Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rivers of America - Disneyland

My ideal Disneyland trip takes place during the off-off-off-season, a time that both no longer exists, nor would it be possible to attend with a middle schooler. That said, our most recent trip was one of the few times we have gone to Disney during the peakest of peak seasons -- as soon as school let out.

Our first clue should have been the hours (8 AM to midnight EACH day). Even when we went last summer for Dumbo Double Dare, Disneyland closed at 10 on most days.

My real clue, though, was more subtle: The Columbia was up and running. In one 24-hour time period we went on all four modes of Rivers of America transportation, plus saw Fantasmic! a different day.

1) Tom Sawyer Island is only accessible by raft. One of my big Disney pet peeves about this is that sometimes a band of pirates plays music on this raft. To be completely sexist, Tom Sawyer Island seems to appeal to boys. Boys who wait less than 20 minutes to take a raft to an area where they can run around to their heart's content. Meanwhile, mostly girls are waiting 2-3 hours to see Elsa and Anna, or 1-2 hours at Princess Fantasy Faire to see 3 random princesses for 30 seconds each, and are not provided with a speck of entertainment. This trip, though, I only saw the musicians getting off of the raft, so I'm less peeved. I still think the girls deserve entertainment while waiting to see princesses.

While on Tom Sawyer Island boys and girls can run around and have less-structured fun. They climb on rope bridges, through tunnels, and up to look out points, all while hunting for treasure. 

Tom Sawyer Island opened to the public at Disneyland Resort in 1956. The attraction has the distinction of being the only one designed by Walt Disney.
Sharing a strong affinity for the world Mark Twain created in his novels, Walt found himself unsatisfied with the island’s original design. Days before construction was set to begin, he took the plans home and re-imagined the landscape design, creating the inlets, coves and overall shape that the island is known for today.
We often skip this attraction because it involves taking a raft and waiting around, but we are always happy when we do take the time for it.

2) A ride on the Mark Twain is very relaxing. You aim for a shady spot. On past trips we have ridden with the "captain" who lets you "steer" the boat. Years after doing this, Ashley told me how scared she was to do this (she seemed fine at the time). She thought she was really steering the boat. Well, that honor was already reserved for someone else, so we had to stand with everyone else.

3) Riding the Columbia is similar to the Mark Twain, but instead of three levels where you can look out, there is the deck, and below. The below area includes an historic reproduction of how the crew would live. I can't believe I did not take any pictures below deck.

4) I consider a trip around Rivers of America on the canoes, cross-training at Disney. Unlike the Columbia and the Mark Twain, the canoes are not on a track. You move as quickly as you can paddle yourselves around the island. Of course, there is a cast member at the front and the back doing most of the work, but you are still encouraged to do much of the work.

Ashley and I had a family in front of us. She had a little girl who kept splashing her, and I had a mom who was making sure her 2 year old did not go overboard. Don was behind us. He was teamed up with a guy in his 20s. The last time we did the canoes, behind me was a woman who normally works the canoes (it was her day off) and she considers this her exercise program. I graciously did not paddle so as to not throw off her stride (see, I can be nice). It is a nice way to do something quiet when the rest of Disneyland is getting crowded and those crowds are getting cranky.

5) A bonus: we saw the second showing of Fantasmic! one night. I'm always impressed by the show, but Don and Ashley are less enamored of it, so I often don't see it. When there is only one showing, you have to decide between seeing Fantasmic! or getting a good spot for fireworks. With two showings, it is easier to do both. It does make for a late evening.

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