From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, December 30, 2016.
Arrived at the Mickey and Friends parking structure just past noon with clearing skies.
A video overview of the Star Wars Construction. For an in-depth look check out my full picture set at https://disneygeek.com
Looking to the right, behind Critter Country, parallel to the tram route you can see they have put a layer of asphalt down for the backstage perimeter road. Also looks like a parking lot off on the right through the trees.
Tower of Terror is fully covered again.
The foundation work for the show building nearest the structure is moving along. You can see the outline for the building taking shape.
A look at where the train will come out from Critter Country.
Hard to see the new walkway between the Hungry Bear and river now with the wall.
The wall looks complete to the left of the Fantasyland tunnel now.
Concrete has been poured in the basement portion of the show building.
Demolition work on the former House of Blues, future Splitsville continues.
You can now see through the building.
Sleeping Beauty Castle has lights and screens for New Years also notice how the blue skies have disappeared.
Was hoping to be able to walk the Big Thunder Trail today, but unfortunately the park is not crowded enough for them to open it.. the one time I wanted a big crowd!
The Castle Heraldry Shoppe is closing in January.
Went for a cruise on it's a small world holiday since there was no line.
A New Years Eve stage set up in the Small World Mall area.
In Town Square they were setting up for a Pep Rally by the Spirit of Troy, the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band. Donald warming up the crowd that was waiting for the rally.
Here are several video clips from the USC Band performance. Below a few pictures, I posted many more in my full set.
Tribute to Troy starts off the event, as you would expect. FightOn!
A wider look at the USC Band, USC Song Girls and USC Spirit Leaders in Town Square.
After their performance the band turned and marched the parade route.
On the Rivers of America a stage was set up for New Years Eve festivities since the Island stage is still being worked on.
Making my way to Critter Country. The rock work is filling in along the train path and the Rivers of America.
A band was from Mexico and in town for the Tournament of Roses Parade on Monday. Today they marched through Disneyland.
It was 4:24pm, some guests waiting for the 4:15pm parade to start. They kept announcing it was delayed because of weather.
Stopped by the Emporium to get out of the rain. They had a selection of 2017 items.
Celebration Buttons were available at the Opera House today, not City Hall.
The parade stepped off at 4:30, only 15 min late, and ran without and dancers/performers on the street. Only the floats came out and they were packed a little closer together than normal.
The rain picked up as the parade went on (I was under a tree and fairly dry).
In DCA walked through Grizzly Peak Recreation Area. Noticed the back of the sweater lights up too.
Paradise Bay was being prepped for World of Color.
A little after 5:00pm and they were playing the cancellation announcement for the 5:15pm Viva Navidad! Performance.
Walking through Cars Land. They were set up for New Years Eve. This is a control console. Lights and assuming a stage will be added in the middle of the street.
All the cousins at Luigi's covered up due to the weather.
Really surprised only three Frozen performances on the schedule.
Another stage in HollywoodLand for New Years Eve
Over to Disneyland. I assumed they were going to cancel Paint the Night, but as I entered they made the announcement that it was starting in a couple minutes.
No dancers but they did have limited characters walking.
The parade felt very different without performers.
Stopped by Sleeping Beauty Castle to see if there would be a Wintertime Enchantment moment at 7:30, there was not.
"it's a small world" Holiday
Then headed for the Haunted Mansion Holiday. There was a posted 5 minute wait. It turned out to be a literal walk on...I did not break stride till I was in the foyer.
A video clip of the singing pumpkins since I was stopped there for a few moments.
2017 light up headbands.
Tomorrowland walkways were calm too.
Found a spot for Believe in Holiday Magic just before 9pm.
The show started 5 minutes early at 9:25pm.. ok since it was drizzling..
I returned to DCA. Had a Yellow Fastpass, but there was a low turnout and they opened blue to anyone. I opted to stay in Standby for World of Color - Season of Light.
Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.
For a number of years Disneyland has celebrated Three Kings' Day - El Dia de los Reyes Magos. January 6 (Epiphany) is the official day, but this year the events took place January 5-8.
Three Kings' Day celebrates the visit of the kings to the Christ child on the 12th day after his birth. Traditionally it's three kings: Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrrh.
The Paradise Gardens area of Disney California Adventure was the site of this year's events.
There were several displays set up. On the night before children traditionally place their shoes out for the kings to fill with toys and gifts.
"Rosca de Reyes", or "King's Cake" is a traditional food. It's a sweet bread, round like a crown, and decorated with candied fruits, which resemble jewels.
One of the activities was face painting. No charge, and it was available to adults and kids.
There was also a craft area. Guests could color paper lanterns or decorate a crown with stickers. There were a number of tables and chairs there.
Three Kings Storytelling took place several times each day on the Paradise Gardens stage. This was different than what I expected, but I thought it was well done. I thought it would be more like the Epcot storytellers, with someone acting the part. Instead it was two musicians, who both spoke and sang about holiday traditions such as Las Posadas, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and Three King's Day.
Here's a video of the entire performance.
A few other things I noticed while wandering around the parks...
I'd never gotten a very good look at Skylar on Princess Elena's float. He is a magical talking jaquin.
Since Santa Claus is taking a well-deserved vacation, Santa Goofy was greeting guests in the Redwood Creek "Holiday Visit" area.
In that same area one of the deer sported a Santa hat.
The Tower of Terror closed on January 2 and is under wraps during the conversion to Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT.
Over at Disneyland, Pocahontas was greeting guests along the Rivers of America near the exit to Big Thunder Mountain.
In honor of the Moana movie, several locations in Disneyland are offering a special Pineapple Parfait dessert. It's pineapple, cake, and custard. The necklace is also edible. I tried it and thought it was pretty good.
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 13, 2017.
Since Laura is covering the Star Wars Half Marathon events I will focus on everything else. A quick video overview of the Star Wars construction site from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure.
A pan across the site from the left (north) to right.
Looks like utility work on the far side nearest Toon Town.
In the foreground notice the footers and foundation work for a large show building.
The concrete structure in the middle is the backstage marina for Fantasmic.
Continuing to the right you can see more rock work sticking up above the wall nearest the Rivers of America.
Looking toward Critter Country.
For a more in depth look at the Star Wars Construction check out the full picture set on disneygeek.com The fencing around the Downtown Disney security areas features ads for the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade next week. It features floats from the parade in front of Los Angeles landmarks including the beach, observatory, and Disney Concert Hall. This compliments the commercial that has been airing showing the parade coming out of a warehouse featuring retired Disneyland attractions.
The current state of the former House of Blues removal. Splitsville is moving in.
Most signs of Christmas have been removed from the parks. A look at Main Street USA this afternoon
The castle is now snowless. Some diamond overlays are visible. Not sure if those are going back on or if they were under the snow.
The grotto is walled off for some renovation work.
The Castle Heraldry Shoppe in Fantasyland is now closed.
A check of the Star Wars work from the Big Thunder Trail.
No visible progress on the Columbia.
Nor the stage area.
The Haunted Mansion is closed for the removal of the holiday overlay.
The rock work along the rivers of america continues to expand.
Looking through the fence at the new walkway.
Stopped by the New Orleans Train Station and the Ernest S. Marsh is in the station and open for pictures plus the Lilly Belle.
New Orleans Square still features Christmas decorations.
The Jungle Cruise is closed for removal of the holiday overlay.
The Adventureland Restrooms are closed for renovation and expansion.
The Pioneer Mercantile is also closed for renovation work.
Star Wars Season of the Force signage has returned to Tomorrowland.
Season of the Force Banners include some Rogue One Cast
The Dark Side...
A couple of Storm Troopers on patrol
The Toons have taken down all their Christmas decorations.
Over to DCA.. Christmas is gone from Buena Vista Street.
The Festival of Holidays are gone too and the marketplaces have been removed.
More scaffolding up at Tower
Items tagged for removal. It appears the lobby has been taken down to the studs.
Paradise Pier this evening as the sun was setting.
Viva Navidad! is gone. Lunar New Year moves in next week.
Grizzly River Run is closed for annual renovation
Christmas is gone from Redwood Creek.
The Cozy Cone is partially decorated. Notice the fountain was working today.
Spotlights and projections have returned as part of Season of the Force.
Video clip of the Star Wars Season of the Force spotlights in Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland Terrace was not in use this evening.
Only two seagulls out in the sub lagoon today.
Small World Holiday at night. No projections when I was around though..
An upcoming hand painted cell release for the MSEP.
Star Tours turned 30 this past week. An Annual Passholder T-Shirt is available
Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.
2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo
For the third year Lee and I participated in the 10K and half marathon races at Disneyland's Star Wars Half Marathon. Or Star Wars Half Marathon - the Light Side as they now call it, to distinguish it from the Star Wars Half Marathon - the Dark Side at Walt Disney World. :-)
Unlike previous years, the 10K and half marathon races did not sell out, and runDisney was still selling race registrations at the Expo. That was a surprise. Of course part of the reason is that they raised the race capacities: the 10K had almost 13,000 spots, as opposed to 10,000 last year, while the half had 16,000 instead of 14,000. Of those numbers, about 6,000 were those running the Rebel Challenge. There were 5,000 entered in the 5K, and 1,500 in the Kids Races.
We arrived at the Expo on Friday afternoon - it had opened on Thursday. As usual, bib pickup was downstairs in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. This is the first time I remember that there wasn't a specially designed rug on the ramp going down to the pickup area. But we've had a lot of rain recently (and it rained on Thursday) so the rug would have been soaking wet. This photo is from last year.
We had printed out our race waivers in advance, so all we had to do was go to the correct counter to pick up our Rebel Challenge bibs. There are computers and printers available for those who don't bring waivers with them. I think this was the most people that I've ever seen in bib pick-up, but it still was a fast process for us.
As Rebel Challenge runners we had to get our photo taken with our bib number - that's how they verify after the half marathon that we 1: completed the 10K, and 2: are the same person who picked up the bib. They used to give us wristbands at the end of the 10K - this is a nice alternative to not having to wear the wristband.
The race brochure was again condensed down to a "Final Race Instructions" pamphlet. It has all of the essential information like course maps, road closures, times, transportation, and viewing, but without all of the ads. I prefer this format - "just the facts, ma'am." (Am I showing my age there or what?) What I *don't* prefer is the new "on-line magazine" format for the official race guide - I can no longer download it as a PDF like I used to. And I find it very cumbersome and slow - really useless.
Once we picked up the bibs we went back upstairs to the main expo in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. I always enjoy seeing how they have decorated the entrance. The different banners are nice photo ops!
We picked up our race shirts. I liked this year's designs, but a gray shirt AGAIN????? I wish they would do more white shirts. These are long sleeve shirts - typical for January races. This particular weekend they felt pretty good since the weather was cooler than usual - highs in the low 60s, lows in the upper 40s.
There was a shirt exchange available, but neither of us needed to get a different size. It's very nice to have that option, though. I've found Disney sizing to be consistent in recent years, but that wasn't always the case.
Usually when we arrive on Friday afternoons there is either a short line or no line to get into the Official Merchandise area. This time the line extended out into the foyer, and it took 15-20 minutes to get into the area. The line moved pretty consistently so it wasn't too bad. But still, I was surprised to see it that long.
Once we went inside, it seemed like there was still plenty of merchandise left. A few things were sold out, like the special edition runDisney Star Wars Weekend Christmas tree ornament, and the Star Wars Weekend wine glasses. I believe the Dooney & Bourke bags were sold out by then, also.
There were already only limited sizes available on a few of the shirts. Lee bought this one. They were out of size large, so he had to get an XL, which is a little big.
Race weekend logo:
All of the pins, mini medal pins, magnets, water bottles, mugs, etc. seemed to be available.
I thought there was a very nice selection of shirts available for the Rebel Challenge and the Half Marathon.
The Han/Leia graphic on this one is especially poignant right now.
But for the 5K and 10K, there seemed to be only one shirt plus the "I Did It" shirts. With BB-8 as the theme for the 10K, I was surprised that there wasn't more merchandise available for the 10K.
There were some other fun Star Wars items that weren't themed to any specific race.
There's a new design for the Coast-to-Coast merchandise this year. The shirts are available in men's and women's cuts. I bought one of these.
The rest of the Expo seemed about the same. Honda was a major sponsor and they had a special pace car. We weren't sure how a pace car would be used in a half marathon, but I guess there was one.
There were Star Wars-themed Stance socks.
The latest versions of New Balance Disney running shoes were available. This time they represent Disney attractions rather than characters. The women's shoes are Haunted Mansion and Mad Tea Party.
The men's shoes are Star Tours and Toy Story Mania.
I don't know if I'm mentioned this before...Runner Tracking is available for the races. You can track runners of your choice, or you can provide the information for others to track you. My parents always like to know how we're doing, so I set up tracking to send them an email or text message. And if Lee and I aren't running together we track each other.There's typically a link on the event page under the "Spectators" tab. Sometimes you need a log in to set it up, sometimes not. There's usually options to have your times sent via text message or email, or to have it automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
As we wandered through Downtown Disney we saw several signs advising guests that various businesses would be open at 4:00 a.m. on race mornings, like Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Haagen Daz. That's a nice service for runners and spectators!
2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K
Saturday - January 14, Star Wars 10K
I know I've mentioned this before, but it's so much easier to run races at Disneyland! The start area and all of the hotels are all walking distance, so we don't have to get up really early to catch a bus to the start.
The race started at 5:30, and we set a wakeup call for 4:00. That's pretty much sleeping in by runDisney standards. :-) We left our room about 4:45.
Both of us were in costume. Lee wore his black Luke Skywalker Jedi outfit - complete with one black glove. :-) I didn't go with a Star Wars costume this time, and just wore my trusty Cinderella costume. Though really, I think she's a Jedi at heart.
This year the new variable was Disneyland's new security perimeter. Since Downtown Disney is within a "secure zone" now, we were pretty sure we would have to go through security from our hotel into Downtown Disney, but weren't sure how long that would take. As it turned out it was very fast. It was quite easy for the security personnel to see that most runners weren't carrying anything. We did not have to go through a secondary screening at what was the race checkpoint in the past. But there were still security people patrolling, some with dogs.
By the time we arrived in the pre-race area a lot of people had already gone to their corrals. So we couldn't tell if it seemed more crowded this year now that there were 12,000-13,000 runners in the 10K as opposed to under 10,000 as in previous years.
Both Lee and I were planning to run the 10K for time and not stopping to take photos. We were in different corrals, so I went to B and he went to C. Most of the photos below were taken by the PhotoPass photographers. As Annual Passholders we can download them for free. Disney started using their own photographers rather than MarathonFoto at the Dark Side weekend at WDW last April. The information on how to turn your bib nunber into a PhotoPass ID is on the back of the race bibs. It's really been a MUCH better service than MarathonFoto ever was. The photographers seem to get a lot more photos, AND some of the photos are available on race day - usually by the next day they are all there.
It was really a perfect morning for running. It was 48 degrees at the race start, with little or no wind. I had gloves, arm sleeves, and a throwaway sweatshirt, and I was actually pretty comfortable while waiting for the race to start.
There really wasn't much of a pre-show with the race announcers in the 15-20 minutes before the race started. No Storm Troopers or Darth Vader on stage. We saw a couple of different sets of scenes from The Force Awakens.
At 5:29 the wheelchairs started.
Corral A was a minute after that, and Corral B was five minutes later.
There were new courses for the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathons this year. The biggest change was that from the starting line the race courses went south on Disneyland Drive rather than north as they have the previous two years. All three courses went through both parks - DCA first and then Disneyland - with varying routes in the parks depending on the race distance.
I really liked the new 10K course. The designers absolutely maximized the park time. Unlike previous 10K courses that have been outside the parks for the first mile or so, this one was all on property - if you consider the first .3 miles on Disneyland Drive to be on property, which I do.
After that first .3 miles we turned left in front of the Paradise Pier Hotel and went backstage at DCA. This part of the course was a little too dark, and could have used some additional light. Fortunately the pavement was smooth, so there wasn't really much danger of tripping, but it still made me a little more cautious. There were projections on some of the buildings, like the Rebel Alliance symbol, the Millennium Falcon, or an X-wing fighter.
We went into the park near the Pacific Wharf where we ran through Radiator Springs past Radiator Springs Racers (so pretty at night with all of the light on the Cadillac Range) and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.
We ran through Flik's Fun Fair past the Mile 1 sign and out to the parade route. The first character stop was Threepio and R2-D2 by the Cars Land sign - I was surprised at how long it was that early in the race. I wasn't planning to stop anyway, though.
We ran clockwise around Paradise Bay. As I mentioned I was wearing my Cinderella costume, and I heard a cast member say something like "Go Cindy! Oh, it's ok, she still has both her shoes." I cracked up at that - which was when the PhotoPass photographer snapped the picture below. :-)
At Ariel's we turned left towards Grizzly River Run, past Soarin' and into Hollywood Land to the Tower of Terror. There were Jedi and Storm Troopers next to the Tower. We went backstage behind the Tower and passed the Mile 2 sign.
We took the tunnel down and up under the east tram area over to Disneyland. This was really the only significant hill on the course. That took us backstage at Disneyland for quite a while - past the Mile 3 sign. The BB-8 photo stop was back there, but I completely missed seeing it. This was another area where it was a little dark in places. We'd had great Star Wars music playing most of the time, but once we reached this point it got a little quiet until we emerged into Toon Town.
We ran past "it's a small world", which was still lit up with all of the holiday lights.
We turned left at the Matterhorn and ran towards Tomorrowland. Kylo Ren was somewhere in there - between the Matterhorn and the Tomorrowland Terrace, as I recall. The course took us past the Launch Bay, where there were Storm Troopers above us. We ran past Star Tours and out to the hub.
Once we reached the hub we did a 180 onto Matterhorn Way past Alice in Wonderland, then made a left at the tea cups and passed the Mile 4 sign. I was happy to see that I was on pace - maybe slightly ahead of pace. This year the Star Wars 10K course went through the castle to the hub, which it's never done before.
We went through Frontierland and New Orleans Square, then the course did a hard 180 just in front of the Haunted Mansion and went back to the hub via Adventureland. We had quite an extensive tour of Disneyland and visited all of the lands except Critter Country.
We ran down Main Street. Chewbacca's photo op was at the end of the street by the Disney Showcase shop.
After we went out the park entrance we ran into the Esplanade and to the left to go backstage at DCA again. We passed the Mile 5 sign on a perimeter road that took us around the back of Radiator Springs Racers and Paradise Pier. For about a tenth of a mile we could see some of those in the last corral coming towards us - only about .4 miles into their race whereas we were 5.8 miles into ours! I saw the balloon ladies at the very end of the race.
After we crossed Disneyland Drive we went around the back of the Paradise Pier Hotel (and the Mile 6 sign), and then it was just .2 miles to the traditional finish line near the Disneyland Hotel. It was still dark!
I finished in 56:41, which is a new personal best 10K time for me. I was very happy with that. I was hoping to crack the top ten in my division, and I finished 8th! 10K is definitely my favorite distance.
The BB-8 medal is really cute. It spins!
I exited into the finish area and talked to Lisa (Hi Lisa!) for a while I waited for Lee to finish. Fortunately the volunteers had handed out mylar sheets at the finish (they sometimes don't do that for 10Ks), because it was still only 48 degrees and I was starting to get a little chilled.
There was a vendor selling Death Star balloons (that's what the balloon ladies had been carrying, too).
Once Lee finished we went over to the Annual Passholder tent. We showed our passes and they gave us an Annual Passholder string bag - it was nice for carrying our snack boxes and water bottles back to our room. There was a photo backdrop and a photographer there, too.
Another change in the course this year: in previous years the 10K has finished by going all the way through Downtown Disney. While it's been kind of thrilling to run by all of the cheering crowds, it's been a nightmare after the race when trying to get back to the hotels, because you have to cross the race course at least once, and usually more than once. This year we didn't have to do that, and it was much easier to get back to our hotel.
I really enjoyed this course - I think it's now my favorite of the Disney 10K courses. And not just because I ran it for a personal best. :-) With all of the Star Wars Land construction in Disneyland I expected that we might have less park time this year, but instead I'm not sure how they could have given us any more! While yes, we had a fair bit of time that was in not-so-exciting backstage areas, I still enjoyed being on property for the entire race.
There were 11,606 finishers this year as opposed to 8,994 last year, so quite a few more runners out there. Since I was at the front it was not congested for me, but I can't speak to how it might have been further back. Certainly the first mile of this course was narrower than the first mile of the former course, which was all on wide city streets, and that might have been an issue. If you ran the race and experienced congestion, please leave a comment and let me know how it was for you.
The characters...still not a strong point, especially compared to our experience at Disneyland Paris last year. (Over 10 character stops in a 5K!) For this 10K there were four character stops, plus a couple of unattended backdrops and "run bys" like the Storm Troopers and Jedi. I would still so LOVE to see the Disney characters in their Star Wars attire out on the course! In Florida there are character meet and greets in the pre/post-race area, and I'd like to see them do that in California, also. Though there were a couple of photo backdrops (with photographers) in that area - the Wampa cave and the trash compactor.
2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon
Sunday - January 15, Star Wars Half Marathon
We'd scheduled a wakeup call for 4:00 - but we never got it. Fortunately Lee is a "belt-and-suspenders" guy and had also set the alarm on his iPhone, so we were still up at 4:00.
Since we knew from the day before that security wasn't going to be an issue we didn't leave the room until 5:00. I was still in my corral my 5:17 - plenty of time. I was in C, Lee was in E, so we again ran separately...I wanted to try to stop for some character photos this time, so wanted to be further forward so the lines maybe wouldn't be quite as long.
Running costumes for us that morning, also - X-wing pilot for Lee, and Rey for me. The arm wraps were quite welcome since it was another cool morning. A little warmer than the day before - 50. I had a mylar sheet to wrap around me while I was waiting, and that was really all I needed. I had gloves, but I never actually put them on - finally just put them in my pocket. Again, it was just about perfect conditions for running a race.
While we were waiting for this race to start we saw scenes from Rogue One - A Star Wars Story. We saw that in December - good movie.
Again, not much of a "show" from the race announcers while we were waiting. But that's ok. The race started right on time. There were 5 minutes between corral releases, so my corral started 10 minutes after the official start.
The first four+ miles of the course were almost identical to the 10K the day before. But that was ok - since I wasn't running for time I was able to observe my surroundings a little more. I liked this sign backstage at DCA. :-)
The line at R2 and Threepio's character stop was long, but there was a short line for the Rebels at Paradise Pier.
One thing that I don't think I've mentioned in my blogs, which I should, is restroom stops in the parks. I always try to have some idea of what the race course is inside the parks so that I know where there restrooms next to the course. I only need to find one, but it's really nice to be able to use a REAL restroom instead of a porta-potty. This time I went to the large one between Ariel's and Grizzly River Run, but I would have had a lot of other options.
There was a set of Jedi performing a light saber training exercise in Hollywood Land.
And the speeder bikes were placed outside the Tower of Terror just before mile 2. Lengthy line for that, too.
When we ran through the tunnel under the bus area I noticed some new special effects - in addition to the Star Wars music that was playing there was the sound of lasers firing, and on the walls were red and green laser trace fire lines. Hard to see in this photo, but I thought it was a really neat effect!
We passed the mile 3 sign backstage at Disneyland, and then entered the park back at Toon Town, then ran by "it's a small world". It's nice that Disney leaves it in holiday mode through this race weekend. It's decorated for Avengers weekend in November and for Star Wars weekend in January.
There was a Storm Troopers character stop along "small world way" before we turned left to go around the Matterhorn.
There were more Storm Troopers on the ramp of the Launch Bay. The BB-8 photo stop was near Star Tours. The line wasn't too long so I stopped.
We again ran back towards Fantasyland. Kylo Ren was engaged in a light saber battle with some Jedi near Pixie Hollow. (Five against one doesn't seem exactly fair, though, does it? There should be at least ten Jedi.)
From Fantasyland we ran through the castle, but instead of taking the loop out through Frontierland and Adventureland like we did for the 10K we went straight down Main Street.
Two of the horses were out and posing for photos. They seemed to like the runners - the one on my left nuzzled me lightly on the shoulder. Such beautiful gentle giants!
The Mile 4 sign was along Main Street, and Chewbacca's photo stop was in the same location as the 10K - next to the Disney Showcase store. Longish line, so I didn't stop. While this was "The Light Side" half marathon, there were a few Dark Siders who showed up to spoil the party. I already mentioned the Storm Troopers and Kylo Ren, but Captain Phasma was also there, on the bridge next to the train station.
After we ran out through Disneyland's main entrance we went through the east tram area and out to Harbor Blvd - the rest of the course was outside the parks. But about 4.5 miles in the parks is a pretty good - better than some of the other race courses.
On the other side of Harbor I could see some of the early runners who were already returning. The winner had already gone by, but I saw some of the higher finishing men as well as the female winner.
By mile six it was starting to get more light out as the sun came out. There were a few clouds with color, but it was a fairly clear morning.
The course took us down Harbor Blvd into the city of Garden Grove, where we turned right on Garden Grove Blvd. There were a number of bands and cheerleaders who had come out to cheer us on. And we even had a feline cheerleader! This cat was not at all bothered about being in a harness and watching all of these crazy runners go by him. I'm guessing he has some Dark Side leanings. :-)
One of my favorite things about this course is that it crosses Newhope Street. How appropriate for a Star Wars-themed race! That's after the halfway point - about mile 7.5, and just before we turn north to go back towards the finish.
But my favorite thing about this course is around mile 8 and mile 9 - the two areas where there are Cosplayers who come dressed in their Star Wars costumes to cheer us on. They are so amazing! They love having their photo taken with runners, and there's usually no line to do that. I can't say enough about their wonderful enthusiasm and support. Their placement on the course is really good, because it's when runners are getting tired, but still have a ways to go to the finish. They really help give us an extra boost to keep us going as we get a lift out of all of their energy.
There are lots of heroes:
And even cars and droids!
Lee found his fellow X-wing squadron pilots.
This video shows most of both sets - as you can see there was really an extensive variety of costumes from all of the different movies.
After the excitement of the cosplayers, mile 9-10 of the course is pretty quiet. It's largely in a residential neighborhood, so in the interest of keeping the noise down early on a Sunday morning there are no bands or other entertainment. Though there are residents and groups, like my friends Colin and Richard, who come out to cheer on the runners in that area, and it is greatly appreciated.
Just before mile 10 the course goes right on Chapman Avenue for about a mile. There's a lovely pond there, and it always has nice reflections in the morning. Thanks to all of the recent rain the water level was higher than normal, and on this race morning there were lots of ducks enjoying the pond.
My legs were a little tired after my hard run the day before, but I'd managed to mostly stick to my usual run/walk pace. But by about mile 10.5 I started to feel it and had to slow down a little more. I was very happy when we turned left onto Harbor Blvd since I knew I had just about 2 miles left. I could see runners at the back of the pack still coming towards us. It was just before mile 12 that I saw the balloon ladies.
The last mile of the course took us down Katella to Disneyland Drive, and then around the Paradise Pier Hotel to the finish line at the Disneyland Hotel. I finished in JUST under 2:22 - 2:21:59 to be exact. :-) Considering photo stops, a restroom stop, and tired legs I was VERY happy with that.
I got my race medal - it's a spinner with Han and Leia (awwww) on one side and the Medal of Yavin on the other. And my Rebel Challenge medal. That's a new design this year. I'm not really sure I like it.
I didn't talk about the runDisney snack box after the 10K...we received the same assortment after the half. It had a slightly different variety than what I've seen before. The best part is that it has a small container of Nutella!!!! Yum. I guess I'm resigned to the fact that it's what we're going to get after any Disney race from now on. Most of it is stuff I'll eat except the Builder Bar - yuck.
In the finish area there was a Nesquik van, and they were handing out chocolate milk! Yay!!! Or "Protein Enhanced Milk Beverage", as they called it. There was a choice of chocolate or vanilla. I didn't hear anyone ask for vanilla.
The "trash compactor" photo backdrop had a short line, so I had my photo taken there.
Lee was still somewhere behind me (though it turned out he was closer than I thought - apparently he was flying down the course!), so I walked back to the room before I started to get cold. The sun was out, and it was slightly warmer than it had been for the 10K, but still. I was ready to get back and take a hot shower! Lee also had a good race - took it easy and stopped for some photos.
I still really love this race weekend - it's definitely my favorite of the Disney race weekends. And I think this half marathon course has now overtaken the Tinker Bell course as my favorite half marathon course. The roads are nice and wide so it doesn't feel crowded. The course is mostly flat, also. A few slight inclines - the only hill is the tunnel under the tram area. No overpasses!
The race medals are always a highlight. The BB-8 medal is really cute, and I really liked the re-design of the half marathon medal.
I still wish there were more characters on the course...or in the finish area.
I was surprised that the half marathon and 10K didn't sell out this year. There were about 15,000-16,000 entered in the half, and 12,434 finishers. This is a PERFECT time for running in southern California. I don't want to jinx it, but in the five years that runDisney has held a race weekend at Disneyland in January, we've always had great weather for running.
We will be back for this race weekend next year.
Good luck to all of you running Dark Side in April to complete the Kessel Run Challenge! We will not be there this year.
2017 Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure
In 2017, Disneyland has expanded the Lunar New Year Celebration to 17 days, from January 20 - February 5. This year celebrates the Year of the Rooster. All events take place at Disney California Adventure. I attended a media preview on January 19.
A map in the area shows the locations of the different events.
There are special Lunar New Year-inspired food items available at more locations this year. The Paradise Garden Grill has a special seasonal menu during the celebration, with selections like stir-fried vegetables and noodles, grilled short ribs with kimchi, pho, cassava-coconut cake, and almond milk tea.
Three marketplace booths offer items inspired by Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisine. These include sugar cane shrimp skewers, kimchi vegetable fried rice, turnip cake and pork soup dumplings, and sweet items such as sweet rice and dried fruit cake, egg tart, and a sweet potato macaron. Various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.
A special glow cube shaped like a lotus blossom is available for $5, either by itself or in a specialty beverage.
During the preview I sampled several of the food items and one of the beverage offerings. My favorite by far was the Vegetable Japchae, which is available at Paradise Garden Grill. Sweet potato noodles with vegetables and tofu, with a sesame oil sauce and toasted sesame seeds. It was really good.
The Banh chung - sticky rice cake with pork - from the Vietnam booth was also really good. It was wrapped in some kind of leaf.
I thought the Yachae Mandu - steamed vegetable dumplings from Korea, had a nice flavor, but they were a little too spicy for me.
I was intrigued by the Xiao Long Bao - pork soup dumplings - from the China booth. They actually have liquid inside! But I thought they were just ok. They needed a sauce, but I didn't care for the black vinegar-ginger sauce that came with them.
There are a couple of places near us that serve Luo Bo Gao - turnip cake - and we really like it. This one, from the China booth, is topped with pork sausage and oyster sauce. When I've had it before it's topped with egg. The oyster sauce made it taste fishy to me, and the turnip cake by itself was a bit bland (not surprisingly).
I also tried the Passion Fruit Green Iced Tea with popping pearls. I don't have a photo of it. I didn't really think it tasted like passion fruit - mostly it just tasted sweet. But I enjoyed it - the pearls are always an interesting sensation.
Other samples that were available that I didn't try were the Beef Pho Noodle Soup:
And the Kalbi Beef Short Ribs. Both available at Paradise Garden Grill.
One of the other entrees available at Paradise Garden Grill is the Whole Fish Served Family Style. It looks a little intimidating: it's a whole tilapia, deep fried and served with soup, vegetables, and rice. Served after 5:00. It's $24.99 and will easily feed two or more people. Very traditional dish, but very non-traditional by Disney standards!
Chef John State was part of a panel discussion we saw later, and spoke about how they developed the Festival food offerings by speaking with cast members and diversity groups, and looking at authentic family recipes. They explored flavors and textures. He was especially proud of how they are serving the whole fish dish out of a counter-service restaurant kitchen, when it's really something expect from a full-service restaurant.
Most Lunar New Year activities take place in the Paradise Pier area. In front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure guests can get their face painted.
They can also decorate a paper lantern.
In Paradise Gardens local artisans will craft a custom Chinese calligraphy for guests. The one on the left is my name, and the one on the right has the symbol for the Year of the Rooster on top, and good wishes for the new year below it.
Next to Goofy's Sky School is the Lucky Wishing Wall, where guests can add their own wish for the coming year.
For Annual Passholders, the AP Corner between Paradise Garden Grill and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta offers a special photo opportunity, a wishing well, and an AP Adventure.
Lunar New Year merchandise is available at Seaside Souvenirs and carts in the area. I thought the t-shirt was very nicely designed.
A number of entertainment offerings are also available throughout the day.
A special character greeting area is available in Paradise Gardens, where Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Mulan, and Mushu, dressed in Lunar New Year costumes, will pose for photos with guests.
The Paradise Garden Bandstand will host performances by several different Asian musicians during the celebration, including classical guitarist Dat Nguyen and Jie Ma, who plays the Chinese pipa instrument.
At the Paradise Bay stage the Acrobats of China perform multiple times each day, engaging in gravity-defying acts of athleticism. They were not performing at the preview.
Mulan's New Year Procession is hosted by Mulan and Mushu who lead a number of performers to the music from the "Mulan" movie. This offering is scheduled twice a day on weekends, once per day on weekdays. I really enjoyed this, but I'm quite surprised that there are so few performances, as compared to Viva Navidad! or Elena's Grand Welcome.
The ideal viewing area for Mulan's New Year Procession is a pretty narrow area between Jumping Jellyfish and the entrance to Paradise Gardens - a very limited number of guests will have a really good view of it.
My favorite part was the dragon dancers.
But the fan, parasol, and ribbon dancers were quite beautiful.
And the martial artists (who performed to "I'll Make a Man Out of You") were fun to watch.
Each night, a special 6-minute pre-show will precede each performance of World of Color. Hurry Home features Mulan, Mushu, and a little lantern who is making its way home to celebrate the new year with family. This is an original story with all new animation in two different styles as well as the water fountains and special lighting effects. The accompanying music was originally created for the opening ceremony of Shanghai Disney Resort by Tan Dun.
Show Producer Jennifer Magill spoke to us about the new production. There are three different sequences, illustrating elements of the Lunar New Year celebration. In the first, the little lantern plays and has fun with Mushu, animated in a paper animation style.
The second part features the food. The lantern dreams of rice, dumplings, and other foods - and is pursued by mischievous chopsticks.
The third sequence focuses on the New Year tradition of reflecting back and looking forward. It features Mulan, and Lea Salonga recorded a new version of "Reflection" for it.
Eventually the lantern makes it home and is welcomed by family.
The end of the show featured actual fireworks - I was surprised to see that. But as Ms. Magill said - you can't have a New Year celebration without fireworks!
It was a very sweet story, and I enjoyed it. You can see the video below.
I was very impressed by all of the different offerings available during the celebration. There are quite a few different things to do, and it would be easy to spend a good portion of a park visit enjoying all of the different entertainment and some of the food.
* I was an invited Media guest to a preview of the Lunar New Year Celebration. My opinions are my own.