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Thursday, October 11

Fun Times in Anaheim

We are not entirely sure how much longer we’ll be living in California, so we decided we should get a Disneyland trip under our belts just in case. We skipped school (parenting at its best!) and took three days last week to bop down to Anaheim for some fun! The trip was fast and exhausting, but I am sooooo glad we did it. With the exception of Owen (who just wanted to crawl around the hotel room instead of being dragged around amusement parks in record-breaking heat in a stroller), we all had a blast! And it was totally worth skipping school. πŸ˜‰

The Anaheim Visitor’s Bureau did a fantastic job helping to coordinate our trip. Thank you, Anaheim! I would love to share our experiences with you in case you decide to bop over to Anaheim yourselves!

Howard Johnson at Disneyland
The tourism board put us up at the HoJo Anaheim. It was the perfect spot for our family. Here are all the reasons we loved staying there:

  • We were in a 2 Queens Premium room and it was great for our family of five. Often when our family stays in just one hotel room, there is very little space for luggage, the pack n play, and the people…we just feel cramped. This room had plenty of space for everything, so everyone was comfortable the whole time.
  • We were spoiled with a room in the tower overlooking Disneyland Park, so we had front row seats to the nightly fireworks. Which was just plain awesome.
  • The Castaway Cove Water Playground was AWESOME. So well done, so much fun, the kids LOVED it.
  • The hotel is a very short walk to the Disneyland Park entrance, eliminating the need to park your car at the amusement park (which is a huge pain). Heaven.
  • Mimi’s Cafe is right across the street. We ate breakfast there a couple mornings and it was very family friendly. The night we arrived it was kind of late and we ordered take-out, turkey dinner for our whole family for $25! It was just what we needed.
  • The night we arrived the girls were beyond giddy. Cate exclaimed, “Mom! This hotel room is wonderful!” I replied, “So, you like it?” To which Cate replied, “No, Mom. {pause} I LOVE it.” Anna just kept repeating “Disneyland Fireworks! Disneyland Fireworks! Disneyland Fireworks!” It was all just so darn cute.

Disneyland Park
Of course we visited Disneyland – that was the original goal of the trip! A few quick notes on our visit this time around:

  • Cars Land at California Adventure Park is AWESOME. We didn’t even do any of the rides in Cars Land and we still loved it to pieces. It is beautiful, so well-done, you feel like you’re walking right through the movie. The Cozy Cone Motel served snacks that were all cone themed in cone-shaped containers. The whole area was created that way, with great attention to detail.

  • The World of Color show was really cool and the girls counted it as one of their favorite parts of the day. Be sure to get a fast pass early in the day for the show!
  • We ate dinner at Cafe Orleans that night. It was SOOOO nice to sit down in an air-conditioned restaurant and have someone serve us. We were really glad we took the time for a sit-down meal. The food was great, too. The pommes frites were DELISH.
  • Did you know about the parent swap option? Both Disney and Knott’s had this. If you have a baby in a stroller, when you get in line for a ride, you can request a parent swap pass. That way, one parent can wait in line with the kids, ride the ride, then when they get off, the other parent can get in the fast pass line and be able to ride as well. It was WONDERFUL and perfect for us, since Owen couldn’t go on any of the rides.

  • We were excited to discover that they are building a new princess area at Disneyland. Whenever we go to Disneyland, the girls see Sleeping Beauty’s castle and immediately ask where the princesses are. Well, the princesses are located in the back of the park, nowhere near the castle, so it’s always kind of a let down. But they are building a new princess area right next to the castle! It will be perfect and my girls can’t wait to visit Disneyland to see it when it’s done!
  • You may be wondering…was skipping school worth it? Was the park really less crowded? It was still busy. All of Australia happened to be there that day. But the lines were definitely not as long as on a high-traffic day, so it was worth it. I think going on a Tuesday would have been even better than a Monday. If anyone has tips of the best days and times of year to go with the least amount of crowds, please share!

Knott’s Berry Farm
We spent half a day at Knott’s Berry Farm and it was great! More relaxing than Disneyland and WAY less crowded (we didn’t have to wait in any lines and could ride some of the rides over and over again). Our family is planning to dress up as Peanuts characters for Halloween, so seeing the Peanuts characters walking around got the girls pumped for their costumes. And Owen, our dog lover, LOVED meeting Snoopy in person. I also really liked how all the kids rides were in one place, Camp Snoopy. It was fun for the kids to hit ride after ride after ride. We had lunch at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where the chicken and biscuits were deeee-licious. The girls really enjoyed their jello appetizer…perhaps a little too much. πŸ˜‰

Medieval Times
After Knott’s, we headed over to Medieval Times for dinner. Nate and I had never been and weren’t sure what to expect. It was a middle school dream of mine to go to Medieval Times, so the dream was finally coming alive! πŸ˜‰ We really weren’t sure what the girls would think, especially since Anna is scared of the dark. Welllll…every last member of our little family loved it, even Owen! We arrived and got to meet the Princess Catalina. It was like Anna was meeting her greatest hero. She was super shy but reached out for her hand, which she held for our photo. The princess was so gracious and sweet to the girls, which Nate and I greatly appreciated. When it was finally time for the festivities to begin, we were seated and the lights went down. There was no silverware, but our loyal server snuck a few pieces so I could feed the baby. The food was great and there’s something about ripping into your food with with your hands that really gets you in the mood to cheer on dueling knights.

Okay, seriously, our kids LOVED every minute of the dinner and show. They ate the food, they cheered wildly, Owen kept clapping and pointing. At one point when the Red Knight (our knight) was fighting, Cate was literally trembling as she cheered him on. Anna fell for the blue knight, even though he was from the other side of the kingdom. After it was all over, you could meet the knights and royalty for autographs. Anna wanted to meet the blue knight, but she got shy, wouldn’t look at him or the camera, and when Nate told him how she cheered him on and liked a winner, Anna kicked Nate in the shins. A first crush if we’ve ever seen one!

Discovery Science Center
On the day we drove home, we spent the morning at the Discovery Science Center. Again, the kids loved it. Owen was happy because he could finally crawl around and explore somewhere! The exhibits were really fun and well done and we could have easily spent the entire day there. They have different “adventures” for different age levels at the various exhibits and they were tailored very well for our girls.Β There is a dinosaur exhibit outdoors where you get these cool magic wands and go on an adventure, looking for discoveries. The girls loved it. There is also a pretend grocery store where you learn how to shop with the environment in mind. I actually really loved the grocery store. I feel like the way we shop for food really does have an environmental impact, so I loved that they were helping the kids to learn to think that way, too.

Yes, we did a LOT. Arrived Sunday night. Monday at Disneyland. Tuesday morning at the water playground at the hotel. Lunch and afternoon at Knott’s. Dinner at Medieval Times. Wednesday morning at Discover Science, then hit the road for home. We could have easily spent a day or two at each place we visited, so we packed a lot in just a few short days. But, like I said, it was a BLAST and I am so glad we did it! I think the girls were in Fun Heaven.

Big thanks again to the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention BureauΒ for helping coordinate so much of our trip. They are a fantastic resource! And I highly recommend staying in Anaheim for a Southern California family vacation. Easy access to Disneyland is a huge plus, and Anaheim is smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles and San Diego, which have so much to offer. Fun family times!

In the interest of full disclosure, Disneyland provided us with two passes and some vouchers to go towards a meal. Anaheim provided us with our hotel accommodations, additional Disneyland passes, admission to the other venues and two meals. We paid for our own transportation costs and additional meals. All opinions are my own!


  1. Ahhhhh, I love it. You know what D-Land freaks we are, so I’m loving all the pictures! Look at little O being so big on a ride!

    Sounds like a great trip!

  2. this looks so fun!! i wish i lived near disney.

  3. 3

    What a fun trip! We’ve always wanted to check out the water slides at Howard Johnson Hotel! Thanks for all the fun photos and info. Reading this post is really making us want to go back to Anaheim for another fun filled Disney trip. Our little girl Claire who is three woke up this morning begging us for another trip to Disneyland! Can’t wait to try out all the other places you guys visited next time we’re down there!

  4. 4
    Megan Flowers

    We live in Los Angeles and my son is 3 AND I am a stay at home mom AND my husband has a flexible schedule so of course are annual pass holders.
    First of all Disney does everything so well. We have never had a bad time. Even the parking lot is a breeze (contrary to what you said about amusement parking lots).
    I would say the best time of year to go is after the holidays in late January and before spring break and definitely mid week. It is busy this month with all the Halloween stuff going on.
    That Howard Johnson looks awesome! We might be moving a little further north some will keep it in mind if we plan an overnight trip!
    I’m glad you enjoyed your trip. Sorry it had to be during that awful heat wave!

    • Jane Maynard

      I do think that Disney’s parking garage is quite impressive – however, it WAS really nice not to have to pay for parking and to not have to get on and off of shuttles to get to the lot. that’s why we really enjoyed staying so close by. but, you’re right, the parking system is very well organized!

      thanks for the input on when to go – so helpful!

      and, yeah, we really “lucked out” on that heat! geesh! πŸ™‚

  5. 5

    Looks like fun! We just got back from Disney World this week. Took the kids out of school as well and so glad we did. Hot in Florida too, but we had such a great time despite the heat.

    • Jane Maynard

      I figured it’s more fun to be playing at Disney in the heat than sitting at home or in school in the heat, right? πŸ˜‰ glad you played hooky, too!

  6. 6

    Leaving California? I’ll trade you.

    • Jane Maynard

      we don’t know for sure yet…I’ll tell you what, if we do leave california, I will miss the weather and the food/produce dearly!!!

  7. Growing up a thirty minute car ride away from Disneyland I went tons and miss it so much now that I am so far! The one day I would say to avoid it at all costs though is Super Bowl Sunday, my mom and I went with some friends one year and it seemed all non football fans had the same idea and it was packed like a summer day!

    • Jane Maynard

      it would be so fun to grow up close to disneyland – you were lucky!

      it’s funny, when I was a kid we went on Thanksgiving day – the park was EMPTY and we had the most wonderful time. now, that’s one of the busiest days of the year! funny how times change…

  8. 8

    Next time can the grandparents come?

  9. 9
    Nikki Parrotte

    These pictures are amazing! I’ve never been to Disneyland, but strictly based upon your review, I’m convinced I need to add it to my Bucket List! πŸ™‚

  10. 10

    We live in Southern CA and we’ve been to every theme park here (Sea World, Legoland, Knotts, etc). Disney is hands down the BEST one and the most kid friendly overall. I totally appreciate the parent/baby changing and nursing stations – they even have “nurses” dressed up in old fashioned nursing uniforms who bend over backwards to make you happy. Love it there! Glad you had fun πŸ™‚

  11. That picture of Owen looking sideways at the knight is hilarious! Seriously, we’re huge Disney lovers, and thanks for finding a new hotel for my family! I had no idea there was a hotel with a mini water park. Way to go!

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