Disneyland Recap: Thursday

Disneyland Hotel Pool

What a fun weekend! It also was a lot different than what I'm used to when it comes to a Disney vacation. Not only did I visit Disneyland, I also ran in a runDisney race for the very first time! I'm going to break down my trip into days, because there is so much I want to share with you!


My Thursday started out like any normal Thursday: I woke up and went to work. However, at noon my sub came in and I got to go home and pack up the rest of my stuff. Since I was flying Southwest, I could pack multiple bags, but to my surprise, I didn't have enough stuff for my medium suitcase! 

Through a suggestion I read on another blog, I kept my most important running items with me in a carry-on luggage, just in case something crazy happened with my checked bag. 

Rug to the Expo
I left for the airport two hours before my flight, and parked in the off-site parking that DIA offers. Unfortunately, I got on a bus right during a shift change, which meant we had to sit for a while as the bus drivers switched and filled out their paperwork. Then the bus driver that came on duty drove very slowly, and I had worries that, if the bag drop and TSA checkpoints were heavy, I might miss my flight!

Luckily, when I hightailed it to the Southwest ticket counter, I was ecstatic to see that there were only a few people in front of me, compared to the insane lines I encountered over Christmas. The TSA checkpoint was also very light, so I had about ten minutes to relax before I was asked to board.

My flight left on time and there was just a bit of turbulence, but when we landed at the Orange County airport, we waited near the gate for 15 minutes because another plane was in our way. (Ah, the negatives of flying into a small airport.) I got my rental car (a red Ford Fiesta I dubbed "Ruby") and did my best to avoid southern California traffic as I made my way to my hotel while listening to the soundtrack to The Force Awakens.

Packet and Bib Pick-up at the Expo
I stayed at the Best Western Anaheim Inn, which, I do not kid you, is right across the street from Disneyland. I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes and heard the area music as I was walking down the street. It was the best realization! The hotel offered free wifi, parking, and a breakfast, and as soon as I checked in I dumped my stuff in my room and bolted to the parks.

I didn't have a park ticket for Thursday, but I wanted to make my way to the runDisney Expo so I could pick up my running bib and check-in for the race. I had heard horror stories about insanely long lines for things at the Expo, since there's about 25,000 runners trying to do a lot of stuff in a small amount of space. On Thursday the Expo was open until 8:00.

Expo floor
To my delight, the lines an hour before closing were nonexistent, and I received my materials with little waiting. As a participant of the Rebel Challenge, I was required to get my picture taken with my race bib, so that they could verify that I ran and finished both races.

I also got a clear bag (which I could use to check stuff on the day of the race, if I wanted) that contained my three race shirts: a maroon one for the 10K that featured an X-Wing, a blue one for the Half Marathon which featured Luke Skywalker, and a grey one for the Rebel Challenge that featured R2-D2. I had once again registered for size Large, but after looking at the shirts, I decided to switch to medium. That exchange wasn't a problem at all!

My runDisney swag: headband, necklace, pin
The Expo floor was filled with sponsors for this event trying to sell as much stuff as possible. Some was officially licensed, like the Champion gear, while other stuff was unofficial (and you could tell). I avoided the unofficial stuff and stuck with the cheaper selections. 

Disney had its own official section of runDisney gear, and this area usually also has a long line, but I got there about 20 minutes before closing and I didn't have to wait at all. (Thank goodness!) I liked everything there, but stuck with a headband for the Rebel Challenge and a pin from the weekend. (I get a pin on every Disney trip.) There was also an area set up so you could wait in line for a check-out register, but that had no line, either. 

I brought two Walt Disney World t-shirts on my trip, and was wearing my monorail shirt on Thursday. The employee at the register noticed it and loved it. It was a very nice compliment!

Kalua-style Pork Flatbread
Once my purchases had been made, I needed something to eat. I hadn't really eaten anything since my 2:00 lunch, and my stomach was rumbling. Downtown Disney had a lot of great choices, but the Expo takes place at the Disneyland Hotel. A few years back, the hotel added some great new dining, including a small bar called Trader Sam's. (This is based on the shrunken head dealer character from the Jungle Cruise attraction that you see at the end of the boat ride.) It is a very popular spot with the locals, especially because of all the punny, kitchy items you'll find. I hear about it a lot on my Disney podcasts and blogs, and decided to see if I could find a spot. (It's first come, first served.) 

Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum
The place was packed, but I managed to snag the last empty seat at the bar! I didn't get a whole lot of recognition from the bartender, but I got enough to order my drink (the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum - cream of coconut, orange juice, rum, and pineapple juice) and some food (a pork flatbread appetizer). I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the place, and the food and drink were very good!

I caught some live music outside of Trader Sam's, but realized if I wanted to watch the Disneyland fireworks from the esplanade between Disneyland and California Adventure, I needed to go a little faster. Just as I was nearing the end of Downtown Disney (which connects the theme parks to the Disneyland Hotel), there were several loud BOOMs! The fireworks had started!

I was surprised to see that they didn't pipe the music from the fireworks show in the esplanade, but that was okay - I found a nice place and watched the fireworks shooting up into the sky. Many other people were doing the same thing. It was nice to experience that kind of thing for free!

Fireworks from the Esplanade
The best part of my day (sort of) was the fact that when the fireworks were done, I was back in my hotel room about 10 minutes later! Ten minutes! At Walt Disney World I would have had to be herded along with thousands of other people down to a bus or a boat and then wait until the people in front of me were boarded before I could get on, and then cram together in a stuffy piece of transportation until we all disembarked at our hotel 20 minutes later and make the long walk back to my room. Not here! My trip from my room to the Disneyland Hotel took about 20 minutes - which would be important for me to know when I needed to be at the starting corrals for my races a few hundred yards away.

The whole street that I have to cross is covered with hotels and restaurants...and a Coldstone Creamery, which was still open when I passed by. I was craving my cake batter ice cream, so I got that and ate it in my room. I know that wasn't a Disney thing, but it was still delicious. 

My type-A personality had me unpack my clothing, organize all of the items I would need in my Disney drawstring backpack, and lay out my outfit for the next day before I went to bed. The room had an air conditioner that was really old, which meant that it would only stop making noise if I turned it off. I loved that! So many hotel rooms have units that turn on and off, and I can't sleep with that happening. But here I had a ready-made noisemaker that I could use as my fan for the night. 

After eating delicious ice cream and unpacking, I was ready for a good night's sleep so that I would be ready to hit the theme parks bright and early the next day!

Click here to view my Recap of Friday's fun!


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