Instead of another comprehensive trip report from me on my recent Disneyland visit, I thought I’d do something different and interview my mom, Pam, on her first visit.
What was your overall first impression of Disneyland Resort?
It is a more detailed version of Walt Disney World. It is more compact. I liked it and think their Downtown Disney has a more homey feel. Disneyland has better places to eat than the Magic Kingdom.
What was your favorite show?
World of Color was reminiscent of a show called Dancing Waters from back in the 1950s that I enjoyed as a child. Aladdin in Disney California Adventure was great. My favorite characters were the Genie and the carpet. How a character without any lines can portray so much emotion in playing a carpet was amazing. I also really liked Mickey and the Magical Map in Disneyland. I loved the swing dancers on Saturday night at Disneyland too!
What was your favorite ride in each park?
In Disneyland, I liked Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I thought it was a nice themed ride with attention to detail. It was a long, relaxing ride. At California Adventure I liked Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, Golden Zephyr and the non-swinging cars on Mickey’s Fun Wheel.
Which did you like better, Haunted Mansion Holiday or It’s A Small World Holiday?
That’s a tough one. I liked them both. The Haunted Mansion Holiday was really nice with the theming, but this brought such a change to the ride from the regular Haunted Mansion. The queues are also both so different from Walt Disney World. I enjoy the exteriors both, but really like the southern mansion style of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. I think the theming at Haunted Mansion more immersive and complete than It’s A Small World.
What were some of your favorite food items or meals?
At California Adventure, definitely Carthay Circle. The Cozy Cone breakfast cone was good and a little different for a breakfast item. Churros were excellent. Those were always our go to snack. Bengal BBQ in Disneyland and Jolly Holiday Bakery were both places we visited twice. Flavored cokes from Coke Corner were great and brought back memories of working at a soda fountain in high school.
What were your favorite holiday decorations at Disneyland Resort?
World of Color Winter Dreams, It’s A Small World Holiday and the lights in Cars Land
What did you think about the Grand Californian?
It reminded me a lot of one of our favorite resorts at Walt Disney World, the Wilderness Lodge. It was bigger than I expected. We had a great meal at Napa Rose. It was a great location and nice that we could walk directly into the park from our resort.
What do you takeaway from the trip?
I was delightfully surprised. I thought it was just going to be a smaller version of Walt Disney World and thought I was going to be disappointed. The Cast Members really went out of their way to say Happy Birthday and your name. The theming was wonderful. I liked the more friendly village feeling to Downtown Disney. Also enjoyed Trader Sam’s theming and the holiday drinks at Disneyland Hotel.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.