We left on Thursday afternoon around 3:00 since Paul had been able to slip away from work early and I already had the packing done before he got home. This was our first real roadtrip with Clarabelle and we weren't sure how she would do. But she has done much better in the car ever since we turned her carseat forward-facing and she pretty much played with her toys, bounced and wiggled to music or slept while we drove.
We ate dinner at Taco Bell somewhere in the Central Valley and afterwards Clara fell asleep around 7:00 and was out until around 9:00 when we hit LA traffic. But even then she just sat quietly in her carseat watching all the lights go past. Paul and I spent the drive talking quietly so as not to disturb the little miss and those long roadtrip conversations are one of my favorite things about traveling with this husband of mine.
When we pulled into Anaheim at the Ramada Maingate directly across from the Disneyland park entrance, Paul's parents were already there and had checked into the hotel room. The whole trip was pretty last minute so we didn't find out until two days before we left that Grandpa & Grandma Nash were going to be able to come do Disneyland with us but since we already had booked a room with two queen beds, it worked out perfectly. Bob helped Paul unload the car while Donna and I watched the fireworks with Clara, gave her a super fast bath, and then I bullied everybody into bed for lights out so that Clara could fall asleep around 10:20-ish and so we would all be rested for the big day we had coming up.
We were up bright and early Thursday morning and were finished with breakfast around 7:15 so Paul and I headed over to get in line at California Adventure. Thanks to Paul's smart line-selection and some good fortune with then previously closed entrance right next to our line opened up, we were something like 15th in line to go into the park. At 7:30, the park gates were opened so that people could head in and wander down the newly remodeled Buena Vista Street and line up for Fast Passes for the Radiator Springs ride in Carsland. We hadn't realized that the gates opened up half an hour before you could actually go on anything in the park so we were lucky that we had gotten there plenty early!
When Paul's parents got there around 7:45, I was probably between 150 to 200 people back from the front of the line for a fast pass to Radiator Springs. So while I waited, the others strolled around Buena Vista Street enjoying the fountains, landscaping and storefronts that have been done to resemble the southern California art-deco look that Mr. Disney himself would have seen when he arrived there in 1927 with one suitcase, $40, and a drawing of a mouse.
Donna took my place in line for a little bit so that Paul, Clara and I could get a family shot with the new Mickey & Walt Disney statue. Apparently a lot of the feedback that Disneyland got was that people wanted to see more of Walt's presence so this statue of a young Walt was placed on ground level so that it has a more familiar feel compared to the statue of an older Walt that is elevated at the end of Main Street in Disneyland in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle.
Clara has recently learned "ear" and "nose" and can point to them on herself and on others, so that is what she is doing in these photos.
We got through the fast pass line by around 8:15 with tickets to return between 10:15 and 11:15 and bonus fast passes to go on California Screamin' between 8:20 and 9:20 so we headed straight to that ride. Donna opted to stay with Clara on Paradise Pier while Paul, Bob and I rode the only ride at the park that has an upside-down loop. It is an awesome roller-coaster and I totally love it but it is Paul's favorite ride. After that, though, we headed straight over to the Disneyland park to try to beat the biggest crowds.
We all had different ideas of what we wanted to do on this trip - Paul wanted to do all the rides, Bob and Donna (who hadn't been to Disneyland in 20+ years) wanted to wander down Main Street and catch shows, and I wanted to introduce Clara to the Disney characters - but fortunately we were able to please everybody. As soon as we walked under the bridge for the train and entered Main Street, I spotted Mickey Mouse in front of the Abraham Lincoln theater with a short line of people to take pictures with him. So while Paul stood in line, I dashed into the conveniently located hat shop and bought Clara the mouse ears with her name embroidered on them in golden thread that I had been dreaming of (they cost $15), then we took pictures with Mickey Mouse himself. I had planned on buying mouse ears for all three of us (and REALLY wanted to) but sometimes I can tell that Paul is not in the mood for my goofy ways (and let's be honest, how many grown men do you know who would be interested in wearing mouse ears) so I backed off on this particular issue. Next time though...
Incidentally, Disneyland does SO many things right, including creating an ambiance that you don't find anywhere else. I love hearing the bands playing, seeing the yellow cab or red double-decker bus drive up and down mainstreet, or catching a whiff of fresh popcorn or churros. I love the colorful buildings on Main Street and looking at the beautiful shop displays. One of my favorite things to do is stand outside the glass-front window at the candy shop and watch them dip apples into carmel, chocolate, coconut and other toppings or sprinkle chopped almonds on a fresh batch of toffee (my favorite candy to get at Disneyland). Disneyland makes me feel safe and confident and happy. I know a number of other adoptive couples who have gone there after a failed placement as a way to heal and reconnect as a family unit and Disneyland definitely was just that experience for me and Paul and Clara.
Clara looks so tired in some of these pictures. She was ready for her morning nap but was such a good girl and didn't get fussy at all. Mostly she was just looking around at her surroundings.
Clara has been MUCH more generous with her kisses lately, which we have been loving. And boy oh boy are they good, slobbery kisses.
I totally believe that Clara recognized Mickey from watching a little Mickey Mouse Clubhouse every day for a week or so leading up to our trip. She was really interested in touching his fact and nose and wasn't scared of him a bit. She was more timid around the other characters that we met later on.
Once we reached the end of Main Street we stopped for the obligatory pictures in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle.
I had been taking photos of Clara and Paul but when I handed over the camera to Bob and tried to step in the frame with my loves Clara had other ideas. She wanted me out so that she could keep having dad all to herself. It was hilarious.
Eventually she relented and took photos with mom too.
The next stop was Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. I knew there was likely to be a very short line at this time of day since it is not the big ticket attraction that draw the crowds and I wanted Clara's first ride experience to be a good one. It did not disappoint. Clara was interested in the elephants and hippos and lions that we floated past and the Jungle Cruise guides are always so fun with their scripted narrative and lame jokes that still make me laugh.
This next photo of Clara where here eyes are wide and her mouth is open in awe is one of my favorites of the entire trip. It just shows the sense of wonder that I was hoping for her in her first Disneyland experience.
We really lucked out that Bob & Donna could make it because it made it so that we could take turns going on some of the adult rides while the others stayed outside and played with Clara. Paul and I were on the Indiana Jones ride while Bob & Donna took these photos of Clara playing in front of the Rivers of America.
One of the biggest disappointments of the trip was the Golden Horseshoe Review. Probably 15-20 years ago there was a show there with can-can dancers that was AMAZING and everybody loved. Then they changed it out for a bluegrass comedy show with Billy Hill and the Hillbillies that ended up being awesome too even though we were sad that there were no more can-can dancers. But there is a new show now that is just 15 minutes long and it is pretty lame. It plays six or seven times a day and there is no need for reservations. You can pretty much just walk in all day long and order food so it feels totally different from the way it used to be. Fortunately, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies are still at Disneyland - they have just been moved to a new venue over behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We caught their act on the second day and they have kept some of my favorite numbers (including the one with the fake buck teeth) but have shortened the program quite a bit.
Clara was playing peek-a-boo all weekend long. Anytime someone would say "Where is ...?" Clara slapped her hands up to her eyes thinking we were asking "where is clara?". And then when we would laugh about her antics she would continue making funny faces for us. It was hilarious.
While Bob & Donna were riding Indiana Jones, Paul and I played with Clara outside on the rocks. Paul let Clara have a nibble of his Ghiradelli milk chocolate & caramel square.
Clara knows how to stick out her tongue and does it on command all the time.
Clara's second ride was Pirates of the Caribbean. Again, there was no wait. We worried about going to Disneyland on a Friday and Saturday in July that it would be insanely crowded and we would have crazy wait times but the longest we waited in line was maybe 20 to 25 minutes for the Storybook ride in Fantasyland. Fast passes are an amazing thing, getting to the park early helps, and we went back to the hotel in the afternoons from around 2:30-5:00 for naps and/or pool time to avoid the worst of the heat and lines. Most of our waits were ten minutes or less and there were lots of rides that we just walked right on without any wait at all.
This ride was a little more intense for Clara. She didn't get scared - she just sat on Paul's lap and gazed at everything silently observing but on the first short chute Paul said that she clutched onto his arm tightly. Such a brave girl.
I loved meeting Mary Poppins. Seriously, these girls who play characters at Disneyland are just angels. They are so sweet and stay in character and are so patient with the kids. Mary Poppins asked Clara's name and my name, then said she would just call me "mummy". When I told Clara that Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way, Ms. Poppins said "Why, thank you for noticing!". She played peek-a-boo with Clara and let Clara touch her lace gloves.
After those few rides and meeting Mary Poppins, we headed back over to California Adventure to use our fast passes for the Radiator Springs racers ride in the new Cars Land. Cars Land is very cute - it looks just like the movie and Disney did such a great job with all of the details. There are two other rides there - Luigi's flying tires and Mater's tractor whirl - but we didn't go on them because they didn't have fast passes and the wait times were always at least 30 minutes or more.
Each of the cones at the Cozy Cone Motel is a different cone-themed food booth. Like one is for "pop-cone" and another has soft serve ice cream cones. It is a cute idea but none of it was very tempting for me.
I am still a little disappointed that we never made it back here at night. It is supposed to be beautiful in the evening when the neon signs are turned on.
This was Clara's first nap of the day - around 10:30 or 11:00. She fell asleep in her stroller, which doesn't happen very often, and snoozed for probably 45 minutes. So it wasn't a great nap, but it was better than nothing and kept her going until we went back to the hotel for her afternoon siesta.
The detail in this park is amazing. It is so crazy to me that they can create such real looking rocks and scenery. You really do feel transported while you are there.
Since we had fast passes, we walked right up to the front of the line and waited for maybe 5 minutes to get on the ride. But the poor schmoes who had to stand in line had a wait time of 2 1/2 hours. Ugh. I liked the ride but it is SO not worth a 2 1/2 hour wait time.
This is the kind of ride that Disney really excels at. It isn't a roller coaster so much. It is more of a story with interesting things to look at with just a little thrill during a couple of fast parts. My parents will love this ride.
We stopped for a little break on these steps before watching a Phineas and Ferb parade where Clara ended up boogying to the music. I love her different faces here with Paul. She was in such a good mood after waking up from her little nap.
I read online beforehand that you could get a guaranteed fast pass for the new "World of Color" nighttime show by purchasing a picnic meal beforehand. You could also join the que of people hoping to get tickets for free, but you weren't guaranteed to get in to the first showing at 9:15, which was the only one of the three shows available that I knew we had any hope of keeping Clara up for. The picnic meals were $14.99 each and you could buy them online up to 30 days in advance (and you had to buy them at least one day in advance and I read that they sometimes sold out a few days beforehand) but I totally thought they were worth it. We all opted for the "American Classic" picnic which included a honey-stung cold fried chicken (two pieces - a breast and a thigh), coleslaw, potato salad, apple pie, and a drink. There are only a couple of other options - one is an asian meal with cold salmon and the other is a meditteranean meal with a vegetarian wrap I think. It was actually all very good and we walked past the insane line where people were waiting for the free tickets and I knew we had made the right decision.
Paul took this next picture of me while we were waiting in line for the Soarin' Over California ride. That is one of favorite rides at the park - I just wish it lasted longer. We had picked up our fast passes for it before going to eat our lunch and so we were able to pretty much just walk on after we had finished eating.
One of the new things we experienced in the California Adventure Park was the Aladdin musical. It was a 45 minute production that was in a beautiful theater near the Tower of Terror ride. Unfortunately, Clara was pretty antsy so she only sat in her chair for the first 15 minutes or so and then the rest of the time I was at the back of the theater with her letting her run back and forth squealing and laughing with her arms in the air. Since it was a happy squeal and since there were musical numbers going on most of the time that drowned her out, I didn't worry about the rest of the audience being annoyed and just let her have her fun. Every time a musical number would end and the audience would clap, Clara would stop running and start clapping with everybody else, her face beaming her approval.
The worst wait of our whole trip was for the Storybook Land ride. The Fantasyland lines in general are terribly narrow and offer very little shade so we were sweating the whole time and Clara wasn't very happy to be in such a confined space and unable to look around. And the ride was only okay, although I was very interested to learn that some of the miniature plants that decorate the storybook areas were planted by Walt Disney himself.
We decided to skip anymore Fantasyland lines for the first day and go to the Tiki Room to cool off. Clara loved the music and got really into the show by bouncing up and down on her bottom while the birds were singing words and the flowers were crooning.
We also took Clara on the Haunted Mansion ride. I don't ever remember being scared on this ride as a kid - it was always funny to me - so I didn't worry about her either. She just sat in between me and Paul and took it all in.
These shots were taken around 7:30 as were were leaving the Disneyland park and heading back to California Adventure for the World of Color show (which started seating at 8:00 and didn't start until 9:00). Clara usually goes to bed between 7:00 and 7:30 and you can see here how tired she was by this point. But she held on strong through the rest of the night until the show was over and then fell asleep in her stroller on the walk back to the hotel. I changed her into her jammies and put her into the pack'n'play without her fully waking up and she slept like a rock all night long.
The World of Color show is spectacular. Bob & Donna said that their cheeks hurt by the end because they couldn't stop smiling. It is pretty amazing how dancing, colorful water combined with beautiful music and classic Disney clips can make a person so happy, you know?
It was such a good first day at the park. I was so glad that Clara had done so well and that we had been able to see and do so much. I can't believe I still have another day's worth of photos to upload!....