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Old 07-13-2011, 11:37 AM   #1
WDWFigment
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Thumbs up Coast-to-Coast 2011 - From Disneyland to WDW for Destination D! (UPDATE: Club 33)

Preface:

Welcome back to another Bricker trip report. This time, we’re telling the tale of our April/May 2011 Coast-to-Coast Walt Disney World and Disneyland trip! In these pages, we will share laughs, spin yarns, suspend disbelief, and perform miracles! Well, maybe not the last item on that list, unless you count convincing people to read this report as a miracle! Join us as we travel from Indianapolis to California to Indianapolis to Florida (and possibly back to Indianapolis!) as we share our experiences: dining in Club 33, Napa Rose, California Grill, and Flying Fish; competing in D23’s Great Disney Scavenger Hunt; conducting research; experiencing D23’s Destination D Celebration of WDW’s 40th; and, of course, taking a ridiculous amount of photos!

This trip report will be cross-posted from *****************.com ("DTB"). I will most likely post updates a little earlier over there and they'll be easier to browse without comments in between my posts, so if you want to read ahead or without comments between posts, check out the DTB! If you enjoy the comments of others, read here!

In any case we hope you enjoy reading this trip report - on with the show!

The Cast:

Starring - Tom and Sarah Bricker, lifelong Walt Disney World fans; engaged at the Polynesian in 2007, married in 2010 and honeymooned at BoardWalk thereafter. In addition to their day jobs, Tom works for TouringPlans.com and is a photographer for the Unofficial Guide travel series, while Sarah works on their fledgling *****************.com and generally keeps Tom in line and on task. They recently discovered Walt’s original park, and are now committed to exploring the other worldwide Disney parks. “2012: Tokyo or Bust!”




Guest Appearances - The Works and Work-to-be (Henry Work and his parents, and his fiancee, Kate), Nick B., J.L. Knopp, and many others!


The Trips:


Dates:
Disneyland Resort - Late April & Early May, 2011
Walt Disney World Resort - Early/Mid May, 2011

Accommodations
Desert Inn & Suites, Anaheim
The Luxurious All Star Movies Resort, Walt Disney World

Disneyland Dining

Hungry Bear Restaurant - Critter Country
Napa Rose - Grand Californian Resort
Celebration Roundup & BBQ - Frontierland
Club 33 - New Orleans Square
Rancho del Zocalo - Frontierland
Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port - Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland Terrace - Tomorrowland
Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream - Paradise Pier
Wine Country Trattoria - Golden State
The Cove Bar - Paradise Pier

Walt Disney World Dining
Sunshine Seasons - The Land Pavilion
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe - Tomorrowland
Sanaa - Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani Village)
California Grill - Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Mizner's Lounge - Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Tortuga Tavern - Adventureland
Flying Fish Cafe - Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Kringla Bakeri og Cafe - Norway
La Cantina de San Angel - Mexico
Studios Catering Company - Backlot


Exciting Links!

Disney Tourist Blog - Our personal website where we post trip reports, Disney dining reviews, Disney product reviews, special/private event reviews, and a whole host of other random Disney musings!

Tom's Blogging on TouringPlans.com - An index of Tom's weekly blog posts for TouringPlans.com; get a further glimpse into his thoughts regarding all things Disney...if you dare!

Where to Buy Sarah's Attire - If you've ever wondered where Sarah purchases her dresses and other attire (and apparently, a lot of readers have), this is the link for you!

Tom's Twitter - Don't believe the incredibly verbose Tom can limit his thoughts to 140 characters? Then check out his Twitter stream!

Tom's Flickr - Tom posts a Disney photo here at least 5 days per week. Some of them are sort of neat.

Like Tom's Photography on Facebook!
- Just in case you can't get enough of dat "social media" stuff...

Sarah's Favorite Dachshund Breeder - Sarah says we can't link to this one, because she doesn't want you all stealing the "choice" puppies. Oops, sorry!

Past Trip Reports:

Engagement Report
August 2008
November/December 2008
August 2009
October 2009
Disneymoon 2010
Christmas 2010
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:39 AM   #2
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Spending the day working is never a good thing to do while on vacation. Unfortunately, the Disneyland “leg” of our Coast to Coast vacation began with a day at the office. It really was unavoidable, given our goal of taking as many trips as possible this year, and apparently, sine vacation days are finite. News to me, and quite the contrast to being a student, when we had all summer off, and could elect to take time off from school without any serious repercussions.



Normally, our Disney vacations start off early in the morning as we try to maximize our time in the parks without the extra expense of added nights at a resort. This trip similarly started early, but only because we typically get to work at 7 a.m. For me, the work day was fairly mild; it was administrative assistant’s day (or something with a similar politically correct name), which meant that our office was going out to lunch! Because of this, I had only a few hours of productivity before heading off to Fogo de Chao, where we spent a couple hours. Upon returning to the office, it was almost immediately time to leave for the airport. Not too rigorous of a day at the office!



Arriving at the airport, we checked our bags and headed towards the food court. There, I sadly did not participate in my storied tradition of enjoying two Sausage McMuffins with Egg at McDonald’s. For some reason, McDonald’s wasn’t serving them at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. I pleaded and stomped my feet in outrage, demanding satisfaction from the clerk at McDonald’s over this egregious menu change, but she was unreceptive. Well, not really, but I imagine this is how the exchange might have gone if I weren’t still absolutely stuffed from lunch. Being a bit superstitous about my McDonald’s habits, I was a bit concerned that not having my traditional Disney meal before our trip would put an ancient Mayan curse over the trip.





This potential curse looming heavy on my mind, I wandered the airport taking photos while Sarah ordered some odd burrito or something. While taking a photo with my fisheye of the flight tip board, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Crap, I thought, my odd photography had raised a red flag with TSA. To the contrary, and to my relief, it was actually a travel blogger who wanted to know whether I was also a blogger. She said she figured I was, given all of the odd angles from which she saw me taking photos. Realizing that I dodged a bullet by this being another passenger rather than TSA, I decided to stop taking photos at the airport, at that point. It wasn’t as if any of the photos were any good, anyway, so the risk far outweighed any reward.





I noticed Sarah’s food was ready, so I got a table, and began one of my favorite Disney trip traditions: taking awkward photos of Sarah while she eats. This may seem cruel, but Sarah certainly reciprocates. Taking any awkward photo she can of me. Far too many of the photos we take each trip make us appear like goons. Maybe someday we’ll post all of these “outtakes.” For now, we’ll stick with the normal stuff.



Once Sarah was done eating, we heading towards the TSA screening area. Sarah had a wonderful streak going here of being selected for advanced TSA screening every time we had flown for (at least) the past 6 flights prior to this. During this same period, I hadn’t been selected at all. Obviously Sarah more closely resembles a terrorist than me. Perhaps it’s the “Viva Bin Laden” shirt she wears to the airport--who knows? We had made much ado about this to our family members, wondering if the streak would continue. Sure enough, we jinxed it, and she wasn’t selected. ***SPOILER ALERT*** She wasn’t selected for additional screening on any of our flights during the coast-to-coast trip.

From here, we went through our typical airport traditions of taking odd photos of one another, drawing questioning looks from other travelers. It’s often said that Indiana is the place fun goes to die (well, I think I’m the only one to say this), and it’s definitely true. You think people would be elated to fly as far as possible from this state, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe it’s just the photos people don’t like, because otherwise people seem pretty happy at the airport.







As usual, we were flying Southwest. Southwest is my favorite airline, not because I particularly like lining up for my seat or their planes, but because I love their wry advertising and brilliant business model. Plus, we’ve been flying Southwest for so long that it’s become inextricably Disney despite not actually being Disney-owned. It’s just something that we associate with Disney trips due to past practice and tradition.



When we boarded the plane, we had one of our most fundamental debates: aisle or window. Sarah wanted to go with the aisle in case she needed to get up during the flight. I wanted a window seat so I could look out the window, but more importantly, so I didn’t nod off and accidentally rest my head on a stranger. Sarah won out, we ended up going with the aisle seat, and I did, in fact, end up resting my head on some random dude a couple of times. In my defense, he had it coming.





The plane departed on time, which was the first of what needed to be a few small victories in order for us to get to the parks that evening. Our flight from Phoenix to John Wayne Airport was set to arrive at 8:20 pm, and Disneyland closed at midnight. While this seems like plenty of time, we had to take get our bags from baggage claim (which took 45 minutes last time), check-in to our hotel, and purchase our APs all before entering the park. Plus, I’m betting they don’t allow guests to enter at 11:50 pm, so we wanted to get there as early as possible.




The trip out to John Wayne Airport was a glorious voyage fraught with adventure and peril. Actually, it was more like a long and boring flight with a layover in Phoenix. It would have been nice if they spiced things up with some adventure and peril.









The Phoenix airport is much nicer than the Indianapolis airport, if only for one reason: it’s in Phoenix. The airport is situated amongst the mountains, which make for a beautiful backdrop. It didn’t hurt that we were there right around sunset. Again, our flight took off on time, which was victory #2 on the “Small Victories” list.



The flight from Phoenix to John Wayne Airport was fairly short. It seemed like an eternity given our desire to get to Disneyland; I felt like a child going to bed on Christmas Eve, waking up every couple of hours to see if Santa had arrived yet, only to find out I had just closed my eyes a couple minutes earlier. This excitement pretty well undermined my goal of getting some rest on the flight (I probably had my eyes closed for a total of 10 minutes, and slept for a whopping 0 minutes).

We arrived on time and our flight promptly taxied and left us de-board immediately. Victory #3 on the “Small Victories” list. Now began the more concerning of the small victories. What if our luggage got lost and we had to file some paperwork? That alone could eat up an hour! My thought on this was that we just say “luggage be damned, we’re going to Disneyland!” at that point, but in fairness, I packed everything I needed except a tripod head cover and some toiletries in my carry-on bag. This was a non-issue, though, as our luggage arrived 8 minutes after we got to baggage claim.







Next was the shuttle. We have heard a lot of positive things about SuperShuttle, but we’ve also heard some stories of long delays. This worried me. Within 10 minutes of getting to the shuttle, we were on our way to our hotel, the Desert Inn & Suites. It was around 9 pm and at this point, I was thinking there was no way that we wouldn’t get to Disneyland before it closed. Right? RIGHT?!

Then things began to go downhill. There were 4 other parties in the SuperShuttle van with us and we weren’t told a drop-off order. We knew we certainly wouldn’t be first; our luck just isn’t that good. Then, we weren’t second. After 35 minutes, we found out we weren’t third, either. As we approached the fourth stop, we saw the Remember...Dreams Come True fireworks going off. Then we pulled into our hotel, which was, in fact, the fourth stop.



Check-in was another concern. What if we weren’t on file? What if they over-booked? However, at this point, I figured we’d just take out luggage with us to Disneyland if there were a problem. (That probably wasn’t a viable strategy, but I was so hungry for Disneyland at this point that I was thinking straight. I’m surprised I didn’t bite anyone along the way!) Luckily enough, our reservation was on file, and within a matter of minutes, we were in our room. Sarah freshened up, and I made sure my gear was ready.

By now, it was around 10, and we were already heading to the parks. We were making excellent time (at least compared to Walt Disney World, where Disney’s Magical Express makes it take a bare minimum of 2 hours from airplane touch-down to first step in the parks), even despite the long shuttle ride. It seemed nothing could go wrong to foil our plan of seeing Disneyland that evening at this point...
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:41 AM   #3
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When we arrived at Disneyland, we had a problem. The ticket kiosks...were...all...closed. We raced around, looking for an open one. Finally, we asked a security guard. He motioned us to the ones nearest Downtown Disney, saying that they were open. The ones visible to us over there appeared closed, but we headed that direction, anyway. Sure enough, when we went all the way around to the other side of the kiosks, we found two that were open!



We bought our Annual Passes and headed towards the turnstiles. Before the trip, we did a lot of research to determine what type of tickets we should buy. Since we tentatively plan on returning at Christmas, we decided to buy APs. Surprisingly, it was cheaper for us to get the Deluxe Disneyland AP rather than the Premier Passport (AP good at both DLR and WDW) because the Premier Passport doesn’t have a DVC discount and the individual passes do on each cost. Plus, we were only traveling on one of the Deluxe APs block out dates, and we had a free ticket for that day, so the Deluxe AP made the most sense.

We arrived at the turnstiles and discovered that our tickets worked! It was around 10:10 pm, and we were in Disneyland. Admittedly, I added in a bit of an ominous tone above to make things a bit more dramatic. I really was surprised that our plans went off so smoothly. I figured somewhere along the way we’d encounter a problem. I guess the McDonald’s curse didn’t come to fruition after all (or did it?!).

The one thing we hadn’t thought of was which attraction to do first. Our nighttime standby in the Magic Kingdom, the TTA-Peoplemover, was out, as Disneyland doesn’t have one. We opted for the next best thing, and rode Pirates of the Caribbean.







That morning, I had woken up early, as I always do on the mornings of our trips, to find news that the day before, Disneyland had started construction of the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides viewing area. Even though we didn’t experience the Sailing Ship Columbia, Davey Crockett Canoes, or Mark Twain Riverboat on our previous visit, nor have we ever ridden the Liberty Belle at Walt Disney World, I was really upset by this news, which would put all of those attractions out of commission. Part of it was from a photos perspective, as I just didn’t want the mammoth seating area in any of my shots. Part of it was because I actually thought “this might be the trip” for those attractions. Of course, you always appreciate things more once they’re gone.







When we walked past the construction for the first time, I realized it would interfere substantially with photography, and also thought of a new problem it would pose: traffic flow. It wasn’t so bad at that point, since it was late at night, but it was pretty clear that it’d be worse during the day when crowds were at their peak.











We took advantage of the low crowds that evening and hit some other big attractions: Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, the Storybook Land Canal, and Space Mountain. We accomplished quite a lot in under 2 hours, I think!



While in the Haunted Mansion stretching room, I pointed out to Sarah that this room stretched more than its Florida counterpart. She looked at me with one of those, “well no ****, Sherlock” looks implying she had noticed that a while ago. For whatever reason, I had either missed this last time, or forgot about it. Although we do seem to have far too many, “wow I just noticed that for the first time,” there’s also a running joke between us that there are probably a couple things about which we say this every trip, and just forget that we noticed it--and said that same line--on the past trip. I think this probably falls into the “forgot I noticed it” category. It stinks that I am already becoming absent-minded, but I guess there is some upside: there are plenty of things I’ve experienced before that will suddenly become “new” again!

I was a little nervous that night about taking photos. I practice very little at home, and due to that, the first day of our trips I often have a lot of creative rust that I have to overcome before getting good shots. Because of this, last August I wandered Tomorrowland somewhat aimlessly, taking half-hearted shot after half-hearted shot on our first night. On this evening, I was torn between attempting to redeem myself by getting some good shots in Tomorrowland or shooting New Orleans Square for the first time at night. Both options had their pitfalls: if I attempted to conquer Tomorrowland and failed yet again, it could be an insurmountable blow to my confidence; if I committed to New Orleans Square and found nothing worth photographing, it would be a waste of valuable shooting time.






Eternally game for a challenge, I opted for both. Well, sort of. I snapped a couple of shots in Tomorrowland that I found sufficiently satisfying to yell, “IN YOUR FACE, TOMORROWLAND!” and then we headed to New Orleans Square for more shooting.







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[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/tombricker/5761804354/]



I discovered that New Orleans Square was definitely better for daytime shooting due to its myriad of impressive details, but managed to grab a few good shots in the area. We then headed to Adventureland.







After Adventureland, it was off to Main Street, where we took in the ambience, background music, and general leisure of Main Street, USA in Walt’s original Magic Kingdom.
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:41 AM   #4
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Sarah's photo of me setting up for the shot immediately above this one.



















As you can tell, we grabbed a few more photos on Main Street before heading out. All in all it was probably my best night for photos of the trip, and that’s probably because I put so much pressure on myself. Although I was tired from being awake for nearly 24 straight hours (thanks to the unfavorable time change), I still wanted to play, imploring Sarah for a few more shots on the Esplanade.





She reminded me that every minute we were out then meant another minute of the park being open the next morning because we’d be sleeping longer. She sort of killed the fun there, but I’ve got to admit that she was right. We walked the short distance to our hotel and I snapped some photos and video of our room for TouringPlans.com and the Unofficial Guide. Nearly twenty-four consecutive hours of being awake will certainly wear you out!
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:43 AM   #5
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Five hours later, my body was so gracious to wake me up. It was only 6:30 on the west coast. My internal clock, however, probably thought it had hit the snooze a button a few too many times, and was over 3 hours late in waking me up. I laid there, trying to outwit my body and force myself back to sleep, but it was too cunning. Regardless of its inability to discern time zones, it did know we were minutes away from Disneyland, and it would not stand for me sleeping when there were parks to explore.

I took way too much time getting ready, finally making it to Main Street shortly before rope drop. This is one thing I regret. I planned on taking photos of the Disney hotels during this trip, but upon waking up early that morning, I told myself I’d do it later in the trip. For whatever reason, this always happens. I am up early or late one of the first days of the trip (and not tired), and in contemplation of whether I should photograph something (usually the resort at which we’re staying), I elect not to because I can do it later. I never do it later. As the trip wears on, I become progressively more tired, until I’m running on fumes by the time we get back to our resort (and not waking up early at all, let alone early enough to go out and take photos).



Not having experienced rope drop before, I didn’t realize I’d be so far back in the crowd by only arriving 10 minutes early to the park, another mistake. I thought Disneyland was the antithesis of Walt Disney World in that regard: a “locals only” park where the lax attitude of the SoCal crowd means no one shows up until 11 a.m. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I certainly didn’t think the crowds would be that heavy (the ‘locals only’ part is the exaggeration--obviously I know tourists visit DLR, too--if it really were locals only, it would be dead until after 11 am. Lazy Californians!).



We knew by the time we arrived in Fantasyland, Peter Pan’s Flight would already have a long line, so Sarah headed over to Space Mountain to get FastPasses while I took some photos around the hub with my new toy: my infrared camera.



Before each trip, I invariably make one photo purchase. This time, it was a Nikon D70 that had been converted to an infrared camera. I was really excited to use it at Disneyland, especially after seeing all of the great greenery and flowers in Disneyland Spring photos. As you can see in the shots here, infrared photos give plant life a very unique white look.





I'm not much on the science behind this, but essentially, the camera I used to take this sees only the near infrared spectrum of light (light beyond that which humans see). Some cameras can see this light by either having their IR blocking filter removed or by adding a filter to the lens.

Besides the conversion to black and white and some added contrast, these photos are basically straight out of camera. (Near infrared photos--at least the good ones--are achieved as a result of the camera, not because of wacky Photoshop filters.)



Since infrared photos are very divisive--people either love them or hate them (I happen to love them whereas my wife hates them)--I tried to avoid taking too many photos with the infrared camera. I took a total of around 450, and all of these were bracketed (the exposure is difficult to get right, so I bracket for speed when shooting them, and just use the best of the three files once I get home), which means that I only took around 133 unique shots with the camera. Not much considering the cost of the thing! I told Sarah that I would sell the camera after this coast-to-coast trip, but I think between Disneyland and Walt Disney World, I only took 200 photos with the camera. So I definitely need to take it on at least one more trip to get my money’s worth. Right?!

First stop after all of this was the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. The standby queue was really short, although I was disappointed we didn’t get to go through any of the outdoor switchbacks. Although I’m sure I wouldn’t have been too happy if the wait times necessitated this, it would have been fun to at least walk them!



I’ve often commented in my Walt Disney World trip reports that Jungle Cruise survives as an attraction that we still do if only because it has classic status. Neither of us are really all that wild about it, and that seems like it’s because our skipper always phones it in. However, this wasn’t the case at Disneyland last summer, nor was it the case at Disneyland this trip. I am reluctant to say Disneyland skippers care more, as my experience is anecdotal, but in my anecdotal experience, we’ve had better skippers at Disneyland. Plus, I think the attraction is better at Disneyland. The piranhas, for whatever reason, really impress me (I am easily impressed, I suppose) and the attraction seems like it’s in better shape, overall. That’s the story of Disneyland v. Walt Disney World, overall, though.













Following this, we did Haunted Mansion, which really needs no further explanation. I suppose I could add that we saw more of the grounds during the daytime, and I think the exterior of the Mansion is really impressive. It reminds me a bit, unsurprisingly, of Port Orleans French Quarter at Walt Disney World. If the Haunted Mansion had a dancing alligator band and a big serpentine in its pool, I probably couldn’t distinguish the two. I’m not suggesting the Haunted Mansion should have those things, as they might be a bit awkward thematically.













Pirates of the Caribbean was next on the agenda, but only because we determined that Hungry Bear wouldn’t be open quite yet (our timing was a little off), and rather than wait, we backtracked to Pirates.



Most people who have been to Walt Disney World and Disneyland think that Walt Disney World’s Pirates is better in two regards: its queue and its show building. The first one of these is a no-brainer. Disneyland’s queue is very uninteresting, with the exception of the interior portion where ships pass, and even that is nothing to write home about. The pirate and the treasure sitting there seem almost like an awkward afterthought. Something about it just rubs me the wrong way.





However, on the second point, that concerning the show building facade, I think there might be some room for disagreeing. While Disneyland’s facade fits the architecture of New Orleans Square perfectly, WDW’s just looks awesome. With its large pirate ship mast out front, it does completely sync with the architectural style of the land. Then again, the architectural style could be described as a mishmash, so maybe it fits perfectly. In any case, I prefer WDW’s building just because I think it’s interesting and has more character than its bland DLR counterpart, but I see how the argument could be made that DLR’s is better.

Following Pirates, we wandered around, taking our time getting to Hungry Bear while we explored the details in New Orleans Square.





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Old 07-14-2011, 08:21 AM   #6
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Hungry Bear was next. After hearing of the extensive refurbishment and reading of the new menu, this was one of our most anticipated meals of the trip. We really enjoyed Hungry Bear on our last trip because of its tranquil location, and its theming to one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions, the Country Bears. I was a little worried that some of this theming would be eliminated during the refurbishment, but my fears were allayed once we arrived at the pick-up window and the bears were still right behind the counter. A minor detail about which most guests may not care, but for me, it’s the little things that matter.



In advance of the trip, Sarah had her mind dead-set on one of the Lemon “Bumblebee” Cupcake; she was actually reasonably excited about it. Once we saw it in person, there was good cause for this. It was huge, and looked very well prepared. It actually looked like it would be worth the $4.99 price tag (but honestly, we would have bought that sucker if it were $29.99, given the hype we built for it in our heads).





Although I thought the cupcake was large-enough for us to split, I think Sarah had other plans, asking why I didn’t get my own. I said I would just eat any of it that she didn’t want, if she didn’t want any. She didn’t up not eating a fair portion, even though she said it was absolutely delicious. And it was absolutely delicious. Moist, rich but not to the point that you can only eat small portions, and most importantly, balanced in flavor. This last one was big for me. All too often lemon flavors are too strong, and are overbearing on any supposed complimentary tastes. Here, the lemon was understated with a honey-vanilla taste, and was a perfect pairing with the chocolate of the cupcake itself. This cupcake is the stuff legends are made of.




Backtracking a bit (sorry, that cupcake gets me worked up!), we had a delicious meal at Hungry Bear. I decided in advance that I was going to go way out on a limb there, and try the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, which was a huge departure from my normal fare. It didn’t contain meat. While I will experiment with my food, I am an unabashed carnivore, and will not try a vegetarian plate, no matter how good it may otherwise sound. In fact, I was so confused as to what one of these “vegetables” things might look like, that when I initially received a chicken sandwich by mistake, it actually took me biting into the sandwich to realize that it was not what I had ordered.



The Fried Green Tomato Sandwich was okay. A little disappointing, but better than a lot of Disney counter service dishes; I think part of the problem was that I had set my expectations for it a bit unreasonably high. Plus, it was a bit odd biting into a sandwich and not tasting a delicious animal in there. The fried green tomato itself was a bit too small, there was too little dressing, and the multi-grain bread a bit too dry. Otherwise, the condiments and vegetables on the sandwich were abundant and seemingly fresh.



Sarah got the Turkey and Provolone Sandwich, which was good, but is not the type of thing I order at Disney. I’d rather have something a bit more complex, and I think if you can’t make a decent turkey sandwich, something is wrong.



My other disappointment is the sweet potato fries. Thematically, I think they work well here, but Disney is introducing them everything, so it’s not a matter of theme, it’s a matter of them being trendy. Sweet potato fries are marginally better for you than regular fries. However, to offer them as the only fry-like option is a bit disappointing, given that they don’t have broad appeal. I think if Disney is going to offer unique menu items--and it absolutely should--it needs to offer balance. That said, if it’s a matter of offering only conventional foods or a bit more unique options, I would much rather have the unique options. I think a mixture of the two is the best business model, and I have to believe the kitchens at issue here are large enough to accommodate both, but what do I know.



Overall, it was a good first visit to Hungry Bear, and we knew we’d have to come back to sample the rest of the menu!





After Hungry Bear, it was time for Pooh. (Like that clever word play there?) Pooh became one of Sarah’s attractions out west. I think this is because of the quaint, wooded outdoor queue and for the fact that it’s not in Fantasyland with a thousand screaming kids and strollers bouncing all around, but she says she likes the attraction itself far better, too. To me, they are just slight variations of one another, and if anything, I think Florida’s is slightly longer.


Although, to be fair, I haven’t really made an effort to study the differences, so I could be wrong. If anything, I think it’s like comparing the two Haunted Mansions, not like comparing the two Pirates of the Caribbeans. The difference in the former case is minor, the difference in the latter case is substantial.





When we exited the ride, we saw Tigger! It has only been since last summer that we last got our photos with the Pooh gang, but the line was pretty much non-existent, and we had never gotten our photos taken with the characters in Critter Country, so we figured why not.











The little area set up for these photos worked well, and had good flow. You waited in one line, then once you met one character, you moved along immediately to the next, and so on. I believe EPCOT’s Character Spot uses a similar system, but it has been years since we’ve done that.





Since Splash Mountain was closed, and I wouldn’t be able to get “real” photos of it, I wanted to get some shots of the Splash Mountain area. What a beautiful and tranquil area of the park without the hectic pace of Splash Mountain crowds!





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Old 07-14-2011, 08:33 AM   #7
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Great story and beautiful pictures!!!! I'm enjoying your trip report I would love to see Disneyland some day.

I went back and read your engagement story and it brought me to tears.
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Old 07-14-2011, 09:01 AM   #8
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Wow love the pictures. Yall are a cute couple.
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Old 07-14-2011, 09:15 AM   #9
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I am curious . . . What kind of Nikon do you have. Mine is the 5000D. I love it but looking to upgrade soon. Nikon is the best IMO. Also, where did you get your fun camera strap. Too cute.
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Old 07-14-2011, 09:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrssmith06 View Post
Great story and beautiful pictures!!!! I'm enjoying your trip report I would love to see Disneyland some day.

I went back and read your engagement story and it brought me to tears.
Thanks - glad you enjoyed the engagement story! It's (obviously) one of our favorites, too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChattaAlley View Post
Wow love the pictures. Yall are a cute couple.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChattaAlley View Post
I am curious . . . What kind of Nikon do you have. Mine is the 5000D. I love it but looking to upgrade soon. Nikon is the best IMO. Also, where did you get your fun camera strap. Too cute.
We use the following cameras: Nikon D3100 (lower model than yours), Nikon D7000 (higher than yours), and an infrared Nikon D70 (wait until you see these photos--this model is way older than yours, though).

Disney currently has a similar camera strap that is "Mickey Body Parts." I love the way the Disney straps look, but the downside is that they are INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. Wearing a collared shirt with them is a must!
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Old 07-14-2011, 09:42 AM   #11
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It’s a small world was up next. To give you an idea of how much we love the Disneyland version of this attraction, last August we rode it, around six times, which in retrospect was a mistake because we ended up missing things like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, but it really is that good--and that superior to its WDW counterpart. I cannot wait to ride at Christmas. I think you won’t be able to pull us out of the place at night.

Much ado has been made about the Disney characters, and I think, for better or for worse, you’ve probably already formed an opinion on them by now. Beyond these characters, I think the number one thing that makes the attraction for us is the exterior load area and portions of the ride. The clock facade within the building just doesn’t do it at WDW, and the presence of all those gorgeous topiaries, the queue curving over the bright blue water, and the crisp white facade behind it all really set the whimsical tone for what’s to come. It’s all brilliantly executed, and much better than the “attraction court” generic facade and queue at WDW.



It’s somewhat ironic that in WDW, where space is so plentiful, WED elected to design Fantasyland in a tight corridor with bland store-fronts for the attraction, when Disneyland, where space is not plentiful, was designed (or rather, has evolved to allow) Fantasyland (and iasw) attractions to have unique facades, and breathing room among one another. Hopefully WDI solves some of the congestion with the Fantasyland Expansion, but short of a stroller parking garage, I don’t see how they can remedy the existing traffic flow problems.





This is one of the big reasons I support the decision to tear down the old Skyway building. Reading the sentiment expressed in online threads livid over its removal makes me understand why Disney largely disregards the desires of fervent fans.

People seriously want old, vacant buildings that clearly are remnants of former attractions just sticking around indefinitely? That seems more than a little ridiculous to me. Did they honestly expect the Skyway to come back or something? I know the building is far from the eyesore that River Country (a WDW water park that has been slowly rotting away in the public view) is, but people seem to be clamoring for RC's removal because it no longer has a purpose and doesn't fit the area. Likewise, a Skyway building with a large opening in it, while pretty, no doubt, doesn't fit.





There are ways to embrace the past without having relics of it around that obstruct future progress. The Skyway buildings (are and) will be missed, no doubt, but does anyone honestly think that the best use of the limited Fantasyland real estate in this area is for an old attraction building that serves no purpose beyond that of an aesthetic reminder of days past? These changes will open up this area, allow for much needed expansion of the Peter Pan’s Flight queue, and allow for a better use of the space. Saying that the Skyway is being replaced with a bathroom, and that's disgusting, is reducing this to overly simple and misleading terms. The Skyway is being removed to allow for important infrastructure changes to Fantasyland that will allow for PPF to have a better queue, will facilitate traffic flow in this area, and will also bring newer restrooms to the area. To me, it’s a no-brainer.

After it’s a small world, I convinced Sarah that we should give the monorail try. This is another attraction we hadn’t done last trip. It was something I really wanted to do then, and it was still something I really wanted to do. I absolutely love the monorail trip through EPCOT (on the monorail trip from the TTC at WDW) so I figured this would be equally fun. Plus, those new Mark VII trains?! Phew! They are slick!





The initial views were pretty cool. Then, and I knew we would do this since I saw the monorail pass overhead when we were on Harbor, we went over Harbor Blvd and could see all the crappy outside world from the car. All the Disneyland regulars reading this may not think twice about being pulled back from the suspended reality when they walk through the tunnel and leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy, but as primarily WDW regulars, this is huge for us. Once we begin a trip down there, we usually see very little of the real world until the end of the trip. We take it so far as to not watch the news, avoid checking email, and avoid driving a rental car.

In a pros and cons list of each coast, this is one substantial advantage WDW has over DLR. I realize that most Disneyland guests are locals coming only for a few hours on a weekend or after work, so it isn’t really practical or possible to suspend reality like this, so maybe my position on this isn’t relatable for these folks. For this reason, however, I think at least one on-property WDW vacation is necessary for all DLR fans. Just as WDW fans should not buy the ridiculous hype that Disneyland is small and doesn’t offer all of the experiences WDW does, DLR fans should not buy the ridiculous hype that WDW is a broken resort, falling apart in every conceivable location.



Sorry, back to the monorail ride. Beyond that view of Harbor, the trip was cool. It was neat seeing inside DCA and seeing the entwined nature of all of the transportation in Tomorrowland is extremely cool. I can only imagine how cool the PeopleMover would have been out there. Although I’m sure there would need to be substantial work to bring it back to contemporary safety standards, it seems well worth it given the kinetic energy it would bring to Tomorrowland.

Following our monorail ride, Sarah went to use the restroom while I snapped more photos in the area. Not to beat on a dead horse, as I already covered this at length in my last report, but that kinetic energy is desperately missing from Tomorrowland. I think the look of Tomorrowland is on the right track with the recent refurbishment of the exterior of Star Tours, but there are still plenty of those garish golds left from the Tomorrowland reboot of the late 1990s. And, for crying out loud, do something with the Orbitron. It just sits there now, lifelessly, as if it was the former site of a mad scientist’s experiments gone terribly wrong. Okay, I think that’s enough on Tomorrowland for now. I could probably fill an entire trip report with things wrong with Innoventions, alone!

The Tomorrowland Speedway is typically an attraction we avoid doing because as adults who don’t really revel the idea of driving, and also don’t really revel the idea of waiting in long lines or bland rides. From the monorail, by contrast, Autopia appeared to be mildly better, with some roadway signs and some nice landscaping to make the attraction a little more interesting. Plus, since it was a Disneyland classic, we figured we at least owed it to ourselves to try the attraction.

The posted wait was 20 minutes. Not bad, but longer than we’d ideally like to wait. Thirty minutes, a time that felt like an eternity in the sun, after waiting, we finally stepped into our vehicles.



I will grant it this: Autopia is better than the Tomorrowland Speedway. That’s really about all I can say. Some of the scenery was pretty cool, and the drive itself was fairly scenic, considering the circumstances, which was nice. I could see it as a nice diversion on a future trip if it had a 10 minute or less wait time. I won’t go as far as to say I think it wastes valuable real estate, because, although it does have a sizable footprint, I realize not everything in the parks should be about me or my demographic. I think there is great importance in these simple ‘childhood’ attractions, and things like this and Tom Sawyer Island should exist and should continue to entertain inquisitive children for years to come.



With the advent of smart phones and more advanced video game systems, and the permeation of both deeper into society and into the hands of children at younger and younger ages, I fear that soon attractions like these that allow free reign of the imagination may not be as popular because they’re not as compelling with children, but I really hope I’m wrong on that. Not every piece of entertainment should be produced for easy consumption or for today’s shortened attention spans. But this is a Disneyland trip report, not my soapbox for the world’s problems.

Following that, we headed over to a land with which we fell in love last trip: Mickey’s Toontown. I think there is a huge divide concerning Toontown. A lot of Disneland fundamentalists (ha, I make it sound as if it’s an extremist religious group) don’t like it because it’s not in keeping with the other themed lands, whereas frequenters of Walt Disney World love it because it’s so much better than our (now defunct) version of Toontown. So much better.

More on this later. For now, our only purpose back here was to grab FastPasses and catch the Disneyland Railroad to Main Street.

The Disneyland Railroad is another attraction we hadn’t done last time, and it’s one we rarely do at the Magic Kingdom. I find myself almost ashamed to say this, as I know the railroads are held in high esteem by so many, given their special place to Walt, but they’re one of those attractions that we always find ourselves saying, “oh, we’ll just catch the train when it’s actually at the station and we’re nearby” and we never end up in such a position.

This would actually be the first of two trips aboard the Disneyland Railroad, with the second definitely being the more special of the two. On this one we got to see a lot more of the scenery, which, I had learned after our first trip, includes dinosaurs! I love dinosaurs!!!

The trip around the park was very peaceful and largely uneventful, save for the Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World.

Even though I had heard about it prior to the trip, I never expected Primeval World to be so awesome. I expected it to be more like the opening portion of the diorama, a ride-through of an area filled with static dinosaurs in the style of the taxidermy regular animals. When I saw that the dinosaurs were Universe of Energy-style AAs that were battling it out, I was nothing short of impressed!







After getting off at our stop on Main Street, USA, we headed for the First Aid Station, so that Sarah could get some bandages. Sarah’s feet had been hurting her from her new sandals, so these would hopefully assist with the pain. Oddly enough, a shop in Tomorrowland told her she could purchase bandages from them. We knew First Aid gave them out (and was a short walk from Tomorrowland) so we headed there.





Then, it was off again for Indy! While in the queue, my head spun with photo ideas. I couldn’t execute any of them at that time due to the lines, but I was hopeful that some of them would be possible later at night. After another trip to the fountain of youth in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, we headed to the front of the park.





Once at the front of the park, Sarah stopped the Dapper Dans for a photo. They asked her for her name, and immediately began serenading her with a song about her. I don’t know if this is some normal ragtime tune about the name “Sarah” and I am just inept when it comes to music, but it was very cool. I fumbled with my camera trying to videotape it, and got all but about 30 seconds of the performance. It’s these little touches that make Disney, Disney and make us keep coming back.

We then left for California Adventure. We would be meeting up with Henry Work that evening for dinner at Napa Rose, and he was getting closer, so we headed over to California Adventure so that we’d be closer to the Grand Californian, which was our meeting place.
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:07 PM   #12
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I am having SO much fun reading your TR and enjoying your pics immensely! I have been a fan of both of you for a long time now

I haven't been to Disneyland since 1983 and am hoping to visit there sometime next year (I'm planning to move to Los Angeles area in 2012 with my 2 youngest sons to be closer to my DS28 and also possibly accept a position at Disney corporate offices. I had an interview this past May but couldn't fly out to finalize move so the gal I spoke with said she is keeping me in mind for next position that opens next June & that (to put it in her own words) "I better already be moved out there and ready to start work" then.) I'm SO excited and nervous but it would be a dream come true plus I get to live close to DLR.

Your pics are always so amazing - I hope you don't mind if I borrow one for my computer background You are so lucky to be so gifted in not only photography but writing skills. I have been trying for 2 years to get my Disney book published but no takers yet But I did start a blog myself last year but never take the time like I should to devote to it...

Can't wait to read more of your adventures!
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Old 07-18-2011, 11:59 AM   #13
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Good luck with the Disney job--sounds exciting! Someday, we think we might end up in roles with the company, too, but nothing quite yet.

You're more than welcome to use my photos as wallpapers!
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:00 PM   #14
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Disney California Adventure just sounds odd after hearing it as Disney’s California Adventure for so long, and given that it’s inconsistent with the other properties (Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, etc.) in Florida. When the name first changed, I recall reading a multi-page thread on WDWMagic concerning the grammar of the new name. Most posters contended that the new name was grammatically incorrect, as “California Adventure” belongs to Disney, in which case the possessive, “Disney’s” would be necessary. However, this assumes that Disney’s intent is for California Adventure to belong to Disney. If the entire proper name is now meant to be Disney California Adventure, that is no different than my name being Thomas Brandon Bricker. It’s confusing, because the previous intent was to establish Disney’s ownership of California Adventure by attaching the “Disney” name to the park’s title, but just because that was the previous intent doesn’t mean it’s the present intent. As a stylistic matter, the new name sounds awkward, and as a practical matter it certainly seems like a waste of money to change over signage and promotional materials to the new name for no cognizable financial benefit, but perhaps there is some justifiable rationale for the change.

In any case, I’ll bet you didn’t expect grammar lessons in a trip report. Hopefully this one isn’t a snooze-fest already! Once made our way through the labyrinth of construction walls around DCA’s main entrance, we jumped through what was left of the California post-card in the entrance-way plaza. As I begin my reminiscing about California Adventure and the good ole days (go ahead and laugh out loud as I “reminisce” about my one trip to the garish California Adventure), the first thing that comes to mind is this entrance.



I liked the CALIFORNIA letters on the promenade. I thought the mountain mosaic was gorgeous, I think the Golden Gate monorail track is a neat touch, and I really like the neon signs above the gift shops in this atmosphere. Most of all, I love the atmosphere here at night, when the neon comes alive with color, the monorail passes, and you can hear the mellow tunes of the Beach Boys. Don’t get me wrong, I think the new theming will be much more befitting of a Disney theme park, and will look much better (I’ve already seen a lot of it at the Disney-MGM Studios (or Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the youngsters reading), and it does look better!), but I will always think back to the current/slightly past entrance-way with fond memories.



My reminiscing over, we then headed towards two of the top attractions in DCA: Monsters, Inc Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.





For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Monsters, Inc. dark ride is not more popular. Seriously, especially with the lack of attractions in DCA, the attraction, even with its greater capacity, should have Peter Pan’s Flight-like lines.





Yeah, a lot of it has been repurposed from Superstar Taxi. Yeah, it’s no Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek. So what? It’s a really fun family style dark ride, and it’s pretty well executed. Perhaps we’re just partial to the movie Monsters, Inc., but Sarah and I think this is a dark ride stand-out.





From there, we wandered a little further to the Hollywood Tower Hotel. This is an attraction I love, but far prefer at Walt Disney World. It’s not even that the attraction is that much better there (although it is), there’s just something about it. I actually couldn’t quite put my finger on it until Destination D, when Imagineer Jason Surrell described the storytelling process for the Tower of Terror beginning as you first step foot on Sunset Boulevard and see the HTH in the distance. There, it fits the theming perfectly. Sunset Blvd is, by and large, Old Hollywood.



By contrast, the Hollywood Pictures Backlot is a hodge podge. It features Aladdin the Musical alongside Monsters, Inc., with the beats elecTRONica bouncing throughout at night. Nothing about it is cohesive, and while most of the attractions are wonderful individually, they aren’t tied together especially well into the land. This seems like it has started to improve with some of the facades (I think so, at least), but the elecTRONica infrastructure all over the place is a step in the wrong direction, even if elecTRONica is wildly fun and successful. Hopefully all of this is rectified when the land becomes Hollywood Land.



The ride itself was enjoyable, and I find myself still spotting little details (unique to the DCA version) in the queue and gift shop each time we ride. Overall, I’m not as wild about the substance of the attraction itself at DCA, nor do I like the look of the Tower as well, but it’s quite possibly my favorite attraction at Walt Disney World, and it easily ranks up there at DCA, too.



Next we wandered through a bug’s land. After our last trip, we realized the one attraction that we had done here was...the restroom. We figured we should probably give something else a chance, and noted the short line for Flik’s Flyers. These were fairly entertaining, relaxing, and gave a nice view of the park. They were definitely not something for which I’d wait in line 60 minutes, but for a 5 minute wait, they were worth it.







As we meandered our way to the back of the Pier, we noticed everything that had changed since our last trip. Maliboomer was no more. Pizza Om Mow Mow and Burger Invasion were under the knife. The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure’s show building was pretty much complete, and was looking great. Mulholland Madness was gone and Goofy’s Sky School was making tremendous strides.

During our last visit, all of the aforementioned that are either now gone or are under the knife (and thus will be gone or known by different names) were still operational. As a bit of a theme park historian, I regret that we experienced only Pizza Om Mow Mow of that lot. The rest didn’t seem like anything special, so perhaps that’s why we passed on them, but had we known they’d be gone, we would have experienced them just for the sake of having experienced them. I really wish I would have followed Disneyland news prior to our last trip like I follow it now. However, I didn’t want to see or read too much, thus ruining the surprise of actually being surprised by the attractions the first time I experienced them. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and in the regard that Disneyland was a wholly new experience to me when we visited, I know I made the right decision not reading more about the parks then. Had I read and seen more, the first visit wouldn’t have been the same.

Because I didn’t read more, though, I think I overly cherish Pizza Om Mow Mow, which I now jokingly describe as the “heart” of Disney California Adventure and the “greatest restaurant in California ever!” While these are obviously nothing more than sarcastic remarks, I did think Pizza Om Mow Mow’s theme was fairly neat, and its food okay, it just didn’t belong in the Victorian-themed Paradise Pier.



Also due to the historian in me, you might read comments in which I express surprisingly positive sentiment towards things a lot of Disneyland fans might think are garish. For example, the neon signs in Sunshine Plaza. There are a few possible reasons for this: A) I am a tacky and eclectic person without much eye for style, B) I value the idea of the thing more than the thing, and since it is disappearing soon/has disappeared, I place too high of a premium on it, or C) as a photographer, I partially gauge things based on their photogenic qualities, and neon and vibrant colors are decidedly photogenic--at least for my style of photography.

That said, I really wish we could have seen circa 2001 (or even circa 2006) DCA. Personally, I think the Sun Wheel looked cooler than the Fun Wheel, I think the CALIFORNIA letters were cool, I liked the entrance plaza mural, and the Orange Stinger looked pretty cool, although I think overall the Silly Symphony Swings are probably a big improvement there. Come 2013 when the dust finally settles, I have no doubt that the park will be far superior to the park as it existed in 2007, but it still would be cool to have visited back then. Plus, it’s only human nature to long for that which no longer exists. Anyway, as we passed the former home of Pizza Om Mow Mow on the way to Toy Story Mania, I poured some Coke on the curb, in honor of my fallen homie.



We arrived at Toy Story Mania with approximately 30 minutes until Henry would be arriving at the Grand Californian, and Toy Story Mania had a 30 minute wait. What the heck, we figured, and queued up. “Thirty Minute Wait” wasn’t even something in the vernacular for Toy Story Mania in our usual stomping grounds, so we had to avail ourselves of the opportunity!



After we had been in line for 5 minutes, Henry messaged us indicating that he’d be leaving for the Grand Californian, a 10 minute walk from his hotel, in a couple of minutes. We debated just heading over there right then, as both of us were starving, but we resisted. The prospect of beating the other at anything was just too much.



I am pleased to say that I won, thus making standing in line for the attraction while we were so hungry well worth it! After the ride, we headed directly to the Grand Californian, where Napa Rose was calling our name.







There, we met up with Henry. I keep mentioning him offhand, assuming his celebrity has permeated the Disney landscape in such a manner that everyone knows who he is. For those who don't, he is the developer for TouringPlans.com (online home to the Unofficial Guide travel guide series), where he and I both work, and the host of BetaMouse podcast. I started out by exploring the bar, taking some photos. The coolest thing, by far, in the room was a series of Pixar wine bottles that some dude had scribbled on. I’m hardly a handwriting expert, but I suspect those scribblings were the signatures of John Lassetter. Some people view hollywood bimbos and drunken country music singers like celebrities, I view Imagineers and animators as celebrities. To each his own.



For its impressive wine collection (every server is a sommelier), Napa Rose has a disappointing beer selection. Incredibly disappointing. There are a few decent beers on tap, but overall, nothing special. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if this were your garden variety Disney restaurant, but as one of the top restaurants in Anaheim, this beer list was unacceptable. It’s annoying that restaurants fail to realize that there are beer snobs out there just like there are wine snobs. Sorry, but Corona is not even comparable to a craft beer.



“Reluctantly” I ordered a Franziskaner Hefe-Weisses, a beer I had never tried. It was pretty good. Creamy and moderately thick, it had a nutty flavor, but more surprisingly, a pretty strong banana undertone to it. After a long day in the sun, one of these really hit the spot, and definitely “relaxed me” a little more than it typically might have.

The truncated beer list is about the only negative thing that could conceivably be said about the dinner.

The positives, and there are many positives, I could extol for quite some time. This restaurant was a last minute addition to our plans (3 days before the trip we decided to go) and even then, we only did our meal at the bar. We could have easily sat anywhere in the restaurant, because at this early hour (it was around 5 pm), the place was still pretty dead.

The I saw it on the menu, I instantly knew what I must order: the Grilled Filet of Angus Beef. Other things may have looked good, but it was like a spotlight from on high shined down on the menu when I first opened it, illuminating that item. Duck, salmon, sea bass--forget about it. I was ordering the Filet. Wait was the hardest part.

The dinner started out with our server bringing out a basket of breads, which included ciabatta, sourdough, olive, and cracker bread covered with parmesan cheese. While I fiddled with the camera trying to properly capture a photo of the bread, the wolves--I mean Sarah and Henry--menacingly growled in my ear as if to signify that they wouldn’t have much more patience, and would be gnawing on my shoulder or the bread in the immediate future. I cut the photo-session short, and let them begin devouring the breads. We were all fairly hungry at this point.

The bread was delicious, and that and conversing helped us pass the time until our food arrived. And arrived it did, quite quickly.

The light that shined on the Filet before became a beacon now. I don’t know how I mustered the ability to take photos of the steak rather than stab my steak into it and tear it apart like a madman, but I did. Bathed in Fire Roasted Chestnut Puree, Parsnip, Brussel Sprouts, and Cabernet Essence, I could tell by the presentation and aroma alone that I was in for a real treat.



Then I took my knife to it, and it glide through like it was cutting through butter. Cooked to perfection, it was thinly seared on the outside and gradually turned more and more pink towards the center. Thick cut, flavorful, and juicy, the Filet was pure perfection. The puree and cabernet essence were the perfect compliments to the steak, and even the sprouts, something I probably wouldn’t give much thought to eating, were excellent. It was the best Filet I’ve had at any Disney restaurant, and probably one of the very best I’ve had in my life.

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Old 07-19-2011, 03:03 PM   #15
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Sarah had the Salmon, which was pretty good, at least from the taste I got. While I love fish, salmon is one of those things that can be colossally screwed up, but is difficult to truly prepare as a “wow” dish. It’s like a baseball player who bats second in the lineup and consistently hits singles and doubles, and has a .335 batting average. He may be more valuable to the team than the home run hitter batting clean-up who only sports a .225 average, but when that home run hitter smacks a 450 foot bomb, jaws drop throughout the stadium. The filet hit that home run (oh, and the bases were loaded), whereas the salmon “merely” stretched a double into a triple. Triples are great and all, but just aren’t the same. Perhaps all of the salmon aficionados out there will lambaste my unrefined “salmon-palate,” but that’s my take on it. I think Henry enjoyed whatever he had, too. It looked good, and I’m sure I asked him whether he liked it at one point (you know, to be polite), but I have no clue what he said now. Unquestionably, the star of the dinner was the Filet.



We elected to skip dessert (Totally my fault--I am STILL kicking myself over this terrible decision, but I guess it gives us a reason to go back!), and took our drinks to the outdoor area to sit around a fire pit before finishing them.





Once done, we decided to head up to the Disney Vacation Club observation deck to take a look at Paradise Pier. Sarah and I are DVC members, and we brought our DVC membership cards with us specifically with the goal of getting up there in mind. After flashing our cards and some sweet-talking, we accomplished our goal.

I wasn’t expecting much of a view up there, and we neither planned much time up there nor were we appropriately dressed for the deck (the sun was beginning to go down, it was windy, and all we had were short sleeves), so we didn’t stay up there too long. It really was a shame, because it offered a view of our land of perfect ambiance, Paradise Pier, during the most beautiful time of the day. The icing on the cake was that the Zephyr was actually operational (seriously, why build an attraction that seems to be able to run about 2% of the time?!), which made for some cool photos.

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Next, we made a brief stop over at the Hearthstone Lounge, in the Grand Californian. Henry said this place had terrific ambiance, and he wasn’t lying. Beautifully done and grandiose, it fit well with the arts and crafts design of the rest of the Grand Californian. This design, generally, is something over which I’m a bit torn. I love the Wilderness Lodge at WDW, and I think the design here certainly kicks it up a notch, but for the flagship resort (in name and location, and certainly in price) to have the look of a rustic National Parks lodge doesn’t sit entirely well. For the price, I would think the California equivalent to the Grand Floridian would make sense. Then again, I love Wilderness Lodge and am not such a huge fan of the Grand Floridian, so who knows. I think maybe I just can’t get past my pre-conceived notion that a resort of this status just shouldn’t look rustic, for some odd reason.



Anyway, Henry and I each sipped on a beer, while Sarah enjoyed some weird drink that reminded me of an Ecto-Cooler, at the Hearthstone Lounge as we soaked in more of the incredible ambiance of the Grand Californian. Regardless of whether the theming is appropriate for flagship resort, it certainly is well-done. I know we’d love to stay there someday. Unfortunately, that day is fairly far off given the price of the place!



About this time, we realized we only had about 45 minutes until Remember...Dreams Come True, a highly anticipated fireworks show for us. Normally, we don’t camp out early for fireworks, and that wouldn’t be changing this evening, but we did want to head back to Desert Inn so Sarah could get her coat. When we finally got back to Disneyland, we had 15 minutes until the show. I darted my way up Main Street with a specific spot in mind. While there is typically nothing left this close to showtime, the spot I wanted--an obstructed view--had some room! I set up my tripod and prepared myself, mentally, for what I heard would be an amazing show.

Last summer, I was pretty impressed with Disneyland’s Summer Nightastic fireworks show, “Magical.” I assumed that, much like at Walt Disney World, the Summer Nightastic show was better than the normal fireworks show, forgetting that Team Disney Anaheim actually goes above and beyond year-round. When I returned home, I told tales of this majestical show, and how it was one of the greatest fireworks shows I’ve seen. My tales were quickly met with scorn, as true Disneyland aficionados weaved a yarn about a great show called, “Remember… Dreams Come True.” Although I trusted the judgment of many of these folks, I assumed they were embellishing the greatness of “Remember…” at least a tad. After all, no show can be as good as they made it sound.

Then, we had a life-changing experience (okay, perhaps now I’m the one embellishing). We saw “Remember…”

Words cannot describe the excellence that is “Remember…” Originally premiering for Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, the show begins with a moving narration by 50th Anniversary Ambassador and Disney Legend, Dame Julie Andrews. This sets the stage for something special. You can just feel it. However, your high expectations are quickly deflated, as from her introduction, the fireworks cut into a portion of Wishes! Oh well, you think, it turns out Magical was actually better. Just as your expectations have worn off, and you’ve resolved yourself to enjoy the show (after all, Wishes! is still a good show in its own right), boom, you’re hit with more Andrews narration and Tinkerbell’s flight around the Castle (yes, AROUND—view the photo large and you can faintly see it here). Then, it hits you.

Walt Disney’s original opening day dedication speech for Disneyland. The audience, many of whom have probably seen this show dozens, if not hundreds, of times, experiences a collective wave of goose bumps and chills. The emotive experience is so strong that some tear up. Just as the audience is lulled into this state of relaxation and emotion, it's hit with a train. From the Disneyland Railroad. The Railroad spiel plays, followed by Main Street, USA music and the Baroque Hoedown from the Main Street Electrical Parade.

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This is followed by a short appearance from the tiki birds, who fly away after raising the ire of the tiki gods from too much celebratin’. Next, Sallah warns guests not to look into the eye of the idol at the start of the Indiana Jones section. The fireworks then enter the Haunted Mansion, and all of Main Street is brightly illuminated with enveloping bursts as the ‘room’ stretches.



The fireworks continue on, with other stops in New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Towntoon, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland before Andrews and Tinkerbell conclude the show. The audience stands, dumbfounded and in awe, if only for a few seconds, before hurrying about as the hustle and bustle of Main Street resumes.



Simply put, “Remember…” is a spectacular 17 minute show that, alone, is worth the price of admission to see.

When the sense of astonishment finally wore off, we headed towards it’s a small world to see the Magic, the Memories, and You, for the first time. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical of this when it was first announced. Not vocally skeptical like those who proclaimed, “IT WOULD RUIN THE CASTLE, I’LL NEVER VISIT WDW AGAIN!,” as I had experienced and actually liked the Great Castle Cake Blunder of ‘96 (hey, can ya blame me, I was 11!). I thought it might be a bit gimmicky, and I didn’t really care to see others’ photos on the Castle (at Walt Disney World), but it wasn’t the end of the world. I was just a bit annoyed that the grand promotion for the year centered around some, most likely, pointless Castle show.



When I actually saw it, I was blown away. And it’s not even that impressive on it’s a small world as compared to Cinderella Castle. I’m sure a lot of the Disneyland diehards hate it. Judging by the crowds on the respective coasts, it’s not NEARLY as popular in Disneyland as it is Walt Disney World. Part of this could be due to its location, but not all of it.



The show uses incredible technology--it’s not just as if the facade of IASW is the projection surface, it’s as if it’s a canvas. (Distinction without a difference? I don’t think so!) The projections come alive, and at various points, it almost seems as if someone is drawing on the facade, as if vines are growing on it, etc. I was really impressed. I was much more impressed with the show at Walt Disney World (one of the few things at WDW that’s markedly better!), but I’ll discuss that more later. It wasn’t especially moving or anything, and I still could do without the photos of people, but I am hopeful that this technology will be used in the future for great effect. It has so much potential.



After the show, we were in the neighborhood anyway, so we decided to take a ride aboard it’s a small world. Sarah and Henry attempted to count all of the Disney characters (there are a lot more than I thought!) while I attempted to take an “artistic” long exposure photo while we were moving in the boat. We both failed at our attempts, with them missing at least 4 characters, and with me ending up with about 10 blurry frames of streaking colors (cool in premise, poor in execution).





Next up was the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through. Walk-through exhibits normally aren’t my cup of tea, but after hearing the history of this particular walk-through and some positive comments about it from Henry, we decided to give it a try. I’m really glad we did.





The little vignettes themselves were pretty cool, but whatever the technology used to animate these vignettes was really cool. I found myself deeply studying the scenes, captivated by the vibrant animation and wonderful depth. I don’t know why I was somewhat dismissive of this at first, as I love the Emporium window displays (especially the Magic Kingdom’s at Christmas!), and this is like an evolution of those. All in all, a really cool little experience, and just another great detail showcasing why Disney is at the top of its game.



Next up was Haunted Mansion. Nothing new to add here, besides how much better the grounds here look at night. The lighting is really interesting, although I’m not sure I’m sold on the false shadows on the building. I suppose they work in that they give it more of an ominous look, but the discerning guest must realize they’re projections, right? Maybe that doesn’t matter.







Sarah was still tired from the previous day, and the early morning, so she decided to call it an early night. Heresy, I said, and continued on! The night was drawing to a close, so I figured I would take a couple photos in Tomorrowland and outside it’s a small world before calling it a night, too. When I arrived at it’s a small world, a security guard immediately approached me.

Without belaboring the details, because just thinking about them gets me worked up, at this point I had an encounter with an over-zealous security guard on an ego trip who claimed he told me earlier in the day not to use my tripod (I had never seen this man in my life before, and he most certainly hadn’t told me anything about using my tripod earlier) and the ultimate result was that I had to stop using my tripod that night. Suffice to say, it was quite an ordeal and was incredibly aggravating and embarassing, especially since I was incredibly polite and understanding (contrasted with the guard’s air of superiority) and because no one at City Hall seemed to know or acknowledge their own policy on tripods, which was clearly stated on their website. Oh well, I thought, there would always be the next day.

When I got back, I relayed the story to Sarah, who went into a frenzy. I am pretty adept at thinking on my feet and I have a pretty sharp tongue when the need arises, but Sarah still feels the need to defend me when she feels someone has insulted my honor. I think it has to do with her maternal instinct, but it’s cute.

Just the same, I needed the sleep so that I'd be energized for the next morning!
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