2005 Disneyland Trip

A detailed, play by play, more than you probably ever wanted to know account of my Disneyland Resort vacation in December 2005.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Day 1 - Saturday, 12-10-05

At 5:15 AM the clock radio went off and I quickly showered and dressed. My dad knocked on the door at 5:55 AM to collect the stuff that we wanted to leave behind in the car. A few minutes later everyone met in my room where we enjoyed the delicious effervescence of an AirBorne cocktail. Once our cups were emptied, we gathered our luggage and made our way up to the front desk to check out. Once our business transactions were complete, we scoped out the continental breakfast offerings. There were Otis Spunkmeier muffins, bagels and cream cheese, coffee, tea and hot chocolate. I grabbed a couple of muffins and stuffed them into my carry-on bag for later.

Promptly at 6:30 AM the Super 8 airport shuttle arrived and we loaded up our luggage. I had a little difficultly boarded the shuttle. The step up into the van was a little high and as I grabbed the handle, I lost my balance and swung out away from the van. Jason was behind me and had to push me back into the van. All in all it was a very embarrassing experience. Fortunately, we were the only ones taking the shuttle so no one except possibly the van driver observed.

The airport is only a few miles from the motel and in no time at all we had pulled up next to the terminal. Since there wasn’t much of a line inside, we opted not to check our luggage curbside and save the $2 per bag charge, plus the gratuity.

Once our luggage was checked, we passed through security without incident. First order of business was to get a cup of coffee at Coffee People, because unlike Starbucks, they offer free refills. We made the long trek over to the next terminal to get our coffee. Sitting at one of the nearby tables, we drank our coffee and I ate one of my muffins. None of us ended up taking advantage of the free refills as we all wanted to avoid filling up with liquids before a 2+ hour flight.

Making our way back to the other terminal, we arrived at our gate only to discover a table set up with complimentary Starbucks coffee, as well as a small Coffee People kiosk right there in the waiting area. Oh how I love Horizon Air!

We boarded shortly before 8:00. Takeoff was slightly delayed while the plane was refueled. Our flight attendants, Kevin and Jessica, were extremely friendly and made us feel welcome. This was in sharp contrast to our recent experience with two other major airlines, where we felt that our presence was barely tolerated.

The plane was one of the smallest in which I have ever flown. Each row contained two seats on either side of the aisle with a total capacity of 70 passengers and one lavatory. Shortly after take-off, the attendants came through the cabin offering a beverage service and a light snack which consisted of a delicious slice of banana nut bread and a Satsuma orange. I was pleased to discover that they served Starbucks coffee and I enjoyed a cup of decaf.

The time passed very quickly and we landed at Ontario Airport right on time. This was the first time we had ever flown into Ontario and it was a delight. Much small than LAX, it has recently been remodeled and was very easy to navigate.

After retrieving our luggage, we made our way outside and onto the shuttle to the Ground Transportation Center to pick up our rental car. I was able to get a fantastic rate for our car from Alamo using a coupon in the 2005 Entertainment Book. The rates for rentals fluctuates greatly that it is always a good idea to keep checking for lower rates, even after you’ve booked your car. For our full-size car, we paid $143 for the week. When we went out to the lot to get the car, we found the cars separated by size; you go to the area with the size cars you reserved and choose any in that section. We chose a non-descript, tan colored Chevy Impala. Even with most of us traveling pretty light, we were concerned that our luggage wouldn’t fit in the trunk. Luckily, it all fit perfectly.

With the men in the front and us women in the back seat, we drove the 30 miles from the airport to Anaheim. Once we were on our way we discovered that the air conditioning did not work. Fortunately, the weather wasn’t too warm and by rolling down the windows we were able to stay comfortable. Traffic was light and in no time at all we pulled into the parking lot of the Howard Johnson Anaheim Plaza Hotel.

Jason and I love staying at this hotel. The rooms are comfortable and spacious, the staff is very friendly, and best of all they provided complimentary high speed internet access. Although it was still early and our rooms weren’t ready yet, we were able to check in and were pleased that our room requests had all been met. We were in Building 2 overlooking the “quiet” pool. Jason and I had connecting rooms and my parents were in the room next to mine.

By now it was lunch time and we were all starving. Our plan was to drive to Knott’s Berry Farm and enjoy one of Mrs. Knott’s famous chicken dinners. We had hoped to make it to the restaurant early enough to get the lunch price rather than the more expensive dinner price. Traffic was very heavy along Beach Blvd. and it took us longer than expected to drive to Knott’s. When we finally arrived, we were very lucky to get one of the parking spots right near the area where the restaurant is located. The line for the restaurant was very long and seemed to move very slowly. I spent part of the time sitting on a nearby bench and my mom browsed through the gift shop.

Our server was a man named Art who was very friendly and spent quite a bit of time sharing tidbits about his personal life. For instance, we learned that he lives in Big Bear and spends up to 3 hours commuting to his job at Knott’s and almost 4 hours driving home again after his shift. I can’t even imagine spending almost 7 hours a day driving to and from work. I’d either find a job closer to home or move closer to work. We also learned that he used to be a Cast Member at the Grand Californian Hotel at the Disneyland Resort and was fortunate enough to get invited to the kick-off of the Happiest Celebration on Earth on May 5.

The meal was outstanding, even though we discovered that the lunch meal was not quite as plentiful as the dinner special. We had our choice of salad, soup, rhubarb; choice of corn or cabbage; two pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and plenty of their delicious buttermilk biscuits. My mom, Jason and I had berry punch and my dad had a 50/50 Pepsi. It was more than enough food and none of us had room for pie afterwards.

Traffic had diminished a lot while we ate and it was a short drive back to the hotel. We stopped to pick up our room keys and drove back to the parking area near our building. During the year since we last stayed at HoJo’s, they refurbished the back parking area and it is quite attractive now with a large planter area replacing some of the center parking spots and a brick entryway in front of the building.

Our rooms were on the top floor of the four story building. This was nice as we wouldn’t have to worry about noisy upstairs neighbors. Although this building is right alongside I-5 noise was never an issue. All the guest rooms face away from the freeway. The side of the building facing the freeway contained the ice and pop machines, the elevators, and housekeeping supply rooms. Another nice feature is the interior corridors. It was great to be able to get ice or visit my parent’s room without stepping outside.

I quickly unpacked and then we all met up again to go over to the Park. The plan was to stop first at Guest Relations to pick up my parent’s Park Hopper tickets as well as our tour and Fantasmic Dessert Buffet tickets, and then spend the evening inside the Disneyland Park enjoying the Christmas decorations and lights. However, as we approached the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure, we were greeted by a sign stating that DISNEYLAND IS FULL. No guests were allowed to enter Disneyland, but were welcome to enjoy Disney’s California Adventure Park. I hoped this wasn’t a sign of how the crowd levels would be for the rest of our trip. Usually, this time of year is pretty slow.

We parked on the top floor, the Minnie level, at a spot about as far away from the tram loading area as possible. As we rode the escalator down we could see very few people waiting to board the tram, but many people getting off the tram to leave. The weather was a little cool, perfect for us! By now it was dusk and the Christmas lights in the trees in Downtown Disney were lit and absolutely beautiful. It was so nice to be back at Disneyland!

At the Guest Relations booth, Stella assisted us and was extremely nice. She began by calling me by name, which surprised me until I remembered that I was wearing my Guest of Honor badge with my name on it. I wore the badge every day of our visit and many Cast Members would greet me by name. When I purchased the badge last year I had no idea that the Cast Members would do this. It really made the trip special.

There was a medium length line to get into DCA, but it moved quickly. First, we walked by Soarin’ Over California and picked up FP’s for 8:10 PM. Next, we strolled over to Grizzly River Run and watched from the viewpoint for a while before continuing over to Paradise Pier. We stopped to admire the Christmas tree, it being the first year that DCA’s has had their own tree, and the beautifully decorated buildings. After stopping to watch the last stop of the Block Party Bash parade we decided to see the Muppets attraction. It took us a while to locate the entrance to the attraction as it had been moved during the construction of the Monster’s Inc. ride, scheduled to open early in 2006.

After leaving Muppets, we still had quite a bit of time until our FP time for Soarin’, so even though we really weren’t hungry we decided to stop at Burrr-Bank Ice Cream for a Steam ‘n Chocolate. My mom went to find a table while the three of us waited in line. By the time we got our order, my mom was waiting at a table inside since it was a little chilly outdoors. The Steam ‘n Chocolate consists of a piece of freshly baked chocolate cake topped with fudge sauce, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry. It was delicious!

As it still wasn’t time for us to ride Soarin’ we browsed Engine-Ears Toys (had to check out the Mr. Potato head section for new parts), Greetings, and Fly-By Souvenirs.

Finally it was 8:10 and time to ride Soarin’. This is one of my very favorite rides and I could ride it over and over again. I don’t do heights, so this is as close to hang gliding as I’m ever going to get. This was my parent’s first ride on this attraction and they both loved it. My mom was a little nervous at first as she doesn’t like heights and is prone to motion sickness. She quickly adjusted and enjoyed the ride as much as the rest of us. I’m very proud of her for her willingness to give it a try.

By now we were all exhausted and even though it was only around 8:30 and the park wouldn’t close until midnight, we decided to head back to the hotel. We made a quick stop at the Food 4 Less on Katella for Cactus Cooler, orange juice, milk, cereal, etc. and then went back to our rooms. I made a pot of decaf (the hotel supplies a packet of regular coffee, one of decaf and two tea bags) and went to sleep.


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