The Showstoppers Trip

A couple of days ago, Suzanne posted the results of her and the kids Showstopper Dance Competition. Today, I thought I would detail out the overall Showstopper trip a bit more.

The drive from our home to Anaheim and our hotel wasn’t too bad until we hit the Riverside area in California. Road construction completely derailed the good time we made driving out there. Still, the trip from doorstep to hotel, took us about 8 and 1/2 hours. The route we took went through Gila Bend, AZ (basically, I-10 bypass around Phoenix). That included a breakfast and lunch stop for food. Amazingly, we made it all the way on one tank of gas, though I didn’t plan it that way. For some reason, I never check the gauge while driving. As we were approaching the hotel, I happened to notice that the low gas light was on. We had maybe another 40 miles of gas left. That’s a lot closer than I normally cut it.

We stayed at the Sheraton Four Points there in Anaheim. It’s a high rise hotel with fourteen floors. We stayed on the 10th floor. Our balcony looked right down into California Adventure and to a lesser degree, Disney Land. The view was really nice. The desk clerk told us we would have front row seats for the fireworks every night.

I must say that my first glimpse of Disney Land was very uninspiring – in fact it was very underwhelming. We have never been to Disney Land, but have been to Disney World in Florida many times. And I must admit, we didn’t go into Disney Land on this trip either. Basically, we couldn’t find a reason to go in there. The entire park could fit into one of the parking lots at Disney World. The sizes and things to do at the two parks appear to be radically different. Perhaps going inside the park would change our minds, but I doubt it. We will just keep going to Disney World.

One positive things was it was never busy there. The parking lots that we could see were never close to full. The Showstopper Dance Competition was held at the Disney Land Resort Hotel, so we were real close to the entrance and traveled through Downtown Disney every day and night and it just was not crowded. I was amazed at the lack of people. The weather was nice every day with temps in the upper 70’s, maybe low 80’s. It seemed like perfect amusement park weather in the middle of July only no one came. We could see some of the California Adventure rides from our balcony and sometimes they were going and were not full.

Anyways, the set up that Showstopper had at the Disney Land Resort Hotel was pretty nice. They had plenty of seats, though they could have been more comfortable. Most of the other folks that we talked to stayed right there at the Disney Land Resort Hotel. For us, we had about a 1 and 1/2 mile walk each morning and night to and from the hotel. We could have driven over to the competition and parked, but there was a charge and we thought the walking would do us good. By the end of the trip, though, we were saying we might just stay at the resort hotel next time.

We had hoped to save a bit of expenses on food during the trip and thus brought breakfast bars for the morning. We had planned to take a cooler with sandwiches for lunch and figured we would get dinner in Downtown Disney each night and just pay the piper. Unfortunately, the sandwich deal only last the first day and we ended up eating in Downtown Disney each day for lunch. We ate at ESPN Zone, Rainforest Cafe, Tortilla Joe’s, and the Cajun Jazz Cafe. The food was quite good but very, very expensive. We ended up spending pretty much a $100 for both lunch and dinner in Downtown Disney.

A couple of nights we ended up eating back at the hotel. One night we just loaded up on Nachos at the pool. The other night we ate at the BBQ/Grill restaurant, The Overland Stage Company, at the hotel. Again, the food was quite nice, but around $100. So, we ended up spending a lot more money on food than we had planned but did enjoy it.

The pool at the hotel was very nice. The kids enjoyed it immensely. Suzanne enjoyed the hot tub. I enjoyed the poolside bar. As night descended a the pool, it got pretty chilly for us Arizona folk. It was funny because one night three tables next to each other had all the women bundled in coats or blankets and the men with their arms folded. Turns out that we were all from Arizona (the others from Phoenix area) and more used to our 110 degree temperatures that we had been experiencing. In fact, when we left, the Tucson area had a streak of over 30 straight days of 100+ degrees going. One night the bartender even turned on the portable heater next to our table. She must have seen the cold ladies. At this time the temperature was maybe 70 degrees, but 30 or 40 degree differences is certainly noticeable.

The hotel clerk was right about the fireworks. Each night the display on the balcony was fabulous. One night we were still in Downtown Disney for the fireworks at 9:30 pm and it was clear the view was better from our balcony. We normally retired each night after the fireworks all ready to do it again the next day.

Prior to leaving on the trip, I had checked on my Mercedes GPS computer on the best route to Anaheim. It looked like there was 3 routes:

  • direct on I-10 through Phoenix right on into LA area
  • I-10 towards Phoenix but swinging West on I-8 to Gila Bend and bypassing Phoenix before getting back on I-10
  • I-10 to I-8 and on through San Diego before swinging North on I-5 to Anaheim

My GPS trip computer estimated each route to be within 10 minutes of each other. The computer doesn’t know local traffic conditions but does take into account average speeds on the routes. It wanted us to go directly through Phoenix, but there was no way I was doing that especially since we would hit Phoenix around morning rush hour. So we opted for the second route bypassing Phoenix. Except for the mind numbing construction in Riverside, it wasn’t a bad route.

For the route home, we decided to take the last route through San Diego. Intuition said that might not be the best route, but the computer thought it was only 8 minutes longer than through Phoenix. I had my doubts but came home that route. Turns out it was a great way to go. Granted, we came home on a Sunday, the the very wide highways between LA and San Diego made for exceptional speed and time. Once we left San Diego, it was smooth sailing all the way on I-8 with the road almost to ourselves. Of course, Suzanne slept most of the way home. Sean read about half of his new Harry Potter book. Savannah watched a couple of movies. The trip home, with breakfast and lunch stops again, took a couple of minutes less than 8 hours and it was a very easy drive. I think that will become our preferred route to LA area in the future.

All in all, it was a fun trip although very expensive. We could have taken a very nice, long cruise for the cost of the dance competition entry fees, the hotel, the food and the gas. Downtown Disney at night was fun and the kids enjoyed the fireworks. That said, if we want to go to Disney, I think we would still definitely go to Disney World.