PART 1 – 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon – Disneyland Vacation Recap

At long last – three weeks later – I am sitting down to write my full recap of the incredible 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon.  Since my runs this week have been less than stellar and I would rather reflect on running glory instead of the sorry state of my body as it recovers from this chest cold, this seems like a perfect time to dive right in.  Plus, it will soon be time to write a Princess Half Marathon recap so best to get this one out of the way.

The Days Leading Up To The Race

We flew in early Thursday morning to give us plenty of Disneyland time before the race festivities were to begin.  Thanks to the east coast-west coast time change, leaving around 7 am gets you a nice, early arrival according to California local time.

Our flights were uneventful.  We flew Orlando to Houston and, after a brief layover, from Houston to Orange County.  In my previous trips, I have always traveled through Orange County and like this nice, close little airport.

Charles while we at a sleepy lunch in the Houston airport.

Charles while we at a sleepy lunch in the Houston airport.

After taking our pre-arranged Super Shuttle from the airport, we arrived at the hotel and checked in.  I was impressed by how nice the front desk staff were at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (although, I’ve come to expect that from Disney) and we felt right at home.  After initially having a few challenges fining our room, I absolutely couldn’t believe the breath taking view from our 5th floor room.

The view of Paradise Pier from our balcony.  Amazing.

The view of Paradise Pier from our balcony. Amazing.

and looking in the other direction, my first sight of Cars Land - the beautiful Cadillac Mountian Range

and looking in the other direction, my first sight of Cars Land – the beautiful Cadillac Mountain Range

We dropped our things in the room, changed clothes, and headed to the parks!  I could barely contain my excitement as we walked the very short distance through Downtown Disney to the park gates.  I kept saying things like “Charles, get ready to have your mind blown,” as we walked.  I had prepared him for how different the Disneyland Resort is from Walt Disney World.  For those who don’t know, Disney World occupies a huge footprint and requires 15-30 minutes of transportation by bus or monorail to get park to park.  Well, the front gates of both Disneyland parks were a 5 minute walk from our hotel and face one another.  This makes it very easy to simply cross the esplanade and switch parks throughout the day.

Looking across at the entrance to Disney California Adventure

Our park days somewhat blend together so I’ll hit just a few of the highlights in no particular order:

  • The Disneyland Churro – Although I can’t say I’ve ever had a Disney World churro, I am quite certain that they don’t even compare.  The Disneyland churros ride through a little oven at the kiosk while you wait and are immediately given a cinnamon and sugar bath before being wrapped and handed to you.  They are delicious – soft on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside.  We discovered them on the first day and couldn’t help but continuing buying them throughout the trip.

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  • Cars Land – this place is nothing short of amazing.  Radiator Springs has stepped off the big screen and into reality.  Not to mention the fact that all of the attractions but especially Radiator Springs Racers are amazing.  We got to ride twice – once during early entry (that is for Resort Guests and selected annual pass holders only) and a second time from the single rider line.  It was a 20 minute wait or so each of these times but the standby line often has a wait in excess of an hour.  It’s well worth it.
On Luigi's Flying Tires

On Luigi’s Flying Tires

Chilling with Mater!

Chilling with Mater!

Cars Land is stunning.

Cars Land!

  • Cinnamon Rolls – so many of these highlights seem to revolve around food.  Quite a statement that makes.  But these cinnamon rolls were like heaven on a plate.  We grabbed one for breakfast on our second day at Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe and I was hooked!  They had the very same deliciousness at Jolly Holiday in Disneyland Park as well.  These warm, flaky pastries were slathered with drippy cream cheese frosting.  I just cannot do them justice with words.  Other than the morning before the race, I decided I had to have one for every breakfast.  It’s a good thing we were there for a relatively brief time or I would have really packed on the pounds!
Jolly Holiday was my favorite - nothing like breakfast with a castle view

Jolly Holiday was my favorite – nothing like breakfast with a castle view

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  • Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train –  I didn’t grab a photo of this one (it will be on my list next time) but this was one of my favorite new discoveries on this trip.  While it is a “kiddie” ride, Charles and I could not get over how funny the spiel was.  The hilarity continues from the safety spiel (including Heimlich speaking spanish) to the frequent references to Candy Corn. Love it!
  • Haunted Mansion –  Haunted Mansion is my all time favorite attraction on both coasts.  We were so lucky that the attraction was re-opening (after being converted from Haunted Mansion Holiday back to the normal attraction) on our second day at the parks.  Needless to say, we went through many times and made this our very last attraction before our departure.

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  • Court of Angels.  I think I mentioned that this is my favorite spot in the park.  I don’t know what it is about this sequestered little area but it feels like home.  We visited quite a few times during our trip.

 

 

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  • Club 33 – We had the lucky opportunity to dine in the exclusive Club 33.  Seen only from the outside by most, this private club above New Orleans Square is the execution of Walt’s vision for a private hideaway where he could entertain dignitaries, friends, and business associates.  The location is beautiful and the food delicious and prepared with great care.  The very privilege of visiting was enough of an experience.  We had an incredible dinner and tried to snap quite a few pictures to commemorate the experience.  From riding up to the restaurant in the beautiful french life to watching the fireworks out the dining room windows, it was magical.

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  • Limited Time Magic: The Golden Horseshoe and Bayou Bash – We were lucky enough to be visiting during two very exciting Limited Time Magic offerings.  The Golden Horseshoe was back for a tribute to the original show and was incredible.  From the comedy to the can can dancers, I feel so fortunate to have gotten to experience parts of a show that Walt loved so much.  Bayou Bash, a fun Mardi Gras celebration featuring characters and music from the Princess and the Frog (one of my favorite movies), was a highlight from my 2010 visit to Disneyland so I was so excited to see it back again.

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  • Running into Friends – I was so lucky to bump into my friend Krissy in a few different spots along the way.  She was also running the Tink Half (impressively after having run the Walt Disney World Marathon the weekend before) and was having lots of Disneyland fun with her family as well.  We happened to run into each other near the castle and grabbed a picture.

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  • World of Color – Last but certainly not least, I have to talk about World of Color.  I saw this incredible show just once during my last trip and we had sort of a poor viewing spot so I don’t think I fully appreciated it.  Well, I definitely got the complete show this time and I am in love.  I was moved by the music and the beauty of the color, water, projections – all dancing in concert.  If you have not yet seen it, it warrants a trip to Disneyland on its own.  We saw it on our first evening, the night before the race (plus a second time that night from our bed as we drifted to sleep), and caught tidbits of it from our balcony again another time or two.  It was one of the greatest perks of our hotel stay!

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It would take me ages to recall all of the wonderful things we experienced during our trip.  I hope to go back again in late September to share some of these great experiences with my mother who only visited Disneyland just once when we were children (pre-dating the addition of Disney California Adventure and so many other great experiences there).  It was one of the greatest vacations I have had the good fortune to take I can hardly wait to go back!

In my next post, I will provide my race recap – everything from the Expo to race day to my post-race analysis.  Writing these recaps can seem like an arduous task but having the opportunity to relive this incredible trip is a gift.  Plus, it’s a great way to excited for Princess in just two weeks!

Have you visited the Disneyland Resort?  What are your favorite highlights?

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