Archive for March, 2014

Spring break: Disney California Adventure Park

By
March 31st, 2014



Entrance to Disney California Adventure park. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

Entrance to Disney California Adventure park. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

On our second day of vacation we spent part of the day at Disneyland, and the other half at Disney California Adventure Park. The newest attraction there is Cars Land, which opened in June 2012, featuring 12 acres of freewheeling fun as it brings the town of Radiator Springs to life, just as guests remember it from the Disney●Pixar movie “Cars.”

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

“The crown jewel of our Disney California Adventure expansion, Cars Land is the extraordinary result of a close collaboration between the gifted filmmakers at Pixar Animation Studios and our talented Imagineers and cast members,” said Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company. “It’s also a spectacular example of our ability to take our characters and stories and bring them to life in new and unexpected ways.”

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

This wasn't here on my last visit and I was very impressed with all the thought and attention to detail that goes into a Disney production. Rides include Luigi’s Flying Tires, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Radiator Springs Racers, one of the largest and most elaborate attractions created for a Disney theme park- the last so popular we never did get to ride it, with wait times of up to two hours. (This just means we have to return.)

Red Car Trolley at Disney California Adventure park. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

Red Car Trolley at Disney California Adventure park. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

One of the first rides we encountered as we entered the park was The Red Car Trolley, based on Los Angeles’ historic Pacific Electric Red Car Line, which transports guests from Buena Vista Street down Hollywood Boulevard, to the footsteps of the famed Hollywood Tower Hotel, home to The Twilight Zone™ Tower of Terror.

Olivia enjoyed the trolley ride, and more so after the very friendly conductor let her toot the horn and paid her in stickers.

Since the end of the trolley line was at the Tower of Terror, and since Olivia met the height requirement, I took us on that attraction. It's basically a free fall in a cursed elevator of a decrepit hotel.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disneyland Resort in California. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disneyland Resort in California. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

She had been complaining that some of the rides at Disneyland were too kiddie for her, because she's a big girl, so I thought she might want to do an adult ride. She was kind of on the fence, put off by the spooky decor of the "hotel" and all the dimly lit, creepy sound effects.

We strapped into the elevator "car" and dropped about four times. I don't know if she screamed... because I was! I enjoyed it - it's my new favorite ride - partly because it's nice to experience something totally new after all these decades, and partly because it's nice to get on a grownup ride.

As soon as the ride ended she stated, "I hated that! I hated that! O-M-G I hated that!" Claus and I were laughing and agreeing how much we liked it, and by the time we had exited the building Olivia had changed her mind to say she wanted to go again. After Tower of Terror set the new bar for excitement, I'm not sure she will return to anything at Fantasyland!

A visit to this theme park is not complete without a meal at Ariel's Grotto, where you can meet and take photos with the characters during your dining experience. All the mothers of little girls know that this is a must-do. On this visit, we met Belle, Cinderella, Show White, Ariel, and Tiana.

Diane meeting Belle in Ariel's Grotto Restaurant in Disney California Adventure

Diane meeting Belle in Ariel's Grotto Restaurant in Disney California Adventure

It might be a very expensive lunch, but when you think about the 60-90 minutes you could be standing in line - in possibly hot weather- it's worth it. Just know that you can't get in to the restaurant without a park ticket, which is a mistake I made by booking reservations for our friends to join us, then we figured out their season passes didn't include admission to Disney California Adventure Park.

Princess Tiana signing autographs at Ariel's Grotto Restaurant in Disney California Adventure

Princess Tiana signing autographs at Ariel's Grotto Restaurant in Disney California Adventure

The other thing about the cost is, it became worth it when I saw the look on Olivia's face when her favorites came out. It is seriously brilliant to build a business model around this simple concept. On this, Disney made his fortune.

Olivia brought a journal and had them autograph it (it's the in thing with the kids), and spent days after the encounter drawing each princess' image on the page with the signature. I liked seeing how happy it made her.

 

Following the story of "The Band Concert," this classic swing ride features chairs suspended from a round, overhead canopy while the central tower telescopes up and down to take riders on a smooth and spiraling experience, as if they are caught inside the cartoon's swirling cyclone. The attraction features 32 single-seat swings for guests, and eight pair of tandem seats for smaller riders and their responsible companion. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

Silly Symphony Swings at Disney California Adventure. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

We spent three hours in the afternoon at this park, and we got lucky in that the weather was cool and the lines were relatively short because it was a weekday. There were a number of lines that were just three or five minutes long.

Claus and Olivia on Tuck & Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies at Disney California Adventure

Claus and Olivia on Tuck & Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies at Disney California Adventure

The last ride we took was the Grizzly River Run, which is something I've seen for two visits previous and wanted to but couldn't try. The last time I was here it was too cold in October, and the time previous, Olivia was too short to get on.

Grizzly River Run (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

It was twilight when we ran up and got on in three minutes. It was great (Olivia's new favorite), but we got wet and it was chilly out- high 60s. Time to call it a day. Claus and I agreed this was the best singular day we've had at Disneyland in our recent visits as parents.

Claus and Olivia at Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure

Claus and Olivia at Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure

Mickey's Fun Wheel at Disney California Adventure. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

Mickey's Fun Wheel at Disney California Adventure. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

We hate to leave so we'll just say, Until our next trip to Disney!

If you go:

Published rate for ticket prices start at $92 per day for this park. For more information go to https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disney-california-adventure/.

Spring break: Disneyland

By
March 28th, 2014



First, let me preface by saying that we all struggled through spring break with head colds. Murphy's Law dictates that Olivia would get a head cold the evening before we flew out of Hawaii. She started sniffling at bedtime and woke up with a juicy head cold.

Just as naturally, Murphy's Law dictates she would quickly share the love with me. Of course, nothing can go perfectly smoothly.

 Characters in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle (Scott Brinegar/Disneyland)


Characters in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle (Scott Brinegar/Disneyland)

Head colds couldn't dampen our enthusiasm for Disney, though, so on our very first full day, we visited Disneyland. I could see the Matterhorn and Tomorrowland from the I-5 freeway and I started hooting and hollering in the car about how happy I was. I'm pretty sure I like it more than our kid, though she is a close second.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

I love the first minutes of walking into the park after a long absence. I get very excited about the promise of fun and thrills. Walt Disney was so smart to build an empire on imagination.

The good: We actually got on nine rides on the first day. I'm no expert, but for a crowded Sunday during spring break season, this seems pretty decent. We spent six hours at the park, but our average wait time for each ride was 25 minutes. The rest of the time was spent on water and food breaks, or simply walking from ride to ride around the 85 acre park.

Claus and Olivia on Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Disneyland

Claus and Olivia on Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Disneyland

There are eight themed areas within the park, but our favorite is still Fantasyland. "Enchanted tales of childhood adapted from classic Disney animated films come to life in this timeless realm of imagination. Within this magical Old World setting, guests can fly to Never Land (Peter Pan’s Flight), see an elephant fly (Dumbo the Flying Elephant), navigate an out-of-control motorcar (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) or attend a mad tea party (Alice in Wonderland)," according to the website.

Mad Tea Party (Courtesy: Disneyland)

Mad Tea Party (Courtesy: Disneyland)

At age six and a half, Olivia is just starting to be too old for some of these kiddie rides. There were a couple rides she said were too young for her, but yet she enjoyed most of the rest of the rides. Then again, her head cold played a factor.

A tip: There's a big ride board in Main Street that lists estimate wait times for rides. Check that frequently, or download one of the number of free apps that update wait times. While we didn't get on every single ride, nor even the major rides, we were happy with a continuous flow of smaller rides.

Ride wait times board off Main Street

Ride wait times board off Main Street

The challenging: It was a Sunday and it was very hot, which made for a slightly wilted time. My two other visits to Disney as a parent have been during spring break and October, and I recall extremely hot weather and long lines for the former, and chilly and stormy weather for the latter.

Uva Restaurant & Bar in Downtown Disney

Uva Restaurant & Bar in Downtown Disney

What we did in the middle of the day was take a lunch break at Downtown Disney, at a nice restaurant called Uva Bar & Cafe. The price was probably comparable or only slightly more than within the park, and it was certainly worth it for the quiet, air conditioned, no-line experience in the heat of the afternoon.

We then shopped at Downtown Disney for the same reason - to wait out the lines. I suppose if one was staying in one of the Disney properties it would be easy enough to hang out at the pool or the room during this time, but we are at our friends' house in Irvine.

How convenient that just a few days before we arrived, Starbucks Coffee Company and the Disneyland Resort opened a new company-owned Starbucks location at Downtown Disney.

We found the ride lines started easing up ever so slightly after 4 o clock, enough for us to have a few more rides before calling it a day.

Mommy and Olivia on Astro Orbiter Ride in Disneyland

Mommy and Olivia on Astro Orbiter Ride in Disneyland

We then were shuttled to Disney's off-site parking area, and while the shuttle service is excellent and speedy, that just takes another 10 or 15 minutes to account for.

All in all, a nice day at Disneyland. I guess I like so much because the rides haven't really changed since I was a child coming here with my mother. Mom and I came here a handful of times, and it was always fun. These exact same rides bring me back to my youth.

It's a Small World in Disneyland (Courtesy: Disneyland)

It's a Small World in Disneyland (Courtesy: Disneyland)

I hadn't thought much of the park in the last couple decades, but having a child made me want to recreate that feeling. Sometimes I'd sit down for a ride with Olivia and spend a lot of time looking at her face to see her reaction. The awe and wonder on my child's face was enough to make all the travel, time, and expense worth it.

IMG_0359

I suppose Walt Disney said it best on July 17, 1955 during the park's dedication: "Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

If you go:

Published rate for ticket prices start at $92 per day for this park. For more information go to https://disneyland.disney.go.com.

Spring break in California

By
March 26th, 2014



Being firmly ensconced on the Mommy track now means we are locked into taking vacations only during school breaks. At least that's what the school wants me to say, ha ha.

I miss the days when Husband and I could just take off in shoulder seasons when the price, the crowds, or the weather suited us. I also miss when traveling halfway around the world inspired feelings of anticipation and excitement rather than fear and weariness in me.

Set against this backdrop, we picked a spring break destination that was reasonably close and child-friendly, California. We then chose to split the trip between southern and northern areas.

Natural Bridges State Beach, California

Natural Bridges State Beach, California

The first three and a half days were in Irvine, the last four and a half were in Santa Cruz. In Irvine: Olivia's godmother and Disneyland. In Santa Cruz: relatives and a visit to some of my university memories.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Here's a glance at what we did:

Saturday: Fly in to LAX

Sunday & Monday: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park

Arriving in San Jose, CA

Arriving in San Jose, CA

Tuesday: Fly to San Jose. Check into a hotel in Santa Cruz.

Wednesday: Drive West Cliff Drive to end up at Natural Bridges State Park. Hike the woods, explore tide pools. Stroll the Santa Cruz wharf. Lunch and stroll on Pacific Avenue, the main shopping area. Swim in the hotel pool.

Thursday: (A day of mystery!) Mystery Spot. Drive to San Jose. Winchester Mystery House. Dinner with calabash cousins in Campbell.

Friday: Monterey Bay Aquarium. Carmel-by-the-Sea. Dinner with cousins in Aptos.

Paternal cousins

Paternal cousins

Cousin Ashley and her family

Cousin Ashley and her family

Saturday: University of California at Santa Cruz Arboretum tour and drive around the campus. Buy gifts at Trader Joe's. If Trader Joe's ever comes to Hawaii, my omiyage strategy is in trouble. Fly home via SFO.

At UCSC Arboretum

At UCSC Arboretum

Time warps when one is on vacation. Eight days felt like three weeks (in a good way.) It was nice to visit California and then come home refreshed. In the following blogs I will detail some of the key activities to include travel tips, should anything in this agenda appeal to you!

Sea lions under Santa Cruz wharf - near top right of photo

Sea lions under Santa Cruz wharf - near top right of photo

Don't call me Baby!

By
March 24th, 2014



I'm so sad. The day has come when Olivia asked me to stop calling her Baby, Little, or refer to the word born.

Six and a half years old and now my big girl.

She likes to jump into the bed with me if I'm still in it when she enters my bedroom in the morning. She got all excited and cuddled up with me today.

I love it, love it, love it, and I shower her with pet names and hugs. "Who's my little girl? Who's my sweet baby?" I whispered to her. "I remember when you were born you were thiiis tiny! And now look at big you are!"

To my surprised, she actually said, "Um. Can you not call me anything that uses the words Baby, Little, or born?"

"What?" I gasped, not believing the day is here. "I can't call you my little love bug?"

"No," she said.

"My sweet sweetie?" I continued sadly.

"Grr," she growled. She is in a phase of making animals noises. She howls and hisses sometimes, too.

"Just my big girl?" I confirmed.

"Yes!" she agreed.

So I'll go with this for now and I hope it's a phase she forgets about in a week. Because, I've warned her, she will always be my little baby.

Cat hairs

By
March 21st, 2014



Claus was home riffling through his closet when I heard him loudly pronounce, "What the HELL?"

I was in the other room and thought maybe, from the strength of his voice, that he might have discovered something dastardly, like a big rip in his suit or a mouse hole gnawed through the wall. Heck, once we found a wasp nest in a bedroom of my childhood home.

I hurried in to the room to see the offending problem. He had his jeans on the bed and was bent over them, looking closely.

"What?" I said.

"What is that??" he quizzed.

"What is what?" I repeated.

"That!" he accused.

I am still only seeing dark and metro-sexual man jeans.

He delicately picked up one thin, grey cat hair and held it up to my face for inspection. I'm starting to get the picture.

"That is an Ocho hair," I affirmed.

"That dang cat!" he cursed.

You should know that he is a dog person. I'm half and half, but at this point in life if I have to pick, I pick the dog, too.

In one grand sweeping motion, he picked up his soiled jeans (as if) and hurled them into the laundry hamper. He's annoyed at the cat, but he's annoyed at me, too, for hanging them out to dry in a place the cat could sit on them.

I rolled my eyes at his drama and fetched the jeans. "I'll just pick the hairs off using the sticky roller. Sheesh."

He watched me roll every little bit off to make sure that when he did put them on, he did not sport a cat-furry crotch area.

"Sorry," I offered. Ocho's seating habits are changing and she's recently started sitting on the bannister. Previously she liked the shelving.

Shortly thereafter, I walked out to the laundry area and saw Ocho sitting on Claus' exercise towel. I tried to hide it but he was right behind me and saw the cat.

"Really? So when I go to wipe the sweat off my face I'll look like a cat-hair Yeti now?" he sighed.

I have to find new places to hang stuff in the laundry room. I better do this in a hurry before Husband revokes my Official Housewife Card.

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