Trip report: last minute first-time visit!

Some of you have seen my other thread:

but here is a trip report to tie it all together. Sorry it’s long and may meander a bit, but it might help share the chaos and excitement I had :smiley:

We had been waiting months to go to WDW for MNSSHP, and as fate would have it, Hurricane Ian was set to bein Tampa/Orlando when we were! I tried holding out as long as possible, hoping for changes in the outlook, but it was not to be. Ian was set to reach the area the day we were supposed to fly in (Wed 9/28), and be even worse the day we were supposed to be at Disney (Thurs 9/29).

On Tues 9/27, I finally gave in and canceled all of our plans. I spent the morning frantically researching flight options for an alternative vacation idea, and ultimately decided on going to California for Disneyland and some other parks. We travel pretty much solely on credit card/travel points so that was very helpful in getting things handled and finding the best value for our trip. We chose a same-day red-eye from DTW to LAX, priced through Delta at $700+ or 34K points. Thanks to my know-how, I was able to get us that exact flight through Virgin Atlantic as a partner award, for only 8.5K points each! That was far less than I could find any partner awards or otherwise to go anywhere else, for instance any of the Texas airports, Georgia, or wherever else there were amusement parks with mid-week schedules. After all, that’s our thing! Hotels are always easy and rental cars are rental cars, so I booked those and that was that! For our return, American Airlines did not inflate their late-booking point redemptions, so I got “normal” rates for that (phew) and we were off to the races.

We already have season passes to Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks, both with local parks in the area, and DISNEYLAND is obviously the main draw, so it was a very exciting change of plans. We don’t get out to CA much but we do plan to do so in Feb. as a stopover on our way to Hawaii, so with this bonus trip we have a lot less to do in that short amount of time. That’s nice to know ahead of time, too!

We arrived about 10pm PST and headed to our hotel, tired from the long day of work, school, and travel.

WEDNESDAY 9/28: Headed up to Six Flags Magic Mountain for open and stayed until 30min. prior to close. We did the whole park minus the rides that were down, and everything all day was a walk-on. We’re coaster nuts so this is very important to us as we get our counts up =P When we return in Feb., it’ll be nice to be able to drop by here to hit a few things and not worry about getting around the whole park. Saves half a day, gives us time to do other things, and our passes means no extra admission costs of course. Had a slllllooooowwwww dinner at El Pollo Loco on the way back to the hotel, but my son was happy to try a new place. As usual, In N Out had a line a mile long so we were not about to deal with that. Took another detour to WB Studios to show our son the water tower where the Animaniacs live. Every water tower we pass, anywhere, he points out their house, so we wanted to show him THE actual one. We wanted to work in a tour, but the schedules didn’t align this time. Next time for sure.

Somewhere throughout this day I’d learned that MCO was closing down, Disney was going to be closed a couple days, so even if we had gotten to FL we would have been sitting around in the hotel doing nothing.

THURSDAY 9/29: this is it! Disney Day! Both parks planned and we intended to stay from rope drop to midnight! Up at ~530am, head on out to Disney, we were 5th in line at the parking gate, arrived at the Disneyland gates at about 718am, and headed on over to California Adventure. @Wahoohokie was kind enough to lay out a plan of attack for CA, so I followed that as closely as possible.

Here is the rundown of our day as closely as I can remember. Both parks, Genie+, and 0 idea what to expect at either park as a clueless but driven first-timer:


Webslingers (walked right on). Pretty fun and interesting, wife was beating the crap out of me to start but I somehow caught up. She still won though.

Got LL for GOTG, and our wait was juuust long enough to buy $ILL for Radiator Springs. My son hated this ride, as expected. He loves the CRAZIEST roller coasters, but drop towers do not sit well with him. We didn’t tell him it was like Tower of Terror but he figured it out, and despite our best efforts he was not happy with the ride. He later said he liked it more than he did initially, so at least there’s that. We also got to meet and get photos w/Spiderman on the way, who couldn’t help but laugh when I called him Batman and Spiderman in efforts to get my son to give a good smile. I made him break character - win!

After that we got LL for Monsters Inc., then made our way to Cars land. Halfway there I realized I forgot our nice fancy water bottle so I had to run all the way back to retrieve it. Thankfully it was waiting for me. Ran back to catch up w/the family and entered Cars land. Enjoyed some scenery, checked out the shops, took photos, etc. Mater & Luigi were both closed so we hit up Radiator Springs Racers. Our car won, yay! Mater had opened so we did that. Luigi was still down, only to open up after we’d already left the area. That’s ok, we don’t love spinny rides much anyway and Mater seemed similar enough. I liked the Halloween-inspired songs on Mater, too. That was about a 10min. wait.

Made our way over to the pier, hit up Litle Mermaid, son and I did Zephyr while wife looked for a Pluto hat to replace the one son just broke the snap off of (doh!). We were hungry by now and as usual the only place nearby was an offering I couldn’t care less for - corn dogs. I got the hot one and it was actually pretty good, so not too bad. I was so excited to see the candy corn Donald sipper that we bought it, not thinking that it’d obviously be available everywhere and that I’d have to carry it around all day. Win some, lose some, whatever, I had my Donald.

Got LL for Toy Story Mania, wife whooped me again. She owed me for prior losses, so it’s all good. Walked on to Incredicoaster because the LL offered would have been longer to wait for it to come around then the standby was. Grabbed ice cream, then got another immediate LL for Incredicoaster. Boarded just shy of 11:15am for those keeping time.

Grabbed an LL for Goofy, tried to meet Miguel (line closed right before I arrived, but I got some photos anyway). We rode GRR and were happy to hear the Ranger’s voice. SO sad at the missed opportunity to not have any Humphrey Bear appearance (even a soundbyte!), but what can ya do. That giant bear outside the ride would have been my favorite Disney anything if they would just update the face to be his. I would probably try to steal it as long as no one noticed a 20-foot statue stuffed in my coat…LOL

It was about 1pm now and the plan I was following was aiming to get me out of CA by then. We could have left but figured we had plenty of time at Disneyland, and wife wanted to do Soarin. So we got an LL for it at 140pm and did some shopping and Philharmagic in the middle. That was good because I picked up a sweet Goofy statue for her birthday and we got some nice ornaments. I tried to get the artist to draw me a Humphrey Bear, but no luck. He gets no respect, I tell ya.

Made our way to Soarin at 140pm, then left for Disneyland.


First stop: pics of Candy Corn Donald. Of course the line closed right before I arrived again. The same also happened w/Vampire Mickey at CA earlier in the day. No luck. But Chip was hanging out and my son got a pic w/him. Couldn’t find Dale though.

First real stop here was at the Tiki Room. One of my son’s favorites, and we like it too. Dole Whips next, obviously. Always heard great things about DL Pirates, so we were certain to do that next. I was expecting more based on all the praise, but it was enjoyable of course. We had lunch and a snack after that, but I can’t even remember what it was. I think they got hot dogs again, but I have no clue what the heck I ended up with.

Headed over to a walk-on for Buzz, where I finally got revenge on my wife for beating me at the other shooting games. Did some more perusing stores looking, unsuccessfully, for Goofy-specific shirts for my wife. Never any luck, it’s crazy. It’s not like he’s some random character…he’s GOOFY!!! Sheesh. At least I’ve found her some great shirts in the past so she does have plenty, but she always wants another.

Next was an 18min. wait for Pinocchio, which we were excited to ride as we’ve never been on it. Why is there no Pinocchio ride at WDW? I’m not exactly a fan, but it’s clear that was one of the biggest Disney movies way back when, one would think that’s a no-brainer for a duplicate ride. Same with Alice, which we skipped, because the line never got under 30min, and Snow White, which we did next with a 15min. wait.

I’d already had a Haunted Mansion LL for later in the night so we had time to kill here. Got lost a bit going around the lake, but had dinner at whatever restaurant was bear-themed. I got excited when I saw the bear face logo from a distance and thought it was Humphrey, but nope. I guess that’s a Country Bear? Doesn’t look too much like the WDW versions, but close enough. Finally had a real meal for me!

Hit up the Haunted Mansion, one of my favorites, and I was very happy to see the Halloween overlay for the first time ever. Wow! WAY more than I expected, and then some.

Now at this time, I already stacked a Big Thunder LL for later in the day. I chose this very early, and was putting others around it. I came upon an earlier Big Thunder LL option, so I canceled the one I had and tried to get it. Big mistake! It wouldn’t allow me because I was sitting on a Splash LL. To me, since I was replacing an earlier one, it would make sense that I could replace it too. At least with WDW FPP, you could alter one without canceling first. This upset me because the LLs for Big Thunder were going fast and I was worried we’d miss it at this point.

We used the LL for Splash and as we made our way out of the area I was lucky to capture an immediate LL for Big Thunder after all. Phew! The LL line was a mile long and it took 10-15 min to get on, but standby was 60min at the time.

In that line I was able to get LL for Indy. That line was slllooow and we waited at least 30 min still. I didn’t realize it was basically Dinosaur, but that was OK. Never cared too much about that one. The standby was 85 min.

It was just shy of 9pm and we made our way around the hub to get a spot for the Projection show. Son fell asleep waiting and that unfortunately sealed our fate for the remainder of the night post-show. I was hoping the standby lines would die down after it, but I was paying attention and if the app was to be believed, Space Mountain was still at 2hrs (LL were long gone prior to the last 2 I’d gotten anyway), Alice, Toad, Nemo, Orbiter, Dumbo, Teacups, Carousel, were all 30+ each! With only 90 min. left in the night following the projection show, there was NO way we were going to hit even half of em. Jungle Cruise finally got down to 10min wait at that time, but I didn’t want to make the family traipse all the way back once again. We just passed it with a 30+ min wait numerous times walking back and forth over there as we rode everything else. Even if the crowds did die down after the projection, we’d still have to wait out those existing lines and Space Mountain was basically going to the midnight already so that was shot.

1030pm: back to the hotel to pass out HARD.

THURS 9/30: Up late by our standard this week, we had an easy day ahead of us: 10am arrival 15 min. down the street for Knott’s Berry Farm. I didn’t realize it would be totally dead or we could have arrived later, but the kid wakes up early no matter what so that means we do too. But we were fine and could have easily done it much earlier. We’re used to week-long trips at WDW doing a park per day from rope drop to closing, so this was a big break, haha. Anyway, we’d just visited Knott’s earlier in the year and didn’t need to spend all day. Plus, the lack of any crowd made it it easy to hit a lot anyway. Son rode a couple new-to-him coasters, got coaxed onto the drop tower (big mistake, NOT. A. FAN.), wife beat me AGAIN at their version of Toy Story Mania shoot pies at the coyotes stealing pies from the fair…which is kinda like you’re just ruining more pies? I dunno, but it’s cute as heck), we obliterated everybody in bumper cars. We’re like maniacs out there, a 3-person tag team just going after everyone else like we have some sort of vendetta. It’s hilarious seeing people get run down by my 8 year old, and him driving better than half the adults with reverse cuts and such. I gotta say, no matter where we go, and no matter how much we love roller coasters, bumper cars always brings more smiles and laughs per second than anything. An absolute blast. Did more shopping for gifts for people back home, got some boysenberry stuff, got ourselves by with some snacks so we could go out to eat later, and we were off at about 3pm? 4.5hrs there, with 2hrs left in their day. Went to Fatburger (our first visit) and really enjoyed it, then to the hotel to force a nap before we checked out & left for the airport for our 1159pm red-eye.

SATURDAY 10/1: arrive 5am at DFW for a 4.5hr layover. I have access to a few lounges so we chose the new CapitalOne I’d heard such great things about instead of Amex Centurion, which I generally find to have great food. CapOne was pretty good, but some interesting food choices especially if you have a child in tow! Could barely get him to eat anything, it all sounded too weird for him. I had a bit of everything, some was good and some was meh. I’d consider most of it completely unnecessary, but I’m far from a food critic and am not pretentious whatsoever when it comes to food. Ah well, we enjoyed our stay. I also am a root beer nerd and seek out local brews anytime possibleoo, so that was great. Took off around 9-10 CST and got home about 3pm EST. We napped hard that evening and were up early in the morning for son’s soccer game. Back home, had some more catching up on rest, and finally got to chill for the night at a BBQ some friends threw. Nice unofficial end to the crazy week we made ourselves!

Final thoughts on Disneyland:

I often hear people say it’s soooo much easier to navigate than WDW, but I didn’t really find that. Maybe comparing 2 parks to 4, sure, but intra-park not so much. DL felt like it had so much more crammed into smaller areas, which isn’t a complaint but an observation. Once you realize what’s where, it’s fine. I like the unique rides they have which WDW does not. I didn’t like how so many rides lacked LL options, or how some (Space) ran out of LL availability 5+hrs before the park closed, but I also suspect that heavy Halloween crowds lent to them being so long. I also assume California Adventure closing early for the party meant DL was therefore busier by virtue of more people going there. I knew Toon Town was closed but look forward to it next time, same as Alice, Nemo, Mr. Toad, Teacups, Carousel, Dumbo, train, etc., and Matterhorn which I didn’t know was closed until someone warned me in my other thread. That was a major bummer, that was the #1 ride I was looking forward to. Definitely bummed we didn’t get to Space Mountain either, but it was either sacrifice what ended up being 4-5 rides with combination of LL + standbys so we could wait to ride it, or skip it. We’ve been on WDW Space Mtn a lot, so we figured even if it’s different it’s the obvious choice to skip this time. Next time though, we’re totally doing it.

At WDW Magic Kingdom, with FPP+ we’ve been able to arrive at 1230pm and do 20+ rides/attractions by a 9-930pm close. I’ve always felt that was pretty amazing, and we really haul butt around the park as you can probably figure from the above. At DL, we had 8hrs and not even half that ride count with LL in hand, so figure that. Again, Halloween crowds could have made the typical DL experience completely different. But California Adventure was totally simple to navigate, again I wonder if it was very light in crowds because it closed early for the party?

As stated we do plan to be back in LA next year, which was going to be our original “first ever visit” to CA & DL. Now we can just focus on DL, and we have now experience about half of DL too. So we can focus on Toon Town, Matterhorn, Space Mtn, all the Fantasyland rides we missed, Jungle Cruise, add in a couple favorites, some loosely-planned wandering, and boom - another successful and more easy-going trip!

Edit: I forgot to mention that completely ignored Galaxy’s Edge! We like Star Wars okay but have done it at WDW a couple times. Maybe we’ll do it if time allows on the next visit, but for this one it wasn’t even a thought.


Nice report. Certainly a blitz-trip of DL. One question - Who is Humphrey Bear? The name sounds familiar, but I’m not sure from where.


Interesting write up. I enjoying reading it. It’s nice that you’ll be able to go back so soon to do the things you missed on this trip.

The lone reference to him that I could find in the park :slight_smile:

He’s got some fame at WDW Wilderness Resort, I’ll give them that.

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Not sure if you want to edit your post, but you have all of your dates as 10/XX instead of 9/XX. :grin:

The Genie+ and the cancelling works at WDW the same as it did for you with Splash/BTMR at DL. It is not like the old system so you have to watch cancelling.

I think it was probably heavier crowds at DL that night due to the party. It’s weird that we were there just a few days before you and the crowds (in my opinion) were not bad at all. Way worse on the weekend than the weekdays, though. Glad you have another quick trip coming to pick up the rides you missed!


Haha woops, thanks. I’m still lost in my mental calendar!

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What a way to take the lemons of your cancelled trip and make lemonade! I am really excited & hope you do a report back on your Feb trip too, at least to say what you think of Space and Matterhorn once you get a crack at them! And definitely hoping you get some better character luck. DL is great at having them but the cut-offs if you don’t make it can be brutal to be on the other side of.

DL is definitely a different and I could see how being unfamiliar with the layout but familiar with MK makes it tricky to navigate. (I remember walking into MK’s Adventureland & Frontierland feeling it was all ‘out of place’). And DL in the late afternoon & evening has the potential to be very busy on a normal day and I’m willing to bet was compounded by the party closing DCA early that night. But hopefully with a longer trip you can get those ride counts that you’re used to. If you’re able to use the first/last hour to non-LL rides that get lines (like all the ones you were waiting to drop at the end of your night), and then make the most of your LL, you’ll be able to get there.

Anywho, thanks again for coming back to report on the DL day with all the other California fun!


He was in several Disney cartoons. My favorite is In the Bag, with that catchy song. “First you stick a rag, put it in the bag, bump-bump,…”


Thanks for the quick trip report, I’m heading there at the end of the month and overwhelmed by it all! You’re a Stinson too? Are we related?

Probably not, but who knows! It’s a small world :sweat_smile:

Good luck going. If you do DCA, you can follow what I did here to make quick work of it. If we didn’t get the $ILL we would have added an hour to the day waiting for RSR, or rope dropping that and waiting for Webslingers. I kept tabs on wait times, and Webslingers dropped down to a 30 min wait in the early afternoon while RSR never dropped (unless it was after 2pm, but we were already gone).


What a great trip and thanks for the report!

I found knowing the layout of MK made the DLR layout harder to navigate, because it similar but not actually like WDW. And I don’t think I would say DLR is easier to navigate, rather it is so much easier to get things done, because you arent walking half a mile between rides.

I just kept reading and see @lolabear_la agrees with me (but the other way around). My first trip I was so confused by how the different lands related to each other, but my next trip I was pro. Unfortunately I have now been to MK several times since being at DL, so I am sure I will have forgotten everything when I go back next year!

My 1st DL trip I arrived at 1:30 and got 13 rides and 2 shows and Main Street Electric parade completed by a 10:00 close, so I think each day is different!


I figure, with whichever park you’re at, it’s going to be crazy busy anyway. Anything that happens to work to our favor is a big bonus :slight_smile:

I just realized that Toon Town won’t reopen intl after our next visit, so there goes that again. Gives us more time elsewhere in the park, I guess!

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