Thursday, June 15, 2017

Disneyland 2017 Trip - Day 3

Todd joined me for the power walk this morning - kudos to him for getting up early.  We had another great walk and got to watch (as we passed and then later looped back through the same area) them rehearsing and shooting a commercial with Mickey on a cherry picker.  Neat!

After the walk we again got breakfast at the Hearthstone Lounge and took it back to the room to eat and relax/nap until the park was open.  We planned to spend this day and the next at Disneyland, so we were not in any hurry today.

A menacing shadow behind the curtains turns out to be just a big moth.  We managed to shoo him out onto the balcony where he glowered at us before flying away.
Good morning Disneyland
First stop:  Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln - an attraction at the beginning of Main Street that we had never done before (and probably won't do again).  Robot Lincoln speaks; historic and iconic, but *yawn*.
Wait for it...
wait for it...
wait for it...
Bam!  Sleeping Beauty Castle.

We went into Tomorrowland and rode Star Tours, then walked around to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and rode it.

Big Thunder Mountain.  You can see a crane in the under-construction Star Wars land in the upper left.
Always a fun ride
Splash Mountain.  We'll come back to you later; right now we have lunch reservations at...
...the Blue Bayou Restaurant
The Blue Bayou is a restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride - boats of passengers float by on the river on one side of the restaurant.
Bottomless nonalcoholic mint juleps.  Delicious and refreshing.  Recipe here.
For lunch Todd had the Jambalaya and I had a Monte Cristo sandwich.
After lunch it was on to the Haunted Mansion

We rode Space Mountain after the Haunted Mansion and then got in line to take the monorail to Downtown Disney and back to the hotel.  This was another first as we had never been on the monorail at Disneyland and it's such an icon.  In hindsight, I don't need to ever go on it again.

Unlike Walt Disney World where the monorail is a means of transportation with many stops, the Disneyland monorail is really just meant as an attraction with one station in Tomorrowland and another in Downtown Disney.  This wouldn't be so bad, but it's slow which means a long wait in line, and once you're on the actual ride is nothing special - a lot of the view on the journey is of the backs of buildings, parking lots, dumpsters, etc.  The view was a little better on the return journey when we went back to the park later, but it's definitely not worth the wait when we could have walked the same distance in 10-15 minutes.

That said, like Mr. Lincoln, I'm glad we experienced it at least once.

Waiting for the monorail, watching the Finding Nemo submarines make their loops
Splish splash I was takin' a bath...
I'll call this one The (sub)Mariners and the Matterhorn
I like this shot.  There's that crane again.
Looking the other way in the monorail line reveals Tomorrowland and Space Mountain

We got back to our hotel room and chilled for about an hour and a half before heading back to Disneyland via the (ugh) monorail.  It was around 6:00 when we got back to the park.

Later afternoon in the lobby

We got a Fast Pass for the Matterhorn Bobsleds then walked over to Adventureland.  The line at the Tiki Juice Bar had been horrendous earlier in the day, but wasn't bad now so we waited and got a Dole pineapple whip.  Yum yum yum.  Afterwards we rode Pirates of the Caribbean then crossed the park, dodging the crowds lining up for the parade that was about to start.  We got corn dogs (yay!) at the Little Red Wagon next to the Plaza Inn at the end of Main Street then found a place to sit down and eat.

We then used our Fast Passes to bypass the 40 minute wait and rode the Matterhorn.  It's a rough ride, but the yeti animatronic inside the mountain is scary and great fun.  By that time it was dark outside so we rode Splash Mountain while everyone else was watching the parade, then took a tour on the Jungle Cruise.

We stopped in the Royal Street Veranda for a sweet before walking back to our hotel and turning in for the night.  The next day would be another good day at Disneyland.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Disneyland 2017 Trip - Day 2

Up at 5:30 for the 6:00am power walk I mentioned in the previous post.  This is free activity for guests staying on-site; you just have to sign up at your hotel or by calling guest services.  Space for each walk is limited to between 10-20 people depending on the day, but I ended up doing this each morning of our trip and we didn't have more than 8 people each day.  The walk itself is 2 miles and takes place in the California Adventure theme park before it's open.  As you go, the cast members leading the walk give facts about the park and answer any questions you have.  It's like a fast, exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.  Taking photos is not allowed on the walk.

The meeting point for the start of the walk was at the Grand Californian entry gate to the California Adventure park.  I arrived at 10 'til and there 4 others waiting.  About 5 minutes later our Disney cast member fitness leaders arrived and after a quick roll call we signed our liability waivers and were given neon yellow safety vests to wear.  Two other guests arrived, and while they were filling out their liability forms the last 2 guests arrived.

The deserted entrance to the park from the hotel.  Waiting to get my walk on.

At 6am on the dot the security guard rolled up the gate and we walked into the park.  We walked all over the park (including the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area which normally only adults accompanying children can enter) and frequently had to step aside for vehicles, maintenance crews, street washers, tree trimmers, etc.  It was really cool to see all the activity taking place in the park to get ready for the day, and our group leader (I think her name was Alexis) was very down-to-earth and answered any questions we had.

36.29 minutes later we were back at the start, having walked a total of 2.06 miles.  It was such a great experience that I would sign up for the next 2 days as well and convinced Todd to join me.

Afterwards I walked into the Hearthstone Lounge (the hotel bar) where they had a small selection of continental breakfast items and coffees/juices.  I grabbed a couple of pastries and juices and took them back up to the room for breakfast.

Todd eventually got up and we ate and got ourselves ready for the day.  We headed through the hotel entrance to the California Adventure park shortly after the park opened.

The first thing we did was get a Fast Pass to Soarin', which is Soarin' Around the World now instead of Soarin' Over California.  Then the first ride of the day was the Grizzly River Run rapids.  Whenever possible you should get a Fast Pass before waiting in line for another ride.  On the rapids we shared a raft with a local family (who were skipping school) for the youngest's birthday - what a cool birthday!  I got mildly wet and Todd got soaked which suited both of us just fine.

Loading station
Final plunge.  There's a bit of a fun/nasty surprise right before you come down - I won't give it away here!
Soarin' Around the World.  The ride has been updated and has gone international.
The Soarin' queue

Next up was the Silly Symphony Swings, a ride we'd never been on before.  While we were in the area we got a Fast Pass for Toy Story Midway Mania, another ride we'd never been on at this park.

Paradise Pier
Silly Symphony Swings
"Look Ma, I'm flyin'!"  Ma: "Wheee!"

We skipped California Screamin' this time around

The Corn Dog Castle was closed(!) for refurbishment, so after recovering from the tragedy we went over to the Pacific Wharf area for lunch.  We walked through the Boudin Bakery tour for our free sample of sourdough bread, then grabbed lunch from the Pacific Wharf Cafe and ate it outside.  I had the turkey pesto club and Todd had broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl.  Both featured Boudin sourdough bread baked at the bakery on site.

The soup was a little watery
A beautiful day to blow raspberries in front of the Lucky Fortune Cookery.

After lunch we took a quick look inside the Ghiradelli chocolate shop where they handed out free chocolate samples.  So good.

Toy Story Midway Mania loading area
Heading into the ride

Next we headed to Cars Land and got in the single rider line for Radiator Springs Racers.  The single rider line means you wait in line with your party, but when it comes time to ride you'll be split up to fill other vehicles where only 1 seat is left.  It's typically much shorter - the regular line for Radiator Springs Racers was 60 minutes, but we only waited 10 minutes in the single rider line.  We actually ended up in the same car on different rows.

The scenery here is incredible
Racing cars cresting the hill in this amazing landscape
Waterfall in the distance

After Racers we rode Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters before leaving Cars Land.

Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters
Waiting in line
Let's-a go!
"Rollicking Night and Day"
Such a weird but fun little ride
All lined up for the big finale

Look what we came upon next:

The Collector's fortress has been revealed
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has been transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout
For reference, here's what it looked like on a previous trip
The ride wasn't open when we were there at the beginning of May, but it's open now
Quite a different look

We took a break and ducked into the old Muppets 3D theater to see a 10-minute preview of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  The preview was pretty good with in-theater effects like flashing lights, but it looks like the actual movie got poor ratings.

We rode Soarin' again using our Fast Passes, took another spin on Grizzly River Run, then another ride on Radiator Springs Racers before heading back to the room for a break and a nap.  With such easy access to the hotel, how could we not?

The entrance area for Grizzly River Run
Grizzly Peak in the background
A closer view of the rotating loading dock
This is a shot of the turnoff to exit the park and go to the hotel.  Our room was straight ahead behind the trees to the left

We rested for a couple of hours on the other bed we weren't sleeping in nightly, then showered off sunscreen and went back to the park for our dinner reservation at the Carthay Circle restaurant.

I see it
There it is - the Carthay Circle

This is a must do - it never fails to disappoint
Starting off with a couple of pear martinis.  And continuing with a couple more.
"I once caught a martini that was this big..."
Todd's telling me a story.  I think I hear Lush Life playing in the background
Our waitress was fantastic.  I went to the bathroom and she transformed my napkin into the Sydney Opera House.

We had appetizers of fried biscuits "Stuffed with white cheddar, bacon, and jalapeƱo with apricot-honey butter", and ginger-soy lettuce cups which were much less descriptive:  "Romaine, house-made sambal".

For entrees Todd had the salmon and I had the ribeye.  Both were outstanding.  I also had a glass of pinot noir.  Desserts consisted of a caramel something-or-other for Todd with hot tea, and a chocolate marshmallow turnover for me with an Irish coffee.  Delicious!

By the time dinner was done the park had closed and it was time to head back to the hotel.  We strolled leisurely back to the room to find the beds turned down and Ghiradelli chocolates on the pillows.  It was a great way to end the night.

Rides in the mist - the empty rapids rafts return home to the station
Or Close Encounters of the Third Kind - you decide