My computer is staging a revolt against me. My kids ask about the tortured cats in my laptop. It’s a mess, but I’m working through it.
Also, Grammarly says I have 65 errors in this. I would love fix them, but I have too much going on. I think the errors are mostly commas.
The first leg of our trip was from Rhode Island to Los Angeles. We left late, and time zones mostly worked in our favor. We had a stopover in Chicago. That didn’t work out well. Our plane couldn’t pull into the gate because it was occupied. We waited for nearly an hour and missed our “A” group boarding for Southwest. We were the last people on the flight, so our 9 and 10-year-olds didn’t want to take middle seats with strangers. The flight attendants felt bad as the kids cried and explained that they wished they knew so that they could save a row. Well, we were on a Southwest flight, so a simple fix could have been to allow a chat on the flight to go directly to the next flight crew. Almost everyone on our plane felt so helpless watching the connecting flight board and getting ready for take-off while we were several hundred feet away, locked on our plane.
Some of you might say, “Don’t fly Southwest.” That’s sound advice. We were flying free using vouchers from the flight that they messed up almost a year ago when we went to Puerto Rico. I would say that we got more than what we paid for. It was just hard to explain the situation to young kids.
We slept on that second leg for a few hours and then went to our hotel. We checked in around midnight. The time zones helped us, as it was 3 AM in our old east coast time zone.
The hotel was the W near Hollywood and Vine. It was undergoing construction, which we didn’t know about it. However, it was priced at a very low category number in Marriott’s system, so we were able to use points for our entire stay without breaking the “point” bank.
We slept until the morning and started the day off fresh – no jet lag! We went for breakfast and found a cool place called The Breakfast Club – not to be confused with the movie. It was perfect for kids. They had a wall of old cereal boxes, a tunnel of ceramic donuts, and a place where you could take a picture of yourself in a cereal box. This was also when we learned that nearly every meal on our trip would be $22 each and that the final bill would be $105. These numbers came up over and over again throughout our trip.
My wife had to finish some last-minute work stuff that needed to be done for the tail end of our trip.
I took the kids to a day at the Guinness Book of Records Museum. It had a ton of stuff for kids to do. My oldest played the world’s largest Pac-Man game for a while, my youngest set new boxing records by hitting a pad. We’ll have to look into that in the future.
We then went to Popeye’s for lunch because they are rare in New England. The kids loved it. It may seem weird to go to a national chain when you travel to a new place, but I feel like they’ll at least have that experience. They can identify with the commercials or other kids they may meet who mention it. Also, it wasn’t $105 for us to eat there.
Then we got some swimming in and went to Mastro’s Steakhouse for my birthday dinner. The bill was much more than $105. They tried to sell my 10-year-old on a petite filet mignon for $65, but I ordered a slightly larger steak, and he had a few pieces of that along with some mac and cheese we got for the table.
We learned that the hotel had a great breakfast for free. It had some great healthy options, like six different kinds of fresh fruit and pressed juices.
Then we rushed to Universal Hollywood so that we could get to the newly opened Super Nintendo World. It’s only been open a month, so everyone was flocking to it. The Bowser’s Challenge ride was incredible, but we didn’t do anything else in that area of the park. It was too crowded – the lines were like 45 minutes to use special bands that you buy to punch bricks and stuff.
Universal Studios was a lot of fun. My kids have gotten into the Simpsons, so that was great for them. Unfortunately, they have been out of Flaming Moe’s for months. I think the best parts were the pleasant surprises. The studio tour where you see how the films were made was very well done. I thought the kids would think it was a waste of “ride time”, but they loved it. There was a Westworld show that seemed like it was just going to be filler until some line wait times went down, but it was amazing. The stunt people were jumping off things 40 feet in the air into the water, and there were a ton of pyrotechnics. It was like being inside an action movie.
The only downside is that the last two rides were virtual reality rides, and my wife got sick after them. I never would have thought the Harry Potter ride would be bad because she is such a fan, but it was.
She skipped dinner that night, so I took the kids to the hotel’s restaurant, Delphine. For staying at the hotel, we get a $29 credit each day. Of course, the bill came out to $105 dollars. I ordered the cheapest meal on the menu (pork chop). The kids each ordered grilled cheese ($13 each). I got a $10 beer, and the kids got a Sprite and Apple Juice. My oldest pointed out that the apple juice at $7 was smaller than my beer and probably more expensive, ounce-for-ounce. I brought that up to the waitress because the Sprite was only $4. They agreed that it seemed like a lot for a small kid’s drink and took it off completely.
That helped a little, but it was still a very expensive meal for what it was.
This was the day we checked out of the W and drove to Carlsbad. We had a late checkout, though, so first, we went to the Chinese Mann theater. We had wanted to do a star tour or go to Venice Beach, but our late checkout wasn’t late enough. Instead, we went to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. The kids loved Ripley’s – even more than the Guinness Book that was on the next block over.
By the time we got to Carlsbad and got settled at the Westin (also free using Marriott points), it was time for dinner. We found Draft Republic, which was a combination arcade, golf simulator, and brewpub. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we had green drinks. We mostly played the Aerosmith pinball machine. I showed the kids that I don’t just play Pinball Wizard music at home but can back up my game. My youngest was very, very good, too, almost earning a free game on his first try.
On the way home, my oldest spotted a Crumbl Cookies that he recognized from a YouTube video, so we stopped and gave that a shot. What does Shakira say in ZooTopia, “Try Everything!” The cookies were very good. I’d get them again, but only as a rare treat while traveling. I don’t think they are in Rhode Island, so that decision won’t come up too often.
My wife was still feeling a little off from Universal and wanted to take a day off. That’s what she said, but I think she just wanted to get back to running. She’s training for her first marathon in mid-April, and it’s probably not great to take a couple of weeks off completely before.
She stayed back to do her running and some other minimal work stuff. Me and the kids walked through the hotel’s special access to Legoland! Using my wife’s military discount, the price was around $75 a person instead or $95. (We saved money on Universal tickets as well.)
At first, I was a little disappointed in Legoland. It feels like it is great for kids 4-8, but it seemed like my kids may be getting too old. The roller coasters were less thrilling. However, the kids said that they loved it all and that it was blasphemy for me to suggest that they may not want to go in the future. One of the highlights was when the kids got to drive around in their own Lego cars without tracks. It was like bumper cars, but they weren’t supposed to bump.
Legoland has little “mini cities” where they recreate famous landmarks in other cities, so my kids were able to do the same pose at Lego Chinese Mann theater as the real Chinese Mann theater from the day before!
That night we met up with some old friends who had moved out there and went to dinner. We went to a Teppanyaki place that I have ignorantly been calling a Hibachi restaurant. Regardless of what you call it, it’s the Japanese-style restuarant where they cook your food at your table while spinning the knives around and stuff for show. Again, the kids loved it! They had never seen anything like it. We have them in Rhode Island, but we never managed to go.
After dinner we went back to our friend’s house and talked a bit. Me and my 9-year-old took on my 10-year-old and their 13-year-old in foosball. We were told that we were in for a world of pain and since she owns a table, I believed it. I knocked off a decade of rust on my old Silicon Valley tech bro skills, but it was my 9-year-old who was a scoring machine. It turns out his friend has a table. So on this trip, I learned he had an aptitude for boxing, pinball, and foosball.
We got out to a big lead and I realized that maybe I was trying too hard. Oops. They close the gap and it was very thrilling down to the end.
On Day 5 we met up with some other friends – my 10-year-old’s best friend last year until the family moved to San Diego. That can be the problem with military families where we live in Newport. They are often there for just a year while they go to the War College. It’s gut-wrenching for them to lose friends.
We all went to the San Diego Zoo, because that seemed like an iconic thing to do. Unfortunately, it was a little disappointing. The platypi were a different “Safari” admission, requiring a different reservation. My oldest studied them in school and it was literally the only zoo in the US with them. It seems China took the pandas back in 2019. We did get to see some polar bears roll around.
Overall, it was just fun to see my kid have time with his best friend again.
When we were done with the zoo, we went a nearby Sizzler for a lunch/dinner. Sizzlers used to be in New England in the 1980s, but they are mostly extinct there now. My wife and I found them again when we lived in CA about 15 years ago. We figured they’d be perfect for the kids because their “salad bar” has a lot of options like a buffet. My kids do well at those places because they can pick from many different foods that they can see and aren’t locked into a main course. My oldest thought that my youngest invested the next million dollar idea with his salad.
We woke up, packed, and moved to our next hotel – Cambria in Anaheim. This hotel was about a 3/4s of a mile from Disneyland! Using the military discount we got a three-day park hopper with Genie+. Genie+ is Disney’s new branding for their previous “Fast Pass” to get to the front of lines. It’s a very complicated service. To make things worse, it works differently than the Genie+ in Disney World – and almost all the Disney bloggers write to a Disney World audience.
Since we had to come from Carlsbad we got into the park at around noon. It was drizzling rain all day, which wasn’t great, but I think we were able to get on more rides as fewer people braved the weather. We thought we’d stay only a few hours on this first day and use the information we gathered to build a plan for the next two days. We ended up going on a ton of rides as we were able to time a lot of the wait times just right. We didn’t use Genie+ because the app kept telling us to buy it and we didn’t want to pay for it if we weren’t going to be there for the full day. Disneyland’s app should be smart enough to know that if you already have a Genie+ ticket attached to drop the advertisement to buy it and instead guide you to some instruction on how to use it.
At the end of the night, my wife clicked on the right button in the app and found Genie+. By that time, we just wanted to go home. The highlight rides of the day were Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain. My kids loved them and declared Space Mountain as the best. I last went on Space Mountain around 1984 in Disney World. I didn’t enjoy that. However, Disneyland’s Space Mountain is different and it was fun. Each of the coasters didn’t have big drops, which is what gets me. I like going fast in a corkscrew pattern.
The rain picked up and it was fairly miserable getting to the park. Raincoats helped a bit, but our shoes were soaked through. On the agenda this day was to go to California Adventure, the sister park to Disneyland. Yesterday, the kids were disappointed that all the Marvel stuff they love wasn’t in Disneyland and that they were riding the Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan rides instead. Finally they could get to the “good stuff.”
Again, due to the rain, the lines were short. From the day before, we had noticed that it usually take 80 minutes to get on the Spider-Man ride. However, we saw that it was only 20 minutes in the morning. We went for that even though we finally figured out how to Genie+ Lightning Lane the Guardians of the Galaxy ride. The kids declared the Spider-Man ride as better than the Bowser ride in Super Nintendo World – the best of the trip.
Five minutes after that ride was over we were at the Guardians of the Galaxy ride and near the front due to Genie+. This ride used to be the Tower or Terror, but it’s been rebranded. They essentially drop you up and down a lot. My wife wasn’t interested, so I took the kids. The drops were pretty bad, but I survived and kind of even found it fun. As my oldest said, “It was the best kind of fun scary.” Spider-Man’s reign as the best ride of the trip was a very quick one – Guardians had taken over.
Due to the rain quite a few rides were closed that day. Nothing really matched those two. The weather did get better, but they didn’t open the Incredicoaster. We ended up leaving fairly early because our thoughts were elsewhere. (That’s the separate post that I mentioned at the very beginning.)
On our last day we went back to Disneyland to catch up on some of the rides we missed – this time with Genie+. We also had a day of clear skies, which was a nice bonus. We hadn’t ventured to the new Mickey’s Toontown that had been closed for a year while it was refurbished. It had just been opened a few days before so the wait times were very long. Fortunately, catching it early in the day worked again. Maybe everyone else was going on Space Mountain.
We were able to get into Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which was my favorite ride of the trip from the perspective of, “How did they do that?” It’s a standard cart ride, but there were no tracks and it seemed like you spun around with the other carts a little haphazardly. Meanwhile you’d be in one room and it was an outdoor picnic and then face a way for 30 seconds and the whole room was designed to be under the ocean.
Roger Rabbit’s ride in the same area wasn’t as good. It was a lot like the Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan rides where you take a cart through the movie.
We were very lucky to find some wait times for rides that weren’t too bad. We did a lot in Adventure Land like the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones (one of the kids’ favorites). We made sure to have the Dole Whip. You used to only be able to get it at Disney World, Disneyland, and the Dole Factory in Hawaii. It seems to be in other places now, but it’s NOT nearly the same.
My kids also got to try beignets. It was a scary word and they didn’t want to. However, a dough pocket of happiness changed their mind quickly.
We drove to Arizona for my wife’s conference. She was being inducted into the pharmacists’ “hall of fame.” Kids genuinely don’t find pharmacy conferences exciting. I’m with them. We went to the Phoenix Children’s Museum. The kids found it fun for about an hour and a half.
It was geared towards kids who are 4-7. It wasn’t great for kids 9 and 10. This was my first experience taking my kids to a kids’ place that didn’t work out.
We went back to the hotel and went swimming. The outdoor pool at the Springfield Marriot was cold, but the hot tub was better.
I love traveling with family. We grow.
Life is made up of experiences and travel helps us do something new.