Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?

I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect to love my Disneyland adventure. This was my first experience with a Disney park. As a child, I had never gone, and as an adult I expected it to be fun for the children. While I expected my children to love the trip, I didn’t expect that I would treasure my time there. I did expect to have fun, but I thought there would be parts of the trip I had to endure.

I was wrong.

I could not have been more wrong.  As a parent, Disneyland was amazing – absolutely amazing.  It might actually be the happiest place on earth, for children and adults alike. My smile was anything but forced, and I was sad to say goodbye when we left. The rides were fun, the cast members (what they call all their employees) were beyond helpful and kind, and even the food was fantastic. I loved the detail and thought they clearly put into every moment of our experience. Each minute I was there, I felt like I was experiencing the work of master artists.
Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?

Disney California adventure goofy
Goofy’s Silly Symphony combined classical music, water, and humor.

When to Go

happy holidays it's a small world rideWe went in early December. This was clearly the off-season which worked to our advantage. The lines to many lines were nonexistent. The times we did have to wait, our wait was minimal. There were some rides we were able to ride multiple times in a row.

One of our children is in preschool, the other is homeschooled so going to Disneyland during the school year was not a problem. However, if our children were in school I would not hesitate to pull them out for a week to take them to Disneyland. The school might call that “unexcused” but I would call it valuable family time. I think that family time should occasionally trump school, especially when assignments can be made up.

Christmas at Disneyland

Disneyland at Christmas time is incredible. Everywhere you turn is festivity! They even redo the “It’s a Small World” ride to incorporate Christmas decorations. Santa Claus was on hand, and there was no mall visit required! While there was an official photographer there, and with the characters, we were encouraged to take our own photos as well.

The days were a tad chilly for Southern California, but we popped on our windbreakers and were very comfortable. Two of our days there we had beautiful clear skies. The third day was overcast and threatened to be a rare day of showers, but it never did more than a sprinkle.

I would definitely suggest this time if you can swing it! We felt the combination of off-season and Christmas time made for the best experience possible. However, having not visited Disneyland previously we are only going with my husband’s experiences visiting Disney World in the summer and second-hand reports of long lines at the rides during peak season.

Things at Which Disneyland Excels

Four year old Luke was able to do/ride everything he wanted!

One thing is catering to the smaller child. In many of the places, we’ve visited, the height requirements for most of the rides preclude my 42″ inch average sized four and a half year old from riding them.

But Disneyland clearly had kids his age in mind. The majority of rides and activities were open to him at his size. He got his first real experiences with roller coasters at Disneyland, and he absolutely loved them. It was one of the sweetest bonding experiences I’ve ever seen between him and my husband. A mutual love of roller coasters realized at a young age! I know this will shape their relationship and they are already talking about their next trip to an amusement park.

Princess Brave at Disneyland signing autographsWe also found out that my daughter is not a fan of roller coasters. After the first one we tried, my son was jumping up and down jabbering out words that would be roughly translated as “again, let’s do that again!” My daughter looked me in the eye and emphatically said: “I am NOT okay.” There were even hand gestures to further drive her point home. That was not a problem! While dad and Luke ran off to fulfill a need for speed, Claire and I rode the milder rides and had a blast. Disney covered everyone.

Disneyland also has the most consistently great customer service I’ve ever encountered. The cast members got down to the kid’s level to talk to them, and never talked down to them. They were kind and respectful when we dealt with them, and they went above and beyond in each exchange we had.

How to Keep the Expense Down

For most vacation budgets, Disneyland is higher than average. It is easy to argue that a visit to Disneyland is worth the expense.  But even when you are sold on the merits of Disneyland, you are probably looking to find ways to keep the expenses down.  Unless you are a princess like these, of course!

We tend to cook our own food to help keep expenses down. If this is the plan, make sure and check what your hotel room offers. For instance, we had a minifridge but no microwave. We found the breakfast offerings in the park to be limited. A good way to save would be having breakfast in your room before hitting the parks.

There are also lots of places for children to spy cool toys they want to take home with them. We flew, so despite having a budget to think of, we also needed to make sure everything could fit in the suitcases. I made a deal with the kids. I would buy them an autograph book, and they could choose one toy to get. That cut down a lot on the begging. Claire chose a Brave Doll. Luke really wanted Hulk Hands (yes.. they are green foam hands that look like Hulk’s). We couldn’t figure out how to get them in our luggage due to the size, and having him wear them on a plane ride didn’t seem prudent. I mean, how many passengers want to sit by a kid saying “Hulk Smash!” and banging on things? So he asked Santa for the Hulk Hands (and he delivered!).  For his one item, he settled on a Mickey Mouse Sorcerer hat. He loves that hat and wears frequently.

Luke enjoying another set of Hulk Hands at the Lego store in Downtown Disney.

Where to Splurge

Disneyland Hotel CaliforniaStaying at one of the three Disneyland hotels on property. One of the largest benefits is accessibility. You walk out the door of the hotel and you are in Downtown Disney, mere steps from both Disneyland and California Adventure. This enhances everyone’s experience, and it keeps you from wasting time commuting from an offsite partner hotel.

We also had a fantastic view of the fireworks from our hotel room at the Disneyland Hotel. One thing I will remember always was getting the kids back to the room, getting on their pajamas and laying down on the floor and watching the fireworks at night. We didn’t have to worry about missing them even though our little ones were tired out!

Staying at Disneyland hotels on property also affords you the luxury of Magic Hour. Each day, one of the parks opens an hour early for the hotel guests. This was AWESOME! We were able to rush to the rides that usually had notoriously long lines and ride them first. Our wait time was minimized, and we could experience more rides during the day. At Disneyland, we headed directly towards Fantasyland and at California Adventure we made a bee-line towards the new Cars Land.

A character meal, if your child has a favorite, might be a place to splurge. This is my one Disneyland regret. My daughter missed seeing Ariel at Disneyland, and she was heartbroken. Ariel is definitely her favorite. We should have splurged for a character dinner at Ariel’s Grotto at California Adventure to make sure it happened. I think she’ll remember this disappointment, and I wish I would have chosen differently with this expense.

Just a portion of our 180 degree view at the historic Disneyland Hotel.

Bottom Line on Disneyland

It was a trip that will remain vivid in our minds for our lifetimes. It was a great experience as a family, and the time we spent together at Disneyland helped our family become closer. We found that we liked California Adventure slightly better than Disneyland, but both were experiences we will treasure. I think we will return to either Disneyland or try out Disney World at some point in the future. We highly recommend a trip to Disneyland with your children during their childhood.  You’ll all have fun, I promise!

Disclosure: We were a guest of Disney during our visit to Disneyland, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney California Adventure.  Despite their hospitality, my views are my own and I make all editorial decisions on this and all other articles on this site.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #235: Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

UNESCO World Heritage Site #235: Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
UNESCO World Heritage Site #235: Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

From the World Heritage inscription:

The importance of Diocletian’s Palace far transcends local significance because of its level of preservation and the buildings of succeeding historical periods, starting in the Roman period, which form the very tissue of old Split. The palace is one of the most famous and integral architectural and cultural buildings on the Croatian Adriatic coast.

The ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, built between the late 3rd and the early 4th centuries AD, can be found throughout the city. The Roman Emperor Diocletian spent his declining years in an enormous palace that he had built near his birthplace, Aspalthos, in Dalmatia. The palace represents the most valuable example of Roman architecture on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Its form and the arrangement of the buildings within the palace represent a transitional style of imperial villa, Hellenistic town and Roman camp.

On the eastern side of the palace lies the Porta Argentea (Silver Gate) with the church of St Dominic on the opposite side, it was reconstructed between 1932 and 1934. The Silver Gate gives access to the Plain of King Tomislav and thence to the Peristil (peristyle), the central open-air area of the palace. Its longitudinal sides are surrounded by an arched colonnade; the arches in the west are closed by Gothic and Renaissance houses. monumental port with four columns carrying a gable closes the Peristyle in the south.

The Mausoleum of Diocletian (today’s Cathedral of St Doimus dedicated to St Mary) lies in the eastern part of the peristyle. The mausoleum has almost completely preserved its original octagonal form, encircled by 24 columns which supported the roof; the interior is round, with two rows of Corinthian columns and a frieze. A dome, once covered with mosaics, roofs the mausoleum. The monumental wooden gateposts and the stone pulpit from the 13th century represent the oldest monuments in the cathedral. The choir, constructed in the 18th century, is furnished with Romanesque seating from the 13th century and ornamented with a painting representing the Mother of God with the saints and donors.

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

The palace of Diocletian is a very interesting site and unlike anything I’ve really seen before.

I’ve been visited many palaces and roman ruins before, but what I found in Split was totally different. The entire palace has been taken over by the city. By that I don’t mean the city was built on top of the ruins of the palace, as you might see in many other places, but rather it was built inside the palace.

You can literally see homes and businesses with original standing pillars embedded in their walls. The cathedral of Split is the mausoleum of Diocletian. (which is really ironic considering that Diocletian was responsible for one of the greatest persecution of Christians in history.) As it was never intended to be a church, it is also one of the smallest functioning cathedrals in the world.

The palace is located in the heart of Split and should be a part of any visit to the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.


Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

The Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia inscribed in 1979. It is recognized as both an urban and archaeological monument in Croatia. This site comprises structures and buildings that were used mostly during the times of the Romans in Croatia. In fact, the history of the site dates back to the 3rd century AD. It was during this time when Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace in Split. He spent the rest of the years of his life living in this palace after he abdicated it in 305.

Today, the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian forms half of the town of Split. It is also commonly referred to as “the palace” among locals and tourists alike. It is also a popular tourist destination among the visitors to Split.

About the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

The Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian is at the heart of a city’s remarkable history. Since it was named a World Heritage Site in 1979, it has been under the protection of UNESCO in an effort to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the city of Split.

Split is considered as the unofficial capital of Dalmatia. Despite its beautiful townscape, it has had a turbulent history. This history and the structures that were formed for several centuries are one of the highlights that attracted millions of visitors. However, the Diocletian’s Palace is the heart of this city and the main feature of this UNESCO site.

Diocletian’s Palace

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

As mentioned earlier, the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian features the ancient palace at the heart of it. This ancient palace was built in the 4th century AD by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. This palace covered a total land area of about 30,000 square meters. It featured a rectangular plan and is surrounded by thick, towering walls. In fact, it covers about half of the old town of Split.

Even though it is commonly referred to as the “palace” and was used by the Emperor as the retirement residence, it is actually more of a fortress. About half of the palace is used for personal purposes while the other half served as a military garrison. When the Romans abandoned the palace, it sat empty for several centuries.

During the 7th century, the abandoned palace became the refuge for the residents that fled the invading Croats. Since then, the residents continued to flock to the area near and within the palace itself. They have built homes and businesses in the region. In fact, you will still find some of these homes, shops, and other structures near the palace and within its walls. It remains as historically one of the most important buildings in Split. It is also a dominant architectural and cultural feature along the Adriatic Coast. In fact, it is the most complete remain from a Roman palace anywhere in the world.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Ignorance, Fear and Travel

This is NOT Chechnya
This is NOT Chechnya
As I travel around the world I get to talk to a wide range of people. As you would expect, many of them have some affiliation with the travel and tourism industry. I speak to tour guides, representatives of national tour boards, waitresses, hotel managers and even the cleaning staff.

One questions I always ask is how tourism is doing in their particular country or region. Some places are up, some are down and some are very dependent on visitors from another particular area. If the area where the toursits come from suffers economic problems, then the destination will suffer as well.

Back in 2010 I had a front row seat to major political protests in Bangkok, Thailand. During the protests many travel experts, including the legendary Arthur Frommer, were advising people to completely avoid Thailand. With the information I had on the ground, I could see for myself that other than a few square blocks in Bangkok, nothing was happening in Thailand. People who weren’t there were making judgements based on what they saw on television and then extrapolated that to the entire country.

Continue reading “Ignorance, Fear and Travel”