We were only supposed to pass through L.A. for a few hours, but we opted to extend our time there and catch up with my friend Scott – my best friend from high school (like we did here and here). Amtrak deposited us at Union Station around 1:00 in the morning, where Scott picked us up and took as back to his place. (Whatta guy!) His kids, Siporah (10) and Jacob (8), were staying with him, so we got a chance to meet them again. The last time had been years ago, and they didn’t remember us.
On our first day we took it easy by playing games with the kids, taking them to the park and doing a little light shopping. This was all in preparation for the main event – a day at Disneyland. (Yes, I knew it was a Friday in July, and crowds would be off the hook. Don’t hassle me, man!)
Perhaps a little background information is in order. In 1986 when Scott and I were both sixteen and living in Anaheim, our parents gave us each an annual pass to Disneyland. We spent a LOT of time there together. I could do my homework, and then ride my bike over for a few hours in the evening. On weekends, we would hang out at Videopolis – Disneyland’s outdoor, teen dance club. In that one year, I went 107 times! (Yes, I counted.) When they debuted Captain Eo, and kept the park open for 60 hours straight, Scott and I were there. When they did it again for Star Tours, we were there again. We collected all the pins (and the misprints) for Disneyland’s 30th anniversary, became experts at weaving through packed crowds, and basically claimed Disney as our own.
Since those days, Scott and I had been back to the DL exactly once together, so I was psyched to go again with him. This time, we could see the place through his children’s eyes. As if all that wasn’t enough, Stephanie and I go to Disney at least once a year (no surprise there), and this year we opted for the West Coast version.
The day started off like all family trips to Disneyland do in that we weren’t out the door on time. No problem! L.A. traffic isn’t that bad, right? Actually, it wasn’t bad at all, and we made up some of our lost time. While we were taking the tram in from the parking lot, the woman sitting opposite us had on a t-shirt that Stephanie liked. Why is this important? Because Stephanie struck up a conversation with her and her friend. Her friend, it turned out, was a Disney employee who was signing the two of them in for the day. Why is *this* important? Because Disney employees can sign in up to four people at a time, and she offered to bring us in with her. Free Disney! Woo hoo! We had already purchased e-tickets, but they’re good for 18 months, and so we have plenty of time to come back again and use them.
So we were in the gate, and Disneyland in all its glory was laid before us. Most important to me were rides that do not exist in Florida. Namely: The Matterhorn, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio.
We talked Jake into riding the Matterhorn, and that was the last thing we talked him into all day. (Watch the pre-ride interview. You can probably guess why there’s no post-ride interview.) He proclaimed that he was “terrified,” and held off on Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Pinocchio and all roller coasters. He was a trooper, though as he waited patiently for the rest of us to go on everything. His sister, Siporah, tentatively joined us on Splash Mountain, and then promptly turned into a thrill-ride junkie, demanding bigger and bigger rides.
Disney was able to accommodate Siporah’s need for speed with Hyperspace Mountain. We weren’t sure what to expect when we heard that Stephanie’s favorite ride of all time – Space Mountain – had been updated, but let me tell you, this is one of the coolest re-imaginings ever. Space Mountain now has a Star Wars theme. As you travel through the darkness, you are part of an X-wing squadron in a heated dogfight with TIE fighters, complete with light effects, synchronized sound, and radio chatter. My description makes it sound a bit lame, I know, but WOW! This ride has gone from “fantastic” to “freaking phenomenal.”
Stephanie also got photos of any alligators she saw on any rides. (Not that Disney is toying with the idea of taking them out or anything.)
So we got on everything we wanted (some of them twice) except Pinocchio which was kind enough to break down right as we got there. Actually, so did Indiana Jones, but they gave us good-anytime Fast Passes to come back at our convenience.
Speaking of Fast Passes, the West Coast Fast Pass system is still paper based. (Walt Disney World in Florida has gone all digital.) This means that Stephanie and I were able to put our well-honed FastPass skills to good use and maximize our time in the park. We stayed until after closing, just like Scott and I used to do in the old days, and a good time was had by all.
Our last day, we slept in until the last minute, and then Scott took us to the airport. It was over as soon as it began, BUT… We do still have a couple of tickets to use, and Scott has never been to Disney’s California Adventure.