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Our Southern California Trip Recap


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  • Trip Report Our Southern California Trip Recap

    Hey everyone i'm back sharing my latest Trip Report. My family was able to accomplish our goal a couple weeks ago by attending all the US Disney and Universal Theme parks within the same calender year. You may recall I posted my Florida recap earlier this year in the WDW section. Anyways our Southern California trip was a huge success as we spent 3 days at the Disneyland Resort Parks and 2 day at Universal Studios Hollywood. We also took it easier on this trip by planning plenty of none park days to relax by visiting other local areas such as Newport Beach and Hollywood. Below is what we did on each day of the trip so you will know when to expect each report:

    Day 1: Travel, The Grove, Universal Studios Hollywood
    Day 2: Newport Beach
    Day 3: Disney California Adventure
    Day 4: Disneyland
    Day 5: Universal Studios Hollywood, Westwood
    Day 6: Downtown Disney, Knotts Christmas Craft Village
    Day 7: Disneyland Resort Park Hopping
    Day 8: Beverly Hills
    Day 9: Downtown Disney, Hollywood, Travel Home

    Anyways please be patent as I put this together as if you read my previous recap you will know that my reports are very picture intense and also very detailed in writing. So they take alot of time to put together and it will take many months to full complete the recap. With that said thanks for reading and feel free to ask any questions you might have. I figure those who regular post on an Orlando based site may be very interested to see what the West coast has to offer. This time around I will be posting smaller updates more frequently instead of 1 huge update every few weeks. Enjoy.

  • #2
    Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

    Day 1, Part 1: Travel, The Grove, and Universal Studios Hollywood

    Our trip this time started out the way that many of our previous trips have. By waking up very early to catch an early flight. As you may recall for our Florida Trip last April we elected to take a later flight as we didn't know how quickly we could get out the door with an Infant. With Daniel being older now though we figured we could probably get going pretty quickly. Plus since we were looking at less then a 2 hour flight to LAX compared to our 7 Hour Plus flights to Orlando we wouldn't spend our whole day traveling. So the sooner we left the Sooner we could start playing.

    By 5am Kiera and I were awake and getting ready to leave. We got ready for the day and got the final things packed. Kiera then feed Daniel a little earlier then his normal morning feeding in hopes that he would stay asleep on the flight. While feeding Daniel I went down into our crawl space to shut off the water to our house. With cold weather and snow expected at home while we were gone we didn't want to chance pipes freezing or any other damage happening to our home. Unfortunatly Daniel didn't fall back asleep as planned after feeding though so Kiera decided to go ahead and get him ready for the day as well so we wouldn't have to once we got to California.

    At nearly 6:30am the car was finally loaded and we were on our way to Kieras parents house. Kieras Mom was kind enough to wake up early as well to drive out to the Airport with us and then drive our car back to there house so we wouldn't have to pay the Airport parking fees. We have never flown out on a Saturday before so we had no idea how busy the Airport would be. I wanted to be at the airport before 7am. We got there shortly after.

    Those that read my Florida recap might recall that we have a Southwest Credit Card. So thats the airline we would be flying on once again for this trip. With our Southwest Rapid Rewards Points we only had to buy 1 ticket. A ticket that we got for less then $200 round trip. With how cheap the flight was and also getting a cheap rental car (i'll get to that later) it literally was cheaper for us to Fly to California then it would have been to drive. Plus we got 4 extra days basically out of it (the drive from Salt Lake is around 13 hours. We would stretch the drive over 2 days each day instead of driving strait). And with a child who gets somewhat car sick it confirmed flying to be the best option.

    We were very suprised that there was practically nobody at the airport this early in the morning. We walked in and right up to the bag check in. We had to provide the nessicary identification for Daniel to fly free as a lap child and before we knew it we were on our way to security. As with check in there was no wait for security ether. Other then the pain it is to send all our crap thru the x-ray we were able to get thru very fast. We had plenty of time to kill before our flight. So we decided to grab some breakfast. Which we grabbed from the newly opened Popeyes Chicken in the airport. I had a chicken biscut sandwich and thought it was pretty good.

    Since Daniel still hadn't fallen back asleep yet and finally having room to let him release some energy we got him out of the seat and let him run around a little bit. Yes the last time I report Daniel was barely rolling. Now he is not only walking but he has discovered the ability to run. So he is all over the place these days. And it was no different as he ran all around the Terminal. As Daniel ran around (with me in toe) Kiera went to gate check our stroller and car seat. To our suprise and happiness our flight was not full (something we've never really got to experiance on our Orlando flights) so we were able to take the car seat on the plane with us and let Daniel have his own seat. We though this was great as it would mean he would likely sleep the whole flight.

    The time finally came that we could start boarding the plane. Traveling as a family we typically could use Southwests Family Boarding between the A and B groups. But that wouldn't be nessicary as we got a number in the mid A group. Before long we were on the plan and buckling in for our 8:35am Flight. We found a row of seats towards the front half of the plane and would soon be on our way. Sure enough as soon as the jet engines fired up and the plane started to roll backwards it quickly soothed Daniel to sleep.

    We expected Daniel to sleep the entire flight since he didn't get nearly as much sleep as he typically done. But about half way into the flight he woke up. And stayed up the rest of the flight. Which turned interesting when he wanted to get of the seat and run around. Which of course he couldn't lol. He never got too out of control and mad as he found he enjoyed looking out the window. He also liked playing some of his learning games on the Kindle Fire. We soon passed over Las Vegas which is pretty fun to look at from 35,000 feet in the air.

    The time flew by and we were soon making our decent into the Los Angeles Area. It was completly covered in clouds. I didn't think it was suppose to rain today but I guess I could be wrong. Daniel started to get upset when we had to put him back into his seat for landing. We also think his ears were starting to pop too from the altitude change so he likely wasn't liking that much ether. We were soon on the ground and made our way to our gate passing some very large planes from other airlines that we don't get in Salt Lake. Seriously flying to California from Utah is great. I loved having such a short flight.

    We quickly got off the plane and retrieved our stroller and then started making our way to the baggage claim area. It was very evident how much larger the LAX airport is then SLC and even MCO and TPA in Florida. It was much busier then Salt Lake was when we left. We soon found our way to the baggage claim where we were somewhat suprised to find our bags basically being the only ones on the turnstyle still. I guess many people coming to LA from Salt Lake only taveled with a Carry on bag.

    With our bags in hand we made our way outside to find the Rental Car Shuttle Bus. This was another thing odd about LAX is that no Rental Car Lots are located onsite at the Airport. Each company has shuttles on a loop to take you out to the Rental Car lots located a couple miles away. We waited only a few minutes before the National/Alamo Car Rental Shuttle showed up. We booked our Rental car this trip thru Alamo so thats where we were heading. We got on at the first stop and it takes a while to get out to the Lot as the shuttle will stop at all 7 stops and wait a couple minutes for anybody looking to get on. Finally though we made the rounds and were on our way to the Lot. Daniel really enjoyed being able to see out the front window of the shuttle as thats a new view he hadn't really seen before.

    This would be our first experiance ever renting a car with Alamo. 2 months prior I had booked a Compact car thur Budget using a Costco Discount. I was very glad I did as a couple days later all the Rental Car rates skyrocketed. I never thought it would get that cheap again. That was until literally 2 days before our vacation. It was this day that I decided to check rates again (as I had not yet paid) and found I could get a Mid Size Car thru Alamo for about $10 cheaper then what I had booked with Budget. I decided to give Alamo a chance and Cancelled the Budget Rental. You can't go wrong getting a Larger vehicle for a cheaper cost.

    I will admit that Alamo has made a big fan out of me. When you walk in to rent your car you do not have go to a desk or wait in any lines. Alamo has rental kiosks that you can get your rental from. You just walk up, punch in your confirmation number, scan your credit card and drivers licenses, choose to accept or decline insurance covereage (which my personal auto policy covers), then it prints out your information and your on your way. It didn't even take 5 minutes and it was so nice not having to deal with a live person trying to sell you on Insurance. It was so hassle free.

    The next thing I love about Alamo is that you get to pick your own car. After you get your info printed you are directed to the rental car lot where all the classes of vehicles are sitting in marked sections. You are allowed to pick any car sitting in the section that you booked. So we found the Mid Size Car section and there were 20 some odd cars that we could choose from. We were able to look them all over and look inside to see what would work best for us. Once you decide the keys are already inside so you just load up your stuff and then drive to the front gate where the attendant checks the car out to you. It was such a hassle free and even a funprocess choosing what kind of car we wanted instead of just being assigned one. The car we ended up choosing was a Black Dodge Avenger.

    With the Rental car now ours we could officially start our trip. Today we planned to drive over to Universal Studios Hollywood to see the Grinchmas Festivities that started this day. However since we would be spending 2 days there on this trip we didn't want to get there too early. I looked on my phone for ideas and decided maybe it could be fun to drive over the Grove Shopping Center to kill sometime. If your driving in the LA area make sure you have some sort of GPS as your gonna need it. I just used the Navigation on my phone to get us around and found it worked pretty well. With the address punched in we were on our way. We found it interesting how much Gas prices fluctuated between stations. The photo below has gas near $5 a gallon. Only a couple hundred feet away there were stations selling it for around $1 less per gallon.

    It took nearly 45 minutes to get to the Grove from LAX (be prepaired for it to take a long time to go short distances in LA traffic) and we soon parked. We had no idea what was at this mall type shopping place. I just read it was a popular spot to visit and that Entertainment Tonight even films there during the week. In essance its very similar the outdoor malls that are shopping up all around the country. Its very similar to the City Creek and even Gateway shopping centers in Salt Lake as it has an assortment of Mid-High end stores to shop and also many restaurants to eat at.

    What we found at the end of the Grove is where we spent most of our time though. Its the LA Farmers Market. In the Farmers market is a whole bunch of local vendors selling cheap goods and food. It reminded me alot of some of the Mexican Flee Markets that we've been to while on cruises although its alot cleaner obviously. We walked around the flee market seeing all the different food options offered. We also liked all the small produce stands set up and fresh butch blocks selling meat. This was where we decided to eat lunch for the day. Kiera got a Turkey Sandwich from a little shop while I decided to get some Chinese Food. Kieras sandwich was pretty big and she said it was good. I also enjoyed the chinese food.

    With our stomachs full we spent some more time looking around the Farmers Market and The Grove. There were alot of great deals going on at some stores but we weren't here to do Christmas shopping though. We were on vacation. So we didn't even stop to look. But the stores were packed with locals walking around with bag fulls. We walked past there Santa house which had to be the most elabrete Santa house i've ever seen. And the line was so long to meet santa. So long that you had to take a number and come back at a specific time (like Disney's Fastpass). We then walked down around there Christmas tree which had to be around 100ft tall. it was huge and to my suprise it was also real.

    At the base of the tree they had some sort of exhibit for The Hobbit film that was coming out that next weekend. I'm not a big Lord of the Rings fan so I didn't care to look at it. So we decided to call our time at the Grove done and started heading back to the car. Before we went up to the car though we needed to use the restroom facilitys and these were the most amazing restrooms i've ever seen at a mall like this. They were very fancy and even had a family waiting room with a tv and play area for the kids. They even had complementry diapers and wipe warmers in there baby changing rooms. Not gonna lie this was pretty cool.

    As we loaded the stroller back into the car and buckled Daniel in I could here are cars exhaust rumbling thru the garage. Now I'm a car guy. I love all cars. Infact my Screen Name is in reference of the vehicle that I own, modify, and Race. So I knew it wasn't the exhaust tone that i'm use to hearing. Sure enough it was a Lamborghini that came rumbling by. I was pretty excited to see it drive by setting off car alarms as it rumbled by. I was just suprised to see it rolling thru the normal parking garage and not the valet. We ended up following it all the way down the garage though where it did turn into the exit of the valet parking. Apparently he was lost lol.

    We pulled back out onto the street and set my phones GPS to take us to Universal Studios where we woud spend most of what remained of our day. The GPS directed us up and actually thru the real Hollywood area. This is where we caught our first and only glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign so the picture you see is the only one we have from the trip.

    In No time we had arrived at Universal Studios Hollywood and the fun would really start. We hadn't been to this park in 4 years and in that time had become very familiar with and gained a strong love for the Orlando Universal Parks.

    I've mentioned it once but some of you might be wondering why we decided to spend 2 days at Universal Studios Hollywood when its a park that is easily done in 1 day. Well this is the end result of our ticket debate lol. We bounced back and forth between different ideas of what we wanted to do on this trip. From the beginning 3 days at Disney and 1 day at Universal was always the plan with 5 days to relax and take it easy in Southern California so we weren't rushing around the parks each day. I found the Southern California Citypass and thought that would be the perfect option for us as it included 3 day Disneyland Parkhoppers, a Day at Universal, and also a day at Sea World that we didn't plan to use. The pass only cost $279 a person so basically we would get our Universal Ticket for only $29 more then a normal 3 day Disneyland Resort Parkhopper. And of course much cheaper then the regular $80 ticket for Universal. That plan changed when Costco started selling there 4 day Disney Park hopper for $259 with a free $50 Costco Gift Card making the Disney tickets only $209. We of course would have loved more days at Disney so this is what we decided to do. Obviously being a more expensive option though once you added in the Universal Ticket. However that Idea was soon killed when we went to Costco to buy the tickets and they were already sold out. So the City Pass plan was back on. Then I found out that Universal Studios Hollywood was running an ONLINE ONLY promo with the City pass where if you bought a Citypass from Universals website and used it at Universal first then you would get a 2nd day there for free.

    Which brings us to this part of the recap and why we were at Univesal today. Today December 8th was the first day of the Christmas celebration Univesal does called Grinchmas. At this point in December Universal only does the Grinchmas event on the weekends so it would not be taking place when we visited during the week. Grinchmas seemed like it would be something really fun to go to and see so since we could go 2 days at no extra charge and experiance Grinchmas we decided to go for it. Thats why we only planned to be there for a half day with a focus only on the Grinchmas activities that we couldn't see later in the week. A second bonus of going today in addition to during the week is was the only option to go on the Jurassic Park ride while on this trip. At the Time Jurassic Park was going thru a Month long Referbishment. However they were opening the attraction on the weekends only. So it would be closed during the week when we planned on visiting. Those that have read my recaps before know that Jurassic Park is my favorite Water Flume type ride and so its one I did not want to miss. Especially since the Hollywood version is better then Orlandos.

    We soon parked the car and were on our way into the park. Just like the Orlando Universal parks however to get to the Park you will first Travel thru a Dinning/Shopping/Entertainment complex known as CityWalk. Although here in Hollywood I think CityWalk is better then the Orlando version. I don't know if there were more shops or restaurants or clubs then in Orlando but it seemed like the place had much more going on then it did in Florida. The Parking Garage will dump you our on one of the multipule levels that CityWalk has and today we found ourselves on the top level. We took the Escolater down and then continued on to the Theme Park. It takes around 5-10 minutes to walk thru CityWalk to get to the park. For those wanting to bypass Citywalk though you can pay for premium parking which costs $5 more.

    At the end of Citywalk your greeted with the trademark Universal Studios Globe. Here in Hollywood you still have the glassic globe. Not the newer and colored one that you will find in Orlando and other parks around the world. I like that they havn't changed it here as Hollywood is not only the Original Universal Theme Park but is still a working Movie Studio. The globe calls back to that Classic Universal that the park still represents for the most part.

    After passing thru the bag check you find yourself on the Red Carpet leading up to the Universal Studio Arches. The Grinchmas overlay starts immidiatly here. The Red carpet is changed to be more wimsical like you would find in the Dr. Suess books, wavy Christmas trees line the walkway leading to the gate, and then a large Grinch face greets you as you enter the park.

    For the 2nd day free at Universal Option on the Citypass we got you had to print your tickets at home. You then took the printed voucher directly to the turnstyles which counted as your entry ticket for your first day. It worked very well and after scanning your finger print you were in. However first and for most your directed to the Ticket Center where you will be exchanging the printed voucher you used for entry for the actual Citypass card. Grinchmas Decorations line the streets as you make your way pass the entrance and to the center of the Upper Lot where the Ticket Center is located. Switching out our voucher for the actual Citypass was quick and easy. This is also where you would upgrade your park tickets, or get tickets to free filming of TV and Talk shows.

    With the most important thing out of the way (getting our actual Citypass Tickets) we could now enjoy the park and Grinchmas. Located right next to Ticket Center is the large Arena where much of the Grinchmas stuff takes place. For those familiar with the park this is also the old Wild West Stunt Show location with for the most part has now been completly removed. At night this arena is the location of the Tree Lightling Whovilation. During the day though its a giant play area covered in Real Snow. Thats right Real Snow in Southern California. Not that fake Bubble snow that you see at Disney. As you enter the arena area you are greeted by many Whos from Whoville that are posing for pictures. Then you see the large, grand Whoville Christmas Tree which is wimisical and wavy just as you would expect from the Grinch Book/Movie.

    We chose to go play in the snow first because of how early it closes. Where the park was open today until 8 today the Snow play area would only be open until 3:30. This again is because they need time to clean up and convert the play area to sitting room for the Tree Lighting. It also was very, very packed with kids and parents alike playing in the snow. Obviously to us the Snow isn't a huge deal. We come from a place where it snows during the winter. However for many of the Southern California kids there this may be the only time they can see real snow. It was pretty much a mad house. Complete chaos almost lol. Snow was flying everywhere and all people seemed to enjoy it. However if you have little ones like us the chaos of the snow fights can be too much and with how crowded it was it was hard for Daniel to even find anywhere to move.

    Luckly for little ones Universal has a secluded area just for toddlers and there parents. Here there were only a couple other kids and no snow was flying. It was a whole area that Daniel practically had to himself. It was kind of funny watching Daniel play with the snow as he didn't really know what to think of it. He would pick it up, hold it, and then just kind of stare at it. Its funny because not even a month earlier he played in a lot more snow and loved it. Today he just didn't seem to care. Maybe because there wasn't nearly the amount of snow that he played in before. So we decided to move on.

    As I mentioned before outside the arena there were many Who's meet and greeting people. So we stopped to take Daniel to one to see how he would react. If you read our Florida recap you will remember that Daniel loved all the Characters on that trip. So much so that we made Characters a priority on that trip. Something we didn't plan. We hoped we would see the same reactions on this trip. Daniel and I awaited our turn but rudely got cut off by other family 2 or 3 times. Finally the Who that saw us waiting patently stopped the people who kept cutting in line and came over to us. Daniels reaction wasn't anything. He just staired at her face probably wonder why it looked so weird. He really didn't care much. I have to say though its pretty amazing how well the makeup Work on the Whos are as they really do look natural instead of being prostetics.

    The thing we would do is our first "Attraction". Something that I consider to be the best thing about Universal Studios Hollywood. The thing that is the whole Reason the Universal Studios Theme Park exists. The World Famous Studio Tour. The tram tour typically has consistant long waits all day long and so its recommended to do it early in the day. During Grinchmas it also has a special portion that is not part of the typical Tram Tour. For Grinchmas the Whoville Set comes back to life with Who's and the Grinch doing a small performance. Since this was another thing you can only see during Grinchmas the Studio Tour was another Must do today. But more on that later. We parked the stroller and then got in line. The wait time posted was 25 minutes but I'd say it was closer to 20 minutes. This is also one of the few attractions in the park at a Toddler or Infant would be able to go on.

    I mentioned that I love the Studio Tour and its the best thing about the Hollywood park as it takes you on to the Universal Backlot where Movies and TV shows are still filmed on daily. However I was really excited for it today because so much had changed since our last visit 4 years earlier. When we visited in 2008 it was only a few months after a Fire burned down most of the New York Sets as well as the beloved King Kong Encounter. That Day the Earthquake portion of the Tour was down for Referbishment, Westria Lane was being used to film, and you couldn't get close to Courthouse Square do to reconstruction. So we missed out on a lot on that trip. I was happy to hear that there was no Filming taking place today so we would get to see the entire Studio Tour.

    We quickly boarded our tram getting a spot towards the front of the 3rd car in on the Tram and sat all the way to the right side of the row. Each side of the tram has there positives and negatives so I will share with you what side of the tram is better for what you see so you can decide for yourself which side you want to be on. Its pretty amazing to see how quickly the trams were being loaded and dispatched on such a busy Saturday. We were quickly loaded and on our way where we were introduced to our Tour Guide and Driver as well as our Automated Tour Guide Jimmy Fallon. The Tram Tour loads in the Upper Lot but most everything is down the hill on the Lower Lot so the first part of the tour is a decent down the hill as you pass Movie posters of Universals greatest hits since the studio was started.

    After passing the Backside of the Jurassic Park Ride the tour officially starts as you enter the Front Lot of the studio. The front lot contains all of the Soundstages that are used for all kinds of Filmmaking. You will pass many Soundstages that are currently in use for many popular TV shows such as The Voice, Go On, Parenthood, and NCIS. With NBC being an affiliant of Universal it makes since that many of there shows are filmed here. The Front Lot also contains most of the offices for the studios and the bungalos that the Actors can stay in while doing extended filming.

    Next the tram took us into the first section of the Backlot. The Backlot is where all the large scale outdoor sets are located. And the first part of the Backlot that we came to was the one that was no longer in existant when we came in 2008. The New York Sets. These series of streets mostly resemble sections of New York City however they can easily be configured to resememble any Major US city. All of the building are just Fascades and have no Interior to them as when filming is done all interior scenes will be filmed in a soundstage and outdoor scenes in front of the fascade. For a real upclose look to what a fascade is like this is what makes up the Streets of America at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. The biggest movie recently to utilize the New York sets was actually the Amazing Spiderman.

    One of the sections of the New York sets is called Courthouse Square. Many of you will know this set as being the location of Hill Valley in one of the greatest Movie Trilogys of all time. Back to the Future. It was also the only peice of the New York sets that survived the fire in 2008. Of course today though the set looks nothing like it did in Back to the Future with the courthouse itself being redressed for other films. Also the surrounding building have been redressed or rebuilt do to the fire and no longer resemble Hill Valley ether. Still its so great to be on the location of one of the greatest films ever. As far as seating on the tram goes if you want the best views of Courthouse Square then sit on the Left side of the tram. For the New York sets in general ether side will be fine as the streets surround both sides of the tram.

    Our next stop on the tram tour is also the newest experiance. A visit to Skull Island as part of the Kong 360 3d. This is the only portion of the tram tour that require the use of the 3d glasses you picked up when boarding the tram for the tour. As the tram goes up a hill you will pass the remains of a distroyed tram as you enter the building that houses the Kong 360 attraction. I believe Kong 360 is billed as the worlds largest 3d experiance. Once inside the building the screens turn on to make it feel like your driving thru the jungles of Skull Island. The ground will move and shake the tram as well to add to the experiance. You then come across a bunch of Dinosaurs who then start attacking the tram. They knock it side to side and then King Kong comes to our rescue. He fights off all the dinosaurs climbing over the tram from side to side to do so. At one point its even simulated that the dinosaurs pull the last tram car off and pulls us into revine before we are saved again by King Kong.

    This is one of the portions of the tram tour that I thought Daniel would have a spaze out on. Its dark, loud, and even scary at some points. But he did just fine and never made a peep. Kiera and I were both very impressed with Kong 360 and thought it was a great addition to the Studio Tour once again reinforceing the idea that the Studio Tour should not be missed. Kiera never got to the experiance the original Kong Encounter and I think the original was better. Theres not many 3d experiances that can replace fully built sets and full size animatronics that were found in the original experiance. Still Kong 360 is an amazing experiance and very, very well done. As for viewing the attraction it doesn't really matter which side of the tram you sit on as the action takes place all around the tram. However I recommend sitting more so in the middle to the back of the tram instead of the front for this attraction.

    Upon exiting you loop back around the building that houses Kong 360 and this is when I realized where the attraction is placed. Its directly in front of the Old Collapsing Bridge portion of the Tour. That distroid Tram car blocks the roadway that leads to the bridge which now remains in its distroyed look. When we came in 2008 the Bridge had just been restored to be used again so it was kind of sad to see it not in use anymore once again.

    Driving up the hill you come to a line up a some of the most famous Vehicles that have been in Universal Films. Although most of the vehicles were the same that we saw in 2008 many of them had been rotated out. You will see vehicles here from Back to the Future including the Delorean (which is in very rough shape), the Mercedes M-class SUV from the Lost World, and even vehicles from the Fast and the Furious movies. To get the best views of the vehicles sit on the Left side of the Tram.

    Next up you enter the Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift portion of the tram tour. As you pull into the Arena you see two supped up Volkswagen GTI's and the tour guide leads you to belive they are about to film a scene for an upcoming movie. The director has them demo the different special effects first like the gun shots and explosians and then they clame they are filming and do all the special effects in sequence ending with the explosion throwing the 2 cars into the air. The cars being thrown into the air is accomplised by the cars being attached to Kuka arms just like the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey uses in Florida for its ride system. Up to this point I think the attraction is kinda cool. But with the vehicles elevated on the Kuka is when it turns lame. The vehicles then start turning and dancing to some rap music and "showing off" to the tram. Its a portion of the tour thats really not needed and honestly the space could probably be put to better use someday. If you want the best views then sit on the Left side towards the middle of the tram.

    From Tokyo the tour guide takes you to Isla Nublar which is set up with many different vehicles and set peices from the Jurassic Park films. This is a portion you differenitly want to be on the Left side of the Tram for as the props on that side are much better then they are on the right. Theres even a few suprise dinosaur attacks from that side of the tram.

    You will then go down a hill and Al Rocher from the Today Show comes on the monitor talking about weather coniditions around the backlot indicating that heavy rainfall is expected in the Mexico Street area. Well thats not good because thats where we are heading. The tram stops on a bridge and then it starts raining fairly heavily. Then a flash flood happens as thousands of Gallons of water comes rushing down the hill towards the tram. This is one of the oldest parts of the tram tour and always fun to see people freak out thinking there gonna get drinched (you don't even get wet. Once again the Left side of the tram is best for this and try to get a car in the middle of the tram for best viewing. After the flash flood you will continue to see the rest of the Mexico Street Sets.

    The Mexico Street sets transition into the oldest part of the backlot called Six Points. This is the Old Western Sets that date back to the silent age of cinema. I don't know for sure but I swear there was more to it back when we visited in 2008. Including a stop on the tour where there were Stunt men demonstrating a stunt of a balcony. It seems rather small now and we were quickly thru it.

    Next up the tram loops around the Backlot Lagoon. Back in the day this was billed as the parting of the red sea from the ten commandments. Now days though its used as a convienient way to view the minature set used to film some of the Skull Island scenes of King Kong. To get the best views of the Skull Island Miniature sit on the left hand side. However it was really neat when we sat in the front car on Wednesday to actually see the Lagoon head on part.

    After passing thru the Lagoon you enter another outdoor set location known as Little Europe. These sets are used frequently for many different European locations. I guess its very easy to convert the sets as all they need to do is dress it and hang flags for whatever European country its suppose to depect and then its ready to film. Last time we came they were filming in here so it was nice to see much more of the sets this time around.

    When your done with Little Europe you will wind your way back thru the Western Sets and then into a soundstage that your told is used to film any subway sequences for film. But as you stop in the soundstage everything starts to shake. The lights are flickering and the tram is shaking. The tour guide is fearful that and Earthquake is taking place. The colums start to buckle and then the road from above collapses as a tanker truck slides down towards the tram and explodes. Then a train coming the other direction derails and nearly crashes into the tram. Now a flood is happening as water rushes down the stairs towards the tram. Of course this isn't an actual Earthquake but a simulated one. And its one of the best parts of the Studio Tour. The actual Earthquake Sequence is the exact same as Disaster in Universal Studios Florida however the train in the Orlando Attraction seemed to shake and drop more then the Studio Tram did. I would say that the best side of the Tram for this portion is the Left side. This is again something I thought would scare Daniel but he did just fine with it.

    Soon after surviving the Earthquake you will find your self In Amity Road Island. The Location of Jaws. As you pull up next to the harbor you will witness Jaws attacking as you see a diver get pulled under water and even the water turning red from his blood. As you pull next to the dock Jaws starts to make the move on you as the gas ignites and exploads. And then the Shark is shown as it jumps out of the water at the tram as the tram drives by. As you know by now the Jaws ride has been removed from Orlando so unless your willing to go to Japan this is the last remaining encounter with the great white shark that there is. For best viewing sit on the Right side of the Tram here.

    Going up the hill from Amity you come upon a bunch of houses and a neighborhood that has been used for many years on TV and Movies. Most recently though you will recognize the Neighborhood as Wysteria Lane from the TV show Disperate Housewives. When we came in 2008 we didn't see this section as it was being used for filming that day. Since then though Disperate Housewives has ended so filming happens much less often. You will drive down the neighborhood seeing all the different houses and then turn around at the end of the street passing them all again so ether side of the tram is fine to sit on here.

    Driving next up a hill you come to the portion that is the whole reason we are taking the tram tour today. You come to the Whoville set from the Grinch who stole Christmas. And with it being Grinchmas in Universal Studios the Whoville set comes to life during the event. As we pulled up to the set we were first greated to the Grinch and his dog Max. As you pull up and stop more and more Who's come out and start singing and Dancing. eventually the Grinch also joins in as many songs from the movie are recreated and performed on the real Whoville set right before your eyes. Daniel loved this little performance and was clapping during it. Its too bad they can't do this every day as part of the Studio Tour because it really is a fun performance. The performance lasts about 3 minutes before the Who's and the Grinch wave goodbye and the tram proceeds on with the tour. The best viewing for the set and the show is on the Right side of the tram.

    Rounding the corner from Whoville you pull up in front of the Bates Motel and House from Pshyco. And whos that coming out of the Motel but none other then Norman Bates himself. But he seems to be carrying something. Is that a dead body? After putting it in the trunk of the car and not wanting any witnesses he pulls out a knife and then starts walking towards the tram. The driver quickly drives us away before he can get us though. Although not much interactivity always makes the sets on the Studio Tour better. The Right Side of the tram is best to see this.

    After running from Norman Bates you pull into the middle of one of the largest sets that Universal has ever created. The plane crash set from the War of the Worlds. This set is huge and the distruction here can't even be put into words. They actually took a real 747 aircraft and tore it apart to make it look like it really crashed into the middle of a neighborhood. Although there is distruction on both sides of the tram I would say its best viewed from the Left side. The set is so huge and sureal that you just have to experaince it to understand how amazing it is.

    Next up is the Falls Lake area. This is a huge Green Screen Backdrop that is used for many different movies. However growing up it was painted much like the sky with a lake in front. It was also recently used for the filming of the Amazing Spiderman. In front of the backdrop is also cabin that is most famous for being used in the Movie the Great Outdoors.

    The final portion of the tour takes you to the Mummy's Tomb. Its claimed that it was used during filming but it is really cursed. The driver takes us in anyways where the Curse effects us and the tomb walls start turning. This section has been around since I was a kid but back then it simulated a snow avalanche. Still the spinning tunnel wall effect throws me off to this day as it really feels like your the one spinning around and not the walls. This was really the only part of the Studio Tour where Daniel got a little scared as in his mind he likely had no clue at all what was going on.

    Upon exiting the tunnel you then return to the tram unload area where you tour officially ends. The tour today was amazing and took just under 1 hour to see it all. Although the park is busier on the weekends this truely is the best time to see all of the Studio Tour as production doesn't happen typically on the weekend. The Studio tour is the #1 must not miss thing no matter when you go to Universal Studios Hollywood. The tour is worth a visit to the theme park alone and if you havn't been able to tell was the big inspiration for the Universal Studios Florida theme park. A little history lesson for those of you familiar with the Florida Park but when it was being designed Universal took portions of the studio tour and made them bigger and grander rides and attractions for the Studio park. Thats where you get the now Extenct Kongfrontation and Jaw rides from, as well as the Earthquake Portion of Disaster. Other rides that found there way to Orlando were also in Hollywood such as the E.T. Adventure and Back to the Future the Ride. Although its sad to see some of these classic attractions in Orlando gone or changed, with the exception of the original Kong Encounter its great to see them all still part of the Studio Tour.

    As we exited the Studio Tour we made our way past the Simpsons Ride. Although the Simpsons Ride is very good its not one that we would be riding today. We would wait until later in the week when we return to ride it. Instead we walked past it to the escolaters to head down to the Lower lot where Universals Studios Hollywood top Thrill rides are located.

    And that concludes this update. My next one will finish out our day at Universal Studios Hollywood as well as our travel to Anaheim and our Hotel. Thanks everyone.


    • #3
      Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

      nice trip report thanks.


      • #4
        Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

        Day 1, Part 2: Universal Studios Hollywood

        If you have never been to Universal Studios Hollywood before let me tell you that the park is fairly unique in how it is layed out. The park was originally designed seperatly from the studio so it was built at the top of a hill basically on top of a cliff. In the early 90s the park expanded and created a new section of the park at the bottom of the cliff in the Front lot section of the studios. In addition to moving the Studio tour enterance to the Lower Lot universal also constructed the E.T. Adventure as well as Backdraft over the next couple years.

        In order to get to the Lower Lot and down the Cliff Face Universal also contstructed a massive Escolator system that travels down the hill. These series of escolators will take nearly 10 minutes to traverse down to the lower lot so keep that in mind. However the views from the Escolators are incredible. Off in the distance you can clearly see the WB studios and its trademark watertower. You can also get some great views from above of the Universal Front and Back Lots. If traveling with Children you are allowed to take strollers on the Escolators. You just have to take your children out first. Otherwise you can wait for a shuttle to drive you down to the lower lot however the rounds could take upwards of 20 minutes.

        The first ride you will see to your side and directly in front of you is the one I would be heading to first. Jurassic Park the Ride. This ride is my favorite Water/Flume ride and this is my favorite version on it. It is also one of the reasons why we came to Universal today as during the time of our visit Jurassic Park was undergoing a Referbishment and was open only on the weekends. This ment the ride would not be open when we returned on Wednesday and I just had to take a spin on my favorite ride in the park (yes I said it).

        Although I was very excited to ride Jurassic Park, Kiera was not. With a chill in the air Jurassic Park was not a ride that she wanted to chance getting wet on. So while I entered the Single Rider line for Jurassic Park Kiera took Daniel to the Dino Play area located right next to Jurassic Park. Unsure if I would get wet I didn't take the Camera on Jurassic Park and left it with Kiera instead.

        By using the Single Rider Line I practically walked right on to the ride. Not that it would have saved me much time though as I think most people had the same idea as Kiera had and didn't want to get wet with it being colder. There was less then few dozen people waiting in standbye. I was quickly loaded into the 4th row of the boat which I shared with 2 other people. Then it was up the hill and we passed thru the gates of Jurassic Park. Now remember its been nearly 4 years since I had rode the Hollywood version of this ride. So the Orlando version much more fresh on my mind I will be drawing comparisons more so to that version. The first thing I noticed was that there was alot more Fog then the Orlando version. Its like it was a suprise to see the Dinosaurs when you came across them. Going thru the herboavour section of the ride it was great to see that every Animatronic was working. Even the one that pops out of water and diverts you towards the raptor pin. This is really where the Differences between the Florida and Hollywood rides start. After passing the broken raptor pin you come across another guest boat that was not so lucky as it was attacked with no survivors. As you approch the building your boat is attacked by the Spitter dinosaurs and then one of the Tour Explorers is suppose to come crashing down the side into the water. However this was the only effect or animatronic that was not working during my ride as the vehicle stayed at the top of the building instead of crashing down. Traveling up the lift hill is much better in Hollywood as it gives the illusion that it goes on forever and then you level out. I also think the Raptors attacking are done better here. In the building as you round the corner your T-Rex encounter starts earlier as if you look above you can see the T-Rex head tearing thru the cealing towards you. Then you round the final corner where all you see is a waterfall and the oxygen countdown begins. As the countdown hits zero you are now practically stopped in front of the waterfall where the T-Rex crashes thru it about to attack your boat as you drop the 85 feet to the bottom. The T-Rex finally is much better in Hollywood as you literally cannot see it until it jumps out from behind the waterfall. In Orlando you see the Rex coming before you even get to the jump. Plus the T-Rex in Hollywood was working great compared to the Orlando version having issues on my last couple rides. At the bottom of the hill I barely got wet at all. I got slightly misted but that was it. Nothing to worry about later. Jurassic Park the ride in Hollywood agian reafirmed that it is my favorite of all the Water Rides that i've been on and is much better then the Orlando version of it. Of course though the Orlando version bennifits from it being in an entirely themed Jurassic Park land where in Hollywood it is just a ride located in a movie studio.

        When I was done with the ride I walked over to the Dino Play area where Daniel was having a blast playing on the playground with many other little kids. The area was packed as many people were letting there little ones unwind on the playground at this time. Daniel had a lot of fun and was sad to leave the playground but it was on to our next ride.

        Although the Revenge of the Mummy ride is located right across from Jurassic Park and the Dino Play area it just like the Simpsons ride was not one we were gonna do today. However there was one located on the Lower Lot that we wanted to do. Its Universal Studios Hollywoods newest attraction, One that is currently being constructed at the Orlando Park, and one that uses the same ride technology as my favorite ride ever (Which is the Amazing Spiderman), Transformers the Ride 3d.

        This ride being the newest was also the most busy area of the park at this time. The wait for the attraction was 45 minutes. But do to having Daniel we would be doing Child Swap on the ride and I would also use the Single Rider Line again. This was our first experiance with Child Swap in Universal Studios Hollywood and it is done slightly different then it is in the Orlando parks. In Orlando they make you park the stroller outside not matter what attraction it is. Then the child waits in line with the entire party. Once at the ride plateform the parent waiting with the Child is then directed to the Child Swap room where they wait for the rest of the group and then switch and ride the ride themselves. Here in Hollywood though I was given a card to take with me in line. Kiera and Daniel was then directed thru the exit of the ride directly to the Child Swap room to wait for me. After I rode I exchanged that card out for an actual Child Swap pass which I then gave to Kiera who took the card thru the Front of the Line pass line and rode the attraction as well. So its done kind of similar to how Disney does it however they still have the option to wait in the Child Swap room if you'd like.

        I ended up waiting around 15 minutes in the Single Rider Line before I was finally boarding the ride. The Single Rider Line is fairly bland compared to the actual que (you'll see it when we returned Wednesday) and just had a few video screens giving you the safety info for the ride as you went down a staircase right up to the ride plateform. I was loaded into the 2nd row of the vehicle and then we were on our way. Let me just say that Transformers is AMAZING. But is it Spiderman Amazing? In my opinion no its not. Transformers is a very, very good ride. And its going to make a great addition to the Orlando Park. The action in the ride is very in your face and fast paced as you won't even notice that the ride lacks a musical score. Its none stop action from start to finish. However it relies much more on screen use then Spiderman does. And thats why I love Spiderman so much is its flawless use of screens mixed with physical effects and sets. The only physical sets you see in Transformers is the sliver of some as you move to a different screen. Still the ride should not be missed. You won't even notice when your in the elevators of this 2 level attraction unless your looking for them. Transformers is a Solid Attraction that is great for the Universal Parks. I just wouldn't say its as great as Spiderman or even Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

        I gave Kiera the Child Swap card and then took my turn watching Daniel in the Child Swap room while she rode. I thought it was cool how interactive the room was as it had many light up buttons that when pushed turned on TV screens with messages from the Autobots from the Transformers Prime cartoon. They also had the Transformers Prime cartoons playing on a tv and a display case with Transformers toys in it. Just like the Dino Play area Daniel loved just being able to be out of the stroller and run around and play. Kiera soon rejoined us after her ride but unfortunatly she had a breakdown happen during the climax turning the screen off and making it totally obvious the she was in the elevator during it. Still she said she liked it but just as I do she prefered Spiderman more.

        Outside the Ride it was now starting to get dark. The Optimus Prime and Bumblebed Characters were out at there Meet and Greet locations but do to long waits we decided not to see them today. However the Specialty Drink called Engergon was being sold outside the ride as well so I decided to give it a try. Honestly I wasn't a fan of the drink. It taisted like an Orange Cream Soda mixed with like a Red Bull or some Energy Drink. I just didn't care for it at all. It looked kinda cool though.

        We were nearing the time that the night time Grinchmas stuff would soon be starting so after the Energon we started to make our way thru the busy crowds of the Lower Lot back to the Escolators to go back up to the Upper Lot for the rest of the night. I would make sure you are completly done with what you want to do in the Lower Lot before heading back to the Upper as the Esclolators do take a lot of time and are kind of a pain to travel back and forth on. During Christmas we noticed that they play the story and music from the TV cartoon verison of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas as you travel the Escolator System. It made me wonder if you started the Escolator ride when the story starts if you would finish the Story when you finished the ride. We were never able to find out.

        Back on the Upper Lot we still had some time to kill before the the tree lighting show that we wanted to attend. However we didn't have enough time to do any more attractions so we wandered our way back towards the front of the park where one of things you can only do during Grinchmas is located. That being Meeting the Grinch himself.

        the Grinch Meet and Greet is located right next to the House of Horrors. When we entered the park earlier in the day the line was pretty long to meet the Ginch but when we returned later this evening the wait wasn't bad at all. Had the Grinch not needed a break then it probably would have only been around a 10 minute wait. We were impressed with how well trained the dog Max was as he just sat there picture after picture and was very friendly. The Grinch was excellent and was very in character for each person that walked up to him. Although Daniel wasn't too sure what to think of him. He just kind of stared at the Grinch trying to figure him out. His expression never really changed lol. If you are going to attend the Grinchmas event theres no way you can go and NOT meet the Grinch. He's hilarious to watch.

        After meeting the Grinch we headed over to the Arena area where the Whoville Tree Lighting would be taking place. We were shooting for the 6:30pm showtime as it was the last Tree Lighting of the night where the would also be a Celebrity reading from the Actual Book of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. As we got to the arena area we heard the previous show just ending inside the arena and a HUGE line waiting for the next show. Kiera and Daniel quickly hoped in line while I went and found the stroller parking to park the stroller in. As I went back to the entrance though where the line was formed I found that the arena was now being emptied from the previous show but they had also closed the line. They weren't allowing anyone else in line for the 6:30pm show. I told the TM's working that My wife was already in line so they let me in but they did't let any one else in behind me. When I found Kiera she and Daniel were literally the last people in line. We thought we barely made the cut off for this show.

        We waited a few minutes being at the end of the line when all of a sudden a huge group of people came in line behind us. At first we thought maybe they allowed more people in for the 6:30 show but then we realized there was a TM also behind us. He was the placemarker for the 7:15 show so anyone behind him was being lined up for the final show that night. As the line started moving as they started letting our group into the arena the thought came to our minds of what if we don't make it. I mean there is a ton of people in line. What if they reach capacity before we are in? This fear nearly became real when about 2/3rds thru the line an annoucement came over the intercom saying the 6:30 show was full. Those worries were gone soon though when we entered the arena right at the time the show was suppose to start and there was a ton of seating left in the Bleachers of the arena. It was still empty enough that they even let all those people in the 7:15 group behind us in as well to fill the empty space until the show started.

        We found our spots pretty much dead center to the stage near the top of the Bleachers. Although far away from the stage we didn't think it was a bad viewing spot at all. Soon the lights started to dim and the show was about to begin. It started though with the Celebrity Reading of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Tonights Celebrity reader is known from the Soap Opera Days of Our Lives. But Kiera and I know her better for being the host of the NBC show The Biggest Loser. Tonights reader was Allison Sweeney.

        After being introduced she started reading the story right away from a seat on the stage. I thought she would read the whole book from start to end however she only read until the part where the Grinch actually stole Christmas. From that point the words change to lead into the actual Tree Lighting Whovillation portion of the show. Allison left the stage and then the show portion began.

        The Show is very similar to what you will see on the Studio Tour when Whoville comes to life. However where that was all song and dance during the tree lighting there is alot of dialog exchanged between the Grinch and the Whos as you go from the Who's Discovering Christmas is gone to the Grinch having his big change of Heart. Although I do believe that every single song sang is the exact same as those done on the Studio Tour.

        As the Grinch returns Christmas to the Who's the climax of the show is the Lighting of the Whoville Christmas tree. The Grinch is suppose to light the tree but something goes wrong and all the rights in the arena goes out. After hearing the Grinch run all around the arena trying to fix it the tree starts to flicker and then the tree and surrounding trees light up in a bright white color. They then all change to multipule different colors as music feels the air and then it starts snowing. Unfortunatly this is the bubble snow though like Disney uses and not the real snow used to play in during the day.

        The Whoville Tree Lighting was the perfect way to end our time at Universal today. Its is really a great and cute show that we are glad we made time in our vacation to see. It as with most things Grinch focuses on the message the Grinch story tells us about who Christmas doesn't come from a store, Perhaps Christmas is a little bit more. All of the Grinchmas activities add to a park that needs more and I can't recommend enough checking out Grinchmas if ever in Southern California during the Christmas season. Its a fun diversion from your typical traditional Christmas fare that you find at Disney and other places at home.

        Although the park still had 45 minutes left until closing for the night we decided to call it quits after the Tree Lighting Show. We still had a drive ahead of us to our Hotel in Anaheim plus we would be returning to the park again later in the week. Before leaving though we walked around the France and London areas of the Upper Lot to see how they were decorated for Christmas. These areas are very well themed and neat to look at. However they are both very, very small so don't be expecting much. Hidden back behind them is the Terminator attraction which will be closing at the end of 2012 to make way for a West Coast version of the Dispicable Me ride. There is another great viewing location next to the Coke Soak play area as well. Watch for entertainers in both areas as there were some performers on the double decker bus in the London area as we were leaving as well as some comedians in the apartments in the small New York section.

        After walking thru these areas we made our way to the park exit after taking a quick glance in the Grinchmas and Universal Studio stores. Outside the park gates the entryway was all lit up with Christmas lights with many people taking pictures as they left the park.

        CityWalk was a completly different place at night. Especially a Saturday night as the entire area was very packed. I know its quite popular for its Nightlife with some pretty big clubs and other entertainment offerings. Also with today being the first day of Haunikah I don't know if that contributed to the crowds or not. As we slowly made our way thru CityWalk the area around the movie theater and CityWalk Christmas tree was especially packed as there were live concerts taking place on the stage. I don't know who was performing but I thought I heard them say they were one of the runner ups on the Voice Last Season.

        The Parking garage was now much more packed then it was earlier. I'm sure do to CityWalk being much more popular on a Weekend Night then it is during the day. We made it to our car and then were on our way to Anaheim. However we were soon greeted by one of the things that Southern California is dreadfully known for. Its HORRIBLE TRAFFIC. We were basically in stop and go traffic all the way to Anaheim. What is normally a 45 minute drive took us nearly 2 hours to make. It was such a relief once we finally got off the freeway. We got off the freeway onto Harbor Blvd right in Front of Disneyland so that we could drive past the Disneyland Resort. We were also starving so we figured we would find somewhere quick to eat on Harbor thinking there would be tons of fast food joints so close to Disneyland. We were wrong as we didn't find much at all. We ended up driving down Harbor nearly 5 miles before we finally decided to settle on Carls Jr. for Dinner.

        With our Stomachs full we then headed back down Harbor towards Disney where our Hotel was located. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and Suites located on Walnut and Ball Rd. It is located literally right next to the Mickey and Friends parking structure. We booked this Hotel thru and payed pretty much exactly $600 for our 8 nights there. With the assitance of I knew this was the hotel we would get prior to booking it thru Hotwire. This was the hotel I was hoping for do to its close proximity to Disney as we would be able to walk to the parks each day and save the money on parking. Although keep in mind this hotel does have a $10 per night parking fee (although most in the area do as well). Check inn was quick and easy and we were soon heading to our room that we would be spending the next week in. Obviously these pictures aren't posted in real time but this is the only time I deviate from sharing photos in cronological order. Overall we were very pleased with our hotel and would recommend it. Yeah it wasn't perfect such as the Pillows being too small and stiff and some wear do to its age but really that stuff starts to get into the nitpickey category. For those not wanting to make the Walk to Disney the ART shuttle does pick up at the Hotel.

        One last thing that we did after getting settled in to the Hotel was we ran to a local Ralphs Grocery Store to grab a few things. I guess two of the downsides of this hotel was that it does not offer a free breakfast and it also doesn't have refridgerators in the rooms. To fix the Fridge issue we just bought a large disposible cooler that we refilled with Ice each morning. Although a pain to switch the ice each day this option worked out great. Most of the other items we bought at the store were breakfast items to help cover the expensive costs of buying extra meals in the parks. We got Milk and Cereal as well as bagels and yougart. We also waited to buy Daniels Diapers and food until we got to California as well so we picked that up too. The Ralphs was a few miles away from our Hotel but since its a Kroger company and I am employed by Kroger I only feel its right to support my employer even while on vacaton.

        After returning to the Hotel our day was offically over. It was nice to just kick back and relax in the Hotel. We had an easy day ahead of us as we would just be making a Beach Day and taking it easy the next day of our vacation.


        • #5
          Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

          Awesome Trip Report! It looks like you guys had so much fun during your visit to SoCal.

          I was at Universal the same day you guys were because I saw a picture you guys took of the celebrity reading. I attended the first reading, but knew Allison Sweeney was going to read during the second showing.

          I love reading trip reports with pictures. And you guys did just that. Thanks for supplying a lot of pictures, it makes it more fun to look at instead of reading a trip report with no pictures at all.

          The hotel is really nice. Too bad it didn't come with Continental breakfast. As for me, I always try and look for hotel that offers free breakfast.

          Can't wait to see more pictures from your trip like Disneyland and DCA.

          Since you guys have a little one, you guys forgot to take a trip down to Legoland.
          Last edited by SoCalbma; 12-29-2012, 11:22 PM.
          My Brand New Youtube channel -"SoCal ATTRACTIONS 360"


          • #6
            Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

            Great TR so far.....thanks for posting.....


            • #7
              Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

              Originally posted by SoCalbma View Post
              Awesome Trip Report! It looks like you guys had so much fun during your visit to SoCal.

              I was at Universal the same day you guys were because I saw a picture you guys took of the celebrity reading. I attended the first reading, but knew Allison Sweeney was going to read during the second showing.

              I love reading trip reports with pictures. And you guys did just that. Thanks for supplying a lot of pictures, it makes it more fun to look at instead of reading a trip report with no pictures at all.

              The hotel is really nice. Too bad it didn't come with Continental breakfast. As for me, I always try and look for hotel that offers free breakfast.

              Can't wait to see more pictures from your trip like Disneyland and DCA.

              Since you guys have a little one, you guys forgot to take a trip down to Legoland.
              breakfast isn't free. It's either included in the cost of hotel or not! I'm at best western park place inn next trip to see if breakfast included is really all that convenient.


              • #8
                Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                I love your report so far and I'm looking forward to the rest. Your son is very cute.


                • #9
                  Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                  AMAZING TR!!!!! I love all the pictures, can't wait to see more! Your little boy is so adorable looks like you all had fun... Do you know if Universal does the Grinchmas every year? I'd love to see that!


                  • #10
                    Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                    Originally posted by CritterCountryGirl View Post
                    AMAZING TR!!!!! I love all the pictures, can't wait to see more! Your little boy is so adorable looks like you all had fun... Do you know if Universal does the Grinchmas every year? I'd love to see that!
                    Grinchmas has been a yearly event since 2001.
                    For Disney Theme Park Video Click Here!


                    • #11
                      Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                      Super cute little family!!! Great report so far.
                      DJ JARVICIOUS
                      Salt Lake City, UT
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                      • #12
                        Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                        Thanks for the support and comments everyone. I really appreciate it. Anyways heres my next update. My next one will finally start our time at Disney so watch for it soon.

                        Day 2: Newport Beach

                        The 2nd day of our trip was our first full day in Sunny Southern California. It would also be a take it easy kind of day as we did not plan to visit any Theme Parks today. Because of the easy day planned we really took our time getting ready for the day. With the exception of Daniel falling off the bed in the middle of the night (meaning he got a bed on the floor the rest of the trip) we took advantage of the down day and sleept in as long as Daniel would allow us to.

                        We just had breakfast in the Hotel Room and Daniel quickly realized that the Hotel room didn't seem to have enough space to be able to play around in. By the time we finished getting ready for the day it was around 1pm in the afternoon. Our plan for today was simple. We were gonna take Daniel to the Beach so that he could see the Ocean for the first time.

                        Timing worked out great for being able to quickly meet up with my Cousin who was also vacationing at the Disneyland Resort at the time. They left on there trip 2 days before we did and accidentally left there $50 Disney Gift Card at home (they drove to cali). She gave me a call and had me go to there house to pick up the gift card to bring with us on our trip. Since they were already spending there 2nd of 3 days in the parks they were running out of time to use the Gift Card.

                        It worked out great as when we were leaving the Hotel they happened to be about ready to head back to there Hotel so there kids could take a nap. So we figured we would just meet up at the Guest Drop Off Area so I could give them the Gift Card. We were a short Drive from the Harbor Dr. Drop off area but it was kind of confusing to get in to and I missed it the first time we passed by. So I had to make another lap down Harbor and try again. Once we parked in the Drop Off area we only waited about 5 minutes before my Cousin and her Family arrived to pick up the Gift Card from us. They told us about how the parks were and how crowded it seemed but they said overall it wasn't too bad. We would know tomorrow as we would be meeting up with them for our 1st day in the parks and there 3rd and last day.

                        Prior to heading to the Beach we wanted to check out the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet Store located in Fullerten. We really liked the Character Warehouse Outlets in Orlando and found some great deals on Disney Park merchandise there. However let me tell you that the California version is nowhere near as good at the Orlando shops. In fact the shop isn't even ran by Disney Anymore. Its just a generic Suvinior type store that sold all kinds of things. Not just Disney. Its not even Called the Disney Character Warehouse. Its just called the Character Depot. Anyways we were very dissapointed in the store as the Disney park merchandise was few and far between. And if you found anything it was dated 2009. We obviously didn't buy anything.

                        Since it was now later in the afternoon we were getting hungry so we decided to get some food for lunch as well before heading out to the beach. Since the Character Depot was located in a strip mall type area we just walked a few doors down to a Mexican Food Place called Baja Fresh. We saw these all over Southern California so it is obviously a chain. However we don't have them in Utah so we figued we would give it a try. Plus on Saturday and Sunday Kids eat free there with a paying Adult meal and Drink. I got a Burrito and Kiera got a Salad and we both thought it was pretty good. Plus we were able to get Daniel a Quesadila for free. I don't know if its a place we would eat at regularly but it was a nice change from the food we are use to.

                        With our Stomachs full it was time to head out to the Beach. After doing alot of research and having visited other nearby beaches like Hunington Beach and Santa Monica on prior visits we decided to drive over and check out Newport Beach. From where we were at the drive took us around 30 minutes to make dispite it not being physically too far away. You gotta love California Traffic.

                        In theres 2 piers along the actual "Newport Beach". Theres Newport Pier and then further down a couple more miles is the Balboa Pier. We decided to drive down to Balboa as the pinnesela that the Beach runs along is thinner down there making walking around to the Harbor side easier. Parking was easy to find and we parked right at the Pier for a small cost.

                        As we got out of the car we could tell that it was a bit cooler here in Newport then it was back in Anaheim. Although the day was really nice and sunny and warm there was a fairly cool breeze coming off the ocean. The beach was only a few steps away from where we parked. However to get on the beach from the parking lot we had to climb a small sand hill while carrying Daniel in his stroller. It didn't take long tough and then we were on the beach looking over the Pacific Ocean.

                        On the Beach we got Daniel out of his Stroller to see what he thought of it. Seeing the Water, Hearing the Waves Crash, Feeling the breeze coming off the Ocean. Frankly we aren't sure what he thought. He just kind of staired lol. So Kiera put him down to actually stand in the Sand. And then he really didn't know what to do. He just stood there probably thinking we were crazy cause the sand was kind of cold.

                        He eventually sat down in the sand and tried picking it up and play with it but he honestly never got too in to that sand stuff. He kind of had the same reaction the he had with the snow. He would pick the sand up in his hand and look at it and that was the extent of his playing in the sand. Maybe he would enjoy it more if wasn't cold.

                        Then we really became mean parents when we stuck Daniels Feet in the Ocean because he couldn't go to the Ocean for the first time and not touch it lol. Although he never actually cried you could tell that he wasn't happy with us putting his feet in the cold water.

                        We spent some more time walking down the beach and watching the ocean. It was really nice and relaxing although I missed seeing the Surfers like you would find at Hunnington Beach.

                        After spending enough time on the beach we loaded Daniel back into the stroller and decided to go walk over to the other side of the Pennisela checking out some of the shops along the way. The Newport "Boardwalk" runs thru the middle of the shops area and if you follow it North it will take you back to the Newport Pier. Though the Boardwalk isn't made of wood at all and is actually more of a paved bike trail.

                        We passed many little shops and Restaurants and were suprised at how short the walk was to the Harbor. The dock and area on the Harbor side felt much more like a boardwalk then the actual board walk did. Lining on one side is more shops and restaurants and even some aracdes. On the other side is the actual docks with hundreds of boats and yahts scattered about.

                        One of the things people raved about doing in Newport was visiting the Balboa Fun Zone. We really weren't impressed at all by it though. All it was was more Shops and Restaurants with a Ferris Wheel and Arcades. They also have a Sea Life Musium but we didn't check it out as I wasn't sure if it cost money or not. Also in the Fun Zone area is the Balboa auto ferry that takes you across to Balboa Island. I guess that its the only Auto Ferry running in California or something like that. It does cost money to go on though. Wether you take a car with you or not.

                        Prior to our trip I had considered doing a Harbor Cruise of Newport and this is where the company was located that offers the tours. It was something that seemed like it would be fun to do and we even considered doing it today if they took walk ins. However we barely missed the start of there final sailing of the day so that settled that choice. It was fun seeing some of the boats in the Harbor though as they had already started being decorated for the Christmas cruise that we unfortunatly barely missed.

                        After walking past the Balboa Fun Zone area you get back into the residential type Beach Houses that line the Harbor. Each house seemed pretty unique and of course also had there own private dock for there boats and Yahts. Some of them were decorated for Christmas and it would probably have made for a fun walk after dark to see the decorations lit up. I was shocked at how little land these houses are built on though and how close they are to one another.

                        We started to head back towards the Balboa Pier but as we walked back thru the Fun Zone I had to stop and buy a Frozen Banana. I had never had one before or even seen them for that matter. Kiera said she use to have them all the time. What they are is Bananas on a stick that is then chocklate dipped and frozen. Then they will put sprinkles or nuts on them. I just got a Sprinkle coverd one and thought it was a pretty good treat. Daniel really liked it as well.

                        With our Frozen Banana in hand we made our way back to the Beach and Pier area where we decided to walk the Pier until the sun set. I had never watched the Sun Set from a beach before and wanted to do it tonight. Yes I have been on many cruises to exotic beach type locations. However i've always seen the sun set from the Cruise Ship. Never from the beach. With the sun already going down we didn't have much time to kill.

                        The Pier itself seemed to be the most happening place that we walked past today as there were still many people out fishing. At the end of the Pier is also a diner called Rubys. Many piers down the California cost have these Diners on them however the one located on the Balboa Pier is the Original and first one. It would have been fun to try but having just ate a couple hours earlier we weren't hungry yet for dinner.

                        As we walked back down the Pier the Sun finally started to set and I finally got to see what I had hoped to see. The Sun Setting on the Beach and over the Ocean is a beautiful site although Kiera says it couldn't compare to a Sunset from a tropical island like Hawaii that she has seen nemorous times. Still it was great for me to see while in the company of my family.

                        We had fun with the short time we spent in Newport Beach. It was really quite while we were there and the beach was clean and pretty. However i'm sure the place is completly different during the Summertime when you would actually want to be at a beach. Its diffenitly a place I would visit again but next time it will be when we could spend more time there and when its much warmer. I would have loved to play in the water and also take a Harbor Tour. So thats something I will look in to next time we go.

                        With it now getting darker with the sun being down we made our way back to the car and started the drive back to Anaheim and our Hotel. The drive back was quicker then it was coming as the traffic wasn't nearly as bad. Before we knew it, we were back relaxing in our Hotel room.

                        But you wouldn't think we would end our day now would you. No of course not. The evening just started. Although don't expect anything too exciting lol. One of the things we looked forward to the most about our hotel was the fact that it had a Heated Pool and Hot Tub that were open all year. So we changed into our swimsuits and went out to swim for a little bit. This was Daniels first time in a Hot Tub and he loved it. Especially when the bubbles were on. And don't worry we didn't keep him in there very long. But the kid is basically a fish. I've never seen a kid who loves the water like he does. Doesn't matter if its the tub or a Pool he just loves to play in the water. Each time we used the Pool over the course of our trip we always pretty much had it to ourselves. I guess everyone else thought it was too cold outside where we thought it felt nice.

                        Right as we were finishing swimming we heard the explosions of the Disneyland Fireworks start to echo thru the Sky. Being that our Hotel is located right next to the backstage areas of Disneyland we were probably closer to where the shells are lit then most park guests are. And with the absense of music and sound the explosions of the fireworks were much, much louder. From where we were at the pool we could see some of the firworks from above the buildings of the Hotel but we could see pretty much all of them from between the building where the walk ways were at.

                        After watching the Fireworks we returned to our room where we gave Daniel a bath and then changed back into our normal clothes to go back out to find Dinner. We also forgot a few things at Ralphs the night before but we decided to check out another local Grocery Store. Back in Salt Lake City we recently had our first Trader Joes open up that people seem to be going crazy for. Not wanting to fight the crowds though we decided to check it out in Southern California as these stores seem to be located everywhere. The closest one to our hotel though was about 15 minutes away. The Store itself was relativly small but still fairly busy. I didn't realize though that they are mostly an Organic or Natural type food store. We didn't do much shopping here but we did pick up some of there Holiday treats that people seem to rave about. We got there Candy Cane Joe-Joes which were similar to Peppermint Oreos and also some Peppermint Pretzel thins. Both were pretty good snacks and lasted us until the trip was over and even beyond. Trader Joes didn't have everything we needed though so we went in to the Rite-Aid next door where we got the rest of the stuff we needed.

                        For dinner tonight we kept it simple and just went to a Subway located just across the street from Trader Joes. I intentinally wanted to get away from the Resort area when looking for a Subway as I know sometimes the ones close to Tourist destinations don't offer the $5 foot longs. It wasn't anything major for dinner but it was good and was filling. Although I did think it was odd that they were out of White Bread.

                        After Dinner we returned to our hotel room where we actually stayed for the rest of the night. Kiera decided to shower tonight to help save time getting ready in the morning as the morning would be coming very quickly. We tried going to bed early tonight as we had a big day ahead of us tomorrow. It would be our First day back at the Disneyland Resort and we had plans of being in Disney California Adventure at 8:30am to get in the Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass line before the park opened for the day. We had a big day ahead of us and we needed all the rest we could get. Good thing we were able to fall asleep quickly.


                        • #13
                          Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                          Really really great trip report so far


                          • #14
                            Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                            THANK YOU for this great trip report! We will be leaving tomorrow a.m. with son's girlfriend who has never seen the ocean. We knew we'd like to take her to a beach (we know it will be cold, that's ok, she's pumped about seeing the ocean) but we didn't know where a nice beach would be. Your pictures sure did help tremendously. Now we know we will be going to Newport beach, specifically the Balboa Pier. I appreciated your photo of the parking lot area; now we even know where to park. And we'll probably eat in one of those neat restaurants you photographed, maybe Ruby's.
                            Also we will be going to Universal for one day of our trip, and now we know to sit on the Left side of the tram during the tour.
                            Thanks a million!


                            • #15
                              Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                              Great stuff, thanks for sharing your trip!
                              They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. ~Edgar Allan Poe


                              • #16
                                Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                                Glad you made it to Newport. That's where I live btw. So it was interesting seeing someone's perspective during the off season.

                                I do suggest going back during the summer. A totally different vibe as there are people all over the place. The sand won't be cold - in fact it will be hot. And I'm talking burning hot. Flip-flops are suggested for sure. And just so you know the water off the so cal coast is cold and can be as low as 50 degrees in the winter - so your little one definitely was brave when it came to getting his feet wet!

                                anyways I am happy you had a great time. Definite to on the harbor cruise. They will show you celebrity homes and the second half of the cruise takes you out into the ocean where you will see sea lions and maybe a dolphin or even a whale!


                                • #17
                                  Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                                  Great to see a Family's Point of View via Pictures - a few facts & suggestions from someone who grew up "behind the orange curtain" :

                                  You will find most Newport Beach Surfers / Body Surfers @ THE WEDGE year round due to its massive waves (it is not stroller friendly, which means you will be better off leaving the stroller in the car & carrying mini me - also there is a jetty of rocks between You & Newport Harbor, so please keep mini me in your arms - one fall into Newport Harbor would be a dangerous no no) ....

                                  The Wedge is located @ the extreme East end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach (during a south swell of the precise size / direction, there can be waves up to 30 feet in heights) ....

                                  Typical Weather / Water Temperature during the Seasons:

                                  The Ocean is warmer then the air during Fall / Winter (which is why Surfers will quickly have a fire in the fire pits handy as soon as they get out of the ocean) .... The Ocean is cooler then the air during Spring / Summer (which is why everyone jumps back into the ocean to cool off frequently) ....

                                  Both the I-5 & the Hollywood Freeway into the 405 will experience a temporary back up of traffic even during the weekends after 5pm (it usually calms down by 9pm), so its good to take note of detours once you hit stop-and-go traffic (if I'm near Downtown Los Angeles? I'll take the 105 to the 605 to the 5 & bypass most traffic) ....

                                  I tend to stay @ Courtyard Marriott Buena Park (7621 Beach Blvd) for thee best beds ever & the free parking & free Wifi & a Laundromat & a Pool / Spa - & its affordable prices for me). There's a Starbucks, Burger King & McDonalds within walking distance. There's a Target, along with a Denny's Restaurant, about a block North where the 91 Freeway exits / entrance onto Beach Blvd. I can get Knott's Chicken Dinner (either sit down as its free parking, or order "to go" & enjoy it back @ the Hotel), as well as stok up on Boysenberry Goodies (& the Snoopy's HQ Shop is a "don't miss" if you have children) ....

                                  The Courtyard Marriott Buena Park offers immediate access to the 91 (Artesia) Freeway which travels East to West (taking you to the 605 Freeway as you travel towards Los Angeles, or taking you to the 5 Freeway as you travel towards Anaheim / Santa Ana). I never asked about Shuttle Service to the Theme Parks, as I tend to drive everywhere (but both Medieval Times & Pirates Adventure Dining are across the street) ....

                                  all thee best in 2013 -

                                  C J

                                  I <3 Making Friends Who Share The Same Interests :-)




                                  • #18
                                    Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                                    Wow thanks for the great advice everyone. I think next time we visit we will be doing a late summer trip after the schools have started back up. Newport is a place I would like to visit again so the advice you guys have shared is great to know for when we return. Thanks.

                                    And with that said here is the 1st of 3 updates from our first day at Disney.

                                    Day 3, Part 1: Disney California Adventure

                                    At 6:30am our alarms started going off for the day. Our first day at Disney was upon us and we had hoped to make it to Disney California Adventure at least 30 minutes prior to park opening so that we could get a decent spot in the Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass Line. I was up first and got showered. While Showering Kiera also got up and started getting ready leaving only Daniel left however he still had to feed that morning before leaving the Hotel. As he feed I got his stroller out of the car and packed up. I also got the Ice in our Cooler switched out for the day to keep our cold items cool. We were soon on our way to the park though.

                                    One of the reasons we chose the Hotel we did was because of its close proximity to the parks. The gate enterance was about a 1 mile walk away. And if we decided we didn't want to make the full walk we could always hop on the Tram at the Mickey and Friends parking structure that was right next to our hotel. Although we were a close walk to the parks we didn't know how much time it would take to walk there. We also didn't get out of the hotel as quickly as we planned leaving the hotel only 5 mintues prior to the time we planned to be at the park. I'm pretty sure we couldn't walk to the park within 5 minutes.

                                    The walk to the park was fairly quite as we didn't encounter any other park guests until we were on the corner of the Parking Structure. If staying at this hotel don't be scared of the walk. Its thru a nicer area of Anaheim and we never felt uncomfortable making the walk. Even after nightfall. We walked quickly from the hotel to the park and in total the walk took only about 15 minutes.

                                    Passing thru Security was quick and easy as there was no line. However there was still a fairly large line in the Esplanade waiting to get into DCA. This was our first look at the New DCA. We had finally returned. As a reminder when we visited in 2008 part of the reason why was so that we could see DCA in its original state as I had never visited that park and its multi-year, Billion Dollar Plus Renovation was just beginning. This trip was in part so that we could see all the Changes that happend at DCA over the previous 4 years.

                                    The entry way to the park is the first change you will come across. Instead of walking into a Postcard you now enter the park thru a recreation of the Pan Pacific Auditorium enterance. Yes gone are the CALIFORNIA letters that so many people enjoyed taking photos with. And yes this is the same style enterance that is also used at the Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida. Although It seems bigger and more well done in California then it is in Florida.

                                    Do to an increase of Ticket Fraud the Disneyland Resort is also now ID'ing everyone (except minors) who have multiday tickets. So make sure you have your ID and your park ticket ready to go before you get to the Turnstyle. It seemed like the biggest hold ups in the line were from people who didn't have there ID's ready to go. For those of you who do the Citypass like we did you will present your Plastic Citypass card here at the turnstyle. After the CM's Scan it though and check your ID they will print you out new 3 day Parkhopper Paper Tickets that you will use for all of your Disney days. You won't need your Citypass card anymore during your time at Disney.

                                    After passing thru the turnstyles you find yourself on the New Buena Vista Street. The new entry way into DCA is leaps and bounds better then the old Sunshine Plaza. Yes the very few neat features of Sunshine Plaza are gone such as the Golden Gate Bridge. Now in its place is a street made to look like Los Angeles from the 1920's. Basically what the town would have looked like when Walt Disney first came to California. In changing the Entrance they also made it larger by pushing the Turnstyles back to where the old CALIFORNIA letters were placed. Driving up and Down Buena Vista Street is the Red Car Trolleys that add alot to the area. Of course they weren't running yet though as the park wasn't open yet. At the end of the Street is the replacement of the Sun Hubcap thing. The Carthey Circle Theater which is pretty grand and beautiful and the perfect Weeney for Buena Vista Street and the cap on the opening act of the park. Buena Vista Street is very well executed and truely sets the mood for the park now. I dare go as far to say that Buena Vista Street might be my favorite Theme Park enterance. You could spend hours alone looking at all the details on the street. My one complaint about the street is how short it is. Even with extending the entrance out further into the Esplanda It still is a very short street.

                                    We entered the park about 10 minutes later then we originally planned to. We found the Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass Line already stretching far back into the Hollywood Land area of the park. Luckly for us though my Cousin and her family were already in the park and had a spot in the RSR Fastpass line right in front of the Carthey Circle Theater. So we got in line with them. While waiting in line Kiera took Daniel back to the DCA photo center though to exchange out our Photopass+ Voucher. We decided prior to the trip to Prepurchase Photopass+ as it was only $69 and in addition to all the regular photopass pictures you get around the park and with characters you would also get your photos from the attractions that take your photo and also any Character Meals you do. When you purchase Photopass+ they will send you a voucher in the mail that you exchange in the parks for your special Photopass+ Card. It was something that we were happy we did as we ended up with nearly 250 photos after our trip.

                                    As we were waiting in the Fastpass line a large group started to form across from the Theater as the parks rope drop was about to happen. It was soon 9am and the park officially opened to the public as most of that large group went rushing towards Carsland much like they do to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The Fastpass line also started moving at this point. We ended up waiting about 12 minutes before we were at the RSR Fastpass machines located just outside A Bugs Land. Our Fastpass return time for the attraction wouldn't be until 11:05. However the Fastpasses today for RSR was disconnected from the rest of the park so if we wanted to we could get a Fastpass for another attraction immidiatly.

                                    With our Fastpasses for RSR now in hand we were free to do whatever with our day. We accomplished what we wanted to be in the park at opening for. Our Cousin went to Carsland to find the rest of his family who was doing the minor Carsland rides before the crowds got too busy. We followed towards Carsland getting our first look down Route 66 into Radiator Springs. We also stopped at the Carsland Sign that had a Photopass photographer present but not a long line. For the Holidays Carsland is all decorated up for Christmas and the sign at the enterance was no different wishing you a Seasons Speedings. There is also a Snow Car present during the Holidays.

                                    After getting our photo taken we decided at this time not to head in to Carsland yet. Instead we rounded the corner past the Pacific Warf and Paradise Pier areas and went back into the Grizzley Peak Recreation area. We were coming back here not to ride any rides but to grab a World Of Color Fastpass for the show later that evening. The Fastpass location for WOC is located at the Grizzly River Run ride. We were able to get the Fastpass in the Blue section for the only showing tonight at 8:15pm. The fastpass doesn't garrentee you a good viewing spot though. Just access into the best area for the show so if you want prime viewing for WOC you will still need to arrive very early and stake out a spot.

                                    Next to Radiator Springs Racers the next ride that draws a long wait quickly in the Morning is Toy Story Midway Mania located in Paradise Pier so thats where we went next to make it the first ride of our day. This was my first time Seeing Paradise Pier not under construction and the Lagoon being full. When we came in 2008 the Lagoon was drained as construction for the World of Color infastructure was about to begin. The Sunwheel was also behind scafolding as it was changed into Mickey's Fun Wheel and the Games of the Boardwalk were also being rethemed at the time. The area looks much nicer when the Lagoon is filled with water then it did before lol.

                                    In 2008 Toy Story Midway Mania was brand new and was the longest line we waited in that entire trip. Thats still the same today as it already had a 25 minute wait when we entered the line. Luckly for us my Cousin and her family had finished with Carsland and were already in the line for Toy Story when we arrived so we were able to hope in line with them waiting only about 5 minutes until we boarded the ride. Toy Story is a 3D interactive Dark Ride that takes you thru a series of Midway type games that the Toy Story characters have set up. From a ring toss to a baloon pop to even a dish breaking game. Its alot of fun and a ride I consider a must see at least once on your trip. Especially if your competitive like my Wife and I are with one another. When we rode this ride back in 2008 Kiera beat me on not only Toy Story Midway Mania but also on Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters as well. In Orlando earlier this year though I beat her each time we went on Toy Story and Buzz as well. So what would be the results this time. Well Kiera beat me this time. Keeping her undefeated in California thus far. Her score was 130,300 to my 127,300.

                                    So which version of the ride do I prefer? The one here in DCA or the Hollywood Studios version in Orlando. I do like the exterior facade of the DCA version more. The Victorian look of the facade fits the pier great and gives a very classic and elegant vibe to the whole area. The Mr. Potato Head Barker also makes more sense in DCA as he is postioned right at the front of the ride calling out to the people walking past on the pier to come try out the games/ride. Thats where it ends though. Once you enter the que in DCA its incredibly boring and bland. Hollywood Studios diffenitly wins as far as the que goes as the moment you walk into it you are already shrunk to to Toy Size and walking thru Andys bedroom as huge replicas of toys and games are all around you. Because of this emersion in Florida from Que to Ride (even the DCA version goes to Andys bedroom during the ride portion) I think Hollywood Studios version is better. Although the ride is good in both parks The que really adds to the experiance and makes the ride make more sense. Although the DCA version does not offer Fastpass like the Orlando version so the standby lines are typically shorter. Still the ride will draw one of the longest waits in DCA so try to ride early to avoid those lines.

                                    After we were done with Toy Story we did the first ride that we would child swap on. Since we had the unique chance to be in the parks today with my Cousin and her Family it actually gave Kiera and I (as well as my cousin and her husband) a chance to ride some rides together. So Kiera and I walked right next door with my cousin from Toy Story to the enterance to the California Screamin Roller Coaster. This would be our first experiance with Child Swap at the Disneyland Resort. We expected it to be the same as it is in WDW but it is different. In WDW when you did Rider Swap they gave you a Fastpass card right at the entrance for the person sitting out with the Child to use later. Riderswap was different at almost every attraction. Some attractions gave us the card right in front of the attraction like in WDW. While others had us take a different card into the ride with us that we switched out for the riderswap before boarding the vehicle. Others gave us nothing and we just asked for it at the exit of the ride. Screamin was one that had us exchange later in the ride. They still verified at the enterance that we had a child we would need to do Riderswap for. They then gave us one of those time lanyards to exchange for the actual Riderswap card right before boarding.

                                    As we entered the standby que for Soarin the wait was only posted at 15 minutes. My cousin took Daniel with her back to Toy Story where her family was already qued up to ride it again as it was one of her boys favorite rides. At this time in the morning they were only using one of the two load side for the coaster so the wait actually took just a little longer then 15 minutes. We were soon on the coaster though and on our way out above the Paradise Bay Lagoon where the Coaster then comes to a stop. The countdown begins 5-4-3-2-1 and then the Coaster launches down the track and up the first hill. Screamin is really a great coaster and one that puts a big smile on my face everytime I ride. The coaster is so smooth and is long too. Theres a reason that this is one of my favorite coasters and a ride I consider to be a Do Not Miss in DCA.

                                    Although that doesn't mean the ride is without its flaws. Screamin is a ride that is still a reminder of the Old DCA. Not that the ride itself doesn't fit Paradise Pier but in that the Que is still the old Neon filled Cement waistland as it was not rethemed to the Victorian Look like most of the Pier was. The Song that plays during the ride also isn't the greatest thing i've ever heard. Some people complain because Screamin doesn't have a story to it. Honestly I don't think it needs one. The major point of the ride is to provide a backdrop to Paradise Pier and add energy to the area of the coaster moving thruout the area. It does that great. It also doesn't bother me that its a steel coaster themed to look like a Wood coster. So the ride is great. The Que not so much. I really hope with the success of the DCA relaunch that they finish converting the whole Paradise Pier area to the Victorian theme starting with retheming Screamin's que.

                                    Obviously WDW doesn't have Screamin. But they do have a coaster that is kind of somewhat similar in Rockin Roller Coaster at the Hollywood Studios. Yes RNR is and Indoor Coaster but its similar in that both coasters have a launch and inversions. Honestly Its a tough choice trying to decide which one is better. I like that RNR actually has a Story to it and the Arrowsmith Music is much better however Screamin is much smoother and its such a blast to watch the Pier all around you just as if you were riding a coaster on a boardwalk. Although I think RNR may be Disney's best Indoor coaster I think I would give the slight edge to Screamin as the better of the two. With a new soundtrack and Que Screamin would win in my opinion by a larger margin.

                                    At the exit of Screamin is stand where you can view and purchase your ride photos. Typically in the past this isn't something we've cared for. Yeah we would look at the photo and maybe even take a picture with our camera and that was the extent of it. But remember on this trip we decided to purchase the Photopass+ and therefore our ride photos were included. Loading your ride photo to Photopass+ is very easy. You just need to take note of your photos number then go over to the kiosk, tell the CM your number, hand them the Photopass+ card, let them scan it and your done. They will also hand you a reciept to verify the photo loaded to your card. I'm pretty sure by the end of the trip that Photopass+ likely paid for itself in the ride photos we got alone.

                                    After our photo was loaded to the Photopass we walked back over to Toy Story to wait for my Cousins Family and Daniel to finish on Midway Mania. We walked around the exit shop for a bit and then noticed that the Mr. Potato Head Barker was out from behind the cover talking to people on the boardwalk. As we were watching it do its thing we noticed my Cousin coming up the que towards the loading area of the ride. I figured since they hadn't rode yet then there was no need for them to take Daniel with them so I asked a CM if it was ok If I grabbed my son from them. He opened the Alternate Enternace gate for me (I belive it was the former Single Rider Line) so they I could grab Daniel. After grabbing Danny and walking back out towards Kiera the CM asked if we would like to hop in line and ride the ride with the rest of our party. Heck yeah we would. They let us thru the Alternate Entrance and handed us some 3d glasses and we loaded into the Ride Vehicle with no wait. I wasn't planning on riding Toy Story again but it was way cool that they let us cut in line to ride again with my Cousin and her family.

                                    The first time we rode I had Daniel on my Lap and Kiera managed to beat me. This time Kiera held Daniel on her lap so I figured I would have the upper hand this time. As the games started both Kiera and I realized how exhausting it could be pulling that little string to shoot the gun. We were both tired and it was starting to hurt to pull it lol. Daniel loves all things Toy Story and we tried getting him to wear the glasses while on the ride but he wasn't having it. He just wanted to play with them. Even though he couldn't see clearly though he still loves the ride especially when he would see and hear the characters. In the end I thought not having Daniel would give me the win over Kiera. I was wrong as this time around she not only beat me but distroyed me winning 155,800 to my 120,200. She remains undefeated in California and not only did she beat me this round but she also got the Best in Vehicle score for the day as well.

                                    After our unexpected spin on Toy Story my Cousin and her Husband took the Riderswap Card and went over to take there ride on Screamin. While they went on the coaster we took Daniel and there Boys over to King Tritons Carousel to take a spin while we waited for them to return. The wait was very short as we were able to get on the next ride then the one currently going. Daniel had rode on 1 Marry-go-round before and the was the one in Suess landing at Islands of Adventure earlier this year. That ride turned from fun to kinda scarey for him as he enjoyed sitting on the animal but did not like the up and down going around motions. So would he like this one? Yes he absolutly loved it this time. Especially since for the most part he can support and hold himself up now on them. The only thing that was unexpected was when the ride E-Stopped right after it started. I almost fell over myself. We aren't sure why it stopped but they had to come around again and recheck the belts. By the time we were done my Cousin and her Husband were already done with Screamin. They seemed to enjoy it as it was a ride they didn't plan to ride.

                                    By the time we finished on the Carousel our Fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers had become avalible to use so we started to make our way towards Carsland. Instead of walking down from the Carsland Sign into the heart of Radiator Springs we went in the back way. Cutting thru the Pacific Warf area. Many people claim that if you want a true WOW moment then this is the way you should first enter Carsland. They are not lieing. The view of the Cadillac Mountain Range is jaw dropping and breath taking as you see the whole view of the valley. It is simply amazing what Disney has done with the rock work here. The WOW moment was "Almost" as good as the first time we approched Hogwarts castle in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

                                    As we walked further down Cross Street you can see the ride vehicles from Radiator Springs Racers racing thru the desert. They even have sound effects of engine noises to help hide the squeal that is so familiar at Test Track that the vehicles make. When we got to Route 66 it was very obvious that just like the Wizarding World, Carsland was the popular spot of DCA as there were people everywhere. It was pretty amazing to see the land up close though. Its seriously like you just walked into the movies. Radiator Springs is done perfectly. Red the Firetruck had just pulled out to meet guests. But we didn't have time for that. We turned and headed towards the Courthouse. Next to that is the enterance to RSR.

                                    We once again planned to Rider Swap so that we could get multipule rides on RSR. Dispite both of our families having Fastpass we still asked for a Riderswap card at the entry to the que where on RSR they gave us the card right away. We were gonna let my Cousin and her husband and 1 of there boys go first (there 2nd boy wasn't tall enough) but there other son started to have a melt down once the started to leave. Instead they let Kiera and I go first and we took there oldest son with us. They had already rode it twice before so it wasn't a huge priority for them. As you enter the Que you walk thru the desert landscape before going under a bridge and finding yourself in Stanleys Oasis. If you havn't seen the CarsToon that was created specifically for the rides que backstory when Stanley founded Radiator Springs he created his Oasis to sell Radiator Caps to vehicles traveling across the desert. It is located right next to the actual "Radiator Spring" which you will pass and see water bubbling out of in the que. The load area was a hotel type place called the comfy caverns.

                                    Right before we were to the Fastpass Merge Point something that I should have expected to happen, Happened. The Ride went down. For nearly 20 minutes the ride sat quite. We waited and waited and contemplated about leaving and coming back since we hadn't turned in the Fastpasses yet. But then the ride started cycling again. Vehicles were running empty and every now and them a CM went by in one. Then it went silent again for nearly 10 more minutes only to start cycling once again. Nearly 50 minutes had now passed since we got in line. The Fastpass Line. Finally the entire Que started cheering and Clapping. They announced the ride was ready to go again. Within 10 minutes of the ride starting back up we were finally boarding. This would be the longest wait we had for any ride the entire trip. I hope it will be worth it.

                                    You load into your car which just like the characters in the movies has Windshield Eyes and smile in the bumper. Each car is also painted about 6 different colors and theres even a couple different headlight and taillight designs on the cars. As you start moving to the Seatbelt check the Saftey message comes on in Sheriffs voice followed by the Saftey message repeated in Spanish by Ramones. This over the rumbling of the vehicles Engine. I loved these little touches. After the Seatbelt your on your way as the ride starts outdoors at a slow pace as you cruise thru the Ornament valley like Lightning and Sally Do in the First film. You pass under an archway and then have that same moment as you approch a beautiful waterfall. Then you enter the showbuilding where your nearly ran off the road by Mack and then you cut of Van and Mini who still seemed to be lost. As you approch a Railroad crossing the vehicle speeds up as you attempt to beat the train but you turn at the last minute only for Sheriff to come out behind the Radiator Springs sign telling you to slow down. Next up Mater approches the vehicle asking if you want to go Tractor tipping. As you approch the tractors Mater tells you what to do and your car honks its horn turning the tractors on there backs. Not happy about this Frank appears and the vehicle speeds up as your chased away. You the enter the Town of Radiator springs where you see the full size animatronics of the residents you haven't seen yet such as Sarge, Fillmore, Lizzy, Red, Sally, and Lightning. This is where the track splits into two as you will be directed into Luigis Tires or Ramones Paint shop. This ride we went into Luigi's where you'll stop as Luigi and Guido put some new White Wall tires on your car for the race. Theres even a mirror effect to show off your tires before and after. You then roll into a garage where Doc is on a lift giving you advice for your big race. As you pass by and stop you see Luigi and Guido again ready to start the race then the 2nd vehicle pulled up next to us. Then the race starts as you shoot back outdoors and race the other car thru the mountains around some steeply banked curves and bunny hills as the cars switch off who has the lead. With the Finish line in site the other car pulled slightly ahead of ours and won the race. The ride ends as you enter Taillight Caverns and see Lightning and Mater again who are now talking about your race. You won't typically spend alot of time in here but for some reason our vehicle stopped for a couple of minutes as we waited at the track merge with about 6 more vehicles backed up and waiting in the caverns behind us. We were soon unloaded and walked passed the photo location where we once again loaded the photo from the ride to our Photopass+ card.

                                    So was RSR worth the hour that we ended up waiting for it do to its breakdown? Well it depends on how long you'd wait for any ride. Personally I don't think any ride is worth and hours wait. RSR being no exception. Now let me first say that RSR is an amazing ride and is not to be missed. I highly recommend getting to the park early to get the Fastpass or just use Single Riders though as this thing gets a long line and keeps it all day. Especially with the frequent breakdowns it still has. Disney hit it out of the park with this ride. Its a top notch attraction with not only a thrilling race section but the Animatronics are turely incredible. Its amazing how articulated the characters are inside the ride. Like they were pulled right out of the movie. Is it the best ride in Disney California Adventure? Yes I would say it is. Is it the best Ride in the whole Disneyland Resort? I wouldn't say so. I would still place Indiana Jones and maybe even Splash Mountain above it. Still its a world class attraction that the Resort and more so the Park was in desperate need of. I think the Test Track technology was put to much better use on RSR then it is on Test Track. More then anything in a theme park world where Screen based attractions seem to be becoming more and more regular it was refreshing to see a ride rely one physical sets, amazing rock work, and animatronics and still give a true E-Ticket experiance. I thought the ride felt just right length wise and would only say I wish there was more to the leasurly cruise at the beginning of the ride. Compared to Test Track RSR is the better of the 2 although I think the "break test", "switchbacks", and Higher speed do make Test Track slightly more of a thrilling ride. However I still havn't rode the New Test Track so these comparisons are to the old version of the ride.

                                    It had been over an hour now since we left Daniel with my Cousin and went on RSR. We called to find where they were at and she told me they were in Bugs Land letting there younger son ride some rides there while they were waiting for us. Daniel had fallen asleep so they were just taking it easy. We walked back on to Route 66 looking at some of the Carsland Christmas decorations on the way. The streets have Garland strung up above them made out of Airfilters and tires and Wrench snowflakes. At the Courthouse The Stanely statue is more festive wearing a Santa Hat and hauling a bag of toys. The City Christmas tree was covered in different hubcaps. It was all very fun and unique to what you would expect in a world of living cars. They even recorded some original versions of Christmas songs to make them more relatable to Cars. I loved it. We turned down Cross street again walking Past Luigis Flying Tires where there is an enterance to Bugs Land,.

                                    In Bugs Land we quicly found my Cousin and Daniel who had now just woke up from his nap. They too were done with Bugs Land so we made our way out of the land and into Hollywood Land finding ourselves right in font of the Tower of Terror. This was another ride that my Cousin had not rode yet do to having a younger child so since we were there with them we took there younger son while She, Her husband, and oldest son went to ride. They also grabbed a Riderswap for us so that Kiera and I could ride as well afterwards. There youngest son once again had a minor freakout as his parents and brother entered the Hollywood Tower Hotel but he calmed down quickly when he realized we were going to another ride to kill the time why we waited.

                                    That ride just a short walk down the road is the Monsters Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue ride. Since the ride is now located in the Hollywood Backlot area its almost kind of hard to find as its hidden behind the stages and infastructure built for the night time partys known as the Mad T Party. As with our previous visit this ride is practically always a walk on. I honestly don't know why this is because I think its a pretty solid and good Family Dark Ride. The ride takes you on a Taxi Ride thru Monstropolis as the events of the Movie unfold. You follow Mike and Sulley around as they try to get Boo safely back home. Its not thrilling at all but its a decently long ride with some alright effects in the ride. For being converted from what was left over from the crapfest that was Superstart Limo I think Disney did just fine on this ride and I don't understand the hate it seems to get. I think the ride is better then all of the Fantasyland Dark Rides in Disneyland with the exception of maybe Roger Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland. I also think it was better then the Little Mermaid ride also located in DCA. Daniel really loved it as well but its also one of the movies that he loves.

                                    With no wait for Monsters Inc we were done before my Cousin and her family were at the Tower. We took the time to use the Restrooms and also change Daniels diaper. Soon though they were done and it was very clear that there son that went on it with them was not happy about the ride at all and didn't like it lol. It was soon our turn though as they took Daniel and there boys and went back towards Monsters Inc, we took the Riderswap card and now it was our turn for the Tower of Terror.

                                    If your a WDW vet the first thing you'll notice about the DCA Tower of Terror is that it looks completly different from the version that is found at Hollywood Studios. Thats because this is the Value engineered version of the Tower of Terror. When bringing the Tower to California to try to help the struggling park Disney still didn't want to invest in building the Florida Tower. Instead they went back to the drawing boards for this (and future towers in Paris and Japan). They were able to increase capacity by designing the tower with 3 shafts instead of Floridas 2 and also introduced a two level loading system. But what they eleminated was the entire moving portion of the ride when the elevator leaves the shaft and entered the 5th dimension. You also exit the ride in the same location that you board which in my opinion also ruins the illusions of the ride. Still the DCA tower is a ride that should not be missed.

                                    As you enter the Tower you enter the hotel lobby that is old and run down however its not as grand as it is in Orlando. The ride still has the exact same story line as the Orlando version which is told to you in the Library video. you then enter the boiler room where you head to your matinance service elevator for your trip to the Twilight Zone. Although in Cali the Boiler room isn't themed as good as Floridas and like I said earlier is multi-level. Although the attraction was dead enough where they only had one level open right now and honestly Riderswap didn't save us any time. We soon boarded the elevator and as it pulled back from the doors the whole room became a starfield. The doors close and the elevator started to raise only to open in front of mirror. However you will watch your reflextion fade into a ghostly image before the doors close and you move again. Now you look down a hallway where the ghosts of the 1930s guests appear to you and dissapear just like in Florida. Except for the window crashing a door opens and this is when you enter the Twilight Zone. The vehicle then starts its launches upwards and its drops back down. However unlike Florida the Drop sequence is not randomized and is the same in each shaft each ride. You then exit where you entered and then walk down what seems like an unthemed hallway to the exit gift shop.

                                    It almost sounds like I really don't like the DCA version of the ride. But that couldn't be further from the truth. I do really love this ride. It would easily take the #2 spot for my best ride in the California Adventure Park. However it just pales in comparisson to the greatness that is the original Tower of Terror in the Hollywood Studios in Florida. That ride is amazing in practically every shape and form where in DCA you can tell where costs were cut. Still its a good ride that should not be missed. Just don't expect the Florida version when you ride.

                                    After once again loading our ride photo from the Tower of Terror to our Photopass+ card walked back down towards the Monsters Inc. ride where my Cousins and her Family were just finishing up with there ride on the attraction. At this point in the day they had finished all that they wanted to do for there last time in California Adventure on the trip and wanted to spend there remaining time over at Disneyland. We originally planned to spend our entire first day in DCA however my Cousin and her Husband still had one ride they wanted to do that neither of the Children were tall enough to ride on. So we decided to walk over to Disneyland with them so that they could ride this attraction before heading home. So we packed the kids in the stroller and walked out of Hollywood Land and thru Buena Vista Street leaving DCA for now.

                                    Our next destination was located a short walk across the Esplanade in Disneyland park. Man I love how easy park hopping is in California.


                                    • #19
                                      Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                                      Loving all the pics!! keep em coming


                                      • #20
                                        Re: Our Southern California Trip Recap

                                        Day 3, Part 2: Disneyland and California Adventure
                                        I don't think I could honestly ever consider the extra cost of getting a Park Hopper ticket when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort. The Resort is so big and the parks so spread a part that you would waist so much time hopping between parks that it doesn't seem worth it. However a park hopper is pretty much a must have at the Disneyland Resort (unless your trying to keep your budget low). I also think the same thing about the Universal Orlando Resort with the 2 parks next to each other as well a Park to Park ticket is a must. As we exited California Adventure the walk across to Disneyland took no longer then 3 minutes to make. Thats shorter then it is to Walk from Universal Studios Florida to Islands of Adventure and you'd never be able to park hop in that kind of time at WDW. Just remember to have you ID and tickets out as you approch the turnstyle to speed up your entry if you have multiday tickets.

                                        We were soon in Disneyland. In my opinion the Best and Greatest Theme Park there is. The park that every Theme/Amusment Park i've been to is compared to and none have been able to top it. The one and only park that Walt Disney himself walked in. We soon walked thru the Tunnels leaving the "real" world behind and entered a World of Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy. We exited the Tunnel on to Main Street USA that at the time was setting up the Candlelight Processional that would be taking place later that evening.

                                        Having walked down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom only 7 months earlier I couldn't help but compare the two. But don't think thats a bad thing. Both are incredibly well done and very detailed. In Disneyland you have the Original. Designed by Walt himself. Its small and charming and at the end is the parks icon. Sleeping Beauty Castle. Yes the Castle is small. but its very charming and fits with the scale of Disneylands Main Street and Hub perfectly. Everything with the Magic Kingdom was intended to be built on a much larger and more Grand scale then it was originaly in Disneyland. This is no more evident then it is on Main Street as The Magic Kingdoms is much larger and Grand and the lead up to that parks icon Cinderella Castle is nothing short of Epic. Infact the Magic Kingdoms Main Street USA is probably one of the very few things I prefer about the Magic Kingdom over Disneyland.

                                        As I mentioned earlier Kiera and I did not plan on hopping over to Disneyland today. Originally we were gonna spend the entire day over at DCA. But do to spending part of our time with my Cousin and her family, and this being there final day in the park, and the only time that we could Rider Swap while watching one anothers children, there was one attraction that they still wanted to do before leaving that neither of the kids were tall enough for. A ride that had just reopened from a Major referbishment not even 5 days earlier. The Indiana Jones Adventure. So at the end of Main Street we tightly turned left and entered Adventureland where the attraction is located.

                                        Adventureland is another land that is Much, Much larger and more grand in the Magic Kingdom then it is in Disneyland. Adventureland is actually very small and gets pretty bottlenecked at the busier times of the day. I could only imagine how much worse it is during peak times of the year. Where in the Magic Kingdom Adventureland is devided into three smaller themed areas (An Arab, Polynesian, and Caribbean) theres just one generic Jungle theme that you'll see in Disneyland with the exception of the Arab facade to the now closed Aladdins Oasis. However dispite how small Disneylands Adventure land is they were able to make great use of the space as in addition to the Indiana Jones Adventure the area is also home to the Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Tarzans Treehouse.

                                        When we arrived at the Indiana Jones Adventure Fastpass Machines we underestimated its popularity to it just recently reopening. The standby wait at this time was nearly 1 hour out and even the Fastpass return wouldn't be until 3:05pm. That was still 1 1/2 hours away at this point. Double the time I expected it to be as fastpasses are usually only 45 minutes out. We still pulled the Fastpasses and thought about what to do to kill the time.

                                        Two days earlier on the first day that my Cousin and her Family started there Disneyland vacation they tried to get on Pirates of the Caribbean multipule times only to find the ride down each time they tried. Up to this point they still had not rode it and it was a ride that was on there childrens must see list. With plenty of time to kill before we could use the fastpasses for Indy we decided to check to see if it was open. Which to my cousins luck it was.

                                        Unlike the Magic Kingdom, Pirates of the Caribbean is not located in Adventureland. Instead its in an area that Walt designed specifically around the attraction called New Orleans Square. In addition the Pirates the Haunted Mansion is also part of the area here in Disneyland. Although the attraction enterance for Pirates is pretty much right on the boarder of Adventureland. A word of advice if heading to Pirates from Adventureland is to stay left and not go over the bridge. This bridge will cross over the Pirates que and continue on into the rest of New Orleans Square.

                                        We parked the strollers and then got in the line for Pirates of the Caribbean which had a posted 10 minute wait. This is a line that shouldn't scare you based on how long it looks. When we got in line we thought the line looked much longer then 10 minutes. We were wrong as it really did only take 10 minutes until we were boarding our boat. Although the exterior Facade is great for Pirates (along with Disneylands Dream Suite located above it) and I love seeing the returning boats float past as you first enter the building the Que for the Magic Kingdoms Pirates is much better then Disneylands. However that is the only + I give to the Orlando version of the ride as literally everything else is better in California.

                                        After boarding your boat in the Disneyland version you start your journey as you slowly float thru the Louisiana Bayou. Theres Fireflys flying around you with the soft sounds of a banjo playing in the distance. To your right is the Blue Bayou restaurant. One of the most unique resturants i've seen as its setting is the bayou that your floating thru as part of the attraction. I've always wanted to eat there but its just way too expensive for our taist. After passing some rickity looking houseboats you come to the Skull and Crossbones warning you of the adventure ahead. Then just as the sound of a Waterfall approches you plunge down that waterfall into a dark cavern. As you drift thru this cavern you once again start to hear the sound of a Waterall and again you plunge down a 2nd hill. Something that the Magic Kingdoms abrivated version doesn't have. Now you find yourself in the Grotto where the Magic Kingdom version of the ride starts but in Disneyland you will also pass thru a shipwreck and very detailed tresure room.

                                        From this point on the ride is almost the same as the Magic Kingdom version. Just like in Orlando Jack Sparrow and some friends were added to the attraction making it almost like an overly obsessed wheres waldo game as many of the pirates claim to be looking for Jack Sparrow. These movie additions seem to get alot of critisim from Disney fans but honestly its not something that really bothers me. Some of the Jack Animatronics don't seem to stand out unless your looking for them and its kind of fun to look for them. Although it does get old hearing Jacks name over and over again. Near the end of the ride you won't unload early like you do in Florida but instead you will ride the boat back up the lift hill and then float past all the people waiting in the que for there ride. You exit where you loaded and then walk past the Blue Bayou restuarant and exit into the heart of New Orleans Square kind of a ways away from where the enterance to the attraction is located.

                                        To say that the Disneyland version of the ride is better then the Magic Kingdoms is an understatement. In my opinion the Original ride is a significantly better version of the ride as your seeing it as it was intended to be. Not the rush job that Florida thru together to appease dissapointed guests. It was really funny to watch Daniel on the ride as well as overall he really enjoyed it but you could tell that he was not a fan of the drops at all. Each time he heard those waterfalls he tensed up right away to prepair from them. Pirates is one of those attractions that should not be missed no matter what park it is located in.

                                        Dispite Pirates taking up 30 minutes of our time we still had over an hour to go until our Fastpasses could be used at Indy. My cousin and her family decided to head over to Fantasyland to reride some rides however at this point in the day Kiera and I were starting to get hungry. Being so close to Adventureland though we decided to get one of our favorite Disney treats. A Dole Whip. I've mentioned it in past that I am not a fan of Pineapple. Yet for some reason I love Dole Whips. Although if your going to get one at Disneyland be prepaired to wait as the line was very long for them. Unlike at the Magic Kingdom that ran 3 or 4 registers for the taisty treat Disneyland was only running 1 (although I later learned that the short is often shorter buying it in the Enchanted Tiki room courtyard).

                                        While Kiera waited in line for the Dole Whip I went back to the Bengal Barbeque to get us lunch. Don't expect to see very large meals sold at the Bengle BBQ though as all they serve are snack type Items. The main thing being BBQ Skewers. Although they aren't huge there is a suprising amoung of food on the scewers. And being fairly cheap you can buy a couple different kinds to share. And this is what we did. I got us a the Banyan Beef which is a Hot and Spicy Skewer, a Chieftain which is a Polynesian style, and the Safari which doesn't have beef or chicken on it but instead is Bacon wrapped Asparagas. The whole order only cost about $12 and was enough to feed both of us. We thought the food was good for what it was.

                                        With our stomachs full we still had time to kill before meeting back up with my cousin and her family for our rides on Indy. We decided to walk back down to New Orleans Square to try and ride the other attraction located in this land. The Haunted Mansion. Which during the Christmas and Halloween Holidays is actually transformed with a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. The attraction is very popular during the Holidays. So much so that its the only time of year that you can get Fastpass for the Haunted Mansion. And such was today too. When we got to the gates of the Mansion the posted wait was at 35 minutes. We wouldn't have enough time to ride so we passed it up today. As we were walking away we noticed down near the Rivers of America that Jack and Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas were out doing a Meet and Greet. We figured that could be a good way to kill some time too but they had already cut off the line.

                                        With not enough time to do any attractions we decided to just walk the streets of New Orleans Square and look at some shops. Obviously New Orleans Square does not exist in Orlando as they got Liberty Square instead. If I had to compare the 2 New Orleans Square wins hands down. Its so unique and tranquil as its perched slightly higher above the rivers of america. The streets are fun to walk and the Christmas decor is pretty much one of a kind and the most unique decor you will find on property. The area is small and anchored at both ends by the two E-Tickets but its worth taking the time walking thru the area and checking it out.

                                        The time had soon come that we would meet back up with my Cousin so we started to head back to Adventureland to meet them at Indy. Looking back on it now I don't know why we didn't just walk thru Tarzans Treehouse to kill some time. The views from above are pretty great and there is never any sort of wait to walk thru it. Unfortunatly We never did walk thru it during any part of our trip. We did walk thru it though on our 2008 trip so I am still able to compare it to the Magic Kingdoms Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. Many of you probably already know that Tarzans treehouse was at one point the Swiss Family Robinson as well. Unfortunatly Disney felt it needed to be plussed converting it to Tarzan and sticking lifesize Animated style stautes of the Tarzan movie characters thruout it. They took something so unique. An experiance that you could walk into the treehouse as if the Swiss Family Robinson welcomed you to explore there home. It doesn't have that feeling any more with these plastic statues characters everywhere now. This is one attraction that the Magic Kingdom still does better. Although I like the layout of Disneylands treehouse more.

                                        A few minutes after we arrived at Indy my cousin and her family did as well. Since they had the Fastpass she and her husband went first and would grab us the riderswap card in the attraction. Indy is another one where they gave the time card that you exchanged for the Riderswap card right before boarding the ride. To kill the time why they were on Indy we took Daniel and there 2 boys next door to the Jungle Cruise. The time posted for the Jungle Cruise was 25 minutes however the App said the true wait would only be about 15. With the upper level of the Jungle Cruise Que also in use I wasn't sure if the App would be right or not. I'm happy to say that dispite walking thru a small part of the upper Que that the app was correct and it only took about 15 minutes before we were boarding the boat for our cruise.

                                        Our cruise started at it was the first thing we noticed was how excited and energitic our Tour guide was. He was very funny and enthusiastic keeping us all very entertained. The Jungle Cruise is one of the those rides where a good Skipper can really make or break the experiance. Its also a ride i've become more fond of as i've gotten older as you pick up on the jokes easier then you do as a kid. All 3 of the kids really enjoyed the ride and loved looking at the Animatronic Animals. We didn't know before hand but this was a ride that my cousin hadn't taken there kids on yet so I was glad that were able to take them. Some unique features I love about the Anaheim version of the ride was that you float past Indys Temple of the Forbidden Eye and they even work the temple into there dialog. I was very happy to see that they still shot the Hippos as well in Disneyland as that didn't happen on our cruise in the Magic Kingdom. And lastly the Paranna attack is really cool and well done as well.

                                        But those are the only things I would say are done better in California then they are in Orlando. I won't compare skippers as that will change on a ride to ride basis no matter which park your in. But overall the Magic Kingdom version of the ride wins the comparison of the two. It is another example of the Magic Kingdom trying to go bigger and grander then Disneyland. The ride is much larger and longer there then it is in Disneyland. They have more scenes and I loved the cave you travel thru in Florida that is missing in California. Overall the ride just seems much better there. Its also a Fastpass attraction in Orlando where its not in Anaheim.

                                        Our timing couldn't have been any better as my Cousin and her Husband finished with Indy a couple minutes before we were done with the Jungle Cruise. We meet up and switched the kids and then with the Riderswap Card, Kiera and I entered the Fastpass line for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. I was very excited for this ride. Indy is my favorite ride in the entire Disneyland Resort. Back in 95 my parents took us to Disneyland when the ride was brand new and my brother and I waited in line for nearly 3 hours to ride the thing. In 2008 the ride although not in perfect condition was still amazing and well worth the 2 rides we took on it. In fact this trip was delayed 1 week later then we originally planned so that we could be there when Indy reopened from its Lengthy Referbishment. I was very excited to see Indy in an almost new condition once again.

                                        The Que is one of the most amazing parts of Indy. In my opinion it is probably the best Que that Disney has ever created in any of there US parks. Its really a shame that the Fastpass merge point is before you enter the Temple so now you breeze right on thru the amazing Que instead of wait in it. All of the waiting now is outside the Temple. The first signs of the Referb fix are evident in the Que as many of the effects are working once again. Although I missed the lever to trigger the cealing in the Spike Room we were still in it when someone else pulled the lever. Also the Rope gag works again as well that I couldn't resist not pulling. Seriously don't rush thru this que. Take your time and take it in. There aren't CM's everywhere telling you to keep up like there are in Hogwarts.

                                        We soon arrived to the Load Platform and began our Journey deeper into the Temple. It was great to see the room door effect working again as last time we came it was stuck in one position. Unfortunatly somebody had to look in the Eye of Mara and all Hell started break loose as our Jeep speed thru the Temple. Indiana Jones then appears and starts to help us escape the curse of Mara. Everything looked great in the ride with many of the Laser and Fire effects working once again as we were chased thru the Temple. There were reports of many people saying that the Rolling Boulder at the rides Climax was working sparatically still however on our ride the boulder was diffenitly rolling. However you could barely make it out as the lighting on it was so poor. I remember the lighting on the boulder being much brighter in the past then it is now but maybe i'm wrong. Thanks to Indiana Jones we survived the curse and started making our way back out of the Temple.

                                        This ride is AMAZING. Even after nearly 18 years this ride still packs a punch. While walking out I told Kiera that Indy is proof that they don't build rides like they use to. Where screen based attractions such Spiderman and Transformers are amazing and becoming the new normal for themed experiances theres just something about large scale three dimensional sets with animatronics and real fire effects that seem to be becoming more and more extinct. Yes Radiator Springs Racers Indoor portion features many of these things which is a relief. However None of the RSR indoor scenes are built on the scale that Indy is. Dispite how amazing the experiance is though I still prefer new version of The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Islands of Adventure over Indy. Although I would have picked Indy over the old version of Spiderman and still prefer Indy over Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Transformers. Infact the only Disney ride i've been on that which would barely edge out Indy in my opnion is the Magic Kingdoms version of Splash Mountain.

                                        Although WDW does not have the Indiana Jones ride they do have a ride using the same Technology at the Animal Kingdom called Dinosaur. Its amazing how you can get such a different experiance with the same technology. Where Indy is simply stunning and amazing from start to finish Dinosaur is kind of a let down. Missing are the huge and large scale sets and in its place is a very dark jungle with dinosaurs jumping out now and then at the vehicle. The rides que isn't anything exciting and the ride vehicles are much rougher then Indys. I don't think the idea of Dinosaur is bad in itself it just seems like it wasn't executed very well. Still Dinosaur isn't a horrible ride. It was probably my 3rd favorite in that park. I would even say Dinosaur is a must see at Animal Kingdom. Just don't expect Indy when you ride it as you will find yourself dissapointed. Indy wins with no contest really and should absolutly not be missed.

                                        As we exited Indy I couldn't find my Cousin and her Family anywhere. I tried calling her with No answer. We checked the Stroller parking and both strollers were gone so they must have taken the kids somewhere. We remembered that they mentioned that they wanted to do Pirates again so we thought maybe thats where they went. We walked back over to New Orleans square and sure enough we found both strollers parked in front of Pirates. Assuming they shouldn't be too long we grabbed both strollers and walked them over near the Pirates of the Caribbean exit. We didn't think we would have to wait too long but we ended up waiting over 20 minutes for them. I tend to underestimate how long this ride is. Eventually they did come out the exit though and my cousin mentioned again to us which we saw earlier with Daniel getting scared during the drops on the ride.

                                        This was the point in our day where we would say goodbye to my Cousin and her Family. We had a great time being able to spend most of the day with them as Kiera and I got to ride 4 rides together that we would have had to go on alone otherwise. 3 of which were rides with photos that we were able to load to our photopass+ card as the attraction photos with both of us are much better then the ones with just one. My Cousin and her Family would be spending the remainder of there final Disney day in Disneyland Park. We though would be heading back to California Adventure for the remainder of our day. We made our way thru a busy Adventureland to an even Busier Main Street. With the Candlelight Processional starting in an hour the are was very packed and getting thru was tight and slow.

                                        We soon exited the park and once again walked across the Esplanda back to DCA. We weren't the only ones with that plan though as there was a large crowd trying to enter that park as well. The line was longer now then it was in the morning. Once again i'm sure in part to people not having there IDs ready to go with there tickets. Again please plan ahead and have your ID's and tickets ready to go before you get to the turnstyles.

                                        After passing thru the turnstyles we were back in DCA on the beautiful Buena Vista Street. We were able to travel the street much slower this time compared to earlier in the morning as we weren't rushing to get in the RSR fastpass line. The land still amazes me as it is so well themed. Its seriously so hard to believe what was once there before. Its almost like Buena Vista street has always been there. The sound of Trolley bells as they traveled by, the sound of 1930s christmas music playing over the area, the window displays of the stores. Buena Vista street is such a magical place. The feeling I had in the area really can't be explained. I loved it. My only complaint is how relatively short the street is compared to say Main Street over in Disneyland or even Hollywood Blvd at the Hollywood Studios in Florida. Also although pretty I don't like the bridge passing thru the area. However its has to be there to cover up the Monorail track.

                                        The park was preparing for the start of the Pixar Play parade at this time so much of the parade route was already being ropped off with many people sitting and waiting for the parade to start. We however didn't really care to see the parade so we made our way back to the back of the park and in to the Paradise Pier area. We were going to another ride that was new since our previous visit and became part of the New DCA. We were gonna go ride the Little Mermaid Ride.

                                        Ariels Undersea Adventure only had a 5 minute wait posted but we pretty much walked right on to the ride. For being a new ride just like Toy Story Midway Mania the Que is rather unimpressive and bland. Although the coral and sea shells in the cement were nice touches. We quickly boarded our Clamshells that look like they could have been borrowed from the Nemo ride at Epcot and were were on our way under the sea. The ride is much like the Fantasyland Dark Rides and even other Dark Rides across the parks where it basically retells the story of the movie. The ride starts out strong and has some great animatronics. The Under the Sea scene of the ride is very bright and fun but it kind of takes you out of the feeling of being under the sea do to its size and the room really uses some of the most basic of basic Animatronics. The ride is paced nicely until you reach the Kiss the Girl scene as from that point on the ride and its ending are incredibly rushed. You won't even catch Ursalas "Death" unless your looking for it as it seems to be tucked away in the corner. I think the only ride with a worse ending is possibly the Snow White ride over in Disneyland. Its just sad that such a strong beginning is left with a very lackluster ending.

                                        I have to give credit for Disney once again building a classic Dark Ride. A Dark Ride that DCA was in disperate need of (I still think they need a couple more). However this ride is not the E-Ticket second coming of the Haunted Mansion that Disney's PR and blog made it out to be. Although it uses the same omnimover ride system as the Haunted Mansion thats where the simularities end. The Little Mermaid ride isn't bad but its not the best Dark ride in the resort or even the park in for that matter. Daniel really enjoyed the ride though as he really liked dancing along with the music and i'm sure he loved seeing all the animals in the brightly colored scenes. We did stop on the ride shortly after it started for almost 5 minutes. We don't know what happened but a CM did run past us at one point. Still the LIttle Mermaid is a ride worth checking out at least once. After that Its not something that needs to be seen every time. This ride is also something you can now experiance in Florida as well as it recently opened at the Magic Kingdom as part of the Fantasyland Expansion. Its just too bad the DCA version didn't get the great Que that Magic Kingdoms got.

                                        After finishing the Little Mermaid there was still another ride in Paradise Pier we wanted to ride. Well maybe I shouldn't say we. More like Kiera. This ride was one that was closed when we came in 2008 as it had already started its remodel for the new DCA. We walked all the way around the Lagoon to that ride that Kiera practically had to force me into line for. Mickeys Fun Wheel. I gotta say that I love how Paradise Pier looks at night.

                                        You may think whats to be scared of? Its just a Ferris Wheel. Well first of all i'm not particularly fond of Ferris Wheels in the first place. I have a large fear of heights and moving slowly around on Ferris wheel does not help calm that fear. The next fear though is the fact that the Fun Wheel has Swinging Gondilas on it. Yes there are stationary ones as well but Kiera wanted to do the swinging. The Swinging Gondilas are on a track so as the Ferris Wheel goes around in the circle the Gondilas will slide down the track making them swing. This is not a ride I EVER cared to go on. I couldn't belive I was gonna give it a try now.

                                        The line was very short for the Fun wheel however the wait time was posted at 20 minutes. Although the line was short the Fun Wheel loads rediculously slow. But then again what Ferris Wheel doesn't. It loads 2 swinging and 1 stationary gondila at a time. Once all the Gondilas are loaded it will then make 1 full non stop rotation and then you unload. We soon loaded into the Gondila and I immidiatly started to panic and brace myself. I tried to keep calm and focus on using the views to take pictures. However I couldn't get myself to even move my hands from grasping the seat I was on. The first movement the Gondela started moving I started to panic more. And then it made its first big slide and Major Swing and the freak out really started. I don't know who was more freaked out. Me or Daniel. Oh and did I mention that the Gondelas have NO restraints what so ever. That did not help at all. Each Major swing I seemed to panic more and more. I was diffenitly having a larger panic attack about this ride then Daniel was who had the same look on his face as he did on Pirates x1000. However the fear was only in his eyes as he never cried or made a peep on the Fun wheel. Each Big swing Kiera was getting a kick out of my reaction. I hate this stupid ride. Finally though our ride came to an end and I couldn't get off of it quick enough. Seriously I don't care ever to ride this again. I have never, EVER been as scared on a ride in my whole life as I was on the stupid Death wheel. Avoid this ride. Don't go on it. I hated it. But then again this is coming from the guy who had a major panic attack on it lol. Kiera loves the ride and says dispite my freak out she thinks she could get me on it again. If only for her.

                                        With the worst ride ever done and over with we were once again getting hungry and were ready for dinner. With the Pacific Warf dinning area a short walk away we decided to check that area out to see what dinning options were avalible for dinner. We left Paradise Pier behind until we would be returning for World of Color later in the evening.


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