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October 2009 Archives

October 11, 2009

Villas at the Grand Californian

The new DVC Villas at the Grand Californian have been open less than three weeks, and this is our second stay here. :-)

On opening weekend we stayed one night in a studio. The room we were given was 1516, which is an accessible room on the first floor. I thought that all of the DVC Villas would have either a park or a pool view...but there are three rooms on each floor on the end of the building, and so the rooms on the first and second floors (and probably the third) have no view at all. And 1516 was one of those. Sigh. I was rather disappointed in that.

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Because of the accessible features the room layout is a little different than the standard studios. The bed is right next to the window (and there's very little room between the bed and the wall), as compared to a standard studio.

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The living area is in the center of the room, and the closet has no doors.

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The kitchenette area is also a little different, since the area under the sink is cut back to allow wheelchair access.

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The bathroom is all one room, instead of the toilet and bathtub being separate from the vanity.

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The sink is built to curve out a bit to accommodate a wheelchair - I think it's a very attractive look.

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The tub has a fold-down seat and a hand-held shower attachment in addition to the regular shower head.

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Since it was opening weekend there were a few glitches...our room keys did not operate the gates to the pool or the gates to the parking lot. There is wireless internet throughout the resort, but my reception from our room was rather spotty - though that might have been location, since it's fine as I type this from a different room. Our room keys also did not identify us as DVC members.

So now it's two weeks later, and I'm happy to say that a lot of those problems have apparently been addressed. Our room keys say "DVC Member", and when I mentioned the access problems we had, the Cast Member who checked us in assured me that those opening weekend glitches have been fixed. Though I haven't tried the key in anything other than the door yet. :-)

This time we are in a one-bedroom villa on the 5th floor - but guess what, it's one of the rooms on the end of the building!!! There are only 18 of those in the entire resort - what are the odds? But at least we're up high enough that we have a view of Grizzly Peak and the Tower of Terror in the distance - though the main view is of Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

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Looking to the left we can also see the Redwood Pool area.

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It seems pretty decadent to have this huge villa (it has two full bathrooms!) to ourselves...but we'll deal with it. :-) It's really beautiful - I could *so* live here!!!

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White Water Snacks has been remodeled to put in a small (and I do mean small) grocery section. Unfortunately it's not a very large space to begin with, so there's even less of a selection than there was before for those who want to eat there.. The grocery supply is limited to things like eggs, cheese, lunch meat, and bread - there are a couple of frozen selections like pizza. But if you're staying at the Villas and planning to cook you'll really have to do your grocery shopping elsewhere.

Something new that they've added at the Mariposa Pool is four cabanas. These covered areas have a table, a couple of chairs, and a couple of chaise lounges that go with them. They also have a flat screen TV and an attendant who will assist with things like drink/food orders, providing towels, etc. They can either be rented for half a day (morning or afternoon) for $120, or all day for $180.

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I find parking to be a bit of an issue here. In the hotel expansion they added a parking garage underneath, but that's for valet parking only. Which is NOT free to DVC members like it is at the other DVC resorts - it's $17/day. And when they added all these rooms they didn't expand the self-parking lot at all - it was really tight the first weekend we were here, and people were getting a bit creative in parking. There is an overflow lot available, but it's back behind the Paradise Pier near the Wonder Tower of the Disneyland Hotel. As far as I've been able to tell your best chance of getting parking in the regular lot is to arrive after the 11:00 check-out time but before 2:00.

It's really a very nice resort - and it's terrific to finally have a DVC resort that's close to us! Though I have a feeling that once they sell out it will be difficult to stay here unless you own points here. But we'll enjoy it in the meantime - I already have a reservation for the first weekend of next year's California Food and Wine Festival (dates for that are April 16-May 31, 2010).

October 12, 2009

AllEars Disneyland Meet and Disney's Halloween Time 2009 - Part 2

Today was the first AllEars meet at Disneyland! We had quite a few people who came by our little oasis at the Carnation Plaza Gardens. It was fun meeting those of you that I had the chance to meet, and I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to talk to everyone.

Deb posted a picture to twitter: http://twitpic.com/l69u1

The big surprise for me was re-connecting with Mike, who was my computer lab partner back in college - I hadn't seen him since I graduated back in 1982. So yes, you can all say: "it's a small world after all!" :-)

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Lee and several others were having an interesting discussion about how other Disneyland attractions could be "Halloween-ized" - making the dark rides in Fantasyland even scarier was one suggestion, or putting holographic ghostly miners in Big Thunder Mountain. And I believe the idea of a zombie it's a small world was very popular...

After the meet a group of us went to lunch at Rancho del Zocalo, where we had a good lunch and a nice chat.

Thanks to everyone who came by!

One thing I forgot to put in my blog yesterday about the one bedroom villas at the Grand Caifornian...see this? Looks like a nice cabinet under the TV, right?

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Ahhh...but you see it transforms into a Magical Murphy bed! (But it's not a magical MAGICAL bed, since it only transforms one way and not six...all of you old-time RADP readers will understand that one.) So the one bedroom villas can sleep five people instead of four (though that 5th person had better be pretty short!).

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So back to Disney's Halloween Time...I never got back to talking about some of the other aspects of Halloween Time after our visit two weeks ago.

Because of the Celebration Roundup and BBQ back at Big Thunder Ranch, there are some changes in the Halloween decorations there this year. The area is Big Thunder Ranch Halloween Roundup rather than Woody's Halloween Round-Up this year, though they still do some Halloween-themed show items on the stage at the BBQ. But that's not accessible to all park guests like it has been in the past - only those dining there.

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The crafts area is still there, but it's much smaller, and there's no cookie decorating this year.

Scaredy-crow Shack is still decorated with all of the pumpkin-headed scarecrows - it's quite festive.

The animals in the petting corral even get some Halloween-themed attire - when we were there a couple weeks ago we watched one of the animal handlers putting bandanas around the necks of the animals - including the turkey! Who was not happy about that, and attempted to peck at her. I was surprised the goats didn't nibble at them, but apparently they are well-fed enough to not need additional fiber in their diets. :-)

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But my favorite part of Big Thunder Ranch at Halloween is the pumpkin carvers. They do some really amazing things - I could do a whole photo gallery just on the different pumpkins. But I won't bore you with all of them, so here's a few of my favorites:

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There's also some special Halloween treats and desserts. There was supposed to be a Zero's Ghostly Ghoulash served at The French Market, but that hasn't shown up yet for some reason. But there are desserts at several restaurants - Lee and I tried the red-velvet madeleines that are served up in a coffin. That is available at Rancho del Zocalo and The French Market. It was really good.

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There's also this Jack Skellington cheesecake:

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They also have various kinds of seasonal caramel apples, pumpkin fudge, crispie treats and cookies, and a decorated pumpkin spice muffin.

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Another new thing this year is something called a "demitasse". This is a small dessert that's served in a ceramic Mickey pumpkin - it's pretty cute. Inside is a small apple-raisin muffin topped with a sweet caramel mousse. It's served at Rancho del Zocalo, Plaza Inn, Cafe Orleans, Blue Bayou, and Baker's Field Bakery, and perhaps other locations. The price is $6.99.

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The Disneyland Band even has special Halloween uniforms! In addition to the orange plume on their hats, the braid on their uniforms is actually a spider web pattern! I haven't heard them play any spooky music, though.

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By the way...the parks are VERY crowded this weekend - they added a third Fantasmic! show Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, and by 10:30 a.m. or so they were already parking people in the overflow lots today (Sunday). Fastpasses for Ghost Galaxy were gone for the day by 11:00 this morning.

I'll have more on Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy next time. And I still have to say that Halloween Screams ROCKS!!!!

October 13, 2009

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy

I said I would talk more about the new Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, so here goes. First a bit of general background, and then some spoilers - I will put in a warning before the spoilers!

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy was initially done for Hong Kong Disneyland two years ago, and fortunately for us they decided to bring it to California this year! I found that quite a surprise - since it's not like Space Mountain is an overlooked attraction that people are no longer interested in riding. :-)

The signs outside the attraction warn that it may be too intense for some children (and even some adults!). I'd recommend heeding those warnings - there are some aspects that could be quite scary, but I'll go into more specifics later. For the most part I don't think the visuals are any worse than what you see on the signs, but seeing them pop up unexpectedly can still be surprising. The music is also pretty eerie.

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One thing that we thought was very cool is the way the outside of Space Mountain "comes alive" at night, with sound and lighting effects. It's definitely worth spending some time standing around Tomorrowland (we found the view pretty good from the area just behind the water ball) just watching and listening. If there's a band playing at the Tomorrowland Terrace it's a little harder to hear the sound effects, though - and for some of the effects you really need the audio cues to get the full impact.

The new attraction has been VERY popular - on weekends Fastpasses for the entire day are long gone by noon and the standby line is over an hour.

Here's a video from disneylandnews that shows a little bit of the outside and the inside - not too many spoilers in this.

SPOILERS AHEAD

READY?

ARE YOU SURE?

Ok. On the first night while we were watching the show on Space Mountain's exterior there was a man behind us who was also watching and taking pictures. We started chatting and discovered that he was one of the Imagineers who had worked on the Ghost Galaxy overlay! So we asked him about something that had puzzled us, which was why there really wasn't any "story" in the attraction to explain what was going on. He told us there's a script for the background chatter that would offer some more information to those who listen to it, but it hasn't gotten into the attraction - maybe next year.

But here's the idea (to the best of our recollection): Space Station 77 has been pushing deeper and deeper into space, and has gotten into a new area which, unbeknownst to them, is inhabited by a "space ghost", who doesn't take kindly to these "space invaders." Strange things start happening, like mysterious energy fluctuations. If you watch the big screen in the launch bay you can see that that it reports a power surge or a loss of signal from time to time and goes to a blue screen - and we all know that seeing a blue screen is never a Good Thing. :-)

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Apparently unmanned probes have also gone missing. So they are seeking volunteers to go on a manned mission to explore this area of space and find out what's out there, and that's where all those of us in line come in. At this point we are woefully uninformed volunteers! :-)

He also told us that the images came from the Hubble Space Telescope, though they have been edited, and elements of them combined to form the ghost - his face might be a nebula, while his eye is a completely different galaxy.

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There are a couple of effects they were able to do here that they did not do in Hong Kong, like having the ghost appear just before the drop, and adding a couple of sections where the ghost appears to move alongside and chase your rocket.

There were 5 different exterior sequences when the attraction first opened, but he told us there were plans for several more - and sure enough, there were three more this past weekend. They go off about every three minutes.

Here's a new video that Lee put together of the exterior show, which includes a couple of the new effects as well as better quality footage of some of the ones we saw before. My favorite starts at 3:44 and ends about 20 seconds later as Space Mountain appears to collapse!

Our experience was that the best place to ride was in rows 4-6 rather than row 1 - the timing on some of the effects didn't work as well for row 1 - we were past most of them before we could really see them. And you also want to sit on the left side of the rocket - you don't really see some of the images very well from the right side.

We think it's a great ride - I wouldn't want it to be this way all the time, but it's a very different and interesting variation.

October 23, 2009

Guest Blog: Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party

Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party
I've Got Punky Power!
by Lisa K. Berton

I love Halloween almost as much as I love Disneyland Resort. When the two merge it makes me jump up and down with glee. The icing on the devil's food cake is Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party at Disney's California Adventure. For a period of four hours on select nights, the park transforms into a whirlwind of candy, characters, candy, Halloween-themed music, candy, spooky projections, and more candy.

Friday, October 16th was the night I ran around the park. The festivities were scheduled for 7:30pm-11:30pm and by 7 o'clock a massive crowd was waiting outside the gates ready to embark on a sugar high. Prior to renting a locker and turning myself into fashion icon Punky Brewster, I grabbed a pumpkin muffin and a bottle of water from Blue Ribbon Bakery. It's not the most nutritious dinner but it gave me enough energy to make it through most of the night.

I had purchased my ticket online and printed it out at home before flying to California. When I got to the turnstile, the Cast Member scanned my paper ticket and kept it. Special park maps listing what dining options were available as well as running attractions, character locations, candy spots, and "Mickey's Trick-or-Treat on the Street" Cavalcade times and route were readily available. Inside the park, Cast Members handed out plastic treat bags. They're big enough to hold all of the candy collected from every treat station. One side of the bag advertises the movie "Up" coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray while the other is "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Most folks head towards Hollywood Pictures Backlot first because it's the closest land to the entrance. I went to Pirate Wharf which took over Pacific Wharf. Here you'll find pirate treasure and skeletal remains of those who tried to carry it off. There's a DJ spinning pop songs and pirate Cast Members dancing. Coloring is available at craft tables and characters like Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook, and Jack Sparrow pose for photos. Three counter service eateries are open at Pirate Wharf: Pacific Wharf Cafe offers soups and salads, Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill serves tacos and burritos, and Lucky Fortune Cookery has rice bowls.

Guest Blog: Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party
Backtracking towards a bug's land I came across two scarecrows hanging around. One was loafing about and snoozing until I approached him. Awake, both he and the other scarecrow made conversation with guests. The funniest thing I heard all night was a little girl who pointed behind a scarecrow and yelled "CROW!" She had him going for a minute there.
Guest Blog: Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party
The first of two Mickey's Trick-or-Treat on the Street cavalcades started out between Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage! and Candy Corn Acres at 8:30pm. I asked three Disney managers who were talking together for a prime location to take photos. They directed me to the area between a post and the waterfall. I would say for a great spot, stand so the entrance to a bug's land is across the street from you and a bit to the left. That's where the float with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald stops.
Guest Blog: Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party

In front of them will be Jessie and Woody dancing in the street, and bustin' a move behind the float are Gepetto, Alice, and Mad Hatter. Kids who dance and wiggle about in the street are given special event pins. Other characters in the cavalcade include White Rabbit, little green men, and Pinocchio. Dancing witches and warlocks take to the streets, walking alongside floats while giant Mickey pumpkins filled with huge candy corn roll along. Having the Cavalcade twice during the night means the crowds are very manageable. I found it very easy to switch spots with moms and dads who were also taking photos. The 8:30 pm performance brought out lots of little kids, 10 and younger, while the older kids and child-free adults attended the 10:30 pm showing.

Guest Blog: Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party

My next stop was Paradise Pier. At the top of the pier I found the humanized Ariel and Belle each with their own backdrop. The line to see them was very long so I took photos from outside the roped off area and continued walking down the ramp. Across from the entrance to California Screamin' were little green men and Jessie. Three out of four Boardwalk Games were open and free to play. Every player walked away with two pieces of candy while the winner received a handful. The newly themed games are very cute. The former Sun Wheel ferris wheel has been redecorated with Mickey's face in the center and his buddies painted on the swinging and stationary cars. I went for a ride in a non-moving car and was joined by two dads and their little girls.

If you continue through the area as I did, heading towards Mulholland Madness, you'll come across three treat stations in a row. Go get your candy. I only stopped at one of them. Now, there was a Mickey's Hide and Go Treat Trail in Golden State over by Grizzly River Run but I never made it over there so I can't tell you what I missed. Rumor had it there was a Ghirardelli stand next to Soarin' Over California. Ghirardelli dark chocolate and milk chocolate with caramel squares were also being handed out on the other side of Golden State across from the wharf. That I'm sure of because I went there twice.

Candy Corn Acres was hosting a dance party complete with Goofy and Donald Duck dressed as farmers. Lots of colored lights and strobes filled the area as kids shook their tail feathers. I never knew Donald was such a fan of rock 'n roll until that night. He even played air guitar. Cast Members were dressed in pink and orange bubble dresses. The outfits made me think of Willy Wonka and other tripped out images that frighten me.

Guest Blog: Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party

Baker's Field Bakery in Sunshine Plaza was open and selling their yummy baked goods. Both Greetings from California and Engine Ears Toys were open and selling their regular merchandise with Greetings also carrying event merchandise like sweatshirts, T-shirts, and cloth tote bags that could double as trick-or-trick bags.

My last area to conquer was Hollywood Pictures Backlot, the place where most folks began their partying. What a great place to load up on characters and candy. In front of Disney Animation stood a scaled down version of The Seven Dwarfs' house and out front you could find the Evil Queen or Snow White and Dopey. Over by the Hyperion Theater in the queue area, Mickey and Minnie hung out in front of a haunted house backdrop. In front of the Hyperion Theater were Handy Manny, JoJo & Goliath (JoJo's Circus), and Annie & June (Little Einsteins). Meanwhile at Hollywood "Bat-lot" Bash, the music was pumping and The Incredibles and Frozone were dancing the night away. Inside the Animation Building was the other Mickey's Hide and Go Treat Trail. Going through the various rooms with all the lights on was cool because you could actually see everything and just how detailed the rooms are. Dining options in Hollywood Pictures Backlot were Award Wieners and Fairfax Fruit Market.

There are 13 treat stations in addition to the trails. I only got to about half of them so there may be a few types of candy that I never got but here's the complete list of everything I collected: Twix, M&sMs, Skittles, Now & Laters, Sixlets, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, Lemonheads, Jaw Busters, Ghirardelli squares, Craisins, carrots, apple slices, Nerds, Laffy Taffy, A&W root beer hard candy, Sassy Taffy, and Sassy Sours.

Costumes are welcome and encouraged for everyone. Most kids dress up and less than half of the adults don an outfit. I saw pirates, Davy Jones (not the Monkee), super heroes, Disney characters, Shrek, witches, and video game characters particularly from Mario. The coolest of all costumes was a group of adults that dressed up as the portraits in the Stretching Room in Haunted Mansion.

It's a fun night and if you've been thinking about going, go! Put on a costume, get in the Halloween mood and have a good time. If you want to trade your Twix mini-bars for my Sassy Sours let me know.

Guest Blog: Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party

You can see more of Lisa Berton's photos of the Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party in our 2009 photo galleries:

General Party Photos
Parade and Character Photos

General information on the party, including ticket info and a schedule of events, is available HERE.

Read more of Lisa's blogs:

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

October 25, 2009

An October Weekend at Disneyland

Lee and I spent October 10-12 at the Disneyland Resort. Some of this I have written about in previous blog entries (like the AllEars Meet), but here's a few more highlights.

I also wrote about our stay at the new Villas at the Grand Californian, which was very nice. Love that one-bedroom villa!!! Lee has decreed that we shall always stay in one-bedroom villas. :-) (Which we usually do anyways.)

Back to the rest of the weekend, though. Saturday was very crowded in the parks, even DCA had a lot more people than it usually does. They were even making AP holders get handstamps all weekend for park re-entry - and I've never seen that before! We were so glad we were staying on-site and not having to deal with parking and the parking tram and all of that.

Saturday evening we wanted to see the new fireworks show, Halloween Screams, again. We met fellow AllEars® teammate Lisa Berton at The Plaza Inn for dinner. Holy cow...it was soooooo crowded!!! Line out the door and no tables to be had (though we finally found one). It was my fault...I wanted their fried chicken for dinner. And it was good!

Anyway...after dinner we found a friendly CM outside who was starting to direct traffic into Tomorrowland, and we asked her about a good viewing spot for Halloween Screams, so she told us where she likes to watch it from. And Lee videotaped the whole show - it's a little better than the one he originally shot since he had a wide angle lens this time and he modified the exposure settings so the castle is a lot brighter. The show is over 10 minutes long, so there are two parts to the video.

As you can see, even though it was a great spot for seeing the fireworks and the projections on the castle, it was not such a good shot for seeing the "crystal ball", which was partially blocked by one of the castle's spires. Oh well.

Sunday morning Lee and I went into Disneyland for Magic Morning - which we were eligible for because we were staying at a Disneyland resort (and it's the ONLY way for AP holders to get it!) There seemed to be fewer people in the park than on previous occasions when we've done it on a Saturday morning. We did 5 attractions in an hour - Ghost Galaxy, Buzz Lightyear, Star Tours, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. And after the park opened we went to Haunted Mansion Holiday and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Ride (more commonly known as "Indy"). Seven attractions in an hour and a half! That's more than we often do in an entire day. :-)

Fast forward to later in the day after breakfast, the AllEars meet, and lunch at Rancho del Zocalo. As we were walking out of the park with Deb and Cathy at about 2:00 we saw the Hook and Ladder Company performing in front of the fire station. This is one of the things I love best about Disneyland...all of the little things like this that you find happening around the park. They were joined by several characters - Cruella DeVil tried to steal the stuffed Dalmatian puppy toy they had sitting on the piano, and she was run off by Chip and Dale, who did a cute shadow dance.

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And then Goofy came out and danced to "Come on, Get Happy" - who knew that someone with feet that big could dance so well? It was a lot of fun to watch.

That evening we came back to the park with Deb and Cathy and did the Fantasmic! dessert package. Cathy hadn't seen the Disneyland version of Fantasmic! before, and I don't think Deb had, either, and they both loved it. Cathy is a woman after my own heart and loved the pirate ship.

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This time the dragon mostly behaved - she moved around a bit more than the first time we saw her, though she didn't breathe fire. I love the way she leans down to look at Mickey like he's some insignificant little thing that's bothering her.

From there we had an excellent view of the Halloween Screams fireworks, but we couldn't see the crystal ball at all, and could only get a glimpse of Zero. Since the fireworks are really designed to be viewed from Main Street, it's not so obvious how many different places they are shot off from - they just appear to be at different depths. But when viewed from the side they appear side-by-side rather than front-to-back.

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The next morning we were able to participate in the morning Power Walk around DCA. This is something they offer several mornings a week to guests at the Grand Californian, but we'd never been able to do it before because we were doing Magic Morning instead. But since this was Monday, there wasn't a Magic Morning. We had signed up a couple of days earlier - there's no charge, you just have to be a hotel guest. At the time they said we would do 2 miles in 30 minutes - which I don't consider a power walk pace. :-)

There were only Lee and I and one other female guest, plus the instructor. Because we were going into the park before it was open we all had to sign waivers. Once the security person let us in the DCA gate we did a little stretching, and then started walking. And since we were a small group who could all walk fast, we really did do a power walk, so I was happy. There was maintenance going on in the park so we had to avoid a few obstacles. We walked all the way around Paradise Pier, around "a bug's land", then all the way around the Hollywood Studios area, went past Soarin', and ended up at the rapids again. Normally they stop there, but we still had time because we'd been walking so fast, so we went once more around past Grizzly Rapids, the Golden Vine Winery, and Soarin'. We still only did 1.8 miles, though - I had my GPS watch on. After we stretched for a while longer we walked out of the park. It was really a nice way to start the morning! In addition to the Power Walks, they also offer Pilates classes several days a week. Our instructor said they hope to expand the program and offer some additional stretching and aerobic programs next year.

It was Columbus Day and Disneyland was busy, though not quite as horrible as I'd expected. Deb, Lisa and I took Cathy to Toontown and showed her some of the fun stuff there is to do there.

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We met Lee and we all had a really nice lunch, and then Lee and I said goodbye and headed back home.

It was a really fun weekend. It's always really nice to be staying there and be able to head back to the room in the afternoon, and even better to go back to the room late at night instead of driving home!

October 29, 2009

Various Restaurant Reviews

We've had a number of Disneyland dining experiences over the last six weeks that I have been meaning to write about...since there's so many of them, this won't be quite as detailed as I would usually do. (What's that I hear? Wild cheering???)

Back to the weekend of D23...

One night Lee and I walked over to the Anaheim GardenWalk - we'd never actually been there before. It's really not far from Disneyland at all - maybe a 10-15 minute walk. There are a lot of restaurants there, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, McCormick & Schmick's Grille, Roy's and P.F. Chang's. We opted for California Pizza Kitchen, mainly because we could get in immediately. The food was good - the big surprise was that they gave us a 20% discount for being Disneyland Annual Pass Holders! That's a bigger discount than you get at any of the Disney restaurants! Our server told us that most of the restaurants at the GardenWalk offer a Pass Holder discount.

We walked around the rest of the area afterwards - there are a lot of interesting places there, including a place called FiRE + iCE. According to the web site, it "is a smokin' hot dining experience featuring an incredible variety of fresh meats, seafood, vegetables, pasta and sauces cooked on an open grill in a refreshingly fun and colorful atmosphere. Featuring an outdoor patio with a fire pit, it is the perfect destination for those seeking a creative and entertaining dining experience!"

There's also Mrs. Field's, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Cinnabon, Submarina, Johnny Rocket's and Tacone, among others. La Salsa and Auntie Anne's are coming soon. (Love Auntie Anne's pretzels - but I've only ever seen them in airports!)

On another D23 evening we had dinner with Deb and Deb at Catal in Downtown Disney. I'd never been there before, but we will definitely be returning! We had a wonderful dinner - great food, a terrific server, and, as an added bonus, we could see the Disneyland fireworks from our table!

The menu is HERE. Some of the things we sampled were the Compressed Salad, Bucatini Pasta, Colorado Lamb mix grill, New York Steak, and rotisserie chicken. I think I'm the only one who ordered dessert but it was awesome - the Chocolate Flourless Fudge Torte. One of the better chocolate desserts I've had anywhere in a while.

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On the first day of Halloween Time, Lee and I had lunch at The French Market, since they were one of the locations that was serving special menu items for Halloween. I love the decor in there at Halloween - they really decorate the place. (I wish they would sell the zombie gingerbread men in the park!) They were supposed to have Zero's Ghostly Goulash, but that was not on the menu, though they had a couple of Halloween-themed desserts.

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I should know better by now than to eat there...I really do NOT care for the food. This time I tried the Dixieland Cajun Chicken Salad, and didn't like it at all - the chicken and avocado was soaked in some kind of a citrusy-lime marinade that was overpowering. And once again the so-called "Cheddar Cornbread" was really orange cornbread. Lee had the Chicken & Seafood Jambalaya, which he said was ok - he doesn't like the cornbread, either.

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Dessert was good, though - it was four red velvet madeleines served in a plastic coffin. Really very tasty!

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The menu is HERE.

That night we ate at the Wine Country Trattoria at DCA. That remains my favorite in-the-park restaurant - I've enjoyed everything that I've had there. This time I ordered something different, the Pizzetta Salad, and I think I have a new favorite dish. It's romaine hearts, roma tomatoes, smoked bacon, crumbled blue cheese and Kalamata olives with a creamy Italian dressing served on a warm pizzeta crust. SO good, and very filling. I ordered the dressing on the side and ended up dipping the pizzeta crust in it. Yum. Lee ordered his favorite, the Lasagna Rustica. I think my only complaint about this restaurant is that they don't serve warm bread.

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For dessert we had the Trattoria Chocolate Creme - Freshly baked silky double chocolate creme with a vanilla wafer cookie. Sort of a cross between mousse and pie. It was pretty good, and definitely big enough for us to share! We also treated ourselves to glasses of the Magicale sparkling wine - we love that.

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The menu is HERE.

The next morning after we'd enjoyed Magic Morning we had breakfast at Tomorrowland Terrace. This has got to be the best bargain at Disneyland - for $6.99 you get a nice breakfast which *includes* a beverage (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) - normally the beverage by itself is $2.69! I ordered a vegetarian version of the Breakfast Burrito, which was filled with scrambled eggs, potatoes, and cheese (they left out the sausage for me). It was not haute cuisine but it was good and filling - it would have been nice if they'd had something other than little packets of taco sauce to put on it, though.

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Lee got the Sunrise Breakfast - your standard breakfast platter of scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes and a mini-muffin. Again, it was just fine. The other $6.99 breakfast specials are French Toast Sticks and a Fruit Plate. (The rest of the day the Fruit Plate costs $6.99 and *doesn't* include a beverage!) Like I said, I think breakfast there is a really good deal!

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The menu is HERE.

On the Sunday morning of Columbus Day weekend Lee and I decided to try breakfast at Catal I showed Lee the menu on AllEars to see if he was interested and he said something like: "Wow...I'm not even all the way through the menu and I see three things I'd like to try!" And we had a very nice breakfast, and had the place almost all to ourselves - there were very few parties in the restaurant. We opted to eat outside since it was a very pleasant morning. They offer an express continental breakfast buffet for $7.95 or a full breakfast buffet for $14.95, but we both ordered off the menu. I had the Chilaquiles - Tortilla chips tossed in ranchero sauce with potatoes, cheese, cilantro, fried egg and sour cream. It was quite good, and really a lot of food - I couldn't finish it, and Lee helped too. It had a little bit of a kick, but not bad. I ordered the egg scrambled rather than fried.

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Lee was torn between the Malt Waffles and the Wild Mushroom Omelet but eventually decided on the omelet. It came with caramelized onions, thyme and a drizzle of creme fraiche. He said there really wasn't much in the way of caramelized onions, but the mushrooms were very good.

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It's Halloween Time...and that means pumpkin muffins! We picked up one of those on our way out of Disneyland on Saturday night. Yummy.

So that catches me up with Disneyland food...just in time to head off to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, where you know you can expect lots more food reports and photos!

This has nothing to do with dining...but Disney Parks has started their own set of blogs, and there's a blog entry which talks about filling the lagoon at DCA. It has a cute video of Mickey and Goofy.
Mickey Helps Fill Paradise Bay Lagoon for "World of Color"

October 30, 2009

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival - Day 1

Lee and I are back at Walt Disney World. It's a short trip for us - arrive Thursday night and leave Monday afternoon - so we'll be concentrating on the Food and Wine Festival. We are staying at Boardwalk Villas, so that makes it easier since we can walk to Epcot! In fact we didn't even rent a car this time - we are using Disney's Magical Express instead.

We'd planned to spend several hours at Epcot this evening enjoying Round 1 of "Eating Around the World", but a two-and-a-half hour delay in our connecting flight kinda ruined that plan when we didn't even arrive at the Orlando airport until almost 7:00. But we have to give Disney's Magical Express credit - we were on a bus just a few minutes after checking in with them, and the bus was on the road within 10 minutes after that. We were the first stop, and arrived at the Boardwalk about 8:05. By 8:15 we were in our room, where we dropped our bags and headed off to Epcot. I had to renew my annual pass, but there was no line, and that only took a few minutes, so we were actually in the park by 8:25!

It was a warm night, and we hadn't changed out of the long pants we'd worn on the plane so we were a little warm...but we were hungry!

Our first stop was the Ireland booth, where Lee had the Fisherman's Pie that had come so highly recommended. And it did not disappoint - he really enjoyed it - especially with a Guiness to go with it!

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I had the Cheese Plate, which included three kinds of cheese: Aged Irish Cheddar, Dubliner and Ivernia, some brown bread and apple chutney. The cheeses were very good - one especially had a really nice bite to it - I assume that was the Aged Irish Cheddar.

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Next it was off to New Zealand where we each got the Lamb Slider with Tomato Relish. This was different than it had been in past years - it was a ground lamb patty (more like a large meatball) instead of slices of lamb. It was good, but I prefer the slices of lamb.

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We still had a little time before the food booths closed, so our last stop was Canada. Where we ordered one of everything. :-) First was the Cheddar Cheese Soup - Lee really likes this but it's a little too rich for me.

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We also had the Maple Glazed Salmon with Lentils. The lentils were cold, which I found surprising, but I liked them.

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The Spicy Chicken Sausage and Polenta was another selection from Canada. I thought the sausage was a little too spicy, but I enjoyed the polenta.

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The Maple Candy was two pieces of maple-leaf-shaped maple sugar candy. I've always like this, but it's very sweet. This didn't have a particularly strong maple flavor, though.

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I also had glass of the Riesling, which was fine, but not my favorite.

Illuminations was just starting as we finished eating. We watched it from Canada, since that's where we were, and we remembered why we don't usually watch it from there, because the smoke mostly blows that direction.

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By 9:20 we were walking out of Epcot. So in an hour we'd renewed an annual pass, eaten at three food booths and watched Illuminations - not bad, huh?

We still wanted something else to eat so we stopped at Seashore Sweets and got a couple of chocolate milkshakes.

I think this had to be our shortest park day ever, but we still managed to do quite a bit in a short time!

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October 31, 2009

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival - Day 2

Since we're still on west coast time, morning didn't come very early for us - it was 9:00 when we got up - though that's still 6:00 at home! Whew...already warm today, though. Is it really supposed to still be in the high 80s in late October???

We walked to Epcot, where we had a much more leisurely opportunity of enjoying the signs and decorations for this year's Food and Wine Festival than we did in our 1 hour whirlwind tour last night. This year's theme is Celebrating Culinary Adventures, though it still keeps the international cities theme that it had last year.

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At the Land pavilion we had breakfast at the Sunshine Seasons food court. It actually wasn't nearly as busy in there as it usually is - not the huge crowds of people going to Soarin' this morning. I had the breakfast "panini" - though it was really more like a slice of foccacia pizza. There was a crust on the bottom, then slices of roast pork, then bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese, and foccacia on top. It was pretty good.

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Lee had the standard American Breakfast.

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We took the Living with the Land boat ride afterwards. They had some different crops growing this time, including dragonfruit and something called "Monstera", which seems very appropriate for this time of year. :-) Also Cinderella pumpkins and huge sweet potatoes.

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Epcot's entrance is always decorated for the Food and Wine Festival, but since we stay at the Boardwalk we don't go to the main entrance unless we make a special trip there. I think it's very colorful.

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Innoventions West was our next stop - there were several things in here that were new since our last visit. We started at Where's the Fire, which is not new, but we hadn't played before. It's played in teams, and the teams go to different rooms of the most dangerous fire-trap house in the world and try to identify fire hazards and deal with them before they actually start a fire. It was kind of fun - some of them were not so easy to find!

Next we played The Great Piggy Bank Adventure. This was very cute - you actually get a plastic piggy bank, and then go to different stations and play games to add money to your piggy bank. It teaches you about saving, inflation, and diversifying (not surprisingly, it's sponsored by T. Rowe Price. :-) ). Our goal was Retirement...we didn't quite make it, but we came close. We really had a lot of fun with this!

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Then there was another new game, sponsored by IBM, where we were actually the stars of our own video game! It started out by recording us as we ran in place, jumped, and danced a victory dance. Then we moved to a different console and actually played the game that had us as the characters that were navigating through a virtual world. I say "we", but it was actually Lee that played the game for us. That was a lot of fun, too.

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Over at Innoventions East is where the new Sum of All Thrills station is, where you can build your own roller coaster and then actually experience it in a motion simulator. The line was too long for us to do that, but we sat in the simulatore seats.

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Over at the Festival Center (the old Wonders of Life Pavilion) we wandered around a little bit. I know people have complained that this area is not central enough (too far from World Showcase) to be the headquarters of the Festival, but it's really a nice area - so light and airy and roomy inside. They had more of the Festival banners in here, too.

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There are also a decent-sized wine shop and a gift shop. I really got a kick out of one of the Festival souvenirs available this year - the Swedish Chef from the Muppets!

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Which of these things is not like the others?

In the theater they were showing the Seasons of the Vine movie that used to be at Disney's California Adventure. It was nice to see that again.

What we'd really gone there for, though, was the Wine Seminar presented by Castello Banfi. This year, for the first time, these seminars are not free, though we were able to reserve them in advance (that opportunity was given to DVC members, Tables in Wonderland members, and Annual Passholders). I think it was actually a good thing because it meant we didn't have to get there 45-60 minutes early to get a spot - we only needed to be there 10-15 minutes before it started.

Castello Banfi makes one of our favorite wines - the lightly sweet, lightly sparkling Rosa Regale. In addition to the Rosa Regale we also sampled their San Angelo Pinot Grigio and the Belnero Sangeiovese. Sharron McCarthy, the VP of Wine Education, was a very good and enthusiastic speaker, and we really enjoyed the presentation.

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And after that it was time for Eating Around the World - Round 2.

We started at Argentina where Lee had Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree. He said the beef was excellent. The boniato was good - it tasted similar to potato.

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Mexico has always had some of our Festival favorites, though this year most of the selections were new. We shared the Taco de Cochinita Pibil - a corn tortilla filled with shredded pork and purple onions. This was good but quite spicy.

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Lee had the Quesadilla con Chorizo - I think this was on the menu last year, or at least something very similar. He enjoyed it.

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I had the Tostada de Pollo - this was a crisp tortilla covered with black beans and shredded chicken with some chopped tomatoes and sour cream on top. It was good, but not as good as the Chilaquiles that they have served at previous Festivals.

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We also had the Mexican Sunrise drink - this was a foofy frozen non-alcoholic drink. Not sure what was in it - mango and guava, maybe? - but it was refreshing and not too sweet.

Next was Spain where I ordered the Red Snapper Escabeche. That was quite good - the fish was crisp and tasty and the tomato-pepper relish served with it was also good.

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The Koma family found us there - they just arrived this morning for their Food and Wine weekend. We visited for a while and then they went off to eat around the world while we headed back to the Festival Center - we knew we'd be meeting them later for dinner!

We attended another wine seminar, Boisset Family Estates. Yummy.

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Oh, and the wines were good, too. ;-) Jean-Charles Boisset was very easy on the eyes, though. In addition to telling us about the wines, he told us about some of the things they are doing to be more environmentally responsible, such as packaging their wines in lightweight, recyclable containers such as plastic and boxes. The pinot noir we tried comes in a box, and the Louis Bernard Bonus Passus is in the plastic bottle. Their Bouchard Chardonnay is packaged in a bottle, and it was really good.

Time to finish Eating Around the World - Round 2! We started at The Mouse Catch with three kinds of cheese - Dorothea, a Dutch cheese, Plave, from Italy, and Mahon, from Spain. I couldn't tell you which one was which, but they had a nice flavor. We also shared a glass of Prosecco.

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At Thailand I ordered the Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp. I think this is my favorite so far. The salad was shredded papaya and carrots in a very light gingery dressing. The shrimp was really good - it was grilled and topped with an excellent sauce - I have no idea what was in it, but it was very tasty.

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When we walked by Germany we noticed that the little railway town has been decorated for the Food and Wine Festival - the logo is on the wine barrels that the train is pulling.

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But oh, no - these poor unsuspecting people are about to be attacked by a giant lizard!!!

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At the Hops & Barley Market Lee got the Boston-style Crab Cake with Cabbage Slaw and Remoulade and a cup of the Honey Porter. The crab cake is something he's enjoyed for the last several years. It has too much crab in it for me, though. :-)

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The last thing we tried was the Warm Pretzel Bread Stick with Cheese Dip from the Brewer's Collection. The pretzel stick was really good - warm and slightly chewy just like it should be. The cheese sauce didn't do much for me, though.

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Back at the Boardwalk the staff had held a pumpkin decorating contest. The pumpkins had been set up in the lobby and guests were allowed to vote - they had just announced the results when we got back. The winner was a pumpkin painted by Adam from Housekeeping - he painted Disney characters costumed as other Disney characters - like Alice as the Mad Hatter, Kronk as Dopey, and Minnie as the Fairy Godmother.

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It was clever - in this one you can see Stitch as Darkwing Duck, Peter Pan as Mr. Incredible, Mr. Toad as Maleficent, and Pinocchio as Woody.

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We went back to our room for a while before walking down to Kouzzina, where we met the Komas for dinner. It was a big night at Kouzzina - Cat Cora was there with a big family group. She walked through the restaurant greeting guests a couple of times, including stopping by our table to talk to us briefly.

We really had a wonderful dinner - the food was good and we always enjoy spending time with the Koma family. About our only complaint is that the restaurant is very loud - but that's always been a problem with that location, back when it was Spoodles.

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Deb and I are planning to do a more in-depth review, so I'm not going to go into any detail here. But I'll share a pictures of out dessert - these are Greek doughnuts called Loukoumades. They were very good - but as Lee said, it's hard to go wrong with fried dough in any culture. :-)

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It was a really nice day!

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About October 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in October 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2009 is the previous archive.

November 2009 is the next archive.

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