I felt naked as I walked down Disneyland’s Main Street, so odd was it to not push a baby in a stroller or pull a dawdling four-year-old through the crowd. I surprised my husband with an overnight romantic getaway at Disneyland for our wedding anniversary last summer. I felt a tad guilty visiting the Happiest Place on Earth without the kids, and I worried my husband would find our destination less than romantic. However, I quickly realized just how freeing and romantic a child-free Disney trip can be.
Me with the hubs at Disneyland for our 8th wedding anniversary
My husband, Phil, and I started by touring all the rides normally off-limits with wee ones. First we rode Space Mountain (my personal favorite), then the Matterhorn Bobsleds (with the “scary” Abominable Snowman) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (the twisting mine train roller coaster). We practically ran from one site to another, holding hands like teenagers in love.
We searched for our photo snapped while aboard Space Mountain. My husband was grinning so wide in the picture that some other Disney-goers giggled and pointed at his expression. Phil told them, “That’s what I looked like in all my wedding photos – I was so happy.”
Phil and I paused between grown-up rides long enough to split a churro, which seemed like a glorious indulgence since my daughter is a churro-hog and usually I’m lucky if I get a couple of bites.
Then we hit the Haunted Mansion. A little boy around my daughter’s age almost broke my heart when he wailed, “No quiero!” as his parents carried the preschooler aboard the ride.
Wine-tasting at Disney’s California Adventure Park
After lunch at my favorite Disneyland buffet-service eatery, French Market Restaurant in New Orleans Square, we popped into Crystal d’Orleans, where the shopkeeper was etching a name into a glass mug. A woman in her late sixties asked me which of the two necklaces she should buy, the blue or the purple. We learned that she and her husband celebrate their anniversary at Disneyland every year – this year was their twenty-ninth. When we told them it was our anniversary, the husband said, “May you always be as happy together as you are today.” Phil and I smiled at each other, appreciating that our love was shining through – not clouded by the back-and-forth order-giving that often accompanies parenthood.
At the California Adventure Park we tasted a flight of three one-ounce white wines for $10 in the Golden State, an activity in which we’ve never been able to indulge with the kiddies in tow. We lingered for a while in the shade and rested our feet. It was so peaceful, so relaxing, so not like our usual family vacations of non-stop hustle, soothe, and wipe.
Phil had been looking forward to riding the huge roller coaster, California Screamin’ from the minute I told him our destination that morning. However, my balance was off from so many fast rides and a wee bit of wine. Instead, we made bets about who would be the best shot on the new Toy Story Mania, which is half-ride, half-carnival-game. Apparently I still owe him a massage.
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
We strolled across the street to our hotel to shower and ready for our “date night.” We stayed at the Paradise Pier Hotel, the least expensive of the three on-site Disney resorts. It has a fanciful beach-theme and all the charm you’d expect from Disney, with a slightly longer walking distance to the parks.
To help us celebrate our anniversary, the bubbly gal at check-in upgraded us from a standard room to one on the top floor with a view of the California Adventure Park. Room service also made us feel special by delivering two complimentary chocolate-dipped, Mickey-shaped crispy rice treats that afternoon.
I had made dinner reservations for the evening at the Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose, the upscale wine country cuisine restaurant located in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. We were seated practically inside the open kitchen, at a counter where we could see all of the action. Executive Chef Andrew Sutton asked our preferences – no artichokes and easy on the red meat for me – open season for Phil. Then he and his staff prepared a multicourse tasting menu for us that would leave the toughest food critic pleasantly stuffed. We felt like our foodie dream had come true as we imagined we were guest judges on one of our favorite cable TV cooking competition shows.
Hand-harvested diver scallops at Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Resort
It was supposed to be a four-course meal, but the chef surprised us with three additional mini courses. From the amuse bouche of pureed cantaloupe and honeydew with crispy prosciutto, to the tempura lobster salad served on a bed of greens with coconut lemongrass dressing, each dish was a celebration unto itself.
To top off the meal, Pastry Chef Graciela Cordero served us not two, but three desserts because, as she said, “We take care of our guests at the counter.” The winning dessert was the crème brulee in pastry crust served with fresh raspberries. Phil and I delighted in watching Graciela caramelize the sugar crystals into a sweet crispy lacquer with a mini blow torch.
Phil and I toasted our eight years of marriage and exchanged sappy anniversary cards. I gave him a pair of Mickey Mouse boxer shorts, purchased at the park earlier in the day. Neither of us had to walk the baby through the restaurant or worry about our children tossing crayons at the other diners. We talked, and listened, and even snuck in a smooch every now and then.
To top it all off, we were given a box of four chocolate truffles made on-site as a souvenir of our delectable meal. The meal was not cheap, but I highly recommend this unforgettable experience as splurge for a special occasion. To make reservations for the Chef’s Counter, call 714-300-7170.
Before heading back to the hotel, we ended the night with a romantic stroll through Disneyland to do one more thing we usually miss on family Disney trips due to an early kids’ curfew; take a peek at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle all lit up with pink, turquoise, and purple lights.
Why Disneyland for a Romantic Getaway?
Disneyland is the perfect place for children. Why, then, should you choose Disney for a romantic getaway? Because sometimes it’s nice to ride scary rides…and eat an uninterrupted meal in a nice restaurant…and do whatever makes YOU happy…for as long as YOU want…without worrying about bedtimes and potty breaks. And, because visiting Disneyland without kids reminds you of how it feels to be a kid, rather than caring for kids.
Our Disney getaway was exactly what we needed: to connect, to have fun, to feel carefree and in love. What could be more romantic than that?
Would you consider a Disney trip for a romantic getaway? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!
A Note from The Travel Mama: We gained entrance to the Disneyland and California Adventure Parks using our Annual Passes, for which we paid full-price. We did not receive any discounts on our hotel or dining due to my status as a travel writer. I will always let you know if I receive any sort of discount or complimentary goods or services related to a blog post.