Bet you thought I was done with the Disneyland recap posts, right? Well, if you remember, we still hadn’t set foot in the actual parks the last time I wrote about the trip! And what’s a trip to Disneyland without actually going to Disneyland?
This was my thought early on Saturday morning, when it looked as though we might not actually make it through the main gates. (Cue ominous music…)
So, if you know me, you know I spent that first night (after the fireworks over at Disneyland ended and I could actually sleep) dreaming of our upcoming day in the parks. We weren’t scheduled to run until Sunday morning, so all day Saturday was reserved for the parks. We had our park hopper tickets in hand when we arrived super, super early to the front gate of California Adventure, home of the new Cars Land. They were letting people in without tickets before the official opening that morning so that they could cheer on the 5K participants who would be crossing the finish line right next to the Cozy Cones.
Wes and I didn’t know anyone running, but who would pass up an opportunity to preview the park a few hours early? We went in, saw Cars Land from the sidelines, then walked through Bugs Land on our way back out to wait at the gate after the race was done. They had to clear out everyone from the park before they could open it at its normal time, but knowing how huge the lines would be for Cars attractions and how the fast passes for Radiator Springs Racers in particular would be gone within minutes, we parked ourselves right at the gates two whole hours early.
After all that waiting and anticipating, we were gleeful as we handed the lady our tickets literally thirty seconds after the official opening. She scanned them, looked troubled, then scanned them again. All around us, people were streaming into the park, rushing to Radiator Springs. The hostess tried our tickets AGAIN and asked us to wait to the side.
As the minutes ticked by, our hopes of riding ANY of the Cars Land attractions dwindled. Finally, a manager approached us, took our tickets, and tried scanning them himself. “Hold on,” he told us, as he disappeared with our tickets. At this point, we were wondering if perhaps we were the millionth guest at California Adventure, and management was behind the scenes with Mickey Mouse, preparing to drive out in our brand new car or something. (Actually, we were pretty sure this was NOT what was happening. But wouldn’t that have been great?)
The manager came back a few minutes later and said, “These tickets were refunded.” Wes and I looked at one another and brilliantly said, together, “What?” He tried again with, “These were purchased with a credit card. The credit card was refunded. These tickets are no good.”
Remember all the crazy mishaps we had back with our credit card in July? Our DISNEY credit card? Remember how it was cancelled because the person Wes talked to on the phone misunderstood the difference between our rewards card and the actual credit card? Remember when our account was closed without us knowing anything about it? Remember when I spent WEEKS of my life trying to correct the problem by following every paper trail in all of our finances? Remember when I finally had it all right?
Yeah. We’ve had a bad time of it lately with that card. And while those problems had been taken care of long before we bought the park tickets, there was still some glitch, apparently. Our card was charged, Disney sent us the tickets, and then, for some unknown reason, the price was refunded back to our account without any warning and without any notice from Disney or our credit card company. I told Wes that it was probably somehow my fault, that I had somehow overlooked it in all that was going on with the card at that time, but as he rightly reminded me, the tickets had been sent to us by Disney, without any follow up to say “the tickets are no good” once the refund happened. We should have somehow been forewarned before we arrived two hours early to get in to the park, right?
The manager didn’t seem to think so. And as everyone filed in past us and skipped to Cars Land, looking at us as though we were criminals trying to cheat Disneyland, Wes told the manager, “We’re not trying to cheat Disneyland!” Honestly, y’all. He followed up with a simple plea — “We just don’t want our two hour wait to be for nothing. We won’t be able to get on any of the rides in the new part of the park now.” The manager told us there wasn’t anything that could be done.
As we walked away from the gate, I may have shed a few tears. The whole situation was so embarrassing and frustrating and disappointing all at the same time! Since we had already spent the money from our budget on the tickets (and that money was still just sitting in our account, unbeknownst to us until that morning), Wes said we’d go buy the tickets to get in, but he wasn’t going to do that until he could see if there was any reason to go into California Adventure at all, given the now incredible wait time on the Racers, which was the sole reason we had decided to spend any time in that park. Guest services directed us to a lady who listened to our tale of woe about waiting for two hours, took down our personal information, and said she’d see what she could do. A few minutes later, she came back out of guest services and told us that the park was giving us free tickets for the day (!!!) and special Fast Passes for Radiator Springs Racers. I’m still not sure who dropped the ball or how this whole mess happened, but Disney made it MORE than right. I suspect that she went back, found us on the system, and thought, “Look at all the trips these people take to our parks! If we comp them these tickets, they’ll probably book twice as many vacations!”
And you know what? She’s totally right! We thanked her profusely and vowed to spend that extra money on another day in the parks one day in our near future. (See? Disney is still going to get their money — and then some — after all, despite our crazy refunding credit card!)
That stressful intro aside, we went on into California Adventure, intent on making the most of what was left of the day. We made our way to the front of the line at Radiator Springs Racers, which was already wrapped all the way through Cars Land. Easy to understand why, though, because it was the best ride ever. What an amazing attraction! It’s like the next generation of “dark rides,” with moving, interactive characters instead of the old school paintings and audio animatronic robots. Combine the story with the scenery outside (it actually looks just like the movie) and the race at the end, and it’s a step above anything Disney has done so far. It makes me very excited to see what Imagineers have planned for future rides!
From there, we headed over to Midway Mania, which is nowhere near as crowded as the Florida version. Wes and I went to California Adventure back in 2005, before many of these “popular in Florida” attractions were built there, and the crowds were down significantly from what we saw at Disneyland itself. I thought it would be different this time around, but other than the massive push of people in Cars Land, there was still a ghost town feeling to the park. Honestly, I’m not sure why this is. The park reminds me a lot of WDW’s Hollywood Studios, which seems popular enough even in the off seasons when we visit. This was Labor Day weekend, though, and we were able to walk on most of the rides we rode the rest of the day there. Strange.
We walked all around the Boardwalk area, then made our way over to the Ariel ride. Again, we walked right onto the ride with absolutely no wait at all. I began to acutely miss the girls on this one, noting that they would have been beside themselves over all the dancing sea creatures and Ariel. (Emma, in particular, would have appreciated the Sebastian who kept popping up in different scenes.)
We wandered through more of the park, again shocked by the small crowds in every area other than Cars Land, then made our way out of the main gate. We had plans to go back to California Adventure that night for a pasta dinner and to wrap up then with the rest of the rides we planned to ride there. This left us free to spend the afternoon at Disneyland, just across the way.
Aaaaaannnndddd…. I’ll continue tomorrow!