Eighty8Keys (Patty) - February 23 - March 1, 2013 - Best Western Park Place Inn
Travel dates: February 23 – March 1, 2013
Travel method: Flying from Portland; Oregon; Rental Car
Accommodations: Best Western Park Place Inn & Suites
Cast: Patty (me, 54, turning 55 on this trip) and Jason (son, 33)
Experience Represented in Group: Multiple trips spanning over our entire lifetimes
Back in early November, while I was actively planning our January 2013 WDW trip, I was checking airfare to Southern California and was pleased to find reasonably priced flights. Jason wasn’t hard to convince that a late February trip was a good idea. We haven’t been to Disneyland since June 2010, and haven’t yet seen DCA since Car’s Land opened.
Our preferred choice for hotel has always been HoJo’s. We absolutely love it there and were often able to take advantage of their 50% discounted rates for Entertainment Book owners or Annual Passholders, which wound up being $69 per night for the Building 2 rooms that we love. They changed things up a lot in the past year, with the 50% discount now lowered to a 30% discount for select dates. The 50% rate is now only available as a Super Family Rate and only announced to their email subscribers. I’ve received a couple of emails since subscribing and none of the dates coincided with the dates of our trip. You can still get a 20% AP discount, but the lower discount plus higher room rates made it too expensive for us to stay there for this quick getaway trip.
I’ve always been intrigued by the Best Western Park Place Inn, which is located directly across from the east entrance to the park. Because we love staying at HoJo’s, we’ve never seriously considered staying at the Best Western. But we decided to give it a try this time. With a 10% AAA discount, we book two rooms for six nights at an average rate of $95.10 per night.
Low airfare was what prompted the idea for this trip in the first place. We’ve been loyal Alaska Airlines customers for a number of years now. But while their customer service is stellar, their Mileage Plan benefits have gradually decreased. This caused us to look elsewhere for the first time since 2005. JetBlue was offering comparable fares and had the benefit of the first checked bag flying free. We also liked the idea of flying into Long Beach Airport.
We still plan to rent a car. The added benefit of flying into Long Beach is that rental car rates were about $100 lower than those at John Wayne Airport, at least at the time we started looking at them. I initially booked a car through Alamo for $267, but three reservations later we ended up with Avis through Costco Travel for $108. I always book an economy car, but I was a little worried after Avis wanted to give us a Mini Cooper during our WDW trip in January. I prefer a small car, but want to make sure the luggage fits.
We upgraded our WDW annual passes to Premier Passes when we were there in January. It cost us $265, which was less than the cost of a Disneyland 5-day park hopper. This also gives us the shopping and dining discounts. I had trouble adding the pass to my profile on Disneyland.com so that I could view the passholder offers. I emailed Disney and received a response five days later informing me that a change was made to remedy the issue I was having.
We plan to do a late breakfast at Carnation Cafe a couple of time, lunch at both Cafe Orleans and Carnation Cafe, and a dinner at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. We also plan to do the World of Color picnic so that we don’t have to bother with getting a regular FastPass. We want to try some of the new places that have opened up since our last trip, including the Jolly Holiday Bakery, Flo’s V-8 Cafe, Ghirardelli, and Earl of Sandwich. The hotel offers a continental breakfast next door at Captain Kidd’s, which we’ll check out. Because we’ll be here for my birthday, I also have coupons for a free breakfast at Mimi’s Cafe, a free sandwich at Earl of Sandwich, and coupons for a corn dog and a chili dog at Weinerschnitzel.
We hadn’t planned to do any special activities since we were trying to keep costs down, but once we learned that the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps tour was revamped to include a visit to Walt’s apartment up over the fire station, we knew we had to do that. I was able to get a 20% discount by using my Disney Visa which brought the $109 price down to $87.20.
We were very pleased with the touring plans that I created for our WDW trip using TouringPlans.com. I’m a subscriber to the Disneyland site as well and spent some time creating personalized plans for a few of the days early in our trip. The last few days will be more laid back with plenty of time for wandering, taking pictures, and hunting Hidden Mickey’s. I also plan to use Touring Plans Lines app to report posted and actual wait times and earn some of the badges they offer for reaching certain posting goals.
Because so much of my focus was spent planning our two-week WDW trip in January, much of the planning for this trip took a back seat until a couple of weeks before we were scheduled to leave. Fortunately, I was able to get all the dining reservations we wanted and we were able to book the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps tour without any problems. The time raced by and before we knew it, it was time to leave.
Day 0 – Friday, February 22, 2013
Plan: Work in the AM, Pack in the PM
I worked for four hours in the morning, leaving at noon. For the past couple of days I seriously wondered if I would get everything finished up in time, but things eventually came together and I was able to leave feeling like things were under control.
I made a quick stop at the bank for some cash for tips for the shuttle driver and housekeeping. The teller was a very nice young man, who would be at Disneyland with his girlfriend at the same time as us. We agreed to look for each other in the park. There wasn’t anyone else in line behind me so we were able to chat for a few minutes about where we were staying and what we were looking forward to. I love meeting people who are as passionate about Disney parks as I am. It’s like finding an immediate friend.
Once home, we ate a quick lunch and then I started in packing. I’d purchased a packing app called Travel Pro, which I’d used for the first time in January. It worked really well for me then because I was able to easily add items to my various lists as I thought of them.
Day 1 – Saturday, February 23, 2013
Plan: Travel to Anaheim; Breakfast at Mimi’s Cafe; Afternoon at DCA
I slept poorly, even though I was in my own bed. Usually when we have an early morning flight we’ll spend the night at a hotel near the airport. An unfamiliar bed coupled with the excitement of the trip usually means I don’t sleep well. To save money, this time we decided to just park in one of the many park and fly lots. My dad offered to drive us, but it seemed cruel to ask him to drive us at 4:30 in the morning.
We packed up our last minute items and loaded up the car. It was cold and raining lightly, but fortunately the roads were not icy. We made good time with no traffic and pulled into the lot at 5:00am and barely had time to get out of the car when the shuttle bus pulled up. The driver loaded our bags up and we found seats in the empty shuttle. We made one stop to pick up a couple and then made the eight minute drive to the airport.
Once inside the airport we found the JetBlue counter. They had a special line for people who had their boarding passes and just needed to check luggage. The process was very quick and soon we were at security. The line wasn’t too long and it moved quickly. I felt like I was well prepared to get easily through the line. My laptop was in a checkpoint friendly section of my bag so I didn’t have to unpack it. I opened the bag flat, put my shoes on the conveyor and then took my place behind Jason to wait my turn to go through the full body scanner. In an instant, one of the TSA agents motioned me over to his line and indicated that I should go through the regular metal detector. Because of my two knee replacements I knew I would set it off. Sure enough I did. I explained that I had knee replacements and he said I should have told him that first, before I went through. I didn’t know that I should have done that. It was a little frustrating, because I was trying to be cooperative and do what I was told so that I didn’t cause anyone to suspect that I am anything other than the normal tourist that I am.
He called for a female agent to come over. She gathered up all my belongings and we headed off to the side for a full body pat down. It was very thorough. She was very nice and explained ahead of time exactly what she would be doing. She got a chuckle when she noticed my Tinkerbell socks. After swabbing her gloves for explosives residue and coming up clean, I was allowed to move on.
We found the JetBlue gate and located seats at one end with a power outlet between us. We plugged in our phones to keep them charged while we waited. I noticed that an awful lot of people were coughing and blowing their noses and I really hoped that I would not get sick.
We boarded at 6:30am and found our seats. They seemed a little roomier than coach seats on Alaska flights. It was nice to have the TV’s on the back of each seat with a nice variety of channels to choose from. Instead of pushing a cart up and down the aisle, the flight attendants took beverage orders and then brought your beverage to your seat. Then they brought around a basket with snacks. It made it easier for people to be able to use the bathroom without having to navigate around a big cart.
The flight was just under two hours and we soon landed in Long Beach. We picked up our bags at the bag claim area, which was located outside. Then we made our way the short distance to the rental car counters, which were in a small building next to the parking garage. It took some time to get the car. They had a full size ready, but I don’t like driving big cars, which is why I reserved an economy. He went into the back room and eventually came out with keys to a Mazda, which he said was a mid-size. That was fine with us as long as we only had to pay the economy rate.
We loaded up the car and headed out. We decided to take surface streets so we wouldn’t have to deal with the freeways. I knew that Wardlow, which dead ends into the airport, turns into Ball Road, so it would be a straight shot into Anaheim. It was a good decision. It was a nice, peaceful drive with no traffic and brought back many memories of when we lived here before moving to Portland. We liked being able to enjoy the view, rather than zip along a freeway at 65 plus miles per hour.
When Wardlow turned into Ball, we knew we were getting close. When we reached the area around the intersection of Ball Road and Gilbert, the street was completely blocked off by patrol cars. There wasn’t anyone directing traffic so we had to fumble our way through the side streets until we got back on track. Jason checked the web and learned that a drunken man passed out in the drive through of a McDonald’s, when he woke up he rammed an Orange County Sheriff vehicle leading to a pursuit in which a deputy opened fire on the suspect. He was treated at the hospital and then booked on assault with a deadly weapon.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, other than the shock of gas prices, which were about 80 cents a gallon higher than Portland, and we don’t even have to pump our own gas at home.
Our first stop was Mimi’s Cafe for breakfast and for me to get my free birthday entree. It was difficult to pass by the park and not go in, but we hadn’t eaten anything other than the small snack on the plane and we were hungry. The parking lot at Mimi’s was very full, but the restaurant wasn’t. We were seated immediately. We both ordered the Cinnamon Brioche French Toast, which came with two eggs and your choice of bacon, sausage or turkey sausage. The breakfast was very good. The coffee was a disappointment. It was very weak. We settled the bill, picking up a four pack of muffins to have for breakfast the next couple of mornings, and then headed up Harbor to the Best Western.
There was no one in the lobby except the employees behind the registration counter. They were very friendly. We quickly checked in and were given our parking pass. Our rooms wouldn’t be ready until 3:00pm so we moved our car into a regular parking spot. The lot was very full, but there were open spots available here and there.
I’d packed the essentials we’d need for the park in a small bag that was easy to retrieve from my suitcase. I put on my pedometer; we sprayed on the sun screen, grabbed our AP’s and headed across the street. It was amazing what a short walk it was. We’d decided over breakfast that our goal today was just to wander through DCA checking out all the new stuff. The crowd level on TouringPlans.com indicated that this was a level 10 day, the very busiest. We knew lines would likely be long so we just planned to stroll around and take pictures. The first thing we noticed was the new entrance to DCA, which looks very much like the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park in Florida. We thought we’d be disappointed that the original entrance was gone, but so far we were pleased with the way it looked.
Before entering the park, we stopped at Guest Relations to ask whether we needed to have our passes activated. She didn’t think so, but said if we had a problem to go to the ticket booth. I sailed through the turnstile without any problems, probably because I’d entered my pass number on my profile on the website. My picture came up without any issues. Jason hadn’t done that so he had to produce picture ID and was told to go to PhotoPass center to have his picture taken sometime during the day.
As we stepped inside the park for the first time, we were both overwhelmed with how wonderful and charming it was. There was so much to take in that we had to stop and sit down on a bench for a minute, just to gather ourselves. Finally, we were able to move on. We decided to get Jason’s picture situation taken care of first since the PhotoPass place was right there. He was next in line, but it seemed to take a long time for him to be helped, or it could have been that we were anxious to be on our way.
With that taken care of, we moved on taking pictures and checking everything out. We decided to work our way clockwise through the park. We made a loop through Hollywood Land, checked out the Carthay Circle Restaurant and then headed over to Cars Land. It was so amazing to see a completely new land that fit in so well with the rest of the park. We walked along the street until we came to Flo’s V-8 Cafe. We planned to eat lunch here on Tuesday, but decided to head in for a quick snack. There were people eating at many of the tables but we could see plenty of empty tables available. We were handed a menu at the entrance, which was a great idea, especially when the place is busy. I’m always amazed at people who get up to the counter and then don’t have a clue what they want to order.
We were quickly directed to a register, where we ordered one Apple-Cheddar and one Chocolate Mud Pie-O-Ramas, and two cups of ice water. It was warm out so we found a table inside with a great view of the Radiator Springs Racers attraction. We divided each pie in half so we could try some of each. They were both very good. While we ate we watched the cars race by and both realized that contrary to what we believed up until know, this ride was nothing like Test Track in Epcot. Because of the long lines, we expected to ride one time and be satisfied, but we think this may be one that we’ll have to ride multiple times.
After we finished eating, we stepped outside to get an even closer view of the racers and to take multiple pictures. Then we walked out of Cars Land and into the Pacific Wharf area, very happy with how easy it is now to move from one area to the other. We made our way around the park and didn’t ride anything except The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Under the Sea Adventure. We love this ride in WDW and were curious if it was the same ride at Disneyland. It’s a FastPass attraction at WDW and has long lines that equal the Peter Pan Ride in both parks. But it doesn’t seem as popular in California. Maybe it has something to do with it being located in the Fantasyland area in Florida, but off on its own in California. We noticed the same thing with the Winnie the Pooh attraction, which again has FastPass in Florida, but is usually a near walk on in California.
The Little Mermaid ride itself seemed identical to Florida, but the queue in Florida definitely outshines California. The exterior and interior theming is amazing in Florida, but it’s basically a plain building in California. The ride vehicles are different colors in California, while they are all the same color in Florida. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride and look forward to riding it multiple times while we’re here.
We continued our way around the park. At around 3:00pm we walked back to the hotel to get unpacked. Our rooms were on the ground floor all the way in the back, which we figured is a good thing. We’re far enough away from the pool and there won’t be a lot of people walking by our rooms. We parked in a space just outside our rooms and quickly unloaded the luggage. We had requested connecting rooms and were pleased to find that they accommodated our request.
Our rooms were identical, with a king bed and a full-size size sofa bed. There was a desk, dresser with a 40” flat screen, and a cabinet with a microwave and refrigerator with a small freezer compartment. At the back of the room there was a closet with an iron and ironing board on the left, a vanity with a single sink along the back wall, and a separate room with the toilet and shower/tub combo on the right. On the vanity was a small single serve coffee maker and multiple packs of regular and decaf coffee and some tea bags. The room was smaller than the rooms at HoJo’s but definitely enough space, especially for one person. It was clean and comfortable. There also were plenty of electrical outlets so I didn’t need to use the power strip I brought with me. There were three outlets on the desk alone.
Before unpacking, we decided to head up to the nearby Food4Less to buy a few things for the room. We weren’t sure of the parking situation and wanted to get back quickly to hopefully keep our great parking spot. We drove the few miles to the store and picked up some half and half for our coffee, our favorite sodas that we can only get in California (Cactus Cooler for me, Manzanita Sol for Jason), and a few things to snack on.
Heading back to the room, we unloaded the few groceries and unpacked our bags. Around 5:30pm we left the room and headed over to Downtown Disney to eat dinner at the Earl of Sandwich. We were so excited when we learned they were building one in California. It’s a must do for us in Florida. We walked the short distance to the bag check, which seemed busy but didn’t take long to get through We noticed the security doesn’t do as thorough of a check in California as in Florida. At WDW they often paw through your bag, while Disneyland security is usually satisfied with a brief glance in the general direction of your bag.
As we walked across the plaza area we noticed huge lines to get into both Disneyland and California Adventure. Downtown Disney was packed as well, which is to be expected for a Saturday night. Earl of Sandwich is located all the way at the end of Downtown Disney, near the Disneyland Hotel. Directly in front of the restaurant a band was playing and people were swing dancing. There was a long line at the restaurant, but we expected that so we joined the end of the line.
The line moved fairly quickly. We both planned to get the Holiday Turkey sandwich, which is a favorite of ours, but usually only served during the Christmas season. We were pleased that it was added as a regular menu item, at least at this Earl of Sandwich. When it came time to order we learned that they were out of the Holiday Turkey so I ordered the Hawaiian BBQ and Jason got the Earl’s Club. Jason also had his heart set on getting a Brownie Creme Sandwich, which he really loved in Florida. This sandwich is made of two brownies with either a vanilla, chocolate or peanut butter creme center. We were disappointed to learn that they were out of these too.
After paying the bill, and using my coupon for a free sandwich, we took our cups of ice water out and found an empty table. The sandwiches are $6.99 each compared to $5.75 in Florida, but they seemed larger with more meat. The sandwiches were delicious and we hope to be back again before the end of this trip.
It had been a really long day and tomorrow was going to be an early one, so after we finished eating we walked back to the hotel. We thought about meeting in my room to watch some TV, but we were both very tired so we ended up saying goodnight. Taking off my pedometer, I was stunned to see that I walked over 16,000 steps, which was on par with an average day at WDW. It didn’t seem like we walked that much. I worked on the trip report for a short time before crawling into the comfortable bed.
Day 2 – Sunday, February 24, 2013
Plan: AP Early Entry at Disneyland; Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps Tour; Dinner at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ
I slept well and woke at 4:45am, earlier than I planned but didn’t feel tired. I quickly got ready and opened the connecting door between our rooms. Jason’s side of the connecting door was already open. We made coffee and ate one of the muffins from Mimi’s. Jason hooked up his iPad to my TV and we watched some I Love Lucy reruns on Hulu Plus. The Wi-Fi here is okay, not fast but definitely not as slow as the Wi-Fi in the condo at WDW.
At 6:15am we stepped outside to a very breezy and cold morning. After debating a few seconds, I went back inside to change into a turtleneck. I had brought a windbreaker, but didn’t want to be saddled with it later in the day when it warmed up. We walked the short way to the bag check area, which took 8 minutes. There were a few people already waiting in one line. It looked like there would be two lines opening, so Jason and I got into the second line and were at the front of the line.
There were two young female CM’s waiting for the word to open the bag check line. At one point one of them walked over to the other and pointed out that she had a spider in her hair. This caused the CM with the spider in her hair to kind of freak out. The first CM tried brush the spider out with her hands but she really didn’t want to touch the spider. When that didn’t work, she removed her gloves and attempted to use them to swat at the spider repeatedly. What she mostly did was slap the other CM in the face a few times with her gloves. It was all very entertaining. Finally, the spider was removed and the first CM commented to the second that she just, “saved her life.”
The bag check lines opened at 6:45am and we made our way to the turnstiles, ending up third in line in front of one of the turnstiles marked for early entry to passholders.
When the park opened at 7:00am we headed to the Matterhorn. We didn’t see any bobsleds so we weren’t sure if it was open. Actually, there seemed to be very few people around. Crowd levels for AP early entry seemed much lower than those during regular early entry. We asked the CM standing outside the Matterhorn if it was open and she said yes, so we got into line. Actually, there wasn’t any line. We were the only guests there. As we boarded the bobsled, we were told that we’d need to wait for more people because they needed a certain amount of weight on the vehicles before they could leave the station. Fortunately, within a minute a couple more people arrived and we were on our way.
The ride seemed slower than I remember but it’s been awhile since I’ve ridden. Still I love the Matterhorn. It was the very first roller coaster that I rode and that was only after a lot of convincing by my dad. So it holds a special place in my heart. Jason likes it but feels it is too rough of a ride for him to ride it often.
Next we headed over to Fantasyland and rode Peter Pan with a 9 minutes wait. Dumbo was next. We would have walked right on but only if we wanted to ride in the same vehicle. There’s no way we could have both wedged ourselves into one Dumbo so we wait 7 minutes for the next cycle. While I was on the ride I attempted a panoramic picture of Fantasyland with my iPhone, which failed miserably.
Mr. Toad was next and we walked on. Snow White was closed so we moved on to Pinocchio, which was also a walk on. Alice in Wonderland was next and we wait 3 minutes for this. We decided to skip the Storybook Land Canal boats even though there wasn’t anyone in line. The sun was shining so brightly that it would be hard to get decent pictures. Plus, it’s a little awkward to be on a boat with just you and a CM. I would have felt the pressure to look extremely interested and attentive.
We next did the walk through of Sleeping Beauty Castle before moving on to the Jolly Holiday Bakery. The park was now open to regular guests. It was definitely worth it to take advantage of that hour before the park opened. The crowd levels were way down and we walked on to just about everything.
This was our first visit to the Jolly Holiday Bakery. I had mixed feelings about the Blue Ribbon Bakery going away. While we loved going there, it was always crowded and had limited seating. I was expecting the new bakery to be crowded, but while each of the cashiers had someone they were helping, there wasn’t anyone waiting in line. There seemed to be a good variety of goodies available although it wasn’t until we returned home that we realized that we didn’t see the really sticky, sticky buns that my mom usually gets.
We each got a cinnamon roll and a cup of ice water and found a table outside on the porch. It was still quite cool outside and it felt good to sit in the sun. Being on the raised seating area gave us a good view of the hub and was a great place to sit and eat. The cinnamon rolls were delicious. Jason had his eye on the cupcakes so we’ll probably be back later in the week.
We had some time before we had to check in for our Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps Tour so we headed over to see if we could do Buzz Lightyear first. It was a walk on so in we went. We always get our own vehicle because we want to be able to control the direction and not be at the mercy of the other rider. The only time we wouldn’t do that is if there were a lot of people waiting. But usually if there is any type of line, we’ll just wait and ride it another time. At one point the ride stopped for a couple of minutes and I was able to increase by horribly low score to a somewhat respectable (for me) 96,600. Jason scored an excellent 623,000. While we were in the area we made a quick trip through the seating area of Pizza Port checking for power outlets where we might charge our cell phones if needed, but we didn’t spot any.
Next we headed to the Tour Gardens at the front of the park to check in for our tour. As we approached, I could see a group gathered around one of the tour guides and just assumed that it was our group so I stepped closer to join them. It wasn’t. I immediately realized my error and before it got too awkward, I casually stepped back and headed over to the check-in area. We were given our name badges and a menu from which to order lunch. We both choose the turkey sandwich with house made chips, a Mickey chocolate caramel tart, and a soda. Since had about 20 minutes until the tour would officially start, we took several pictures of each other in front of the tour sign and then sat on a planter wall in the sun. While we waited, I experimented with Diptic, a photo app that I’d downloaded recently. It provides templates that you can use to make small photo collages and then post them onto Twitter, or other social media sites.
At one point Mike, our tour guide, came around to everyone and handed out headsets. He also assigned us to the Lillian group. Half the tour was in the Lillian group, while the other half was in the Roy group. We all remained together in one group during the majority of the tour, but at the very end we were split up into our two groups.
Promptly at 9:30am we set out on the tour. We had an amazing time. The tour involved a lot of walking, although the pace was very slow, and we criss-crossed the park multiple times. Mike would tell us great stories about the park and Walt Disney and occasionally played special audio selections to enhance the tour. We experienced two attractions. The first was Peter Pan, where we were lead in small groups through the exit, bypassing the huge line. The second was the Enchanted Tiki Room. While we waited for the next show, Mike told us stories about the original plan for the Tiki Room. Once the doors opened, he went ahead to save a few benches for us all to sit together.
The tour also included a visit to the lobby of Club 33, where we were invited to take pictures in front of the elevator. But we were asked to make it fairly quick as they were expecting lunch guests to arrive shortly.
At the very end of the tour we were divided into our Lillian and Roy groups. The Roy group was taken to the Tour Gardens to have lunch, while those of us in the Lillian group were treated to a visit to Walt’s apartment above the Fire Station. We were led by a docent named Emily who reminded us that cast members treat this area as sacred. So, while we all remained on our best behavior, we were led backstage and up some non-descript exterior stairs to the entrance to the apartment. There was a short hallway that led into the main room. It was divided across the middle by velvet ropes that kept the riff-raff from actually coming into contact with any of the furnishings. We all stood there quietly and respectfully while Emily told us the history of some of the objects in the room. Then two by two we were allowed to step into the bathroom, where another docent pointed out one of the interesting features that Walt had installed. Once we all back in the main room, we were told that we could have our picture taken in the room, standing in front of the ropes with the window and continuously burning lamp in the background. It was one picture per party. Each party set their camera on the kitchenette and we all huddled around the corner in the entry hallway out of sight. One by one Emily called us into the room where we posed in front of the ropes. Then we returned to the hallway and the next group was called.
Once the picture taking was finished, we trouped down the stairs and over to the Tour Gardens where our lunch was waiting for us at tables for four. There was a young couple at our table who were annual passholders from Northern California. They had two small children, but were taking a short trip with just the two of them. We chatted with them while we ate. The food was delicious, but very filling. I ate most of my sandwich and some of the chips and then I was stuffed. Since we’d planned to head back to our rooms for a break, we kept the Mickey Chocolate Caramel Tart in its container to eat later.
It was around 1:00pm when we finished lunch and decided to head back to the hotel. On the way out I suggested we made a detour to Earl of Sandwich to get Jason one of the Brownie Creme Sandwiches that they had been out of the night before. We made the long trek through Downtown Disney to the far end where the Earl of Sandwich is located. There was a long line for sandwiches, but we were able to head in to the registers where the desserts are located. We didn’t see any of the Brownie Creme Sandwiches out and asked the cashier if they had any. She told us that they were out. We asked if they might have more tomorrow, to which she replied that she wasn’t scheduled to work tomorrow so she didn’t know. Rather an odd response.
So back through Downtown Disney we went, across the main entry plaza and out the other side to the hotel. It was a little before 2:00pm by the time we reached our rooms and we were very glad to see that they had already been cleaned. So far we’ve been very pleased with this hotel.
We each napped in our rooms and met up at 4:30pm to head back to Disneyland. After seeing the huge lines trying to get in the night before we weren’t sure what to expect crowd-wise so we left a little earlier than we originally planned. There were no lines so 15 minutes after leaving the hotel we were back on Main Street.
We had a 5:30pm reservation for Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. Since we were very early, we just strolled slowly back to the area, taking pictures along the way. We checked in for dinner and were given a pager. The place looked very crowded, probably due to the fact that it was only open on weekends. We waited about five minutes and then were seated at our table long with another family with two small children. Normally this would cause us some concern, because we really don’t have a lot of tolerance for noisy kids. These kids were exceptionally well behaved.
While checking the menu online, we were interested in trying the Chocolate Chip Cookie Bake, which was chocolate chip cookie dough hand-formed in a rustic skillet, topped with Dreyer's vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge at your table. It’s a family style dessert meant to serve 2 or more. The main problem was that this is an all you can eat restaurant, so if you try to eat your money’s worth of the dinner, you’ll likely be too full for dessert. We originally planned to eat lunch, which is less money and doesn’t include the sausage or corn wheels, but we switched to dinner when we booked the tour knowing that lunch was included along with the tour. So in spite of being stuffed, we ordered the cookie bake.
Our server was a really nice young woman and made sure she checked in with us throughout the meal to see if we wanted more of anything. When she brought out the cookie bake, it attracted a lot of attention from the other family at our table. It looked delicious. She drizzled it with hot fudge from a pitcher and then set the pitcher down next to us before leaving us to dig in. The problem was, she didn’t leave any plates or utensils, so all we could do is watch the ice cream start to melt on the warm cookie.
We thought she was going to be right back with plates and spoons, but there wasn’t a sign of her anywhere. Jason finally flagged someone down a guy who we assumed was a supervisor. He was very apologetic and within a very short time our server reappeared, also apologizing profusely. There was no point in us getting upset over this. Sometimes things happened and we assured her that things were fine.
We dug into the cookie bake and it was outstanding. We managed to get through about 2/3 of it before we just couldn’t eat another bite. When our server brought our check, she also brought us a re-admission pass that we could use on any attraction except Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. We thanked her for that and felt it was a nice gesture.
We decided to head over to the Market House for a cup of coffee. As we walked out of the restaurant I overheard the tail end of a conversation between a dad and his young son. The dad was saying to his son, “…cause it would be a hundred bucks for us to eat bbq.” This made be appreciative of the fact that I only have to pay for myself. It’s expensive enough to just pay for one person, but you multiply that by a spouse and a couple of kids and it can be outrageously expensive.
We bought our coffee and then wandered back to Fantasyland. Today was Dapper Day and a lot of people were dressed up. As we passed the carousel, we could see they were having some sort of meet there. Most of the outfits were amazing.
We wandered over to Tomorrowland and decided to take a trip around the park on the train. There wasn’t anyone waiting at the station and a few minutes later the train pulled in. The conductor announced that this train wasn’t making a complete loop and that everyone would have to get off at the Toon Town station. That was fine with us.
We hopped off the train at Toon Town and spent some time in front of a deserted It’s a Small World taking pictures. Then we debated where the best spot was for watching fireworks. Neither of us wanted to wait for hours in front of the castle but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see if I had someone standing in front of me. We walked towards Main Street and finally found an empty bench in the street just a very short distance from the Coke Refreshment Corner. It was the last remaining empty bench in the area so we hurried over to sit. Looking around, it appeared that eventually the area directly next to us would be roped off to make path for people to cross Main Street during the fireworks. As more people started to gather, we eventually stood up and moved to a spot slightly away from the curb. Shortly before the fireworks began a rope was stretched across the street directly in front of us, giving me an excellent view of the castle without anyone blocking my view. This is my all time favorite fireworks show. I listen to the soundtrack on my iPod a lot. I love how Tinkerbelle flies around a lot throughout the show, rather than just make one pass like she does at WDW. This would be our only chance to see the fireworks and I’m really glad we made the time to see them.
While we were waiting for fireworks to begin, we tried to figure out where to use our special FastPass from dinner. I would have voted to use it on Big Thunder Mountain, but with it closed down our options were limited. We finally settled on Star Tours. We headed that direction as soon as the fireworks were over, making a quick stop at the restrooms around the corner from the attraction.
Just inside the restroom, directly in the middle of the entranceway was large pool of vomit. A very young cast member was standing off to the side throwing sheets of paper towels at the spill, trying to cover it up, and periodically gagging. I felt so sorry for her. I relayed this information to Jason and he also was sympathetic. He works for Old Navy and the employees there have to deal with this issue on occasion, so he’s cleaned up his share of protein spills.
We continued on to Star Tours and approached the FastPass line. There was a family waiting to use their FastPasses. They were early but instead of standing off to the side, they decided it was a good idea to stand directly in front of the FastPass entrance. I’m not sure why people don’t think and step to the side. I saw this on more than one occasion. We eventually made our way inside and a few minutes later were boarding our vehicle. We both enjoyed the ride, but on a full stomach we both ended up a little queasy afterwards. Exiting the attraction, we almost stepped in another protein spill that was on the ground. Walking a few more feet, we saw a second one. It must have really been a rough night for someone.
By now we were both very tired and decided to call it a night. It was a really great first full day. The early entry hour for annual passholders was great, with very low crowds. We knew that crowd levels for the remainder of the day were predicted to be high so we had planned activities that didn’t revolve around attractions, such as the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour, dinner at Big Thunder BBQ, fireworks, and just walking around enjoying the atmosphere.
When we got back to the hotel I glanced at my pedometer and was stunned to see that I’d walked over 26,000 steps. I’d just assumed that we would do less walking at Disneyland than we did at Walt Disney World but was definitely not the case.
Day 3 – Monday, February 25, 2013
Plan: Disneyland, Lunch at Carnation Cafe
The park opened at 10:00am so there wasn’t any reason to get up early. However, my internal alarm clock woke me at 5:45am so I just ended up getting up. As soon as I was ready, I opened the connecting door between our rooms and Jason came over with his iPad. He hung out on the couch and I sat at the desk trying to finish up my trip report for our January trip. I was afraid the details between the two trips would begin to blur together so I wanted to finish it up quickly.
At 7:00am we decided to head next door to check out the free breakfast that the hotel offered. It was located upstairs at Captain Kidd’s restaurant. There were only a few people there at this time of the morning, but by the time we left it was starting to fill up, although there was plenty of seating.
There was a nice selection of items to choose from. There were three hot items: scrambled eggs, ham and potatoes. There were also muffins, powdered sugar and chocolate-frosted donuts, Danish’s, bagels, sliced white and wheat bread, frozen waffles, bananas, oranges, apples, yogurt, five kinds of cold cereal, packets of instant oatmeal, coffee, tea, orange juice, hot chocolate and milk. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was filling, replenished frequently, and kept very neat and clean.
I made a couple of frozen waffles, had a scoop of scrambled eggs and a slice of ham. The coffee was very weak. We sat and ate then each grabbed a banana and a donut to take back to the room. The donuts were extremely fresh. We were happy with the breakfast and felt it was a good value.
Back in the room I continued to work on my trip report until 9:15am. Then doused ourselves with sun screen and headed over to the park. There were huge lines in the entrance area. The lines for DCA and Disneyland were overlapping in the center and none of the turnstiles were open.
At around 9:40am our line started moving forward. By staying alert, we were able to jump into a much shorter line as soon as we passed one of the planter areas. Once a line reaches one of the planters, very few people will get into that line and instead the lines on either side of it grow longer and longer. No one seems to be willing to make the commitment to move to the shorter line.
As soon as we were in the park, we headed to City Hall so I could pick up a birthday button.
Next we headed to the Matterhorn and rode with a very short wait. Then we headed to Tomorrowland. Our next attraction was the Finding Nemo Subs. The only other time we’d ridden this was shortly after it opened in 2010. On that trip we used almost our entire Magic Morning hour to ride the subs, determined to ride it no matter how long the wait. We found the ride to be cute but not worth a long wait. Now we waited no longer than 5 minutes. Next up was Space Mountain, which we rode standby, waiting only a very short time. Space Mountain at Disneyland is a much smoother ride than its counterpart at the Magic Kingdom. To us, the Magic Kingdom Space Mountain feels similar to the Disneyland Matterhorn.
Next up was Buzz Lightyear. My score was 177,900 which is a good score for me. Originally Star Tours was planned next, but since we’d just done it the night before we decided to skip it for now. We headed next to Captain EO, but the cast member told us that the doors had just closed. So rather than spend valuable morning park time waiting for an attraction that doesn’t usually have a long wait time, we moved over to Toontown. On the way we passed by a still deserted It’s a Small World. It’s supposed to open up on Friday after the removal of the holiday overlay is complete so we’re hoping to ride it then.
In Toontown we headed first to Roger Rabbit’s CarToon Spin. There was more of a line than we would have liked, but decided to tough it out because we didn’t plan to spend a lot of time in Toontown. Jason really got into spinning the vehicle so I ended up slightly queasy at the end of the ride. We wandered through Toontown taking pictures until we ended up at Mickey’s house. There was only a five minute wait to see him so we walked through his house and out to his barn, where Mickey was waiting in his Sorcerer’s costume and had multiple pictures taken by the PhotoPass photographer.
We headed next to Adventureland and the Jungle Cruise. It had a posted 15 minute wait which we thought was reasonable. But as soon as we got into line, we could see the line headed upstairs and it seemed that it would be longer than a 15 minute wait. So, as soon as we passed an exit we bailed on it for now. We had wanted to get a FP for Indiana Jones, but the return time conflicted with our lunch reservation so we bypassed it and continued on to Pirates.
We didn’t stop walking through the Pirates queue until we boarded our boat. We were in the front row which was nice, but unfortunately had a very loud family seated directly behind us. The entire family talked loudly during the entire ride and the two younger kids would periodically screech out loud whenever something interesting caught their eye. Several times during the ride I turned to stare pointedly at the mom, hoping she would get the hint, but she either didn’t notice me or chose to ignore me. Jason and I were both relieved when the ride was over.
We had some time before our 1:30pm lunch reservation at Carnation Cafe so we decided to find a bench in Town Square and sit for awhile. This is one of our very favorite things to do. We have a favorite bench that is usually shaded and gives us an excellent view of the characters as they come and go to their meet and greet locations. As Chip passed by he noticed my birthday button and came over to pose for a picture. We are more than happy to sit there for hours and just enjoy the atmosphere and the occasional character interaction.
Shortly before 1:30pm we headed over to Carnation Cafe to check in for our lunch reservation. This was our first visit to Carnation Cafe for lunch and our first visit since the remodel. We were given our choice of indoor or outdoor seating and chose indoor seating so we could check out the new dining area.
We both ordered the meatloaf, which came with mashed potatoes, succotash and a dinner roll. We also ordered vanilla Cokes. The meal was very good. We decided to share a dessert and chose the coconut cake. When the cake arrived, our server also brought over a birthday sundae for me. I tried a bite of the cake, which was delicious, but left the rest for Jason while I ate the sundae.
After lunch we hurried over to the Main Street Opera House to see the Voices of Liberty, part of the Limited Time Magic promotion. We waited a few minutes in the lobby before entering the theater. There was just a small group of people, which was a shame since the group is excellent. We love hearing them at Walt Disney World and were excited that they would be at Disneyland during our visit.
After the Voices of Liberty, we looked around for the Dapper Dans who, as the original boy band, were doing a tribute to boy bands. We’d seen them perform at various locations along Main Street, so we weren’t exactly sure where they would be. We finally found them in front of the Fire House. It was a very entertaining performance and I’m glad we persevered until we found them.
We grabbed coffee at the Market House, while getting an earful from a cast member about how unhappy she was about it converting to a Starbucks. We will certainly miss the free refills, but have noticed a decrease in the quality of the coffee that’s served. We took our coffee back to our favorite bench in Town Square and spent some time character watching.
Two hours later we wandered up Main Street taking pictures along the way before heading over to the Enchanted Tiki Room for Dole Whips. We love being able to take Dole Whips into the show, something you can’t do at WDW.
We then wandered over to Critter Country and rode Winnie the Pooh. This is another attraction that has much longer lines at WDW than at Disneyland, where it’s usually close to a walk on.
By now it was getting dark and we decided to head back to the hotel. It was a nice, easy walk back and we were again very happy with our choice of hotel. Not battling the tram or riding a bus is so nice.
Once back at the hotel, Jason hung out in my room for awhile. He hooked his iPad up to the TV and we were able to watch something from Hulu Plus. We had varying degrees of success watching shows online. Sometimes the internet was so slow that the show was constantly buffering. But tonight it worked fine.
Today was a great day. It’s always fun to spend your birthday at Disneyland. So many cast members, and more than a few guests, wished me Happy Birthday. We loved spending time sitting in Town Square just soaking in the atmosphere and plan to do more of this later in the week.
Day 4 – Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Plan: California Adventure; World of Color Picnic
Again, I slept well again, the beds are very comfortable. I occasionally heard water running in another room, but otherwise it was very quiet. It may have something to do with us being at the very back of the hotel.
Jason came over a little after 6:30am and shortly after that we headed to Captain Kidd’s for breakfast. This time they served sausage links instead of ham. Otherwise, everything was the same. I had a scoop of eggs and a couple of sausage links in an attempt to get at least some protein in me. I also had a couple of frozen waffles, some potatoes and took a banana for later.
Back in the room I worked on the trip report until it was time to leave. At 9:00am we stepped out the door and headed to the park. We had to walk along the other side of the hotel because they were doing construction on our side. It was still an easy walk to the park.
In spite of leaving about 15 minutes earlier than we originally planned, the line to get into California Adventure was out to the compass rose in the center of the plaza, and this was the shortest line. The lines at the far ends of the turnstiles were even longer.
I had tried to do as much research as possible on the best strategy for riding Radiator Springs Racers. I also ran different scenarios on TouringPlans.com to see whether it was best to head straight for the attraction and ride standby, or get a FastPass first and then try to ride standby, or just do FastPass. Touring Plans showed a very minimal wait if we rode standby first so that’s what we decided to do. I thought things were settled until about three days before we were due to leave on vacation. For some unknown reason there was dramatic jump in the wait times. Maybe they loaded updated wait times in their system. So, I changed our touring plan to go the FastPass route instead.
At 9:24am they opened the gates and we followed the crowd to the FastPass line for Radiator Springs Racers. We were directly in front of the entrance to the Carthay Circle Restaurant. We got to talking to the man in line ahead of us and the man behind us and learned that one was celebrating a birthday today and the other celebrated his birthday yesterday, just like me. Weird that three people standing in line together were all born on almost the same date.
Promptly at 10:00am, the line began to move. Prior to this, a Cast Member moved down the line letting everyone know that line cutters would not be tolerated. If we saw someone jump into line we were to tell the Cast Member at the FastPass machines. We moved along very quickly and by 10:05 we had our FastPasses in hand with a return time of 11:10am.
Next we moved on to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. The posted wait time was 20 minutes and we ended up waiting for 25. This is a slow loading, low capacity attraction. It didn’t look all that exciting, but we both ended up loving it. The vehicles whip around much faster than we thought and it was a thrilling ride.
We headed over to Luigi’s Flying Tires next. Again it had a posted 20 minute wait and we waited 25 minutes. This too is a very slow loading, low capacity attraction. We debated doing this at all because it didn’t really seem all that fun. Neither of us is really into bumper car type attractions. We had fun, but we’ll not likely be willing to wait in any line longer than 10 minutes in the future.
While we were in line for Luigi’s, Jason was telling me that he’d found the phone number online for the phone booth in the UK pavilion in EPCOT. I urged him to call it so he did. After a few rings a woman picked up. At first she thought it was a Disney recording, but Jason finally convinced her that he was a live person calling from the Disneyland Resort. She was from Texas and visiting with her family. They chatted for a few minutes before hanging up.
After Luigi’s it was time to use our FP’s for Radiator Springs Racers. We waited about 8 minutes in line. So it was definitely worth it to use FP’s to ride rather than wait standby. The ride itself was amazing. I felt like I was right in the middle of the movie. Jason and I both thought this ride would be about the same as Test Track in EPCOT, but were we wrong. It’s about 10 times more fun and exciting. The theming is out of this world.
We both took plenty of pictures of the Radiator Springs area before moving on to the Pacific Wharf area and then on to Paradise Pier. We stopped to have our picture taken with Duffy the Bear and made the loop around the pier. There was a short wait at The Little Mermaid ride, so of course we had to stop and ride.
Next we picked up FastPasses for Soarin’ and then headed over to the Sonoma Terrace to pick up our World of Color picnic lunches. We’d ordered these online before leaving for our trip and were able to get a $2.00 AP discount off the normal $15.99 price.
We decided to sit right there on the terrace and eat. It was fairly empty and there were plenty of tables. We headed first to one of the tables located under the covered area but were met with a blast of heat from an overhead heater. It certainly wasn’t a cool day and the warm heater made it very uncomfortable. We found another table in the middle of the terrace that was in the shade of a tree.
We both chose the honey-stung chicken with coleslaw and potato salad with a tiny sliver of apple pie for dessert. Jason had Sprite and I had Coke. The meal came in a reusable World of Color tote, which seemed like a good idea, but ended up being a pain to carry around. We both like to travel light and didn’t have any place to carry it. A little later on I noticed that Jason wasn’t carrying it and he couldn’t remember where he left it. So, the problem fixed itself.
After lunch we used our FastPasses for Soarin’ noting that the film was in much better shape than the one in EPCOT. We were about to leave for a rest at the hotel when we passed Clarabelle’s Ice Cream and decided to try it out. The Cast Member at the counter suggested we try the Oswald Sundae, which was so new it wasn’t even on the menu yet. It had a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a scoop of chocolate ice cream covered with hot fudge, a banana cut into two pieces lengthwise and dipped in chocolate formed the rabbit ears. The whole thing was topped with whipped cream sprinkled with chocolate chips with a cherry on top. It was absolutely delicious. The banana is normally dipped in milk chocolate, but they ran out and dipped it in dark chocolate instead. Of course we took the usual pictures. There was no AP discount available here, which was odd since most places offered one.
I found us seats at the counter along the window while Jason waited for the sundaes to be ready. The seating area is located in the Starbucks area and there seemed to always be a place to sit no matter how long the lines were at Starbucks and Clarabelle’s. While we ate we looked at the latest edition of the Buena Vista Bugle.
After finishing up the ice cream we headed back to the room for a short rest. Another reason for heading back to our rooms was to pick up jackets since we were staying for World of Color this evening.
At 4:30pm we headed back to DCA ready for more fun. Getting back into DCA was easy, with no lines to speak of.
Our first stop was the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe for a couple of pumpkin spice lattes. We were happy to see our favorite holiday drinks available since we’d missed out on them at home because we were eating healthy and Starbucks is addicting. Both lines were open and crowded with people. I think we waited longer in this line than any other line during the entire trip. We have to give props to Cast Member Enia who was single-handedly running her side of the line. The other line had two Cast Members working the registers. We were pleased to find that we could get an AP discount here, which helped offset the sales tax and higher drink prices than we were used to in Oregon.
We waited a long time to place our order and a long time for our drinks to be ready. We took them outside and found an empty bench along Buena Vista Street directly across from Elias and Co. We sat there for a long time just enjoying the evening.
After sunset we got up from the bench, which has turned into one of our favorite spots at DCA, and headed over to Cars Land to see it all lit up at night.
Eventually we headed over to the waiting area for World of Color. We joined a fairly large crowd of people waiting. When they started letting people in we headed towards the front hoping to get a spot along the railing. However, all the front spots were filled so we ended up behind some people who didn’t seem so tall that they would block my view. While standing there I noticed that there was a level below us with very few people. Jason remained in our spot while I asked a Cast Member if that area was available to us. She said we could go down there but cautioned that it was the soak zone and we would get wet. She said the view was worth it though. So I headed down and motioned to Jason to come on over. We both had jackets with hoods so we felt we were prepared.
It was a long wait until World of Color started and it was tough standing for so long. But the wait was worth it when the show started. We saw World of Color in 2010 just a couple of weeks after it first opened. I was further back in the handicapped section with my mom and while I liked the show then, it was so much better from the very front. We both looked at each other and nodded in agreement that it was totally worth the wait and the chance of getting soaked. It turns out that we didn’t get wet at all. There was one short point during the show when a fine mist blew in our direction but overall we stayed dry and warm.
After the show ended, we lingered for a while taking pictures of the fountains and then very slowly made our way to the front of the park. There wasn’t any point in getting caught up with all the masses trying to get out of the park. Since we didn’t have to worry about long waits at the trams or buses, we felt we could just take our time leaving.
When we reached the Storytellers statue of Walt and Mickey at the front of the park we stopped to take pictures of it and of each other with the statue. A very nice custodial Cast Member walked by and offered to take a picture of both of us with the statue.
The walk back to the hotel was very relaxing and peaceful. It was great not fighting crowds at the trams or traffic from the parking lot back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel we just said goodnight and went to our rooms. It had been a long, busy day and we were both tired.
Tomorrow we’re back at Disneyland for the day.
Day 5 – Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Plan: Disneyland, Breakfast at Carnation Cafe, Late Lunch at Cafe Orleans
We were up at our usual time and headed over to Captain Kidd’s for breakfast. We hung out in the room until 9:00am and then headed over to the park. The turnstiles opened at 9:30am and this time we saw Cast Members scanning the tickets of anyone holding a multi-day ticket and taking their pictures. We weren’t sure what was going on and why they were doing this, but found out later that it’s Disney’s attempt to curtail the illegal sale of tickets. While it did slow the line down somewhat, it didn’t seem like it made that big of a difference in the amount of time we waited in line.
Today we had planned a leisurely day at Disneyland without any structured plans other than our two dining reservations. However, the day before we learned via Twitter that there was a special AP event as part of Limited Time Magic and to celebrate the release of Peter Pan on Blu-Ray. Annual passholders had the opportunity to attend a screening of Peter Pan at the Main Street Opera House and have access to select attractions in Fantasyland for two hours after the park closed to the public. AP holders could register for this event beginning at 10:00am in front of the Main Street Opera House. We were on board with this.
As soon as we were through the turnstiles we hurried over to the Opera House expecting to see a huge line of people waiting to register. Instead, we found a couple of Cast Members setting up a podium and no one else. They had us form a line a wait a few minutes while they finished getting everything ready, and then scanned our AP’s and issued us a colored wristband that corresponded to our assigned time for the movie screening. The first screening was at 11:00am and that’s what the Cast Member was set to give us. We asked for the 1:00pm screening so we could still make our 10:40am Carnation Cafe breakfast and they were happy to oblige.
The park hadn’t yet officially opened so we headed to Market House for a cup of coffee. Jason chose hazelnut and I chose French vanilla. For some reason neither of us can tell the difference between the two flavors. We’re pretty sure there is a one giant vat of coffee behind the wall with individually labeled spigots that supposedly dispense the different blends of coffee.
We took our coffee to Town Square and claimed our favorite bench. We watched characters come and go for a while and chatted with a Cast Member who loves Jiminy Cricket as much as we do.
Shortly after the park opened we headed over to Buzz Lightyear. Jason struck galactic gold by scoring 1.2 million which gave him high score for the day. I took pictures of the monitor that showed his high score and we vowed not to ride again today so we didn’t have to see him knocked out of first place.
It was almost time for our breakfast reservation at Carnation Cafe so we detoured to pick up FastPasses for Indiana Jones before making our way back to Main Street.
We were seated immediately and requested a table outside. We looked for Oscar, but didn’t see him. We wondered if maybe he actually did retire, as he’s been saying he would since 2005. We both ordered the Mickey waffle and a cinnamon spiced hot chocolate, which was excellent.
After breakfast we picked up FastPasses for Star Tours. It was time to use our FastPasses for Indiana Jones so over to Adventureland we went. Sometimes the wait for this attraction is a long time even with a FastPass, but we moved through the queue very quickly and were soon boarding our vehicle.
Next up was the Haunted Mansion. We walked right into the stretching room with no wait at all. After leaving the Haunted Mansion it was time to use our FastPasses for Star Tours, so back over to Tomorrowland we went. I guess this is why I logged so many more steps during this trip than our WDW trip. We did a lot more criss-crossing in the park that I originally thought.
It was time for our Peter Pan screening so we headed over to the Opera House. We showed our wristbands at the door and were each given a small Peter Pan tote bag. The theater was only partially filled. It had been a long time since I saw Peter Pan and while I enjoyed the show, it was really difficult to stay awake. All week the weather had been warming up a little more each day and the air conditioning felt great. After the movie, I learned that Jason had a hard time staying awake too.
We walked up Main Street stopping to watch the Dapper Dans perform in front of the Market House. Then we just wandered through the park until it was time for our 4:00pm lunch reservation at Cafe Orleans.
We had trouble locating the check-in podium because it had moved to the opposite of the restaurant from where it was last time we were here. We were seated immediately at a table along the railing with a great view of Rivers of America.
Cafe Orleans has become our go to place when we want a Monte Cristo fix. We decided a few years ago that the Blue Bayou was no longer a good value for us. Our last visit to the Blue Bayou, we split a Monte Cristo, which had risen dramatically in price over the years, paying a $12 split plate charge to do so, shared a dessert, drank water with our meal and paid close to $50 for what was essentially one meal. We decided there were plenty of other things we would enjoy doing with that $50.
So for lunch today we each ordered a cup of gumbo, which we love, shared a Monte Cristo, and shared the Mickey-shaped Beignets for dessert. When our server brought the Monte Cristo to our table we at first thought he brought the wrong order. We were used to the sandwich being quartered and deep fried. Now it was cut into smaller pieces, deep fried and skewered. It was definitely a unique presentation. While the Monte Cristo tasted the same as always, we both decided that this is probably the last time we’ll order it for awhile. It just felt a little too rich and greasy for us.
After lunch we rode Pirates, this time having a boat of considerate, quiet adults and then wandered over to Tomorrowland. The FastPass return time for Space Mountain was just a short time away, so we picked up FastPasses and then made it just in time for the next Captain EO show, which we both love for its nostalgic value.
After Captain EO we wandered around for awhile until it was time to use our FastPasses for Space Mountain. Then we picked up coffee refills at Market House and headed over to Fantasyland to wait for the AP extended hours. We weren’t really sure if this was going to happen because other than reading it online, there had been no mention of it by Disney in the park. We sat down in the seating area near Dumbo and just hung out. We were both concerned about the batteries in our phones because they were both running very low. We’d been unsuccessful in locating a convenient outlet to do a quick charge. We both hoped they would at least last the rest of the night.
We sat for a long time, basically just waiting until the park closed and the extended hours for AP’s began. By checking online, we could see that the wait times for some Fantasyland attractions were short so figured we might as well ride. We headed over to Snow White and did that and then went next door to Pinocchio.
By the time we exited Pinocchio it was just a few minutes before 8:00, when the park was due to officially close. We headed over to the Matterhorn where they were closing down the Tomorrowland side and checking for wristbands on the Fantasyland side. We basically walked on and had a fun ride at night.
There were several Cast Members checking for wristbands as we re-entered Fantasyland so it was nice that they weren’t even letting regular guests into the area, instead of just checking at the ride entrances. There were just a small handful of people in line at Alice in Wonderland, so we hopped on. By the time we got off the ride, the entire queue was empty. It felt really strange.
There were more people in line for Mr. Toad but the line moved quickly. We had hoped to ride Peter Pan a few times, but the line still looked pretty long, even though it wasn’t nearly as long as during normal park hours. We debated whether we wanted to wait in it, but knew that this might be our last opportunity to ride it this trip. So, we ended up waiting about 20 minutes, which really isn’t bad.
After Peter Pan we decided to call it a night. There was still about an hour left but we’d done everything that we wanted to do. We took our time leaving the park, taking pictures of a deserted Main Street and the castle at night. It was so strange to look inside the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor and see all the chairs turned upside down on the tables. Every so often small groups of Cast Members would leave the buildings as they ended their shift. We lingered for a little while in Town Square savoring the feeling of being there almost completely alone.
This really turned out to be a fun day. We did some things we didn’t expect, like see Peter Pan. I was fun just going with the flow and doing whatever sounded good at the time. We normally plan things out more than this, but with the low crowds we could just take it easy.
Day 6 – Thursday, February 28, 2013
Plan: California Adventure; AP Extended Hours
I was up at 6:00am and by 6:45pm we headed next door for breakfast. After eating we went back to my room and hung out for a while, me working on the trip report and entering our expenses into an Excel spreadsheet.
A few minutes before 9:00am we headed over to the park. It was supposed to be a very warm day and already it was quite warm out. We found the shortest line to wait in and were a little closer than we were on our last visit to DCA on Tuesday. The turnstiles opened up at 9:30am. As we had done two days earlier, Jason walked ahead to the Radiator Springs Racers FastPass line and I followed behind at my slower pace. By the time he reached the end of the line, it had already formed all the way around to the back of the Carthay Circle restaurant. We were about twice as far back as we were on Tuesday, in spite of us being closer to the turnstiles. We couldn’t figure out why the big difference in the length of the line. Fortunately, we were in a shaded area, which made it a lot more comfortable.
At 10:00am the park officially opened and we began to move forward. Even as far back as we were, it took 11 minutes for us to reach the FastPass machines. Our return time was for 11:25am.
We headed over to Toy Story for our first ride this trip. It’s hard to believe we are on our next to last day and just now doing Toy Story. The posted wait time was 10 minutes and that turned out to be accurate. We had hoped to be able to do it again with a short wait, but by then the wait time was 30 minutes so we decided against it.
We thought maybe we could do Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, but the wait time was up to 40 minutes, so we passed. We toyed with the idea of trying to get a second FastPass for Radiator Spring Racers, but we still had a little time until we could do that and we weren’t sure if the FastPass supply would hold out until then. Jason pulled out his FastPass to double check our return time and noticed that it stated that we could get a second FastPass for another attraction immediately. This was a change from our FastPass of two days ago which specifically stated that another FastPass would be available after 11:10am. We found a Cast Member who confirmed that the FastPass machines for Radiator Springs were disconnected from the network. So we headed over to Soarin’ and picked up FastPasses with a return time of 11:25am.
It was getting warmer out and we were both thirsty, so we ducked into Starbucks for a Very Berry Hibuscus Refresher. We took our drinks over to the outside seating area of Flo’s V-8 Caf that overlooks Radiator Springs. We immediately noticed the lack of vehicles moving along the course and then noticed a Cast Member escorting guests off the ride. After we finished our drinks, we headed over to the entrance to the ride and verified that the ride was temporarily closed.
Jason asked the Cast Member what the procedure was for using a FastPass after the return time window if the attraction is closed. He confirmed that you have 75 minutes to use the FastPass once the ride reopens.
By now it was 11:25am and so we headed over to Soarin’ to use our FastPasses. On the way we noticed that all the FastPasses for Radiator Springs were gone. Before getting in line for Soarin’, we picked up another set of FastPasses with a return time of 12:30pm, just an hour away. While in line we noticed that the kids behind us were very noisy and screechy. I can handle excited kids, but there are some kids that spontaneously burst out in the most ear-splitting shrieks. I did not want to be seated next to them. Fortunately, Jason and I were sent to finish off a different row and ended up far away from this family.
We decided to head over to Radiator Springs to see if it was up and running so we could use our FastPasses. We detoured by the Animation Building to see what character was up next at the Animation Academy. They were drawing Winnie the Pooh, but the next class was 15 minutes away so we decided to pass on this for now.
We continued through the Hollywood Land area and over to the Tower of Terror. I love how you can now get to A Bug’s Land from here without having to walk all the way back to the front of the park and how you can get from A Bug’s Land to Car’s Land to the Pacific Wharf area.
By the time we reached Car’s Land, Radiator Springs Racers was open again, so we turned in our FastPasses and got into line. This time we waited longer than before, around 15 minutes. This could have been due to the ride being down and more people using their FastPasses. It was very hot out and I couldn’t imagine waiting in the standby line in this heat. Cast Members were going through the line selling cold beverages, which I thought was an excellent idea. I spent the time in line updating my trip notes. Once again we enjoyed the ride and this time we won our race.
We decided to check out Cozy Cones. We each ended up getting a Chili Cone Queso, which was a bread cone filled with chili and topped with Fritos and shredded cheese. There wasn’t any seating in the shade so we took them over to Flo’s V-8 Cafe and sat at a shady table in the back. The cones were excellent and we want to try some of the other options before we leave.
We had just enough time to walk over to Soarin’ to use our FastPasses before they expired. Jason felt like ice cream but since we’d already tried Clarabelle’s, we decided to head over to Ghirardelli’s. I had a hot fudge sundae and Jason had the brownie sundae. We were able to get an AP discount here. We sat at a table in the shade in the Pacific Wharf area. There was a nice breeze blowing, which made it very comfortable.
Next we headed over to the Little Mermaid ride which, as usual, had almost no wait. When we got off the ride we immediately got back into line for a second ride. Before leaving our clam shells, we could see there wasn’t anyone waiting in line so we asked the Cast Member if we could stay off for another ride. She agreed so off we went for a third time. We are really surprised that there is no line for this attraction, yet it warrants being a FastPass attraction at WDW and regularly has wait times of 45 minutes to an hour.
Three times was enough for now. We sat on a bench near Paradise Bay for a few minutes waiting for the next showing of “Instant Concert…Just Add Water” which is a mini-concert with the fountains in the bay conducted by Maestro Goofy. It wasn’t as good as it was hyped to be, but were glad we saw it once.
During the month of February, DCA was holding AP nights on Thursdays, when the park would remain open for an additional two hours, from 8:00-10:00pm. On the first Thursday in February, we learned via Twitter that crowd levels were very low, which might have been due to bad weather. On the next two Thursdays crowd levels were very high. So although we wanted to do this, we had no expectations that lines would be short. We basically planned to just walk around. Wristbands were being distributed at the front of the park beginning at noon. We had heard that lines were very long to get wristbands later in the day so we decided to get ours now. There was no one in line, but we could see that they were prepared for the possibility of longer lines.
Once we had our wristbands we found a bench at the end of Buena Vista Street and just settled in to enjoy our favorite pastime, which is to people watch at the parks. At one point, Phi Phi the Photographer, one of the quirky citizens of Buena Vista Street, stopped by to visit with us. We chatted with her for a long time, while her protg Chris (aka Disney Photopass Photographer) took a lot of pictures of us. We had a lot of fun playing along with her and being introduced to her good friend Donna who was out for a stroll with her dog Lady.
We spent a good couple of hours on our favorite bench, just enjoying the view. We realized that it was getting dark and decided to head over to Cars Land to take pictures. We’d been following @DCAToday on Twitter and learned that they would be at Flo’s V-8 Cafe later on handing out buttons. We walked up and down Car’s Land taking pictures and then settled down on a bench across from Flo’s V-8 Cafe to wait for the @DCAToday folks to arrive. We met the team and got our buttons.
We decided to try out the churro bites at Cozy Cones. They came in a cardboard cone with a container of cinnamon spiced chocolate sauce to dip them in. The nearby seating area was packed so we walked across the way to Flo’s V-8 and found a table in the front of the restaurant. The churro bites were really good. Even Jason liked them and he’s not overly fond of churros.
By now World of Color was underway. We decided to walk over to Toy Story on the off chance that the line wasn’t too long because everyone was watching the show. So we walked over there only to find the line still ridiculously long. We walked back over the bridge and over to our old standby, The Little Mermaid attraction, which in spite of crowds everywhere else, had a very short line.
We wanted to stay in the area because we planned to take pictures of the fountains after World of Color was over. By the time we exited the ride, the show was over and people were headed out. People cleared out very quickly and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We spent a lot of time taking pictures and video.
It was around 9:00pm that we decided to head back to the hotel. It had been a long day and we were tired. Lines at the attractions were still long and we decided we were better off getting a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is our last day and we want to make the most of it.
Day 7 – Friday, March 1, 2013
Plan: Carnation Cafe for Breakfast; Hang out in the parks; Fly home
I was up at 6:00am and had everything packed by a little after 7:00am. We hung out in my room until 8:00 when we loaded up the car and headed to the lobby to check-out. We were allowed to keep the car parked at the hotel until either 2:00 or 3:00pm, I’m not sure which. But since our flight didn’t leave until 6:30pm, we didn’t want to have to leave the park to come back and pick up the car then and still have time to kill until it was time to head to the airport. So we decided to park at the Mickey & Friends lot.
It felt strange to drive over after walking all week. We boarded a tram filled with excited, happy people just starting their vacation and we were both a little sad that our trip was coming to an end.
The park opened at 9:00am today and we were in the park by 8:45am. Our first destination was It’s a Small World, which was supposed to open after being closed to remove the holiday overlay. Rather than walk all the way back there and find it was still closed, we checked with a Cast Member at the information board, who confirmed that it was supposed to open today.
We walked back, along with a small group of other people, only to be greeted by a few Cast Members who announced that the ride wasn’t open yet, but would be shortly. Since this was our main objective for the day, we decided to just sit and wait for it to open up. We couldn’t tell what the holdup was, except we did see a Cast Member watering the grass. It was more than likely something inside the attraction though.
At 9:30am the ride opened up and we joined the small group of people that were waiting just like we were. We boarded our boat and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. We think this version is far superior to the one at Walt Disney World. We love the added characters that were integrated into the attraction a few years ago.
We still had about a half hour until our 10:30am Carnation Cafe but we decided to see if they could seat us early. It was no problem. This time we opted to eat inside since it was very warm out. We were seated in a corner booth which gave us a good view of the rest of the restaurant. Again, we both ordered the Mickey Mouse waffles with bacon and the cinnamon spiced hot cocoa.
After breakfast we found a shady bench in Town Square and sat for awhile. Minnie Mouse was doing a meet and greet nearby and we had fun watching her interact with the guests.
At 11:00am we decided that what we really wanted was to be over at DCA so walked across the plaza and in a matter of minutes we were inside the park. As soon as we were inside, a trolley pulled up at the station. I had wanted to ride all week so this was my last opportunity. We rode all the way to the Tower of Terror stop and then got off.
We strolled through A Bug’s Land and then through Car’s Land and back to the front of the park. We stopped into Starbucks for a Frappacino. There was a long line on one side, but the other side only had one person waiting, so we joined that line and were served next. I’m not sure why no one was in that line unless it had just opened and no one on the other side noticed. There’s a big refrigerated case between the two lines so it’s hard to see what’s going on over on the other side. We found a bench in the shade around the corner from the entrance to the Carthay Circle Restaurant. We discovered that the characters would come from backstage directly behind us so we tried to take as many pictures as we could of them coming and going. The citizens of Buena Vista Street were out in full force. Phi Phi the Photographer stopped by and greeted us by name remembering us from the day before. Donna and her dog Lady came by, occasionally Molly the Message would ride by on her tricycle and Calvin the Cop would stroll by.
I still hadn’t had any popcorn yet. There was a vendor across the street so I ended up getting a small box. There’s nothing like the popcorn at a Disney theme park.
Jason was lamenting the fact that he hadn’t been able to try the seasonal cupcake that he’d seen at Starbucks. Neither of us was hungry, but we decided to share one anyway. The line at Starbucks was huge. Both sides were open but it just wasn’t moving very fast. Jason was about to give up when I suggested that we go across to the Jolly Holiday Bakery where they sold the same cupcake. Jason was thinking it would take too long, but I convinced him to give it a try.
It took us 15 minutes to get over to Disneyland, order the cupcake and be seated at a table outside. It was worth the trip. The cupcake was chocolate cake with a raspberry Bavarian center, chocolate mousse and chocolate frosting, dark and white chocolate shavings and topped with a fresh raspberry. It was delicious. I was glad that we shared it because it was huge and very filling.
We decided not to postpone the inevitable any longer and headed towards the front of the park. We stopped to look through the World of Disney store for awhile. We didn’t spend more than 15 minutes there. Neither of us felt like spending any more money and our bags were already packed.
Finally, we headed to the tram station. A tram was just pulling out and it was a long wait until the next one arrived. When we got off the tram, we needed to cross over to the Pinocchio lot to our car. We could see a tram coming and a Cast Member told us to wait until he told us to cross. We stood there with a few other people while the tram passed. We stood there expecting the Cast Member to give us the okay to cross. However, he turned and walked over to a parked tram and started to get inside. We all stood there for a minute and then finally one bold lady went rogue and crossed. Jason and I waited to see if she was going to get yelled at. When the Cast Member said nothing to her, the rest of us crossed. We’re not sure if he just forgot that he told us to wait for his instructions or what happened.
We made it to the car and spent a few minutes getting things organized before heading out. Since we had plenty of time, we decided to take surface streets again, rather than the freeway since we’d enjoyed the drive from the airport so much. It was a leisurely drive along Ball Road, which turned into Wardlow and then dead-ended at the airport.
The rental car return was a breeze. With Avis at least, if you drive the car less than 75 miles you have the option of filling it up yourself or leaving it and being charged a flat $14.99. We’d driven less than 40 miles, so I decided to just pay the $14.99 rather than mess with stopping for gas. I figured that it would work out to about the same. Because we’d driven so little, the gas gauge still registered full. Even though I told the attendant that we planned to pay the $14.99, he marked that the gas tank was full and we weren’t charged anything.
Because Long Beach Airport is so small, they don’t have the full body scanners that larger airports do. So, I was prepared to be pulled aside for the full pat-down treatment because of my knee replacements. I realized that the card my doctor gave me indicating that I had metal implants was totally useless. No one at any airport cared about it. It certainly doesn’t give you a pass when you set off the metal detector.
So after a lengthy pat-down, it was determined that I wasn’t a threat and we moved on to the waiting area. The lack of full body scanners is the one drawback to flying into Long Beach.
We easily found our gate. Just past it was an area equipped with outlets for charging electronics. We found a couple of empty seats and plugged in our phones to recharge after using them extensively in the park that day.
The sun was starting to set when we boarded the plane. It was a smooth ride home and we arrived in just under two hours. After retrieving our luggage, we called the park ‘n fly and sat down to wait. It took about 15 minutes for the shuttle to arrive. There were about four other families on the shuttle. We handed the driver the card we’d been given when we parked the car. It had the parking location of our vehicle. We were the second group to be dropped off. The driver called out the space number and the type of vehicle. It was the space number on our card, but the vehicle definitely wasn’t ours. We were more than a little concerned until I remembered that the driver had trouble reading the space number and must have just guessed. We got off the shuttle with the driver and found our vehicle about eight spots away. Whew!
I started the car to get it warmed up (and to make sure it actually did start) while Jason loaded up the luggage. It was very, very cold out, a dramatic difference from the warm days we’d enjoyed in Anaheim. We headed to the exit. I had a coupon I’d printed from their website with a rate of $9.50 per day, about a $1.00 per day savings. There was a small administrative fee that brought the total to about $69.00. This is definitely less expensive than getting two rooms at the Ramada, which is what we usually do. This is something for us to keep in mind in the future. It was a breeze using this lot and taking their shuttle.
Jason and I both agree that this trip now ranks as our favorite Disneyland trip. Up until now our best trip was in December 2004, planned about six weeks in advance, which is practically last minute for us. It was our first time visiting during the Christmas holiday and we were in awe of all the decorations, the parade, the fireworks with snow. But we had a really good time this trip. It was so convenient staying right across the street and not hassling with driving or trams or buses. We had enough time to do all our favorites and have plenty of time to just sit and relax. Cars Land was amazing and totally exceeded our expectations. World of Color was even better than we remembered and we’ll always opt for the soak zone.
As of now, for our next trip we’ll be back at Walt Disney World to use our passes one last time before they expire. We’re booked at Port Orleans French Quarter December 1-11 on a Reunion 2013 package with MouseFan Travel. This time we’ll bring my parents with us (Jason’s grandparents). They went with us in 2009 and my dad has been eager to return. My mom is generally content to sit at Casey’s Corner with her book and electronic Yahtzee game, so we’ll see how that goes.
If we can find decent airfare and hotel rates, we may try to squeeze in a five day trip back to Disneyland sometime in September. We already miss being there and can’t wait to go back.
You can check out my pictures on Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pattyon...7633001937553/
Thanks for reading.
Last edited by Eighty8Keys; 04-17-2013 at 01:36 PM.
Reason: Corrected some of the more obvious typos
04-17-2013 01:30 PM
Awesome report. I really enjoyed reading it. I think it's awesome that you and your son travel together. Great memories for both of you.I really can't wait until I go in September after reading this report
Thanks! Yes, I'm really lucky that I have such a great traveling companion. I hope you write a trip report. I'm not sure when our next trip to Disneyland will be, so I appreciate reading about other peoples trips.
Originally Posted by suejacken
WooHoo.....it's a good day. A trip report from Patty. Loved it!!! Thanks so much.
Self-Proclaimed Disney Queen!
I enjoyed reading your trip report, Patty!
One thing I wanted to mention: when The Little Mermaid attraction first opened at DCA, there were long lines and you needed to get there early in the day to avoid them (the same was true when the Winnie-the-Pooh ride was new...long lines early on and now almost always a walk-on!). I think location is a big thing with both of them now...since both of them are located in Fantasyland at WDW, they just seem to be more popular there (plus LM is so new out there too).
At DCA, everyone just wants to ride the Racers, TSMM, Soarin', or CA Screamin'...everything else has much shorter lines!
I also loved how you & Jason gave yourselves plenty of time to sit & enjoy the atmosphere, instead of always rushing to & fro like so many of us do.
DL trips: too many to remember actual dates, but they began in the 60s!
WDW trips: 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013
Thanks Pam. You make a good point about the locations of The Little Mermaid and Winnie the Pooh compared to WDW. I can see how that would make a difference. I'm just glad we were able to ride to our heart's content.
Originally Posted by Pammer
We used to rush around to all the rides, trying to get in as many as we could each day. After one trip like that we both felt that even though we had a great time, we were missing something. So now we make time to just sit and soak everything in. Fortunately, we both enjoy that.
Thanks again for reading.
I followed the link to your pictures on Flickr, and they were great! I always try to take pictures of the details at Disneyland now, but somehow, my photos seems disappointing to me later, when I'm at home. Your photos gave me new incentive to "try again." I, too, always dream of sitting on a bench and just people watching for a while, but my son is still in the cram-every-ride possible schedule. Every new trip, I have hope -- and each time, it's a big negotiating point between us! Nice, detailed report. I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks for the nice comments! Hopefully you'll have the chance someday to sit and people watch. I think my son would be happy doing that most of the day.
Originally Posted by Sansarc
I had so much fun reading your trip report! Thank you for posting this. And I was pleased as punch that you posted your photos. When you were describing things I was hoping for a photo and you did not disappoint. I'm so glad you and your son had so much fun. My next trip is in November with my husband and brother-in-law. Cheers, --Carrie
Thanks very much for reading Carrie. I know you'll have a great time in November. That's a great time of year to go. Our next trip is the end of September. I'm counting down the days! -Patty
Originally Posted by Wildcat91
Glad you had a great trip! Will you go back to Best Western Park Place or HoJo next time?
We're staying at Best Western Park Place again. The close walking distance is so worth it. In fact, we're not even renting a car this time. We'll take a cab from the airport and save the $10 a day parking fee. While we love HoJo's, their rates are a higher than we want to pay at this time. Especially with our WDW trip coming up in December.
Originally Posted by Carabear930
Thanks for reading!
Patty - Thank you for a wonderful trip report. I am planning a trip in May that coincides with a conference I'll be attending in Pasadena. I actually reserved a room at the Best Western Park Place already, and then I read your report. I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed staying there. I appreciated seeing your pictures as well. I am trying to decide whether I want to just go by myself or to take my son (6th grade) out of school for the trip. After reading your report, I really want to take my son... We'll have to see how he's doing in school, I suppose. We went to WDW two years ago for the same conference, and he missed 8 days of school, but the memories and the learning that took place at WDW made it totally worth it. My husband has no interest in going to Disney again (we've been to DLR twice as a family).
Originally Posted by Eighty8Keys
I was also really interested in your tour. That sounded so fun!