Last Night at Disney’s California Adventure

Usually when we travel I get an itch to get back home. While I was missing Spear…NONE of us felt ready to leave. I’m so, so glad we did an entire week as we truly LIVED IT UP and had THE best trip ever!

After our bit of rest in the room we headed back to Disney’s California Adventure to finish out our trip! 

It was the warmest day of our stay and was around 77ish degrees. We actually broke a sweat and realized we should have done sunscreen that afternoon! 

The headless horseman welcomed us πŸ™‚

All the characters were dressed up in their costumes!

The boys headed straight for Incredicoaster for one last right (they did single rider) so the girls and I debated what to do. We went to where Nick and Judy were doing a meet and greet and got in line to meet them together but were the first ones after the cut off for their break. Bummer. So we decided to ride The Little Mermaid. It’s the exact same ride as the version at Magic Kingdom but it’s a fun one either way!

Afterwards we saw that Nick and Judy were back. And this was the beginning of our string of bad luck with character meetings… A far away pic counts, right? πŸ˜‰

Since the line for Nick and Judy was so long we decided to walk along Pixar Pier to meet other characters (especially since we’d already met Nick that morning). 

Bad timing luck experience #2: Walked right by Doug and Russel as they left their meet and greet spot to go on break. 

Bad timing #3: Walked up just as Mike was going on break. 

We walked the rest of the pier and I was pretty sweaty by that point and just frustrated to have had so many unlucky encounters! I decided to back track and just wait for Mike. He’s a character that doesn’t do regular meet and greets at home so he’d be a good one to meet (Doug and Russel do meet and greets at Animal Kingdom even though we’ve never met them). 

We just hung out in a nice shady spot for Mike to show up and the timing was great for the guys as they walked up at the same time as Mike!!! Yay! 

After the meeting with Mike we all headed back down the Pier together and went over to the Coco area to watch the Coco themed show. It was the only time of the whole trip that we were uncomfortably warm and it’s because the sun was directly shining on us! 

It was worth it though as the show was so cute! Coco is a special movie to our family as it’s the first outing we had together as a family of 6 πŸ™‚ 

I took a couple videos: video one and video two 

Miguel even joined in the fun!

While the kids and I were enjoying the Coco performance Zach was standing back in the shade. Zach is very conscious of his height at Disney and typically prefers standing back to allow everyone to see around us while still allowing himself a good view since he’s so tall πŸ˜‰ 

While we was standing a man started chatting with him. After the show was over I gathered the kids and went back to meet him and he introduced us. The man had a blazer jacket on and was clearly someone of importance with Disney. He had another cast member with him and all of us talked for awhile. 

Turns out the man was Gary Maggetti who is the general manager of Disney’s California Adventure. SO. AWESOME. 

He was EXTREMELY humble. He didn’t tell Zach ANYTHING about himself and it wasn’t until we were finishing our conversation with him that Zach finally asked what his job was at the parks and he told him! He was above and beyond nice.

He actually got his start at the Disney College Program and worked on the Jungle Cruise as a skipper at Magic Kingdom and then worked his way up the ladder from there. Once he finished the college program he received an executive position with Disney. 

Can y’all say kid goals?!?! I mean how awesome would it be for our kids to do that?!?! 

He was SO down to earth. And I LOVE how Walt started the company on a first name basis and that they still do that to this day. His name tag? Just simply said “Gary.”

He told us he was there to observe Miguel in the Coco show as it was the first time they included him in it and asked how we enjoyed the show (I totally think he was a GREAT addition!). He then gave us a bonus FastPass to use on ANY attraction! SO NICE!!!

When he left us? He went over and picked up some trash off the ground. It doesn’t get more humble and down to earth than that. 

Zach and I were SO pumped about this chance meeting. It just really was so neat to meet someone so high up with the company and to see first hand that the higher staff is still keeping things the way Walt always had them. I was SO impressed!!! 

Exploring a bit of the Coco area!

They had a great area where you write down your favorite family memory and attach it to this wall of memories!

Learning to write your name is totally a great family memory πŸ˜‰ 

The. Sweetest. 

The big two REALLY wanted to ride Grizzley River Run again and Zach loved it too so they went to do that while Tess and I played and played in the Red Wood Forrest area. I loved getting some quality time with her and was proud of her for not being upset this time about being left out!

She ran in and out of this cave a good dozen times to keep showing me how brave she is πŸ™‚ 

Grizzley River Run – YOU GET SOAKED

When Zach and I visited DCA we loved our meal at Carthay Circle and I wanted to eat there again this trip. My go to idea was to book special seating packages for all the shows and such that I could. This would allow us to eat at the great restaurants AND get to have the great seats! Win – win, right?

When I booked them all up I didn’t even check pricing. I know that’s dumb of me. But since Zach and I had done the dining packages before I didn’t really give much thought to it OR consider the fact that we had FIVE people instead of TWO people. 

I had originally booked a meal package for the Frozen seating but canceled it so I also kept thinking I was so proud of myself for saving that money by canceling that package that I didn’t really think too much about the ones I had scheduled! It was more “this is checked off the list” kinda thing! 

We had an early dinner at Carthay Circle as part of our dining package for Paint the Night seating!

Finding THE smallest hidden Mickey EVER

Carthay Circle restaurant is based off the Carthay Circle Theater where Walt Disney presented Snow White in theaters for the first time. It’s BEAUTIFUL and has so many neat Disney touches. 

When we got seated they brought out our menus. And Zach and I had a heart attack. 

Y’all. $99 PER PERSON. 


I felt SO BAD. And I mean def wished they hadn’t printed the price ON THE MENU. I mean c’mon guys! I truly didn’t remember or even think I knew the pricing on the package. Zach was clueless too. 

I am SO THANKFUL he didn’t get upset. I actually am SHOCKED at how amazingly he handled it. It really could have gone so many ways. We could have left. He could have been upset. It could have been an expensive meal that was awful and filled with bickering. 

But he LAUGHED y’all. He laughed. It totally dissipated the instant anxiety I felt when I saw the price on the menu. We had THE BEST TIME. 

Most expensive meal of our LIVES but we ENJOYED it. We made sure the kids knew how fancy it was and to just appreciate it. I also lucked out that I had EXACTLY enough money left on our Disney gift card to cover the meal so while it was crazy, ridiculously expensive…it didn’t feel like it since the giftcard was pre-purchased. Whew. 

We were also thankful that they worked with us on the menu. Because we ain’t fancy y’all. They substituted a BUNCH for us to make the meal more our style! 

Can I just give Zach a HUGE SHOUT OUT right here? This is one of those moments that whenever I think about it I am just filled with love and appreciation for him. Y’all know we would NEVER spend this kind of money on something and he could tell I was genuinely as shocked as he was on the pricing and he rolled with it and made it FUN and the perfect last meal of our incredible trip πŸ™‚ 

More beautiful views!

Being the fanciest meal of ALL OF OUR LIVES we lived it up and let each kid get a special fancy Shirley Temple drink! It was Tess’s first time ever having soda and Britt’s first time ever having a Shirley Temple!

I also taught them all how to talk fancy πŸ˜‰ Here’s a few videos: Tess 1, Britt, Tess 2

Fancy fruit!

You better bet that every single one of us got the steak haha. It was hilarious because we spent $99 for Tess to literally only eat a little fruit and French fries. 

Pumped for that fancy meal fancy viewing spot πŸ˜‰ 

They also gave us lots of coloring sheets!

The meal was not only fancy but also took a lot longer than I’d anticipated in my planning due to having courses. It was super important to Zach and I to get to Radiator Springs in time for the kids to see the sun go down and the lights come on so our waiter was awesome about packing up all our desserts to go for us! 

We all LOVED the food and the super fun experience. Was it $400 worth? Um. NO WAY. But it was still a fun one time experience. I DO NOT recommend it. And won’t say I regret it but if we did do the trip over again I wouldn’t have booked it! Live and learn…check prices haha. 

Heading to Cars Land! It was decked out hardcore for the Halloween theming! 

Waiting for sunset!

Love these! Route 66!

A HUGE tip if you visit Disney’s California Adventure: You MUST be at Radiator Springs for sunset. When the sun goes down the whole area slowly lights up to the song from the movie. It’s AWESOME. 

It was still neat to see but disappointing that they played Halloween music! Here’s a video of the street lighting up! 

We were strategic where we stood to see the lights…we knew it was also the line for meeting Lightning McQueen. So when he showed up (in his super cute Halloween costume!) we were first in line to meet him πŸ˜‰ 

We had a fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers. Which another tip: you MUST ride this ride BOTH once during the DAY and once during the NIGHT. SUCH a difference experience! 

We also decided to use our bonus FastPass from Gary to ride it again πŸ˜‰ 

It was SO FUNNY because we walked up to ride it and they said Tess was too short. Like WHAT?!?! She’d already ridden it once during the week (while wearing THE SAME SHOES) and had ridden tons of other 40″ minimum rides that week without any issue. 

If you run into a hight problem, ask them to recheck. We were pulled from line and went over to another checker spot and she cleared no problem! Sometimes their height stuff is just a bit off or you get a more hardcore cast member. No biggie and everyone was super nice about it! 

Got to ride it with Kye this time!

After we rode it once we planned to use our freebie FastPass to ride it again. We checked the time and wanted to make sure we got the best of the best seats for our reserved seating so I went ahead and went to go grab them while they all rode it again! 

SO cool at night!

I showed up and it turns out that we didn’t need to come that early (kinda annoyed that the cast member at dinner said we needed to check in early when that wasn’t actually the case and that I could have ridden Radiator Springs Racers again!). 

So I hopped in line across from our seating to get a picture with the headless horseman and my crew showed up just in time to hop in the picture with me!

Our special seats were LEGIT. We got necklaces that light up (which we got to keep) and were able to sit in theater style CHAIRS to watch the show. Front row viewing. No one blocking us at all. I mean overpriced? Yes. But at least it was truly GREAT SEATS. And to have a legit chair was SO NICE for Zach especially!

We had PLENTY of time before the night show so I took Kye and Britt to ride Soarin’ one last time and Tess opted to stay with Zach! 

Living that VIP life!

Britt was hilarious with her leftovers. I think she ate ALL of our desserts haha

She may not have been that into the Pixar Parade but she LOVED Paint the Night!

Paint the Night used to be at Disneyland but is now at Disney’s California Adventure. It worked out nicely since World of Color was not working when we visited. Which I was okay with. Out of the two night shows I prefer Paint the Night as it’s a new-age Electrical Parade which is my favorite! 

We LOVED the show and it couldn’t have been a better way to end the trip!!!

Several videos: video 1, video 2, video 3 and video 4.  

After the show we headed out to get back to the room. 

The walk back that night was magical. All the fireworks from Disneyland were going off the entire length of our walk which made for a beautiful backdrop as our goodbye. 

I walked hand in hand with Kye and he was just above and beyond appreciative for the trip. He got a little emotional talking about how special the week was and how thankful he was. He didn’t want to leave and said he wishes he could come back sooner. 

I know I keep mentioning it but when you have lots of kids spaced out like we do it’s tricky to time things right. I’m just SO THANKFUL we took this trip when we did. We did it NOW because of Kye. Not FOR him specifically but BECAUSE of him and his age and our desire for him to truly ENJOY the MAGIC. 

It didn’t disappoint. It was pure perfection and that walk back and our talk together meant THE WORLD to me. Seeing his joy and hearing his true deep appreciation for the opportunity was the best thing to me. We made the right call and I just can’t say it enough: TAKE THE TRIP Y’ALL. TAKE IT. You will NOT regret it! Whatever you want your children to experience as CHILDREN – DO IT!!!

Feeling appreciated is one of the best feelings and having Kye be old enough to show that gratitude was something so precious and special. 

Now that we’ve reached the end of the trip…here are some of my comparisons from Disney World vs Disneyland:

  • Cast members at WDW are overall nicer. We had some nice encounters but we have them WAY MORE at Disney World. 
  • There is a big lack of photo pass photographers at Disneyland. We discussed this with a cast member and she said they only have them at the spots people most often want pictures…but I didn’t even find that to be true. And there would be ONE person at each hot spot which meant SUPER long photo lines.
  • The culture overall is just different. We heard a LOT more foul language overall as a whole. From fellow guests as well as cast members. And it was used just very casually. 
  • Going into the trip I was STRESSED about MaxPass. I was nervous about having to book things in the moment. I’m so used to the Fastpass system at WDW where I book them 30-60 days in advance. Booking day of made me nervous but y’all it’s FAR superior to the FastPass system at WDW. It needs to be added to more attractions but the ones that had it we were able to ride MANY times with NO waits and NO issues. 
  • Overall the vibe at Disneyland is more CHILL. Often they didn’t even check Tess’s height on rides. The lines to get in the parks were super casual. Guests weren’t as hardcore about finding good spots for parades and shows. It just didn’t feel as high stress as WDW can often feel in those congested moments. I’m sure part of that was due to our dates of travel and the lack of crowdedness too!
  • Being able to walk from our hotel to the parks and to so easily walk between parks was AWESOME. It’s such a cool experience!!!
  • It may have also been due to the weather but the clothing attire was WAY more appropriate than in Florida. Not a single “bra as a shirt” or “butt cheeks hanging from shorts.” I actually discussed this with a few local teens while in line at Soarin’ the last night and they were shocked that people wear that stuff at WDW so I do think it’s just a less common thing in Cali. 

Overall it was SO awesome to be where Walt walked and where he was hands on in all of the design elements of the park. Hearing cast members say “Walt loved this and that” was really neat. 

Pretty much every ride that is located both at WDW and DL is BETTER AT Disneyland. The California weather? Can also NOT BE BEAT. 

However, ALL five of us agreed we would still choose WDW over Disneyland. The fact that we have FOUR parks and SO much Disney related things to choose from in Orlando and just that it’s HOME to us make it the best in our hearts forever! 

I’ve heard people debate which coast has the better Disney experience and I just think it’s valuable to experience BOTH. You’ll always favor the one you know the best but that doesn’t mean the other is less special or less magical! 

We flew out super early the next morning and the kids did GREAT! They were excited to experience flying again…and their snack bags πŸ˜‰ 

We had a bit of a longer flight day for the way home. Our flights KEPT changing after booking (so annoying) so I ended up calling Delta and getting everything re-worked. We flew into Las Vegas for a layover and then to Atlanta and then to Valdosta. This allowed me a chance to sit with each kid πŸ˜‰ 

This girl. So brave and thinks everything is an adventure! She kept putting her arms up at take off and landing!

I finished our book club book for the month on the flight: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Y’all it’s ADORABLE. I can’t say I recommend the Netflix movie as it just wasn’t nearly as good as the book but the book is super cute. I didn’t love the second one but plan to read the third at some point! 

Britt worked on her travel journal on the flight!

As we entered the Vegas airport: “MOMMY THEY HAVE GAMES!!!” Hahaha

First (and hopefully last and only ha!) time in Las Vegas!

The kids were given wings (love that they still do this!) and really cool cards that showed the type of plane we were riding!

I love that she still sleeps on the go…sweet girl!

I love flying as a chance to watch some movies but now that Katie and I are always on a mission for the Oscar nominees there aren’t really a whole lot of movies I WANT to watch. 

I watched one movie on the way and one on the way home on this trip. I highly recommend them both:

  1. The Florida Project: OMG y’all. This movie. It is SO real and RAW.  I should have had tissues. I cried HARD. I kept saying “I shouldn’t have watched this.” It’s SO GOOD. It hits you DEEP though so be warned. I keep telling people to see it. It really stuck with me in a big way (and if you’re a Disney person you’ll love it too). It’s based on people who live in the hotels on 192 which we pass regularly when visiting the parks! 
  2. Won’t You Be My Neighbor: I wasn’t a huge Mr Rodgers person growing up but this documentary is super good and made me want to buy all the dvds for my kids. He really had an incredible message and a true passion for children. I recently looked into it and all of Mr Rodgers content is free with Amazon Prime! Whoop whoop! 

Hello Atlanta!

Pizza for dinner: SHOCKER. 

Tablets for the win for a layover!

Heading to Valdosta!!!


I am just unbelievably thankful that we had the opportunity to take this trip. I’m so glad we’ve always been hardcore about strategic spending so we were able to ALL FLY FOR FREE using our points. I’m thankful Zach has such a flexible job and that we were able to take the full week for the trip. I’m thankful we are able to afford these types of experiences for our children.

And that they appreciate them! Even Tess truly has had so much gratitude for this experience. She STILL (two months later) thanks God for the California trip and talks about it constantly. 

These are memories that will last a lifetime. We’re all already counting down until Spear is old enough so we can go back πŸ˜‰ 

I know every family has different values and priorities. For us we are passionate about creating memories as a family and travel is a huge way we do that. We budget and we save and we make the trips happen! 

I’m so thankful to my incredible husband for being on board with all of our adventures and can’t wait to see where we’ll be heading in the future πŸ™‚ 

1 Comment

  1. Jenna
    November 27, 2018 / 9:56 am

    I’m sad these Disneyland posts are coming to an end, ha! I’ve enjoyed reading them. I’ve never been to Disneyland and it has been many years since I went to Disneyworld. Reading your blog posts on Disney gives me the itch to go!

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