Rosie Kay -- May 2002 -- Disneyland
This was an absolute spur-of-the-moment visit to DCA (first timer). I was in Southern Cal on business and finished at 1:30pm on Sunday. My flight was not until 10pm and I was by myself so I thought, why not? I have not been to Disneyland since 1987 (I live in South Florida, so WDW is my 'home territory') and I have been dying to check out DCA.
I will break it out by hours (since I only had four).
I arrived at 1:55pm and parked in the Pumbaa lot (7b), right in the first row next to the shuttle (the first of my lucky experiences). The bus left within four minutes and the driver gave me excellent directions back to LAX for when I was ready to leave. I think that this lot is further away than many of the others, but it was very easy to park, the shuttles ran constantly on the way back and it was minutes to the freeway once I left.
At the ticket window I told the CM that I only had four hours. She said that DCA was definitely the better choice (it was a holiday weekend) as it would be much less crowded. So, I bought my ticket, looked wistfully at the entrance to Disneyland and off I went.
The security check was quick and thorough (CM asked if there were any other pockets in my fanny pack). By 2:05pm I was off and running. All I had heard of was the Soarin Over California ride, so I knew that one would be on my list. Otherwise I had no idea what to expect.
I skipped the shops on the way in (I'll get to those later) and headed toward the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. This looked a lot like a mini version of MGM Studios, but there was method to my madness. Although I was going to be visiting WDW in a couple of weeks I knew that the kids and the rest of my troupe would not be up for the film about Walt (my hero) or some of the other more 'educational' aspects of MGM. Now was my chance to experience them anyway.
I asked the CM at the entrance to Disney Animation if the film was the same one playing at MGM in Orlando (Walt Disney: One Man's Dream). Now I am all about good Guest Service (in my job I actually evaluate Guest Service). This CM was clueless. He had no idea if the film was the same "Well, if there IS a movie at MGM, I would guess it is the same one." However, a good recovery by another CM standing nearby. He came to my rescue by leading me to another CM inside the building who would "know the answer to my question." He made sure I got a response and then spent some time after the film advising me on the best attractions to see in my short DCA visit. The next showing was in one minute (LUCKY).
OK, I loved this film. I am constantly amazed at the genius that was Walt Disney. His ideas on how to create a quality experience (in film or in a theme park) were groundbreaking. (I'll shut up now.) Anyway. I am so glad that I got to see this. I would have been very disappointed to miss it next month. I hope they make it a permanent part of the MGM Studios park. I did not visit the other parts of the Disney Animation Building - I've seen most of it in Orlando.
The CM recommended that I head over to Blast!, but I really had no interest. I watched the street performers for a couple of minutes (cannot remember their names, but I think they were Hollywood Extras). They were there performing constantly. As an ABC Soap Opera Aficionado I had to check out the ABC Soap Opera Bistro. What fun! I wish I had time to sit down and have lunch in one of the oh-so-familiar sets. I would like this to be added to MGM too! Got a Fast Pass for Millionaire 3pm show and then off to Soarin Over California.
The standby line said 45 minutes, but I noticed a sign near the FP line that mentioned "single riders." Since I was alone I asked about this. The CM said, "Are you a single rider? Here." And handed me a slip of paper that said single rider. I was sent down the FP lane and after 7 minutes reached the front CM. I handed her my pass and she sent me all the way down to the loading area! Cool. I was given a spot at the end of a row with a family (in the back row). This single rider idea is GREAT (LUCKY)! How many times have I seen empty seats in cars when families are only 3 people or 5 people? My only regret (very small) was that the theming inside the SOC waiting area seemed to be pretty interesting (unlike the rest of DCA) and it might have been fun to check some of it out. But with my four hours tick-tocking, this was a great discovery!
SOC is a fabulous ride. The sensation of flying over all these wonderful spots throughout the state of CA, which is so diverse and beautiful, is Imagineering near its best. I hope they bring this technology to WDW. It would be a great way to update some of the EPCOT World Pavilion films (imagine flying over the French countryside!). Hopefully I will do this again before I leave, only I want to sit in the front row next time, so that I do not see legs dangling in front of me.
I walked quickly through the Condor Flats and Grizzly Park Recreation Area. I would have gone on the Grizzly River Run, but the standby line was a 60 minute wait and I wasn't really sure I wanted to get all wet anyway. (Isn't this like the Kali Rapids in Animal Kingdom? I will be there soon enough.)
On to Paradise Pier, the most controversial of the DCA 'lands.' I decided to reserve judgment until I experienced as much as possible. No line at Mulholland Madness - because it was temporarily out of commission. I headed over to the Orange Stinger. Now these swing rides are among my favorite at any carnival I ever visit. The wait was only 5-7 minutes (I found out why quickly). By the time I settled back in my seat to enjoy the sensation the ride was already over! I don't know the official ride time, but it could not have been more than 90 seconds. As I exited I noticed that Mulholland Madness was opening again.
I ran over and asked for a single rider pass. Within 3 minutes I was in a car (LUCKY) with a Mother and two daughters. All were experienced riders, but the youngest still got scared and had to be 'talked through' part of the ride. This ride was OK, but nothing special. It also went by very quickly and was just like many other rides I have experienced at carnivals (there is definitely a theme here that I will continue later).
Next up was the Maliboomer. There was no line, so I did not need to bother with my Single Rider request. Launched up in the air 180 feet in a matter of seconds - I am glad I had not eaten lunch yet, that's for sure. I am also glad that I did not wait in line for this ride - with no wait it was kind of fun, but it would have been disappointing if I had waited any amount of time for it.
That was enough of these rides for me. I am not a big coaster fan, so I was very willing to avoid California Screamin' and the games held no appeal. My thoughts on Paradise Pier? I wholeheartedly (and sadly) agree with what I have heard from other Disney fans. Where is the theming that I love so much? Where are the Disney touches that make WDW and DL so special? This is a clean amusement park, nothing more, nothing less.
Walked over to the Golden State area and made my first purchase of the day - I am only a pseudo pin collector, but I wanted an alphabet pin for my niece and nephew for their lanyards when we go to WDW. Got both of those and a Memorial Day pin for myself. (Should have gotten a DCA pin, what was I thinking?)
None of the "tours" bread, wine or tortilla really appealed to me. I decided to check out It's Tough to Be a Bug. I think that my nephew will be too scared for us to see this at Animal Kingdom, but maybe I'll be surprised. As I got closer I heard a CM announcing to Guests walking by that the show was about to start, so no wait (LUCKY). I loved this show, it was great fun - pure Disney! I do think that my 4 year old nephew might get scared, however, so I am once again glad I decided to try it out myself (and did not have to miss out).
Time for my Fast Pass at Millionaire. There was already a crowd of people waiting, but I arrived in time for the hot seat questions. Guests who answer these trivia questions the fastest (yelled out by a CM) get to sit in the 10 "hot seats." You still have the same chance as everyone else to play, but you are much closer to the action. Anyway, all the questions were about Angels Baseball (Disney's team). Good thing I read the paper that morning. I knew the answer to the first question (how many homeruns in last night's game?), but the lead CM did not see me. The second CM did and looked my way during the second question - I can't believe I knew that one too (what place are the Angels in the division? Second).
I had met two young men (one a former Disney Store CM) while waiting for SOC. They were once again next to me in line, so I asked them if they wanted to be my "Family" and sit right behind me. I really enjoyed Millionaire. It was great how everyone had a chance. I actually made it up to number 8 on the board, but then had no idea on the last question. Oh well.
Said goodbye to my "family" and realized I had enough time left for SOC again. Single rider time was less than 5 minutes and this time I got to sit in the front row (top). WOW! This is definitely the best part of all of DCA.
Just enough time for some shopping and food before I dash for the airport. I stopped at Greetings From California and bought T-shirts for myself and my better half (Mickey with a surfboard, got to love it!). I wanted my favorite Mickey Mouse chocolate covered pretzels (with sprinkles and toffee) from Bakers Field Bakery, but they did not have them. I settled for a chocolate chip cookie instead - yum! The food choices near the entrance to the park are really limited and I wound up at Award Wieners (in the Backlot). I wanted a hot dog with cheese, but no chili. When I ordered the chili-cheese dog w/o chili, the CM said I should just get the plain dog and he would add the cheese for no additional charge. That's the Disney service I expect!
On my way out I asked for confirmation of directions to the airport at Guest Services. The two (very young) CMs were unsure how to get to airport (I wanted to confirm my directions from earlier). Again a shuttle driver gave me very good directions and had the Disney touch with his service level. A good last impression. 45 minutes later I was at LAX (LUCKY - but, with a 3 hour wait - I should have stayed longer at DCA. In LA you never know about the traffic!).
I hope I am back in LA on business again soon. Maybe I can sneak away to DL this time.
Have a magical day!