My 3-year-old daughter Dot, my husband, and I just got back from an amazing 4 night trip to Disneyland. We got there just as Halloween Time started (September 8-12). I just got bitten by the Disney bug about two years ago and have been to the parks on both coasts, but we're from the San Francisco Bay Area so Disneyland is a lot closer. Our goals this trip were to soak in Halloween Time, try every new flavor of churro, get an Oogie Boogie rice crispy treat, and see Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain. Did we succeed? Read on... Day 1: Travel Day (in which mistakes are made) Our flight from SFO to SNA was at 9 o clock. Counting backwards, we would need to get up at 6 to leave at 7 to be parked and at the airport at 8. Right? But at 6 o clock we did our very best zombie impressions. "COFFEEEEEE....." Fortunately I'd packed the night before so we didn't have to do much. We got out of bed, got dressed, and were on the road at 7:30. There was plenty of parking, and security at SFO moved quickly despite the long lines. We got on the hour-long flight with no problem, and had just enough time for everyone on the plane to get a drink (and gingerbread cookies, which Dot enjoyed) before we landed. When we arrived at SNA just after 10, there was hardly anyone there. I heard the immortal words from Dot: "I want to use the potty!" Great! Unfortunately, it took rather a bit longer than expected, and the poor guy from Lansky limo service called me when I was in the restroom wondering where we were. I sent my husband to pick up the luggage and meet them. I couldn't recommend Lansky enough. It was expensive, but the car was large, scrupulously clean, and they already had Dot's car seat set up. It was an easy 20 minute drive from the airport to our hotel, the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance. Dot had a lot of fun with the spooooky decorations at the hotel. Our room was ready, so we went upstairs to check out our 1-bedroom suite. We'd been upgraded as a surprise to a waterpark view, but we didn't want Dot to look at it because she'd want to spend all afternoon at the waterpark and not go to Disenyland. She was entranced enough with the bunk beds. It was a really great hotel and we love being able to sleep in a separate room from Dot. It was now about 11:30 and the weather was HOT in Anaheim. We went from 68 degrees in SF to a good 98 in SoCal. We were hungry, starting to get cranky, and ready to begin our Disneyland trip. I'd reserved a stroller from Traveling Baby, but it hadn't arrived at the hotel yet, so we walked and carried Dot the 10 minute walk down Harbor to Disneyland. We were pretty beat by the time we got there, it was so hot, so we rented a stroller from Disney. There was no wait at all to get into security and FINALLY we were in the park! We were starving so it was time to get a snack. I thought they might have Oogie Boogie treats at Jolly Holiday Bakery, but I was wrong. So we made do with some spooooky Mickey macarons: We also got a bat cookie: After that, we decided to head into Fantasyland. First stop: the carousel, as Dot can't resist them. Then we did a spin at the Mad Tea Party. Then we hit Small World, which is a huge favorite of ours. We didn't really have a plan - we were just enjoying the day and being with each other as a family. The crowds were starting to build but they weren't oppressive yet — but the heat was starting to get that way. I should mention that we did get MaxPass with our tickets. I was excited about the Photopass photographers (even though we barely saw any), but it was incredibly handy making Fastpasses right from your phone. And there always seemed to be great ones available! Right after Dumbo I checked out availability for the Haunted Mansion - a priority of ours - and we could get a return time in just over an hour. Sweet! Then we made the biggest mistake of the day. Dot really, really, really wanted to ride Dumbo, but the line was 15 minutes and is all outdoors. But we indulged her and waited when we should've gone to get lunch. By the time we got to Dumbo, we were hot, tired, and cranky and quite frankly, i don't think the ride is worth it. I know it's a classic, but it's not my favorite. After the Dumbo thrills and spills, it was time for lunch. We headed over to Red Rose Taverne because my husband is a vegetarian and I wanted to try their cauliflower sandwich. The verdict: the cauliflower and the green beans were pretty good, but the tomato and lettuce on the sandwich is not. But overall we enjoyed it and it was light and really well seasoned. Dot is nuts about the sliced apples - she promptly ate two packets. Now it was time for the 2nd biggest mistake of the day. We should've gone back to the hotel and taken a nap or gone for a swim. But after food, everyone got a second wind, so we decided to head over to the Haunted Mansion. This was important to us because Dot is really into ghosts. She's at that phase of kid development where she likes to be scared. I showed her a couple of videos of the Haunted Mansion, but when I found out that it was going to be Haunted Mansion Holiday, she wanted to know Jack Skellington's story, so we rented the movie for her. And she loved it, so she was really excited to see Jack, Sally, Zero, and Oogie Boogie. Haunted Mansion Holiday was awesome. Awesome! The overlay was so impressive and if you like the movie (and we do) it was a fantastic experience. We really loved it. The gingerbread house is great and it's fun to follow Zero all through the Mansion. It was just perfect. After that Dot really wanted her Oogie Boogie rice crispy treat, and I had heard at Jolly Holliday they were available at Pooh Corner. So we headed over to Critter Country to get one, with a stop at a churro stand along the way. I had never had a Disneyland churro (though on occasion I would get them on the subway when I lived in NYC), and my husband had never had a churro at all. We went from, "huh, churros, that's interesting" to "OMG I must stuff my face with churros right now." We made it our mission to try every Halloween churro that we could in the park. We lucked out at Pooh Corner - they had Oogie Boogie treats! Thank goodness. We all hung out in the shade while Dot enjoyed her villainous snack: It was really starting to get hot, so my husband suggested that he single-ride Splash Mountain while Dot and I headed back to Frontierland to get a souvenir poison apple stein and to use a Fastpass I made for Big Thunder. I can't believe I thought this was a good idea, but I did, so we headed back there. Dot and I chilled out at Zocalo Park while waiting for him to finish up at Splash, and when he returned, I went on Big Thunder. I love that roller coaster and don't understand why wait times are so short. Oh well! More fun for me! At this point it was about 6 in the evening and we were really hot and really tired and our feet hurt. But we were supposed to be in DCA at 7:30 for a dinner reservation so we couldn't go back to the hotel. So we decided to press on. (I know! I know!) Back at the hub we watched the Pixar Play Parade and ate a Maleficent Churro (spoiler: It was meh): And then finally we headed over to DCA. This was my first time there and I was really excited about it. I'd heard mixed reviews of the park but I loved it. We had just gotten back from visiting Yosemite and the falls were dry, but at the Disney version of Yosemite the falls were running! In the golden light of the late day, the park looked stunning: Our reservations were for the Sonoma Terrace Paint the Night reception. I figured, we needed to eat dinner at some point anyway, let's have a show along with it. We turned up around 7:15 and people were already lined up - I think we were the third party in line. They let us in promptly at 8 and asked us if we wanted a low table right next to the railing or a high table and we requested a low one. The seats were FABULOUS. The reception has its pluses and minuses. The seats were absolutely fantastic. We could not have had a better view of Paint the Night, which I love love love. The food at the reception was not very good. We got a bread basket (good), and a meat and cheese plate, which just wasn't very nice. I had requested a vegetarian plate for my husband and they didn't give him one, which is unusual for Disney. They were very nice about switching it out. Also, the sangria is excellent. So go for great seats and don't expect much out of the food. And here is where the mistakes of the day caught up with us. Dot passed right out in my arms and nothing, but nothing would wake her up. The whole parade went by and she slept right through it. I was a bit disappointed for her sake, and then I thought, hey, these are fantastic seats for us. At the end of the parade we were given chocolate truffles and a caramel apple for Dot, and then we slowly made our way out of the parks and back to the hotel. It was a long walk and we were completely exhausted, but what a great day we had in Disneyland. It really is a park to bounce around in and soak up the atmosphere and we absolutely did that.