As many of you know, who follow me on Facebook, my family and I went to Disneyland and southern California in February. We were gone for 12 days including our traveling days and I have to honestly say it was the BEST family vacation we have been on. This post is more for me than anything else, so I can remember what we liked and enjoyed and perhaps what we would do different if or when we go again.
We had 5 day park hopper passes and enjoyed ourselves immensely in the parks. It was certainly worth having the park hopper passes so we could go back and forth between the two parks. While we did not park hop everyday it sure came in handy so we could go back and forth.
I won’t go over every ride and attraction we went on, but these were the ones we enjoyed the most:
- Radiator Springs Racers – The ride was great and the whole Cars Land section is amazing. Just make sure you get there early enough to get a fast pass otherwise you could be looking at over an hour long wait.
- Midway Mania – This was a favorite from our trip to Disney World and it is just a fun ride to go on together.
- California Screamin’ – My daughter got me on this and I enjoyed it so much her and I went on it a total of 4 times.
- Star Tours – This might have been the favorite ride for the whole family. Think we went on it close to 8 times. Different every time.
- Indiana Jones – Fun ride to go on, but the line is almost as much fun. Just one of those great overall experiences of taking you into a story and immersing you.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Just a fun coaster that all of us enjoyed.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – We went on this several times and the kids enjoyed it.
- Space Mountain – Have to love Space Mountain, just fun.
Other than the rides we also made sure we took in the parades in both parks, Mickey’s Magical Map, Aladdin, the fireworks and Fantasmic! All excellent and worth the time to see. We also made sure we stayed past dark one one night to see Cars Land with all the neon lights.
There is no doubt the Disney parks are a great place to spend your holiday. The staff were always friendly and the place is so clean. The only complaint I have about the Disney parks at all is the price of snacks. While I understand they can charge what they want it seems extreme sometimes when you can buy 4 ice cream snacks at 7-Eleven for around $5.00 and in the parks it will cost you $20.00 or more. It would seem Disney could perhaps not seem greedy here and perhaps get away with only raising the prices double instead of 4 times. At least they let you bring your own snacks and food into the park so you can not have to spend a small fortune all day just to eat.
If the cost of snacks and food is all I can complain about though it was a fantastic time a Disneyland and California Adventure and I would go back anytime.
We went on several day trips with Southern California Gray Line. The first was a trip to Sea World in San Diego. It was nice to just get on a bus and ride down to San Diego and not have to worry about driving. We did Sea World in a day and took in many of the live shows and online rode the Riptide Rapids ride.
The highlight of Sea World was the Penguins Up Close tour, that I booked for us even before we left. We had a chance to pet a penguin, go into the penguin exhibit and learn more about them. It was an extra cost to do but was such a great experience for all of us.
Another day trip was to Legoland, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. While it is not Disney it has its good points. My kids are perhaps on the edge of being to old for some of the park there were enough things that they enjoyed still.
Overall the rides at Legoland are not as well done as the rides at Disney, and perhaps it is not fair to compare them to Disney but it is hard not too. While the rides themselves are ok they lack that ability to draw you in and immerse you in them. The ones we did enjoy that stand out was the Dragon Coaster, Bionicle Blaster and the Lost Kingdom Adventure. We also went on Sky Cruiser, which seemed to get great reviews, but honestly I don’t see what is so great about it. In fact it would say don’t bother unless your kids are under 7.
The Lego creations are impressive and worth going to see. It would be interesting to see the new Star Wars Death Star display but it was still being built when we were there. There were some other very interesting Star Wars displays though. The Lego Movie display was interesting and worth the time to see.
This was our last day trip and perhaps the one that was the worst timed on our part. We ended up going on a Saturday and the place was packed. It made for a tiring day. Not to say it was a bad day just not as fun as I had hoped.
Some of the highlights from Universal Studios included:
- WaterWorld Show – Considering how bad of a movie this was the stunt show was enjoyable.
- Special Effects Show – This was really interesting and was a great chance for us to have a snack.
- Minon Mayhem – By far the best ride we went on. We all enjoyed it. Went twice even with a long wait.
- Studio Tour – You need to do this when you go to Universal and it is worth the wait.
- Animal Actors Show – This was fun to watch and the kids seemed to get a real kick out of seeing the animals perform.
- Shrek 4d – This was ok but the theater has seen better days. Turned out my seat did not work very well and I missed most of the effects.
We did not go on some of the other bigger rides here like The Simpsons Ride, The Mummy Ride or the Transformers Ride. We don’t watch The Simpsons, the kids have never seen The Mummy movies or any of the Transformer movies plus looking at the information for the rides the kids were not really interested. If Legoland seemed more for younger kids, Universal seems more for older kids and adults.
Overall the day at Universal Studios was fun but it was a very different experience. The place seemed really dirty, the bathrooms even more so, and the people were just not as friendly. Perhaps it was due to the park being so crowded that day.
We had a family suite at the Castle Inn and Suites in Anaheim, and while it is not a new hotel or a big fancy resort it was enough. We were at the parks or day trips most days and the days we did stick around the hotel we had enough to do. The pool was fun enough to go swimming in for the kids and the hot tub, well was hot.
The staff were friendly and helpful if we needed anything. The only problem we had was a problem with our shower leaking to the room below. Not a huge problem for us, but I am sure the people below us were not pleased. The hotel fixed as soon as they could and it was not a bother for us since we were gone to the park the day they fixed it.
It is only a 15 minute walk to Disneyland from Castle Inn and if you are just planning on playing at the parks all day long it is a decent enough hotel. If you want a resort to play at then you might want to look elsewhere. I would stay there again, especially since it was considerably less expensive than some newer places that were further away.
Considering the parks are so expensive to eat at we choose to only have lunches at the parks and ate dinners at other nearby restaurants. Some of our favorites were iHop, Denny’s, Cheesecake Factory and the Subway and California Pizza. All were within walking distance of the Castle Inn and all were decently priced.
We also had some special meals at Downtown Disney and in Disneyland. They were good but if you want to keep the cost of meals down eat out of the parks. We also took plenty of snacks and drank lots of water in the parks. It all helped to keep the cost of meals down some.
It was a fabulous holiday to Southern California. If we have a chance to go again I would. Nothing like just playing with the family to make life a little easier and fun. If you are planning a trip perhaps some of this will help you. Like I said it is more for me so I can remember what we did in the event we do get to go back.