Mickey, Charlie and Darth- Oh My!

Two days after returning from Chicago, we turned around and headed to Orange County. In between, we had Emma’s first school conference, two days of school, laundry, ski and climbing class and AJ wrapping up his last days at TrainingPeaks.

We had a quick and easy flight on Thursday night. We got to the hotel hungry, so we went to the iHop right down the street at 9:30 at night. Emma had fallen asleep for about 45 minutes, so she was wide awake. It was hard to find anything for Emma to eat. She had fruit, dry toast and lemonade. After our late dinner, we hit the hay as we had an early morning.

We met our friends, and season pass holders, early the next morning at the entrance to Disney. The plan was for them to take Emma in to get signed up for Jedi Training. The age requirement is 4, so we worked on her saying she was 4. When she got up to the sign up place, she told them she was 3. So, no Jedi Training. I guess I can’t balk at the fact that she was honest. We do try and drive the point of honesty being the best policy at home. The one day she got in trouble in school, she told me right away when I picked her up. I am overall more happy that she told the truth than her getting to do Jedi Training.

However, Joe and Steph felt bad. They bought her a surprise Jedi robe and took her on a few of her favorite rides- the carousel, Dumbo and her absolute fav- the tea cups! In the meantime, AJ and I sat and enjoyed a kid free coffee and conversation! We met them all at the entrance and headed to breakfast with Mickey and the gang at Paradise Pier Hotel.

At breakfast, Emma got to see Minnie and Daisy. She had a dance party with Stitch. And best of all, Mickey is there for photos, high fives and lots of hugs. They were also able to make Emma dairy free Mickey shaped waffles, which was very nice! After breakfast, we hit the pool for lunch and some fun on the slides.

Amazing enough, Emma went down for a nap when we got back to the hotel. Swimming makes her tired. I think telling her she would have to miss the fireworks if she didn’t get some rest also helped.

She woke up a little before 4- the time we could get into the park for Mickey’s Halloween Party. The Halloween Party is a ticket you have to buy separately even if you are a pass holder. It lets you into the park at 4, and the party starts at 7. If you didn’t have a ticket, you had to leave the park at 7. When we finally got into the park and through security, it was after 5. It was mega crowded till 7 and then just mildly crowded after.

We got in line to ride the rocket ships first. It took about 20 min of waiting to get on the ride. AJ was comparing the ride to Dumbo as it went around and up and down. Once we got going though, it was a lot faster than Dumbo! Emma enjoyed whizzing around seeing the park from high above.

Next, we hit the line for the Haunted Mansion ride. It’s one of my favorites! When we went to Disney last August, it was closed to be revamped for Halloween. This year’s theme is Nightmare Before Xmas. So, the outside was all decorated with Jack and things from the movie. The beginning of the ride begins the same with going in the dark circular parlor. You could tell Emma was getting a bit anxious with the loud noises, lightning bolts and the room going dark.

We got loaded into a car (or sleigh for the movie purposes), and off we went. And then what we refer to as the not so great part of our trip (although Emma tells everyone about it) happened. We were starting through part of Dr. Finkelstein’s lab- a room with talking flowers when the ride stopped. The flowers were screaming “La la la la la” over and over basically in our face. It was maddening, and we knew it would be a bit when a real voice came over the speaker saying our ride would begin again soon. Emma buried her head in AJ’s chest. We covered her ears and she began to cry. AJ was trying to lift the bar to get us off the ride. t was about ten minutes of being stopped before the ride began again. We got stopped again two more times for much shorter periods of time. We were so happy to get off the ride. It was shut down for a few hours after. I much prefer the classic ride and felt quite bad I put us through all that.

Then, we met up with Joe, Steph, David, Tawny and Steph’s parents to stop at some trick or treat stations. We had a quick dinner with them and went off on our own to hit the tea cups. Emma thought it was super cool to ride them at night under the moon. Next, we headed to find the Storm Troopers. While looking for them, I talked to an employee who told me that we could meet Darth and Chewie if we got in line for the trick or treat station that went through the Star Wars Launch Bay. Well, we got straight in line for that. Emma had to go potty ten minutes into the line. We improvised and put a diaper on over her undies, so she could go and not have wet pants!

Meeting Vader was pretty intimidating.. He isn’t small and was true to character. At first, Emma wasn’t so sure. We went into a bay area that looked like the inside of the Death Star and Vader greeted us asking if we had the rebel plans. We followed him into a room after he pointed to tell us where to go. We snapped some photos at his side. At one point, Emma leaned over to hug Vader. The photographer stopped shooting photos at that time as Vader would never hug anyone.After Darth, we scrambled to hit the bathroom and raced to find the gang who had found up front seats for the parade.

The parade wasn’t our favorite part of Mickey’s Halloween Party. We were near a speaker that made it loud. And, we aren’t huge fans of the theme of Nightmare Before Christmas. Emma did really enjoy the beginning of the parade with the headless horseman and the grave diggers who danced with their shovels and created sparks. The highlight came when the fireworks show began. Between the huge bursts of color to the music and light show on the castle, it was incredible. Hands down, it was the best fireworks I have ever seen! Someone fell asleep before we made it out of the park!

The next day was a chill day hanging by the pool and dinner by the ocean. I got to dip my toes in the Pacific working on my goal of dipping my toes in the Atlantic and Pacific in one year.

On Sunday, I woke up early rearing to go visit Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s the 50th anniversary of It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, so Knott’s was doing it up for that. Emma and I put on our Peanuts gear after breakfast, and the three of us headed to the park.

First we went to the trick or treat stations and Linus’ Pumpkin Patch. I would have to say, I am most impressed with Knott’s ability to accommodate with food allergies. When we went to the trick or treat stations, all the candy was nut free and even dairy free. The on-site restaurants serve gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. At the trick or treat stations at Disney, we encountered candy with nuts and gluten. Most candy contained dairy although one station had freeze dried apples and apple slices. We made sure to grab extras there.

We were able to meet Sally at the pumpkin patch and then headed to the Camp Snoopy area of the park where all the Emma size rides are.  

Most of the characters were around Camp Snoopy including Charlie, Snoopy and Lucy. We went to a Halloween Dance Party and rode rides from Woodstock’s Mail Delivery to the Balloon Race. Emma even rode her first true roller coaster. She wasn’t so sure about it. Lastly, we headed back to Linus’ Pumpkin Patch to try and meet the Peanut of the hour! He was there blanket and all…. We finished by watching a bit of Great Pumpkin and decorating a pumpkin small enough to get home in my carry on. We weren’t sure how long we would last there, but we managed to fill 4.5 hours easily!

Sadly, we had to then head to the airport. Emma cried because she didn’t want to leave. But, the worst of the crying came when we found out she couldn’t bring her Minnie balloon on the plane. We arrived home after midnight tired but grateful for the wonderful time we had!


Thankfully, we are home until Thanksgiving. For now, it’s all about Halloween, AJ’s 40th and figuring out a barn I can rent next fall to have a party and show Great Pumpkin on the big screen like in this picture.


Adventure On,


The Adventures of a Day Hiker

My stories and photos from the National Parks (and more)

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