Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Our SoCal/Disneyland trip!

If you chose to read this, buckle up. I started out by writing mostly cliff notes and then went through and added details (lots) because I don’t have a great memory and love to relive things through reading about them!

(In order to tell them about the trip I created a treasure hunt for them to find their new luggage and tickets).

We had an awesome redemption San Diego/Disneyland hybrid trip. Redemption because this was all originally booked for April 2020. Because of you know what and travel restrictions and Disneyland actually being closed for a year, we cancelled for the unforeseeable future. Well the future happened and it was perfect! I love dividing trips into two or more locations, because it feels like two vacations in one. The girls did great! We left out of the Duluth airport in the afternoon. There weren’t any late morning flight times both departing or returning, so I had to choose between leaving at 7 AM or 2:30 PM. The former means we get to arrive in the afternoon, but it also means I need to wake my children up at 5 AM. Leaving at 2:30 means we don’t get to our destination until 9 PM but we don’t have to do the morning panic and rush to get going two hours before the crack of dawn. We are not morning people, the girls usually sleep until after 8 on a normal day, so I wasn’t going to try and do something crazy. I opted for the 2:30 departure both ways. 


It’s crazy how the pandemic has increased car costs. When I booked this trip pre-pandemic, the car was $200 for the week. This time around I could barely find anything under $1000. When we rented a car in Denver back in May, it was less than $200 for an even nicer vehicle than we had in California, so it just varies greatly city to city, or we just really got lucky in CO. 


San Diego: 

Such a fun city for adults and kids. They really do have it all. Beaches, adventure, museums, parks, amazing food, and beautiful scenery. We stayed at a beautiful resort right on mission bay that had lots of activities during the day for both adults and kids. We didn’t have time to do a lot of things, but took advantage of s’mores night and the private beaches and utilized the cabanas and awesome views of the sunset. They also had water sports (SUP, kayaking, sail boating, etc), nightly boat rides on the sternwheeler, tennis courts, yoga, an arcade, and a bunch of other activities. They had a restaurant but also a food truck with less expensive items that would be parked out near the seal exhibit every morning (yes they had their own seals too!). We would get fresh coffee drinks here to start our day. Our room was huge and both the girls got their own beds since the couch pulled out to a bed. We ordered instacart for breakfast items and snacks to get delivered as we arrived (literally my instacart shopper got there the same time as I was checking in), and since we had a kitchenette that came with dishes, microwave, and toaster oven, we were able to prepare breakfast here every morning. I loved this resort and really enjoyed walking around the grounds of the resort every morning and taking it all in. I would typically wake up before everyone else to either watch the sunset or take a walk around the grounds. Due to the time zone change I had the hardest time sleeping past 6 AM. 

The location of our hotel was awesome because a lot of entertainment, restaurants, and shopping was walkable. We walked to mission beach, Belmont park, and the restaurants around it. We did have to drive to the San Diego zoo, La Jolla, and little Italy. 


Our first full day we walked to mission beach and walked along the boardwalk, on the beach, dipped our toes in the ocean. It was Thea’s first time seeing the ocean so she was a little scared. The weather was perfect. It was in the high 70’s but had a slight breeze off the ocean so it couldn’t have been more perfect. We walked over to Belmont park to see if we could ride any rides yet. San Diego is a sleepy town and seems like a lot of things weren’t open early. There aren’t a lot of people out and about on the beach before noon either. It’s kind of nice and makes us feel ambitious ๐Ÿ˜†. Belmont didn’t open until 11 AM. We walked around and got tickets for some rides but also didn’t want to spend all day here since we were going to also be going to Disneyland. It was really a cute little spot though. We started to walk back to our hotel, stopped at a little juicery and I got a pressed juice and aรงaรญ bowl while the girls got ice cream. Adam wanted a burrito but they were short staffed and not making hot food. 

We packed our backpack to get ready to spend the rest of the day in La Jolla. La Jolla is a gorgeous neighborhood right on a cliff over the ocean. There are fantastic beaches, cliff views, restaurants, and shopping. It’s a bit uppity, I got Beverly Hills type vibes. Not that it’s a bad thing. We ate at a delicious restaurant overlooking the water, and possibly had the best tacos I’ve ever had. The drinks were just as good as the food too. Even the kids scarfed up every last crumb of their meals, which is rare. There was a delicious gelato shop nearby too that we loved, had unique flavors and a patio overlooking the ocean. There’s also no shortage of shopping here and Mira got a couple souvenirs. She is such a jewelry girl; we had to stop at basically every jewelry stand. La Jolla was also a good place to see seals. We’d be walking along the cliff and they were all over the place. If we wanted we could’ve gotten super close. Since the girls wanted to go swimming at the hotel, not the ocean, we cut out a little before sunset. We all went in the pool right at sunset when the sky was neon pink. After about a half hour, we went back to the room, hummed and hawed about where to go for dinner, and I just ordered takeout. Partly because it was s’mores night at the resort and we didn’t want to miss that. We walked to the beach and made our s’mores at the bonfire and our food arrived shortly after. We ate at a patio table right next to the beach. Adam got him and myself drinks from the hotel bar and we just enjoyed the gorgeous evening while the kids ran around with their new little friends on the beach. The hotel staff were so nice, brought us napkins and water bottles to go with our food without even being asked. It was a good chill night! 

The next day was San Diego zoo and it was incredible. We went in the late morning and spent a few hours. It was a warm day, around 80°. We pretty much saw the entire zoo except for the reptile area. The girls favorite part was the elephant and giraffes. Adam’s favorite part was the fact he could walk around the zoo with a beer :) I loved the roaring tiger, she was hungry and letting everyone know. We all got tired of walking and decided to go back to the hotel to relax and swim for a bit. We actually had plans to go back to the zoo at night because they throw a big Halloween party on the weekends. We stopped at the infamous In N Out burger, because Adam had never been. Swam and did the hot tub at the hotel for almost 2 hours, then had the girls get their costumes on to get ready for the party. 

The zoo party did not disappoint. It’s a glow in the dark theme and there are spooky stations all over with entertainment (acrobats/trapeze artists, live music, bubble dance parties, mariachi band, magicians, etc). Since it was kids free month in San Diego, all of it was free for the kids! The girls loved riding the gondolas and the double decker bus, too. So much to do here! When we got back I went to go meet a San diegoan friend for a drink and app at a little college bar 10 minutes away. 

We didn’t spend too much time in Pacific beach, it’s a fun surfy vibe neighborhood. There are lots of divey taco shops and surf shops. Also a great place to watch surfers. We did get some Mexican food from here, but the kids aren’t fans. I would’ve liked to spend some more time just hanging here or in Ocean Beach, because it felt more of an “authentic” San Diego experience and less touristy. 

Our last day here we hit up the little Italy neighborhood. It was Saturday and there was a huge farmers market. It was fun wandering through there and checking everything out. Definitely the largest and most entertaining farmers market we’ve ever been to. We ate at a trendy brunch place here before we headed off to Laguna beach. 

Laguna is breathtaking. The beaches here make me feel like I’m in Hawaii. Ugh, I need to go back. We lucked out with a sunny 75° day, but water was a little cold. Nothing that a few lake superiorians can’t handle though. Mira was obsessed with jumping the waves and just wading and Thea was scared and would run away. We spent a majority of the afternoon here, just gazing at the waves, playing in the sand, and prancing around the beach. We decided to head to Anaheim at around 5. I kind of regret not waiting a little longer and watching the sunset in Laguna, but it’s also difficult to arrive to a new place in the dark (it was about a half hour drive to Anaheim). 

We got to Anaheim right before sunset and checked into our hotel. I got a room with bunk beds to add some extra fun for the girls. It was also Mickey Mouse themed. They loved it and had so much fun getting acclimated and picking their beds. After settling in, we walked to downtown Disney to get food right at sunset. Love the pink and purple skies here. Downtown Disney is the area between the two parks where you can get lots of food, shopping, and entertainment. It was decorated so awesome for Halloween and of course playing Halloween/spooky Disney music. We got some wood fired pizza from an Italian place and some beignets that are the same recipe as cafรฉ du monte, and then walked around to take it all in. We got roped into buying the girls those $20 Mickey Mouse light up balloons, but they are really fun. That is until Adam gets hit in the face repeatedly since we tied Thea’s to the stroller ๐Ÿ˜†. There was an acapella group dressed as haunted mansion ghosts who were fascinating to watch. We got caught up watching for 45 minutes. We stayed until the fireworks and got a prime spot to watch them. It felt weird (in a good way) that there were no crowds and the kids could actually run around during the fireworks. I even kept asking cast members, “are you sure we can see fireworks from here?” No one else seemed to think so ๐Ÿ˜†. They assured me it was the best spot. After the fireworks we headed back to our room. Since we stayed right across the street the walk back was maybe 8 minutes. I had also ordered another instacart order (left the perishables back at our San Diego hotel, so really just needed to get those). 

The next day was our Disney California adventure day. I got us tickets to the oogie boogie bash, which is disneylands big Halloween party. The party didn’t start until 6 PM, but we planned to get to the park around 2 PM. It went until 11 PM, so 9 hours in the park was good for us. Our hotel had an outdoor pirate themed water park, so we took the girls there once they woke up in the morning. Maybe we are spoiled but it was surprising that the water wasn’t heated. It was maybe 68° this morning so heated water would’ve been nice, although there was a hot tub that we pretty much sat in the whole time. The girls loved the water park though, it wasn’t busy at all. I was hoping Thea would nap between the water park and Disney time, but she didn’t. We got our costumes on, stroller packed, and walked to Downtown Disney to grab lunch first. We each ate at where we wanted; Mira had a pretzel, Thea had a taco from tortilla joes, and Adam and I ate at a sandwich place called earl of sandwich and got the thanksgiving subs. All very delicious. We got in line at the grand Californian entrance (shorter line) to get into DCA at around 2 and got in 10-15 minutes later. Temp was in the low 70’s and sunny, so we were all comfortable with our long sleeved costumes, maybe slightly on the warm side. The temps would later get down to the low 60’s. We started to make our way to the rides we wanted to go on. We started off by taking some pictures with Minnie and friends and the main entrance area. There was a live mariachi/marching type band playing. Headed over to the avengers campus and Adam went on guardians. It’s a copy of tower of terror from WDW, so Mira knew she would hate it ๐Ÿ˜†. He went alone. We could’ve used rider swap (where you walk up to the cast member and tell them you both want to ride but one has to stay with the kids…so the second person gets to skip the line when it’s their turn), but I actually don’t like ToT either; the drops just make me queasy. He absolutely loved it and said it was much better then ToT because of the guardians theming. While he was on that the girls and I made our way to Cars land and rode a kiddie ride (Luigi’s rollickin’ roadsters)that Thea could go on. They do such a good job of creating the town radiator springs! It really makes your feel like you’re in the movie. I’d say cars land comes in second place to galaxy’s edge as far as immersive lands. Most of the rides in the park at this point had a 10-20 minute wait time posted in the app, but the actual wait time was consistently half (it was a tip I learned ahead of time from a Disney group), which was nice. We kept moving along the park, making sure to get through most of the outdoor rides while it was still light out. We went to paradise gardens and rode Ariel and a couple others, then ordered some food from the cozy cone cafรฉ in cars land. Then made our way over to Pixar pier. The sun was setting as we rode another ride. Adam and I divided and conquered a couple times so we could each take the girls on the ride of their choice. Mira and I did symphony swings while him and Thea did the inside out ride, emotional whirlwind. While they were finishing that up, Mira and I did a toy story ride. Now that it was getting dark and close to the time of the party, we got in line for the first treat trail, Sid from toy story. This is when Disney cast members start gently kicking out non-party guests who don’t have the wrist band. There were about 10 villains that had “treat trails” where you go through a queue and get candy several times, ending at the villain, who is full on in their character. They interact with you/insult you/entertain you. It’s really a lot of fun being a part of it. There was Sid, oogie boogie of course, cruella, maleficent, evil Queen, dr. Facilier, Agatha harkness, mad hatter, and a couple of the bad cars from Cars. Mira loved Agatha harkness because she came down from her podium to specifically give Mira advice to cast a spell. There were also lots of other characters sprinkled through the parks; a bunch of avengers, Cinderella's step sisters, Jack and sally, zombie captain America, just to name a few. There was also a big parade that was packed with all the villains. There’s no parade like a Disney parade.. Best parade ever. We didn’t ride a ton of rides during the party because we wanted to do the treat trails and the shows/entertainment. We all did WEB slingers though (Spider-Man ride) and Thea was so scared she couldn’t look ๐Ÿ˜†. The best ride in this park is radiator springs racers, it literally gave me chills. We rode it right before park close, and with rider swap, Mira got to ride it twice in a row and the second time was technically after park close. I think this ride rivals a few of my favorite Disney parks rides (FOP, space mountain, ROTR). We got to walk around radiator springs a little after park close and enjoy a nearly empty park. We headed back to our hotel with a sleeping baby in the stroller and Mira on Adams shoulders. Mira took inventory of all the candy and we all agreed this was the most candy they’ve ever had on Halloween. 

The next day we set our alarms for 6:55 to get into the 7 AM virtual queue for rise of the resistance. This ride does not offer a regular standby line, so the only way to ride it, at this point, is to get into the virtual queue. They open up at 7 AM and again at noon, and both times it fills up in half a second. So it can be VERY difficult to get if the park is busy. This was a Monday after Halloween so we hoped it wouldn’t be too hard, but didn’t want to take our chances. We used Mira’s iPad to have the world clock pulled up, so we knew which second to click “join” and both Adam and I had our phones ready. 6:59:59 struck and we clicked join and got in! So freaking happy! And relieved. We went back to bed for another hour and a half. Woke the girls up around 8:30, ate breakfast in our rooms, and then headed down to the Disneyland gate. We were doing the Disneyland side today. It was maybe a 10-15 minute line to get in, which is fine. It was a nice sunny morning, probably 70°. We got through the gate and walked down main street. Adam and I hadn’t had our coffee yet so I ran into a Starbucks. The line for this was just as long as the line to get into the park, everyone had the same idea. But it was worth it for coffee of course. I decided to check my app to see what ride times looked like and see which ones had the shortest. Looks like a couple rides in Adventureland were only 10 minutes or less. We ended up doing the Indiana Jones ride. Mira and I went first and figured she could go with Adam second. This ride reminded me of the mummy ride from universal studios. Not as big of a coaster but similar idea. It was really fun! Then when Adam and Mira went on it I took Thea on a kiddie ride around the corner, Winnie the Pooh. She loved it! After we were all done, we were maybe going to head to another ride in Adventureland, but then we got notified that our boarding group was ready for rise of the resistance! We technically had an hour to come check into our boarding group, but we thought why not just go now? Adam was super excited to go to galaxy’s edge, I don’t think he wanted to wait any longer. We made our way over there and Adam and Mira were going to do rider swap for ROTR first this time. They got in line and then Thea and I walked around galaxy’s edge/batuu to check it out and explore. This land is AWESOME. And so immersive. They even have authentic sounds coming out of hidden speakers. It reminds me of Pandora in WDW. They do the same thing with the speakers. I mobile ordered some snacks that were on my bucket list (a Ronto wrap and a black caf iced coffee) and walked around until they were ready. We saw storm troopers, Kylo ren, chewy, and Rey. Once my food was ready, I went to get it and walked toward the rise of the resistance ride. Adam and Mira had just got off and had so much fun. I split my Ronto wrap with Adam (which was so unique and delicious) and I got ready for my turn on the ride. Mira was so lucky to get to go twice! We took our turn and it was amazing! The ride really was a full experience, not just a ride. After that, Thea had fallen asleep for her stroller nap and I wanted to try one more snack from docking bay. Mira and I split a batuu bon and then I decided I was going to try the single rider line for millennium falcon: smugglers run. I apparently didn’t do my research on this ahead of time, but I realized everyone on the ride controls the ride. So if a little kid is one of the pilots, you’re going to have an interesting ride. That is precisely what happened ๐Ÿ˜† I got a little motion sickness. I was one of the gunners, controlling the shooting. It was fun but I wish I was a pilot! Haha. Next time. Mira and Adam then went to do the build your own lightsaber experience at Savi’s workshop. He had been talking about wanting to do this for weeks. I just walked around and explored more of galaxy’s edge. I kind of like having to wait for them to do stuff because it gives me a chance to stop and smell the roses and look around. Once they got out they were so excited. The experience seemed like so much fun and something they’ll never forget. Now he had to carry this lightsaber around the park the remainder of the day ๐Ÿ˜†. At this time we were ready to move onto another land, it had been a couple hours. We really did about everything you can do in galaxy’s edge so we were all happy. 

I decided to mobile order an actual lunch for us. We sat down right along Main Street on the patio of jolly holiday and Thea had just woken up. Had our lunch and got a raspberry rose macaron for dessert. Best macaron I’ve ever had by far. We were able to witness a mini parade (cavacalade) from a distance while we ate here. Some nice entertainment. After lunch we decided to head over to fantasyland. Walked up to the castle, snapped a couple photos, and then went underneath into the land. It was time for the classics. The girls got in line to meet princesses (aurora and rapunzel/Flynn rider) and then Snow White and the evil queen. Cinderella and belle were also there before but they didn’t get a chance to “meet” them. The evil Queen was quite entertaining and really interacted with everyone. I think we stood in front of her for 20 minutes just listening. 


After this we went on some rides in fantasyland. Most, if not all, have no height requirement. We were able to do a lot here. There are a lot more rides in Disneyland’s fantasyland than DisneyWorld’s. I also like how the mad tea party ride is fully outdoors here unlike DisneyWorld where it’s enclosed. 


After fantasyland we made our way over to toontown. We stopped in front of it’s a small world for a picture because it’s huge compared to WDW. We knew Thea would LOVE toontown so I was excited for her reaction. Once we walked up to it she was ecstatic. I’m sure she felt like she was in an episode of Mickey Mouse clubhouse. It was really cute! And Mickey and Minnie have their own houses and were both outside of them saying hi to everyone. Thea was enamored. She stood here for a good 10 minutes just saying hi. 

There were a couple rides in toontown that Thea was tall enough to ride but they both had 40 minute waits (which typically meant about an actual 20 minute wait) and she was having so much fun just being in toontown we didn’t bother. The girls played in chip and dales treehouse for a while and Adam played with his new lightsaber. I checked our ride times in the app and noticed jungle cruise only had a 5 minute wait, so we decided to head over to Adventureland again. The nice part about Disneyland over DisneyWorld is that walking between lands is a lot easier/quicker since it’s smaller. By the time we got to jungle cruise the wait time was now at 10 minutes but that’s still not bad. We got on the ride right at sunset and little did I know that was the BEST time to ride it. It was absolutely gorgeous because it was light enough to still see everything, but they had lit the nighttime tiki torches so it truly felt jungly. The backdrop of the bright pink sky was unforgettable. Once we got off the ride we wanted to do haunted mansion. The wait was around 20 minutes. The girls wanted popcorn so Adam got in line for HM and I went to the popcorn stand right next to it. Got some popcorn and snuck back in line with Adam. I did have to blatantly cut in front of a ton of people because the line moved way faster than I thought. The girls ate the popcorn in line and by the time they were done it was time to get on the ride. It’s crazy to think just 4-5 months ago Disney was requiring people wear masks outdoors at all times and not allowing anyone to eat in line. Another thing Disneyland has that DisneyWorld doesn’t is haunted mansion from Halloween to Christmas has a nightmare before Christmas theme. It was really cool to experience a different theme! Love this ride. 

After we got off of haunted mansion, we decided to make our way over to Tomorrowland. Walking through Adventureland in the dark is amazing. Way better than DisneyWorld. They light tiki torches all over the land, so it truly makes you feel like you’re in an outpost in the jungle. I LOVED the vibe. Stopped to get some dole whips and Adam had pork lumpia at tropical hideaway. We went over to Tomorrowland and decided to do space mountain. This had a half hour wait but this ride was at 65 minutes pretty much the whole day. Mira and I went first because Adam knows space is my jam. This ride turned out to be truly a 30 minute wait, unlike most rides the wait time listed was inflated. He took Thea on the buzz lightyear Astro blasters while we did this ride. Another DL vs WDW comment but space is so much better here! The ride is smoother, a little different course, and they play music! It is still pitch black with a starry sky but just done better. It also has a 40” height requirement vs WDW is 42”. Didn’t matter for us because Thea is only 38” and definitely not ready for coasters like that. When Adam and Mira took their turn, I brought Thea on autopia. I think this is similar to Tomorrowland speedway in WDW. She was so enthralled that she got to actually drive a car. This kid loves cars and this might’ve been her favorite ride. It’s really too bad she was too short for radiator springs racers, but this was a good alternative for her. I did spend a majority of the time correcting her driving though ๐Ÿ˜†


After this we had a little under an hour until park close. I saw that star tours had a 10 minute wait and we were right next to it, but both Mira and I wanted to shop for souvenirs and we still wanted to grab food. We decided to skip star tours because it’s the same exact ride as WDW and we will get back there again. I really focused more on Disneyland specific rides and then our top top favorites. We went into a couple souvenir shops and mobile ordered some corn dogs. I got a specialty corn dog, it had a spicy sauce drizzled on top with crushed up flaming hot Cheetos. The literal best corn dog I’ve ever had. The girls just got plain ones, which were still amazing. I don’t know how they do it but Disneyland corn dogs are dreamy. When we were done it was 9:55, five minutes until park close. We made the conscious choice to go on pirates of the Caribbean, which had no wait. Smartest decision ever. We were practically the only ones on the ride and also this ride is so much better than WDW’s. It’s the original and it’s longer/has more scenes, and more fun. Thea was scared of this a little haha, even though afterward she said she loved it and wouldn’t stop singing the yo ho pirate song. Once we got off we walked through New Orleans square, which is also fascinating at night. Stopped at a gift shop and got a couple souvenirs (gift shops stay open an hour after park close). And then we got to walk through Adventureland one more time. Dang, I love this side of the park. It was once again clearing out and getting empty. I snapped a couple shots of the lit up castle and we headed on out. We all walked back to the hotel and talked about the highlights of our busy day.


(Ready to kick her feet up after a day of walking probably 30,000 steps)

Disneyland is perfect for younger kids. There are actually more rides per square foot here, and I believe there are more rides in the two parks than DisneyWorld’s 4 parks combined. And lots more rides here that have lower or no height requirements, so great for even little little kids, toddler aged. Thea doesn’t really remember WDW  but thinks she does because we’ve showed her pictures and videos. But she will definitely remember this trip. Three weeks later she still talks about it almost everyday and asks when we can go back. The girls equally loved the Disneyland side and California adventure side, because oogie boogie bash was an amazing party, but I’d say the Disneyland side is what won their hearts over. 

All in all a great trip and can’t wait for our next adventure! 

Our sweet neighbors set aside Halloween treat bags for them since they weren’t here for neighborhood trick or treating :)

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