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Old 04-29-2012, 07:28 PM   #1
BretJMiller
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March 17-22 2012 trip report!

Well I have not yet quite finished writing the trip report yet, so I'm going to post it as I put it up. I have a couple days written now, but in order the keep it to some sort of schedule to start, I'm going to try to do a day a week. That will hopefully change after this week though since I'm getting ready to get my finals done and then I won't have anymore excuses! Hopefully, since there was some time between me starting and (eventually) finishing, I won't repeat myself too much. Anyway, I hope you enjoy so I can make this the first of many trip reports to come!

-Bret

(I'm going to have to fix Day 1 as I didn't realize some of my editing would cause "damage" but I'll try to fix it soon. On the plus side, day 2 is now up! (5-1-12))
(Day 1 fixed 5-1-12)
(Day 3, Part 1 is now up! 6-25-12)
(Day 3, Part 2 is now up! 8-1-12)
(Day 4 is now up! 8-9-12)

Last edited by BretJMiller; 08-09-2012 at 01:07 AM. Reason: New day added!
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Old 04-29-2012, 07:46 PM   #2
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Day 1

Day 1



My girlfriend, Morgan, and I have been wanting to write a trip report for quite some time now, so this is going to be my second-first attempt at this. Originally, I wrote about 4 pages of our Walt Disney World trip last July, but never got the time to follow through with completing it. Hopefully, if this one is a success, I will have to turn back the clock and get around to finishing that one - it is never too late, but Iíll leave that up to those of you that actually end up reading this! In the meantime, here goes:



As any vacation to Disney goes, the journey ďstartsĒ at the airport, and with waking up somewhere around 3:30am, this journey itself feels like a long one. This was our first time flying out of OíHare, but no worries, it has a McDonaldís just like just about every airport Iíve ever been in. Because after all, what is a trip anywhere without starting the day off right with a sausage McMuffin and hash brown? The wait to get on the plane after that was not very long, but still very boring nonetheless. This was also our first time flying Virgin America. Besides not getting free snacks along the fairly long (4.5 hour flight), the flight was overall a good one. It was nice to be able to watch TV or follow along with the flight on the gps they have with their RED system. But in the realm of Disney trip reports, that is the boring stuff so weíll skip ahead to the good stuff.

Okay, I lied - not off to a good start - but I still think the layover in SFO was interesting stuff. After all, we were able to get our favorite California airport snack - Pinkberry! It is a must whenever we see it since we fell in love with it the first time we went to California.

NOW letís skip ahead, we landed, and shuttled to our ďhotel,Ē which was terrible, but more on that boring stuff later. It was a quick walk to the ticket office - only about 15 minutes or so. Morgan still had to pick up her tickets that she bought online, and I was ready to get my first ever annual pass. I went with the premier annual pass since we are planning an August trip to Walt Disney World, so it should pay for itself over the course of the two trips.



As it turns out, the weather back home in Chicago was much nicer than Anaheim on this particular St. Patrickís Day. It rained just about the entire day and night. We got to the park right around 4pm and the rain picked up a bit as we walked the short walk from the ticket booths to the Disneyland (park) entrance so we decided to bite the bullet and get a poncho. We knew from our last trip to the World that rain does not make for a great photo taking day (and I love taking photos) but we were just glad to be on vacation. We werenít going to let a little rain and cold get the better of us!

We didnít get many attractions done this day. We started by getting fastpasses for our favorite Disneyland specific ride - Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. We then decided we were too hungry to be able to brave the cold so soon, and made our way over to Redd Rocketís Pizza Port since we had not yet eaten there on a previous trip, thinking that they only had pizza, and we had since heard good things about the Chicken fusilli. Fortunately for us, the good things we heard happened to be true and I would gladly make my way over there again - maybe to split the dish and something else. Have to diversify the eating!





Since we were already right there and it was time again for us to be able to get a fastpass, we grabbed one for Space Mountain and then headed over to see what the wait was at our overall favorite ride - Pirates of the Caribbean. Since the weather was not good at all, there was absolutely no line there and we were able to walk on. I have always loved the version at Magic Kingdom, but this one blows the MK version out of the water. The start in the bayou with Blue Bayou overlooking and then extended skeleton scenes all make this version - in my opinion - so much better.








No need to expose your superstructure. by BretJMiller, on Flickr

After that, we headed over to another favorite (I guess just about every ride is a favorite in some way or another) Haunted Mansion. After that, we used our Indy fastpasses, took some pictures, used the Space Fastpass, grabbed another for Indy and then headed over to Winnie the Pooh since it always seems to be a walk on at Disneyland. (I know I ran through quite a bit of rides there, but Iím sure most of you have experience them all and know exactly what they are like, and donít worry, we rode them a lot so Iíll have plenty more opportunities to bore you all with my opinions of them.)













It was right about this time when we decided we needed to start heading out of the park because we were supposed to meet our friends Missy and Joey for dinner. This happened to be a perfect day for it since it kept us busy a couple hours and the fireworks had been canceled because of the rain. Now for the life of me, I donít know why I didnít take any pictures of them, with them or of the food we all ate, but we did have a good time chatting. We went to Ralph Brennanís Jazz Kitchen, but we didnít really get meals, it was more of a couple appetizers. The group appetizer was pretty good, with some shrimp, ribs, calamari and something else. If it didnít stick out, it must not have been fantastic. It was at this time, where we met our suave server whose name escapes me right now. Iíll try to ask Morgan later and see if she remembers. Then as our meal, we had a trio of their soups - none of which were impressive. The cornbread, however, was my favorite thing there. It was a cajun cornbread that had some flavor to it that I still cannot pinpoint what it was, but overall, it was good.

We had a good time, and then they had to leave, so we decided we would head back into the park for a little while. We headed over to grab another fastpass for Space and then decided we would go ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It is always a way better experience at night even though we knew it would be a very cold ride. The whole thing went well, as expected then all of a sudden we were wondering why we were, yet again, getting wet. Of course I had my camera out at the time and had to rush that back into my bag and we threw our ponchos on ran into some gift shops. Luckily, most of the rain held off until we got the ponchos on. It would have been nice if it would have at least waited until we got off Big Thunder. At that point, I was too fed up with the rain to do anything else and all I wanted to do was eat.

We saw the cupcakes earlier and decided we would have to head back to try them. There was a special one for St. Patrickís Day that I had my eye one even though I donít usually like chocolate cake. Turns out, it was a thick buttercream - MINT - frosting. It made the entire thing amazing. If only I could have one right now. The lemon strawberry cupcake was much more disappointing at the frosting was thin and the cupcake itself was nothing special. The best part of that one was the delicious strawberry ...jam? center. The chocolate mint cupcake was easily the winner of this battle, and it turns out Ö of the trip.



I was still starving so I went over to the refreshment corner and bought myself a jalapeno cheese filled pretzel and ate it across the street as we wandered through the gift shops to stay dry. Morgan was uncomfortably cold at this point so she rather enjoyed being sheltered from the cold. I noticed that the rain had let up so I let her stay warm and decided to get a few shots of the park for a little while. For as few photos as I was able and willing to take this day, I did end up with one of my favorite that I have taken to date in this castle photo. I think it is more of an achievement in post processing than a great photo, but I love it.


Rainy Day at Disneyland by BretJMiller, on Flickr





Morgan came and got me from taking pictures around the hub and we decided to ride Indy one last time before we called it a night and made our way back to our hotel. After a nice short walk back, I uploaded my pictures and passed out for the night, eagerly awaiting my breakfast the next morning at La Brea, and a full day at Disney California Adventure.

Last edited by BretJMiller; 05-01-2012 at 05:38 PM. Reason: picture location update
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Old 04-29-2012, 08:15 PM   #3
Sherry E
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You and Morgan are a very cute couple! In some ways, she reminds me a little bit of Christy Turlington.

Your pictures are great - I don't mind if they are the original images or the post processed versions. Whatever the case, they are beautiful. The flowers are gorgeous. The shots around the Hub (including the Minnie statue) and the Castle shots are all very dramatic and colorful.

That mint chocolate cupcake looks delicious. It's too bad the lemon strawberry cupcake was not that good, because it sounds like an awesome flavor combo and I would normally have high hopes for it!
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Old 04-30-2012, 01:24 PM   #4
BretJMiller
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Thanks and thanks for stopping by! I have the next day written, but it will probably take me a few days to get the pictures together, I have a lot more for the following days of the trip so hopefully you all like pictures! Keep checking back as I hope to be done with the whole thing within the next couple of weeks!
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:01 PM   #6
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Gorgeous pics! And I'm very curious to learn where you stayed, after the little bit of foreshadowing up above....
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Old 04-30-2012, 07:05 PM   #7
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Your pictures are very nice. All of your nighttime shots are very clear.
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:30 PM   #8
BretJMiller
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mvf-m11c View Post
Your pictures are very nice. All of your nighttime shots are very clear.
For night shots, a tripod is a must!
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:55 PM   #9
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Subbing in! I really like your girlfriend's sweater.

I flipped through your flickr photostream and I think your editing/PotC picture is definitely a step above so-so quality! Or at least the 'No need to expose your superstructure' picture is good. I think the composition/lighting really works in that one. My second favorite is the Minnie statue - I love the depth of field you chose.

Did you take a tripod into the parks with you?
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Old 05-01-2012, 12:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BretJMiller View Post
For night shots, a tripod is a must!
Yup, a tripod is a must item to take some pics at night. I bring my tripod for my video camera for the nighttime shows. I just can't seeing myself not bringing my tripod for the nighttime shows.
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Old 05-01-2012, 02:40 PM   #11
BretJMiller
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Day 2

Day 2

The next morning came pretty quickly, which was a good thing. The only time during this trip that I wanted to move quickly was the time we spent in our room. I didnít even want to shower or brush my teeth in that thing - it felt that bad. (I exaggerate, but staying at Disney World resorts often has led me to expect something nice at a ďvalueĒ). We were out the door by 9am and on our way to breakfast. Our walk to the parks led us straight through the resort we want to stay at most (at Disneyland, at least) the Grand Californian. The walk through was much too quick. One time, we will just have to book a night there and just have a casual day spent at the resort.

We made our way to La Brea and were seated immediately. We decided to each get something different and split them. I went with the croque madame since I always wanted to try one after I found out what it was in a french class a couple years back. Morgan ordered the croissant sandwich. Both of them turned out very good, and I look forward to the next trip so we can go there for breakfast again.





We got to the park right at about 10am when it opened and headed around the detour that felt like a mile in a crowd of people and walked to Soariní to grab a fastpass. We grabbed on and then looked at the line, which was non-existent. So we rode it. I had been smelling the smells of Soariní for about a month prior to this trip at work so it was a long overdue ride. Easily one of my favorite rides. I like that it doesnít have to be a 3-D film and they can still make it a 3-D experience with the scents and the motion. It all works just so well as Iím sure all of you who are reading this already know.





We then went on to get our fastpasses for World of Color, and ended up in the Blue section, as usual. One time, I want to end up in a different section in hopes of getting a better vantage, but weíll have to figure out a way to do that before next time. Then we were off to the pier to see what the wait was looking like for Toy Story Midway Mania. On our way there, we were distracted by Mickey, who had only about 3 or so people in line. Of course we could not pass that up!



We made our way to and past Toy Story, as the line was already in excess of 30 minutes and we knew we would get our chance again when we were at the park bright and early on Tuesday. I must say, we do love riding Toy Story for the awesome game and technology used, but we donít find it necessary to wait more than 20 minutes for just about any ride with correct planning. We continued down the pier and decided it would be a good time to ride Silly Symphony Swings. It is a great ride, with a great view of the surrounding areas and a very fun place to take some pictures.





It was a very windy day so of course the Golden Zephyr was closed the entire time and we made our way past it to one of our DCA favorites: Arielís Undersea Adventure. Maybe it is because I grew up and this movie was very popular so I love the attraction, but I donít understand why this ride never has a wait longer than 5 minutes. It is so colorful, fun and includes great music. It is an overall fun experience and a great ride to try to get some good pictures. It is much more well lit than other ďdarkĒ rides, which makes it ďeasierĒ to get some pictures.







At this point, we were well overdue for a fastpass, so we made our way through a bugís land and over to Tower of Terror to grab a fastpass and then figured the other modern dark ride would not have much of a wait. We happened to run in to Mr. Incredible on our way there and he only had a couple people waiting to see him. He threw me off as he started flexing down and then worked his way up and I was stuck in limbo as the picture was taken. Unfortunate, really.





Mike and Sully to the Rescue had the usual 5 minute wait. Another one that I donít understand. There are a lot of fun visuals and the recreation of the movie, even though not a new or unique story, is still a fun one.




Sully - to the rescue? by BretJMiller, on Flickr



We then went over and as I was grabbing a picture of the Muppet Vision 3D sign, Handy Manny came over and stopped for a picture.





We decided it was as good a time as any to experience Muppet Vision 3D, and it is a good thing we did since it was our only time going on this trip. It was fun as usual, another one of those things I have experienced many times at ďhomeĒ in Disney World, and canít wait to be there to experience it again in August. We headed out of there in Off the Page for a quick look around.







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Old 05-01-2012, 02:42 PM   #12
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Day 2 continued.

We made our way over to Blue Sky Cellar to pass some time and look at the new happenings with the Carsland project. I must say, I do love this area and find it to be a must do when we go just for the models and the videos.







We had lunch reservations at Storytellerís cafe at 1pm so we headed over there a few minutes early. We were seated right away and it seemed pretty empty. We were pretty excited about eating there because I was looking forward to my chicken sandwich. A sandwich with garlic bread is not something to be taken lightly. Then the unthinkable happened and I forgot all about the sandwich that would soon be headed my way. Our server brought our bread to the table and I forgot all about the entree that was to come. They were the most delicious cornbread muffins I had even had in my life. They had the most perfect niblets of corn and they were still warm and fresh. My mouth is watering right now as I type this just from thinking about them. I even ate Morgans too since she isnít a fan of cornbread like I am, thankfully.









We noticed there were special appetizers for lunch and since we have been on this kick with crab cakes since our first time trying them in January, we decided to split an order. They were amazing, not too fishy and yet, none of the other flavors were overpowering either. The crunch on the outside from being fried was perfect and I would order them again in an instant.







By the time our entrees came, we were both pretty full so they didnít seem to be a big hoorah to end the dish, but they were both definitely good. Morgan had a burger, which was just the same as just about any other burger you would expect at a table service restaurant, and I had my chicken sandwich which was not as garlic bread-y as I hoped, but still good. Needless to say, we will definitely be eating there again in the future.









After lunch, we rode Ariel again and grabbed fastpasses for California Screaminí and then looked at the time and realized we only had about 10 minutes until the next showing of Aladdin! So we got into high gear and did a nice little speed walk to get across the entire park and over the the theater.













I had to stop on the way up the stairs, however, to get a picture of the Tower of Terror because who can resist, right?



Aladdin is one of those movies also that I grew up with and have loved. It is quite possibly my favorite Disney movie. We saw this show on our past August trip and fell in love with it, especially the Genie. As it turns out, the same genie was in this show and had most of the same jokes, but none of them felt old. One thing though in the show really changed and during A Whole New World, they used to fly on a carpet about the crowd. I donít know what happened there, but apparently, they did away with that portion so Aladdin and Jasmine were nowhere to be found for the first half of the song which was a little off putting. Oh well, fantastic show anyway and definitely a must do each day in the park for us.

Morgan is a big fan of drawing and especially learning to draw Disney characters, so she wanted to go to the Animation Academy. As we were waiting for it to open up for the next character slot, I got a brilliant idea. Since I do not have an artistic bone in my body, I decided it would be a good time for me to wander about and take some pictures. I understand some of you may think pictures are artistic, but they are more of just seeing something that you want to remember in that moment and capturing it. I love looking at and taking pictures, but I donít necessarily take them for the art. I take them for the memories...(and sometimes the art, or to at least try to learn the art =P)




Jumping Jellyfish! by BretJMiller, on Flickr
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Old 05-01-2012, 02:42 PM   #13
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Day 2 continued.



Morgan caught up with me making my way down Paradise Pier and since our fastpasses were well past the time, we rode California Screaminí. Screaminí is what Morgan was doing on there as well as the people around us. I usually spend my time riding catching the sights around or laughing about Morgan and others screaming unintentionally. However, the last bit of ups and downs does not agree with my stomach. I usually get motion sick but sometimes it is much worse than others and this trip seemed to be much more lax for me with the nausea, which is always good.

Afterward, it seemed like a good time to get a twist cone; or a swirl as they call it. As we enjoyed it, we made our way over to Mike and Sully to get another quick ride in, just to pass time since we were both getting pretty hungry again and were planning for some lobster nachos at the cover bar. Anyway, we got done with the ride and saw Mickey come out and bust a move. I hadnít really heard anything about this show, but it seemed like a good time. I didnít want to watch it this time because I decided that I would just get a video of it the next day we were there so I could have my niece watch it. (still havenít seen her yet since the trip so hopefully I will soon so she can enjoy it.)

We finally made our way to the Cove bar and noticed the doors were closed and no one was out there. We just thought it was a little slow since it was only like 4:45 and we went to ask a CM about getting in and she told us it was closed until May! Then, to further salt the wound, she told us it just closed that day. Never have I been so depressed in a Disney park. Alas, it was to make that evening at Trader Samís even sweeter. A delicious chunk of fried cheese with a flaky corn dog covering and some chips would have to suffice for now.



We headed over to do Ariel one more time and then decided it was getting to the point where it was ALMOST dark enough to get a ride in Tower of Terror in, so we headed that way. I must say, this is a much more simple version of ToT compare to the MGM version, but I still love the differences. The elevator shake really gets you in the mood for that ride when you are struck by lightning. Morgan still has trouble predicting the falls on this one, or more of having an idea of when it is going to start. She was in the middle of saying something to me for the first drop and ended up not holding on. She threw her arms down to grab on so quickly that she broke a nail.

At that point it was getting quite chilly and Morgan needed a little something extra. She had been considering at least buying a scarf for a while so she went with that and I decided to take some pictures on the pier. I wish I would have waited until it got a bit darker so I could increase my exposure length and have a bit deeper of a blue sky but I still like how these ended up.






Mickey's Fun Wheel by BretJMiller, on Flickr










It was getting pretty last and we had our fastpasses for the 8pm showing of World of Color. We have yet to see the show up front which is what I am told makes all the difference so we havenít had a particularly good experience with it. They almost had to cancel this showing because of the wind, but it held up just fine. We stayed a good distance back, but still ended up wet, which made Morgan being cold even worse, but it wasnít too bad. It is a good show, but I donít know if I really like it all that much because it is really just a preview of a bunch of their movies, and I donít know exactly what it has to do with the park it is shown it. I like the colors and the clips and the technology, but maybe I just donít understand the show, and this was my third time seeing it. Maybe it is just because I donít know how to photograph it yet..haha.

We decided to leave after WoC and head over to another highlight of our day. Trader Samís Enchanted Tiki Bar. We heard that it could get pretty busy, but it was rather empty, which was fine with us since we are not particularly bar savvy. We knew going in there the things that we wanted to try as far as drinks and food, but didnít really know what to expect of the place itself. It was intimate. And by intimate, I mean, tiny. It was good for us though and we were excited to be there. Excited to be warm, and excited to eat. I basically forced Morgan into her drink since I am a sucker for souvenir cups/mugs. I had the Krakatoa Punch and she had the HippopotoMai-Tai.





Both drinks were delicious, but a bit on the strong side, which was fine since we were only planning on getting the one each. The real star was the food. We went with the Pu Pu Platter and had them follow up with the fish tacos, spaced out generously by our server so we didnít have to eat them both at once. The chinese long beans were the hidden gem here. I have no idea how to describe their taste other than fried deliciousness. They werenít fried to the point where they were overpowering or anything and they had the perfect amount of seasoning. The asian wings were pretty good, but as far as chicken wings go, werenít anything special to me. The pork wings, on the other hand, were delicious and meaty. I didnít expect much out of them and after I tasted them, I was disappointed that there were only 3! The slaw was good as were the tacos. The tacos were good on their own, but if you get them, make sure to use the lime they give you. It adds a whole new element and improves the taste tenfold.





Charles was our server and he was a very pleasant guy. He made conversation and even ended up giving Morgan an additional glow cube after he rinsed out and bagged up our souvenir mugs for us. Overall, a great experience with him. We finished up there right around 10 and made our way back to our room since Morgan was beyond cold and we knew we would be up early and spending a full day at Disneyland Ďtomorrow.í
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Old 05-02-2012, 06:49 PM   #14
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Hi! I'm loving this report. Your pictures are AMAZING! And I totally understand how Morgan was feeling, I was freezing too! Can't wait to read more.

Did you carry your tripod around on all the rides or did you rent a locker for it? I didn't take my tripod this time because I'd heard that at DL they don't always allow you to take your tripod. I didn't want issues, so I didn't bother chancing it... and taking up the luggage space for my souvenirs with my tripod if I wasn't going to be allowed to use it!
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Old 05-02-2012, 07:07 PM   #15
Sherry E
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...Even more awesome pictures! Wow!

I think everyone takes photos for different reasons. Some folks do it more for the artistic expression. Many folks do it to capture and preserve precious memories and moments. Some people do it because it's a creative outlet and a fun way to kill time, or a way to show off beautiful places and things. And then there are those who do it for all of these reasons combined!

Personally, I love taking pictures and I love looking at pictures. There can't be too many pictures for my liking! Everyone's photos have something interesting in them - different perspectives, different details, etc. I don't mind if they are the natural, unedited versions of the edited versions. I don't mind if the photos were taken with a point & shoot or a DSLR. I just like pictures!

I really enjoy Storytellers Cafe too (for lunch and dinner). In fact, they used to serve a delicious spaghetti - which I became quite fond of in 2010, but was somehow not as thrilled with in 2011. They also changed their garlic bread from the deliciousness that it was to something else. The basket o' bread that they give when you wait for your food is delicious! It's always fresh and warm.
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