Disneyland Part 1: Cool Kids

I went to Disneyland about a month ago with my teenage cousins, so it was a more young-adult oriented trip. This time around, my parents and I played hosts to Shirley, a family friend visiting from the Philippines, and my Auntie Vi's family--which includes my godson Noah, who has never been to the parks! We wanted Noah to have a buddy on this trip, so my nephew Jon came along too. From keeping the little boys entertained, to showing Shirley around, a good portion of this trip was spent tapping into our inner kids and having some family fun. A good portion of this trip was also spent trying to keep cool...100+ temperatures...clear sunny skies...a ton of walking...Some cooling refreshments were absolutely necessary!

Day 1 of our Disneyland adventure started around 1 o'clock. It was a hot Friday afternoon in Anaheim, and the first thing we wanted to do was eat. Since we rode the Monorail into the park, Tomorrowland Terrace was a quick and easy solution. This eatery is located across from the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and right in front of the stage area for Jedi Training Academy. (Great show for the little ones!) They serve burgers and sandwiches here, and my Angus 1/3 LB Cheeseburger with a side of flying-saucer-sized onion rings definitely hit the spot. I loved my HalloweenTime cup, and when we walked around Main Street to stop for popcorn (because you always have to stop for popcorn), it was fun to see all of the Autumn leaf & pumpkin decorations.

Left to right: (back) Charles, Stacey, Mom, Me, Dad, Auntie Vi; (front) Noah, Jon
Our brood worked its way to Adventureland to let the kids experience Jungle Cruise and Tarzan's Treehouse. Jon's favorite ride is Jungle Cruise, with the boats and all of the animals, and both boys enjoyed running around and climbing through Tarzan's Treehouse. My mom and Auntie Vi also took this opportunity to rock the Indiana Jones hats...

I mentioned in my last Disney post that Dole Whips are an essential treat for warm days (really, it's good any day), but the giant pickles from the Tropical Imports stand are another favorite of mine. Something about 'em is just sooo good.

I tried to convince everyone else in the group to try these jumbo dills, but....Maybe next time.

We had dinner at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ (tradition, remember!), and everyone enjoyed the massive amounts of food. The beautiful HalloweenTime decorations created a unique, farm-harvest ambience. Big Thunder Ranch is also very kid-friendly, from the singing cowboy who loves to interact with the young ones, to the characters posing for photos nearby. Disney also launched a new Halloween Carnival with pumpkin carvers, craft tables, and visiting villains!

We ended the night in Fantasyland, riding horses on King Arthur's Carousel and flying around on Dumbo. Around 9:30, the lampposts dimmed, music cued, and the sparkly bursts in the sky started. The two boys were so exhausted that they even fell asleep in their strollers while watching the fireworks. Perfect.

Saturday turned out to be just as sunny, with 90 degree temps by 11 in the morning. We brought Noah and Jon to A Bug's Land in the California Adventure park. Since the giant four-leaf clovers and tall bamboo are meant to make you feel like a tiny bug, it's actually a nice shaded area to take the kids. It even has a wet play area that looks like a leaking garden hose! Also, a big cup of frozen apple juice was exactly what we needed. Crisp, sweet, and a little tart. Noah clearly approved :)

Speaking of "sweet and a little tart", the Soft Frozen Strawberry Lemonade cups are yet another necessary snack. I know we're really stacking up on necessities, but let's be honest here...When you come to Disneyland, there's that overwhelming need to stop at every cart and stand to purchase every snack and sweet. As Stacey's husband, Charles, so eloquently put it..."I just want to spend all my money right now. I don't know why. Just buy everything I see...All of it."

And, when you really need to cool down, you can't beat getting soaked on Grizzly River Run (also in California Adventure). Here's a tip if you're the first group seated in one of the rafts: sit on either side of the exits. Stacey and I sat next to an exit and got drenched. Every time the raft dipped or landed, the brisk water would rush in through the opening and get us good.

As we walked down the boardwalk path from Ariel's Grotto to Toy Story Mania, our group stopped at an often overlooked walk-up counter...Paradise Pier Ice Cream Co. is tucked away in a back corner, with a neon-cone sign and yellow-striped awning. They offer soft-serve ice cream in a cone or cup and, what they call, "Beachside Floats".

Hands down, my favorite item was the Coca Cola float with vanilla soft-serve! I just sipped on the bubbly, ice-cold Coke and had a few spoonfuls of rich, dense vanilla ice cream. When I was about halfway done, I swirled everything together to make a Coca Cola-milkshake-like concoction. It. Was. Divine.

Our vacation went from Disneyland to California Adventure and back to Disneyland. In the beginning of this post, I talked about how us grown ups had to "tap into our inner kids", so I have to mention "it's a small world". Some people love it, some people hate it. But, no matter what, that song will get stuck in your head. I happen to like it, and my favorite parts are actually the recently added Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, & Lilo & Stitch sections! And, of course, the Philippines portion!

Next, I must must MUST tell you about the Little Red Wagon. Parked at the end of Main Street is an old-fashioned red truck. With its bright gold and bold black accents, Little Red Wagon serves colossal, hand-dipped corn dogs. The perfectly brown, crunchy exterior surrounds a sweet, fluffy cornbread layer and a juicy beef frank, and that sweet corn batter perfectly balances the salt of the hot dog. It's honestly one of the best corn dogs that I've ever had. We sat on a tree-shaded bench and happily gobbled up these classic theme park treats.

Finally...what else could make a tiny tot's day? Meeting their favorite characters! There were group photos galore with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. It doesn't matter how old you are. It's always fun to meet and greet! (I'm flashing back to a picture I have with Stitch picking his nose and one with Dale punching me in the face...)

The weekend had its family-friendly moments, but it wasn't always about the kids. Stacey was also celebrating her 25th birthday, so stay tuned for Part 2 to see how I showed her a more adult side to Disneyland!