Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Best of Disneyland: New Orleans Square

Welcome back to the Best of Disneyland! Today we're tackling our favorite land: New Orleans Square! What do you like best? Do you agree with our list below? Let us know in the comments!

What Makes it Special
  • New Orleans Square is one of those lands that you could spend all day in, even though there are very few rides, just because of the heavy theming and abundance of shops and restaurants. Go on Haunted Mansion, check out the entrance to Club 33 and pretend you're heading inside, get a caricature done back by the train station. There's so much to do! 
  • Also, it's the home of Fantasmic! Possibly the best Disney show ever. Be sure to check out dining packages for great seating and an amazing dessert like in the picture below (available at the Riverbelle).

Best Ride

  • Haunted Mansion is a classic, and Haunted Mansion Holiday is always so fun, but Pirates wins this one! Its a ride that's entertaining to all guests, inspired 5 movies, has classic music and imagery, and never seems to get old. (Btw, check out the story of my favorite Pirates ride evacuation here.)
Most Underrated Ride

Photo Credit: Chouzuru
  • Sorry guys...technically the only two rides in New Orleans Square are the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. We can't call either of those underrated. They're awesome and everyone knows it. But if we expand the definition of "attraction" we'd say that the musicians are an underrated part of New Orleans Square. Between the wandering jazz band, the pirate band, and the live music at the French Market, there's always someone out to listen to and enjoy and usually not too many people gathered around to listen.
Hidden Gem

  • Next time you're walking in between Pirates and the Haunted Mansion, look up as you pass the Royal Street Veranda (more on that below). You'll see the balcony of the old Gallery (now maybe still the dream suite?). Look carefully in the iron of the balcony and you'll see Walt and Roy Disney's initials in gold! I always feel like I'm saying hi to the Disney brothers when I pass by and catch a glimpse.
Best Meal
Photo Credit: Disneyland4Ever

  • Someone's going to have my head for not mentioning something at the Blue Bayou, I'm sure. But while it's delicious there, I just can't pass up the soup in a bread bowl from the Royal Street Veranda! I love love love the clam chowder, but they also have gumbo (meat or vegetarian available) and potato leek soup if seafood isn't your thing. Plus, it's a little more accessible to everyone than getting a reservation for the fairly expensive (even though amazing, yes) Blue Bayou.
Best Snack/Treat

  • Get yourself to the Mint Julep Bar stat! There is almost nothing better in the world than a bag of Mickey shaped beignets dripping with powdered sugar and a mint julep to wash it down. (Because what goes better with sugar than more sugar? You're on vacation, after all.) I was actually a bit worried when they recently changed the recipe on the mint juleps, but even though they're not bright green anymore they're just as delicious. But I'll tell you, the classic beignets are much better than any of the seasonal flavors
Best Character to Find

Photo Credit: Disney Parks Blog

  • Definitely the best because she's brand new, be on the lookout for Redd the pirate! We're not sure if she'll be around forever or just to promote the new auction scene, so find her while you can. We wants the redhead!
Did You Know?
  • Did you ever notice the name Laffite all over New Orleans Square and Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer's Island? Well, it's part of a theory (hinted at by former Imagineers but never confirmed by Disney) that there was once a plan to tie in all of New Orleans Square with a huge overarching story, but it was never developed. The story would go that Jean Laffite, the pirate, (a real pirate, actually, who among other things fought in the Battle of New Orleans in 1812) was the original resident of the Haunted Mansion, and that you'd be able to go from his crypt, through a tunnel over to Tom Sawyer's Island into an old pirate ship full of treasure and it would be an alternate entrance to the island. This would explain the unusual bricked up archway near the Rivers of America, Laffite's Landing at the Pirates Loading area, the pirate ship weathervane, Laffite's Anchor (also near the waterfront), and Laffite's Tavern on Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer's Island. For many many more details on this theory, check out the Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion blog and see the pics below. What do you all think about this one? Seems pretty plausible that this was once an idea that an imagineer started in on but was never completed. 
Mysterious Archway Photo Credit: Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion
 Laffite's Landing at the Pirate's Loading Area Photo Credit: Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion 
Haunted Mansion with View of Pirate Ship Weathervane Photo Credit: Disney Parks Blog
Laffite's Anchor Photo Credit: Duchess of Disneyland
 Lafitte's Tavern *spelled differently, yes* Photo Credit: Duchess of Disneyland
Dole Whip A Day's Best Tip

Photo Credit: Dining at Disney
  • In the mood for popcorn? Go somewhere else! The popcorn stand right by the Haunted Mansion is consistently the longest popcorn line in the park, especially if there's a special or limited edition bucket that everyone's going crazy over. It's weird that this is our best tip, but really, we've seen this line stretch the length of the land while other stands in the parks with the same food and merch have virtually no wait.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Best of Disneyland: Tomorrowland

Here we go again! Today we're looking at the best parts of Tomorrowland. We all might agree that this land could use a bit of "reimagining," but there's still a lot of fun to be had! Let's check it out. (And if you missed the first two parts of our series, be sure to see our best of Fantasyland and Adventureland.)

What Makes it Special
  • Tomorrowland has a lot going on in it! From Star Wars meet and greets to Autopia, there's a lot packed into this original Disneyland space and there's really something for everyone. Like something slow and relaxing? Try Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage! Looking for a thrill? Space Mountain all the way. Like a thrill but NOT into roller coasters? Star Tours is for you. Want to sit in more traffic after driving to Disneyland? Head on over to Autopia (we're joking...kind of).
Best Ride

  • Ok, it's Space Mountain. All day. All the way. (Expect maybe during Halloween. Ghost Galaxy isn't my favorite overlay.) This is a classic roller coaster and we'd really be missing something if we didn't call it out as the best. Amazing music, thrilling in the dark, and a must-ride every trip. Plus, there's a new indoor queue area for the stand-by line! No more waiting endlessly in the sun while the Fastpass people barrel ahead of you. 
Most Underrated Ride

  • While lines can get hefty in the middle of the day, we have to vote Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters on this one. This ride brings out our competitive sides, trying to best each other's (and our own) high scores. There's nothing quite like getting your initials on the leaderboard or the feeling of hitting that secret target on Zurg. We swear, this is the ride that the whole family wants to go on multiple times a day! (Now we know this ride gets some negative reviews from people who think Toy Story Midway Mania is better, but it's hardly a fair comparison. Other than both being Toy Story games, its a totally different feel in a totally different park.)
Hidden Gem

  • If you have a Star Wars lover, PLEASE check out Launch Bay. It's not well marked or advertised, making it the perfect spot to go enjoy some air conditioning and check out some Star Wars merchandise, memorabilia, and photo ops. Also, the wait time on characters is pretty minimal most days!
Best Meal
Photo from OC Register
  • If you're in Tomorrowland in the morning (which we HIGHLY recommend, see our "Best Tip" below), be sure to get the breakfast burrito from the Galactic Grill. It's enormous! Definitely the best bang for your buck in the park and so delicious! It's jam packed with eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, cheese, and pico de gallo. It's almost more than we can finish in one sitting. Pretty good for $8.49!
Best Snack/Treat

Photo from WDW News Today

  • While Pixar Fest is still going on, be sure to check out The Macarooooon at Pizza Port (aka Pizza Planet during Pixar Fest). The adorable alien themed macaron has a blackberry filling with lemon custard in the center. And how can you resist those white chocolate eyes!
Best Character to Find

Photo from Character Central

  • You won't find too many characters just wandering around Tomorrowland, but, like we mentioned earlier, there are plenty of Star Wars characters to find inside of Launch Bay. We've met quite a few, but our favorite has to be Chewbacca. Who doesn't want to get a hairy hug from that big guy???
Did You Know?

Photo from Disney

  • When Tomorrowland was first designed for the opening of Disneyland in 1955, it was supposed to be a prediction of what life would be like in 1986. Man, our childhoods would sure have been different if we had daily trips to the moon in the 80s!
Dole Whip A Day's Best Tip
  • We're big proponents of getting to Disneyland early - like waiting out in front of the gates 45 minutes before park opening early. On most of those early mornings, we head to Tomorrowland first thing! Grab a fastpass for Space Mountain, ride Buzz Lightyear, grab a fastpass for Star Tours, ride Space Mountain, ride Autopia, ride Star Tours, eat that amazing breakfast burrito we were telling you about, ride Nemo, then hit the rest of the park before those Tomorrowland lines get long. Done and done!
    • Pro Tip: Do the exact opposite of what we just said for the Astro Orbitor. That line moves incredibly slowly and is best done last thing at night, after the fireworks.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Best of Disneyland: Adventureland

Next up on our "Best Of" journey around the Disneyland Resort is Adventureland! While it may be one of the smaller lands in Disneyland, there's a lot of punch packed in that little space, making it one of our favorite spots in the entire park.

What Makes it Special

  • One of the best things about Advetureland is how much of it still feels like it has Walt Disney's touch on it. From the Tiki Room to the Jungle Cruise, there's so much Disney history!
Best Ride

  • Indiana Jones! Not only is it a totally immersive ride experience, but it's exclusive to Disneyland. You won't find this ride at any other Disney park in the world. 
    • Pro Tip: If you've been on Indiana Jones a million times and feel like you know every twist and turn, keep your feet up off the ground. It's like a whole new ride!
Most Underrated Ride

  • This is a little tough because we're pretty sure there are only four rides in Adventureland, but it's got to be The Jungle Cruise. It rarely has a line longer than 30 minutes (and that's on a packed day). As I'm writing this on a Friday in the middle of summer, the wait time is only 15 minutes. It's amazing how a ride of animatronic animals and corny jokes can be consistently fun and never get old. My favorite joke is when you're leaving the boat and your skipper says "Please lower your head and watch your step. If you miss your step and hit your head, please watch your language. There are children everywhere!"
Hidden Gem

  • Anyone else love the Little Golden Books as a kid? Well, if you've ever read The Little Man of Disneyland (please do, it's adorable!) you'll know that Patrick Begorra built a little house somewhere hidden in Disneyland. Did you know you can find his house in Adventureland? Take a look next time you're there and see if you can spot it!
Best Meal

  • Its the Bengal Barbecue. All day. Every day. Its relatively cheap, can be a snack or a meal depending on how much you order, is included in the mobile ordering, and is ALWAYS delicious. Seriously. ALWAYS.
Best Snack/Treat

  • DOLE WHIP!!!!! Seriously guys, we're called Dole Whip A Day...wouldn't you be disappointed if we chose something else? You may already know to wait in the line inside of the Tiki Room waiting area, but did you know you can get a special #DisneySnackTime button there? All you have to do is ask!
Best Character to Find

Photo Credit to Two Lost Boys

  • If you're lucky, Moana is hanging out in a little area next to the Jungle Cruise exit (to the left if you're facing the ride, to the right if you're exiting). She's adorable, friendly, and you could miss her and think it's just a crowded rest area if you don't look hard enough.
Did You Know?

  • If you're climbing up Tarzan's Treehouse, look up. You'll notice a spot that says "Mind Thy Head." While it's generally good advice in a low spot, its also a remnant of the original Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse that was in Disneyland from 1962-1999.
    • Pro Tip: While you're on the treehouse...remember that many of the elements are interactive! Reach for Sabor (the leopard) and he'll snarl at you (and you'll jump a mile if you're anything like my kids!), touch a gold picture in Jane's notebook and that's what she'll sketch on her easel in the room. Play around and see what you can find! The treehouse isn't just for climbing endless stairs. 
Dole Whip A Day's Best Tip

  • Anyone up for doing something a little different? How about a game of pinball! This Indiana Jones themed pinball game is hidden in the corner of the seating area for the Bengal Barbecue and there's hardly ever anyone playing it, so bring your quarters and head on over!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Best of Disneyland: Fantasyland

Welcome to Part 1 of our new series on the best of each land at the Disneyland Resort! Today we're focusing on the happiest land of all, Fantasyland.

What Makes it Special

  • Really, everything. From entering through Sleeping Beauty Castle, to experiencing so many rides that were designed by Walt himself and present on opening day, this land is the classic image most people think of when they think of Disneyland.

Best Ride
Pic from DisZine

  • 100% Alice in Wonderland! The refurbishment done a couple of years ago to include digital images blends beautifully with the bright colors of the physical elements inside the ride. Not to mention the caterpillar ride vehicles and the journey outside on a leaf. There are so many beautiful pieces to this ride, it's not hard to see why it consistently has a 30-40 minute wait.

Most Underrated Ride

  • It has to be Storybookland. This is the best spot to see a lot of love for the classic Disney movies. While there have been some updates over the years (adding pieces from Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, and Frozen, for example), this is mostly the exact same as when it originally opened. And think of all of the work that goes into keeping all of those little bonsai trees perfectly manicured! That's Disney's attention to detail at its finest. The only down side is that the line moves slowly and has little to no shade. So slap on some sunscreen, listen to the music from the nearby Mad Tea Party, and wait to enjoy a true classic!

Hidden Gem

Pic from Disney Food Blog

  • Ok, before anyone calls me out on this one, I know that the Fantasy Faire area looks more like it's technically on Main Street since its before you enter the Castle, BUT Disneyland's official dining list calls it out as being in Fantasyland, so that's what I'm going with. Buried in Fantasy Faire (which can be easy to miss if you don't have kids with an interest in meeting princesses) is a little cart called Maurice's Treats. They serve two things: the "twist" (basically a long twisted pastry in strawberry, cheddar garlic, or gray stuff) and the "freeze" (a frozen drink available in Boysen Apple and Red Rose Lemonade flavors). Delicious all around without very long wait times. 

Best Meal
Pic from Disney

  • This one is a little tough because food is so subjective and we all have such different tastes. But if someone were to come up to me and ask, "What should I get for lunch in Fantasyland?" I'd for sure recommend the Cauliflower Sandwich at the Red Rose Taverne. Its so different from anything else you'll find in the parks and is completely delicious! Don't forget the side of pomme frites.

Best Snack/Treat

  • To quote Lumiere, "Try the gray stuff, its delicious. Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!" The "gray stuff" is large enough to share, sweet without feeling like you're sucking on a sugar packet, and not horribly expensive at $5.49.

Best Character to Find
Pic from Finding Mickey

  • Find the Wicked Queen, if you can! She wanders around Fantasyland, mostly the pathway between Alice in Wonderland and the Matterhorn, but doesn't stop to talk to guests for too long. My kids were lucky enough to catch her on our last visit. She stared at them with a completely straight face while singing their autograph book and asked them which autograph is their favorite. She just kept staring at them when they didn't say it was her, until my dad jumped in and said "Yours, your majesty!" She looked up and said "That's better. I'm going to keep walking now," and left as quickly as she'd come. Hilarious!

Did You Know?
Pic from Wander Wisdom

  • For those of us not old enough to remember, Disneyland used to run on a ride ticket system. Buy a ticket book, then use them for each ride. When you were out of tickets, you were out of rides unless you wanted to go buy more. Did you know that some of the old ticket booths are still there? They were sealed up and finished to look like they'd always been meant as a set piece, and no one is any the wiser! There are quite a few in Fantasyland:
    • The large mushroom at the entrance to Alice in Wonderland 
    • The lighthouse at the entrance to Storybookland
    • The little red building at the front of the Casey Jr line
    • The building holding the organ at Dumbo

    Dole Whip A Day's Best Tip

    • Peter Pan is a magical and beautiful ride, but it's often hard to justify a 50 minute wait for a 90 second ride. If you have Magic Morning on your park tickets, head there first! Lots of other guests will do the same thing, but you can shave 35 minutes off your wait time, making the ride feel much more worth it. 

    Wednesday, July 11, 2018

    Disneyland Details: Street Signs

    We've talked about special details you may or may not have noticed at Disneyland once or twice before, and we're at it again! Today's focus is on the street signs you'll find all over the resort. We're slightly obsessed with taking pics of these signs, and wanted to share our obsession with all of you. Aren't you lucky???

    Let's start over at Disneyland Park

    In case you're turned around, the signs are here to help!
    We all might know about Royal Street in New Orleans Square (home of Club 33), but did you know that ALL of the streets and walkways in that land are named?
    Don't forget the signs by Thunder Mountain letting you know about other landmarks nearby. Spiral Butte, anyone? Only a quarter mile away!

    Heading over to California Adventure

    So many ways to go when you're near Grizzly River Run. Which sounds best to you? 

    And if you're turned around in the Redwood Challenge Trail (because who DOESN'T get turned around and separated from their group in there), you can text your friends and tell them you're heading to Eagle's Ascent.

    This one makes me a little sad. Heimlich's Chew Chew Train is one of our kids' favorites, and we're losing Bug's Land soon. But who could resist the option between candy and brussels sprouts?

    We saved the best for last. You know Radiator Springs is a small town when the cross street to the main road is literally called "Cross Street."

    Friday, July 6, 2018

    Tips For A Great Trip

    Last week a friend asked us for some advice on her upcoming Disneyland trip. It had been over ten years since she'd been to the Happiest Place on Earth, and it was another five years before that. So needless to say there was A LOT we could go over. And while we may have written a list of tips and ideas about the length of a Harry Potter book, it made us think: It's been a LONG time since we listed out our favorite tips to make the most out of your Disneyland time (whether its been a month or 20 years since your last visit).

    • Leave Plenty of Time if You Want to Be There First
      • We love being at Disneyland for rope drop first thing in the morning. The park is still fairly quiet and we can get on a lot of rides before the crowds set in. But beware: being there on time for when the park opens at 8:00am, doesn't mean showing up at 8:00am. We recommend being there around 40 minutes early - especially during crowded times, and here's why: 
        • you have to get the main entrance from your hotel/the parking lot
        • you have to get through security and that can be slow if you have bags
        • you have to line up at the entrance gates
        • they'll begin scanning tickets 20 minutes before the park actually opens and will let you in the parks to a certain point (either the end of Main Street or Buena Vista Street, depending on what park you're in)
        • THEN you wait for the official rope drop at park opening time
    • Mobile Order your Starbucks
      Photo Credit: ThrillGeek
      • If you woke up early enough to be at the parks 40 minutes before they open, you'll probably want some coffee. On our last trip we came up with our new favorite way to caffeinate. You can change the timing to apply to you and your trip, but for us, we'd put in our Starbucks order using their mobile app to be picked up at the Downtown Disney location when we made it to the pedestrian entrance on Harbor Street (we walk from our hotel). By the time we got through security, one person from the group would run over and grab the order, it was always ready by the time we got there - no waiting! Then come back to deliver to the rest of the group waiting in the front gate lines. So convenient!
    • Stay Up To Date On Disneyland Technology
      • There's a lot to stay on top of, but let's try it
        • Max Pass - for $10 a day, you can get your fast passes from your phone rather than from the kiosk at each ride
        • Mobile Ordering - using the Disneyland App, you can order and pay for your food from your phone and then just pick up in person from the pickup window. Its not at every restaurant, so check with the app to see where its available. 
        • Play Disney Parks App - this app is designed to keep you busy and having fun while waiting in long Disney lines
    • Ticket Back-Up
      • Its happened to us, it could happen to you...you could lose your ticket! What would you do? Here's what we do:
        • Take a picture of each ticket in your group and keep it on your phone. That way you have the barcode and can show it to Guest Services, where they'll print you a new ticket. Easy Peasy.
        • Load your ticket into the Disneyland App. You can even use it for park entry and to check in for your fastpasses at each ride. You still need the paper ticket, though, to get a fastpass if you don't have Max Pass, so if you lost it, be sure to get a new one at Guest Services.
    • If You're Short on Time, Prioritize
      • One time I went to Disneyland just for the day with some friends who had never been there before. I didn't want to be overbearing with my Disney obsession, so I let them lead the way. We spent 55 minutes in line for Gadget's Go Coaster but didn't get on Splash Mountain. So think ahead on what you want to do if you're limited on time. Here are some things to ask yourself when making your plan:
        • What are my five favorite rides?
        • Do I want to meet any characters? (Check the app for where to find them!)
        • Is there a new show or ride I want to be sure to experience?
        • What new foods do I need to try or old favorites would I be sad to miss?
        • What do I not mind skipping?
    • Lots of Options for Fireworks Viewing
    • Fireworks from the Teacups is pretty special!
      • Main Street is the best, most immersive experience for the fireworks, but sometimes you have to stand around and wait a very long time to get a spot there. Here are some other spots to try:
        • Small World - This is often overlooked because not a ton of people are riding Small World at night. The projections are large on the face of the ride so its easy to have a good view. But be warned if you are sensitive to loud sounds or if you have small kids...its LOUD by Small World because you're so close to where they shoot the fireworks from. 
        • Rivers of America - If you're watching the first show of Fantasmic or just happen to be in the area, they'll do the projections on the Fantasmic water screens and there's a pretty great view of the fireworks. The upside is that because of Fantasmic, you don't stand around and wait for an hour to get a spot. The downside is that it can get crowded because of the shows (but a lot of people will leave right after Fantasmic is over and not wait there for the fireworks, so I think it's worth a shot!)
        • Fireworks on the Go - Especially if you've seen the fireworks show before and don't care as much about getting the whole experience, you can see them while on the Matterhorn, the Mad Tea Party, Autopia, or just hanging out in Fantasyland (areas they don't close during fireworks) and Tomorrowland.
    • Save 5% on Tickets
      Actual footage of my dining room table when I get ready to buy Disneyland tickets
      • Do you have a Target Red Card? Everything is 5% off, including Gift Cards and tickets (sometimes they sell one and two day passes right there in the gift card kiosk)! You can use Disney gift cards anywhere in the parks, so you can get a little discount on your tickets or on anything else you buy on your visit! Check out the full strategy here.
    • See the Second Show
      • If you're a night owl (or if you got a late night cotton candy and are running on a sugar high), the second showing of anything is always less crowded! We were there on opening night of Paint the Night at California Adventure in April. We waited two hours for a sidewalk spot to see the parade without an obstructed view...that was the first show. We happened to walk by again at 10:15 when the second show was starting and there were tons of spots so we just sat down and enjoyed one more time! (When can we do this again? 10:15 apparently!)
    • Dining Packages Save Time But Not Money
    • Maleficent chocolate dessert available with the Fantasmic dining package at the River Belle 
      • We got amazing views for Fantasmicby doing a dining package. We were practically front and center and only had to wait about a half hour. It was pretty incredible! HOWEVER, as delicious as our meal was (check out that amazing dessert above!), it was pretty darn expensive so you should weigh out your options and what's most important to you when deciding on a dining package for Fantasmic, Paint the Night, the Pixar Play Parade, the Frozen show at the Hyperion Theater, or World of Color (when it finally comes back...eventually...someday). Check out the official info on Dining Packages here.
    • Look at Your Fastpass Return Time
      • This is a weird one, but totally worked in our favor on our last trip. Double check fastpass return times! Would you rather wait 20 minutes for Buzz Lightyear or get a fastpass that's up in 5 minutes? Look at our fastpass in the pic above. Return time is 10:10, and in the bottom right corner you can see we got the fastpass at 10:06!
    • Check Out Our Phone Battery Life Tips
      • We've got some great ideas for keeping your battery going during a Disney day. Check them out here!