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May 4, 2007

Greetings from California!

Hello everyone! I'm happy to be here with the rest of the "Blogging Brigade".

A brief introduction, since I'm sure most of you don't know me...Hi, I'm Laura, and I live in San Diego, CA. I'm's Disneyland Correspondent. With that address and title, as you might expect I get to Disneyland a little more often than to Walt Disney World. So for the most part I will be sharing with you my thoughts about my visits to Disneyland, and hopefully be bringing a little different perspective than you might otherwise be reading.

So here we goooooooooooo!

Last weekend my husband Lee and I were at Disneyland to cover the first of this year's Food and Wine Weekends at Disney's California Adventure. And we did something we've never done before...we went to Early Entry at Disneyland!

It's something we've just never had the opportunity to do before since there are only two ways to do it: 1) have a multi-day ticket that has a one-day Early Entry feature (nope, we've got annual passes!) or 2) stay at one of Disneyland's three resort hotels (we usually drive up just for the day). The Early Entry feature for resort guests is not something Disneyland advertises on its web site, though we were told about it at check-in. Resort guests may participate in Early Entry any morning it is offered during their stay - currently it's Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Most of the attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland and some of the shops on Main Street open an hour before regular park opening. (There's no Early Entry at Disney's California Adventure.)

I can't say Lee was very enthused about getting up in time to be at Disneyland at 7:00 a.m. - especially since we'd been awakened at 4:00 a.m. when the fire alarm went off at the Grand Californian. Fortunately it was a false alarm but we didn't know that until after we'd gotten dressed and hustled outside!

But once inside the park...we had a blast. There weren't very many people around, and we walked onto Space Mountain (which thankfully is back to being "regular" Space Mountain instead of Rockin' Space Mountain), Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (twice) and then Snow White's Scary Adventures and Pinocchio's Daring Journey in Fantasyland. Casey Jr. Circus Train wasn't open during Early Entry, but we were on the first train when it opened at 8:00. I hadn't ridden that since I was a small child. I enjoy Storybook Land, with all of its miniature scenes and topiaries, and this gave us a little different perspective than you get from the Storybook Land Canal Boats.

So six rides in an hour - not bad! Especially since that's more than we usually do in an entire day.

We had a wonderful time, and I'm really glad we got up early to do it...especially since given the requirements it's not something we'll get to repeat any time soon.

So that's it for my first blog entry - if you have any comments, or things you'd like to hear about, please let me know!

Read my Food and Wine Report and check out the Photo Gallery!

And have a Disney Day. :-)


May 14, 2007

Decisions, Decisions - Some thoughts on Disneyland's Annual Passports

When it comes to purchasing an Annual Passport (AP) at Disneyland, Disneyland AP
holders have something that most WDW passholders don't - choices.
Disneyland offers four different types of annual passes at different
prices, the major difference between the passes being the number of days
the passholder gets admission to the parks.

There's the Premium and Deluxe APs, which anyone can purchase, and
also the Southern California and Southern California Select APs, which
are only available to residents of southern California.

Got all that? There will be a test later.

All of the passes provide admission to both Disneyland and Disney's
California Adventure, but as I mentioned earlier there are
limitations with some passes. With the exception of the Premium
AP all of the other passes have some number of "blockout days" -
days which the AP is not valid for park admission. Not surprisingly,
as the price of the pass decreases the number of blockout days
increases. Blockout days are scattered throughout the year, and
as you might imagine, the times when Disneyland is busier are the
days that are most likely to be designated as blockout days. These
generally include weekends, holidays, the two weeks around
Christmas/New Year, and spring break. (We view blockout days as an
indicator of the days we really don't want to visit, because the parks
are just too busy!)

Here's a list of the currently available APs:

Premium: $359.00, no blockout days
Deluxe: $239.00, 45 blockout days
Southern CA: $154.00, 149 blockout days
Southern CA Select: $124.00, 195 blockout days

Now, as you can see, the So Cal Select is a pretty good deal at $124 -
less than the price of two single day tickets! But with all those
blockout days, which include all Saturdays and Sundays, most of June and
August and all of July, unless you can go during the week in the
off-season it's not very useful.

AP holders *do* have the option of going to the parks on a blockout
day, but must purchase a blockout day ticket at the main entrance
ticket booths to do so. This costs $30/day, and must be purchased
on the day that it is going to be used. For park admission, you
must show your AP *and* the blockout day ticket.

Another choice for Annual Passholders is parking. It's included in the
Premium AP, but it's an option on the others. For $59/year you can
add parking to your AP, which allows you to park as many times as you
want in the Mickey and Friends parking structure. Since it currently
costs $11/day to park, if you plan to visit more than 5 times it's worth
doing. Only one person in the car needs to have the parking
feature on their pass.

Something Disney has recently added as an option to APs is stroller
rental - for $49/year you can present your pass at the Stroller Rental
location and get one stroller per day.

For those familiar with the Walt Disney World AP, one thing that's nice
about the Disneyland AP is that it's plastic, like a credit card. (Yes,
I know the WDW APs aren't made of paper, but they sure feel flimsy!) And
it is personalized with your picture on it. Though unlike a WDW AP you
can't purchase/activate it at any ticket booth - after purchasing the
ticket part you MUST go to the Annual Passholder processing center inside
Disneyland. They'll take your picture and create your real AP on the
spot. After that you can renew by mail or on Disneyland's AP web
site, and they'll mail the new AP to you. (I recently renewed on
a Saturday and my new passes arrived in the mail on Tuesday!)

APs provide passholders with a number of discounts around the Disneyland
resort - dining, stays at resort hotels, and even merchandise and
services. It's always a good idea to ask if there's an AP discount
anytime you make a purchase at the Disneyland Resort!

My husband and I are a mixed passport family - I have the Premium AP and
he has the Deluxe. It makes sense for one of us to have the parking
option (which is included on the Premium AP), and there are times when I
visit on Deluxe pass blockout days. This year we knew that he
would be going twice on blockout days to attend events at this
year's Food and Wine Weekends, and we thought about spending the
additional $120 to upgrade him to a Premium, but in the end we
decided that even with $60 in blockout day tickets we were still
$60 ahead in staying with the Deluxe.

But here's a little ditty I composed when we were thinking about it...

To Premium Pass or not to Premium Pass...that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler to stand in line
And suffer the stings and purchase price of a blockout day ticket
Or to sigh and lay out the additional $120,
And by purchasing a Premium, avoid them.

And now for the test (what, you didn't believe me???):
If Laura has a So Cal Select AP, and Lee has a Deluxe AP, on how many
blockout days can she accompany him to the park before she would have been
better off getting a Deluxe AP to begin with?

Until next time...when I will probably talk about "Taste", the AP event
at Disney's Food and Wine Weekends this Saturday...


May 15, 2007

Mmm..I'd like a "Taste" of that!


On Saturday night, Lee and I attended the "Taste" event, which is a new addition to Disney's California Food and Wine Weekends this year. It's very similar to Epcot's Party for the Senses - except that Taste was better.

cajun_shrimp_sm.jpg If you're not familiar with Party for the Senses or Taste - both are food and wine tasting events. Guests pay one price for admission ($100 in this case), and then can partake as much as they wish from a series of food and wine tasting "stations". At Taste, each of the fourteen food stations featured a different dish and chef from one of the Disney parks, resorts, or Downtown Disney restaurants. (You can find the menu HERE.) The portions were sample-sized, but very nicely plated and presented. For example, my favorite was Cafe Orleans' Cajun Spiced Shrimp, served on a corn cake with ratatouille and a drizzle of Mornay sauce. As you can see from the photo, it looked really good, and tasted even better. The wine tasting stations featured one of nine different wineries, each pouring at least three different wines. There was also beer from the Karl Strauss Brewing Company available.

And as if that weren't enough...there were several cheese and fruit stations, which later in the evening were turned into the dessert stations, featuring an assortment of delectable desserts. (My one complaint is that there wasn't enough chocolate. But then there's never enough chocolate...)

So why did I like Taste so much more than Party for the Senses? It was Party for the Senses (PftS) on a smaller scale, that's why. PftS is in a huge building (the former Millenium Village at Epcot) which accommodates a large number of people. I found it quite crowded and overwhelming - there were too many people and too many food and wine choices. At Taste you could realistically try one of everything without completely stuffing yourself, and you could move around the room without feeling like a salmon swimming upstream. In addition to "standing tables" inside, Taste had quite a few tables *and* chairs set up outside, which gave people the option both to sit and to get away from the noise a little bit.

barrage_sm.jpg And I must also admit that I was somewhat predisposed to enjoy Taste when I found out who the entertainment for the evening was going to be - a group called "Barrage". We saw them several years ago at Epcot and really liked them...and they put on a good show at Taste, too. They are kind of hard to describe, but here's a blurb from their web site: "Barrage - A high-octane fiddle-fest that features an international, multi-talented cast performing an eclectic mix of music, song and dance." Picture a group of young and very energetic violinists accompanied by drums, electric guitar, and bass. They played everything from Irish reels to Duke Ellington to Bolero. All while jumping around the stage, step dancing, and even singing. Whew.

Taste started at 6:30 and ended at 9:30 - I hadn't expected that we would be there for the entire time but we were. Promptly at 9:30 the lights inside the building were turned up and we got the polite Disney announcement: "Thank you for coming. We hope you will visit again soon." Translation: "It's over, so get out of here already!" On the way out they handed out nice bags for us to carry our souvenir wine glasses in - that was a very thoughtful touch.

We had a really good time. I'm not sure this is something that we would want to do *every* year, but we certainly enjoyed it. We will be going to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival this fall, and had planned to attend Party for the Senses...but now I'm wondering if I really want to do that - it might be quite a disappointment after Taste. (And the only night we have for PftS also happens to be the night of the Tower of Terror 13K, which Mike Scopa has written about in his blog. We thought it sounded like a lot of fun - but it conflicts with PftS. Of course a lot of people would say that given the choice between running and eating we'd be crazy to choose running...but that's just the kind of people we are.)

"Taste"fully yours...


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About May 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in May 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.