Our third vacation day found us at Disneyland once again. As we waited for the rope drop, the three big kids went to some gift shops. That left Madison free to pose for pictures with Mom and Dad:
We knew we wanted to ride Rise of the Resistance one more time, so we decided to book it over there right at the rope drop to hopefully have less of a line. The rope dropped. We walked. And walked. And walked. Rise of the Resistance is a good walk from the rope drop. Crowds thinned around us as they went to other rides. We knew we had made a good choice. We were going to have such a short wait!
We arrived at the ride with tired legs and hopeful spirits. Sure enough, we got there and there was no line at all! There was, however, a cast member there to tell us that the ride was temporarily closed. NOOOOOOO! We were so bummed that we had walked so far and wasted time for no reason. We decided to go on Indiana Jones again and make our way across the park to Space Mountain.
We did Space Mountain three times because the line was so short, and we loved that roller coaster. Just as we were about to go on the Buzz ride, we saw that Rise of the Resistance had opened and only had a ten-minute wait. We decided to book it back over there. Unfortunately, everyone else in the park apparently decided to do the same thing and by the time we got there, the line was already super long. We knew we wanted to ride it again and we knew the wait time would always be long, so we chose to just wait it out while we had some snacks and took some photos. The line moved fast and actually wasn’t too bad.
The ride was just as fun as before and we were glad we had been able to do it again and check it off our list.
We settled in to ride some more mellow rides such as Winnie the Pooh:
Dallas took the three little kids to Tom Sawyer Island while I spent time with Brooke looking in gift shops.
We all met up again to ride more rides into the afternoon:
We rode Pirates of the Caribbean and saw Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) in line. That was exciting.
As our day drew to a close I told the kids that this was their last chance to do things in Disneyland, so what did they want to prioritize? I wasn’t expecting them to unanimously declare that we HAD to stop by the Tiki Room before leaving:
Spencer fell in love with Groot when he saw it in the gift shops:
And Madison had to cuddle every Stitch she saw:
I had to document the island in our hotel room. We brought tons of snacks to keep us happy during our trip!
On day two of our trip we went to California Adventure. We again got up bright and early so we could get there before it opened.
This gave us plenty of time to take pictures with Walt and Mickey:
Our first ride of the day was Guardians of the Galaxy (the old Tower of Terror). We loved it!
We ran into Spiderman and had to take a picture. Brooke embraced her role as photographer which is why she’s missing in a lot of the shots:
Then we went to Pixar Pier to do the always-fun Toy Story ride:
Dallas was proud of his “Best In Vehicle” award:
The Ferris Wheel was our next priority. You can choose whether you want stationary gondolas or swinging ones. Swinging all the way for us!
When we got to the front of the line and saw just how much the gondolas swung we began second guessing our choice.
We started third-guessing our choice when someone in one of the swinging gondolas cried out to the ride attendant begging him to stop the ride and let them out.
I asked the attendant if that happens often. He said yes and that there were barf bags in the ride if needed.
We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to stage some barfing pictures once we heard about that:
Unfortunately, approximately three seconds after the above picture was taken, Dallas turned a ghostly shade of white-green and announced he was feeling like barfing. We then had to be the dorky riders hollering at the ride attendant to stop the ride.
Dallas and Spencer ran off the ride as soon as the doors opened, but the girls stayed on and we finished like champs:
We found the Inside Out characters and had to pose beside them:
Finally, finally, finally, we made it to the Little Mermaid ride. That was our favorite from years ago and Madison was absolutely DYING to ride it again. We rode it several times in a row just because we love it so much:
After that we ran over to the Animation Academy so we could learn how to draw a Disney character. We had some time and space while we were in line, and we also had carpet under us and tired legs, so some of us decided to really get comfortable as we waited for the drawing session to start:
We learned how to draw Minnie Mouse. I love how their step-by-step instructions make it so everyone does such a good job with their drawing:
Well, MOST of us drew Minnie:
Brooke has a friend who loves Oswald, so Brooke was always on the lookout for him and she found him in the flesh…er…felt!
Spencer was really excited to do the Cars ride. Last time we came he was able to ride it once, but the second time he tried he was deemed too short, which he has never forgotten nor gotten over, so we headed over to Cars Land.
The line for the Radiator Springs Racers was so long. And slow. We felt like we were waiting forever.
We got many games of paper, rock, scissors in:
We also played countless rounds of Disney Heads Up:
Finally we made it to the front of the line!
The ride was as fun as ever and we all loved it. Next up was Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree:
Since we were here and it was dinnertime, we stopped at Flo’s V8 Cafe for dinner.
The sun was setting and we were freezing after sitting and eating, so we went to the playground area and ran all around trying to keep warm:
Since we were there during a less-busy time, there weren’t many parades or extra shows happening. When we heard about Mulan’s Lunar New Year Parade, we knew we didn’t want to miss it. We staked out our spot on the ground.
The procession lasted…five minutes. It was very underwhelming.
Madison fell in love with Stitch and always had to hug any she found in the gift shop:
We ended the day at Soarin’. That was another really long line, but all was forgotten when we got on the ride. Madison leaned over to me during the ride and said, “This is my favorite ride!”
The woods may provide rest for some, but we were in need of our nice hotel room, so we called it a day and collapsed into bed…after another quick swim for the kids, of course.
We went to Disneyland at the end of January and had the best time. It was so nice to leave freezing cold Utah and head to warmer climates and entertaining theme parks.
On our drive over we made a quick stop at my sister’s house. She has been living in Las Vegas for awhile now and we had never visited her, so we happily fixed that! She gave us a delicious lunch which we all enjoyed.
The rest of the drive was uneventful. We made it to our hotel after dark. The kids were dying to try out the pool. Unfortunately, it was fairly chilly outside. Fortunately it was still many, many degrees warmer than it was in Utah, so the kids braved the chill and enjoyed a brisk swim.
The next morning we got up bright and early to hit the parks! Disneyland was first on our agenda.
We decided to hit Indiana Jones for our first ride of the day.
We were able to walk right on to the ride.
While we were at that side of the park we walked through Star Wars Land and rode Millennium Falcon ride. Then we ran over to Space Mountain.
Poor Madison was a real trooper riding all of the really intense rides first thing. She was terrified during Indiana Jones and buried her head in my arm the entire time.
We spent the afternoon riding the more tame rides in Fantasyland and elsewhere.
Sometimes I made the kids recreate pictures that I remembered taking from previous Disneyland trips. Like this one.
The old picture:
And the new:
Ooh, here’s another one:
Little girl Caroline:
Big girl Caroline:
By lunchtime we were ready to rest our tired legs and have some snacks.
Dinner this day was turkey legs for everyone! Kids were getting a little bickery, so we tried to lighten the mood by doing funny poses with the turkey legs. It worked.
Brooke surprised us all by loving the turkey legs and cleaning up what others didn’t finish.
Our biggest victory of the day was riding Rise of the Resistance. I had been watching the line times on the app and this ride always had a really long wait. Near the end of the day I saw the wait time had gone down to 45 minutes. I suggested we head over that way and give the ride a try.
We saw some cast members at the start of the line and asked if this was a good time to ride. The cast member said, “Yes! We just opened it and there’s no line at all!” We walked right on the ride. It was a beautiful moment.
We loved that ride! Two thumbs up for sure!
Another highlight was Star Tours. We had our 3D glasses, and I remembered they had trashcan-like bins that we were supposed to throw our glasses into when we were done. However, as I got off the ride I saw Brooke throw her glasses off to the side of the walkway in a big black space, so I did the same thing. She saw me chuck my glasses over the edge and was like, “What did you just do?”
Turns out Brooke HADN’T thrown her glasses into the area; she had simply stopped there to look at something. I had thrown my glasses into nothingness and certainly not a glasses receptacle. Brooke did not let me forget my moment of idiocy and we laughed many times afterwards remembering my goof.
We had a very successful day. We were exhausted. Some of us wanted nothing more than to shower and go to bed. Some of us had other activities still on our agenda:
After their evening swim we all tucked into our beds and slept as soundly as Dallas’s snoring allowed.
For President’s Day, we decided to take advantage of the days off school to explore Zion National Park a little bit. We were hoping southern Utah would give us beautiful weather and gorgeous views.
Unfortunately, the further south we drove, the worse the weather got. We ended up driving through a blizzard, but finally made it to Zion in one piece.
The weather was too rainy for hiking, so we drove around a bit to take in the mountains.
The only other thing we could do was head to our hotel and enjoy the indoor pool. The kids loved having the pool almost to themselves.
After swimming we got all tucked into our beds and fell right to sleep. Unfortunately Madison didn’t STAY tucked into her bed. She fell out of the bed at least a half dozen times and I had to keep putting her back. Silly girl.
The next day was everything we hoped for! The weather was perfect. The skies were blue. Zion was ready to be explored.
We hiked Canyon Overlook Trail first. That was a nice, easy hike and Madison loved being able to scamper on rocks.
Vacationing with a teenager can be…challenging. We’re never quite sure what mood our resident teen will grace us with each day. Luckily finding a cactus was just the diversion Brooke needed to keep her mind busy and happy as she hiked.
We made it to the overlook!
I had been warning people to watch out for puddles and ended up stepping in one myself. Brooke thought that was hilarious, so she made me reenact the scene.
We planned to catch the shuttle to take it further up the canyon, but we didn’t get a spot. We decided to hike Watchman Trail instead. This was a three-mile hike. The kids’ legs were already tired from the first hike, so there was a bit more grumbling this time around, but we all hiked to the top, enjoyed the view, and made it back down in one piece.
After their long day hiking, the kids were itching to get back into the hotel pool for another evening of swimming.
The next day was our last day at Zion, so we had to be sure to get a picture by the sign:
We drove up the canyon a little bit, but most of the kid-friendly hikes were closed, so we stayed in the car and just took in the beauty and grandeur of the mountains.
We drove through Kolob Canyon and were amazed at the beauty of the snow-flecked mountains.
All of this quarantining business left us with a need to get away from our house and have a change of scenery! My friend told me she just returned from Yellowstone and it was a great time to visit because it was less crowded than usual. I had never been to Yellowstone. Dallas and I did a little research, realized we had three completely empty days on the calendar that next week, and behold! A family vacation was born.
We packed up and headed out. Our first pit stop demanded a photo:
The drive was so fast and easy, and before we knew it, we were in West Yellowstone. We enjoyed this sign:
We got to the park and realized that we had just enough time to book it to Old Faithful before its predicted eruption time. We made it there in time to sit and wait…
until finally…she erupted!
We decided to walk the boardwalk around Old Faithful. Caroline bit into a Starburst on the way and her loose tooth came right out mid-chew:
I loved this little hike. I’m not sure if it’s because it was the first thing we did, so everything was so new and amazing to see, but, well, everything was just so new and amazing to see! We loved looking at the geysers, trying to come up with our own names for them, and then running ahead to find the next wonder to behold.
Luckily for us, Old Faithful decided to erupt again about forty minutes before the predicted time, so we got to see another explosion from a less-crowded spot:
Dallas took the little kids to the bathroom while I waited with the big girls. We had nothing to do, so we had to get creative as we waited for them. We took awkward jumping pictures:
And we took turn-your-sister-into-a-rabbit pictures:
Then Brooke learned how to take creepy panoramic pictures and that kept her busy for the rest of the trip.
After Old Faithful we went to Black Sand Basin to see the geysers there. It was getting really stormy and we were afraid we were about to get dumped on. There was a nice rainbow geyser there that I liked.
We walked around quickly to see everything:
Then we ran to the car right before the heavens opened and rain, sleet, snow, and hail slammed down on us. It was a pretty impressive storm.
We were worried it would rain out the rest of our day, but before too long the rain cleared up and Madison spotted some elk. We stopped for a closer look.
We ate dinner at Lake Village and walked through a gift shop looking for treasures. None found.
Then we stopped at Mud Volcano and saw Dragon’s Mouth Spring which was a favorite. We loved the steam coming from the cave and the groaning noises that felt like a dragon did indeed live there.
On our way back to our hotel in West Yellowstone we stopped by the Artists Paintpots which was another favorite. We liked the white stew/soup spot that gurgled and bubbled and made us feel like an ogre lived beneath it.
At the hotel the kids loved playing with the old fashioned phone:
The next morning we decided to get up bright and early and drive out to Lamar Valley to look for wildlife. We saw lots of bison, elk, pronghorn, and birds.
We were mostly searching for a bear…and we found one!
It was just frolicking in a meadow full of wildflowers. It felt like the most perfect spot to watch a bear play.
After driving around Lamar Valley we went back to Mammoth Hot Springs for lunch.
We liked watching the elk that roamed through the little town. We explored the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. This was the hottest part of the hottest day that we were there and there were so. many. steps. so this wasn’t the most pleasant of all of our stops, but we made it through and this picture will give you the illusion that we all had smiles on our faces the whole time. I’m sure none of us complained one bit during this hike.
We found some rocks to climb:
We drove down to Norris and tried to stop, but that was the only place where we couldn’t immediately find parking, so we just continued on.
We went on to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. That was also beautiful. I loved how each part of Yellowstone was so different but so beautiful.
We loved the waterfall and did a couple different hikes to view it from different spots.
Brooke made a friend with a dragonfly:
On our way back to the hotel, Dallas spied some cranes, so we stopped to look. (They’re behind Brooke right in front of the tree line.)
The next day was the day our kids were looking forward to the most – horseback riding day! We had to wait for our turn which gave the kids plenty of time to bond with the company’s pet dog:
And to walk on wood planks:
And to show off how Brooke can twist her leg in unnatural ways:
Finally we were able to hop on our horses and ride through the woods.
Brooke’s horse was a little stubborn, so her horse got roped up to the guide’s horse in front of her. This arrangement is important because it led to the highlight of Brooke’s vacation. The horse in front stopped to poop and somehow the rope got caught in the horse’s butt…? And the guide couldn’t get it out. So she had to call to the guide at the front of the line and ask if she had gloves. Which made that guide ask why she needed gloves. So the guide in the back had to say, “Because there’s a rope stuck in my horse’s butt and I can’t get it out. I’m going to need some help back here.” Which led to silence from the guide at the front until she said, “I was not expecting to hear that!”
Meanwhile Brooke giggled uncontrollably through the poor horse’s ordeal…and anytime afterward when she thinks about that story.
Luckily the guide was able to free the horse without compromising too much of his dignity and we were able to continue our ride.
Dallas’s horse also brought comic relief as he kept stopping to eat every chance he got and when he wasn’t eating, he was finding small trees to walk over to scratch his underside.
After horseback riding we were ready to head home. We decided to drive through Yellowstone and go home through the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole. This gave us the perfect chance to take these pictures:
And also these pictures:
We stopped at the Grand Prismatic Spring on our way out. The pictures of this spring look so pretty, but unfortunately, from the boardwalk, you can’t really see it. I was sad about that. Next time we go to Yellowstone we’ll have to hike from above so we can look down on it and appreciate the colors.
Dallas was amused by this poster every time we saw it, so we had to do our own version.
(To be clear – Caroline wasn’t really off the boardwalk. Dallas just Photoshopped her there. We were good tourists and stayed on the path.)
Our trip to Yellowstone was just the diversion we needed to break up the monotony of having nothing to do because of COVID. Dallas and I are already dreaming of when we can go back.