Friday, October 23, 2020

Buena Vista Street Reopening Soon!


Downtown Disney District extends to Buena Vista Street
Photo Credit: Disney

    I miss Disneyland. You miss Disneyland. We all miss Disneyland. And unless you're hightailing it to Florida, you're probably trying to do your best to keep the Disneyland withdrawals away. 

    One of the nice things has been that Downtown Disney has been open as an outdoor mall for a while now with good results. They even recently expanded that experience by opening Stage 17 (former home of Who Wants to be a Millionaire Play It, among other limited time events) as a very large store with Halloween and special merchandise. 

Now-Open Shop in DCA Gives Hope for Gradual Disneyland Reopening | Inside  the Magic
Photo Credit: Inside the Magic    

And while we don't have the best news on the park reopening front (Orange Country needs to drop from the Red tier, down through Orange, and into Yellow before they can reopen at limited capacity), we DO have some good news on the outdoor shopping and dining front!

Buena Vista Street will reopen *sometime* in November for your shopping and dining pleasure! This includes Carthay Circle (yum, yum, and yum!) with expanded outdoor service and Smokejumpers Grill. The "primary" way to order at SmokeJumpers will be through the Disneyland app, so be sure you have that before you head down. Also available for food service will be Fiddler Fifer and Practical Cafe and Trolley Treats. The stores will reopen with plenty of holiday merch, I'm sure! 

No word on if there were be any characters poking their heads out to say hello, if the citizens of Buena Vista street will be out to write tickets for throwing out trash (like Officer Blue did for my son and completely made his day), or if 5 and Dime might drive by. Ok, I can't imagine they'll be doing much of that so that they don't want to draw a crowd, but I'd imagine they can figure out a way and we'd get some more of our amazing Cast Members back to work.

I think the best part of all of this is that because its not a park opening, there's no extra admission costs! The second best part, of course, is that if all goes well (wear your masks!) they could do this on Main Street as well. And really, I think that would be the most amazing thing for all of us going through Disneyland withdrawals. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Amazing Disneyland Visit in Minecraft!


I miss Disneyland. Like, a lot. Like, watch YouTube ride throughs, listen to park atmosphere music, make park snacks at home a lot. Last weekend I got to experience the closest thing to a real park visit...a Disneyland world in Minecraft!  

My kids play Minecraft and, personally, I'm not a big fan. The movements make me a little queasy and I don't know why everything is square. But this was unbelievable! Created by the amazing folks at Imagineering Fun, every detail is there. It's crazy to think how long this must have taken them to build. It has the correct sounds, stores to buy snacks and souvenirs, a playable Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and a nightly fireworks show complete with projections on the castle. 

We spent close to FOUR HOURS going land by land, ride by ride, and I'm super excited to share the highlights of this super fun experience with you!

Start out in the Esplanade with correct music loop, of course. You'll even hear the correct chimes as you go through the main entrance. We chose the right side tunnel, of course, because that's a family tradition. 

This next bit totally surprised me...they've seasonally decorated! Disneyland is ready for Fall and Halloween, as they should be. Anyone for a pic with the giant Mickey pumpkin?? We took a "selfie" in these super cool Toy Story Alien ears, which my son has in real life btw.

Of all the unusual choices and surprising additions to this world, my 9 year old wanted to go to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln first and it was there! Fun fact though, once you've started the show you can't exit. So be sure you want to do the whole show. 

We took a nice walk down Main Street as the sun rose (because time goes quickly in Minecraft for some reason). I'm not sure why, but Perry the Platypus was hanging out on the fire truck. The kids were excited to find him! We're big Phineas and Ferb fans over here.

Our first official ride was Buzz. We did this on my brother's account over Zoom, and he's very competitive about Buzz in real life and here. So it was a blast (see what I did there?) to watch him actually play the game and get an awesome score. 

**Buzz Scoring Fact** My brother now holds the high score on the global leaderboard with 2.1 million. 

You can get a Fastpass and skip straight to the loading area but we thought it would be much more fun to go through the full queue and see all the details. And boy are there details! Whoever built this didn't miss a thing and they're my new heroes.

One of my very favorite things in Disneyland is the neon astronaut Mickey lights above the Star Trader, so of course I stopped for a pic.

We finished up Tomorrowland with Autopia, Space Mountain, and Finding Nemo Submarines before going over to the Matterhorn. All with perfect audio and some super fun visuals. 
Big bummer: no Star Tours...yet, at least. 
Big fun: My 7 year old isn't afraid of the Abominable Snowman in this version of the Matterhorn.

Off to Fantasyland! They're still building Small World and there isn't a Toontown yet, so we stayed in the classic area and went on every single ride. Some of my favorite details were the golden apple out in front of Snow White, the specially recorded version of Storybookland narration, and taking a pic in the teacup outside of the Mad Hatter. 

Adventureland was cute, but didn't have a ridable Tiki Room or Jungle cruise, so that was a bit of a downer for me. But you can buy a Dole Whip! Classic or raspberry swirl. Yum! We headed to Indiana Jones where I was thrilled to see that you can pull the "Do Not Pull" rope in the queue and you get to hear the guy falling. Hilarious every time!

Quick stop for popcorn and to see the Petrified Tree on our way to Frontierland! You can even play at the shooting gallery!

Pirates is amazing. It's the full ride. FULL 15 or whatever minute ride. You can sneak a peak at the Blue Bayou, check out fireflies, see the most updated version of the ride. It's the only ride we actually went on with other real people, which is pretty fun and different from the real thing. My favorite part of the Haunted Mansion had to be Madame Leota. She was done really well!

This may be the last place to ride the original Splash Mountain before it changes to what I really hope they call Princess and the Log! You might notice our cameo in the second pic. I've normally been cropping us out but I really liked the way we all had our hands up!


We did hit up Batuu before we were ready to head to California Adventure, but neither of the rides are ready yet, so we didn't stay long. To be honest, they haven't done as much with California Adventure as they have with Disneyland. I can't even imagine the kind of time and effort they've put into this, so I'll cut them some slack and hope that more DCA rides open soon. At least they've got some awesome themed trash cans!

Anyone miss the original Tower of Terror?? This is where you can ride it again, complete with Rod Serling preshow!

Grizzly River Run is ridable, and my favorite version because you don't get wet! Well, you're not supposed to, unless you're married to my hubby to came in and squirted us with a water gun.

What Disneyland trip would be complete without fireworks, am I right? Every day, live, at 7:00am, 7:00pm, and 9:30pm (pacific time) enjoy the Pixar Fest fireworks show!!! 

And that was our day! I mean, we also did a little shopping. They have Loungefly backpacks!!! It was around 3 and a half hours and worth every second. I was in such a good mood when we were done! 

Big News!!! Haunted Mansion Holiday opens next week! If I can figure out how to record Zoom, I'll record it for you all to share.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Disneyland Duplicates

I don't know about you, but whenever someone asks me my favorite ride at Disneyland, I have a really hard time choosing! It might be Space Mountain one day, Jungle Cruise the next. And I think it's because they're all so very different. 

So what happens when the rides/experiences at Disneyland are so very similar. Is it easier to choose a favorite? Let's look at these "Disneyland Duplicates" and figure out which is better. You ready? 

Dumbo vs Astro Oribtor


Where They're the Same:
  • They're both flying rides that you can control with a lever.
  • They both have very long, very slowly moving lines.
  • They're both better to ride first thing in the morning if you'd like to wait less than 45 minutes.
Where Dumbo is Better:
  • It's much cuter. Who can resist Dumbo's sweet face???
  • The new queue area gets you out of the sun making it much more manageable on a hot day.
  • Music - hands down.
  • Sitting side by side rather than front to back makes getting in and out a little easier. (Related story: I once rode Astro Orbitor with my son, who was 2 at the time, while pregnant! Getting in was ok but I felt like I needed a crane to get out. But these are the things we deal with when our little sweeties ask to ride with us, am I right?)
Where Astro Orbitor is Better:
  • Its much higher - better for the thrill seekers in your group!
  • Fun to ride during fireworks, it's a pretty unique view.

My Verdict:

I'm going to vote Dumbo the winner here. Better atmosphere and more history.

Star Tours vs Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run


Where they're the same:

  • Both are flight simulators.
  • Obviously, they're both Star Wars themed.

Where Star Tours is better:

  • You don't need to practice or worry about not being good at a certain job to enjoy this ride. Just sit down and enjoy.
  • Much better if you have a more limited amount of time and don't want to worry about getting your job right or who else you're riding with.

Where Smuggler's Run is better:

  • The queue area and atmosphere are next level! Even though there's a lot going on in the Star Tours queue, this is pretty fantastic.
  • If you know what you're doing or don't mind mess ups, it's pretty cool to be controlling the Millennium Falcon!
My Verdict:

Smuggler's Run is very fun and very cool, don't get me wrong. But I'm just not sure it's always worth the added stress of who's sitting where, does your pilot know what he's doing, this isn't working out the way I wanted. So I'm going with Star Tours.

Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer's Island vs Redwood Creek Challenge Trail


Where they're the same:

  • Both are great places for kids to run around and get out that excess energy they've built up standing still in long lines.
  • Both have fun things to climb and explore.
  • Both have a theme on top of a theme...seriously. Pirate's Lair is an overlay to Tom Sawyer's Island with minimal theming added to make it a little more relevant. The Challenge Trail added the Wilderness Explorers from Up because DCA has slowly been changing the California theming because, let's face it, it's weird.

Where Pirate's Lair is better:

  • Pirate's Lair has the history. Seriously, Walt Disney did most of the designing of that island himself. Check out the story here.
  • Going back and forth on the rafts can be a lot of fun (if you're not in a hurry and you aren't sensitive to loud noises).

Where Redwood Challenge Trail is better:

  • It's bigger, so there's more to explore. 
  • It's more like playground flooring, so it's cleaner for your kids to run around on and to fall on.
  • Because there's no rafts back and forth, it's much easier to come and go. 
  • The spaces are bigger (It's a bit hard for me to get through those caves on the island sometimes, and I'm VERY short!) so it's a little more whole-family friendly.

My Verdict:

Even though I absolutely LOVE the history behind Pirate's Lair, I'd rather spend my time at the Challenge Trail, and so would my kids. It's a must-do for us every visit.

King Arthur's Carousel vs Jessie's Critter Carousel


Where they're the same:

  • They're both carousels...duh.

Where King Arthur's is better:

  • I absolutely love the music on this carousel and how you can hear it throughout that whole section of Fantasyland.
  • Every horse is a "leaping horse," which was what Walt liked best.
  • The horse with a gold tooth was Lilian Disney's favorite.
  • There's no better feeling than scoring a ride on Jingles.

Where Jessie's is better:

  • It's the perfect thing for younger kids to do while the older parts of your group are on Incredicoaster.
  • The animals are pretty adorable and I like the way they match up with the animal "prizes" on Toy Story Midway Mania.

My Verdict:

This one goes to King Arthur's Carousel, hands down. You can't fight the history or theming. 

Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters vs Toy Story Midway Mania


Where they're the same:

  • They're both interactive game style rides.
  • They're both based on the same movie. 
  • They're both crazy fun.

Where Buzz Lightyear is better:

  • The line is usually much shorter than Midway Mania.
  • My arms don't feel like they're about to fall off by the end of the ride (Midway Mania is a workout!)
  • It's usually very easy to get a Fastpass (and if you're not there on a super crowded day, I've noticed you can often get a Fastpass that's ready sooner than waiting in the Stand-by line).
  • Free pictures!!!
  • I love seeing my initials on the scoreboard, even if I don't get to see them too often. 

Where Midway Mania is better:

  • There are a lot of hidden targets you can learn about and try for, making the game a bit different each time. 
  • Mr. Potatohead in the queue is super fun to interact with!
  • It's easier to see where your shots are going so you can adjust your aim.
  • I love the competitive factor of showing you the best score all day and the best score in your vehicle.

My Verdict:

This is a super tough one. This is actually the last part I'm writing - I had to come back to it because I just couldn't decide. I'm going with Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters! Toy Story is more technologically advanced, but with the lines and how quickly they run out of Fastpasses, I only go on it once per trip (3-4 days). I can get on Buzz *at least* once a day and have a blast every time. (See what I did there? Blast???)

Corn Dogs from the Red Wagon vs Corn Dogs from the Stage Door Cafe

Where they're the same:

  • Both have absolutely delicious hand-dipped corn dogs!
  • Both are fairly slow to get your food.

Where the Red Wagon is better:

  • Better for on the go. Grab corn dogs on your way somewhere else or for someone in your group who wants a different lunch or dinner than everyone else. 

Where the Stage Door is better:

  • Two words: Mobile ordering! Lines can get pretty long, although there are a few of them. But mobile ordering has been a total game changer over the last year or so. 
  • It comes with French fries instead of a bag of chips, which is tastier and is a little more fun than the same bag of chips you can get at home.
  • Two more words: dipping sauces!

My verdict:

The Stage Door has better sides and quicker lines. The corn dogs are the same, but the Stage Door is an easier experience.

Gibson Girl Ice Cream vs Ghirardelli's Ice Cream

Where they're the same: 

  • Delicious ice cream scoops and sundaes.
  • Lots of great options.

Where Gibson Girl is better:

  • The freshly made waffle cones can't be beat!
  • It feels unique, with it's perfect spot in the middle of Main Street. You can't get that feeling anywhere else.
  • If you're lucky, they have Fantasia ice cream! It's amazingly delicious. 

Where Ghirardelli's is better:

  • There are a LOT of options of some pretty cool sundaes.
  • Chocolate samples when you come in the door! My kids call it "secret chocolate" and ask for it any time we're even slightly nearby.

My Verdict:

Gibson Girl wins for me because of it's great atmosphere. I'd much rather be on Main Street listening to the sounds and, if it's nighttime, watching the lights. I'm from San Francisco so Ghirardelli just isn't quite as special to me.

What do you think? Do you agree with our verdicts? Let us know how we did!