Disney, You’ve Captured Our Hearts

Ahhhhh, we are now home from the most magical place on Earth with the BEST memories, emptier wallets and a few more pounds!

After experiencing Disneyland with our kiddos I have SOOOO many tips and tricks to share with you all! Tips to save you time, tips to get you the best seating, tips to save you money, tips on where to stay, tips to help ensure no meltdowns and so much more!

But, because those tips, along with our Disney experience, are going to be quite lengthy, I decided to break this post up into two, so today is just all about our trip! And my friends… get comfy. Because it’s pretty much a novel. I’m not kidding… (Link to the post with the tips at the bottom!)


One of the BEST things about being a blogger is being able to look back over the years and revisit old posts, and this is definitely one I know I will cherish forever… so here it goes!

This trip really began months ago with the planning phase, but that will all be saved for the next post. So I will just start with their cute little travel outfits. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on clothes for our trip, but I did want to get into the spirit, so when I found these shirts and sweaters (super discounted) I was pretty excited!


We didn’t tell the kids we were going to Disneyland until THE MORNING we departed. This was not only challenging to do due to keeping everything hidden from them but I also just wanted to shout it from the rooftop,  “We are going to Disneyland!!”

I contained myself, though, and I just LOVED my daughter’s reaction at 4:45 am when we woke the kids up to tell them where we were going. I knew our daughter was aware of what Disneyland is but was pretty certain our son had no idea, and his video reflects that. HA!

Once he realized we were going on an airplane to see characters, Cal was ALL IN, and it was super fun to see their excitement brewing.



Somehow, my husband took a middle seat in-between these two and I was left with a relaxing flight in a row all to myself! AND, being Mother’s Day, Southwest apparently gives all mamas FREE alcoholic beverages! So I may have enjoyed a Bloody Mary, or two, during this flight.



When we landed, though, we discovered the airline had lost our car seats, which was a bummer. (They were delivered to our hotel later that day.)


So, I deemed this the perfect time to let the kids choose their pins for “pin trading” at Disneyland. If you aren’t familiar, most of the stores in Disneyland have these little boards full of pins that you can trade any of your pins for. There are also cast members (people who work at Disney) wearing lanyards full of pins that you can also trade. So, I bought 25 of these pins off of Ebay for $11 and my kiddos traded throughout the parks for ones they love! Such great little keepsakes!



Finally, the airline gave us these loaner car seats and off we went to our hotel. It didn’t take long for this guy to take a little snooze due to being up so early.


I will write more about this later, but after extensive research on hotels near Disneyland, we ended up at the Best Western Inn and Mini Suites, which was literally directly across the street from the entrance of Disneyland and it was SO NICE to be so close! That blue arch is the main walkway into Disney, just to show you how close we were and I took this picture right outside our room. The walk from this hotel is equally distant to the ticket counters from the hotels on-site, for a FRACTION of the price. And while so many others were getting on buses or hailing cabs at 10 pm to go back to their hotel, we were already back. The location is big in my book! Plus, it included a big, hot breakfast in the morning. BIG BONUS.


Once we got to our room and settled in, we went to Downtown Disney, which is an area of Disneyland that does not require a ticket to go to. There are shops and restaurants and of course, plenty of goodies as well.


A tip I will address more on in the next post; BRING A STROLLER! SUCH a huge help!


And this is when our babes experienced their first Disney churro. Have you ever had one of these?! SO dang good!


A big attraction of Downtown Disney is the Lego store with some truly impressive lego creations. Cal was absolutely smitten with this place and it has various lego tables set up outside to let those little imaginations soar.




That night, we had reservations at Goofy’s Kitchen, which I highly recommend you try! The restaurant is located in one of the Disney hotels, so you do not need a ticket to go to it, and it was the perfect way for us to get excited for our first day inside the parks the next day. It is pricey, but we saw six characters (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale) during this time who came right up to our table, interacted with the kids and gave autographs and pictures… no lines!


The next morning was our first day in Disneyland and we arrived 30 minutes before the park opened in our “Let’s Do This!” shirts made by my friend, Nicci. Feeling the spirit, my friends!


We started off the morning with the Jungle Cruise, seeing Moana, Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion (which Cal was not a fan of) Pirates of the Caribbean, went on Peter Pan (which had a 70 minute wait, but not for us!) Autopia, Buzz Astro Blasters, Alice in Wonderland, and she signed Cal and Gwyn up for Jedi Training.



Oh, Sweet Cal! I love you, Bud!



We took our lunch break at the Plaza Inn where we enjoyed the BEST dang fried chicken. I had read it was a “must” try, and it sure lived up! Cal had a sore throat for the first couple of days in the park, but the park will give you free Children’s Tylenol or Motrin at the first aid stations. So helpful!

IMG_6333After lunch, we headed on over to California Adventure where we did the Cars ride, (twice!) Soaring, the Toy Story ride and jumped right in to see Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf followed by doing Cars and Soaring once again.


More on these awesome kids sunglasses later!


We then went back over to Disneyland where the kids did the Jedi Training. Gwyn and Cal were only exposed to Star Wars about a week before this, so I wasn’t sure it would all really click, but they had SO much fun doing this and said it was one of their absolute favorite things they did! There are a very limited amount of spots in the shows to do this, so sign up early!



We had a light dinner of some of the food I had packed and corn dogs, and I must say, Disney’s corn dogs are a must! I’m not really a corn dog kind of girl, but these babies were delicious!

IMG_6335We learned on this trip that Cal was not a huge fan of super fast or scary rides, so while Gwyn was taken on a ride like Splash Mountain or California Screamin’, the other adult took him to see some characters or do some pin trading, and the boy was a super happy camper. Plus, Gwyn totally scored because by using Switch Passes, we were both able to go on a ride with her without having to wait. (More on that later!)

Calvin’s absolute favorite thing of the whole trip was seeing characters and getting their autographs and he wanted to wait in ANY line to see them! And my goodness, seeing him run up to them with open arms just about made my magic-loving mama heart explode! I will spare showing you all 1,000 photos of my children with all of the characters, but they do exist because this mama just can’t resist!



I mean, he even wanted to wait to see “The Queen” which I am not even sure which movie she is from. Snow White?


One thing I truly appreciated about the characters of Disneyland is that they stayed in character the whole time. The Mad Hatter kept calling Gwyn “Jessica” on purpose which had her giggling up a storm.


The next morning we had our Magic Morning (buy at least 3 days in the park, you get Magic Morning, which means you enter an hour before most). We went and did our favorite rides again before taking a break to enjoy some lunch and treats, including this Matterhorn Macaroon- it is SO good!



That day we saw the Mickey Parade and my goodness, I am not sure I have ever seen Cal so excited. Both kids really enjoyed it, but HE was just a waving fool and SO excited to see who came down next. I’ve got some GREAT tips on how to enjoy the parades, so stay tuned!





That night we had dinner at the Blue Bayou, (make reservations!) which is one of Disney’s nicest restaurants and is located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I remember eating here with my family as a child so it was very special for me to take my family here. Plus, by ordering off a certain menu, we were given priority seating to the Main Street Electrical Parade. (More on that later, too.) The steak and salmon were phenomenal!

And as expected, the parade was so dang magical!



The next day we started off in California Adventure, which was my husband’s favorite. It’s got a more outdoorsy feel (and serve’s booze!)  and we learned something crazy about our daughter while over there. She is an absolute thrill-seeker! She asked her daddy to go on California Screamin’ with her, which is an incredibly fast roller coaster that even loops upside down. Not a roller-coaster fan, he finally agreed and she had the time of her life. She deemed it her second favorite ride in all of Disneyland, with Splash Mountain being first since you get wet on that ride. She also convinced me to go on it with her as well, and the whole time she was yelling,  “Aren’t you having fun?!” in which I tried replying with “Oh, tons!”



Gwyn was truly disappointed if she didn’t get soaked on a water ride and begged to be in the front of every Splash Mountain ride.



This is the day Gwyn also did the Bippidy Boppidy Boutique. And oh man, was it worth every penny. (More later.) She felt SO special being dolled up and I seriously welled with tears when they showed her the big reveal. HA! Sucked DEEP into the Disney magic!



Afterward, she saw some of the main princesses like Aurora, Ariel, Jasmine and Snow White and I truly think she felt like she was just like one of them.


My husband was outside the castle with a sleeping little boy in the stroller and when he saw her you could tell she just felt like royalty.


We then had dinner at the New Orleans Cafe and REALY enjoyed the Monte Cristo Sandwich. I had read it was a must, and it sure was! Two people can easily share this.



We also tried a Dole Whip, which was raved about by everyone, but sadly it just wasn’t our favorite! It’s a pineapple infused ice cream treat, and super refreshing! But, not for us.


That night we watched the World of Color show over in California Adventure (lots of tips on this one for you) and this IS A MUST SEE! This was one of Cal’s favorite events and it truly is a show stopper.



So, this should have been the conclusion to our Disney trip. We had spent our three days happily in the parks, we finished our last show, we took the kids to purchase their souvenir and were walking out the gate when my husband asked me, “What do you think about one more day?!”

I couldn’t have been more floored.

I had already mentally told myself the Disney portion of our trip was over and that we could finally sleep in the next morning, so I asked him several times, “Are you sure?!”

And before I knew it, he was at the ticket counter purchasing another day in Disney. THE MAN WAS FEELING THE MAGIC! And, since it was only $75 for our whole family to enjoy another day, it seemed like a no-brainer to him.

Side note- My husband was not a huge Disney fan prior to this trip. The excitement my husband felt leading up to this trip was minuscule in comparison to what I felt, so to see his views completely switch was just so absolutely heart-warming!


So, here is day FOUR of Disney!

We started off the day in California enjoying our favorite rides and then decided to see a show in the afternoon to cool off. This was the hottest day in the park, and since the Frozen show was indoors we deemed it a good fit.

My friend, Stacey, had recommended this show to me, but it wasn’t really on my priority list since I kind-of felt “Frozend out” over the last few years, but man, I could not have been more wrong!

YOU GUYS! This show is incredible! The actors, the visual effects, the whole dang this is worth a day’s ticket into the park itself. Plus, I was given some tips on how to get the best seating, and it worked! We were in the 4th row, center stage and it was perfection.


We then caught the Pixar Parade in California Adventure, which again, the kids just loved, and then once again made sure to get amazing viewing for the World of Color show. It was SO good that we just had to see it twice! Tips on where to view this show, coming soon.

Sweet Boy fell asleep about once a day and it was SO nice to have somewhere for him to rest. I repeat, bring those strollers! :)


And then, day five our trip was spent at Huntington Beach, which was the perfect, most relaxing way we could have ended our trip.





We rented one of these four-person bikes and all really enjoyed it.




Funny little story about these sand dollars. Gwyn and I spent some time looking for and gathering seashells in hopes of finding a sand dollar. Well, we didn’t find any, but I did find these two beauties in one of the gift shops on the pier for $4 each. My plan was that I would quickly set these down on the beach and each kid would happily find one. Cute idea, right?! Well, that worked for Gwyn and she was elated. Cal, on the other hand, was digging in the wet sand and my husband quickly buried it right where he was digging for him to find, but when he did find it, he treated it like a rock that got in his way and tossed it aside and kept on digging. HA!


Gwyn quickly swooped it up and was pretty dang happy. Not soon after, though, she ended up crushing one of them and my first thought was, “You just crumbled $4!” Realizing how fragile they were, she then hand-carried the remaining sand dollar the entire way home, wrapped in a paper towel. Doing this resulted in forgetting it on the plane when we de-boarded at midnight in our hometown airport and once she realized it she was hysterical. So there we were, at midnight, running back to the plane in hopes it was where she left it. We weren’t allowed back on the plane, so the steward went back to look for it. Then another went in to look. And finally, a fellow mom stewardess went in, knew right where to look and came out victorious. And we had one happy girl again.

That taught me to never buy my kids such fragile memories EVER AGAIN!

And that is how we concluded one of the best family trips we have ever been on. Actually, just one of the best trips, ever.

Disney, you’ve captured our hearts!


Whew! You did it! You’ve made it to the end of my Disney Novel. How are you doing? Did you take a snack break?

Thank you to all who gave me advice and tips leading up to our trip, they were all put to good use! And tune in next week for my second post giving you ALL of the tips and tricks that made our trip so successful.

(The 50+ Best Tips That Made Our Disney Trip Unforgettable)


  1. I love the pin trading idea! Also, the four person bike looks like a perfect ride. Bookmarking as a reminder.

  2. Perfect memories mama! We went as a family last year and it was so magical, memories for a lifetime. I like the idea of a guide how genius and so happy they brought back the Electrical Light Parade too!

    xo, Nicole

    • I remember the Electrical Light Parade as a kid, so it was so fun to see the same floats I remembered! I love that you have those memories, too!

  3. This looks like a wonderful trip! Thanks for the tip about the close hotel AND your guide. I never knew that position existed, and she seemed to be worth her weight in gold, lol. I’m going to remember it!

  4. Looks like a fun time was had by all.

  5. Woah, that’s awesome you had a great time. I’ve been to Disney World but not Land. I really want to go back to Disney World though. That’s cute you didn’t tell the kids you were going until the morning of. Sorry about the car seats but that’s good they had loaner ones, and you got yours back that night!

    Looks like a lot of fun.

  6. Disney is so fun! Y’all look like you had a great time, glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Wow you did your work and research for this trip! Thanks for all the details. So Serena that you hired, she is from Disney? I wonder how you are able to skip all the lines other wise, or was it because of the switch passes?

  8. My husband had never been to Disneyland. So for his 59th birthday, I surprised him. He acted just like your kids did in the video. LOL! Always a kid at heart. :)

    • Isn’t it funny how it just brings out the kid in everybody? My daughter and I were skipping around having so much fun!

  9. I absolutely cannot handle the cuteness of this post!! I love their reaction videos and all the fun captures you shared! SO much fun and love!!

  10. looks like you all had such a fun trip! thanks for the helpful tips ! =)

  11. Wow, it all just looks so amazing!! How awesome that you were able to skip lines. I love that video of your little guy trying to wake up… I’m glad he realised where you were going in the end!

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