Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Beach and Cars Land!

Guess who just got back from the happiest place on earth?? This girl (I say this as I'm taking both thumbs and pointing them towards myself while open-mouth smiling and shaking my head 'yes')!!! Oh yeah!!! This is one happy blogger today! I am so thrilled to come back and reminisce about my wonderful beach day and Disney trip. I will include some pictures of the new additions to California Adventure and give you a full re-cap of all the summer festivities that were going on at the parks.

We kind of spontaneously decided to go on this trip as one last hoorah before the summer ends and the hubby starts his new job. We thought a long weekend in California for a beach day and a day at Disneyland would do the trick. Can you think of a better way to end the summer?? I can't! It was seriously perfect. We needed one quick trip before the hectic holiday season approaches and some quality time together before our schedules have us both tied down to full-time jobs. So, we booked our hotel Thursday through Priceline (got a sweet deal for the Hilton, by the way) and left on Sunday!

July 29th - Beach Day

We woke up nice and early Sunday morning and hit the road. Off to California we went! We arrived in Newport around three o'clock and unwound at one of our favorite places to eat, Cafe Rio. After some much needed food and rest, we headed down to my sister's house a few blocks away. We spent the rest of the day at the beach together. It was so perfect... the cold salt water was a great contrast to the warm, soft sand, which was a nice, gentle exfoliant for my tired feet (hello free pedicure). It was so relaxing listening to the waves calmly crash along the shore and feeling the gentle, moist, ocean breeze that balanced the mild warmth from the sun. The cool, fresh air left me feeling revitalized after months of the harsh Arizona heat.

After the beach, we made our way to the hotel. As soon as we parked the car, the Disneyland fireworks started going off! We stood in the parking lot together and watched the show in anticipation for our arrival there the next morning. Seeing the show from a distance is really neat because you hear the booming sounds of the fireworks long after they have gone off. You can actually hear them rumble past you, section by section, until the sound waves trail off in the distance.

View of the Disneyland fireworks from our hotel parking lot

When we checked-in for our stay in the lobby, I noticed these spooky little candelabras adorning the walls.

Were we checking-in to the Haunted Mansion or the Hilton?
We got to the room and it was sooo nice! The bed was big, fluffy and cozy and gave us both a good night's sleep. This is necessary when you're pulling a 16-hour, 8am-12am day at Disney ;-)

July 30th - Disney Day!

We woke-up early and left the hotel by 7:00 to grab breakfast at Starbucks and make it to Disneyland for the park opening. It was a cool, overcast morning, perfect for a hot cinnamon dolce latte! I really love groggy, cool mornings... the day kind of wakes up with you instead of blaring bright sun in your face. I enjoy the gradual transition. All in all, it was the perfect morning. After that, it was on to Disneyland we went!
Happiest parking garage ticket on earth- hands down!
We got to the Mickey & Friends parking structure by 7:30 to be in the park for the opening at 8am. The Daisy parking section was our calling, and from there we walked down and waited for the tram. First in line. Booyah. The tram driver was really fun and added some extra magic to our day. He got on the speaker and was interactive with the guests for the entire drive. He was funny and Disney all rolled into one. When the tram finally approached the main gate, I could barely contain my excitement as I jumped out and ran towards the security checkpoint. Once they checked my purse and we were in, I had to hold back tears. I was so overwhelmed with pure joy... I looked to my left, and there was the Disneyland main entrance in all its magical glory. I looked to my right, and there was the brand new, reimagined California Adventure in all of its wonder and excitement. Our Disney day was here and I could not have been happier!

We took a right and our journey began in California Adventure. Starting the day in Cali Adv is a really, really fun way to kickoff the morning! I had never done it before, mostly because the entrance to that park was very non-Disney prior to the refurbishment, and I like to start my day with Disney magic. This always led me to the Disneyland Park. But let me tell you, the new Cali Adv Park has finally captured the Disney magic that it was missing. I could spend all day in that park and not feel like I was missing that "Disney" feeling. I have always said that Disney does a really great job with time-period pieces, and that's exactly what they did with the entrance to California Adventure. Buena Vista Street is this park's Main Street USA, and it really does feel like you've been taken back to California as it was when Walt arrived in the 1920's. Good job, Disney. Hats off to you!

Our original plan for the morning was to get a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers (RSR) as soon as we entered the park and then come back to ride it later. The Disney gods had other plans for us. Once we got there, we saw that was not going to happen! I had anticipated that there was going to be a pretty decent line to get a FP for RSR, as I have been checking my wait time app throughout the week and noticed that FP's were running out by 9:30am (limited guests in the park at 7am, open the the public at 8am). But I could never have imagined the absolutely insane line that swallowed up nearly half of the park. I'm not talking about the line for the ride, this is the line for the FastPass. It started at the FP station (which is located near the entrance to Cars Land), wrapped around Carthay Circle, travelled all the way up Hollywood Boulevard, went down past the Tower of Terror, and finally ended in bug's land. Here is a link to a map of the park if you want to see what I'm talking about:

Insane right?? Yeah, that's what we thought, too. I think the wait ended up being about two hours. So since the original plan wasn't going to happen, we decided to just follow the crowd and stroll through Cars Land to check it out. We really wanted to ride RSR, so we walked over to see what the wait was. We turned the corner and it said 45 minutes! This is amazing compared to the 240 minutes (yes, typically 4-5 hours) that I usually see on my wait time app :-) We decided 45 minutes was worth it and we got in line. The wait queue itself is pretty cool, they did a great job with it. It's very Big-Thunder-Mountain-esque, with Arizona landscape throughout.

Fun fact: Did you know the movie Cars is based entirely out of Holbrook, Arizona? Even the characters- Sheriff, Mack, Flo- everyone is based off of real people that live in the town. Sheriff is actually a real retired sheriff of the town of Holbrook! Even Flo's Cafe and the Cozy Cones... all of it is based off of the exact places in Holbrook, all the way down to the floor plan. Google Image 'Holbrook, AZ' to see for yourself!

Anyway, back to Radiator Springs Racers. So the wait queue takes you through Ornament Valley, and it's themed to the max. Very creative, very Disney. I would expect nothing less :-) We were so happy with our decision to just wait in line for the ride because we ended up getting on in only 35 minutes!! AMAZING!!! And that was our longest wait for any ride the entire day! Such a great day to go. Pretty impressive for going during the summer, if I do say so myself :-)

As soon as I took this picture, the wait time changed
to 60 minutes, but like I said, it only took 35.
In line at 8:07, on the ride at 8:42. Oh yeah!

Disney does desert right!

Stanley's Oasis:
The eight and three-fourths wonder of the world!

Sign at the entrance of the bottle building
Glowing bottles!

Close-up of bottles
Sunlight capturing half of the bottles
Don't you just want to climb this mountain?
It looks so similar to pictures from a hike in Sedona!
Wishing well- but of course!
There are coins that are already
completely rusted and calcified to the stone...
did not think that could happen in just six weeks!
Hazy sunshine radiating down on
Radiator Springs- pun intended :-)

Kind of hard to tell from the pic above, but if you look close,
the street at the bottom of the picture is
the one that tilts up almost vertical.

Good ole Butte Gas ;-)

Lovely desert landscape to view in queue!
Here it is- the Radiator Springs Racers loading queue!!!
When we got in our car, I noticed all the cars have license plates with different words on the back. The car in front of us was red and the plate was "Rubberneck". I tried getting a picture but it drove off before I got the chance. Bummer! Once we were buckled in, our car started up and we rolled outside. I thought the ride was all outdoors, but it actually starts out as a dark ride! I love rides that have both- Matterhorn, Big Thunder, Splash, Alice, you get the idea. It is very reminiscent of the Monsters, Inc. ride- the type of technology, the lighting they used and the overall feel on the inside. The part right before you go outside reminds me of Toy Story Mania. So if you are trying to get a feel for what the ride is like, I think it's a combo of Monsters, Toy Story and Big Thunder Mountain. Once you get outside, the car starts going pretty fast! It's really fun. The track doesn't stay on flat land- it has hills, curves and in one part, the street is tilted almost vertical! And of course, you do get a picture at the finish line :-)

Cars Land itself is really nice. I like it in person better than the pictures. The pictures make it look like a hot, dry desert, but it's California, so it's actually really nice. The Cozy Cones are based off of the tepee hotels in Holbrook, but these aren't hotels, they are little food & drink stands! A great place to go if you need some refueling- yes, another great pun ;-)  Everything from popcorn to drinks is served in an orange construction cone. We didn't get a chance to look at the entire area, but when we go back during a less crowded time we definitely will!

Here's the order of the rides we did for the day:

California Adventure

Radiator Springs Racers
Tower of Terror

Over to Disneyland

Grabbed FP for Star Tours
Space Mountain
Star Tours, using FP
Grabbed FP for Big Thunder Mountain
Food break & character sighting!
Grabbed FP for Indiana Jones
Big Thunder Mountain
Pirates of the Caribbean
Haunted Mansion
Grabbed FP for Splash Mountain
Winnie the Pooh
Indiana Jones, using FP
Main Street Cinema: Steamboat Willie

Back to California Adventure

Grabbed FP for Soarin' Over California
Blue Sky Cellar
California Screamin'


Grabbed FP for Big Thunder Mountain
Splash Mountain, using FP
Food break at Rancho del Zocalo

California Adventure

Grabbed FP for Tower of Terror
California Screamin'
Soarin Over California, using FP
Tower of Terror, using FP


Pirates of the Caribbean
Big Thunder Mountain
Fireworks- viewed from Rivers of America
Fantasmic!- front and center, literally!
Food break- steak gumbo in New Orleans Square
Haunted Mansion (at night)
Splash Mountain (at night- this is magical to ride at night!!)
Big Thunder Mountain (at night- I also love to ride this and Matterhorn at night, it's like a whole new ride)

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at night;
Walt & Mickey "Partners" statue
We were able to do a lot of rides despite the fact that it was the middle of summer. We also took several very, very long food and drink breaks (two hours at Starbucks!) and lots of time for pictures. We were pretty leisurely on this trip, but if we were at our normal pace, I'm sure we could have fit more rides in. But I'm glad we took a relaxed approach this time around. It was a good change of pace!

One one of our food breaks for Bengal Barbecue and a turkey leg, we decided to eat in the additional seating area in Aladdin's Oasis. As we were finishing up, guess who we saw? Yep, Aladdin! He came out looking for his monkey... silly Aladdin. So of course we got a picture with him, and he was so interactive! One of my favorite character experiences I've ever had. He pointed to my future hubby and said "This must be your guard?" Haha. I told him it was my fiance and then he asked if he proposed on a magic carpet... I get so star struck when I see these people that I cannot come up with anything good to say. My responses are so lame! I can't help it! I should have said something fun but I just told him we didn't have one. Then he told us that Disneyland was a great place to honeymoon (already planning on it!) and a great place to spend your anniversaries, which is what he and Jasmine do every year. He said they didn't know about Disneyland when they got married so they just spent their honeymoon in the desert, which was nice too, but if they did know about Disney, they would have honeymooned there. Oh, Al! You crack me up!


Genie lamp display from World of Disney store
I should write an entire new post about this, but I'll try to fit it in here... two words: Starbucks. Disneyland. Do I have your attention? I nearly peed myself when I found out this little treasure was opening in the park. O.M.G. And I was THRILLED that we were able to go during our Disneyland day! It's located inside the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe across from Carthay Circle, very close to the entrance of the park. It's not a traditional Starbucks like I thought it was going to be (no merchandise either!). Maybe it's the stained glass, or maybe they are based out of the same time period, but this cafe gave me a Village Haus-type feel. Despite its untraditional looks, it is still a full Starbucks with lots of registers, food options and any drink you can get at a regular Starbucks. The prices are not bad either. A normal cake pop is $1.50, there it is $1.99. not a terrible markup if you ask me. And no, the other items are not marked up the same percentage as that one is, so it really is just a $0.49 difference!

I am sure you have seen pictures of the Starbucks cups from the park, no? Well if not, you're in luck, because I took an obscene amount of pictures of them. The drinks pictured were what we usually get when we go to Starbucks. I don't know if it was just me, but I thought I tasted a little extra magic in them. I got an iced grande, two-white mocha, five-coconut, soy latte. Like a day on the beach in a cup I tell you. Hubby got an iced venti peppermint mocha. Christmas in July served up in a happy Disney cup. What's not to like? We also got our usual venti ice waters as well. They have the best water. I also treated myself to a tiramisu cake pop :-) Yum!

Like the ticket says!

Refreshing little cup of magic :-D

Hi, I'm Tinker Bell.
I'll be adding some pixie dust to your day!

Happiness floats in the graphics on these cups

Great view while sippin' a Starbucks :-)
The happiest coffee on earth? I think so!
FF&P Cafe Menu

Starbucks portion of the menu
Hey, look! It makes Mickey! :-D
Ok, just one more, I couldn't resist!
Happiest cups on earth!
See, I told you I took an excessive amount of pictures lol. And these are just a few that I thought I should post... trust me, I have many, many more!

We ate at Rancho del Zocalo for the first time on this trip. We LOVED it! We have always been intrigued by this somewhat hidden little place. It really feels like you've been taken away somewhere. I'm not exactly sure where, but somewhere. It's in Frontierland, which is one of my absolute favorites. It's a really nice little escape. And it's affordable, too! You get a lot of good food for around $10. I got the Chicken Burrito Senora and it was so big we were able to share it. It came with a side of rice, refried beans, lettuce, and a scoop of salsa, sour cream and guacamole- all of that for only $10! I thought it was a great deal, and the atmosphere was tough to beat.

Chicken Burrito Senora from Rancho del Zocalo.
Doesn't this look simply phenomenal?? It was!
This restaurant is also really fun during Halloween Time. Skeleton mariachis, need I say more?

I also got some pictures of landmarks on Buena Vista Street. I really like the time-period they chose to represent. It has a classic feel to it and just seems like it belongs.

The lovely Carthay Circle restaurant

Buena Vista Street Trolley
Walt & Mickey arriving in California in 1923

Storytellers plaque to the right of the statue
I really enjoyed spending time on Buena Vista Street. They have street cars that drive around carrying an Ella Fitzgerald-like singing star, belting out classic tunes from the Sinatra era (which happens to be my favorite!). Classy, cute, fun and magical. What more can you ask for??

Here are some other pictures from the adventures on our trip:
Blue Sky Cellar where we checked out
"The Road to Cars Land"

"Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is
imagination left in the world." -Walt Disney
Walt next to his quote inside Blue Sky Cellar

Model for Cars Land

Shovel used for the groundbreaking of Cars Land
 July 8, 2009 - Ka-chow!

Easier to read :-)

Hidden Mickey!
{Character meet-n-greet on the boardwalk at Paradise Pier}
It is a known fact that if you go to Disneyland, you will be crop dusted like a mo-fo. People have gas at that place that is out. of. control!!! And I, unfortunately, always seem to get crop dusted the absolute worst out of anyone I know! This is why I thought this sign in front of the bathrooms in Condor Flats was soooo funny! Thanks for acknowledging it, Disney! At least we can laugh about it ;-)

Actual sign in front of the bathrooms across from the
Soarin' Over California attraction in Condor Flats,
California Adventure Park
Leafy, green vineyards in the Golden Vine Winery
California Adventure Park
Bunches of real grapes

C3PO- one of my favorite robots ever :-)
Animal graveyard in front of Haunted Mansion
Mmm... the cozy glow of a Splash Mountain lantern
The beautifully mysterious Hollywood Tower Hotel.
Balcony above Pirates for the Disney Dream Suite

Fun facts
Gold letters on the left: WD for Walt Disney
Gold letters on the right: RD for Roy Disney
Tilly, our ticket teller at The Main Street Cinema.
Two for Steamboat Willie, please!

Thanks, Tilly!

Small-scale replica of the Disneyland Railroad;
located at the Main Street Station
That about wrapped up our day, but you can't leave Disney without grabbing some magic to take home with you. In my case, I cannot leave Disney without adding to my coffee mug collection :-) Here is some of our loot:

Mad Hatter Mug. How cute is this?
I'm not sure if I should drink out of this or wear it as a hat!
Drink me... OK!
We're all a little Dopey in the mornings ;-)
 And the hardest part about a trip to Disneyland is saying good-bye...

Good night, Disney!

Back up to Daisy to get our car and drive home!
All in all, it was a practically-perfect-in-every-way trip :-) I can't wait to go back! I really could live there... sigh. Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading! Have a magical day!

1 comment:

  1. Wow...sounds like an amazing trip! I'm glad you had fun and thanks for all the Disney info!