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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

disney surprises are the best surprises

after competition was over on sunday, we took the bean out for lunch at the cheesecake factory before  stopping at home to change, reset and then head back out for three hours of practice.  sounds like a pretty grueling schedule, and it is - but knowing that we're at the peak of competition season with nationals coming in less than a week, we're prepared for it.  practice really ramps up in the month or so before vegas, and when it gets really rough i just remind the bean of how hard they've worked for the last ten or so months and all that effort and blood, sweat and tears is about to pay off at their biggest competition of the year.  they just watched the video from their triumphant win last year, and that helped to get them pumped up and excited for what's coming next.

with an extra day off thanks to martin luther king, jr. day the hub decided to surprise us all with a really fun treat.  while the bean was at practice we packed overnight bags, had the old lady meet us at home and we all picked her up together and headed down to anaheim to check in here:

the grand californian is the hub's favorite of the three disney hotels, and we have a lot of great memories of staying here over the years.  we actually got to stay here at a super deep discount way back when they first built it, just before california adventure officially opened to the public, and before downtown disney was completely finished.  i should look and see if i have old pictures of those days because it'd be fun to see how different it is now compared to back then.

now, although we do love this hotel i have to admit that the rooms themselves are not particularly exciting.  when you stay on disney property you're really paying for the perks, the location and the convenience of being right near the gates to the parks.  but the rooms are nice, clean and comfy with decently sized toiletries in the bathroom, enough for all of us to share.

we had a view of downtown disney, which again reminded me of our first stay here.  and directly in front of us was the tram loading and unloading area.  it was busy down there with parkgoers making their way out of the resort after a long day of play.

it was after 9, and we were all hungry.  the bean was lobbying hard for the buffet restaurant downstairs in the hotel, and i warned her that there was a good chance they'd turn us away because it's usually by reservation only.  but as luck would have it, the place was damn near empty and they welcomed us in with a smile.

the food here is good, even when you're there an hour before closing.  we had salad, several entrees, lots of sides and a full dessert buffet.

we decided to walk through downtown disney to burn off some of those calories and do a little browsing/shopping, but found that most of the shops were closing their doors for the night.  we were a little surprised considering it was a holiday weekend, but whatever.  and when we'd seen all there was to see, we headed back to the hotel to relax and enjoy the rest of our evening.

back in our room, we stopped to read this notice that we'd overlooked when we first got in there:

the old lady and i had signed up for a free morning power walk through california adventure the next morning, but when 5:45 meetup time rolled around and neither of us was willing to get out of bed we ended up sleeping right through it.  heh.  but i did get up a couple of hours later and opened the curtains to find bright blue skies and the start of a beautiful day.

the best perk of staying on property is the magic hour - access to one of the parks a full hour before it opens to the public.  on mondays it's california adventure, and the girls and i got ourselves ready and out the door.  of course, the rest of the hotel guests were doing the same thing and we found ourselves in a pretty long line for the security checkpoint.

luckily, it went fairly quickly and we were inside the park with a solid 45 minutes of having the park mostly to ourselves.

we made our way to pixar pier to our first ride of the day - the incredicoaster.

they were doing some testing of the ride before opening it up to us, and while we stood in line i snagged our first fastpass of the day, for radiator springs racers.  and then the line finally started moving and we were screaming our way through the ride in no time.

from there we headed over to the guardians of the galaxy ride, where the wait time was quoted as just 10 minutes.  on our way there we passed the ropes where folks were waiting to start their day - you know, where we usually are for rope drop mornings.  we flashed our room key and sashayed right past.

we only had 15 minutes of our magic hour left, and we were super excited to walk up to the entrance and find that there was literally no one else in front of us.

we were kind of hoping that maybe we'd get our own elevator, VIP-style.  we were already thinking about how we were going to position ourselves and how cool our picture would be, but then more people showed up and crushed our dream.  oh well.  it was still a fun ride, as always.

yeah, we were shooting for the "see/speak/hear no evil," but the bean freaked out at the drop just before the camera snapped the picture.  haha!

while we were inside, the line had grown considerably longer as the park finally opened to the public.  this is probably still maybe just a 20-minute wait, though:

we still had a little time to kill before our cars land fastpass window opened, so we decided to take a turn on the monsters, inc. ride.  but first, we stopped to take pictures at a couple of new walls we hadn't seen before.  i, of course, couldn't turn down the opportunity for an extra silly pose here:

the bean is more mature than her mother.

and the old lady relented on her NO SILLY PHOTOS! stance and posed for two seconds here.

we did manage to get our own car on this ride:

and then stopped to pick up a new pair of ears that had just been released last week.  these sold out pretty quickly after social media caught sight of them, so we grabbed a pair before we missed our chance.

while we love this ride, this was the second time in a row that the ride somehow malfunctioned, leaving us to go through the "race" part without a competitor.  winning by default isn't nearly as much fun.

we decided to hit up the hub, who was enjoying a quiet morning in the room sleeping in, and headed back over to the hotel to meet him for breakfast.  it was already after 10:30, so we didn't have a ton of options with most places in downtown disney opening at 11 for lunch.  we ended up having some brunch at la brea bakery, with a stop at the starbucks afterwards for coffee.

our original plan had been to go back into the parks to play for a few more hours while the hub and the old lady caught an uber home (one to get some work done, the other to go home and take care of stevie).  but as we lingered over brunch, the bean realized that she had some homework to get done and decided it would be better to just go home with the others.  not to mention, we had to take molly for her doggy dialysis and then the bean had cheer practice again that evening.  and so our disney day came to an early end as we made our way back to the hotel to grab our luggage and claim our car from the valet.  as we sat there waiting for the car to be brought up we noticed the club 33 sensor at the valet cashier.  the hub had just finished telling us about how his friend has a membership card that allows him to park his car at the hotel's valet at no extra charge, so it was kind of fun to see it for ourselves.

so it was a quick stay, but we'd managed to squeeze in as much fun as we could in the 16 or so hours we were down there.  i'm hoping to be able to do it again at least once this summer, when we can take advantage of the super fun pools at the hotels. 

yikes.  i can't believe we're already making summer plans.  time just goes by so damn fast. 

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