Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Disneyland 1st anniversary trip, Part 1

Here we go- a long overdue Disneyland trip report!

After nearly a year since moving to CA and leaving WDW, Derek and I finally planned a return to my childhood park- Disneyland!  While WDW saw me through my first decade of adulthood, my youth was spent at Disneyland.  For our first anniversary, I felt as if I was going home.

My mascots on this trip were little Stitch who took posed for pics all over our honeymoon in Hawaii and Erik Sock Monkey in memory of my friend's little boy who lost his short battle with cancer a few months ago.

We decided to make the drive from Northern CA- about 6 hours, and one of the most boring drives ever with nothing but miles of farmland for long stretches.  We kept ourselves entertained with my collection of Disney cds.  We stopped for lunch at a random collection of restaurants and hotels in the middle of nowhere.  The place we chose had all the walls lined with vintage lunch boxes and thermoses ranging from Star Wars to Fraggle Rock and everything in between- that was a hoot.

We chose the Candy Cane Inn because it had free breakfast, free parking, and a walkable pathway to the parks.  It had many good reviews.  We didn't find it particularly special- theming was minimal at best, the breakfast was bare bones basic and there weren't really any extra perks, but the rooms were clean and the bed was comfortable, and that's all that really mattered.

It was too late in the day to bother going to the parks, so we headed to Downtown Disney to explore shops and choose dinner.  Browsing shops is really more my thing than Derek's, but he patiently let me explore World of Disney where I took mental notes of what I wanted.  I was impressed with the amount of new adult sized Disney Princess t-shirts- Belle in particular.  We walked up to several restaurants, but they all had really long wait times that we weren't willing to settle for.  We decided on a quick service location- the Jazz Kitchen express- where I had the New Orleans version of a meat pie, and we ordered some beignets for good measure- yum.

We woke up bright and early the next morning, with plans to grab a quick bite at the continental breakfast before heading to Disney's California Adventure for opening.  Candy Cane Inn breakfast is about as simple as you can get- the only hot item was a machine in which you can toast your bread on a bagel. Other than that, your options were cereal, pastries, fruit, and yogurt.  On the bright side, it meant we didn't have to feel stuffed.

Our Plan was to be at DCA for opening and make a beeline for Carsland to get fastpasses for  Radiator Springs Racers.  When we got there, we discovered a huge line being set up along the side of the building just for fastpasses.  The rest of the crowd was waiting for the park to open.  The fastpass line was so long that instead of getting in it, we decided to try our luck with the standby line.

Our risk paid off.  We got on the ride with only about a half hour wait.  By the time we finished, the wait time outside was 120 minutes!  We both agreed that the ride was absolutely amazing!  While the track was very similar to Epcot's Test Track, it had a much higher element of magic as it recreated Radiator Springs.  The audio-animatronic figures of the Cars characters were incredibly lifelike and enormous.  I would have loved for the fast part to be longer, but for the most part, it's a huge hit.

Carsland itself is a big hit too.  We spent a good hour just hanging out in that area of the park.  I'm not even a huge fan of the films, but the details were so fun- the baby tractor "petting zoo", the Cozy Cone, the posters on the walls of Flo's Cafe.  They had the Christmas decorations up already. Even the statue of the town's founder had a Santa hat on.

Once all the Cozy Cone kiosks were open, I insisted that we try the apple slush drink- I  had read that the concoction was exactly the same as Lefou's Brew, the new specialty drink in WDW's new Fantasyland.  Since who knows when I'll get to return to FL, this would have to do.  It was really delicious!  It tastes like frozen apple juice and a sweet marshmallow foamy topping.

Derek didn't feel like waiting in line for Luigi's Floating Tires or Mater's Junkyard  Jamboree, so we decided to swing by The Little Mermaid ride.  On our last visit, it was brand new, and we waited over an hour.  This time?  Only 5 minutes!  Woohoo!  While a cute ride, there is no way it was enough payoff for the wait we had the first time.

Derek doesn't care too much for coasters, so I grabbed a fastpass for California Screamin', and we checked out this little "museum" near the winery.  It was part real life demonstration center for the new Carsland and part Radiator Springs exhibit- they even had an old guestbook on display signed by car themed celebrity parody names.  They also had a viewing area for a Cars short about Mater and his time machine- very funny.

I had not had the chance to get to California Screamin' on the last visit, so I was glad to return.  So fun!  It was actually longer and more intense than I remembered.

We decided to do lunch at the excellently themed Flo's Cafe- a 50s style diner for car customers- advertising the best in oil, ha ha.  The food was very good and quite a big meal for a quick service location.  We both chose turkey slices with gravy.

We left Carsland to explore other areas of the park.  We had been there just the previous year, so our must see list wasn't terribly long- just the new stuff.  One of those new things was a Newsies inspired musical revue on Buena Vista Street I'd read about.  With it's Broadway style singing and dancing, the show naturally received raves from me, especially when Mickey joined in.  With him now being able to blink and move his mouth, it was annoyingly hard to get a good picture.

Let me take a moment to say how much I absolutely loved Buena Vista Street!  It echoed Disney's Hollywood Studios (aka MGM) back in FL but represented a slightly earlier Hollywood, the one Walt saw when he first arrived.  The streetmosphere folks were more believable and less goofy than their Florida counterparts (except Goofy himself of course).

The theming of the area was great- really stepping back in time.  From the names of the shops to the old fashioned Christmas decorations, the imagineers didn't miss a detail.  I got a kick out of everyone wearing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit ears.  I'm so glad Disney got the rights to him back.

We next wandered into the modern Hollywood part of the park.  Monster's Inc had an almost non existent wait time posted so we hitched a ride.  I always forget just how good that one is!  I still think there ought to be a coaster based on the door room scene though.

We headed into the animation building and paced through it pretty quickly.  Derek had never seen Turtle Talk with Crush in WDW to my surprise so we got in line.  The set up here is much better.  They can fit more people, and it has real theater seats instead of standing blocks.  The show itself is about the same, although I noticed that Crush now brings out a Buzz Lightyear toy instead of a bikini top which I thought was funnier.

Over at the Hyperion Theater, guests filed in for the next performance of Aladdin- perfect timing as it started soon.  We had to sit in the balcony, but the view was still decent.  I had seen the show before, but Derek hadn't.  It really is an impressive production for a theme park.  What a shame that Aladdin and Jasmine don't fly over the audience anymore.  I do love how Genie is always up on the latest pop culture jokes.

I wanted to catch another show- Minnie's Fly Girls- so we found ourselves in Condor Heights and grabbed fastpasses for Soarin Over California.  Yes, we have ridden the one at Epcot many times, and once you have flown over the real Hawaii in a real helicopter, pretending to fly over CA seems a little silly, but hey- it's still fun.

We gathered in front of the little platform for the show.  Once again great fun- Minnie's fly girls were dressed like 1960s Pan Am stewardesses and sang some great ditties.  At one point, they were asking people where they wanted to fly, responding with an enthusiastic, "We go there!"  I stood right up front, so they asked me!  I had to think for a second and settled on Ireland.  Then they sang a medly about all the countries they fly to.  When they got  to Ireland, they smiled right at me.

After the show, we decided to grab snacks.  I picked a chocolate dipped Mickey shaped marshmallow.  We nibbled on our goodies while watching the talents of "Five and Dime"- a 1920s jazz group.  We then found spots for the Pixar Play Parade featuring an insanely catchy theme song and nearly every Pixar character.

Hearing that Carsland looks amazing after dark, we went to admire all the neon signs.  I talked Derek into hopping onto Mater's Junkyard Jamboree since the line was so short.  He was afraid the spinning would be too much, but we both handled it just fine.

We decided to take advantage of Disneyland Park's later hours.  Our desire for some dinner led us to the Big Thunder BBQ which neither of us had tried before.  The food was all you care to eat and comparable to WDW's Hoop De Do menu, although the later has a few tastier items.  Big Thunder doesn't have the fried chicken or the strawberry shortcake.  The entertainment was a few rodeo characters singing Christmas tunes with guitar or piano accompaniment.

We finished the night catching rides on a handful of Fantasyland classics.  Getting those out of the way would give us more time for other things the next day.  We caught a glimpse of the fireworks as we headed out for the night.  The next day was our actual anniversary.