A few months ago, I visited Disneyland for 4 1/2 days. It was glorious!
In the last volume of this Disney tome, I was just wrapping up lunch at Cafe Orleans after a hectic morning of touring. The afternoon would prove much more relaxing, partly because we had hit so many things already and partly because we just ran out of steam…
We started the afternoon with the Haunted Mansion and then went over to Winnie the Pooh. I had not heard much about the differences between the attraction in Disney World versus Disneyland, but I have to say I liked the Disneyland version a lot more. The audio seemed easier to hear and something about the pacing made it flow better. I also liked that it was over in it’s in own area, not just part of Fantasyland.
After Pooh, it was time for round 1 of Torture Diane With Rides! I really wanted to ride the Davy Crockett Canoes and The Wife agreed, but Diane had zero interest. And yet we forced her to join us, because we’re persuasive. And mean.
The canoes are interesting as an attraction, because what else in the parks can make you hate other guests so much? (Besides just walking, of course.) Let me just say that there were far too many people in our canoe that were not pulling their own weight. And there was a lot of complaining (e.g., “Oh jeez! This is so hard! I’m tired!”). How did you think the canoe was going to move if you did not plan on rowing? Even Diane rowed more than some people, and she was only on the ride under great duress.
After torturing Diane and plotting the murder of my other canoe-mates, we went back to Fantasyland to ride the Storybook Canal Boats and It’s a Small World. The canal boats had a bit of a wait, but probably only 10-15 minutes. Small World had a short wait, but not over 5.
I was excited to ride the Canal Boats and it mostly lived up to the hype. We had a good skipper, but she was hard to hear at times. She spoke quickly and the speaker system wasn’t the best quality. Maybe I just have bad hearing, but I found that I had to really focus to try to hear what she was saying. Still, the little villages were adorable. I would have been happy staring at them, even if there wasn’t a skipper.
After Small World (see part 2 for more about that), we went to Space Mountain to use the fastpasses we gathered earlier in the day. I know many people prefer the Disneyland version to the Disney World version, but I really did not. The final part of the queue is better, but the first part is not, and the part after the ride is nowhere near as much fun. Plus, the ride just doesn’t have that same chaotic, where-are-we-going-next glee. Maybe the side-by-side seating slows the cars down, maybe it was because it didn’t seem as dark inside, but I maintain the Disney World version is far superior.
At this point, we still had not ridden Nemo, so we sucked it up and waited in what was probably the longest wait of the trip (20 minutes or so). The queue for that ride is boring and hot. If you have to wait a lot, it’s not the place to do it. Still, there were some nice, random people in the line with us that sang Happy Birthday to me and others. Oh, Disney guests, you can be charming when you want to be!
I was surprised how much I enjoyed the subs. They are such a different ride experience from any of the other attractions and all of the effects and storytelling are really well done. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up!
Although it had not really been that long since lunch, we were ready for some more food! We stopped at Bengal Barbecue and ordered the Safari Skewer (bacon wrapped asparagus) and Chieftain Chicken Skewer (chicken with a “Polynesian sauce”). I was excited to try both, but neither was that great. The asparagus was overcooked and tough, and the chicken was a little dry. Not terrible, but I would not get them again. There are better uses of my stomach space at Disneyland.
We doubled back a bit and rode Pirates, which was still fantastic, and returned to Tomorrowland for Star Tours, which was also still wonderful. I’ll add that we also tried to ride Splash and Indy at various times that afternoon, but they were down/broken.
Although I had been in denial for about an hour, ever since we started waiting for Nemo, we had been dragging. We were hot, tired, and more than a little grumpy. There was only one solution, my two favorite friends: alcohol and food!
That’s right; it was time to take the Monorail over to Trader Sam’s!
For those who don’t know, Trader Sam’s is a small bar at the Disneyland Hotel. It’s well-themed, intimate but not claustrophobic, and everything we got was delicious! It’s basically heaven on Earth!
When we first walked in, there were only two seats at the bar. We hovered over those, deciding our next move, but then a table opened up and we pounced. Once everyone was seated, and had a drink before them, we were all in a much better mood.
I’ll be honest, we ate and drank a lot at Trader Sam’s and I did not keep track. I know I started with the Uh Oa, which is recommended for two guests but which I finished off myself with no problem!
I would definitely recommend ordering that drink. It’s basically your average sugary alcohol concoction, but the “angering of the gods” riff that the bartenders do is too much fun to miss!
I couldn’t tell you what everyone else got, and what I subsequently got, because I’m a bad blogger, but I can tell you that we ordered A LOT of drinks and they were all good. (I have been trying to figure out what The Wife and Diane were drinking based on the pictures, but I’m failing. Also, this was only one round.)
For food, we got the Panko Crusted Chinese Long Beans, Ahi Poke, and Kalua Pork Flatbread. (And probably others that I’m forgetting.) All were excellent. The long beans were the right level of salty and the sauce provided a nice kick, the tuna was a great texture and flavorful, and the flatbread was not only delicious but it also was much needed stomach padding for all our drinking.
We ended up spending about two hours at Trader Sam’s and it was exactly what we needed: time off our feet, in air conditioning, with cold beverages and food. Plus, like I said above, the place has a great vibe. Everywhere you look there are clever jokes or references and the bartenders put on a great show (while mixing good drinks). Trader Sam’s is, without a doubt, the number one stop I would recommend to anyone going to Disneyland.
(Note: After 8 pm, Trader Sam’s is only open to those 21 and up, but it’s open to everyone before then. If you have young kids, I might pass, but I honestly think any child over 10 would be very happy there. The food is good, it has fun non-alcoholic drinks, and he/she will like the jokes and atmosphere.)
Newly refreshed, The Wife and I returned to Disneyland, but Diane headed back to the hotel. There’s certainly nothing wrong with prioritizing sleep, but I desperately wanted to see Fantasmic!
But…so did everyone else.
The original plan was just to see Fantasmic and call it a night, but it was packed. Incredibly packed. Rather than fight the crowds for a bad view, we decided to wait for the second show.
Because we were breaking from the plan, we had low expectations for the next hour and a half. We were just killing time, which was a glorious feeling. We rode Jungle Cruise, did some shopping, and then rode Dumbo. Jungle Cruise and Dumbo are so much better at night, so I was glad we got to fit them in. Actually, the whole park is better at night. The darkness adds a level of magic that I simply love!
Eventually, we made our way over to view the second showing of Fantasmic. I didn’t have any sense of where we should sit/stand, so we asked a cast member and explained that we had never seen it before. (Perhaps because Disneyland gets so many repeat visitors, we seemed to get extra great service every time we mentioned we had never seen something before!) The cast member started by pointing out his favorite spot, but then stopped. “Actually, just follow me,” he said, leading us to the front section. It was a reserved seating section, but the show was only 10 minutes from starting and it was still mostly empty. Thank you, VIPs! Your tardiness allowed these lowly commoners to invade your area. I have to say, life is great for VIPs. We had a perfect view of the show AND WE COULD SIT DOWN! It was a Disney miracle. Thank you, thank you, thank you, random cast member. You were awesome.
While we were sitting in our special section, we started talking to the guys sitting next to us. Long story short, they were super pros at Disneyland and super friendly. They had been on Indy earlier in the day when it broke down and were given a fastpass to return. Not your normal fastpass, but a special fastpass that was good for up to 6 people! Because they were only 4 people, they invited us to join them! And they let us take the front row seats. They were really warm and generous and we ended up talking to them for about an hour after the park closed. To be honest, I’m not usually a fan of meeting people on vacation. I want to spend my vacation hanging out with whomever I’m traveling, because I probably don’t see them enough in my day-to-day life, but this was a great exception. They could not have been nicer!
I’m honestly hesitant to reveal the last part of the day because I don’t want anyone to get into trouble. I’m never sure what cast members are allowed to do and what they are doing just to be nice, but which would get them in trouble, For that reason, I don’t want to share too much about our new friends or what happened next. Let’s just say that they, combined with a very nice cast member they knew, got us a few bonus fastpasses that we were able to use on the last two days of our trip. These were nothing major; we only got two per day. It’s not as if we got a free pass to cut every line! But they were such a nice gesture and they did take some of the pressure off of our last two days in the park! And, as you’ll read in future installments, the fastpasses allowed us to help make some magical moments for others.
Disney powers that be, if you’re reading this, you have fantastic cast members! A lot of what makes the parks so great is that cast members have the power to make special moments for guests, without having to run decisions up through any red tape. Please don’t stop that!
With another day recapped, you’ll have to wait until a future installment to read about the last two days of our trip! Stay tuned!