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Julie Grant-- July 2002 -- Disneyland


  • Who:
    • Julie: 30-something attorney/college professor.
    • John: 30-something firmware manager.
  • When: July 27 - 31, 2002.
  • Transportation: Airplane; Super Shuttle.
  • Hotel: Candy Cane Inn.
  • Disney Experience: In the past nine years, we've taken 10 trips to Walt Disney World, 2 trips to Disneyland, one trip to Tokyo Disneyland, and one Disney Cruise.

Caveat (I've got to have one. I'm a lawyer.): I've included some tips and comments for navigating the Disneyland Resort in the middle of summer. They worked for me. Your milage may vary.

Background: My last trip report posted here was for Tokyo Disneyland in May, 2001. Since that trip, we've made two trips to WDW, one in late August, 2001 (we stayed at the AS Music resort), and one in March, 2002 (we stayed at the AS Movie and the Animal Kingdom Lodge resorts). I had intended on submitting trip reports but due to my teaching schedule (the trips took place right before and in the middle of the school year) and other commitments, they never materialized. Now it's summer and I've promised myself that I'd finish this trip report before the school year starts. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

In April, 2002, I received an invitation to a conference in Oregon. The conference was scheduled for July 31 - August 2, 2002. Since I had to fly there and my expenses were being paid, and California is so close to Oregon (bear with me - if you're a Disney fanatic you'll see the logic in my thinking), and all I had to pay for was John's airfare (in addition to our hotel, food, park tickets, and souvenirs), well it just made sense to stop over at the Disneyland Resort. I contacted my travel agent and searched some travel websites, but since it was the middle of summer, airfares were, pardon the pun, sky high. Airfares never came down for this trip and John paid a premium for his ticket.

Trip Planning:

Hotel: We had previously stayed at the Candy Cane Inn and liked it just fine. So I called the Candy Cane Inn (1-800-345-7057) to make reservations for 4 nights, July 27 - July 31, 2002. Standard rooms were sold out, so I booked a deluxe room (it's just a tiny bit bigger than a standard room - I've now stayed in both room categories and would not pay the extra money unless they're sold out of standard rooms) for $87/night with a AAA discount ($97/night without the discount). I like the Candy Cane Inn because it's clean, a five minute walk to the DLR gate (10 minutes to the parks), and has a free shuttle which only services that hotel. The shuttle leaves the hotel every hour and half hour and returns to the hotel every 15 and 45 minutes after the hour. When the shuttle got crowded during peak hours, they did multiple runs and ran more than one shuttle - there was no having to stand in a crowded shuttle.

Aside from Annual Passholder discounts, the three Disney hotels (Paradise Pier, Disneyland Hotel, and Grand Californian) weren't advertising any big discounts. This is nothing like my experience with Walt Disney World lodging. At WDW, for the past two years I have used codes for steep discounts on lodging. I kept monitoring the Expedia and Travelocity websites looking for good deals at the three Disney hotels. The week before I left, I found Paradise Pier for $139/night and the Grand Californian for $209/night on Expedia. I noticed that the prices went down about two weeks prior to the date and took another dive about 3 to 4 days out. I kept my Candy Cane Inn reservations figuring I could use the money saved to do the three Premium Viewings offered at the two parks - more on that later.

Park Passes: The official Disneyland website was offering both their 3 and 4 day adult tickets for the price of a child's ticket. I purchased two 4 day adult tickets for $111 each. I received them in the mail in about a week.

Dining Reservations: Something new since my last visit. The Disneyland Resort now takes reservations for many of its restaurants (including Blue Bayou) 30 days out. Using the Disney Club 1-800 number, I made dining reservations exactly 30 days out. I also purchased Premium Viewing tickets for Fantasmic! ($41 each) (comes with balcony seating in front of the Disney Gallery with a dessert buffet and drinks); Disney's Electric Parade ($41 each) (patio seating at the Golden Vine Winery with a glass of wine and a fruit/meat/cheese platter); and the Hyperion Theater Dinner Package ($45 each) (dinner at your choice of participating Disney restaurants and first crack at any seat in the Hyperion Theater for the Power of Blast -- if you're doing this, you need to make your own restaurant reservation separately). The only reservations which seemed hard to get were Blue Bayou (both lunch and dinner) and Fantasmic balcony seating which I was told by one cast member sells out very fast (sort of like Cindy's at WDW).


Saturday, July 27, 2002

What we had planned: Early morning arrival in L.A., Super Shuttle to Candy Cane Inn, check-in, breakfast at CCI, shuttle to DCA, 12:15 p.m. reservations for Avalon Cove character lunch, Hyperion Dinner Theater Package (5:15 p.m. Blast show and 6:45 p.m. dinner reservations for Hook's Point).

What actually happened: John and I arrived at LAX at 6:30 a.m. and picked up our luggage. We walked out to the center island curb to look for a Super Shuttle. No Super Shuttle in sight and no guy in a blue and yellow jacket who is supposed arrange for shuttle pick-up. We walked a quarter mile looking for one of those boards that they have in all the airports with hotels/shuttles, etc. listings and direct-dial phones. We found one, but the Super Shuttle number had no live person. All the recording said was walk to the curb and find the guy with the blue and yellow jacket. By now it was 7:00 a.m. and we were getting kind of tired and grumpy. We walked back to the curb and who do we see, but the Super Shuttle guy. Shuttle for two to the Candy Cane Inn before tip cost $28.

We arrived at the Candy Cane Inn by 7:30 a.m. They had a full house and no rooms were available at that time. We checked in, stowed our luggage, and had some free continental breakfast: coffee, hot cocoa, orange juice, milk, croissants, bagels, toast, muffins, cereal, and fruit. It's really quite a nice spread. You can eat in their dining room, take your food outside and eat poolside, or take it back to your room.

We took the 8:30 a.m. shuttle to Disneyland and were through security (they look through all your bags -- don't worry about snacks, they're not looking for those so my Oreos were safe) and in the park by 8:35 a.m. We walked down Main Street and I experienced that "I'm home again" feeling. There was a long line of people waiting outside the Disneyana store for a collectable train signing event. Our first ride was Indiana Jones which was a walk-on. We follow that up with the Jungle Cruise (Captain Louis was fun) and Pirates of the Carribean which are also walk-ons. By the way, Disneyland opened at 8:00 a.m. this morning. Tip: For maximum rides with minimum wait, never underestimate the value of getting to the parks early, especially on a Saturday in the summer.

At 9:30 a.m. we exited Disneyland, walked across the plaza, through security, and into DCA. The best thing about DL and DCA is their close proximity. You can park hop in a matter of minutes. DCA's official opening time was 10:00 a.m. but they opened their gates at 9:30 a.m. (as opposed to DL which opened exactly at its official opening time). We walked directly to Soarin' which already had a posted wait time of 20 minutes. We were in the theater in ten minutes. All I can say is "WOW!" My favorite Disney attraction used to be Tower of Terror (with Enchanted Tiki Room a close second). I think this one's better. The ride takes you up in a hand glider to catch the sights and smells of California. John commented that this is flight simmer's dream. Tip: There are three rows. Row 1 is the best. It has an unobstructed view - meaning no dangling feet in front of you.

After Soarin' we picked up fastpasses for Soarin' and then walked across the park to Screamin' (a steel coaster that looks like a wooden coaster) which we rode in five minutes. It's got everything including a high speed take-off (like the RockNRoller Coaster), a corkscrew, and an inversion.

Then it was off to the Sun Wheel (a fancy ferris wheel) which we waited ten minutes to ride. Because only three gondolas can be loaded at a time, it is a VERY slow loading ride. Tips: (1) There are two types of gondolas -- stationary and swinging. If you want to ride a stationary gondola, there is a much shorter line which you can enter from the ride's exit; (2) If you are prone to motion sickness, DO NOT ride the swinging gondolas. I'm good on all rides at DLR and WDW including ToT, RnR and Star Tours. But I can't even begin to express how ill this ride made me. Luckily we got off before I embarrassed myself.

Next, we waited 15 minutes for Mulholland Madness. It's a kiddie mad mouse-type ride which was not worth more than our 15 minute wait.

The Zepher was up and running (I had heard that they shut this ride down even in the mildest of winds -- and in fact, while in line, a cast member was warning people that the ride could shut down at any time due to strong winds -- and it was a pretty still day) so we rode that with a five minute wait. Boy was it a short ride! You're in a long silver Buck Rogers looking space ship and you go around three or four times in a circle. That's it!

It was now time for our 10:50 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. fastpass return time for Soarin' which we did with a 15 minute wait. We got out and got another fastpass with a 2:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. return time. We never did use that fastpass.

We walked through a shop and I purchased two pins (this is my very costly hobby/vice which John thinks will someday go the way of the beanie baby -- no insult to bb collectors intended).

We had 12:15 p.m. reservations for a character lunch at Avalon Cove. It's a beautifully themed under-the-sea restaurant. For $12.99 you get soup or salad, and an entree. I had the french onion soup (yummy!), and fish and chips (very greasy - yuck!). John had the same soup (yummy!) and a cheese burger (just o.k.). We got a plate of cotton candy with the check (so you don't need to order dessert -- but they don't tell you this when they ask you if you'd like dessert) -- what a great idea! John's not big on sugary sweets so there was more for me! Drinks are separate at $2.50. Before tip, lunch for two was $32.00. Despite the so-so food, I would recommend Avalon Cove because it is the least crowded character meal I have ever attended (I've done the Mary Poppins Practically Perfect Tea and breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen at the DLR; 1900 Park Fare, Cindy's, and Chef Mickey's at WDW; and the Queen of Hearts at TDL). At Avalon Cove, the ratio of characters to guests was about one to five. In one hour we saw, had long "conversations" with, and took pictures with Chip, Goofy, Minnie, Pluto, and Ariel. At one point, Ariel was all by her lonesome for about 10 minutes. Pluto looked kinda' lonely too. The kids seemed to be having fun here - there was a conga line where the kids danced with the characters using musical instruments shaped like shells.

After lunch, we did more shopping - I purchased two more pins, some sun block (did I mention that it was very sunny and hot? - bring your own sun block - Disney charges $9.00 a bottle), a t-shirt for my niece, and a bib for my nephew -- $54.00 with Disney Club discount. Tip: Save your purchases until you accumulate items totaling over $50.00 before tax - then you can use your Disney Club card for a 10 percent discount.

We were tired so we exited DCA and walked to Guest Services (they're on the left side of the DL entrance as you face DL) to pick up our Premium Viewing tickets. We were able to pick up our tickets for all three shows at the same time. We took the 1:45 p.m. shuttle back to the hotel.

It was 2:00 p.m. when we arrived at CCI and our room was not ready (I wanted a second floor non-smoking room -- the hotel has two stories). So we purchased a newspaper and some bottled water and sat in the shade poolside to wait and nap. At 3:00 p.m. (which is their guaranteed check-in time), our room still was not ready. We agreed to take another room on the first floor -- we were so pooped we would have taken any room. We crashed for a half-hour and then it was time to return to DCA. All that waiting had consumed our nap time. I would have napped more but I had to consider my non-refundable Blast tickets. During our short nap, I was bitten by a mosquito. We quickly found the nasty insect and killed it. Score: Mosquito 1 - Julie 1.

We took the 4:00 p.m. shuttle to DCA, browsed through some shops and then it was time to get in line for the 5:15 p.m. Power of Blast show. We arrived at the Hyperion Theater at 4:45 p.m. and were directed to a line for people holding dinner package tickets and people with tickets from the Disney Travel Company (it must come with some package). At 4:55 p.m. they opened the doors and about 20-30 of us were allowed to choose any seat in the house. A gentleman next to us asked a cast member what he thought were the best seats in the house and we were directed to the front row center of the first elevated section of the ground floor. These were excellent seats. John who had refused to see Blast with me at Epcot last year was really impressed - "Why didn't you tell me they had brass?" - Arrrgh!

Next it was off to Muppet Vision 3-D which was starting in five minutes. I love this show!

We walked through Downtown Disney to the Disneyland Hotel where we had 6:45 p.m. reservations at Hook's Point. This was the other part of the Hyperion Theater Dinner Package. The package comes with an appetizer, entree, dessert, non-alcoholic beverage, tax and tip. We shared crab cakes and calamari, John had the Angus steak and I had the surf (jumbo shrimp) and turf (steak); John a chocolate souffle and I had a creme brulee. Two coffees, an iced tea, and one glass of wine later, we paid less than $10 including tip (for the wine). Pre-tax and tip (not including the wine) we would have paid over $100 for dinner. If you choose your restaurant wisely, even if you don't like Blast, the dining package provides a substantial discount on a fine meal.

After dinner we slowly made our way back through Downtown Disney. John purchased a t-shirt "Born to Fly" ($20) (he's an amateur pilot) at Island Charters, and $90 later at the World of Disney (more pins for me, and gifts for relatives and co-workers), we were walking through the plaza between DL and DCA when Believe started at 9:35 p.m. We saw some of the fireworks and took the 9:45 p.m. shuttle back to the hotel. It would be nice if Disney pumped the Believe music into the plaza.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

What we had planned: Disneyland, Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour, 1:40 p.m. lunch reservations at Blue Bayou, 6:30 p.m. dinner reservations at Napa Rose at the Grand Californian.

What actually happened: We woke up at 6:30 a.m., got ready, had the CCI continental breakfast and took the 7:30 a.m. shuttle to the DLR. We stood in line at the gate and waited for DL to open at 8:00 a.m. - we were second in our line.

We made a dash to Space Mountain. We found out that even if you are a fast walker, they don't let you onto the ride until an average walker could have reached the ride. So we stood around outside the ride entrance for a couple of minutes waiting. Then a cast member escorted us through the ride entrance to the loading area. We were on the first shuttle. We got off and got a fastpass (return time 8:50 a.m. - 9:50 a.m.).

Next, we rode Star Tours which was a walk-on.

We went to City Hall to pay for the Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour ($8 each with Disney Club discount - otherwise it's $16 each). Then we showed our receipt to a cast member at a cart outside City Hall and received our yellow tour tags. We were instructed to return 10 minutes prior to the tour. The tour is at 10:45 a.m. daily.

Next, we rode Matterhorn - twice - first the Fantasyland side, then the Tomorrowland side, and can confirm that one side is indeed wilder. Each wait was less than five minutes. In line, I found a premium annual pass which I gave to a cast member. So, if you lost your pap on Sunday, July 28, 2002, I hope you got it back.

Then we rode Alice with a five minute wait, Mr. Toad with no wait, and Peter Pan with a ten minute wait. We left Fantasyland and rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with a five minute wait. Let's see, that's 7 (or 8 depending on how you're counting) rides by 9:15 a.m. Tip: Arrive early!!!!!

By this time, Splash Mountain already had a 60 minute wait so we got a fastpass and did Haunted Mansion with no wait. At the cart outside the Haunted Mansion, I purchased a pumpkin head Mickey antenna ball ($3.50). I was also getting hungry so I purchased a Mickey ice cream bar (John doesn't snack so he only had a bite of mine).

It was now time for our Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour. Nancy was our guide. She's worked at Disneyland for 15 years. Much of the tour was canned and if you're a Walt or Disneyland fan you'll know most of the trivia imparted. However, our guide was very pleasant and it was a cheap way to get a refresher course on Walt and Disneyland. It was worth the $8. The comparable tour at the Magic Kingdom is Keys to the Kingdom which is much more expensive, but which we enjoyed more simply because we got to visit behind the scenes. By comparison, WIWF had no behind the scenes visits and did not go on any rides. WIWF was 3 hours long. At the end of the tour, we each received our honorary citizen sticker with Mickey.

We were late for our reservations at the Blue Bayou. We walked fast and arrived at 1:45 p.m. for our 1:40 p.m. reservations. When you arrive at the podium you can request a waterfront table, but you'll wait for it (15 - 30 minutes even with a reservation). We were hungry and didn't want to wait so we asked for the first available table. We were seated immediately. Both John and I had monte cristo sandwiches ($12 each) which came with pasta salad, and mint juleps ($2.50 each). They were huge! We could have shared one sandwich and been satisfied.

After lunch, we walked through the New Orleans square shops. I purchased a crystal thimble with Sorcerer Mickey ($16) for John's mom who's babysitting our dog.

We walked upstairs to the Disney Gallery. We viewed the 100 Mickeys exhibit and then purchased a Print on Demand Enchanted Tiki Room poster on canvas (27" x 36") for $125. They also sell the posters in a larger size and/or on poster paper. It comes with free shipping and no tax if you have it shipped outside California -- but there is no Disney Club discount. The poster arrived home before we did. It's being framed even as I write this report. Now John and I have to agree where to put it.

John is fascinated by tall ships and as the Columbia had just begun boarding, we went on board. We went to the very front of the ship which had a great view. About half-way through the voyage we went downstairs and took a look at the ship's interior. It's set up like a museum exhibit.

By now I was ready for an iced lemonade ($3.50). We strolled around picking up a Haunted Mansion fastpass, a Big Thunder Mountain RR fastpass, and a Pirates of the Carribean fastpass.

Tip: The Disneyland Resort fastpass system: My understanding of the fastpass system is that you can get another fastpass two hours after obtaining your first fastpass or whenever the first fastpass window opens. So to maximize the number of fastpasses you can get in a day, start obtaining fastpasses in the morning when return times are closer together (they get longer as the day goes on and some machines run out of fastpasses by early afternoon) so you can get more fastpasses in a shorter time frame. But don't use them until late afternoon or early evening when lines are really long. As long as they're used in the same day, I was able to use fastpasses any time after their window opened - and long after their window closed.

Another useful tip is that some fastpass machines are not connected -- meaning that you can get another fastpass before the first fastpass window opens or two hours elapse. During my visit, DL and DCA were not connected. So at a minimum I could hold one DL and one DCA fastpass at the same time. Then, within the same park, certain machines were not connected to that park's fastpass system. Check out the various DLR internet discussion boards to find out which ones will be connected/not connected during your visit. I think the most fastpasses I held at the same time during this trip was 5. YMMV.

Next, the doors were just opening to Honey I Shrunk the Audience so we saw that. We then rode Space Mountain using our fastpass with a five minute wait.

We walked over to Splash Mountain. Standby time was over two hours (why anyone would wait in line for two hours is beyond me). We rode Splash Mountain using our fastpass with a ten minute wait. As usual, I got wet. There is no dry seat for me. Next, we rode BTMRR with fastpass and a five minute wait, and then PoTC with fastpass and a five minute wait. We were getting tired and decided to skip using our Haunted Mansion fastpass.

Earlier today, I tried opening the automatic lens of my camera. It wouldn't open. We took the camera to the shop on Main Street. A cast member confirmed what I suspected. The lens which pops in and out was jammed in. That's what happens when your husband holds the camera in his shorts pocket and then knocks it about on the rides. Looks like I'm getting a new camera.

We browsed through the Main Street shops and I looked longingly at a pair of sapphire mickey earrings ($324 before Disney Club discount - nope, not for me). It was now 6:30 p.m. and the flag retreat ceremony was just starting. We stopped to watch.

Now for my biggest mistake of the trip. I had made dinner reservations at Napa Rose, but having eaten so well the previous night at Hook's Point, this afternoon I called Disney dining reservations using a pay phone on Main Street and changed my reservation to the Storyteller's Café also at the Grand Californian.

We arrived for dinner at 6:30 p.m. and were seated immediately. For dinner you can choose either the buffet or order off the menu. We both chose the buffet ($25 each). It had prime rib, bbq chicken, a cajun snapper, tortellini with wild mushrooms, corn chowder, fruit salad, caesar salad, desserts, and drinks. The food was lukewarm and looked like it had been out for a while. Also, it was not tasty. I love Disney buffets and have been to many. This one, hands down, had the worst food. One glass of wine later, our total was $61 before tip. Totally not worth it!

We walked through the lobby of the Grand Californian. This hotel looks a lot like the Wilderness Lodge at WDW but bigger. At Acorn's Gifts and Goods I purchased a t-shirt for me and a t-shirt for my nephew ($24 each). Yes, if you're related to me you get a lot of Disney t-shirts. To bring my pre-tax total over $50 for the Disney Club discount, I also purchased a tin of Mickey mints ($3.00) (I saved $5.00 so the mints were essentially free - weren't they?) .

We took the 8:15 p.m shuttle back to the hotel where I found and killed another mosquito in the room: Mosquito 1 - Julie 2.

Monday, July 29, 2002

What we had planned: DCA, 12:30 p.m. lunch reservations at Soap Opera Bistro, 5:30 p.m. dinner reservations at Blue Bayou, balcony seating for 9:00 p.m. Fantasmic.

What actually happened: We woke up at 6:30 a.m., got ready, had the CCI continental breakfast and took the 7:30 a.m. shuttle to Disneyland.

This morning, we rode the shuttle with a large extended family who delayed our departure for some time. By the time we reached Disneyland's entrance a few minutes prior to park opening, there were long lines of people waiting to get in. Since we weren't going to be the first ones in the park, this was a good opportunity to try out a tip I had read about. Tip: Since I don't visit the DLR often, I started lurking around several DLR internet bulletin boards a couple of months ago. I read on one board that if you wait on the far right (as you're facing DL's entrance), the gates marked exit will open during the park opening. So John and I found a place in the shade, sat, and waited. Not much of a risk considering we would have been at the rear of a very long line anyway. Sure enough, about two or three minutes prior to opening time, cast members opened the exit gates and flipped the sign above them from exit to entrance. One way to check if the exit gates are going to be opened is if you see a security check table in front of the gate. This also worked for DCA (wait to the left as you face the entrance - make sure a security check table is set up at your exit).

We walked quickly to Indiana Jones and were second in line. Again, we had to wait to be escorted to the loading area by a cast member. In front of us was a teen girl's basketball team (and their families) from Texas (amazing what you learn about people just by standing behind them). While we were waiting, the remainder of their small group (6 people) arrived and soon they were a very large group (20 people). My feeling is that one or two stragglers cutting in line are fine, but over a dozen?

We rode Indy and were in the second car of the day. After getting off, we got a fastpass. We also picked up a fastpass for Pirates of the Carribean. We then did the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and It's a Small World with no waits. Disneyland has just completed an extensive interior refurbishment of IASW and it is beautiful! Yesterday afternoon (the first day IASW was re-opened), we went by IASW but the lines were amazingly long zigzagging this way and that in the hot sun. That's when we decided to ride it early this morning. After IASW, we walked through the Small World Toy Shop and I purchased a t-shirt for my nephew ($12.95).

As we were passing through the castle, we had our photo taken by a very nice cast member, which we later purchased at the Main Street Photo Supply Co. ($12.95 for a 5x7 photo). I'm going to see about making this our Christmas card this year.

At the China Closet, I purchased a couple of Disneyland disc ornaments ($10.00 each). Both my mom and I collect ornaments.

We went into the Disneyana store on Main Street. They still had pins from the train signing event. I purchased two pins and a background card for the pins ($12.50 each). I was informed that this was the first in a series and that the remaining pins will be coming out through the end of the year. There goes my pin budget.

At 9:30 a.m., we left DL and entered DCA. We saw Soarin' with almost no wait. We had intended to do Screamin' but the rest of the park wasn't open yet. I guess the entire park only opens on time on weekends? So we exited the park into the Grand Californian and I exchanged the t-shirt I purchased last night. We re-entered DCA through the Grand Californian, got a fastpass to Soarin' and then rode Screamin' with a five minute wait.

Since we were there and there was no line, we rode Jumpin' Jellyfish. Jellyfish is a kiddie ride. You're strapped in a swing chair and lifted up and slowly float down a couple of times. If you're an adult, it's not worth any wait longer than five minutes.

Golden Dreams was starting in five minutes so we saw that. It's a movie about the history of California with commentary by Whoopie Goldberg as Califa, the goddess of California. I thought it was nice, but not something worth repeating.

Next, we did the Boudin bakery sourdough tour. The tour is comprised of a short film with Rosie O'Donnell and Colin Montgomery (?), and a walk through the bakery area. The highlight is a sample of sourdough bread.

We followed that up with the Mission tortilla tour. The tortilla tour is comprised of a short cast member introduction followed by a walk through an area where they're making tortillas. The highlight, you guessed it, is a tortilla sample.

We walked into It's Tough to Be a Bug which was just about to start.

After ITTBAB, we walked by the entrance of the Hollywood Backlot area where we picked up fastpasses for the 1:30 p.m. Blast show (cast members hand them out at a podium - you just specify which show you want -- these fastpasses also don't count toward your fastpass limit). With the fastpasses, you get seated before the standby's.

Then it was time for our 12:30 p.m. lunch reservations at the Soap Opera Bistro. The restaurant is divided into sets from several ABC soap operas. We were seated in the Kelly's Bar area. The restaurant's theming was quite nice. I had the bbq chicken pizza and salad and John had a vegetarian pasta dish ($10.00 each). The food was good (much better than Avalon Cove). However, I guess I was expecting more character interaction with the waiters - sort of like 50's Prime Time Café at MGM. All we got from our waiter was "I'm in this tuxedo because I got married this morning." That's it! But the food was good...

It was time to stand in the fastpass line for Blast. We waited about 10 minutes before we were let in. For a different view, we chose to sit in the mezzanine. Although it was crowded, we found seats in the second row to the left as you're facing the stage. The seats were o.k., but nothing like our seats yesterday.

After Blast, we went shopping. At Greetings from California I purchased a couple of mickey with sunglasses antenna balls ($3.50 each), and two boxes of dark chocolate covered pretzels for gifts ($9.95 each).

We needed a break so we left DCA and waited for the 3:15 p.m. CCI shuttle which never came. It's really not that far from the DLR to the CCI and we could have walked. But it was just too hot. So we waited. We caught the 3:45 p.m. shuttle, returned to our room and took a nap.

We took the 5:30 p.m. shuttle back to DL. We had 5:30 p.m. reservations at Blue Bayou. We arrived at 5:45 p.m. and were seated immediately. John had crab cakes (not nearly as good as Hook's Point) and I had tonight's special which consisted of beef tenderloin and crab cakes (I agreed with John on the crab cakes). With 2 mint juleps, total before tip was $63.31. After dinner, we used our fastpass for Pirates of the Carribean and rode it in five minutes.

I had purchased tickets for the Fantasmic balcony/dessert seating and knew that we wouldn't be seated until 8:30 p.m. for the 9:00 p.m. show. So we walked around for a bit. But by 7:30 p.m. it was becoming a mob scene down by the Rivers of America and New Orleans Square with thousands? of people camping out for Fantasmic. I have never seen it this crowded at WDW -- then again, I've never been there on New Year's Eve. So to escape the crowd, we decided to wait in line for our balcony seats. They make you wait in the courtyard of the Disney Gallery. We got a couple of chairs to rest our weary feet and sat in line. To be honest, we didn't need to show up until 8:00 p.m. for front row seats, but we had nowhere else to go. At 8:30 p.m., we were seated first (front row center - there are two rows of seats and the balcony area is very small) and had first crack at the dessert buffet. There was cheese/crackers, cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake, creme brulee, pastries, fresh fruit, and beverages. Fantasmic was absolutely fantastic! Even better than at WDW. I especially liked seeing the Columbia and the Mark Twain in the show. After Fantasmic, we stayed on the balcony for a great view of the 9:35 p.m. Believe fireworks. The Holiday Believe is better, but this was still very good.

We waited for the crowd to thin out and then walked down Main Street to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. It's brand new and has been upgraded with a binaural sound system. It's like Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey, but with history. John didn't like it much -- he thought it was just a lot of cheap thrills. Who needs to hear their hair being cut before listening to President Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address?

We took the shuttle back to the hotel and I used the lobby pay phone to call Super Shuttle to arrange for transportation back to the airport (714-517-6600). Earlier, I had tried to use the phone in the room but couldn't because you need to leave a deposit. What's with that? Because I refused to leave a deposit (I'm just being stubborn here), I had to use the lobby pay phone.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

What we had planned: Disneyland, 12:40 p.m. lunch reservations at Blue Bayou, 6:00 p.m. dinner reservations at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney, Electric Parade premium viewing at 8:45 p.m.

What actually happened: We slept in this morning but were in the park by 8:35 p.m. First stop was Space Mountain which was down. We couldn't even pick up fastpasses while it was down.

So off we went to Peter Pan which we rode with a five minute wait. Next was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with a 10 minute wait. We walked to Indy but the standby line was 35 minutes long and the fastpass return time was in just 45 minutes. We got a fastpass. We picked up a PoTC fastpass on the way to the Haunted Mansion which we entered in five minutes. Next, we boarded the Jungle Cruise with a five minute wait. It was really hard to hear our guide this time around. In fact, neither John nor I got his name.

The 10:15 a.m Tiki Room show was starting so we walked in. The original is still the best!

We picked up fastpasses to Space Mountain and then waited in the standby line for 20 minutes. This was our longest wait of the trip.

I was getting hungry so we had an early lunch at Rancho del Zocalo. I had a very bland bbq beef sandwich (yuck!) and John had fish tacos made with fishsticks (double yuck!). Two big thumbs down!

In Frontierland, we walked through some shops. I made two add-a-bead key chains at Pioneer Mercantile. Beware, those $0.75 beads add up. $13.00 later, we visited Westward Ho, the candy store, and purchased two squares of fudge ($2.50 each) and some english toffee ($7.95).

We rode Indy using fastpass with a ten minute wait.

Because I hadn't finished my lunch, I was hungry AGAIN! At the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street I got a single sugar cone of Fantasia ice cream (cherry with lots of cherries, chocolate, and pistachio) ($3.00). John wasn't hungry.

I also purchased some taffy at the Candy Palace ($4.50). At the Emporium I purchased a mini snow globe ($12.00) for my grandmother. I always get her one when I travel - she's got quite a collection.

We returned to the hotel and took a nap. We returned to the DLR on the 5:00 p.m. shuttle. We had dinner at the Carnation Café. I had the chicken pot pie which was tasty and came with either pasta salad, cole slaw, or potato salad. John had a banana split because he said he'd be having dinner during the Disney Electric Parade Premium Viewing.

After dinner we did the Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, and Space Mountain, which were all walk-ons with our fastpasses.

We left DL, entered DCA, and rode Soarin' in five minutes with our fastpass.

We walked over to the Golden Vine Winery for our Electric Parade Premium Viewing package. This evening, there were only five parties in this large viewing area. There were a lot of people who, thinking this was a viewing area open to the public, tried to sit at one of the empty tables. They were all politely ushered out by a cast member. We were served our choice of wine - I had a pinot noir and John had a merlot. We also each had plates of cheese, hard meats, bread, olives, and grapes. After the parade, we made our way back to the shuttle because we had an early morning ahead of us. Tip: If you want good seats right before the parade, wait across the Golden Vine Winery - you can wait sitting on the wall. About five minutes before the parade starts, they open the walkway area for sitting.

We got back to the hotel and packed. Since John was returning home, he got the heavy suitcase with all the Disney stuff.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

We woke up at 4:45 a.m. We got ready and finished packing. We checked out at 5:20 a.m. and were picked up by Super Shuttle five minutes early at 5:25 a.m. At the airport, John and I checked into our separate flights (which were departing just five minutes apart), had breakfast together, and went to our separate gates.


  • Summer Crowds: Disneyland was very crowded, but we never waited more than twenty minutes for any ride (and then only once). Get there early and use fastpass. With a couple of exceptions (Soarin' and Grizzly), DCA was empty.
  • My impressions as a first-timer to DCA: It's not worth a full-priced ticket -- at least not yet. There are too many carnival-type attractions and not enough E-ticket rides. I admit I skipped one E-ticket, Grizzly, because getting soaked is not my cuppa' tea. But give them a few years. With rides like Tower of Terror, they may soon be worth the price of admission. And they already have the best Disney attraction to date - Soarin'!
  • Review of the three premium packages: The best deal moneywise was the Hyperion Dinner Package - what an incredible deal on dinner at Hook's Point -- but we could have gotten similar Blast seats just by waiting in line an extra 30 minutes.
  • In the I'd do it again anytime category is the Fantasmic balcony/dessert buffet. We had the best seats in the house and a terrific dessert. But next time, I wouldn't eat dinner beforehand.
  • In the lesson learned and never again category is the Electric Parade premium viewing. We saw good seats for the parade as late as five minutes prior to the parade. I can purchase my own glass of wine for eight bucks thank you very much.
  • Candy Cane Inn: The good - Great free continental breakfast, nice rooms, good price, good proximity to DLR. The bad - Our room wasn't ready by the guaranteed check-in time, the shuttle service was inconsistent, they require a phone deposit, and there were a couple of mosquitos in the room. Bottom line - We'll be back.

Future Disney plans: I've got resort reservations for November's Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. I've even got reservations for one of the wine tasting dinners -- they're sold out. But John says he's Disney'd out. So I'll probably cancel our November trip. But he's not adverse to a spring trip to Disney Sea in Japan. Hmmm. If not, our next Disney trip will be in July, 2003, when we celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.

See you at Disney!

Julie Grant


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