Since we’ve now gone & returned from another DL trip, before I can document the latest adventure, I felt the need to finish this one first. So using my photos & rough notes, here’s how our first time back in Disneyland in 15 months went!
Tue 6/15 - Disneyland
This day I can almost do from memory as it was first day back and so chalk full of emotions for us all. I also had the plan (and all contingencies) committed to memory and could probably still recite it back to you in 40 years as we had refined and worked on what our first morning back would be during the entire Disneyland shutdown. I had a touring plan built for his morning starting from July 2020 and adjusted it every 2-3 months until I could really actually put in the real date of execution of 6/15/2021.
Our plan vs. what we got done
Pre-Rope Drop Plan
Obtain 7am BG’s from hotel. Be out the door by 7:15ish to hit security before 7:30ish so we would be nice and lined up at the gates pre-8:00ish to get in the moment they started letting in guests to Main Street for hopefully a jump on our plan, or at least to be not too far behind it if we did get caught in large crowds.
Execution of Pre-RD plan
This was all a bit of womp womp as we didn’t get a BG AND we severely underestimated the crush of crowds that we would be met with on Harbor. Per my photo time-stamp of what we saw on arrival, we got to the Harbor pedestrian entrance at 7:44am (for 9am rope drop) along with every other out-of-state Disneyland fan ready to enjoy their first day at Disneyland in 15 months.
If you’ve seen any of the videos/reports from the blog/vloggers on this day you’ll know of the craziness and I won’t rehash it in this report because it was apparently just 1-2 days that it was this crazy, but it was stressful for our very Covid-cautious family. By the timestamps on my phone, were held at the gate of the Harbor pedestrian entrance for nearly 40 minutes after we arrived (8:29 was the photo timestamp of the one picture I have of the winding lines for security that we were a part of once they finally let us into the pedestrian entrance).
I didn’t continue to take photo evidence, but my first photo inside the parks is at 9:04 so we were only seconds behind official RD. Which for the crowd we endured to get there, wasn’t so bad. And luckily we had planned for lots of buffer time this morning. But still stressful and the largest crowd we’d been in since the start of the pandemic.
The plan to start of our time in the parks
Main Street ambiance - just to sit and soak it all in, especially the Fire Station (and light above it), hopefully wave to Mickey & Minnie (and any other friends) and start off with our favorite indulgence on Main St- Starbucks for breakfast.
Execution of Main Street Ambiance
Perfection. Since our first step was just to soak it all in, the plan was in great shape, even with the giant crowds we found ourselves in. We were immediately rewarded with Mickey & Minnie on the train station platform and my little Mickey & Minnie obsessed DD1.5 was there for it, all waves and smiles.
This was also our first encounter with the new way of character meets which is awesome in its time-savings, but a LOT less personal, requiring a lot more seize your moment assertiveness to walk up to the rope, stage the quick photo & move on, which isn’t always our thing. But so much less time than waiting in established lines at set times for characters so not the worst trade-off. We got more photos of DD1.5 waving to the characters than her with the characters with this method, but again, not a bad trade-off since her smile here was priceless.
Our fire station stop was very quick as the actual fire station was closed and instead of sitting down on a bench we opted to go straight to Starbucks and DH secured a locker while I secured food and we ate somewhere between Main St and Fantasyland.
Plan for our First ride together as a complete family
Teacups. This was to be DD1.5’s first ride ever & our first ride after DL’s lengthy Covid closure so we put some thought into what that should be. The teacups have always been a bit of our family’s “thing” and since she is most definitely our caboose baby, I couldn’t think of a better ride to be her first in DL than that.
We have a silly tradition to pretend to be “sick” into the center wheel of the teacup (DH did this once when DS9 and DD8 were very tiny, like 3 & 2 yrs old and they thought it HILARIOUS so it’s continued on for years as our silly family “thing”) and also, most times, we cram into one teacup (and with kids only getting bigger these days are def numbered!) so we had to at least try for one ride with all 6 of us!
Execution of One Family, One Teacup
Success. I was definitely nervous that with 6 of us, cramming into one teacup would be miserable, and while it certainly wasn’t luxurious, we all just barely fit & had a roaring good time spinning silly circles and doing our ridiculously silly tradition.
Fantasyland Plan after Teacups first ride
Fantasyland non-dark rides (i.e. Alice/Dumbo/Casey Jr.), and another family tradition, a visit to the White Rabbit’s door, skipping anything that was too crowded/long of a wait and with the option to pick up anything that did have a nice short wait that we felt compelled to do.
Execution of Fantasyland post-Teacups
Alice broke down while we were doing our teacup spin, so we moved on to the Carousel and then Casey Jr while waiting for it to come up. Dumbo already had a long line by the time we got in the area and since we knew we would be coming back at the end of the night (and knew it would likely have half the line then), we skipped it.
Alice did come up while we were on Casey Jr. and we were able to get in a short-ish line for it. However being one of the older queues, it’s quite narrow and tightly winding so this was definitely one we were very nervous to do with masks pretty much optional and most people still not very keen on giving any personal space. Since this was the ride DS4 was absolutely most excited about and missed the most, we braved it, but it was the only tightly spaced winding queue we opted to do on the trip.
Also, the White Rabbit’s door always seemed to have a crowd and that walkway is also a narrow point so not much room to create distancing from other parties while waiting for the space directly in front of it to clear up, so we never did make our stop there.
Flexibly late morning to midday plan
This is where all my planned flexibility started to come in play after we accomplished our perfect start above. If we had been ahead of schedule, the end of the morning was to be in Toontown for some kiddie & character ambiance (with the option for the older 2 to catch 1-2 rides by themselves on Gadget’s while DH & I snapped photo ops of the DS4 & DD1.5 in all the Toontown fun).
If not ahead, this was the first step to get re-arranged in favor of all the next things. On all these I had notes up the wazoo to check-in on & on-the-ground sort out whatever and wherever fit best out of the following:
- Status of our RotR BG (from the 7am drop)
- Indy’s VQ situation/standby wait
- Splash standby
- Mobile order corn dogs for lunch (either before 1pm at Red Wagon on Main St or after 1pm at Award Weiner’s in DCA where we had the option to hop open up right at 1pm)
And since I wasn’t quite sure where we would land at 12pm, every one of these steps included all caps notes to watch for the 12pm BG drop.
Execution of Round 1 of Flexibility
We weren’t ahead of plan by any means and with the heat of midday getting closer, everyone was ready for a break so we found tables under the monorail track (shaded!) behind the Edelweiss snack hut and sat down to figure out our next steps. We put in our mobile order for corn dogs at Little Red Wagon and prepped for the 12pm BG drop (got a high back-up BG for RotR but we also decided to test out using WiFi in the parks for this which we found to be a very bad idea).
The two littles drifted off to sleep in the stroller shortly after that time and DH insisted that I take DS9 and DD8 on one of their high priority rides which were Splash and Indy, & on the way back pick up the mobile order corn dogs. So off DS9 & DD8 & I went. Looking at the wait times on the DL App Indy was posted at 60 and Splash at 65.
We walked through Adventureland to see if Indy really looked 60 min and I told the kids it most definitely didn’t so we should get in line for it. And try for Splash earlier in the morning on a future day. They agreed this was a good strategy and we were rewarded with a 35 min. wait for Indy (mine & DD8’s most favorite ride and while it’s never sad riding it, I do wish they would get the boulder working properly again to get it in its full glory).
The mobile order for the corn dogs came up just as we left Indy so we picked them up on the way back to the table and as we were prepping the oodles of ketchup my ketchup loving family of 6 requires for corn dog consumption we realized we most definitely needed to wash these down with a soda.
So I whipped out the DL app found the closest located place with an immediate mobile order slot (Jolly Holiday) and got soda’s for us and ran back over to pick those up before we ate. Mobile order really is an amazing feat of technology and I love having it, even with its flaws, it’s far superior to standing in a line.
Midday Break/Later Afternoon Plan
Since our hotel was a longer walk and we were planning for this trip with 5 day tickets to get us through a (possible) long drought of fewer trips until some form of the Annual Pass returned, we planned to maximize our park time and take all our midday breaks in park with a large 2 hour chunk in every single day just dedicated to sitting down somewhere and getting in a stroller nap for the littles and a rest off our feet for everyone else.
On this day, I surrounded it with a few leisurely rides- the train and Mark Twain in case the energy of our first day meant we were still wanting to go-go, so didn’t need a full stop. Also, again with the flexibility working around unknown results of our BG attempts, I had a DCA hop planned to fit in Webslingers should we have a BG for it and worked in flexible food options around all of that. Maybe try Shawarma for dinner in our first peek of Avengers campus. Or maybe Cozy Cones for dinner after some rides in Carsland (or Little Mermaid nearby) and enjoy some pre-dusk Carsland leading up to Sha-Boom song with Carsland neon lighting, or if for some reason corn dogs at lunch had failed us, attempt corn dogs again for dinner.
Execution for Midday
With the stroller naps occurring in conjunction with other things, we earned a slight bit of time back, and the littles were both super happy to wake up to a corn dog to share. Once everyone had eaten their corn dogs & since we didn’t have any BGs that needed immediate planning around, we decided to still make our way into Toontown to get a glimpse of what characters we could. It was hotter than Hades in Toontown so we didn’t end up staying long but got to see Minnie again (& maybe Mickey too?).
Since it was way hot & we had decided that we needed to buy DD1.5 her very first ears (and we were decided to allow all the kids a chance to buy new ears for the first trip back in awhile), we made our way back to Main St. for a stop to check out ears at Mad Hatter.
On the way we stopped in at the lockers and ended up deciding we needed an afternoon Starbucks stop since we were right there (and did I mention it was HOT) and we were in need of refreshing. This ended up with us (re)discovering the Starbucks Refreshers and we have been ruined ever since, getting them at home more often than we ever have before and I think we had them every afternoon this trip to DL too. We enjoyed our beverages, checked in at the lockers and then instead of ending up in Mad Hatter we stopped for characters at the train station again. All waves and smiles again from not just DD1.5 but all the kids this time (they mostly all waved and smiled in the morning too, but it wasn’t any of their first times meeting Mickey so it wasn’t as documented )
Finally we made it to our destination of Mad Hatter & bought DS4 his new ears, but everyone else opted to make another stop to check out ears in DCA before committing to buying anything. And even though with no Webslinger BG, being at the entrance and wanting to take a peek into DCA, we hopped.
We first decided to swing by Avengers Campus and if there was no line to get in, take a sample walk through it. We loved it from the first second and the main Marvel theme blasted as you enter through the main walkway is absolutely emotional for Marvel fans and if you even are slightly Marvel-inclined, worth a visit to see once in your life. With no solid plans in the land, we move through fairly quickly and ended up in Carsland.
Night Ambiance Plans
Again with flexibility in mind, the plan had options to stay in Carsland for night ambiance, continue onto the Pier for the night ambiance there (with them being midway rides, there’s something much more enjoyable about hitting them when they are all aglow), also with an option to just end up back in DL to fit in whatever out of Indy/RotR and Fantasyland we didn’t get to and wanted to complete ending with the Carousel and maybe even one of the 2 dark rides we knew were sure to still have long-ish lines (either Snow White or Peter Pan) and be one of the last ones out of Fantasyland for the night.
Execution of Night Ambiance Plans
Since we had clearly chosen Carsland, dinner ended up being Cozy Cones (Chili Cone Queso for DH & I and Bacon Mac n Cheese for the kids). I made the mistake of waiting in line (vs. whipping out my handy Mobile Order friend) only to be told at the window that their location is a Mobile Order only location.
No biggie though, whipped out my Mobile Order friend and a timeslot was available right then and 5 minutes later, I had the 5 Cones required to feed my brood. We caught the Sha-Boom song from our picnic table in Carsland (which was a must-do for us at least once and as the only nighttime “show” in the parks we wanted to try and hit it as many nights as possible).
We did a spin on Mater’s- DD1.5 was just barely tall enough but it all of a sudden made Carsland a lot easier for me as it meant she wouldn’t need to be diverted by something outside of the land while everyone else switched off enjoying Carsland. She wasn’t sure about her first ride on Mater’s though and I have a full video of her giving my camera crusties as she gets jerked around.
On the way out of DCA we ended up buying ears for the other 3 kids before our hop back to DL. Once in DL we did Dumbo (with as we predicted half the line that we met in the morning and all much cooler) and another night spin on the carousel.
We ended up deciding that after our experience with Alice, the queues for Snow White & Peter Pan (also very narrow and winding) were not for us and that we would only do them if they were very short & clear. We realized this meant almost no chance of Peter Pan (which is OK because we don’t do it often anyway on account of the long line most days) and also meant Snow White would need to be a rope drop event (being in June it was still very much brand new for most guests so was still attracting nearly as long of lines as Peter Pan).
And with that, a day of full open to close, made our way back down Main Street and out of the parks. We did also realize that waiting until close to leave meant leaving with crowds, but we were also ready for our room (and leftover Pizza Press awaiting us back in the room for our late night after park snack), so we braved the crowds anyway.