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The construction walls came down from the front of DCA Saturday morning. Because the park will only be open to "Invited Guests" for the next several weeks, red velvet ropes have replaced the walls across the entry way, with a small entrance in the center. This is staffed with CMs to keep "Regular Guests" out. We were there Saturday to see the Post- Construction- Wall entrance for the first time. It was torture to see all of the people entering the park for the WDI preview, knowing that even my newly upgraded Premium 2-Park pass wasn't going to get me into the park until February. My husband kept telling me, relax honey - you'll be inside in less than 24 hours.... *sigh*
It's been a long time since I was so excited to go to Disneyland that I couldn't sleep. But, there I was Saturday night, tossing and turning, feeling like a 6 year old again. Finally, the appointed hour came, and I met my host outside the gates. I didn't spend a lot of time looking at the mosaic mural - that's clearly visible from outside the park, and my goal was to get INSIDE the park! I hear it's quite fascinating up close. We breezed right through the Red Ropes, and through the turnstiles. I was IN! Entering the park, I was astonished at how BIG the Golden Gate Bridge feels while you're standing under it.
Our immediate decision was where to do dinner, as we would need to make reservations. After checking out the menu at Soap Opera Cafe and the Mondavi Vineyard Room, we settled on Wolfgang Puck's Avalon Cove. As we approached the podium, I heard a familiar voice and turned to see Wolfgang Puck himself standing outside the restaurant. We later learned that he was on site to prepare lunch for Paul Pressler and Michael Eisner. We made our reservations, and headed off to Paradise Pier.
The first thing I wanted to go on was California Screamin'. I am a huge coaster fan, and I've been waiting to experience this one. We rode it twice, from the front and the back. To avoid spoilers here, I'm not going to describe the whole ride to you. In general, think of it as a long Gadget's Go Coaster, with a carrier launch, music and a loop. You get lots of air time, and there are some great effects. When you're moving, you're moving! There are some long, slow spots where you wish the coaster was a bit faster. The banks are all very smooth, and you don't get jostled into the headrest. I can think of a lot of comparisons for this ride - Jaguar meets Montezooma's Revenge is probably the closest. I enjoyed it, but I do wish it were faster.
After Screamin', we headed off to find some lunch, but decided we should probably ride Maliboomer before we ate. I like the spaceshot ride at Knott's, but I had not been on one that shot you up, rather than down. As we sat in the car waiting for the ride, the CM had to check our belts twice because of an error message on the control board. It took them forever to clear the board, and I was beginning to get really nervous. Finally, we got the green light, and we were GONE!. The ride shoots you straight up 180 feet, and then you bounce back down and up and down until you return to the ground. I was a little disappointed - after the first bounce down, you don't get air time again. The High-Strike sound effects are cute, but the face cover thing is awkward.
OK- time for lunch. Since nothing else had opened for the day, we settled on Maliburritos. I was pleasantly surprised at how good my Carne Asada burrito was, and my friend enjoyed his Chicken burrito. These are HUGE - I couldn't finish mine. There are several other dining options on Paradise Pier, including Pizza Oom Mow Mow, Strips, Dips and Chips and the much anticipated Burger Invasion. Yes, it is a McDonalds - right down to the Big Macs. (There ARE Big Macs on the Menu, as well as Crispy McChicken Sandwiches) There is also a corn dog stand, so now we'll have to hold a bi-park Corn Dog Taste Off.
Next up: The Sun Wheel. You can opt for the inside cars which move freely on oval tracks, or the outside red cars which don't move much. We chickened out and got an outer car. After hearing the screams of the people in the inside cars, I think we made a wise choice. It was disconcerting enough to see those cars rolling right at you, without imagining being IN one.
We walked past the Triton's Carousel, Orange Stinger and Jumpin' Jellyfish on our way to Mulholland Madness. Triton's Carousel (Which is really a merry- go- round, since it does not have all horses, but that's another story) is very ornate, very detailed. This might explain the flood of merchandise centered on this attraction. Contrary to prior rumor, the Orange Stinger bees do not hum "it's a small world". They hum "Little Surfer Girl", among a number of "Surf" songs. I'm not kidding. It's a cute ride, but I was disappointed to see that the bee vehicles are only the outer row. The two inner rows are just plain seats.
(A CM wrote to tell me that the Bees DO hum "it's a small world", so about 5 seconds at the end of the ride. It's a short clip and easy to miss. Also, the remaining Bee Bodies are expected to be delivered any day, so every ride vehicle will be a Bee. Thanks for the info!)
Jumpin' Jellyfish is certainly a pretty ride, and the kids I head talking about it later seemed to be evenly split between "Loved It" and "Lame". They were also evenly split between 4yrs and 8yrs, so you can guess who the target audience here is.
Mulholland Madness is a typical mad mouse ride. The ride vehicles are themed to different California cars. There's a "Woody" and a "Flower Power" car. The Highway Patrol cars are a funny touch. Just a note: the person on the right side of the car will spend their entire ride saying "ouch" "ouch" as they are pressed against the side of the car. Almost all of the turns are to the left. While it is true that the cars don't really stop as they enter the station, they do slow to a real crawl. If you need the car to be stopped so you can load, just ask. It's not hard to stop the cars at all - we saw that about 1/3 ended up being stopped anyway because of slow loaders. I miss the mad mouse from Magic Mountain, so I'm happy with this ride. I just need to remember to ride alone, and in the left seat, next time.
We decided to brave the Golden Zephyr next. This is a nice gentle swing ride, with two scary features: 1) Don't look down, but you're over the water, and there's no chain across your door. Hang on to your packages! 2) The music - it was playing "The Age of Aquarius" while we were on it. Aaaaccck! (I've also been informed that this is part of the Area Music Track, not just a soundtrack for this specific attraction. There are over 70 songs on the loop)
By this time, we had now done everything there was to do on Paradise Pier, and we headed off to the Golden State section. First stop was Golden Dreams. We had about 15 minutes until show time, so we decided to visit the Bountiful Valley Farm. There isn't a lot to see here for adults, but I think kids might like it more. It's similar to a state fair display, or something from Epcot's "The Land". 6 plots of land are planted with assorted crops, and there is educational info all over. There are 2 Caterpillar Tractors on display, right next to a Caterpillar cart where you can buy model tractors to take home. Kids will really like the two "Irrigation Stations", where they can get soaking wet. This area is also where the "It's Tough to be a Bug" show is located, but we decided to get back to Golden Dreams.
I can't describe Golden Dreams. It's not like anything Disney has done before. Basically, it is a short, glossy story of the people who settled the state of California. Whoopi Goldberg is the narrator, and shows up in many of the stories you'll be presented. Despite a bad batch of earthquake jokes, and some scenes which threaten to cross the line into sappiness, this is a very compelling story. You may even shed a tear or two. The music is powerful, and the photography is gorgeous. Just for the record: The Disembodied Whoopi Head has found a body. Without giving away the show, the effect is 100% better than the "Haunted" version we've all seen before.
Well, we'd had a moment to rest, so it was time for another ride. We made a quick detour through the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, and took in the scenery. This will be a fun place to explore with a grade school child. There is an amazing amount of detail in this area. A very tiny amphitheater can be found in here, and kids can sit on little tree stumps while they listen to Native American storytellers We then got in the short line for Grizzly River Run, and admired the scenery. This is a basic raft ride, but it has been dressed up quite nicely. There are lots of little touches which reassure you that Imagineering got to play a little. My favorite additions were the leaky pipes, which sprayed you on your way up the ramp. We got wet, before the ride even started. It didn't get any better from there on - we were soaked by the final hill! My whole raft agreed that this was better than the versions at Knott's or Magic Mountain. I would have liked to do this one again, when it was a little sunnier.
Another nice aspect of this ride is the loading area for guests with physical disabilities. I'll spare you the horror story of how the other two local parks require guests with disabilities to board their raft rides. Suffice it to say, it's not pretty, and it's not even remotely easy. GRR CMs can "capture" a raft from the river, and pull it into a small loading area. The guest has all the time they need to board the raft. Once they are ready, the raft is just released back into the river. At the end of the ride, the process is repeated. I was very impressed with this system, and I know my hubby will be thrilled when he uses it the first time.
When you're dripping wet, the perfect solution is to go hang gliding to dry off. We walked past the Grand Californian Hotel Park Gate, and over to the Condor Flats area and Soarin' Over California. This area is SO well detailed, right down to the runway stripes on the ground. There was a "Streetmosphere" group performing a capella outside the gift shop. I can't recall the song they were singing, but it's a fairly new "boy- band" number. (My host says it was "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys)
Soarin' Over California is amazing. We rode it twice, and that was only because we needed to get to the Hyperion Theater for the 3:30 show. If I had been able to, I could have ridden this another dozen times. It's that good. There's not a lot I can say without spoiling this attraction for you, so I'll just give you one bit of advice: Ask for the front / top row.
The complete photo tour of inside DCA is now up!
Visit THIS LINK to start it.
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