Disneyland Observations from a WDW fan perspective

Friday, November 7, 2014

I was definitely out of my element walking down Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland. I had read up, I had listened to podcasts, I had planned as much as one can plan when one has never been to Disneyland before.

I knew I was especially excited about a few very important things; Matterhorn and all the other DL specific rides, Pirates, and Haunted Mansion's special holiday overlay. Steve fully expected me to be his tour guide for the evening, hustling him here and there with a clear vision and plan in mind. I definitely didn't have a plan because this was just a tiny part of our seven day road trip and I really wasn't sure what to expect from this event. For starters, I needed a map?!?!

My observations:

This is not like WDW, not at all. It is similar, yes, but in more of a cousin way than a sibling way. Sure, some of the rides are almost (but not quite) the same, but that in many ways is where the similarities end.

We saw far fewer families with children than I expected. I think we both had preconceived ideas that we would stand out as a couple without children, but it was quite the opposite. This is so very much a locals park. I feel confident saying that the majority of the attendees that night were older teens and very young adults and they were (with very few exceptions) very thoughtfully and elaborately attired. Steve was certain many times that he was seeing the REAL Cinderella walk by, that was how intense some of these costumes were.

Bengal Barbecue. We were absolutely starving when we finally made our way to Indiana Jones (one of my DL specific must dos). The ride was down so since we had to wait to ride anyway, we enjoyed drying off from splash a bit at this little spot in Adventureland. I am not sure if I liked the skewers or the jalapeno cheese pretzel more (probably the pretzel because jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzel!!). The portions were a bit on the small side, but the skewers were flavorful and decidedly yummy. My carnivore spouse was VERY happy with this choice.

What is with the yellow strap? I can't recall ever being asked to "pull up on your yellow strap for me, please?" at WDW and there it was on the Matterhorns, Indiana Jones... What is with the yellow strap?

The duplicate rides (ones at both WDW and DLR) were just plain out better here. Pirates, Space, Thunder. I worry that these might be tarnished at WDW a bit for me now and that is saying a lot because those are some of my favorite attractions.

Haunted Mansion's Jack Skellington overlay was so amazing I would have rode it five times had the line not been so long. It is just so well done and executed perfectly. Steve has NEVER seen the movie (?!), so a lot of it was over his head and I can imagine anyone who hasn't seen the movie would be incredibly lost. This was one of my favorite parts of our entire evening. If you can get to Disneyland next year to see it, I cannot more highly recommend it.

When I first talked to Steve about this trip, my plan was attractions, ambience, snacks and attractions. I was completely uninterested in waiting in long lines to meet characters and yet, there they were, characters just standing there waiting for someone to come play. We happened upon Pluto (no cue), Goofy (just entering from backstage), Woody (walked right up to him as you can see below in that too bright photo), and Genie & Prince Ali had a very short wait while Steve was getting a snack anyway, so WHY NOT? Not only were the lines short (for some characters), but they really wanted you to stick around. Prince Ali said, "that's it?" after I took our selfie because I felt badly taking up too much of their time. They clearly didn't think I was. I asked Genie if he thought we would all fit for the photo and he tried to climb into my phone which was hilarious. When I approached Woody, I told him my nephew was his biggest fan and this was a photo for him and he posed perfectly. The characters were reminiscent of how I remember Disney with my own family as child. Characters were just walking about, with no cueing, no scramble of people racing to get their attention and be the first one. On top of that, they were so interactive and really took their time (not just with the kids) and made these moments truly memorable. I won't soon forget this one.

The biggest observation was how I felt as a rookie out there. It has been a long, long time since I haven't known my way around a Disney Park (at least in a general, let's go here and then there way) and I was utterly lost. It was nighttime, landmarks were more challenging to find in the dark, and half the time I didn't even know the landmark I was looking for. I was frustrated that I couldn't seem to find my dole whip. It feels especially hard when your partner for the night keeps looking to you as the guide and you can only shrug your shoulders. Though challenging, this was a really good reminder of what that first timer experience is like and I have renewed energy to ensure my clients are prepared properly to not only have a good itinerary, but find their way with confidence.

Have you been to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World? How would YOU compare the two?

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Disneyland - Mickey's Halloween Party

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Here is the play by play of our seven hours at Disneyland for Mickey's Halloween Party.

We had not planned to arrive in Anaheim until mid afternoon, just in time to check-in and get ourselves to the front gates of Disneyland, but we were able to squirrel away more sightseeing than planned in Beverly Hills the night before. We were walking distance to Rodeo Drive and the Beverly Wilshire, but we were oddly the only people out walking. We got more than our fill of the "culture" of Beverly Hills as we had cocktails and a light meal at the Beverly Wilshire, especially when the entertainment value was so high with the people watching. You will have to read more later, but I can tell you I was glued to my seat watching two businessmen and a Ferrari jacket wearing retiree get into a heated verbal argument at the bar. Steve had to pull me away citing time, though I suspect it was really my $18 martini that prompted our exit.

We checked in early to the Candy Cane Inn, dropped our bags, and drove right over to Downtown Disney for lunch and shopping. We were just a teensy bit excited to be there.

We (okay, I) skipped into Earl of Sandwich right at the lunch rush (Holiday Turkey, yummmm) before heading directly to the World of Disney to pick up some treats for the kids. We wanted to catch a shuttle to be at the gates when they opened for the Halloween event, so it was a quick trip and a dash back to the hotel to get ready for the night. We were there for the countdown after a failed plan to grab a cocktail at Trader Sam's.
I snagged a couple maps and we headed right down Main Street & through the castle. I was not underwhelmed by Sleeping Beauty's castle at all. The castles are unique of one another and as a social worker, I am all about diversity. We sat down for a minute to regroup because it had been very hot waiting to get in the sun. Carl needed a break. Did I mention that we were dressed very lightly as Carl & Ellie from Up? This was our big adventure after all! Steve didn't wear his glasses most of the night, so I got a lot of "Belle," but that's ok.

As we stood up to continue on our way, there was the Fairy Godmother greeting guests. We snapped this one for our little princess fan at home. 
In my planning prep, I had reviewed what would and wouldn't be open during the party, so we headed directly to Toon Town before they shut it down for the night (that's steve's finger over the lens)

Pluto, one of my favorites, was finishing up with a family, had no character attendant in sight, and had no cue, so clearly we had to make this happen. 
When in Toon Town you must relive a bit of your childhood, so we waited for Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Steve enjoyed this view of Jessica Rabbit in the cue. The movie came out when we were still young enough to enjoy a good cartoon and I immediately added it to my amazon cart for the kids from Santa. They will love it as much as we did and the ending will have them pulling the blanket over their head, just as it did to us. 

We happened to be walking by as Goofy came out for a bit and knowing he is my father in law's favorite, we waited just a moment to snap a photo with him.

We were in a holding pattern for a bit after that waiting for the park to close to day guests as the lines were still pretty long in many places. One place they weren't was Big Thunder Mountain, so we headed in that direction and met a cowboy on the way. I sent this photo to my sister in law for my nephew, Woody's biggest fan, and he happened to be using her phone when it popped up. Wish I could have seen his face.

We rode Thunder, then waited a bit (ok, a pretty long time) for Pirates because I was so excited about it, before heading back through Fantasyland (still long lines) and over to Tomorrowland. I decidedly beat my husband on Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. Declaring me a cheater and requesting a rematch, I beat him a second time and then purchased him a souvenir key chain so he can always remember that I will always win, everything. Cast members started checking wristbands and we headed directly to Space Mountain before my roller coaster hating husband could change his mind. The ride was a walk on and the Ghost Galaxy overlay was fantastic. I definitely prefer this version to WDW. 
We hit several more attractions like Matterhorn and Storybook Canal Boats while heading back in the direction of Liberty Square to wait in the unavoidable line for Haunted Mansion. It was WORTH IT!

Time was ticking away (though we had been in the park for several hours) and Steve wasn't leaving until we went on Splash Mountain. Our recent trip in January to WDW had this attraction in refurbishment during our stay. As we climbed in behind two big guys, I knew our fate was sealed and we were going to get WET. Try soaked through in a rented dress! I considered buying flip flops my shoes were so wet. I was chilly for the rest of the night, but it was such fun. Steve loves this ride and mugged for the photo while I braced for impact.

With one must do remaining, we headed to Indiana Jones and found it down. Taking quick stock of the snacks we had enjoyed, we decided it was a good time to grab something and went to Bengal Barbecue. We split several skewers and a jalapeno cheese pretzel. Though the skewers were smaller portions (three pieces per skewer), they were exactly what we needed to power through. That pretzel might be my new favorite snack to stalk in the parks. Indy opened, definitely a highlight of the night, and with no wait I almost convinced Steve to ride it again. Time was definitely pressed at this point because we had a rendezvous with Big Thunder for 9:30, during the fireworks. I was so excited about this because our timing was absolutely perfect.

With our checklist checked and our Halloween spirits full, we headed toward the exit at around 10PM, still soaked through. I snapped one last photo of us on Main Street before we headed out the gates.


This was a RECORD day for Steve with his Fit Bit and since I walked alongside him stride for stride, we both achieved this astounding number of steps for the day. We walked a half marathon at Disneyland, which beat any total day at WDW. Sure, we were back and forth a lot, we didn't tour "correctly," but what FUN! I exited the gates feeling such gooey feelings for all things Disney and will certainly plan to take our littles West to experience this for themselves someday in the future when they had handle the long flight. If you ever have the opportunity to spend some time in this happy place, I promise you won't be disappointed.


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Candy Cane Inn - Anaheim

Saturday, November 1, 2014

With so many hotel stays on this trip (7!), our accommodations budget did not allow for a night in a Disneyland Resort property. I was a little sad about this, but instead chose to see this as a great opportunity to check out a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel. Have you heard about these properties? All hotels are AAA approved and are carefully screened to ensure they meet Disney quality standards. We wanted to be as close to Mickey's backyard as we possible could be, so we chose the Candy Cane Inn.

We rolled into Anaheim ahead of schedule and well before the appointed check in time. Our room was indeed ready and they were happy to check us in. The lobby is centrally located in the horseshoe driveway. Self parking in plentiful and complimentary. Staff provided a hang tag to identify our car as a Candy Cane Inn guest. Our room was located on the first room in the far back left corner, but the property is small enough that this was walkable and quite manageable from the lobby or shuttle. Staff were courteous and efficient. I had a package delivered the hotel and they spotted it on our reservation and someone brought it down from luggage storage immediately while we were checking in.

Shuttles to the parks depart on the hour and the half hour and make return trips to the hotel on the quarter hour. The final pick up the night we were there was at 9:45pm and we knew we would be staying out later than that. We were able to gauge the walk on the very short ride over and it was quite walkable, even in wet Splash Mountain destroyed cotton flats.

Our room was handicapped accessible, which provided a great deal of space, but prevents me from reviewing a "standard room." If time had allowed on this trip (and it unfortunately didn't), I could have asked to see a standard room. Our room had a cozy chair, table, armoire and king bed. It was tidy and fresh.

The hotel offers a complimentary continental breakfast in the modest pool area behind the lobby. The pool was well utilized by guests, but never appeared overcrowded. The breakfast was standard continental fare; juices, coffee, bagels, muffins, cereals, and pastry. It is a nice touch to offer something like that and not every hotel in the area does.

We had a very pleasant, quiet, comfortable stay at the Candy Cane Inn and would recommend it for the budget conscious Disneyland visitor.

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NDR (Not Disney Related) Vegas, baby.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'm putting my Vegas look into YOUR capable hands! It's the crowning moment of our trip, the last hurrah, the GRAND Finale and I just can't decide.

Plan: Dinner, a show (still yet to be determined), cocktails, and a little time at the Craps table.

Options are below, first dress is option 1 and so forth. Click here Dress Me! to submit your feedback.



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Le's talk about our night in Disneyland!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

That trip to California that seemed SO far away just a bit ago has totally crept up on us and while I won't say we are in panic mode, we have a LOT to do in short time. Last week I did what any (ir)rational planner would do and sent away for these. Last WEEK.

Don't get me wrong, we have a lot of our itinerary built, mostly because we needed to plan a place to oh I don't know, SLEEP! This girl does not travel cross country to have the anniversary adventure that dreams are made of and pitch a tent. It's just not me. I would be cranky mess from being up all night worrying about the animals waiting just outside to gobble me up.

We have secured a hotel in every planned stopping point with the exceptions of LA and Vegas. We keep getting stuck on these and can't pull the trigger. So if you have any reasonable recommendations for the Beverly Hills area of LA please comment back because we have spent WAY too much time comparing hotels and pricing in LA. I think we finally decided last night we are going to go big before we go home for our night in Vegas. It's the capstone of the trip, the big finale, and when I ask will we ever be back in Vegas just us two? Perhaps never!

I already shared that I tucked in a night at Disneyland and to make it final, I purchased the Mickey's Halloween Party tickets. This is one of the many things I have learned in a decade of marriage; We discuss, we plan, we agree, he procrastinates, I push purchase. NO LOOKING BACK.

This brings us to the Halloween Party itself. We opted to stay at a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel in Anaheim that night. This was our compromise because as fantastic and magical as it might have been to stay the night at the Disneyland Hotel, it would have busted our accommodations budget. Plus, getting Steve to agree to Disneyland was only Step A and if I pushed too hard Step B would be have gotten only laughs and a stubborn solid "NO."
Step B. It's Halloween! Costumes of some kind are an absolute must. If you know Steve, asking him to dress up in anyway is about the equivalent of asking him why he isn't on Facebook. I didn't want to give him a chance to dig his heels in and refuse. This whole "Adventure is Out There" vacation is so very Up isn't it? We must pay homage to our character inspiration and somehow go as Carl and Ellie!
I won't let him think on it too much, I will take that lesson learned from up there about the tickets and just click purchase on the amazon cart for these items and if I have to pack them into my own bag (SO HELP ME, GOD) to get them physically to the state of California, I will. He is SO Carl. He can be frustratingly stubborn, but has a heart of solid gold. I know when he gets there and sees how excited I am to be at Disneyland, he won't hesitate to put on these glasses for me. 
That adorable dress! Don't even think I am buying an Ellie dress because I don't buy dresses. I am planning to use my go to resource for all dress needs, Rent the Runway, to have an Ellie inspired look delivered to our hotel. EASY! How you TRIED this service yet? It's amazing and I rave about it all the time. (this is a completely unsponsored rave, by the way, that's how much I love it!) I won't have to pack my dress, it will come pressed and ready to wear, and I will have two sizes to select the one I am most comfortable in. The following morning, as we grab coffee and plan our exit towards Vegas, I will stuff it back into a UPS mailer and send it back in a rumpled mess. That always gives me such satisfaction! I love this service so much that I am also planning to rent a Vegas dress. In fact, that is my very next post, which I know isn't exactly Disney, but travel related nonetheless. Please plan to come back and vote on my Vegas look for our final night of our great California Anniversary adventure!

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linking up

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Few things delight me more than "following" friends on their magical Disney vacations. I look forward to seeing their photos on Facebook, twitter, and instagram. I love reading their text updates (and answering their questions!!). It's almost like being there, isn't it? I get sad when they check out and head home. I share in their post Disney depression.

Tell me, is there a better Facebook update than this one?  

I watched Ann hop through the parks on instagram (attention kerry, this photo booth is calling our name)

Beth's family got to hold the timer card for Barnstormer. This always makes the wait just a little more manageable. It's one of those little Disney details that makes me smile.

I love the texts. I'm not shy. I won't give you space and silence because you are off on a magical Disney vacation. NOPE. I'll ask how crowded it is, if you had a cocktail while watching Wishes from the Poly, how hot it is, if the kids liked Animal Kingdom, and anything else I can to be closer to the magic with you.

I offer enthusiastic and genuine accolades for a perfectly executed Main Street Electric Parade viewing spot.

I react to photos and video. Ann's daughter was dressed perfectly as Belle and during her time with Jasmine and Aladdin, she completely turned her back to him because duh, JASMINE. We even shared a sad moment that even as I read it again now, gives me that lump in my throat. You are never really ready to go home from Walt Disney World are you?

As if all those social media updates weren't enough (and honestly, they weren't because I would have hopped into their carry-on), I recently discovered a sweet bonus to My Disney Experience (MDE).

have you downloaded the MDE app yet?

The "Friends & Family" options through MDE allow you to "invite a friend to plan and share." Once your friend accepts your invitation to share and checks off the boxes to allow you to "view my plans," you have the golden ticket to literally follow along moment by moment.

Here is an example from my own MDE account. (I did my best to block out last names to protect the innocent) In this example, my children are managed by myself and therefore thankfully cannot plan or share. Below them is my sister-in-law kerry, who will be my partner in crime for our upcoming Hop & Shop Holiday Spectacular. I have been doing all the planning thus far and haven't yet sent her an invite to plan and share. When I do, she can accept and view all our plans through her own MDE account and the MDE app. At the bottom, is my husband Steve. You can see that he has his own MDE account (noted below his name) and he can view the plans I have made AND can view and purchase PhotoPass Photos.

When you open MDE and click "my itinerary," it will open to the first day of YOUR plans. If you don't have any future plans (and why don't you???), it is completely tragically and un-magically empty. If, however, I am linked to friends like Ann & Beth who both just happen to be traveling this week with their families, I open MDE and see their plans. Two friends, two well-executed plans, two completely wonderfully different vacations!
These are Ann's Thursday plans on top and Beth's below. One chose to finish the trip at Magic Kingdom and the other is celebrating her daughter's birthday with a Princess dinner at Akershus tonight. I can see their FP+ reservations, the notes they wrote into their own itinerary, and I can get a sense of what kind of day they are going to have. I cannot tell you how much fun it has been this week to open the MDE app in the morning and see where they are each headed.
Consider linking up to your friends, sharing your plans with them, and adding yet another dimension to the game we play at home while friends and family play down there. My most jealous moment this week was O'Hana (TWICE). Our holiday trip is the middle of December, let's link up! I would love to share my moment to moment with you and follow along on your next trip! Don't have a MDE account yet? Why not??

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Don't tell Steve about the Ghosts

Friday, August 15, 2014

If anyone thought I could travel to CA, and more specifically to Los Angeles, without a stop at Disneyland, oh forget it. NO ONE thought that.
Steve and I continue to tweak our CA road trip plans; How long here? What things to see there? Where to stay? What to eat? Our current itinerary has us in the LA area for about a day and half.

A single day isn't even close to enough time to explore all that Disneyland has to offer with Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney.  Sadly, in our case, we aren't even going to have a full day. This made me slightly pouty. HOW was I going to work in something Disneyland related without feeling completely gypped of the full experience???

Enter Disney Magic.

    (photo from Pinterest)

Our trip plan just happens to place us in LA in time for a mid-week Mickey's Halloween Party.  As I read all about the "Halloween Screams" fireworks, Disney Villains strolling about, trick or treat stations to keep us fueled up, and special overlays on the classics Haunted Mansion with Jack Skellington

    (photo from Pinterest)

and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy

    (Photo from The Examiner)

this was sounding more and more perfect. I lost Steve when I told him we would need to consider costuming and then got him again when I suggested a young Carl & Ellie in honor of our "Adventure is out there!" trip. He can handle some square frames.

    (Photo from Pinterest)

We need to lock up our itinerary a bit more, especially for this part of our trip, but it is looking more & more like this will fit in perfectly with our plans. An evening adventure is just what we need to soak in some Disney before we head to sin city.

You can learn more about this often sold out (!) hard ticket event happening between September 12th and October 31st at Disneyland here:

Mickey's Halloween Party

Did you know that Walt Disney World also offers a hard ticket Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the fall?? It's equally spectacular and the fireworks are absolutely breathtaking! Event dates begin September 1st and go through October 31st!

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

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