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Old 09-14-2007, 01:01 PM   #1
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Our Southern California Adventure - Part Two

Part Two

The drive from San Diego to Disneyland was very quick indeed at just over an hour. When we arrived at the Disneyland Hotel our room was not ready, so we left our bags with bell services and took a wonder around the hotel grounds and Downtown Disney. I love the DTD in California – there is such a great atmosphere and so many stalls selling great little bits which cannot be found in the parks. $370 lighter , after spending almost two hours in World of Disney, we went back to the Disneyland Hotel to check out our room.

I ordered a special gift basket from vacation planning, and it was in our room upon arrival.

This was the wonderful view from our room, looking to the right. The photo is slightly zoomed in, but the view of Paradise Pier was great (particularly at night).

This was another great view from our room, looking straight ahead. This is Downtown Disney, and you can see the Matterhorn Mountain in the background.

The room was very spacious and had a day bed which was perfect for us as we needed three beds and I was expecting I would have to call for a roll-away. The view was one of the best bits about the room – we had an eighth floor room with a breath-taking panorama of Downtown Disney, Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park. The view was probably my best memory from the trip – in the evening the whole vista came alive with music and colourful lights; it was a really special atmosphere. We also had a wonderful view of the Disneyland Park fireworks each night. The way the beds were facing meant we could lie in bed with the curtains open and enjoy the fireworks show

I was very impressed with the Disneyland Hotel and we will certainly return. Previously we stayed at the Grand Californian – this hotel has direct access to the California Adventure Park and is located right within both the theme park and Downtown Disney. Disneyland Hotel is a little further back, at the other end of Downtown Disney. However, the room at Disneyland Hotel was definitely larger than the room we had at the Grand Californian, which was ideal as there are five of us. We had a magnificent view and the hotel grounds are very impressive – there are two great swimming pools and even a small lake and waterfall! We enjoyed breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen had a nice Breakfast Buffet, but we only saw two characters the whole time we were there, which was very disappointing. The restaurant is very large and we seemed to be sat away from all the action and antics.

Since I have never done a Disneyland California TR before, I thought I would throw in a few details and observations about the parks and comparisons with Walt Disney World.

Before our first trip, I had read lots of very negative reports about California Adventure, so we were not expecting much. However, California Adventure Park is arguably our top Disney Park we have had the pleasure of visiting. To me, CA seems to combine multiple parks into one – you have the “MGM studios” area with tower of terror, the animation studio and the Monsters Inc ride which is really good fun. This area also has the absolutely incredible Aladdin show. This show really blew us away. It is even better than Broadway – the actors are excellent (especially the genie) and the show has incredible special effects and the most awesome staging and props. The comedy is great too – the genie is always cracking jokes which filled the crowd with laughter. Every single person I saw coming out of the theatre was brimming from ear to ear with a smile – this show encapsulates everything I love about Disney and it was worth the admission price alone just to watch it. Make sure you get there early for good seats, or get hold of some preferred seating vouchers to give you first pick (I got ours from eBay, but you can get them free if you reserve an AAA package).

Other highlights from California Adventure include the Grizzly Peak rapids ride. We loved this ride – the drop is quite a bit steeper than other rapids, and everyone in the boat got soaked. We also met a gem of a cast member outside of this attraction. He was a photopass photographer and we really enjoyed meeting him. He made us do some really funny poses and we had a great time. He also told us some stories about the times he visited England and how he cannot wait to go back sometime. He was a really great old man and we had the pleasure of bumping into him again when we visited Disneyland Park the next day. He made us all roll about laughing with his odd humour and jokes.

The Paradise Pier area of the park is great, and comes alive at night. It is very pretty with the lights and we enjoyed riding the Sun Wheel at night with the great views over the park (make sure you go for the non-swinging capsules if you get motion sickness!). California Screamin’ is now my eldest DS’ fave rollercoaster, even beating Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster in Orlando. I enjoyed it too – the initial boost at the start gives an adrenaline rush which lasts the whole ride, which is very smooth and enjoyable.

California Adventure is also home to Soarin’. This is the Disney attraction I love most. It is the same as the one in Orlando, the one at EPCOT being a direct copy, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The Main Street Electrical Parade is also, rather bizarrely, located at California Adventure. This was a great end to the evening, I always get goose bumps when watching this - and DD and DS entertained the crowds with their gymnastic skills whilst we were waiting for the parade to start! They even got a a round of applause!

Disneyland Park is full of history and this was demonstrated by the absolutely wonderful display and show they have near the entrance. It has a small scale replica of the original 1955 Disneyland Park. It is incredible to see how it has changed over time – back in 1955 it looked so sparse and bare, it is weird to think what it must have been like and how different it is now. For those who have never visited Disneyland before, but have been to other Disney parks, the first shock comes as soon as you the castle. It is tiny! It is nice to think that you are looking at Walt’s original, but it really is very small compared to the MK castle and is over-shadowed by the Matterhorn Mountain. Our Disneyland Park highlights include Indiana Jones Adventure – this is a ride which is kind of similar to Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom, except much better. It has great special effects and scenery, and the vehicles go at great speed. Other ‘best bits’ include the Matterhorn – similar to Space Mountain but less rough and a bit more bumpy! Speaking of Space Mountain, we much prefer the DL original to the WDW one, but I think we are in the exception.

We enjoyed a gorgeous lunch at Blue Bayou, the restaurant beside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. DH and I had the amazing ‘Monte Cristo’ sandwich – it was absolutely gorgeous but way too big to finish. I think they must be changing the menus here, as we got to keep the menus as a souvenir of our trip. We were very lucky to get the one-and-only five seat riverside table, which made the trip even more special. The atmosphere here is wonderful and very serene – it’s strange going back outside into the light and heat after sitting in the Bayou for over an hour!

Pirates of the Caribbean is incredible – much longer than at WDW – and with much more elaborate theming. Above POTC is the Disney Gallery. I was so pleased to see it was still open, as before our trip I had read it was closing. I am a big collector of Disney art so I was really happy to go and chill out in the gallery whilst DH took the children on Pirates for a second time. I even bought another piece to add to our collection! They have a wonderful balcony up there and it was great to look down on one of the jazz bands that were playing in New Orleans Square.

The newest ride at Disneyland, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, was ridiculously popular. The line was 2 hours+ at virtually all times throughout the day and seemed to curl like a never-ending path all the way round the Matterhorn. Luckily, we only had to wait just under an hour (still the longest we have ever waited for a ride before), as we went straight there on an EMH morning as soon as the park opened. The ride is very slow loading and doesn't have FastPass, hence the long lines. Despite the waiting, we all really enjoyed this ride. I can't describe it too much otherwise I might ruin it, but the special effects are amazing and it really does "wow" you. We wanted to do it a second time, but didn't have the patience to wait again.

The evening entertainment at Disneyland Park includes Fantasmic and “Remember….Dreams Come True” fireworks. We were fortunate enough to reserve the premium Fantasmic seating package, so we got special seating in a reserved area and a dessert box filled with delicious goodies. You can see some pictures and read my report about the Fantasmic Premium Seating experience here.

The Disneyland Park fireworks show was really great. It really is a “park-wide” show – we experienced it in Tomorrow Land, Main Street , the Fantasmic area and from our hotel room – each time it was unique and special to the individual areas, with different lighting and effects. The fireworks show has great music from many of the Disney rides and takes you on a visual journey of all the attractions in Disneyland. It was great!

The Los Angeles area has a wide variety of great attractions so we took time to spread our wings and go outside of Disney – for the first time (our previous DL trips we have stayed at Disney the whole time).

We enjoyed visiting Splash City, Universal Studios, Hollywood, and The Warner Brothers Studio VIP tour.

Splash City
This is the water park adjacent to Knotts Berry. It was a little disappointing, but that is probably because we have got used to the amazing theming at the WDW water parks. It seemed to be full of summer camp kids whilst we were there, and it was a little overpriced in my opinion, despite using the AAA discount. Also, the lines for the slides were all over half and hour – DS had to wait for an hour for one of the slides! Not sure we will return, but it was a nice cool off anyway.
~~ Our Disney Holidays ~~
Polynesian Resort - Concierge Lagoon View (x3) Trip Report & Regular Lagoon View (x2)
Bay Lake Tower - Magic Kingdom View 2 Bedroom Villa (x1), Bay Lake View 2 Bedroom Villa (x1)
Grand Floridian - 2 Bedroom Suite, Royal Palm Club (x1), RPC (x1), Garden View (x1)
Animal Kingdom Lodge - Savannah Concierge (x1)
Boardwalk Inn - Concierge (x1)
Yacht Club - Water View (x1)
Hard Rock Hotel - Garden View (x1), Club Level (x1)
Portofino Bay Hotel - Bay View (x1), Deluxe (x1) Trip Report
Disneyland Hotel Paris - Regular (x1), Castle Club Park View (x2) & Tinker Bell Suite (x1)
Newport Bay Club Paris - Admiral Floor (x1)
Grand Californian - Standard (x1) Concierge (x1)
Disneyland Hotel, California - Resort View (x1) Trip Report
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Old 09-14-2007, 01:02 PM   #2
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Universal Studios Hollywood
It took just over 45 minutes to get here from Disney, along with obligatory bathroom stop when DD declares she has to go and cannot even wait 2 more minutes for us to arrive. When we did arrive, this place was crazy! I’ve never seen so many people lining up at the turnstiles before in all my life. I had purchased front-of-the-line tickets and, today of all days, this was definitely worthwhile. We never waited more than 10 minutes for any of the rides, and also benefited from the premium reserved seating in all the shows, which was wonderful. A couple of highlights from Universal included the Waterworld show, which, despite how cr*p the film is, was surprisingly good and had some awesome special effects and the Studio Tour which was incredible. The Studio Tour lasts almost an hour and encapsulates a number of great Universal attractions all in one ride – during the studio tour you experience an up-close encounter with King Kong, a near-miss attack from Jaws and almost getting bitten alive by bugs in The Mummy’s temple. They take you past the set for Desperate Housewives, the Bates Motel from Psycho and a Wild West town which looks picture-identical to the old western movies. You also get to drive through some soundstages and see how special effects are created. This studio tram tour was probably worth the admission alone, and we enjoyed it immensely. One of the best bits was the drive through the airplane crash from War of the Worlds. It is absolutely incredible how they created this – and, for a change, most of it is not special effects but real props: they smashed up an actual plane and littered the ground with everything from sofas to shopping carts.

The House of Horrors was an experience for DH, if nothing else. I waited out with DD and youngest DS, whilst he took in our oldest DS who wanted to try it. He came out crying! This attraction is a walk-through and monsters jump out at you and creep up behind you. DH said DS was screaming the whole way round, and it was pitch black and they could barely see where they were going. DH had a nice red mark on his hand after from were DS was holding on so tight! Apparently there was also a room full of body bags hanging from the ceiling which they had to negotiate through, which sounds nice. Such a shame I didn’t get to experience it!

One of my only gripes about Universal Hollywood was the lack of dining establishments. We could not find anywhere for a full service meal, and the counter services had huge lines. In the end we settled for lunch at Mel’s Diner. We waited for half an hour, but the food (burgers, onion rings, fries and shakes) was good, if expensive (and unhealthy!). I did see advertised an “All-you-can-eat” pass which might be something worth considering. Although, in the future, we will probably go to CityWalk to eat instead. Speaking of CityWalk, we unfortunately didn’t get much time to look around here – when we exited Universal at the end of the day CityWalk was absolutely heaving. We could barely move, so just called it a day and headed back to the car.


The street from "Bruce Almighty"

This was actually a miniature model, but the camera makes it look big. This is the boat from King Kong. It looked like a real boat in the movie, but many of the shots were produced from this mini replica!

We enjoyed spending a morning in Hollywood, taking in the Chinese theatre and El Capitan Disney theatre, as well as the wonderful Disney Soda Fountain. Hollywood is quite run-down in places and, after the “comfort” of being in Disneyland Resort, it came as a slight shock and a hit back to reality. However, we had a nice few hours and over indulged on the H-U-G-E Sorcerer's Hat Ice Cream at the Disney Soda Fountain - this beast has a whole can of whipped cream and about 10 different ice cream flavours. We all got a round of applause when it arrived, and some badges saying we ate it all (even though we didn't even eat half!).

Warner Bros VIP Studio Tour
This was another great highlight of our trip. The Warner Bros tour is very good indeed - you are driven around the studio in golf carts in groups of about eight to ten. There are lots of places where your guide takes you off of the cart and you can go for a stroll around the movie lot. At the end, there is a really big museum stuffed with original movie props and costumes. The theme whilst we were visiting was Harry Potter - upstairs they had the sorting hat and we each got to try it on. I was allocated Gryfindor, but poor DD was given Slytherin! We also got to see "Central Perk" from Friends. They have kept it secure inside one of the prop rooms and we were allowed to go in and take pictures. It was really neat. We also got to see the special effects studio and prop building departments. They were working on some really good new projects whilst we were there! Lots of the tour is "no cameras allowed" - the guide collects cameras off of the guests and locks them up under the seat. However, here are some snaps from areas where photography was permitted.

~~ Our Disney Holidays ~~
Polynesian Resort - Concierge Lagoon View (x3) Trip Report & Regular Lagoon View (x2)
Bay Lake Tower - Magic Kingdom View 2 Bedroom Villa (x1), Bay Lake View 2 Bedroom Villa (x1)
Grand Floridian - 2 Bedroom Suite, Royal Palm Club (x1), RPC (x1), Garden View (x1)
Animal Kingdom Lodge - Savannah Concierge (x1)
Boardwalk Inn - Concierge (x1)
Yacht Club - Water View (x1)
Hard Rock Hotel - Garden View (x1), Club Level (x1)
Portofino Bay Hotel - Bay View (x1), Deluxe (x1) Trip Report
Disneyland Hotel Paris - Regular (x1), Castle Club Park View (x2) & Tinker Bell Suite (x1)
Newport Bay Club Paris - Admiral Floor (x1)
Grand Californian - Standard (x1) Concierge (x1)
Disneyland Hotel, California - Resort View (x1) Trip Report
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Old 09-14-2007, 01:03 PM   #3
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In all, we had an amazing trip and will definitely be back in the near future. Everyone should experience the original Disneyland once, and whilst the Disneyland Resort isn't as big, impressive or vast as Walt Disney World, it has a special kind of feel and some magical theming and touches which can't be found anywhere else.

Thanks for reading my report. I hope it wasn't too boring.
~~ Our Disney Holidays ~~
Polynesian Resort - Concierge Lagoon View (x3) Trip Report & Regular Lagoon View (x2)
Bay Lake Tower - Magic Kingdom View 2 Bedroom Villa (x1), Bay Lake View 2 Bedroom Villa (x1)
Grand Floridian - 2 Bedroom Suite, Royal Palm Club (x1), RPC (x1), Garden View (x1)
Animal Kingdom Lodge - Savannah Concierge (x1)
Boardwalk Inn - Concierge (x1)
Yacht Club - Water View (x1)
Hard Rock Hotel - Garden View (x1), Club Level (x1)
Portofino Bay Hotel - Bay View (x1), Deluxe (x1) Trip Report
Disneyland Hotel Paris - Regular (x1), Castle Club Park View (x2) & Tinker Bell Suite (x1)
Newport Bay Club Paris - Admiral Floor (x1)
Grand Californian - Standard (x1) Concierge (x1)
Disneyland Hotel, California - Resort View (x1) Trip Report
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Old 09-14-2007, 01:55 PM   #4
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Frances - Brilliant thank you for sharing this
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Old 09-14-2007, 01:57 PM   #5
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Great view form the DL Hotel

I must say we really did like USH so much more to see and do than USF, plus the backlot tour is so much better.

Thanks for the reports.

x Claire x
Aug 90 to Mar 98 - 6 visits to US and 20 states visited, inc 2 trips to WDW and 2 trips to DL Jun 01 - WDW Grosvenor DTD 2wks + TIG St Pete Beach 1wk Jun 02 - WDW WL 2wks Feb 03 - New York 4nts Jun 03 - West Coast 3wks SF to LA & DL for 3 days Oct 04 - WDW AKL 10nts + RPR 2nts Jun 05 - WDW YC 10nts + HRH 4nts + TIG St Pete Beach 1wk! Jun 06 - SF to LV inc Lake Tahoe, Yosemite + the Grand Canyon 3wks Dec 06 - NYE at WDW POFQ 11nts inc RPR 1nt Oct 07 - WDW SSR 2wks inc PBH 1nt May 08 - WDW AKV 15nts inc PBH 1nt + VB 4nts Feb 09 - WDW SSR 1wk + BWI 1wk Jun 09 - Washington DC for 1wk Dec 09 - New York for 6nts Oct 10 - Miami 3nts & WDW AKV KV 13nts inc HRH 1nt Jun 11 - LA to Seattle for 3wks inc 3 days at DLC Oct 12 - WDW AKV KV 2wks inc PBH 1nt Oct 14 - WDW AKV KV 2wks inc PBH 1nt
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Old 09-14-2007, 02:21 PM   #6
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love the gift basket and the room, photos are fab. It looks so different to WDW and yet so familiar!
Andrea xxx
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Old 09-15-2007, 04:56 AM   #7

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Thanks for a lovely report.

It made me excited for our trip next year.
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Old 09-15-2007, 07:39 AM   #8
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Great report, Frances I really enjoyed it.
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Old 09-16-2007, 01:28 PM   #9
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That was an excellent report Frances. I was particularly interested to see your thoughts on DCA in light of what I have heard / read previously. Goes to show you need to decide for yourself, doesn't it?!
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Old 09-16-2007, 02:34 PM   #10
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Fantastic pictures we've never been here but it looks great,would love to do it.
June 2002 WDW & St Pete's & Naples & Miami - 2003 - WDW - June 2004 - 4 Weeks WDW Onsite - June 2008 3 Weeks Onsite - WDW - June 2009
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Old 09-17-2007, 07:56 AM   #11
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Thanks so much for your great report Frances, it brought back so many memories for me as we did many of the same things as you on our Californian trip a couple of years ago.

We were lucky enough to get the balcony dessert bufet for Fantasmic! viewing and enjoyed it enormously. It's expensive, but a wonderful way to avoid the crowds and get a great view.

I also agree with you about DCA. It was so much better than I had expected and always seemed to have somewhere to get away from the crowds.
There is little doubt that we will return to Disneyland in the future, it is smaller than WDW, but just as much fun.

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Old 09-18-2007, 05:00 PM   #12
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Wow!! Frances, what a brilliant report and fantastic pictures, I really enjoyed reading that, thank you so much for sharing

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Old 09-19-2007, 10:37 AM   #13
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Thanks for a great report, we hope to do something similar next Christmas so it helped get me in the mood.
1) June 05, 5 Days onsite at PBH Universal alone at a conference with a day & a half in the Parks
2) Feb 06, 14 days offsite with family
3) Feb 07, 21 days offsite with family.
Our three weeks of bliss photo trip report

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Old 09-21-2007, 05:16 PM   #14
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We went to Disneyland in 1999 before the second park was added. I would really like to go back. It has been announced that DVC are adding villas to the Grand Californian so it may be a possibility for us in the future. It would be great to add it to a west coast Disney cruise break. I really will have to stop dreaming now!

Your report was great.

Many thanks

Oct 1992: off site - April 1998: Dixie Landings - Oct 1999: DL California - Oct 2000: Grosvenor Resort - Oct 2001: POFQ - Dec 2001:Disneyland Hotel - Oct 2003: Davy Crockets Cabins - Oct 2004: Grand Floridian -May 2005: SSR (DVC) & HRH - Oct 2005: New York Hotel - Oct 2006: SSR and BCV (DVC) - Aug 2007: SSR (DVC) and 1st Disney Cruise - July 2008: Sequoia Lodge - July 2010: Treehouse Villas - Sequoia Lodge: Oct 2010 - April 2011 Treehouse Villas/Portofino Bay
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Old 10-19-2007, 09:55 AM   #15
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Great report wish we'd done that backstage tour when we went as i'm a huge Friends fan, going in Central Perk would have been my idea of heaven!
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