Helga Bergthold -- January 2001 -- Disneyland
Date: January 28, 2001 - Disney Club Preview Day
The park was open today from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Unfortunately, we got a later start than I wanted and left my home in Yorba Linda just before 9 a.m. As we got in the left turn lane from Ball Road to Disneyland Drive, I glanced up at the I-5 off ramp. Uh-oh, backed up all the way to the freeway. It was 9:05. At 9:40 we were at the Mickey and Friends tram stop. Yup, 35 minutes to park.
We jumped on the packed tram and headed for the main gates. I noticed with relief that most of the tram-riders turned left to go to Disneyland, while DD and I smugly turned right to enter DCA for the very first time!
What an awesome feeling it was to look around at a brand-new park. I got a lump in my throat and just stood there soaking it all in. The Golden Gateway looks kind of peculiar in miniature after seeing the real bridge, but Sunshine Plaza is spectacular. The main street of Hollywood Backlot is very authentic-looking and fun.
Following Al's advice, I sent DD over to Condor Flats to pick up Fastpasses to Soarin' Over California while I made reservations at Soap Opera Bistro. The line at the Bistro was about ten deep, so I was still there when DD returned. Fastpass time? Uh-oh, 5:55 p.m. Met a nice couple of cast members in line behind me, so I found out that it was also a cast member preview day in addition to Disney Club and Flex-Passholders. Hmm, what's the park capacity again? Well, it's Super Bowl Sunday, how bad could it be? We were soon to find out.
DD wanted to see Paradise Pier next, so we zipped through the Golden State and hightailed it to California Screamin'. Stand-by line was 45 minutes, so I went to the Fastpass machine. Surprise! Because we held Soarin' Fastpasses, we couldn't get another until 11:45. I was under the mistaken impression that if your time is more than two hours away you could get another one. Nope. We were stuck in the stand-by lines for the next two hours, and I figured that after that the Fastpass times on other attractions would also be hours away or gone (I was right about that). The actual wait time for Screamin' was closer to 40 minutes. This ride is the best roller coaster I have ever been on! I laughed throughout the entire ride; I was having such a good time! Smooth, lots of great dips and turns, that wonderful loop. Wow. DD screamed the whole time, but I guess that's a good time for her. In retrospect we should have just gotten back in line there a couple of times.
10:45 and we wanted a snack. Just a snack. Any snack. We walked towards the Maliboomer, bypassing the Games of the Boardwalk (as was everyone else). Strips, Dip 'n' Chips did not open till 11. Malibu-Ritos? I don't think so. Popcorn cart! Where is the drink cart? Nowhere to be found. We suddenly noticed more people around, lots more people. The Maliboomer stand-by line was 45 minutes. We watched for a bit, but I really wasn't sure I wanted to do this. I love Tower of Terror in Florida, but that's a dark ride, with your feet firmly planted on the floor. "Just close your eyes, Mom." No, not ready yet. King Triton's Carousel? Been there, done that. "You know that's not really a carousel -- carousel's have horses only. It should be called a merry-go-round." "Jeez, Mom!" Sun Wheel -- it never goes around -- just stop, start, stop, start -- what's the fun of that? Orange Stinger -- we could ride that at the Strawberry Festival. Jumpin' Jellyfish -- kid's ride. (Hey, what's with the dropped g's? did they save money on the missing letter?) S.S. rustworthy, cute kid's play area. Burger Invasion for a snack? 4.99 for a Happy Meal? I don't think so! Mulholland Madness. Still couldn't get a fastpass (grrr!), stand-by line 60 minutes, and we still were looking for a snack. We'll come back (famous last words). Ooh, corn dogs! Two windows, lots of waiting. After 10 minutes and the 30 something line moved two feet. Let's move on.
We stopped at some interesting shops next door and then spied the Pin Cart. I purchased 3 pins and talked to the cast members. Any DCA pins to trade? No, we usually don't have those. And where are the snack carts? They don't come out till later.
Okay, here's Golden Dreams. No wait to see this film. The talking Whoopi statue is a great effect. The film is pretty good too, but I really didn't like seeing those rail workers die. My daughter, a preschool teacher, thought young children would be frightened by the noise of that scene, but wouldn't realize what was happening. The women beside her screamed big time. I thought they should have the explosion off-camera and leave it to your imagination.
Now a word about Califia. I was very disappointed that this character was not even an original Disney thought! Whoopi Goldberg played a similar centuries-old muse character, Guinean, in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." They even had a time-travel episode where Guinean encounters Samuel Clemens and gives him advice, just like Califia did to Samuel Mayer! Sheesh.
Still on a mission to get food, we zigged over to Monterey area food court. The Pacific Wharf Café had a long line out the door. Cocina Cucamonga wasn't too bad, but The Lucky Fortune Cookery was shortest. Looked like Chinese food in our future. By this time we were really hungry, so we split the egg rolls, a chicken rice bowl and raspberry-chocolate wontons and each had a coke. Total = over $20. Food was only so-so. Egg rolls were soggy. Rice bowl sauce was a little salty, but not bad. Wontons were more cheesy than either raspberry or chocolate, but also not bad.
By now we would be able to get another Fastpass, but we were too far from the Paradise Pier rides we wanted to experience. The park was now so crowded we also knew the Fastpass times would be hours away.
Hey, let's tour the Tortilla Factory! As we entered, the cast member began her canned spiel, and we couldn't understand a word, she spoke so fast and low. There are several video monitors to view as you come inside, to watch a typical family making their own tortillas for dinner. Since no one could understand the CM, everyone crowded around the first monitor. She didn't bother to tell us that all four monitors were showing the same film! Be still my heart, it was time to go into the factory...oops one side was not working; it would be about 15 minutes if we wanted to wait...yeah, right. Oh, we get a free tortilla? No, only one-half of a free tortilla.
Well, after all that excitement did we now want to see bread baking? DD asked, "Do we get free bread?" Nope. Let's skip that.
We wandered up to the winery where lots of well-heeled folks sipped wine and talked with vintners. Robert Mondavi was doing a photo shoot; maybe they were groupies. The shop and deli were crowded. DD said we should have gotten our snacks here, till she saw the prices!
It was now well after 12 p.m. I noticed the lines in the Monterey food court now met in the center. Good thing we got food when we did.
Let's go see what the line for Soarin' looks like. Maybe we could stand-by instead of waiting till 6 p.m. (We really wanted to be on our way home by then). 120 minutes with no more Fastpasses available. Hmm, where's that bug movie?
No wait to see It's Tough to be a Bug. The pre-show is great theming, but then I haven't seen the AK version. Love the movie posters. A fun show, with great audience effects. DD wasn't sitting straight in her seat, so she missed the bee sting. I watched everyone turn around after the show and examine their seats to see where the bees were hiding!
Nice shops in the Bountiful Farm area. Hey, Kristin, want to see the scarecrows? This area looks just like Orange County's Centennial Farm, or it will when the plants have grown. I always think it's a good experience for kids to see where their food comes from, but couldn't they have some live animals? Hate those plastic cows.
Over at the Hollywood Backlot, we entered Muppet-Vision with no wait, although we were at the back of the queue and sat at one end of a middle row. Maybe that's why I thought the film was poor quality. Again the movie posters in the pre-show area were fun, but would have liked a photo-op with character statues.
It was now time for our 2:30 p.m. seating at the Soap Opera Bistro. We arrived at the requested 2:20 and asked to be seated in "All My Children." Ten minutes later we were dining in Adam Chandler's mansion! (Decorated for Christmas, what's up with that?) I must say this restaurant confused the heck out of me. Our server was dressed in hospital scrubs, as were other servers in other areas, including the "General Hospital" hospital and Luke's bar. Then there were other servers dressed in leopard-skin blouse and pillbox hat. Then there were others dressed in jeans and work shirts; like stagehands, I suppose. Not to mention the hosts wearing white ABC shirts and several men in tuxedos (wine stewards?). Too many folks running around in a frenzy for my taste. We had a nice booth, with a nice view of the action. DD ordered the Chicken Satay appetizer and the Caesar side salad. I was too full of rice bowl to order an entrée, so I thought I would try the Salmon Salad. Our salads arrived together, and DD announced hers delicious. I guess I didn't read the menu description very well, because mine had a big glob of avocado on top (I'm allergic). After scraping that off, the good-sized piece of salmon had teriyaki sauce over it (I don't like teriyaki on fish). Okay, my fault, I can deal with that. Then I tasted the field greens. Oooh, salty. Bite two, oooh what is that taste? Bite three, eewww that is nasty! I could not eat this. Now, let's see, which one of these people brought this, and which one is our server? As DD finished her salad, I finally spotted our server and called her over. She cheerfully took away my salmon and brought me (when DD was halfway through her appetizer) a side-salad portion of Spinach Salad, which was delicious. Now why can't they have an entrée sized portion of this and the Caesar? Total bill was $30, including tip.
During our meal, actors made a grand entrance into our room and put on a fun (but very brief) show, interacting with the diners and incorporating every stereotypical soap opera scene imaginable: murder, long-lost identical twins, surprise children, amnesia victims; you get the picture. It was an amusing interlude, but disappointingly short. As this was during their preview days, and I imagine they are working out the kinks, I would return to this restaurant in the future only to see how and if they have improved.
Leaving the Bistro, we strolled over to the Disney Animation building. There was a long line to get in (surprise!) and we knew that after entering, we would need a couple of hours to really experience this attraction, we decided today would not be the day. Our
Fastpass time for Soarin' was now only a couple of hours away.
Okay now, I have read the awful reviews of Superstar Limo, but like a rubbernecker drawn to the scene of a traffic accident, I had to see for myself. We entered the queue, thinking we were entering the building, but were surprised when we turned the corner and encountered a very, very long line. During our nearly 50 minute wait, we could see glimpses of the live show on the Hollywood Backlot Stage, but not enough to form an opinion. Superstar Limo? It's true - it's awful. DD asked at the exit, "What was the point of that?" Beats me.
We strolled over the Grizzly River Run, spending an entertaining few minutes watching people get absolutely soaked. This looks like a great ride, but being an (almost) native Californian, 58 degree weather and soaked to the skin are not my idea of a good time, so we passed. The Rushin' River Outfitters and Fly 'n' Buy are great places to shop or, as in our case, window shop. We also checked out the Greetings from California shop, which was very crowded and confusing. Decide where to meet the rest of your party before entering this one! DD and I got lost inside. After we found one another again, it was finally time for Soarin' and we headed over to Condor Flats.
I started to get a bad feeling when I noticed a line next to the stand-by line. A nearby CM confirmed that this was the Fastpass line. He said they were running at half capacity and the Fastpass was delayed 30-40 minutes. Oh, no! We really needed to be home by 7 p.m. and regretfully decided to exit the park.
But the best surprise was yet to come! We slowly made our way to the Mickey and Friends tram stop, turning for one last look into the park. I had a resigned feeling that I wouldn't be returning anytime soon. Then we looked at the tram loading area, which was an absolute sea of people. At least 30 deep. This was 6 p.m., mind you. DCA was open until 10 and Disneyland until 9, so this wasn't even the park-closing crush. One tram was sitting there full, but as we waited, it was at least 5 minutes before it took off and another appeared. The mob stepped forward about two steps and halted again, this tram also full. At this rate it would take an hour to board! DD and I walked the mile or so to the parking structure. I was very afraid of traffic gridlock getting out of there, but I guess since no trams were arriving, very few cars were leaving and it was smooth sailing out of there. Our nine-hour power tour was over.
As a DL annual passholder, I rarely spend more than a couple of hours in the park, so a 9-hour visit was exhausting to me, especially with the crowds and long wait times for absolutely everything. I am seriously considering not renewing my pass this year, and waiting until some of these issues are resolved, if they really can be. The parking and crowded conditions will completely change the DL experience I have come to know and love. I know I will not be upgrading to a 2-park pass. When you give DCA a try, be prepared for very long wait times and very expensive food items. Get there as early as possible. Of the 24 listed "Attractions & Adventures" we experienced 2 rides, 3 movies, 1 factory tour, and glimpsed most of the others. Since we paid only $20 for this preview day, I felt we got our moneys worth. I was particularly disappointed in missing Soarin' Over California, but not with anything else we missed. It's great to visit a brand new park, and I do hope to see it again some day. But not soon.