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April 4, 2015

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

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Lee and I hadn't been to Disneyland in a while to just walk around and enjoy the parks. I wanted to do the Egg-stravaganza (which we missed last year) so we went on Sunday morning. I wrote a separate blog on the Egg-stravaganza, which you can read HERE.

For whatever reason, Disney has been forcing those who come from the south to park in the Toy Story lot, even if we try to go to Mickey and Friends. There are ways around it, but rather than fight it, I just drove straight to the Toy Story lot this time. It's not as busy or as big, so it's faster to get parked and walk to the bus stop, but it takes longer to ride the bus to the parks because the route is on the regular streets with traffic and stop lights and pedestrians. The Mickey and Friends tram route is on a private road. Still, all things considered, it's probably a wash as to which one allows you to get to the parks quicker. My main objection to Toy Story is that it's a regular open parking lot, so the car sits out in the sun all day. In the parking garage it's more than likely going to be in the shade.

Anyway...we arrived at the parks about 9:30 and went straight to Disneyland, since it was going to be more crowded as the day went on. It was a really lovely day in Anaheim! I know those of you on the east coast probably don't want to hear this, but we have had an unseasonably warm March in southern California - with temperatures in the 90s on multiple days. Including just a few days ago. The forecast called for it to be 84 in Anaheim on Sunday, but I don't think it got above 78 while we were there. It was really a great day to be there.

A lot of work has been done on Sleeping Beauty Castle to prepare it for the upcoming Diamond Anniversary celebration, and it looks very pretty - very sparkly when you look at it from the right angle.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

In Fantasyland I noticed that the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique has the new Cinderella dress in the window. Very pretty. Though I didn't see any little girls wearing that dress on Sunday - still LOTS of Elsas and a few Annas.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

We had not been to Storybook Land since scenes from "Frozen" were added to it late last year. We rode in the caboose of Casey Jr. Circus Train - I hadn't been in that car before. We were facing backward, so that gave us a slightly different perspective! We didn't have as good a view of the new scenes as we would have if we'd been on the water on the Storybook Land Canal Boats, but we still got a look at the town of Arendelle.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

One our way into the park we'd gotten a Fastpass for Star Tours so we rode that. The line got stopped for a while when we were near the wise-cracking droid with the infrared scanner. It was really interesting since he detected that the line wasn't moving and made appropriate comments about that!

Once we boarded our Star Speeder I was all set to go to Hoth again, because we ALWAYS get Hoth, but we went pod racing this time! I think that's my favorite. The sequence that we almost never get is Kashykk. We had that one the very first time we rode it, and only once or twice since then. I know this version of Star Tours is several years old now, but it's still a great ride!

I'd read that Innoventions will be closing soon (though Disneyland still doesn't have it listed on their refurbishment calendar), so I asked a cast member there, who told me that yes, March 31 is the final day, and as of April 1 it will be closed for about 8 months. No information on what will be done, though. I'd like to see something Marvel-related go in there. In the meantime I hope they will find an alternate meet and greet location for Captain America and Thor!

The Tomorrowland Theater will be featuring a sneak peek of the new Tomorrowland movie - looks like that will open around April 10 and run through May 22 when the movie opens in theaters.

The construction walls were still up at Critter Country, but it will have re-opened by the time you read this, except for the Hungry Bear Restaurant, which doesn't open until April 3.

It's spring, and that always means baby ducks at Disneyland! We spotted a mama and her ducklings in the water along the path to Big Thunder Ranch.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

It's time for the Springtime Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. Jason did a pretty comprehensive blog on this, which you can read HERE. But Lee and I still popped in to take a look for ourselves.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

There were two baby goats in the petting corral - they were getting lots of attention, and were pretty unfazed by it.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Jessie was even taking a peek at the activities in the corral!

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Back in the Jamboree area the Puyallup High School Symphony Band was performing on-stage. They were on their last number when we arrived - didn't recognize the piece, but they were pretty good. They had a good-sized audience.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

The egg painters had still been hard at work.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

There were several character greeting areas set up, though only Rabbit (from Winnie-the-Pooh) and the Easter Bunny were out. This is still a great area if you want to see the characters. The lines weren't long at all, and the characters spend a lot of time with guests.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Pluto came out a little later. Love the bunny ears. :-)

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

It would have been fun to buy one of the cookie decorating kits and decorate a cookie, but it was lunchtime and we were hungry.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

We had lunch at Rancho del Zocalo. Several Disneyland locations have special food offerings right now. Zocalo has a Street Taco special, with chicken, beef, and carnitas tacos, along with rice and beans. I ordered that, though I gave Lee the beef taco. The carnitas and chicken tacos were good, though there was too much of the green stuff on top - I think it was jalapeno, but it was too strong for me, so I scraped most of it off.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Lee ordered his favorite Carne Asada and Cheese Enchilada plate. The carne asada is normally medium rare, but they sliced it and cooked it a little longer for him, and he said it was really good. He also liked my beef taco. (I had some of his cheese enchilada.)

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

While we were eating, Lee noticed one of the Disneyland cats asleep on the roof. :-) I have just recently discovered that the Cats of Disneyland have their own Facebook page. It's fairly entertaining, with posts like: "I'm working on figuring out how to climb the new mini-towers in front of the castle in a single bound" and: "I wonder if the ASIMO robot has a new gig lined up now that Innoventions is closing. He could be my butler..."

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Though we didn't try these, here are two of the other limited time foods available at Disneyland:

Linguica and Pineapple skewer from Bengal Barbecue

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Cookies and Cream Funnel Cake from Stage Door Cafe

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

After lunch we went over to Disney California Adventure. Frozen Fun is still going strong in Hollywood. There was still a line to go into Olaf's Snow Fest, and there was a 70-minute wait to meet Olaf! Olaf's Snow Fest ends on April 30 and Freeze the Night ends on May 15, but the "Frozen" singalong and the Anna and Elsa Meet and Greet have been extended, at least through the summer.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

We wandered through the Off the Page shop next to the Animation Building. This ornament made me laugh. "Rat, schmat!" :-)

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Luigi's Flying Tires is closed, but there were cast members in front of the entrance who had a bean bag toss game set up. They were encouraging guests to play. There didn't seem to be any kind of prize, though.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

DCA was not as busy as Disneyland. The standby line for Radiator Springs Racers was less than an hour. We rode it using the single rider line, and were on in less than 5 minutes - neither of us won our race, though. Oh well. The landscaping in Ornament Valley is really well-done - and at this time a year a lot of it is blooming, like this cactus.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland


The Cove Bar was busy; even at 1:30 in the afternoon there were people waiting to get in. This area used to be pretty dead, but not any more.

But we went to the Sonoma Terrace and Lee ordered a beer. While we were sitting there it occurred to me how much I miss the Food and Wine Festival. The terrace was one of the areas they used for wine tastings and other events. I was really hoping that after all the major construction was done that Disney would bring it back...

The Al Fresco Tasting Terrace is somewhat Food and Wine'ish, but it still doesn't open until 2:00 - and there was a line of people waiting for it to open. We didn't go up there this time, though.

Before we left the park we wandered over to Smokejumpers Grill. With the construction wall still up, it's like the end of the world there! Soarin' over California is due to re-open on May 15, so the walls should be coming down sometime before that.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

Jason wrote a blog with lots of photos on Smokejumpers Grill so I'm not going to talk about it here. The menu is pretty much the same as the old Taste Pilot's Grill menu - burgers, a salad, and a chicken sandwich. No more ribs, though. We didn't eat here, so I can't offer any opinion on the food. They have a veggie burger (in addition to the chicken sandwich), so maybe I'll try it sometime.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

There are some pretty odd photos inside...this does not look like a comfortable sleeping position to me - I wondered if these are firemen who are just trying to catch a little sleep in any way they can.

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

We made our way back to the Toy Story lot after that and headed home. We had an excellent day even if it seems like we didn't do very much. Considering how nice the weather was and that it's Spring Break I was surprised the parks weren't more crowded, but it was great for us.



September 10, 2013

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013 - The Rest of the Weekend

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Believe it or not, we did things OTHER than run for the three+ days we were in Anaheim over Labor Day weekend. :-) Here's some highlights.

We stayed at the DVC Villas at the Grand Californian. At first I wasn't too thrilled with our room location...here's a view from outside the elevator lobby of the DVC wing. See the door that's just past the lobby? That was our door. I was concerned that it would be noisy, being so close to the elevator, but we never heard any noise from the hallway. It was on the ground floor, so we didn't have a view, but it was ok, and it was VERY convenient to not have to take the elevator to get to our room.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

The Grand Cal's entrance to DCA is very convenient - we entered that way even when going to Disneyland because it was shorter than going out through Downtown Disney. Be aware that before 11:00 or so this entrance is for the exclusive use of Disneyland Resort hotel guests, and you must present a valid room key from one of the three hotels in order to enter. We saw them turning people away on Saturday morning.

We spent some time enjoying attractions in the parks on Saturday after the 10K and on Monday morning.

It was very warm, so on Saturday morning we went on several rides that had mostly indoor queues! Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye underwent a refurb earlier this year - we hadn't been on it since it re-opened. There's some new lighting effects, especially in the first room with the face of Mara (which of course you aren't supposed to look at!). But we noticed different lighting in other places, too, like on the snake heads and the skeletons. We also went on Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters. Over in DCA we saw the Aladdin show, which featured one of the funniest Genies I've ever seen - lots of zingers including a mention of Miley Cyrus and twerking.

That evening we went back to DCA for dinner and then walked onto Voyage of the Little Mermaid and had a very short wait for Luigi's Flying Tires. I wasn't very impressed with the flying tires the first time I tried it, but it takes a little practice to learn how to fly the tires, and after that it's a lot more fun. We try to find some clear space where we can get a pretty good run going and bounce off the walls. :-) We saw a beautiful sunset over Radiator Springs.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

We met a few of our fellow Team AllEars members back at the Mad T Party - that version of Wonderland looked a lot different from the one we had run through that morning! :-) In addition to the band we saw a dance group and the aerialists. But we didn't stay late since we had to get up and run the half marathon the next day!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Sunday night after dinner we saw World of Color. We didn't have Fastpasses for it so we watched it from the area under Silly Symphony Swings. You can't see much of the projections from there, but it's a very interesting perspective of the fountains. You get a much better look at everything that they can do and how the lighting works. And it got REALLY hot when they turned on the flame fountains!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Monday morning we went to DCA for Magic Morning and rode Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania (which we WALKED onto), and California Screamin'. Then we went over to Disneyland with our teammate Eddie and his daughter, because I wanted to get a photo of us riding Dumbo wearing our Dumbo medals. We also went on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the Carrousel, made a wish at Snow White's Wishing Well, had breakfast at River Belle Terrace, and sailed on the Jungle Cruise - all by 10:10 in the morning!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

For Limited Time Magic the only thing we experienced was the special caramel apple that is being offered in September...and it really WAS special! An apple dipped in caramel and then covered with crushed English toffee and drizzled with chocolate. Oh. My. It was sooooo good! Even Lee really liked it, and he's not really into sweet things. They are available at Trolley Treats, the Candy Palace, and Marceline's. I wish I'd gotten another one - you can be assured that I will be getting one on my next trip! I hope they will keep this one around. Or maybe I hope that they don't so I won't be tempted!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

And a mini food blog...

Friday evening we ate at Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel. I had the Crispy Tofu Salad, which I really like except for all of the red and green peppers, which I pulled out and gave to Lee. The tofu is coated with panko and fried - it actually had more of the consistency of fried mozzarella, and it was really, really good.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee had the Kahlua Pork Flatbread, and enjoyed that.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Saturday morning after we'd raced and showered we walked over to Disneyland and had breakfast at River Belle Terrace. It's a buffeteria and not table service, but I think they do a nice breakfast there. We sat outside, which is usually a nice setting close to the Rivers of America, but it was a little bit steamy that morning. Speaking of steamy...I had the Steamboat - three pancakes, scrambled eggs, and choice of sausage or bacon. It was more than I could eat - Lee ate most of my pancakes.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee had the Mark Twain - scrambled eggs, potatoes, biscuit, and choice of bacon or sausage. He said the potatoes were especially good. (We went back to River Belle on Monday morning and we both had the Mark Twain - I don't like the peppers in the potatoes, but I'd rather have the biscuit than the pancakes.)

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Our usual dinner spot the night before a Disneyland race is Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, and we didn't see any reason to change that. It wasn't as busy as it often is before a race, though we still had to wait a short time for our food. We both had our favorite Four Cheese Ravioli with pesto sauce. I brought my own bread, since they don't serve it there.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

After the race on Sunday went to Storyteller's Cafe at the Grand Californian for the breakfast buffet, as we usually do. It's always very busy on race morning, but it was really slammed and way, way overbooked on Sunday. I had a reservation and we STILL waited over 40 minutes to be seated! The buffet line was also very long - you really didn't want to go through it more than once. It's a character meal - Kenai and Meeko came to see us, but Chip and Brer Fox completely bypassed us. It was not a very good experience, especially given the cost, so this is probably the last time we'll do that.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Sunday evening we had dinner with our friends Mike and Joelle at Napa Rose. As an appetizer we split the Signature Pizzetta, which was basically a Margherita pizza (really good).

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee and Joelle split the Truffled Mac and Cheese. I had a bite - it was very rich, and they enjoyed it.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Mike and Joelle are vegetarian, and they each received a Vegetable Stack, customized with the types of veggies that they liked. They said it was very good.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

I had the Dove Breast, which was good, though I think the accompanying vegetables were my favorite part.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee ordered the Short Ribs, which he said were tender and delicious.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

We were a little too full for dessert, but they brought us three scoops of the Honey Peach Sorbet to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I would have called this ice cream and not sorbet, but it was very good, especially the marinated chopped peaches that came with it. It was a very nice dinner with wonderful dining companions and an excellent server.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Looking back I'd have to say the highlight of my food experiences for the weekend was the English Toffee Caramel Apple. :-)

And that does it for our Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. We came, we ate, we ran - not necessarily in that order. Thanks for reading!

July 30, 2013

Let Disneyland Entertain You!

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I think a lot of people go to Disneyland for the rides and the attractions, and never realize all of the entertainment options that are also available! Lee and I, along with Jason (disneygeek) spent a summer day at Disneyland recently where instead of running from attraction to attraction, we went from live show to live show, and managed to fill an entire day. And we had a great time.

Upon arriving in Disneyland's Town Square, Lee and I immediately caught the end of one of the Dapper Dans' shows. It was the week of the Limited Time Magic offering "Dapper Dans Sing Boy Bands". We had happened to be in Florida when they did it earlier this year, and saw it there - it was fun to see it on the west coast this time. It was the same medley, but the California Dans are a little younger than the Florida Dans. :-) You can tell they have great fun doing it.

It was lunchtime, so we stopped in at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. I ordered the Jolly Holiday Salad - Blend of Lettuce, with Spiced Pecans, Feta, Red & Yellow Tomatoes and Craisins Dried Cranberries. Served with Raspberry Vinaigrette. It came with an asiago cheese breadstick. Really a nice salad, and I enjoyed it.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Lee tried the Hot Angus Roast Beef Sandwich on Toasted Onion Roll - Caramelized Onions, Horseradish Aioli and White Cheddar. He said it was very good with a lot of roast beef. And those kettle-style potato chips are evilly good.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Lee hadn't actually been to Fantasy Faire, and there was a show about to start in the Royal Theater. The seats were full, but for this one I think the viewing is better if you stand at the back. Jason caught up with us there and we saw a performance of Tangled, which was a lot of fun. There are some pretty funny throwaway lines. It stars those medieval vaudevillians Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones, playing a multitude of roles, as well as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider portraying themselves. And let's not forget Sir Samuel on the piano!

Let Disneyland Entertain You

And they all lived "happily ever after at the end" - well, except Mother Gothel.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

As I said, Lee hadn't been to Fantasy Faire, so we took a little time to watch Figaro and the bird, and to play with Clopin's Music Box. (Though I really wonder how many guests have no idea what that is, since they have never seen Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame.)

Let Disneyland Entertain You

I hadn't noticed the familiar figures in the crowd background, like Belle and the transformed Beast, Smee, Gaston, Peter Pan, Gepetto, Alice, Sneezy...

Let Disneyland Entertain You

It was a very nice afternoon at Disneyland - not too hot, and really not very crowded. We had some time until our next "entertainment" event so we wandered around a little, and watched the climbers on the Matterhorn.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

We saw the Dapper Dans perform a full set and then hot-footed it over to the Fantasyland Theatre to see Mickey and the Magical Map, which Lee had not yet seen. I was surprised that the theater wasn't more full - we arrived about 5 minutes before show time and walked right in and had good seats in the center section, about 2/3 up. So the moral of the story is: don't give up on seeing the show even if you arrive at the theater very close to show time.

It's a good show, but when I first saw it I was disappointed because even though most of the music is from less mainstream Disney movies, it still seemed all too familiar to me. It finally occurred to me that it's because some of the more unusual selections (like Hawaiian Roller Coaster from Lilo and Stitch, I Wanna Be Like You from the Jungle Book, and Reflection from Mulan) are featured in the Disney Wishes show on the Fantasy, which I had seen recently. I'm sure the majority of guests don't have that "problem". :-)

The huge map is really interesting to watch, and having a live trumpet player on-stage during "I Wanna Be Like You" is a great touch.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Once the show ended it was time to rush over to The Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree to watch the Disneyland All-American College Band. We missed the beginning of their set, but saw most of it. These kids are SO talented!

Let Disneyland Entertain You

The Jamboree area is pretty quiet, and it's a great place to go to relax a a little bit. In addition to the College Band, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies and Woody's All-American Round-up also perform there throughout the day. Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie and Chip and Dale are there, and often have a lot of time to interact with guests - we've seen them coloring with the kids, and this time watched Mickey play peek-a-boo with a baby.

And Dale was looking for someone. :-)

Let Disneyland Entertain You

We had some time before the next show we were going to attend, and were ready for a snack. Lee and I had chicken, beef, and veggie skewers from Bengal BBQ, and Jason got a hamburger from Village Haus.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

They had opened up the seating area at Aladdin's Oasis (between the Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise), so we met and ate there. That was another uncrowded and peaceful area!

Let Disneyland Entertain You

In New Orleans Square we listened to the Jambalaya Jazz Band. We're always amazed at how many people will walk up to live performers, take a photo, and then immediately walk away. What's the point of taking a photo of something you didn't even experience?

Let Disneyland Entertain You

These guys have obviously seen it all, and they were having fun playing their music and calling out to the passing guests wearing birthday buttons, and throwing beads to some of the guests - mostly kids, but I got a set for the first time ever.

As we walked, a group of (female) cast members caught Lee's attention - but it was because they were all wearing a different Disney-themed tie! Everything from classic Mickey head to Pooh characters, to Mickey Mariachi and even a Haunted Mansion theme.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

The All-American College Band performs their third set each day in front of the castle. There's a lot of choreography and it's really fun to watch. Below is their Disney movie medley performance.

We had a break in the Disneyland entertainment schedule so we made a quick trip over to DCA. It was too late for the shows on Buena Vista Street as well as Dancin' With Disney, but we had a nice wander through the park. The Golden Zephyr was running for a change, and it was a walk-on, so we did that. There's a nice view of Cars Land from there.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

At the Paradise Garden Bandstand we caught the tail end of a performance by Sligo Rags, a Celtic music group.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

At Paradise Garden Grill, one of the Greek weekend items is still available.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

We found some Lone Ranger merchandise - Lee tried on the Tonto hat. :-)

Let Disneyland Entertain You

There was a very scenic moonrise over the Cadillac Range - you can see it in the "v" of the middle fin.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Back in Hollywood there's a Monsters University Meet and Greet area - I liked this lettermen's jacket hanging on the dorm balcony.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

The Mad T Party had already started, and we saw the aerialists.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Here's a video Jason took of them a few weeks ago:

The last "entertainment" event for Lee and me was the College Band's final set, where they perform on the street and the steps in front of the Main Street train station. This year they are performing a Michael Jackson medley:

Jason headed back to DCA, while Lee and I went for dinner at Rancho del Zocalo. I had the Citrus Fire-Grilled Chicken, though I requested shredded lettuce with mine instead of rice and beans (they asked if I wanted sauteed vegetables instead). The chicken was very tasty and not dry.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Lee ordered the Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada Platter - he opted for the sauteed vegetables with his and enjoyed everything.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

As you can see, we managed to fill our time very nicely JUST with live entertainment - and we didn't have a lot of to kill in between the various acts.

Jason continued with his park day after we left, so here's the rest of his day...

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The neon coming on in Cars Land.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Luigi's sign

Let Disneyland Entertain You

DJ rolling out for his Dance Party.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Walked back through the Mad T Party as the band was performing.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

A random Cars Land picture as I was heading to World of Color

Let Disneyland Entertain You

World of Color

Let Disneyland Entertain You

Made it to Main Street just as the music was coming up and lights out for Magical.

Let Disneyland Entertain You
Let Disneyland Entertain You

A group of cast members standing in the middle of the tram stop waving to trams.

Let Disneyland Entertain You

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, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

September 14, 2011

Touring Disney Parks with a Baby

Guest blogger Becky Breiland of the Mousetalgia podcast (www.mousetalgia.com) shares her experiences at Disneyland and Walt Disney World as a new mom.

Whenever I told people that we were headed to a Disney park with a 3-month-old in tow, they looked at me like I was crazy. During our first hour at the Magic Kingdom, I was almost convinced that all the naysayers were right. We made it to the hub (coming from our room at the Contemporary) before the precious girl decided it was time to eat. I sat down on a bench to feed her. About 5 minutes later a very loud street show began, resulting in a screaming, frightened child. Minutes later, a diaper issue of epic proportions presented itself. Not having figured out where the closest bathroom was, and not knowing how close we were to the Baby Care Center, I decided to just change her in the stroller while she continued to scream because of all the noise. By the end of all this, we were all exhausted and sweaty.

I'm happy to report that this is where the difficulty ended. The rest of the trip was an absolute breeze (for the most part). In fact, I'm almost convinced that 3 months might be the easiest age to take a child to a Disney Park. At 3 months, they still sleep anywhere, don't ask for souvenirs, and feeding them is pretty simple. We've taken our daughter to Disney World at 3 months old, and Disneyland at 5 months and 7 months old. So what's the secret to staying happy with an infant in tow?

First off, consider the wonders of Disneyland over Disney World. While I love both resorts, I tend to be more charmed by Disneyland. This is especially true when carrying an infant around the parks. The size of Disneyland is much more manageable than what I found Disney World to be. We could walk to both parks from our hotel, and were never more than 15 minutes away from the peace and quiet of our hotel room. This was a huge advantage over the sometimes 30-40 minute commute from the parks to a hotel room at the World, depending on what park we had chosen to visit.

I credit a large part of our happiness in touring the parks with an infant to a good baby carrier. It quickly became clear that viewing the parks from a stroller was very overwhelming for our little one. Baby wearing has become quite trendy in the last few years, and is also very practical. The basic idea is that the baby is strapped to the adult, using any number of products, allowing baby to feel close and secure, and giving the wearer two free hands and a ton of mobility. Once I put our child in the carrier, she could not have been happier. During our first two trips, we used the Baby Bjorn Active, and have now graduated to the Ergo Performance Carrier. Both have been excellent. Our baby absolutely loves going to the parks because it means that she gets to hang out close to mom all day and there are always people to look at. Additionally, she'll sleep in both carriers. We have continued to tour the parks while she slept because we could still visit the shows and attractions. I love that there is no stroller to park or retrieve, and crowds are not nearly as overwhelming because she is kept close to me. When our Mouseketeer was three months old, I ate almost every dinner of our 14 day trip with her asleep in the baby carrier. It was very convenient.

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While our baby does sleep well in the carriers, the importance of an afternoon nap should not be overlooked. Many people have sung the praises of the afternoon nap. This is not only important for baby, it is also important for mom. While I tend to be a napper at the parks, even without the baby, this 1-2 hour break (minimum) from carrying her around and time to relax was a necessity. Our daughter also seems to enjoy the time to spread out and she needed the quiet, climate controlled room at the hotel.

This brings me to my next point, a little more space may be worth a few extra dollars out of your pocket. I really enjoy having a couch in the hotel room. It provides an additional place to nurse and is a great makeshift changing table (we always travel with changing mats to put over the couch). We also find that everyone sleeps better if the portable crib can be placed further away. A good night's sleep helps to make a more enjoyable vacation and so I'm willing to pay a little more to make sure that happens.

Finally, use the Baby Care Centers. I found the Baby Care Centers, especially in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, to be extremely nice. The Baby Care Centers (in all 6 U.S. Parks) provide a place for moms to nurse, high chairs, large changing tables, places to rinse cloth diapers, and small toilets for potty training kids. They also sell a variety of baby items from food to diapers. Disneyland's Baby Care Center is located on the right side of Main Street (when facing the castle), just before you get to the Plaza Pavilion. Disney California Adventure's Baby Care Center is a little more out of the way, at the "back" of the park near to what has been Mission Tortilla Factory. I have no problem nursing in public. However, the air-conditioned quiet of the Baby Care Centers always breathes new life into both me and my baby. Because of the size of Disneyland and the location of the center, it gets my vote for best Baby Care Center in the U.S. Parks. It is completely worth the extra five minute walk it may take you to get there. I've been offered glasses of water by the friendly attendants, and they always coo over my child. Anything I could possibly need I can find there, and my daughter really appreciated the softer changing tables that they provide.

All in all, these trips have been a blast. I love that my daughter laughs out loud on Pirates of the Caribbean, and that the minute Minnie shows up she wants to eat her nose. While visiting the Disney Parks with an infant may be different, it is still special and worth doing. I'm glad I didn't let other people's intimidation stand in my way.

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About the author: Becky Breiland has been traveling to Walt Disney World and Disneyland since she was three. One of her fondest memories is getting Mickey Waffles for breakfast on those early Disney trips. Becky, her husband, and two friends comprise the Mousetalgia.com podcasting team. Mousetalgia is a show dedicated to the exploration of Disney's past, present and future, emphasizing the theme park culture and the people who have imagined Walt's happy place into existence. Go "Carpe Kingdom!"


August 8, 2011

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

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I visited Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on Friday, August 5, and thought I'd share some photos and various observations from my visit.

Star Tours continues to be the hot Fastpass ticket (no real surprise there!). I got a Fastpass ticket at 8:15 a.m. which had a 10:30-11:30 return. At 11:20 when I exited the ride the return time was 11:20 P.M.! Though at least there were still Fastpasses left - but I'm sure they were gone within the next 15 minutes. This time on Star Tours I *finally* saw a character other than Leia - it was Admiral Ackbar. (When the rebel spy turned out to be male and not female I was sure I'd get someone different!) In five different tours I've been to all the various destinations now, and the only element I haven't seen is Yoda. I have some favorites - I like the Hoth scene (though I get a kick out of Threepio's aggressiveness in the pod race) and the final scene with the Death Star/Rebel Command ship, though I think the motion effects for Naboo are the best - it shakes you around quite a bit.

While I was in the queue I took this video of one of the droids in Droid Customs area - he may look familiar!

Since it was still early after I'd obtained my Star Tours Fastpass the lines were short and I took the opportunity to enjoy some attractions that were walk-ons. I always enjoy seeing Storybook Land, so I took a ride on Casey Jr. Circus Train. There were only three passengers - me and a man and his young grandson. There's some really nice views from the elevated railroad. By the way, the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction is still undergoing refurbishment - it's scheduled to re-open on September 2.

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Not quite as interesting as the back side of water - but it's the back side of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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I've seen lots of ducks and even swans enjoying the castle's moat, but never one of these! I think it's a cormorant.

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The Annual Pass Holder processing center in the Plaza Pavilion is shut down now. Starting this past week, annual passes are sold at the main ticket booths, and new AP holders can either get a PhotoPass photographer to take their photo or they can upload one from home.

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Tarzan's Treehouse was closed, but it's not on the refurbishment schedule, so I guess Tarzan and Jane just didn't feel like having visitors. :-)

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There's a relatively new fruit cart/snack stand next to the Mark Twain's dock. In addition to healthy snacks like fresh fruit and trail mix, they also sell chimichangas, corn on the cob and turkey legs.

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Pirates of the Caribbean will be undergoing a fairly lengthy refurbishment starting on September 7. It's not scheduled to re-open until close to Thanksgiving. During this time the Blue Bayou restaurant will be closed as well. Oh, and do you remember how the Blue Bayou Kids' Menus used to double as a cute pirate hat? Now it's just a boring piece of paper - which gives them the flexibility to change it more often, apparently - though what's on the new piece of paper is what has been on the hats for quite a long time!

I took quick rides on Haunted Mansion and The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, which were both walk-ons. I rarely ride Haunted Mansion except when it's dressed up for the holidays, and it seemed odd to see it in its "normal" configuration. Disneyland hasn't added any of the modifications to the queue or the hitchhiking ghosts like they have at WDW, though. Big Thunder Mountain had a less than 10 minute line (I love being in the park early in the day!).

On my way out of Disneyland to DCA I wandered into the Emporium. The construction walls are still up inside the store, cutting its available shopping area by at least 1/3. I don't know what the project is, but it will be nice when it is done.

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And meanwhile, over at DCA...

The monorail bridge doesn't look much like the Golden Gate at all now.

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Engine-ear Toys, Bakers Field Bakery, and Brrr-Bank Ice Cream are all closed now, and behind construction walls.

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This makes the walkway to Condor Flats quite narrow and congested, especially since it's the shortest route from the entrance to the World of Color Fastpass distribution area and to Paradise Pier.

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Here you can see the sharp corner with the top of the Carthay Circle Theater in the background.

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Now that Bakers Field Bakery is closed, it means one less option for those who might want breakfast in the park, so Taste Pilot's Grill is now serving breakfast from the time the gates open (usually 9:30) until 11:00.

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In addition to the pastries that were available at the bakery, they are also serving a selection of breakfast burritos. (People who want a mocha or latte or some other specialty type of coffee are out of luck, though.)

The menu is HERE. I decided to try the Breakfast Burrito, which is filled with scrambled eggs, potatoes, and cheese. It was very good, though the potatoes are seasoned with pepper, and have some bits of red pepper in them. They had fresh salsa available (as well as packets of Tabasco sauce) at the toppings bar. I was disappointed in the salsa - it was fresh, but didn't really have a lot of flavor. I would've preferred the La Victoria salsa packets available at Cocina Cucamonga. The new breakfast menu also offers a breakfast burrito with sausage, and an egg white and spinach burrito.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

The name of the ice cream place at Paradise Pier has changed - it used to be Catch a Flave, and now it's the Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company. The MENU is still the same, though.

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In a planter near Silly Symphony Swings I saw these flowers - they reminded me of the fountains in World of Color. Very appropriate.

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I knew that they had put a water play area in Paradise Park, but I'd never actually seen any of it in action before. In addition to the central fountain you see here, there are shorter fountains around the perimeter and misters as well. When I walked by this area later the Disney Channel Rocks show was running - but the fountains weren't. :-)

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After this I went back to Disneyland - but I'll have more on that in Part 2, as well as some updated construction photos from DCA.



August 2, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 5.)

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As if there weren't enough things to distract a body, the Disneyland Hotel opened up its two new Tiki-themed eateries, Trader Sam's, and the Tangaroa Terrace.

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Trader Sam's is more or less a bar with the same theming as the now-defunct Adventurer's Club. There are, apparently, no original pieces brought over from Florida, but some things have been duplicated...such as the ship in the bottle.

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One of the conceits of the bar is that all the bartenders/servers are supposed to be Jungle Cruise skippers, and they periodically engage in some appropriate banter. It seems clear however, that like the 50's Prime Time Cafe, some CMs are better suited for role-play than others. This may come as a little bit of a disappointment to people looking for something identical to the Adventurer's Club, where the characters involved were primarily performers.

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In any case, it's a fun place to stop by and get a snack. I tried the Ahi Poke and a Schweitzer Falls--the ahi was very fresh, so if you enjoy poke, you probably shouldn't have any hesitations about ordering it here. The drink (one of their non-alcoholic specialty drinks) was pretty unexceptional. A pet peeve of mine is when places conveniently don't put prices on their menu, which is the case with the non-alcoholic drinks here. Additionally, your AP discount only applies to the food you purchase--not the drinks, whether they are non-alcoholic or not.

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Because the bar only holds around 40-ish people, there's an abundance of outside seating as well, along with live music. It's a fun, atmospheric place, and will doubtless be doing good business for some time to come.

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Next door, is the Tangaroa Terrace which is modeled closely after Captain Cook's in WDW's Polynesian Resort. It has the identical touch screens, but a vaguely bland menu. I didn't get a chance to try anything there, but after the heavy theming of Trader Sam's, the interior of Tangaroa seemed frankly barren. It may have just been the time I was there, but it was pretty empty--presumably anyone ordering from here had taken their food outside to listen to the music.

One irking thing about both places, is that neither currently validate for parking. Consequently, a patron had better count on making the trek over from the parks, or scooting before your three free hours at Downtown Disney are up, and the lot starts charging their usual jillion dollars a minute over.

So then, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure opened up, and after all the years of waiting while work on it progressed, I finally got to ride it.

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And? It's a nice ride. The music, as always, is great, and most of the set pieces look good. I personally feel that your reaction to it will depend heavily on what your expectations of it are. If you're looking for a cute dark ride along the lines of Pinocchio or Pooh, then you probably won't be disappointed. If you're looking for some massive E-ticket ride that is going to pull people away from Toy Story Midway Mania or California Screaming...well, maybe not.

Part of the problem for me is that the audio-animatronics seem a little uneven. After all the years of watching the Blue Sky videos on how carefully they were working on Ariel's hair, so it looked like it was moving underwater, a lot of the time it looks like a jiggly solid block.

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Also, the lighting seems a little bright, to the point where it's sometimes hard to maintain the illusion of being underwater. In the big "Under the Sea" room, it actually has more of an "It's A Small World" feel to it, with little attempt made at hiding the lighting or the vehicle track.

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This not to say that it's a bad ride however--when it works, it works brilliantly. The room with the Ursula figure is fantastic, and the lady herself must be one of the most fluidly moving AAs there is.

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Which is why it's a little bit of a pity that you only see her that one time. Much like the movie, her ultimate defeat is pretty minimally represented--a small picture in the corner of the last room. If you blink, you might miss it.

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Ultimately, I also think that all the videos and articles Disney put out about the making of the ride possibly robbed it of a little novelty for me. All the big scenes had already been shown, so after going on it once, I felt as though I had actually seen most of it before. For people who haven't been following its development so closely, it will probably have a much bigger impact.

Should you be put in the mood for purchasing merchandise afterwards, well, Disney has you covered on that front. Across the way in the Embarcadero, there lies all the neat stuff you would need to make your collection complete.

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And with that, I think the Spring was pretty well done.

July 22, 2011

Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 1

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I haven't had an opportunity to get to Disney California Adventure since June, when I was there for the opening of The Little Mermaid attraction. I spent Friday roaming around the park, and taking in a lot of the changes and new things. Because there are so many this will be a multi-part blog.

There's big changes at the entrance - the new turnstiles are in place. No, this is not a Photoshopped version of Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. (I was disappointed that Disney didn't do something more original for DCA's new entrance.) The top photo was taken last Sunday. The next photo was taken from approximately the same angle on Friday - you can see that the towers for the Golden Gate Bridge have now been removed.

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Here's some more photos of the entrance and the bridge.

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The Carthay Circle Theater is taking shape:

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I arrived when the park opened at 9:30. I was very surprised to see an engineer in the train that's next to Brrrr-bank Ice Cream.

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The path between the former Sunshine Plaza and "a bug's land" is blocked off now, so the shortest way to Paradise Pier now is by going past Soarin' Over California and Grizzly River Run. (The long way around is to go through Hollywood past the Tower of Terror and through Flik's Fun Fair.)

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My first objective was to ride Goofy's Sky School, which opened on July 1. It's a re-theming of Mulholland Madness, so it's still a "wild mouse" style of roller coaster.

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Goofy has taken his chicken farm and turned it into a flying school, where student pilots learn to "Fly the Goofy Way", in only five lessons. There's still lots of reminders of the chicken farm, though.

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There's a big awning over most of the queue, so it's mostly shaded.

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Lots of fun signs in the queue (click on the photo to see a larger version, where you can read the notices).

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The ride vehicles seat four passengers, each with their own pull-down lap bar. The queue is wheelchair/ECV-accessible, but riders must be able to transfer into the ride vehicle.

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Here's a video I took of my ride. It takes about two minutes. There are five "lessons": How to Take Off, How to Fly, How to Turn, How to Nosedive, and How to Land.

I still say this is the scariest ride in the park - as you can see the turns aren't banked at all, and I always think that either the car or me (or both) are going to go flying off the track. But it was quite popular - when I went by again around 12:30 the standby line was 40 minutes long. There were still Fastpasses available, though.

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Coming up I'll have photos of the new restaurants - Paradise Garden Grill and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and two new shows: Wilderness Explorer Ceremony, and Phineas and Ferb's Rockin' Rollin' Dance Party.



July 13, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 4.)

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In case you missed the earlier blogs of How I Spent My Spring Break:

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1


So I flew back to Los Angeles, and almost the next day my Star Tours II Annual Passholder preview slot was scheduled.

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The process was pretty chaotic by the time I got there--apparently the lines had been pretty empty earlier, so they basically opened the preview up to anyone with an AP, with the result that the line was about an hour long. Subsequently, they locked it down to people with a reservation letter, and it went considerably faster.

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The inside is pretty identical to Star Tours in WDW, with the exception that the boarding area now seems tiny and cramped, with insufficient room for even the number of people in a row to stand in a line. The films are identical (my itinerary of choice: Vader/Hoth/Yoda/Naboo.)

Then, three days later, the new parade Soundsational previewed over at Disneyland.

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Colorful and high-energy, the floats based off of paper sculptures by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily are both detailed and inventive.

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If I had any complaint, it would be that for a parade celebrating the many varieties of Disney music, the audio seemed a little muddied to me, occasionally lacking a clear transition from one float's music to the next.

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Hopefully the mechanics of that will get ironed out quickly, because the rest of the parade is excellent entertainment, and about 1000x times better than any of the somewhat bare-bones block party-esque parades they've had in recent years.

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Why, if you look hard enough, you might even spot Steven Davison, Vice President and Director of Parades and Spectaculars watching along.

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Meanwhile, over at the Disney Gallery, a similarly charming exhibit on Mary Blair opened up.

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If you are a fan of the art stylings of It's A Small World, or the gigantic mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary Resort, you are certain to enjoy this exhibit of Blair's art and concept sketches for a multitude of attractions and films.

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Of course, being Disney, there is no shortage of merchandise to take home as a memento--for a price.

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Next up: The Disneyland Hotel goes Tiki-happy, and we finally get a look Under the Sea...

April 24, 2011

April Disneyland Trip Report - Part 2

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Here's part 2 of my trip to Disneyland earlier this week - this part covers Disney California Adventure, which is where most of the construction activity is taking place.

DCA's Entrance Plaza seems to be taking shape quickly - it looks more and more like Disney Hollywood Studios all the time.

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Big changes at the former Sunshine Plaza, where the structure for the Carthay Circle Theater is growing rapidly.

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Because of that construction the ElecTRONica stage has been moved into the Hollywood Backlot - on the sidewalk between Disney Jr. and Off the Page.

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I was surprised to see Flynn's Arcade open during the day. There were a fair number of people in there enjoying the classic 80's arcade games - air hockey was quite popular. For once the line at the Tron game wasn't long - there was only one guy playing.

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The Cars 2 Meet and Greet area in front of Cars Land is very popular.

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These signs on the construction wall made me chuckle: "To Get Corn Dogs", "For Chicken Strips Detour to Taste Pilots Grill".

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Cars Land continues to take shape - lots of progress on the mountains of the Cadillac Range.

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One of the exhibits in Blue Sky Cellar is a display case that the Imagineers update fairly frequently. Right now it has Earth Day buttons and information on DCA's programs for water and energy conservation and waste management and recycling.

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The building housing The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure is really changing quickly these days, with the opening just over a month away. There's really lots of great detail on the facade and the exterior.

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It's hard to see very much of what's going on with Goofy's Sky School. The track has been painted a lovely light blue color, though. :-) It's scheduled to open on May 25.

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The new restaurant area is also changing very quickly.

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They have re-opened this path between Jumpin' Jellyfish and the restaurants, though there are still construction walls on both sides.

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Not sure what this structure is going to be.

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The walkway is open all the way around Paradise Pier again. They've put in a "park-like" area where the Maliboomer used to be. It not exactly what I expected, though - this is what the construction sign had on it before it opened:

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But this is the reality - a few benches and not much shade.

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The trees are up on what used to be the Maliboomer's loading area, which is blocked off and not accessible.

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The part of the "park" that has the most shade and benches is a smoking area!

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As you can see there's still a lot going on in the parks - while the construction process is inconvenient it's always interesting to see the progress - and eventually see the results!


April 23, 2011

April Disneyland Trip Report - Part 1

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After I attended Tuesday's press event on the new Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon I wandered around Disneyland, DCA, the Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney for a while.

There's still lots of construction going on at the Disneyland Hotel - beginning with the remodel of the Magic Tower.

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The new restaurant complex behind the Never Land pool area.

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I couldn't find a place to get a clear shot of the slide in the new pool area, but can see that the monorails are now in place.

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Roof line on the new restaurant complex - reminds me of the longhouses at the Polynesian at WDW.

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They were doing work outside the main lobby of the Dreams Tower, so everyone staying there was having to use the entrance and the elevator located on the south end of the building.

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A couple of the restaurants in Downtown Disney are offering some new nightly entertainment: Salsa Nights at Tortilla Jo's on Wednesdays:

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And Dueling Pianos at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen on Thursdays.

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It was spring break, and while the parks weren't packed, they were busy - it felt more like a normal weekend day than it did a holiday period.

The construction facade is still up on The Emporium - it's been there for several weeks now, so I guess they are doing some extensive work under there!

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Star Tours has an opening date of June 3, and Annual Passholder previews starting on May 23.

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Star Traders is still closed - it's scheduled to open in early May.

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Birds of a feather flock together. :-) (This photo inspired by a similar photo that Gary Edstrom took and posted to the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup not too long ago.)

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Since it's a busy time Princess Fantasy Faire is running their full schedule of events, including the Royal Coronation Ceremony and Princess Storytelling.

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They had some nice spring-themed decorations at the Celebration BBQ and Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch.

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Even the goats in the petting zoo were dressed up.

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It was interesting to see what they've done for the Pirates of the Caribbean Sneak Peek during the day, at least from the outside. I didn't see these details at night.

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They are still building something near the Mark Twain's dock.

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Splash Mountain is still closed - it is scheduled to re-open on May 27.

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I noticed these candy boxes back in the candy section of Pooh Corner - I hadn't seen them before. (I also saw them at Toontown Five and Dime, Greetings in DCA and Marceline's in Downtown Disney - they are probably also available at World of Disney or any other place that sells the packaged types of candy.) Very clever. :-) There's "I'm a Chocolatear Milk Chocolate Raisins", "Who Needs Prince Charming When you Have Chocolate Milk Chocolate Crispy Clusters", "Mine Mine Mine Mine Candy Guppies", etc. $3.95 each.

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I was surprised not to see much in the way of Easter merchandise - I didn't do an exhaustive search, but I didn't find anything in the Emporium, which surprised me. There's an Easter version of Duffy, though.

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There were a number of sweet Easter treats available - the Candy Palace was selling these hand made chocolate Easter eggs - vanilla and chocolate nut fudge covered in chocolate. They looked really good.

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The Candy Palace, Pooh Corner, and Marceline's also had Easter-themed candy apples - very cute.

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These cookies were at the candy counter at Greetings.

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And I saw these at Marceline's:

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I'll have photos of what's going on at DCA in Part 2.


March 6, 2011

March Disneyland Trip Report - Part 1

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I made a quick trip to the Disneyland Resort on Friday, March 4. This was one of the trips that I call a Menu Blitz, where I go all over the resort and collect/take pictures of menus, as well as photograph anything else that seems new or interesting.

It was also my first trip with my new point-and-shoot camera - I bought a new Canon PowerShot SD970 IS a few weeks ago. I had my Garmin ForeRunner GPS with me as well - according to that I covered 9.5 miles in 4 hours and 55 minutes of roaming around.

I thought I'd take you with me on my wanderings and show you some of the things I saw.

I parked in the Mickey & Friends parking structure and then walked over to the Disneyland Hotel. This is actually the first Disney picture I took with my new camera (the first of thousands, I'm sure!). The remodel is complete on the Dreams and Wonder Towers and has now moved to the Magic Tower:

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There's construction walls around the back, and access to Goofy's Kitchen and Steakhouse 55 is through the lobby. Notice the big mirror - those are at all the corners.

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Because of the construction of the new pool and restaurant area (you can read a bit about the two new restaurants, Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam's, in this Disney Parks Blog entry), access to the Wonder Tower is via the path between the Dreams Tower and Downtown Disney. But at the end of the Dreams Tower there is this set of peepholes where we can get a glimpse into what's going on. I liked how they were at varying heights. :-)

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There wasn't much to see - I'm guessing this is part of the structure for the new pool slide.

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I liked how the fence was actually built around this tree! You can also see an example of one of the old-time attraction posters that they have placed along the fence.

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I visited the Paradise Pier and the Grand Californian, collecting menus, and then did a turn through Downtown Disney, also in search of menus. But menu photos are not exactly interesting. I'd logged 2.25 miles by the time I arrived at the Esplanade. They have this Let the Memories Begin display there:

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The Family Fun Weekends sign just inside the entrance to Disneyland:

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The construction walls that were covering the trolley tracks on Main Street last month are gone, but there are walls up on either side of the entrance to the Opera House.

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In Tomorrowland, work is proceeding on Star Tours, which now has an announced opening date of June 3.

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The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster Fastpass machines are behind walls.

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The Star Traders shop is temporarily closed, and merchandise has been moved into Starcade next door. So you can play video games and shop for your favorite Star Wars merchandise at the same time! :-)

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There's walls around the base of the Observatron also.

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The Tangled meet and greet area in Fantasyland.

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Something I'd never noticed before - the coat of arms for Dumbo! (Motto: Believe & Soar!):

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Construction walls at the Mark Twain dock.

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For the three Mardi Gras weekends, the restaurants in New Orleans Square were offering special food items. There was a Bananas Foster Crepe at Cafe Orleans, and Bouillabaisse and Apple Fritters a la Mode at the Blue Bayou.

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The French Market had two special sandwiches: a Muffaletta and a Shrimp Po Boy (pictured here). That looked good, but I didn't get a chance to try it.

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Royal Street Veranda, French Market, and Harbour Galley were all offering a Mickey Brioche. This was an egg bread with some purple, gold and green sugar sprinkled on it. It was about 6" around. It was a little dry, though.

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In the Court of Angels they were doing character greetings with characters in their Mardi Gras costumes.

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In the area between the French Market and the Haunted Mansion were a couple of merchandise carts - this one offered New Orleans-themed items, and the other one was doing Mardi Gras face painting.

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Jeanine already did a nice blog entry on the Mardi Gras weekends, including Princess Tiana's Mardi Gras Celebration, which I saw on Friday. Before the show, the Jambalaya Jazz band played on the stage.

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The cast in their Mardi Gras parade from Frontierland to New Orleans Square before the show - they even threw a few beads. I wish they'd been able to bring back Tiana's Showboat Jubilee on the Mark Twain - I really enjoyed that show.

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Critter Country is still undergoing "beautification" and those walls are still up.

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There was a beautiful display of spring flowers - daffodils and tulips - in the planters around the hub:

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The day started off cloudy and overcast, but once the marine layer burned off it was a beautiful day - the warmest we've had in a several weeks - it got to the upper 70s! I like the color on the tree in the middle of this photo - and you can see some of the foliage from Pixie Hollow in the corners.

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Saint Patrick's Day is coming, and there's some new merchandise out - several t-shirts, Mickey ears, baseball caps, an antenna ball and a lighted shamrock on a lanyard.

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There's also a special Duffy:

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And several St. Patrick's Day treats - Marshmallows on a stick:

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Krispie treats:

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And, my favorite, the Mickey Leprechaun shorts apples:

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In Part 2 I'll have photos from Disney California Adventure.




July 30, 2010

A Summer Day at Disneyland

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On Monday Lee and I went to Disneyland to spend the day with his brother's family, who are vacationing there this week. I think it's the first time he's ever been to Disneyland with kids, and the first time for me since 2001! It was a somewhat different experience, but we still had a great time.

I was surprised that the crowds really weren't that bad, though as usual, the best strategy is to arrive at Disneyland first thing in the morning, and enjoy the park for the first few hours while most people are still arriving. The weather was great - overcast in the morning, and only in the upper 70s in the afternoon - SO much cooler than it was on Disneyland's birthday weekend!!!

We made excellent use of Fastpasses - starting with Indy, and then getting new FPs just as our window opened, so we used those for Indy, Space Mountain, and the Autopia. In between using our FPs we had almost no wait for Pirates or the Disneyland Railroad, about 10 for Thunder Mountain and literally walked right into the ride vehicle for Pooh. The longest line we had was 25 minutes for Dumbo (and I have to say I was surprised it was that short at 11:00 in the morning!). The two younger kids, who are 9 and almost 6, rode Dumbo with their parents while I did Mr. Toad with the oldest, who is 12 and up for ANYTHING.

The younger two were not very happy about Indy, but The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh proved to be a good antidote to that. The 9-year-old niece bypassed Big Thunder and went to the petting zoo with her mom instead, but the almost-6-year-old came off saying "I want to do that again!!!" He was not too sure about Space Mountain, and almost bailed, but he did it, and was all smiles at the end. And of course the Autopia was a big hit - Auntie Laura bailed on that one and took pictures of the drivers, instead. :-)

Monday was the final day for Star Tours before its big refurbishment - and it was busier than I've seen it in YEARS. At 12:15 the line was 55 minutes, and of course it no longer has Fastpass machines, since it really hasn't needed them in recent years. Unfortunately we didn't take a last trip to Endor.

We left Disneyland about 1:15, and the crowds had started to pick up quite a bit - the standby line for Space Mountain was up to 55 minutes, Autopia was 50, Matterhorn was 45, and Indy was 50. There were still lots of people coming into the park as we left.

They are staying at the Villas at the Grand Californian, so we headed back there via DCA, stopping at Soarin' to pick up Fastpasses to use later. Good thing we did it then - the return time was 5:00! They have a dedicated two-bedroom villa, which I hadn't seen before. It's the same layout, except that the second bedroom has two queen beds instead of a queen and a sofa bed, and there's no kitchenette in there. Also no external door to the hallway, though it still has a sliding glass door out to the patio. (Upon seeing the Villa after they checked in, niece said: "I want to LIVE here!". Ah yes...that's what Auntie Laura says every time, too! :-) )

After lunch the two younger kids REALLY wanted to swim (what is it with kids and hotel pools?), so my sister-in-law stayed with them while we went to DCA with my brother-in-law and our oldest nephew. He REALLY wanted to ride California Screamin', so we did that. DCA was a little more crowded than usual, and the standby line was about 25 minutes. Afterwards we were able to get four more FPs that he and his mom or dad could use later. Toy Story Midway Mania had a 45-minute line (typical for that ride), and while I would've done it, I couldn't get anyone else interested. Nephew decided he wanted to do Maliboomer, but couldn't talk any of us into it, so did it by himself (15-minute wait). Silly Symphony Swings was less than 10 minutes. They dragged me onto Mulholland Madness, which I think is the scariest ride in the park - those cars TRY to throw you out of the ride!!! The sign said 20 minute standby, but it ended up being almost 40. (I survived the ride, but I still don't like it!!!)

We met the other three in front of Soarin', and took a wonderful flight over some of the beautiful places in California - that was a big hit with everyone. It was 5:30 by then, and since we had to work the next day, we said our goodbyes - the family headed off to Flik's Fun Faire and Tower of Terror.

It was a great day to be at the parks, and we had a lot of fun sharing a place we enjoy so much with Lee's family.


July 5, 2010

Touring Disneyland While Pregnant

Becky Breiland, of the Mousetalgia.com podcast, brings us this guest blog on her Disneyland touring experiences.

I am a firm believer that visiting the Disney Parks is appropriate at any stage of life. People who find out how often I visit Disneyland tell me things like "We'll go when my kids are old enough to remember," or "My kids are too old for that place," or "I don't have kids, why would I go to Disneyland?" While not everyone needs to understand the appeal of the Disney experience, there are great things about visiting the parks regardless of where you are in life.

Growing up in Michigan, we had several trips to Walt Disney World in my childhood. Once I entered college, I found a friend who also saw the appeal of the Disney universe, and we would take commando trips, driving down and back, and attending the parks in a four-day span. When I moved to California, my husband and I began visiting Disneyland on a regular basis. The six hour drive, compared to twenty hours from Michigan to Florida, was nothing. So why not go?

As a single person and then as a family of two, the parks have been a place where it's been easy to remember all the benefits of not having children. There was no one to argue with, we worked on the adults' schedule, and nap time meant that I could sit next to the pool and maybe even enjoy a cocktail. It has been a rare time that I've wandered Disneyland without a FASTPASS to Indiana Jones, Space Mountain or California Screamin' in my pocket.

Until now. My husband and I are thrilled to be welcoming another life into the world who we get to teach about the glories of Mickey Mouse. In the meantime, visiting Disneyland pregnant has been just as much fun as my non-pregnancy journeys down to Anaheim. Since discovering that we have a little blessing on the way, I've been to Disneyland twice, with plans to go two more times before the actual arrival.

The biggest change in our touring at Disneyland has actually been food. Since I've been pregnant, when I'm hungry, it's time to eat ... now. Especially during my first trimester, if I didn't start eating soon after I realized that I was hungry, a massive headache would arrive along with a bit of queasiness to boot. We knew this going into the trip and so I packed fresh fruit - mainly apples and oranges as they were less likely to bruise while I carried them around the park - as well as granola bars and trail mix, and of course some saltine crackers. Gladware has been a lifesaver. It's lightweight and keeps my crackers from turning into a crumby mess, and my grapes from become grape juice. My husband has gotten into the action by making sure our eating times have been consistent, and also making some priority seating reservations for the times we normally eat dinner at home. Along with my snacks, I have been making sure to always have a supply of water with me. Staying hydrated not only is important from a health aspect, it also helped me to feel good.

Pregnancy has also allowed the total transformation of thought about why we visit Disneyland. It isn't about getting on a bunch of rides, it's about an experience. There is plenty of art to look at, shows to see, food to eat, and just time to walk around looking at the details that make Disneyland, well, Disneyland. In many ways my Disneyland trips have become more of a vacation then ever before. We've become even more content to wander around the parks, checking out the various performers that we happen upon, making it a point to visit the shows such as Aladdin or the Golden Horseshoe Review, and visiting the more minor attractions. When the parks have been packed, it hasn't mattered. We are there to enjoy being together, and to experience the Disney magic.

In Disneyland, I did skip over all the Mountains (Space, Big Thunder, Matterhorn, Splash) as well as Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean. We spent a large amount of time enjoying the Fantasyland attractions, the Haunted Mansion, Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise, appreciating the artwork and storytelling (and sometimes the lack of it - cough, cough, Snow White). The competition of Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters has always been an enjoyable part of our trip, and is a great attraction for expectant mothers. Two of the Disneyland highlights, Fantasmic! and the fireworks are also great activities, especially if you've enjoyed an afternoon nap.

In Disney California Adventure, I did have to pass by California Screamin', as well as Grizzly River Run, Mulholland Madness, the Mailboomer and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. However, other than California Screamin', I generally pass by the others for one reason or another on most trips, so it hasn't seemed like much of a sacrifice. Toy Story Midway Mania is one of my favorite attractions, and while a bit more dizzy than normal after all the spinning, it has been another great part of our pregnancy trips. The Animation Building is an often overlooked, but wonderful place to spend time. It's air-conditioned, full of wonderful things to look at, and great activities to participate in.

Finally, we also have used our slower pace as a chance to enjoy what the resorts have to offer. We've sat and listened to the piano in the lobby of the Grand Californian, enjoyed sitting on balconies over looking pools, Downtown Disney and the Parks, and enjoyed the peacefulness of the hotel rooms. Staying close to the parks has always been important to me, but even more so now. It allows for a bit of down time without feeling like I'm missing out on the parks.

While our Disney trips in the recent past have been a bit different, they have been just as enjoyable. Relatively speaking, there is little that expectant mothers cannot do in the parks. Pregnancy should not keep people from enjoying the Disneyland Resort, but it many give you a slightly different appreciation for all it has to offer. We are excited to see the parks from an even different angle when we welcome our little Mouseketeer into the world. He or she probably won't remember their first trip, but that won't be why we go. We'll go because it's a way to spend time together as a family, something that encourages laughter and imagination, and because mom and dad think it's fun.


About the author: Becky Breiland has been traveling to Walt Disney World and Disneyland since she was three. One of her fondest memories is getting Mickey Waffles for breakfast on those early Disney trips. Becky, her husband, and two friends comprise the Mousetalgia.com podcasting team. Mousetalgia is a show dedicated to the exploration of Disney's past, present and future, emphasizing the theme park culture and the people who have imagined Walt's happy place into existence. Go "Carpe Kingdom!"



January 19, 2010

Disneyland Rovings and Ravings - Part Deux

Part 2 of my photos and observations from my trip to Disneyland on Friday.

I'll start with the resorts, since that's actually where I began my day - walked there from the Pinocchio Parking Lot (I arrived early enough that I was parked outside in the Pinocchio lot rather than inside the garage, which suited me since the walk from there is a little shorter to/from the hotels).

The remodeling of the Dreams Tower at the Disneyland Hotel still continues - it looks to be about halfway done. If anyone has the opportunity to stay in the new rooms please send us some photos!

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At the Paradise Pier, the new Surf's Up Breakfast with Mickey has replaced the Lilo and Stitch character breakfast. It's a breakfast buffet - there is no longer an a la carte menu. Stitch is still at the breakfast, along with Mickey, of course, but no Lilo. The buffet includes: an omelet station, breakfast flatbreads, Mickey waffles, chocolate peanut butter banana French toast, smoothies, parfait station, chilaquiles and smoked salmon. $25.99 for adults and $13.99 for kids, tax and 15% gratuity will be added.

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For those who would like a hot breakfast but not the buffet, the Surfside Lounge is offering breakfast now in addition to the usual coffee and pastries. The menu is HERE.

A number of things going on at DCA. The construction walls are still up around Paradise Bay, but they have finished the structure they were building at the end of the bridges between Paradise Pier and Pacific Wharf so those walls are down, and that makes it not quite so claustrophobic. This looks like a big light and speaker tower to me.

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And of course work on the World of Color show is continuing in the bay itself.

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The bay has been refilled and so the nice reflections are back again.

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There's still plenty of construction walls up all around Paradise Pier, but the ones between the bay and the former Golden Dreams attraction have been moved closer to the bay so that there is a little more room to walk now. A wall completely blocks the walkway in front of Jumping Jellyfish so you have to go around the S.S. Rustworthy past Pizza Oom Mow Mow for the moment.

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The Wine Country Trattoria and the Wine Terrace are both closed while the restaurant is being remodeled - it is scheduled to open again in April. And while we're talking about food and restaurants, here's a reminder that Disney's Calfornia Food and Wine Festival returns from April 16-May 31. No information on the schedule or events is available yet, though.

Big changes back in the Hollywood Backlot area - the center of the street is blocked by construction walls, and you have to go up one side or the other depending on whether you want to go to Playhouse Disney and the Animation Building or the rest of the backlot area.

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The reason? The tracks for the Red Trolley are going in, and the trolley itself is supposed to open later this year.

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The walkway is so narrow that they have had to close Award Weiners - there's no room for the line for this popular counter-service restaurant.

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On the construction walls are vintage Disney movie posters.

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There's a new Annual Passport Processing Center in the far corner of the backlot, which was a food court restaurant called Hollywood & Dine when the park first opened, but has been closed for years. I was told this location is "temporary", but not just how "temporary" it is.

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I tried something I'd never had before - I was in DCA early enough that the Pacific Wharf Cafe was still serving breakfast AND I was actually hungry. I really like their soups and salads in bread bowls, but for breakfast they serve scrambled eggs in a bread bowl. It also came with two slices of nice crisp bacon and some fruit - a bunch of grapes and some sliced oranges. The eggs were a little dry but everything else was excellent. The eggs need a little oomph, so I got a couple of packets of salsa from Cocina Cucamonga. No way I could eat all that bread, and I ended up taking most of it home where it made for a fine soup bowl for some homemade split pea soup that night. For $5.99 it was good and very reasonably priced. The breakfast menu is HERE. I don't think the breakfast menu has changed at all in the five years I've been collecting menus for AllEars - I keep expecting the prices to go up.

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There's a couple new stores that have opened in Downtown Disney recently. D Street is Vinylmation central, but they also carry "cutting edge apparel" for men and women as well as other collectibles and artwork.

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But my favorite new store is The Cupcake Store, which is located at the end of Downtown Disney near the ESPN Club. It's a little shop right in the center, which sells gourmet cupcakes. They are nicely decorated with flowers, chocolate, candy sprinkles, etc. There's vanilla, yellow cake, chocolate, red velvet, and vanilla coconut and they are $4.95 each. I'm not sure why I took a photo of the shop and didn't take any pictures of the cupcakes!

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Something that is not new, but I'd never noticed before, is this remote-control boat area on the side of the Rainforest Cafe. There was no one playing with it when I was there, so I don't know how popular it really is.

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And that brings us to the end of my ravings - for now, at least.

November 1, 2009

Guest Blog: Observations from a First Time Disneyland Visitor

"So, what did you think?"
Observations (and photos) from a first time visitor to Disneyland
by AllEars® Team Member Cathy Bock

"So, what did you think?" - I've been asked that question several times since returning from my first trip to Disneyland. Short answer, I loved it! Going to the original Disney park has been a dream of mine since the days of watching Walt speak of it on Sunday nights. Having been to Walt Disney World multiple times, I wondered if Disneyland would be as exciting as I had anticipated for all these years. Well, once I walked under the train track and left today behind, I was hooked!

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Main Street: It felt familiar - different shops and restaurants in different places - but the same general feeling of Main Street WDW, a return to another place and time. I had been warned that Sleeping Beauty castle is smaller than Cinderella Castle in Florida. So that didn't surprise me when I turned the corner and saw it for the first time. Honestly, I expected to be disappointed. What I saw, however, was a simpler, yet charming castle, that I would stop to gaze at time after time. Walking through it for the first time with the realization that this is where Walt walked, that's as good as it gets for this Disney parks geek!

The early morning castle:

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The cloudy afternoon castle:

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Lay of the Land: Exploring the park was a bit surreal - things were similar enough to feel comfortable but different enough to be an adventure. Being in a new park meant relying on a map! Where are the Pirates? How do I get to Fantasyland? And where the heck are the bathrooms? Then there were Critter Country and New Orleans Square - new lands to explore. I'm sure I took the long way around a few times but by the end of the trip, I had my bearings. It helps that Disneyland is a bit smaller than the Magic Kingdom and the attractions are a bit closer to one another.

Halloween: Such a great time to visit the parks. Last year, we were at WDW in October and thoroughly enjoyed the decorations and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Likewise, Disneyland was all decked out for the holiday. Hands down, the highlight of the Halloween spirit at DL are the attraction overlays - Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. Both are extremely well done! That being said, I absolutely adored Haunted Mansion Holiday - an overwhelming "WOW" and straight back to the entrance for another ride. (And I would return twice more.) Ghost Galaxy was the opposite but that's not the fault of the ghost. I confess to not being a Space Mountain fan in the first place, and haven't been on the WDW version in a couple of years. But I'd heard that Disneyland's version is smoother and has a better sound system, and besides, I wanted to see the ghost. I did it, I survived it, won't do it again. I liked the ghost effect but the ride itself just isn't for me. If you're a Space Mountain enthusiast, go for it! Halloween Screams - the fireworks show for the season - was also very well done. Lots of villains and hosted by Jack Skellington. I liked it as well as Hallowishes from last year at WDW.

Another highlight for me was the Big Thunder Ranch area, filled with carved pumpkins and Halloween decorations. The ranch also features a petting area with goats and sheep, which was a nice treat.

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Disney's California Adventure was also decorated for Halloween. I didn't get a chance to attend Mickey's Trick or Treat party but saw a lot of families heading into that park for the party. AllEars team member Lisa Berton attended the party and has a review HERE. MNSSHP at WDW is my favorite party so I would have liked to compare the two. Hmmm... maybe another trip?

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Fantasmic! This isn't one of my must-do attractions in Florida. Not that I dislike it, but I'd rather be sure to see Illuminations or Wishes. In Disneyland, there is no stadium for the show so folks start staking out spots well in advance. Luckily, we had gone the route of reserved dessert party seating, so other than standing in line to check in, we didn't have to spend a long time waiting for the show. I'm not sure I would have fought the crowds to see it - the area tends to be very congested even when folks are "on the move" and the crowds were very heavy on the nights we were in the park. Fortunately, the powers that be added a third show on those nights so that more visitors could enjoy it. The show is much the same as its Florida counterpart except for larger ships (LOVED the pirate ship!) and a new and improved dragon (even though it didn't breathe fire the night we were there). As with Florida, I liked it well enough but am not sure I'd camp out to see it.

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Other Highlights:

The Indiana Jones Adventure - a great fit for Adventureland. I'd love to see
this one in Florida.

Pirates of the Caribbean - now one of my favorites in two different parks.

"it's a small world" - the fa├žade is beautiful, and there is a cute outside show every quarter of the hour.

Splash Mountain - very similar to the Magic Kingdom's version and yes, I did get wet.

Toontown - exploring this land with the AllEars "Toons" was a blast!

AllEars Meet - thanks to all who came by to say hello - it was great to meet you and hear of your passion for the parks. And Lisa, it was fun to meet your posse!

Club 33 - never in my wildest dreams would I have expected my first trip to include this restaurant. Many thanks to those who made it possible.

Grand Californian Resort - a very pleasant surprise was the proximity to the parks. Take one exit and you're in Disney's California Adventure; take another exit and you're in Downtown Disney and within walking distance of Disneyland. No buses, no cars!

Disney's California Adventure - Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend as much time in this park as I'd have liked. Soarin' over California and the Tower of Terror were highlights - those are two of my favorite attractions anyway. It was nice to experience some unique attractions as well. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue was too cute - great family fun. And the Aladdin Musical Spectacular was one of the best park shows I've ever seen. (and had comfy indoor seating!) This park has real potential, especially with the new attractions (Carsland, the Little Mermaid, World of Color). I'm looking forward to returning.

Other than Space Mountain, there were really no lowlights for me. It would have been nice to have lighter crowds or better weather. The first weekend was overcast and cool, the second weekend was sunny but hot. Neither the weather nor the crowds stopped the fun though.

So what did I think? For a while, I left today behind and entered a world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. That, my friends, is the magic of Disney parks. My other expectations - clean park, friendly and helpful cast members, and a variety of attractions - were exceeded many times over.

Thanks Walt, I enjoyed your park.

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 25, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 3

Day 3 - this is going to be a lot shorter, since it's after midnight already...

It rained most of the night and was still raining this morning, so we put off going to the Studios until about 10:00 when it mostly stopped - we had a few occasional showers after that.

Got Fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania at 10:30 - the return time was already 3:55! And then got in line for Narnia - where they were handing out lanyards for a Dream Extra Hour Event in the Studios tonight. We knew we wouldn't be able to make it because we were going to City Tastes at Epcot, but figured we'd give them to a nice family before we left. I was the only one who had seen the movie, but they show enough of it in the exhibit that you get a pretty good idea!

Terrorized Sherry on the Tower of Terror - she screamed most of the ride. But I think she still enjoyed it. Hard to tell from this photo. :-)

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Lee had to leave for the Apple store, to replace his iPhone which apparently got drowned in last night's downpour, even though it was in his pocket. :-(

Jim, Sherry and I went to watch High School Musical 3, which premiered today. Found my friend Kenny, who helped us get a terrific spot to see the 12:00 show center stage. (The 10:00 had been rained out, and it had been showering a bit so we were concerned about the 12:00 show, but it came off ok. I liked it - I can't say I'm a huge fan, but of the three shows I think I like this one the best. Here's a link to lots more photos of High School Musical 3!

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We got Fastpasses for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and had lunch at Rosie's - the Studios is probably my least favorite park to eat in. Then went to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular - good timing, since it was raining a bit by then. We tried to get Sherry volunteered for the show, but that didn't work. :-( Some of the stunt sequences got left out because of the wet stage/sets.

Saw the Jedi Training Academy, which was cute (though this Jedi Master was not as good as the rest I've seen), and then went to see MuppetVision. It was fun - that show has held up pretty well for something almost 20 years old!

Planned to go to One Man's Dream after that, but it was 3:15 and it closed at 3:00. :-( We had 15 minutes to slowly walk back to Rock'n'Roller Coaster to use our Fastpasses. I called Lee, who had gotten his new phone and was on his way back.

Sherry screamed throughout most of Rock'n'Roller Coaster, but she and Jim both enjoyed it.

Went back to Toy Story Midway Mania, where Lee had arrived just a few minutes before, and we used our Fastpasses. The Standby line was 100 minutes!!! Sorry, but there's NO ride I'm going to wait 100 minutes to ride!!! It was great fun, even though Lee beat me this time (first time that has happened!) Still more fun than a barrel of monkeys! :-)

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On our way out of the park we gave our Dream Event passes to a nice family with two teen aged sons. They were very happy to get them. So I hope they had a good time!

Had a short break back in the room to get ready for City Tastes - Spain over at Epcot. We really weren't sure WHAT this was going to be - very little in Disney's description. Sounded sort of like Party for the Senses on a smaller scale. We were about half right. It was mostly a wine-tasting event - the guide they gave us called it "Great Match Wine & Tapas 08". It was sponsored by Wines from Spain. They must have had over 200 wines from over 30 Spanish wineries. Some very good wines, too! Not much in the way of food choices, though, and NO desserts, which I found VERY disappointing. Nice entertainment, though - a Spanish guitar group and a pair of flamenco dancers and their guitarist.

One of the best parts (for us) is that the event was quite *under* attended and not at all crowded - there were actually some empty tables. That meant the people pouring the wines could give us a lot of extra attention. One of them, from Grupo Faustino, became Lee's New Best Friend - I think Lee sampled just about everything he had (and most of it was pretty good!)

I'll be writing a lot more detail in a report that will be published on AllEars.Net - once I have time to write it!

We all really enjoyed it, though I wish we'd known a bit more about it before hand.

It was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, so we decided to stick around for that and do some attractions that Jim and Sherry hadn't yet experienced. Test Track first, though the line ended up being a lot longer than we expected. Tried to do Soarin' but Standby was 40 minutes, so we went back and did Ellen's Energy Adventure instead, then headed back to the room. I was surprised how many people were still in the park at 11:30.

Not sure about tomorrow...we need to go pick up our Tower of Terror race packets, and then we'll see what else we want to do - Lee and I should try to stay off our feet a bit tomorrow! The rain is supposed to subside by the afternoon...I hope so. I wouldn't have wanted to run in the weather we had tonight (it rained, though we were only out in it once).

October 24, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 2

Day 2 of our Food and Wine Festival trip.

We got a late start this morning - still on west coast time. I'm actually trying to STAY on west coast time until after the Tower of Terror 13K race Saturday night - my body will be much happier (ok, so "happier" isn't really the right word) running if it thinks it's 7:00 at night than if it thinks it's 10:00 at night.

We made the loooong walk (NOT!) from our room at the Boardwalk Villas to Spoodles at 9:00, where we met our friends Paul and Ilene for breakfast. I hadn't eaten breakfast at Spoodles in years, and then it was a buffet. I think it has a very nice breakfast menu now - frittatas, breakfast flat breads, french toast, etc. You can find the menu on AllEars HERE.

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We had a very nice breakfast, and sat around chatting for a long time, until we realized that it was after 11:00! Our server came around a couple of times to check on us and make sure we didn't want anything else. :-)

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Eventually we said goodbye to Paul and Ilene and got ourselves together and into Epcot. The forecast for the day was heavy rain, though it was still looking ok at that point, and was actually very pleasant outside! But we brought our rain jackets and umbrellas with us. Jim was the group pack mule today - Lee did it yesterday. :-)

A performance of the World Showcase Players was just starting in the UK as we walked by, so we stopped to watch that. They've changed it a bit since I last saw it - they've included a third tourist in the cast - a woman to play the Evil Wizard Pelham. It was great fun, and the guy who played Galahad did a really good job. They even had a few new, but still bad, jokes. (Lee would have made a MUCH better King Arthur than the one they selected, though!)

Sherry had been asking to go on a ride, so we finally did one - Journey into Imagination. (They only get better from there, right?) After that, we steered them toward The Land pavilion and Spaceship Earth, and Lee and I went back to the UK, where we were meeting one of my long-time RADP IRC friends (and fellow AllEars staffer) Jack and his wife Judy.

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We got a few cold beverages and went back into the garden in front of British Invasion's stage to have a nice long chat. It was good to see them, and I'm glad our trips overlapped a little bit!

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Back in Future World we met up with Jim and Sherry again - they had just ridden Spaceship Earth and played a few games in Project Tomorrow. Sherry wanted to do the "Power" game, so we had a short wait for that, and Lee did it with her. They had a good time and did pretty well!

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We got Fastpasses for Soarin' (not good until 7:51 that night!) and went over to the Seas pavilion. Fortunately the ride through the aquarium, featuring Nemo and friends, was a walk-on, but wow, that is a looong queue!

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Our timing was perfect, and when we got off the ride they were just getting ready to let people in to the Turtle Talk with Crush show. Dude! It's so totally awesome!!! (Sherry wants to know how they do that. I wish we could tell her!)

We went upstairs to see the manatees, and talked to one of the Cast Members for a while about them. The two they have now they are still hoping to reintroduce to the wild. They eat romaine lettuce as the main part of their diet, since that mostly closely resembles the nutrients they would be eating in the wild. For treats they get things like apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

We wandered around the rest of the aquariums - I noticed this Mickey head on the bottom of one of them.

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From there we went over to Mission Space, where we did the "Green" side. (As I did not wish to *turn* green I chose that instead of the orange side!) Since there were 4 of us we were one complete team, and that was fun. (Sherry was our commander, though, so we thought we would be doomed!!!)

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As we walked into the Mission Control area they were just starting a Space Race game. We were the crew of the Orion - our four challengers on Team Triton were 4 pre-teen boys, so we figured we were doomed. And we were right - though we only lost by 2% - they had 97% and we had 95%. Which wasn't too bad. I'd never done the crew thing, though I have been one of the Mission Control players a lot of times. It took a little while to get the hang of it, but once we did the crew part was fun, too.

We had a 6:30 reservation for Marrakesh, and it was about 6:00 by then. Lee and Jim wanted beers from the Barley and Hops Market at the American Adventure pavilion, so we took the long way to Morocco. It was still a very nice evening - cloudy, but not raining, and still a comfortable temperature. Crowds were still not bad - none of the food booths seemed to have much of a line at all.

Marrakesh wasn't too busy at that time, and we got a table close to the middle of the restaurant. We all decided to order the Royal Feast, which included Harira Soup and Beef Brewat roll as appetizers, and then Lemon Chicken, Roasted Lamb Meshoui, and Couscous with Seven Vegetables for an entree, with assorted Moroccan pastries (which ended up being three kinds of baklava) for dessert. It was all good. The baklava was quite good - not syrupy sweet like some are. Sherry and I both had a white wine named Ksar with dinner - it was a very nice crisp, clean wine that I really enjoyed. Jim had a Casablanca beer, and Lee had a Marrakesh Express.

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The restaurant offers entertainment while you're dining - belly dancer accompanied by two musicians. We were there for about 2 hours, so we saw them twice. I think the guys enjoyed her act more than Sherry and I did. :-) Don't get me wrong, she was very talented and graceful, but just didn't have quite the same appeal to me. :-)

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We saw people coming into the restaurant who were wearing ponchos, so it looked as though the rain had arrived while we were eating. But it had stopped before we left the restaurant, so we started making our way to Future World to use our Soarin' Fastpasses. We got to the UK, and it started raining, so we broke out the umbrella (mine) and rain jackets (everyone else). And then it started to REALLY rain...we all ended up with squishy shoes and wet shorts/jeans, though it stopped raining just before we got to the Land.

At that point I'm not even sure we needed Fastpasses - looked like Soarin' was almost a walk-on. Jim and Sherry had never ridden this before, so I requested top row, center section - might as well maximize their first experience, right? :-) I think it was a little bit more exciting than Sherry expected - I heard a lot of gasps and screams out of her, and I think she had a death grip on the handles beside her seat. :-) She still enjoyed it and wants to do it again, though!

The rain had not restarted while we were inside and Illuminations was over, so people were streaming out of the park. Since we were headed back towards the International Gateway we were going opposite most everyone else, and felt like salmon swimming upstream until we got past Canada.

Jim and Lee went to Big River Grill to have a beer, while Sherry and I came back to the room to finish drying out. It started raining again about 20 minutes later...and rained for over an hour, though it sounds like it has stopped now. I hope it gets it out of its system tonight!

It was a great day, though, if you can believe it, Sherry doesn't seem to have gotten this whole "ride" thing out of her system, and wants to go on MORE rides tomorrow!!! :-) I think we're going to the Studios tomorrow, and tomorrow night we'll be attending a Food and Wine Festival event, City Tastes - Spain over in the World Showplace.

October 23, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 1

Hi everyone!

We have left the west coast for a week, and are here at WDW in Florida - mostly doing the Food and Wine Festival, but we'll be visiting all the parks, too, and running the Tower of Terror 13K on Saturday night.

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We're here with our friends Jim and Sherry, who haven't been to WDW in 18 years! So we're looking forward to showing them all the things that are new since their last visit - like Animal Kingdom - a whole new theme park!

We have a two bedroom villa at Boardwalk Villas - it's SO nice to be at the Boardwalk during the Food and Wine Festival given its proximity to Epcot.

Today was our travel day, and the travel part actually went quite smoothly! We were on two Boeing 767s for our flights - I'd never been on one of those before. It was really nice - it seemed to have quite a bit more leg room than a lot of the smaller planes. But my favorite part was the personal entertainment units - one of the things passengers can do is play an in-flight trivia game against other passengers. I had a lot of fun with that...and I won a few games. :-)

Jim and Sherry's flight landed not long before ours, and they actually had their bags by the time we met them in Baggage Claim. We landed at 3:50 and were in the rental car headed out of the airport by 4:30.

We checked in and went to our room, and Lee said that they'd given us the wrong room, because for a change it is NOT all the way at the end of the hallway! :-) And fortunately, even though it overlooks the main pool area, we can't see the scary clown that vomits children. The room DOES have the dreaded swans glaring into it, though.

After we unpacked we (what else?) walked to Epcot for our first round of Eating Around the World. The weather was just great - warm enough for shorts, but comfortable if you were wearing jeans, too. I really hope it'll stay like this at least through the race on Saturday. (But there's a high probablilty of thunderstorms the next two days.)

We made it all around World Showcase in a couple of hours, and between the four of us, we tried items from 13 different food/wine/beer booths.

As you can see, sometimes careful study of the menu was required... :-)

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Things we tried:

Cheddar Cheese Soup and Maple Glazed Salmon from Canada
Spanakopita from Greece
Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies from Poland
Plantain and Beef Casserole from San Juan, Puerto Rico
Chilaquiles and Chorizo Quesadilla from Mexico
Chilled Tomato and Garlic Soup from Barcelona
Pork Pot Stickers from China
Samosa, Red Curry Shrimp and Mango Mousse from New Delhi
Prawns with Sweet Potato Hash from Melbourne
Spaetzle with Mushroom Ragout and Apple Streudel from Munich
Cream Puff from Bologna, Italy

And the guys had beer from Belgium, Ireland, Mexico, and Australia, and I had wines from Barcelona and Munich.

A couple of the standouts: the guys really enjoyed the Plantain and Beef Casserole from Puerto Rico - which was also a VERY generous serving for only $2.75!

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And one of my perennial favorites, the Chicken Chilaquiles from Mexico, was back again this year. That's also a pretty good-sized serving, for $4.00.

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The Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie was another hit, and I really liked the Pepperberry Prawns with Sweet Potato Hash.

We didn't try too many desserts, and nothing was really outstanding, though the Mango Mousse from India was good, and Sherry said the Cream Puff with Mascarpone and Gianduja Chocolate was very good.

Though we made a pretty good start, there's still a lot of booths that we didn't hit at all - good thing we're here for another 6 days! :-)

We ended our evening by watching Illuminations - the park wasn't crowded at all, and we got a great spot in front of Italy only 5 minutes before the show started - there were people in front of us, but they were short enough they didn't block our view.

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It was a great day - we're looking forward to tomorrow! Lots more Epcot - not just the Food and Wine Festival - we want to hit Future World, too - there's a number of attractions there that will be new to Jim and Sherry.

October 2, 2008

An Autumn Day at Disneyland

Warning: This is going to be a rambling collection of various observations.

On Friday, September 26, the first official day of Disney's HalloweenTime, I made a day trip to DL with my friend Kristin(e). (Spelled Kristin, but pronounced Kristine - got that?)

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Weather was beautiful and the crowds were minimal - the longest line we waited in all day was 20 minutes for Toy Story Mania. We practically walked onto Space Mountain at 11:30 that morning. And even Soarin' and Grizzly Rapids had less than 15 minute standby lines - we really didn't need Fastpasses, though we used them a few times. (Since it was Friday, I'm sure crowds at Disneyland picked up in the afternoon/evening, but we left at 6:00, so we missed that.)

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Disneyland continues to have big problems with the Indiana Jones attraction - it was down when I was there last month, and it was down when we walked by it just after park opening. We went back later and it was up, and we got as far as getting into our jeep and belted in - and then it stopped. And after a few minutes the lights came on. And then they started sending Cast Members into the attraction to walk people out of it (which would have been really cool, but we weren't in the attraction at all!) They gave us a Fastpass to return later, which didn't end up happening, but Kristin gave it to a group of very nice young teenage boys who rode Grizzly Rapids with us. Anyway...seems like Indy is in major need of an extended rehab.

Haunted Mansion Holiday is back, and still a lot of fun, though I didn't notice any new additions to it this year. But I took a few movies inside (movie mode on my camera handles low light a lot better than still photography!) and noticed something I'd never noticed before: the gingerbread coffin on the table in the ballroom scene has a lid that opens and closes, with a gingerbread man corpse that sits up then lays back down! The scent of gingerbread in the air is a nice touch.

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Other things that have returned in Disney's HalloweenTime:

The Halloween displays along the tram route.

The huge pumpkins over the Disneyland park entrance, and the large Mickey pumpkin in Town Square.

The Dapper Dans on Main Street in their orange and black striped vests

Woody's Halloween Roundup in the Big Thunder Ranch area, with live shows featuring Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye - and your host, Tex Tumbleweed (and sponsored by Cowboy Crunchies!)

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Free coloring crafts for kids at Woody's Roundup, or there are bat and pumpkin-shaped Halloween cookies available to purchase and decorate.

The pumpkin carver at the Roundup

Special menu and food items - especially sweets like Halloween-decorated apples and cookies.

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Lots of Halloween merchandise - both quite a collection of Nightmare Before Christmas stuff and Disney Halloween plush, pins, Mickey ears, etc.

Goofy's Candy Corn Acres at DCA, which features character greetings and "corny" shows.

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Over at DCA, one thing that is NOT back this year is the Halloween decorations around the Tower of Terror - the last couple of years there has been a glowing-eyed bat banner outside, and decayed Halloween party decorations inside, but those were missing this year. Golden Screams has also not returned.

I collected menus from some of the Disneyland and DCA restaurants, and there have been some significant changes in the Blue Bayou lunch, dinner, and kid menus. Price is up, of course. Cafe Orleans also has a few changes, though mostly in their dessert items and the kid's menu. I think the kid's menus were changed just about everywhere that I looked. More "healthy" options - like a turkey dog, or string cheese, fruit, and yogurt, or a turkey wrap. All kid's meals come with fruit (e.g. grapes or apples) though parents can request chips or fries. Prices have gone up slightly - most kid's meals start at $6.99 now - and the price of the Arroz con Pollo Toddler Meal has gone up from $2.99 to $3.99.

Ariel's Grotto had the most significant changes, though - they have completely redone their menu with more of an Italian theme. It actually looks a whole lot more interesting to me - I might actually consider eating there now. They've also changed their pricing - $29.99 if you eat outside, and $31.99 if you eat inside. (Sorry, I didn't get a kid's menu for Ariel's, but maybe someone has one they can photograph and send to me???)

Some of the updated menus:

Blue Bayou Lunch

Blue Bayou Dinner

Blue Bayou Kids

Cafe Orleans

Cafe Orleans Kids

Tomorrowland Terrace (updated kid's menu)

Ariel's Grotto

Wine Country Trattoria Kids

(You can always find all the menus on our Disneyland Menus page.)

We had a very nice lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria at DCA - that's one menu that had NOT changed at all. With the demise of the Vineyard Room, that's my favorite park table service restaurant now. Kristin had the Tuscan Salad and I had the Chicken Bruschetta Salad. They were both really good.

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An unexpected surprise - I ran into my IRC friend JD in line at Soarin'. I knew he had an upcoming trip to Disneyland, but thought it was in October. After Soarin' we all went to Grizzly River Run - JD and I got drenched, but Kristin escaped most of the water. It was nice to see JD!

Toy Story Mania continues to be way fun - Kristin had never been on it before but she had a good time, and she scored very well - better than I did my first time!

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(If anyone would like to help with All Ears menu updates for Disneyland, please let me know - it can be as simple as taking a picture of a menu and emailing it to me. You can contact me at laurag at allears dot net)


Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

May 7, 2008

My Bonus Trip to Walt Disney World - Part 2

Lee got up bright and early at 7:00 (which is VERY early when you just came from the west coast!) and kissed me goodbye when he left for his conference. I'm trying not to gloat too much about this whole "you're working and I'm not" thing... :-)

I actually got up not too long after he left and went out for a walk around the resort area - it was a very *bright* morning, but really comfortable for walking. I brought my runner's GPS with me on this trip, and I know that I walked 3.5 miles (you can walk a lot of miles on all of those serpentine paths in the Alligator Bayou area.

It was really a very nice walk - I saw a fair number of joggers on the main paths, and lots of bunnies and ducks. And I enjoyed the reflections in the Sassagoula River.

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I walked down to Port Orleans French Quarter, also - I'd never noticed King Neptune riding the sea serpent at the pool before. Of course, that may be because he was hidden by palm fronds...he may be King of the Ocean, but apparently he has no lordship over trees!

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I did something this morning that I have never done before - I bought a refillable mug! We're usually at the Boardwalk where it just isn't convenient to use one. We'll see if I get my $12.50 (plus tax) out of this one. So far I've gotten two drinks.

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And then I did something else I hardly ever do...took a bus to Epcot! That just seemed so wrong somehow. :-) I waited maybe 10 minutes. Though it was weird that the first three buses that came by were all going to Blizzard Beach and Animal Kingdom. Not too many people riding any of the buses at that time of morning (about 11:30). The Port Orleans bus stop at Epcot is one of the closest ones to Epcot's entrance.

The Flower and Garden Festival has a surf theme this year, and the topiaries inside the front entrance reflect that. And I loved the background music - it's all Beach Boys songs! I couldn't help singing long as I walked through there - and I wasn't the only one.

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At Epcot I did something else I've never done - got a Fastpass for Mission:Space - I'd never ridden it before. I had about 50 minutes to kill so I rode Test Track using the Singles line - I walked right into the briefing room (briefing was almost over) and then had just two other Singles in front of me, so that certainly didn't take long. I was watching the speed indicator on my GPS, which was kind of freaking out during the speed loop. :-) It thinks that my fastest pace today was a 51 second/mile pace - so that's pretty consistent with the 64 mph maximum speed you supposedly get on the ride.

I visited Minnie's Butterfly Garden, which is always one of my Festival favorites. Not too many really colorful/unusual butterflies were out at this time, though.

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After I rode Journey into your Imagination it was time to use my Mission:Space fastpass. Interestingly enough, it was the first time for all four of us inside my pod - two other ladies were a bit nervous about it, but we all worked together and it was a successful mission. I was the Navigator. I really enjoyed the ride - even without the spinning the motion simulator sensations were interesting.

I always enjoy playing the Space Race game in the post-ride area, and a game was just starting when I got off the ride. I uploaded 19 fixes, which I think is a new record for me - I came within about a second of getting to 20. My team, Orion, won the race. :-)

I had about 20 minutes to get from there to the American Adventure pavilion, where I wanted to see Voices of Liberty at 2:00. Which reminds me...The weather was really great today - it was supposed to be 90, but I don't think it got higher than 85, and it wasn't very humid. I made it with 5 minutes to spare - even stopped to take a few pictures on the way.

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And the crowds were fairly minimal, too - 20 minute standby lines for Test Track and Mission:Space, though of course Soarin' had a 60 minute wait, and Spaceship Earth, since it was still morning, was 35 minutes.

The Voices of Liberty performed America the Beautiful, Yankee Doodle, Oh Susanna, and, one that I'd never heard from them before, Old Man River. Oh my...that was awesome, and gave me chills. About half the singers were new to me, including the bass who sang the solo on Old Man River. Incredible voice.

I did something else I'd never done - ate at the Liberty Inn. I had the Vegetable Wrap with apple slices - and I threw on some more tomato slices and lettuce from the topping bar. It was pretty tasty - it was lettuce, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, shredded carrots, a big slice of zucchini, and mild roasted red peppers wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. It needed some dressing, though...I put some mustard in mine.

The Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps was just starting their set as I was finishing eating. In addition to some other patriotic tunes they played a medley of all four of the military service anthems - The Caissons Go Rolling Along (Army), From the halls of Montezuma (Marine Corps), Anchors Aweigh (Navy), and Wild Blue Yonder (Air Force).

By then it was 2:40, and I had planned to see the Block Party Bash parade over at the Studios at 3:00. Not even I can make it from the American Adventure to the Studios (over 1.5 miles) in 20 minutes - but I did it in about 25.

Unlike any of the other Studios parades that I remember, this one starts from the end of Hollywood Blvd near Sid Cahuenga's, rather than from Star Tours. So it effectively blocks the entrance for people trying to come into the park. They were routing people over to Sunset Boulevard via the super-secret gate by Oscar's Gas Station (normally used by people who have the Fantasmic! dinner package).

People were lined up at least 2-3 deep all around the parade route - I never saw it that crowded at DCA (which is where it came from), even when it was new. Nice to see people in Florida enjoying it. I think it was pretty much the same as the version in California, though it seemed a little shorter, but I couldn't tell you why.

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One cool thing I noticed before the parade - Cast Members had different activities set up along the parade route before it started to entertain the kids - I saw hopscotch, a limbo contest, and bubble blowing, among other things.

Lisa Berton called me as I was on my way to the bus stop - she'd also seen the Block Party Bash, so I just missed her at the Studios. We're going to try to meet up tomorrow, and for sure plan to get together on Thursday.

I took a short break back in the room - downloaded photos and worked on this blog entry mostly. Lee's conference had a private party at Animal Kingdom tonight, but he came back to the room to change clothes and drop stuff off. On the way to Animal Kingdom he dropped me at the Boardwalk and I walked back to Epcot from there. It's almost exactly 1/3 of a mile from the Boardwalk lobby to the International Gateway.

I arrived at the America Gardens theater about 10 minutes before The Tokens took the stage - there were still PLENTY of seats left. And who are The Tokens, you might ask? I wondered that, too. They are best known for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", a song they recorded about 40 years ago! They really put on a good show, though most of the songs they performed were hits they produced for *other* artists, like The Chiffons (He's so Fine and One Fine Day) and Tony Orlando and Dawn (Candida). They did a really fun version of Wipeout (pictured) where they all put on surfer shirts. The show was 30 minutes long, but didn't seem that long at all - I wish they could have played longer.

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While I was walking up towards Future World I took this sunset photo...

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Dinner was from Sunshine Seasons - I had the rotisserie chicken dinner, and picked up some chocolate mousse cake and a chocolate brownie that Lee and I can share later.

According to my GPS I walked about 11 miles...It was One Fine Day!

April 25, 2008

Weekday Fun at Disneyland and DCA

Out-of-town friends gave me the excuse to play hooky from work one afternoon last week and spend some time at Disney's California Adventure and Disneyland. And I thought I'd share a few observations.

My friend AK and I attended the Miner Family Wine Tasting Seminar at DCA's Food and Wine Festival. I was pleased to see that even on a Thursday afternoon the tasting area was about 3/4 full! There was also a very good turnout for the cooking demonstration, though we didn't attend, so I don't know if it was full. (By the way, the Miner Family Rosato is still a very nice wine!)

When we went over to Disneyland, AK suggested that we ask about using the "Observation Oupost" viewing area at the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. The Cast Members weren't as organized/helpful with this as they could have been, but eventually we got in there. The CM at the end of the Nemo line told us we needed to go to the exit, rather than waiting in the 45-minute line, so that was nice. So we walked in the Exit...and then stood there for several minutes while various CMs walked by and ignored us. We finally got the attention of one, and explained we wanted to use the viewing room, and he said, sure, but someone was in it (the light outside was red), but when the light turned green someone would come and get us.

So after a few minutes the light turned green, but no one came out of the room, and no CMs paid any more attention to us. We finally asked another one who looked over, saw the green light was on, and took us over there and got the experience going for us. (It turns out the exit is on the opposite side of the room, which is why we didn't see anyone come out.)

I must say that with that high-definition large-screen TV, I think the viewing is actually better in the room than it is when you're looking out of the tiny little porthole. The narration at the beginning and the end is a little different, since the sub captain welcomed us as those joining them from the remote marine observation post. But once the sub leaves the docks, the narration and sights are the same.

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Marine Observation Outpost logo

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Back over at DCA I watched the Pixar Play Parade with my friends Randi and Rick. I hadn't seen the parade since opening day on March 14 - the following week the "bug's life" float failed during the parade (one of the "flower swings" actually detached from the float, but fortunately no one was hurt), and the parade was on hiatus for almost a week while they ran safety checks. There are a few differences in the new version. The "bug's life" segment has not returned - instead they've added this weird "TinkerToy" creation that precedes the Toy Story section. (I'm sorry these photos are not of great quality - I wasn't expecting to have any reason to take any!)

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Lightning McQueen, who originally led off the parade, and Mater, who closed it, were both missing, too. And in the Ratatouille section, the chefs who lead it out weren't on stilts...and the rats weren't bungee-jumping. In my original blog on the parade (HERE) I noted this: "I found the Ratatouille float a little bit creepy - the jumping rats were ok, but there were several rats hanging upside down in some ropes looking rather lifeless. It just looked odd." Apparently I'm not the only person who thought so, because the upside-down rats are gone.

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Original Ratatouille float - note the "hanging rats"
on the front and on the spoon.

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New Ratatouille float - the rat on the front
is now perched in the mouth of the pitcher
and the one on the spoon is hanging by his tail

On the Toy Story float the acrobatic cowboys and cowgirls who used to swing on the high bar were also MIA - now there's several large "Barrel of Monkeys" monkeys hanging on the bar.

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Now, for all I know a few of these things, especially the more acrobatic components like the bar performers and the stiltwalkers, could depend on the availability of cast, and are still part of the parade during its busier weekend performances. But I thought it was interesting that the parade had changed so much in just its first month!

After the three of us had dinner at the Wine Country Trattoria (review to come, which will also include comments from acclaimed food critic "Cheap Rick") we took a quick trip through Monstropolis and then used our Tower of Terror fastpasses. Maybe after seeing the Pixar Play Parade we were on a monkey theme, since Rick suggested posing for the photo in the classic "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" poses. That was fun, and the photo turned out well. After another drive through Monstropolis (where Roz said the same thing to us she had the first time), it was 8:00 and DCA was closing, and I headed home, since it was a "school night" for me. Though it was a short trip, I really enjoyed my time with AK, Randi and Rick - nice of them to give me the excuse to get away from work for the afternoon. :-)

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March 15, 2008

Disneyland with Lisa

I had a new experience last Friday - I got to tour Disneyland with a fellow All Ears staff member - All Ears Picture This! blogger Lisa Berton. We hit both parks, all three resorts and Downtown Disney.

It was a beautiful southern California day - they don't get much better. Lisa was taking lots of pictures, since she's going to try to fill in a lot of the things that we don't currently have in the Disneyland section of AllEars. Let me tell you that it was a real treat for me NOT to be taking photographs - it was great to leave it in the hands of a professional.

There were a lot of characters out and about and many of them are total hams when it comes to getting their picture taken. Pluto kept striking all kinds of different poses for Lisa, and putting his ears in various positions. My favorite was when he rolled them into round Mickey Mouse ears. :-) I was surprised to see the Mad Hatter over in DCA outside the Animation Building - I guess they'd let him escape from Disneyland for the afternoon!

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I've found another fan of the Orange Stinger - Lisa enjoys flying around on it, too, so we had fun doing that. And we checked out the S.S. Rustworthy play area. They've cut waaay back on the water effects (no more water cannons - and I don't think that's such a bad thing!), so it's pretty hard to get wet these days. But you can try "surfing", or steering the ship, or ringing the ship's bell, or pushing buttons for the foghorn, dropping the anchor chain, and throwing a life preserver.

We caught a bit of High School Musical 2 before heading over to the Paradise Pier for dinner. At this point we REALLY wished that the back entrance that Paradise Pier guests used to be able to use to enter DCA was still open! We used the Grand Californian's egress instead.

We had a very nice dinner at the PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier - but I'll write more about that later.

After dinner we went back to Disneyland - by way of the Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney. Last month I wrote about the new floral Mickey inside the entrance, and how it has new sparkling lights that show up better at night. Of course just as we walked up the lights *stopped* twinkling. We waited for a few minutes but no luck - we think Tinker Bell was mocking us. Eventually we gave up and went into the park and found a spot in the hub for the Remember...Dreams Come True fireworks.

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Though we had a good view of the castle and a great view of the Matterhorn, we had an obstructed view of the fireworks - they were off to the left of the castle, and mostly blocked by some trees. I'm beginning to wonder if there is any spot where you get a good view of *everything*. The show proceeded just fine until Tinker Bell's flight...the spotlight went on her and she flew about 50 feet...and then she stopped. And kind of swung in place. Eventually they turned the spotlight off and the rest of the show continued, but she was stuck there for at least 5 minutes before they were able to get her apparatus moving again and she finished her descent. Normally she makes a return appearance near the end of the show - not that night! The rest of the show appeared to be unaffected.

On our way out of the park we checked the floral Mickey again - sure enough, it stopped twinkling just as we arrived. Guess that's my new mission in life!

February 24, 2008

February Day Trip to Disneyland

Lee and I took advantage of a Friday off work to spend the afternoon/evening at Disneyland. It was a gorgeous day, though chilly by southern Californian standards - only in the upper 50s. You may have heard about the freak winter storm that hit southern California on Thursday, bringing cold air that dropped the snow level to about 1000'. There were still some signs of that at Disneyland. :-)

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The floral Mickey just inside the entrance was re-done earlier this year - though you can't see it in the photo, there are also sparkling lights, which of course look more impressive at night. And the Tinker Bell figure was added, too.

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During the month of February Disneyland is celebrating the Lunar New Year, and there's a special display set up in Town Square. Mickey and Minnie, wearing Chinese attire in honor of the Chinese Year of the Mouse (really the year of the rat, but "rat, schmat" to quote our Muppet friend Rizzo) greet guests, and there's a large sign which describes the new year celebrations of Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese families. My favorite part is that at the top of the sign there's a "What Year Are You?" timeline from 1919 to the present, where they represent the twelve different "year of the <whatever> animals with a different Disney character. Mickey of course represents the Year of the Mouse, there's Thumper for Rabbit, Mushu for Dragon, Abu for Monkey, Tramp for Dog, etc. I don't recognize the choices for Ox and Sheep...I think Horse is Prince Philip's horse from Sleeping Beauty, though. (I'm a Mouse/Rat, myself.)

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It was the Friday before a long weekend and the park was fairly crowded - lines for the major attractions were an hour (or more) - way too long for us. The food lines were insane - 15-20 people deep for things like Dole Whips, the Corn Dog Wagon, the ice cream, shop, and even McDonald's French Fries. So we wandered around enjoying other aspects of the park instead. Like these colorful tulips planted around the Partners Statue:

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Since lines were long we decided to enjoy some of the live entertainment...and we weren't the only ones listening to the ragtime pianist outside the Refreshment Corner!

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The Disneyland Band was performing in Town Square - in addition to marches and patriotic music, they also performed medleys of songs from Lady and the Tramp and the musical Oklahoma.

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We had an interesting surprise on our way out of the park - Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother, Aurora, and Belle were sitting around one of the planters just inside the park entrance and Cinderella was telling her story to the kids crowded around them. It was really very cute. After a few minutes Cinderella finished her story and told the audience that she and the others had to go and get ready for the parade. A nice way for them to pass the time while waiting for the parade to start!

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We had lunch at La Brea Bakery Cafe (yum!) and dinner at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen - I'll have reviews of those later.

November 2, 2007

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

This was the first time we've ever had the opportunity to attend one of the Halloween parties at the Magic Kingdom. We've gone to the Mickey's Halloween Treat party at Disney's California Adventure the last three years, and wanted to see how different it was here. (Not so different in most ways, much different in others, but more on that later.) Besides, we'd heard the Halloween party is a lot of fun - better than the Christmas party, which did not impress us.

We attended the party on Tuesday, October 30. After donning our costumes we took the bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Magic Kingdom, arriving just about 7:00 when the party was officially starting. The lines for bag check weren't bad at all, and we received our orange wristbands. (That's wristband #3 for this trip - the other two were for Extra Magic Hours at Epcot and the Tower of Terror 13K.)

There was a cloud of mist around the Main Street Train Station, and a glowing Mickey pumpkin at the big floral Mickey. Pumpkin-headed scarecrows were placed around Town Square, and lots of jack-o-lanterns flickered in the windows on Main Street. The castle was spookily (is that a word?) lit.

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One thing we quickly noticed was that the Treat Stations had HUGE lines - much longer than anything we ever saw at Mickey's Halloween Treat. The lines for the attractions were short, though - we waited oh, all of maybe a minute at Haunted Mansion before walking into the Stretch Room. All of the hosts and hostesses were wearing ghastly makeup, some with cobwebs in their hair - they looked great! And on the lawn outside the Mansion (before you go through the turnstiles) was one of the Happy Haunts, surrounded by mist, and ghostly lit, sitting on a bench and talking to herself. Very cool.

It had been drizzling off and on all evening, but it had mostly stopped when we came out of Haunted Mansion. We met our friends Paul and Ilene near Country Bear Playhouse and waited for the start of the first parade. It started raining hard enough that we huddled under our umbrellas for a while, but fortunately by the time the parade started it had stopped. The wet street meant that the Headless Horseman went by at a trot instead of a gallop, though. Which was actually very nice since it was a lot easier to see him!

I loved the Boo to You parade. Lots of characters (some in costume) and great floats, especially the pirates and the villains. Though my favorite was the Haunted Mansion sequence - starting with the gravedigger and his bloodhound...so cute!!! And then the ghostly dancers, the HM float, and following it the zombie gravedigging drill team with their shovels. Terrific stuff! The pumpkin-headed guys on the whirling spheres were great, too - normally the creepy SpectroMagic dudes ride those - the pumpkin guys were a lot better.

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The treat lines were still really long, but they were giving out bags of Kissables at the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean, and we practically walked right onto a boat. I guess everyone was in the Treat lines!

About 9:10 we went to the Hub to stake out a spot for the 9:30 Hallowishes fireworks show - and it started to rain. And this wasn't just drizzle, either. We got back under our umbrella, but since Lee was holding it the back of my skirt was getting pretty wet. Unfortunately the rain did not let up very much during the fireworks. A lot of people left, or sought cover, so it wasn't really that crowded - I was surprised.

The show itself was great - lots of interesting projections on the castle like jack-o-lanterns, flying spooks, and glowing eyes. I particularly liked the one in this picture, though I think it was a colorful pattern and not any particular image, though to me it looks like the face of the Wicked Queen from Snow White is superimposed on the highest tower - looks like a face wearing a crown with that high collar behind it. Or maybe it's just my imagination. :-)

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The effect of the fireworks going on 180 degrees around you is very cool.

After the show we ducked for cover into the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club, then stayed under cover to get to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (no line), and then quickly ran to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority where we went around twice, since it was raining pretty hard and there was no one waiting to get on.

We'd planned to see the second parade, but missed it because of the rain...it must have been really miserable for the Cast Members.

By the time we'd made our second round on the TTA the rain had just about stopped - or was at least not much more than a drizzle. By the time we did the Fantasyland attractions, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, Peter Pan, and Mickey's Philharmagic, it was midnight and the party was over. And of course by then it had stopped raining completely and turned into a lovely night. Sigh. Oh well, if I had to choose between it raining the night of the party or raining the night of the race I would have chosen rain on the party. Running in the rain is not a lot of fun, though it's standing around in the rain waiting for a race to start that is the worst part.

So what did I think of Mickey's Halloween Treat (MHT) at Disney's California Adventure vs. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom? I'm so glad you asked. :-)

I think I have to give it to MHT as far as decorating goes. In general the park has a lot more Halloween decorations than Magic Kingdom, and they add lots of spooky projections and many more ghost Mickey and pumpkin Mickey lights than I saw at MNSSHP. At MHT there's also lots of characters just out wandering around - now maybe that's normally true at MNSSHP, and we missed out on it because of the weather.

There's a lot more people at MNSSHP, and the treat lines are MUCH longer. Though the candy is a lot better at MNSSHP! We didn't get a whole lot of candy, but what we got was chocolate and not that yucky Willy Wonka Laffy Taffy and Now&Later-type stuff that we got at MHT. Lee thinks there are more treat stops at MHT, though I think they are about the same.

A lot of the Cast Members are in costume at MHT - other than the characters in the Parade we saw no Cast Members in costume at MNSSHP - just those wearing the MNSSHP t-shirts.

Even though there's more people at MNSSHP, the attraction lines were shorter. No 30 minute waits for anything like we had for Tower of Terror at MHT - almost everything we did was a walk-on. Now again, some of that might have been because of the rain.

MHT has the Tower of Terror, MNSSHP has the Haunted Mansion - you can't do a Halloween party without SOME kind of spooky ride! Though I have to say the Haunted Mansion gets the edge here.

Parade and Fireworks - MNSSHP does this far, far, better than MHT, which doesn't have a fireworks show, and has a fairly pathetic parade. I loved the Boo to You parade - I really wish we could've seen it again. And the Hallowishes fireworks show was frightfully good. :-)

I'm looking forward to attending the MNSSHP again some year - though hopefully without the rain next time!

To finish this off, here we are in our costumes - you've heard of Disney's upcoming movie, haven't you? Beauty and the Jedi? :-)

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November 1, 2007

Walt Disney World - Crowds, Clouds, and Christmas

Thought I'd write a little bit about the conditions here this week.

Crowds: Because of the Food and Wine Festival, World Showcase at Epcot was quite crowded Friday night and Saturday, though lines for the attractions were short. Sunday afternoon and evening were less crowded, though - five minutes before IllumiNations started we walked right up to the railing near Morocco and had a really good view - not blocked by trees or islands. And during the week there's been almost no wait at the Food and Wine booths. This week we've found the waits in the rest of the parks to be quite short as well - less than 10 minutes for Expedition Everest, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Tower of Terror. There's a big group from someplace called Hollister, wherever that is - we've seen groups of them in several parks.

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Clouds: The weather has really been a mix of "nice" and "showery". The temperatures have been VERY pleasant - nothing higher than 81 (if that), but most days we've had showers off and on. The only really serious extended rain we had was (unfortunately) during our Halloween party on Tuesday night. According to the Weather Channel there's been some front pushing through Florida that's been bringing all of this wet weather, though it's supposed to improve over the weekend.

Christmas: Christmas has begun here in Central Florida. I knew that the Osborne Lights in the Studios started going up a few weeks ago, but on Tuesday we saw that Hollywood Blvd now has Christmas garland strung across the street and those tinsel Christmas trees on the light poles. There's also Christmas trees back around MuppetVision, and a big Santa climbing the side of a building. Today (Thursday) when we came in the International Gateway at Epcot we noticed Christmas decorations outside the gift shop there, as well as garland around the doorways in the UK pavilion. Once we reached World Showcase Plaza we saw that the Epcot Christmas tree had magically gone up sometime in the last 48 hours. There's also decorations in Guest Relations and over the turnstiles at the front of the park. Come on...Halloween is barely over!!! (And it's not over at the Magic Kingdom, where there is still a Halloween party tonight!)

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Speaking of Halloween - they did some fun things here at Animal Kingdom Lodge. When we arrived on Tuesday there was a display of pumpkins set up in the Lobby. They had been carved by Cast Members, and there was a contest for guests to select the best in a number of categories, such as Best Animal Kingdom Lodge Theme, Funniest, Most Frightful, Most Original, etc. We voted, and I should've taken a picture of them, but I didn't get around to it, and they were gone by Thursday morning. There was a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt for the kids on Halloween evening - we saw quite a few kids in costume running around with papers in their hands and getting treats at locations throughout the Lodge. They seemed to be having a fine time. We opted for a "treat" and had dinner at Jiko - and I've never seen it so empty! Our waiter told us it was because of Halloween - people were out someplace with their kids instead of going out to dinner. Worked for us, since Jiko was nice and quiet. :-)

Events: The Food and Wine Festival at Epcot runs through November 11. Festival of the Masters is November 9-11 and Super Soap Weekend is November 10-12. On November 12 there's the first Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party of the season and The Osborne Lights at the Studios light up the night. Epcot's Holidays Around the World begin on November 23.

Walt Disney World - What's New?

New to us, that is - since we haven't been here since last December. That's one of the things we really enjoy about Walt Disney World - it seems like every time we're here there's always something that's new, whether it's a new attraction or exhibit or live entertainment group.

Contrary to what you might think we aren't just eating around the world, though in the first four days of our trip it seems like that's about all we did (well, there was that little 8 mile run on Saturday night...) We did actually get out into the parks and try a few new things that weren't food-related.

Our first night here was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, so in addition to eating, we had the opportunity to see all the new (to us) things at Epcot. First was the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion. While I don't miss the annoying street vendors at all, I do miss the narration in the first section when you were floating by the pyramid, and they talked about the ancient civilizations. Now it's basically "it's a small mexico" with the Three Caballeros. My favorite part was something Lee pointed out to me - the "it's a small mexico" kids whacking away at a Donald Duck-shaped pinata. :-) I'm not sure it's really an improvement over the previous version, but in any case it's not something we'll be in a hurry to do again any time soon.

We also visited the Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery behind Club Cool. (We recognized the room - it's where they originally held the Segway Training sessions!) We had the exhibit all to ourselves, and enjoyed seeing the concept art and the original costumes and the various models. If you're interested in more information, as well as lots of photos, see Linda Mac's excellent blog entry on the Gallery, which is HERE.

At The Seas with Nemo and Friends we rode the clam-mobiles. We had done this before, but I hadn't seen it since I'd ridden the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, which employs similar technology in producing the visuals of Nemo and Friends in their underwater environment. I think it's much better here at Epcot - especially the section where the Nemo gang appears to be out in the tank with the *real* fish. The clam-mobiles are also a lot more comfortable than those cramped submarines!

What was new since our last visit was the new (and much bigger) theater for Turtle Talk with Crush, though the show itself isn't very different. We lucked out and arrived just as they were loading the theater for a show. Crush always makes us smile. Awesome, dude. :-)

At Disney-MGM Studios (or is it now Disney Hollywood Studios?) we did a couple of new things - saw the Jedi Training Academy on its new and permanent stage - though it was the same Jedi Master we'd seen 2-1/2 years ago. And we watched Mulch, Sweat, and Shears on the Streets of America. They're a "Rake n' Roll" band working as landscapers while they wait for their big break. They put on a good show, performing songs by the Rolling Stones, Eagles, etc.

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During Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party on Tuesday night we had a chance to do the two new things at the Magic Kingdom - and we were glad for the excuse to get out of the rain, too. I'm not enough of a Haunted Mansion aficionado to recognize many of the changes that were made during its recent rehab, but we noticed the creaking of the stretch room as it starts to stretch, the glowing eyes in the wallpaper, the glowing footprints overhead, and Madame Leota's floating crystal ball. And of course the creepy bride in the attic, with the husbands disappearing from the wedding portraits. Nicely done.

The Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club was fun - I'd heard some not-too-positive reviews of it, but we enjoyed it. (I have to say that there were members of the audience who seemed to be enjoying it a little TOO much, though - both kids and adults. At any other park I'd blame it on alcohol, but since it was Magic Kingdom during the Halloween party I'll attribute it to sugar overload.) Like Turtle Talk With Crush, this show also features real-time animated characters who can interact with the audience. (Disney is getting a lot of mileage out of that technology!) Most of the jokes are pretty corny but it was fun - and part of the fun is laughing with the audience members that they pick on and show up on the big screen. There are some truly awful puns, though.

Today (Wednesday) we finally made it to Animal Kingdom. The only new thing that I'm aware of there is a new spiel for Kilimanjaro Safaris - I'd heard they eliminated at least some of the annoying elements. The entire "Warden Wilson Matua" recording is different - it sounds like it could be the same voice, but I can't tell. That silly Miss Jobson, who doesn't realize that Thompson's gazelles are called "Tommies", is gone, though - as is the whole "Tommie" thing, which I always thought made Wilson sound like an idiot. No more Big Red and Little Red either - just a baby elephant that the wardens found which had gotten separated from his mother. But Wilson is still chasing poachers, and towards the end our mission (which we weren't even given a choice to accept!) was to help drive the poachers towards him. I have to say that it was less annoying than the original, but I still wish they would offer a poacher-free safari. We DID learn something new from our driver, though - elephants frequent the red clay pits because they rub their tusks in the red clay and then eat it - it gives them extra minerals, apparently.

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Coming up...More Food and Wine Festival, our thoughts on our first stay at Animal Kingdom Villas, and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - not necessarily in that order. So many things to write about, so little vacation left!

October 31, 2007

Eating Around the World - Day 1

This blog entry is a bit late, since up until now I've been concentrating on writing about the Tower of Terror 13K - but I think I've said all that I have to say about that now. :-)

This is only the second time we've been to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - the first time was two years ago, and we had a great time. But we love early December and all of the Christmas festivities, too, and we can't really justify two trips to Florida within 4-6 weeks, so we've decided to alternate the two.

We arrived at Walt Disney World on Friday evening and checked into the Boardwalk - always a great choice when you're planning to spend a lot of time at the Festival! Hard to get during F&W, though - I made our reservations almost 11 months in advance.

We'd planned to meet Deb Wills at the Festival, but she wasn't feeling well and had to cancel. :-( It was an Extra Magic Hours (EMH) night at Epcot, and it turns out the F&W booths were open during Extra Magic Hours, too!

Since it was Friday night the park was quite crowded, between the locals that had come in for the evening and the resort guests who had come for EMH. We stood in some fairly long lines (10 minutes or so) for food at a few places.

Our first stop was the Canada booth, where we tried the Maple Glazed Salmon with Roasted Corn and Arugula and the Cheddar Cheese Soup. Both very tasty, but not really new to us. That had a long wait because there had been a salmon run (pun intended) and they were grilling more. While we were waiting, one of the Cast Members asked us questions about Canada, and gave a glass of wine to the adult who answered first. I knew the Canadian dollar was called the "Loonie", so I won a glass of the Mission Hill SLC Chardonnay. This must have been aged in steel barrels instead of oak because it didn't have that dry buttery flavor so many chardonnays have which I dislike so much and I thought it was pretty good - especially for the price! :-) I made the mistake of giving it to Lee so he could take a couple of sips, and he finished it!

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The Dominican Republic booth was new this year, and we'd heard good reviews on the Pastelon de Platanos Amarillos, and we also tried the Mofungo. I couldn't really detect any banana flavor in the Pastelon - it was a veggie-type casserole topped with cheese and guacamole - and was quite tasty, though I couldn't really tell you what flavors were in it! The Mofungo was mashed yucca with pork cracklings, served with two shrimp. It had a very interesting flavor and I liked it - it was also quite filling. The shrimp were only so-so - a bit overcooked, I think.

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Lee tried the Beef Empanada at Argentina - this is another item that hadgotten really good reviews. He said it was quite good. (Quite a few of the highly rated F&W selections this year are some kind of beef, which unfortunately I can't eat, so Lee sacrifices himself and tries them for me. :-) )

Mexico again has Chilaquiles this year - something we both really enjoyed two years ago, and it's just as good this year. It's basically a chicken enchilada casserole with green (tomatillo) sauce. Really yummy, and still ranks as one of my favorites, and it's also a fairly generous serving. We also had the Conga Juice, and Lee had a Dos Equis.

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At Ireland we pretty much said "give us one of everything!". And it was all good. The Boxty is a potato pancake topped with bacon bits, caramelized onions and garlic butter. Very tasty. The Potato Leek Soup was served with a cheese breadstick - it had a nice flavor but we both thought it would have been better warm than chilled. The Irish Cheese Plate came with three slices of Irish cheese, some apple chutney and brown bread. The cheese was good, but we didn't think it worked with the chutney. The brown bread was more like pound cake than bread - LOTS of butter. We tried the Meade Honey Wine - and that was delicious - sweet but not syrupy.

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We tried the "one of everything" tactic again at India - but they were out of Samosas, so we had to content ourselves with the Curried Butternut Squash soup and the Coconut Indian Rice Pudding. The soup had a little bit of a kick to it but was quite tasty, and Lee really liked the rice pudding. I'm not much of a rice pudding fan but I enjoyed it also - it had some little bits of pineapple in it, too.

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It was getting close to time for Illuminations, but we wanted some dessert, so we tried the Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce at (where else?) Germany. I also had a glass of the wine recommended as a pairing with the strudel - the S.A. Prum Riesling Spatlese It was a bit sweet (but I like sweet!) and I enjoyed it.

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Stay tuned - there's lots more Food & Wine Festival eating to come! Though we have been doing some other things, too...

October 5, 2007

More Disney's HalloweenTime

Disney's HalloweenTime is becoming one of my favorite times of year at the Disneyland Resort - it's just so festive and fun! The Halloween decorations are really clever - I like the huge character pumpkins sitting atop Disneyland's entrance. Not to mention the candy corn appearance of the "CALIFORNIA" letters in front of Disney's California Adventure. I think the imagineers must have had a lot of fun with it. But one drawback is that Disneyland is significantly more crowded, especially in the evening.

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I didn't get the chance last year, but this year I sat in on one of the Woody's Halloween Round-up shows back in the Big Thunder Ranch area. Pretty corny - just like you'd expect - but cute. It's hosted by Tex Tumbleweed, but of course stars Woody, Jessie and Bullseye. From what I could tell each day's shows follow a continuing story arc - I saw the second show of the day, which featured a character (Lucky the Cat) who had apparently been introduced in the first show. And Woody impersonating a ghost. And the show ended with a cliffhanger - was the witch hat that blew on stage good or bad??? Should Jessie use it as part of her Halloween costume? Unfortunately I missed the later shows so I never found out!

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But my favorite part was the "commercial" - where Tex does an ad for the show's sponsor, Cowboy Crunchies. He even brags about how they are loaded with sugar - and all a kid needs to do is take one whiff of the cereal to make them strong! He got an audience volunteer to demonstrate that. Ah yes...all the elements of bad 50s-era live TV shows. :-)

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What's next for our Dynamic Duo? Will Laura and Lee make it through the treacherous Friday Freeway Free-for-all with time enough to change into their costumes before the Mickey's Halloween Treat party? Will their macabre masquerade survive Mulholland Madness? Find out next time...same Blog time, same Blog channel!

September 20, 2007

Quick weekend trip to Disneyland

I made a quick weekend trip to Disneyland and actually spent the night up there for a change - mainly because I was doing the Segway tour which started at 7:15 a.m., and would have meant getting up *really* early if I left from San Diego!

I met my friend Patty at my hotel on Saturday (Best Western Park Place Inn - more on that in a later blog), and she surprised me with a Disneyland birthday button! My birthday was the day before - I've never had a birthday button before. And it was fun - CMs at the turnstiles and in the park said "Happy Birthday, Laura!", and so did several guests, and I got singled out for some special attention by the Laughing Stock Company, and the Mariachi Divas over at DCA sang "Las Mañanitas" (the Mexican birthday song) to me and two other birthday people who were watching.

There were banners up at the parks (mostly where you saw them on your way out) advertising this year's Disney's HalloweenTime, which starts on September 21 - a week earlier this year. It was very festive last year, with great decorations! I hope to visit this weekend.

Now that summer is over the park is a lot quieter (even on Saturday it wasn't horribly busy, and it was a beautiful day - sunny and shorts weather, but a lot cooler than it had been in the last month!), and the Nemo line is down to something semi-reasonable - 45-60 minutes most of the time.


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I don't think I've mentioned this before - the "yellow submarine" monorail that they premiered at the Finding Nemo grand opening is still decorated and has been in use ever since the opening (though they removed the conning tower!) - it's really cute - we saw it zooming around a number of times.

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The construction of Toy Story Mania at DCA is beginning to take a more visible shape - as Patty pointed out to me the facade is taking on more of a Victorian look than the seaside amusement park look of the rest of the area. There's rumors that there are lots of changes coming to DCA (especially Paradise Pier) in the next few years, so maybe this is the start of it?

I saw the Remember fireworks at Disneyland that night from a spot near the castle where I could actually see the projections on the castle for a change. There's some really cool stuff - stars during the Main Street portion, flying spooks and hitchhiking ghosts during the Haunted Mansion section, skull and crossbones for Pirates, a moving duck target during the Frontierland Shooting Gallery bit (that's my favorite - it just quacks me up), crazy swirls for Toontown, "water ripples" for the Submarine Voyage, and a "light speed" pattern for Star Tours. I like that show more each time I see it.

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The next morning Patty and I did the Segway tour - but you can read all about that HERE. It was a lot of fun - I liked it even more than the Epcot Segway tour, I think.

While waiting for the tour to start I *finally* got a decent picture of the new cloud-patterned "CALIFORNIA" letters in front of the park - just in time for them to change to the Halloween candy corn, I'm sure!

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After the tour I wandered around the Disneyland Hotel taking pictures - and eventually found the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) sales office and models that are way on the far side of the Dreams (aka Bonita) Tower. I asked about the Grand Californian DVC, and they said they had no news on that...but it was finally announced earlier today. The press release is HERE.

Other news bits...

Ariel's Grotto at DCA will be starting a daily character breakfast on September 21, which runs through January 6. Breakfast will be served from 8:30 to 11:30 - $25.99 for adults and $13.99 for kids. Since the park doesn't open until 10:00, Cast Members will direct guests to the restaurant either from the main entrance or the Grand Californian entrance. Priority seating arrangements can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling Disneyland Dining: 714-781-DINE (3463).

And there's a new tour for the Halloween season - Disney's Happiest Haunts tour runs daily September 21-October 31. It starts at 6:00 at night and visits three attractions - Tower of Terror, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Haunted Mansion Holiday. From what one of the guides told us, each tour guide gets to assume the persona of a character of their choice - like a pirate, or a miner or a psychotic actress. The tour includes creepy stories, and it's not for young children or those who might be easily frightened. Lee and I are signed up for the tour on September 28, so we'll know more after that. In the meantime, what we know about the tour is HERE.

It was a short trip but a lot of fun!

August 14, 2007

A Summer Night at Disneyland

Last Friday Lee and I drove to Disneyland in the afternoon (took us about two hours from San Diego, which wasn't nearly as horrible as it can be at that time of day) and spent the evening at DCA and Disneyland.

I was pleasantly surprised at how *un*crowded it was - on a Friday night in the summer I was expecting it to be very busy, but it really wasn't bad. Waits in the Paradise Pier area of DCA were 30 minutes or less for most attractions - I don't think California Screamin' was even that long - maybe 20 minutes.

It had been a warm day (in the low 90s) but by the time we arrived it was mid-80s with a nice breeze and very comfortable. Even as the evening wore on it was great - often times it gets a bit chilly at night and you need a light jacket, but I was comfortable even at 11:00 that night in shorts and a sleeveless shirt - and for those who know me, you know how unusual *that* is! :-)

We went to DCA first and watched a bit of the Miner 49ers who were performing near Grizzly Peak, and then went to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area, because I wanted to see the "The Magic of Brother Bear" show. It was predictably corny and mildly entertaining. The Challenge Trail play area was uncrowded, and we took the opportunity to play around a bit ourselves - Lee traversed the rock climbing wall with ease and we both went into Kenai's Spirit Cave to place our hands on the glowing paw print and find out what kind of animal spirit lives inside us. On Lee it couldn't make up its mind...the display started off with a moose (dependable, honest) and ended up as a skunk (curious, adventurous). And the second time he tried it he was a wolf (wise, loyal). I was a beaver (hard working, industrious).

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We had a wonderful dinner at the Vineyard Room (more on that in a future blog entry) before wandering over to Disneyland for the rest of the evening. I can't remember the last time I was there in the evening when the crowds were that low. I didn't check the board for wait times, but at 8:15 we only waited 10 minutes to get on Buzz Lightyear and Astro Orbiter was only using about 1/4 of its queue. The line for Nemo only went back to Fantasia Freeze - and it was only a single line (no switchbacks) until it reached the area near the seagull buoy. Which I'm sure means it was still close to 90 minutes, but that's better than 2 or 2-1/2 hours!

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Our objective for the evening was to *finally* see the Remember...There's Magic in the Stars fireworks show. We've tried to see it four times - once we couldn't find a place to stand and ended up wandering around and around in the "you must keep moving" pathways, once we saw it from the balcony of the Disney Gallery after we'd done the Fantasmic! dessert buffet, but it was an obstructed view, and twice we've been on Main Street, with a good viewing spot, and the show has been cancelled due to high winds. Sigh.

This time we got a spot near the hub about 25 minutes before the show started and the show went off at 9:25, just as planned. It was incredible!!! Wonderful fireworks, so well synchronized to the music. It's even better than Wishes at the Magic Kingdom (though the two share a lot of music). But Wishes doesn't have the tribute to the different "lands" that Remember has. And Tinker Bell's flight is amazing - she flies not just once but twice, AND she circles around the castle instead of flying in just a straight line. I have no idea how they do that, but it looks great.

We'd planned to go home after that, but decided to stay for the 10:30 Fantasmic! instead. We wandered over to the Rivers of America area about 10:10. There were still lots of viewing areas open, but we scored a prime spot just behind the light tower at center stage. This looks like a horrible spot initially, because you can't see the stage through the light tower, but we knew that about 10 minutes before the show the light tower is raised into the air, so those behind it have a great view of the river and the stage on Tom Sawyer Island. That's also where the sound booth is - we were behind that and could watch the sound engineers at work. I can tell you that the running time of the show is 23 minutes and 37 seconds because I could see the show clock. :-)

Again, the entire area really wasn't very crowded - I've been in New Orleans Square packed like a sardine and unable to move after Fantasmic! ends, but on this night we could move around pretty easily. Even when we got out to the parking lot trams the crowds weren't bad - we could've caught a tram with only a short wait, but we decided to walk back to the parking garage instead.

It was really a great evening - we'll have to do that again sometime - there's lots of restaurants at the Disneyland Resort that we haven't tried yet! And I want to see Remember from a place where I can see the projections on the castle walls and the Matterhorn - those were blocked from our viewpoint.

Laura

June 13, 2007

The Subs are Back!

Whew...the Finding Nemo event was a whirlwind - it's hard to believe I was only away from home for a total of 30 hours - it sure seemed a lot longer than that!

Opening Day yesterday (Monday) was quite an experience and I was excited to be part of it. Even first thing in the morning (Early Entry was at 7:00) the park was buzzing - the new park maps featured "The Subs Are Back!" tagline and artwork on the cover. Cast Members were wearing special "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage" buttons. Thanks to that Disney magic, all signs of the big party in Tomorrowland the previous evening had disappeared, but there was a big stage and risers set up between the Matterhorn and the submarine lagoon that had appeared overnight, and lots of booths from which radio stations were doing live broadcasts.

The first "event" on our schedule was the "What's New, What's Next" presentation in the Honey I Shrunk the Audience Theater. I'm not going to go into great detail here (maybe a later blog entry), but speakers included Disneyland President Ed Grier, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker with a demonstration of Muppet Mobile Labs (amazing!), Tom Fitzgerald, Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering, and Crush the sea turtle. With a brief interruption by a band of pirates...

After that it was time (well time to go and wait, at least) for the Grand Opening Ceremony, though it only started about 10 minutes late. Once again Ed Grier spoke, as well as Disney CEO Bob Iger and Jay Rasulo, President of Disney Theme Parks and Resorts. They acknowledged the Imagineering team sitting in the audience who oversaw the re-creation of the Submarine Voyage. Monday was "Dream Job Day" for the people who were selected for the "Dream Job" positions, and those cast-members-for-a-day walked by the stage in costume ready to go to work - Princesses-in-Waiting, Jungle Cruise Skippers, Haunted Mansion Butlers and Maids, High School Musical Pep Rally performers and of course, Pirates.

A little musical number was next, featuring flipper-footed snorkeling "dancers". Everything was going along just, well, *swimmingly* until a big whale popped up from the lagoon behind the stage. Oh no, how can the submarines possibly be launched with a *whale* in the lagoon??? Does anyone speak whale??? Luckily Dory was nearby - who was another of those wonderful "human" puppets. This whale must have been a bit hard of hearing, though (maybe because he *didn't* have water in his ears?), because it took the combined efforts of Dory AND the audience to get the whale to "pleeeeeeeeease goooooooooo aaaaa-waa-aaay."

Monorail and sub lagoon As the musical number concluded the monorail glided silently into view over the lagoon - completely decked out like one of the yellow Finding Nemo subs, up to and including the conning tower! It was so cool! There was a burst of fireworks and it was official: Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was *open*. (Though it didn't open to the public for another 90 minutes or so.)

I was curious about what the line might already be like so I went in search of the queue. Which wasn't hard to find, since it already stretched from the Matterhorn (where the outermost barricades had been placed) ALLLL the way back to it's a small world (with multiple switchbacks, of course), but it took me a while to get to the front of the line. There I spoke to Mike from Las Vegas (an AllEars.net reader!) who with his wife and a friend were the very first people in line - they had arrived at the park entrance at 5:30 that morning and got into line as soon as the park opened.

I spoke to Mike again just after he'd gotten off the ride - big smiles all around, and he told me it was "awesome". I asked him if it was worth the wait, and he said: "totally." And he wasn't just talking Turtle to me! :-)

At that point it was about 12:40 and all of the barricades had come down...the Nemo queue stretched alllll the way around the submarine lagoon, past the Matterhorn, down into Fantasia Gardens and up onto the small world terraces. And there were switchbacks along most of that which almost doubled the length. The estimate is that it was a four-hour wait at that point.

Disney has done a few things to make the wait a little more endurable - snack and beverage carts have been placed in strategic places all along the queue, and they've done a great job of shading the queue as much as possible. The queue is positioned under the monorail track wherever possible, and the Fantasia Gardens and small world terrace areas have some shade. There were many Cast Members stationed along the queue, especially where the line crossed walkways, and they were doing a great job at keeping those clear. Cast Members were also walking the line and handing out a "Submarine Voyage Quest" to parties with young children (and some not-so-young! :-) ). This colorful brochure includes games like finding hidden objects in the Tank Gang's fish tank, multiple choice questions about the subs and the Finding Nemo movie (What kind of fish is Marlin?), Fun Facts, and a maze game. Cast Members told me that the brochures were in rather short supply and only expected to last for several days before they are gone.

One other interesting thing Disney will be doing: extending park hours for the Submarine Voyage attraction up to an additional 2-1/2 hours after regular park closing - the idea is that anyone who gets in line for the Submarine Voyage before the park closes (even if it's one minute before!) will still get to ride. Though if the line is already over 2-1/2 hours I'm not sure how that works!

There are more pictures of the Nemo attraction and Opening Ceremony posted on this week's Wandering the Land page.

A new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction page is HERE.

Dream pirates and Bootstrappers Before I left the park I went over to Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island to see if I could find any of the Pirates-for-a-day at work. And I did. :-) They were appearing with The Bootstrappers - a musical band of pirates. (Or is "musical band" redundant?) There were two women and three men who were lounging around Lafitte's Tavern with the Bootstrappers and joining in the songs themselves at times. One of the guys was doing a pretty good Jack Sparrow, at least as far as mannerisms went. (My favorite part of the Bootstrappers' act is when they talk about the "cursed dinghy ride" and warn everyone to stay away...especially the kids. Because it's filled with thousands of cursed little children that have been nailed to the floor and forced to sing that song "over and over and over..." Then they sing the song in a minor key as they slowly rotate or imitate the stiff movements of characters in the ride. Ok, *I* find it amusing...)

One thing I've noticed about Pirate's Lair, though - there's always a longer line to get OFF the island than to get ON...I'm not quite sure how that works!

Until next time,

Laura

May 4, 2007

Greetings from California!

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

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

So here we goooooooooooo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And have a Disney Day. :-)

Laura

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About Trip Reports

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Trip Reports category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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