Each year at Get Away Today our staff is lucky enough to spend an entire week together in Southern California for our annual FAM (short for Familiarization) trip. It is always a week full of fun, excitement, and learning as we take in all of the hotels and attractions that our guests experience while on their vacations. We recently returned from this trip and while we always try to do something new, this trip had so many new adventures that our staff got to experience for the first time. I wanted to share a brief overview, because even our travel experts that have been to Southern California and the Disneyland® Resort numerous times, got to do a lot of new things and it may spark something fun for your next California vacation!
Here‘s an overview of what we did:
Day 1: We landed at LAX where we spent the day at Universal Studios Hollywood (our agents LOVED the new Transformers Ride) and we then had dinner at Bubba Gump’s at the Universal City Walk – this Forrest Gump themed restaurant was delicious and so much fun. For the first time we stayed at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. It was so nice to be able to unwind and relax after a day of fun-in-the-sun. Some agents even took the subway into downtown L.A. for some shopping and sightseeing.
Day 2: We began Day Two in Hollywood where we played at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and had our photographs taken with exact replicas of Robert Downey Jr., Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and so many more!
We also went to Sweet; the most amazing candy store I’ve ever seen. The store takes up an entire level and is more like a bunch of mini stores within the store. There’s a Willy Wonka section where you’ll see all sorts of fabulous creations, a candy bar shop where you can place an order for your customized candy bar then watch it made before your eyes, there’s an international candy shop with treats from all around the world, and more. Plus, to get to the store, you walk up a set of stairs that looks like a giant piano and plays music as you walk up and down! We spent the remainder of the day visiting Anaheim area hotels before dinner at Napa Rose (inside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel), and experiencing the new Alice in Wonderland inspired Mad T Party in Disney California Adventure Park before tucking in for the night at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.
Day 3: Day three began with some more Anaheim hotel tours then onto an afternoon at Knott’s Berry Farm where we got to use their new Fast Lane bands to get front-of-the-line access to some of their best thrill rides.
After a day of thrills at Knott’s Berry Farm, we headed over to Huntington Beach where we toured two properties that are all-new to Get Away Today: the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach and the Waterfront Resort by Hilton. Both properties are sprawling and beautiful. The Hyatt Huntington Beach was especially impressive with their amazing kids’ pool and waterpark area; plus it’s the only Huntington Beach hotel that has a pedestrian walkway directly to Huntington Beach. All of our agents were swooning over these hotels and we think it would make such a perfect addition to any Disneyland vacation, or an ideal beach vacation for as long as you can stay!
Day 4: Day four was all about our Anaheim area hotels. We toured eighteen of our most popular hotels like the Clarion Hotel, Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort, Staybridge Suites, Tropicana Inn, and the Anaheim Fairfield Inn, just to name a few… We were impressed with how great our hotels looked and we loved the new Disney themed rooms at the Fairfield. It’s a great way to continue the Disney feel of your vacation if you don’t have the budget to stay on-property at a Disney hotel. We then headed over to the Outlets at Orange for the night. Here we bowled at Lucky Strike with our hotel and attraction contacts and then shopped till we dropped. It’s the only outlet mall in Orange County, and it is a good one!
Day 5: Of all the days on our trip, day five may have been our agents’ favorite. This was the day we got to experience Cars Land – many of us for the first time. After a delicious breakfast at Surf’s Up with Mickey and Friends, we headed into Disney California Adventure. We started at Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree then headed to Luigi’s Flying Tires. We grabbed lunch at the iconic Flo’s V8 Café (where many of us had the delicious turkey lunch which would be perfect for Thanksgiving) before riding Radiator Springs Racers, which was a hit with our agents. We also got to experience the new entertainment at Disney California Adventure like the Five and Dime performers and the Red Car News Boys, as well as our favorite attractions like California Screamin’, Soaring Over California, Toy Story Mania, The Little Mermaid, and the Tower of Terror. It was so much fun to see the new Buena Vista Street – with as many times as I have been to Disney California Adventure Park, I felt like I was in a completely new park! We ended the night with dinner at the new Carthay Circle Restaurant (highly recommended) and a viewing of World of Color, which never gets old!
Day 6: Our sixth day started with tours of hotels in one of our newest destinations: Carlsbad. Carlsbad is such a perfect destination because it’s about 30 minutes north of San Diego and 45 min. to an hour south of Disneyland. It’s right by the beach, home to LEGOLAND, and just a completely relaxing destination. After spending the morning in Carlsbad, we went out to the San Diego Safari Park where we first took the African Tram Safari. This is one of my favorite things in the San Diego area. After the tram, most of our agents were able to do the Ropes Course Safari where they climbed through the trees, over bridges, and up, down , and around rope ladders and obstacles. They loved it and the Safari Park offers a number of safaris to suit the level of adventure your family is looking for!
Day 7: We started our seventh day in San Diego on the water with a San Diego Speedboat Adventure. This has got to be one of the most unique ways of exploring the San Diego Bay – in your very own speedboat. After zipping around the bay, we got to tour the USS Midway Museum, which is truly one of our country’s treasures. We spent some time touring our most popular San Diego hotels, then hit the water again, this time on a San Diego SEAL Tour. If there’s an equally unique way to explore the San Diego Bay as via speedboat, this is it. The SEAL Tour is part bus, part boat and will drive you from SeaPort Village right into the bay for a fun-filled tour of some of San Diego’s highlights. Both tours are so much fun and a perfect addition to a San Diego vacation.
Day 8: Our eighth and final day in California was spent touring hotels and of course no visit to San Diego is complete without a visit to SeaWorld San Diego. Here our agents loved the new Manta Rollercoaster (some rode it three times). We loved the Turtle Reef, the Wild Arctic, Penguin Encounter, and other exhibits. We also got to see two shows: The Shamu Story and Blue Horizons. No one does shows like SeaWorld, and I definitely think it’s a must for any Southern California vacation!
I hope some of the highlights spurred some ideas for your next vacation! If you are ever looking for ideas for your Southern California trip, our agents all know because they go and would love to help out!
For even more Disneyland & California vacation tips and tricks, check out these posts:
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 1
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 2
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 3
Guide to Disneyland and California Adventure
Our Favorite Disneyland Tips and Tricks
More Disneyland Tips and Tricks
Disneyland Thoughts & Tips from a Real Pro
Disney’s New Car’s Land
What’s New at Disneyland for 2012??
Avoiding the “Gimmies” While Vacationing at Disneyland
Disneyland Tricks & Treats
My Cruise on the Disney Fantasy Ship
10 Fun Things to Do in San Diego