After six days of vacation we were about ready for a vacation. Alas, no rest for the wicked. We needed to take one more spin through the parks to make sure we saw everything we needed to see. After all, there's no guarantee we'll be back any time soon.
Even before we could get into the parks, though, we were treated to another wish granted. (Well... sort of.) Disney is in the midst of their second Year of a Million Dreams and although we didn't win the dream suite inside Disneyland we did get a set of fancy mouse ears guaranteed to make us the envy of anyone looking for fancy mouse ears. (So far we haven't found those folks, but if you know where they are let me know.)
Once in California Adventure we headed back to familiar territory for another chance to hurl on California Screamin'. In case you forgot, that's the favorite of adrenalin junkies where you launch as though from an aircraft carrier and then go upside down. Needless to say, I wasn't sitting next to her when it took off. Nope. I was being sensible on the under-the-sea-carousel with the kids.
Aside from riding the carousel round and round Lilly's favorite activity was flopping over backward while riding on my shoulders. In general she'd hang upside down for a while before sitting up. However, after enough repetitions she lacked the core strength to hoist herself back up and was at my mercy. As payment she had to submit to a bit of tummy tickling from passers by and even folks like Amy and Clara.
In another example of how it pays to be in the know we navigated to a nondescript little building outside a wine bar. (A wine bar? In Disneyland (sort of)? NICE!) If you're a Disney credit card customer you can get a private audience with a couple of characters. It's not like you get to specify who'll be there, but sometimes you get lucky.
Like when we walked in to find Chip and Dale waiting with open arms. If you thought Nana was out of her mind earlier in the trip this proved she could get even wackier. The girls took turns visiting with Dale while Nana gave Chip hug after hug.
Just as we were about to walk out Mickey and Goofy came in and we started the whole dance over again, though Nana was significantly less excited at the decidedly non-chipmunky characters.
Back on Day 5 A Bugs' Land was extremely popular with the kids so we wandered back that way. Aside from a bit of myrmecophobia that prevented Clara from saying hello to either Princess Ana or Flik we had few problems. We rode the chew-chew train and the Tea Cup knock-off ride and then started heading back.
Of course, heading back meant going into the Hollywood section of California Adventure. Our main goal was seeing the live version of Aladdin. Again, we had special passes and didn't have to wait in the normal line, but still had to wait a bit. The show turned out to be really good, especially with the addition of updated jokes about politics, the Internet, and even Disney itself.
Half of us got to see the Muppets 3D show, but the other half were denied at the gate because we were a moment or two late. Oh well. It was time to head back anyway.
Along the way we detoured into the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, which is sort of all of California's wilderness adventures compressed into a half acre space suitable for kids over 42 inches tall. As lame as that sounds, it was pretty neat. There were fire towers to climb and a series of bridges and ramps made of nets to climb around on. The girls squirmed through tunnels and slid on "rock slides" and even discovered their spirit animal in a special cave. Mine was a fish. (Go figure.) Nicole's was a skunk. (No comment.)
Clara and Molly both also got to do a bit of rock climbing on a wall where they could safely traverse across the face. No ropes were required, but Papa and I provided some moral support. Lilly was about an inch too short to climb. I'll just have to take her into the woods instead.
We were in for a late night so we headed back to the hotel. After a quick change into swimwear we got a quick dip in the pool that again looked great, but proved to be really chilly. Henry got his first swimming experience and showed off a sweet new hairdo with help from suntan lotion.
While the kids were supposedly resting after swimming we watched the sun drop and a brilliant sunset develop courtesy of LA's famous smog. It makes for a pretty sky, but probably not good for anybody's lungs.
Our first evening event was the Electric Parade back in California Adventure. I think this used to be in Disneyland, but it's moved next door either for logistics or to give folks like us another reason to spend a little more time there instead of in Disneyland or in Knott's Berry Farm.
Like everything else, the Electric Parade is well done, though a bit dated. The girls were nonetheless thrilled by the electro-synth music and incandescent madness rolling down the street. Unlike at the end of the evening parade we saw on Day 5 when the crowd kind of melted away into the rest of Disneyland we were part of a mass exodus from California Adventure at the conclusion of the festivities.
We were swept up with the flow out the gates, across the plaza, and in the front door of Disneyland. Like all the others we were headed for the center of Disneyland for the best viewing of the nightly fireworks.
Late on Day 1 we had seen the fireworks from afar while returning with groceries. At the time I was astounded by how big a show it was and how long it lasted. With the accompanying soundtrack it was even more impressive and well executed. What appeared to be random bursts in the sky were in fact some pyro's interpretation of various famous movie themes. The kids loved some of the ones they got, but missed the significance of the important ones like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. (I wonder how soon I can show Star Wars to Clara...)
The kids oohed and ahed appropriately for a while, but then it clearly began to wear thin. Registered Pyro Papa, though, was in it to the end. Not that we could have left even if we wanted to. The crowd was packed so tightly that we had no chance to escape.
By the time we did make it back to the hotel the kids were either completely out or just mostly. It wasn't long before they were sound asleep leaving the rest of us to pack up for our early (ish) departure the next morning.