We were a little less rushed this morning; the parks didn’t open until 10AM. We even had time to video chat with the family back home, only to find out that the snowfall hadn’t stopped when we left, leaving behind a hundred and twenty-five year record’s worth of snow and a roughly fifty degree temperature difference between there and here. Good timing, it turns out.
We were in the park just as it opened, today opting to spend our day inside… ahem… the lesser of the two parks, California Adventure. As it turns out the park is AGAIN under construction: it has been so each time I’ve visited here. This time, they’re adding (a) adding a massive Pixar Cars area to the back corner of the park and (b) upgrading their front entrance way. The former was inconsequential because Claire couldn’t care less about cars or Cars, but the latter meant we had to trudge around to the far less spectacular temporary entrance.
One benefit — we thought — was that this detour deposited us right at the main gate of Soarin’ Over California, a combination IMAX-type movie and motion simulator. We scooted right in near the front, primed Claire for the ride, and then, all of us, were lead out the back exit because they were having technical problems. No ride, but it did net us a front of the line pass for anywhere in the park later in the day — so not a total loss.
We took in a few little shows: the Disney Junior puppet thing, and the interactive talk-to-the-turtle Crash from Finding Nemo, both of which were pretty good. Then it was off to lunch.
Karin had booked — way back two months ago — lunch at Ariel’s Grotto. This is one of those things where if you are the parent of a little girl you either avoid on deep principal, or you hold you nose and dive right in. Picture it: you descend down a spiral staircase, dozens of little girls garbed in princess costumes all around, and are met by a photographer and, yes, Ariel — the Little Mermaid herself — ready to pose for a photo with you and your daughter. You are escorted to a table, served a fairly mediocre (but still better than most food in the park) meal. During the meal, a costumed herald, to the sound of trumpets, announces the entrances of each of the four ‘flagship’ princesses, a twenty-something young actress, who then moves from table to table and signs autographs and poses for more pictures. I played the dutiful dad and snapped my camera at the appropriate moments. Claire, surprisingly, didn’t gush as much as I would have thought. And then the bill came… sigh.
After lunch we toured the Pier, trying out a variety of fairly standard carnival-type rides — as well as the Toy Story Mania, a 4D interactive video game type ride — and capped that little tour off with a half dozen spins, drops, and twirls and a spin through another Little Mermaid-themed sit-in-moving-plastic-chair-animatronic-storybook ride (they must have a name for those… there are so many!)
By this time we figured Soarin’ Over California might be working — and it was starting to rain a little — so we wandered back there and this time got aboard. Cool and awesome, as I remembered. But upon emerging from the theatre we were out in a full-on rainstorm, so we hustled back down to the Backlot area where we hurried inside. There we happened to time things just right and quickly found ourselves inside an animation studio where a “Real Disney Artist” was doing a drawing session. Everyone got a sketching lap-board and we were walked through a sketch of Piglet. Claire loves to draw and she was right in there doing her darnedest to keep up. I got some video.
This is where things got messy. Here’s the thing: all over the park there are Disney photographers. You get a little scan card with a 2D QR code thing on the back. Any time you see a character or a scenic view, some photographer is there to snap your photo. This is great for us because we get a bunch of family pictures at the end of the week on a CD. (Never mind the cost… groan.) We came out of the animation class and there were Chip and Dale. Claire wanted a photo, so she ran over to see them. I handed the photo pass to Karin. Karin handed the photo pass to the photographer. The photographer took a photo and handed the photo pass to some random dude who promptly stuffed it into his pocket and disappeared into the crowd with his family. Since it had rained, the photo HQ in California Adventure (which is outdoors… smart. Y’know… computers! ) was closed. So while Karin and Claire spent some quality time in the Bug’s Life land, I spent near on an hour sorting out the missing photo pass situation a mile away in Main Street Disneyland. It got sorted, but still: one little slip of attention and… zipadeedodah…
By the time we all met up it was raining pretty good again, and so we ducked into the the live action Aladdin show — which ate up most of the rest of our day — and while a near-exhausted Claire and I trucked back to the hotel, Karin stopped off for some take-out and met us there shortly.
Now, it’s only half-eight and — all of us crazy-tired and Claire sound asleep — it looks like were in for the night.
Read more vacation travel posts on my Random Travel Writing page!