What is it about Disney that makes people so happy?
Last year, following our trip to Disney World, I shared a look at a moment of pure joy I experienced there. Looking through my photos from our trip to Disneyland this year, I realized I had a similar moment when we met Goofy. I couldn’t tell you why (I mean, aside from the fact that Goofy is awesome), but you can see from the look on my face how completely happy I was in that moment. I don’t know how Disney does it, but I wish everyone could experience moments like these!
If you look closely at the shirt I wore to Disneyland, it says “Chasing the Fun.” Turkey and Bunny said it should have read “Chasing the Characters,” because apparently that’s what I do best when we go to theme parks!
Here’s a round-up of the characters we met or saw up close at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (plus Goofy’s Kitchen)….my personal highlights were meeting Donald Duck, and also getting to see Goofy in his snazzy green suit! Also, since I was wearing a birthday celebration pin, many of the characters either said “Happy Birthday!” to me (like Lightning McQueen), or pantomimed it in some way (like Minnie Mouse).
Not pictured, but also seen by us include Peter Pan and Wendy, Captain Hook, the other chipmunk, Mirabel, Pinocchio and Geppetto, Sadness and Joy, Snow White, the Evil Queen, Ant-Man, Thor, Merida, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, the Dora Milaje, Mary and Bert, Chewbacca, Rey, Mulan, and Clarabelle Cow. I think that’s pretty impressive for just two days in the parks!
We only had one truly sit-down meal when we were at Disneyland, but it was a very special meal, prepared in Goofy’s Kitchen!
The restaurant is located in the iconic Disneyland Hotel, and I was very excited to have an excuse to stop by there.
The highlight of our dinner was probably getting the chance to pay our compliments to the chef!
We really loved that Goofy’s distinctive profile is prominently displayed on the tables!
It’s a buffet restaurant, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Of course their were kid favorites like mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken nuggets, but there were also some pretty high-end foods, including international options and even a carving station with steak!
Did I mention there’s also a huge dessert section? There were endless options of cakes, cookies, brownies, and also a soft-serve ice cream bar with all the toppings! (One of the dessert offerings is the specialty of the house, peanut butter and jelly pizza, which I’m sure that Goofy created for Max, good dad that he is).
I had quite an eclectic plate, and it was all delicious! Seriously, I wasn’t expecting buffet food at a family-style restaurant to be so good, but it really was! In addition to the steak, I especially enjoyed the fennel salad (I went back for seconds!) as well as the salmon with artichokes. (Not pictured is the carrot cake I had for dessert, which was also delicious!)
Another highlight of the dining experience were the character interactions. We saw Minnie, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale (why does Goofy employ so many rodents in his establishment?!?), and in addition to going table to table, greeting the diners, they also entertain with dances on a regular schedule. While they’re performing, the diners are encouraged to wave their napkins in the air (which I did with gusto!), which just adds to the fun atmosphere!
This was such a great dining experience…I’m so glad we had the opportunity to eat at Goofy’s!
We saved Disneyland for our second (and final) theme park…seeing the train station for the first time was just as much of a thrill as it was at Disney World!
We got to watch the welcome show that is held on the steps leading up to the station when the park opens. The characters (minus Donald and Daisy, sadly), were all were their beautiful Disney 100 costumes!
We decided to take care of two things at once, and rode the Disneyland Railroad (something I really wanted to do since its Disney World counterpart was closed last summer) to the back of the park (where we wanted to get coffee).
What I didn’t realize is that station was practically on top of “It’s a Small World!” So we rode that first thing, and I loved it (of course)!
We then made our way to the Alice in Wonderland area, where not only do they have the teacups (a different experience because in California, they’re fully out in the open), but a second Alice-themed ride as well. And we ran into Alice herself, plus, the Mad Hatter!
We also visited New Orleans, home of the Haunted Mansion and beignets, and also Princess Tiana!
We wanted to make sure we saw the Sword in the Stone and the Wishing Well, since we missed both of those things at Disney World. Sadly, none of us was worthy to remove the sword, but we did all get to make a wish!
We were lucky that the “Star Wars Month” events were still going on while we were, and Turkey and Bunny got to ride “Hyperspace Mountain.” While they did that, I walked around and took some pictures of the castle (and let a Disney photographer take a photo of me!). Not as grand as the Cinderella Castle, but still lovely!
We walked back to the castle when they were done, and I found someone to take our picture:
The Disney photographers also got some nice pictures of the three of us:
And then we headed over to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I’m pretty sure there are some minor differences, but it felt pretty much the same as the Disney World version! We got to have ronto wraps for lunch, and do some shopping and sightseeing.
One of the things Turkey and Bunny were most looking forward to, though, was having another lightsaber building experience at Savi’s Workshop (especially since they updated the parts since last summer). It was pretty cool to just get to be an observer this time, and watch other people do the work!
We didn’t see the Mandalorian and The Child, but we did get to meet Boba Fett!
We didn’t get to go on Rise of the Resistance because it was either shut down or the line was two hours long or it closed early (that was probably the biggest regret of the whole trip), but we did go on Smuggler’s Run…I got to blow things up!
After that, we walked through Downtown Disney on our way to dinner. Of course we had to stop at the Lego Store and admire their creations:
I really like this beautiful floral display:
And then we went to the Disneyland hotel to have dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen…it was so much fun! (Full details to come…)
After our meal, we hopped on the monorail to get back to the park:
We rode Star Tours (always a fun experience), and then went in search of Dole Whips:
We were barely able to find a place to view the fireworks…the crowd was massive!
The park is open for a couple of hours after the fireworks, so we had time for a few more things. We were three minutes late for Rise of the Resistance, so we headed toward Runaway Railway, instead. I love how the line is set up like a museum dedicated to Mickey Mouse!
After that, Turkey and Bunny decided to ride the Matterhorn while I took care of what was left of our shopping, and took some more pictures:
We rode the teacups one more time, and even managed to get on Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
We shut the park down (which I would somewhat regret the next day), and didn’t get back to our hotel until about 12:30. It was really hard to get to sleep after all that excitement and knowing we had a full day of travel ahead of us!
The real fun began on the second day of our trip, when we walked from our hotel to Disney California Adventure!
We stopped by Radiator Springs first thing, only to find out that our number one ride opens late. We did get to see some characters, though, and Lightning McQueen wished me a happy birthday! (Since we were also celebrating my birthday on the trip, I got one of the park’s “Happy Birthday” buttons…you would not believe how many cast members notice and congratulate you!)
After that, we headed over to Pixar Pier, where we got to ride an eccentric ferris wheel (I think there are only two like it in the country!), a carousel, and a roller coaster (OK, only Turkey went on that). We also met some characters from Up!
After Turkey got off the roller coaster, we headed over to Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats, where we go the “Pixar Parfait.” The combination of soft serve and slushy was surprisingly good!
Then we headed back to Radiator Springs, were we got in line for Radiator Springs Racers, a ride we all wanted to go on. The line was long, but you really felt like you were in the movie, so we didn’t mind, because there was a lot to see (and a lot of back story explained). The ride itself started off very calm and relaxing, just like when Lightning and Sally went for the same drive in Cars, but then it turned into a race (we won!).
We also went on Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, which was just plain fun!
We stopped by Flo’s to share a traditional diner meal of a burger, fries, and a milkshake:
Then we headed back to Pixar Pier. We went on the Little Mermaid ride (but sadly not Goofy’s Sky School, because it was closed all day), but more importantly, we found someone nice enough to take a great picture of us!
Buena Vista Street is a great place to find characters (sadly for me, no Daisy Duck), and we took full advantage:
We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do after that. The Monsters, Inc. ride broke down while we were in line. A few of the other rides we were considering going on were closed, too. We did finally make it on Soarin’, which is a fantastic ride, and makes amazing use of scent, and that was a lot of fun. We also visited the Avengers Campus and the Shawarma Palace, and lived out our superhero dreams…we even got to pose as various characters!
By that time, it was starting to get late, so we headed back to Radiator Springs to see the neon and grab a snack at the Cozy Cone Motel, where you can get ice cream cones, chili “cone” queso, frozen cone-coctions, a popcone, and…churros. We picked the churros, partly just because the ridiculousness of trying to make churros fit a cone theme amused us!
And then we went back to the pier for the light show, which was really beautiful…it’s amazing what they can create with light and water!
We stayed pretty much until the park closed. The walk back to the hotel felt much longer than it had in the morning, and we were exhausted, but we still had a full day at Disneyland to look forward to!
Time for a look at my favorite first day of school tradition…the Schultüte! I enjoyed putting them together even more this year since I’ve been putting so much work into making our German/Austrian heritage a bigger part of our daily lives. I included all of the items you would expect…candies, school supplies, and a few fun things:
I wanted the fun items to reflect our vacation, so I added some Goofy blind bag pins, and some Lego Muppets minifigs:
This is always a fun beginning to the school year!
Our final day at Disney included visiting all four of the parks, starting with our first trip to Animal Kingdom:
Every Disney park has a central, iconic location…at Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life:
We headed straight for the Kilimanjaro Safaris upon our arrival.
We got to see a lot of animals in fairly realistic habitats.
After the safari, we walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (and saw an adorable baby gorilla!), and then walked around the park a bit:
We got to listen and talk to a talented musician who played the kora:
There was a cool kite show on the water:
We didn’t forget to take a family photo!
We only went on one other ride (we had talked about the Kali River Rapids, but at that point, I was just over being wet and wearing a plastic poncho, and the Expedition Everest roller coaster, which some of us thought about riding was closed)…the TriceraTop Spin, which I thought was fun.
We only spent a few hours at Animal Kingdom, because we had some other things we wanted to do. We drove over to EPCOT so we could hop on the monorail to visit a few of the resorts that had anniversary pressed pennies we wanted to add to our collection.
While we were riding the monorail, we passed by Donald Duck in his 50th anniversary finery:
Once park hopper hours began, we stopped by the Magic Kingdom to collect a few more pressed pennies…and see Eeyore, who waved his ears at me (I was really good at frantically waving at characters by this point!):
We then headed into EPCOT, where we finally found Goofy:
At this point, we split up so we could maximize our penny finding. Bunny and I headed off in one direction, and I’m pretty sure we had the best time, starting with the views on our route:
And then I finally met my favorite Disney character, Daisy Duck!!!
Bunny and I decided we would take the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios while everyone else drove. I feel bad that they missed out, because it was a really fun ride, and we even got to make a transfer at one of the hotels!
At Hollywood Studios, we found Donald and Daisy (again). I told you I had the waving thing figured out, because they definitely noticed me!
Since Bunny and I had a little extra time, we shared yet another Mickey-shaped treat:
And took a look at The Hollywood Tower Hotel. I had no interest in riding The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, but I did want to see it.
Once we regrouped, we got in what I think was our longest line of the trip, to ride Rise of the Resistance, which was really, really cool.
We also rode Star Tours twice, and Darth Vader showed up both times, which was very exciting. A few members of our family actually managed to ride all three Star Wars rides that day, which was quite an accomplishment given their popularity! Plus, those who were interested also managed to squeeze in a ride on the previously-mentioned Tower of Terror, and they had a great time, especially since they got to ride it as the sun was setting!
It was really had to leave, because we knew that even though we still had a few days of vacation left, our time at Disney was over.