Top 10 Things to Bring with you to Disneyland

No day at Disneyland is the same as the any other, and all you can do is plan well, be ready to adapt, and make sure you enjoy yourself. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but i’ve been there plenty of times with kids that range from toddlers to pre-teens and each need their own supplies. These are beyond things you probably already know what to bring.

10. Extra Clothes

adventureland

The mornings may be nice, the afternoons may be hot, and the evenings may become freezing so having jackets and sweats may be helpful to keep your family warm if the winds pick up or weather takes a turn for the worse.

If you plan on going on any water rides, especially Grizzly River Run you’re going to get wet, and i’ve seen some kids breakdown once they’ve become soaking wet, so entire wardrobe change may be necessary.

You have some options when it comes to storage as Disneyland now has all day use lockers which you can open and close all day without having to put more money into the machines. If not you can always just put them in your car and come back if need be.

9. Sundries

flight-glasses

Pretend like your trip to Disneyland is like going to the beach so pack anything you wouldn’t want to pay double the cost to buy on the fly. There’s nothing worse than getting a headache during your day in the park, or coming home with a face and back burnt from being in the sun for 10 hours of the day.

  • sun block
  • sunglasses
  • chap stick
  • tylenol
  • bandaids
  • wetnaps

8. Pre-purchased Souvenirs

main-st.plutoSave some time and money and pre-purchase your autograph books, and glow in the dark necklaces that you can get at the dollar store instead of shelling out extra cash for disposable things. If you want to start pin collected start off by checking eBay for people tying to get rid of their extras.

7. Phone Apps

mouse-waitMouseWait is a handy app available for both the iPhone and Android phones which will be invaluable if you’re trying to get on as many rides as possible. Its a social based tool which will give you the most up to the minute wait times for rides and the availability of FASTPASS around the park.

FourSquare allows you “check in” at venues throughout the day. The most important check in is the one at the parking lot so you’ll remember what floor and what column you’re parked on. There’s nothing worse then ending your day and having no idea where you parked at. It can also keep track of your day so you can remember how your day progressed.

6. Phone Chargers

If you’re anything like me, your phone will be dead before lunch if you don’t bring a charger with you for all your phones. Between taking pictures, using MouseWait, and checking football scores you’re going to be constantly on your phone. It also doesn’t help that for reason that may include too many people within a certain cell phone tower, or just being in a bad reception area your phone is constantly looking for a signal to connect to which of course drains the battery even faster.

Disneyland have new Phone Charging Lockers available for rent. Disney is pretty good at hiding open power sockets but MouseWait also has a handy guide to where you can find available outlets.

5. A Plan

disneyland-city-hallA little research can go a long way when planning a trip to Disneyland and DCA. Its better to know ahead of times about which rides you need to go on, and what rides will be closed.

You can make an advanced dining reservation up to 60 days before your visit at select restaurants by calling (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463.

Plan for afternoon breaks whether to take a nap, or just time to reset yourself in an air conditioned lobby of the Grand Californian.

Watching a outdoor show? Bring blankets to sit on and mark your space. As a kid my mom would camp out in front of the Fantasmic show saving our spot while my sister and i would continue running around the park. When we would get back we would have plenty of space to lay down and wait for the show as well.

Have a meeting spot if you ever get separated from your group. My family’s spot was at the Lost Parent Sign in front of City Hall.

4. Snacks and a Water Bottle

DCA-ghirardelli

While i personally think that dining in the park is part of the experience, snacking on churros, ice cream and popcorn  all day aren’t particularly necessary. Sometimes you just need something to munch on in line that wont get messy, or make you full before dinner. I really recommend a trail mix of nuts and dehydrated fruits that wont melt, or get sticky while you eat. Its also very important to keep hydrated throughout the day, and bringing a water bottle you can constantly refill is a lot better than having to buy it in the park.

3. Shoes

tomorrowland

You’ll be tempted to wear sandals into the park, but unless you can do hikes in them then leave them at home. Make sure you bring comfortable running/walking shoes that you don’t need to break in, or mind getting dirty. You’re body will thank you after 12 hours of walking on the hot asphalt, and countless times of being stepped on, or being run over by a stroller.

2. Kids Info Cards

kidsKids can get separated really easy in crowds or wander off before you realize it so if you may want to pin an info card of your mobile phone number so a kid can reach out to any cast member to help get them back to you. Cast Members are really diligent of connecting lost kids to their parents so if you’re worried about them not being able to get back to a meeting point then you should have a way for them to reach out to you.

1. Right Attitude/Patience

DCA-entrance

Disneyland may bill its self as the Happiest Place on Earth, it could also be name the Busiest Place on Earth, most Stressful Place on Earth, or Hottest Place on Earth and if you’re in charge of the day then it’ll all be put on your shoulders.  Disneyland is suppose to be fun, so just know there are things you have to deal with and everything should be fine. Knowing these things will help you enjoy your day in the park:

  • It gets crowded, so make sure you can deal with stupid people.
  • You wait in lines all day, so make sure your kids know that sometimes you have to wait for an hour.
  • Its expensive, as long as you know you’re going to be spending money it wont surprise you on how much things costs when you’re there.
  • Give yourself enough time, because the more you rush throughout the day the more you’ll end up missing

Disneyland 5k – Race Day

I signed up for the Disneyland 5k back in the winter time and knew it was a long ways away but kept up all summer going for 2 and 3 mile runs even during the weekdays. I couldn’t seem to get past running a 9:30 mile, and really tried to get it closer to a nine minute mile to beat my personal record (PR). Going into race day i was faced with a dilemma of racing by myself or walking with Joy since she’s pregnant, and my sister still sore from her minor surgery the week before. I planned on walking part of the race with them and running the last two miles.

disneyland-5k-start

Race morning I woke up at 3:30am to get ready and drive to Cerritos to pick up my sister, and get to Disneyland by 5:00am for our lineup. While waiting for our corral to be released i was still figuring out what to do, but once we were off, i said screw it and decided to walk the course too. I didn’t want to be left out of all the pictures i knew were going to be taken, but it was really hard not to just start jogging with so many other people really running. The other thing that made me feel better was that we weren’t given a timing chip so everything was basically off the record since it was just a “fun run.”

disneyland-5k-course

The course layout was entirely inside the ground of Disneyland, California Adventures, and Downtown Disney, and the first time we ran through, Joy was going as fast as possible, but this year we took our time and even back tracked a few times to get another picture. The course started off by going down Disney way that led to the back of DCA and we entered right next to Cars Land.

Disneyland-5k-cars-land

We stopped along with a bunch of other people to snap a shot in front of Radiator Springs Racers.

Disneyland-world-of-color

Then a stop in front of the the World of Color fountains. Where we almost didn’t get this shot because we had a cast member try 4 times and didn’t even take one picture. Thankfully we checked and got another runner to take an actual picture.

disneyland-5k-main-entrance

Disneyland-5k-chipndale

Then it was off to Disneyland where we circled the castle through Fantasyland, and Frontierland where we found Chip and Dale. Finally the home stretch had us run through Critter Country and out the back to head back towards Downtown Disney.

Disneyland-5k-final

I had plenty of energy so i did a lot of slow motion running next to Joy, and some running forward and circling back to Joy to get my kicks in, but when we finally crossed the finish line my overall time for the 3.1 miles was slower than what it took me to run my 10k (6.2 miles) back in February with a time of 1:04:11.

Disneyland-5k-medals

Here we are with our Alice and Wonderland medals.


Disneyland Halfathon Weekend

Disneyland-halfathon-2007

Six years ago when i first met Joy, i somehow convinced her to run a half marathon with me even though neither one of us had run more than a 5k before. It was early on in our dating timeline and i had some reservation about asking a girl i basically had just met to a date seven months into the future, but something inside told me just go for it. Looking back I think training together for the half-marathon was something that we really bonded over time with and got us to where we are now.

This year knowing that we were trying to get pregnant we only signed up to do the 5k instead of the halfathon, and it worked out well since of course Joy did get knocked up and wouldn’t have been able to do it. My sister joined us as well as she missed out on our half marathon for reasons i forget now.

Disneyland-5k-2013-pickup

Disneyland-5k-2013-shirts

Friday we went to the Health & Fitness Expo to pick up our bibs and t-shirts. I was disappointed that the 5k only got a hanes t-shirt, while all the other ones got an annual tech shirt, because this weekend ended up being so humid even in the morning. The cool thing about this year’s race was that it was Alice and Wonderland themed so it seemed so appropriate since we’re naming our daughter Alice as well.

I was hoping to pick up a new hat but unfortunately i’m not a fan of most running caps because they’re always so flimsy and thats all they had. After we picked up everything we headed out to Downtown Disney to have dinner with the cousins who drove up to meet up with us.


Top 10 Rides of Disneyland

This list is my top 10 Rides of Disneyland for older kids and adults. These rides are a mix of old world Disney imagineering, and the funnest rides in the park that you shouldn’t miss. This also means that these rides will be the more popular rides which will mean for longer wait times.

The biggest tip i can give for any ride is if you are faced with an option of a fork in the queue and is to choose the path to the right. The reason for this is that most rides allow people in wheelchairs to cut the lines of the left queue, and the time it takes to load and unload them is very time consuming.

10. Disneyland Railroad

Disneyland-RailroadThe Disneyland railroads is one of the last true steam powered trains in the country and its the first thing to greet you when you enter the park. Everything about it just brings you back in time and really makes you use all your senses if you don’t even realize it. The sounds are unmistakable with the toot of the steam engine, or the chugging of the wheels. The smell of the steam engine fill the air, and the open cabin ride lets you feel the wind in your face as you circle the park.

Its a great slow ride that makes stops in Main St. USA, New Orleans Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Along the way you get narration about things your are passing by, and between Tomorrowland and Main St. USA you take a trip through time and get to see a T-rex battle a Stegosaurus in a lava field.

  • nostalgia level: 8
  • excitement level: 3
  • restrictions: none
  • wait time: 10-20 minutes
  • Fast Pass: no

Main St. Station is the easiest location to get on, while fantasyland is the hardest to.

9. Splash Mountain

splash-mountain

Warning you may get wet. Splash Mountain was the last mountain ride to be opened in 1998 which takes you on a log plume ride through the adventures of Brer Rabbit. The only remaining water based ride in the park, its has multiple drops which ends with a 53ft drop into the briar patch.

Splash Mountain shouldn’t be taken lightly and makes me nervous the entire time because i just dread a random moment when the waves may splash up against the log and get you wet. The drops come at random spots where you will least expect it which makes the ride very exciting.

  • nostalgia level: 6
  • excitement level: 10
  • restrictions: 3′ 4″ (1.02 m)
  • wait time: 20-60 minutes
  • fast pass: yes

Keep your feet as close to the sides as you can, because there is nothing worse then walking around in wet shoes

8. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

Finding-Nemo-Submarine-Voyage

The Finding Nemo submarine is a redo of the original Submarine Voyage which was one of my favorite rides even though you could see the wires spinning fish in circles and was closed in 1998 (which i got on one of the final rides the day it closed after work).  If you’re claustrophobic or feel uncomfortable being an enclosed dark space i would probably avoid this ride. Also there’s a scary scene towards the end of the ride that has lots of flashing lights with explosions sounds that will frighten young children.

The ride has you in a little yellow submarine that probably fits 30 people and starts off by taking you into the open waters to see some deep sea divers and various fish swimming around. Then as the boat passes the waterfall in dives into deeper water where the real fun begins and they turn on special sonar hydrophones so you can understand what Nemo and friends are saying.  With a clever use of underwater video screens you go through another adventure of Marlin and Dory searching for Nemo and Squirt.

  • nostalgia level: 5
  • excitement level: 6
  • restrictions: none
  • wait time: 20-40 minutes
  • fast pass: no

While waiting in line you may be able to catch a show of Jedi Training Academy held at Tomorrowland Terrace Stage

7. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Star-Tours--The-Adventures-Continue

What kid doesn’t like Star Wars and getting to relive great moments of all the movies is a great idea. Star Tours is a 3D space flight simulator that has 54 different possible combination ride experiences that may take you from the snowy fields of Hoth, Pod Racing on Tatooine or fighting off Boba Fett in deep space.

The entire Star Tours experience is well done from the queue all the way through the exit of the attraction. The queue has you going through a space terminal which a flight board, a StarSpeeder 1000 that C3PO and R2D2 are working on, to a couple of wisecracking robots who should be scanning luggage but would rather communicate with you. The ride is super exciting and unpredictable to the experience that you’ll have and finally as you exit the ride you get to leave to The Throne Room End Title which still gives me the chills that leads you straight into the Star Wars gift shop.

  • nostalgia level: 3
  • excitement level: 10
  • restrictions: 3′ 4″ (1.02 m)
  • wait time: 20-60 minutes
  • fast pass: yes

If you’re prone to motion sickness, ask to sit in the back row of the ride which should help out a little.

6. Peter Pan’s Flight

peter-pans-flight

I like Peter Pan’s Flight because its such a different experience compared to all the other people mover rides in Fantasyland. Once you get pass the never ending queue you board your own little flying pirate ship and get sent off into the night. You get to relive the story of Peter Pan, in the dark and most of the ride’s visuals takes place below your ship, which is a cool effect.

  • nostalgia level: 10
  • excitement level: 4
  • restrictions: none
  • wait time: 30-60 minutes
  • fast pass: no

The ride is a little creaky but i think it adds to experience, and the black lights in the ride is always fun even as an adult.

5. Space Mountain

Space-Mountain

Space Mountain is probably one of the most unique roller coasters even in its old age. Its a ride that is completely indoor and in the dark. If not for the projection of stars against the dome of the ride you would barely be able to tell which way you were going and which way you’re about to go. I used to be scared of this ride at times as a child and makes excuses not to go on it. Its funny because i was never consistent about my attitude either.

  • nostalgia level: 8
  • excitement level: 10
  • restrictions: 3′ 4″ (1.02 m)
  • wait time: 20-90 minutes
  • fast pass: yes

Be prepared for a picture at the end of the ride right when you make one of the few right turns on the ride, which can be purchased upon exit

4. Thunder Mountain

thunder-mtn

As a kid Thunder Mountain was my favorite roller coaster. I love the theming of the attraction and the ever changing tempo of the ride. Its not a non stop thrill ride, but has moments of calm right before chugging down the track as a run away train. Its a very smooth ride without all the rough bumps and turns like the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and has better scenery than Space Mountain.

  • nostalgia level: 8
  • excitement level: 10
  • restrictions: 3′ 4″ (1.02 m)
  • wait time: 15-40 minutes
  • fast pass: yes

Of all the Fast Pass rides this is the one that i don’t mind waiting in the standard queue

3. Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates-of-the-Caribbean

The Pirates of the Caribbean is one of those rides that really get you with all your senses because there’s so much going on from small waterfall drops, battle scenes, burning buildings and drunk sailors. I’m surprised that this ride didn’t scare me more growing up with the eerie darkness, and lots of skeletons at the beginning of the ride.

Throughout the years the ride has gone through some rennovations but hasn’t strayed far from the original design. I’m still disappointed that they updated the ride become more politically correct when they made the Pirates go from chasing women, to chasing waitress with food. Even as a child i understood the concept of what they were really doing, but times have changed. The second update was when they started to include characters from the movie franchise, and thankfully it doesn’t detract too much, and leaves much to the original design of the ride.

  • nostalgia level: 7
  • excitement level: 8
  • restrictions: none
  • wait time: 10-40 minutes
  • fast pass: no

Sitting in the front of the boat will most likely get you wet

2. Haunted Mansion

haunted-mansion The Haunted Mansion has a way to bring out the fun in people and it really shows even from the cast members working it. Everyone needs a little scare in their lives and the Doom buggy ride does just enough not to make a kid cry. I sure wasn’t the bravest kid growing up, but i still never really got scared of the Haunted Mansion except when the house shows you “the other way out.”

  • nostalgia level: 10
  • excitement level: 7
  • restrictions: none
  • wait time: 30-60 minutes
  • fast pass: no

Between Halloween and Christmas the ride becomes  Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion

1. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye

Indiana-Jones-Adventure--Temple-of-the-Forbidden-Eye

Indiana Jones debut in 1995, right in the middle of my high school life so i vividly remember the first time I went on the ride. This is the one queue where I didn’t mind standing in for a long period of time because it had so much interaction throughout, and it was mostly indoors so it was a great place to escape from the heat.

The queue is part of the fun of the ride experience as it immerses you into the world of Indiana Jones. If you look on the walls of the queue there are hieroglyphic which could be translated with a Marabic decoder card which was be given to each guest upon entering. You’ll probably miss it now a days because the FastPass allows you to skip through most of the queue where you would’ve spent your time figuring out what the words on the wall said. Continuing through the queue there’s a spike room where if you pull on the bamboo stick that looks out of place it makes the room sound like its about to come down on you. Upon entering the great room you’ll see a mining expedition happening and if you pull on the rope you’ll get responses from the trapped explorer.

The ride itself was a revelation to your typical roller coaster as instead of being in a chain of linked pods, you’re strapped into a 16 seat jeep which can dip in any direction, and speed up or slow down at any time. This allows the ride experience to change on a moments notice, and the ride being a pretty dim light can really enhance the experience without actually having to travel at high speeds like a typical roller coaster.

  • nostalgia level: 4
  • excitement level: 10
  • restrictions: 3′ 4″ (1.02 m)
  • wait time: 20-90 minutes
  • fast pass: yes

Top 10 Tips for Taking Photos at Disneyland

One of the best and longest lasting souvenirs you’ll take home with you from Disneyland will be the photos you take or buy. There are many places and characters to take photos but you don’t want to spend all day just taking pictures so these tips are to help make the most out of the photos you do bring home.

10. Leave your DSLR at home

mater-zoo

You might love your DSLR with that super expensive lens that can shoot photos in the dark but unless it’ll be your 20th time going to the park, leave the arm canon at home. Stick to your compact camera that you can carry in your pocket, and these are the reasons why:

  • $1000 worth of equipement vs. 60,000 people
  • You’re going to have to take it on the rides with you
  • Not everyone knows how to use a DSLR, and at some point you’ll need to hand it off to somebody else to shoot a photo
  • Do you really have a free hand once considering you’ll be holding onto your kid’s hands, pushing a stroller, snacking on popcorn, or dealing with your wallet
  • Selfies, you know you’ll want to take one
  • It’ll take you a year to go through editing, and sorting through 15mb files

9. Leave it to the Professionals

family-disney-time

You know whats better than not bringing a DSLR, is not bringing a camera at all. Disney offers a service called the Disney PhotoPlus+ Pass which will provide you a digital copy, of all, i mean ALL the photos you’ll need while one vacation at Disneyland and California Adventures. For $99.95 (or $69.95 if you purchase 14 days prior) you can get all your photos taken by a professional with a DSLR camera, get all your ride photos, and have the ability to add Disney characters to your photos for a single price.

Check out TouringPlans.com & allears.net for a more in depth review of the photo pass service.

Be creative, and don’t be afraid to do something silly, and when in doubt ask the Cast Member for advice, they’ve seen them all.

8. Stick with your iPhone

iphone-picture

I’ve taken about 80% of all my pictures at the park with just my iPhone but any Smart Phone for that matter will work too. You wont be the only one either, with the recent report that Disneyland is the most tagged location for instagram users in the US. Most phone camera are starting to rival typical point and shoot megapixel levels its like carrying two of the same device. The best things are the apps that you can you can use to shoot and edit on the fly while sharing it with the world without having to plug it into a computer. These are the essential apps for preloading when going to the park:

  • Camera Awesome – a fuller function picture taking app
  • Snapseed – photo editing app to adjust lighting, cropping and other stuff
  • Frametastic –  photo collage app to combine multiple photos into a single framed image
  • Instagram – photo filters and social sharing app

7. Think twice before you flash the camera

buzz-lightyearRarely does a photo taken with flash at night ever comes out good. Also remember you’re not the only family at the park and getting flashed in the eye when its dark isn’t very courteous. When Cast Members tell you that flash photography is not allowed, its not that they don’t want you to take pictures of the rides, but its very disturbing and distracting to other riders, especially at the Haunted Mansion, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Flash has a limited distance that it can reach, and unless you have a External Flash, you can really only capture about 5 feet in front of you.

Most cameras have a Firework setting

6. Switch to Video

Sometimes still photos can’t tell the whole story, and you need to switch your camera to video mode to capture everything. I wouldn’t suggest shooting a lot of video because it will take up a lot of memory, editing video is must more time consuming than photos, and you’ll look back at videos a lot less often then flipping through pictures. My basic tips on shooting video to follow are:

  • Know when to switch modes – what you’re looking for when shooting videos is  everything you can’t capture with photos; a build up to a reaction, sounds, lights and movement.
  • Shoot in short bursts (15-30 seconds) rather than one long shot – no one wants to wait to get to the good part
  • Don’t shoot while moving – no one needs a personal Blair Witch Project.
  • Don’t zoom – it takes time for the camera to refocus

5. Know when to put the camera away

indiana-jones-batsThere are a few times where you should resist the urge to pull out your camera and leave it tucked in your pocked. “But i’ll miss a memory”  you say, but what you don’t realize is that enjoying the park in that 3 inch screen instead of with your full vision of your eyes. Disneyland does a very good job of the details, and there are lots of little hidden treasures scattered throughout the park that need your full attention to see.

The second reason is that if you go with a group of people taking pictures, people don’t know what camera to look at and no one will have a good picture if everyone is looking at a different camera. They’re digital cameras people, we can share them in an instant!

My favorite application is the shared photo stream on iPhones. This feature allows you to create an album that will share photos to other iPhone users in an instant. No more having to email or text pictures, they’ll get all of them automatically.

Learn how to set one photo stream share from the Cult of Mac.

4. Pass the Camera Around

dug

As the photographer you can get pretty caught up capturing every moment of your family’s trip, and that typically means that you’re not in any of the photos. Pas the camera around to the members in your group, because they’ll capture things that you may not notice or pay attention to. Let you kids get pictures from the ground up, and let them get a few pictures pictures of you while they’re at it. Make use of Cast Members walking around the park any time you need a group photo taken.

If you’re getting a group shot taken, preface it by asking them to take a few photos in landcape and portait style

3. Learn the basics to photography

radiator-springs-racers

Two non-physical things to bring with you is your smile, and your skills. First teach your kids how to smile and how to pose in pictures. Not every pictures needs to be everyone standing straight and smiling, so add some funny faces, or poses into your picture. Check out these 10 Rules for Family Photography at Walt Disney World.

The second thing is your camera skills. Being in focus is probably the most important but its not the only thing. It’ll help make your photos more interesting if you learn the basics principals of photography.  You don’t want every photo to look the same, so here are few rules you should get to know:

  • Lighting – the best natural light is early in the morning and the worst is high noon
  • Rule of thirds – don’t put your subject directly in the middle of your shot
  • Balancing elements – make sure you don’t over load one side of your picture with everything
  • Leading lines – where are the elements in the photo drawing your eye to
  • Framing – use external elements to put your subject as the focal point

2. “Be Prepared” – Scar

pooh

The worse thing you can do get to the park, get all setup and realize that you can’t take a picture! Most likely you haven’t used your camera in a while and your memory card may be full or battery meters says its full but if you wait a minute will drop to zero. The night before make sure that you’ve emptied your memory card, charged your battery, and made sure its working correctly. Also don’t forget to bring your phone charger, along with your camera charger because if you’re like me now you’ll be using your phone all day and by mid afternoon it will be dead.

Disneyland is pretty good about hiding their outlets so use this guide to find available  power outlets.

1. A picture with Mickey and Friends

mickey-mouse

Ask any Cast member and they’ll tell you that you can always find Mickey Mouse at his house in Toontown. Sometimes the line gets pretty long but you’ll definitely get picture with the head mouse. The rest of the gang are scattered throughout the park:

  • Goofy, Pluto, Minny and Donald also live in Toontown
  • The Princesses have their own Fantasy Faire where you can line up to take meet and take pictures with all the princesses in Fantasyland
  • Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore hang out in Critter Country
  • On Main St. USA you can bump into the likes of Chip & Dale, and Cruella de Vil, and other classic characters.
  • Storm Troopers like to hang out in Tomorrowland

Other famous photo locations are all over the park, so make sure you plan ahead to which ones you want pictures with.

  • Floral Mickey, a lovely spot just as you enter Disneyland park (when you still look fresh).
  • In front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
  • Along the river at New Orleans Square at Disneyland park.
  • On the bridge at Disney California Adventure park with Mickey’s Fun Wheel as the backdrop.

My favorite place to get a picture with Mickey is actually much later into the night, you can find him wandering Main St. typically without many people hounding him, and he’ll actually have time to interact with you.


Top 10 Rides and Attractions of Disney’s California Adventures

10. Grizzly River Run

DCA-Grizzly-River-Run
Photo Courtesy of http://www.etsy.com/shop/IndigoHeartBox

The Grizzly Run is a white water rafting adventure that i guarantee you will get wet on. While a very good ride, you can really only go on Grizzly’s River Run when its hot, and when its hot the ride line can get to be over an hour long. Definitely get a fastpass if thats the case. The seats next to an entrance tend to be extra wet, and water will rush up from the floor from the drains as well so i recommend planning ahead and wearing sandals.

There are free lockers available for 2 hours at a time next to the ride so you can keep your valuables dry.

9. Mickey’s Fun Wheel

DCA-Mickeys-Fun-Wheel The Ferris Wheel is possibly the scariest ride out of both parks. There are two options getting onto the ride, a normal gondola and a swinging gondola. The swinging gondolas are on rails that will roll at different heights where your momentum will swing the gondola almost parrallel to the ground. You can hear people screaming all around Paradise Pier and they are real screams of terror.

Barf bags are available inside the gondola for those who can’t handle the swinging

8. It’s Tough to Be a Bug!

DCA-It's-Tough-to-Be-a-Bug!
Photo Courtesy of http://www.etsy.com/shop/IndigoHeartBox

It’s Tough to be a Bug is one of two of the 4D shows at California Adventures. Its a very amusing show displaying all sorts of interesting bugs there are in the world, that leads into a very scary appearance of Hopper looking to destroy everything. The show appears from all around you and be prepared to get sprayed with water.

The show may be a little too intense for young children so you might want to sit near an exit if it gets too crazy for them.

7. Disney’s Aladdin’s A Musical Spectacular

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The Aladdin Show at California Adventures brings me back to the days that there were shows at Videopolis in the 80s and 90s. Its a classically designed theater with orchestra and mezzanine seating that seats hundreds. The show is basically the Aladdin movie condensed a bit, but the jokes that the Genie makes are typically up to date, and the specials effects are pretty good.

The theater is a great place to rest your feet in an air-conditioned theater for 40 minutes.

6. California Screamin’

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California Screamin’ is Disneyland first inverted ride is a fast and exciting ride right from the get go. The ride starts out with a bang launching you from a stand still to 55mph in an instant. The longest ride in the park sends your through many dips, banks, and one giant loop.

The ride closes for the World of Color Show, so make sure you get on before the first show.

5. Soarin’ Over California

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Soarin’ over California is considered the best ride of California Adventures by my dad, but its only number 5 for me. The flight simulator is like being on a glider with your feet dangling in the air, and takes you on a flight over the entire state of California. The ride brings you from the snowy mountains of Lake Tahoe, to the golf course of Palm Springs, and ending up back at Disneyland.

Its worth the wait and extra round if you can ask to sit on middle of the first row

4. Toy Story Midway Mania!

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Toy Story Midway Mania! is a 4D ride which takes you through five carnival games that has you throwing rings around aliens, to shooting down plates to see who can score the most points.

  • Hamm & Eggs (egg throw game now featuring Buttercup from Toy Story 3)
  • Rex and Trixie’s Dino Darts (dart throw game; once Bo Peep’s Baa-loon Pop)
  • Green Army Men Shoot Camp (baseball throw / plate breaking game)
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Flying Tossers (ring toss game)
  • Woody’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Gallery

Keep your eyes out for the super small targets because they’re worth the most points.

There are no fast passes available for Toy Story Midway Mania! so lines are consistently long.

3. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!

DCA-Monsters,-Inc.-Mike-&-Sulley-to-the-Rescue!
Photo Courtesy of http://www.etsy.com/shop/IndigoHeartBox

Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! is a kids ride that i can’t get enough of. The ride takes you through the story of Monsters, Inc. from beginning to end, and is another multi-sensory ride. I love smelling each of the scenes like wasabi in the sushi restaurant.

The ride is open even during the nighttime party events like the Mad T Party, and the queue is always short, you just need to go behind the stage to avoid the excessive noise.

2. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

DCA-The-Twilight-Zone-Tower-of-Terror

The thing i think that separates Disneyland apart from other theme parks is the fine touches all around the ride beyond the ride itself. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a free falling elevator ride up and down the hotel facade, and your journey begins even before you put on your seatbelt. There’s a whole backstory of hotel guests who were caught in a lighting storm while on the elevator and now haunt the hotel.

Most of the cast members that work the ride really like to get into character so don’t take offense if they don’t have a typical Disney attitude.

1. Radiator Springs Racers

dca-radiator-springs-racersOpened just last year, it has taken over the best ride in California Adventures, and more importantly makes it worth spending the money to get into California Adventures. The ride is based off the Test Track ride at Disney World, and takes you a drive through radiator springs leading up to a race against another car full of people where you’ll feel some real G forces when dropping into some of the steep turns.

Everyone knows that this is the best ride in the park and the queue will average two hours just after the park’s opening. Get in line fast or get in line for a Fast Pass thats located near the Bug’s Life theater. If you’re there with grown kids then opt for the Single Rider queue which times can be super short.

The Radiator Springs Racer Fast Pass wont count against you for the rest of the day, so you can still get Fast Passes for other rides.


Top 10 Days To Visit or Not To Visit Disneyland

Disneyland is open 365 days a year but not every day is created equal. There are days that should be avoided at all costs and other days where you basically ask never to get off the ride because no one else is in line. Weekdays are better than weekends, summer days are hot, winter months can be rainy, and everyone goes when school is out, but here are a few days that stand out the most as good or bad days to visit Disneyland.

10. New Year’s Eve

Don’t Go! Its such a good idea to go to Disneyland to ring in the new year, but it is the number day not to go. On an average day there may be 50,000 people but on the eve that i worked there was an estimated 120,000 people waiting for the clock to hit midnight. You can get on about two rides for the day, and have to stand shoulder to shoulder, groin to ass for hours on main street waiting for the fireworks to go off.

9. 4th of July

Don’t Go! See number 10, but at 80,000-100,000 guests. Its genrally a bad idea to visit the park during the summer months due to people visiting for summer break but the just skip going on the 4th of July. You’ll just be standing in excessively long lines, next to excessively stinky people waiting until it gets dark to see the fireworks show.

If you insist on seeing the fireworks you don’t actually need to go into the park and the view from the The Disneyland Entry Esplanade.

8. Grad Nights

Don’t Go! For the last few weeks of June, Disneyland opens specifically at night for the current year’s Grad Night. This means that the park has to close early so that they can get the park ready again for teenagers to run amuck on their own. In 2012 i noticed that the kids are there during the day and just allowed to stay in the park into the Grad Night Party, and makes the park unbearably busy.

Looks like its moved to only California Adventures

7. January through March

disneyland-construction

Go/Don’t Go! After the new year, and all the holiday decorations come down, Disneyland puts on their gloves and goes through a period of refurbishments and ride closers to get ready for the summer rush. This means while you’ll still be paying the normal rate, you’ll be visiting a park running at only 70%-80%. Every year at least one big ride goes down until summer rolls around so you maybe lose your chance to ride the likes of Matterhorn, or Thunder Mountain.

This is the time typically they also give discounts for Southern California residents

6. Themed Days

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Go/Don’t Go! Disneyland is a very popular place for groups of people to meet up at. While not officially recognized by Disneyland, they are very accommodating to large groups of people with interesting types of hobbies and lifestyles. If you’re really into a certain theme it would be fun to join, and as a bonus sometimes they can even get group rate discount. Otherwise it may be best not to go if you feel uncomfortable being around such enthusiastic people.

I’ve personally witnessed Rave Day while working there, and attended the park as a guest during Bats Day, but here are some other that may or may not tickle your fancy.

The majority of these people are quite nice, and are more than willing to take pictures with you if you want.

5. Premium Days

premium-pass

Go! As a general rule if you are going for one day, check out the Disneyland Annual Passport Calendar and check out which days are Premium Pass days only. Its not a perfect system but at least you know you’ll avoid people with the lower grade pass.

4. Mother’s Day & Easter Sunday

Go! While most families sit shoulder to shoulder trying to get to a breakfast buffet, Disneyland tends to be quite light and you can have the run of the town for most of the day.

read: Easter Premium

3. Halloween to Thanksgiving

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Go! Any day between Halloween and Thanksgiving is a great day to go to Disneyland. Its the eye of the storm as the shortened Halloween hours have come to an end, and followed by the time where people start taking off time for vacation. You’ll get to enjoy the Haunted Mansion Nightmare Before Christmas, all the rides will be open and the weather is perfect.

There was one day working there that i remember a group of teenagers run in circles on Splash Mountain doing different poses for the camera.

2. Your Birthday

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Go! If you really ever want to feel particularly special, go on your birthday (or close to it). If you tell a cast member when you buy your ticket, or city hall you can get a special Birthday Pin where they’ll write your name and draw some Mickey ears on them. All day you’ll hear a Happy Birthday from the majority of cast members and even random guests. Within a four hour day Joy got at least 14 greetings.

1. Christmas Eve

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Go! During the two week winter holiday, Disneyland is a madhouse. Disneyland pulls out all the lights out of the closet and goes crazy decorating Main St. USA, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and of course it’s a small world. There’s also the special holiday parade, dressed up characters and don’t forget the “snow” after the fireworks. Amazingly the best day to go during this time is Christmas Eve. The main reason is that its not a federal holiday, and from what i’ve learned, many people who celebrate Christmas for religion do it on Christmas Eve. Back in 1998 they even closed down the park at 6:00pm so cast members could go home to celebrate (but not anymore).

That said, avoid Disneyland on Christmas Day.

Other Notes


Birthday Girl

joy-cakesJoy turned 33 on Saturday and it was a weekend full of fun for her. On Friday i did something i’ve never done before, and actually sent flowers to her work. She honestly thought she had a secret admirer and had no idea it was from me!

Saturday evening we met up with her friends at Thai Nakorn in Stanton for a feast of fried fish, papaya salad, and she somehow ended up with three cakes! I bought her a vanilla/coconut/pineapple cake from SusieCakes, Mevelyn bought her a coffee cake, and May bought her a cheesecake. We were so stuffed from dinner we barely touched any of them.

joy-star-toursSunday morning we woke up early and went to Disneyland before going to Shane’s birthday lunch. It was pretty cool getting there in the morning because we were able to go on Star Tours twice, Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones twice in about two hours.

joy-indiana

 

I did get Joy’s heart racing when i made her jump the line to go on Indiana the second time. After the first time we exited the ride on the right side and had to go up the stairs to exit, but there was a gap in the queue line, so i just hopped over the rope and got back in line. All the cast members said happy birthday to her the first time around so she was a bit hesitant but she acquiesced and hopped over and was praying we didn’t get noticed.

 

 


Top 10 Things to Eat at Disneyland

Disneyland isn’t typically known for its world famous cuisine, but there are some very delicious things to snack on when you are in the park. Some you’ll find at restaurants while other items you can find from outdoor vendors (ODV). Granted most of the items are fried, but one thing Disney knows is how to cater towards the fat tourist waddling around the park.

1. Corn Dog

corn-dog

The Corn Dog ($6) at the Red Wagon Corn Dog Cart is a favorite for kids and adults. Its a fat hot dog encased in a cornbread coating served with a bag of chips. Its so big that its actually pretty difficult to eat one handed especially if you like to dip it in mustard.

Grab a seat to eat at the Plaza Inn patio, the staff wont mind.

2. Monte Cristo

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Back when i worked at Disneyland i was in the break room and got into a conversation with a fellow cast member who was so excited that the cafeteria was serving Monte Cristo ($16) and thats when i learned about this sweet/savory/fried concoction that is served at the Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans. I’ve had a few outside the park, but i still think Disneyland still makes the best one. Its basically a deep fried ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich served with powdered sugar and jelly. Anyone who loves breakfast will love this thing.

 You should also order the pommes frites which are perfectly crisp, with parmesan and garlic that literally will fly into your mouth without you even knowing it.

3. Churro

The cinnamon sugar fried piece of dough was the one treat that i always looked forward to when going to Disneyland and its still good as an adult.

If there’s a long wait at a Churro Cart, just keeping walking there will be another Churro Cart in the next Land.

4. Fried Chicken

fried-chicken

The fried chicken meal ($13.99) at the Plaza Inn is my dad’s favorite. Its a very generous half chicken (breast/wing, thigh, drumstick) goldenly fried, served with mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. Big enough to share, and

The Plaza Inn is located at the end of Main Street USA, and if timed right you can get a great view of the parade as well.

5. Dole Whip

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Hawaii, or Disneyland used to be the only place you can get a Dole Pineapple Soft Serve at the Tiki Juice Bar. You can get it by itself, or as a float served with pineapple juice and is located at the entrance to Adventureland.

During the summer the line can get pretty long but there’s a cashier on the Enchanted Tiki Room waiting area and is usually a shorter line.

6. Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl

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The Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl at Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square is a tradition i remember back from childhood. Its really great in the morning or when its cold outside.

It looks really big, but they don’t really scoop out too much of the bread so it ends up being more a cup of soup rather than a bowl of soup.

7. Mickey Mouse Waffle

waffles

If you get to Disneyland early in the morning there isn’t too many place open and while the Mickey Mouse Pancakes at the River Belle Terrace in Frontierland, but i have to give it up to the new Mickey Mouse Waffles ($10.99) at the Carnation Cafe on Main Street. these were well done, slightly sweet, light, and crispy. Served with either chicken-apple sausage or bacon which adds salt to all the sweetness. I’m more a waffle person so if you want pancakes i can’t blame you.

If there’s a wait for a table, they’ll give you a pager which works all over Main Street so you can get some shopping done while you wait.

8. New Orleans Gumbo

gumbo

Another favorite at the Cafe Orleans is the New Orleans Gumbo. Its a rich, and flavorful stew thats got chicken, andouille sausage and dirty rice. You can either get a cup ($3.99) which is perfect as a starter before your Monte Cristo or a bowl ($7.99) as a meal.

Skip the Mickey Beignets and head to Jazz Kitchen Express in Downtown Disney instead

9. Ice Cream Sundae

I don’t think there’s anything more intoxicating than the smell of freshly made waffle cones at the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. One of my favorite things i used to do after getting off an earlier shift of work at Disneyland was to go get a huge ice cream sundae in a waffle cone at the Gibson Girl

During the summer when lines get super long at the Gibson Girl you can head accross the street down the alley towards the lockers is another ice cream stand.

10. Market House Coffee

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While nothing is actually very special about the coffee served at the Market House its got one really good thing going for it, Free Refills. Thats right, all day you can come back with just your receipt and get a brand new cup of coffee for nothing. Once, twice, i think i’ve gone up to 10 times in the same day.  The funny thing is that Market House isn’t even considered a restaurant but a merchandise store.

They don’t provide real creamer but the little packets of cream, but if you want real half & half, and sugar just head over to Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe just down Main Street.

Other Notes

  • If visiting the park with younger kids, the Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port is the best place to eat at. It serves a variety of pizzas, pastas, and salads with indoor/outdoor contained eating area in case your kid likes to run off on their own.
  • There’s a little window at the back of the French Market in between the New Orleans Train Station and the Bathrooms. is a window where you can get a non-alcoholic Mint Julep at the Mint Julep Bar, but its really its just green punch.
  • Don’t be the first to buy popcorn from a cart just opening up, they used to fill the bottom with leftover popcorn from the night before.
  • There’s no free refills at soda fountains but they’ll rarely question you if you try.
  • Most Outdoor Vendors accept credit cards.

On the run

Without motivation i’m just a lump on the couch. I decided early in the year that i was going to run a 5k and a 10k and some how ended up skipping the 5k and going straight to the Redondo Beach Superbowl 10k. With only a month to train i was pretty hesitant after i sent in my money but its been a decent amount of time to train. Last night we did probably our longest mid-week run and went 4 straight miles in about 40 minutes. Thats probably the longest run i’ll do before next week’s race but i feel pretty confident as long as it doesn’t rain.

halfathon

Incidentally this week I got an e-mail from Disney stating that for the Labor Day Weekend Halfathon, they also added a 10k and 5k to the list of available runs. When i ran the Halfathon six years ago, the best part of the race was the first three miles where we got to run through the park before heading out to Anaheim, so i figured we get the best part of the race without all the fluff at the end. Nina also signed up for the 5k and the Diaper Dash for crawlers for Kaylee. It should be a fun weekend.


Disney Double Feature

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Joy and I are now in the minority of those who have and do not have kids. Lucky for our friends with kids is that we’re Disneyland experts and we’ve got free hands to help out. Saturday afternoon Joy’s friends Emily and Thao decided to get annual passes now that their little ones are old enough to be out and about for a few hours a day now. Zoe and Quinn got their first taste of Disneyland and the last showing of the Holiday it’s a small world ride before it gets converted back to the original ride. I had dinner plans so after the ride i met up with Thomas and went to dinner with the guys.

wang-disneyland

 

Sunday Jonathan texted me in the morning for some co-dad help with bringing Noah and Naomie to Disneyland while Janelle studied for her MCATs. It was a chilly morning but we all bundled up and had a good time. We let the kids decide what rides they wanted to go on and just made a route accordingly to those rides.

autopia

buzz-lightyear

I’m glad that Naomie warmed up to us and wasn’t clingly to papa wang and actually rode with Joy and I on most of the rides. She even scored quite well on the Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlasters for not actually pointing the gun anywhere and just kept pulling the trigger the entire time. Half way through the ride i actually pointed out that she had scored more points than Joy, and thats when Joy really put in her concentration on the game.