May, 2008, The Big Kahuna Trip Report, Paradise Pier
We left our home in Las Vegas about 9:30 a.m. and, after an uneventful drive, arrived at the Disneyland Hotel at 1:30 p.m.
There was a short line at check-in, and soon we were at the counter talking to a friendly CM. I asked if our room was ready and she said that she would find us one that was. Thank goodness they don’t pre-assign rooms here like they do at WDW. Then she said that because we were celebrating my birthday on this trip, she was going to upgrade us. We had booked a standard view room and we were upgraded to a pool view room on the 9th floor of the Dreams tower, the one closest to the parks.
Then she handed me a birthday pin with my name on it and sang the Disney birthday song to me. Everything was starting out so well.
We were in our room about 2:00 p.m. The room had a long entry hallway with a connecting door to the next room, then the bathroom to the right, and then a somewhat small, square, but cozy bedroom area with a king bed, nightstands, armoire, and a desk & chair. There was no sitting area and, although there was a refrigerator, there was no coffee maker. The room was very nice with a great view of the pool. The king bed was comfy although it was very high and took some climbing to get into.
Our first order of business was to get to the pool that was tempting us from our window. It was a beautiful day, sunny and 79 degrees. We grabbed a couple of lounge chairs in the shade and headed for the hot tub. Ahhh … very relaxing. There we chatted with some folks from the San Joaquin Valley who were in town for a wedding. After relaxing on our lounge chairs, it was time for a dip in the pool. The water was a tad bit cool, but we adjusted to it quickly and enjoyed our time there.
At 3:30, we headed back to room to get ready for our foray into Disneyland Park. By 4:30 we were on our way, walking through Downtown Disney, and then through the main gates into Disneyland. We were a little hungry, so we headed to the Tiki Room to get a couple of Dole Whip Floats. Yum! And refreshing too.
Next we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean and it was a walk-on. Because I was wearing my birthday pin, we got the front row of a boat and the only other people in the boat was a couple in the back row. It was great to see Pirates again!
We headed out in the general direction of Fantasyland when we passed Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We decided to get aboard. We hadn’t ridden this since 2000 before the fatal crash here several years ago. We were through the line in about 10 minutes and soon were barreling through the canyons in our train. It was excellent!
Next we strolled to Fantasyland where we wanted to ride Peter Pan, but the line was at least 30 minutes (maybe more) and we didn’t want to wait. So we decided to ride some less popular rides. First up was Pinocchio, then Mr. Toad,
Now we were really hungry. We made our way to New Orleans Square and checked out the menu at Cafe Orleans. But we had PS for Blue Bayou the next day for lunch, so we decided against having the same kind of food two days in a row. So it was off to Rancho del Zocalo.
Dinner – Rancho del Zocalo
Kathy: Soft Tacos Monterrey – Fajita-Style Beef topped with Cheese and served in Flour Tortillas.
Rich: Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada Platter – Succulent Beef cooked to perfection served with two Cheese Enchiladas.
We have eaten here many times before because it is one of our favorite counter service restaurants in Disneyland. However, this was the first time we’ve been here since it was redesigned. There are two separate walk-up serving areas – one for tacos and burritos and the other for the platters. Then it’s through the check-out (we got an AP discount here) and into the courtyard. We found a table by the tracks of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and enjoyed our thoroughly delicious meal. The food here is quite good and the courtyard atmosphere is quick striking and pleasant.
After dinner, it was getting dark and everyone was claiming their spot for the parade. That told us it was time to go. The park would be closing at 8:00 p.m. anyway, just an hour away.
As we headed down Main Street, we decided to stop in the Emporium to browse for souvenirs, not sure if we’d find anything interesting. But before long, Kathy spotted a great picture frame with Mickey standing next to the Disneyland sign. We had to get this. At the checkout desk, we also grabbed a Pirates of the Caribbean mouse pad for one of our computers. We got our AP discount and used Reward Points to pay for our goodies.
After shopping, we walked back through Downtown Disney for – you guessed it – more shopping. At World of Disney we purchased two travel coffee mugs (Minnie and Mickey) and some shortbread cookies to have as our dessert (AP discount and Reward Points here again).
We were back in our room about 8:00 p.m. to rest up from travel day and all the fun we had already crammed into our first day. We snacked on our shortbread cookies while watching the Dodgers on TV (they beat the Padres)! Then off to sleep to rest up for Day 2.
Kathy Says: When we heard they were remodeling the old Casa de Fritos turned Casa Mexicana into a combo Mexican/Barbecue place, we were a bit alarmed. But it seems that plan was short-lived and while the design has changed from cafeteria-style to walk-up made-to-order Mexican food, it is deliciously authentic and located in a Mexican Rancho Courtyard. You can’t beat the atmosphere at night listening to the crowds screaming on BTMR next door.
We woke up to a foggy morning in Anaheim. The fog comes in off the coast this far sometimes although it was pretty late in the season for it. We were looking forward to the burn-off that was predicted for mid-day.
Today was Early Entry Day at the parks, so since regular opening time was 10:00 a.m., that meant we could enter at 9:00 a.m. We ordered a small continental room service breakfast with a pot of coffee, and despite the fog, got ourselves going and walked to the monorail station in Downtown Disney for the ride into Disneyland.
After showing all the appropriate cards and APs to get into the station, we made it to the platform to find that a monorail train was just about to leave and a couple large groups ahead of us couldn’t get on the almost-full monorail. We’d have to catch the next one. But wait! They said that there were two seats left and when we identified ourselves as a party of two, they squeezed us on. We love good timing!
Getting off the train in Tomorrowland, we checked out the line for the Nemo Submarines. Too long – as always. Will we ever get on this ride? Guess we’ll have to wait for our opportunity. We decided it was time to ride Peter Pan. We missed this one on our May trip.
The wait for Peter Pan was listed as 20 minutes, so we got in line and flew over London. The ride at Disneyland is different than at WDW, mostly in the flight over London. The perspective is designed to give the illusion that you are flying high above the city, not close in like in the WDW ride. It was great to ride this again.
>We decided to ride some other attractions in Fantasyland, so we got on Snow White and then Alice in Wonderland. Then it was time to wander over to Tomorrowland and catch Buzz Lightyear. We were anxious to try this version. We had ridden the one at WDW where the laser guns can’t be lifted from their connection to the car. In the DL version, the laser gun has a long cord that allows you to move the gun around much more freely. We thought that this might help us aim better. But, alas, we were totally wrong. My score was not very good. And it was nowhere close to the couple ahead of us that got in separate cars and scored over 200,000 points a piece.
We had a little time before our PS at Blue Bayou, so we made our way to New Orleans Square and rode Pirates again. Woo hoo! Or should I say “Yo Ho!”? After our pirate encounter, we checked in at the desk for lunch at Blue Bayou. Our PS was for 11:30 a.m., opening time. We were definitely expecting to get a water-front table.
It was about 20 minutes until lunch, so we strolled down the streets of New Orleans Square, stopping to listen to the jazz/blues harmony of the Royal Street Bachelors trio. They were fantastic. Then lunch time arrived and it off to Blue Bayou.
Our Menu at Blue Bayou
Appetizer: Kathy & Rich: Lettuce Wedge Salad
Kathy: Royal Street Seafood Jambalaya – A robust combination of king crab, jumbo gulf shrimp, mahi mahi, tasso ham, andouille sausage and chicken, tossed with Cajun-style “dirty rice.”
Rich: Buccaneer’s Beef Short Ribs – slow-roasted, then finished in a Zinfandel demi-glaze. Blue Bayou potatoes and sautéed spinach.
Dessert: Rich & Kathy: Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream (Birthday Dessert)
We were the third party seated. We were given a water-front table where we could watch the Pirates boats go by. The atmosphere here is fantastic! And very dark. Thankfully we already knew what we wanted to order. And the service was fantastic too. With our delicious wedge salad, they gave us dinner rolls. The main courses were very tasty. The prices are high here, but the food, atmosphere, and service make it a must, at least once a year. To add to wonderful ambience, the Royal Street Bachelors appeared on an inside balcony overlooking the diners and serenaded us with soft Jazz music.
Dessert was free because it was my birthday lunch. And then, when we gave our AP to get a 10% discount, our server came back with two Ratatouille pins that they give to AP holders who dine here. Very special!
As we left the restaurant, we noticed the fog had burned off and the sun was shining again. But we weren’t up to enjoying the sun right then. We were full and tired, so it was back to our comfy Disneyland Hotel room for some much-needed R&R.
Before we knew it, it was time to get ready to go to our baseball game. We got all decked out in our Angels gear, including plenty of red. We picked up our car from the valet and drove the 3 miles over to Angels Stadium. This is first time I’ve been to this ballpark, although it was not the first for Kathy. I’ve been to numerous parks, but this one is the easiest to get in and out of, being right off the suburban streets of Anaheim.
We nabbed our parking spot and headed into the stadium, grabbing a $3 game program on the way in. We had seats in section 133, about 6 rows from the field near the right field foul poll. These were great seats and we had purchased them for ½ off with a discount we got from being Disneyland AP holders.
Once we found our seats, it was back up to the concourse to get some dinner. We weren’t sure what to have, but when Kathy saw the Panda Express sign, we headed in that directions.
Kathy: Beef & Broccoli Bowl
Rich: Mandarin Chicken Bowl
We headed back to our seats with our food, but before we could dig in, it was time for the 9/11 tribute, including a moment of silence, and the national anthem. Then we sat down and enjoyed our food, waiting for the first pitch.
Soon the game began, and it was very exciting. It was hard to believe that we hadn’t been to a game in almost 10 years. Our favorite Angels pitcher, Jered Weaver, was pitching. And the Angels were playing the Seattle Mariners, another of our favorite teams from our days living in the Northwest. It was fun seeing Ichiro not that far us in right field.
During the game, we enjoyed the requisite bag of Cracker Jacks. And for a souvenir, we bought an Angels Rally Monkey. The game was fantastic and the atmosphere was incredible.
Thankfully the Angels played a great game. They had just clinched the AL West division the day before and they were still playing well. The Angels won the game 7-4 and Frankie Rodriquez tied the record for the most number of saves in a season at 57 (he broke the record just a couple days later).
Before long, we were headed our of the park and back onto Orangewood, Hwy. 57, Katella, and back to the Disneyland Hotel. As we dropped the car off at the valet, they noticed our Angels gear and asked us how the game went. We were happy to tell them. Some folks inside the hotel stopped and asked us too.
We needed a nighttime snack, so we snuck into the sundries shop in the hotel just as they were about to close. But they very friendly, and let us buy a couple Mickey milk chocolate candy bars before the gates came down for the night at 10 p.m.
It was the end of another full, exciting, incredible day. We were definitely ready to get some sleep before the next full day tomorrow.
We woke up to another foggy morning. Being used to the constant sunshine in Las Vegas we were having a hard getting our energy up with overcast skies. We never thought California would seem too gloomy for us.
To get ourselves going, we ordered a bigger room service this time, a Mickey-shaped Waffle with butter & syrup, and a Denver Omelet. We shared both entrees and washed them down with a large pot of coffee. Now we were ready to tackle DCA, even with the clouds.
DCA opened at 10 a.m., so right about opening time, we walked over to the Grand Californian and entered it through the Downtown Disney entrance. We stopped to admire the lobby and noticed the fire burning in the fireplace. The fireplace area in the GC is very inviting – tucked away in a cozy nook with rocking chairs and benches. We sat down for a while, rocking and enjoying the fire. The day seemed brighter already.
Then we entered the park using the GC entrance and headed straight for Soarin’. This is a marvelous ride that never grows old. There was only a short wait and soon we were queued up to get onboard. We got the highest row and loved our flight.
When we disembarked, we decided to cheer ourselves up with a couple lattes at the coffee stand. Drinks in hand, we strolled through Paradise Pier, stopping to sit and watch the Sun Wheel Ferris wheel, vowing never to get on this due to our aversion to heights.
Still not fully invigorated, we chose to walk through the Pacific Wharf area to see what was happening. The answer was, not much. But we did see some folks entering the Mission Tortilla Factory. So we followed them, watching tortillas being made (not that we hadn’t seen it before). Our reward was a hot, yummy tortilla at the end of the tour.
Keeping on a roll, we crossed over to the Boudin Bakery tour. Here we received so equally yummy sourdough bread and tour the factory, watching Rosie O’Donnell and Colin Mochrie on video screens explain what was happening. It was cute and the bread was delicious.
By the time the second tour of the day was over and our coffee long-forgotten, we realized we needed another pick-me-up (hey, it was still cloudy). So we headed over to the Golden Vineyard Winery. Here we walked through the vineyards, checking out the different varieties of grapes growing. It was a pleasant place to relax as we headed to do some wine tasting.
At the wine tasting booth, we both got glasses of Francis Coppola Diamond Series Syrah. We sat at the corner table in an empty wine tasting area. The quietness of being alone here along with the stillness of the cloudy day actually made our time here very relaxing and romantic. We were only interrupted by the cast of High School Musical 2 as they drove by on their float on the way to the next show.
We still didn’t have a lot of energy, so we just strolled through the Hollywood Backlot area wishing we could watch the Aladdin show, but it was closed. We didn’t stop anywhere here. When we hit the dead end, we noted that we were getting hungry and decided to head out of the park and over to Downtown Disney for lunch.
Kathy Says: We had a more favorable impression of DCA this morning. Because it was so quiet, we were able to explore it at our own pace and discover little nooks and crannies. And unlike the previous trip, the wine tasting area was practically deserted, which made for a very relaxing morning. We could have stayed there all day.
Kathy: Turkey and Avocado Sandwich – Oven-Roasted Turkey, Avocado, Spicy Mayo and Arugula on Country Wheat.
Rich: Chowder in Bread Bowl
When we arrived at Brea Bakery, we thought it would nice to be seated for a sit-down service lunch. But after waiting at the hostess’ desk for way too long with no one to help us, we gave us and went inside to the Express counter instead. This was the only case we had during the trip where the service wasn’t top-notch.
We took our trays of food to the seating area and got a nice table near the entrance to the parks. The food was delicious once again. As usual, we shared our entrees with each other so we could enjoy as much variety of food as possible.
Back in the room, we rested up before we headed down to the pool where we soaked in the hot tub for quite a while. The hot, bubbling water was very therapeutic. It was still cloudy, so the pool didn’t look too inviting. After a quick lay-out on the lounge chairs, we headed back up. On our way, we walked through the Lost Bar, and it looked very inviting. We planned to get dressed and come back for a drink.
When we returned to the Lost Bar not long afterward, we just didn’t feel comfortable – there were mostly people hanging around discussing the up-coming USC/Ohio State football game (thankfully USC kicked their butts). We wanted somewhere quieter. It was time to visit a place we had been wanting to try since our last visit – Catal Uva Bar and Cafe.
Kathy Says: As I mentioned earlier, the Disneyland Hotel attracts people for events other than a DL vacation. Weddings and football games are just two. Disneyland Resort and the DL Hotel both have much more of a party vibe than WDW.