Categories : Theme Park Reviews

 

Grizzly River RaftingAs I made my way out of the Disneyland Park to meet up with both of my parents and my grandfather outside of the Rainforest Cafe in the Downtown Disney area, I realized I should have just gone over to Tomorrowland and gotten on the Monorail to ride over to the Downtown Disney area. What I ended up doing was heading back to the main entrance of the park, exiting through the entrance plaza, passing through the exit of the security check lines, and then having to basically walk the entire distance of the Downtown Disney area because I forgot the Rainforest Cafe was on the far side of the Downtown Disney area. And I also forgot it’s parked right next door to the Monorail station.

Normally I don’t mind the walk but after having done the previous day at Knott’s Berry Farm and all morning in the park in close to 100 degree heat, my legs were starting to get rashes from all the walking, so I was a bit sore by this point in the day. I was surprised I made it over to the Rainforest Cafe before my parents and grandfather. The Rainforest Cafe is near the parking lot and I was coming on foot from the middle of Disneyland and having to walk through the entire Downtown Disney area just to get there. I didn’t end up having to wait too long though, it was just a matter of trying to find a somewhat shady spot as the mid afternoon heat was really starting to take its toll.

After a round of welcome hugs, they left it to me to pick a place to eat. I had no idea what I wanted, and since we were down at the end and I didn’t really want to walk back through the Downtown Disney area I decided on the ESPN Zone restaurant that’s right next to the Rainforest Cafe. I’d never been there before so it looked like a good choice to try. It ended up being really good and fortunately they had their air conditioning on high that day.

We probably spent about a good hour and a half there visiting and enjoying the food as well as enjoying the air conditioning. I really needed the break from the heat. The poor waitress kept having to come back to refill my glass of water because I just needed to rehydrate. My grandfather was especially interested in hearing about my weight loss as my mom was hoping to help educate him on the process as well and since I’m the one who’s been through the program, she was deferring to me as the “expert” although I’m hardly an expert. I just know what’s worked for me and I’m keeping it up because it is working so well. So for lunch I opted for a cheeseburger without the bun. I was going to do a side salad but decided since it was my birthday I was picking the fries.

When lunch came to an end and I was back on my own with the parks, I decided to change up the agenda, and went to visit the California Adventure park. Having gotten back into the heat, I knew the first thing I wanted to do was get on the Grizzly River Rafting ride and hopefully get wet enough to cool down a little bit. Normally I’m not a big fan of getting overly wet on rides, but I was certainly going to make an exception today.

As I entered the park, I decided to stop first at the Soarin’ Over California ride as it’s on the way to the Grizzly River Rafting ride. I do like the soaring ride as well, even though it’s basically getting onto a bench and being swayed in front of a giant movie screen, it’s still a fun ride. The screen is so big it gives you the impression of being surrounded by the visual imagery. And the fact they even release scents keyed to each scene as well so it adds to the illusion of being there. The wonderful smell of pine as you soar over the forests of California to the scent of oranges as you fly over orange groves makes this a fun attraction.

Next up was the Grizzly River Rapids. I knew ahead of time I was going to end up on this ride so I brought a sandwich bag from hope to tuck my cell phone and digital camera into while on the ride. It’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll exit the ride wet, but there’s a good chance you’ll get soaked so the last thing you want is for your portable electronics to get damaged from the water. A couple of other people saw me tuck my phone and camera into the sandwich bag and they commented on what a great idea that was and wished they had thought to bring a bag with them.

To my dismay I ended up in one of the 8-seater rafts with one other adult and bunch of little kids, not just any kids, a bunch of little girls. So as I quietly grumbled to myself about my bad luck of being stuck with what looked like a bunch of kids that were going to scream their heads off at every little bump and splash of water. Fortunately, my first impression of them was quite wrong, not only were not a bunch of little screamers, this was their third time in a row on the ride and each of them were wanting to just get soaked to the bone. They wanted each splash, they were more disappointed if they didn’t get hit by a wall of water as we rode down each drop into a splash zone. In fact I ended up getting far more soaked than any of them and I just simply wanted to get wet, not soaked. They were good kids, and I ended up having a far better time on the ride with them than I thought I was going to, so I can’t complain.

I then headed to the Boardwalk area of the park with the intention of getting on the California Screamin’ coaster, which is one of my favorite rides in the park. I figured it would help dry off a bit of the soaking I took on the Grizzly River Rafting ride. I had to pass through some walled off sections of the park as they’re in the process of refurbishing the park. They’ve removed a bunch of attractions to replace them with a new ride based on the Little Mermaid which looks like it won’t be ready to open until late 2010 or early 2011. And there was a huge wall up blocking the view of the lake or lagoon, not sure what they’re calling it. I couldn’t see it due to the wall up, but the water was completely drained out of it anyway as they’re in the process of installing a new state of the art water show that’s going to make the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas seem pathetic. The wall that was blocking the view of the fountain work was because they’re also tearing up the land area on that side of the park to transform it into a better viewing area for the show which is going to be called “Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color” to tie it back to Walt Disney’s original television show.

As I made my way into the Midway section of the Boardwalk section of the park, it was much easier to see the drained lagoon and all the elaborate platforms and areas for the fountains that are being installed for this monster show. It’s also a great look at what’ll later be hidden in the water. The fine folks at MousePlanet.com post weekly updates about the resort to their blog and often send their correspondent up onto the ferris wheel to take photos of the progress (as it offers the best vantage point for the photos of the progress in the lagoon). Click here if you’re interested in see one of the updates with lots of photos of the fountains in the drained lagoon. I first discovered their site when I was last an annual pass holder so I could keep apprised on the changes at the park so I could know what to go look for and see when I went on my next trip.

As I made my way over to the California Screamin’ Coaster and saw along the way there was a new attraction based on Toy Story along the midway. It had the longest ride I’d yet seen in either of the two parks, so I decided I’d hit the coaster first then come back to try this new one I hadn’t seen before. The wait at California Screamin’ was about ten minutes which wasn’t too bad at all. The folks behind me seemed to make a point that there is a single rider line for the ride and were probably hinting I could have and maybe should have been in that line instead. I just ignored them. If the line had been considerably longer, I would have used it, but since it was a short wait in the standby line, this way I’d have the option to pick and choose where I wanted to sit, and I wanted a front row seat.

As I boarded the coaster in my front row seat, another rider came in and sat with me. It ended up being an Australian woman with a thick Aussie accent. She said she’d try not to scream to loudly for me, since she didn’t know me. I told her she could scream as loud as she likes because that’s part of the fun. So I asked her where she was from, and I did correctly identify her accent as Australian so I told her I’d been to Australia twice and loved the country and wanted to go back for another visit. When she asked where I’d been in Australia I told her Sydney and Melbourne, and she revealed she was from Melbourne. I told her I had a great time in Melbourne when I went there. We didn’t have any other time to talk as the car had moved down to the launch position which looked really funny without the water in the lagoon, and then we were launched into the coaster. It has been a long time since I’d been on this coaster so it was a lot of fun to get to know it again as I usually made it the first stop every time I came to the parks when I was a previous Annual Pass holder.

As the coaster came to a stop in the brake zone just before the loading station I asked her if she enjoyed the coaster, and she said it was a lot of fun. I told her it was nice to meet her and I hope she enjoyed the rest of her stay in California before heading home to Melbourne and that was the last I saw of her once we exited the coaster.

I made my way back over to the Toy Story ride, and since it was new I decided to wait the half hour that it said the wait was going to be. Overall I can’t complain, considering it was still before the Labor Day weekend and the wait times for pretty much all the rides I went on were about ten minutes or less, it wasn’t going to kill me to wait a half hour for a relatively new ride. This one requires the use of 3D glasses so people pick up some 3D glasses just before they board the ride. The ride was relatively simplistic as the cars just rotated around a few walls, nothing too complicated. The ride is really more of a shooting gallery game than a ride as you have cannon mounted in front of you in the car and you pull on the string for it to launch virtual cannon balls at the various 3D screens the cars position themselves in front of. A really neat blend of ride and technology because as you launch your cannonballs they show up on the screen as if you really launched them based on how you angled it and you aim to make as many points as possible on the various screens before the ride comes to an end. I quite enjoyed it. Probably would have been a bit more fun with someone so that we could compare scores at the end of the ride.

Pigato VermentinoAs I exited the Paradise Pier section of the park, I stopped at the Winery section and opted to have a glass of wine. I decided to try the Pigato Vermentino they had on special. It normally costs $14.50 a glass but was on special for $8.50. I figured it would be a good treat. I was pleasantly surprised how wonderful tasting this Italian wine was so I think I may have to try and locate a bottle sometime. While I enjoyed my glass of wine I walked through the Blue Sky Theatre attraction which used to be a little theater with a movie about producing wine next to the winery area. For the moment the theater had been converted into a display area to preview the new attractions that were being built such as the Pixar Cars themed area, the new Wonderful World Of Color water show and the new Little Mermaid ride.

Next I headed over to the Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror and didn’t have to wait long at all to get on the ride. I love that ride too. Even though the whole theme is a little cheesy, I like it. And of all the rides in both the parks it seems to be the one ride with the employees in relatively cool looking uniforms. The uniforms have a classic Hollywood look from the 1930’s era. As I got off the ride they were just letting the last few people into the Aladdin show, and normally I would gladly have hoped in and seen it, but with the rash on my legs building, I didn’t feel like climbing a bunch of stairs that I would later have to climb back down to get out of the theater, so I skipped it.

I headed over to the Monsters, Inc. ride that was new the last time I had been to the park. I had to wait what felt like an eternity to get on the ride then. Today no waiting at all, just walked right up and got right on, didn’t even have to wait for anyone in front of me to board. In fact the few cars in front of me were all empty.

Star Wars MuppetsAs I exited that ride I walked past the little shop outside the MuppetVision 3D attraction. I decided to skip the attraction this time around but always like to look at the Muppet stuff. There wasn’t a whole lot of Muppet stuff there, as the store now had a lot of other stuff in addition to the Muppet stuff. If there had been a small plush Swedish Chef, I would have bought one. I saw one there one time, but didn’t get it and haven’t seen another one since to get one. I had to laugh when I looked behind the counter, they had a set of Muppet figurines dressed like Star Wars characters. It made me chuckle. I loved the Kermit as Luke Skywalker, Miss Piggy as Princess Leia, Gonzo as Darth Vader, Fozzie Bear as Chewbacca, Rizzo the Rat as Yoda, and Beaker as C3-PO.

I then headed back over to Disneyland and hopped on the Disneyland Railway for a quick ride over to Fantasyland, so I could hop on It’s A Small World. I’d forgotten to hit that ride when I got off the Matterhorn as it was the only thing I really wanted to do in Fantasyland. Their new boats looked like really lightweight plastic boats compared to the older fiberglass ones. The ride had been a little bit updated to include some It’s A Small World versions of Disney characters, so it was neat to see that they made the characters in the style of the It’s A Small World dolls as opposed to more like the traditional characters. I think that helped them blend in better.

I crossed through Fantasyland over to Frontierland to ride the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster. This one had a bit of a wait too. I attempted to check my e-mail in this line since there was a bit of a wait but the battery was so dead by this point the phone completely shut off with no hope of resurrection until it was on the charger. The wait for this ride was comparable to the one over in California Adventure for the Toy Story ride, but since this is a fun classic Disneyland ride, I didn’t mind the wait.

As I walked passed the Rivers Of America lake a bunch of people were already starting to stake out their viewing positions for the Fantasmic show. The fire breathing dragon had been plagued with problems all summer long and was pretty much out of commission all summer. The big news on MousePlanet.com was that this would be the second night the dragon was back in the show, so naturally there were a lot of people wanting to see it. I just didn’t feel like staking out a spot just yet, I still had a couple more rides I wanted to get to before I was satisfied with my visit to the park.

I was just about to hop on the Haunted Mansion ride when I remembered I should do Splash Mountain first, so I went past the Haunted Mansion and got into line for Splash Mountain. Here I wish I had gotten a Fast Pass as I ended up having to wait nearly 40 minutes to finally board this ride. But it’s not like I had anything pressing to necessitate getting on their sooner, so it was fine just waiting for the ride. It did kind of suck just watching all the Fast Pass holders breeze past the standby line I was in. But soon enough I was on the ride and they did try to sit me up front but I declined opting for a rear seat. The front seats tend to get wetter on the big drop at the end of the ride, and the sun was starting to go down, so I didn’t feel like getting too wet this time. But somehow I ended up splashed a few times during the ride and ended up a little wetter than I thought I was going to be.

Now heading back over to the Haunted Mansion, I got on and see they had slightly changed the section of the ride with the bride with the glowing heart to change it to a murderous bride with photos of her and her husband that changed to a photo of her with her husband without a head and then finally just a photo of her. And they moved the bride to the other side and gave her a fully animated face and wielding an axe. Kind of a neat change. Although I suspect the next time I make to the park the overlay for the ride for The Nightmare Before Christmas will be in place so it was good to catch the ride in its “normal” state before I’ll be back to see it in its holiday version.

By this point I felt I was pretty much done with all the rides I was going to see in the park for the day, so the last order of business was to go get that fun t-shirt at the gift shop outside of the Star Tours ride. By this point the rashes were just burning like crazy and I was in such pain, that instead of walk my way over to Tomorrowland, I just got back on the Disneyland Railway and got off at the Tormorrowland stop. I made my way over to the store and picked up the shirt. I also saw the shop also had the Muppet as Star Wars character sets as well.

Judge Me T-Shirt Front And BackAs I mentioned when I first saw the shirt I loved the “Judge me by my size, do you?” question on the front on the basis that I’ve lost a bunch of weight. I didn’t know when I first saw the shirt there actually is a back side to the shirt too. On the back is a graphic of the sign from Star Tours indicating a rider must be of a certain height in order to be able to ride, then it shows the 40 inch height requirement bar that they usually line children up to to determine if they’re tall enough to go on. And below the sign is a picture of Yoda’s backside wearing Mickey Mouse ears with his name embroidered on the back and holding a Mickey Mouse shaped chocolate sucker with a bite out of it who doesn’t quite meet the height requirement. That side felt like an added bonus. I was getting the shirt for the front side, but the back side was pretty funny too. I opted to get the shirt in size XL knowing full well I wouldn’t quite comfortably fit into the shirt just yet, but to give me another shirt to look forward to wearing once I lose a little bit more weight.

I then walked my way over to the Tomorrowland Terrace and thought I might grab a bite to eat and then head over to the Fantasmic area, but ultimately decided I just wanted to go home, I’d been in the park all day and that was more than plenty, especially since it was still quite hot out, and I could get better choices for food on the way home. So I just headed out of the park instead and got back on the tram to get back to the parking area. I was really happy to just get back in my car as the rashes were just killing me by this point in the evening.

I put my phone on the charger and then got onto the highway and started to head home. Just as I got back into San Diego county and was about to get on the Highway 78 to head east, I decided it would be a shame to end my birthday without a good drink, so I stayed on the 5 freeway and headed down to Mission Valley to stop at my usual hangout of Bennigan’s. My good friend Mary Tamborski would be be working that night, so it would be good to stop in. Before I let her pour me a beer, I had her pour me a big tall glass of water and refilled it about four times so I could rehydrate a little first. I was going to get a meal but decided I was really only hungry for an appetizer so being a little bad, I opted for a basket of onion rings. A guilty pleasure I know, but hey, it was my birthday.

And after a couple of beers and knowing I’m on a low sugar program decided to make me a special birthday shot version of one of her signature drinks. I’m sure it was a little more sugar than I was supposed to have, but it was just the one. It was good to end the day having a drink with a friend.

I then immediately went home and hopped in the shower to clean off all the sweat of the day and applied some antibiotic ointment to my legs to help sooth the burn of the rashes. The ointment worked like a charm because my legs felt fine in the morning, they were no longer sore like they were the day before. I really enjoyed my birthday day at Disneyland and I enjoyed the fact my folks and my grandfather were able to come up to Anaheim to visit me for lunch and that I could close out the day with my good friend Mary. A great way to turn 34. Sure it would have been nice to have a friend or two for the entire day with me, but I had a great time anyway.

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