Saturday, August 29, 2015

Disneyland Resort-Munchies and Crunchies

I listened to the podcasts, I read the blogs, and with so little time, choosing which foods to eat during our Disneyland trip was agonizing. I wanted to eat everything, but alas, my tummy is only so big.

The strategy, book two amazing dinners and wing the rest.

California Adventure

We had an early (4:00pm) dinner reservation, so we decided to have an early (11:00am) lunch. 

Location often plays an important role in our park quick service choices. 

We were walking through the Pacific Wharf area at 11 am on our way to Paradise Pier, so decided to stop in to the Pacific Wharf Cafe for some grub. 

Though it wasn’t cold, there was a briskness to the air that made soup a viable option.  The bonus, the soup is served in a fresh baked sourdough bread bowl. 

We opted for the broccoli cheese soup.  It was creamy, cheesy goodness, with a decent amount of broccoli chunks.  A bread bowl always seems like a good idea at the time, and don’t get me wrong, this bread bowl was fresh, chewy, and tasty, but it was impossible for me to finish.  Shannon however had no problems polishing off his edible vessel.

The bonus of Pacific Wharf, is the seating area.  

There are plenty of tables, and the setting provides some appealing scenery.

Since we missed our morning cups of coffee, due to all of our Cars Land hustling and bustling, we thought a mid-afternoon cup of Joe would be nice.  Of course, if you can get a dessert coffee, all the better, so we moseyed into one of our favorite places, Ghirardelli’s. 

Although mostly known for their chocolates and ice cream treats, Ghirardelli’s also whips up delightful caffeinated beverages. 

I slipped my free upon-entering-the-shop piece of chocolate into my pocket for later. 

Of course I completely forgot about it and hours later found a packet of chocolate liquid in my pocket (at least the liquid remained in its packet).

This was my favorite Ghirardelli’s we’ve visited thus far. Every couple of minutes, the San Francisco background scene either had a trolley that ran through (a little reminiscent of Mr. Rogers), or, it erupted into an earthquake. 

It made waiting for our drinks entertaining.

After receiving our drinks, we settled down at a little outdoor table. 

We relaxed and savored our drinks, while doing a little people watching. Across from our table, there sat a group of executives, men in their suites and ties, ladies in their pencil skirts and pantyhose, chowing down on an enormous, gooey, ice cream sundae.

Disneyland Park

Since evading giant boulders is hungry work, after knocking out Indiana Jones first thing, we made our way to Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe for breakfast.  

We knew that we had a magnificent feast waiting for us at the end of the day, so we ate cautiously.  We shared a stuffed croissant breakfast sandwich and fruit cup, and because the Disney Dreamgirls podcast so highly recommended them, a Matterhorn macaroon.

The croissant sandwich was very tasty, with nice fluffy eggs and perfectly cooked bacon.

Now we are no strangers to coconut macaroons. We never leave Wildwood, NJ without grabbing one for the road, and we are always happy to purchase the sugary treat in any other location we happen to be. Now we are spoiled forever.

The Matterhorn macaroon was by far the best coconut macaroon we've had to date. It was moist, light, and the white chocolate coating on top was a great touch.  It was also not overly sweet.  So delicious was the Matterhorn macaroon that we shared, before leaving the park, we stopped into Jolly Holiday to get two more to have for breakfast the following morning. Sadly we did not get to ride the actual Matterhorn as it was closed for refurbishment. 

In the afternoon, we decided to forgo a meal, and instead picked something to have as a snack. We wanted something that was just enough to tide us over until dinner. I wanted something that was considered a signature Disneyland snack, so we queued up in front of Edelweiss Snacks for some chili-lime corn-on-the-cobb.

We were running, running, running all day, so I was as grateful for a chance to sit and rest for a moment, as I was for the fresh, slightly smokey, lightly citrus-y corn.

After unwrapping your corn, you need to wait a few minutes, because if you don't, you will be greeted with the fires of hell on your lips.  They sure know how to keep that corn hot. Once the corn cools a bit, you can chomp away.  

For those worried about the chili rub being too spicy, I felt that it was more smokey than spicy.  It was the ideal snack to fuel us up for the rest of our running, and not too filling so we could bring on the chef tasting dinner later.

All of the uneaten Disneyland Resort treats will have to wait for a future trip.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Disney's California Adventure-The Non-Cars Parts

After knocking out Radiator Springs Racers first thing, we set out to explore the rest of Disney’s  California Adventure.

Since I couldn't find a t-shirt I liked that fit with California Adventure, I thought I'd try a simple Disneybound. I was going for Minnie Mouse. 

Grizzly Peak and Condor Flats

We never made our way to Grizzly Peaks as it wasn’t warm enough to ride Grizzly River Rapids.

In Condor Flats, we hopped on Soarin’ since the wait was super short, but never made our way back into that area again.

Hollywood Land

One of the many street shows in California Adventure
As a fan of matte paintings, I appreciated the massive, fantastic painting that acts as a backdrop in Hollywood Land. 

I heard that the Aladdin show was not to be missed, so we queued up. I was super envious of this cast member sweeping fallen purple flower petals into a Mickey shape. It looked very relaxing, and you get to wear a fun hat.

The Aladdin show was a slightly shorter version of a full on Broadway musical.  It was impressive. 

I was rather taken with the handsome Aladdin.  You know the line in One Jump Ahead where the lady sings, “still I think he’s rather tasty?” Never have lyrics been so true.  

The acting, sets, costumes, and musical numbers were top notch. Of course you can’t forget The Genie. He not only acts, sings, and dances, but he's also a stand-up comedian.  I’ve heard that no Aladdin show is exactly alike because Genie is always changing up his shtick to keep current with the latest happenings.  I’m sure many of his jokes went over the kids’ heads, but they kept the adults laughing.  

Though I think Festival of The Lion King is still my favorite Disney Park show, if you go to Disneyland, the Aladdin show should not be missed (and not just because Aladdin is so, so pretty). If we were there longer, we probably would have seen it a second time. 

A portion of Hollywood Land was walled off due to the Mad Tea Party stage being under construction.  Finding the entrance to Mike & Sully to the Rescue was quite the challenge. It seemed that even cast members were uncertain how it could be found. We did finally manage to find the entrance.  

This dark ride attraction was cute, and it’s worth riding for the door room alone, but it wasn’t something we felt the need to ride more than once.  

Buena Vista Street 

Buena Vista street was the other new area that was added along with Cars Land.  Theme park or not, there is no denying that the architecture in this area of DCA is beautiful.  

If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the park, Buena Vista Street is a great place to plop down on a bench, and soak  up some relaxing, sophisticated atmosphere. 

Bugs Land

We spent a little bit of time walking through Bugs Land. The theming gives guests a view of what it would be like to be a bug with oversized yard equipment and gigantic, towering plants.

With the exception of It’s Tough to be a Bug, the other attractions in Bugs Land are off the shelf, and primarily meant for little kids, so they weren’t worth the waiting time, except for one. 

I am the trip researcher, Shannon is not, so it’s easy to lead him blindly into things when we are on trips. This is how we ended up in line for Heimlich’s Chew-Chew Train. 

The ride is meant for the littlest of kids. 

You step aboard Heimlich, who takes you for a very short ride around the garden. He chats, in his charming German accent, about eating different foods. The highlight of the ride is being sprayed with watermelon scent as you pass through the watermelon tunnel. 

The ride is adorable and made me giggle. Shannon liked it too. 

Paradise Pier

The Green Army Men put on an entertaining show. Here are kids obeying the command to act like dinosaurs
After Cars Land, we spend the second most amount of time in Paradise Pier. It makes sense since the area has a good amount of attractions.   Though it is supposed to be reminiscent of Santa Monica Pier, the boardwalk feel made this Jersey girl feel right at home. 

Paradise Pier is often maligned by guests for having too many off the shelf attractions, but the area, like most of the park, is beautiful, and sometimes a little familiarity is nice.

Since I’m not a huge super thrill ride person, when we go to local amusement parks, the swings are my go to ride. I needed to take a ride on the Silly Symphony Swings to see how they compared. 

The line was short, as was the ride, which is probably what keeps the line short.  It was really fun to twirl around to some Silly Symphony music, plus you get great views of the park.  

The only down side was that as soon as you get up there and really start catching the breeze, you are right back down again.  

As stated above, since I’m not a super thrill ride person, I did not join Shannon on the California Screamin’ roller coaster.

 I have to give Disney a big thumbs up. They created a great viewing space for the non-coaster enthusiasts. 

California Screamin’ is a launching roller coaster. Riders sit, there is a countdown, done by Neil Patrick Harris, and then, vooooom, the coaster shoots up the first hill. A viewing deck sits over the launch point, so you can watch the coaster take off.  This was one of the highlights of my day. It was so much fun watching people waiting for what was to come.  Some were excited and enthusiastic, like Shannon.

Some people looked downright terrified. Friends held each other. People closed their eyes before the countdown even started, and oh the screams and facial expressions seen when they took off.  It was good times.

As a coaster enthusiast, Shannon deemed it a great ride. He regretted not having time to ride it a second time.

We didn’t ride the rest of the attractions in Paradise Pier, either because the wait times were too long, they were broken down, or just because we plumb ran out of time.

World of Color

We did the World of Color dinner package at Carthay Circle restaurant, so we had reserved standing spots for the show. It came in quite handy, as we didn’t have to stake out viewing spots hours in advance.

What can I say about World of Color? It was amazing. It is now our favorite Disney Park night time show. 

Getting set up for the show
What they are able to do with fountains, lights, and water projections was spectacular. 

I was enthralled. 

I possibly shed a tear or two at the part where Simba is trying to wake Mufasa.  

I wish every night could end with a spectacular light, water, fountain show.

Our day at California Adventure was wonderful. Unlike Disneyland Park, which was a crazy, full on military operation, California Adventure offered us some moments to sit, relax, and take it all in. The lands are imaginatively themed, the attractions are fun, and our only regret was that we ran out of time to enjoy absolutely everything. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is Disney's Cars Land Amazing?

Let's get right down to it, is Disney's California Adventure's Cars Land amazing?


I am loving the current theme park trend of total immersion, and Disney does a stunning job plunging guests into the Cars movie's Radiator Springs.  

You can't help but point and say things like,

"Hey there's Stanley's statue," 

or, "Wow, it's Fillmore's."  

The detail is incredible. 

You can see it all by day, 

but you also have to see it at night.

It is beautiful in all of its neon, fluorescent glory.

Each night they have a lighting ceremony where they play Sh-Boom as each building lights up one by one.  Sadly, we missed the ceremony, but it's now another good excuse to return.

Radiator Springs Racers

It was our favorite attraction at California Adventure, and ranks as one of our absolute favorite Disney Park attractions to date.

The attraction is like a ten times better version of Epcot's Test Track.  The monument valley scenery is so beautiful, you forget that it's completely manufactured. The animatronics are top notch, the story is fun, and the race around the track is just the right amount of thrilling.  

We rode it three times, sacrificing a few things that we never got to do.  The conversations went like this,

"The Ferris wheel has a 30 minute wait. We could do that, or....we could do Radiator Springs Racers again."

1st Time
As instructed by almost every Disneyland guest advice giver, we headed to Radiator Springs Racers as soon as we entered the park at rope drop.  Of course so did everyone else.

Still, it was the best way to guarantee a ride on this popular attraction.

The wait wasn't that long, and I had fun noticing all of the fellow Disney bounders in line (for those not in the know, Disney bounding is dressing up in an outfit that represents a Disney character, attraction, or theme. It can range from wearing completely normal clothes, to dressing up in an almost costume). I particularly liked a boy who was dressed as a newsie.  I wish I was able to get a better picture of him.

The attraction was so much fun, 

we knew we had to ride it again.

2nd Time
The second time we got into the single rider line.  It was shorter, and we didn't care if we ended up in separate cars. 

One of the interesting things about Disneyland, as opposed to Disney World, is that because it's smaller, you tend to see the same people again.That person sitting next to you on Soarin', will be sitting next to you at dinner, or the precocious little girl standing in line with you, will be in line in front of you, acting as the bathroom police the next day. This little girl was Alexis.  Alexis was a seasoned Disneyland visitor. Somewhat of an ambassador if you will. While in line, we had a chat.

Alexis: I see your pin. Happy first visit to Disneyland.
Me: Thank you.
Alexis: I like your outfit. You look like Minnie Mouse.
Me: Wow, thanks! That's what I was going for.  I like your shirt.
Alexis: Thanks. My Mom Mom made it for me.

Thank you Alexis for recognizing my Disney bounding outfit, you made my visit extra special.

Someone else who made my visit extra special, Captain Jack. Someone dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow was waiting in line for racers.  I tried several times to snap a sneaky picture, but each time he moved just as I clicked the button.  Finally, when he was on the other side of the railing, I mustered up the courage to ask for a photo. In perfect character, he was happy to oblige, and he gave me one of his gold doubloons. 

I was overjoyed. It was a great, unexpected souvenir. It would have only been better if he was in my car. You know you would have to buy that ride photo.

Instead of Captain Jack, I ended up in a car full of teenage boys who I assumed had never ridden racers, because the entire time they yelled,

"Oh snap, oh snap, OH SNAP!" It was hilarious. 

3rd Time
Everyone suggests riding racers during the day, and riding it at least once at night, so we decided to make it our last attraction before making our way to World of Color.  We once again lined up in the single rider queue, but this time the line ended up being longer than we expected.  We had special viewing tickets for World of Color, and we had to be in the viewing area no later than 8:45 pm. The line was slow moving, and we started making an exit plan, because there was no way we could ride the ride and make our World of Color reservation.

Just as we were getting ready to turn around to find our way out of the line, it happened.  Someone walking on the other side of the railing asked,

"Are you just two people together?"

"Yes," we replied.

"Here," said the man handing us two slips of paper, "jump over the rail." Quick as a blink, he was gone. We looked down and found ourselves holding two fast passes.  The man ran off before we could even register what happened, so if you are out there, thank you mysterious hit-and-run fast passer, we are deeply grateful for your kind offering.

We climbed the railing, joined the fast pass line, experienced the ride by night (yes, it's worth it), and hoofed it to World of Color, arriving exactly at 8:45 pm.  

Tow Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

The other attraction in Cars Land. There are a lot of people who hate on Tow Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, and although I don't recommend waiting if the wait time is over 30 minutes, it is a fun time.

As a kid and teen, I spent countless summer days at Clementon Amusement Park in New Jersey. My favorite ride at Clementon was the whip, so I was ecstatic to find that Tow Mater's was a well themed version of my childhood favorite.

While Tow Mater sings square dancing songs, your tractor "dances" around the track.  Hate all you want, but as you watch fellow riders whip around, they are all smiles. I loved this attraction. I would have gone on it again if we had more time, and I'm probably one of the few guests who is looking forward to the alien claw version of this ride coming to the new Toy Story Land in Orlando. 

Though we enjoyed the entire California Adventure Park, we probably spent the most time in Cars Land, riding racers, and gawking at all of the beautiful, outstanding theming. It is definitely amazing.