Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Southern California

Well! This blog is later than I planned on, but as we had company for a week after we returned, what could I do?

So here is the scoop...We really surprised the boys on this one! When we woke them up, we told them they did so good on their report cards that daddy was not going to work and they were skipping school so we could take them to breakfast. They were cool with that!

As we ate, Jeff asked them what we should do for our family day. They came up with Pojos or Boondocks. We then drove to the airport, opened the trunk and showed them all of our bags with Disneyland luggage tags. Isaac looked and said, "Our suitcases are going to Disneyland?"

After the shock that they too would accompany their bags, they got really lovey dovey and told us we were the best parents in the world and so on!! We had a slight delay getting on the plane due to fog in San Francisco–this really bummed them out. Once we got going, it was pure excitement! Other people on the plane got a kick out of the loud exclamations and maniacal laughter.

After arriving at LAX and over an hour long drive to the hotel during rush hour traffic on the crazy freeways, we were all beat. We spent the evening (77 degrees!) in the pool and hot tub. It was so nice with all the palms and flowers. I especially liked the Bird of Paradise flowers. They resemble Isaac’s hairdo!!

The first full day there, (Groundhog’s Day) we took in Disneyland. There were NO lines. We walked onto every ride with NO waiting. It was so fantastic! The weather was warm and the crowds were non-exsistant. We highly recommend going there this time of year, just to avoid the heat and crowds. The only risk is some of the rides are closed down for maintenance. During our trip, the Haunted Mansion was closed for repairs. We were lucky that was the only one closed.

The second day we took in California Adventure Park right across the way from DL. This turned out to be my favorite of the two. The crowds were a bit heavier as it was a Friday and both parks draw the locals on weekends. However, we hit all the major rides with little to no waits. The use of FastPass was a real time saver for those rides that did have lines. You just insert your Park tickets, it spits out a stub with the time you should return (or later) and when you come back, you get to bypass all those in line and go right to the front. We couldn’t understand why people would choose to stand in line for 40 minutes when they could FastPass and go do something else for awhile. Maybe they don’t know how it works or think it costs extra. We loved it, especially on rides we wanted to ride more than once, like California Screamer and Soarin Over California. The boys were not too hip on the Tower of Terror (plunging elevator in a haunted hotel), but of course Jeff and I loved it!

Our third day we drove to San Diego and took in Sea World and the ocean. We were all a bit tired and grouchy that day. Jeff says that SW is layed out like a used car lot–you get in and can’t find a way out!
Some of the highlights of SW:
Petting the Manta and Bat Rays (so silky soft, and would suck fish out of our fingers!)
Shamu (of course)
Dolphin Show (with the cutest black pilot whales :)
A comedy show called "Deep Trouble" (seals and sea lions have great senses of humor and can really act!)
Shark Encounter

Once we found our way out, we drove to Mission Beach and got revived in the freezing cold waters of the Pacific. This was the boys first time at the ocean and the looks on their faces was priceless. Ben must have collected hundreds of sea shells! We got soaked and sandy (mom forgot to bring suits so we went in our clothes!). The ride back to our hotel (over an hour) was cold and miserable. We couldn’t wait to change and shower. We all slept like dead logs that night!

Sunday was our last full day, so we made the most of it. We spent the morning back in DL and the afternoon and evening at California Adventure. The rides at night are fantastic and Jeff and I took turns riding the big scary ones that the kids couldn’t go on. Our favorite was the Maliboomer. We rode something similar at the top of the Stratosphere in Vegas. It is a fantastic G-force ride that only lasts about 4 seconds but is such a fantastic thrill! You can see for miles if you look quickly! I wanted to scream, but couldn’t pull any air into my lungs. All I managed was a squeaky grunt which made the guy next to me burst out laughing!

We had the kids picture painted in watercolors by an artist there. It turned out so cute and really captured their likeness. It was fortunate the Block Party Parade came by about the time they got tired posing to keep them entertained while she finished. It took her over an hour to do. We finished the night over at DL watching Fantasmic. It was okay–I guess we were expecting something grander. We had heard it was a not-to-be-missed event. It scared Isaac and he wanted to leave before it was half over. I think Ben was too tired to really care and layed down on the steps for most of the show.

Monday, their was a fire in the hills and it was raining ash all day. The boys and I spent the morning at the pool while Jeff packed up the hurricane in our room. He’s good at that stuff because he was in the Army! As we were waiting for our 4pm flight, Sean Penn came and sat down near us. He was on our flight to San Francisco. Why couldn’t it have been Ewan McGregor? Oh, well! He was the only famous person we saw unless you count Goofy, Pluto, Buzz, Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale, etc., etc., etc!

We took hundreds of pics on our digital and Jeff is supposed to post them anytime now...hint hint...I don’t know how of course.

Rides I don’t recommend for anyone:
Autopia (only if you like to smell like exhaust for the rest of the day)
Any of the spinning rides (Astro Orbiter, Dumbo, etc., Teacups again)
Rides I’d say don’t live up to expectations:
Space Mountain
Tom Sawyer Island
Honey I Shrunk the Audience (although the kids loved this)

Rides I liked but thought I wouldn’t:
Jungle Cruise

Rides We all Loved:
Splash Mountain (Isaac looked like he had jumped in a pool after this!)
Pirates of the Carribean
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Enchanted Tiki Room
Everything in Mickey’s Toon Town
Matterhorn Bobsleds
Storybook Land Canal Boats
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
California Adventure:

Rides I can’t wait to ride again:
Tower of Terror
California Screamer

Rides/Events the Kids Loved:
It’s Tough to be a Bug
California Screamer
Orange Stinger (swings inside a half peeled Orange)
Soarin’ Over California
Grizzly River Run (Jeff got so soaked!)

A word about food now. We were advised to eat outside the park to save money. After doing this the first day we decided the money we saved was not worth the 40 mile walk to and from and back and forth. So, we ate mostly inside both parks. We had some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten inside the parks. Outside eats are the things you can find anywhere. Also, our travel agent had included a coupon book with lots of deals for eateries in Downtown Disney etc. Speaking of Downtown, the stores there are fantastic! Jeff would hardly let me spend anytime there!

There was great live music at night all over the parks. We saw someone playing the glass harmonica, an instrument Ben Franklin invented and very few people can play them. We also saw a great percussion duo and I bought their CD. The kids love it and listen to it at bedtime.

All in all, we had a great vacation and one I hope the kids never forget!