Greetings from sunny Southern California! I’m checking in today to tell you all about my first day at Disneyland. I flew into LAX from New York on Thursday, September 3. I had to leave my apartment around 6am EST to catch my 9:30am flight, landed about 12:30pm PST, got on the Disneyland Express Bus at 1:15pm and finally arrived at my hotel around 3pm – 12 hours from when I left. I was pretty tired, since instead of sleeping on the plane I watched Tomorrowland (to get in the Disney spirit) and Pitch Perfect 2 (not as good as the original!) but I had a snack and went straight to the Expo at the Disneyland Hotel to pick up my race bib and tech shirts for the Dumbo Double Dare!
Afterwards, I got my theme park tickets. I wanted to check out the official merchandise because even though I consider the shirts and medals plenty (and do not need any more stuff as I’ve said) I thought the New Balance sneakers sold by runDisney could be good to try. However, there was a line to get in to browse. I do not do lines to buy things. So instead, I wandered back through Downtown Disney and decided to head into California Adventure. I figured I should try out the things I can’t see or do at Disney World first! And first up was another first – I decided to get in the single rider line for California Screamin’ as I had never ridden an inverted roller coaster 🙂 I ended up loving it even though I screamed like a tiny child!
I was on my own because my friend Ashley and cousin Meredith were arriving on Friday, but doing the parks for an early evening solo turned out to be pretty fun. I went in the single rider line for Silly Symphony Swings as well, and ended up talking to other solo guests many of whom were also runners who arrived ahead of their friends and family. It was fun to hear everyone’s reasons for why they love the Disney races. I am also getting my Coast to Coast medal and they give you a plastic bracelet you have to wear until you finish your half marathon, so if I saw someone else with a wristband we would sometimes start a conversation. Honestly, I think a sign of how far I’ve come is my ability to just strike up a chat with strangers.
After riding Goofy’s Sky School, a mouse-coaster, it was around 5:15 PST and I was starving again. I decided to cross over to Disneyland Park for dinner and more rides. One thing about Disneyland that I had been told was that even though you know it is a smaller physical footprint, the actual size will still shock you. And everyone who said that was right. You can go back and forth between the two parks and Downtown Disney all day if you want, it’s all right there. And in Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle is lovely in a toy-like way, versus the majesty of Cinderella Castle. I think it’s charming but when you can see the entire theme park from around it, Dumbo behind, Big Thunder Mountain peeking out another side, it is a different experience entirely.
Once I took in the castle, I went into the Jolly Holiday cafe on Main Street. I knew I didn’t need to be worried about options because I was in Disney territory 🙂 I ordered the kids’-size turkey sandwich on a gluten free bun instead of the regular roll, and it came with carrots, apple slices, and a water bottle, which was exactly what I needed. I loved how the cafe was themed to Mary Poppins down to the Penguins on the windows. And the chef came out when I was ordering at the counter to make sure he had my allergies down correctly, and brought my food himself, something I was treated to at Disney World but is usually not what happens dining out.
The bun was a little crumbly but otherwise soft and made for a good sandwich, and it refueled me to go and try out some other new-to-me rides. First up was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which was a fun dark ride I mostly wanted to try due to a childhood love of The Wind in the Willows. Then came the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which also had a single rider line but one that moved slowly (I waited about 20 minutes, which was the longest I waited for anything that first day. It wasn’t super crowded, and I didn’t get in really long lines.) I made another runner friend in the line though, and the ride itself was cool albeit not one I’d rush onto again. The coasters that are jerkier around corners are not my favorites since I get headaches, and both this and Goofy’s Sky School fell into that category. Afterwards I settled down with a whirl on Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, before heading over to Frontierland for a spin on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the only ride of the night that I’d been on in Florida.
There was one difference in the California version – it actually has a smokey fire thing that makes you feel like you’re in cinders and rubble. And there’s a goat. Anyway, it was a nice last ride of the evening, and when I got off around 7:30pm I was yawning and ready for bed due to the time difference. But I wanted to see the parade, and knew I needed to eat more, and the next half hour made me very appreciative of the size of Disneyland. I actually left, crossed over and went into California Adventure, went to Clarabelle’s Scoop Shop to make my own ice cream bar, and made it back to Disneylamd Park by 8pm to catch the parade. I had read about this ice cream experience and wanted to give it a try.
The way it works is you pick a base of vanilla, chocolate, or berry sorbet. Then you coat it either in milk or dark chocolate, and get a topping of sprinkles, Mickey confetti, or other confections. I went for a berry bar in dark chocolate with a confetti I was told was GF (some have malt). I then went into both a deliciously drippy sugar swoon, and some sticker shock when it rang up at $6.15 including tax (keep in mind, I paid $7 total for my dinner at Jolly Holiday). I really loved my ice cream bar but would not do it again simply because of the price. Most things at Disney are expensive, and I keep costs down by buying groceries for breakfast and snacks, which I did here as well (Greek yogurt, GF pretzels, apples, baby carrots and string cheese can keep me going til an early dinner if I have lots). But that was more than I expected. Oh well!
I got back to Disneyland Park to see the Paint the Night Parade, which features lots of new characters like Anna and Els on a Frozen float, the Cars, Mike and Sully, and more alongside the classics. I loved the music and it was so amazing to see the magic and wonder on the faces of the kids watching. I was talking to a mom who was running Dumbo and mentioned I hadn’t seen the Cars movies, and she told me that a decade from now I will have seen them all MANY times, since that WILL be classic Disney for my future kids!
I got back to my hotel and crashed by 9:30pm. Friday morning I woke up at 4:30, still on Eastern time…hoping it would last for my race wake up calls, although wishing I could have gotten my solid 9 hours. Stay tuned for more of my Disneyland adventures and the races!
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