Balderramas in California 2024: Ride Reviews

Balderramas in California 2024: Ride Reviews

As I wrap up my posts about our California trip, I wanted to share a fun video I put together. After many rides at Disneyland, I made a point to briefly interview my daughters to see what they thought of each ride. I hope it’ll be fun for their future versions to reflect on this as a bit of a time capsule and relive some memories. However, some of this was too cute to sit on, so I hope they don’t mind indulging me in sharing this. In the video, there’s one ride where Mariana was absolutely not a fan. Enjoy!

Balderramas in California 2024: Days 5-7 – Northern Bound

After a whirlwind four days in Anaheim, we checked out of our room and headed to LAX to fly to San Francisco. My sister Amanda and her family live in San Mateo and were kind enough to host us. The three-leg flight from Denver to LAX to San Francisco was cheaper than a round-trip flight from Denver to LAX. With a mid-afternoon flight, it enabled us to sleep in, get packed up, and have a pleasant flight.

After getting picked up by my brother-in-law, David, we visited their house for the first time; then, we all ventured out to walk around Moss Beach. There, they had these incredibly spooky Cyprus trees that got etched into my mind. All of the kids loved playing in them as well.

My dad also lives in northern Colorado and met us for dinner at the Old Moss Distillery. It was great to see him and catch up.

We headed out to Santa Cruz on Saturday to experience the beach and boardwalk. It was quite a contrast to be at the beach in northern California compared to San Clemente earlier in the week. The colder temperatures didn’t stop the girls from wading into the water and playing along the beach with their cousins. We also enjoyed chocolate-dipped ice cream and a fried potato twist on the boardwalk before having Thai food for dinner that night.

With our trip ending on Sunday, we took the day to play in my sister’s backyard pool and enjoy more family time before boarding the plane to head home.

I wish we could have spent more time in Northern California, but the girls had to return home by Monday morning. We’ll need to plan a return! It was a blessing to travel with my girls, make more memories, and enjoy our time as a family.

Balderramas in California 2024: Day 4 – Back to Disneyland

We were burning the candle at both ends as we woke up early on Thursday after a late night on Wednesday. We aimed to be in the park by opening to catch shorter line waits. We bolted toward the Indiana Jones Adventure, which had incredible detail in its queue area:

There was a family directly behind us whose son was scared of the surroundings, but we happened to have a glowstick in our backpack that we could offer to help alleviate some of his fears. As for the ride itself, we loved it. At one point, a giant boulder was rolling towards us, and the girls were convinced it would hit us. With it being our first ride, we got through the line in less than 20 minutes, including a brief breakdown.

Next was the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, at the top of Clara’s “Disneyland bucket list” items. The ride did not disappoint and solidified the girls’ love of roller coasters. As soon as we got off, they both wanted to go again later today.

With the park relatively uncrowded, we hit Peter Pan’s Flight, which had the most extended wait thus far. We liked the ride, but the girls didn’t have much of an affinity towards the movie and didn’t appreciate the nostalgic factor of the ride. However, this ride is on the “must do” list for many, so now we can say we did it.

Having completed our “must do” list, the rest of the day was just bonus time – not bad for 10am. We started chasing short lines again, starting with another ride on Micky & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The queue was much shorter than the other day and we picked up on some other details, including the girls reacting to my “ketchup vs. catsup” dad humor.

Having ridden the ride once before, I got to focus on taking videos of the girls reacting to elements of the ride.

We then went right next door to Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, which had a longer line than advertised. Given that the girls have no affinity for Roger Rabbit (I haven’t seen the movie), the length of the ride, and the underwhelming of the ride, they were glad to be done.

We decided to take a snack break and bend the “lunch at the hotel” rule in favor of some turkey legs. We purchased three legs, found a shaded bench, and chowed down.

We followed that up with trying Blue and Green Milk at the Star Wars Edge of the Galaxy.

We had one last task before heading to the hotel for our afternoon break. While the girls weren’t too keen on meeting characters (although they’ve reluctantly posed for photos with some), Mariana had her heart set on meeting the Mandalorian (along with Baby Yoda). In her excitement, she colored a picture of Grogu, packed it in her backpack, and brought it all around the park to give to him. Unfortunately, her picture (along with the backpack) got wet during Wednesday’s Grizzly Run River ride, leaving the picture tearing at the creases.

To top it off, we couldn’t find Mando at the scheduled time and place in the app. In frustration, Mariana tore the picture into four pieces and immediately regretted it when she finally saw her favorite character. While emotional, Mariana and I went to the Mandalorian’s handler and asked if we could still give the picture. The cast member was sweet and offered to present the picture with Mariana. I captured it on video:

R2D2 even showed up at the end:

While I was rolling the video, I was simultaneously taking pictures, and I got this shot where it looks like Grogu is giving Mariana’s picture a side-eye. You’ll need to check it out below! At this point, we were more than ready for our afternoon naps.

After an early pasta dinner, we returned to the park at 5 p.m. and immediately ran into Goofy.

All throughout the trip, Clara wanted to ride The Matterhorn. Mariana was highly reluctant, but after doing Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad, she mustered off the courage and said she would ride with us. I had no choice but to go, but like Mariana, I’ve conquered my fear of roller coasters and enjoyed the ride. They would have wanted to go again if the line weren’t 50 minutes long. However, the line to Thunder Mountain Railroad was only 30 minutes long, so they opted to ride that again and get their coaster fix.

At that point, we were chasing short lines, which made the Mad Hatter Tea Party an appealing ride. We also took this opportunity to tease my girlfriend, Shannon, back home, who could never go on that ride due to motion sickness. However, karma did bite us, as Mariana didn’t feel great after the ride.

I asked the girls if they would be willing to ride my favorite childhood ride: Star Tours. They ended up loving the ride, and the queuing that featured R2D2 and “that gold guy”.

We ended our ride excursion with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, which was a pleasant surprise, especially at night.

Our night was capped off with watching the fireworks and then picking up some souvenirs before closing our time at Disneyland. Both girls got sweatshirts, Mariana got earrings for her newly pierced ears, and Clara got a stuffed Olaf. I must admit that we were all running on fumes as we headed back to the hotel, but luckily, we could sleep in the next day.

More pictures from our last day at the OG Disneyland:

Balderramas in California 2024: Day 3 – Disney California Adventure

Despite never going to California Adventure before, I intentionally didn’t set any major expectations and thus wasn’t heartbroken when the girls chose to sleep in. We weren’t up and about until 9 am, and after showering and breakfast in our room, it was close to 11 am before we got to the park.

The first thing we did was try to ride the Monsters Inc. Ride, but it broke down while we were in line. We ventured towards the Grizzly River Run, which was on the girl’s list of rides. The wait was short, and the girls loved the water ride, going down the steep slides and getting soaked. Clara even suggested packing a change of clothes in the backpack, and in hindsight, it would have been a great idea as she was soaked. Despite this being the first ride they took, they both proclaimed this as their favorite California Adventure ride.

A cool display in the Grizzly River Run queue

We then chased the following shortest line in The Little Mermaid ride (5 minutes!) and loved watching scenes from the movie.

At this point, it was the early afternoon, and we were hungry enough to stop and grab some pizza and pasta on the Boardwalk area nearby. We saw that the Monsters Inc. ride was operational again, with a shorter wait than before. After standing in the hot sun, we rode the “taxi cab” through scenes from the Monsters Inc. movie and were pretty underwhelmed. I think the length of the wait tainted our perception of the ride, given that the Little Mermaid was a similar concept.

We then went to the Avengers Campus to see how long the wait for the Guardians of the Galaxy Tower Ride would be. Mariana ran into Ms. Marvel and discussed her desired superpower (super strength). We got right into the Guardians ride right when they went from 65 minutes to a 90-minute wait. At this point: in for a penny, in a for a pound.

Once inside, the queue had some excellent Guardian displays, including Cosmo and Ultron.

The Guardians ride replaced the Hollywood Tower ride, using a “runaway elevator” concept. Once we started to go up and down, Mariana immediately wanted to be on the ride. Sadly, we were past the point of no return, so she had no choice but to stay nestled in my arms and hang on. You can see her in the bottom right-hand corner of this picture.

After getting off the ride, Mariana would have been fine with just returning to the hotel for the rest of the day. However, we did coax back into the park experience, with a bit of help from meeting Iron Man. He commented on my “Emotional Support Animal” shirt.

We watched a brief Dr. Strange magic show, and both girls gave great suggestions on who he needed to summon to help us out. Clara ended up guessing it correctly with “Captain Marvel.” We got some ice cream and then brought back to riding with Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, which was a variation of the teacups.

We essentially had our fill of California Adventure. Still, both girls wanted to give Grizzly River Run another try, with Mariana sitting on the outside this time so she could get wet. The line was a little longer but not unbearable. On our ride were two older men who primarily spoke Spanish, and the girls loved listening to this old bearded man screaming, “No! No! No!” While approaching the drops.

With one last ride in them, the girls asked to ride Goofy’s Flight School, which was a mini version of Space Mountain, but in broad daylight. The ride was entertaining but solidified our desire to be done for the day and get dinner.

We walked to Downtown Disney and had dinner at the Jazz Kitchen, where the girls enjoyed burgers, jazz music, and beignets, showing off their powdered sugar mustaches.

At this point, the night got very late, and we returned to the hotel, but not before briefly shopping at the World of Disney and seeing some of the Pride displays and fountains in Downtown Disney. We ended up getting into the hotel before 10 pm and went straight to bed, with the intention of getting up in time for rope drop the following day at Disneyland Park.

Check out some more pictures below!

Balderramas in California 2024: Day 2 – Disneyland!

The day is finally here: Disneyland! After reading books, watching YouTube videos, and researching tips, we set up a game plan to open the park at “rope drop” to get the shortest line to the most popular rides. We’d head home around lunchtime to eat at the hotel and rest, then have an earlier dinner and return to the park until close.

The girls had no trouble waking up early this morning, and we quickly ate a breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, fruit, and cereal before heading to the park. Our hotel was a 20-minute walk; we made it about 15 minutes before they opened.

Before we go further, I must confess that I’m not a big fan of roller coasters and crazy rides. However, my girls were anxious to try everything out, so this week, I set aside those fears and put my love for my daughters in its place. I didn’t mind the rides after all, and I always marvel at how parenting can cause us to set aside our fears for our kids.

We made a mad dash to Space Mountain and managed to get through the line in about 20 minutes. I wasn’t too worried about Clara on the ride, but I was curious about what Mariana would think. After the ride, she said she wasn’t sure whether she was laughing or crying, but ultimately, she loved it and said it was her favorite ride (albeit after one ride).

Our next ride was Autopia, the little cars. Mariana brushed up against the 54″ height limit, barely clearing the ability to drive on her own. While she was excited to get her driver’s license, in hindsight, driving alone was a mistake. She didn’t realize how hard it would be to press the pedal and steer simultaneously, and her car ride was just 5 minutes of pure frustration while I was trying to talk her through it without rear-ending her. It remained her least-favorite ride of the day.

Our next ride was Jungle Cruise, which the girls found very entertaining. We then stopped and enjoyed a Strawberry Croissant and Macaroon from the Jolly Holiday Bakery. At this point, the lines started getting long at most places, and we started chasing the shortest line. This brought us to the Storybook Land Canal boat ride. I showed the girls a photo we took in 2017 and asked them to re-enact it, but they weren’t very cooperative.

We didn’t get our boat fix on Storybook Land, so we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean. Mariana was apprehensive about the ride and didn’t like the first drops. However, when they got off, they both exclaimed that it was their new favorite ride. They loved all of the animatronics and were looking for Jack Sparrow.

We then had an appointment at Droid Depot for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The design is astonishingly detailed.

In the Droid Depot, you can build your own Star Wars Droid. I discussed this with the girls over the last week and gave them both the option to do it. The experience lived up to the hype, and the girls had a blast building them. They come with a remote control that moves their head, makes noise, and then rolls them around.

We returned to the hotel for lunch and a rest. We then had an early dinner at Ballast Point in Downtown Disney and returned to the park for the night. Our first ride was Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which had a cool queue/line area that entertained us for the 30-minute wait.

I then convinced the girls to go on It’s A Small World, and they loved trying to identify the different countries and princesses.

After tracking the wait times, we saw that Star Wars Rise of the Resistance, arguably the most popular ride in Disneyland, had just reopened after breaking down. We hustled back to Galaxy’s Edge and got on the ride within 30 minutes. The girls loved the ride’s realism and the story’s experience.

We stayed in Galaxy’s Edge and did Smuggler’s Run. The girls loved being able to pilot the ship. The ride broke down while they were on it, spurning many “you crashed the ship” jokes.

The night was starting to wind down, but the girls wanted to ride Pirates of the Caribbean one last time before we left. We arrived at the hotel around 10:30 p.m. Overall, we had a great first day and were excited to return on Thursday. Next stop, Disney California Adventure!

Here are some more photos of our awesome day!