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Joel and Francine Bion -- April 2001 -- Disneyland


This will be an unusual trip report. Fran went down to Disneyland Resort on a Wednesday, and Joel went down on a Friday. At first, Fran was going to write down her experiences for Wednesday-Friday afternoon, and then I was going to write down the rest, but we decided to both write down our experiences all the way through Sunday. We've agreed not to look at each other's reports until we are done.

We're curious how our memories of the place differ after a couple of months.

Both of these California immigrants (Joel is from Minnesota, Fran from New Jersey) have visited Disneyland at least a dozen times, and Disney World about 6 times each - we have also enjoyed one3-day trip on the Disney cruise line, and became Disney Vacation Club members just this past year (home base: Old Key West resort).

Trip Report

Pre-Trip Planning:

Two items came into play:

Last November, Fran and I went down to visit Disneyland to see their holiday decorations - especially the snow after the fireworks. Our room, at the Disneyland Hotel, overlooked all of the construction at Disney's California Adventure. We decided that we would come and visit the new park in the spring, but (remember, this was back in November, folks), we wanted to wait a month or two after the park had opened to avoid the crowds.

Over the holidays, we also decided that we wanted to join the Disney Vacation Club. The reasons were two-fold:  First, we found ourselves at Disney theme parks a LOT, and decided that this was probably a permanent addiction on our part. The cost-savings of the DVC made sense.  Second, thinking that "you never know what will happen in life", we decided to sign up for what amounts to the guarantee of lodging being "already paid for" at a Disney property for a vacation a year. Somebody in the family could use this, even if we don't.

When we purchased (via a reseller), we found that we were left with about 120 points that expired in June of 2001. We knew we couldn't get out to Disney World in that time, so what to do with the points?

Well, there was the new California Adventure theme park waiting, and that fancy new hotel (the Grand Californian). So, we decided to plop down the points, and stay in that nice new hotel. Also, (remember, this is in January, folks) the Grand Californian offered early entry to Disney's California Adventure - so we could beat the crowds.

The people at the DVC were awfully nice, and processed our reservation, and we found ourselves with four nights at the Grand Californian in early April!

Hey, Joel! Your trip report lists only two nights for you, but four nights for Fran! What gives?

Well, this nasty but essential thing called "job" got in the way, and I found myself needing to stay in Northern California on Thursday and Friday morning. So, wasting a $75 change fee (sigh!) I was able to book passage to LAX on Friday afternoon, but we decided to save the $75 and have Fran still travel on Wednesday night. (The rooms were use-them-or-lose-the-DVC-points, changing the outbound flight for Fran would have cost money, and, well, it's not as if Joel wins the "2 days at home with Joel while he is working late evenings for work vs. 2 days alone for Fran at Disneyland Resort" comparison in Fran's mind.)

The last time we were at Disneyland, we drove the car to the hotel, and it stayed in the parking lot for three days. Seeing how it was probably cheaper all-around for Avis to leave a car in their parking lot for three days, rather than having us paying them for the privilege of parking it for them in our hotel lot, we decided to not rent a car, and chose instead to take an airport shuttle from the airport to Disneyland. We took a cab back to the airport on Sunday, because we were lazy and were running late. (The shuttle was $10 each, and the cab was $27, so for three people, you may actually save money with a cab.)

Fran's Trip Report

Wednesday, April 4

I started off earlier than Joel since he had work commitments. My flight from San Jose International Airport in Northern California arrived at Orange County Airport around 7:00 p.m. (about one hour, 15 minutes after departure). Since I could not easily find any signs pointing the way, I had to ask directions to the hotel-airport Shuttle service. Once I got there, a nearly full shuttle van was waiting for just one more rider (which turned out to be me). We left within 5 minutes and took the long trek on the freeway to everyone's hotels. I was the next to last person to be dropped off. The very last people to be taken to their hotel, a woman and her approximately 10 year old son, were oohing and ahhing as we approached the hotel. It was kind of embarrassing because she started asking me if it was really expensive, and her son was saying how beautiful it looked. She had to tell her son that their hotel was not going to look quite like this one-it was sort of an uncomfortable situation. I told her (truthfully) that we were part of the vacation club and that we hadn't actually had to pay outright and that the cost was kind of "hidden." As we pulled in to the entryway of the Grand Californian Hotel a gentleman on guard at the check-in greeted us. He asked for the name of the guest to see if it was on his list, and having found my name, he handed the driver a "pass" with my name and the date on it to present to the bellman.

I was warmly greeted by a parking attendant/bellman and directed toward the beautiful stain-glassed doors ahead. The entryway and hallway is quite modest in size compared to the grandeur of the great hall that lies a few yards ahead. What a beautiful lobby! The check-in process was very smooth. Upon reviewing my reservation, the clerk told me that I would really like the view (didn't know it but we were given a "view" category room). She directed me to the second set of elevators (not the ones off the great hall) that are located way down near the Napa Rose Restaurant. These elevators take you to the far wing of rooms. Getting to the elevators requires you to take an outside, covered walkway past the gift shop, the pools and across from the pools, the Storybook Cafe. On my way to the room, I inquired about breakfast for the next morning and the approximate wait I would be facing. I was advised to get room service since they have the character breakfast there and the place is crowded and active. This restaurant makes the room service food anyway, so I decided not to make breakfast reservations.

Once on my floor (6th), I had to follow many signs to reach our room, which was located at the far end of the farthest wing from the front entrance. You could easily get lost on these floors because the layout is not a clear square or rectangle. Tip: Make sure you get a bellman to take you to your room to avoid having to search for your room. The other reason to have a bellman: he gives you news or tips about the hotel or restaurants or the parks. I know this now because during our stay I overheard some interesting conversations between bellmen and recent arrivers to the hotel.

The "view" of this room turned out to be the roof of the Condor Flats Building of the California Adventure Park as well as a partial view of Downtown Disney-very disappointing. The room sits on the far end of the wing and while all the rooms toward the right have great views of the Park, this one really doesn't. For some reason they gave this room a view category since it does technically look out at the park, albeit the back alleyway of the Condor Flats Building! I decided to stay in this room for the night and to try to change rooms in the morning. Otherwise, the room was a comfortable size, everything is new and in great condition. I noticed the nice decorative touches: the bedspread pattern matched the wallpaper pattern and staying true to the arts and crafts design throughout the room. One misleading (though minor) thing: the in-wall safe is described as large enough for a laptop computer. Well, not in our case. It was a very small safe that couldn't hold much. As for dinner, I decided on room service, which arrived when they said it would. It was a decent meal. I placed my breakfast order on my doorknob. I slept well; the room was certainly very quiet.

Thursday, April 5

Woke up in plenty of time to greet the room service waiter who appeared with breakfast within the time I had specified. I was out the door and heading for California Adventure (DCA) by 9:00 a.m. But first I stopped at the concierge desk to buy my husband's and my entrance tickets. I decided to get myself the Pak Hopper ticket - that allows me to enter either of the two parks (Disneyland as well as DCA) since I knew I would want to go to a few of my favorite Disneyland rides on Friday. I saw no reason to use the early admission feature because the weather wasn't great and the place just didn't seem crowded. It was a good decision: I managed to go on every ride I was interested in, with minimal wait. Note that I had read nothing about the park and knew nothing about the rides (except that I knew there was a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel). I hit Soarin' Over California first (a wonderful and delightful sensory surprise), California Screamin' coaster (awesome-great fun!), Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D, and one of the Disney Animation exhibits (kind of uneventful). I had to wait no more than 10 minutes for the Soarin' Over California ride, and about 5 minutes for the coaster, and I was able to walk right on to the others. The viewing area on the boardwalk for the start of California Screamin' is a great touch. It makes you really want to go on the ride because you get a great view of the coaster first pausing, then shooting out and up the track very fast!

Since I was alone for the day, I could walk at my leisure and stop where I wanted to. I found myself going toward the Bountiful Valley Farm and Robert Mondavi Winery area. Aesthetically, these two areas were the most pleasing part of the park. I walked around all the plants and flowers and was very impressed with the quality of the plantings. Many of the trees appear to have been planted a while ago so you didn't get the feeling that this part of the park was not fully developed. Of course, nothing approaches the size of the plantings and greenery of Disneyland, but it didn't feel like an immature garden either. For lunch, I went toward the Robert Mondavi Winery because I was attracted to the umbrellas on a second-story terrace. It turned out to be an excellent choice for lunch. It was a beautiful sunny day and there couldn't have been a better place to eat outdoors than here. The food was absolutely delicious, as was the wine! It is pricey and not recommended for families for that reason.

Recommendation: Robert Mondavi's upstairs terrace restaurant for an alfresco lunch.

On my way back to the room to rest, I went on the California Screamin' ride again (again, short lines). Love that ride! Before getting ready for dinner, I was able to change the room to one with a fantastic view of the park. It didn't take as long to get to this room as the other one had, but I'll tell you--we traded quiet for a view. The noise level was noticeably higher coming from both the park outside (through the closed sliding doors) and from the lobby area. You see, the room given to us was on the 5th floor overlooking the open lobby. Believe me, noise does carry, especially the piano-when being tuned, as well as when being played. Consider this when booking your room.

For dinner, I chose to head over to Downtown Disney. Had no idea where to eat but I walked around until I found a restaurant that would not be too noisy and would appear to have decent food. That place turned out to be Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. I was drawn to the live music coming from the main dining room. I first chose to sit in there at the bar since all the tables were full, but after a few minutes I decided I would be more comfortable in the inner and open courtyard-very close to sitting outside. The meal was very good; the food arrived relatively promptly, though getting the waiter's attention was hard because they were so crowded. I didn't hold that against them, though. I recommend this restaurant for adults primarily. One could have a very romantic dining experience there with the live jazz, the dim lighting, and the very transitory feeling that you are indeed in New Orleans.

Recommendation: Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney for a romantic dinner.

Friday, April 6

I still had most of today to myself as Joel wasn't due to arrive until later in the afternoon. I decided to head over to Disneyland first thing in the morning. I used the Fast Pass to get onto the Indiana Jones Adventure (perhaps my favorite ride in the park), and Big Thunder Mountain. I was able to just walk on to the Matterhorn. Stopped at the Café Orleans in time to have a late breakfast, though I had to wait in line and then wait for my food-for a grand total of about a half hour, all told. I had wanted to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride but the lines by this time were too long. The Fast Pass didn't seem to be working for that ride yet.

I had my fill of Disneyland because, compared to DCA, this park was just plain crowded! I was kind of surprised given that it was a school day and the weather had not exactly been great (rain intermittently). I went back to DCA and road the California Screamin' and Soarin' Over California rides again (what else?) I saw The Seasons of the Vine movie short presented by Mondavi; interesting, though not engaging, as I have come to expect of Disney exhibits/movies. It had been raining on and off so it was not a good day to walk around and wander the park or the pier, so I went to another animation exhibit, this one having a live person acting as an animator on a stage that was designed to look like an animator's office. It was kind of a pointless presentation. It too was not very engaging, except that he piqued my curiosity about another animation exhibit where you take a personality test to find out which Disney cartoon character you are most like. I was determined to find it at another time. I found I didn't have too much else I wanted to do so I spent the remainder of the day resting and reading in my room. I was surprised that I could think that I had run out of things to do after only two days at Disneyland and DCA! Dinner was at the Storybook Café. I got there around 5:00 pm and missed the crowds that started arriving as I was leaving. Joel was to arrive in a couple of hours and we could then experience DCA at night together!

Back at DCA for the evening, Joel and I decided to hit the big rides right away. I was now riding California Screamin' for the third time (that's OK-I really like this ride!) and Soarin' Over California but at least it was with my husband this time. We also went on Superstar Limo, one of the most boring rides I have ever been on, perhaps the worst! We walked through the mildly interesting tortilla factory and Boudin bakery, and caught a few of the Animation exhibits. This time I got to see a number of the shops with my husband. I hadn't been inclined to visit any before this. As my husband says, "All those items in the stores look very appealing, but as soon as you take them out of the park, they are no longer interesting or attractive." And I've got to say, he's right! (Having collected a small stash of the inexpensive Disneyana in various drawers at home!)

Saturday, April 7

Saturday was a slow day for us. Instead of sitting down to a full breakfast, we had light breakfasts at the snack shop of the hotel. It was adequate for the occasion, given that we wanted to get directly to DCA. Despite the rain, and wearing ponchos, we walked over to DCA to once again ride the coaster and Soarin' rides. We were amazed that once again, we had to wait at most 10 minutes at any one time for either ride, regardless of the time of day or day of the week. We also took in a song and dance show at the Hyperion Theatre. I enjoyed it immensely because I am very fond of dancing. The leads were quite talented singers as well. The show was short on sets and props-it was actually quite lean in that department. But it was worth the trip there. We also walked through the winery area (for me, the second time) but this time we discovered a really great deli there. It actually puts to shame some of the delis that exist in Napa and Sonoma wine country up north! I would recommend getting a sandwich and drink and enjoying a lunch there. We also saw the Whoopi Goldberg movie called Golden Dreams. It was a bit sentimental for my taste but it did give you a good feeling about the positives of living in California. (Hard to talk in terms of positive, what with the energy shortage and expensive real estate out here!) But I digress...

Dinner was at Wolfgang Puck's Avalon Cove restaurant. We made reservations in advance, and still had to wait a short while (maybe 15 minutes) before being seated. I chose a fish dish (I believe it was halibut). I was extremely disappointed with it since it arrived very dry-to the point where I had to use a knife to cut through it!! All in all, it was not very good and I am hesitant to recommend this restaurant at this time. I will, however, go back again if we return to DCA to give them another chance.

W rode California Screamin' again and then hopped on the Sun Wheel. We chose to ride on one of the stationery cages because I was just too scared to try the one that rotates around a track. The ride gave us a wonderful view of the park area and the hotel. It was cool how they built the ride "below sea level." You'll have to see it to know what I mean.

Sunday, April 8

For our final day at the hotel we ate at the Storybook Café. We had their brunch where you wait in line before serving yourself. It was quite good. I recommend the brunch, as opposed to ordering directly off the menu. Check out was a breeze, as was getting a taxi in front of the hotel. Back to Orange County Airport and back home to Northern California.

Joel's Trip Report

Friday, April 6

I finally was able to leave work midday and arrive well in time for my flight at San Jose International Airport (SJC). Arriving "well in time" is an absolute necessity, as the long term parking at SJC has moved further from the terminal.

My plane ride down to Los Angeles International (LAX) was on Southwest Airlines (SWA). For those who have not yet had the pleasure of flying SWA, let me describe the boarding process: You arrive at the gate an hour ahead of time to receive a "boarding number". These are passed out first-come-first-serve, in incrementing numbers starting at "1". Finally, when it is time to board, they ask the people with boarding numbers 1-30 to pick any seat they want on the plane. What happens next is easily predicted: everyone chooses the aisle seats in the front of the plane, meaning that those with higher numbers are left scrounging around for seats, often apart from one another. What stops SWA from allocating pre-assigned seats, like every other airline, is beyond me. Well, I have to say that I was lucky, as I was able to get an early number, under 10, so I was able to get - an aisle seat right up front!

The flight down south was bumpy, but we arrived at LAX. Finding a shuttle service was relatively easy. I paid something between $10-$20 for the trip down to Disneyland Resort, and was immediately assailed with five pages and four calls on my cell phone from work!

The shuttle bus stopped first at the Disneyland Hotel, and I thought "Great! I'll take the next stop at the Grand Californian", and I told the driver as much. He said "No - due to how we drive around the area, we hit the Grand Californian last" - seeing as I would be on the shuttle for a good 15-20 more minutes, I decided to hop out with my roller-luggage and walk through Downtown Disney towards our hotel.

Thanks to the wonderful construction photos I saw on the Mouse Planet web site, I had a feel for the lay of the land, and I knew that if I kept on walking through Downtown Disney, I would eventually find my way to the Grand Californian.

Downtown Disney left me cold, I am afraid to say. It reminded me of nothing much more than what you can see at the Irvine Spectrum (I believe that's its name. (Does every town need a "House of Blues?")).

I couldn't find one store at this mall that I couldn't find back home, so why bother shopping? My family is from Minnesota, and my wife's family is from New Jersey and they have the same stores in both of those places, so, again, why bother?

I wished I could see a West-coast Pleasure Island (for those who don't go to Walt Disney World - this is a nightclub section built by Disney back around 1989 or 1990, and it contains a number of Disney-run nightclubs built around various "themes" (C&W, Comedy, "Adventure", 80's music, etc.). I would have gladly spent an evening there!

Anyway, I continued on my journey, lugging my luggage, until I arrived in the Grand Californian. Wow! What a beautiful hotel - exquisite in its detail and consistency of theme! When Disney decides to make the effort, they are still the best in the business! The staff was exceptionally competent and friendly, and the hotel was very clean - and showed very few glitches after being open just a few months. What a wonderful experience! There are plenty of page on the Mouse Planet web site that describe this fantastic hotel, so I won't go into a great deal of detail here.

Tip: There is no better place to say this in this report, so a bit of an aside: please note that there are two hotel entrances to Disney's California Adventure. The first is the one for the Grand Californian, located in the hotel complex. This leads to a section of the park right next to the Grizzly River Run ride. The second is for the Disney Pacific Hotel, and this leads into the Paradise Pier area, right next to the "Jumping Jellyfish" ride. You cannot enter DCA from the Disney Pacific entrance (unless you are staying at that hotel), but you can exit DCA from it. It turns out that it was quicker to get back to our room from the western end of Paradise Pier by using the Disney Pacific hotel exit, and then looping back through the Grand Californian parking lot.

Our room (5006) was in great shape, and had a great view of the park. DCA is beautiful at night!

Note: You could really hear the piano in the lobby (and we were on the fifth floor, but next to the open-air six-story atrium) from inside our room - from about 10AM until 8PM, approximately. I love show-tunes, and I generally can "tune-out" sounds I don't want to hear, so I loved the room. Fran likes show tunes, too, but enough was enough for her, and she thought the room was too loud.

Note: One oddity. We think this is correct, but we are not sure: We think the price of a can of soda out of the refrigerator in the room is less than the price of a can of soda out of the soda machine in the hallway. Someone should check this out.

Fran had thoughtfully brought me a plate of food from the Storyteller's Café, and, in the hotel room, I ate chicken and mashed potatoes and green beans as I caught up on the latest news from the Disney and Mouse Planet web sites. Finally, at 6:30PM or so, it was time for us to enter DCA!

Note: Due to my unexpectedly short stay, I suggested to Fran that we spend all of our time at DCA, and she (thankfully!) agreed. I really wanted to get to know the park, and with the continued large crowds at Disneyland Park, I felt that I would have been frustrated trying to see both parks in one day and an evening. I am glad I chose to do this. It allowed me to obtain a "deep" experience of DCA that I would not have gained in a hurried tour.

This evening, we rode: Soarin' Over California, California Screamin', Superstar Limo (yes, I had to ride it), experienced the tortilla factory and Boudin bakery, and spent a lot of time in the Animation exhibit. We also visited most of the shops.

Soarin' Over California: We waited no more than ten minutes. This is a fantastic attraction. This falls into a Disney top-tier attraction, sharing this honor with Space Mountain and Indiana Jones. (But it might have trouble "lasting" - as people gain familiarity with the show - a fate that has befallen Star Tours) We rode it once more. The first time, we were in the third (bottom) row, near the middle, and the second, each of us (we rode separately) turned out to be on the top row, near the left. The attraction includes olfactory stimuli, which were much easier to notice on the second ride. Also, the ride is a lot more fun on the top row - you don't see the feet of the people above you dangling down in front of your face.

California Screamin': Fran and I go absolutely crazy over a good roller coaster, and have made sure to ride them wherever we visit - the Midwest, South-East, New Jersey, across California (such as Magic Mountain), even in Europe, we take time out to visit the theme parks and ride the coasters. While California Screamin' isn't the tallest or fastest (for example: it is far tamer than Magic Mountain's "Goliath"), it actually is a lot of fun! The "boost" at the start of the ride, while you are sitting in the water, is fun, and if you sit in front row, it actually is a really enjoyable ride. We found ourselves, if not terrified or amazed, just positively giddy over the experience - it was just plain fun. That doesn't happen a lot. We went on to ride it three more times!

Superstar Limo: Yes, by the time I rode this, I had read all of the reviews on various web sites, so I was prepared to be unimpressed. My wife, who doesn't read the web sites all that much, said it was the "stupidest" ride she had ever been on. I wouldn't say it was the stupidest (the Haunted House dark ride at county fairs usually gets that award from me), but it really was, well, uninteresting. There was nothing about it that grabbed my attention.

Mission Tortilla Factory and Boudin Bakery: Interesting to walk through, and the warm tortillas were nice to eat. Do I mind these being called attractions vs. something else? I guess I don't really care, and some small children who were also walking through at that time found it fascinating. I remember when I was a small child, my father took me through a factory where oil was being put into individual quart cans. I still happily remember that factory tour. The tortilla tour reminded me of that. Big machines producing everyday objects. Kids like looking at that.

Disney Animation exhibit: Outstanding - I cannot say enough positive things about this - especially the "sorcerer's apprentice" section. The main "lobby" is spectacular. I will say that the Robin Williams show is a copy of what is (or was) shown at Walt Disney World, so patrons of both parks - beware! However, the truth is, that is a great show the first time you see it - so I don't see anything too wrong with showing it here. Of course, the references to "the crowd needs to get back to the rest of the tour" are a bit confusing if you don't know the film's history! I loved the Beast's library! I turned out to be a "Cogsworth"... I won't spoil the surprise by letting you know more about what that means...

Note: The music in the park bugged me. Don't get me wrong - it was nice music, but there wasn't enough of it. It repeated, and it repeated in a cycle, so I began to anticipate the next tune that was coming (at least in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area). This turns out to be more annoying than fun. I shouldn't be able to figure that out in a day and a half. For example, in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area, we heard Star Trek Voyager's theme song being played. (Fran and I both love that song, so we stayed outside to listen to it!) We then went into the Animation section. As we left it, we heard the same song start up again in the speakers! In the Paradise Pier section, the same thing happened. We wondered if there were more than twenty-thirty songs played in each section of the park. Disney, please purchase rights to more songs - or at least play Disney musical favorites in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section! I am also surprised that I didn't hear "The Monkey's Uncle" (http://us.imdb.com/Details?0059462) being played in Paradise Pier. I listened for that song - perhaps I missed it - but again, here was a (little known) song that has an odd bit of Disney history associated with it, and it was performed by the Beach Boys for gosh sakes - perfect for Paradise Pier!

Note: As another "pet peeve", I grew quickly tired of the droppin' of trailin' "g"s in the names of rides. "Jumpin' Jellyfish", "California Screamin'" and "Soarin' Over California". Gee (indeed!), what's the point? Did Little Orphan Annie name the rides?! I was half expectin' to find a "Leapin' Lizards" ride! :)

Be careful!: In the Hollywood section, every single door we tried to open, well - opened! For example, the door to the left of the Hyperion theater, just across the "fake street", opened, as did a door next to the hot-dog food area, as did a door next to the animation building. Usually, these opened to staircases within the buildings, or to a space behind a false front, etc. I have to say that I really consider leaving these doors unlocked to be silly. If a child gets lost, wandering behind one of these doors could cause a problem. We told a cast member about this on Saturday. I don't know if its fixed yet, but I would suggest that everyone finding an unlocked door should tell a cast member as soon as possible!

I purchased my requisite amount of junk food (popcorn, and, a tradition: a bag of cherry sours), Fran did her requisite amount of scolding over my eating the junk, and we returned to the hotel late in the evening, with me feeling that I had seen a lot, but feeling that there wouldn't be much left to see except for the stores in the next morning.

Note: We missed Mulholland Madness - we should have made an extra effort to see it. It was closed again on Saturday.

Saturday, April 7

We were one pokey couple on Saturday! Seeing that we had done the "must" rides, and seeing how few lines there were in the park, we moved slowly. We didn't get up until 10AM, and ate a quick breakfast at the Snack Shop in the Grand Californian. It was pouring rain, and so we put on our Disney rain-ponchos and entered the park. (Fran wore a yellow one that she had purchased in Disneyland earlier in the week, so she stood out from the sea of blue ones that other people were wearing. We took pictures of each other standing in our ponchos under the "Paradise Pier: Fun in the Sun for Everyone" sign during the deluge that we will put on our website (http://www.westvi.com).

We started Soarin' and Screamin' :) again, and then, quite honestly, the mixture of eating too many cherry sours on top of the egg breakfast I had at the Snack stop in the Grand Californian was (ahem) "getting to me", so we went back to the hotel to rest, and promptly fell asleep! We re-entered the park at 3PM to see the "Steps in Time" show.

Fran loved the show - she loves dancing, in general. I didn't care for the show - I really like the idea of plot and to her the spectacle was the point of the show. Fair enough - to each their own!

We wandered through the various shops, watched the "Eureka" parade for a bit, saw "Golden Dreams", which yes, was a bit over the top, but the message was very important, very worthwhile, and clearly expressed - well worth the time! Then, we wandered through the Golden Vine winery, which has an excellent deli selection, rode California Screamin' again(!) and then stopped in for our dinner at the Avalon Cove.

The restaurant was the opposite of the dance show: I loved the food, and Fran could have done without it, to put it mildly. She ordered a fish dish that she thought was cooked too long. I had a salad and some chicken, and that was prepared just fine for me (but, if its cooked, I pretty much say "it's good" and don't discern much beyond that...). We both loved the décor inside the restaurant. There was a real 1930's feel to the place.

After we finished our meal, we rode California Screamin' again, (the last time - we promise!) and then hopped on the Sun Wheel. We chickened out - and rode on one of the stationary bucket seats instead of one that rolls around on the oval track. Ferris wheels have made me nervous ever since when, as a child, I attended a county fair, and while sitting at the top of a wheel as other buckets were being loaded, my father explained to me what the term "lowest bidder" means.

After that, we went back to the room (using the short-cut of taking the Pacific Hotel exit, again), but first, we stopped in the hotel lobby and sat by the fireplace for a good half hour, warming ourselves up. What a wonderful setting!

Sunday, April 8

This was our travel-home day. We ate our breakfast at the Storyteller's Café, and then we took the cab to the airport, and headed home. Since we were running late, we decided to order the buffet. The waitperson really worked hard at selling the buffet - telling us that two orange juices, coffee, and one plateful of food matched the price of the buffet. (She was right.) The flight back (on American Airlines) was generally good, with only a bit of choppiness right before landing.

Between the airport and our house, back in San Jose, we experienced hail!

Note: There were some things I just didn't ride. "Jim Henson's Muppet-Vision 3-D" and "It's Tough to Be a Bug" exist at Walt Disney World, and quite honestly, I had no desire to see them again (Fran decided to see the Muppet show). Neither of us wanted to ride the swings in the Orange Stinger, or ride the Maliboomer. As I said, Mulholland Madness was closed, but we don't feel we missed much there, as it looked quite a bit like the "Mad Mouse"-style ride we have up here at Santa Cruz Beach/Boardwalk. Finally, we really wanted to ride the Grizzly River Run ride, but it was just too cold to contemplate getting soaked. Fun, we like. Pneumonia, we don't :)

Summary Thoughts from Joel

There have been quite a few negative comments about California Adventure. I agree with some of them: the park is small and has little to do in it, given its price. (Don't tell me that it is "brand new" -Disney/MGM studios, Epcot, Islands of Adventure, etc. were all new at some point in time.) Further, we felt that the Paradise Pier theme might be misapplied - we both noted that when we were in high school and college, you went to a beach boardwalk for a few reasons:

  1. It was a cheap date.
  2. If you didn't have a date, you could see attractive members of whatever sex you preferred in skimpy clothing.
  3. Even if you had a date, you could still see attractive members of...
  4. For many girls, the ability to "get a tan" was important - the rides were sort of secondary.
  5. There were plenty of places to "hang out" but it was (relatively) clean and safe.

Paradise Pier, in a direct comparison:

  1. Is not a cheap date
  2. Tends to have fully clothed people
  3. Tends to have fully clothed people :)
  4. Has no place to "get a tan" - where is the water park, and a (fake) beach? If they had used the rest of the parking lot for that, they could have done something wonderful!
  5. Doesn't have anywhere for kids to "hang out" and enjoy themselves - and the price tag (issue #1) kind of makes that point moot.

Therefore, Paradise Pier sort of appeals to the nostalgia of a beach boardwalk for us older folks, but doesn't (to us) appeal to what we would think is the target demographic.

But, being in Los Angeles, if I want to get the appeal of a beach boardwalk, I'll go to the beach - these are still (relatively) safe.

If I ran Disney for a day: put in a really good water park, make the "California" section of California Adventure park of the Disneyland Park admission, and make Paradise Pier an attachment to the water park.

Having said that, we liked the California section of DCA! We both saw a theme of "California equals unlimited opportunity - if you are willing to work hard" as a silent testament of that portion of the park. Preserve and honor the wilderness, appreciate the work of our multiple cultures, etc. - that was all sort of there, but it could have been made more explicit. (The Hollywood section has nothing to do with this.) I think if Disney focused the California section on this, they could have something outstanding. Just my opinion. The truth is, I would ask any of us who knock DCA: who of us could do better than the hard-working Imagineers who put this park together?

In the spirit of wanting to find value in DCA, I offer my top five favorite things in each section of the park, in no particular order

"California":

  1. Walking the trail around the white-water rapids ride.
  2. Soarin' Over California (Condor Flats in general is a nicely themed area).
  3. The Golden Dreams show
  4. The animation section
  5. The Redwood Creek Challenge trail (it was closed due to rain, but it looked fun)
  6. A bonus: The Golden Vine Winery deli was really well done.

"Paradise Pier"

  1. California Screamin'
  2. The views of the park from a distance at night
  3. Watching the "Jumpin Jellyfish" at night - its actually kind of pretty, even if the ride is too slow for even many children!
  4. The Sun-Wheel - the cabs on the track are hilarious, and having the wheel "sunk in the water" is clever
  5. The Avalon Cove restaurant interior decoration.

Fran's favorite things:

"California":

  1. Walking the trail around the white-water rapids ride.
  2. Soarin' Over California ride.
  3. The outdoor terrace restaurant at Robert Mondavi winery.
  4. The fountain at the entrance to DCA.
  5. The demonstration farm.
  6. The replica of a train (a shop at the entrance to DCA)

"Paradise Pier":

  1. California Screamin'
  2. The views of the park at night from the hotel room.
  3. The Avalon Cove restaurant interior decoration.

Joel and Francine Bion

jpub001@westvi.com


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