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Sheila D'Agostino -- April/May 2004 -- Disneyland (Offsite)


Who: John and Sheila D'Agostino

When: April 27 to May 3, 2004

We are a retired couple who moved to the greater Orlando area last December. Prior to that move we visited Walt Disney World frequently, and now we are fortunate to be able to visit one of our all-time favorite places whenever we wish, and we do so nearly on a weekly basis. Since we are practically immersed in Disney where we now live, why did we decide to take a trip to Disneyland? Well, simply because we love Disney, and Disneyland has its own distinct charms. Over the years we've made many trips to California, nearly always including a few days at Disneyland. On this trip we especially wanted to see the fabulous Indiana Jones ride again; to experience once more and note the differences in the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Snow White rides from those in Florida; to ride Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and Mr. Toad; and to soak in the atmosphere of the original Disney Park with its smaller scale buildings on Main Street USA. Moreover, we wanted to see Disney's California Adventure and the California version of Downtown Disney, neither of which we had experienced prior to this trip.

We flew from Orlando International Airport to John Wayne International Airport in Santa Ana, CA the morning of Tuesday, April 27, 2004, arriving early in the afternoon. We picked up our luggage and got our Avis rental car with no hitches. We checked into the Fairfield Inn on Harbor Boulevard and were assigned a pleasant room. After unpacking and settling in, we enjoyed an early dinner at a nearby restaurant, after which we walked across the street and strolled to and within Downtown Disney.

While some of the shops and restaurants are the same or similar to those in the Downtown Disney in Florida, the layout and "feel" of the California version are considerably different, in our opinion. We think both Downtowns are fabulous, and it is "neat" to have both here in this country, one on each coast. We also wandered around and through the Grand California hotel, noting the similarities in design and structure to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge in Walt Disney World.

Although it was only April, the temperatures in Southern California were oppressively hot, near 100 degrees, and we were tired from the plane trip, so we retired early to our hotel room and called it a night.

The following day we began by visiting Disney's California Adventure. Generally speaking we liked this park and found plenty to do there. Our favorite ride of all was "Soaring Over California," which we enjoyed many times during the trip. We also experienced "It's Tough to Be a Bug," which is essentially the same as its Florida counterpart, a favorite of ours. We visited the Bountiful Valley Farm and admired the big Caterpillar farm machinery, and also viewed the Disney Animation presentations. Much of our time at DCA was spent sightseeing, since we enjoy exploring new places. We enjoyed wandering around admiring the set up and taking in the atmosphere, which while considerably more carnival-like than its older neighbor, was interesting nonetheless. We visited some of the shops, had ice cream and a few other treats rather than a regular meal, and took lots of pictures.

The weather had cooled down considerably from the furnace-heat of our first day, and we needed jackets that evening. We spent some time at my all-time favorite Disney park, the original Disneyland, walking through the various lands, postponing any rides for another day. We enjoyed a hot dog and soft drink in Toon Town, then called it a day.

The third day of our vacation started out in Disneyland, where we rode many of our favorite rides, the timing of which was aided immensely by the use of fast passes. We got our thrills on Indiana Jones, went through the Haunted Mansion, sailed with the Pirates of the Caribbean, and raced through Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. We were disappointed that one of the prettiest rides, Peter Pan, was down for refurbishment.

By far the best and most enjoyable experience we had at Disneyland was seeing "Billy Hill and the Hill Billies" at the Golden Horseshoe. Besides being extraordinarily talented musicians, they are fabulously funny and entertaining. We fell in love with them and saw two or three of their shows each remaining day of the trip. They play wonderful blue grass music coupled with hilarious comedy. We love bluegrass, and these musicians are the best, and we laughed ourselves silly at their jokes and routines. Of all the Disney entertainment on both coasts, we consider "Billy Hill and the Hill Billies" to be the best.

It would be worth the trip to California just to see them play, even if there were nothing else to do in Disneyland. At least that is our opinion. We could have listened to them all day long and then some.

The fourth day started out in Disneyland with sets of "Billy Hill and the Hill Billies." Then we decided to take a break from Disney to see an IMAX film on NASCAR racing, since John is a big fan. We drove to The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center on I-405 north of the LAX Airport, to the Bridge Cinema De Lux, and viewed the film, which was extraordinary. Apparently because it was a weekday, there were very few people in the theater, so we had a lot of space to ourselves. Besides having a huge screen to watch, we had to don special 3D glasses with built-in headphones for the special effects. The result was surprisingly realistic. This made for an extremely interesting experience. After the IMAX movie we strolled around the adjoining shopping area and purchased some snacks, cookies and ice cream, as I recall. Then we headed back to Harbor Boulevard and our hotel. Dinner that evening was at one of the nearby restaurants.

On Saturday we went to DCA long enough to ride "Soaring" a couple of times, then hopped over to Disneyland for some attractions that we hadn't already experienced this trip, such as the Casey Jr. train, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and the new Mr. Lincoln show (which is diverting but not as good as the one it replaced). We had an especially interesting conversation with the cast member host of Mr. Lincoln, a gentleman who had started out as a young man working at Disneyland in 1955 in the parking lot, had left to go to college, became a public school history teacher, then returned to Disneyland after his retirement from teaching. His assignment as a guide in the Mr. Lincoln attraction and exhibit is most appropriate. He provided us with some fascinating insights to President Lincoln and Walt Disney.

Of course we also spent considerable time in the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, enjoying sets by "Billy Hill and the Hill Billies." One of the Billies, the founder actually, took some time between sets to talk to us (and I even got a hug!).

That evening we went to the Downtown Disney District and took in a movie, munching popcorn and relaxing, resting our tired feet. It was a pleasant interlude to our fast-paced tourist campaign.

On Sunday the incredible heat wave returned, with the temperature reaching 102 degrees! Much hotter than Florida, and this was only May 2nd! We went to Disneyland to see the Hill Billies in the nicely air conditioned Golden Horseshoe, but it was too hot for us to enjoy much other activity at either of the parks. Besides, John wanted to see the NASCAR race. We attempted to go to the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney, but ESPN was charging a $25 per head cover charge, and was very crowded as well, due to an NBA playoff game in progress. We went into one of the bars inside the Disneyland hotel, but both television sets were tuned to the game, and patrons were watching both sets. After considerable deliberation and after unsuccessfully checking out a couple of other likely places to watch the NASCAR race (which was not shown on our hotel room TV), we ended up at the Disneyland Hotel outdoor pool bar. A canopy provided shade, and there were fans turning, but it was very hot, nonetheless. John enjoyed a beer or two, while I sipped on frozen margaritas. The bartender had obligingly turned one of the television sets to the NASCAR race, so that was where we watched it. Our libations aided in keeping us reasonably cool, so we had a pleasant afternoon.

After the race was over we repaired to our hotel room and the refreshing air conditioning. We packed for the next day's return trip to Florida, had a bite of supper, relaxed with the television, then turned in early.

The plane trip home on Monday was uneventful. While we had had a good trip, we were glad to be back home once again. As Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."

Sheila D'Agostino

sdagostino@verizon.net


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