Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bring it Back: Attractions We Miss Most

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." - Walt Disney 

Just as Walt intended, Disneyland is always changing, updating, and growing to meet the wants and needs of its guests. I usually welcome the changes (reimagining of California Adventure, anyone?). But there are always a few things I'd love to see come back. Here are my top five! What are yours?

5. Skyway

Riding in the sky above Disneyland and going through that Matterhorn was the perfect way to get from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland while resting your feet. Plus, there was that moment of panic as you were loading into/unloading from your bucket where you thought you might not make it! I don't know about you, but for me as a kid that qualified it as a thrill ride!

4. Country Bear Jamboree 

15 minutes of beautiful air conditioning as animatronic bears and mounted, stuffed heads serenaded you. Perfection! 

3. Maliboomer

I'm so bummed this one couldn't just be rethemed like other rides in California Adventure! There was an awesome feeling when you got to the top and your seat started the long fall back down before your body did. I miss that!

2. Rocket Jets

The Astro Orbitor is fun and gets a great view of the castle, but it's no Rockets! You had to take a loud, metallic elevator way up above Tomorrowland before loading into your rocket and going even higher into the sky. It was amazing! And since that weird satellite thing just  plays music and spins once in a while on top of the abandoned Rocket Rods track, I don't see why we can't bring the old thrill back!

1. Electrical Parade

The lights! The floats! The electronic Baroque Hoedown! This was the best parade Disneyland ever had! I was holding out hope they'd bring it back for the 60th, but Paint the Night does look pretty spectacular. 
Pro tip if you find yourself watching the Electrical Parade at Disney World: call out to everyone! Characters (major and minor), dancers, snails. Everyone who passes by. You'll love the reactions you get. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Disneyland Trivia: Fact or Fiction, Volume 1

Disneyland Trivia: Fact or Fiction, Volume 1

I read a lot of articles about Disneyland...probably too many, if that's possible. A lot of these are called something like "30 Things You Never Knew You Could Do At Disneyland." And, I'm always intrigued. 

So, on my next trip to the parks, I ask about some...or try some out. And some are totally true! And others just aren't so, at least not anymore. 

Here's the rundown:

1. If you are with Woody and you yell "Andy's coming!" he'll drop to the ground.

Fiction! I was so bummed to research and learn that this just isn't so. It used to be true, but there is too much of a risk with characters injuring themselves or a park guest when they fall. Sorry.

2. You can ask for a map of the Jungle Cruise tour.

Fact! I asked, I received, I framed! Note that they print a limited number of maps at a time and don't always have these in stock. If you'd like one, ask the cast members who help you out of the boat at the end of the ride. Maps are stored by the exit.

3. You can ride with the captain of the Mark Twain Riverboat.

Fact! However, it is at the discretion of the captain. Ask when you enter the waiting area and keep your fingers crossed! When you are up there, they also let you sign the guest book, blow the whistle, and give you a commemorative certificate.

4. You can ask for a death certificate at the Haunted Mansion.

Fiction! I asked. The response was "We don't do that anymore." HOWEVER, if you were really hoping for one, you can print them online by visiting this link:

5. You can ride with the conductors of the Disneyland Railroad.

Fact! Yes, you can ride in the tender of the train and ask the conductors all the questions you'd like. However, just like the Mark Twain, it's at the discretion of the conductors. 

6. The purple teacup spins the fastest.

Fiction! I'm not sure how this myth started, but all the teacups spin based on how quickly you turn the wheel in the center. No teacup goes faster than any other! Sorry...

Have any other Disneyland myths that you can confirm or bust? Let us know in the comments below!

Make the Most of Your Time in Disneyland

So much to do and so little time. That's how a Disneyland trip feels a lot of the time! No matter how many days you're spending, there's always more to do and usually something you'll have to check out next time. So the last thing you want to do is waste time doing something you could have avoided. Here are a few tips to cut back on some "time suckers."

Avoid the Corn Dog Truck

Disneyland corn dogs are amazing! They're fresh, huge, and delicious. But the wait at the truck on Main Street can get up to an hour long! Instead, head over to the Stage Door Cafe tucked all the way to the right of the Golden Horseshoe where they serve the exact same corn dogs and I've never waited more than 10 minutes. Bonus: they serve the corn dogs with tasty french fries instead of a bag of Lays chips. Plus there are other things on the menu (like chicken nuggets or fish and chips) if not everyone in your group can agree on corn dogs. 

Eat at a Character Breakfast 

I love meeting characters but don't always love the long lines to meet them. You can never quite tell how long it'll take or when they'll need to leave to take a break. Eating at a character breakfast is a great way to see a lot of characters in the time you'll be using for breakfast anyway. Bonus: sometimes you can get a breakfast reservation at the hotels (Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel, Storyteller's Cafe at the Grand Californian, and the PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier) before the parks open! This is especially true in the off season when the parks don't open until 10am on weekdays. 

Eat Early

If your stomach is ok with it, eat your meals early. You'll avoid a lot of the crowds and won't have a problem finding a table (because nothing's worse than having a tray full of food and nowhere to put it!). 

The same works for eating late, but you run the risk of missing the breakfast menu and having to have a burger at 10:30am, or they could have run out of some of the food if it's too late after dinner. 

Make the Most of Magic Mornings

There are two ways to work with Magic Mornings. You can use them if you have them, or you can avoid them if you don't. 

Let's start with the easier option. If you have Magic Morning, use it and use it wisely! Get to the entrance about 20 minutes before your extra hour starts, so you can be sure not to get stuck in a long line first thing. Then head to a ride without fastpass that you might have to wait a long time for later - like Peter Pan!

If you don't have Magic Morning, make sure you know if there is one that day so you can avoid it. Start your day at the park WITHOUT Magic Morning. Otherwise the crowds feel like you've gotten there an hour late. I really like going to California Adventure on a day when the early birds are at Disneyland. It cuts down on the crowds rushing for Radiator Springs Racers fastpasses (which, of course, I'm a part of!). 

Use Those Fastpasses

Know how the fastpass system works and have a plan! I'll admit, it was much easier before cast members had to start enforcing the return time correctly. But it's still a great system. Take advantage of it! Get passes for things that run out (Racers, Space Mountain, Indiana Jones) as early as you can. 

Remember that you can hold a fastpass for each park and for shows at the same time! So, in theory, you could go to Disneyland, grab a fastpass for Splash Mountain and for Fantasmic, then go to DCA for World of Color and Soarin Over California. This totally works as long as you have time to make it back for your Splash fastpass and that you can still get a pass for a show if you weren't there first thing in the morning (probably depends on the crowds that day).

The Blue Bayou's Monte Cristo Sandwich

If you read our earlier post about keeping some Disneyland in your life between trips, you'll know we love making Disneyland recipes! Today we tackled the Disney Food Blog's recipe for the Blue Bayou's famous Monte Cristo.

Ok, here's the deal. I'm a bit of a picky eater and a sweet ham sandwich is a little out of my comfort zone, so I was nervous. But, this was delicious and not terribly complicated to make. I'm looking forward to having one in Disneyland on my next trip!!

Check out the recipe below and let us know what you think!

Blue Bayou Monte Cristo Sandwich

Serves 4
1 egg
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 slices egg bread sliced 1/2-inch thick
8 thin slices ham
8 thin slices turkey
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
3 cups canola oil
Confectioners sugar
Blackberry preserves
Line a cookie sheet with paper towels; set aside.
Whisk the egg and water together in a mixing bowl. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and whisk thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth, scraping sides of bowl.
On one slice of bread, arrange 2 slices of ham, turkey, and cheese, covering the bread evenly. Place another slice of bread on top and slice each sandwich in half.

Heat oil to between 365 degrees F and 375 degrees F in a 10-inch pan. Do not let the oil reach a higher temperature than this; if the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down. Dip half of the sandwich into the batter, allowing excess to drain, and very carefully place into the oil.
Repeat with the other sandwich half. Cook 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Place the cooked sandwich on the prepared cookie sheet in a warm oven until ready to serve. Repeat with the other three sandwiches.

Cook one at a time, and allow the oil to reach the desired temperature between each.
Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with blackberry preserves on the side.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Disneyland Dining on Any Budget

Disneyland Dining on Any Budget

Let's face it, Disneyland gets pricey quickly! Especially if you aren't a Southern California resident and have to pay travel expenses...and hotel...and park entrance...and parking...But's it's all worth it once you pass the turnstiles and feel the warmth of the magic!

I mean, how do you not get goosebumps at this sight?

Now some of my Disneyland vacations have been on tighter budgets and some have been more extravagant. But, regardless, tickets always cost the same amount of money (especially if you are not a Southern California resident), and I'll always have to pay for a hotel.

What I can control is the cost of food! Disneyland actually offers a variety of dining options at a variety of prices to match any and all budgets, from a larger budget, to a moderate budget, to a tight budget, to no budget!

Now, anyone who tells you that all you get at Disneyland is a tough burger or cardboard pizza has not done Disneyland dining right! There are some *very* tasty choices out there!

Here are our top choices for Disneyland dining on all budgets.(Just Disneyland, by the way,..if you'd like, I can cover California Adventure, Downtown Dining, and the Resort Hotels another time.) Enjoy!

Large budget:
If you've saved you money, and are ready to splurge on your dining experience, you are in for a treat! Disneyland offers a number of excellent dining experiences! I recommend:

  • Blue Bayou Restaurant: This restaurant is inside Pirates of the Caribbean and features everything from seafood jambalaya, to pan seared salmon, to surf and turf. There are amazing food choices on their menu! (Vegetarian bonus: The vegetarian option is a marinated portobello mushroom with couscous macque choux, and it's amazing! Easily the best vegetarian option in the park!) The dinner entrees run from $30 to $45 per person, but no one leaves disappointed! 
  • Big Thunder Ranch BBQ: This "all you care to enjoy" family-style dining experience is for those of you who bring an appetite to the park! The dinner menu includes bbq chicken and ribs, smoked sausages, corn cob wheels, cole slaw, baked beans, corn bread, and includes beverages! (Vegetarian bonus: Let your waiter know if you are a vegetarian! BBQ veggie and tofu skewers are included with your meal upon request!) The dining experience runs $29.99 per adult and $12.99 per child.

Moderate budget:
Most of Disneyland's restaurants cost about the same as a dinner at a local or chain restaurant, but with extra magic! Almost every counter-service restaurant at the park will give you a great meal for between $10 and $15 per person. I recommend:
  • Rancho del Zocalo: This restaurant offers a wide variety of Mexican food with prices between $10 and $13 per entree. The portions are huge and their menu is constantly tweaked to offer new, tasty options! (Vegetarian bonus: Try the vegetable fajita tostada salad! It's fresh, tasty, and extremely filling. I can't finish it on my own!) 
  • Plaza Inn: A Disneyland staple! And, though their vegetarian option (pasta with your choice of sauce) leaves much to be desired, park guests line up for the fried chicken platter. At $15.99, many people find there's enough on this plate to share!
  • Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe: So much more than a bakery! Great soups, salads, and sandwiches served with bread sticks or homemade chips. This quick spot will fill you up for between $8.50 and $10.50 per person! Plus, the baked goods are phenomenal! (Vegetarian bonus: This is one of the few places to eat with LOTS of vegetarian choices! While the most popular is the grilled cheese and tomato soup combo, I recommend the grilled vegetable and whole grain salad. Either way, you won't be disappointed!)

Tight Budget:
Don't worry! We've got you covered! There are options for under $10 per person! I recommend:
  • Bengal Barbecue: Beef skewers, chicken skewers, and veggie skewers at no more than $4.50 a piece! Very tasty...Just be aware of what you are ordering! Some of the sauces are milder and some have quite a kick! There are also bread sticks, fruit, and Mickey hot pretzels!
  • Little Red  (Corn dog) Wagon: Okay, there are no vegetarian bonuses here, but for just over $7, you can get a massive hand-dipped corn dog with your choice of apple slices or chips. You can't beat that price! (But, the massive corn dogs come with a massive line most days, so plan accordingly!)

No budget:
Spent all your money on tickets and hotel? Been there! Here are tips to keep in mind:
  • You can bring in any and all food into Disneyland! I've even seen a woman pull a loaf of bread, lunch meat, a head of lettuce, and whole tomatoes and avocados out of her backpack and prepare lunch for her family! No joke! It's a-okay!
  • While Disneyland offers a "picnic area" outside the park, no one minds if you eat outside food in the park! It is completely within the Disney rules.
  • All outside non-alcoholic beverages are allowed in the park as well! As long as they are not in glass bottles, you are good to go! 
  • Many motels near the park offer free continental breakfasts! They are not only a great (and free!) way to start your day, but you can also grab an extra banana or orange to eat in the park later on during the day!
These are not the only great dining options...Not by a long shot! We'd love to hear your top Disneyland dining picks! Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Beyond the Castle: Other Great Photo Ops

Everyone loves a picture in front of the castle. Its beautiful and iconic. I take one every time - except for my trip last February when the castle was covered in! What are your favorite photo op spots aside from the obvious (yet gorgeous) castle? Here are my top 5!

1. Rivers of America

This is a spot where you can see so many things: the water, the Fantasmic stage, Thunder Mountain or Splash Mountain (depending on which way you're facing), and if you time it right, you can also catch the Mark Twain, rafts to Tom Sawyer's Island, and canoes! This is a perfect spot to snap a pic of the scenery or to catch your group's sming faces.

2. Story Book Land

What could be better than a giant whale in your pictures??? Nothing, that's what!

3. Story Tellers Statue

This statue of Walt and Mickey may not be as famous as Partners, but I love how accessible it is on the ground where you can walk right up to it and put your arm around Walt Disney like he's your best buddy. 

4. The Food!!

Ok, so it's not exactly a place. But there is some beautiful food to be photographed and remembered! Check out this cupcake that'll be available for the 60th anniversary.

5. Train Station 

Just as you enter the gates to Disneyland, you're greeted by the train station and the floral Mickey. The flowers are always perfectly in bloom, and every 5-10 minutes the train is in the station. I've taken a picture of my boys in front of it for the last five trips (since the little one was two months old!) and I plan on doing it again and again so I can look back and see them grow in front of this constantly beautiful backdrop. 

Keep the Disneyland Blues Away!

I'm "between Disneyland trips" at the moment and feeling a little down! When, oh when, will I get to take my next trip?? If you're feeling like me, here are some tips to keep you sane until you and Mickey meet again.

1. Eat a Disney Snack

Start your day with Mickey pancakes, try your hand at homemade churros (surprisingly not that hard!), or eat popcorn out of an old souvenir bucket. Think of your favorite Disneyland snacks and make it happen! 

2. Music

Whose day doesn't get a little better when you add music to it? My favorite is the "It's a Small World" station on Pandora. It's a great mix of songs from movies and rides. 

3. Show your Disney Side

If you haven't done it yet, get the Disney Side app! All you have to do is take a selfie and it will turn you into all kinds of fun Disney characters. Check out me as Maleficent:

4. DisneyBound

Dress as your favorite character! A black shirt, red pants, and yellow shoes make an instant Mickey. A blue top, yellow skirt and red bow for Snow White. Try a blue and white striped shirt, blue shorts, and a red hat for Mr. Smee! 

5. Paint Those Nails

Nail art is a cheap and easy way to bring a little Disney into your day. All we have is a little polka dotting tool and we've been able to create some pretty cool looks. Sound off in the comments below if you'd like a nail art tutorial in the future!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Disneyland's Best Desserts

You know what I like better than Disneyland dinner? Disneyland dessert!!! There are LOTS of choices (Dole Whip, anyone?) but here are the ones that rank highest with us.

Matterhorn Macaroon

Available at the Jolly Holiday bakery, this treat is moist, coconutty (Is that a word? It is now!), and looks like a Disneyland icon. If you haven't tried it yet, do it now!

Mickey Beignets 

At a little window tucked behind the French Market in New Orleans Square is one of the best Disney desserts around. Mickey shaped beignets! They're always hot and fresh, and go perfectly with a Mint Julep (mmm... sweet Mint Julep). Now, you can also order them at Care Orleans, but they don't come in a bag full of powdered sugar that you can shake up. I think that takes away from some of the charm. And did I mention the bag full of powdered sugar?

Caramel Apples

One of Disneyland's most artistic desserts is the caramel apple. While each apple is technically the same (an apple covered in caramel and chocolate/white chocolate and decorated), the unique and sometimes over the top decorations are what make these treats pretty spectacular. There are apples representing different characters and holidays, and some that are simply covered in candies. They're so big that I recommend not only sharing, but maybe even digging in with a knife! 

Kitchen Sink Ice Cream Sundae 

There is no other word for the Kitchen Sink but "amazeballs!" Head over to Clarabelle's Ice Cream to order this super-sized sundae. They say it's only two scoops, but with the whipped cream, syrup, and, depending on your order, cookies/chocolate covered bananas, this dessert can easily feel four! Plus, you get to keep the adorable Mickey sink!!! A pretty good deal for $11.99!

Beat the Heat at Disneyland

Beat the Heat at Disneyland

I love Disneyland in the summer because all the attractions are open, all the shows are performed daily (sometimes multiple times per day), and the park is open for the most hours! 

This summer promises to be a great one for Disneyland, with all of the planned the 60th anniversary celebration festivities. Have you seen the Main Street displays planned for the new fireworks show?!?

But, there is one part of summers in Disneyland that gets to me every time: the heat! There's no way around it, southern California is hot during the summer months. And Disneyland has a way of feeling 10 degrees hotter than it really it.

But there are some great ways to beat the heat during those hot summer days! Here are my top 6 choices:

6. Water rides!
Rides like Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run are great for drenching you in cool water on a hot day. (Fun fact! Don't be afraid to go on Splash Mountain on cooler days as well! The water level is adjusted based on the temperature! Cooler days=less wet!)

5. Animation Building at Disney California Adventure! This fully air conditioned building features some fun, laid-back activities to help you cool off. While here, you can learn to draw a beloved Disney character, find out which Disney character best matches your personality, do a voice-over of your favorite Disney scene or song, even talk to Crush. A great way to spend a hot afternoon!

4. Take a ride on the Disneyland Railroad! Not only is the railroad a great way to see to park and jump from land to land, but a fresh, cool breeze on your face feels great on a hot day!

3. Catch a show! Shows such as "Aladdin" in DCA and "Mickey and the Magical Map" in Disneyland are not only fantastic shows in their own right, but they also offer a great way to cool down on a hot day.

2. Enjoy a frozen treat! A Mickey ice cream bar, a boysen apple freeze, kitchen sink sundae, of course a Dole many tasty treats to choose!

1. Visit a long, air-conditioned attraction! Did you know that there are rides and attractions at Disneyland that offer up to 15 minutes of air conditioned goodness? Included in this glorious list are Pirates of the Caribbean (15 min.), Enchanted Tiki Room (14.5 min....BONUS: They allow food inside!), It's a Small World (14 min.), Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (13 min.), Splash Mountain (11 min.), and Haunted Mansion (9 min.).  

Those are our top picks! What are your favorite ways to beat the heat? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Save Some $$$ at Disneyland

Disneyland is expensive, I know! And if you're like me, you don't want to miss things that you love (like food!) just so that you can save a few dollars. But you have to be able cut back here and there so you can save up for your next trip, right? Here are a few of my favorite ways to save without feeling like you're shorting yourself some of your vacation.


The Disneyland Hotel is a lot of fun, and the Grand Californian is beautiful! But if you're like me, you really only go the hotel to sleep and shower. For the price of ONE NIGHT at the Grand Californian, you can stay at a hotel on Harbor Blvd for four nights!  I've stayed at lots of them, and found that they're all pretty similar: motels that are clean, have a pool, and can be under $100 a night if its not the middle of summer or Christmas. For a few extra dollars a night, some of them even have breakfast. Look on Google Maps for any hotels that are on Harbor and across the street from any part of Disneyland and you won't have longer than an 8 minute walk into the park each morning! You can also do character dining at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels if you want to get the nicer hotel experience without staying there. (If you visit the Paradise Pier, find the little room with beach chairs that shows classic Mickey cartoons all day long!)


I LOVE the food at Disneyland, but all that walking makes me constantly hungry. In an effort to spend my food budget on meals and a special treat each day, I usually bring my own snacks: granola bars, trail mix, bananas...anything portable and filling to keep me going!


I'm a firm believer in the Camelbak backpack. I have one that holds 3 liters of water (or lemonade!), plus has enough space to hold extra clothes for the kids, wallet, camera, and maybe a couple small souvenirs. I buy big jugs of water at home (because I drive and can transport them easily - if you fly, you can pick one up in Anaheim without much trouble, I'm sure) and fill up every morning before heading into the park.

Buy Before You Go

Souvenirs rock! I love to get a little something each trip. But what I love even more is starting with vacation already having my Disney gear! Tshirts and sweatshirts are everywhere. Seriously... Kohl's, Target, Ross, Old Navy. They all carry Disney stuff on the cheap and it's just as cute as what's in the parks. For the kids, I usually go to Party City and clean out the Mickey birthday party aisle. I get tattoos, notebooks and pens for autographs, bracelets, little games for the car/long lines, hats, anything I can find! You can give these to the kids before the trip or save them up and give something out each day.

Save Those Pennies

Don't underestimate piggy banks for pocket change! They are not just for kids, they're for everyone! We keep one container in the bedroom, and one in the laundry area and we empty our change into the containers nightly. Before we knew it, we saved over $80! That's a couple meals or souvenir money without even trying!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Off the Beaten Path: Lesser known things to do at the Disneyland Resort

We all know how much fun there is to be had at Disneyland (that's why we're here, right?). There are great rides, parades, and shows. But, what are some things you can do that are a little out of the ordinary? Here are my favorites. Leave a comment with yours!

California Adventure

  • The Disney Animation Building
    • Aside from being the meet and greet location for Anna and Elsa, you can learn to draw different characters at the Animation Academy and do voiceovers for scenes/songs from your favorite Disney movies in the Sorcerer's Workshop! They also play songs from movies and project cool pictures in the lobby area. And did I mention its air conditioned?? This is the perfect place to hang out and have some fun in cool air and with smaller crowds! Totally worth checking out!

  • Free Samples!
    • Freebies are hard to come by in Disneyland! Head over to the Pacific Wharf area to see how sourdough bread is made at the Boudin bakery. They'll give you a piece to taste on your way in. Then head across the way to Ghirardelli for a sample of some of the most delicious chocolate around! Even if you don't want to order any ice cream, hang out inside and watch the cool mural on the back wall. It moves and changes depending on what people are ordering. If you're lucky, someone will order the Earthquake sundae and you can watch all of San Francisco shake around!

  • Cars Land when the lights come on
    • This has to be my favorite thing to do in California Adventure. Hang out in Cars Land right around dusk. Every evening when they turn the neon lights on, they play the song "Life Could Be a Dream" just like in the movie!

Disneyland Park
  • Wake up Jose
    • Head over to the Tiki Room (not just for a Dole Whip!) and ask a Cast Member if you can wake up Jose! Before the show starts, you'll get to come up and yell out "Wake up, Jose!" right before he wakes up to start the show. Its always exciting to be part of the action.

  • Personalize Buttons
    • We've all seen the first visit, birthday, and just married buttons that people wear around the parks. They're a fun little add-on to an already special day. But what I like to do is get one of the somewhat plain "I'm Celebrating" button and ask a Cast Member to put a special message on it! (If there's something you want to put but don't want to share, you can always write on the button yourself if you have a Sharpie.) Head over to City Hall or the board with the wait times at the other end of Main Street for the button and ask for your special message. I got "My First Dole Whip" on my son's first trip, and just recently we picked up these little beauties:

  • Ride the front of the Monorail
    • This is a really fun one (which, btw, they don't let anyone do in Disney World anymore so I'm pretty excited that its still going on at Disneyland)... When you're waiting in line for the Monorail, ask a Cast Member to ride up front. As long as there isn't anyone else waiting, they're happy to let you do it! You get to sit way up at the front at the big window for the best views and you can chat with the Monorail driver and ask any questions you can think of!