Fourth of July Disney Style

“What will you Celebrate?”

The Big Guy Himself, Mickey!

Unexpectedly cool temperatures, un-crowded and virtually no waiting in line for rides at Disneyland over the long 4th of July weekend was how we celebrated Independence Day! We were either lucky or everyone had the same thought and avoided going the theme park route for the patriotic holiday.

Everyone except us, of course! I’ll admit, I wasn’t particularly excited to spend four days fighting crowds or cooped up in a room with my teens and hubby for the holiday weekend, but once we arrived at our family- friendly accommodations at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa for the four night stay, it only got better from there.

Red, white and blue balloons at Disneyland

We visited both theme parks with our park-hopper tickets, but decided to cover Disneyland the majority of the time. That sense of magic once you walk through the tunnel and leave reality for fantasy just never wears off — no matter how old or jaded one might be.

We usually sprint to our first ride of the day, in this case Space Mountain, and got fast-passes. Then we hit all the rides in between which don’t require a fast-pass because the lines always move quickly: Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, and believe it or not, Big Thunder Mountain only had a 15 minute wait. This was a good time for a conversation with the kids about what they thought of the rides after so many times on them, and they said they still notice something they hadn’t seen before — age and maturity factors influencing their new observations, no doubt.

The expected crowds were actually less, perhaps because we anticipated land to land people, but it wasn’t bad at all. The only other ride we needed a front-of-the-line pass for was Indiana Jones, we did the rest of them the old fashion way: standing in line. The Finding Nemo ride was about the longest line we were in, about 30 minutes, but we had to see the new attraction; cute, well done, and a perfect adaptation of the old submarine ride to the contemporary Disney/Pixar movie theme.

After lunch at our favorite Carnation Garden Cafe, we headed for Fantasyland since the kids wanted to check out the ‘little kid’ rides to remember what they were like. I don’t recommend The Tea Cups at full speed after lunch! Surprisingly, my young adults thought the Pinocchio ride would be scary for the younger set, as would Alice in Wonderland. “They all have a dark feeling to them”, as put by my fourteen year old.

A little Disney visitor with patriotic facial art

Later we hit California Adventure, a welcomed respite from too many small children and strollers wildly criss-crossing main street USA at Disneyland. We always enjoy the dramatic change in pace, and apparent serenity, we sense once at the more spacious walkways and thoroughfares of the newer theme park.

California Screamin’ is always at the top of our list, well, not always to be honest, only since I summoned the courage about two visits ago to conquer my fear of the fast ride. Next, we went to the new Toy Story Mania, which we found to be well done and challenging for all ages.

There was quite a bit of construction at this park, with a few more attractions opening in the next couple of years: a section of rides based on the movie Cars, the Orange Stinger will dissapear and replaced with a similar ride based on a carousel and an older Mickey movie, and the best one seems to be an underwater ride based on the Little Mermaid.

Construction at California Adventure Theme Park

It was my first time on the Tower of Terror, and not because I was afraid of the ride, but because not one of my family members would go on it with me until now. We all finally boarded the doomed elevator ride together, and after wards we agreed the attention to detail and decor of the ride are just as good, if not better, than the ride itself. The adults took a break from the rest of the rides, and sat at the Golden Vine restaurant sipping wine while the kids visited other attractions. Dinner outdoors at the winery was a real treat since without our knowledge, the Electrical Parade marched right passed our front row table. Don’t you love it when unplanned things just fall into place?

A little 4th of July creation left at our room at the Gran Californian

The following day, 4th of July, I did expect for Disneyland to do it’s magic and transform the park into patriotic headquarters covered in red, white, and blue decorations, but this was not the case. The shops on Main Street had simple banners and sold tri-color Mickey ears. Other than these details, only the spectacular crowds who showed up for the evening’s fireworks display, Magical, were the other tell tale sign it was a long Independence weekend during summer break — and it was a sight to behold!

Crowds for the Fireworks at Disney

Besides the gathering on Main Street, the amount of people there to watch the pyrotechnic show also covered the entire plaza between Disneyland and California Adventure Parks!

Overall, experiencing Disneyland and the resort during our country’s national holiday with our two teenagers was still magical; small crowds, not too hot, and celebrating the 4th of July at the Happiest Place on Earth was a great combination.

But, what’s the best part of visiting this magical theme park with the teen set? The older kids could finally walk out of the hotel into either theme park and have fun without us, the parents. Oh, how my feet loved staying by the pool while my energetic, sleepless teens repeated their favorite adrenaline-zapping rides like the Maliboomer … without me!

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge a couple of very generous people who made this trip possible: our dear friends the Guinea Family who gave us the use of their Vacation Club stay, and Shelly and the Disney PR team for granting us tickets. Thanks to all of you for this wonderful opportunity!

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