Saturday, January 1, 2011


Two days before my tenth birthday, my grandparents took me to Disneyland. I remember going on nearly every ride and although I thought my grandparents were a tad over protective, I had a wonderful time. Since then I have visited the park two more times, and as an adult it doesn’t hold the same magic. The only way to enjoy it is through the eyes of on innocent and two or three months ago I promised Noelle, a lover of all things Disney, we would take her for fifth birthday.

On Monday, we left for California and Disneyland, and although there were a couple of hiccups along the way, the trip was a resounding success.

We set out for Southern California at 9:45 Monday morning and 40 miles west of Phoenix we got stuck for 45 minutes in a long line of traffic due to road construction. Three hours later we approached the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs) and saw snow on the tops of the mountains, San Jacinto is on the left and San Gorgonio (the highest peak in Southern California) is on the right.

After the six hour drive (stopping only for lunch and gas), our first stop was Belmont Shore (Long Beach). I lived in this seaside community from July 1996 to August 1999 and then returned from August 2001 to April 2002 and have many fond memories. It was only fitting that this be the place where Noelle first experienced the Pacific Ocean, and although it was cool outside (low 60s) she frolicked and wanted to build a sand castle.

It had been a long day so I promised her a rain check and we drove downtown Long Beach to the Hyatt.

Our initial intent was to leave Phoenix on Tuesday, drive to Long Beach that night, go to Disneyland on Wednesday and stay in Palm Springs afterwards, returning home Thursday. Unfortunately, the weather changed our plans.

I had been watching the weather forecast on a daily basis (as it seemed to change daily), and on Sunday the forecast called for rain on Wednesday, therefore, we decided to leave a day early and go to Disneyland on Tuesday.

Tuesday was a beautiful day, bathed in sun and blue sky. It was forecasted to be the nicest of the week and we took our time getting ready for the big day. We arrived at Disneyland to find that it was sold out. While sitting in traffic waiting to get into the park I stopped a policewoman and inquired and she informed that the park had been sold out the day before as well, but they had allowed visitors into California Adventure (Disneyland’s sister park) and then at 6:30 they were allowing guests to cross over and enter Disneyland.

Although this wasn’t how I envisioned our day - it was worth a shot. There was no way I was going to disappoint Noelle. She had been looking forward to this trip for so long, so we paid the $15 to park our car, boarded the bus to the park, got outside the gates to Disneyland and were turned away, being told that an hour earlier they have stopped offering the California Adventure/Disneyland arrangement.

Discouraged, we returned to Long Beach to regroup. We ate lunch at an old favorite of mine in Belmont Shore, Super Mex, and while there we decided to extend our trip a day and visit Disneyland on Thursday, as it was forecasted to rain on Wednesday. We then did some shopping and took Noelle to get her hair cut. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and Noelle decided it was a time for a photo shoot.

Wednesday, Noelle’s actual birthday, was rainy and we didn’t do much. We went out for breakfast and then back to the hotel. Noelle decided it was time for another photo shoot.

That evening we joined my friend Tova, her mother Joyce, and Tova’s two boys, Reece and Ty for an evening at the Aquarium of the Pacific, located across from the hotel. It is a spectacular facility with several outstanding exhibits. I lived in Long Beach when it opened (and was a charter member for a few years).

Noelle had met Tova's boys the day before and insisted that Reece was a girl because has long blond hair. I repeatedly tried to explain that boys can have long hair too, and Tova also gave it a shot, but Noelle still insisted that Reece was a girl. She couldn’t quite understand that boys can have long hair too.

I purchased our Disneyland tickets online to ensure we wouldn’t have a repeat of Tuesday’s fiasco and Thursday morning we got up early and arrived at the park at 9:15.

Our initial destination within Disneyland was the Princess Fantasy Faire - where the princesses spend their time, but along the way there the Merry-Go-Round caught Noelle's eye.

Then it was off to the Princess Fantasy Faire where Noelle was too shy to join the festivities but instead sat next to me smiling from ear-to-ear.

Once the Princess coronation was over we hopped aboard the Disneyland Railroad for a trip around the park.

Afterwards Noelle announced she wanted to get her face painted – BIG MISTAKE. Almost instantly, her mood changed and she wanted to go home. When I asked her why she wanted to leave she said because people were staring at her. Thirty minutes, and some cotton candy later, her mood returned to normal and she wanted to stay.

The crowd at Disneyland was huge. It was like New Years Eve at Times Square. There was no where to walk without stumbling over people and the lines for the good rides were over two hours each. Even getting a bite to eat was an endeavor and while walking around trying to find a sit down restaurant (I think there is only one and you must have reservations) we stumbled across, and toured, Tarzan's Treehouse - forty years ago when I first visited Disneyland it was called the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (named after the Disney movie).

After grabbing a quick bite we resumed our expedition. The following clip shows some a small glimpse into the crowd.

The next ride Noelle wanted to go on was the Mad Tea Party (the tea cups), but just as we were about to get in the line, she spotted the Dumbo ride - the Tea Cups would have to wait. Dumbo had a line with an approximate wait time of 50 minutes. It went rather quickly and Noelle was very well behaved waiting her turn. While we were in line, a little girl in front of us, between three and four years old, got her head stuck in the fence - Looked painful!

After Dumbo it all becomes a blur to me now. I know that Fettit took Noelle on the Mad Tea Party ride and then there was the Christmas Parade (for some reason my video recorder did not record the parade). It was during the parade that we got to see nearly every Disney character – Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale and several of the princesses again. Sleeping Beauty was absent from the parade – we think she was taking a nap.

Once the crowd cleared from the parade we were nearly the first in line for Storybook Land Canal Boats. Noelle seemed to enjoy it but it was a snooze. If you watch the following video be prepared to fall asleep (and get a cavity from listening to the guides too sweet voice).

At this point the temperature was dropping from chilly to cold and we decided it was about time to leave - after one more ride on the Tea Cups.

Noelle was an ideal travel companion and we haven't stopped talking about her, and the trip, since we got home. Fettit keeps asking when she is coming over to spend the night. He misses her after spending those five days together.

It was such a nice trip - one of many - with more to come.


Liz said...

haven't watched the videos yet, but just wanted to say you are an amazing grandfather. what a memory you created for noelle. :) xo

Anonymous said...

Instead of the Happiest Place on earth it should be called the most crowded place on earth! Will they allow you to bring a flask?

Anonymous said...

I wish you were MY Grandpa!
Happy New Year!!
Love, Felicia