A Visit to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar- Part II

And now, for the exciting conclusion, let’s head back to another sunny and comparatively warm part of the United States during early February: Anaheim, CA…

All Iimages provided by Pearson Images
All photos in this article are provided by Pearson Images unless otherwise noted.

Welcome back readers!  In last week’s post, we covered some exterior and interior details, the backstory, and the Disney magic and drinks you can find inside Trader Sam’s. This week we’ll focus exclusively on some of the hidden gems the Imagineers have placed throughout and explore some of Trader Sam’s connections to Walt Disney World (as well as other Disney Parks) and what may be in store for Orlando when the jungle’s “Head Salesman” expands his operations to the East Coast.

When you enter Sam’s the skippers behind the bar yell “Aloha!” to all who enter that happy place. Find a seat, grab an illustrated menu , then sit back and soak up the sights and sounds of Trader Sam’s.

Skipper Ramiro makes another Uh-Oa.
Skipper Ramiro makes another Uh-Oa.

It’s in the Details

Alternating tropical tunes and antique diddies like you might hear waiting in line for the Jungle Cruise comprise the soundtrack of Trader Sam’s. Patrons inside are constantly ordering one of the handful of drinks which “awaken” the tiki gods and stir up a little chaos. But, amidst all the sights and sounds, be sure to wander around and inspect the ephemera Sam has “collected”, which decorate the walls and ceiling. Including the walls behind the bar!

As we mentioned last week, there’s notes, postcards, photos, artifacts , and more that give a nod –or flat out refer- to different Disney characters, rides, and places, including Disneyland Tokyo and a photo of a familiar sight from Typhoon Lagoon!

I was originally going to list my top ten favorite Trader Sam’s artifacts, but there’s just too many to pick from. Plus, a great deal of fun is exploring the place on your own.  So, instead, I’ll let some photos do the “talking.”

Trader Sam's-58

If you're looking for a hidden Mickey here, you're cruising down the right river... And if you aren't, then you're in "de Nile".
If you’re looking for a hidden Mickey here, you’re cruising down the right river… And if you aren’t, then you’re in “de Nile”.
The glass bottle that actually camer from the Adventurer's Club. Be sure to watch this when someone orders a "Shipwreck on the Rocks!"
The glass bottle that actually came from the Adventurer’s Club. Be sure to watch when someone orders a “Shipwreck on the Rocks!”
Even the beer handles are themed and enjoy a little Disney "magic."
Even the beer handles are themed and enjoy a little Disney “magic.”
This Glass case warrants taking a gander at. Anybody know what movie that SF newspaper is from? (Hint: there's a hardback clue on the far right side of the shelf in the picture with the White Hat mentioned further below.)  Take a close look with the flash on your camera at the inside bottom right corner to look for another hidden Mickey.
This Glass case warrants taking a gander at. Anybody know what movie that SF newspaper is from? (Hint: there’s a hardback clue on the far right side of the shelf in the picture with the White Hat mentioned further below.)
Take a close look with the flash on your camera at the inside bottom right corner to look for another hidden Mickey.
Can you find the letter from an Indiana Jones character? Or the Indy voodoo doll from Temple of Doom?
Can you find the letter from an Indiana Jones character? Or the Indy voodoo doll from Temple of Doom?

 

I showed the photo of Colonel Critchlow Suchbench last week, but patrons looking up at a crate hanging from the ceiling on the left side of the bar will note some other familiar Adventurer’s Club artifacts.

Slappy the puppets dangles from the top of the crate.
Slappy the puppet dangles from the top of the crate.

There’s a letter attached to the crate via wooden arrow. I took a close-up photo with flash so it was legible. Those familiar with the old Adventurer’s Club will find it amusing.

Take a read. This is the only way you'll be able to.
Take a read. This is the only way you’ll be able to.

See how many other Adventure’s Club connections you can find throughout Sam’s. I’ve never tried to count them all, but just from the ones I’ve observed, there’s at least 12 or 13 (counting the identifiable objects in the crate separately)

Last week I mentioned TWO hidden Mickey’s inside Trader Sam’s. Well, here’s a photographic hint to one of them, also related to the Adventurer’s Club. Can you identify where this Col. Suchbench Vinylmation is “floating” around?

HIdden Mickey "floating" around inside Sam's. You will NEED FLASH on a camera in order to see this, as it's otherwise obsucred by darkness.
HIdden Mickey “floating” around inside Sam’s. You will NEED FLASH on a camera in order to see this, as it’s otherwise obscured by darkness.

 

Orange Bird Alert! He showed up here a year before his "official" return to Walt Disney World.
Orange Bird Alert! He showed up here a year before his “official” return to Walt Disney World.

 

Tiki mugs, a pirhana, and some familiar tiki gods inside Trader Sam's.
Tiki mugs, a pirhana, and some familiar tiki gods inside Trader Sam’s.

Trader Sam's-39

A lot to see stashed here. That white hat on top of the container of “Gorilla Grog” is probably just meant to be a “period” hat from the early decades of the 1900’s, but given the penchant for Indiana Jones here, I like to think that’s the hat worn by the Man in the Panama Hat  in the prologue of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, whose hat we see floating with a hole in it at the end of the prologue.

panama hat This screen capture was taken from the Indiana Jones Wiki page.

After visiting more times than I can keep track of, I still notice new things. So, whether you’ve been before or haven’t been yet, there’s always going to be more eye candy for you to enjoy. Let’s hope the same imaginative and thorough approach is taken when Trader Sam’s comes to Orlando.

Trader Sam’s in Orlando

Not long after rumors first circulated about WDW engaging in a notable renovation of the Polynesian Hotel, rumors started to abound in late-2012 & early-2013 that Disney was actively planning to bring Trader Sam’s to Orlando. Not a huge surprise given its success in Anaheim. The joint is regularly packed, sits well with locals AND resort guests, and sells an average of 200 souvenir tiki mugs each weekend (according to one skipper, and that’s JUST the weekend).  It was all too natural to pair the impending renovation of the Polynesian with plans to bring Trader Sam’s to Orlando. But, no official announcement was made regarding Sam’s.

However, shortly after Disney “officially” announced  the renovation of the Downtown Disney area (soon to be “Disney Springs”) in March 2013, there was some initial confusion about the location of Orlando’s Sam’s. A logo banner with properties designed by one of the Creative contractors working with Disney leaked out with the Trader Sam’s logo. Quickly, rumor spread that WDW’s Trader Sam’s must be going into Disney Springs.  But, to date, that does not appear to be the plan. (Apparently, the logo banner only contained projects the Creative firm had worked on previously, one of which was Trader Sam’s.)

Although Disney still has not officially announced any plans for a Trader Sam’s in Orlando, there is strong sentiment among the Disney community on-line that Sam’s will eventually show up at the Polynesian. It could end up in the Great Ceremonial House building, but it’s still anyone’s guess. For more detailed coverage of the Polynesian renovations and “Disney Springs” project, I’ve been following the Atomic Grog here, and Tikiman, who maintains the Unofficial Polynesian Resort pages here.

Given the amount of space to work with at the Polynesian and the general trend to fit the needs for WDW’s larger crowd capacity, it seems likely that any port of Trader Sam’s built in Orlando will reflect a significant increase of patron capacity beyond Trader Sam’s mere “47 occupants” inside the bar itself. And, perhaps, there could be a whole portion of Trader Sam’s with dedicated wait-staff service in addition to the bar we have already come to love. Those who have experienced Sam’s firsthand know that the tight capacity is both a blessing and a curse. It can be hard as heck to find ANYWHERE to sit (or stand) inside the bar on a Friday or Saturday night, or when there’s a big conference in Anaheim. And, the noise amplifies pretty quickly in those close quarters. But, it’s the coziness of the bar and proximity to other celebratory patrons that gives Sam’s part of its character. It creates the sense being in a place where everyone is nobody, but everyone belongs. It’s something that is hard to create in a bigger, open space where groups can keep to themselves.

Over at The Atomic Grog, there’s some pondering over whether the Orlando version of Trader Sam’s might also include some sort of a dinner show, akin to the old Adventurer’s Club or even closer to Walt Disney’s original concept for the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland (which would have been a restaurant with animatronic bird show.) There’s been no indication of any such plan so far, but it sure does excite the mind to imagine the possibilities of what THAT experience could be like!

While planning his Orlando theme park, Walt Disney engaged in a lot of research, including sourcing inspiration for the Polynesian.  It’s not inconceivable that Walt might have visited the historic Mai-Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, giving further influence to some of the initial design of the Polynesian (perhaps?) I’ve been to the Mai-Kai and it’s an amazing mid-century style South Seas dinner and show experience not to be missed for anyone visiting Ft. Lauderdale. An Orlando Trader Sam’s that looked and felt like this could be incredible! Here’s a couple of pictures to get your mind spinning.

One of the bars inside The Mai-Kai (photo courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel).
One of the bars inside The Mai-Kai (photo courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel).

maikai2  Mai Kai photo above courtesy of The Tiki Chick blog (http://thetikichick.com/)

I’d also like to imagine a dining area or bar that took some inspiration from Don the Beachcomber. There’s only two Don’s left now (Southern California and Kona, HI), but in its mid-century hey-day, Don’s was one of the biggest inspirations for the kind of “wall of artifacts” style of décor employed at Sam’s.

DTB

 Don the Beachcomber image from the Don the Beachcomber Facebook page.

Hopefully the installation of former Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis, who oversaw the transformation of Disney California Adventure, will encourage Orlando to create their new Trader Sam’s with the same sensibilities, fun, and tongue-in-cheek references that make Disneyland’s Trader Sam’s such an amazing experience.

What do you all want to see in the Trader Sam’s that’ll hopefully come to Walt Disney World? Tell me in the comments below.

Well, that’ll round out the second half of our visit with Trader Sam’s. Hope you all enjoyed it. Please do leave comments below and let us know what YOU HOPE TRADER SAM’S IN ORLANDO will be like.

As they used to say at another Orlando Disney location that was imbued with fun and “magic”, “If you come in here a stranger, you will exit as a friend.” That, friends, is the Trader Sam’s spirit of “aloha” we hope will find its way to Orlando.

Cheers until the next time!

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A Visit to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
All photos courtesy of Pearson Image

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar – Disneyland Hotel, CA

Regardless what coast or continent you hail from, Disneyphiles know that Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA has become a recognized “must-see” destination at the resort. And, all the hoopla and avail is well-deserved. Naturally, when news first broke in early-2013 that a new Sam’s would be built in Orlando, excitement stirred like an erupting Krakatoa (also the name of one of Trader Sam’s signature cocktails.)

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

Since opening in May 2011, Trader Sam’s has delighted guests and regulars to a fun atmosphere where artifacts festoon the walls, an array of exotic cocktails garnish every table and countertop, and some Disney “magic” is always in the air. Eagle-eyed guests will also spot some clever “nods” to other Disney parks and properties hidden inside, including a number of references that knowledgeable Walt Disney World regulars will recognize. Later in this article we’ll ruminate about the incarnation of Trader Sam’s planned for Orlando, but right now let’s take a closer look at Disneyland’s Trader Sam’s and hope that the forthcoming version for Orlando can bring the same sense of atmosphere and fun.

What’s the Story Here?

Is Trader Sam’s more Tiki Room or more Jungle Cruise? And what’s up with the myriad of mysterious artifacts scattershot throughout the joint? The truth is, Trader Sam’s has tons of stories. Thousands, actually.

Brandon Kleyla, a Lead Set Decorator with Walt Disney Imagineering who was also involved with the show writing and show directing says there are over 1,600 individual pieces of artifacts, photos, and other objects at Trader Sam’s. Brandon (also responsible for the fan documentary Indyfans: The Quest for Fortune and Glory) also worked as a Lead Set Decorator on Mystic Manor, the new Iron Man ride coming to Hong Kong, and is currently working on the Avatar project underway in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Having grown up in Florida, Walt Disney World was obviously influential to Brandon. He has a special fondness for the old Adventurer’s Club and later became a Jungle Cruise skipper in Disneyland.

As imagineers forged the origins of Trader Sam’s, the concept changed from a more “upscale” minimalist tiki bar to the fun and quirky version we all know today that replicates the sense of humor in some of Disney’s great attractions. The Disney “story” behind Trader Sam’s is that the “head salesman” from the end of the Jungle Cruise ride partnered with the Jungle Cruise Navigational Company to build a place where Sam could show off his “talents for brewing head-shrinking potions naturally gave him experience in mixing exotic elixirs.” So, it’s only natural that the place is crammed with shrunken heads, spears, masks, beads, and trinkets.

In an interview with David Yeh at EndorExpress.com, Brandon sheds some further light onto the conceptual origins saying “what if he [Sam] knew Indiana Jones, what if he knew Jack Sparrow, or Swiss Family Robinson”, you know, all those types of characters.” As Brandon puts it, Trader Sam’s “became Adventurer’s Club meets Jungle Cruise meets Tiki Room.” And, indeed, guests can spot gifts and letter from all kinds of Disney notables -including the Adventurer’s Club- all around the Enchanted Tiki Bar (more on the hidden Disney tributes further below!)

Ins and outs of Trader Sam’s

For those who haven’t yet been, Trader Sam’s is located within the Disneyland Hotel complex, adjacent to the Monorail Pool areas in the middle of the three hotel towers. It’s at the far western end of Downtown Disney and parking is free for the first three hours (be warned, however: Sam’s has been known to make those first three hours disappear fast!)

As you approach the front, you pass by the lanai, which is lit at night with tiki torch gaslamps and faux-tapa cloth lights hanging overhead. Around the corner of the lanai is the entrance to Tangaroa Terrace, a quick serve food location that long-time Disney World fans will recognize the name as being borrowed from the Polynesian.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

A view of the lanai area in front.

And, lest anyone think it’s strictly for adults, fear not because Trader Sam’s “family-Friendly”, too. The sizable lanai dining area outside wraps around the side of the building shared with Tangaroa Terrace. Guests on the lanai during afternoons and evenings also get to enjoy a duo of Polynesian singers (Note: Sam’s is only able to serve alcoholic drinks to guests sitting within the area in front of Sam’s. Drinks can be taken to the Tangaroa Terrace sitting area, just not ordered/served there.)

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

Tangaroa Terrace is a quick service restaurant adjacent to Trader Sam’s.

Minors are not allowed to sit at the bar, but can sit at the tables inside as long as they are accompanied by an adult. However, the crowd can get loud later in the evenings, so it’s probably best to stay outside if you have little ones. There’s also a seating area across the walkway from Sam’s with a fireplace where you can enjoy to-go drinks. To-go drinks can also be ordered at Sam’s and taken into the Pool areas.

As nice as the exteriors are, INSIDE Sam’s is where the incredible eye candy resides. After nearly three years of serving libations, even regular visitors are still spotting things they never saw before. Be sure you sit where you can see one of the two windows looking out onto the tranquil bays in the shadow of some old volcanoes… that may not be as dormant as they appear.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images
Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

Talk to your bartender or server (or “skippers”, as they call them in true Jungle Cruise fashion) and you might hear tales behind some of the artifacts on the walls around you. They also know where certain things are hidden, which only the shrewdest “Mouse Detectives” could possibly find on their own. (There are at least two hidden Mickey’s that I’ve found –and probably more await discovery! A light or camera flash certainly comes in handy for looking “up” and “down” for them.)

There are photos of locales and people from exotic places around the globe, including some of Sam himself: in front of a familiar looking South American temple or two, meeting Teddy Roosevelt, etc. Just a few fun things to look for:

A whip from Indiana Jones

A letter from Short Round (Temple of Doom)

Old hardback edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Tiki god drummers from the Enchanted Tiki Room

Black and white photo of Dick van Dyke

A tiki mask in the likeness of Imagineer Joe Rohde (known for his “ear wear”)

Trader Sam’s “family tree”

PLENTY of references to the Adventurer’s Club! Look for Colonel Suchbench, Samantha Sterling, and Hathaway Browne.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

The Disney Magic

Now, I don’t want to give away too much and spoil things, but they don’t call this an “enchanted” tiki bar for no reason!  The centerpiece of Trader Sam’s are their variety of liquid concoctions. There’s a selection of 12 tiki drinks (plus three “No-Booze Brews”) illustrated in their menu, in addition to beer and wines. For an additional cost, five of the cocktails can be served in souvenir mugs that you get to keep (as shown on the menu.) The Uh-Oa bowl drink serves 2-3 people is always served in the mega-bowl with a flaming stack of sugar cubes atop a floating half of lime.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

Not only do the “skippers” have a lot of props to play with, certain drink orders “activate” the tiki gods and really bring the bar to life. Be sure to watch the windows to, uh, check the weather (remember those dormant volcanoes?)  You’ll also notice the pillars around the bar are carved with familiar faces from the Enchanted Tiki Room. Don’t worry about watching them to much, but they’ll sure keep an eye on you. And try to be keep an eye on that replica of the Wicked Wench inside the giant glass bottle behind the bar (Trivia Time: Adventurer’s Club aficionados: that bottle is an original piece from the Club, however the ship inside was carved for Sam’s by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily.)

I’ve sampled nearly every drink (and non-alcoholic beverage) Sam’s makes, and they are all tasty. If you aren’t sure what to order, consult your skipper. They’ll be able to steer you in the right direction.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

Try a Shrunken Zombie Head , but watch out- they aren’t called “zombies” for no reason.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

A festive color cube makes the Krakatoa lava-licious!

Sam’s skippers can also make drinks that aren’t listed on the menu, for those wanting more standard mixed drink fare like Old Fashions, Dark & Stormy’s, White Russians, etc. But, you could get those anywhere!  And for the truly adventurous, see what novel drink your skipper recommends that’s not on the menu at all. They now have three or four drinks that are “off-menu”, but which all the skippers are now able to make (I recommend the King Kamehameha Mai Tai or the Navy Grog.)  Friends of old Adventurer Club will find themselves able to order both the “old” and “new” Kungalooshes, too (just be prepared to give your skipper the proper hand greeting!)

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Pearson Images

Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour in and around Trader Sam’s so far. Come back next week when we get into some more tie-ins that Sam’s has to Walt Disney World, including information about the Trader Sam’s that is planned for Walt Disney World!

 

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Disneyland Trip Report – Betsy’s California Adventure – Part 3

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!

Tuesday 8/7

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.

Tower of Terror Lobby
Tower of Terror boiler room
View from Tower of Terror
Tower of Terror ride picture

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.

Phineas and Ferb doing the robot
View of Cars Land from Jumpin Jellyfish
View of the Fun Wheel of Death from Jumpin Jellyfish
Riding Silly Symphony Swings

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.

Riding King Triton’s Carousel
Goofy’s Instant Concert

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.

Riding Mickey’s Fun Wheel
View of Grizzly Peak from Fun Wheel
View of Disneyland and DCA from Fun Wheel
New high score on Toy Story Midway Mania
Malcolm and Zinn with Buzz and Woody
Lemon oregano chicken from Paradise Garden Grill

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.

Pixar Play Parade Incredibles float
Acrobats on Toy Story float of Pixar Play Parade
Slinky Dog in Pixar Play Parade
Riding Golden Zephyr

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.

Turtle Talk with Crush
Muppetvision 3D queue
Disneyland All-American College Band
Disney Junior Live on Stage

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.

It’s Tough to Be a Bug
Boudin Bakery Tour
Sourdough bread shaped like Mickey, Lightning and Mater

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.

Disney’s Grand Californian pool
Grand Californian lobby
Light fixture in Grand Californian lobby
Grand Californian chandeliers
Napa Rose menu
Napa Rose lounge
Napa Rose bar
Napa Rose view of wine cellar
Summer salad from Napa Rose
Truffle mac and cheese from Napa Rose
Truffle mac and cheese close up
Lasseter Winery meritage from Napa Rose

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.

httpv://youtu.be/O11z4CWTpqc

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.

Waiting for The Magic, The Memories and You to start
Trader Sam’s sign
Kevin enjoying his Kungaloosh at Trader Sam’s courtesy of Kevin Quigley
Enjoying Trader Sam’s picture courtesy of Kevin Quigley

 

Wednesday 8/8

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.

Riding the Red Car Trolley
Red Car Trolley sign
Red Car Trolley
Mickey riding the Red Car Trolley with the News Boys

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.

httpv://youtu.be/Ims_8JpqbUI

Molly the Messenger with her map of Buena Vista Street
Molly the Messenger’s map
Molly’s map of DCA
Disneyland sign at entrance

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).

Disneyland Fire Engine
Front row seat on the Horse-Drawn Streetcar
Mickey strolling through Town Square like he owns the place 😉
Disneyland Train Station
Chef Oscar Martinez in the Carnation Cafe
Chef Oscar and me
Chicken-Fried Chicken from Carnation Cafe
Chocolate Cherry Coke from Carnation Cafe

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.

Tinkerbell and me in Pixie Hollow
Columbia informational sign
Sailing Ship Columbia
Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
Royal Street Bachelors in New Orleans Square
Walt and Roy’s initials in the wrought iron in New Orleans Square
Le Bat en Rouge in New Orleans Square
Musicians strolling through New Orleans Square

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.

Dole Whip at the Tiki Room
Paul, Kevin, Doug, Robbie and me in front of the castle
Pirates!
Bayou in Pirates

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.

Main Street Cinema
Pot Roast from the Plaza Inn
Disney Gallery
Crowning Achievements at the Disney Gallery

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.

Grizzly Peak at Night
Entrance to Mad T Party
Mad Hatter’s hat
Drink Me bar
Nathan seemed to be enjoying the Mad T Party
Dan, Becca, Nathan, Doug, Robbie, Kevin and me
Alice and the Mad Hatter
Characters from the Mad T Party
Cars Land sign
Cozy Cone Motel sign
Cozy Cone with Tower of Terror in the background
Pomegranate Limeade from Cozy Cone

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.

Paradise Pier before World of Color
World of Color rainbow fountains
Ariel in World of Color
Wall-E and Eve in World of Color
Flame spurts during Pirates sequence of World of Color
Fountains at the end of World of Color
Lee and Nathan watching Grizzly River Run
Lee was going to cool Nathan with the jet spray
Lee and Nathan still had fun even with the spray off

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.

Partners at night
Tomorrowland neon
Reflections of Tomorrowland
Pixie Hollow fountain at night
Tea Cups
Empty Town Square
Empty Main Street
Empty Main Street minus strollers and security
Last one to leave Disneyland
Empty entrance plaza
Goodbye Mickey … See You Real Soon

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!

If you’d like to see more of my pictures from my trip, you can access them via my facebook page here and here.

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The Week in Review: August 19th – August 24, 2012: Halloween, Adventures, Movies, and More!

The Week in Review: August 19th – August 24, 2012: Halloween, Adventures, Movies, and More!

This past week here at On the Go has been full of great stuff, and now it’s time to look back at our Week In Reviews so we can see all that happened August 19th to August 24th!!!

Let’s Go!

On Sunday, we brought you news about Cohen’s Deli Opening a Kosher Hotel Near Walt Disney World!

There is a Kosher Hotel coming to the Walt Disney World Area!

Monday brought us news about the 2012 Halloween Merchandise at Walt Disney World! Halloween is my favorite time of year, and this year the merchandise is well designed and even better than last year’s offerings.

Duffy’s Halloween Costume

We are all really pumped for the Orlando Solar Bears to Come Out of Hibernation, and they have signed a new player!

Simon Danis-Pepin Orlando Solar Bears

Tuesday brought the first in our Girls Night Out in Orlando series, where a few of the gals had a fun night at Universal’s CityWalk!

Wordless Wednesday took us to Animal Kingdom at night for a look at the Tree of Life. Animal Kingdom is a beautiful park at night.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Tree of Life at Night

I also went shopping at DStreet, and found that the Mavericks of Mayhem line by Noah had arrived at Downtown Disney’s Westside!

Mavericks of Mayhem Teams

Thursday started with another installment of Betsy’s California Adventure!

Matterhorn

Then I reviewed Doc McStuffins: Friendship is the Best Medicine, available now on DVD.

Doc McStuffins: Friendship Is The Best Medicine Available August 21, 2012 on DVD

Nights of Joy are coming to Walt Disney World, and we look at the artists that will be performing this year!

We ended the week with Cheryl taking us along for her DVC stay at Bay Lake Tower for One More Disney Day.

Disney Vacation Club Bay Lake Towers Couch Area
Disney Vacation Club Bay Lake Towers Couch Area (courtesy of Betsy Bates)

We also gave away two tickets for the Big Time Summer Tour with Big Time Rush with Special Guest Cody Simpson, coming to the Amway Center on August 28, 2012.

Catch Big Time Rush at the Amway Center with Special Guest Cody Simpson August 28th at 7pm!!!

And finally we took a look at two new logos that the Orlando Solar Bear will be using!

Orlando Solar Bears Opening Night Logo

Thanks for joining us this week in review at On the Go, and we can’t wait to bring you even more posts next week!!!

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Betsy’s California Adventure Trip Report from Disneyland – Part Two

Sunday 8/5

Matterhorn Macaroon

When we last left our adventures, I had just completed my first full day at the Disneyland Resort with a day at DCA and finished with a late night dinner at Jolly Holiday Bakery in Disneyland. From here we resume our trip report. On day two I began with a breakfast, leftover dessert from the night before, with a Matterhorn macaroon from the bakery. This was amazing! Thank you again to Lee and Becca for the recommendations on this one. It was the perfect way to start my day with a small bite to eat since I had an early lunch ADR at Blue Bayou at 11am.

I made my way to Disneyland with the goal of trying to ride the Matterhorn (fitting, no?) before lunch, but unfortunately it was down when I got there. I made a game time decision to ride Alice in Wonderland since it was a posted 10 minute wait. I figured this would give me enough time to ride and make it to my reservation in less than an hour without any trouble. I loved this ride! I am know a huge fan of the movie, but I think it is a great classic dark ride and it also has a connection to Walt. This was a great way to start my morning before heading to lunch in New Orleans Square.

Matterhorn climbers
Alice In Wonderland
Riding Alice In Wonderland
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

Lunch at Blue Bayou was the only reservation that I made for dining and I did so only about a week and a half or so prior to arrival using the email system used by Disneyland. I sent an email to dine@disneyland.com, which you can read more about how it works here. In the email I told them that I wanted to eat at Blue Bayou for lunch any time between 8/2 and 8/8 and they responded promptly within an hour with choices. I responded with my selections and concerns with a food allergy and they again got back to me within 15 minutes with a time, confirmation number, and information about my allergy. All in all, it was a pretty simple way to make ADRs. I liked the quick response time as well as the interaction and ability to ask questions. I would highly recommend this system for any future bookings.

Since I was dining at opening at 11am, and I was by myself, I thought my chances were good for a waterside table, but requested it when I checked in at the podium, letting the CM know I was willing to wait for one. For those who are not familiar with the Blue Bayou, it is located in New Orleans Square in Disneyland and the restaurant is situated in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, much like San Angel Inn in Mexico at Epcot. The food and service were great and I ordered the gumbo and the monte cristo. Having lived in Louisiana, it was nice to be able to get some nice cajun food, although I should have asked for hot sauce to add a bit more kick to the gumbo. I was barely able to eat half of my meal, so I got the rest to go to save some for dinner later.

Blue Bayou
Gumbo
Hidden Mickey butter balls
Monte Cristo

After eating, one of my favorite things to do is to take a nice leisurely boat ride while I digest. I opted for either the Columbia or the Mark Twain, which ever one came first, which ended up being the latter. It is a nice ride with narration around the Rivers of America, very similar to the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom at WDW. Once my stomach was settled from lunch, I headed to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which I thought was a bit faster and more wild than the Florida version. At the recommendation of Sally, I went to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at the Big Thunder Ranch. I totally loved this area of the park that is used for character meet and greets and pin trading. There is also a small petting zoo with goats on the way to the seating area. You can even color with the Country Bears.

Riding the Mark Twain
Dinosaur remains on Big Thunder Mountain
Big Thunder Ranch
Billy Hill And The Hillbillies

I was supposed to meet up with Colin and Rich again, but my phone was dying and I forgot my external battery charger, so I went to Pinocchio Village Haus to sit and charge my phone for an hour before the guys arrived. When they got there we tackled Fantasyland, starting with Casey Jr., then on to Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, King Arthur Carrousel, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough and Snow White Grotto. I really liked the dark rides and thought that star effect in Peter Pan was fantastic! It was nice being able to ride Mr. Toad after almost 14 years. The walkthrough was also cool to have a story attached to the character, which gave it a bit more meaning than a restaurant that typically needs to be booked months in advance.

Casey Jr with Colin and Rich
Casey Jr
Monstro
King Arthur’s Carrousel
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Peter Pan’s Flight
Seven Dwarfs
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough

The guys decided they needed to kidnap me and take me on the monorail to Downtown Disney for the short walk from there to the Disneyland Hotel. There we were to go to Trader Sam’s, a tiki bar I have heard many great stories about from near and far. I was more than happy to submit and go along. They have some great nods to the Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room and the sadly defunct Adventurer’s Club from WDW, as well as some amazing details put in by the Imagineers. I would stay there as long as I could if I had my way. We had a couple drinks and they were ready for dinner, but I was headed back to Disneyland to meet up with Ryan, Sally and the rest of the crew.

Monorail to DTD
Disneyland Hotel
Trader Sam’s
Uh Oa from Trader Sam’s

I walked back with them through Downtown Disney since I hadn’t been there yet. Much like Disneyland compared to the Magic Kingdom, there seems to be a more electric, kinetic feel than the DTD at WDW. A lot of this can be contributed to the live entertainment offerings to be found there I think. After a brief walk, I was back in Disneyland and coordinated with Sally to meet them at Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland. This attraction used to be the Swiss Family Treehouse like at MK, but was switched over to a Tarzan theme shortly after the film was released in 1999.

Once we completed the walkthrough of the treehouse, we were ready for a bite to eat and the Kilpatricks introduced me to the wonderful offerings of Bengal Barbeque. They have great skewers of meat, that are pretty reasonably priced around $4 and have different options like spicy beef, polynesian chicken, bacon wrapped asparagus as well as a few others. It was a nice snack before going in to the Tiki Room. I really enjoyed this show in its full length, in additional to the pre-show with the tikis and the Dole video about Hawaii.

Tarzan’s Treehouse
Tiki
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Tiki Fountain

Tomorrowland was our next destination since we had Fast Passes for both Space Mountain and Autopia. In case I forgot to mention it, this was the Kilpatrick family and Gretchen’s last day and they were trying to accomplish 25 attractions in one day. They were well along to 20 when I met up with them, so I knew we could get five more in the hours we had left before DL closed for the night. I am not a huge fan of Space Mountain or the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway at home, but really liked their Disneyland counterparts. Space Mountain seemed much smoother and I liked the side by side seating as well as the speakers in the ride vehicles, like Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. Autopia was well themed and seemed longer than in WDW, plus the cars are much cuter. 🙂

Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain
Autopia picture courtesy of Gretchen Swales

A request for the tea cups had been made by the kids, so we made our way from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland to ride the Mad Tea Party, which is absolutely gorgeous at night with Chinese lanterns of all colors hanging over the open air attraction. We had a great time having a contest to see who could spin the fastest. We didn’t win, but we had an awesome time. At this time, it was almost 11pm, and we were ready for a proper meal so we went to the Refreshment Corner so they could get hot dogs and I finished off my leftovers from lunch. I, of course, got another fountain coke with syrup, raspberry this time, since they were the best I’ve had in a long time. Our last attraction for the night was Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This was a great way to end the night with friends. It borrows some things from both the Hall of Presidents and the American Adventure at Epcot including two songs which typically make me cry in Two Brothers and Golden Dream. I stayed strong. We said our goodbyes and went to our respective hotels. Another magical day came to a close.

Tea Cups at night
Tea Cup photobomb by Ryan
In front of the castle picture courtesy of Ryan Kilpatrick
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

 

Monday 8/6

Matterhorn

This was to be my only completely solo day of the whole trip, so I was a little bummed starting out my walk to Disneyland in the morning. I thought I’d challenge myself by trying to do the Matterhorn, Star Tours and Indiana Jones Adventures before lunch. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, the entire trip for both parks was 10s across the board on the Touring Plans crowd calendar. I made a bee line for the Matterhorn to start my day there like I had tried to do the previous day. I was very happy to see it was up and running and that the single rider line was practically a walk on! I rode both sides of the attraction by using the single rider line withing 20 minutes of being in the park. Maybe this being by myself thing wouldn’t be so bad.

Next up I was planning to do Star Tours, but since I was by the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage I decided I

Darla on Finding Nemo

should do that attraction since it was still relatively early around 10am and the wait was under 30 minutes (thanks to Matt Parrish of Wedway Radio and Wedway Now for this tip). I was apprehensive going into the sub since I am claustrophobic and don’t like being trapped, but I kept telling myself we never truly go completely submerged, so if we have to get out we can. Also, I did the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at WDW when I was a kid and I was fine, so I knew it wasn’t too bad. I thought the ride was cute, but it is definitely not one I need to do each time I’m there.

Sticking to Tomorrowland’s original plan, I next went to Star Tours, which is pretty much identical to Florida in the attraction itself. I then headed over to Adventureland for one of the rides I was most looking forward to: Indy!!! I am a huge fan of the movies, really like the stunt show at DHS, and was hoping that the story would distract me from the ride vehicles that are the same as Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, of which I am not a fan. Thankfully, the story was so immersive and I didn’t even feel the least bit nauseous like I usually do after Dinosaur, so I really enjoyed this. My last ride before lunch was the Jungle Cruise. I liked that it was familiar, but with some differences and I liked these nuances, however I kind of missed the temple that we have in WDW.

Indiana Jones Adventure
Indiana Jones giant snakes
Riding Jungle Cruise
Jungle Cruise

Since I didn’t eat breakfast and it was now almost 1pm, I was very hungry and ready for lunch. I knew where I wanted to eat thanks to Nate Parrish (also of Wedway Radio and Wedway Now, formerly of Betamouse): Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in Tomorrowland, which has the Count Down Chicken Fusilli. This is a corkscrew kind of pasta, similar to a cavatappi, with an alfredo sauce and nice pieces of grilled chicken. I threw on some roasted red pepper flakes and this was a great meal along with a refillable(!!!) soda for a little over $10.

Count Down Chicken Fusilli from Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port

Not having a boat nearby, I opted to take my post lunch digestive rest on the Disneyland Railroad for the full circle tour before going to catch the tail end of the Jedi Training Academy. It was getting a bit warm out, so I ducked in to Innoventions to explore for a few minutes and ended up at the House of the Future watching demonstrations of the latest and greatest technology. Since Captain EO was nearby and a show was starting in a few minutes, I decided to try to change the world. I walked through the Starcade on the way out and chose not to spend money on games. I kept moving to the front of Tomorrowland and got on to the Astro Orbitor. It was kind of cool being so close to the castle compared to at WDW, but I think I like the added thrill in Florida of being up a few stories above the Peoplemover.

Dinosaurs seen while riding the train
Innoventions
Captain EO
Astro Orbitor

Then there was Buzz. More precisely, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was next. This was a humbling experience to say the least. For someone who is used to being a galactic hero at WDW and maxing out the score at 999,999, it is kind of sad to only get 36,000 points on what is supposed to be an easier attraction. Cue sad music here. I timed my exit from Tomorrowland to match up almost perfectly so I was able to quickly find a spot for the Soundsational parade. I absolutely loved this! It may be my favorite Disney parade. Ever. The parade is based around different genres of music from Disney films: calypso from the Little Mermaid, jazz from the Princess and the Frog, African music from the Lion King and Tarzan, etc. I really enjoyed seeing different floats and costumes all well themed around the styles of music.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Riding Buzz Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear Status Board
Planets of the Galactic Alliance
Soundsational Mickey and Minnie
Soundsational Ariel and Sebastian
Soundsational Princesses
Soundsational Cinderella and Belle
Soundsational Three Caballeros
Soundsational Lion King
Soundsational Tiana
Soundsational Mary Poppins and Bert

Like WDW, there are certain attractions at DL that have time constraints, so I missed them and needed to make sure I hit them during their limited operating hours. One of these such attractions is the Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes. Yes, I was there and I was going to paddle my little heart out in 95+ degree heat and humidity because I had set this silly goal of doing all the attractions. And paddle I did. One thing I wish I had done differently was think about the fact I have a bad shoulder from a car accident and I should have asked to switched sides. You get a work out with this one kids. There are no backup motors. It is you and good old fashioned elbow grease that get you around the Rivers of America by paddle power along with about 15-20 other fools, I mean guests.

Having worked up an appetite, and a thirst, I found myself drawn to the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. I heard about the virgin mint juleps and Mickey shaped beignets that could be found there and knew I had to go. This seemed like the perfect time since it was around 5pm and pretty warm. I sat briefly outside the French Market and then walked toward the sounds of jazz music coming from in front of the Rivers of America. One of the many musical acts, this one featuring jazz and dixieland, was performing. I enjoyed the sounds for a bit before moseying over to the Golden Horseshoe, where I caught the tail end of a stage performance.

Smiling before Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
Mickey beignets and mint julep
Live entertainment in New Orleans Square
Golden Horseshoe

From here I cut my way to the back of Fantasyland to It’s A Small World. I was very much looking forward to this ride since I had heard their version has characters from Disney films inserted in the Mary Blair style. To me, this was a great addition to the ride, and I also enjoyed the scenes that were different from the WDW version. It was also cool to start and end the ride outside. I knew I’d have to ride this one again to see if I could catch more of the characters.

I poked my head in the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire, which is basically a princess meet and greet, but the line was well over an hour, so I decided to pass and go to Toontown. For anyone who has played the Epic Mickey video game, this will be very familiar to you. When I walked in it had a deja vu feeling since I knew where things were relatively well from the game. I rode Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, which was a fun twist (ha ha ha) on a dark ride. Then I quickly walked through Goofy’s Playhouse, Donald’s Boat, and got in line for Gadget’s Go Coaster (similar to the Barnstormer). After that ride I toured Chip ‘n’ Dale Treehouse, Mickey and Minnie’s houses and was ready to return to Fantasyland. Since we no longer have Toontown here, it was kind of nice to see a version of Mickey and Minnie’s houses.

It’s A Small World
Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket on IASW
Princess Fantasy Faire
Toontown

It was just before dusk and I wanted to make sure I caught the Storybook Land Canal Boats before it got too dark so I could get some pictures. This was the perfect time at twilight because the sun was still out to see, but the lights were on too, which made this even more beautiful. I loved this ride and wished I would have gone back to ride it again! My last stop in Disneyland for the night was Dumbo, which was also very cool as the lights of Fantasyland, especially the lanterns of Mad Tea Party were now lit.

Storybook Land
Storybook Land Canal
Storybook Land Agrabah
Dumbo and the Matterhorn

As I mentioned earlier, the only restaurant that I had made reservations for on this trip was Blue Bayou. However, I had it in my mind that there were a couple others that I wanted to at least try out if I had the time and money. Since I was on budget at this point in the trip, I decided to go to DCA to see if I could get a walk in reservation at Carthay Circle. I had been in the lounge the other day with Lee and knew I wanted to go back again to try at least a cocktail or two and maybe some appetizers. This is how I do dinner a lot of times to save money by not getting an entree and it also allows me to try more things by getting a couple apps.

By the time I got to the restaurant, it was about quarter til nine and they said I could either eat at the bar downstairs, which has a different menu than upstairs, or I could wait til nine to be seated in the restaurant. I opted to grab a drink in the lounge and let them know at the podium that I wanted to eat upstairs. Starting off with the Carthay Circle Manhattan in the bar (watch how they make the ice sphere if you go), and finishing up with the Brown Derby in the restaurant (another bourbon based drink), I was so ready for the dinner that awaited. I was very pleasantly surprised to be seated on the terrace outside that overlooked Buena Vista Street and facing the front of the park towards Disneyland.

Carthay Circle at night
Carthay Circle Manhattan
Ice sphere
Brown Derby

I mentioned to my server that I was in a bit of a hurry and was trying to make the second showing of World of Color at 10:15. They were more than happy to accommodate me by putting in my order as soon as I was seated since I had looked at the menu ahead of time. I ordered the biscuits, filled with cheese and jalapenos and came with an apricot dipping sauce that were to die for, and the firecracker duck wings, which were a great pairing to complement the spiciness of the biscuits. My food came quickly and the service was great. I gave my server my credit card as soon as my food came so I could expedite things. While I was finishing my food, I heard music and Magical, the Disneyland fireworks, started. I had a gorgeous view from the terrace and the music was piped in, much like ‘Ohana at the Polynesian does with Wishes. This was such an awesome surprise! I watched the entire show and when I was done, my bill was waiting for me. I opened it and there was a surprise FP for World of Color! I know they have World of Color dinner packages that offer you reserved seating, but I hadn’t ordered what was necessary to qualify for this.

Biscuits and apricot dipping sauce
Firecracker duck wings
Magical from Carthay Circle terrace
World of Color FP

Once I thanked my server for being so efficient and for the extra bit of pixie dust, I was on my way to watch World of Color for the second time during my trip. Yes, I cried … again. It was a beautiful way to end my day and my solo trip fears washed away. It had been a practically perfect day despite the fact I didn’t see any friends on this particular day. This would be the only day I wasn’t with friends for at least part of the day.

World of Color

 

Stay tuned for our thrilling conclusion next week. Same bat channel. Same bat time.

If you want to see even more pictures from my trip check them out here on my Facebook page.

 

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The Week in Review: August 13- – August 17, 2012: Sports, Icebergs, and Wild Adventures!

The Week in Review: August 13- – August 17, 2012: Sports, Icebergs, and Wild Adventures!

It has been another amazing week here at On the Go, and now it’s time to look back at all that happened August 13th to August 17th!!!

Let’s Go!

On Monday we took a look some local sports teams. First, the Orlando Solar Bears signed three new team members. And at the Orlando City Soccer Club, Kevin Molino was named to the Trinidad team for Canada Friendly.

Cheering for the Orlando City Soccer Club!!!

Aurora and I ventured out to Titanic: The Experience, and she shares her thoughts on a Visit to the Titanic.

Thelma and Louise on the Grand Staircase in Titanic the Experience

For Wordless Wednesday, we took a look through the trees at Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We took a look at LEGOLAND Florida’s STEM Focused, Interactive Programs for kids.

LEGOLAND Florida provides interactive entertainment for families with children ages 2-12 .

Betsy makes her way out west to Disneyland, and shares part one of her Trip Report in her California Adventure!

Betsy in front of the Disneyland train station

Friday, Megan took us along on her Wild Africa Trek! She has some great photos and information about this really up-close Safari Experience!

Megan on the Wild Africa Trek

Thanks for joining us this week at On the Go, and we can’t wait to bring you even more posts next week!!!

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