Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Happiest Place on Earth!!!

Yesterday, we made a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland!! It all started last year, when Disneyland provided free admission on your birthday, where celebrating my birthday at Disneyland became an annual tradition.  I got in for free this year again after volunteering as part of their "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" initiative.  Disneyland is truly my favorite place in the world; everything about it makes me smile! I start dreaming about my trips weeks, even months in advance.  I love everything about Disneyland; above all, I think the park is so beautiful and enchanting, both during the day and all lit up at night.  So much attention is paid to every little detail, from the authentic and charming appearance of the buildings, to all the colorful details on the rides, to the castmember costumes, to the lush flowers and greenery, to the variety of water features. While many areas are full of people, there are plenty of quiet places in the park (mostly near Critter Country and around Big Thunder Railroad), to slow down, relax, and take in the scenery.  You can do as much or as little as you want in a day and there is always more of the park to explore.  I've been going to the park as a kid and I know the park and all the rides like the back of my hand so there's a wonderful nostalgic factor as I remember how I loved the rides as a kid, but even as an adult, I'm always discovering all sorts of new hidden treasures to look out for, such as "hidden mickeys."  There's so much variety in the park, from the old school fairy tale rides in Fantasyland that illustrate the classic Disneyland stories, to the faster thrill rides like Space Mountain and Indiana Jones, to relaxing water rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and It's a Small World, to places to explore at your own pace like Tom Sawyer's Island and Tarzan's Tree house, to all the lovely shops all offering slightly different souvenirs, depending on the land where it is located.  It's a really well-run place, where all the castmembers are so genuinely friendly (I got a "happy birthday" wish from almost every castmember), parking and getting in and out is easy, the park is remarkably clean and free of trash and graffiti, the queues are organized with lots to look at and touch, which makes waiting in line actually fun.  The fastpass system introduced about 10 years ago really changed the park and made it even better.  The days of waiting almost two hours for Space Mountain are gone and you can go on significantly more rides in a day than in the past.  Basically you can pick up a fastpass every two hours or less for the more popular rides, including Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, Big Thunder Mountain, Autopia, Buzz Lightyear, Roger Rabbit, which allows you a window of time to come back and wait in a much shorter "fastpass" line for the ride, generally waiting under 10 minutes.  It requires more running around the park, as you have to go back and forth to rides, but it's totally worth it; we were able to go on over 20 rides yesterday and the longest line was the Matterhorn Bobsleds for half an hour.  We were able to relax, shop, and leisurely eat our meals and still go on all the rides we wanted to make.  I went on more rides yesterday than in any of my previous trips, and it was a Saturday at the height of summer, though it really didn't seem that busy.  I generally pick up the fastpass for Space Mountain first, as soon as I get in the park, as it is my favorite ride, followed by Splash Mountain, because I prefer to ride Splash when it is daylight and hot outside, followed by Indiana Jones. 

We entered the park at 10am and the first character we saw was Mickey!
Our first ride of the day was Captain EO, the Michael Jackson 3D movie filmed in 1986 that they recently re-released.  I remember watching Captain EO as a kid and being captivated by the 3D flying objects.  It was nice to see MJ as I remember him:
Next, we went on Autopia, where K. let me drive.  This ride is the most fun as a kid before you get your driver's license, but it was nice to cruise around Tomorrowland in our yellow convertible.
Then, onto the Mad Hatter Party, where I let K. drive.  Of course I picked the purple teacup.
 After the teacups, we went next door to the Mad Hatter to pick up some mouse ears!
Modeling the new ears in front of the Caroussel.
Then, onto Pirates of the Caribbean, which has always been one of my favorite rides.  There's the distinctive smell, as soon as you get enter the building.  Then the ride itself, first past all Blue Bayou restaurant then all the various scenes.  I think my favorite scene is either the one where all the woman is chasing her husband around with a rolling pin or where you go under the bridge under the pirate drinking rum with the pigs with his dirty bare foot hanging over your head.  I actually don't really like where they incorporate parts of the movie into ride.  It's weird to see Johnny Depp pop up in random places, plus the ride came first; the movie was based on the ride!
Next it was lunch time.  I don't particularly like any of the lunch food options, plus it is overpriced, so I always bring my own food!  Not that they really look, but I usually pack the food and water at the bottom of the backpack and put clothes on top, for when they check the bag, but I've heard its ok to bring food, as long as you don't bring too much.  We had a delicious Bay Cities lunch; I had the poorboy sandwich and K. had a proscuitto sandwich.  We must have been hungry from all the walking around because we devoured our sandwiches.  We listened to Tiana of the Princess and the Frog perform, and she paraded right by our table with her band.
I love the PG Disneyland version of New Orleans, so pretty!  My dream one day is to eat and drink at Club 33. Anyone have a membership? 
After lunch, we went next door to the Haunted Mansion.  This is another one of my must-ride attractions.  I think the outside of the mansion is so pretty; I always wanted to live there, sans ghosts.  I like screaming when the lights go out in the room where the portraits stretch.  I also enjoy relaxing in the "Doom buggies," the ride is always nice and cool, particularly on hot, sunny days.
We stopped for a refreshing pineapple Dole whip between rides; one of my favorite Disneyland eats.  Usually the line is really long, but it wasn't bad yesterday.
We then explored Tarzan's tree house and took the rafts over to Tom Sawyer island where we explored the many caves, climbed some rocks and traversed rickety bridges across the waters, and took in the views of New Orleans Square.  And yes, I am dressed in head to toe Lululemon: potion purple vita organic tank, aruba run:speed skirt, potion purple flashback jacket, and angel blue flight:running visor.  Lululemon clothes are perfect for Disneyland: comfortable, colorful, moisture-wicking for hot days and water rides, good layering pieces for after the sun goes down, and the shorts under the running skirts are useful for gracefully getting in and out of rides.  The details on the back of the outfit are better than in the front:

Next, we used our fastpasses for Splash Mountain!  It was a perfect time for Splash Mountain, 3pm when the sun was at its peak.  My favorite part is the last steep drop into the briar patch; I always duck right before we splash down and usually K. gets soaked in the seat behind me.
After Splash Mountain, we visited Pooh's Corner and went on the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Next, we hung out in Fantasyland for a bit, and went on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and It's a Small World.  I'm not sure why I didn't notice this before, but while I appreciate the inclusive message of It's a Small World, I'm not sure that perpetuating stereotypes of different cultures is the right way to do it (ie, flying carpets).
We finally made it to Space Mountain, which was awesome as usual.
Continuing on our rollercoaster rides, we went on the Matterhorn Bobsleds (which was also our longest line of the day, at 30 minutes, which isn't bad).
Next, we went back to Fantasyland and rode Snow White's Scary Adventures and walked through Sleeping Beauty's Castle.  After the Little Mermaid which is my favorite, Sleeping Beauty is amongst my favorite Disney movies.
Next it was onto Indiana Jones Adventure.  I love the drawings inside the temple.  My favorite part of the ride is when the huge boulder comes rolling directly towards our truck!
We went on Peter Pan's flight, which is one of my favorite Fantasyland rides.  I love soaring in the pirate ship over London and above the beautiful twinkling lights of Never Neverland.
After Peter Pan, it was time for our 7:30pm dinner reservation at Cafe Orleans, which you can do by calling Disney Dining.  I highly recommend getting dinner reservations in advance, particularly for places like the Blue Bayou.  I like sitting at the waterside tables at the Blue Bayou, but its definitely overpriced and takes awhile.  Plus they don't have the Monte Cristo sandwich at dinner, which is my favorite.  At Cafe Orleans, we had to wait 15 minutes for an outside table, but we got a nice table in the corner right by all the action.  I ordered the (in)famous Monte Cristo Sandwich: a deep fried ham, turkey and swiss sandwich.  It is sooo amazing; the outside batter is perfectly light and crispy (not at all heavy or oily), and the inside sandwich is nice and soft.  It actually tastes a lot lighter than it sounds, and is so delicious; it is sprinkled with some powdered sugar and served with a blackberry jam dipping sauce, so it is salty (from the ham, turkey and cheese) and sweet, crispy and fluffy, all at the same time.  It is seriously amazing.  K. was good and ordered a cajun chicken sandwich.  Since it was my birthday, they brought me out a free Mickey beignet with a candle, which was delicious.
After the big dinner, we walked around a bit and rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which is definitely the best in the dark; it feels a lot faster and scarier.  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad also turned out to be the best spot for viewing the fireworks.  It wasn't crowded at all and we got a comfortable spot on some benches.  The only part you miss from this vantage point is Tinker Bell flying across the sky, but we've seen it before and were happy to be away from the crowds.  I love Disneyland fireworks.
After the fireworks, we rode Pinocchio's Daring Adventure, King Arthur's Carrousel, Storybookland Canals and the Jungle Cruise and called it a night, even though we had one more fastpass for Space Mountain.  We had been there since 10am and it was 11:30am so we had a nice long day.  My favorite way to end the day is to slowly stroll down Main Street which is lit up beautifully with all the twinkling lights and stop in the shops one last time before saying goodbye to Disneyland.  Til next year...
Other random sights around the park:

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