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Christmas in California

The kids came to Southern California to spend Christmas with the folks. We played for three solid days and nights at the amusement parks of Anaheim: Knotts Berry Farm, Disneyland, and Disney's California Adventure.

Just a coupala Dumbos
Disneyland is still the king of California's parks. The theme rides take you to far away places and times, eliciting both dreams and memories. We got there at the crack of dawn (6:30 a.m. to be exact) and had the park to ourselves for most of the morning. One of the first stops we made was the Alice in Wonderland teapot ride. I remembered pictures of Nikita Kruschev riding this attraction in the 60's, the same man who promised that the Soviet Union would bury America. Who would have thought that 40 years later Disney sweatshirts would be "Made in Russia," just another third-world country? Nearby were all the kiddy rides, where Mike and Matt fly through the air on elephant wings.
Waitin' on the Robert E. Lee Cherie, Matt, and Mike squint into the sun in Frontier Land and wish that Dad had left his camera at home.
The kids break out of jail in Toon Town... Call the Keystone Cops
Car 54, Where Are You? ...After which Mike promptly calls the cops to collect on the reward.
Maybe the best new ride there is the Indiana Jones attraction. You walk what seems like miles through a jungle and cave and catch a jeep that takes you on a thrilling non-stop adventure. Nope, don't have a picture of it, you'll have to take our word. But in the same area, Cherie and Mike climbed a jungle tree house ladder to get a better view of Adventure Land. Me Tarzan, You Jane
Bring on your best scare Matt is ready to roll on the Frontier Land roller coaster. So is Cherie, sort of. (Actually, I almost broke her ribs on this ride when I slammed my elbow into her on one of the turns. "This," she swears, "will be my last roller coaster ride with you!" I won't be afraid, I WON'T be afraid
Mike and Matt take the plunge down a waterfall on a water ride. Yep, it was a cold day. And yep, they got wet. A hot cup of coffee helped, but didn't do much for the saggy, baggy pant butts. Excuse me, could I just get off here, please?
Parade An excited little girl and her father watch the Disney Christmas light parade. It was here that I saw Cherie's true mettle. The crowds were lined up four and five deep along the winding parade route through the park. But not where we stood. It was exactly one deep there—Cherie saw to that. She chased away anyone silly enough to try to block our view of the bands, floats, and dancers, nearly coming to blows with another stubborn lady. But we had knock-out views of the parade, and Cherie and the kids exclaimed it was the best one they'd ever seen.

The first day in Anaheim we went to Knotts Berry Farm. It was a rainy Friday, and the place was almost deserted. Great for jumping on any ride, any time. Even I went on the monster wooden roller coaster, the Ghost Rider. When we crested the first hill I figured out how it got its name. Click, click, click, click, click ... silence. Whooosh!
The ghost of Jessie James Ghosts from the past haunt Knott's Berry Farm, whic has a western theme through much of the attraction. An old steam engine pulls a circa-1880 passenger coach through the park, and you've got to watch out for train robbers—particulary those who've come back to life from their sordid, violent pasts.

We stayed at Disney's Grand Californian hotel, conveniently located adjacent to both Disneyland and California Adventure. It was a beautiful luxury hotel with a huge fireplace, an atrium with the tallest indoor tree I've ever seen, and large, beautifully furnished rooms. The view from our balcony included the pool area and the rides of California Adventure. A room with a view
And she has the tee shirt to prove it Up closer, a view of the roller coaster and ferris wheel. The coaster was awesome (Cherie and I didn't go on it—her ribs were too sore); it went from 0 to 60 in a nano-second. We watched carloads of people brace themselves at the beginning of the ride, ready to whosh into space at incredible speed. I was thinking I certainly wasn't brave enough to do it, but then I saw a 60 or 70-something woman calmly seated on one of the cars. "Hey," I thought, "if she can do it so easily, certainly I can." What incredible cool she had for someone about to be launched, I marveled. Then it happened. The car shot out of the gate and the look of ageless serenity turned to absolute terror in the blink of an eye. Cherie and I doubled over in laughter at the instantaneous transformation of Jeckle to Hyde.
Another awesome ride we didn't go on—the Mount Grisley water ride. This was as close as we got to getting wet. The kids said it was waterful. Starbucks in the Mountains
Yeah, mine is bigger than yours Matt, left, and Mike compare their sizes to those of Tom Cruise's feet and hands (at Mann's Chinese theater)...and find him lacking (maybe Nicole did too). We spent an evening in Hollywood and Los Angeles, and couldn't wait to get back to the cleanliness of San Diego. Hollywood Boulevard is shabby; downtown L.A. at night looked like a cardboard shack third world city. Mike's police scanner reported two shootings, a domestic fight, and a hold-up within five minutes. But Matt was fascinated. He hadn't seen anything so unseemly in all his tender years.
May you never die, till I kill you My favorites, aside from Marilyn Monroe's spiked heel prints, were Bogey's and Arnold's impressions. I'll be back

Winter Wonderland Rounding out their visit here, the kids visited Wild Animal Park at night, where the buildings and trees were decked out for the holidays.
Matt tried his hand at whale watching from the shores of Point Loma. (Nope, didn't see a spout.) Thar she blows! (not!)
Christmas Eve sunset On Christmas Eve we brought bundles of firewood to the beach and after watching the sun set into the Pacific, lit a bonfire and exchanged gift by the light of the fire.
Fortunately we had the fire to keep us warm, and a beach bum (not pictured, that's actually Mike on the right) to keep us company on Christmas Eve. It was a wonderful, unforgetable Christmas for the family. The best that California has to offer. The family that shivers together....

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