If there is one thing that we have learned through all of our traveling it is that where you stay can make or break your trip. Even if most of your day is filled with sight-seeing, where you rest your head at night can still have a huge impact on your experience. Don’t believe us? Click here to read our review of the cabins that we stayed in when we went to Mackinaw City. That was a great experience but the year before that we stayed at a budget hotel that was friendly to our wallet but not friendly to our senses. It made our skin crawl and dampened what would have otherwise been a great trip.
Because of that knowledge we spend a considerable amount of time selecting where we are going to stay when we go on a trip. Some of the items that we consider before booking a hotel include proximity to the attractions we want to visit, reviews on TripAdvisor, amenities and price.
When planning our trip to Disneyland we considered the hotels at Disneyland itself which included: The Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. All of which turned out to be too expensive for our budget. We then started exploring Disneyland’s Good Neighbor Hotels which are hotels in the area that are not owned by Disneyland but have a relationship with Disneyland and have received the Good Neighbor approval. We eventually choose the Anaheim Marriott Hotel which was in fact a Good Neighbor Hotel and was within a mile of Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney. The hotel had great reviews on TripAdvisor, it had excellent amenities and we ended up getting it at a price that was perfect for our budget!
Marriott is known for its world class service and this hotel was no exception!
We received a friendly greeting from the front desk when we arrived and we were able to check in even though we had arrived several hours before the official check in time. We did have a bit of a snafu at the elevators only because we were not using them correctly. Ha! Turns out there is a keypad outside of the elevator banks where you make your floor selection as opposed to inside the elevator. We saw several others make them same mistake as we did throughout our stay so we didn’t feel so bad. We even had a couple that got stuck riding the elevator with us to our floor because they hopped in at the last minute without knowing they had to push their floor button before getting in the elevator.
Our room was clean and nicely furnished with a modern touch. But really the best part of our room was the balcony and the view!
Quite a change of scenery compared to what we see every day in Michigan!
After getting settled into our room we made the walk from the hotel to Downtown Disney! We knew that we were in for a mile walk but that didn’t bother us. The route from the hotel to Disneyland turned out to be very easy to navigate and it appeared to be very safe. (Although one night we did encounter police officers handling a disturbance.) The route was also lined with palm trees and it was very pretty a night when it was all lit up!
As far as the amenities of the hotel go, we really didn’t take advantage of them since we were gone for most of the day but we liked knowing that they were there if we wanted to use them. We did attempt to use the pool but unbeknownst to us it was closed for renovation. Womp womp. That was a bit of a disappointment but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
– If you are not able to check in early or if you need some place to store your luggage on the day of your departure until it is time for you to head to the airport they will store your luggage for free! We used that service on our last day in Anaheim so that we could spend the day at California Adventure before flying home that evening.
– Shop around online on the various sites to get the best deal at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel or any other hotel for that matter!
Betsy: It is no surprise that I am a bit of a hotel snob since I have worked in the hotel industry for many many years. Because of my hotel experience, I see things that other guests may not notice. I am especially critical of customer service. All of the employees at the Anaheim Marriott were very friendly and ready to assist with anything that we needed. Our housekeeper in particular was very nice and every morning while cleaning she would sing while she worked. I like seeing employees so happy as it is indicative of the culture at the hotel. I really enjoyed my stay there and would definitely stay again! Hopefully next time the pool will be open!
Chris: The hotel was very conveniently located and so close we could actually see parts of Disney’s California Adventure from our window. They offered a shuttle to Disney but it probably wasn’t any faster than it took us to walk the distance. I was pretty bummed about the pool though… we came from 10 degrees and snow to 70 and sunny so I wanted to get some pool time in and soak up the warmth. Ah well …I just had to settle for going to Disneyland lol.
Each October, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio transforms into a Halloween paradise called HalloWeekends. As the name suggests, they are just open on the weekends this late in the year. Tickets for this event are lower compared to the regular summer time admission prices and they even offer special “Fright Lane” passes to skip the haunted lines. We have always wanted to go to this event so when some of our fellow bloggers had free tickets to give away we jumped at the opportunity… and guess what …WE WON!
We had already been to Cedar Point this year so this was just a bonus for us. With only 3 weekends left (at the time) we took a shot in the dark and went on the 25th as that was the only day we had available. As it turns out, October 25th turned out to be a beautiful, warm, sunny day and we thought: what could be more perfect? So we packed up the kids and hit the road from Metro Detroit to Sandusky, Ohio.
Betsy’s son, “thing3”, is not quite tall enough to go on the big rides so our plan was to split up and enjoy the park in our own separate ways.
The “kids side” of Halloweekends: Just inside the gates the kids are greeted with a giant Frankenstein and sign in table. Each kid was given a log sheet and a bag for trick-or-treating. They had several stations set up for the kids to visit and collect some goodies. There were also special areas set up for this event like a corn maze and several live performances on stage.
There were also lots of costumed characters wandering around the area for plenty of photo opportunities. There was so much for kids to do over and above the normal rides (which there are a ton) that the only problem was deciding what to do next. Most of the lines were short so kids were able to maximize their time in the park making this a great value for the youngsters!
The “adult side” of Halloweekends: I use the term “adult side” loosely, what I really mean is: anyone tall enough to ride on the bigger rides. When we first arrived we hopped on a few coasters before lunch. The lines were average (15-20 mins) so we were able to knock out a couple in a short amount of time. After lunch, however, more and more people were packing into the park. The day was so completely beautiful that everyone seemed to have the same idea as we did and who could blame them? But there were several larger rides closed down, some for the season and some for possible technical difficulties (Top Thrill Dragster only ran a few times the whole day) so that funneled the people onto the open rides and lines began to get longer and longer. As the afternoon went on, lines skyrocketed up to 2 or more hours and even the “Fast Pass” lines had long waits. This didn’t bother us so bad because we won these tickets and this was strictly a bonus, but it was pretty tiring trying to find something with a reasonable enough line to wait in.
The “spooky side” of Halloweekends: Needless to say, they went all out on the decorations for this event! So much to see everywhere you looked… there had to be a few hundred skeletons scattered around the park. Some buildings were transformed into haunted house attractions (only open evenings) and we even saw a few rides get spooky makeovers too.
One of our favorite displays was the ride graveyard with it’s newest addition: the Mantis”. Elsewhere there was a Disaster Transport train complete with what else but skeletons lol. After 7pm they close down some of the kiddie sections and then change over to the “scary side” of Cedar Point. There were quite a few attractions that didn’t open until after this time… most likely to give the parents time to get the smaller children out before the real frights start. And that’s right where we fit in… we debated staying for the after dark portion but opted to call it a day instead just to be safe. At dinner time, we left the park to eat in Sandusky before heading home.
Before we go anywhere we research, research, research. We look into when is the best time to go so that we can make the most of our experience. You should be able to find the anticipated crowd level for just about any amusement park on Google. In this case, July’s estimates were high but not as bad as August so we opted to go sooner rather than later. Also, crowd levels vary by day of the week so we chose a Tuesday as it seemed the least likely to be busy. And for outdoor attractions like this, we constantly check the weather.
Between the 2 of us we have 3 children. For blogging purposes we will refer to them as “Thing 1”, “Thing 2”, and “Thing 3” (oldest to youngest). And while Cedar Point is very kid-friendly (they have 3 big areas full of rides for little ones) we chose to go on a day when Thing 3 would be at his fathers so we could focus exclusively on the “big kid” areas of the park.
Before buying tickets, we scoured the internet to find the best discounts so that we can get the biggest bang for our buck. This year, Cedar Point offered a few specials right on their website. They had a “Ride and Refresh” deal (admission and free drink wristband) for $50 and a “Three Day Advance” ticket (buy it at least 3 days in advance) for $45. We got 1 “Ride and Refresh” and 3 “Three Day Advance” tickets for a grand total of $200 after the $15 parking fee.
They also offer “Fast Lane” line-jumper tickets for an outrageous amount of money: an additional$60 – $80 per person! This did not make sense for us but I could see how it would be useful to some people. They also offered a dining plan for $30/person that we did not buy either. (there is a 90 minute wait time in between meals)
Research definitely pays off. We call it smart adventuring and we highly recommend it as the better prepared you are, the better your experience is going to be.
On Tuesday morning we left our house with Thing 1 and 2 in tow. The park was scheduled to open at 10am and the drive from our house to Cedar Point was expected to take just a little over 2 hours which is a very manageable drive. We left a smidge later than expected and we ran into a bit of traffic on 94 during rush hour but despite all of that we managed to get to Cedar Point around 10:30am which still gave us a full day to enjoy the park.
Entry into the park was a simple process as we had already purchased our tickets online. We simply handed our pre-printed tickets to the employee at the gate and we were in! The “Ride and Refresh” ticket had to also be redeemed at a food counter for the beverage armband. As it turned out, the armband was only good for 1 drink every 60 minutes when it was advertised “free soft drinks all day long” which was not a big deal but would have been nice to know ahead of time.
We had decided to make a mad dash to GateKeeper as it is one of the newer roller coasters and was sure to have long lines all day. Chris and Thing 1 waited in line while Betsy and Thing 2 sought out a restroom and rode a few of the calmer (i.e. not rollercoaster) rides. Although the line for GateKeeper was moving quickly it eventually stalled and the coaster appeared to be shut down for reasons were are not sure of. After getting out of the GateKeeper line it appeared that all of the roller coasters with the exception of the wooden roller coasters were down. It was strange and we never did figure out what was going on. Throughout the day we ran into several instances of individual rides shutting down before we made it through the line to get on it. This included the Iron Dragon and WindSeeker. WindSeeker was down due to high winds and the Iron Dragon seemed to be having technical issues as we saw people stuck on it twice.
While the roller coasters were down early in the day we rode the fun carnival type rides like the Scrambler and the Matterhorn. This was good for us because it was something we all could enjoy together. Although we were a bit disappointed with the way the day started we were undeterred from making the best of it.
Before we knew it was time for lunch! We decided to eat at the Joe Cool Cafe because we had eaten there last year and had a good experience. Plus it is air conditioned and the temperatures were reaching 90 degrees outside. The menu is primarily pizza but they have a few sandwiches and other options as well. Inside it’s all decked out in “Peanuts” decor and they play “Charlie Brown” cartoons all day long. We ordered a 16 inch pepperoni pizza which ran about $20 but was more than enough for the 4 of us. We skipped to pop and stuck with water in order to stay better hydrated on such a hot day. In total with tax and tip we spent under $30 which was the most economical choice in the entire park.
After lunch we meandered farther into the park and hit up whatever rides had decent wait times. At it’s peak, the biggest rides had about an hour and fifteen minute wait which is not bad, however, we skipped those and kept checking back until the lines were better. The longest we ever waited for a ride was 50 minutes and that was for the Maverick which is a newer very in demand coaster.
Later in the afternoon, we stopped in Frontiertown for ice cream and throughout the day we were constantly stopping every 60 minutes to use our drink wristband. It was definitely a good idea to get the wristband. To supplement the 60 minutes in between drink fill ups you can ask for free ice water at any of the drink stands. It’s not advertised but they will give you small cups of water if you ask.
One of the highlights of the day was finding that the wait for the Top Thrill Dragster was only 30 minutes! That was unheard of! Chris and Thing 1 (both roller coaster junkies) took full advantage of that. Last year the ride caught Thing 1 off guard so he was a bit hesitant to try it again… but in the end he sucked it up and guess what …he loved it!
To escape the heat, Cedar Point has several water rides to get you soaked. The kids were anxious to go on some but us adults would rather not walk around in soaking wet clothes all day so we did not ride any. We did, however, get near the splash zones to get a bit of cool refreshing spray on us without getting soaked to the bone.
Dinner proved to be a bit of a conundrum. The heat was sweltering so an indoor air-conditioned dining room was a must. Last year we had eaten dinner at Johnny Rockets and had a bad experience. The food was fine but there were tons of flies and it was just unbearable. No one wants flies in or around their food. After much walking around trying to find an indoor restaurant we found ourselves back at Johnny Rockets and it turned out that not much had changed. As we were waiting to be seated we counted more flies in the place than people! UGH! Needless to say we ended up leaving before we were seated.
Sometimes the best places hide in plain sight and we must have walked past Midway Market a dozen times without a single glance over to see what it was. It turned out to be a buffet and at $15 per adult and $10 for kids our first reaction was that it was too expensive. But there was something there for everyone, it was air conditioned, and it wasn’t swarming with flies so we decided to go in anyways. There really was a lot to choose from. It was divided up by category: kids, home cooking, Italian, international, and salad bar.
Considering it came with unlimited drinks and dessert, it really wasn’t too bad. For $50 we ate like kings! We would easily spend that going out to eat anywhere and we all left happy and that is priceless.
After dinner we rode as many rides as possible until the park closed at 10pm. We all left smiling as it truly was a great day!
Betsy: As you may know, Cedar Point is known for its roller coasters so it may strike you as odd to hear that I don’t like coasters. In fact, I don’t like heights. The bravest I get, is going on the Iron Dragon or the Cedar Creek Mine Ride. (Although this year I did try the new ride, Pipe Scream and I was scared! lol) That obviously limits what rides I will go on but surprisingly there are still a lot of rides for people like me.
Often times, one of Chris’s kids won’t want to go on one of the rides that I don’t want to go on as well, so we will go off and ride something else or just hang out and wait for the other two to get done. It makes for a good arrangement for us and it it nice to spend some one on one time with each of his kids.
This is our second year going to Cedar Point and we have really enjoyed it each time. We will definitely be back again!
Chris: The first time I went to Cedar Point I was about Thing 1’s age and fell in love with the place. From the classic Midway Arcade, the Sky Ride, Frontier Town, and yes the coasters! I had been waiting and waiting for my kids to finally be old enough to go (without having to spend the day in the kiddie sections). Last year I took them for the first time and I knew from then on I wanted to keep bringing them back every year if possible.
We really picked a good day to go. Even though it was hot, the crowds were very manageable and for the most part we never waited in much of a line at all. I rode Millennium Force and Maverick for the first time ever… in past years the lines were 1 1/2 hrs or more so to get on both each under an hour was awesome! I was nearly able to ride on all of the coasters in one trip, if it wasn’t for the several shut-downs during the day I probably would have.
I had one incident the whole day. On the ride called the “Soaring eagle” (see picture below)
The ride swings around and you steer with a giant wing in the front. With my vast knowledge of science and aerodynamics I would swoop in and then get whipped back out super high… only …apparently you are not allowed to do that because the ride operators were yelling and screaming at me. I was doing nothing wrong! Nothing crazy, violent, or erratic… I was sitting still in my cart and moving the sail in… then out …in ….out maybe every 5 seconds or so. This was not my first time on a ride like this, they’ve been around forever… but the ride operators accused me of “bouncing the cart” and threatened to have me removed?!? Whatever, I brushed it off. I cant be the only person in history to understand how to use the wing effectively.
All-in-all this was a great trip and the GF and I may come back this fall for Halloweekends… ya know …for the blog 😉