McG+B CaliCation | McGowan Images Blog


McG+B CaliCation

So, here’s the thing. We weren’t planning on taking another trip just a few days after our NYC adventure. In fact, NYC was supposed to be the ONLY McG trip this year. And then, it just kind of happened. You know how the world works sometimes… everything just kind of seems to line up. Our schedules aligned with some of our best friends, everyone had Hilton Honors Program points to use, the weather was good, and we could visit my sister in LA. Seemed like the perfect reason to jump on a plane!

And then… well, the world unaligned. That happens, too. Scheduling changed so we weren’t going to get to see my sister at all, our friend had back surgery, yadda yadda yadda. But you know what? It’s still a gorgeous time of year in LA, so we went for it. And although this was not quite the smooth-sailing “fly by the seat of our pants” vacation we hoped for, we all had a GREAT time and I’ll never regret going. 🙂

We flew out on a Thursday morning, and were completely spoiled by another spectacular Virgin America flight. I swear, it’s nearly impossible to ride on another airliner after you’ve flown Virgin. It’s just awesome. Upon landing in Los Angeles, we had breakfast, and then I immediately drove our happy crew (in our pimpin’ mini van) down to Zuma Beach, so the Bechtels could experience the magic of real SoCal surf, and our kiddos could get some of their crazies out!

My new iPhone 5 is really earning it’s keep lately… the following image was taken with my phone, and I think I love it more than any of the “big camera” shots we took of the scenery in Malibu!


Aren’t they precious?? We were so glad to have “Uncle” Eric and “Auntie” Meg on this trip with us… they’re just a part of our family, and that’s all there is to it!


We stayed at the Hilton in Universal City, which gave a great view at sunset…


Our first night, we planned on heading down to Santa Monica for dinner & a stroll… then everyone fell asleep before dinner. Oops. So we ended up not getting down to the pier until nearly 10 p.m.! Oh well, it’s still cool even after everything is closed. 🙂


We spent Friday giving Meagan a pint sized tour of Los Angeles! Obviously there’s no way to do everything in such a short trip, but a morning spent at The Grove & the Farmer’s Market, followed by driving around some “famous” streets helped take care of the basic introductions. 🙂


Oh, and we definitely had to hit the Hollywood Forever cemetery! Meg jumped out of a moving mini van to chase down one of the peacocks for a picture… silly, wonderful girl. 🙂


After a quick change of clothes, we headed up into the hills to explore the Griffith Observatory after dark. Being that it was Friday night and Valentine’s Day, the place was pretty busy, but we still managed to get rock star parking and not make poor injured Eric hike up the hill. It was a BEAUTIFUL night overlooking the shining city… and of course, Mack fully flexed his nighttime photography skills. All images here are natural light, taken by Mack.


Clarification… the following image obviously wasn’t TAKEN by Mack, since he’s in it… but he set it up and handed the camera off. 🙂




On Saturday, we spent the morning in Downtown LA at the Last Bookstore and the Flower Market, and then headed into Anaheim. We thoroughly explored Downtown Disney that evening, and had a fantastic time (and, apparently, no pictures to speak of).

But on Sunday? Ugh. If you’re friends with me on FB, or were following our trip on Instagram, you know that Sunday did NOT start well. I must have gotten food poisoning somewhere along the line on Saturday, because I woke up with the severe wrath of God smiting my digestive track on Sunday morning. I tried to pull myself together and go to California Adventure anyway, but judging by this first photo of the day, you can see it didn’t work out so well…


See it? Yeah. That’s me in the background, laying on a park bench feeling like death as my children celebrate with Mickey. I can’t even be mad at Mack for framing this photo so he could show me in the back… I’m sure it’ll be a hilarious family memory someday.

Anyway, I gave up after only about 45 minutes in the park, and headed back to try to sleep off my curse. I’m so grateful for Meg & Eric, who spent the time Mack was taking care of me making sure Jack’s day went completely un-interrupted. They had a fantastic morning, and I really appreciate them stepping in with him! 🙂


I’m not gonna say I felt “good” when I came back in the afternoon, but ya know, if I’m going to feel terrible, I’d rather feel terrible at Disneyland. 😉


If you’ve read about past McG Disney trips here on the blog, you know how we feel about the “World of Color” show at Disney’s California Adventure. It bears repeating… this show is worth the price of park admission. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. It’s like the Bellagio fountains, in color, with fire, times 10, with an emotional injection. Favorite thing ever.


Thanks to lots of prayers from home and a good dose of Disney Magic, I woke up on Monday morning feeling much better, and we were all ready to hit Disneyland for one more wonderful day!


Please note… I think the Storybookland boat ride is one of the most underrated attractions at Disneyland. It’s such a nice little calm break from the crazy, and all the miniatures and plant life along the ride are completely exquisite. If you go to Disneyland and need a tiny oasis from the noise and rush, hit this. In fact, hit it twice… once in the daytime, and once at night. You won’t regret it!


Despite my warning to Meg that riding the teacups with my kids was a terrible idea, she went for it. I’ll let you decide for yourself how that went. 😉


We work really hard to make sure both of our kids get to do things that are special to them at Disney. Jack got to ride lots of the “big” rides that Dorothy isn’t tall enough for yet, and Dorothy got to meet her favorite princesses. For the second year in a row, Merida was the highlight of our trip. The cast member who portrays this princess is just SO patient and kind… the video we have of her conversation with Dorothy is over 8 minutes long! Priceless memory.


We also waited in the line so we could meet Queen Elsa and Princess Anna from Frozen, and they were completely delightful as well. Dorothy and Elsa compared dresses and traded hair tips, and of course, I cried like a sissy girl.


We haven’t gotten our images from the Disney PhotoPass yet… too busy catching up on ACTUAL work, I guess. 😉 But I’m so glad we have these images in front of the castle after dark. It’s a tradition that never gets old!


About 90 minutes before the nightly fireworks show over the castle, we asked a cast member where he would suggest we sit to get the best view for our wheelchair-bound Eric and Meg, who’d never seen the show. He was super wonderful and led us personally to what he said was his personal favorite spot, and made sure we’d have a great view. We so grateful already… but then, he came BACK to find us 5 minutes before the show started, and took us by hand all the way up to the very front of the VIP section! We had private benches in a roped off area, and an amazing view of the incredible show. Just another little bit of Disney magic we weren’t expecting… the staff at the park is always SO wonderful!


This whirlwind trip was planned last minute, jam-packed, and full of constant adjustment. But you know what? It was also packed to the bring with laughter and gorgeous blue skies and warm sunshine and group hugs. We’re glad we jumped on the window of opportunity for this trip, and so grateful for good friends and well-behaved children who made it fantastic! 🙂

  1. jenn says:

    I have been so desperate to go to Disneyland for FOREVER – Love, love these pics so much!! It was fun keeping up with you guys through social media this trip. Hopefully one day I’ll get to have my pics taken with all the princesses too 😉

  2. Toi says:

    I have never been to Disneyland or Disney World, but have always dreamed of going. Your pictures are beautiful and they make me want to go even more! Hopefully, if our stars align, we can take Maddie in the next couple of years. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. Rachel says:

    These photos are amazing (no surprise there)… They have me so excited for my visit this Fall! Thank you for opening up and sharing your family with us; makes us feel like we are a part of it too 🙂

  4. All the photos are awesome! I still can’t believe I haven’t been to the churro stand at Disney. Seeing all of your photos makes me want to go back asap!

  5. Erica says:

    Thank you for making my lunch break fabulous! You guys are wonderful. Also, the picture of Dorothy on the rock with the ocean in the background is stunning. I am in awe! You rock!

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