SoCal Thanksgiving!

To some, Thanksgiving means turkey and green bean casserole. To my family, Thanksgiving means time to pack a bag and get out of town! This year, we decided that Disneyland would be our Thanksgiving destination. We’ve been trying to get to Disneyland since the summer of 2020, and I can imagine you know how that went. Three rescheduled trips later and it was finally time to board the plane to LAX and enjoy the warm Anaheim air!

Flying around Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year and while it was busy this year too, I can say that it seemed less insane to us than normal. Not that normal is a ‘thing’ anymore since COVID, but I was expecting far worse of an experience traveling via air across the country. Other than what seemed like a million flight changes, rebookings, and getting to LA via Boston (go northeast to go west?), we made it safe and sound into sunny California and started the adventure on a high note. Thanks JetBlue!

Whenever I go to Disneyland, I stay at one of the three on-site Disney resorts: the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, or Paradise Pier. This time, we went with the Disneyland Hotel, which never disappoints. I love that it is so classicly Disney and you can really feel the history throughout. Our room was lovely, all Cast Members we met were so gracious and happy, even the other guests were pretty darn pleasant. I’ve noticed that guests at Disney World in FL are skewing more ‘entitled’ and can be downright rude and obnoxious since the COVID reopening last year. Expectations are often way out of line with reality in these bizarre times we’re living in and some of the behavior I’ve witnessed definitely belongs back in quarantine. However, Disneyland has a very large local guest population from the SoCal area and that really tends to affect the guest attitude and park experience. I always joke that literally everyone in the parks has at least one piece of Disney apparel on if not multiple, and very few of the matching shirt groups like you see at Disney World. Everyone really seemed happy to be there, enjoying themselves, and ready for a good time. Refreshing!

Welcome to the Disneyland Hotel!

The weather was delightful throughout our stay with not a drop of rain. My hair loves the lack of humidity and I love not looking like a disaster an hour after leaving the room. This is especially true when so many of the other guests have clearly spent a good bit of time prepping themselves for a day in the parks and look like they’ve stepped out of a magazine or off Instagram. I love people watching, looking to see if I can find any celebrities, which is completely crazy since I don’t know that I would actually recognize very many. I did see (and talk to!!) Josh D’Amaro, the Chairman of Disney Parks! Core memory!

Once we got settled in the room, it was time for a quick lunch and then park time. Disneyland was up first and it was crazy how quickly seeing the park got us in the holiday spirit! Everything is always so pristine at the Disney parks and walking into Disneyland, dressed to impress with holiday decor, was breathtaking. I will never get tired of entering those gates and walking down the original Main Street USA toward Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Hello beautiful!

I couldn’t believe how many characters we saw during this trip! Of course, they are all still socially distanced and aren’t signing autographs, but I could make a gigantic list of everyone we saw. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, Dale, Marie, Stormtroopers, Jack and Sally, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Dr. Strange, Thor, three of the Eternals, Black Widow, Black Panther, Shang Chi, Taskmaster, the Dora Milaje, Spiderman, Iron Man, Woody, Jessie, the Incredibles, Snow White, Gaston, plus so many more in the parades! I know I’m forgetting some too! They also have cavalcades with characters running in both parks, like at Disney World, and a full holiday parade that is happening in Disneyland. I was blown away at how ‘normal’ all of that felt and how incredible it was to see the beautiful holiday happenings. I also so love that Disneyland still uses a lot of the original transportation that was in place when Walt was alive like the vehicle shown below with Minnie. Guests can even be driven up Main Street USA in these vehicles!

Something else I love about the holidays at Disneyland is the overlays that are put on certain attractions like Haunted Mansion and it’s a small world. Mind you, most of the attractions/lands get spruced up with holiday decor but these two attractions get full makeovers. Haunted Mansion becomes Haunted Mansion Holiday, rethemed like Nightmare before Christmas. Haunted Mansion is my most favorite ride on both coasts and I love, love, love it when it gets the overlay in California. I cannot believe how much work goes into basically redoing this entire ride for a few months. So impressive! it’s a small world becomes it’s a small world holiday but the bummer this year was that it didn’t open on time due a flooding issue, so we missed being able to ride it by a week or two. Boo hiss!

While Mansion will always reign supreme as the top attraction for me, I have to say that the new Web Slingers: A Spiderman Adventure ride in California Adventure is tough competition. Wait times at Disneyland are a lot different than World and the longest waits we experienced were for these two attractions. There were some longish waits for Radiator Springs Racers and Rise of the Resistance, but we’ve done those before so they weren’t priorities on this trip. Disney’s new Genie+ service hadn’t started yet when we visited Disneyland, so all rides were just regular standby lines for entry. We waited for Haunted Mansion once around 45 minutes (20 minutes the second time and walked on the third time) and 80 minutes for Web Slingers. To get me to wait 80 minutes in line for an attraction is a pretty big feat but I wanted to ride this new ride so bad that I made the commitment. Let me tell you, those 80 minutes were well spent! We loved every minute of this ride and I would have jumped right back on it again if I could’ve. So interactive, incredible technology, and such a fun concept overall. I’m not giving any spoilers other than to say, if you play the game well on this ride, your arms are going to be so tired! Spider-bot targets acquired! Oh and if you haven’t seen the new Spiderman movie, get out there and see it. Excellent flick!

Get your ‘thwip’ action going and throw those webs!

Avengers Campus, where this new Spiderman ride is located, is a brand new section of California Adventure. It is located where the Bug’s Life section was. It is impressively themed and has all those little details you come to love from Disney. The character interaction there is on point too. Several shows throughout the day, characters out for greetings and selfies, and so much creativity! The Pym Test Kitchen with its “altered” food sizes is super fun for a quick service meal. I might have been trying to balance a tray with a gigantic pretzel on it when I met Josh…

Ant-Man, normal size

Speaking of California Adventure, Cars Land was decorated for the holidays too. I love every little thing about Cars Land and their holiday spin is just icing on the cake. Even this little light set up here had everything ‘plugged’ in via jumper cables to a car battery! Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree ride turns into Mater’s Jingle Jamboree with holiday music and a haul-iday tractor spin. Gotta love that ride, even if you and your riding companion squish each other with every turn.

There’s a vacancy at the Cozy Cone, if you’re looking for a spot to rest your tires.

There is always so much to see and do at Disneyland. Even with two parks compared to the four (plus two waterparks) in Florida, there is enough to do to fill several days. Both parks are a stone’s throw from each other too, so no buses necessary. Coming and going from your Disney hotel is super easy and midday breaks for pool time are a dream. As with every other great adventure though, the ending swooped in before we knew it. That 4am transfer back to LAX to fly home was one heck of a buzzkill but a necessity nonetheless. I’ll end this entry with a shot of Sleeping Beauty castle, iced for the holiday season, shining in all of its splendor. Happy holidays!

xoxo, Amber

Off to a galaxy far, far away…

The kid is taking over my blog again to report in on our 4th of July trip to Disneyland. She’s full of info so this is a long one. Enjoy!

Hello once again, it is Hailey here and I am going to tell you about our trip to Disneyland earlier this month, so let’s get started!

We flew out to Disneyland on June 29 and arrived around lunchtime after a five hour long flight. Then we had to get to Anaheim from the Los Angeles airport, and as we drove around Disneyland we could see a little bit of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which made me even more excited! We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, which was a first for me, I had only stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel before. We stayed in the Adventureland Tower and we were on the 10th floor which was close to the E-Ticket lounge on the 11th floor. We had a good view of the pool, but while we were there the Monorail slides were closed for refurbishment so we couldn’t use those, which was fine anyway, because it would’ve been a little chilly to be in and out of the pools.

During our trip, we could not pull ourselves out of the immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, we loved it so much and it by far surpassed any expectations I could’ve had for it. The first time we walked in, we used the Frontierland entrance, so the first things we could see were Savi’s Workshop, the Droid Depot, and a little beyond. Mind you that none of these things were clearly marked in English, they were marked in Aurebesh, the language of the locals of Batuu and beyond. You can use the Disney Parks Play app to translate the Aurebesh into English, to scan crates around the land and find out what is inside of them, tune into different transmissions, and you can hack into door panels and even the Millennium Falcon.

The Millennium Falcon was truly life sized and BEAUTIFUL!! I was amazed at all of the detail in the ships around the land and the overall detail and them; it was amazing. All of the cast members dressed up as the Batuuans had their own outfits and they had created their own backstory. If you asked them a question, they usually wouldn’t give you a straightforward answer, because they aren’t supposed to be from Earth, so they might not know what you are talking about.

Riding Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run was AMAZING!! How your mission turned out really depended on how well you did throughout the mission. So, if you had bad pilots, like we did the first time, you wouldn’t do so good. Six people rode it at one time, there were two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers, you didn’t get to pick which role you got, the Batuuans just handed the position cards to you at random. Your cards are color coated; they call you up by your group’s color so you know when it is your turn to start the mission. My dad and I wanted to be pilots, but we both got the engineer card, and my mom got one of the gunner cards. The engineer is the role that’s has the least things to do, so it is my least favorite. For the pilot, there is a left and a right pilot. Hondo Ohnaka, who is a well-known smuggler from the Star Wars: Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels series, is sending you on the mission. He instructs you throughout the mission, telling the different roles what to do, and the buttons, switches, or levers will have a BRIGHT blinking green light around it to indicate when you need to push, pull, or switch one of the things so you need to pay attention. It is an interactive ride and some people would like to earn more credits. Hondo will refer to the pilots as “left pilot” or “right pilot,” because they both have control over different actions that the ship will need to do in order to do semi-well, like the jump to light speed, the right pilot’s dream come true, like mine did. The gunner’s job is to mash down the button to basically continuously fire at other ships, when the green light is blinking around the button and also fire a missile when Hondo tells you to. The engineer has to fire a harpoon and repair the ship (don’t worry, it is just with the press of a button), so the engineer’s role isn’t that exciting in my opinion. After you have completed the mission, if you have been using the Play app you should be able to collect the same amount of credits, which is the currency there, as Hondo said you had earned, which can be a lot depending on how well you did. Also, the whole ride queue was really cool to look at so many different little details, and we even spotted a Porg nest! Once you get farther along into the queue you get into another room where you finally meet Hondo Ohnaka and he welcomes you to his smuggling business, Ohnaka Transport Solutions. This was a REALLY cool part of the whole ride experience.

Millennium Falcon Gunner card

This is the ‘gunner’ card for the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride

The food at Galaxy’s Edge was not as vegetarian friendly as my mom and I would have liked it to be, but it sure did fulfill a carnivore’s dream, to eat SPACE meat! Ronto Roasters didn’t have anything that would appeal to my mom and I, and the décor was able to easily gross us out, alien creatures being roasted on a spit wasn’t the most appetizing thing to see, even if you know that isn’t what you are really eating! So, instead of Ronto Roasters we went over to Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo to find something to eat. My mom and I both got Felucian Garden Spread, which was hummus, pita, and “plant-based” kefta, which my dad tried and said it was “very meatball like,” which was NOT appealing to my mom and I. My dad got Fried Endorian Tip-Yip, which was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and an herb gravy, he said he liked his Tip-Yip. Some of the things we did like from Ronto Roasters was the Meiloorun Juice and the Tatooine Sunset drinks, we had many of these refreshments.

We really enjoyed our overall experience in Oga’s Cantina, it was a really cool atmosphere! The music was provided by DJ-R3X and was fun to listen to! The decorations around the bar, in the booths, and near DJ-R3X were amazing and really reminded me of the cantina on Tatooine! We were at the bar the first time we were in the cantina, and it really is the BEST spot to be! You can see all of the different tap handles for the beer and the different ingredients for the drinks, it was such a great experience, you cannot miss it on your trip to Galaxy’s Edge, definite must do! The actual seating in the booths is very limited, when you are at a booth or a standing table, you will most likely be with at least one other family depending on the size of your party, and of course the bar is shared also, you can’t have it all to yourself! They have some really weird drinks at Oga’s Cantina, like the alcoholic Fuzzy Tauntaun, or the non-alcoholic Carbon Freeze, my favorite! And they also have some snacks, but this is not a place that you are going to eat a full meal, there is only two snack options on the menu. One of them is the Batuu Bits, a mixture of different things, like wasabi peas, assorted dried vegetables, chips, and even chocolate meringue! The other is Oga’s Obsession, which is a Jell-O type thing with bobas, or popping pearls, in it, with dried strawberry pieces and basically Pop Rocks on top. Both of these were good, but they were both pretty weird.

We also loved Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities; it was super cool inside!! It had taxidermy mounts of different alien creatures, which were sort of cool but also were sort of gross because they were so realistic, even though they were not real. There was a whole wall dedicated to the Holocrons and Kyber Crystals, even though the Kyber Crystals were out of stock the entire time we were there. This was due to the Ebay sellers coming in to buy tons of Kyber Crystals and other merchandise to turn around and sell a single $12.99 crystal for $37.99+, which could sometimes be lower, but was usually at that price and up. Dok Ondar’s had what are called Legacy Lightsabers, which are the lightsabers of some of the characters from the TV shows and movies, these lightsabers do not come with the detachable blade, the blade is sold separately. Dok Ondar’s also had other Star Wars themed merchandise throughout the store, including lightsaber belt clips, which work with some of the Legacy Lightsabers and all of the Savi’s Workshop Handbuilt Lightsabers. In the store you can also see Dok Ondar himself standing up near some of the hanging decorations.

Dok Ondars mounted creatures

Mounted creatures in Dok Ondars

There also is a marketplace sort of area, where the Creature Stall, Toydarian Toymaker, and other stores are located. The Creature Stall has many different little creatures that you can purchase that make different little sounds if you pet them a certain way, and my favorite is the Loth Cat, from Star Wars Rebels. They are so cute! There is also one sleeping in a cage in the center of the store, which is super cute!

We had to visit the Milk Stand, where you could get blue or green milk, which were frozen beverages. We got one of each, and they both taste different, but they are both based on rice and coconut milks, with fruit flavors. I liked the blue milk better, but my dad said he liked the green milk better, I just didn’t like the consistency of the green milk very much. There were containers hanging up made to look like they were holding either blue or green milk, which didn’t make the milks seem very appetizing, because they looked sort of dirty. The Milk Stand is in the First Order section of Batuu, so you could see Kylo Ren or an officer on patrol with storm troopers. In the Resistance encampment, you could see Chewbacca and/or Rey walking around or repairing the spacecraft parked over there, there was an A-Wing and an X-Wing. In the Resistance area you can see also the entrance and queue area where Rise of the Resistance will be located when it opens next year.

The Milk Stand

Not sure the blue and green milk looked super appetizing…

My dad and I also went to Savi’s Workshop to make our own custom lightsabers, but in order to do so, you need to be up at 7:00am PST to make your reservations the day of, no earlier, to reserve spots at both Savi’s Workshop and Oga’s Cantina, and reservations go quickly, so plan for which day you might want to do either of these things! We went to Savi’s to check in for the reservation and purchase the lightsabers 15 minutes ahead, when we though we were supposed to do so, but they said to come back at the exact time of our reservation. The Gatherers want to keep this operation a secret from the First Order, so they are careful to hide behind the illusion that they sell scrap metal, not lightsabers. So we came back at the time of our reservation, and chose the set of lightsaber parts we would like, I chose Elemental Nature and my dad chose Peace and Justice, and we had to go ahead and pay then, we received our pin which would tell the Gatherers inside the room what style we had chosen and the card that told them what group we were in. We had to put our pins “above our heart,” as the Gatherers said it. And after a little bit of anticipation we were brought into an oval shaped room with 14 different work stations, where we would build our lightsabers. I don’t want to say too much about this, so I don’t spoil anything for anyone who might build their own lightsaber, so I will just say that the main Gatherer talked about the different parts and explained how to put them together while we built them, but before that about the Kyber Crystals. And then finished it all off with seeing your completed custom lightsaber, and as you walked our they gave you a carrying case for it. Even though I didn’t go over the full experience, just know that it was truly AMAZING, and very worth it!! If you are going to Galaxy’s Edge and deciding between a droid and a lightsaber, the lightsaber really has more of an experience and a story to go along with it, and I forgot to mention that the hilt is metal and is VERY heavy by itself, and the blade is “Battle-ready,” but I was unwilling to test this out. The Droid Depot never really had a wait to build a droid and it wasn’t really as memorable looking as the experience of building your very own lightsaber. I waited SOOO LONG to build my own lightsaber, and it was a Star Wars fan’s dream come true.

Going to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was NOT the only thing we did on this past trip, even though it may sound like it, and it was hard to pull ourselves out of the immersive land, we did spend time in California Adventure and the rest of Disneyland too. Oh, and one more thing about Galaxy’s Edge, it did NOT seem like a part of Disneyland at all! It seemed like its own park, like you hadn’t been in Disneyland all day, it was really weird! We rode Autopia, one of my favs, I like it so much better than Tomorrowland Speedway at Disney World; it is much longer and much cooler! We rode Haunted Mansion, which is super different, Hyperspace Mountain, which sort of made us motion sick, Star Tours, which is no different, we got the same movie we always get at Disney World, Buzz Lightyear: Space Ranger Spin, which we like better because of the different laser guns, Matterhorn, which we were unable to ride the first time because an earthquake happened as we were boarding the bobsleds, it’s a small world, which is longer and cuter than the Disney World one, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, which we hadn’t ridden before, and many more!

it's a small world

Disneyland’s it’s a small world ride rocks! You load and exit the ride outside!

In California Adventure we rode the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission – Breakout! Ride for the first time, and we liked it more than Tower of Terror, it had more drops and was really fun! We also met some Marvel characters, like Captain Marvel, Loki, and Black Panther. We also went to Pixar Pier for the first time, it was really cute! Everything was re-themed to fit in with the Pixar theme. The little carnival games were no exception and there was one themed for the short film called “La Luna” and was SOOO cute! You dipped out a star from the water, and depending on which color dot was on the back you got a certain level of prize, and the lowest level were different little stars and moons making different faces, and the said Pixar Pier on the back, so cute and a cheap souvenir! The next level up were shooting stars, and the highest level was the boy from the short holding one of the stars! They were adorable!

Stars from Pixar Pier "La Luna" game

Here are our prizes from the “La Luna” game. Super cute!

On one of the days we went on a LA city tour, which was really cool! We got to see a lot of different things like Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, the Santa Monica Pier, the Hollywood Walk of Fame (we even saw Minnie Mouse’s star), the Chinese Theater, the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign, and so many other cool things!

Footprints of Star Wars

We couldn’t miss the ‘footprints’ of Star Wars main actors from 1977 while at the Chinese Theater!

This trip to Disneyland was the longest one we have had yet, and it was a great one! My mom will be back soon to tell you about the trip that she and I just got back from, Canada and a Disney Alaskan Cruise, a fun blog you won’t want to miss!

Loth Cat

Even our new Loth Cat was sad to be on the plane heading home…

This is Hailey, signing out!

March Madness — both coasts! (Part 1)

It’s been awhile since my last post… you certainly didn’t think I have been sitting at home on the sofa, did you?  No way!  It’s the end of April and I’m seriously slacking on posting updates to my blog this year.  Such is the life of a busy travel planner though!  I was on both coasts last month with a business trip to Disneyland in early March followed by a family trip to Disney World at the end of the month.  Let’s recap, shall we?

Disneyland in California, Walt’s original.  Love it there.  Can never say that enough.  If it wasn’t such a long flight and a three-hour time difference, I’d be there much more often.  This was my third trip out, first alone, and it did not disappoint.  I stayed at the Disneyland Hotel during my visit for the first time, previous trips were at the Grand Californian resort.  I’ll tell you, I really enjoyed the Disneyland Hotel and will definitely stay there again.  The authentic Disney feel there was unmistakable.  Zero complaints.  Perfect weather, gorgeous resort, impeccable theme parks, and I even got to experience the California Adventure Food & Wine Festival before it officially opened.

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My room at the Disneyland Hotel.  That headboard lights up with fireworks and plays music!

While this was a business trip and I spent a good bit of time touring resorts and learning more about the West Coast House of Mouse, I had a phenomenal stay and am so glad I was able to participate.  Touring two of the five signature suites at the Disneyland Resort, The Big Thunder Suite and the Adventureland Suite, was amazing.  If I had the cash, I’d be in those for the night in a heartbeat.  Unfortunately, I think one night would be pushing the fiscal limits of a typical week-long visit.

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The living room area in the Big Thunder Suite.

The parks?  Yes, they were as delightful as always.  My only regret was that Pirates of the Caribbean was down for refurbishment during my visit.  That is my fave!  And sorry Disney World, Disneyland’s Pirates ride is SO much better!

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The Main Street Electrical Parade returned to Disneyland earlier this year after being at WDW for over 20 years.

After a few days of hard work (and some time change confusion), I was back on a plane to the East Coast.  Two weeks later, I was packing the van for a trip to Walt Disney World…