Since one of the rules of social media etiquette is "Don't make it too easy for stalkers and burglars," and since we have now returned, I can tell you what Captain Midnight and I have been up to this past week.
How it started:Back in October...
Soozcat: Hey, have you seen the fare sales for flights recently?
Soozcat: They are super reasonable. Look at this flight to LAX.
CM: That is a good price.
Soozcat: What are we doing the week before Thanksgiving?
CM: Nothing that I know of. You have anything planned?
Both: LET'S GO TO DIZZYLAND!
And so we did. Well, after shopping and paying for flight/hotel/rental car/park tickets/etc. and finding some cat-sitters.
If you're planning to visit the parks soon, some random bits of potentially useful info:
- Long Beach Airport (we call it the Fisher-Price Airport for its tiny, retro terminal building) is a good choice. It isn't the closest to Disneyland (John Wayne Airport in Orange County is closer), but it's so small that you can get in and out of there fast.
- Disney resorts offer few ticket discounts, but you can lower costs a little by planning ahead. We bought tickets from Get Away Today (who did not pay for this endorsement, btw), and this time we passed on the Park Hoppers to buy three-day 1-Park Per Day tickets. Each morning we decided which of the two Disney parks we'd visit (we chose two days at Disneyland and one day at Disney California Adventure). Whichever ticket option you choose, buying tickets in advance is better than buying full-price tickets at the gate.
- If big crowds are an issue for you (they are for us), check a crowd forecast calendar (here's one) to see how busy the parks will be on the days you plan to visit. We picked the first few days in the week before Thanksgiving (the 13th, 14th and 15th) because we saw the crowds would be manageable on those days.
- Arrive early. Even if you already have tickets, there will be wait lines at the entrance. You can enter the parks before they officially open; you just won't be able to get on any rides. Being right there the moment they open means more opportunities to get on rides and pick up FastPasses (on which, more later).
- You can carry food into the parks. We brought simple snacks like beef jerky, cheese sticks and granola bars. Just don't pack anything in glass containers, because Disney security searches all bags and will remove glass. (I saw a four-pack of Frappuccinos getting confiscated from a woman ahead of me in line.)
- It's easy to get dehydrated, and the cost of drinks inside the resort is nuts, so bring a water bottle with you (preferably plastic -- see above), drink early and often, and refill it as needed. And it will be needed -- we each went through 3+ liters of liquid every day. There's a water station at the Rancho del Zocalo restaurant in Disneyland's Frontierland. DCA has a baby care and lost child center next to the Ghirardelli soda fountain in Pacific Wharf; if you're polite and ask the attendants, they'll let you refill your bottle from the sink.
- Get FastPasses. We've heard good reports about the MaxPass app, which lets you reserve FastPasses from your smartphone, but there wasn't a version for CM's phone, so we just picked up FastPasses as quickly as possible for any popular attraction we wanted to ride. We'd also see if other attractions in the area had short standby wait times and would get in line if the wait was 15 minutes or less. This method let us ride nearly everything we wanted at least once, and a few popular rides multiple times. Also, if you like the Indiana Jones ride, get FastPasses as early as possible and hang onto them even if the ride breaks down during your FastPass window (as it frequently does). You'll be able to get on as soon as it reopens.
- KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TICKETS. You must scan your park entrance tickets at the beginning and end of each FastPass line, which means you take your tickets out more often, and every time you take out your ticket is another chance to lose it. And if you do, your Disney vacation is over -- no refunds. So keep your tickets safe.
- There are LOTS of food options in the parks, and while none are super-cheap, some are better values than others. CM likes to get a taco salad from Disneyland's Rancho del Zocalo for lunch, since the price is relatively reasonable and it keeps him full until dinner. DCA's Pacific Wharf is a glorified food court; it's easy to walk around this area and make one of several choices for lunch.
- While it's pricey (as of November 2017, expect to spend $100+ on a meal for two), we like to spring for an atmospheric lunch at Disneyland's Blue Bayou Restaurant in New Orleans Square. This perennially-twilit restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride fills up quickly with reservations, but there's often space available for walk-in diners, especially at lunchtime. Just don't eat the gumbo! It's a total salt bomb.
- Don't freak out too much about the signage that says the premises contain compounds known to the State of California to cause cancer. If you wander around Southern California, you will see these signs everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. The State of California has determined that everything fun causes cancer. Just accept that modern life is inherently hazardous and go your merry way.
SoCal:We arrived late on the 11th and checked into our hotel. It was right by a state highway, which worried me, but we didn't hear traffic noises once. Thanks to an improperly-installed door, however, we did hear the conversations of everyone who passed by our hotel room, day or night. (We slept very soundly on this trip, so it didn't matter.)
The 12th was a day of rest. We bummed around the hotel, watched TV, went to brunch, and I wrote many postcards to the fam. Following longstanding family tradition, I sent this to my sister Julie:
|(Julie started it.)|
And speaking of what Disney has going on:
So, as previously indicated, our first two days were spent in Disneyland enjoying our favorite parts of the park. Then, on the 15th...
In the early planning stages, DCA was known as "Westcot." The original idea was to make it a western version of the Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, but at some point that idea was abandoned to make way for California Adventure -- originally a park made up of "the best California has to offer." But the original vision of DCA didn't work for most visitors, who reasoned that they were already in California and could go see the places that inspired DCA if they wanted; what they'd hoped for was something unique. So recently DCA got a huge (and expensive) overhaul.
If I could give the Disney people one idea to implement in DCA, it would be this: add a transportation circle route. The Disneyland Railroad gets people to sections of the park faster than they can walk there, and it helps pull all the lands of the park together. There's no similar circle route around DCA, and it needs one. A streetcar running on a track around the edges of DCA would serve the area just as the DLRR does in Disneyland. If the track had to be routed through Cast Member Only areas, you could disguise it by creating tunnels or something like the Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama that hides the big Cast Member area in Disneyland.
But they're not likely to do this, having just spent a bazillion dollars retooling DCA. Eh well.
As you turn the corner to the right, you expect to see the old Hollywood Tower Hotel (aka the Tower of Terror), but this has been retooled as a new attraction. More on that later.
This area has a 3D theater that until recently housed MuppetVision 3D, but which is currently empty. (My cousin David would be so sad.) It also has a Monsters Inc. dark ride called Mike and Sulley to the Rescue, which has an animatronic of Roz that's "smart" enough to recognize things like glasses, cameras, purses, etc., and to make comments about them as you leave the ride.
Anyway, this is Toy Story Midway Mania, a hybrid dark ride and 3D video game. You put on your 3D glasses, hop in a cart and are steered around to various projected midway attractions where you hit targets with your onboard pop gun. It's fun, but a long wait because it's relatively new. CM got the high score for our cart every time.
I think the long-range plan is for DCA to be a showcase for Disney's newer properties, like Pixar and Marvel. You can see it already in Cars Land and a bug's land. I could easily see them rebranding this entire area Pixar Pier.
From this ride we learned that the fluke is the duke of soul. (Yeah.)
Also, I just want to point out the T-shirt of the guy on the left, which says, "I'm So Fly I Never Land."
I have to admit, I didn't think I was going to like this retooling. The old Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, despite being based on a carnival drop ride, was suitably atmospheric and creepy, and the random drops were scary in an I-AM-GOING-TO-DIE sort of way. I didn't think they could make it better.
They made it better.
You enter a room described as Tivan's private study, and a film comes on wherein Tivan introduces you to his collection, but he doesn't get very far because Rocket drops into the room through a vent and starts messing with the audio. He explains that he needs your help to bust the Guardians out of prison, since humanoid hands are the only ones that can pass the scanners. Once you're in the lift with seatbelt securely fastened (and be sure it's SECURELY fastened, because you're gonna have some zero-g experiences soon) and it pulls away from the doors, you can see Rocket's silhouette on top of the gantry pulling cables apart and screwing up the hardware. Then he plugs one cable into a portable music device -- and the first time we rode this thing, the music from the Awesome Mix we got (it's randomly selected) made me holler YAAAAS because it was the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." Which has the best intro bass line of all time, and you can't not be happy listening to that.
So then you start getting randomly pulled up and dropped to various levels, and at each stopping point you see a high-resolution projection of what the Guardians are up to -- usually getting attacked by various other denizens of the Tivan collection which are on the loose as well.
It was fun, but being a fat lady I had to hang onto the grab bar with all my might after the first good drop. Even with the seatbelt as tight as it would go, I was taking some serious air. WheeeAAAAAUGH
Let's see, what else? To the right of Buena Vista Street is Condor Flats, but I didn't really take pictures of this area. It's where you can find the Soarin' ride, which is one of my favorites, but it was completely socked in with people. There was a huge line just to get FastPasses, and the standby line was over an hour long. So we didn't ride it this time.
Most other water rides in the Disneyland Resort say, "You may get wet." Not this one. This one says, "You WILL get wet. You may get SOAKED."
Yup yup yup. True true true. If we'd chosen to visit DCA the day before, we could have ridden it. But we didn't know. So we didn't get the chance this time. It just means we have to visit DCA again soon, right?
Well, while we're here, let's just see what else Radiator Springs has to offer.
Oh, and a hubcap Christmas tree because have we mentioned IT'S CHRISTMAS?
The aftermath:We headed home on the 16th, by which point CM was starting to feel sniffly and had a sore throat. He's spent the last few days with a full-on head and chest cold, which is not the best way to round out a vacation, poor guy. But at least he's sick at home, which is better than being sick on vacation. I have been dosing him with chicken soup and ginger tea, and he's been taking medicinal hot baths and eating fiery raw garlic popcorn, so whatever bug he's picked up should soon be defeated.
And if you got all the way to the end of this long and rambly vacation tale, congratulations! You are truly mighty! Go get yourself a taco salad!