Back in February, Tam and her friend Shantel ran in the Disney Princess half-marathon. In what can only be viewed as scientific proof of the "runners' high" phenomenon, they were brave enough to sign up for a second 13.1 miles with The Mouse. But this time they would run at Disneyland, out west in Anaheim. It started out as Tam and Shantel flying in the day before, running, then flying back home the day after.
But then I asked "how far is San Francisco from Anaheim?" So a three-day quick trip for Tam turned into the Johnson Family Big Vacation for 2011. It became an epic journey that spanned three cities and ten days. It also marked the first big trip that we have taken without bringing along a nanny.
"No problem," we said.
"Ava is big enough now that she's easier to handle," we thought.
"We have her outnumbered," we reasoned.
We will be accepting applications for a travel nanny before our next big trip.
We arrived in Anaheim without any problems - Ava behaved very well on the flights, and even caught a nap to help adjust to the time difference. We checked into the hotel, which ended up looking much better online than in person. The lobby looked great, but the room was a little run down. (non-functioning light fixtures, toilet plumbing "fixed" with a wood screw, etc.) But the location was great - it was less than a 10-minute walk to the entrance to the parks. The Grand Californian Hotel was much nicer, but would have cost about four times as much, so we made do.
The race was Sunday, so we had a full day to enjoy Disneyland beforehand. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel restaurant, which was surprisingly good, and then Ava decided that she wanted a nap before the park. She slept two hours in what would prove to be THE ONLY NAP she took the entire vacation.
We hit the park in the early afternoon, and couldn't help comparing it to Disneyworld, which we are much more familiar with. Disneyland may be the original, but it is much smaller. Maybe 1/5 the size, but with nearly as much crammed into the space. There were some familiar rides (Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion)but there were also some unique to California. Ava was thrilled to be there, grinning and squealing "Mickey! Mickey!"
She had her autograph book in tow, and was ready to visit with some of her friends. Over our three days in the park, she met Chip & Dale (she did not trust them to give back her book), Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, Alice & The Mad Hatter, Pluto, Pooh, Eeyore, Ariel, and her favorite princess of them all - Belle.
After the big race Sunday morning, we headed to California Adventure. While Michael rode California Screamin', Tam and Ava strolled around taking in the sights and sounds. Ava really, really wanted to ride the BIG Mickey ferris wheel, but Tam wasn't so sure. Tam is not a huge fan of heights and that wheel was huge! But in the end, the ride was conquered by us all.
Then we were off to "Ariel's Undersea Adventure"- much more Tam's speed. Ava loved all of the fish but like most of the rides there, it was really, really loud. Tam made the mistake of showing Ava a stuffed Flounder as we exited the ride. We thought for sure we would be heading home with a stuffed fish in tow but eventually Ava gave up the fish in exchange for a red, Swedish one.
Ava had lots of fun in "A Bug's Land"! She rode Flik's Flyers and Heimlich's Chew Chew Train. She seems to prefer the rides that fly through the air- much like her Daddy!
After a few more rides and a fruit smoothie we headed back to Disneyland. Ava wanted to ride the train and play in Toon Town...again. We ended the day a little early because we were all exhausted. We also wanted to stop at the Disney shops and get Ava a special toy for being so awesome! We strolled through several shops before focusing on a Beauty and the Beast playset. Once Ava saw it, she wanted nothing else. She and Michael played "Belle" and "Beast" while we waited for dinner.
Our last day with the Mouse was a bit slower. It was nice taking in the parks over several days and not feeling so rushed to see everything. This was the day Ava would meet her princesses! After waiting in line for what I am sure seemed like FOREVER to Ava but was actually closer to 30 minutes, it was our turn to meet royalty. First up was Ariel. Ava has never really watched The Little Mermaid in its entirety. She has seen parts of it while visitng a friend. Belle has always been her favorite princess as she has seen Beauty and the Beast enough times to quote it- literally. To our surprise, Ava ran to Ariel and jumped in her lap. After hugging her and kissing her she began chatting away with her like they were long, lost friends!
Belle did not receive quite the same reaction. Ava was shy and hesitant with her. Which as most of you know, is very unlike Ava. But after a few moments she warmed up and gave Belle a hug good-bye.
We wrapped up our final night in Anaheim with dinner at The Rainforest Cafe and watching fireworks by our hotel pool. We will miss you Mickey...until February!