Upcoming Trip Strategy

It’s been about a month since I’ve been to Disneyland and I’ve been just itching to go back! So we’re going on Saturday. As you’ve probably gathered, the few days before a park visit, it’s all I think about. So word vomit here as I come up with a game plan for this Saturday!

Husband has a haircut appointment on Saturday at 9:20 and we’ll leave straight from there, so I imagine we’ll get there about 11:30, and be past security very shortly after that. Pro tip: skip the trams and walk to the Downtown Disney entrance. Without a stroller, it only takes about five minutes, despite signs that say it’s 15 minutes. There’s never a huge crowd, and it dumps us out right where we want to be, at Earl of Sandwich.

Sandwiches are pretty much my favorite food, and it is Sandwich Mecca. I like the turkey wrap; it’s simple and light, so it doesn’t weigh you down as you’re about to start your day at the parks. Thor gets the Chipotle Chicken Avocado sandwich which is interesting because he doesn’t normally like avocado, but the sandwich is REALLY delicious.

We may have a longer day than usual because there’s so much we want to do! Most of the time nowadays we just have chill days at the park; eat some food, walk around, see everything. This time Thor requested that we actually go on rides. Now that I have my contacts and won’t be tethered to my glasses, I agreed. And I want to stay for the Main Street Electrical Parade. It’s leaving in August and I LOVE it so much. Thor doesn’t understand it, but it’s a piece of Disneyland history.

So, where was I? Rides. Our first stop of the day will be Disneyland for a fastpass for Hyperspace Mountain. I heard on the Disneyland subreddit I think that Season of the Force will be leaving sometime in the near future, and Hyperspace Mountain will return to Space Mountain. I still like Space Mountain, but I definitely like both Hyperspace and Ghost Galaxy overlays better. While we’re in Tomorrowland, we might try and pick up some of the lightsaber churros. Apparently they taste exactly the same, but they are glittery red and blue. I read that someone stood in line for twenty minutes for one!

Otherwise, if there’s an agreeable wait time, we want to go on Astro Blasters. For those who don’t know, it’s an interactive ride, where you are ferried around a Toy Story space battle scene and you have to shoot a little laser gun at targets, competing against your fellow rider. It’s only happened twice, but last time, I absolutely SCHOOLED Thor, and it was awesome.

I thought about going on Matterhorn as long as we’re going to be over in that area, since we haven’t been on it since it’s been reopened. I read that someone said it’s still as bumpy and non-back-friendly as ever, so I’m not in a big hurry.

Alternatively, we could skip these things and head straight to California Adventure from getting our Hyperspace fastpasses, so we can get a pass for Soarin’ Around the World. I remember back when it used to be practically walk-on, years ago, when it was still Soarin’ Over California (RIP).

Now–Saturday is all about facing my fears. First, it’s time to scramble some squirrels on the Squirrel Scrambler in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail! It’s a bunch of rope bridges and it’s the only place it’s safe for me to faceplant, and I do. It’s not so much a fear, but heights make me pretty uncomfortable, so we’re easing me into the day.

At some point, we’ll go on California Screamin’. The wait time generally hovers around 20 minutes, so no fastpass needed.

We also like the Golden Zephyr. It’s pretty simple, just a retro gondola that flies around. It’s just relaxing and a cool view.

Now onto my other fears: Silly Symphony Swings (heights) and Goofy’s Flight School (heights and sharp turns and oh my god we’re going to fall off and die). Both can have pretty short wait times, so that’s nice.

But if any of the waits are really super long, we’ll get another fastpass when we can and then head back to Disneyland. I’ll have two objectives. The first: the Grey Stuff at the Red Rose Tavern. Both me and Thor are really excited for it, and the lines have diminished considerably. I hope they’ll keep it Red Rose Tavern!

Then, it’s just time to walk around the park! Hit up all my favorite places: the bridge where he proposed, the ducks in the ponds (seen ducklings the past few visits!), and one of my new favorite places, Critter Country of all places. It’s peaceful out there and kind of homey, being from south/east Texas. There’s a little shop at the very end that’s usually not as crowded as others since it’s rather out of the way. I also really like the shop in Toon Town. And as long as we’re over there, I could grab a potato from the Troubadour Tavern, although they just haven’t been as good since they moved from Harbor Galley. As long as I’m thinking of snacks, here’s my Want List. Just picking one or two things off it:

Baked potato.
Grey Stuff.
Lightsaber churros.
Fudge! Someone highly recommended the cookies and cream, and I’ve been wanting to try regular chocolate.
Chocolate covered strawberries. Huge and delicious.
One of the special Electrical Parade treats from the Jolly Holiday.

I’m also dying to try the Napa Rose Lounge. To be honest, I didn’t even know that was a thing until I consulted the Disneyland website. I’ve always wanted to go to Napa Rose but it’s cost-prohibitive. But if we were going to get drinks somewhere anyway, we might as well go there! It’s a pretty great drink menu and all the specialties are just around $13. A Zonin prosecco from Mendocino Terrance, I believe is the actual name of it, right outside the Trattoria, is $10. And then of course, there’s the Hearthstone lounge which makes a delicious quesadilla too, and Trader Sam’s, which we’ve only ever walked into and then back out of before, is supposed to be amazing.

And of course there are the places I love to visit in California Adventure. I LOVE Off the Page, an store with some beautiful Disney artwork, Christmas ornaments, books and cookbooks, and more. I also love walking along the Midway down the pier. And my favorite stores in the whole place are the ones to the right as you enter California Adventure.

Then, and hopefully we will still be there by then, at 8:45 is the Electrical Parade! And I can’t wait!

So those are my plans. I have to figure out what to wear, make up a Disneyland playlist, and get my ears ready.

 

I’m so excited!!

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Spring Begins at Disneyland! Trip Report 3/18/2017

Here’s a recent Micechat entry and it is a doozy. SO much is happening!

First of all, Fantasmic! is on it’s way back, and I could not be happier. It’s being rebranded slightly as Fantastmic!! (two !). You can watch the first one here. Looks like they’re dumping the snake scene for a Lion King scene, which will be cool; there’s surprisingly little Lion King stuff there, outside of toys for the newer TV series, Lion Guard or something like that. They’re keeping the creepy ape float which gives me nightmares. And apparently they’re changing up the princess floats–Ariel will now be on legs instead of fins, and Snow White’s being switched out for a new princess. Hope, for me, springs eternal that Rapunzel will take her place–come on, floating in a lake, lanterns, can’t you see it?? But the big news is leaving the big Peter Pan scene on the Columbia with a Pirates of the Caribbean scene! Apparently they want to project skeletons on to the actors as they’re on the Columbia, and apparently it’s REALLY COOL, but requires such insane precision that it may not ultimately make it into the show.

Also some happenings at the park, one of the highlights of my entire LIFE IS HAPPENING at Star Wars Land! From the Mickey and Friends parking structure, you can see AT-ATs being built. When I heard they were putting in AT-ATs, I thought it’d be a cute little thing you can take a picture with and was really looking forward to it. But these are huge. Absolutely massive. There will be no pictures with these things; they simply will not fit into pictures. I’m totally jazzed. A few of my earliest memories involve Star Wars, and I remember being very interested in the battle on Hoth, and somewhere along the lines I became obsessed with AT-ATs. My life’s dream is to own one of the original original old-school AT-AT lego sets, but I’ve never had $300-500 to drop on one–yet. Anyway, LIFE-SIZED AT-ATs. You guys.

 

On to our trip last week. It was the 50th anniversary of Pirates of the Caribbean and no, we did not go on it. In fact, we haven’t been on it in several years. The line is always insane. It used to be a fifteen minute wait, but now it’s at least an hour. They had special treats for the occasion as well, like “gold” covered churros and beignets and I stopped someone to ask what flavor they were. I don’t really remember. Maybe pineapple? Something interesting but not for me. It might’ve been worth it for the novelty of it but the lines to grab one was also crazy.

So we had a bit of a chill day at Disneyland but the main event was definitely at California Adventure, at the Food and Wine Festival! At the beginning, you can pick up a “tasting passport” with information on the offerings and places for stamps when you stop at a cart. We filled out at least half of the pages on our visit. Here’s a Micechat entry with better pictures than I could ever take of the food.

There was the Nuts About Cheese stall. We got the Baked Ham & Swiss Cheese Croque Monsieur Roll with Smoked Pistachios. It was really good, was very cheesy, but the bread seemed kind of stale.

I enjoyed the I Heart Artichokes Stall. I got the Fried Artichokes Carbonara with Garlic Aioli & Smoked Bacon. They’re all small portions but it was super hearty. Not as creamy as I could have liked, really just fried artichokes with a drizzle of sauce and some bacon. It was the last thing I had for the day, I just couldn’t take another bite after all that fried.

Thor stopped at the Garlic Kissed stall and got the Grilled Beef Tenderloin Slider with Garlic Chimichurri Sauce. Now that was a winner. I tried just a bite and wished I’ve had gotten my own. When we go next time I intend to stop at the carts we haven’t been to to get my stamps, but I’m definitely making a beeline for this. It was so tender and the chimichurri added this bit of freshness to it. This was Thor’s favorite dish of the day.

One of my favorites was the Bacon Twist cart. They were out of the Baby Iceberg & Heirloom Tomato Wedge with Peppered Bacon & Point Reyes Blue Cheese Dressing, which was disappointing, but I was really there for the Smoked Bacon Mac & Cheese with Barbecue Seasoned Crispy Onions. To look at it, it was just Easy Mac with some bacon sprinkled on it, but it was super creamy and the bacon was perfectly crispy. One of my favorite bites of the day!

Next up was Lemon Grove, billed at “Dishes Highlighting Meyer Lemons.” We got the Duck Confit on Potato Smash with Meyer Lemon Preserves and it was great! It may have been a little greasy but overall the richness of the duck meat was cut with the lemon zing to make a great dish.

Then we both really liked Seafood… Sustained. We got one of each of the savory dishes. He got the Verlasso Sustainable Salmon Tataki with Avocado Wasabi Puree & Furikake Dust, and I got the Cage-Free Cream Cheese Deviled Eggs with Farm-Raised Smoked Trout and Chives. Thor’s salmon was tasty but to me, not much to write home about. Maybe because we have a great sushi restaurant right next door to us at home. But I really loved the deviled eggs. If I’m remembering right they’re not much to look at, mostly a blob of white, but they were extremely tasty. I should have tried a bite of the trout by itself to really get a taste, because I feel like I didn’t notice anything over the cream cheese-y filling, which was really fine with me, because it was delicious. I’d totally get it again.

But my favorite savory bite of the whole day was at Sweet & Sourdough. We got the White Cheddar Lager Soup served in a Mini Boudin Sourdough Boule, made right there in the bakery on the Pacific Wharf. It. Was. Incredible. Anytime you put cheddar in front of me, I am on top of it, and add some white cheddar to beer and put it in fresh bread, and I’m in heaven. Thor also rates it from his chair over there as “pretty damn good,” but he wants his soup to have more body in it, like potatoes or something, but then this is the guy who insists that his food needs to “have parents.” It was creamy and smooth and perfect and I’ll definitely be getting one next week, and I’m definitely not sharing this time.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the only sweets we had for the day. Every cart had a special dessert but we made it to the end of the Festival to Paradise Garden Grill, which is a normal food place there year-round, that had some special offerings. We got both desserts, the Salted Caramel Budino with Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream, and the AMAZING Bienenstitch Cake with Caramelized Almonds, filled with Vanilla Bean Custard. Thor’s favorite was the budino but I am totally obsessed with the cake. I’ll definitely be getting that again.

And then of course there were carts and carts of craft beer and wine offerings. All together it was a collection of some amazing California tastes!

 

So we are planning on going next week and we definitely have our work cut out for us, but if we just don’t eat Thursday and Friday, we’ll be up to the task! We’ll have to get down there early. Spring breaks are starting and the parks are filling up. The busy season is starting!

Main Street Electrical Parade and more!

 

I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am for this. I’ve been a passholder for years now, and I have a map from our first visit as a couple on February 14, 2010, in which I’ve crossed out every ride and attraction we’ve been on and seen. Every time we go, I collect the weekly programs they hand out, and note that we’ve seen just about everything on them. This is something I’ve never seen, and I am so excited for a new Disneyland experience!

Wikipedia has an interesting history of the parade.

omg-cat

 

But wait–there’s more!

Season of the Force may be coming back–the signage is back up, but there haven’t been any announcements of anything special. Tomorrowland is basically always in Star Wars mode anyway with Hyperspace Mountain, Star Tours, Path of the Jedi where the Michael Jackson show used to be, Jedi Training Academy, and some other stuff.

Fastpasses! They just put Matterhorn in Disneyland and Toy Story Mania in California Adventure on the fastpass system. Back in the day (years ago now, I guess), the craziest Matterhorn would get was a fifteen minute wait but those days are long gone. With fastpasses, maybe we’ll actually go on it again. I like it but Thor hasn’t really enjoyed it since they made a few changes a few years ago, so we don’t go on it. There’s also rumors that later this year, Peter Pan will be getting the fastpass treatment, as its queue may expand into the heraldry shop next door that just closed.

And, off the officially Disneyland Parks blog, comes this: “Later this year, we will launch Disney MaxPass, which will allow guests to maximize their experience by providing unlimited downloads of their high-resolution PhotoPass images and by enabling the convenience of mobile booking and redemption of Disney FASTPASS return times – all by using the Disneyland App. Disney MaxPass will be available for an introductory price of $10 a day. Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders also will have the opportunity to purchase Disney MaxPass on a daily or yearly basis.”

So that will be very interesting.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Tower of Terror in California Adventure has closed, and they’re working on converting it into a Guardians of the Galaxy ride! People are overall unhappy that ToT is gone–it was a classic–but I’m optimistic about Guardians of the Galaxy!

Here’s an acceptable video of Tower of Terror!

And for some great pictures of Star Wars Land progress, here’s a great MiceChat!

Our passes expire in February. Hoping we get to the parks soon!

Some mid-week updates

Some big things going on at Disneyland recently!

My favorite is the new security checkpoints! They’ve been the absolute bane of my Disneyland existence since they installed them a year (?) ago, when they were placed right around the esplanade before reaching the entrance to the parks. Tomorrow checkpoints will officially open before you even get to the trams, and along the outside of the Downtown Disney district, from what I understand. This means it’ll be soooo much easier to go to Downtown, which is really a great place. In fact, I’ve been known to go on blackout dates just to visit Downtown Disney. Some excellent restaurants. Cannot recommend Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen enough. Never had a bad meal, and their live music on weekends is pretty great.

Not only that, but seriously, stop in at Uva Bar in Downtown sometime. Their entire menu looks delicious but I can never branch out from their delicious Uva Burger. It’s extra money, but get it all the way with bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg.

ANYWAY, this hopefully means that I will be able to go from the parks into the Grand Californian for some peppermint hot chocolate and some Christmas tree time without the hassle of security lines. Especially now that they’re enforcing the hotel-guest-only-entrance rule.

More news, they’ve put in a Sprinkles Cupcakes in Downtown, and when we went on our last trip a week and a half ago, the line was way out the door. I’ve only been to two Sprinkles locations, and both were rather small, it took effort to see the flavors so it was hard to be ready to order ahead of time to make things quicker, and they only had two workers visible. This location looked exactly the same. Didn’t see how many employees were around, but it just seems like space and the time it takes for an order to be filled may be an issue for what will surely be a popular place in quite a populated place.

But if they can handle the volume, more power to them. Nice to have something fresh in Downtown.

Another big piece of news which I am personally excited about. They have begun demolishing the former House of Blues and they’re putting in… Splitsville Luxury Lanes bowling alley! I always thought Downtown should have some kind of activity outside of eating, something to do if you want to take a break from the parks and hang out with your family, perhaps. Here’s the link to check out their Orlando location.

To quote the OC Register:

“The new entertainment venue will feature 20 bowling lanes in its bowling alley, along with a 635-seat restaurant, part of which will be in a dining room overlooking the Downtown Disney area. Menu items include fresh-rolled sushi and hand-cut steaks, along with classic bowling fare such as hamburgers, fries and pizza. The facility will include two full-service bars, and a large outdoor patio as part of the new 40,000 square-foot building.”

How awesome does that sound?! Super looking forward to a nice meal overlooking Downtown Disney. That sounds amazing. Of course, we will have to wait until late 2017 to enjoy, but it should be great!

 

Our last trip of the holiday season is this Sunday–Saturday’s a blackout date. And it’s like two or three weeks of blackout dates after this Sunday, and we’ll be in Texas for a week anyway, so this’ll be out last trip til next year!

Got a full day planned. Want to get there as close to rope drop as possible. Especially since there will be new security protocols, I want to give us extra time to get through and see how it is. I’m excited about the results of the new security, but I have doubts about trying to do security even before the trams (although this’ll really get the people who try to smuggle in selfie sticks, since they can just drop them back off in their car in the parking lots). Definitely have to get in to Haunted Mansion Holiday a few times. I miss it all year til September rolls back around. Got to go on Jingle Cruise and Small World Holiday, and will hopefully catch the Christmas Fantasy Parade. If we get there early I doubt we’ll stay for the fireworks, so I’d like to catch the castle lighting–they do snow then too and that’s one of my absolute favorite things in the park ever. Will pick up some peppermint ice cream and hit up as many food stalls in California Adventure as possible.

All the seasonal stuff! Looking forward to it! Merry Christmas!

Trip Report, 11/19-20–The Great Holiday Visit of 2016

All right, buckle in for a heck of a blog post.

We used to stay in the Anaheim area pretty often. Then came my employment changes, and we haven’t stayed down there for years. That means missing out on a lot of night time entertainment. But this season I didn’t want to miss a thing!

Normally we get up for the park around 7:00 but we slept in a little bit, knowing we had a bit more time, but also knowing we had reservations at Cafe Orleans (one of Thor’s favorite places!) at 12:00.

Once we actually got through the ridiculous security line, we got to the park in time to get a Hyperspace Mountain fastpass and head to lunch at Cafe Orleans. The special thing about it is their gumbo. There are several places to get gumbo in Disneyland, and we first fell in love with it at Blue Bayou, the nicest restaurant actually in the park. There is also a little stand where you can get it. But don’t be fooled–they’re not the same gumbo. The one at the stall who’s name I can’t remember is made with a vegetable stock. Blue Bayou is the good stuff, and once after questioning a BB cast member about it, he said they serve the same good stuff at Cafe Orleans, a little sit-down restaurant also located in New Orleans Square.

Anyway, Thor LOVES the gumbo, so we settled in for two bowls of gumbo.

gumbo

I dug into mine right away–Thor was kind enough to let me take a picture of his when I suddenly remembered. And of course the only way to follow up that meal is with beignets! Again, you ca get beignets at a little stand, but Cafe Orleans’ comes with a creme anglaise and raspberry jam.

Best beignets outside of Cafe du Monde. Pillow-y and dusted with just enough powdered sugar. Fun fact: there are two Ralph Brennan restaurants in Downtown Disney, Jazz Kitchen, and Jazz Kitchen Express. they’re both pretty great, and I know for sure you can get beignets at Express, and at least once upon a time I believe they were made with the Cafe du Monde mix. They also have a pretty delicious fried shrimp poboy.

We had a while to wait for Hyperspace Mountain, so it was off to California Adventure, where Festival of Holidays continue!

festival-of-holidays-micechat

One of my first stops when I visit DCA is Carthay Circle. Usually not to actually eat there–reservations aren’t always easy to get, and besides being really delicious (never had a bad experience), it’s a little cost-prohibitive. Anyway, one of my hobbies is reading menus. Nerdy and random, I know, but I just like to know what’s out there, what creative things people can come up with. To that end, you too can read the menu here.

We headed to one of my favorite places on earth–the Wilderness Explorer area–and ran into this guy!

disney-cat

Disneyland cats are awesome, and there’s actually a lot. I’ve read before that Disneyland feeds them, and catches them to get them spayed or neutered. If you didn’t love Disneyland before, right? Anyway, a little googling identified this cat as Francisco, at his usual post in the hills of Grizzly Peak, between Wilderness area and Soarin’ Around the World (formerly Soarin’ Over California, RIP). There’s a whole article on Francisco here. Check it out for a smile! And yes, this was the best picture I could get of this little guy.

We headed to get fastpasses for World of Color holiday edition, at 9:00, and then on to some important things: the Squirrel Scambler in the Wilderness area, to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. The Squirrel Scrambler is a series of rope bridges that were really difficult for my balance for a long time, but I go on it every visit, and now I’m pretty good! I just love the area. Copying from Disneyland’s website, highlights include:

  • Practice the art of traverse climbing on the Cliff Hanger Traverse Rock Climb.
  • Glide down a natural rock slide.
  • Play with the Boulder Bears—rock formations that “bear” a striking resemblance to grizzly bear cubs.
  • Climb up a trio of wooden lookout towers featuring authentic ranger gear, rope bridges and hidden surprises.
  • Practice your park ranger skills as you slide down a tire suspended from a cable on the Sequoia Smokejumpers Training Tower.
  • Walk through Big Sir—a towering 35-foot-tall redwood stump.
  • Inspect a cross-section from the Millennium Tree and examine growth rings dating back 1,000 years.

And, you can sometimes see Dug from Up, and it’s where Santa is taking pictures this year.

Next stop, and one of the most important, is a visit to Ghirardelli, where we sampled the amazing concoction that is their salted caramel hot chocolate. I have no words for this. I’m not always a salted caramel fan, even though it’s everywhere, but there is nothing like the richness of this hot chocolate. Here’s Thor enjoying it:

thor-ghirardelli

Seriously. So. Good. It’s a park go-to now.

My morning mission was a Mickey Mouse Santa hat. I’d lost mine and it’s not the holidays without it. We picked one up outside of Cars Land, and it looked pretty good if I do say so myself.

selfie-disneyland

Me and my new hat!

It was back to Disneyland for Hyperspace Mountain, which is a rollercoaster in the dark, with projections to make you feel like you are in a battle in Star Wars. It’s really cool and always has a long line, so fastpasses are the only way we go. Got a few pictures of the park then. You’ve seen Small World at night, and it’s just as great during daylight hours.

small-world-daytime

On my list was a peppermint ice cream from the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, the only place in both parks you can get it. I read that it was a must-do on a blog, and let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.

ice-cream

And, you can get it in a chocolate-dipped cone crusted with peppermint bits. Usually my favorite cold treat in the parks is the soft serve swirl you can find in California Adventure, but this blew that out of the water. It was so good.

Then we planned to visit the Grand Californian Hotel on our way out to briefly check into our hotel. They had their tree and gingerbread house up, and it was spectacular.

californian-treegingerbread-housegingerbread-recipethor-with-tree

There you’ve got a picture of Thor admiring the tree.

My pictures have gotten a little mixed up so I may have posted this before, but we hit up World of Disney right outside the parks, and I took a picture as we were leaving.

world-of-disney

And you can see some garlands in the window.

We left for the hotel, and when we got back, it was dark. Yessssss.

We were hungry so we stopped at the Festival of Holidays stalls for some small plates. I got the mac and cheese again because it’s just that good. We went on a rollercoaster, Goofy’s Flight School, that’s all quick drops and super-sharp turns, and I’m terrified of it, so I try and go on as much as I can. We also went on the Golden Zephyr, a more low-key ride which is actually silver.

We went back to Cars Land, which I’ve already mentioned is my favorite. I’m just in love. Also, apparently they’re making a third movie. I’ve only seen the first. But here, have some pictures.

Can’t get enough. I suddenly started feeling a little unwell (probably too much junk food), so we found a bench to park on and played a two-player game on his cell phone. On our way out, I took this picture of the tree on the DCA main street:

ca-adven-main-street

Just love DCA at the holidays.

As you can tell, we park hop a lot. So it was back to Disneyland for Small World and fireworks. Took some pictures in Small World this time:

There’s a little store in Critter Country, at the very end, on the other side of the Winnie the Pooh ride, that I like to go to, and on our way Thor snapped this picture of Haunted Mansion Holiday.

haunted-mansion

Pretty good one. Here are some more we took on our way back to Main Street.

back-of-castle-at-night The back of the castle.

christmas-castle Probably a repost, and I think from the actual Disneyland website. Just beautiful.

We stayed at Disneyland til about midnight. Did a lot of walking around, looking at the sights. Got a Lyft back to the hotel. Staying nearby is great. For 5-7 dollars you don’t have to worry about parking at the actual resort.

We were really feeling the long day before on Sunday so we slept in til noon, which was awesome, stopped at the Target to pick me up Pokemon Sun, which was awesome, and made our way back to the park.

It was a beautiful day–cold and rainy and just perfect. The busy streets cleared out a lot as everyone rushed into the shops to get out of the rain. Got some pretty good pictures in as we took a lazy trip around the parks.

cars-circleca-adven-instaus-on-bridgeHere we are on our bridge, where Thor proposed just about two years ago.store What I would call the main shop in Disneyland is all decked out. Busy, but a great place to be and buy!

If I remember more details from the trip, I’ll post them here! This was an amazing trip. It really is the happiest–and now the merriest–place on earth!

11/12 Trip Report–Christmastime is here!

Christmastime is here! The park has been transformed into the merriest place on earth.

For the past year, we’ve tended to go to the parks earlier in the day, getting there maybe at nine or ten, and leaving around four. But this time we knew we wanted to see the sights at night, so we arrived at the park, dropped off by the tram at 1:30.

First stop was Earl of Sandwich for some lunch. They have this amazing chipotle chicken sandwich that Thor gets, chipotle sauce and avocado and bacon. I got a simple turkey wrap. Pretty inexpensive eats that keep you going a long time. Also in Downtown Disney were the macaws from Rainforest Cafe; they are always fun to see.

I had a brilliant idea this time and it really paid off. You see, over the past year they’ve really stepped up their security, adding metal detectors and stuff. It’s gone from a five minute wait to get your bags checked to a wait of possibly an hour JUST to get into the main entrance, and THEN you have to wait more to actually get into the park. It’s honestly ridiculous and everyone’s unhappy about it. God forbid you want to leave the park and go to Downtown Disney to eat during the day, because then you have to stand in the security line all over again. In fact, I’ve heard that they will be moving the security checkpoints to include Downtown Disney as well so that won’t be an issue.

Anyway, at the risk of tipping people off, we went into the Grand Californian Hotel. You can get into California Adventure straight from the park. We usually don’t carry any bags so we breezed right through security and into California Adventure, no waiting at all. We could’ve hung out in CA for a while but we were on a mission for a Haunted Mansion Holiday fast pass. A fast pass, for those who don’t know, is a really nifty feature where you basically check into an attraction say at 2, and you get a ticket for a future return time, for instance, 4:30, and you simply come back at your designated time and pretty much walk straight on to the ride with minimal line waiting. Then you can get another fast pass for another attraction in a few hours, it’s printed on your ticket. It’s really the way to go.

So we hit up Haunted Mansion Holiday and then just walked around, taking in the sights. It was super crowded, partly because either the day before or earlier that same day was the Dr. Strange Marvel Marathon.

We felt like doing something so we went on Jingle Cruise. It was about a thirty minute wait and it was hot in the park for sure. But one of the many things I appreciate about Disneyland is that even in line, you’re surrounded by thoughtful imagineering, so it’s not like I remember at Six Flags where if you’re not on a ride you’re just surrounded by concrete boringness. jingle-cruise-micechat Picture from Micechat. The whole ride really depends on your skipper’s presentation of the jokes and puns. It can be hit or miss. It was kind of a miss this time. She just seemed like she didn’t really want to be there and didn’t care about what she was doing at all. We’ll go on it again next time. Still fun to see the jungle all dressed up in their “missing Christmas cargo.”

We walked around til 4:30–the parade! I was a little disappointed that the parade times were something like 1:30 and 4:30. I love the parade at night but for some reason they just didn’t do it that way. If you are so inclined, you can watch the parade here. Highlights include the Christmas Candlelight Ball float with Disney royalty, and Santa’s sleigh. I probably won’t post many pictures of parades or fireworks. I believe in watching them and enjoying them as they happen, instead of what other people do, taking their big iPads out and trying to get a good shot, blocking other people’s views as they record something that they’re never going to watch again. I believe in living in the moment!

When that was over, night was falling, and it was finally time for Haunted Mansion! We had our fastpass but the outside is dressed up SO COOL, I don’t mind waiting a few minutes. haunted-mansion-jack-outside

The ride tends to stop and start a lot, so we got stopped right at the man-eating Christmas wreath. haunted-mansion-wreath

And here’s an outside shot of the mansion taken by my lovely husband. haunted-mansion-exterior

From there we actually went back to the Grand Californian. They haven’t put up their tree yet, or their gingerbread house, but they did have a picture of what it’ll be and it looks great. We stopped in to try their holiday drinks and it was totally worth it. I got the peppermint hot chocolate with marshmallows, and it was rich and creamy perfection. Really, their hot chocolate never disappoints. Thor got the hot apple cider which he was also quite pleased with.

But then it was on to the big one–the Festival of Holidays at Disneyland California Adventure. festival-of-holidays-micechat From Micechat.

Dozens of little stalls, all selling unique food items, scattered all around. There is so much to try and only so much we could do in one night! I stopped at the Southern Home Holidays kiosk for the southern mac and cheese with jalapeno cornbread crumble. I didn’t have crazy expectations for this but OH MY GOODNESS it was delicious. Thor said it was too saucy for him, and that it reminded him more of an alfredo than mac and cheese, but I think he’s crazy. It was perfectly cheesy and warm on what turned out to be a cool evening. Could have done without the cornbread crumble though; it was too sweet and made an odd contrast to the pasta. 9/10, would totally eat again.

Thor stopped at the Mosaic Delights stall, for the roasted lamb with masala spice Basmati rice and poached raisins, and a generous piece of baklava. I don’t eat lamb but Thor really liked it. He says it wasn’t maybe the best cut of lamb ever but he liked the preparation. The baklava was tasty but was a little cold, so it was kind of congealed and difficult to eat. I posted it last time but here’s the entire list of food again. The small plates are from $6-$8 each so it’s a little difficult to just pig out over, but they’re really filling and we didn’t need to stop for any more snacks. There are definitely more things on my to-eat list, and I’m excited that it’s going to be here through the end of the year.

All of this is great, but it was super packed at the park. It makes me wonder if this festival is really bringing in more of a crowd. DCA has always been a little bit quieter and it would be sad if that refuge didn’t exist anymore, but it’s still a nice addition.

Then it was onto Cars Land, one of my absolute favorites. The decorations are second to none. cars-land-1

cars-land-tree

maters-junkyard Mater’s Junkyard

cars-land-2

cozy-cone The Cozy Cone!

cars-land-town-hall Radiator Springs Town Hall!

I didn’t check to see if they had any seasonal eatings, but it’s a great culinary corner of the park. Flo’s Diner has some real winners for breakfast, especially. I like their caramel bread pudding and Thor likes the chicken tamale with scrambled egg. The Cozy Cone is home to my favorite mac and cheese cone with bacon crumbles, and apparently they have a bunch of interesting popcorn flavors, like salt & vinegar, pickle, bacon & cheddar, sweet & spicy, or nacho cheese.

One last look at DCA for the night with the tree in the main square, right outside of Carthay Circle: dca-tree

Back to Disneyland to take a look at everything under cover of darkness and Christmas lights! The entrance is all decked out.

dl-entrance

Take a look at the tree in Main Street. dl-tree-and-main-street

A view down Main Street. main-street

We made our way back down to Critter Country. I was surprised there aren’t more decorations out that way, especially considering that Santa is posted out there this time of year. Here’s a little Christmas cheer: pooh-and-piglet-critter-country

I really appreciated Frontierland’s decorations. Take a look at the Golden Horseshoe.

And of course it’s not Disneyland without the castle! christmas-castle

We happened to be walking by when they lit it up for the night, and got some bonus snow as they did that. You can see the 2016 fireworks here. It’s worth a watch. And then of course they played White Christmas, and it snowed, and I cried, and it was great.

Then we had a fast pass for Star Tours so we made our way through the crowd to Tomorrowland. Had a great time, even if we did the Naboo scene for the billionth time. But after that, it was off to It’s a Small World Holiday! Have some pictures.

 

small-world-daytime

Here’s what it looks during the daytime.

Had a great, relaxing time on the ride. Nothing like ending a long day standing and walking around with sitting down in some air conditioning and letting the world revolve around you.

That was our last big stop for the day. Like every visit, we finished with a walk down our bridge where Thor proposed, and a really quick walk through of the shops. They’ve had their Christmas merchandise out for a while so we’ve definitely already seen it. Still love it though.

And that was our first Disneyland Christmastime 2016 trip! A very successful day, filled with love and happiness! We plan to go most weekends through the end of the year so there will be much more where this came from. If you’re reading this, thanks! I hope you enjoyed it!

Upcoming trip

Can’t contain my excitement–tomorrow is our first visit of the Christmas season! We;re pretty seasoned pros, but I’m still spending some time on travel sites specializing in Disneyland holidays, like this Ultimate Disneyland Christmas blog. I’m just on these sites to make sure we don’t miss anything exciting!

Last year was not as great because it was the 60th anniversary, and they had special decorations, fireworks, and parades and decided to forgo the Christmas stuff. And I really did like the Paint the Night parade, which you can see here, but I promise you that no video can do it justice. By the way, Paint the Night will still happen on select nights this season.

I never did see the 60th anniversary fireworks. We tend to get there and leave earlier in the day. I’m sure they were great, but there’s nothing like the Christmas fireworks, and I don’t even care for fireworks. They play Christmas music and illuminate the castle all neat, and then the finale is the song “White Christmas” and they make it snow in the form of gently falling bubbles in the main square, and every time I cry and it’s beautiful.

 

There are some must-dos every Christmastime visit. First, Haunted Mansion Holiday, where the Haunted Mansion is transformed into Nightmare Before Christmas-land. Seriously, going through the ride is just like entering the movie. And then there’s It’s a Small World Holiday. It’s the cruise through the world set to Jingle Bells in different languages. One of the best parts about these rides, particularly Small World, is how the outside of the rides are decorated for the season, all lit up and beautiful, so it’s really best to go after dark.

Of course, one of the other things on the list is Jingle Cruise, when Jungle Cruise gets all decked out for the season and the skippers insert some holiday puns into their monologues. That’s one of Thor’s favorites. It’s ten minutes of nonstop dad jokes.

And then of course there’s the decorations. I can spend all day just looking at the garlands and lights in the different lands. But one of the best is Cars Land at night during the holidays. I’ll be sure to take pictures. I’m not even a big fan of the movie, but the way they made a film just come to life in Cars Land is amazing.

Speaking OF California Adventure, NEW this year is the Festival of Holidays. Part of it is a similar set up to the Food and Wine Festival earlier this year; there’s a bunch of pretty little popup stalls selling various foods that are pretty good, but way expensive for a small plate of food. The range of stuff they sell is pretty incredible though, and you can check out the details of all the offerings here if you’re so inclined. I’m looking forward to the crab cakes and smoked duck & vegetable spring roll myself. Anyway, it’s just nice that California Adventure is going to be more festive this year, though I love the park all year round.

But wait, there’s more! One of the other things that is so wonderful this time of year is the Grand Californian Hotel. I’ll definitely take pictures of that. The hotel is already spectacular to begin with, and they put up this amazing tree, and at least last year sold hot drinks from a little stand, and we never got the chance to try them, but it’s definitely on my list this year.

And all this is of course besides the things we like to do every time, like eating. There is a whole page on Christmas eats here. One of the big things they recommend are the yule log desserts you can get; I’ve only had it once and was not impressed. Dry cake, gross. But they give it such an endorsement that maybe I’ll try it again. They also mention the candy cane ice cream which I haven’t had before but that’s definitely on my list.

Other foods to look forward to this weekend is the amazing soft-serve ice cream in California Adventure, and the skewers at Bengal BBQ outside of Indiana Jones and Jingle Cruise. I don’t know if they have anything seasonal, but their chicken skewers are great, as are their bacon-wrapped asparagus. And hopefully this will be the first trip this year to include their decadent hot chocolate. I don’t know what they put in it, but it’s rich and fudge-y and delicious. Hmm, they should add a peppermint flavor to that. Anyway, we’re planning on being there later in the day so maybe it will get cool enough for it. They’re calling for a high of 85, so it’ll be at least 90 during the day.

I’m writing this on my break at work and it smells like someone just microwaved mac and cheese and it smells really good.

First post!

Some people flood their social media pages with pictures of their kids. I tend to flood mine with cat pictures and Disneyland updates. The cat pictures will continue, as will some of the Disney stuff, but I made this blog so if people actually want to see my Disney spam, there is a place for it!