November 11th: A morning on the “other side” of the park

This trip was so long ago that we’ve actually taken another DLR trip in the meantime! But, I do want to finish up my experience and thoughts. 

The morning of November 11 found us on “the other side” of the park. For us, almost every Disney park has another “side.” This side is where we spend the least amount of our time. In Disneyland, most of our time is concentrated in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. At California Adventure, it’s mostly at Paradise Pier and Cars Land through Buena Vista Street. As a result, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Grizzly Peak get less of our attentions.

It’s not that we don’t like those lands or don’t visit any of the attractions. Most of our “must-do” headliners simply fall in other places. Or, the attractions we want to visit there are easy enough with Fastpass.

On this morning, I was explaining to my parents what our touring plan would be. “We’re going to start on the other side of the park…” Our must-do plan:

Jungle (Jingle) Cruise
Haunted Mansion
Jack Skellington and Sally
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (DH and Sport only)
It’s a Small World
Anna and Elsa’s Boutique for makeovers
Ariel’s Grotto

We set up for rope drop near the entrance to Adventureland. The Jungle Cruise had been closed in order to turn into the “Jingle” Cruise for the holidays. Not sure how long the lines would be when it reopened, we made it our first priority of the day. We were the second boat out.

Since we’d all been on the Jungle Cruise many times before, it was nice to see it with different decorations. Disneyland didn’t change it to jingle this past year, but we thought it was cute.

Next up, we were first in line to meet Jack Skellington and Sally. Except Sally’s leaves were a little bit wet and she wasn’t meeting right away. No worries, Jack made us welcome. He was excited to hear we were visiting the Haunted Mansion next! Lines for Haunted Mansion were listed at a 10 minute wait, but we walked into the elevator room without waiting. This was also the first time we’d seen it decorated for A Nightmare Before Christmas. This less-scary theme allowed Bean to feel confident riding it. She loved it!

Our move to Critter Country for Splash Mountain was not as successful as the Haunted Mansion. Sport had been begging Bean to ride Splash Mountain the entire trip, promising she’d love it. I had also encouraged her to ride, believing she would really like the front part of the ride (the drop, not so much). Unfortunately, I hadn’t actually ridden the Disneyland ride and was speaking of my experience on the World version. For reasons I can’t quite name, it is a much more fun, cute ride. I think that being able to sit next to someone also helps.

So, we convinced Bean to give it a try. It was an unequivocal disaster. She hated every second. She did not enjoy the B’rer scenes and was terrified during the drop. Over a year later, she still brings up how much she hated it.


Before the misery…

After that, we couldn’t go near Frontierland to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have to ride it. Luckily, Sally was now meeting with Jack and we got in the short line to meet them together. This helped Bean calm down a bit.


Jack Skellington has an oddly soothing demeanor about him!

Bean still needed calming down, so we headed back into Fantasyland. We kind of stumbled into the Royal Theatre just as a show was starting.  This was not on our radar or any version of our day’s plan, but we went with it. The retelling of Beauty and the Beast was simple, corny and exactly what Bean needed.


Finding this show at just the right time was an example of Disney Magic at its best!

A quick meet with Captain Hook and a ride through It’s a Small World (IASW) helped even more. IASW had been closed for its holiday renovation as well. Opening earlier that day, the lines were still very manageable about 2 hours into park opening.

This and Peter Pan are my two favorite rides. I loved the chance to see the holiday theming.

After the ride we decided to head into Downtown Disney. We had plenty of time and were able to take advantage of meeting the Queen from Snow White with no wait! I love the different characters available in California. I don’t think waits for either the Queen or Jack Skellington would ever be less than 5 minutes in Florida.

Anna and Elsa’s Boutique is no longer in operation, so I won’t go into a hugely detailed review. While less “magical” than the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique experience, the hairstyles were just as beautiful and the price was about $15 less. It’s too bad it closed!

What better way to celebrate a Frozen makeover than dining with princesses! There was enough time left after the makeover to ride Mickey’s Fun Wheel, then head into Ariel’s Grotto.

Ariel’s Grotto is also closed now, and I hope they introduce another princess meal.  There’s no character meal in California Adventure at all. I’m eager to see when and how that changes.

For what it was worth, we loved our experience at Ariel’s Grotto. We enjoyed the princess interaction and the attention to food details. Each time we went it was full, so I don’t think we’re the only ones who liked it.

After a few more rides on California Screamin’ we enjoyed some time in A Bug’s Land. I know this land is on a short list for refurbishment and I will be sad to see it go. I understand that A Bug’s Life is not even one of the more popular Pixar films. I know the rides are slow-loading and juvenile. But, I love it. I love the details like the sounds, the signs and lamp lights. Heimlich’s Chew Chew train is SO DUMB, but it’s dumb in a fantastic sort of way. Having an area for small kids isn’t the worst thing. I’d much rather Disney put out A Bug’s Life 2 and have a good excuse to revamp the area (rather than remove it).

It was getting dark by this time and we were all tired. But, everyone agreed the girls should try to get a picture with Anna and Elsa since they were dressed up as Anna and Elsa. We had to wait in line for about a half hour, but it was a sweet experience. My parents were able to participate in the Animation Studio. They drew some surprisingly good Olafs!

We were very tired after this and called it a (successful) day.