Now that I’m a Disneyland Annual Passholder again, there was only one logical way to celebrate my birthday – with a Disneyland trip. My actual birthday fell on a Friday this year, and the way my work schedule is, I know that Friday will always be an early day for me. Due to my work schedule, as well as my SO (at the time’s), the only realistic time for us to go would be Saturday through Monday, the weekend before President’s Day Weekend. Not ideal for a Disney trip, but not as bad as any time during the summer or the peak holiday season.
Friday was a full day. It started with my coworker bringing a cake (he and I share a birthday, too), work was followed by packing for the trip, and the evening was rounded out with family dinner at Yardhouse.
The next morning, we were up early with the car packed, ready to leave for Disneyland. Before 6 a.m. we were in the Starbucks drive-thru just off the freeway, got our caffeine and food and we were on our way.
We made it down to the parks around 10:30 a.m. and by that time they had already pushed cars looking for parking to the Simba lot instead of feeding the garage, which told us a lot about what to expect when we got there.
After getting through security, we moved through Downtown Disney to our first order of business – finding some of the accessories my mom and I had picked out for the trip we’re taking my Grandma on in a couple months as her belated 80th Birthday present. I’ll go more into that in the inevitable post about our trip with her!
With that business taken care of, we made our way into Disneyland. Going into it, we knew that there were extensive walls up because of the construction on the rails of Main Street, but we underestimated just how much there would be. It made navigation rather interesting.
We had decided prior to getting there that first thing in the park this time would be Tom Sawyer’s Island, something I hadn’t done before.
I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but the island exceeded my expectations. All the little crevices and tunnels and bridges were truly fun to explore. It was also interesting seeing the park from the island as opposed to being in the middle of the pack.
When we got off the island, we headed into New Orleans Square for some beignets at the Mint Julep Bar. The line was already long, and as we waited, I mentioned my interest in doing Haunted Mansion after we ate the beignets (pro tip – don’t wear black, black pants, or anything darkly colored. Powdered sugar leaves no survivors), so I waited in line while the SO went and got us FastPasses. When the beignets had disappeared, we still had some time before our return time, so we wandered into Critter Country to look in the shop hidden in the back and explore a little bit. We ended up finding the 3rd eventual entrance to Star Wars Land (the first two are in the thoroughfare behind Frontierland, one on the border of the Rivers of America, and the other near the shared border of Fantasyland) behind the Hungry Bear Restaurant.
When it was our time, we wandered back to Haunted Mansion. Once we finished that ride, we checked the time, and it was about the time we wanted to head to Trader Sam’s. On our way out, we took a detour to Frontierland to see about Fantasmic tickets, but they had finished distribution for the day, which was a bummer. Alas, watching that show has been moved to our next trip.
We actually got a seat at the bar this trip (last time we went to Trader Sam’s together, we walked up to the bar, got our drinks, and went to sit by the fireplace that is flanked by the Rose Garden, Trader Sam’s Patio, and the pool for the Disneyland Hotel) and I couldn’t have been more excited. I knew going into it that I wanted a HippopotoMai-Tai. Once there, we decided to also get some of their fried spring rolls, which were an awesome choice – he really liked the teriyaki sauce and I preferred the Sriracha aioli.
After our drinks at Trader Sam’s, we were ready to check into the hotel. We headed there, and per our tradition, we ordered Dominos to our room. Originally, the plan was to make that night a later one, go back into the parks and wander, ride some rides, maybe do Fantasmic, but after we didn’t get tickets for that, there wasn’t a push. Honestly, we were asleep around 7:30 p.m.
Because we went to sleep so early the night before, we got up early. By the time we got to Starbucks in Downtown Disney it was 7:30 a.m.
We got breakfast and caffeination under control and headed into California Adventure.
We got into the park before it technically opened and got some pictures on Buena Vista Street in front of the fountain and Carthay Circle.
Once we could progress in the park, we went straight for Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses, and then made our way to the pier, which is riddled with scaffolding for the Pixar Pier overlay and changes.
Once on the pier we did Toy Story Midway Mania. My performance on that round was subpar, but he crushed it. From there, we moved to the Silly Symphony Swings, followed by Goofy’s Sky School, both of which he hadn’t been on before. By that time, we were getting close to our return time for our Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses.
On our way there, we stopped to go on the Little Mermaid ride. We realized we still had a little bit of time (it was only about 8:40 a.m. at this point), and we were able to get our next FastPass, so we went and got passes for Guardians of the Galaxy, which had a return time late that morning. There was also a churro stop thrown in there.
It was finally time, so we went on Radiator Springs Racers. After that ride, I wanted to walk through some of the shops in Cars Land, so we did. Next was killing time until Guardians of the Galaxy.
On our way there, we went through the park the opposite from logical way just for the scenery. He had also never been on the path that runs behind Grizzly River Run that has all the waterfalls, so we took a detour there, too.
We made it around the park back to Guardians of the Galaxy for our return time and lucked into the right side so that I could see the bellhop hat from Tower of Terror that was in that side’s “Collector’s Office.”
Getting off that ride, we realized the speed and order we had done rides that morning was probably a bad strategy, and that we needed a bit of a break from things like that. We knew we wanted to switch parks soon, but on our way out we stopped in Buena Vista Street shops.
When we switched over to Disneyland, we ran into Ashley and Jeff on their way out to head home – we had unknowingly planned a second trip in a row where Ashley and Jeff would be there too.
After catching up with them, they left the park, and we headed toward the castle to take pictures. Prior to this trip, we had done castle pictures ourselves from the sides (way better view anyway), but decided to involve the PhotoPass people this time.
Our next move was to get Thunder Mountain FastPasses, as the return time was still a solid amount of time away, spacing out our morning rides enough. Another thing I wanted to do that I hadn’t in awhile was get pictures with princesses.
After princesses, we made our way to Thunder Mountain, which (in case you didn’t know) is one of my all time favorite rides. When we got off that ride, I wanted Dole Whip, so I got in the longest line of the weekend for that.
Dole Whip in hand, we headed to New Orleans Square because I was wanting to ogle the Haunted Mansion Dooney I have been debating for years.
Spoiler Alert: I bought the bag.
We left the park and made our way back to the Starbucks in Downtown Disney for the second time that day. Drinks in hand, we headed back to the car. Costco gas was the important stop of the afternoon – the line was so bad, he had time to take my Costco card, run in, get pizza, and get back to the car before I made it to the pump.
Gas tank successfully filled, we ran by Target, and returned to our hotel. We ate our YardHouse leftovers (yes, we took them in an ice chest with us), got ourselves dressed up, and piled back into the car to head to Napa Rose for drinks, appetizers, and dessert.
Levi had also never been in the Grand Californian (my favorite hotel), so this was an event for multiple reasons. We sat at Napa Rose for the better part of 2 hours, and it was absolutely lovely. We had an awesome server, which made it even better.
From there, we decided to take a short walk into California Adventure because Cars Land at night is one of my favorite things in this world.
From there, we walked back to the car and drove back to our hotel, quite content from the amazing food and drinks consumed.
The next morning, we packed the car and made our way to the parks for the last time this trip. The last thing I wanted for my birthday was a Mickey waffle, so I had made reservations at Carnation Cafe for breakfast prior to our trip. I highly recommend making reservations when going to restaurants like that at Disneyland – they significantly cut down wait time (obviously), and we happened to dodge a 45 minute wait that morning.
By the time we left the parks, all but one turnstile was being used for park entrance, and the queues were all halfway across the pavilion between parks.
From the park, on our way back to the car, we stopped at World of Disney once more so that we could pick out pins for this trip.
**In talking to employees, we found out that they are getting ready to start an 8 month renovation of the World of Disney store, half at a time, so keep that in mind on your trips and searches for souvenirs**
My 24th Birthday was one for the books! It’s always sad when we leave Disneyland, but it makes us that much more excited and appreciative of our next trip!