My cousin Rich reached out to me a month or so ago to see if Larry & I would be up for going to Disneyland on a Thursday in February. He was surprising his wife Su for her 40th birthday with a trip to Disneyland, but she wouldn’t know that the Barnes clan was going to be there too.
After working out the details to make it so we could take time off from work, Larry & I were in. So this past Wednesday after work, we drove down to Anaheim and spent the night in the Hotel Menage we’ve stayed in previously (when we went to Disneyland back in 2013). This way we wouldn’t have to get up super early and have a chance to rest. It honestly felt a little like a vacation! A One-Day vacation yes, but still.
Feb 4, 2016 – Disneyland From the Hotel
That morning, the plan was to meet at 10am when the park opened. We got there early but ended up choosing the Park Entrance line manned by the most over-it older woman ever. Our line would literally stop while the others were blazing through. We got up close enough to see the “process” she was doing and all I gotta say is, I’m not holding out hope for her long-term prospects in that role. Anyway, we finally got in to the Happiest Place on Earth!
Entering the Park
We were ordered by mysterious texts to get our asses over to the Indiana Jones Adventure ride – turns out that was Uncle Steve taking charge! We made it over to where Steve & Gladys and Wendy & Randy were waiting. It was awesome to see Steve & Gladys after suuuuch a long time. I think it’s been about since 2003 or 2004 when last we saw each other. Too long. Anyway, the next and final step in the plan was waiting for Rich & Su to make their way over there. They’d gotten in the day before and spent some time at the Grand Californian Hotel (nice choice, Rich!) relaxing, with Su thinking it was just going to be the two of them. Surprise!
It was great to see my cousin Rich again and meet his wife. With the reunion complete, it was time to embark on a Disneyland day and get some rides in! First up, Indiana Jones obviously. I didn’t download the RideMax app this time and likely I wouldn’t have needed to. The crowds were certainly there, but it wasn’t massive crowds like our December trip in 2013. Ugh. Nope, today was a beautiful day with ridiculously pleasant weather and the lines in the park were pretty much great.
What we ended up doing was making our way clockwise from Indiana Jones to the other great rides. So next on that route is Pirates of the Caribbean. Such a great ride, even still.
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Haunted Mansion is right along the route through New Orleans Square, and happily the ride was set back to its normal mode and not a “Nightmare Before Christmas” mode. Much better. Still broke down once or twice while we were on it, but happily not for too long. But yeah, that ride broke the last time we were on it too!
The Haunted Mansion
It was a beautiful day and comfortably cool and warm, so of course Splash Mountain was necessary. Larry & I ended up in a different log than the others – Rich & Su got the front part of that log and got pretty damn wet. Guess they hadn’t turned any water effects down too much. One thing that was surprising though – there was a new part of the flume. There’s a moment where you’re in the dark and there’s a surprise drop…and then an immediate incline back up. Very fun and unexpected!
Churros were on my and Larry’s agenda after that – and then it was time to take in the views of Rivers of America. It was a gorgeous day and a good spot for some group photos.
Rivers of America
Guess what you can see in those pictures above???? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!!! Happily this ride isn’t impacted by whatever Disney is building for the new Star Wars section. I’d be devastated. So yeah, it was time to ride what is arguably the best ride in the park. Even over Space Mountain. I mean, HYPERspace Mountain.
Big Thunder Mountain
Sleeping Beauty Castle Pics
There are more of those pics and with the group as a whole, but we mixed up who took pictures throughout the day. So I can’t wait to get my cousins’ and uncle’s pics and update the site accordingly. I know there’s a great group shot of us in front of the castle.
After that, it was time for some sustenance. We couldn’t figure out where to go in Frontierland, so I suggested where I knew there’s always food: Tomorrowland Terrace. This was a good move as we also picked up our Fast Pass (the only one of the day, actually) for Space Mountain, which had us come back there around 4:40-5:40.
Tomorrowland & Lunch at the Terrace
So yeah, the Helper Padawans in that little stage show are damn hot. Of course they are, Disneyland isn’t stupid.
Anyway, after a nice rest for lunch and some first round of ice cream, we headed right over to the Matterhorn. Uncle Steve had wanted to get on the Autopia, but that’s closed for now. Not sure if there’s a plan to improve or change the theming there….I imagine it’s certainly a ride that could use a freshening up!
Speaking of that, the Matterhorn had been closed the last time we were there in early 2015 as it was getting slightly refurbished. I’m not honestly sure how much the track or cars got improved – it’s still a slightly rough ride, but they DEFINITELY updated the Yeti effects you see throughout the mountain. That thing is way more animatronic and kind of intense at times as it looks like it’s coming right out at you to grab ya. I gotta give credit to it being a really fun ride though considering it’s all within that mountain. A lot of fun.
Those chimney sweeps are worth the wait as they’re damn cute and fun to watch do their dance to “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious.” Just sayin’. We had been near “It’s a Small World” and from our previous experience, the parade wound it’s way north, but this time it went south from It’s a Small World. Alas, it was closed. 🙁 ….not really that sad about that.
We had some time to kill before Hyperspace Mountain, so we went into Fantasyland and partook in some fun (and yet strangely, dark in subject matter) kids rides. We first went to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which is hilariously ADD and insane all up till when you head to hell for playing chicken with a train. After that, it was a first for me to go ride the Disneyland Carousel! Then it was over to Pinocchio’s Daring Journey per Uncle Steve’s request. Finishing up Fantasyland was a walk through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
Can you imagine, there was still time to kill? Everyone wanted some ice cream now, so the hunt was on. We kept thinking we found a place, especially if there were colorful umbrellas out front. Alas, we struck out a few times until finally finding the hand-scooped ice cream shop in Main Street. SO GOOD. And very generous scoops were given. I got 1 scoop of mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone and it was delicious…..
Ice Cream on Main Street
So one of the things that had happened in Disneyland after Star Wars got even more awesome was that Space Mountain got re-titled as Hyperspace Mountain. It’s not just a name change, but also a theme change. It’s all STAR WARS inside the ride now. So much fun. The familiar fanfare is playing on the coaster speakers and there’s various Star Wars starships and fighters exploding and such everywhere. Larry & I loved it, but the ride did a number on Uncle Steve. He was pretty much done after that. The dark ride combined with all the crazy motion certainly was no friend to his stomach. Thankfully this was near the end of the day!
After that, we made our way back to Frontierland in order to get one more ride on Big Thunder. Uncle Steve sat that out and Gladys stayed with him – so the rest of us got over to Big Thunder and found the line was fantastically quick and short. We may have ridden the ride twice before heading back. Can neither confirm nor deny. Big Thunder really is the best.
It was at that point where the larger group was going to find a space to watch the fireworks. Larry & I weren’t interested really in that and it was getting close to the end of the day, so we said our goodbyes to everyone. We’re all hoping to not let so much time go by before seeing each other again. I hope most of them will be able to go to the wedding, as at least that’s a certain time we’ll meet up again.
So Larry & I went off to visit Tomorrowland one last time. Nobody wanted to go on Star Tours but we did, knowing that it had also been updated now that The Force Awakens was released. We walked by it though and saw a 40-minute wait. NO THANKS. So we kept walking to the Star Wars Colony Hub (the Innoventions building, previously). The first floor is now basically a Star Wars museum – it’s pretty cool. The second floor remains a tribute to Marvel’s Avengers, but with no in-person Captain America. Feh.
On the way back out, we saw Star Tours had only a 20-minute wait now! That was acceptable, and Star Tours became our last ride of the night. We weren’t holding our breath for getting an updated segment, but sure enough, in the ride, we got the initial escape from Darth Vader (and I ended up being the random person chosen to be the Rebel Spy he’s pursuing – I am pretty shifty), which segued into us following the Millennium Falcon on Jakku flying through Star Destroyers. IT WAS AWESOME. We beamed finally to Naboo, which was cool but also like, ugh, Jar-Jar. Got the whole Naboo experience though, both above ground and under water. A lot of fun!
Larry & I still wonder what will happen to Star Tours once the new Star Wars land opens up – will it go there? It would make sense, but we still don’t know too much about what the experience is going to be at that new land. Exciting to anticipate though!
Finishing up in the Star Wars Tomorrowland
It was a great trip and an actual nice, extremely fast vacation. Plus we got to see family we hadn’t in a long, long time. Very worth it.