After returning from our trip to Disney World in February with my wife’s family, my mother wanted us to go to Disneyland together as a family. Fortunately, with my mother’s favorite college basketball team laying a big egg in the NCAA Tournament, she had a bunch of Southwest miles built up. With my mother paying for airfare, we were ready to go to Disneyland in August! Another perk of my mom’s work is that many people travel for business and someone was gracious enough to gift us enough points so our hotel was free as well! Without paying for both airfare and hotels, my wife and I could definitely afford a trip to DL even after early summer travels to Whistler, Canada. The beauty of being teachers is that we have lots of free time in the summer. The traveling party would include my mother, my wife, my brother, and my niece (5). Also meeting us in Anaheim for a few days in the parks was our old neighbors from Arizona. It had been a few years since I had been to DL, I went back in 2012, but it was for five hours after our basketball team finished playing at the University of Redlands. My wife hadn’t been to DL since she was 5. My mom, brother and niece had gone the summer before, so I was surprised to see them wanting to go back so soon, but I was happy!
Day 1 - Arrival into Long Beach - August 1st
We had a late flight out of Spokane, WA, to Long Beach with a short layover in Oakland. Nothing too exciting happened on the way down there, we got there and our neighbor picked us up. We were staying at the Courtyard by Marriott across from the park. We could see Space Mountain and Matterhorn from our window which was awesome…and made it tough to want to fall asleep with excitement. We got unpacked and got into bed as quickly as possible with the hopes of rope dropping the next day.
Day 2 - Rope Drop DCA, then DL - August 2nd
My wife and I are crazy people. We flew red eye to WDW in February, and went straight to the parks after minimal sleep. We woke up at 6:15, got ready and hustled off towards DCA since it didn’t have early morning hours. This would be our strategy every day, we’d simply rope drop the park without the extended hours and it worked well. Getting to the front gates at 7:00, we were only a few people back from the front of the line to enter the park. I was astonished how much easier it was to rope drop DL/DCA than WDW, and I believe its the ability to walk up, and that the park is open earlier and mostly a local park. WDW would be nuts already an hour before opening.
We raced to Radiator Springs Racers after being let into the parks officially. When we walked down the streets of Cars Land, my wife and I were in shock of how amazing and authentic it was to the movies. After being to Pandora at AK, our expectations for Disney were high. Walking down Cars Land was truly amazing. Radiator Springs Racers was a blast, much better than Test Track at Epcot. We also got a Fastpass booked for Incredicoaster after we walked into the park. Incredicoaster went down, so we decided to walk towards Guardians. I know I will be in the minority here, but I love the movies, and I preferred the Guardians ride over Tower of Terror. It was the perfect mix of terror and laughter, plus I just love the music. We used were able to snag another Fastpass for Toy Story MM, which was fun and I enjoyed it more than Buzz Lightyear. After TSMM, we used our Fastpass for Incredicoaster and were off. I missed the classic California Screamin’, and thought some of Incredicoaster felt rushed in its production - especially the babies on sticks. Some of the tunnel effects were cool such as the Fire/Violet tunnel and the cookie smell. But other than that, same coaster, just a new skin. Snagged a Fastpass for Soaring and afterwards headed to DL to meet with my family and our old neighbors. Rope dropping DCA got us the major attractions, minus Grizzly River Rapids, in less than two hours.
Once we met up with my family, things got a little slower. But were able to get onto Jungle Cruise, POTC, FP for BTMM, Haunted, FP for Indy and then my wife and I took a short break for the afternoon. When we returned, we decided to venture back over to DCA since my family hadn’t been there today. My niece had enough for the day, and wanted to go to the waterpark back at the hotel. So my brother and niece went back, so it was just the “old people” left. We ate at the Lamplight Lounge for dinner on the upstairs patio. I was a little underwhelmed. Outside of the Lobster Nachos, I felt like everything was overpriced, even for Disney. Also, Dash screaming “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” every 90 seconds really killed any vibe they might have had out there. I’d suggest to Disney to possibly turn Dash down, or have his audio in the car instead of outside. We FP Incredicoaster, and rode Guardians one more time on our way home. We left before the parade so the walk home wasn’t too bad. My wife and I had talked about going open to close, but the 16 hour days with the heat were too much!
I thought this animatronic was the most impressive AA I’ve seen in any of the parks. The dang dog looks real!
Day 3 - Rope Drop DL, Blue Bayou, Fantasmic - August 3rd
This is an embarrassing moment. We got up at our usual time, and headed to DL since it didn’t have the early morning hours. It in fact, didn’t open for another hour than the usual 8:00am opening. My wife and I ended up being right at the gate, but we were not alone. About 15 other people who either really wanted to be the first ones in, or also didn’t read the park hours like I did. My wife fortunately ran off to Starbucks to get coffee and breakfast, so we had a nice picnic outside my favorite spot in DL - the train station and Mickey flowers in the front. My wife also got to meet one of her favorite Disney bloggers, MagicKingdomMamas.
After we finally got into the parks, we watched some of the characters emerge which was entertaining. My wife got a nice picture with Minnie and we watched Pluto dance around like a fool. We headed to the rope to head towards Indiana Jones. Got through Indy, my wife asked for the front so I got a chance to “drive” since it’s been my favorite ride since I was a child! We then headed to our favorite ride together, BTMRR, and used a FP to get onto Splash Mountain. We decided that we like the Splash better at WDW, sitting side by side is more enjoyable, the one advantage in sitting toboggan style, you get to see everything. We sat in the back, didn’t get too wet. Once my family and our neighbors made it into the park, we were just getting off, and we got another FP for Splash to ride together. My mom and niece sat out, so 5 of us filled a log. I took one for the team and sat in the front. This time, we got soaked! We rode Jungle Cruise, my niece’s favorite, and I was still soaked. Decided to make the short trek back to the hotel to change, but not before grabbing a Dole Whip and a Dole Float. When we got back to DL, we rode BTMRR as a family, we got my niece onto it - she was not pleased at the end. Rode Mr. Toad, which my wife had never been on. Her review of it was that it was cute, entertaining, but surprised we went to hell at Disney. We then went over to our Blue Bayou reservation at 3:30pm. The food was delicious! The setting was amazing! The service was even better!
After dinner, we had some time before Fantasmic at 9:00pm. My niece wanted to go back to the waterpark, and my mom took her this time. So, we headed over to DCA for a FP at Soarin’ and then a FP for Guardians - which was quickly becoming our favorite ride at the parks. Grabbed a drink and relaxed. Then we headed back to DL, decided to ride the train around the park and do the Grand Circle Tour. Around 7:30, grabbed a FP for Haunted Mansion and then took our seats for Fantasmic. After we got settled down, I went over to New Orleans Square, got a Mint Julep and a six pack of beignets. They were so yummy! I would almost prefer the beignets over the churros, but I know thoughts like that are heresy. During Fantasmic, it was so incredible that I didn’t take a single picture. The projections on the water were awesome, but the best scenes to me were definitely when the Columbia came through the fog, and then the Mark Twain at the end were breathtaking. My wife would neither confirm nor deny that she cried during Fantasmic. I will say that some of the scenes were a little odd, I get that some take place in a jungle, or under the sea…but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all belong together in my mind. We watched the fireworks from Rivers of America, and then headed back out.
Day 4 - Rope Drop DCA, Trader Sams, DCA Parade - August 4th
Somehow on Day 4, we never made it over to Disneyland at all. We roped dropped DCA, did the same strategy as before hitting up RSR, Guardians, Incredicoaster. The highlight of the morning was definitely Flo’s for breakfast. The tamale with the scrambled eggs was great. I would take it for QS breakfast any day! After breakfast, we met the family to ride Little Mermaid, then my wife and I went to see Black Panther. My wife loves his bodyguards, and I love Black Panther - so it worked out for both of us! After meeting the King, we went to Trader Sam’s for a drink and some food. I really wanted a shipwreck mug, but they were out of all the mugs. I still got the shipwreck, and I loved the vibe of Trader Sam’s. The bartenders were hilarious, and an Annual Passholder chatted with my wife and I recommending other places to have a nice drink on the property. After lunch, we walked back to the hotel, didn’t plan on taking a nap, but somehow slept for a few hours. We headed back to DCA, rode RSR as a family with a FPP, then Incredicoaster with a FPP, then did the Paint the Night parade with a drink in hand. Day 4 was more laid back than the other days, but after going really hard the first two days, we needed a slower day.
Day 5 - Rope Drop DL - August 5th
This was our last day with a park ticket, and instead of using our magic morning at DCA, we decided that rope dropping was the right time for getting up and getting things done in the parks. We arrived around 7:15, somehow were still at the front to get into DL. Walked down Main Street, off to Indy, BTMRR, POTC, grabbed a FP for Space Mountain, and while we were getting off got a FP for Star Tours. We were happy that they went back to the random scenes for Star Tours as we just rode the TLJ scene in February. We got five major attractions done in 90 minutes! My family was getting to the park and were standing in line for Peter Pan. The park was exceptionally empty until 10:30, with my wife and I being the few that ventured past Indiana Jones.
We didn’t feel like waiting for 45 minutes for PP, so we walked onto Snow White and Pinocchio. Afterwards, we went to Toontown, rode Roger Rabbit - which was a way longer wait than the advertised 10 minutes and ended up being closer to 30 minutes. Then got onto the Mark Twain with a corn dog and relaxed for a minute. After the Mark Twain, we went to the Tiki Room - which while a classic, made me extremely sleepy. My family wanted to ride Grizzly River Rapids before taking our break, but the next fastpass wasn’t until 3:00. So, we had some time to kill. My niece went wild in Bug’s Land, she loves the splash pad there. Then we got into line for the lounge at Carthay Circle. Had a few drinks and appetizers, I felt the drinks and food were much better priced here than at Lamplight Lounge and would recommend CC over LL. Plus, the AC certainly helped. We rode Grizzly River Rapids with our FP, got right on, and barely got wet - especially compared to my Splash Mountain experience earlier in the trip. We went back to the hotel though regardless to change into dry clothes and get ready for our last evening.
When we got back to the parks, we went to DCA to do RSR one last time as a family. My wife and I went back to the parks earlier to get one last ride on Guardians before saying goodbye to DCA. Guardians was probably our favorite ride of the trip. After RSR, we went back to DL to try and close down the park. We were feeling pretty spunky but with the heat from the last four days, and walking around 12-13 miles a day - we were pooped. My wife and I rode Indy one more time with a Fastpass, but this time the boulder scene didn’t work and instead of getting stuck and being evacuated off, the ride just went black and we finished in darkness. After Indy, we met my family to ride the Nemo subs. My family called it a day, but my wife and I had to continue our tradition of ending our Disney trip with one final ride on BTMRR. On our way to BTMRR, we watched the fireworks from Small World, and then continued onto our favorite ride. Afterwards, we were tempted to watch the 10:30 Fantasmic show, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of finding a spot.
Day 6 - Sleeping In, Flying Home - August 6th
We finally got to sleep in, and being the teachers we are, still got up by 7:00. We laid in bed though until we finally were hungry enough, and needed coffee enough to motivate us to move. My family stayed at the hotel to play in the waterpark. We fortunately had a late checkout at 4:00, with our flight not being until 6:30 out of John Wayne. My wife and I headed back to Trader Sam’s with a pit stop at Starbucks along the way. I got a piranha mug, which now sits proudly on my desk at school. Trader Sam’s isn’t quite the same at opening compared to midafternoon. But we still felt that it was the best priced for drinks/food on the property that we tried this trip. After lunch, we went back and packed and headed home. Unfortunately, all of the flights in the Southwest got delayed due to the golfball sized hail storm in Denver. So we did not get home until almost 2:00am.
Overall, it was an enjoyable trip! We were surprised how much we loved Guardians, since my wife is not a huge fan of Tower of Terror. Indy was still just as magical as I remember, minus the boulder not working on the last ride. And walking around the OG park, just reminds you how special of a place it really is. We want to try and return every other year, with the hopes of possibly waiting for Marvel and Star Wars to both be opened. I enjoyed that DL does not promote fastpasses for on property guest, they just get magic morning hours - and once you’re in the parks, it is incredibly easy to load up on fastpasses at the beginning of the day. I think once there is another DVC property at DL, my wife and I may invest finally since it’s so much closer to home and easier to get done in a shorter amount of days. Hope everyone enjoyed reading my trip report! I didn’t take as many pics as I did when I went to WDW, but my wife and I think it’s because we were trying to enjoy the moment more, the pathways are much narrower making taking a picture feeling like you’re blocking a path, and it was 95 plus every day! Hoping next time we visit when its cooler!