We have arrived at the last installment of my Disneyland trip report. After I go through all the glorious details of my last two days in California, I will focus more on observations and reflections of the trip overall. If you missed parts 1 and 2, you can go back and revisit the first few days of my trip to DLR here and here respectively. Now, let’s keep moving forward!
I began my day at Disney California Adventure with a trip to the Hollywood Tower Hotel in the Twilight Zone Tower of Tower. The queue outside wasn’t quite as extensive or detailed as the version at DHS, but the lobby and pre-show were practically identical. One of the differences that I enjoyed was the lighting effect in the boiler room. The ride sequence is also slightly different and it seemed like your ascent and descent covered a greater overall distance since it even made my ears pop. I liked this version okay, but think I prefer the one in Florida a little better since you have the added fifth dimension sequence.
From here I cut through A Bug’s Land to Paradise Pier, getting my feet wet on the way in Princess Dot’s Puddle Park. I caught a part of the Phineas and Ferb’s Rockin’ Rollin’ dance party, which was great fun as a fan of the animated Disney Channel show. Prior to this day, I hadn’t really spent any time in Paradise Pier other than to ride California Screamin’ and to watch World of Color. I was looking forward to some of the classic looking boardwalk attractions more than others.
One of the rides that I wasn’t really familiar with prior to riding was Jumpin’ Jellyfish. This fun ride sits two guests in each section facing outward and you gently float up and down almost as if you were bouncing on top of jellyfish like Marlin and Dorie in Finding Nemo. I selected a seat facing Paradise Bay and had a great view, even catching glimpses of Cars Land while I was at the top. Next up were the Silly Symphony Swings, which I must admit looked a little sketchy to me at first, but I loved this ride! It was themed after the classic Mickey Mouse short the Band Concert and was a ton of fun.
At this time I went over to check the wait time on Goofy’s Sky School and it was posted at 30 minutes so I opted to get a Fast Pass to return later. Little did I realize, there was a single rider line that would have gotten me on within minutes. Oh well, lesson learned. That is one thing I noticed about DCA and DL is that they seem to have a lot more single rider lines than we have here in FL with just Test Track and Expedition Everest coming to mind.
I wandered along the water to check the wait time for Mickey’s Fun Wheel, and it was almost an hour so I opted to skip it and come back when more guests may be eating lunch. On the way to King Triton’s Carousel of the Sea, I was fortunate enough to stumble on to Goofy’s Instant Concert. This was a fun show that takes place in Paradise Bay with Goofy conducting the fountains to classical music. I really enjoyed this quick break and all the guests around me seemed to like it as well.
After I rode King Triton’s Carousel and enough time had passed to get a FP from Toy Story Midway Mania, I doubled back to ride the fun wheel. For those who are not familiar with this particular ride, let me explain. It is basically a gigantic Ferris wheel with two options: stationary cages that you can sit in and ride like a traditional Ferris wheel ride, and then there are the death cages (my name, not Disney’s). This is why it gets the nickname the Fun Wheel of Death: the cages are on loops that sway and almost flip up 90 degrees on either side, so you slide along the loop and as you go around on the Ferris Wheel you swing accordingly. Not for me. Anything that provides you with motion sickness bags is not high on the priority list for me, so I rode the stationary cage. There were some absolutely gorgeous views of both parks as well as the surrounding mountains which were visible on this surprisingly clear day in Southern California.
When my FP time came up, I returned to ride Toy Story Midway Mania, not knowing if it would be a bust like my score the previous day on Buzz Lightyear, or if it would better correlate to my scores back home. I usually score between 175 – 225,000 and this time I broke that record with a score over 228,000. I was so excited I hardly noticed the nuances that differentiate the ride from the FL counterpart. The queue is mostly outside and there seems to be more travel between the game scenes on the ride itself. As I was getting on the ride I saw Scarlett and Jeff with the kids getting off. I yelled out to Scarlett and met up with them when I exited the ride as they were meeting Buzz and Woody.
I returned to Goofy’s Sky School, which is a small rollercoaster of the wild mouse variety (similar to Primeval Whirl at Disney’s Animal Kingdom). This ride was fun, but quick, and it does whip you around corners a little more than I care for. By this time, I was ready for a late lunch and went right next door to the Paradise Garden Grill for a great skewer of lemon oregano chicken with rice and vegetables. This was a great meal and relatively affordable at less than $15 with a drink. If you enjoy the Tangierine Cafe in Epcot’s Morocco, you should like this with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influenced dishes.
Right after lunch the Pixar Play Parade started right in front of me so I stayed and watched. I liked this much better than the version we have at DHS. There are more characters, interaction with the floats, and cast members doing acrobatics. To me this was much closer to the Block Party Bash we used to have than the current incarnation of a parade at the Studios. Finishing up Paradise Pier, I rode the Golden Zephyr, which is somewhat similar to the Silly Symphony Swings in that you rotate around a central pole in swings made of zeppelins that seat about a dozen guests and are suspended from above by chains.
About this time the heat started getting to me. Yes, I live in Florida and I’m used to the heat and humidity here, but on this day the temperature was in the high 90s with a heat index of 105. I need a break from the sun and some good old fashioned air conditioning. I went back to one of my favorite places, the Animation Building, to cool off for a bit while waiting for Turtle Talk with Crush. One thing I loved about Turtle Talk in DCA is that you have a small theater with seats instead of just a few benches and mostly floor seating. As always, this show was entertaining for both the kids and adults, and poor Crush tried his best to understand the concept of Schrödinger’s Cat, after he was asked if he knew the idea by a no more than 8 year old child.
Muppetvision 3D is one of my favorite attractions at DHS and I was happy to see a show I knew inside and out in DCA. When I exited the show, I came upon the Hollywood Backlot Stage where a performance by the Disneyland All-American College Band was taking place. Again with the heat of the day I was drinking lots of water to try to stay hydrated, but was ready for an adult beverage, so before I went in to see the Disney Junior show, I got a Red Trolley Ale, which only seemed appropriate while watching the Red Car Trolley go up and down Buena Vista Street.
Continuing on the theme of completing the attractions that are almost identical to the versions we have in Florida, I watched It’s Tough to Be a Bug. I grabbed a FP for Soarin’ since the wait was 45 minutes, which we never see here at Epcot, then went to do the Boudin Bakery Tour. In case I haven’t mentioned this before, I adore sourdough bread, so I was probably more excited about this than the average guest. I liked watching the cheesy video about how they make the bread from the mother dough that goes back over 100 years. I loved visiting Boudin while I was in San Francisco a few years ago and similarly enjoyed this brief tour with a free sample in the Pacific Wharf area of the park.
My friend Kevin arrived that morning from Boston and was hanging out with his friend Paul around DCA. We coordinated to meet up for Shboom around 7:45pm, so I still had a couple hours of me time to explore. I rode Soarin’, which was exactly the same, except with a shorter queue and a cleaner screen than in Epcot.
When I had set out on this trip, I originally had a few things that were must dos and some that were dreams if I had the time and money. Dinner at Napa Rose in the Grand Californian was one of those dreams. I had heard great things about it from friends and I knew Samantha Brown wouldn’t have steered me wrong in her recommendation of it, so I walked over to the resort. I figured if I got there shortly after they opened I would have a pretty decent chance of getting a walk in reservation, at least in the lounge. Friends recommended the truffle mac and cheese and oh my goodness, this may have been the best thing I tasted on this entire trip. I needed a moment, and to my slight embarrassment, my waiter came over and noticed that moment. Oh well. C’est si bon! I also had a fabulous summer salad and a glass of meritage from John Lasseter’s winery.
Taking my time walking back through the Grand Californian’s private entrance to DCA, I was completely satiated and was looking forward to meeting up with Kevin and Paul. One of the many things I love about Kevin is how excited, no, more like how giddy he gets about the things he loves. This can be anything from riding Space Mountain for the hundredth time to seeing something new and magical for the very first time. The latter was definitely the case when it came to the neon lighting in Cars Land. After the hugs from reuniting with each other after five months, we stood waiting. The music started and I watched Kevin and the excitement he tried to contain, but it was clearly written all over his face. It made me so happy seeing a friend so enraptured with a little piece of magic.
We made the requisite stop for chai from Starbucks at the Fiddler, Fife and Practical Cafe, and then Kevin, Paul and I were off to Disneyland to see Magical for their first time. This was the second time I had seen the show (third technically if you count the fireworks I saw from Carthay Circle’s terrace the night before), and it was just as magical this time around. Next we went to go see the Magic, the Memories and You projection on It’s a Small World. I had never seen it here, and even though it is the same show as Florida, it felt different since some of the elements worked better on the wider surface, whereas others work better at home on the taller surface of the castle. Either way, it was still incredible, and yes, I cried. Again, I’m a big sap.
Kevin hadn’t yet been on a ride in Disneyland and requested that we ride the Matterhorn, which I hadn’t yet done at night. The three of us opted for the single rider line (again brilliant) since the regular standby line was at 45 minutes. We were each on within five minutes and Kevin asked if he could ride again on the other side (there are two different paths for the left and the right). Paul and I passed and told Kevin we would meet him by the Alice in Wonderland restrooms (my favorite in either park).
While we were waiting for Kevin, Paul and I devised a plan to take Kevin on a surprise trip to Trader Sam’s since it was nearing park closing of midnight at Disneyland and Trader Sam’s is open until 2am. We asked Kevin if he was up for a surprise and he trusted and followed us (insert evil laugh here). The monorail from Tomorrowland was the quickest and easiest way to get there since you exit in Downtown Disney and just walk across the street to the Disneyland Hotel. He thought we were just going to DTD, but then realized where we were taking him.
The excitement and wonderment was apparent in Kevin’s eyes as we approached. It was a magical place and inside held treasures yet to be revealed. Knowing Kevin’s affinity for Disney history and things bygone, I took a chance figuring he’d appreciate the existence of the secret menu at Trader Sam’s. The menu, which not all bartenders will make drinks from or even acknowledge, contains recipes for drinks like the Kungaloosh from the sadly closed Adventurer’s Club at Pleasure Island in DTD at WDW. My hunch was correct and Kevin seemed very anxious to try to classic drink. The evening was awesome with laughs all around and we finally made it back to our hotels close to 2am. Another great day was in the books.
My last day started with a bit of sadness realizing my trip was coming to an end and I didn’t want it to. For some of you, this may be something that you are accustomed to, the saying goodbye. I don’t often experience this emotion tied to Disney since I live just an hour and a half from WDW and go to the parks usually at least twice each month. The unique experience of riding the sad bus (aka Disney’s Magical Express) escapes me, but that morning I began to feel a bit of what I suppose you all feel.
I began my slow walk to Disney California Adventure while replaying the great memories that I’d made with friends over the past few days. I knew the trip wasn’t over yet, so the time for reflection was yet to come. Focusing on what lied ahead, I kept my eyes on the prize: experiencing all the attractions between the two Disneyland Resort parks. So far I had done everything in DCA except ride the Red Car Trolley, which I figured was a fitting way to end that journey. Starting the ride at Buena Vista Street by the entrance to the park, I took it as far as I could to Hollywood Land by the Tower of Terror.
Meandering back through the park to get a Fast Pass for World of Color, since I had a feeling that was how I wanted to end my trip, I passed by the News Boys and Mickey again performing in front of Carthay Circle. This time I was lucky to catch video of them singing one of my favorite songs from Newsies, Seize the Day. On my way out, I ran into Molly the Messenger parked on her bike looking at what appeared to be a map. I took a moment and stopped to ask if I could look at her map and she was more than happy to oblige. It was her personal map and I inquired if it was sold anywhere. She said it wasn’t, but she allowed me to take pictures of it. She is one of the Citizens of Buena Vista Street, which are very much like the Citizens of Hollywood (aka Streetmosphere) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
After a quick hour in DCA, I made my way over to Disneyland to nail down some of the time sensitive attractions that I hadn’t yet been able to do. Unlike at Walt Disney World, the Main Street Vehicles (of which there are four) run later in the day into the early afternoon around 2pm. I wanted to get these out of the way early so I wouldn’t have to backtrack to the front of the park knowing what I still had ahead of me. I was able to ride the Omnibus, Horse-Drawn Streetcar, Fire Engine and Horseless Carriage in less than an hour. It was great! Some of the rides I even had a private tour. My favorite was the Fire Engine, which Walt Disney himself drove on Main Street USA in the early years of the Disneyland.
Having not eaten breakfast, at this point I was borderline starving and swung in to the Carnation Cafe on Main Street to see how long the wait was for lunch. I figured it would go pretty quickly since I was by myself, but wasn’t too surprised when they told me it would be a 20-30 minute wait. I was willing to take my chances with waiting and was very pleasantly surprised when my pager went off in less than five minutes. In that five minute time period though I did get to meet a legend. Chef Oscar Martinez is a Disneyland institution, and although I knew very little about Disneyland, he was instantly recognizable with his warm smile, greeting guests in the dining room. You can read more about Oscar here and here. He was a very nice gentleman who treated you like he was welcoming you into his own home. He even obliged when I asked to have my picture taken with him, and even seemed honored. The food was great! I ordered one of the menu items listed as Walt’s Favorites in the Chicken-Fried Chicken, and what sounded interesting and definitely was in the chocolate cherry coke (again with real syrup).
Since I now regained some strength with the nourishment of lunch, I went to Pixie Hollow to meet Tinkerbell. This was a pretty area of the park, especially at night, but I probably would not have waited if I knew the wait was going to be 30 minutes instead of the posted 15. Next up were my last two time sensitive attractions that closed at 5pm: the Sailing Ship Columbia and the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. I enjoyed the Columbia and exploring the crew’s quarters below decks as it sailed around the Rivers of America. Then after a two minute raft ride, I was on Tom Sawyer Island exploring the caves and fort. I really liked how they added elements from Pirates of the Caribbean, but think it might make more sense if they rename it instead of still calling it TSI.
I hadn’t really been in the shops of New Orleans Square yet, so I took about an hour looking around at the details in and outside the buildings. This by far is one of my favorite areas of any Disney park. I could get lost in here forever with the attractions, food and shops, but especially the entertainment. After my feet were tired from meandering, I sat for a bit and listened to the Royal Street Bachelors perform outside Cafe Orleans. Since my feet were still sore and I wasn’t actually eating there, I decided to move on and take the train around the park again.
On my last evening, I sat waiting for Kevin, Paul and our friends Doug and Robbie to meet me at the Tiki Room. I still hadn’t had a dole whip on this trip, and in case you forgot, I do have a love for dole whips which you can read about here. After the guys arrived, we went in to watch the show and all sang along to the show in its full glory (I did as best I could not knowing the part of the show we don’t have here). Kevin requested that we ride It’s A Small World, which I was happy to do again to see the characters on the ride I may have missed the first time around.
I knew I absolutely had to ride Pirates of the Caribbean again, and according to the Cast Member with whom I had spoken earlier, it was best to return after 7pm, which was what we did to successfully practically walk on the attraction with no wait. I warned Kevin since he was sitting next to me that I tend to get wet on this ride at home and that I’d been splashed the first time I rode. This warning served as no preparation for the amount of wetness I or Kevin would encounter. I was drenched! Thank goodness I had my camera protected otherwise it would have been really bad.
About this time we were heading to the Main Street Cinema to cross off one of the last two attractions I had left on my list when we heard from our friends Dan and Becca Braunstein that they were almost to the park. Dan and Becca had driven in with their son Nathan from Arizona a day early to come hang out with us before they attended the D23 convention over the weekend. After the Cinema we met up with the Braunsteins to have dinner at the Plaza Inn. The specialty there is fried chicken, but since I had had chicken for lunch I tried the pot roast, which was okay, but probably not something I need to order again. The last attraction I had left to do in Disneyland was the Disney Gallery. They had a great exhibit featuring artwork of different castles from around the world.
Being that it was my last night and that my friends are awesome, they all let me choose what we did. I told them that I had a FP for World of Color and I’d love to watch it with them if they were up to it. We all went over to get them Fast Passes then to see the Mad T Party since Kevin, Doug and I hadn’t yet seen it. It was interesting! This is not your parents’ Alice in Wonderland, that is for sure. These characters definitely seem to be more inspired by the Tim Burton film than the Disney animated classic. Lee met up with us all and we went to the Cozy Cone in Cars Land to get a snack before World of Color.
As I’m sure you can guess, I cried … again. It is probably a good thing Kevin and I weren’t sitting together because we probably would have been bawling. Lee was a good person to sit with and he was very kind in not making fun of me for crying. We decided we were going to go back to Disneyland to do another ride or two before they closed at midnight, but I told the group I’d catch up since I still hadn’t been shopping in DCA at all and had my eye on a Red Car Trolley shirt on Buena Vista Street. Since the store wasn’t technically on BVS, when I arrived there the doors were locked since the park was technically closed at 11pm and only shops on Buena Vista stayed open another hour. I almost started crying right then and there since the shirt I wanted was only sold there, but I noticed there were still guests inside. After trying all the doors and finding them locked, I posted myself outside the main entrance and waited until a guest exited to slip inside. Fortunately, I was able to purchase my shirt and all was right with the world.
Dan texted me to let me know that everyone was at Space Mountain and to meet them there. I headed back into Disneyland for the last time, exiting Disney California Adventure until who knows when. I found Becca and Lee waiting at the exit with Nathan for the rest of the gang to do rider swap. The clock was almost at midnight and although I enjoyed the California version of Space Mountain much more than the Florida one, I knew I didn’t want to make that my last ride. I mulled over my options and decided I couldn’t make it back to Pirates before the park closed, so I went to the much closer Alice in Wonderland. I stood in line for my last ride and thought how amazing the trip had been. I looked back at the many friends I had seen and the memories we’d shared. Even the day I spent alone was completely magical. As I neared the end of the queue and was about to get on the ride, I looked up at the Matterhorn and thought of Walt. I remembered seeing a video of him riding Alice in Wonderland in the early years of the park and thought it altogether fitting and proper that I end my journey here. It took me about 30 seconds into the ride before I burst out sobbing. I was so overcome with emotion I just couldn’t hold it in any more.
Kevin and Dan texted me after I got off of the ride to see if I was still in the park. I told them I would meet them in the Hub and sat on a bench facing Main Street, still crying. Graciously, my friends did not tease me and seemed to understand what I was feeling. I loved Disneyland and my friends so much I didn’t want to leave or let this vacation come to an end. As midnight rolled around we said our goodbyes and I took my time perusing the stores along Main Street before selecting my souvenirs. I found a t-shirt, hat, magnet and toothpick holder (aka shot glass) from Disneyland. Once I finished my shopping, I went back to the Refreshment Corner one last time to get a vanilla coke (that syrup is addictive).
As it got closer and closer to 1am, when the shops close on Main Street, the number of guests in the park dwindled. I happened to have my DSLR with me and thought I’d try to do one of my favorite things and be the last guest out of the park to take empty park pictures. This was so magical and amazing to be the absolute last one in Disneyland over and hour after closing. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful sight at night than Main Street.
This trip was something that I’ve wanted to do for years, but have never pulled the trigger on until now. It helped tremendously that I was able to use airline miles for my flight and didn’t have to purchase tickets to the parks. What I expected was far exceeded by every stretch of the imagination. I thought I was going in to this trip alone and might be able to see a friend here or there. My amazing friends made this trip for me. Even keeping in touch with friends on Twitter and Facebook back home made it more special. I cannot wait to go back to Disneyland, hopefully next year. I would like to do it at a more relaxed pace. Now that I’ve done it all, I can go back and pick and choose what I do and don’t want to do again.
Some of the things that I really appreciated about Disneyland were the live entertainment offerings that were so prevalent throughout the park each day. Keep in mind that I did go during peak season so nothing was closed for refurbishment. I did all of the attractions listed on the park maps (aside from the arcades that cost money and the princess meet and greet), plus some multiple times and extras like shows and parades that aren’t on the maps. I don’t know that I would have done anything differently for my first trip. I look forward to going back with more friends and family and sharing what I know to help them enjoy their visit.
I hope you have enjoyed these trip reports and that they weren’t too verbose or boring in parts. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I’ll be happy to answer what I can. Thanks for following along!
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