ABD Backstage Magic: Pre-Tour (Part 2) and Day 1

A quick catch up on our trip…we arrived. Well, you could have guessed that, but we chose to arrive a day in advance of the prescribed schedule (what rebels). That gave us time to settle into our hotel and the whole of the “check in” day to explore.

Catch up with our Planning and  Pre-Tour (Part 1).

This was our one big day in California and we were raring to get going. Mostly, that was coming from the Central Time Zone, so Mom and myself were out the door by 8am. Our big plan for the day was to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, drive the coast, and hopefully squeeze in a stop in Santa Monica before the real tour started with the kick-off dinner at 5pm.

In a less stressful repeat of the night before we realized that we did not know how to check in to our tour. Problem instantly solved as the elevator doors opened and we spotted our first Disney employee, one of our two tour guides, Michael, was just setting up the welcome desk. We were the first to check in, but over the next hour many of our other compatriots trickled down. Lesson: Arriving the night before is a very popular option. From Michael we were given our tour booklet and a nice selection of fruit and snacks. We also had his and Natalia’s contact information should we need anything during the day. One thing we never really utilized, part of our Midwest do-it-yourself spirit perhaps, was that the guides are your own personal concierge the entirety of the trip.

Editor’s Note: I am aware of the misspelling of “Amusement” but in the interest of completing the post I have moved past it, I hope you can too.

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We were up at 8am (this is a big deal for night owls) to pick up our car rental when the counter opened at 9am and get out of L.A. before traffic got bad. Oh how wrong we were. This doesn’t have much to do with our trip, but we wasted an hour of our tightly scheduled day waiting in line behind just four parties to pick up their cars. We rented from the company in the hotel, despite a few bad reviews, for the convenience. After an hour I walked across the street, had our price matched, got a car, and picked up my mom from a line that had not moved. (This comes in to play later as we tried to return our car, because this was the week of the Academy Awards and the roads around our hotel were closed off.) We were now 90 minutes behind schedule, but the empty roads and scenic trip to Simi Valley quickly pushed the sourness out of our minds.

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Why were we going to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library? Well, besides our family’s weird thing about going to presidential libraries, it was the final months of the D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives. Although the exhibit has closed (and as of this writing is in Chicago) I would strongly recommend the library. Not only are the grounds lovely and a great contrast to the cityscape of Los Angeles, the permanent exhibits are very well made to present both the Hollywood and executive side of President Reagan.

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For some reason Simi Valley really felt like we were in California. Not just Hollywood or some strip mall, but the spacious rolling hills of vegetated desert spoke “California” to me. It may have helped that this was the only warm weather of our entire vacation, with 80 degrees and a nice warm breeze. It made spending the day inside of a museum a bit disappointing.

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On the recommendation of a family member we drove back South through Point Magu on the Pacific Coast Highway. The terrain was so beautiful and pure compared to the other areas of our travels. Silly, but to go through the strawberry and other farm fields set a pleasant pace for our first day. Just after Malibu we started to hit L.A. traffic and came back to reality. We missed seeing Santa Monica and were hustling to make it to our first scheduled event, arriving with a minute to spare.

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I have never been one for group activities, I took poorly to camp and scouts, so one of my biggest concerns about doing a group trip like Adventures By Disney was all of the togetherness activities. Thankfully, they mostly spare you and what things we did were even fun for a humbug like me. The welcome dinner was a fun getting to know you dinner party, with great food to boot. This was our first time seeing our companions for the next week and, thanks to the timing of mid-February, were were a very small bunch of just over twenty. A few trips a year for each of the destinations are offered child-free, and ours happened to be just adults and teens. We happily lingered making friends after dinner and even took some extra cupcakes back to our room to watch the Bachelor as we readied for our first full day of the tour. Rolling into our room that night we discovered (highlight to see, spoiler warning) a handwritten card, a la the Bachelor, and one expandable duffel bag to match our backpacks.

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