This year we have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to four of five of the Disney Resorts across the world. Normally we try to visit at least two, or three, but this year is an exception.
This summer have we been very fortunate to visit Tokyo Disney Resort for the first time, and combine it with a two part trip to Disneyland in California.
Flying to Japan worked out quite expensive when weighing up the options. It was cheaper to actually fly domestic across the US to LAX and then book the international part separately, than it was to fly direct from the east coast, or via Europe. So realising that we would have to fly cross country to California from Washington, DC, we made a very cool decision - to extend the stop over in California to include a few days in Disneyland!
We decided that on the 7th August we would fly to LA and stay over at a local hotel in Anaheim.
We purchased six day tickets so that we could also make the stop over on the return to the US too.
Last year we ate at the Stitch and friends Aloha Breakfast at the PCH Grill, at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. Overall a pleasant and enjoyable experience, with some fun characters and good food.
This year we were aware that the characters had been given some new outfits, and so we decided to head over there to check them out. The new experience is called Mickey and Friends Surfs Up Breakfast.
We actually were a bit lapse minded as we rather stupidly assumed the menu would still be the same, or close to it.
We became immediately aware though of the lack of menu, as in they have now removed the menu options, and only offer the buffet (which was also an option before, as well as full menu). We went with it though, and decided to dine anyway. The characters were fun as always, and Mickey and Minnie had cool new beach outfits. Stitch, Pluto and Goofy were also present. The buffet had slightly improved, but essentially was still a breakfast buffet.
The biggest shock came at the end when we had to pay. The breakfast buffet for two adults came to just over $75! Yes, seventy five! That includes an automatic tip of 15%, even though it is a buffet! If you bought their overpriced photo that they take for you at the start, you are looking at around $105 total for two people for breakfast.
I will actually be making a complaint to Disney about this, and will see how they justify that kind of money.
The buffet really is no different to the Minnie and Friends one in the Park, or any other buffet really. Getting rid of the cheaper menu options as to force people to pay more is one thing, but also bumping the price is extortion. People already pay good money to stay and play at Disney, let along overpriced meals!
Unless you have a bottomless wallet, I would avoid the PCH Grill, and eat at Minnie and Friends instead - it offers the same sort of food, it is in the Park itself (which means if you eat before park open, you essentially are in there already for park open before the crowds hit), and also there are generally more characters and a wider variety of characters at the Minnie Breakfast.
We had the opportunity to see the brand new World of Color water spectacular at Disney’s California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
The show has received an extremely good reception so far from the locals and has become an instant hit at the Resort.
We were advised by our good friend that the best option for the seeing the show is the dining package that is offered at Ariel’s Grotto, so we booked that for the Sunday evening.[more]
We had never eaten at Ariel’s Grotto before and I was keen to see what it was like. Sadly due to the nature of the dining package and the high volume of business they get for the show, the character experiences are not offered in the evenings for guests dining there for World of Color, which I was a little disappointed about. Nonetheless, we went along to our reservation and my immediate impressions were not so good.
The restaurant lobby is a very sparse looking lobby with a large blue window that looks onto Paradise Bay.
There are literally a few benches and the check-in desk. The walls have some strange coloured “gems” in them, which I guess is supposed to resemble jewels that are imbedded in the rock or something, but this effect is a complete failure, and our group agreed that it just looked like someone had taken shots at the wall.
So down the stairs we went into the restaurant, and to be honest my impressions down there were not much better. The wall still had the random holes and lumps in it, and there is a miserable looking mural on the wall with some random fish and a mermaid on it. The lights are really cheap and tacky looking, and the tables are crammed in together. There were 3 of us dining and we were initially put on a table obviously meant for two small people (which we were not). We got moved, and we sat down in our new place.
The first course was served and involved some cold meats, cheeses and salad items. Nothing spectacular, and was fairly bland.
The main course was a choice of fish or steak, we all chose the steak. It was quite a small main meal, and didn’t come with much else than the steak itself and a few small vegetables.
The desert was a set item, and consisted of a number of desert items on a sharing plate. It did actually look pretty neat with it‘s edible World of Color film strip, and was probably the best part of the meal.
For the price, which was around $40 per person, I would say that the meal itself was probably not worth that.
The reason for doing the meal of course is to get the “FastPass” tickets for the World of Color show.
World of Color has been pulling in immense crowds, and has caused Disney quite the logistical nightmare. Along with nightly showings of that and Fantasmic! over at Disneyland Park, the Resort becomes quite unworkable after about 6m every night. It actually is rather annoying and disappointing in a lot of respects. People come to Disney and spend a lot of money, and a lot of those people - like us - come a long way to be there. So when a parks posted opening hours are until say midnight, you don’t expect to pay full price entry and only be able to feasibly stay in the park until 6pm. Even attractions that you would not expect to be affected, are. The front of the park tends to be ok, but anything around Paradise Bay is either closed or simply inaccessible. The mass crowds that descend upon the Disneyland Resort on a nightly basis for World of Color and Fantasmic! are without question beyond Disney’s reasonable operational limit and experience.
So once we finished the meal, we went to line up in the holding area for our type of Fast Pass (there are different levels, which I will discuss later).
The holding areas are small and from what we understand from friends and Cast Members, are changing on a nightly basis simply because they haven’t figured out the best way to deal with it yet. So we waited a while, and were eventually allowed in quite some time before our show time. So far, along with the meal at the Grotto, we had “wasted” about 2 hours of our time. Now we had to wait nearly an hour more to see the show. As guests who have come from a long way, we ourselves thought that this was a bad way to do business and certainly does not add to the overall “magical” experience that visiting Disneyland Resort offers. People should not have to wait for three hours of their vacation time waiting for one show. Nor will they continue to do so once the hype has worn off.
The show is preceded by a small cavalcade of four giant lit up puppets of the Genie, Sebastian, Lumiere and Mike Wazowski. Along with a number of performers they do a mini procession around Golden Gate Park about fifteen minutes before the main show. It is semi-interesting, and keeps the crowds entertained, but I can’t help but think that they know that people are frustrated about wasting so much time over this one show - that they are almost compelled to watch because of the nightmare of actually trying to do anything else in the park while the show is going on - and so threw in this new offering to soothe them over.
The main show itself I have to say is interesting, but at the end of the day amounts to nothing more than pretty water. Fountains that shoot a hundred feet into the air and a bunch of lights aren’t really the most thrilling offering at the Disneyland Resort, and we personally think that Fantasmic! is much better.
The show features a number of scenes from the best Disney and PIXAR movies on large water “screens”, and are choreographed with the water fountains and lights under the water to the appropriate soundtrack for the movie.
It would also appear that Disney have had a number of problems with the mechanics of this show, as when we saw it some effects were not working, and as of currently the fountains are permanently visible above the water line in the bay, which makes the bay look very busy and messy in the day time. So much for the nice reflections scenic view.
As for the viewing arrangements, Disney have had to implement a FastPass system. You have to be at Grizzly Peak before park opening most days to get a good ticket, as they are distributed on a first come first served basis with the best location tickets going first, and very quickly. The dining packages offer the best views, and the picnics offer good views, but can be hit and miss. The front middle are of the bay, almost directly in front and slightly to the left of the new Little Mermaid construction, as you face the bay, is probably the best place to see the show. FastPasses go quickly, first thing in the morning and you have to be prepared to wait. If you aren't so worried about the view, and just want to see the show, you are still encouraged to get a FastPass, but probably don't need to do quite so much waiting around in the evening - just turn up. All those with FastPasses have a place, but where you end up even within your designated area can depend on how early you are.
The show requires a lot of time and effort to see, between the advanced planning of making a dining reservation, going to the reservation and waiting in the holding areas, or just waiting all day for the good places; or getting there at the crack of dawn for the first FastPasses.
Overall our experience with World of Color was ok. It wasn’t excellent, just ok; the show is not the awesome emotional rollercoaster I was expecting, and amounts to not much more than water and lights. The dining experience, although provided us with an excellent view of the show, was not a great one. The food was poor and the restaurant is everything that is wrong with California Adventure, and exactly why it so badly needs the upcoming improvements.
The biggest problem for me with the World of Color is the time it takes from you precious trip time, and the fact that most of the park becomes useless either because they close Paradise Pier early because of the show, or you simply can’t get about the park through the mass crowds.
If you are over in Disneyland Resort I would probably recommend it if you are able to spend the time and effort to see it, but if your vacation plans involve a lot of park hopping and seeing other attractions, maybe wait a year or two and just enjoy your Disney time first.
Glow fest was also in full swing during our visit, and has proved to be just as popular for Disney as World of Color. Glow Fest basically involves some food and drink wagons in the Sunshine plaza and Backlot areas, all brightly coloured with neon’s and lights, pumping out loud disco tunes from sundown to park close.
I have to say I was not overly impressed, and thought that it represented everything that is wrong with California Adventure, and why I thought they were trying to improve the place. It attracts large youth crowds, brings alcohol to the streets of the park, and makes the Sunshine Plaza and Backlot look like they have been hit by an obscure rainbow ad and banner campaign. The podium dancers wearing tights plastic outfits make it feel rather like a bizarre retro-futuristic 1980’s disco.
During Glow Fest the lines at the Backlot attraction can be really short, or even non-existent as people become too blurry eyed to realise they are in a theme park.
Currently Glow Fest is outsourced, but when it closes it is being re-imagined by Disney Imagineers and will be re-launched later this year as ElecTRONica, which sounds somewhat more interesting. Come Christmas it will be Snow Fest. Outsourcing was probably Disney’s biggest mistake with this one, and was wise to listen to the protests by the Imagineers to allow them to rethink it come the Fall.
Cars Land is now becoming very visible as construction at the Disneyland Resort grows. From behind the Pacific Wharf area you can currently see large cranes and a massive scaffold covered structure. The construction of Cars Land will very soon force the closure of much of the Bountiful Valley Farm area permanently.
The Little Mermaid attraction at Paradise Pier also moves ever forward, with the massive show building now mostly up in framework. It will be very interesting to see how they deal with the crowds for this new attraction when it opens, and World of Color crowds all at the same time. People are going to be pretty annoyed if the attraction is pretty much useless after 6pm every night like much of the rest of Paradise Pier because of the World of Color show.[more]
The new back entrance to Bugs Land opened this week, and is right next to the Tower of Terror. This will not only provide a more consistent flow through the park, instead of random dead ends in these areas, and cause unnecessary walking, but also means that Disney can now close off parts of the Backlot area to lay the tracks for the new Red Car Trolley due to open with the new improvements.
The entrance is slightly less underwhelming than the main entrance to Bugs Land and doesn’t really give that feeling of being shrunken to bug size and entering their mysterious miniature world, you just sort of “step in”.
The Silly Symphony Swings were open and taking guests for a spin around Paradise Bay. These replaced the Orange Stinger that closed last year. Overall the swings look better than the Stinger, but still lacks something for me, and causes for there to be a lot of unused space around the attraction due to the sheer size of it’s plinth. There are walkways underneath and around the attraction that are sparse and underused.
Finally, over at Disneyland Alice in Wonderland was closed for the first part of our trip due to the issue that was raised with it last month regarding the lack of security rails. Alice had been closed for a couple of weeks, with concern growing among fans that Disney would use this as an excuse to close the attraction permanently, claiming that nothing could be done with is. With no warning, and the website still claiming it was closed, on the second to last day of our two week trip Alice was re-opened once again, albeit in a temporary state of repair. We managed to ride it twice, but the lines were normally quite long, which I think may be to do with the fans turning up to support the ride in hope that Disney notices and don’t close it. At one point it even had a longer line than Big Thunder Mountain! Currently, the ride has tarps round it and some false flooring around the outside upper track, it does not look as good, but at least for now it is open.At the Disneyland Resort, during our two part trip we experienced all of the following things.
Please note that some things were experienced more than once, but are only listed once.
For bands and roaming entertainment, we may have only seen these in passing, but are still mentioned nonetheless.
Blue Ribbon Bakery
PCH Grill Surf's Up! With Mickey and Friends Breakfast
Redd Rockett's Pizza Port
The Golden Horseshoe
Pizza Oom Mow Mow
Redd Rockett's Pizza Port
Village Haus Restaurant
Lucky Fortune Cookery
Snacks and Drinks etc:
Tiki Juice Bar
Hungry Bear Restaurant
Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor
Shows and Attractions:
Honorary VoluntEARS Cavalcade
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Haunted Mansion
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Snow White's Scary Adventures
Celebrate! A Street Party
Indiana Jones Adventure
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
Peter Pan's Flight
Pinocchio's Daring Journey
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Pixie Hollow - Tinker Bell and Terence
Main Street Cinema
The Disney Gallery
The Disneyland Story (gallery, not Mr. Lincoln)
Disneyland Band - with and without characters
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
"it's a small world"
Storybook Land Canal Boats
Alice in Wonderland
Princess Fantasy Faire - Royal Coronation Ceremony and Princess Storytelling
Jedi Training Academy
The Golden Horseshoe Stage - Billy Hill and the Hill Billies
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough
Disneyland Railroad - Lilly Belle
Mickey's House and Meet Mickey
Animation Building (Sorcerer's Workshop)
World of Color
Carnivale of Color
Blue Sky Cellar
PIXAR Play Parade
Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sullley to the Rescue!
High School Musical 3: Right Here! Right Now!
Heimlich's Chew Chew Train
Francis' Ladybug Boogie
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail