Thursday, October 23, 2008

Disneyland Touring Plan - Part II - One Day With Small Kids

First, please see last Friday’s post for “The Basic, Basics,” and follow those religiously. Now proceed to the list below.

1. Proceed Directly To Fantasyland. If you have young children who MUST see Dumbo, Peter Pan, Mr. Toad, Alice In Wonderland and King Arthur’s Carousel, then you, my friend, will make Fantasyland your first destination of the day. So go to Fantasyland (you should arrive around 8:05-ish if you march there from Main Street immediately after “rope drop”).

2. Ride Peter Pan. There should be no line or a very short one. If the theme park gods are against you and there is a line that fills most of the bullpen (Disney speak for the “queue”), you may want to forget Peter Pan for now. It is pretty unlikely that the line will be long enough, though, to justify bailing on old Peter, so ride it with your little one(s) and enjoy.

3. Ride Dumbo. Exit Peter Pan and move promptly to your right (it will probably be around 8:15 a.m.). Go directly to Dumbo (leave your stroller---if you have one---wherever you left it when you got on Peter Pan; don’t worry, we’ll be circling back to pick it up later). Get in line---it should still be short. Get on and enjoy! It should be around 8:20-8:25 a.m. when you get off. If your little one loved it, jump in line again, otherwise, move onward!

4. Ride Alice In Wonderland or Mr. Toad or King Arthur’s Carousel. I know that some of you may have youngsters that are afraid of Alice or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. For you folks it is best to jump on the Carousel and be done with this area of Fantasyland (because a kid that can’t take Alice or Mr. Toad will have no chance against Snow White’s Scary Adventures or Pinocchio---trust me on this one. So, your trip to Fantasyland is pretty much over for the time being---unless you want to hit Storybookland or Casey Jr. Circus Train---see next section). It should be around 8:30 - 8:35-ish when you are finished riding one of these attractions.

5. Ride Casey Jr. Circus Train or Storybookland Canal Boats. Again—do this if your child is not too keen on scary skeletons in Snow White, going to hell with Mr. Toad or the somewhat surreal “dark ride” aspects of Alice in Wonderland. Casey Jr. is pretty harmless for any child. If your kid is afraid of this attraction, go back to Peter Pan, grab your stroller, get your stuff together and…HEAD HOME! There is not much left for your child to enjoy, as all other attractions are going to be way too intense!

Go back to Peter Pan and pick up your stroller (if you haven't already) and head toward Storybookland and It's A Small World.

Or if your kid(s) are of a temperment to tackle Snow White and Pinocchio and Mr. Toad---well then hit these attractions up NOW before heading eastward toward Storybook and Small World.

Now, as for Storybookland, a lot of smaller kids are afraid to ride this one because they don’t want to be eaten by Monstro the whale. This makes some sense. Kids see people going into his mouth in little canal boats, but they don’t see anyone coming back out. Fear of Storybookland is not uncommon. I wouldn’t force the issue, but that’s up to you. The reason we recommend going on Casey Jr. and/or Storybookland at this juncture is because their line cycle times are syrup-like slow. Ride them NOW before a big line forms (and before it gets hot outside). By the time you are at this point in the tour, it should be around 8:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

6. Ride It’s A Small World. This, too, is not a must at this stage (since the line cycles well throughout the day), but since you are over here in Fantasyland and you’ve seen most everything else, why not jump aboard this attraction? Kids dig it---always have. Especially the younger ones. It should be around 9:00 – 9:15 a.m. when you are through riding this one. Look at all you’ve accomplished!! You have conquered Fantasyland and we’re only about an hour into our day! Give yourselves a pat on the back and KEEP MOVING! No plush toys, Mabel, and put that #@%*! Camera down…we’re off to the next part of our tour.

7. Ride the Autopia. Stroll from Small World toward the Matterhorn, past Finding Nemo and into the line for the Autopia. This line should still be quite manageable. Believe me, later in the day this line is a killer! Think how long it takes to get two or three adults and kids into and out of a single Autopia car. Now multiply that by everyone ahead of you in line. Ugly. My feet hurt just thinking about it. Worse yet, try tackling this attraction when it is noon or later. You’ve now added about 90 degrees to the equation, so you get to stand AND roast with your cute little traveling companion(s). By the time they get into a car---assuming they have not completely lost control of their emotions up to that point, they will be but a shell of their former selves and certainly no fun to ride around with. For that matter, you won’t be much fun either. If you’ve followed the plan, you will be getting off the Autopia some time around 9:30 a.m. At this point---unless you are Miley Cyrus and daddy rented out the Park for your birthday---you will notice that thousands of people have showed up to join you for your day at Disneyland. I am afraid they are here to stay and, in fact, more of them will be arriving shortly.

9. Ride The Disneyland Railroad. From the Autopia exit, head back toward the old America Sings/Carousel of Progress building (now home to Innoventions---quite possibly the largest waste of space since the appropriately named Festival of Fools made its debut, but that’s another story). Hang a left and get on the Disneyland Railroad (CAUTION: if you have a youngster that does not enjoy dark rides, FORGET about riding the train from the Tomorrowland station; from there you enter the Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World, where you go into a dark tunnel past noisy scenes of animals and---later---enormous dinosaurs. If your kid couldn’t hang with Alice or Snow White, chances are good they’re going to lose it when they go in here! If you fall into this category, ix-nay on the ain-tray for now---you should probably just start walking across the Park toward Critter Country and the Winnie The Pooh attraction). For those with more adventuresome youngsters, hop on the train, sit down and enjoy the leisurely click, clack ride from Tomorrowland, past Main Street Station (stay ON the train here!) to your final destination, Frontierland station (which some people refer to as New Orleans Square station). GET OFF THE TRAIN HERE! It should now be around 9:45-10:00 a.m.

10. Walk From The Frontierland Station To Critter Country and Ride The Winnie The Pooh Attraction. I still haven’t forgiven them for taking out the Country Bear Jamboree, but I have to accept that Winnie The Pooh has taken over. It is one of those rides that works for smaller kids. Again, some may be afraid because it is a “dark ride,” but most of the scenes are bright, happy and hardly scary. The Heffalumps scene may get a bit psychedelic, but most kids do just fine. Come on, this is Winnie The Pooh, after all. When you get off this attraction, it is probably going to be somewhere close to 10:30 to 10:45 a.m.

11. Now What? What do you want to do now? Rest? Go ahead---though your kid probably has a stroller and shouldn’t be too tired. Of course, with all the attractions you’ve just seen, there may be a bit of sensory overload kicking in. You can recognize this by some or all of the following symptoms:

  • your child is wailing unceasingly and has just vomited;
  • your child is wailing unceasingly and you have just vomited;
  • your child is not wailing, but is sitting scarily still in the stroller with a vacant look in his or her hollow eyes and is unable to formulate speech---i.e., not quite catatonic;
  • your child is wailing unceasingly AND has managed to climb on top of Tigger, who is standing in the character area trying to get photographed with everyone else’s much more well-behaved children;
  • your child has climbed from the stroller and is determinedly marching toward Main Street and the Main Exit gate;
  • your child is muttering things to him/herself that are not quite comprehensible, but disturbing nonetheless;
  • your child is wildly hurling all objects within reach at the child in the stroller next to yours;
  • your child has suddenly started to look almost exactly like Marty Feldman [of Young Frankenstein fame----“What hump?”]; or
  • your child is offering to share their Ritalin with you and is strongly suggesting a “double dose” for each of you.

I say you might want to grab an early lunch, even if your child has not exhibited any of the foregoing symptoms.

12. What’s Left? Well, by now, Toontown has opened. It is completely devoid of shade and should be avoided from 11:00 a.m. until dusk, but you won’t listen to me and you’re going to go there anyway, so go ahead. Check out Mickey and Minnie’s houses (along with all those other people and children who have now flooded into the Park). Maybe wait for Gadget’s coaster (quick, before it finishes falling apart completely!---this attraction, indeed this entire Land, demonstrates “Eisner-ization” and “Pressler-ization” at their finest; here age can marvel at the fading and peeling paint, while youth may savor the challenge and promise of a dirty-looking fishbowl and dripping grease from the coaster’s chain drive). If you want to take a crack at Roger Rabbit’s Car-Toon Spin, get in line or grab a Fast-Pass. This is not an attraction that the very young will find enjoyable. Again, if they couldn't handle Snow White, Alice or Mr. Toad, then Roger Rabbit is not going to foot the bill either.

13. If You Wisely Choose to Avoid Toontown, You May Instead Elect To Jump Aboard the Rafts To Tom Sawyer’s Island---After You’ve Had A Little Lunch Or A Snack (I Suggest Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante, hosted by La Victoria), Of Course. Eat at 11:00 a.m. Go to the Rancho del Zocalo if you are still on the West Side of the Park (and you should be if you just got off of Winnie The Pooh). After you eat, it should now be approaching high noon. Most of the crowd will be sheepishly herding toward lunch while you and your youngster(s) are stepping onto a raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island. The Island has shade and lots of places to let the young ones run around and explore. This will help burn out some of the after-effects of the “sensory overload” illness we discussed earlier. You might even find yourself a bench to sit down upon while your kiddo(s) scamper nearby. Don’t miss the Treehouse and, of course, the barrel bridge and suspension bridge. You’ll be here for anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour (or more if your kids really enjoy running free). At the end of your stay here, your child might even nod off in their stroller in the shade. This would be a good thing. However, if your kids are like mine (were), they REFUSE to sleep in a stroller, so a nap is probably out of the question. I am hoping, for your sake, that YOUR kid likes to nap.

14. Enjoy The Air Conditioned Splendor of the Tiki Room. After you get back from the Island, head over to Adventureland and the Enchanted Tiki Room. Grab a Dole whip in the lanai area while you are waiting. You can take it into the show with you. The show is air conditioned and has one scary lightning sequence at the end. Don’t tell your kid. Tell them they are going to see singing birdies. They will love the show. You will love the air conditioning. Then the lightning and thunder effect will occur. Your youngster will freak. That’s o.k., the show is over, so you can head out the exit. They will get over it. At least everyone got to enjoy a nice show up to that point and, most importantly, an air conditioned respite. It should be between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. when you get out.

15. Ride the Jungle Cruise. I know, it’s mid-day (1:30 p.m.-ish), but go ahead and jump in line for the Jungle Cruise. The line moves quickly, even if it appears really long. Young children like animals. There are animals. They will enjoy this attraction (the kids, that is, not the animals).

16. Do Some Shopping, Find Some Cool Places To Hang Out, Grab a Snack or Take In Tarzan’s Treehouse. If you just read this heading, you know what to do. It is the hottest part of the day. You’ve been up since the crack of dawn. Your kid is a mess. Go sit down someplace quiet and cool. Try New Orleans Square or the Hungry Bear restaurant in Critter Country (sit on its shady deck by the Rivers of America and let your child watch the ducks swim by) or go to the Plaza Inn on Main Street and grab a drink or a dessert item and sit in the air-conditioned seating area. Again, maybe your child will nap. Not mine, of course, but maybe YOURS will. Relax. Sit. Drink some water. Cool off. Mellow out. Look what you’ve been able to see so far!! Look into your child’s face. Watch their eyes taking everything in. You might find yourself overcome by the urge to hug or kiss them. I understand from the manual that this is completely acceptable, so do it! Remember, you are at the Magic Kingdom to touch the child in each of you! Now is a good time to enjoy that feeling. If your child is losing his or her mind, despite your efforts, well…that goes with the territory, too, I’m afraid. No one said parenthood is a walk in the Park.

17. Ride The Main Street Horse-Drawn Trolley (or other Main Street vehicles) Or Take In A Parade. After relaxing for a while, head out onto Main Street and grab a ride on the trolley, or the fire engine or the Omnibus, if they are still running (most days there is an afternoon parade, so the Main Street vehicles might not be running). If the vehicles aren’t around and you see ropes have been set up for a parade, grab a seat and enjoy the parade with your child. It should be around 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. now. After you’ve watched the parade, it should definitely be around 3:30 p.m-ish.

18. Now It’s Up To You. I won’t detail every remaining step at this point. You can decide from here what you would like to see with your youngster---or see again. Head back to Fantasyland. Look at the line for Peter Pan and smile smuggishly at those poor folks (and screaming children) sullenly trapped in the hot queue. Remember you WALKED onto that one earlier today? If your child wants to ride something, suggest the Carousel. Do NOT let them make eye contact with Dumbo. Its line is insufferable at this point. If they act like they want to ride Dumbo again, fake an illness, create a distraction, throw a blindfold over their small eyes, do ANYTHING to get their mind off of it. You do not want to get into that line, trust me. But the Park is now your oyster. Take your kid over to the Thunder Ranch area and see if the petting zoo is happening. Ride Small World again---if the line isn’t too long or hot. Look for characters to photograph---go over by Carnation Plaza Gardens or on Main Street near the Mad Hatter---you’ll probably run into a character or two. Ride the train again. Step aboard the Mark Twain. Go shopping. Head home. Whatever. Again, you now have the luxury of picking and choosing where you go. You might even want to try Nemo (though the line will take you 2 hours to get through and it is pretty scary for small ones), though I wouldn’t recommend it.

I hope this little plan might prove helpful to a few of you with younger children. We will introduce a plan for adults and “older kids” in a later post. Notice how I've left out Pirates, Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion, all of the "mountains," and even Buzz Lightyear? Most really small ones don't get a big kick out of these attractions, so I've steered you clear of them. If they can handle them, then you can add them to your trip plan at the end. Most of them won't meet the height requirements for the coasters, so I think you'll find that the plan works pretty well in any event.

Best wishes for many safe and happy trips to the “Happiest Place on Earth!”