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September 4th, 2023


I’m going to Disneyland!

I was born in California two years before Disneyland opened, but I grew up on the east coast and never got to visit it when I was a kid. Back in the late 50 and 1960s, travel from coast to coast was expensive, and also slow unless you had the money to fly. You either took the train or the bus, or you drove and driving it across so much vast emptiness past the Ozarks was risky. Cars back then weren’t nearly as reliable as they are today. So little Mouseketeer me could only watch the Mickey Mouse Club on TV and the Walt Disney movies mom took me to. Closest I ever came to a theme park when I was young were the boardwalks at the beach towns mom would vacation us in. Those were lots of fun, but not as much fun as I knew Disneyland would be.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I even got a chance to visit California again, and then it was mom and me on a road trip to try and reconnect me with dad and his family in Oceano. Anaheim was just far enough away, and the traffic in and out of Los Angeles horrible enough, that everything involved in spending even just a couple days at the park, driving down, getting a hotel and buying tickets, and then the drive back, just wasn’t do-able. And there wasn’t much time until I had to be back in school and mom had to be back at work anyway,

Then, decades later, I got work that came with vacation time and I was able to visit my California family on a semi regular basis. But even then I had to be back for work so there still wasn’t time make the trip to Anaheim. But by then Walt Disney World had opened up, and a trip down to Florida wasn’t all that hard to schedule. Even better, my high school crush worked there, and encouraged me to come down for a visit through by then I was more about the road trip than theme parks.

“Come on man it’s your heritage…baseball, mom, apple pie, and Mickey Mouse…what’s wrong with you?”

I still remember that first visit and walking into Epcot and how my inner Mouseketeer came back to me. Somehow in my adulthood I’d forgotten all that. And it rekindled my faith in the human spirit. That, It’s A Small World After All, and There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow Shining At The End Of Every Day thing. I’d forgotten all those days back when I was young and we were going to the moon and I watched the first live television from overseas via Telstar, and sat at the TV Sunday’s after dinner and watched Walter Cronkite’s The Twenty-First Century and Saturday mornings watching Watch Mr. Wizard and evenings before bed watching Star Trek, and reading Arthur C. Clarke and Hal Clement and Ray Bradbury, and those days when I looked forward to whatever the future held. 

I’d forgotten how much I still needed that. And that day in Epcot, watching the monorail glide overhead, and hearing that Disney music at the entrance, and looking up at Spaceship Earth, it all came back to me.

So Walt Disney World became my thing, and I got the annual pass, and then for a few years a DVC membership, and I’ve visited at least twice a year every since, sometimes three times if I could wrangle a long weekend now and then. And since Magic Kingdom was almost a carbon copy of the original Disneyland I could be satisfied that I had my Disneyland experience after all.

But it wasn’t the same of course. And now I’m retired and I have plenty of time to go to Disneyland while I’m here in California. So this time around I set my mind to going. And I’m doing it right with park hopper tickets and a hotel in the park, which gives me easy walking access and maybe some extra magic hours too.

The Halloween after hours event was all sold out though…drat. Maybe next year.

This is almost like a pilgrimage. One of my favorite spots in Hollywood Studios is the Tune-In Lounge and I’ve sat at the bar there watching Walt Disney give the opening speech to his new theme park so many times I know it by heart…

To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

He saw it through to completion, which he never got the chance to in Florida. I really want to see this place at least once.

It’s actually more expensive even though it’s a smaller park, because so many of the perks I get having the Walt Disney World annual pass aren’t available to me at Disneyland, and the selection of in park hotels is nothing like Walt Disney World. So this may be a one shot thing, but we’ll see. Nice thing about Disneyland is it’s not in DeSantisland. The drawback is it’s so much smaller. I looked into making dining reservations and the choices are pretty limited. But then Walt Disney World is Huge. I don’t think there’s anything else like it in the world.

But there will never be another Disneyland, no matter how many copies of it they make all over the world. It’s the first one, where it all began. There was nothing like it before. I love Walt Disney World enough to keep going back no matter how ugly the republicans down there make Florida. But I have to see Disneyland at least once in my life.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

December 16th, 2020

Still Magical…If Not As Wet…

Renewed my Walt Disney World annual pass today. They’re no longer offering the pass that bundles in the water parks, so I spent a tad less this time. I also got a small refund in the mail for a portion of the previous pass for the time the water parks were closed. I suspect the water parks won’t be reopening for quite some time because of the plague, and let’s face it a water park would be like a human petri dish for that damn virus.

Also, they’re still not selling new passes, only renewals. I’m guessing that’s another way of keeping guest numbers down for the time being.

by Bruce | Link | React!

April 7th, 2018

Boardwalk! Finally!

Woohoo! Just now bought points at Disney’s Boardwalk. It’s a big deal for me because this is the spot I want to have when I go to Walt Disney World. It’s perfect in so many ways. At least to me.

I’ve been going down to WDW at least twice a year ever since a certain someone coaxed me into a visit. It’s one of my favorite stories…the German classmate telling me over the phone after I expressed skepticism about theme parks, Come on man…it’s your heritage! Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie and Mickey Mouse. What’s wrong with you? So I went, mostly to see him again after 30+ years of searching for him, but also to finally get a taste of the Disney park thing. I was born in California, half my family tree is there, and I’ve never visited Disneyland. My thing was the cross country road trip. I had no time for theme parks. But I figured a drive down I-95 to Walt Disney World was do-able.

But I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was still alive, and I’d forgotten what a Mouseketeer I was. I decided to get a room at a middle tier park hotel, and chose Caribbean Beach since it was closest to Epcot where my classmate worked, and which I thought I’d like better than Magic Kingdom, which was as I understood it, just a restatement of Disneyland in California. I thought maybe I could just walk across the street and there would be a conveniently located park gate near the hotel…but no…not that hotel. I wrote about that first ever check in to a Disney Hotel here. It was ten years ago this November. What I missed jotting down was the experience of walking into Epcot for the first time, and that Disney kid I once was all coming back to me in an instant. I was hooked. From that moment on, WDW became a thing I had to have in my life.

Luckily I’m at a point in my life where I’m earning enough to do that. Disney is anything but cheap. That said, if you do the backstage tour you will come away from it wondering why the tickets aren’t twice as expensive. It is a massive operation to make it all work. Soon I got an annual pass, which made the visits less costly per day, and came with some useful spiffs like free parking at the parks and merchandise discounts. I’ve written before about how the annual pass keeps sucking you into renewing it every year Here. The dollar figures are from 2012 so ignor those…it’s way more expensive now, but if you go there regularly you are nuts if you just buy your tickets at the walk up counters. The annual pass saves you tons, especially on the renewals.

A co worker asked me on one of my trips to get one of the Christmas limited edition DVC (Disney Vacation Club) pins at Boardwalk, which is one of their upscale hotels, located around a small lake next to Epcot. There was a second guest entrance to the park that I’d thought only guests staying at those hotels (there are three…Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club) could use that entrance, but it turns out anyone can, and if they want go enjoy all the restaurants and shops along the early 20th century themed boardwalk. So I got my co worker their pins and did a little exploring and discovered there was a pathway that wound alongside a canal that led to Hollywood Studios, which was by then my second favorite WDW park. But those hotels were the top tier and horrifically expensive. Well out of reach so I thought, which was disheartening because what I was seeing was that staying at one of them meant I’d have walking distance to my two favorite WDW parks…Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

But Boardwalk and Beach Club were DVC which by then I knew was their thing for buying into staying at the upscale hotels on a regular basis. Digging into it a little further I discovered that the DVC rooms, unlike the regular hotel rooms, had complete kitchens…or in the case of the little studio rooms, nearly complete, but still much better than your usual hotel room. It looked very attractive, but I was skeptical about getting locked into something like that. The middle tier hotels like Caribbean Beach were just fine, and about as much as I could afford on a regular basis. 

One year a co worker who was already DVC offered to let me tag along on a DVC presentation for one of their new hotels, Bay Lake Towers which was being built next to the first hotel they built at WDW, the Contemporary. The Contemporary is the one the monorail goes right through and I’ve always found it’s futuristic architecture beautiful. I ran that by that certain someone who coaxed me into my first WDW visit and he told me never to go to a DVC presentation without first breaking both my hands so I couldn’t sign anything. But I pretty much had decided not to join. Too much money and I didn’t want to get locked in.

Then one year I discovered there are web sites that let you buy a stay at one of the DVC hotels using “points” that DVC members were willing to sell for that year. The DVC point system makes it different from what I understood your usual timeshare is. Instead of buying a slice of time at a particular hotel, you buy points you can use at any DVC resort in a given year. The more points you buy, the more time you can reserve. You buy into a “home” resort, but you can use your points at all of them; the only difference being you can reserve up to eleven months out at your home resort, but only seven at the others. You can bank up to two years worth of points, and borrow points from the next year. 

Apparently some DVC members were willing to sell points for a year they could not stay, and Disney is fine with that. I looked at the cost and saw that it was about the same as staying at a middle tier hotel, the only drawback being once you reserved on those second hand points you couldn’t back out of it if something suddenly came up and you had to make a sudden change of plans. I decided to try it anyway, and queried one of the sites dealing in other people’s DVC points about buying a stay at either Beach Club (my preference then since it seemed to be nicer) or Boardwalk. Either one would get me walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios which was what I wanted most. Luckily as it turned out, there were no Beach Club points available for the days I wanted to stay (my birthday week in September). But there were Boardwalk points.

Boardwalk, as it turned out, was ideal. It seriously felt as if they’d built and themed it just for me. When I was a kid and mom had a couple weeks vacation we went to various beach towns along the Atlantic coast, so strolling a boardwalk tapped deep into childhood feelings of joy. And mom, being a depression/WWII era kid, grew up on big band music and so naturally so did I and Boardwalk was piping that stuff all through its in house music system. There was a 30s themed bar with the old leather chairs and radios playing the music and radio shows of the times and at the end of my day I’d take a book I was reading there, sit in one of the comfy leather chairs next to a radio, have a cocktail and read until I was ready for bed and then I’d just go to my room. In the mornings I would walk the path to Hollywood Studios and make a beeline for The Writers Stop and get my morning coffee and danish (alas The Writer’s Stop was taken down when Starbucks moved in. Foo!).

It was all too perfect. So before I left I stopped into the DVC kiosk and asked to talk about buying into the thing. I’m sure they saw me coming. Up to that point I’d been visiting WDW at least twice yearly, spending money with the Disney card my co workers talked me into, and using my hotel keys, and later the Magic Bands to buy things. They must have had my profile down pat because the offering they made me was for fewer points than I was told was the minimum to buy in, but right dead in the middle of my spending comfort zone. I looked at the numbers and they made sense if I was planning on visiting WDW at least once a year. If I did that my costs would end up being about what they would have been if I’d stayed at a middle tier hotel every year, but this was getting me a room at one of the top level hotels.

Preferably Boardwalk, which I asked for. But I was told they weren’t selling Boardwalk points just then and anyway I could use my points at Boardwalk if I wanted to. So I relented and bought what they were selling: Grand Floridian points. It was a mistake. Granted, being DVC gave me a bunch of handy new spiffs, the best of which was I could now renew my annual pass on the Florida resident discount since now that I have property in Florida (the state of Florida taxes me on it as if it’s actual feet on the ground property), plus, unless the republicans really did kill this, I get a tax break on the Florida state tax and the mortgage interest. I’ll find out if I still have those next year I reckon.

But I didn’t really want to stay at Grand Floridian. It was on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop and I wanted to be near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Plus, I didn’t like it’s The Hotel In Death In Venice theming. It felt suffocating. But to get into Boardwalk with only a seven month window to reserve I discovered, was nearly impossible. By then so many of the rooms were already booked you could only get three or four days in a row. 

It was frustrating, and twice I took out that frustration on the poor DVC customer service folks. But eventually (I don’t know why this wasn’t made plain to me before) I was told I could be put on a waiting list for Boardwalk points, and it might only be a month or so I’d have to wait. It was what I should have done in the first place.

Just now they came through. I will sell the Grand Floridian points, either back to DVC (something else I was told before that I couldn’t do) or in the third party market. Then it’ll just be the Boardwalk points I’m paying off and I can easily sustain that. And with eleven months out that I can reserve it’ll be a snap to get my birthday week at Boardwalk every year now, though I did manage with lots of frustration, to get it this year too. As this post is already long enough I’ll go into that adventure some other time.

Right now I’m just…delighted.


by Bruce | Link | React!

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