, too. Watch for the cheeky crossovers - Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast are right at home in Tarzan's kitchen.


Almost at the end of Day 1!


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Day 1: Part 2

Let me just say: staying close to Disney=a very good thing. And a caveat: I'm one of those people who like to be prepared when we travel. I don't schedule too much, but I like to research and plan for a variety of activities we can choose from. I like to squeeze as much out of a travel experience as I can, but don't like to be wrung out when I get back.

After eating breakfast (I ran down to the local McD's ($19.59) while everyone was sleeping for a quick bit of food. Try the McSkillet - a surprisingly great product.), we filled our water bottles, put on our walking shoes and headed out to our first Disneyland experience.

First order of business if you are heading to Disneyland: get a great guidebook! Or even a lacklustre one. Seriously - it will save you much angst and time, even if you only use it for the ride reviews. If you've never been before with kids that are a variety of ages and temperaments, it is difficult to know what each ride/experience entails. The guidebook we used had a great section that rated the rides for each guidebook. Or sign up for the tour, where you can also purchase preferred seating for many of the spectacular shows at either park.

One of the things we did to add an extra dimension to our park trip was to look for 'hidden Mickeys'. Throughout the park are many ubiquitous mouse ears hidden in things like shelf brackets, recycle logos, architectural ornaments and graphic designs. At the ticket booth alone we found five different versions.

PhotobucketCan you see the hidden Mickey? It is the arrangement of cherries in the bottom right area.

Disney tip: If you purchased your Disneyland tickets through a travel agent and received a voucher, this voucher will not get you into Disneyland. I know that the voucher says 'redeem at the ticket booth', and that the ticket booth says 'ticket booth', and that the gates are labelled 'gates'. I'm just saying - get in the ticket booth line up first to get your voucher exchanged. If you have your cute little Disney passes already, then by all means bypass the ticket booth line-up and go to the gate line-up. And some of the guidebooks recommend lining up at gate 13or 20, but I didn't find them to be any faster. Take this time to redeem your character meal vouchers, too. Otherwise you might be dependant on the kindness of strangers to let you in the front of the line the next day when you have only a few minutes to exchange that voucher for your meal tickets.

Needless to say, I didn't get any photos of this process.

Our party had a small 30 minute glitch at the ticket booth, involving missing tickets and another Wiebe family. While it took a team of supervisors to resolve the issue, Disney was kind enough to grant us two golden tickets to get to the front of the line on the rides of our choice. Great service! Interestingly, the same J. Wiebe family that caused our ticket issue at the ticket booth were seated just before us at our Disney Princess lunch later in the week. That is another post in itself. It's a small world, after all . . .

And then we were inside Disneyland!

I had been to Disneyland once before as a nine year old, and don't remember much of the trip. It is interesting what you do remember when you revisit the park - like the entry plaza with the floral Mickey Mouse backed by the train station. I'll bet all children who visited Disney in their youth have that image burned into their brains.

We bypassed the characters waiting in Main Street, picked up our 'First Visit' and '100th Birthday Celebration' buttons from City Hall, waved hello to the statue of Walt and Mickey, and encountered our first Photopass photographer in front of Aurora's castle.

Disney tip: Disneyland has a great little service where they have photographers stationed around the parks that take pictures of you that you can purchase (of course) in the park or on-line. The first time you encounter a Photopass cast member, you ask for a Photopass card. They'll give you one - keep it handy. Every time you encounter a Photopass photographer (they are stationed at many viewpoints and character meet-and-greets), you hand them your Photopass card, they take a few pictures of you and give you back your card. While I only found them out and about during fair weather (they seemed to disappear at the slightest drizzle), it is an excellent way to get some nice group photos of your gang. You can then view them in the park or at home on-line for 30 days, and purchase prints or a CD of the images($59.95 USD), complete with character add-ons.

Disneyland budget tip: There are many on-line communities about all things Disney. Two that I read were and They have great money-saving ideas! Some of these communities organize group Photopass buys, were families traveling to Disney at roughly the same time share one CD and spilt the cost.

Disneyland luxury tip: Have a professional photographer document your day at Disneyland! I would love to do this for you and provide you a completed book of images from your special day. I have availability next fall, and also have a few colleagues based in and around Anaheim that would be happy to capture images of your trip.

We headed right to Fantasyland as I wanted us to get our ride legs gradually, and because the youngest member of our family wasn't going to able (or willing) to ride some of the other rides in the park, so I thought we'd overdose on the kiddie rides first.


Disney tip: Disneyland has this great concept called the baby swap. Basically, if you have one member of your party that is too short or too scared to ride a certain ride, you all line up anyway, and tell every cast member that you see that you want to baby swap. One parent rides with the kid(s) that want to ride while the other parent waits where they tell you to with the child that doesn't want to ride. When the riding parent finishes, they switch with the waiting parent and the kids get to go again with the other parent. Voila! Everyone who wants to ride a particular ride gets a chance, and some get to do it twice! While I was never able to confirm the precise process or procedure by which this happens (even though I used it a dozen times), just keep asking how it works and where you have to wait and how to get back on until you understand how it works. Many of the bigger ride have more gentle ones nearby, so you can get in a kiddie ride while waiting sometimes, too. Don't forget to bring a little toy or book for the child who has to wait.

We stopped at King Arthur's Carousel, and in front of that is a cute photo-op: The Sword in the Stone. It was here that I experience my first little bit of Disney Magic. While my sons were trying to wrestle the sword from the stone, I could see through my lens that the stone was positioned perfectly to catch the sun's rays. While they looked divinely ordained, neither of them turned out to be King as per the legend.


Fantasyland stories tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Day 1

We stayed at the Anaheim Howard Johnson - it came highly recommended, but in the end we chose it because it was the hotel available with our package. It was great - not particularly fancy, but it had fabulous service, great beds, a fridge, two great pool areas, and was really close to Disney and restaurants. There was an on-site little market, laundry facilities, and free parking. There is a really kid-friendly waterpark and wading pool that you can supervise from the hot tub. We were located in one of the low rise buildings, and while the hotel's property was close to the freeway, the room we were in was quiet. The whole property was clean as a whistle and beautifully landscaped.

My children were fascinated by the bird of paradise flowers, which were everywhere on the hotel grounds.

Family Vacation!

We're going to Disneyland! Our little family turned 100 (our current ages added together equals 100) and we are going to celebrate by heading down to Anaheim, California.

While our children knew we were going to go on a trip, the husband and I decided to keep the exact location a surprise. When we told them we were going somewhere special to celebrate our family's 100th birthday, and that it was somewhere warm in the United States, my middle child inexplicably exclaimed "WE'RE GOING TO LAS VEGAS!".

He's eight. We've never been to Las Vegas, or talked with him about going. Who knew he had a desire to go there?

And a shout-out to all my fellow photographers enjoying the party that is WPPI next week. Hopefully I'll see you there next year!

PhotobucketThe famed sign rendered in Lego bricks.

We eventually did see a bit of Vegas, except through the eyes of some talented Lego artists.


I can't even imaging the planning that must go into re-creating famous landmarks in Lego bricks. The displays at Legoland were truly mind boggling!




Update: We made it through Alaska Airlines check-in (they even graciously called ahead to make sure that the plane wasn't one of the ones wrapped in Disney characters & the staff teased the kids about going to Edmonton), Vancouver Airport Authority security, US Customs (who teased the kids about going to China), and the flight attendants (who gave the kids Disney colouring books). The children realized our destination when the Disney wrapped airport transfer pulled up. Success!

Disneyland Budget Tip: The Disneyland Resort Express was a good value for our transfer from LA airport to our hotel. As of today's date, it was $22 one way/$32 roundtrip for an adult; $19 one way/$25 roundtrip for a child, plus tip. An average taxi ride (depending on traffic) is about $80-$90. They made one stop ahead of our hotel. Alternately we could have rented a car for the week at roughly the same price as the transfers (if you booked ahead with a special and have a Visa card that covered insurance).

Disneyland Luxury Tip: You can have your travel agent arrange a Limo transfer to your hotel. We arrived late, and the sight of a uniformed driver with a card with my name on it would have been a welcome sight!

Monday, February 02, 2009


Taken at night, handheld. I really wish I would've had my tripod . . .

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pottery Barn Kids is opening in Vancouver!

My hands-down favorite kids store is opening up here in Vancouver next Saturday:

Opening February 21st
Pottery Barn Kids Vancouver

Join us on opening day for children's entertainment and giveaways!
2935 Granville Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
Store Hours
Sat-Sun 10 am - 8 pm
10 am - 7 pm

I'll update with some of my favorite PBK stuff around here. See you there!