Monday, January 9, 2012

Birthday in Disneyland!

Yesterday was Carter's 4th birthday. It's hard to believe it's been 4 years, though in other ways it seems like Carter has been around longer than that! Carter hasn't really expressed any interest in having a birthday party yet and so we really wanted to do something to make his birthday extra special. After thinking about a few different options, we decided to take a weekend trip to Disneyland to celebrate.

We flew to LA on Friday afternoon and checked into the Disneyland hotel, a place we've never stayed before. Though Doug and I used to go to Disneyland a lot back when we lived in Tucson, it's been more than a decade since we've been here. This area has changed a lot! The Disneyland park used to stand alone, surrounded by parking lots. Now there's another park and a Downtown Disney area, and it all looks so different than I remember. But it's very compact and that's a nice change from Orlando. It's a quick walk from our hotel to the monorail station, and then the monorail takes you right into the park, bypassing the entry plaza. That's nice first thing in the morning! We spent most of three days in the park (we spent one evening in the California Adventure park, but otherwise we stayed in Disneyland), and I took most of the pictures on Carter's actual birthday on Sunday.

Here we're riding the monorail at 7:00 am -- yay for Extra Magic Hours!


For some reason the minimum heights of many rides were different here than in Orlando, and Carter was able to ride everything except the Indiana Jones ride. He got to ride Space Mountain (which he's too short for in Orlando) for the first time, and he loved it! We ended up riding it 4 times over the course of a few days.

Carter also enjoyed riding Star Tours, the Matterhorn, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain (on which we got soaked first thing in the morning, brrr!), and Pirates of the Caribbean (the Disneyland version is the best there is, IMO). Two rides were completely redone for Christmas, to my surprise: It's a Small World (the characters sang "Jingle Bells"!) and the Haunted Mansion (reimagined as The Nightmare Before Christmas). Carter was a little perplexed that the Christmas decorations were still up and kept saying, "But Christmas is over." Heh.

After spending some time in the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, this view of Disneyland from Main Street seems to be missing something:


Sleeping Beauty's castle is puny compared to Cinderella's in Orlando! It's strange to look down the street and not see that huge castle dominating the park. Disneyland is far more compact than the Magic Kingdom as well, and that makes the park feel very different.

Carter liked riding rides, but Tom Sawyer Island is always a great place to spend time.


We never did ride the steamboat this time, unfortunately!


Carter also had fun playing on this fire truck.



We spent a lot of time in Toon Town, where there are lots of things to play on.



We did the mass birthday party at the Plaza Inn, which Carter was honestly too tired for. In retrospect we could have skipped it!



Everyone got a little cake to decorate.



Needs more sprinkles!


The final result, which he wasn't interested in eating:


And then there was a surprise visit from Mickey and Minnie!


We ended the day early on Sunday and spent the evening in the hotel room. We can see the park's fireworks from our room, but Carter fell asleep an hour or so before, so he missed them. Doug and I were kind of glad to have an evening to relax, though! We pushed it too hard on Sunday and should have taken a break earlier in the day, in retrospect.

We decided to do the character breakfast in the hotel this morning. Here Carter is hanging out in one of the Autotopia cars in the lobby.


We got a picture with Pluto. There were lots of other characters roaming around, but somehow we didn't get any other pictures.


The Happy Birthday button got Carter lots of free desserts this weekend!


We rode lots of rides today and had fun in the park. He and I made our own lightsabers, and we're going to have a lot of fun with those when we get home! Carter seemed to be done in mid-afternoon, so we headed back towards the hotel. We took him by a make-your-own toy car store in Downtown Disney, and he picked out a flatbed truck with very basic features. (He named it Sally and says it's a space flatbed truck.) He had fun watching the guy put it together.


We've been hanging out in the room ever since, and he seems to be enjoying having some quality time with his toys. As Doug says, "World class amusement park: miss. $20 plastic toy: hit!" It's been a fun weekend, though. One of the things that's been really cool on this trip is that Carter is now old enough to ride some cool things, and he actually likes those rides. Space Mountain was one of the first rides he went on (which, for those who've never been to a Disney park, is a fairly fast roller coaster ride in the dark), and when he came off of that grinning, I knew he was going to be able to ride everything! It's definitely more fun for me and Doug than it was a couple of years ago.

Carter seemed to enjoy the trip, but on the actual day of his birthday he wasn't very happy about turning 4. He kept saying, "I'm not really 4 yet; I'm just turning 4." He also said that after he turns, 6, he'll turn 3 again. He seemed a little distressed about being a year older, and he seemed worried that being 4 means he's a big boy now. I think I may have stressed him out about this birthday! :-/

And it seems like a big birthday, somehow. It seems like he's a big boy now in a way he wasn't before. 3 is still a baby in a lot of ways but 4 is a child, no doubt about it. But hey, he can still be a little boy for as long as he wants. I don't mind. :-)

And now, we're off to ride Space Mountain one more time before the park closes...

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