Can it really be New Year’s Eve already? Hard to believe that it has flown by so fast! I’m thankful for this year filled with Smith Family Adventures and for you my faithful readers. One of my resolutions for next year is to go back to bi-weekly posts. This fall I returned to life as a college student, and it has taken some adjustment to discover a work/school/life balance. Well actually I’m still searching…
The above picture is one of my favorites of 2009. I captured it while leaving Disneyland before the end of the fireworks show to beat the crowds. It was a magical moment and a small miracle to catch the shuttle without the lines.
This year I hope to develop another Family Adventure Guidebook, perhaps take an international trip with the kids, and enjoy some family camping adventures. I hope you’ll join me!
“Mom, mom! Do you know this is the place where dreams come true?” , my five year old asked me as we walked in the gates of Disney’s California Adventure.
“So I’ve heard, Jared” I responded. I had to laugh, because Disneyland has not always been the place where my dreams came true. I have plenty of fond recollections of tantrums, soggy shoes, long lines, and rude crowds. Still, just for this evening I did have a dream. I was dreaming for a perfect birthday visit for Jared’s fifth birthday.
Since Jared’s birthday fell on a school day our time was limited. We arrived at about 3:30 p.m. I stopped by the ticket booth and picked up Jared’s birthday fun card worth around $60. (Since we are members we received the cost of admission in Disney cash for Jared’s birthday visit.)
Jared chose a light up Buzz Light Year as his birthday present. This simple toy turned out to be a perfect way to keep Jared occupied in line.
It was a short visit, but we had a delicious dinner at California Adventure and hit most of the roller coasters appropriate for the 5-10 set. Jared was so excited to finally be old enough to ride the Indiana Jones ride! The Nightmare before Chrismas was also a highlight of the evening.
We used our $60 gift card to purchase some matching Micky Santa hats that will keep our heads warm and merry all season long!
Happy Holidays from the Smith Family to your family. I hope that all your holiday travels are merry and stress free (ha ha). I’m busy planning a pre Christmas trek to Lake Tahoe. Outfitting three San Diego kids for skiing can be rather expensive-I highly recommend Play It Again Sports.
If you would like to start the new year off with a visit to Legoland including a stay at the lovely Sheraton Carlsbad Resort, please check out the Family Adventure contribution to Passports With Purpose here.
Although Disney Parades are the hallmark of the Disney theme park I am not a huge fan. You need to find a spot and stake it out well before the parade begins. This means lots of waiting with wiggly and whiny children. Adults seem to forget that little people also need to see and end up standing up for the big event blocking everyone’s view. Although the final result is pretty fun, the music is catchy and the costumes are great, your kids’ favorite part is over all too quickly.
One the parade is finished leaving the park or moving somewhere else is very difficult. You are caught in a wave of humanity. Your kids find themselves surrounded by giant strangers and it’s a battle to keep track of everyone.
We often stop by Disneyland at odd hours and get caught in a parade at the entrance. By then, all the spectators are lined up and you may find yourself trapped in some small area of the park until the parade moves on. If we are in the park during a parade you will often find us, taking advantage of the shorter lines at some other area of the park.
During my last visit to California Adventure, however, I found a parade that’s worth waiting for. Disney’s Electrical Parade lights up the night sky. It is full of lively music and sparkling electric lights. The kids are mesmorized by all the great classic Disney characters. Because it’s located in California Adventure and held at night, it is less crowded than other Disney Parades I’ve experienced. If you’re lucky one of the light bulb holders will fall off the float and you’ll have a ready made souvenir! My ten year old cherishes his.
We headed to line up about 1/2 hour before the parade, and that was on the late side. Next time we will shoot for 45 minutes. We managed to find a spot in the back of the park by the SS Rustworthy. (By the way this one of my favorite attractions at California Adventure. It is interactive, you don’t need to wait in line, and there is plenty of space to run around. My kids particularly like “surfing” on the surfboards.) The parade started just a few feet away so the cast was fresh and spirited.
After the Parade was over, we headed over to Toy Story Mania. The line is long, but it is fun and interactive. The kids and I decided that it was worth the wait. I appreciated that by the time we had finished, the parade traffic had cleared and it was easy catch a shuttle back to our parking lot.
If you are thinking about purchasing a theme park pass, be sure to investigate the extra benefits and privileges that the theme park may offer passholders. Although these vary from park to park, many times these extras will almost pay for your entire membership.
Since my two youngest were born less than a year apart, our family has become experts at the “staycation”. Traveling far from home with two preschoolers seems a bit too crazy for us at this point. Our location here in Carlsbad gives us many options for family fun. Visiting theme parks and zoos is one of the things that we enjoy doing together as a family. In the past three years we have held passes for the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Legoland, and Disneyland.
If you live in Southern California or visit frequently throughout the year, a Legoland membership offers many opportunities for family adventure. In addition to the great special events and members only activities that Legoland holds throughout the year, Legoland offers excellent deals and discounts to its members. Twice a year, members receive coupons for free entrance with a passholder. This gives your family opportunities to bring friends and grandparents along to enjoy a Legoland adventure. Also, if there is a Dad or teenager in your family who won’t be making it to Legoland very often this can be a great way to bring them along to enjoy the fun.
Legoland pass holders also receive free entrance to The Wave in Vista and Wild Rivers in Irvine. In addition to the regular member dining and shopping discounts, Legoland’s quarterly newsletters contain coupons for additional savings. This month I have a $10 voucher for the Ocean Journey Cafe, a free bucket of water balloons at the Raptor Splash, and other discount coupons.
Members benefit from Legoland’s efforts to promote the new Sea Life Aquarium. Legoland is continuing to offer special visitor rates to Legoland members and friends and family. Come enjoy the aquarium for as little as $5 per person! Note that a coupon is required. The curent coupon says that it expires 5/31/09, but keep checking the site. So far they have extended this offer several times.
When we were planning a three day trip to Disneyland, I decided to investigate the price of membership. I knew that we wouldn’t be visiting too often, but since we live only an hour away a few return visits would be fun. After doing my research I decided that the Southern California Select passes offered the best value four our budget. Unlike Legoland, non premium Disney Passholders do not receive many benefits. However, they do receive some limited dining discounts in the parks and shopping discounts at Downtown Disney. Still, with prices that can be less than a multi-day visit, an annual Disneyland pass is worth considering.
San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park
Membership at these attractions is extremely affordable. (Kids passes are only $2 more than the one day Best Value Ticket). Adult members receive two free guest passes which come in handy for out of town guests. Pass holders also receive free admission to the Journey into Africa Tour at the Wild Animal Park…this is a must see! In addition, they receive unlimited Skyfari aerial tram rides at the zoo. These are important since, kids have to do alot of walking at the San Diego Zoo. Membership covers both attractions so your family has plenty to explore.
Members also receive a monthly zoo magazine that contains interesting articles about the animals and great coupons including more free admission tickets for passholder guests. All pass members also receive discounts on Wild Animal Park parking.
Sea World San Diego
We have had the opportunities to obtain discounted entrance to Sea World with our preschool, so I haven’t gone the pass route yet. I am dreaming of an Unauthorized Sea World Guidebook some day, so we may be getting passes next summer.
In the mean time, be aware that Sea World offers the Fun Card which is a great deal. You get a pass good for admission throughout the entire calendar year for the price of a single admission.
Make sure you factor the price of parking into your membership decisions. Sometimes it pays to buy a more premium membership for at least one member of your family in order to get free parking. Be sure to investigate whether the person needs to be the driver or just in the car. Premium child memberships are often cheaper and also offer free parking.
If you don’t live in Southern California, I encourage you to research theme park memberships in your area. You may just discover the ticket to a whole year of family fun.
If you are planning to visit the Legoland theme park in Carlsbad, California, this book contains all the information you need to make the most of your family adventure. The book also includes information about other area attractions, local restaurants and hotels.
Bridget Smith, mom of three, loves to blog about everyday adventures. Her mission is to change the world; one kid, one destination, one effortless trip, one overworked mom, one frazzled dad... one day at a time! Come and join her.