Disneyland Resort, the shining jewel of Anaheim, was already pumping with thick summer crowds in mid-June. It was hot, sweaty and heaving, as I lined up at the main gate to treat my inner-child to a serious Disney fix.
If you're planning a date with Disney over the summer months, you'll definitely want to get a jump on the mid-morning mass-arrivals, by opting for the early magic hour admission, which will have you through the gate at 7am between Sunday and Thursday.
A vast range of passes are available, but a two-day park-hopper ticket, providing entrance to both Disneyland and the adjoining California Adventure Park, is the most popular option.
My biggest tips? Avoid the weekend if you can, because that's when the locals add to the proverbial bulging of the seams. Upgrading to the new Max Pass, which incorporates the old fast pass will shorten the wait for the most popular rides, which can blow out to 90 minutes.
There's also the new Disneyland app which allows you to mobile order food and the pick-up time, to dodge the food queues. From my observations, there's plenty of people clearly going to Disneyland simply to binge on churros and mickey-shaped beignets.
Coinciding with the movie release of the Incredibles 2, Disneyland Resort is abuzz with all things Pixar Animation. The Pixar Fest boasts a slew of new Pixar-themed attractions and neighbourhoods, primarily focused on the Incredibles and Toy Story.
It's particularly ablaze at California Adventure, where Paradise Pier has been reimagined as Pixar Pier and the California Screamin' rollercoaster has been revamped as the Incredicoaster. The Parr family races alongside you, trying to catch baby Jack-Jack! As you do.
One of Disney's most popular ever spectacles, the "Paint the Night" parade is back in action, now staged at California Adventure, including a new float featuring characters from "The Incredibles." In the works is a fully immersive Super Hero themed area, anchored by the existing Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT attraction, which will soon joined by Spider-Man and the Avengers.
California Adventure is also where you'll find Cars Land, home to my runaway favourite ride, the Radiator Springs Racers. It's been a red-hot fixture for over five years, but I couldn't get enough of it.
The sheer size of the attraction, the high-octane speed of those cars and the artistry deployed in the desert setting is absolutely intoxicating. The queues can get biblical, so once you are through the main gates, make a beeline to Cars Land.
The next big thing at Disneyland is the colossal Star Wars development. The wait goes on for the force to be reawakened by the imagineers, but it's destined to be epic.
This is Disneyland's biggest undertaking since the park first opened over 70 years ago and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will stretch over fourteen acres. It's all due to open next year, and I'm sure every Kiwi who identifies as Jedi at census time will be sizing it up like a grand pilgrimage.
I must admit, I'm a kid at heart, and the chance to get a photo with Mickey Mouse inside his Toon Town House was eagerly taken! Ditto, with Minnie. In fact, a veritable kaleidoscope of Disney and Pixar characters, who you can meet, greet and selfie with, permeate the resort.
I took a ride on Dumbo, flew with Peter Pan, took a spin on the Mad Hatter Teacups and floated through that glorious old standard, It's a Small World. (After taking a ride, expect it to take a good five days before you finally flush that song out of your head.) Yes, Disneyland's faithful old classics still sing with goodness, escapism and heart-warming delight – at any age. https://disneyland.disney.go.com/
After a restorative swim at my hotel pool, I ventured back into Disneyland for the nightly fireworks show, which is currently another Pixar-themed spectacular, called Together Forever. Exploding into life every night at 9.30pm, across a variety of location, like Sleeping Beauty's Castle and Main Street USA, it's a deliriously dazzling fusion of pyrotechnics, projections, merry movie music and plenty of pixie-dust as Buzz Lightyear and Tinker Bell come together. I stayed at Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, a relaxing boutique-style resort and official Disney good neighbour hotel. With a Disney Desk in the lobby, purchase passes to suit, well in advance.
Just a 15 minute walk from Disneyland (if you're feeling virtuous), the hotel operates a complimentary shuttle service, the "Dream Machine", to the parks every 30 minutes. Contemporary creature comforts are fully taken care of, from free WIFi, to that fabulous pool. Fresh from a multi-million dollar refurbishment, the Tudor-style property is looking resplendent with bright décor and thoughtfully redesigned accommodations.
It's a big winner with families, with the family suites boasting custom-made castle bunk beds and forest backdrops. A lively roster of on-site activities, spanning face painting, story time and seasonal celebrations, is an added extra. And if you're feeling far too relaxed to head back to Disneyland for the nightly pyrotechnics, the hotel enjoys the distinct advantage of being one of the best places to see the fireworks spangle the sky. www.majesticgardenhotel.com
I made my way to and from Anaheim with Super Shuttle, who for over 30 years have operated ground transportation services to and from LAX. Their shared-ride van service is a cost-effective, reliable and efficient way to get to and from the airport.
I travelled with ExecuCar, Super Shuttle's sister brand, who offer a higher-end, direct and private service, door-to-door between your accommodation and the airport, as well as point-to-point and hourly charters. For best rates and bookings, head to www.supershuttle.com
Air New Zealand offers non-stop flights to Los Angeles from Auckland. With those well-timed overnight flights, after being supremely wined and dined on, I slept like a lamb across much of the Pacific. For added comfort and extra frills, Air New Zealand's Premium Economy offering sets the benchmark in affordable extra-comfort. One-way Economy fares start from $939 (inclusive of taxes). Visit www.airnewzealand.co.nz for more details and to book.