I think I’ll remember the moment forever. The moment my husband told me he wanted to take me to Disneyland! But first a little backstory: I grew up watching Disney movies and loving everything Disney, but not so much my husband. He wasn’t really a fan of the “if you wait for Price Charming, your life will be happiness forever” ideology of Disney. When I was 10 (early 90’s) my mom took me to Disneyland for the first time. We set out on a bus tour down the west coast with 2 days in Anaheim to visit the theme park. I never realized at the time how big of a thing that was for her to do. It was her first trip alone with me and my first big vacation. At 10 I was very prone to motion sickness and didn’t ride very many rides, but I still remember the awe of walking down Main Street. Unfortunately, that trip didn’t end very well. My mom got food poisoning in San Francisco and she was not 100% when we arrived in Anaheim. Then, the next day got bit by a spider in San Diego which ended up hospitalizing her for 2 weeks when we returned home. Needless to say, my first trip to Disneyland was not the fully magical experience that all my friends had talked about.
Fast forward to 2011 and my next Disney encounter, a much more magical experience. Erin and I decided fairly last minute to go to London and Paris for a week, and Erin had this great idea to spend a day at Disneyland Paris. We got up super early and took the first train of the day from London to Paris and arrived at the theme park shortly after opening. Erin, being a rollercoaster enthusiast, somehow managed to convince me to go on Space Mountain with the promise that we wouldn’t get shot out of a tube and we wouldn’t go upside down. Well, I will tell you right now that Space Mountain in Disneyland Paris does both of these things! There was basically no chance that I would go on it again, so we set out around the park. I think in total we spent about 8 hours in Disneyland Paris and it definitely gave me that magical Disney experience.
Let’s fast forward again to February 2017, my husband and I were talking about where we wanted to go on vacation in May. We both wanted to go somewhere warm, as we were done with the snow and cold from the winter. Then the words came out of my husband’s mouth, “What if we do a road trip down the coast of the US and head down into California?” My response was something along the lines of “and what would we do?” thinking that he wanted to go to San Francisco or wine tasting. And the unthinkable happened he suggested that we go to Disneyland. Needless to say, I just about jumped out of my skin and booked our “Park Hopper” tickets the next day before he could change his mind! Over the next few months I asked friends and family for suggestions on where to stop along the way down and we set off on our adventure on May 14th!
Our first day took us down the I-5 to Tacoma where we crossed over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. My husband has always wanted to cross that bridge since watching the movies of Galloping Gertie from the ‘40s. We started to make our way through Washington and ended up joining up with the 101 just south of Aberdeen. As we travelled along the coast we soon made it to Oregon, crossing the Megier Bridge into Astoria. We continued on to our first stop of Seaside, Oregon and arrived at our hotel, the Best Western Ocean View Resort. It was a great hotel choice since it was right on the beach, and we ended up with a room that faced out over the ocean! We then headed out on a walk to explore the town and were really intrigued by all the little shops along the main road. It totally reminded me a bit of Niagara Falls with the “amusement park” feel. We spent some time out on the beach and walking along the promenade. On the beach there were volleyball nets set up and swing sets. We were hoping for a beautiful sunset, but at the last minute the sun ducked behind a thick wall of clouds and we were out of luck.
The next morning, we got up and headed to Dundee Doughnuts. I had been craving a doughnut for almost 4 months, but I didn’t want to cave for just any doughnut! We had passed the shop the night before and I saw the doughnuts in the window. I then read online about how amazing Dundee Doughnuts are and though this was the place to breakdown and have one! And was it ever worth it! I had the Chocolate Coconut twist and my hubby had the Simpsons inspired doughnut and the maple bacon doughnut. Next, we headed over to the Seaside Aquarium to feed the seals. They were so funny and made the craziest noises. They had me laughing the whole time! The Aquarium had an octopus and a huge lobster as well.
We then headed out on the road for the day making our way south. We quickly stopped in Canon Beach so that I could see the rock formations in the ocean. As we slowly made our way down the coast we stopped at a number of Vista Points along the 101 taking in the views. Luckily, we had fair weather on our side and the views were amazing!
Our next stop was the Tillamook Cheese Factory! Most people already know I love cheese. Like, come on. Who doesn’t?! They had samples to taste and we bought enough cheese to feed an army. My husband tried some ice cream and said that it totally lived up to the hype. It was amazing! After learning how they make the cheese, sampling some cheese, then sampling some more, and then making a sandwich with the cheese we bought, it was time to continue south! One of the best ideas I had in prepping for our trip was to bring a small cooler with us to keep in the car so that we could pick up some drinks, veggies, fruit, and cheese to eat along the way. This helped us save a bunch on food costs as we could make our own lunch and most of the hotels we stayed in had free breakfast!
My husband made the choice to pull off at the Yaquina Head State Park and Lighthouse just outside of Newport. There was this beautiful old lighthouse that you could walk down to, and we spent the better part of 2 hours exploring the area. It probably was one of the highlights of the trip: it was so beautiful, and I really enjoyed hiking around the area. We then had to head back out on the road so that we could make it to our next stop in Bandon, Oregon before nightfall. I’m sure Bandon is beautiful, but unfortunately once we got there most restaurants were closed and because it was basically dark out there was no where to really walk. We did manage to quickly go down to the beach that was across from our hotel while there was a little light left so that I could see some sand dunes. We really wanted to go on dune buggies, but alas we ran out of time. That will have to wait for the next trip.
The next morning we woke up to torrential rain. We live in a city know for rain, but I have never in my life seen so much come down for so long! We basically packed up the car and headed out on the road hoping that the weather would improve as we got further south. However, it didn’t. It continued to pour rain all the way into California. Now, funny story: when you cross into California you have to go through an agriculture checkpoint to ensure that you are not bringing any fruits or veggies into the State that are prohibited. So that morning when we got up, we gorged ourselves on fruit so that we would not have any problems at the check point. I think we ate 2 apples, 3 oranges, 3 pears, and 2 packages of raspberries. Then on the drive between Bandon and the California boarder we also ate 3 bell peppers. Well when we got to the checkpoint, they passed us through saying they were not doing checks that day. So, we basically ate all of that produce for no real reason.
My husband has done a road trip down the coast before with his brother, and he made the comment that as soon as you cross the state line it’s like the landscape changes immediately. I didn’t really believe him, but wholly heck it’s true! We decided to stop at Ocean World in Crescent City for a break from driving. The aquarium is built on an old barge and they tour you around and give you background on the different aquatic animals they have. They then take you over to the shark tank and you get to pet a real shark!!! At the end of the tour we got to take in the seal and sea lion show. One of the seal lions even has her own Facebook page! You need to check Cora out and all the amazing tricks she does.
When we finished at the aquarium the rain started to let up ever so slightly, but it was still coming down quite hard. We pushed through to Eureka to check into our hotel and drop off our bags. We then set out to head down the Avenue of Giants in the Redwood parks. These trees were HUGE and I don’t think the photos do justice to just how tall they really are. We stopped along a few of the trails to walk amongst the trees and then headed over to the Founders Tree. Standing 346 feet tall and with a circumference of 40 feet it was truly a sight to see! We spent about 4 hours driving through the parks and exploring the area. Despite the fact that it was still raining, it was so much fun! We then had dinner at Shamus T Bones, a great BBQ restaurant right by our hotel (Best Western Plus Bayshore Inn)!
The next day we packed up again and headed south to our next stop: Petaluma, CA. We decided to stay outside of San Francisco, as we didn’t want to pay the steep prices for a downtown hotel and be caught in the hustle and bustle of the city. Our hotel (Sheraton Sonoma) was right along the harbour and was about 45 minutes north of San Fran. After dropping our stuff off we headed into the “City by the Bay”. We parked at Fisherman’s Warf and explored the city. First was lunch and the best chowder I’ve ever had. Then we walked up to the crooked section of Lombard Street. Next, we crossed the city and walked over to Coit Tower where we took in the amazing views. We definitely got our steps in that day, and San Francisco’s steep streets made for an excellent workout! Then we drove over to Presidio Park so that we could take in the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked about half way out across the bridge, and saw 3 humpback whales playing in the water below. After the sun set we headed back to our hotel.
The next day was the shortest drive that we would do. After getting to San Francisco we moved over to Highway 1 so that we could drive down the California coast. We found a great place to stop, Devil’s Slide Trail, which is a small walking trail that goes along an old stretch of the highway. It had absolutely fantastic views of the coast and ocean. We then continued through to Monterey, passing the many Strawberry fields that lined the highway. We stopped at a grocery store and picked up the biggest strawberries I’ve ever seen! There is definitely something amazing about eating fruit that is fresh off the vine! Monterey was one of my top spots that I wanted to visit, as I really wanted to go to the Monterey Aquarium! I had heard amazing things about this aquarium and it was so worth it! They have a penguin area which was my favourite, and my husband loved all the octopuses they have! After the aquarium, we headed over to Jacks Peak Park which had a small hiking trail with an amazing view of Monterey. We then called it an early night, as we knew we had a big driving day a head of us.
The next morning we set out for Anaheim. Originally, we wanted to continue to follow highway 1 down the coast. But the highway was closed south of Monterey due to a landslide that took out a bridge. So, we made our way back to the 101 and cut over to the I-5. I joked with my husband that I wanted the full LA driving experience. However, I never should have put that out in the universe as it ended up taking 2.5 hours for us to get from one side of Los Angeles to the other. We were never so happy to see our hotel and know that we wouldn’t have to drive for a few days! We were finally in Anaheim, and only a few hours away from entering Disneyland!!
With our Park Hopper tickets in hand, it was time to head to the magical world of Disneyland! It was my hubby’s first trip to the park. As we crossed through the overpass into Main Street, USA, I was instantly transformed back to being a kid, trying to take it all in and just being in awe! We first hit up the Starbucks in the park, as I was in desperate need for a coffee. Fun fact: they have their own special cups and pastries just for Disneyland! We headed to Tomorrow Land to take in our first ride, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. I wish I knew how the Fast-Pass system worked that first day, as we could have avoided some lines. We slowly made our way through some rides in Fantasyland, and generally just soaked in everything around us. The biggest line we stood in was for the Matterhorn, at over 90 minutes in the blazing Southern California heat. It got up to 36 degrees that day! We then heard about the Disneyland App that you can put on your phone, which gave a map of the park and the wait times for rides. I had added a US travel plan on my phone, so we had access to the app in the park and it was SUPER helpful! You could even book restaurant reservations and miss the big lineups. As the day kept warming up, my abilities to cope with the heat dwindled. So we decided to head back to our hotel for a few hours so that I could cool down. Our hotel was about 2.5 kms from the park, which made it easy to go back and forth. We returned to the park at about 6 pm to find out that the park had reached its maximum capacity and they were only allowing people to re-enter the park if they had already been in, but no new admissions. No wonder the app was showing 3 hour waits for some of the rides! We decided to hold off on the light parade and fireworks that night and take advantage of the shorter lineups while everyone else was taking them in. Finally, that night we figured out how the Fast-Pass system works and started our game plan for the next day!
The next morning we arrived early and headed straight for Pirates of the Caribbean. We got to basically walk on the ride, which was awesome! Then we crossed quickly across the park to Hyperspace Mountain, as we knew from the day before that it was one of the busiest rides and we wanted to make sure we got a chance to ride it. Now to Erin’s credit, Space Mountain (or Hyperspace Mountain) in Disneyland California does not shoot you out of a tube, nor go upside down. So, it turns out her story checks out! We logged over 30,000 steps that day crisscrossing back and forth across the park. We also were able to take in the Light Parade and the fireworks and my husband got to eat a Disneyland turkey leg for dinner! Before the fireworks, I was truly impressed with the Cast Members abilities to corral and move all of the people out of the castle area in such a short amount of time.
For our 3rd day we headed over to California Adventure Park. We knew the Radiator Springs Racers ride was the most popular ride in the park and immediately headed there to get a Fast Pass. We then walked through the park down to the Midway Pier, jumping in line for the Toy Story ride. My husband and I really enjoyed this ride, and my hubby totally kicked my butt! We then decided to take our turn at some of the midway games and I won a large stuffed Dumbo and Goofy! The running joke when I travel is that I always need an extra suitcase when I come home to bring everything back, but this time it didn’t matter because we drove! We then headed up on the Ferris Wheel and opted for the stationary buggy as I was worried about getting motion sick. We made our way through a number of rides, and visited Cars Land. The Radiator Springs Racers ride was both mine and my hubby’s favourite ride. Not just because the ride is awesome but we had this super cool kid beside us on the ride that was warning us of the “scary parts” and the super awesome parts! That kid definitely made the ride for us! After walking through the park and going on a few more rides it was time for lunch at Ariel’s Grotto. I highly recommend this place for lunch. It’s a character experience, so definitely more expensive than a basic lunch but probably the best food I ate on the whole trip and we got to meet 5 Disney Princesses! In the evening, my husband somehow convinced me to go on the California Screamin’ Rollercoaster. It was probably one of the more terrifying rides for me!
For our last day in the park we started in Disneyland at the Park Inn for Breakfast. Again, this was a character breakfast but the food was amazing! We got to meet Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Captain Hook, one of the Penguins from Mary Poppins, Max from Goof Troop, Minnie Mouse, Rafiki, the mouse from Cinderella, and the Fairy Godmother. We also decided to get the Photo Pass this day. We knew where all the photo spots were, and with the app we knew when the different characters would be out so we could take full advantage of the pass. For $39 we ended up with over 70 photos of the day which I thought was a good value. It was also nice to have non-cell phone photos/selfies of us. We jumped back and forth between the parks taking in the few rides that we still really wanted to do. Soarin’ Around the World was amazing, and Star Tours was a lot of fun. We were also able to do the Radiator Springs Racers ride again!
One of my favourite moments came when my husband got to meet Chewbacca and Darth Vader. He totally played if off like nah I don’t need to see them, but fanned out when he got to meet them. It was awesome seeing him so excited and happy! We spent 16 hours between the 2 parks that day and truly felt that we had an amazing Disney experience! We were able to take in almost all the rides, including the Jellyfish drop in California Adventure which my hubby screamed on just to be a goof ball! The last thing we did in Disneyland is to go and find Walt’s test brick wall. My husband read about it online and it was fun to try and locate! It’s basically a brick wall where the right side is a bunch of different sized bricks that Walt Disney made to figure out what size of bricks he wanted to use when building Main Street, USA. The left side is what he decided on. It was fun to find a part of Disney history that most people just walk by thinking it’s an oddly shaped brick wall.
Our last day in Anaheim, we originally had planned on going to Universal Studios. But with the traffic that we dealt with coming into LA, we were not into battling it again unless we were leaving Los Angeles. So, we decided to head down to San Diego to the zoo instead. My husband and I both love zoos and the San Diego Zoo is awesome. I would definitely put it in my top 3 zoos that I’ve visited (Toronto and Sydney Zoo being the other two)! There are so many different areas to visit and they are currently doing some upgrades to make it even better. I especially loved the Panda Trek and the Orangutans.
After the zoo, we headed downtown to the water as my husband wanted to see if he could find the Tall Ships that were docked. One of the ships was the H.M.S. Surprise from the movie “Master and Commander.” When we found them we realized they were part of the Maritime Museum and that it was open until 8pm. Instead of just seeing the ships, we were able to go on them! It’s amazing to think that people spent months at a time, if not years, on those boats exploring the world.
The next morning it was time to start making our way north. We decided that we would try and get as far north as we could, since the only thing left that we wanted to do was go to the Sequoia National Park. This was a 7-hour detour off our course up the I-5, but was absolutely stunning. The sequoias are not as tall as the Redwoods, but are bigger around. We even saw the largest living thing on the planet, the General Sherman Tree. Its circumference is 103 feet and it’s still growing bigger every year! The cool part about the park is that they offer a shuttle service that will take you to the different tourist spots. The shuttles help to reduce air pollution and make it easier for people to get around. I would love to go back and stay in one of the lodges in the park to explore more.
The rest of our trip was pretty uneventful. We left Anaheim at 7:30am on Thursday and got as far north a Yreka, CA. We ended up sleeping in our car that night in the parking lot of the town’s Walmart. My husband even bought me a Minion blanket to keep me warm through the night. Friday morning we kept heading north, stopping quickly at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland before making the final push home. We arrived home 36 hours after we left Anaheim, excited to see our dogs and have some amazing memories to look back on! We’ve even planned our next road trip for our anniversary in October.
**Some of the photos in Disneyland were taken by the Photo Pass Photographers