SoCal Day 4
We got up once again and headed this morning to the beach. Huntington was familiar so we went back there for some morning beach time. I did do a little of the pool that morning. Huntington was just a nice during the day and there were again plenty of surfers. Also there were birds for Isaac (an avid birder). I acclimated to the water quite nicely, but he was kind of on and off with it. The surf was up and fun, and we spent a nice morning playing in the water and laying out.
We had lunch reservations at 2:50 at the Blue Bayou in Disneyland, and thanks to a good friend, got hooked up with tickets for 2 days while in the area. Because of poor planning and GPS usage on my part, we were a little late meeting our contact, but we did get there not long after we’d planned to meet, at the Grand Californian Hotel. Unfortunately, once we parked and got to the resort, another GPS mistake had us walking all thru Downtown Disney and going to the hotel the long way. But once we got in, we met up with our new friend and headed into California Adventure first before heading directly over to Disneyland proper.
My last visit was 2005, just before they started the 50th celebration. I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World at that point, but now I’ve been to those parks a couple times. So it was nice to compare again. I love Disneyland, and the last time, my group only had a 1 day park hopper pass, so we tried to cram too much into one day, and didn’t spend nearly enough time at Disneyland. I loved California Adventure (even then, before the changes), but I really needed more Disneyland time.
We walked thru the park and to the left. I’d never done the tree house, so we went up into that, which was interesting. We looked at Haunted Mansion next, but the line wasn’t conducive to us getting to Blue Bayou on time. We walked to Splash Mountain instead, which was down on my last visit. It ended up the longest line of the day, so we got a fastpass instead. Oh, and I remembered to download the Disney app for wait times and photos. We did do Winnie the Pooh’s Honey Hunt. I love Disney dark rides.
Lunch (or, I guess, more specifically, Supper) at Blue Bayou was outstanding. The atmosphere can’t be beat (even if there were not boat view tables for us). The service was spectacular, and the food? Amazing. I had Gumbo as a starter and it was great. Isaac had Shrimp Boil Cocktail, and he said it was really very good as well. After a bit, the server came over and said there was another Shrimp in the kitchen and wanted to know if Isaac wanted it, but he wanted to save room for the main course, so she asked me, and I gladly obliged. And it was very good. As was the bread.
I had a mint julep (no alcohol) as my drink with water, and steak mid-rare with au gratin potatoes and veggies. Dinner was really special. We both enjoyed it. And our server was beyond amazing. I will eat here again next time.
After eating we headed to Haunted Mansion before remembering our Fast Pass was for Splash Mountain instead. I was unable to ride the last time. The logs on this one is inline seating. And it's a bit different than the WDW version. There are a couple of extra scenes in Florida, but both are a lot of fun.
Then we got in line for Haunted Mansion. This would be the first time seeing the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay. I’m glad I got to do this ride the last time as it originally stands, but seeing this with a different theme was interesting and not bad at all. Then we got in line for Pirates of the Carribbean. I actually like that both queues for this (east coast and west coast) are so different. But aside from that, the west coast version of the ride wins hands down in every other category. More drops, long ride time, less Jack Sparrow (I like him, but not as much as he appears in Florida), and just an overall better ride that floats right by Blue Bayou and Club 33 dining.
Isaac needed caffeine, so we headed to Main Street to Starbucks for a drink. He wanted to ride the carousel, something I’ve never actually done at a Disney park (and I do love a good carousel), so we went to King Arthur’s Carousel. Then we walked back and got in line for Matterhorn (right).
Matterhorn-I like the new animatronics on the ride. That was new from the last time. It is still an interesting ride, though a bit jarring, but I guess that’s okay since it is the first tubular steel coaster. I’ll ride it every time. I like going thru the mountain, racing with the other side, and splashing down in the water.
We’d gotten Fast Passes for Space Mountain and that was coming up. I didn’t get to ride the original as it was being rebuilt during my last visit. And this time the ride was also showing the Ghost Galaxy overlay.
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy-I love Space Mountain east, both sides, with the right side having the slight advantage with the one drop that goes under the left side and gives a nice pop of airtime. Space Mountain the coaster at Disneyland was just as fun and aggressive in California. I wasn’t used to two by two seating, but I liked it. And the way they load handicapped riders was really neat. I really like the projections used for the Ghost Galaxy overlay. It made the mostly in the dark circuit of the coaster more interesting. It was a lot of fun, and the ride was surprisingly aggressive.
When we left Space Mountain, the park was getting dark. We headed over to the Star Wars Launch Bay to check it out, and get our pictures taken with Chewbacca. I was Disneybounding as a Storm Trooper, but the host said I should be okay since I’d gotten a BB88 set of mouse ears over by Space Mountain.
Time was starting to get short. I missed an opportunity to ride the Disneyland Monorail yet again (Gah!) but at least it was running this time and I got to see it. We headed over and did Indiana Jones. I still think it’s much better than Dinosaur (though I love that ride), but this time we had two regulars in the seat beside us that apparently ride it way too much and they had to narrate and comment on the entire ride and voice track. It was annoying. Please, don’t do this. You like like a major idiot.
I wanted to do Jungle Cruise, but the wait was too long. We headed over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad next instead.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad-I love these, and think they are the ultimate mine train rides. They’re fast, fun, so well themed. I hadn’t ridden this one in a while, but it was running well and night rides are always more fun.
We toyed with a ride on the left side of Matterhorn, but they’d cut operation down to only that side, and the line was kind of long. Matterhorn served as both my 99th and 100th coaster, so I’m not too upset about not riding both sides this time since I have them. I would have liked to have done it, but there’s always next time. We headed back to the back of the park because I remember how much I loved Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. We went thru the massive queue and ended up being the only people back there to ride, which was a nice surprise.
This was when we tried to get over to the Monorail, but it was a one way trip outside of the park, and I wanted to take night time photos from Main Street, so we headed back thru Tomorrowland and towards the front. I wish they’d had a fireworks show or something that nite, but no luck. There was a Star Wars fan event, but I think only for the Disney club members. I just know we weren’t invited. And I’m going to force choke whatever Jedi left us off the list.
We headed back to the house and spent more time outside at nite, and actually got used to being in the pool this time for a good while before getting out. My one complaint was not enough time spent in the pool, but the darn thing was rather cool in the evenings and Isaac finally found the light switch that would have helped to warm the water up a little on our last nite there. Bummer. We will stay there next time if it is available though. For the same price (actually about $10 cheaper after taxes) that it would cost to stay at the Disneyland Hotel, we got a 4 bedroom AirBnB house with a private pool, so I’m not complaining.
SoCal Day 5
We got up and spent the morning eating some of our leftover Korean food before hitting up the pool, then heading out. We were going to find the Hollywood sign for a good vantage point so we headed to LA and then then to Hollywood. We actually accidentally ended up at the foot of the hike up to the Hollywood sign. We weren’t prepared, nor did we have the time to do the hike, though I definitely want to do that at some point, so we walked a little bit up the trail before heading back down and driving back to Anaheim for day 2 of Disneyland, or in this case, California Adventure.
Today there were no GPS mishaps. We parked in the parking garage and headed to the Grand Californian on a much easier route this time, meeting up with our contact/new friend for a drink at the bar at the Grand Californian. She was starting her vacation today and wanted to start off right, so we gladly obliged. I had a drink made with Wild Turkey, Red Stag, and something that made it all taste a bit smokey. It was good.
I really did enjoy my visit to California Adventure on my last visit a decade ago, but the park has now grown in much more, and obviously there is that Billion Dollar make over. There were elements I liked from the original, but I won’t mourn their loss too much, because California Adventure, as it stands now, is amazing. We headed over to Pacific Wharf and straight to the main attraction there.
California Screamin’-My last visit was pre trims, but without the audio working. This ride was with Trims and audio. I think Screamin’ is a surprisingly adult ride for Disney, but I like it. The launch is fairly intense. It’s a fairly long ride, with lots of drips and hills. Now, the 2 bunny hops towards the end weren’t nearly as powerful with ejector air like they used to be, but the ride isn’t necessarily ‘ruined’. Just a tad more ‘family friendly’. The loop is well done, and overall the ride has held up over the years. I liked the addition of the audio this time.
Next we headed over to explore Cars Land. Wow. It is such an amazingly detailed area. This is some of the best of Disney that I’ve seen. Makes me want to get to Tokyo next year even more. We toyed with Radiator Springs Racers fast passes, but the line wasn’t that long, so we got in and waited the 45 minutes instead.
Radiator Springs Racers-As much as I liked Test Track and the new ‘Tron’ Track, this is a much better use of the ride system. I really liked it. The first part going thru the animated scenes and interacting with other cars is a lot of fun, and the racing element was a hoot. Yes, I said it was a hoot. That’s how I’m describing it. All good fun. And worth the wait in the elaborately themed queue.
Since we were on a thrill ride kick already we walked over to pay our respects and get our last rides on Tower before it closes down to transform.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror-The queue was full, but the wait wasn’t bad. It isn’t the Florida version, but I’ve always had a special place for this Tower of Terror. I’m not upset to see the theme change, and hope that it stays in Florida, but I really do like what it has in California. The queue is different. And they had 3 women in period clothing singing period music in the lobby, which was a nice touch. I was able to play with my camera in low light. The ride itself is the same great ride it always has been. I love the airtime that you get during the ride’s ups and downs. And I like the one floor that is different than the Florida version, though the 5th dimension in Florida is much, much better.
I’m sad that I couldn’t find a really good souvenir that conveyed that the ride was history. I looked, but nothing stood out. Oh well. We headed to Starbucks on Buena Vista street for some caffeinated beverages. Then hit up the burger joint by Soarin’ (which coincidentally, I’d hit up on my last visit in 2005). After that we hit up Grizzly River Rapids.
Grizzly River Rapids-First off, this ride is outstanding and a lot of fun. But our group made this one of the best experiences on a ride ever. There was a family with a mother, young daughter, and 2 older teen boys on one side of us, and a father with an 8 year old (or slightly younger) son to our other side. The dad jokingly said to his young son that if he gets scared, to grab on to the teenaged boy sitting beside him. I don’t think any of us would have expected what happened when the young boy latched on to the teen and hugged him tight for most of the ride. The teen’s family was laughing, the teen looked awkward (yet secretly liking it), and the boy’s dad was apologetic but amused. Isaac and I thought it was hilarious. Both families were just really fun, and the whole dynamic was great. Again, the ride was great, we got wet, I love the drops, and the theming is really well done.
We walked back over by the area overlooking the lagoon. Took some pictures, then headed to the Golden Zephyr. As soon as we were getting on, the ride went down. It wasn’t a long wait, and we decided to come back. Instead we headed to the Sun Wheel. The wait for a swinging cage was a bit long, but again worth it. Though not as terrifying as Deno’s Wonder Wheel, the Sun Wheel is a lot of fun, and a bit unnerving.
The sun was setting quickly now. And the park was coming alive at nite. Of course, any park is usually great at nite, but this park went out of it’s way to be amazing at nite, and it shows. We had options, but Toy Story Midway Mania didn't have a terrible wait, and, I mean, c’mon. It’s Midway Mania. So of course we got in line. And of course I won for our car. I really do love this ride. As does, like, everybody.
When we came out, it was dark. We had VIP reservations (thanks again!) for World of Color, but it wasn’t quite time. We were trying to decide what to ride next. That ended up being Zephyr. Afterwards, Isaac went on a hot dog hunt, which, thanks to me, took us all around Pacific Wharf and back. We found the VIP section, but our names couldn’t be found initially on the list, so we were kind of put in another section which was okay...but had obstructed views. Isaac went to get his hot dog now that he knew where, and as I was taking photos, a host came over and said that they had our two seats in VIP, so when Isaac came back, we headed on over.
World of Color. I’ve been looking forward to this for years. Ever since it was announced. And it was worth it. The only thing I wish is that they were doing the Tron encore, but oh well. The show is spectacular. The whole park around the lagoon plays a part. Screamin’, the Wheel. The lighting, fire, water, and everything just plays so well together. I took hundreds of photos and videos. It was amazing. So, so worth it.
As we were leaving with the crowds, we went over, and thanks to Disney being such a friendly park, were able to walk over to take some great nite time shots in Cars Land, then Buena Vista street at nite. We headed back to our car, stopped at In N Out (a California staple) and headed home to get some sleep. After some nite time pool time, of course.
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
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