“Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.” – Walt Disney
I am not quite sure where to start other than to more than highly recommend taking this trip with your family, as soon as possible. We have been home now 18 days and our family has talked, at length, about this trip every single day.
Hollywood was a great place to start this trip- the hotel was ideal as far as location was concerned. There were so many activities we weren’t expecting (yes, I am that traveler who over researches and yes, I read every review and trip report I could about this trip) and seeing the iconic Hollywood sign from our rooms every day was just the cherry on our Ghirardelli sundae. Getting to see Jim Henson Studios was just so incredible. I had to keep my happiness in check as my 1980’s childhood was swirling around in my head screaming to let loose. Tam O’Shanter was our biggest surprise- none of us expected to enjoy the experience as much as we did (including our 9 year old and especially our teenage daughters), both the food and the history of the restaurant were outstanding. Getting to see Walt’s trains and ride the carousel in Griffith Park were such a treat.
Walt Disney Studios felt like I was walking into a history book, quite literally. I have read and watched so many Disney documentaries- it was truly surreal. The illustrator in me (way back in High School I had wanted to study art and illustrate children’s books, but went to Pratt Institute for a Summer semester and changed my mind after taking a required fine arts drawing class) was giddy walking through the Animation Building and taking a peek at their inks and paints. Getting to visit the Archives was just surreal to see it all lined up and categorized so neatly and efficiently.
Imagineering was extraordinary and to see it through my children eyes was priceless. There were some parts of the tour where they were so excited, I could only look at them and their reaction to what we were seeing and completely lost what we were there to learn.
The access we had in Disneyland and California Adventure was unimaginable. This was truly where our adventure guides shined and dazzled the brightest. Lo and Michael worked so well together in reading what our group wanted and really personalizing the experience for all of us. Their love for Disney and their vast knowledge of the parks and their history was especially worth its weight in diamonds during Disneyland’s 60th. They walked us through the parks and attractions seemlessly and effortlessly.
I wasn’t expecting to love the Grand Californian as much as I did. Their biggest plus being location, location, location. It just made taking a break for even just 60 minutes easy to do (and we did). For Walt Disney World fans- think of this resort as The Wilderness Lodge maximized. I do LOVE Disneyland Hotel- but the sheer amount of walking you do on this trip, to be able to be so close to your resort room is truly priceless. The rooms were spotless and comfy, we honestly enjoyed our time spent there.
Now, who should take this trip? Well… I honestly don’t think you need to be a Disney Mega Fan to enjoy the trip. An appreciation for film and it’s history certainly helps. Keep in mind, there is a lot of history covered, this isn’t just about going to Disneyland and cutting the lines- there are so much more to it and we didn’t cut every line (well… most). My son, at 9, thoroughly enjoyed this trip. That said- not sure he would if he wasn’t interested in the way things work and how they are built plus he already has an appreciation for Walt Disney. Our teenage daughters hung on every word our guides said and can repeat most of what we learned- verbatim. There is A LOT of walking on this trip, and cannot stress that enough. Lo and Michael kept us well hydrated in the California dry heat, but it does kick you in the butt as the week progresses if you are not used to it. This is a fabulous trip to help you decide if this type of trip is a good fit for your family. It is only 5 nights (there are 3 night long weekend trips- I am afraid those might be too busy for my kids) and is very family friendly as far as food and activities. It is also quite reasonably priced, as far as Adventures by Disney trips are concerned.
There are some touches I didn’t mention- the legendary Disney pins you collect along your journey, for example- and again, it is so important to note, this trip is ever evolving and never quite the same from week to week. It all depends on the group’s wants and needs plus what is available to the guides at that time. This trip is one that guests repeat over and over again because it does change almost every week.
For us, the memories made- the laughter and smiles- are priceless. A trip we could never have planned on our own because if the incredible Disney Differences that are sprinkled throughout this trip. Dreams came true for every single adventurer on that magical week, and for that I will always be grateful. I had hoped and imagined what it would be like to finally visit Disneyland as a family, and I could have never dreamed a more perfect way to see Disneyland and all of the history behind Walt Disney’s dream come true.
So, what’s next for us? We are seriously considering Adventures by Disney for our family vacation in 2018. Costa Rica looks like an amazing option for us with the access to very cool activities (white water rafting, zip lining), animals, and is only 6 nights. It also would be the first time my family would be headed to South America- which would be super cool. The new Walt Disney World and Central Florida trip is also very appealing to us- VIP access to Walt Disney World, NASA, and outdoor activities like ziplining and kayaking. Mike and I are seriously considering taking the Long Weekend to San Francisco without the kids- Lo also guides that tour and our kids would cry mutiny if we went without them. Which would you choose?