On Christmas Day, one of my dear friends gave his (skinny witch) wife a trip to Disneyland for the first time with their daughter. She cried; heck, I cried. It was strangely romantic and sweet. Immediately we went into planning mode — where to stay, what to do that’s perfect for a 3 1/2 year-old girlie girl, what time of year to go and, like all California mommies do, plan on how to conquer Disneyland without gaining an ounce. As you all know by now, food is my obsession.
Here’s our quick list of food friendly sneaks, snacks and killer meals at Disneyland for those of us who count every bite. Oh, and a hint: for fun, bring a pedometer — we averaged walking about four miles, and about 1800 calories per day.
1. Fresh food carts are your go-to. On Main Street, and in the back of the park near Dumbo, you’ll find a fresh fruit and veggie cart. Kids are so overwhelmed when they first arrive, it’s great to hit-up this cart on Main Street. Get a pineapple spear, some watermelon or fresh mango and sit on the curb to take in your first minutes. Another tip: don’t stock up on the fruits and veggies here. Instead use it as a resting opportunity. See a fresh fruit cart? Grab an apple and rest your legs. It’s a great way to keep on top of low blood sugar too…
2. Bengal Barbecue. Right outside of the Indiana Jones ride is the Bengal Barbecue. They’ve got three or four different types of skewers (chicken, beef, shrimp, veggie). This is an awesome heavier snack/late lunch. Just the protein, low fat and food that is made for being on-the-go or on in line. Pass on the pretzels, chips, etc. and just get the skewer. Save the calories for something more fun.
3. World of Color picnic. You have to think ahead for this one, but you’ll be glad you did. The picnic comes when you reserve seats for World of Color (a really good idea with small kids). Munch on your picnic while overlooking all of California Adventure. There are two great options: the European and the Vegetarian. The meals are smallish, but that’s fine, since there are always opportunities to stop and snack on something fun elsewhere.
4. Sweets are a must. I grew up on Disneyland food, and the Carnation ice cream parlor was one of my favorite memories. But my metabolism is not 10-years-old anymore. I always pass the ice cream carts and head to Toon Town where I go to Clarabelle’s frozen yogurt shop. It’s in the little food court toward the back and it’s worth the trek to the back of the park. 20+ fat grams saved — voila.
5. Breakfast is hard at Disneyland. You might have early entry or have a character breakfast booked. Hear the phrase “Character Breakfast’ and know it’s going to be hard to get a super healthy meal, and even harder to pass up Mickey pancakes. Do ones of these three solid options instead (a) Call Hearthstone restaurant at the Grand Californian and have them pack you a breakfast on the run, or stop in there early for an egg white omelete. (b) Go to LaBrea Bakery at the entrance to the parks. Get a coffee and a yogurt parfait. (c) If you’re going into California Adventure early in the morning, go to Schmoozies, a smoothie bar. They’ve got good selections and it’s a better use of time if you’re racing to get things done before the general public arrives.
6. Refuel at the hearth in the Grand Californian. We found this haven when the kids were about 2-years-old and we still do it every time we go to Disneyland. Go into the lobby of the Grand, park your stroller or your kids next to the giant hearth and tell the kids it’s quiet time. Order a glass of wine from the lovely lobby bar and ask to see the bar menu.
7. Slow down before going to the fireworks. At some point you’re going to crack and need to have a meal that is not on the side of the curb on Main Street and you’ll crave a napkin on your lap. When you do, the Napa Rose is where you’ll find your healthy peace. This is the best find for grownups at Disneyland, bar none. The menu changes seasonally, the service is rad and they are shockingly tolerant with kidlets considering the high quality environment.
Now all good trips to Disneyland have to come with a splurge. I used my big calorie ticket on the pineapple slushie outside of the Tiki Room, the carnitas burrito at Tortilla Joe’s taqueria in Downtown Disney and on the last day, a piece of fudge on Main Street. It is Disneyland, afterall.Read More
My children are sleeping deeply tonight — three days of magic will do that to a 7-year-old.
We are home now, back in Silicon Valley where neighbors are milling around on a Sunday afternoon; there’s homework to be done and nothing seems to have changed in 72 hours. Funny. It has for us.
I watched my kids, exhausted, full and happy walking off the airplane after the weekend filled with the kind of emotion that only Disneyland can offer. They seem so carefree now, my boy’s blue Micky Mouse wizard hat casting a shadow on the jetway; my girl’s hair still perfectly in-tact after two days since being coifed by the Bippity-Boppety-Boutique maidens. Even I felt free. Disneyland will never know how much their “Celebrate Today” theme moved me to tears, and how it has left me inspired to live in the moment — today, and more than ever, tomorrow.
As I type, clothes are in the dryer. In the morning, I will re-board a different flight, this time to The Mayo Clinic in a Hail-Mary type pass to see if the doctors there can help my mom. By now you know the story of my mom…
All through the Disneyland park, you feel the passion of Celebrate Today. Anything, anyone is worth celebrating. It’s hard to remember that life itself is worth celebrating, especially when life isn’t playing nice. But, inside Disneyland, there is a celebration for everything! A celebration at the extraordinarily lit “it’s a small world,” every 15 minutes when the clock strikes and children of the world dance. Did you ever notice that at Disneyland? The children of the world are dancing, just because.
I watched celebrations of children’s first visit to the Magic Kingdom, an old man’s birthday, an informal family reunion, a marriage, a life beginning, and in one special case we saw this weekend, a life ending. We saw the Make-a-Wish Foundation in action with a massive group of people boarding the Toy Story ride, partying like there was no tomorrow. Why? Because they were Celebrating Today for a child in their family that won’t have many more tomorrows. I asked a cast member on the ride what the impromptu FastPass was about and he told me, “They are Celebrating Today.” Yeah, baby. They are.
Celebration is Disney. My mom celebrated her high school graduation in 1962 with my step-dad at an all-night fete at Disneyland. I celebrated many birthdays here, my grandmother brought my cousins and me here. My mom brought us here just because. My aunt performed here, my father was one of the original Mouseketeers (shhh, don’t tell!). I’ve celebrated summers and winters and random school breaks here at Disneyland. One day, my mom and teenage brother went to Disneyland on a whim, ditching life and celebrating their day. There are so many celebrations of my family life on the streets of Disneyland over the past 50 years.
Disney is celebrating holidays today and every day for the next six weeks. Celebration is different than decoration. Decoration are designs and wreaths and bulbs. Celebration is the understanding that there is something in the air that enlightens people. We celebrated this weekend — and for us, where the holidays will be uncertain with my mom’s health — it might be the single greatest holiday celebration of our year.
I was not paid for this post, however, my children and I were treated to an extraordinary weekend of holiday magic at Disneyland, courtesy of #Disneylandmoms.Read More
Some of my very favorite childhood memories are at Disneyland. Not Disney Resort! Not crazy Micky Vacations! But plain ‘ol weekend days at the Happiest Place on Earth. And, for me, it was. Except for Space Mountain. I always puke on Space Mountain. Every time I sit and look at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, I don’t see the glow sticks or Goofy floppy ear hats, I see my Grandmother sitting on a white scrolly park bench, her handmade sundress wrapping around her knees, her chubby smile and favorite wig were as much of a beacon to me as the castle itself. When I think of Disneyland, I think of my grandmother. And the Carnation Cafe with Carnation Ice Cream and men with red carnations on them. When I think of Disneyland, I think of jumping on the back of my mom’s wheelchair and speeding down the hill from the Haunted Mansion all the way to New Orleans Square. I think of how, even as a child, It’s a Small World made me cry and the Main Street Electrical Parade signaled a peaceful, happy end to a long day full of family. Some of the happiest memories in my life were on those make-believe streets.
I joined some other Bay Area mom bloggers as a guest for the Disney World of Color Road Show (both on and offline). I went reluctantly. When you’ve got memories so indelible, it’s hard to try and change the image of a brand in your mind. I do this all the time with clients, but for personal stuff, it’s almost impossible for me to get past the past. I himmed and hawed at going up to the City; I barely blinked when they said it would be at the Legion of Honor. I was annoyed that I’d forgotten how cold San Francisco can be in the summer. I was so cranky that I talked other bloggers into doing shots at the bar en route to the bathroom. As the coach pulled up to the Legion of Honor, I gasped. A true audible gasp. Out of my mouth came, “Oh my God, there is Micky and Minnie!” So much for being grown-up.
What came next is hard to describe. It was, by definition, my childhood all over again. As the lights projected extraordinary images on the building, all I could do was smile. The feeling was that feeling — the feeling of Disney magic, the surges of emotion when the music rises and falls, the excitement and thrill of the Main Street Electrical Parade, but oh, oh so different. The lights and the music and the attention to detail were so classically Disney. The massive GE light bulbs and big drums were replaced with spectacular cutting-edge technology beaming across the buildings. I can only imagine what adding fire and water would look like, as they have at the park. I found myself in awe of how easily Disney can tap into my best childhood memories with the launch of something that pushes the edge of technology 40 years later.
Thanks for a beautiful evening and a good reminder of what a wonderful piece of family history Disneyland is for me.