Journal

Disneyland Adventures with Our Grandchildren

by | May 10, 2015 | Editorial

Our travelogue is now fully caught up. As I said previously, August 2014 found us, by popular demand, heading back to the Magic Kingdom with our grandchildren. We stayed once again at the beautiful Grand Californian Hotel.
It overlooks Downtown Disney and has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure (DCA).

The night before we left, seven-year-old N delighted me with the very earnest question: “Nana, where are we going next year?” What a sweetheart, I thought, and what a blessing to be able to do this trip.

It took us only forty-five minutes on a Sunday morning to drive to Anaheim. We were nine people again and took two cars. Michael drove one and – wait for it – A drove the other. She got her license in January and has become a very careful, skilled driver. And after all those trips when we spent so much time in the car, it was a pleasure to pull up at the hotel entrance, hand over the cars, and not see them again for four days. We got 4-day Park-Hoppers, which enabled us to walk in and out of DCA and Disneyland Park at will. The Park-Hoppers, by the way become less expensive with each day you add-on, until they become positively reasonable.

The hotel welcomes you with a crackling fire in a massive lobby fireplace. There’s also a children’s viewing area with mini-chairs and a screen-playing vintage Mickey cartoons. The kids can sit there while the adults check-in. They were able to accommodate our request for adjoining bunkbed rooms. So we fit comfortably with four of us in one room and five in another. The only challenge was the bathroom situation. Truth to tell, I think I’m beyond the age where I can comfortably share a bathroom with seven-year-olds.

Each room had a half-size refrigerator, most welcome since we keep kosher and bring a lot of food. Disneyland does have a surprising amount of kosher food offerings, though. More about that later. Each room also had a small balcony. This was a great place for the kids to eat their morning cereal and offered some quiet for the occasional phone call. It also gave Z a perch from which to read when he woke up before all the other kids.

I’ve already written about our Lost Child System. I gave each of the three younger kids a badge pinned to their clothes, which had our phone numbers. Thank goodness we never needed to test the system. But those badges gave everyone – especially the youngest, who wouldn’t venture out without it – peace of mind.

The four older kids had cell phones. This was essential since with such an age spread, they would want to go off on their own for some of the more daredevil rides. It seems that everyone in Disneyland is walking around talking into cell phones, trying to keep track of the rest of their party. My big fear was that someone’s phone would run out of charge.

Note to the Disney people: It’s time to install multiple charging stations, just like the airports have.

We started the first day with a perennial favorite, “It’s a Small World”. Then we split up for a time and met for lunch. Which leads me to a word about the kosher food situation.

First, the kiosks and food stands have quite a bit of wrapped kosher products, from candy to frozen confections. There’s also a great deal of fresh fruit available – a fairly new innovation. Also new – at least since the last time I was there – is that the Plaza Inn on Main Street and a number of fast food places such as Tomorrowland Terrace and Ariel’s Grotto offer a limited kosher menu. It’s frozen food from a caterer in Florida. For lunch the first day we had cheese omelets at the Plaza Inn. Everyone was delighted to be able to sit down at a restaurant in Disneyland. This in itself is a great novelty for us. The kids’ comments ranged from “at least it’s edible” to “not bad” to “this is cool!”

One day we had a full kosher dinner at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. This is the intriguing-looking candlelit restaurant inside the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. By the way, take the Disney people seriously when they say you need advance reservations at their “fine dining” establishments. They begin booking 60 days in advance. I called 52 days before our trip, and they had only one hour in the entire time we would be there when they could accommodate our party! And this had nothing to do with the kosher food.

The menu again is limited but we did have a three-course meal and the kids said the food was “reasonable.” We sat at a prime table at the water’s edge. It really was a lovely experience. The food was served graciously and the younger children were given placemats to color and keep them busy. A word to the wise, though, if you are getting kosher food. It comes double-wrapped in plastic and piping hot and is very difficult to open with table utensils. Next time I would bring tiny scissors or a pocket knife. Otherwise a win-win. Several of the kids said that the dinner was their favorite part of the trip. At Disneyland that’s really saying something!

So back to our first day. After a few hours in Disneyland Park we went back to the hotel. Michael took the kids swimming while A and I unpacked and got us settled in. Then we fed and showered everyone. This year, no one fought over the bunkbeds. In fact, no one fought over anything; it really must be the Magic Kingdom.

Before we headed back out for night activity, A and I handed out the surprise. The two of us had gone down to Anaheim on a reconnaissance mission two weeks before. We bought everyone – from A on down to E – identical black and red Mickey sweatshirts. They have Mickey ears for a hood and a tail in the back. So everyone donned their sweatshirts and we set off for Disney California Adventure. The matching sweatshirts made it easier to keep track of everyone and the seven Mickeys walking in a row were a sight to behold In fact, a balloon lady in DCA was so enchanted that she asked if we had a camera. She promptly handed Michael all her balloons and started snapping away. The kids thought this was hilarious.

California Adventure has had a makeover in recent years and it shows. It’s just beautiful to walk around there. There’s music everywhere, including street performers in vintage dress. I especially liked the retro-clad ensemble tooling around in a 1930’s era roadster singing songs I happen to love from the 30’s and 40’s. Cars Land immediately immerses you in Route 66 California nostalgia. The kids loved the vintage car-racing ride there. A Bug’s Life is imaginatively done with adorable rides and fountains that pop out of the ground to cool the kids off in the heat of the day.

After a few hours by consensus we headed off to Downtown Disney. This huge pedestrian mall with numerous shops and eateries is like one big souvenir shop. The kids headed to their favorite, World of Disney, and made careful inroads into their Souvenir Budgets. One highlight: Z, usually our weaponry aficionado, announced that he would not buy anything for himself until he found a gift for his mother. After a long search he chose a delicate bracelet with a charm in her October birthstone. A moment to clutch at my heart… Not to worry, though. Two days later he was back to negotiating for a rifle in Frontierland.

We started the next day with the Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn. Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Captain Hook all came to our table and posed for photos with the kids. The younger ones were thrilled. I myself was delighted to see the very same Fairy Godmother from Cinderella whom I remember from years ago. She’s a beautiful woman with a British accent and we had a lovely chat. The characters with their own faces are allowed to talk, by the way. The fully covered ones do not speak.

Our youngest, E, made it known very early on that she would only go on the tamest of rides, of the “It’s a Small World,” “Winnie the Pooh” variety. That’s about my speed as well, so we were buddies while A took the older kids on things like the “Matterhorn”. Michael went back and forth, depending on how much his stomach could take. Seven-year-old AS, by the way, loves wild rides and especially loves watching Zaidy Michael’s face when he doesn’t.

You might remember from one of our earlier Disney trips that J was traumatized by the “Tiki Room” as a child. Now at thirteen he was perfectly happy to humor us and go, although he still maintains that it’s an affront to the sensibilities of children. Not so four-year-old E. She was chosen to stand up in front of the entire audience and wake up José, the exotic bird who starts the show. She did so with great exuberance and enjoyed the song-filled show immensely.

Despite all our careful planning on these trips, there’s always room for serendipity, We had a very special, unexpected experience one night. A took most of the kids to Tomorrowland and Michael and I took E to the Royal Hall to greet the princesses. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, et al, receive visitors there and the line isn’t usually too long. This is as opposed to the other princess viewing that we judiciously didn’t mention to E. Apparently Anna and Elsa from Frozen have their own reception hall. The line there is known to be at least two hours long. And a glimpse of those two sisters apparently induces a swooning, shrieking adulation on the part of little girls. To this Baby Boomer such a scene is all-too reminiscent of Beatlemania. And besides – two hours? We figured E. would be just as happy to see the other princesses.

The Royal Hall is open till 7pm. We got there about 6:45. People were still in line, but unknown to us, they closed the line early. E was crestfallen. “Just one more little girl?” I pleaded, but they turned us away. One of the employees did suggest we try to catch The Main Street Parade. The princesses (minus Anna and Elsa) would be appearing.

We were nearby but the parade was about to start. If you’ve ever done this routine, you know that people stake out their viewing spaces at least an hour before. Nonetheless, we ran. We were determined that E would see the princesses. We did find a spot but were at least six rows back from the parade route. I could barely see, let alone E. We promised her we would pick her up for the princesses and as much of the rest as we could. She’s little, but not that little, so Michael and I decided we would switch off.

And then it happened. A moment of pure magic in the Magic Kingdom. A woman two rows ahead had overheard us. She turned around and said, “You know, my girls are sitting down on the curb in the front row. Your little girl can squeeze in with them. They’ll watch out for her and you can keep an eye on her.” We asked E if she wanted to go. She didn’t even hesitate. One of this woman’s daughters came to get her and E had a front row seat. She stood and cheered and waved to the princesses and was sure they were waving back just at her. Her face was glowing. We know because we never took our eyes off her. That was for safety, of course, but also because for Michael and me that delighted face was the best part of the parade.

And it surely is a testament to the vision of Walt Disney and continuing genius of the Disney Company that they can induce such adoration on the part of millions of children world-wide.

Because the parade draws so many people, there’s little wait during that time for some of the very popular rides. So the other kids were thrilled to have checked quite a few of their must-do rides off their list during that time. And that night, as at the end of each day, the kids fell happily, exhaustedly into bed. No one asked for a bedtime story or five glasses of water. All they asked was where we were going for our first ride in the morning. And they were asleep before we could answer.

Everyone had a different favorite on this Disney trip. AS loved “Splash Mountain.” E loved the “Aladdin” Show and of course, the parade. N’s favorite was the “California Screamin’ Roller Coaster” in DCA, which goes around 360º. S and J loved dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant. But all agreed that the greatest spectacle is the relatively new “World of Color” in DCA. This is a multi-million dollar light and water extravaganza. It not only includes huge fountains dancing to so many favorite Disney songs but the characters themselves appearing in the water. Ariel with her reams of red hair floating through her underwater kingdom was a great favorite. But the biggest applause came at the most bittersweet moment – when the late Robin Williams channeled the Genie from “Aladdin.” The tragedy of his passing was still fresh, and everyone was aware.

Unlike the parade in Disneyland Park, you need advance tickets through FastPass for “World of Color.” This gives you a designated viewing area, but you still have to arrive close to an hour before, stake out your space, and hope no one has to go to the bathroom. Still, I must admit, it really was worth it.

Speaking of bathrooms, theme parks seem to have a strange impact on children’s bladders. Even when they weren’t drinking all that much, it seemed like every fifteen minutes, several had to go. Urgently. Even if they’d just gone ten minutes before. I now know the location of every restroom in Disneyland Park and DCA. Note to self: Next time in addition to carrying sun lotion in my purse, take hand lotion. I washed my hands raw in those four days.

None of the above, however, dimmed anyone’s enthusiasm, and the time went by all too quickly. On our last night the kids wanted to have a go at the new ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. This is an arcade/sports center that seems to appeal to boys and girls, young and old alike. Why not? I thought. Little did I know.

I feel it incumbent upon me to issue two warnings. One is that the place has glaring, flashing lights, loud music and even louder pings and dings. For those susceptible, it’s a migraine waiting to happen. I lasted under three minutes, just enough time to hand over my credit card so the kids would get their playing time. Then I raced out and left Michael, A and J to supervise. Second warning: the place is a money pit. The tables in Las Vegas don’t hold a candle to this ESPN Zone when it comes to separating people from their money.

I’d rather buy pirate swords and princess paraphernalia any day. We did just that as we finished up our last hours of the final day shopping at Downtown Disney, where everyone maxed out their Souvenir Budgets. AS added two character charms to the bracelet she had bought the first day. E finished up with a princess coloring book and stickers as well as a mini-princess doll. S scored a beautiful sterling silver necklace on sale. The boys went for laser toys, and on it went. A bought me a Mickey–Minnie key ring that says “Nana” with the proviso that I actually use it.

So, naturally, I’m sporting my new key ring. And my other souvenir? The little voices asking, not two days later: “Where are we going next year?”

G-d willing, we’ll see.

It overlooks Downtown Disney and has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure (DCA).

The night before we left, seven-year-old N delighted me with the very earnest question: “Nana, where are we going next year?” What a sweetheart, I thought, and what a blessing to be able to do this trip.

It took us only forty-five minutes on a Sunday morning to drive to Anaheim. We were nine people again and took two cars. Michael drove one and – wait for it – A drove the other. She got her license in January and has become a very careful, skilled driver. And after all those trips when we spent so much time in the car, it was a pleasure to pull up at the hotel entrance, hand over the cars, and not see them again for four days. We got 4-day Park-Hoppers, which enabled us to walk in and out of DCA and Disneyland Park at will. The Park-Hoppers, by the way become less expensive with each day you add-on, until they become positively reasonable.

The hotel welcomes you with a crackling fire in a massive lobby fireplace. There’s also a children’s viewing area with mini-chairs and a screen-playing vintage Mickey cartoons. The kids can sit there while the adults check-in. They were able to accommodate our request for adjoining bunkbed rooms. So we fit comfortably with four of us in one room and five in another. The only challenge was the bathroom situation. Truth to tell, I think I’m beyond the age where I can comfortably share a bathroom with seven-year-olds.

Each room had a half-size refrigerator, most welcome since we keep kosher and bring a lot of food. Disneyland does have a surprising amount of kosher food offerings, though. More about that later. Each room also had a small balcony. This was a great place for the kids to eat their morning cereal and offered some quiet for the occasional phone call. It also gave Z a perch from which to read when he woke up before all the other kids.

I’ve already written about our Lost Child System. I gave each of the three younger kids a badge pinned to their clothes, which had our phone numbers. Thank goodness we never needed to test the system. But those badges gave everyone – especially the youngest, who wouldn’t venture out without it – peace of mind.

The four older kids had cell phones. This was essential since with such an age spread, they would want to go off on their own for some of the more daredevil rides. It seems that everyone in Disneyland is walking around talking into cell phones, trying to keep track of the rest of their party. My big fear was that someone’s phone would run out of charge.

Note to the Disney people: It’s time to install multiple charging stations, just like the airports have.

We started the first day with a perennial favorite, “It’s a Small World”. Then we split up for a time and met for lunch. Which leads me to a word about the kosher food situation.

First, the kiosks and food stands have quite a bit of wrapped kosher products, from candy to frozen confections. There’s also a great deal of fresh fruit available – a fairly new innovation. Also new – at least since the last time I was there – is that the Plaza Inn on Main Street and a number of fast food places such as Tomorrowland Terrace and Ariel’s Grotto offer a limited kosher menu. It’s frozen food from a caterer in Florida. For lunch the first day we had cheese omelets at the Plaza Inn. Everyone was delighted to be able to sit down at a restaurant in Disneyland. This in itself is a great novelty for us. The kids’ comments ranged from “at least it’s edible” to “not bad” to “this is cool!”

One day we had a full kosher dinner at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. This is the intriguing-looking candlelit restaurant inside the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. By the way, take the Disney people seriously when they say you need advance reservations at their “fine dining” establishments. They begin booking 60 days in advance. I called 52 days before our trip, and they had only one hour in the entire time we would be there when they could accommodate our party! And this had nothing to do with the kosher food.

The menu again is limited but we did have a three-course meal and the kids said the food was “reasonable.” We sat at a prime table at the water’s edge. It really was a lovely experience. The food was served graciously and the younger children were given placemats to color and keep them busy. A word to the wise, though, if you are getting kosher food. It comes double-wrapped in plastic and piping hot and is very difficult to open with table utensils. Next time I would bring tiny scissors or a pocket knife. Otherwise a win-win. Several of the kids said that the dinner was their favorite part of the trip. At Disneyland that’s really saying something!

So back to our first day. After a few hours in Disneyland Park we went back to the hotel. Michael took the kids swimming while A and I unpacked and got us settled in. Then we fed and showered everyone. This year, no one fought over the bunkbeds. In fact, no one fought over anything; it really must be the Magic Kingdom.

Before we headed back out for night activity, A and I handed out the surprise. The two of us had gone down to Anaheim on a reconnaissance mission two weeks before. We bought everyone – from A on down to E – identical black and red Mickey sweatshirts. They have Mickey ears for a hood and a tail in the back. So everyone donned their sweatshirts and we set off for Disney California Adventure. The matching sweatshirts made it easier to keep track of everyone and the seven Mickeys walking in a row were a sight to behold In fact, a balloon lady in DCA was so enchanted that she asked if we had a camera. She promptly handed Michael all her balloons and started snapping away. The kids thought this was hilarious.

California Adventure has had a makeover in recent years and it shows. It’s just beautiful to walk around there. There’s music everywhere, including street performers in vintage dress. I especially liked the retro-clad ensemble tooling around in a 1930’s era roadster singing songs I happen to love from the 30’s and 40’s. Cars Land immediately immerses you in Route 66 California nostalgia. The kids loved the vintage car-racing ride there. A Bug’s Life is imaginatively done with adorable rides and fountains that pop out of the ground to cool the kids off in the heat of the day.

After a few hours by consensus we headed off to Downtown Disney. This huge pedestrian mall with numerous shops and eateries is like one big souvenir shop. The kids headed to their favorite, World of Disney, and made careful inroads into their Souvenir Budgets. One highlight: Z, usually our weaponry aficionado, announced that he would not buy anything for himself until he found a gift for his mother. After a long search he chose a delicate bracelet with a charm in her October birthstone. A moment to clutch at my heart… Not to worry, though. Two days later he was back to negotiating for a rifle in Frontierland.

We started the next day with the Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn. Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Captain Hook all came to our table and posed for photos with the kids. The younger ones were thrilled. I myself was delighted to see the very same Fairy Godmother from Cinderella whom I remember from years ago. She’s a beautiful woman with a British accent and we had a lovely chat. The characters with their own faces are allowed to talk, by the way. The fully covered ones do not speak.

Our youngest, E, made it known very early on that she would only go on the tamest of rides, of the “It’s a Small World,” “Winnie the Pooh” variety. That’s about my speed as well, so we were buddies while A took the older kids on things like the “Matterhorn”. Michael went back and forth, depending on how much his stomach could take. Seven-year-old AS, by the way, loves wild rides and especially loves watching Zaidy Michael’s face when he doesn’t.

You might remember from one of our earlier Disney trips that J was traumatized by the “Tiki Room” as a child. Now at thirteen he was perfectly happy to humor us and go, although he still maintains that it’s an affront to the sensibilities of children. Not so four-year-old E. She was chosen to stand up in front of the entire audience and wake up José, the exotic bird who starts the show. She did so with great exuberance and enjoyed the song-filled show immensely.

Despite all our careful planning on these trips, there’s always room for serendipity, We had a very special, unexpected experience one night. A took most of the kids to Tomorrowland and Michael and I took E to the Royal Hall to greet the princesses. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, et al, receive visitors there and the line isn’t usually too long. This is as opposed to the other princess viewing that we judiciously didn’t mention to E. Apparently Anna and Elsa from Frozen have their own reception hall. The line there is known to be at least two hours long. And a glimpse of those two sisters apparently induces a swooning, shrieking adulation on the part of little girls. To this Baby Boomer such a scene is all-too reminiscent of Beatlemania. And besides – two hours? We figured E. would be just as happy to see the other princesses.

The Royal Hall is open till 7pm. We got there about 6:45. People were still in line, but unknown to us, they closed the line early. E was crestfallen. “Just one more little girl?” I pleaded, but they turned us away. One of the employees did suggest we try to catch The Main Street Parade. The princesses (minus Anna and Elsa) would be appearing.

We were nearby but the parade was about to start. If you’ve ever done this routine, you know that people stake out their viewing spaces at least an hour before. Nonetheless, we ran. We were determined that E would see the princesses. We did find a spot but were at least six rows back from the parade route. I could barely see, let alone E. We promised her we would pick her up for the princesses and as much of the rest as we could. She’s little, but not that little, so Michael and I decided we would switch off.

And then it happened. A moment of pure magic in the Magic Kingdom. A woman two rows ahead had overheard us. She turned around and said, “You know, my girls are sitting down on the curb in the front row. Your little girl can squeeze in with them. They’ll watch out for her and you can keep an eye on her.” We asked E if she wanted to go. She didn’t even hesitate. One of this woman’s daughters came to get her and E had a front row seat. She stood and cheered and waved to the princesses and was sure they were waving back just at her. Her face was glowing. We know because we never took our eyes off her. That was for safety, of course, but also because for Michael and me that delighted face was the best part of the parade.

And it surely is a testament to the vision of Walt Disney and continuing genius of the Disney Company that they can induce such adoration on the part of millions of children world-wide.

Because the parade draws so many people, there’s little wait during that time for some of the very popular rides. So the other kids were thrilled to have checked quite a few of their must-do rides off their list during that time. And that night, as at the end of each day, the kids fell happily, exhaustedly into bed. No one asked for a bedtime story or five glasses of water. All they asked was where we were going for our first ride in the morning. And they were asleep before we could answer.

Everyone had a different favorite on this Disney trip. AS loved “Splash Mountain.” E loved the “Aladdin” Show and of course, the parade. N’s favorite was the “California Screamin’ Roller Coaster” in DCA, which goes around 360º. S and J loved dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant. But all agreed that the greatest spectacle is the relatively new “World of Color” in DCA. This is a multi-million dollar light and water extravaganza. It not only includes huge fountains dancing to so many favorite Disney songs but the characters themselves appearing in the water. Ariel with her reams of red hair floating through her underwater kingdom was a great favorite. But the biggest applause came at the most bittersweet moment – when the late Robin Williams channeled the Genie from “Aladdin.” The tragedy of his passing was still fresh, and everyone was aware.

Unlike the parade in Disneyland Park, you need advance tickets through FastPass for “World of Color.” This gives you a designated viewing area, but you still have to arrive close to an hour before, stake out your space, and hope no one has to go to the bathroom. Still, I must admit, it really was worth it.

Speaking of bathrooms, theme parks seem to have a strange impact on children’s bladders. Even when they weren’t drinking all that much, it seemed like every fifteen minutes, several had to go. Urgently. Even if they’d just gone ten minutes before. I now know the location of every restroom in Disneyland Park and DCA. Note to self: Next time in addition to carrying sun lotion in my purse, take hand lotion. I washed my hands raw in those four days.

None of the above, however, dimmed anyone’s enthusiasm, and the time went by all too quickly. On our last night the kids wanted to have a go at the new ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. This is an arcade/sports center that seems to appeal to boys and girls, young and old alike. Why not? I thought. Little did I know.

I feel it incumbent upon me to issue two warnings. One is that the place has glaring, flashing lights, loud music and even louder pings and dings. For those susceptible, it’s a migraine waiting to happen. I lasted under three minutes, just enough time to hand over my credit card so the kids would get their playing time. Then I raced out and left Michael, A and J to supervise. Second warning: the place is a money pit. The tables in Las Vegas don’t hold a candle to this ESPN Zone when it comes to separating people from their money.

I’d rather buy pirate swords and princess paraphernalia any day. We did just that as we finished up our last hours of the final day shopping at Downtown Disney, where everyone maxed out their Souvenir Budgets. AS added two character charms to the bracelet she had bought the first day. E finished up with a princess coloring book and stickers as well as a mini-princess doll. S scored a beautiful sterling silver necklace on sale. The boys went for laser toys, and on it went. A bought me a Mickey–Minnie key ring that says “Nana” with the proviso that I actually use it.

So, naturally, I’m sporting my new key ring. And my other souvenir? The little voices asking, not two days later: “Where are we going next year?”

G-d willing, we’ll see.

We use cookies to give you a better experience. Dismiss