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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; 12-30-2012, 12:22 AM.
          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