Birthday Trip to Disneyland
For anyone who has listened to our little show for any length of time it should be obvious by now that Keith and I just love all things Disney. It all started back in 1998 when my mom decided to have a family Christmas vacation, and because I was already “married” (okay, it was a Commitment Ceremony and not a legal wedding, but that’s a story for another time) to Keith he would naturally join in on the fun, especially since that was to be his very first time to Disneyland! What ensued was a trip of fantastic discoveries for Keith, and a rediscovering of a magical place for me. In fact it was not long after that trip when we started purchasing Annual Passes, and except for two periods where we deliberately let those passes lapse, we’ve been mostly steady Passholders for over 10 years. That is why when it came time to celebrate my birthday I elected to do so at the Happiest Place on Earth.
We arrived on my actual birthday (July 13) after having driven from Phoenix to Anaheim. The traffic in Southern California can be unpredictable at best, and that day was no exception. Was it the fact that the day was Friday the 13th? Possibly, but that would not deter us as we made our way to the park just shy of 5:00 PM.
Normally we start off any visit with a trip around the park on the train, but I chose for us to go into the Disney Gallery first as we have a very dear friend of ours who works there, and what better way to kick off my birthday than to see our good friend Lucais Hines (his knowledge and passion for all things Disney is incredible) in the store. After a brief visit we hopped on to the train for our standard “cool down” round trip. Once that was done we decided to make our way to New Orleans Square to then explore another one of our favorite attractions, that being “Pirates Of The Caribbean.” Just to show how geeky we are with this ride we both have the lyrics to A Pirate’s Life For Me on our iPhones so that we can sing along in all the right places in the attraction (some years ago a couple of guests in the row in front of us on the boat said that our singing made it the most enjoyable ride experience ever for them). Afterwards we made it the “Haunted Mansion” as it’s basically next door.
These two rides, along with the Train, are the staples of any visit to Disneyland, and with the Haunted Mansion we know the monologue that the Ghost Host delivers as you enter into the mansion. Maybe it’s pure ego, but we both get a kick out of watching people’s amused expressions as we recite the lines in perfect unison with the GH. Later that night was Birthday Meal #1, and that being at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. This is one of the more popular sit down restaurants (we had reservations) because it shares the same show building as the Pirates attraction. We lucked out in that our table was as close to the water’s edge as possible, and even in the dim lighting you can see boats with passengers floating on by as they go “seeking treasure.” Following our dinner we made our way to see Disneyland’s popular night time show, Fantasmic. It’s a loosely themed show about Mickey Mouse and the power of his imagination. The show really is just a collection of acts that serve as callbacks to popular Disney films, both live and animated. It’s very musical, it’s technically amazing, and it seldom fails to disappoint!
Next day we had breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants at the Grand Californian Spa & Hotel, and that breakfast restaurant is “Storyteller’s Café.” It’s a buffet type experience with a variety of Disney characters visiting each table.
After breakfast it was a trip to Disney California Adventure. The intention was that we would spend the entire day in that park because we had dinner reservations for their premiere restaurant “Carthy Circle.” However we started our visit to that park in one of our favorite locations, that being Cars Land. It’s a beautiful reproduction of Radiator Springs from the movie Cars, and in addition to some cute shops they have a few attractions there for people of all ages. After we finished with the “Radiator Races” attraction (one of the best in the entire resort area) we chose to check out the new Pixar Pier. It had formally been known as Paradise Pier, but just went through a minor re-theming and we wanted to see it for ourselves since it had just opened. The big change is the signature roller coaster ride that is now called “Incredicoaster,” named after The Incredibles. While the ride mechanism hasn’t changed, the dressing has been altered to give the ride a sense of a story.
After we were done there quickly went “under the sea” with Ariel and Sebastian, and then made our way back to the lobby of the Grand Californian for some time to cool off (it was quite hot and humid that day) and to have some drinks. Later we joined up with our dear friends, Phil and Jenn Chavez for dinner at Carthay, and we concluded the evening by watching the nighttime parade “Paint The Night” followed by the firework show over at Disneyland.
Our last day at the park started with one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever enjoyed, that being at Steakhouse 55, which is part of the original Disneyland Hotel. Afterwards we hopped on to the Monorail from Downtown Disney and made our way into Tomorrowland where we got to ride Space Mountain (another favorite ride of ours) as well as do some little bit of shopping (we both got a pair of Star Wars themed t-shirts). Following a trip to Fantasyland where we could ride “It’s A Small World” (Yes, it’s corny, but we both love the ride!) we hung out in the park for only a couple of hours more because by then the head and humidity were absolutely tearing us down. While first timers to the park, or even those that have visited the park only once every several years, might feel a compulsion to tough it out, we had no problem in going back to our hotel and cooling off. We jokingly refer to ourselves as Disneyland Veterans. We know how to hit the hot rides, how to pace yourself, and how to pretty much see everything you need to see in both parks in roughly 2 days without being clobbered by any large crowds (there weren’t any during our time there). For that reason we were okay to just going back to our hotel room for some relaxation. Later that night we met up with good friends Neal and Jana Hallford (they were up from San Diego) where we get together for dinner outside of the park.
The next morning had us get up early for a breakfast with Jenn Chavez and her step-son Tanner before making the drive back to Phoenix.
So why do I share all of this? Well put simply, Disneyland is our most easily accessible “place of healing.” Whenever the travails of life and job start to really wear us down we schedule a trip to Disneyland. For reasons that are specific to us, just a few hours there and we feel the tension start to roll off of our shoulders. We start to laugh and act silly (Okay, sillier than normal for us.), and we fall in love all over again. It is the one place where we find ourselves still believing in magic. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s watching all of those Disney TV shows and movies when we were both growing up as children. What is known is that after a visit at Disneyland we can both find ourselves actually okay and ready to go back home to whatever life is going to throw at us. Our resilience would have been restored from a trip to that magic place. It is a place of some incredible memories, most of which are extremely happy, and it’s also where I have seen some of the most amazing things, from incredible parade floats to dazzling entertainers whose performances left a permanent mark in my soul. Disneyland continues to be a place of wonder for me, and it thrills me to know that even after celebrating my 57thBirthday at Disneyland, I was still able to let my “inner child” out and play as if I were still 8. That is what a trip to Disneyland is for me.
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