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Friday, November 24, 2006

Disneyland for Thanksgiving? A Family Tradition!

Another year, another Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland in Southern California. What began as a trial a few years ago has now become a tradition, with the Brown & Hanscom families going to Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim. For 2006, this makes it the 3rd annual trip for our families which seems to be growing each year – as a total of eleven of us made the trek down to enjoy both theme parks and a great Thanksgiving meal at the Storytellers Café.

First off, let’s talk about the accommodations – we decided to stay at the Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim Resort for our trip for a couple of reasons. The first is that the hotel is a Hilton family property and our family prefers to stay at Hilton because of the great rewards and the fact that all of us maintain Hilton Honors VIP Gold status. Secondly, they had a phenomenal deal on these dates this past summer and while we absolutely love the Disney Grand Californian – at $400/night, we prefer our $80 Doubletree rooms. Upon arriving we quickly realized the reason for the great rates – the hotel is a brand new property and the promotion must have been to help make sure the resort would be full over the holiday weekends. Overall, the Doubletree was fairly impressive – the entry was nice, there was a good assortment of a restaurant, bar, and a coffee shop making sure that all the needs were met. In addition, the rooms were great – relatively large suites, filled with great quality amenities, bedding, and fixtures.

Now, onto the festivities – over the last couple of years, Disneyland has been relatively quiet on Thanksgiving Day. This year we were a little nervous that our secret was out, as in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, we heard many Disney radio advertisements encouraging people to enjoy a relaxing day at the theme parks. We kept hope that it would remain relatively calm for our Thanksgiving stay and I must admit, Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland was a great success! We arrived at the Disneyland Park right at opening – bright and early – 8:00am. We then made quick runs to Indiana Jones to get a Fast Pass for later, and then right into the line for Space Mountain. (Our technique that we have perfected over the past couple of years of season passes is to get fast passes as quickly as possible in the morning because you can get the early times and immediately be available to select another fast pass, which is a huge key. That way, you save the fast passes you collect in the morning for when it is more crowded in the afternoon. This also works well for California Adventure as you can have an active Fast Pass in both parks – which is great if you are not able to get your hands on the scarce “Dream FASTPASS” badges that are currently being handed out at random within the parks. I made somewhat of an attempt to locate one, but was not successful. We continued hitting all of our favorite rides Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Soarin’ Over California, Hollywood Hotel, and the Maliboomer until the time came for dinner.

We then went to our favorite (other than Club 33) Disney Southern California restaurant, the Storytellers Café – located in the Grand Californian Resort. Generally, we have always ordered from the menu, but starting last year we had the Thanksgiving Buffet. Overall, it was a decent meal aside from the Prime Rib which was not the best. However, the Storytellers Café really nailed it. All the trimmings including turkey, prime rib, ham, mashed potatoes, and stuffing! I even had a few extra helpings of the prime rib – which was greatly improved over the last year. In fact, trusty case member “Scott” was doing a lot of the carving on the prime rib & ham – he’s been a fixture the last 3+ years we’ve been going there and it was great to see him again!

After a great meal, it was back to the parks to enjoy the fireworks. While they were relatively good fireworks, it is simply impossible to compete with quality of the 50th Anniversary fireworks spectacular that we had been seeing the last 18 months. Disney has a lot of work ahead of them to really improve on that. However, it was FIREWORKS and it even “snowed” afterwards. It was a great Thanksgiving holiday with the family!

Friday, we made an “attempt” to visit the park again. Sleeping in a little to rest up from the previous day, we got to the park and promptly decided we had enough. Every line we went to had at least an hour long wait, including Pirates of the Caribbean – given the relaxing day that we had just one day previous – we made a quick exit for home!

Please check here to see the picture album from the day:

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