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Disneyland with Daffystardust! (Part three)

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The final day of my trip to Disney’s California theme parks was here, and there were some things I had to experience that had not fit in to my first day at California Adventure or second day in Disneyland proper. This third day had not been assigned a touring plan prior to departing for the trip because I felt like I wanted to make it a day for finishing up what we had not succeeded in doing on the previous two days and repeating attractions we had particularly loved. I also had a few more squares on my Disneyland Bingo card to “X” out. That is precisely how we approached this day, with a touring plan quickly conceived based on input from everyone involved.

Like on the previous two days, I shared the experience with my Brother’s family, and his wife Tara will be chiming in from time to time on her impressions on the day. You’ll find her contributions in quotations.

Because we had been unprepared for the rather complete nature of the evening closings at Disneyland due to the 60th anniversary celebrations, there were whole portions of the park which we had not yet had a chance to fully explore when we walked through the gate this final day. Mostly this meant Fantasyland and Toontown. But my nephew had his heart set on another try at the Indiana Jones ride, so we agreed to do that first since we knew that was an attraction that tended to build long lines if you waited too long to go to it. Tara opted out went to spend some time in the rest of the park. We had grabbed breakfast on the go this day, so we felt confident we could knock out most of what we hadn’t done by lunchtime, leaving the afternoon and evening free for a more easygoing enjoyment of our last hours in the parks.

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Once we were admitted into the hub of the park we three boys managed to find ourselves standing right against the rope that would drop away at 8AM, letting us into Adventureland where the Indiana Jones ride resides. I like this photo a lot, not just because it looks like what I wish I had in my own back yard, but also because it is from almost the same spot where I’d gotten a picture during the middle of a busy day less than 24 hours before. When the rope did finally drop at 8:00 we walked quickly to our target. We lost a little ground to those around us because we refused to run. See how wet some of the ground in Adventureland was? Better safe than sorry says I. Anyway, there couldn’t have been more than thirty or forty people ahead of us in line as it was, a paltry amount for most theme park attractions. We would be boarding our bouncy jeep in no time flat. Or so we thought.

As we stood in the outdoor queue we spotted one of Disneyland’s famous feral cats, an orange long-hair who slipped under a roped fence and disappeared into the jungle-like landscape before I could even get my hand on my camera. Based on the quick look I got and the information over at the “Cats of Disneyland” website (yes such a thing exists, just click the link), it is possible that this was Giovanni, who would have been pretty far from his typical hangout over in the wine country section of California Adventure, but is also the website’s de-facto spokescat.

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It is more likely that the cat we saw was Lucian, an orange and white tabby who has been known to hang out in the Indiana Jones queue and in the Jungle Cruise area. I would proclaim Lucian to definitely be our cat, but my memory says the cat we saw had more orange than he does.

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After just a couple of minutes the indoor queue was opened and the crowd began moving quickly through its beautifully designed environments. We were right on schedule. But then mere yards away from the stairway down into the loading area, everything stopped. At first we assumed this was just the result of being so close to loading that we were just waiting for the next jeep to depart, but the wait started to be unnaturally long for everything to be normal. Soon there was an announcement over a loudspeaker that they were having some sort of trouble with the ride. We couldn’t really make out what they were saying (a general note, Disney: invest in better speakers), but clearly we were going to have to wait longer than we’d expected. After the previous day’s late opening, we were nervous that we may have to leave and try to come back later. I don’t know if this is a consistent issue with Indy, but we ran into delays for it on both of our mornings this trip.

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Thankfully, the delay was only in the neighborhood of 15 minutes and we did not in the end decide to abandon our initial plan. Meanwhile, we had been receiving texts from Tara indicating that she was enjoying pretty free reign over in Fantasyland.

I went off to ride Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrow land while y’all went to Indiana Jones. That ride I believe is a wash with it’s cousin at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The only real difference is that the guns are on a tether instead of mounted to the ride, so it makes it a little easier to aim and shoot. Once I’d ridden Buzz Lightyear, I headed over to Fantasyland. It was wonderful! It was not crowded at all and I basically only had a 10 minute wait for most things. That’s when I started texting wondering where y’all were. I rode Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The last time I had ridden it was in 1984 at Disney World…my first and only ride since by the time I went back to Disney World in 2009, it had already been removed. I had forgotten how funny the ride was.”

When we finally stepped onto our jeep, I was seated all the way to the left and hurriedly stored my hat and phone in the pouch in front of me. As our vehicle began to pull forward I noticed that my nephew had placed his lanyard of Disney trading pins (you can see it in the photo of him on the carrousel from our second day) in his own pouch. It did pass through my mind that this was unnecessary and that he was probably just imitating the behavior I was modeling with one of the items he had. I don’t know why he chose the lanyard instead of his hat. But then my attention was drawn to the flashy special effects of the attraction.

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Obviously, that sort of thing can be pretty distracting. When the very loud and bumpy ride came to a close I quickly grabbed my hat and phone out of the bag in front of me and exited our vehicle immediately. I hate to be the guy holding up proceedings, especially when the ride has already had a delay. My Brother and nephew were right behind me and we excitedly left the loading area and began to walk to meet Tara. We were already standing in line for Mr Toad’s Wild Ride when my Brother saw that the lanyard was missing and I realized it must have been left in the pouch on the jeep, but it couldn’t have been more than five or ten minutes after we’d gotten off of Indiana Jones. More than one attempt was made to check back and see if it had been found and turned in, but we never did recover it. To be honest, my hopes were not particularly high after the first try. For those of you not familiar with pin trading in the Disney parks, the pins on the lanyard are treated as a sort of currency all their own. People go to the parks with the express idea of exchanging the pins they have for those worn by another park guest. My nephew’s collection of pins was rather impressive and we had joked earlier in the trip that we couldn’t imagine many pins that would be a good trade for what he already had. This is why many pin traders stock up on mass quantities of less valuable pins to trade in great numbers for the ones they want. Somewhere, somebody has a pretty boss set of Disney pins they found on a ride at Disneyland.

Obviously, the lost lanyard of pins was a big downer and all three of us shared in the blame for them being gone. I wish I’d remembered to remind him to grab it. I wish I’d noticed he was taking it off before our jeep was in motion. Then maybe I could have at least told him not to forget it. If I’d said it out loud to him, I’m betting I would have remembered it myself.

This was the real low point of the trip for me and I know you noticed that it took me a while to get over it…still not sure I’m entirely over it! I know that it was totally JD’s fault for taking it off and forgetting it, but what kind of loser do you have to be to steal a lanyard with a “Happy Birthday JD” button on it…..knowing that some kid out there has lost this and then not turn it in? It’s been almost a month since we were there. For a while, I held out hope that they would find it and send it to us (I filled out a lost report with the park), but nothing has come, so my hopes are fading fast.”

With the anxiety of a lost item hanging over the group we trudged forward into Fantasyland, which is primarily the home of what would be considered classic dark rides.

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The fan favorite Peter Pan’s Flight (its show building pictured above) was closed during our visit, but as Disney World regulars who have ridden it many times over there, this was not of particular concern at the time, but apparently this is no standard maintenance closure. They have added what look like some fantastic effects to the classic attraction.

Our most pressing concern was to return to the cars of Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. This was our very favorite attraction when we were kids at Disneyland back in the early ’70s and we held very fond memories of sharing it with our Father, who had passed away just a couple of months prior to our trip. Typically my nephew will insist on riding with me if I am with them at a theme park, but on this ride it was important that he share with his Dad.

Nobody will ever argue that Mr Toad’s Wild Ride is a model of high-tech amusement, or even that it would be considered impressive when you consider it was an opening day attraction in 1955. I can’t imagine the ride would have even been built if the park had been planned a few years later. Mr Toad’s adventures make up half of the 1949 Disney “package” film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, which is generally considered a lower level animated feature. What the ride lacks in pedigree though, it makes up for in sheer fun and a bizarre morality tale. Riders queue up outside Toad Hall to load into old-timey automobiles which are apparently piloted by the manic Mr Toad himself.

Thanks to the folks at Theme Park HD for once again providing the best video I could find of this great ride.

As you can see, after driving through his own country estate, Mr Toad proves to be an absolute menace on the roads and elsewhere, ignoring the entreaties of those around him to slow down and drive safely. Not moments after being proclaimed “guilty” of some traffic-related offense he gets right back into his car and speeds headlong into an oncoming train. That’s where this ride takes a particularly amusing turn. Mr Toad’s story doesn’t end with his death. He apparently is punished for all eternity for his careless driving in the fiery pits of Hell. Does that sound like the plot to a jaunty kids’ ride at a theme park? Well it is. On our first ride through, I was suspicious that something was up with the lights in the final portion of the attraction, but boy was it great to finally ride with Mr. Toad again, having last had the pleasure at Disney World back in 1985 or so. The version that was taken out there in favor of a Winnie the Pooh ride had the advantage of two separate tracks, but since it no longer exists I have to consider this another score for Disneyland.

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Next up was the equally old school attraction, the Storybook Land Canal Boats, which travel through the open mouth of Monstro the whale from Pinocchio, transporting riders to a land of miniature dioramas featuring buildings from many of the best known fantasy movies Disney has ever made. Despite getting there pretty early in the grand scheme of things, the wait for this attraction was pretty long and the queue has absolutely no shelter from the sun. Remember how my first touring plan had made this the first ride of the day? I kind of understood why now. This is a very slow loading ride. Note to self: Trust Touring Plans.

I could have probably skipped this ride and been OK with it. I was a little disappointed with it and to me, at times the script they were following didn’t fit with what we were actually looking at. Of course, I was still brooding over the lost lanyard at this point.”

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Our focus on Fantasyland continued with another truly excellent traditional dark ride, Alice in Wonderland, which was added to Fantasyland just three years after Disneyland opened. I remember riding in the caterpillars and seeing the un-Birthday scene as a kid. The attraction received some minor updates last year, including some digital projections, but to my taste, the colorful figures that populate the ride are what make it so memorable. Alice in Wonderland is a crazy non-linear film full of wonderful imagery. What better subject for a fun dark ride?

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The insistence of Pinocchio’s Daring Journey in trying to tell the story of the little wooden boy detracts a little from its charms, especially when you ride it immediately after the more intentionally vague Alice in Wonderland. The attraction does feature some of the amazing attention to design detail that helps make it my very favorite Disney movie. You can see that in the character carvings on the sides of the ride vehicles above.

Right next door to Pinocchio’s Daring Journey is another opening day attraction. This is one that was recently closed down in Florida and replaced with a meet and greet location for princesses. In the grand scheme of things, this was not a bad trade-off because we got the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as a part of the New Fantasyland expansion too. Besides, in my experience, Disney World’s version of this attraction was pretty rickety, while what we saw in Anaheim was bright and entertaining, and clearly the beneficiary of consistent maintenance, something WDW seems to have been generally lacking in recent years. Snow White’s Scary Adventures is also home to another one of the few remaining squares on my Disneyland Bingo card. It’s not exactly a secret, but plenty of visitors to Disneyland walk right beneath an audio animatronic figure of the evil queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs without ever knowing it.

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This is partly because she’s positioned in the second story window of a building like others in the area, and also because most of the time she is hidden behind a set of curtains in that window. She opens them to look out pretty regularly, but unless you’re looking when she does you’ll just see a window with a curtain. I had to wait until later in the day to get this picture because the sun was reflected right in the middle of the window.

We still had plenty of time before lunch, so we continued knocking out attractions we hadn’t been to yet. This included a visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room back near the entrance to Adventureland. This was one of my Mom’s favorite attractions when we visited Disneyland as kids and it’s no wonder considering the wild charm on display in the show. After the reinstatement of a much more traditional version of the show at WDW due to the fortuitous fire that destroyed animatronics from the truly awful “Under New Management,” I have gotten used to the slightly edited show now there. But I also carry around the original show’s soundtrack on my iPhone, and it was nice to have my experience match what has gone into my ears so often.

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Although Disneyland and Florida’s Magic Kingdom have a lot in common and are based on the same basic structure and with most of the same “lands.” One significant difference is that Disneyland includes an area outside of the circumference of its railroad based on the stars of the company’s cartoon shorts and the fictional district where animated characters lived in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? While most of Toontown is geared toward younger visitors, the overall theming is pretty impressive

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On our day there you couldn’t see a cloud in the sky and the monochromatic blue sky behind Toontown’s buildings really fit in with its overall look. Our primary reason for venturing into this part of the park was to ride Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, but I was very interested in seeing exactly how immersive the theme would be. Although it is not on the level of something like the Harry Potter lands at Universal in Florida or parts of Animal Kingdom, and I didn’t fall in love with it the way I did New Orleans Square, Toontown is clearly superior to the similar area that WDW bulldozed in favor of Storybook Circus.

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The area is peppered with fun gags like this dog pound for rambunctious youngsters, a barbell with a bent bar that is attached to the pavement, and a doorknob to a lab which simulates an electric shock. After we finished the Roger Rabbit spinning ride we hung out in Toontown for a while, did some shopping in one of its stores and just enjoyed the way the temperate sunny California weather complemented it. Toontown was not at all crowded on what was otherwise a relatively busy day at Disneyland, but I’m really glad I got to spend some time there. The excellent theming expanded right into the queue for Car Toon Spin, and having seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? recently, I caught on to what was a pretty thickly stacked set of references to the story and characters throughout. Just like outside, everything inside looked like something out of an old Max Fleischer cartoon.

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Now about that ride…

Unfortunately, all of the attention to detail and thematic design thrown at Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin could not make it into anything more than a mildly distracting attraction. Sometimes more is not more, and Car Toon Spin seemed to me to be trying way too hard to be wacky. I couldn’t help feeling it was both less than the sum of its parts and pointedly inferior to the far simpler out-of-control-driving attraction, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. The soundtrack in particular is so busy that my ears did not know what to listen to. Compare it to the more restrained sound design on other attractions and you’ll see what I mean. This was a repeat from the issues I had with the Indiana Jones ride. Too visually and aurally noisy.

I enjoyed this ride, but would not wait for it as long as we did again. This would be something I’d do in a no wait situation for sure because it’s cute and funny.”

Lunch was coming up soon, so we grabbed another FastPass and wandered back toward New Orleans Square. We knew we had just a little loose time, so when this band of roaming pirate musicians came into view we went ahead and settled in for a listen. Yet again, Disneyland gets extra points for this sort of thing happening at a decidedly increased clip over its Florida cousin.

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“We’re beggars and blighters and ne’er do-well cads, Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho!”

Once we did get to Blue Bayou for our lunch reservations we were still a bit early and were told to come back to check in in another ten minutes. We spent that time wandering the back alleys of New Orleans square looking for a birthday present I could give my nephew. Oh, did I mention it was his birthday? I consulted with his parents and let them know I wanted to get something for him while we were in Disneyland and they agreed to help find the right opportunity for me to get him the right thing. That ended up being a pair of plastic pirate swords for home fencing practice. I was happy to get these for him because I’d seen him notice other people participating in swordplay and I’ve done some fencing in my day. Dramatic play continues to be valuable throughout our lives (says the guy with a theatre degree).

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We also managed to find another one of those fun fortune-telling machines, this one with a pirate theme! My nephew dropped in the coin and received a printed out card giving good piratey advice. I’d already checked off this task from my bingo card, but this is the one I wanted to share with you guys.

Before we knew it, the time had actually come for our table service reservations for the day, this time at the longtime favorite Blue Bayou. The restaurant’s primary claim to fame is that the boats carrying riders from Pirates of the Caribbean drift by on their way to their run-ins with those sea-faring vagabonds. Though the restaurant is located inside a fully enclosed building, the decoration and theming make it appear as though it is an outdoor nighttime eatery by a swampy waterway. We were not seated very close to the water, so the effect was maybe not what it should have been, but as I’d predicted, the dark indoor setting was welcome after spending most of the first part of our day in the flat California sun. For Disney World regulars, the effect is very similar to what you get at the San Angel Inn at Epcot’s Mexico pavilion.

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From my point of view, while I enjoyed the ambience, it was nothing as special or unique as it might be for some people. The real test was going to be the food. Blue Bayou is one of the more expensive restaurants in the Anaheim parks, which is the primary reason I had initially been hesitant to commit to a meal there. This was especially the case considering that some of its signature dishes could be sampled just as easily at Cafe Orleans, and at a slightly lower price. What actually ended up winning me over was the promise of a dark room for the length of a meal in the middle of the day. That and consistent insistence from many Disneyland fans that a meal at Blue Bayou was a “must” for what is essentially a once-in-a-lifetime visitor.

The meal began with a large cup of a moderately spicy Louisiana gumbo which was truly delicious. I honestly could have been very happy with a larger serving of this dish as my meal proper, but I certainly was glad that I got a chance to try it. My selection for my entree was never in doubt, though.

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The famous Le Special de Monte Cristo Sandwich was not only close to universally loved but also the least expensive entree on the lunch menu. The combination of sweet and savory flavors was delightful. If you don’t know what a Monte Cristo sandwich entails, let me explain it to you. The sandwich includes ham, turkey, and swiss cheese on bread, battered and then fried, with powdered sugar sprinkled on top. The Blue Bayou serves their Monte Cristo with three different sauces available to spread on before your next bite, my favorite being a berry flavored option. This was both delicious and filling. By restaurant standards outside a theme park, it may be considered a little over priced, but by theme park standards I was more than happy to pay what I did for the Monte Cristo sandwich at Blue Bayou. With its sweet elements, I had absolutely no desire for a dessert at this lunch.

What did you guys eat, Tara?

I think we all tried the gumbo soup and I wished I’d had a bigger bowl of it. I would have been thrilled to have that and a salad as my meal had it been an option. I am pretty sure that Mike had the jambalaya since he has a hard time resisting that if it’s on the menu. I had the pan seared salmon and it was fantastic….even coming off a trip to Alaska where we had GOOD salmon. I thought this dish was excellent. JD had the chicken breast off the kids menu and he ate it…which says something. I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant. I too wish we’d been seated next to the water…or at least closer to it and not near the entrance. I was facing the door and was having a hard time looking into the bright outside light while being seated in a relatively dark restaurant. But, that’s my fault, since I’m the one who checked us in and I forgot to ask if we could be seated as close to the water as possible. All in all, I would love to eat here again the next time we go.”

With lunch filling our very satisfied bellies and the late afternoon of our last day at Disneyland creeping up on us I insisted on another trip through the original Haunted Mansion as long as we were already standing in New Orleans Square. The lovely antebellum exterior to Disneyland’s Mansion reminds me not just of its intended New Orleans location, but also of other old-style southern seaside towns like Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia – both really beautiful spots to visit. As Walt had admonished, the folks at Disneyland were taking care of the outside of their gorgeous mansion and letting the ghosts take care of the inside.

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Our wait this time around was longer than before because of the time of day, but we got to see the pet cemetery close up. I won’t spend much time on the Mansion this post, since I covered it in so much detail previously. This is the sort of attraction that, left to my own devices, I could easily ride over and over again, just getting back into the queue after waving goodbye to Little Leota each time. Maybe if Disney decided to build an entire cruise ship themed after the silly spooks, I would pony up for such an excursion.

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ain’t I a stinker?

A second run on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was punctuated by a bit of classic humor heard from the buildings you pull past as you approach the station to unload…

“I didn’t know you wore a hair piece!”

“I keep it under my hat.”

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Perhaps because we were still so well satisfied with out lunches, we decided to take another late afternoon break. The idea was to come back to Disneyland for a little while, but to leave prior to the crazy crowds we’d experienced the previous two nights. That appeared to really happen sometime between 8 and 8:30.

On our way out I had hoped to get a photo of “the bench Walt sat on” to try to complete as much of my Disneyland Bingo card as possible. Unfortunately, the lobby for the “Great Moments with Mr Lincoln” show was closed for the time being. When I told the cast member stationed outside why it was important to me to get inside at some point, he said “there’s some controversy over that,” meaning the authenticity of the bench. There is some disagreement about whether anyone could actually know if the bench there at Disneyland is really the one Walt Disney was sitting on when the idea for his first theme park occurred to him. He told the story well enough, but Walt was in the habit of concocting family-friendly origins for many of his creations. Even if the story is true, there are questions about whether this bench in particular is actually the one he was on. The Walt Disney Family museum in San Francisco has a similar bench from Griffith Park that they stop short of claiming as the bench. Maybe they do so in order not to step on toes at Disneyland, or maybe they are just being more honest. Or maybe…just maybe, the bench on display there on Main Street is indeed the actual bench where Walt Disney sat and dreamed up Disneyland. Either way, it was on my Disneyland Bingo card, so I intended to get a photo of it if I could.

I did manage to get a photo of a cast member dressed as Cruella de Vil who was meeting with park guests just outside Great Moments with Mr Lincoln.

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She was not particularly impressed with the trading pin this girl had with her on it.

When we returned from our nap…er “break,” Great Moments with Mr Lincoln was open again and I got the chance to “X” out another square on my Disneyland Bingo card by giving it a once over. Here it is in full-

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– and here is the plaque mounted to it to proclaim its place in Disneyland history

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Tara and my Brother had gone to the jewelry store located on Main Street to get her a shiny present for her birthday, which was coming very soon, so my nephew was with me. Our initial plan was to get the above photos and then try to see the Great Moments with Mr Lincoln show. My Mother tells the story of seeing it for the first time and gasping loudly because she feared the robot was going to fall over as he rose from his chair. The weak spot in our plan to walk over to see Mr Lincoln was twofold. First off, it is a 16 minute show, so if you don’t catch it just right, you’re in for a long wait. Thankfully, there’s a lot of great stuff to see in the lobby area that helps fill that time. These include an impressive portrait of Lincoln, a huge hand-carved model of the U.S. capitol building, and a diorama of Disneyland on opening day.

Most significantly, there was a very entertaining video hosted by Steve Martin and Donald Duck which was made to celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary 10 years ago.

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There are a few versions of this that have been filmed and shared on Youtube, but none that I felt like merited including here. I would recommend giving one of them a look if you can tolerate a little camera shakiness now and then. It’s well put together and includes some laughs, and my nephew and I really enjoyed ourselves just sitting down together and watching Mr Steve Martin get the better of Donald.

The problem was, that once it was over I couldn’t imagine us sitting down for another 16 minutes and watching an audio animatronic show about U.S. history. Maybe my nephew would have enjoyed that, but my instincts said he might have gotten a little squirmy by the end. So we called an audible and agreed to go get on one of the Nemo submarines. On the way up Main Street, I noticed the magic shop was right next to us, so I stepped inside to let my nephew know that the guy we had just been laughing along with had once worked there.

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See? There he is on the left doing a card trick in what looks like the same shop we were standing in and on the right posing with some guests not far from the front gates. Martin had apparently gotten a job selling guidebooks out front when he was just 10 years old, then moved up to a position in the park’s magic shop a few years later. The guy working the counter when we were there took the opportunity to show us a floating card trick and wasted no time in throwing a DVD on the counter that would show you how to do the trick. It cost something like $24. I’m not against a little old-fashioned hucksterism, but this was a pretty transparent come-on that I was more than capable of resisting. The nine-year-old at my side was not yet quite as jaded as I am, so we had to flee the magic shop in short order.

Tara and my Brother were done gift shopping by this time so they decided to meet us in Tomorrowland for a little underwater adventure.

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This attraction was first installed in 1959, well before Finding Nemo was released in 2003. Unlike the very similar attraction that used to be in the Magic Kingdom in Florida, Disneyland’s version was never actually themed after the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Instead, it featured what was supposed to be a re-inactment of the USS Nautilus’ dive under the polar ice cap. Initial plans to have it feature real fish were discarded as unrealistic from a maintenance standpoint. In 2007 the traditional attraction was re-opened with new special effects integrated with the old ones in order to feature Nemo and friends from the popular Pixar Films movie. Like the Storybookland Canal Boats, loading on the Nemo Submarines was slow and resulted in a fairly long wait, but it was one of the few attractions we had yet to experience, so we patiently waited it out. While the presence of the traditional effects and the submarine vehicles (once touted as the 8th largest fleet in the world) were appealing to me, I would generally recommend that you only jump in line if it looks very short. This attraction is not worth more than 15 minute wait.

I would have loved to experience this ride before they updated it to Nemo. As it was, I recognized most of the video footage from the Nemo ride in Epcot at WDW. A lot of it was the same…just taking place in a submarine under water in a pool rather than on a moving car in a building. So, if we should compare the sub ride to the Epcot Nemo ride…the sub ride wins just for the cool factor. But, I agree…not something to wait a long amount of time for. 20 minutes would be about my limit of wait time for this ride.”

With just one bingo task that had yet to be attempted, I took a quick look at the website where I had learned about a spot in Tomorrowland from which you could hear a unique echo effect. Unfortunately, as I had suspected, its location was currently behind construction walls around Disneyland’s version of Innoventions. West coast fans typically appear to dislike Innoventions, so not getting to see what was there did not seem like a big loss, but it meant that there would be 2 squares on my Disneyland Bingo card that would not receive a big blue “X.” Instead, since I tried to complete the tasks, but was unable to through no fault of my own, those two tasks would receive a red question mark. Like this-

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8 o’clock and the dreaded parade and fireworks crowds were coming soon, so we had to decide what we needed to accomplish before making tracks across the esplanade to California Adventure. My number one priority was to enjoy Mr Toad’s Wild Ride one more time before leaving California, and my Brother agreed. Tara and my nephew decided on something else, so this one would be just two brothers enjoying one final spin for the old man.

We chose to ride separately, but we both experienced it with similar enthusiasm. I could hear him cheering and shouting as I tried to match the motions of the car with my rotating steering wheel and loudly admonished the various characters we sped past.

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“ONE SIDE, MOLE!!”

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“OUT OF THE WAY, COPPER!!”

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“ONE FOR THE ROAD, MISTER WINKIE?”

A fine time was had by both.

Oh, and the lighting in the final show scene had been fixed since our fist ride through.

We stopped one last time at lost and found at the front of the park in hopes that my nephew’s lanyard had been turned in. I decided that I would be just one more superfluous person in that line, so I elected to stand outside and wait for them. I settled in next to a low railing and watched as the buzz of the coming festivities began to build around me. Then I noticed a cast member in a plaid skirt eyeing me nervously. When she approached me I smiled and assured her that I would not be standing there for long. I’m pretty sure I had chosen the most out-of-the-way spot I could find under the circumstances, and was glad we would be on the other side of the esplanade soon.

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men.

When we got into California Adventure, our proclaimed target, a nighttime ride on Radiator Springs Racers…was closed. Maybe we should have spent the few extra bucks to see Disneyland’s superior version of Fantasmic! from an ideal reserved area, but it was seriously too late for that now. The best thing we could do was to settle in and enjoy ourselves however we could. And hey, we hadn’t eaten anything since about 2 o’clock. The retro neon beauty of Cars Land held us fast and we decided to grab a bite at Flo’s V8 Cafe again.

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I had the Turkey Dip sandwich, which once again featured fantastic bread. Based on the rest of the bread I sampled in the California parks, it’s a positive mystery that the biscuits at the Plaza Inn were so terrible. The weather was beautiful, so we went ahead and sat outside under the hum of neon and classic early ’60s pop music. The theming and food were top notch. For some reason that all got interrupted by one of the Cars characters starting up a modern DJ session with techno dance music. I’m sure the car in question was beautifully rendered, but with feet that had paced theme parks for three straight days, and a general distaste for techno dance music I was more than happy to be sitting right where I was. I didn’t need to see whatever it was that was causing the disturbance. The short dance party appeared to be making lots of other people happy, so I never managed to let it annoy me at all, but I will admit that when it was over I liked the standard area music much more.

The Cars characters were awesome! One of the cars from the first movie was called DJ because he had a pretty spectacular stereo system. So, it was DJ running the dance party. Full sized car…rolling on its own…another amazing thing about Radiator Springs! It completely worked considering who the character was.”

Once our dinner was over, the shopping bug hit our group in a serious way. My nephew tracked down a few different new Cars characters from a set that appeared to be about a desert race. This stretched into a couple of different shops in Cars Land itself, and then we moved on to Buena Vista Street, where a pin commemorating Disneyland’s 60th anniversary was being hunted. I took the opportunity to search for a T-shirt that might catch my eye. Because I’m not a 19-year-old hipster who wears trucker hats or skinny jeans, there’s not always a lot that appeals to me t-shirt wise in Disney’s shops, but I did manage to find a nicely designed shirt featuring the park’s World of Color show.

World-of-Color-2014SMALL

Despite the fact that it’s not really based on the version of the show I saw personally, I like it a lot and often wear it in the morning when I walk my dog. With our shopping done, we agreed that it was regrettably time to make the short, but sad last walk back to the Fairfield.

Disneyland had been a truly wonderful experience, even with some of the inconveniences associated with the 60th anniversary celebrations.

– The relative affordability of staying within walking distance of the parks is a huge plus.

I agree. Being able to get back to the room within 10-15 minutes for a break made me totally re-think our normal plan for attacking a Disney Park. Breaks are just not feasible at WDW because unless you are staying in a few choice resorts, it’s going to take you 30 minutes to an hour to get back to your room…depending on the bus schedule. We are normally so worn out by 4 or 5 pm at WDW that we just leave. We very rarely go back to the park at night.”

– Food in the Anaheim parks was more uniformly of a high quality. I don’t think I ate anything that I thought was just for sustenance, or completely unremarkable.

The Magic Kindgom at WDW does not have as many quality sit down restaurants that are not character buffets. They have Be Our Guest and they have Liberty Tree Tavern and Tony’s on main street. Now, if we’re throwing Epcot into the mix of restaurants, then WDW wins.”

– The constant presence of live music and wandering characters introduced a far more immediate feeling to the daily experience.

– Most of the theming of the different lands was more seamless than in Florida, with increased details and a more lived-in quality.

– If I compare duplicate rides between Anaheim and Florida, Anaheim comes out on top by a hair, and the two parks actually pack more attractions in than WDW does in four parks.

Absolutely. I will say that Anaheim benefits greatly from their better weather. For about 4 months of the year here in Florida, not a day goes by that doesn’t include a thunder storm. That makes it impossible to do some of the things like they have at Disneyland because all of it would have to shut down.”

Based on my location on the East coast and my Brother’s family living right there in central Florida, I will obviously continue to spend more time at Disney World and may never get to return to Disneyland, but everybody will have a different situation. If I was living in, say…San Antonio and had just a five day vacation (including travel) I would most likely choose Anaheim over Florida. The original Disneyland park is a clear #1 among the six Disney parks located in the U.S., and I’d say California Adventure edges out Epcot for the #3 spot (with Florida’s Magic Kingdom far below Disneyland, but just a little better than DCA). If you’re planning a 2-4 park day trip, Florida’s extra parks don’t really represent an advantage in my eyes. Once your trip starts to creep above 5 park days, that begins to change. Another factor to consider is what your touring style is. As someone who wants to spend lots of time in the parks and sees my hotel as a place to sleep and shower, the affordable and close hotels in Anaheim win out big time, but if you like to spend a lot of time relaxing and enjoying the amenities of a full resort, WDW may offer exactly what you want because it offers many more resorts in general.

We have just recently become Disney Vacation Club members, so we are beginning to discover the joys of hanging at the resorts. We now factor a little resort time into our plans for Disney World trips.

As a close family member, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to share in a little of that next time I get a chance to visit Disney World in Florida, but seeing the parks in Anaheim on this trip will make me more aware of some of its weak points.

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Posted on July 16, 2015, in Nostalgia, theme parks, travel, Trip Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. I have to admit, I was so bummed about the missing lanyard it just threw me for the rest of the article. I can’t imagine how you guys must have felt. It would have been hard to recover from something like that. We’d have had to go to a store and make some attempt at replacing the pins. Obviously, you couldn’t duplicate the quality of his collection. Just a sad situation overall. I can guarantee my kids wouldn’t have handled it as well as it sounds like your nephew did. Heck, I would have handled it as well as your nephew did.

    I have a bit of a collector’s mentality. I can get caught up in these things if I’m not careful. So I avoid pin trading completely. Fortunately, the pins themselves don’t appeal to me. Josie seems to have inherited this trait. It’s definitely a family trait from my mother’s side. They all have large collections of stuff. Knowing how we are, I tend to be very careful about any possessions which have any perceived value. My motto is that if you can’t part with it, don’t take it out of the house. Usually I can convince Josie to leave her prized possessions at home in order to prevent this sort of thing.

    I do this partially so I can relax. If we were in the parks and one of the kids was carrying around a valuable collection, I’d be a nervous wreck. I’m pretty sure the kids would have handed it to me to watch over. If I saw them set something like that down, I would immediately take charge of it. I’ve just been down that path too many times in the past.

    And to think this happened on his birthday! Ugh. I am really impressed that the incident didn’t ruin both the day and the trip. I don’t think we’d have bounced back from that. So hats off for resiliency.

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    • daffystardust

      As bad as I felt about the loss of the lanyard and pins, I kind of felt like we had no choice but to put a barrier between that problem and the rest of our day. It was, after all, our last day in Anaheim, something we had looked forward to for most of a year. Letting the situation ruin the whole day would have been like throwing good money after bad. And if you’re blue about something, what better place to be than in Disneyland!

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      • Absolutely no doubt. You shouldn’t let something like that ruin a trip you have spent a lot of time and money on. I admire the fact that everyone seemed to be able to push on. I don’t think we’d have been able to do the same.

        In 2014, Josie brought along a baby blanket. She was going through a phase where she liked to sleep with it. On our last day, housekeeping missed the baby blanket and took it with the rest of the sheets. We never took it from our room, but it was gone. Obviously, there were more valuable things in the room. It’s disappearance was pure accident. I filled out a lost item form and never heard a peep back from Disney. This incident was mentioned by the girls during our cruise. They don’t bounce back from these things so easily.

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        • daffystardust

          The loss came up consistently throughout the day, and as I said we made a few more attempts to see if the item had been turned in. I don’t want to give the impression that it had no impact on our day, but I will say that we were thankfully able to take advantage of the distractions at hand.

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        • I’m glad he had a good birthday in spite of the loss.

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        • I too am regretful about the lanyard (even while enjoying the TR). When my son was about your nephew’s age, we were at O’Hare for a layover of a couple hours. Daughter was a baby and we were hanging out a family play area. No sooner had we left, I mean literally within 5 minutes – we realized he had forgotten his little knapsack with entertainment – you know, notebook, pens, crayons, puzzle books and a couple of handheld electronic games his grandfather had given him. We went back immediately to find it gone! What was worse than the value of the items, arguably not much, was that his grandfather gave them to him and they were special. Also, even though we followed up with airport employees, lost and found, who referred us to security who actually said they took the bag (so it wasn’t stolen) and turned over to the local police… not one person gave a damn, and the police number we got, was for leaving a message, which was never returned. It was our fault for leaving it, you see. Still, in order to save the trip, it was necessary to maintain a spirit of “ever onwards” which it sounds like you guys did very well. And the good news is, time eventually does heal that wound. Kid got over it a lot quicker than I did!

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  2. I know you were kidding about the Haunted Mansion cruise ship, but I did want to point something out. I haven’t run a lot of numbers on this yet, but after our cruise the thought occurred to me that a Disney cruise is arguably a much better bargain than Walt Disney World.

    I just randomly looked at itineraries for next August. If you’re okay with an inside stateroom, you can do a three-night cruise for under $2,000. Aside from tips, that price is all inclusive. No need to buy park tickets or over-priced food.

    Let’s compare that to a 3-night stay at Walt Disney World. I’m going to price a moderate resort as I feel that is roughly comparable to an inside stateroom on the cruise ship. I’m going to throw in a 3-day base ticket with no add-ons and the regular dining plan (although one could argue that the deluxe dining plan would be more in lines with what is offered on the ship.

    I’m coming up with about $1,500 for the 3-night stay at Disney World and $1,800 for the cruise. There’s a greater degree of scalability in the WDW stay in that you could drop down to a Value resort or even stay off property if you wanted to. But overall, I’d say the cruise is worth more than the $300 difference between the two vacations I priced.

    Sometime in the future, I plan to delve into this in greater detail.

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    • daffystardust

      I really appreciate the thought and math involved in your comment here. It is well reasoned and makes sense. I am going to respond with math myself.

      Disney cruise: 2 rides (if you count the ship itself)
      WDW: 46 rides

      I think those numbers speak for themselves 😉

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      • It’s true. Assuming you value ride above all else, any cruise is going to come up short.

        Maybe I’m getting older. Maybe it’s that I’m traveling with a family. Rides appeal to me less and less. I feel like I got all of the enjoyment of being in a Disney theme park without the hassle of long lines and crowds.

        They are different experiences to be sure. Price is far from the only consideration. But theme parks in general and Disney World in particular appeal to me a lot less than they did just a couple of years ago. I’m hoping some time away will change that.

        Specific to Disney World, it sounds like DHS is getting a much-needed overhaul. In five years, that park will probably be worth revisiting. DAK could be greatly improved in the next couple of years. There’s even a pretty solid rumor of a new E-ticket coming to Frontireland. Of course if the crowds and prices continue on the path they have been on, I’m not sure any of that will be enough to lure me back.

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        • I don’t think that it’s a mistake that my preference for theme parks only increased when I returned to the land of single. Despite Disney’s complete focus on families, I feel like I can really experience a theme park as a single person and enjoy myself the entire time. A trip to a big city, for example while still appealing, is a little less so when just planning for myself or for myself along with family. The immersive quality of the best theme parks makes me a character inside them, while a disjointed city is just a series of different businesses and activities that may be lots of fun, but for me seems to require companionship. Nobody is really alone in a theme park. I have lots of fun conversations with strangers there, while striking up a conversation with a stranger in a city is usually considered rude or strange. I grew up near a beach, so they just don’t seem all that special to me, and I did enough camping as a boy scout that any woodsy entertainment is something I think is great for the length of a day. My only experience on a cruise was as part of a couple, and that really was the only reason I thought it was fun. I can’t imagine making that choice on my own.

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        • I can definitely see where that would be true. I’m a bit of a lone wolf. I don’t mind doing things by myself. I go to the movies solo which is something a lot of people don’t do. But some activities definitely benefit from groups. I don’t like dining alone. I’d rather grab a quick bite if it’s just me than have a full table service experience. It just feels lonely. On our cruise, I went to one of the stage shows alone. But I wouldn’t want to do the entire cruise by myself. I think it’s a “the more the merrier” situation.

          That does not hold true at a theme park. The bigger the party, the slower you are going to move. You have to cater to the whims of more individuals. Someone’s going to be slower and tire more quickly than everyone else and that’s the pace the group will have to follow. Once that person stops having fun, you either split up or call it a day. Because if you force them to push through it, they will ruin it for the entire group.

          I do hate waiting in lines by myself. But lines are pretty easily avoidable at Orlando theme parks assuming you are flexible. With the advent of smart phones, I can usually entertain myself if I have to wait in a line by myself. And while I am not the kind to strike up a conversation with strangers, I have been known to do so from time to time in a theme park. There’s a real “we’re all in this together” feeling. (I do think that also exists on a Disney cruise though.) Generally, I have more fun experiencing theme parks with the kids, but with that extra fun comes a lot of restrictions. All the hurdles get bigger. Those buses become a major pain point. And of course the expenses are all multiplied by 4.

          I have had some solo Disney park experience and generally enjoyed it. I don’t think I would go by myself (if I was even given permission to do so which I have been told more than once is not an option). But I can definitely see why a solo theme park vacation would be preferable to a solo cruise. Which is why you need to talk you relatives into going with you!

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        • I don’t think I’d have as much fun if I was single, but going there with my girlfriend works out perfectly. We don’t have kids, so we don’t have to deal with all that comes with that at a theme park. With two people you have someone to talk to and have fun with all day, but it is a small enough group that getting around and making ride decisions is easy. The only place we have a problem is that she doesn’t eat meat except for seafood. So I’ve never done several of the dining options because they lack seafood, or at least something that looks appetizing to her.

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        • My wife runs out of steam after the first or second ride. So when she goes to a theme park with me, she’s really doing it for my benefit. As such, I have to be sensitive to the fact that after about the first hour, she’s ready to go home.

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        • I can relate as my girlfriend LOVES going to zoos. Once or twice is fine, but that is how many times we go every year, usually to the same zoos. It makes her happy, so I put on a good face, but after an hour or two I’m bored.

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        • We have passes to our local zoo. We renew them every year despite the fact I never feel like we actually get our money’s worth. Every year I ask “Should I renew these” and every year the answer is “yes”. I look at it as a donation.

          This is why I am not all that impressed with Animal Kingdom. I’m skipping the animal exhibits I have available in my own back yard. Why do I want to pay Disney prices for more animal exhibits?

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        • Parks like those of Disney and Busch Gardens offer my favorite experiences because they combine excellent rides with good food and wonderfully themed areas. Most coaster-heavy parks neglect good food and have little to no theming. Some manage to work in a little of one or the other, but certainly not at the level of Disney or even Busch Gardens. It seems like the Disney Cruise ships offer good food and some very nice theming, but lack the rides. I would probably enjoy a cruise, but I have to admit that at some point I would look around wishing the Haunted Mansion or Splash Mountain was on board.

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        • You never know. I was telling Mindy about your TR last night and the incident with the lanyard. She was of course appalled and commented that someone has some karma coming their way for stealing a little boy’s pins. Afterwards, she blurted out that I hadn’t done myself any favors by taking her on the cruise. She loved it and can’t imagine ever going back to Disney World. I told her that after our experiences on the boat and at Universal, I really had no desire to go back to Disney World either. I kind of surprised myself with the statement but realized it is true. I imagine as time passes and more attractions open, that will change. But then again, I’m not sure.

          Last night I told Mindy that Avatar wasn’t much of a draw for me. And since our kids are older, the Pixar playland really doesn’t appeal all that much either. The only thing on the horizon that I can see pulling me back is the Star Wars stuff. But I will likely be 50 when that stuff opens. In 5 or 6 years, will I really want to go back? Especially if prices and attendance continue their upward trends? This morning, I gave it some thought and I came to the conclusion that I could probably give Disney World a pass for a very long time. Pre-cruise, I never would have imagined I could care so little about WDW.

          As a ride guy, I didn’t miss them one bit.

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        • I have thought that I had enough of WDW for the time being after a couple of my trips, and after seeing some of the more loving attention to theme and updates to attractions in California that might actually be the case. But I’m in a different situation than you guys are. My Brother’s family lives just 1 hour and 15 minutes from WDW and they’re annual pass holders. When Christmas comes up, one of the places we are likely to end up is Florida, and since they have their APs (and are now DVC members) that is a lot less expensive for them than Universal or some other stuff. I’m very interested in seeing Universal again, but I’m sure we’ll also end up back at WDW pretty soon. I won’t have to try hard to make it happen.

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        • Yeah, under those conditions, I would suffer through the drudgery of Disney World. 😉

          For a while, I considered buying a DVC contract on the secondary market. One of my reservations was always that there may come a time when my family outgrew Disney. I didn’t expect it to happens so soon though. I’m very glad I never took the plunge. I imagine I’ll be back there someday. Probably sooner than I think. But I’m very glad not to be shackled to the place. Given a choice, I’d much rather be at Universal than Disney right now. And we can’t wait to take another cruise as soon as that becomes viable.

          Several years from now, who knows. I think I’d like to take the girls again when they are older. But who can say what they will want to do five years from now?

          PS. Your brother’s family should consider Uni passes when their Disney passes expire. I hear they are a much better deal for locals than Disney’s passes. I’ve even considered buying some myself if we take a longer Universal trip.

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        • I can’t speak for the Florida situation, but out here Universal has a much better annual pass situation than DIsney. I think it was maybe $5 more for an annual pass than for a one day ticket when we went a couple months ago. Can you imagine Disney doing that?

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        • Annual pass to Disney World = $563
          Annual pass to Universal = $299

          Holy crap.

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        • daffystardust

          I was stunned a couple of years ago when I found that the “Fun Pass” at Busch Gardens which gets you into the park as often as you like from March through August was the same price as a single day ticket! It’s really a no-brainer.

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        • You can find that kind of pricing a lot if you look around. A lot of people won’t research at all. They will just show up at the gate and buy their single-day ticket which almost always guarantees you will pay the maximum amount. But people do it anyway.

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  3. Three days seems about perfect for the two parks. Ironically, as someone who lives near Disneyland I rarely explore the smaller rides or more out of the way places. The reason being that we live a little too far away (90 minutes) to do an annual pass and pop in for a few hours here and there like some of the true locals do. So we go about once every year or so just for the day. That means we do the same things each time. I might start changing it up a bit and leave out a regular ride to do something different.

    If you get the chance to come out here again I’d highly recommend making it a LA, or Southern California, trip with a day or two for Disneyland. There is tons to do even if amusement parks are a top priority. Much more so than Orlando which doesn’t off a lot outside of theme parks. Universal Hollywood is really coming into its own, especially once they finish Harry Potter Land next year. Plus it has the studio tour which is what really makes the place stand out from other theme parks (including its Florida twin).

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    • Forgot to add that it is too bad you couldn’t get all the squares. It seems like Tomorrowland was your undoing. I knew they were getting ready to close Innovations when I was there in April, but I didn’t think they’d do it during the summer tourist season. On the flip side, had you come out any earlier the Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, and all of Critter Country would have been closed.

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    • There are many who would take issue with your assertion that Orlando doesn’t offer much outside of theme parks. As my primary interest is theme parks, I’m not one of them. But I am aware that there are quite a few non-theme park attractions in the central FL area.

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    • If I was planning an extended trip to southern California, there are tons of things I would love to see, with a lot of it probably being centered on whatever vestiges of classic Hollywood remain and on historical sites. I love that kind of stuff and the trip I just finished writing up was the first time I’d been in southern California since i was a small child. If you’re interested in reading about what I saw in San Francisco a few years ago you can find several posts about that here at Le Blog.

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  4. I guess I should phrase it a little differently. If you take away all the theme parks I don’t see a big reason for there to be much tourism to central Florida, with the exception of Cape Canaveral. Not that it is a bad place, but if you are visiting to experience Florida then going down to Miami and the keys makes more sense. If you like nature it is fine, but most of the coastal South would have similar sights, many with more history (like Charleston).

    Given that the theme parks are there, yes, I agree there are interesting things to go do to give people a more diverse vacaction.

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    • For those who are there for the rides, I have to put in a plug for Cedar Point. It’s not really “themed” but it is thoughtfully landscaped and ride-dense for the acreage.

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      • Cedar Point is the undisputed coaster capital of the Midwest, but Carl lives in California where there is an embarrassment of riches in terms of coasters. Magic Mountain is supposed to be coaster nirvana.

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      • I think Cedar Point and Magic Mountain are the top two coaster parks in the country, if not the world. At the moment Magic Mountain is on top in terms of coasters, but I think several years back Cedar Point was the champ. Give it 5 or 10 years and it will be the other way around I’m sure.

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  5. Great write-up. Sounds like you all had a good trip, aside from the lanyard going AWOL.

    Did I completely glaze over something or was Star Tours not part of your tour?

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    • Hi Jestak!
      Yeah, I had planned for us to do Star Tours initially, but my nephew knew that it is pretty much identical to what is at DHS in Florida which he gets to ride quite often, so he said he didn’t care about riding it this time. I completely agreed with him and had only planned it because I thought he’d want to ride it anyway, so we skipped it. I’m not a huge fan of simulator rides to begin with, so leaving it out happened without a second thought.

      I tend to use the same approach as Lebeau does when I sit down to write my trip reports. The photos I took load onto my computer in order and that helps me recall what happened and in what order, but sometimes I find that I have failed to take photos of something for whatever reason. Sometimes I’m just so involved in an experience that I never even think of taking a picture. This results in me leaving stuff out of trip reports sometimes, and sometimes I leave things out just because including them would slow down what is already a long article.

      A combination of these factors led me to completely leave out our ride on the Disneyland Railroad during daylight of our second day in the parks. If you read the reports you may get the impression that I never saw Primeval World on this trip, but I did, in fact go through that tunnel and see the robot dinosaurs. Unfortunately, I failed to even attempt to take a photo and so when I started writing I was left not being able to figure out when this happened and i ended up leaving it out of the report. Rest assured, robot dinosaurs are still cool.

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      • I’ll share a tip. Sometimes I snap a picture I know I won’t use just to “take a note”. For example, dark rides are really hard to photograph if you’re following the no flash rule – which I always do. So I will typically just snap a real quick picture of the sign or something in the queue. I don’t even worry whether or not its going to turn out. The purpose of the picture is purely to serve as a reminder.

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        • Yeah, I’ve done that in the past, but somewhere along the line I find that my camera goes in my pocket and I forget to pull it out for a while. Moving quicker with an older group plays into this, I’m betting.

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        • That happens to me too. I get tired and just stop. After the cruise, I didn’t have any desire to take any more pictures. So the Cocoa Beach portion of our stay was very lightly documented.

          More often than not, no one in my group even realizes I’m taking these pics. Sometimes, I slip my phone out of my pocket and snap a pic I know won’t turn out at all. It will be blurry, but enough that I’ll know the sequence of things. I did a lot of this at Universal since so many of their attractions are indoors and/or screen based. It helped that was the first day of the trip and my TR was very much on my mind.

          Ease of access is one of the reasons I have resorted to taking all my pictures on my phone. The pictures aren’t nearly as good, but it’s just so much more convenient. I brought my regular camera along but never once used it. In retrospect, I wished I had brought it to the Anna and Elsa meet and greet. I had intended to knowing that the lighting would probably be poor. But then it slipped my mind. If I knew how bad it was actually going to be, I would have made certain to bring it along.

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  6. This may be off topic, but I wanted to get this in someplace, and in a tangential way it does sort of fit in with the summer/Vacation theme. I took my daughter and a friend of hers to see “Minions.” Or, more accurately, I dropped them off and picked them up. Wasn’t really sure I could sit through “Minions.” Both 12 year olds give it 2 enthusiastic thumbs up, incidentally.
    Where this is sort of related? Well, I bought the tickets and saw them get in the concessions line. We arranged where to meet after the movie. The ticket seller advised what time it would let out, and I got there 20 minutes early. So I had time to think, always dangerous, and I was thinking about these TRs. For some reason that caused me to look around and see the movie theatre in a whole new way. I didn’t see movies in theatres for a long time in the 90s and up until a year ago or so, for various reasons. It just hit me that theatres have changed. Sure, they’re more “corporate’ and everything costs more, but it’s also a more complete experience, if that makes sense. Movie theatres used to be dark inside, period. Now the lobby is all open design and high windows for natural light. There is also artwork, in addition to the usual movie posters. The concession area has been completely redone to add a plethora of food choices, although it’s still the popcorn you smell when walking in, and even coffee drinks. More than that, there’s a weird sense of community. When I got there, people were in the lobby chairs, college age kids texting, and a couple of elderly gentlemen having a debate about old movies. They had coffees and it wasn’t clear if they were waiting to see a movie or not, but it was like they were at a coffeehouse. When I had dropped off the girls and was preparing to leave, who do I run into but my sister and her friends, off to see Magic Mike.
    They asked me to join and I would have if the times had matched up. Finally, my memory of theatres in decades past was of faulty HVAC systems, in both directions, hot or freezing. Here, the climate control was perfect, adding to pleasant atmosphere. Lastly, although the popcorn was expensive, I found out the largest size is refillable, making it a not bad deal! Looking forward to returning to Rave to see the new Vacation movie.

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    • daffystardust

      I do think most newly-built movie theaters are nicely done in comparison to the places I saw movies as a younger teenager. Not long after that I started seeing a higher percentage of movies at art houses which tended to either be in tiny screening rooms or in grand places with neon marquees like the Naro in Norfolk or the Music Box in Chicago. At some point (perhaps as a reaction to the kind of baseball stadiums that started being built in the mid 90s?) the cineplexes began offering more impressive venues with better choices in concession. It’s a good thing. If only they’d done a better job with sound proofing in these places.

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      • I miss the little mom and pop movie theaters. Some of my best movie going experiences were at theaters that might be described as “run down”.

        There are several very complex reasons for the ways movie theaters have changed over the years. Having worked in the industry for more years than I care to admit, I had a front row seat for some of these changes. Way back in the day, you used to have theaters with one or two really big screens. Maybe even three. Movies played on a lot fewer screens back then and they had longer theatrical runs. It wasn’t at all uncommon for movies to sell out. When that happened, people would either go to another theater and hope for the best or buy a ticket for something else. You didn’t have to worry about hearing the audio from the movie in the next auditorium. And the picture was gigantic.

        In the 80’s, there was a push for more screens. That’s when cineplexes started up. What the big chains did was to divide up those big auditoriums. The screens in the cineplexes got smaller and smaller as more flimsy diving walls went in. You could definitely hear what was going on in the movie next door. Over time, every theater was expected to show every movie and most of them were showing in tiny little houses.

        In the 90’s the studios started pushing for bigger and bigger openings. The reason for this was simple. They made the majority of their money in the film’s opening weeks. Once a movie had been out a few weeks, the theater started getting a bigger piece of the pie. So the studios insisted on having their movies on more screens with more showtimes when they opened. The result was that most movies would open big and then fall fast. Sell outs were mostly a thing of the past. And theatrical runs got shorter and shorter.

        This is also where home video really starts to become a factor. The DVDs and then BluRays and higher def TV, people had less reason to go to the movies. Making matters worse, the studios wanted to get to that home video income as quickly as possible. They came to the conclusion that if they released a movie on video while it was still fresh in people’s minds, they would be more likely to buy it. It used to be that a hit movie would run in theaters for a year. Maybe get rereleased the following year. And then air on cable the year after that. And then it would hit video at some point in the future. So, basically if you wanted to see a movie any time in the next few years, you went to the movies. Nowadays, Ant-man opened this weekend and will be on video in time for Christmas. Why would I pay to go see it at the movies?

        Movie theaters have been in trouble for a while now as people stop going. So they have had no choice but to change the experience. They make next to nothing on the ticket sales, yet they have massive overhead. For a while, everyone thought 3-D would be the salvation of the movie-going experience. But that’s mostly just added to ticket revenue which doesn’t help the theaters at all. They make their money almost entirely off of concessions. So they have had to start offering experiences that border on restaurants. Popcorn and soda don’t cut it anymore. Audiences demand more variety and a nice atmosphere in which to enjoy it.

        That’s fine and all. I like nice theaters. But it comes at a price. It’s a symptom of what’s ailing the movie industry as a whole. The little movies and the privately held theaters that used to show them are getting squeezed out by corporate monstrosities playing Minions on three or four screens. But hey, they serve fancy coffee, right?

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  7. Indeed, yes. Couldn’t agree more on the overall concept of what happens when corporatization takes over, and I enjoyed this interesting overview of how things developed with the moviegoing venues. And I do miss the old big screen theatres, with their individual character and charm. Some of these are, appropriately, historic buildings today. But I wouldn’t feel safe having my daughter attend a movie with a friend, and without me, at the places where my parents used to drop us off. Society is just a whole lot different now.
    I’m also well aware that my comment makes it sound like I need to get out more, which is true. 🙂

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