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3-Days at Disneyland
Shortly before all of the Covid-19 craziness began, I took a February trip to Disneyland to celebrate my birthday. Follow along and enjoy the magic as my journey unfolds...
The Partners Statue
Those of you who follow me know that I make the trip from Minneapolis to Walt Disney World nearly twice each year. I don't make it out to Disneyland anywhere near as often. This trip that I took in February 2020 was my first time there since 2009. Visiting Disneyland is still a new and learning experience for me as I obviously do not know this park anywhere near as well as I know Walt Disney World. My main goal of this trip was two-fold: Get some amazing photos and ride Rise of the Resistance.
And of course, I also had to make sure that I enjoyed the magic that is all around at the Disney parks.
On this first day, I had to return my rental car in the morning, so I did not get into the park until 8:15 AM, which by that time was way too late to secure a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. So I wandered down Main Street, I soon found myself looking at the Disneyland version of the Partners Statue.
Adventureland and Beyond
As I wandered over to Adventureland, I spotted a Hidden Mickey that made me smile. While in New Orleans Square, I gazed upon the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyers Island and discovered that the Haunted Mansion was covered in a construction tarp. In Critter Country I laid my eyes on a honey bee elephant and rode The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Yes! My first ride on this trip to Disneyland was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It was great!
Then I made my way to...
The very first Star Wars movie came out when I was 9-years old. I saw the movie in the theater seven times. To this day, that is still a record for how many times I have seen a movie in the theater.
After all of these years, having the opportunity to see a full-sized Millennium Falcon is something that brings an abundance of child-like glee to this scruffy-looking nerf herder.
What a piece of junk!
There were many descriptions used to describe the Millennium Falcon in the Star Wars movies. Most of them were unflattering. My favorite though is from episode 7 when Han Solo said: "Chewy, we're home."
Mine Mine Mine
After lunch, I wanted to try something while still by the Finding Nemo Submarine Ride. I did use some photoshop skill in this one to shrink down the length of the monorail as I wanted a shot with both ends of the monorail and the famous seagulls from Finding Nemo.
An Afternoon Siesta
After a handful of good hours in the park, I made the 3/4-mile walk back to my hotel to rest up so I could enjoy a full evening at this magical place. Following my siesta, I made my way back to Disneyland to start my specialty: the evening photos! I started right where I had left off at Sleeping Beauty Castle.
These two are actually the same photo, I just cropped the bottom one closer. I used a series of 3 photos to properly capture all of the light and dark areas in this view. As I was creating this print, a castmember approached and asked what I was scanning for.
Dok Ondars Den of Antiquities
This is one of the most difficult photos that I have ever done. The different levels of lighting in this area is just crazy. But it was a scene that I just had to capture. I had walked by it a few times and each time my eyes just gravitated to it. There is just something about that statue that kept me invested in capturing the scene.
Honoring the Tie Fighter
As I had already been to Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World, and my photo of this Tie Fighter Eschelon was one of my favorites from that trip, I wanted to try something different with it when at Disneyland. The kids raising their lightsabers towards the Tie Fighter were being photographed by one of the Photopass photographers. I normally try to get my shots without people in them, but in this case, I thought it was fitting that they were included.
Big Thunder Mountain
On my way back to Sleeping Beauty Castle, I made sure to stop at Big Thunder Mountain to get some photos of this favorite ride. I tried capturing this scene while one of the trains raced past, but that didn't work out very well, so you get to see the one without the train in it. I loved seeing the waterfall in this scene.
Mickey's Mix Magic With Fireworks
I have an admission to make: I spend WAY too much time trying to plan and figure out where to photograph the nightly fireworks from when I am on vacation at a Disney park. It was no different on this particular trip. But as the time approached I still had not figured out where I wanted to go. I found myself grabbing dinner at a food cart in the hub by the castle. There was an area by their condiment station that I thought could work. And as luck would have it, just as I thought that, and castmember came over to clean and stock the condiment station. I asked about watching the fireworks from there and was told no. They close the area off. As she said that I noticed a spot right in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. So I walked over and I couldn't believe it. The spot was perfect. I was right in front of the castle, and right next to an area blocked off for V.I.P.'s. In the time that I stood there, I noticed something: The crowd at Disneyland is way more peaceful and trained in than the crowd at Disney World. Everyone in front sat. There was no pushing and shoving to get a spot. Tall people didn't step in at the last minute to block the view of short people. It was amazing. And so was the show.
See You Real soon
The show ended, and I patiently waited for the crowd to disperse. As it did I noticed one of the nearby benches had nearly emptied out. There was one older lady sitting on one side of the bench, I asked her if the other side of the bench was open and when she said yes, I took a seat as I wanted to scroll through the photos I had just taken to see what I captured. The older lady and I opened into a conversation that was absolutely magical. As a child, her parents took her to Disneyland the very first day that it opened up. She has had an annual pass for many years, but all of her friends that she went to the park with no longer go. They have either passed away or say they are too old to go. But she loves it and she keeps coming. She still goes on every ride in the park, and every evening she takes her seat on that bench we were talking on and waits for the fireworks. Most nights she gets there 3 hours early, but in the busy summer months, she will get there 6 hours early. It was truly wonderful listening to her stories about a place that was all started because of a mouse.
It's My Birthday.
The 2nd day of my Disneyland adventure was my birthday. I was up and out the door early in the morning so that I could get that coveted boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. I made it into the Magic Kingdom, grabbed some breakfast, and like everyone else there, waited almost impatiently for the clock to strike 8 am. I was in the Disneyland app right at 8 am, hit the boarding group button, and watched the app spin. Cheers started erupting around the park as people found out they had a boarding group. My app was still spinning. So I got out and went back in again. This time I was rewarded, with boarding group 117. They usually made it through 80-90 groups each day, so while I had a chance, it was a slim chance. But I was spending my birthday at Disney. A magical day was about to transpire.
Let there be Birthday Cake.
After getting the photos of the character statues, I went on a few rides and then took the monorail over to the Downtown Disney area. I enjoyed a lunch at Earl of Sandwich. I found this slice of heaven at Splitsville where even though this was all I ordered, they gave it to me for free. After enjoying this, I took another afternoon siesta so that I could enjoy another late evening at the park. When I made it back, I went to California Adventure in time for some dusk photos of Pixar Pier.
Mickey Fun Wheel
This is such a fun area to photograph and to enjoy the sites and sounds, and the food and rides. I grabbed a quick dinner, and the bottom photo was my view as I enjoyed the dinner. The last time that I was here was 2009, and I timed that visit to a time when the water was drained so I wasn't able to get any reflection photos then. It was nice to see them this visit. I did not stay for World of Color though, as I had a different idea in mind for that evening's entertainment. But first, I needed to get on some rides.
I loved this ride!
Guardians of the Galaxy
At Walt Disney World, the Tower of Terror is one of my absolute favorite rides. I know the change to the ride at Disneyland was very controversial to some. After having my own experience with it... I LOVED it. The theming is so much better than the Tower of Terror, in my opinion. I would be in favor of ToT getting an update at Disney World. It doesn't have to be Guardians. Maybe it's Star Wars themed, maybe it's a Realm of Monsters. I'm all in on an update.
Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run Fireworks
This one is my favorite from this set of fireworks photos. Did you notice the Hidden Mickey in one of the fireworks up above?
When this show finished, I slowly made my way back down Main Street USA, enjoying the sights and sounds and grabbing a snack or two. I then walked back to my hotel so that I could rest up for one more shot at getting on Rise of the Resistance.
Early morning standing in a line
I was up bright and early again to get in line so that I can get into the Magic Kingdom in time to try one last time for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. When that magic 8 AM struck, I joined all of the others and immediately opened my Disneyland app. Hit the Rise of the Resistance button, and then hit the Get a Boarding Group button.
And nothing happened.
The button was disabled in my app for some reason. I closed the app and tried again. And again. And again. All the while hearing cheers erupting around the park from those who received a boarding group. There was a family next to me with the two parents and 3 young daughters. They were all excited and one of the daughters asked if I had a boarding group. When I said that I wasn't able to get one, they invited me to join their group. Their youngest wasn't going to ride it, so they had an opening. How magical is that? We were complete strangers and they invited me to join them on the ride. We talked, exchanged numbers, and planned to meet up when it was our time to ride. I finally had a boarding group thanks to a family that was completely unknown to me 5 minutes earlier. Now that is some Disney magic.
With a little extra pixie dust in my step, I made my way over to California Adventure. I had breakfast and grabbed some photos of the Mickey Fun Wheel
Rise of the Resistance
I enjoyed lunch at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, followed by dessert at Ghirardelli, and then made my way back over to the Magic Kingdom. Our boarding group was called at around 3:30 PM. I met up with the family and we made our way to the entrance area. Which is where we promptly found out the ride was temporarily shut down. The family went on some other rides, and I browsed around Galaxy's Edge. We met back up at 4:30 and again were told it was still temporarily down. I went and had dinner at Ronto Roasters, and when I returned I saw a line was forming for opening the ride again. So I took a spot in line and held a spot for the family. We finally made it through the entrance and into the facility at around 6 PM. And the ride broke down again. We were slowly moving further inside as people were leaving, but it was a lot of waiting. It was great getting to know the family and others who were in line around us. The unfortunate thing is it was now 8 PM. It was my last night at Disneyland and I had now spent over 4 hours in a line that wasn't moving for a ride that was still broken down. I made the decision to exit the line and go out and enjoy my last evening of Disney magic. I later found out that the family made it onto the ride around 9:30 PM and they enjoyed it very much.
Batuu at Night
I made sure to grab a couple of photos of Batuu at night. This building is where you make your droids.
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Night
For some reason that I never did figure out, the battery in my camera wasted away while I was in line for Rise of the Resistance. It was down to just 16% power as I was taking these next bunch of photos of Sleeping Beauty Castle. I was starting to wonder if I would have enough power to capture photos of the fireworks and late-night pictures on Mainstreet.
The End of My Battery
As I took those above photos of Sleeping Beauty Castle, I noticed my battery was now down below 10%. It had never drained this rapidly before so I really had to conserve what little power I had left. I had dinner at Pizza Planet and then moved to the Tomorrowland entrance area to quickly get two photos of Astro Orbitor. One photo with it spinning, capturing its motion, and one with it motionless. My battery was now down to 6%. I made my way to where I planned to watch and photograph that evening's fireworks hoping that I could capture a few fireworks photos.
The spot I had picked out was up on the Tomorrowland Monorail platform, where I could have the Matterhorn and the Submarines in the photos with the fireworks. By the time I set up, the battery was down to 3%. Mickey's Mix Music with Fireworks show started, I saw the searchlights, I heard the music.... and there were no fireworks. At all. Because of the rain, something happened and they couldn't shoot off the fireworks. The battery in my camera died. That was all she wrote for my photographic portion of my journey. So I finished off my night going on Space Mountain and taking a very slow stroll down Main Street, where I absolutely enjoyed some ice cream.
The End of the journey
Even though I spent 4+ hours not getting on Rise of the Resistance, had a fireworks show without fireworks, and a camera battery that ended its vacation well before the vacation ended, it was still a magical evening and end of a week-long California adventure. I hope you enjoyed the adventure, and if you would like to continue, you can use the images below to visit my website's home page, or see my entire Disneyland Gallery, or see my Disney World gallery.