So I spent the week before the trip whining at boot camp to anyone who would listen. First world problems, right? But through all of that grumbling, I got quite a bit of really good advice from those who have traversed this path before me. We decided to do Disneyland, not California Adventures, since we only had one day (and eight hours, at best). This required leaving at 4:30 in the morning from Vegas, arriving in Anaheim around 8:30, and then somehow getting to Santa Monica by 7pm to meet up with friends. Yikes.
The night before, I gave Scotty a heads up as to what we were planning, so he didn't freak out when we dragged him out of bed at the crack of dawn. I'm usually pretty good in the morning - this was the fourth time that week I was up at 3:45am or earlier - so Brian and I agreed I'd take the first leg of the journey while the boys slept. Only problem: Scotty was too keyed up to sleep that he chatted the entire four and a half hours of the drive.
This is going to be the longest day of my life...
This went on for four hours.
We made an impromptu stop at Brian's happiest place on earth first to clear our heads. Putting food in Scott's mouth momentarily prevented him talking as well.
Our first stop was the Jedi Training Academy. I had heard that several kids are selected from the audience to become a Padawan - they get a robe and a light saber and everything. Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers show up half way through the show and the kids use their new skills to battle the Dark Side. (please excuse me if my Star Wars lingo is wrong...clearly I do not have the force (or knowledge)). I had heard good and bad things about this - one, from the parents who's children were selected, and then from the parents who's children were not. Ouch. Four is the youngest Padawan they'll take, so I knew we'd be up against 8- and 9-years olds who got it and could play the part.
So I made a sign. I was going to cover every base to give our quiet, easily-overwhelmed little Bear the best shot possible.
When the time came and the Jedi master started to pointing to children, Scott was standing toward the front, knock-kneed, silent, with his sign upside down. My heart sank. Other kids were in full-on costumes, jumping up and down waving their arms. Cheaters. Stupid eight year olds. How do you explain disappointment to a four-year old?
But then, maybe it was the sign, the shirt, or the silent prayers his mother was sending up, but the Bear got the okay. He glanced back at us fearfully (go kid go!) and then took off to get his robe. I then realized he hadn't gone potty since leaving Las Vegas seven hours ago and began praying he didn't pee his pants while on stage. I had spent so much time thinking about getting picked or not I never considered what would happen if he was picked. Whoops.
Oh, the prayers of a mother.
There was a bit of a struggle just getting the light saber to work. Then his robe fell off. Parents had been strongly cautioned to not help their children, so Brian and I sat there, fretting. Well, I fretted. Brian turned into Softball Dad and yelled what he believed to be helpful advice from 20 feet away. It was cute. Kind of.
Before the show, I had run over to get FastPasses for Star Tours. It worked perfectly - just as the show ended, around 11:15, we simply walked right up to Star Tours and jumped on a ship within 10 minutes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
The best part about Captain America (aside from he's a total dream boat) was the employee that managed the line. Scott, still on a high from his Padawan experience, happily told her about his morning so far. "You're a Jedi?" she exclaimed in surprise. "Oh my goodness! Well, we need to let Captain America know this! He will be so pleased to meet a real Jedi master!" Scotty lit up again and I had to fight the urge to hug this woman. Gosh these people were good.
Captain America, as to be expected, appeared very excited to meet Scott and told him how proud of him he was. Scott told him all about his training and new title ("I didn't kill Darth Maul, I just injured him like, a lot. But he is not dead," Scotty told Captain Hottie seriously. Brian and I stifled our giggles). As we walked down the ramp, Scott turned to Brian and I and exclaimed, "Boy, was he nice!" in such a sincere, sweet voice that again we both burst into laughter. It was just so cute.
And with that, I finally submitted to the magic of Disney.
It is pretty awesome.
The rest of the day was a whirlwind of Tomorrowland, FrontierLand, AdventureLand and New Orleans. Brian insisted on "It's a Small World" and I gave in, mainly because it was a true Disney staple. And again - there's a theme here, people! - it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The line was short, the water clear, and the unblinking eyes of the singing children less creepy than I expected.
What did I learn? These would be my tips going forward:
Fast Pass it!
This was our ticket to a great day. The more popular rides offer Fast Passes, so while we were in a shorter line, I would simply pop over to the other ride, grab the passes, and pop back into our line. This worked like a charm for Star Tours and Autopia. We debated whether or not to go on Indiana Jones, but the minimum height is 46". Scott is 44.5," and every park employee we talked to said they are very strict about height requirements. So we tabled Indy and decided to try it next year.
Despite the excessive water I brought, I totally forgot snacks in the car. They allow you to bring food and next time, I would pack as much food as possible. That being said, I did not have a problem finding good food. Many people pointed out there multiple fruit carts around the park and the ice-cold purple grapes tasted heavenly as the temperature climbed. The $2.99 price tag was a little annoying, but beggars can't be choosers. And that giant dill pickle we scored outside of Jungle Cruise - I actually squealed. De-lish.
Stroller or no stroller...
Ultimately, we went stroller-less. Scott did tucker out in the afternoon, but it made for a good excuse to jump on the monorail and the Disney Railroad. No wait and lots of sitting. He perked up after splitting a soft pretzel with me, giving him plenty of energy for a third go on Star Tours...
Timing is Everything
Irvine schools were still in session on Friday and the park was not crowded at all in the morning. It started to pick up around 2pm, and then around 6pm, a huge wave of people entered. It was Grad Night at the park and suddenly we were surrounded by three million eighteen year olds, all making out and pawing each other. Ew. The crush of people was overwhelming, making me very happy we were preparing to leave.
Have a plan...and an app
Disney Line Waits (DL Wait) was crazy helpful - any time we considered a new ride, I would check my phone and find out what our expected wait time was. This was key for Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. We waited until each was less than 25 minutes before making the trek over. By 3pm, all of the rides were showing longer wait times -- which was a relief, considering we had front-loaded our favorite rides in the morning.
I had also mapped out which "Lands" we wanted to hit and which ones we could skip. Scott couldn't pick Donald Duck out of a line-up, so ToonTown was cut. He's also very anti-Princess ("If I see a princess, I'm going to smack her in the butt!" he happily stated at one point during the drive in) so we avoided all of that like the plague.
I'm happy to report we hit all of our targeted rides easily which made the kid happy and Brian and I feel like we got our money's worth. We didn't leave until 7:45pm, making the drive from Anaheim to Santa Monica a breeze. No traffic and we were beach-side within thirty-five minutes. Score!
Best of all, we put Scotty to bed once we arrived at our hotel, and our friends came over to hang out in our room. When I looked at my watch and realized it was 1:45am, Brian and I high-fived, congratulating each other on our epic day. Twenty-two hours, two light sabers, multiple lands, one giant pickle and three Star Tours all made for one very, very happy little boy.
Overall, it was a truly magical day. I take it all back -- Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth. Just ask Scotty...once he wakes up.