Summer may feel right around
the corner, but another INTERCOT Insider has already landed in your
mailbox hot off the presses. In this edition we check out the
latest Disney Deals, take a look at Star Wars Weekends, get the
latest Walt Disney World News, and take an in-depth look at
Disneyland to celebrate the kick-off of the 60th Annivesary. Hang
on to them hats and glasses, cause this here's the most informative
ride on the internet!
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INTERCOT was live on social
media earlier this month with a detailed look at the kick-off to
Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios. From the new
Rebel Hanger to classic Star Wars characters; the 2015 event is a
Galactic Gala not to be missed.
In case you missed these
updates or if you just want to take a look back, check out
Star Wars Weekends 2015 Album
Adventure with faline>>
We recently had the pleasure
of spending a week in California. This was our third visit to the
original Disney park with the most recent visit before this one
occurring ten years earlier.
We live on the East Coast so heading to California is a long trip.
Although pricier than I had hoped, we had a direct flight from
Boston to Los Angeles with a direct, return flight from San Diego to
Boston. We flew on Jet Blue which has become my favorite airline and
did pay extra for the additional leg room seats. If it’s in your
budget, I would recommend direct flights (less hassle) and the extra
legroom (much more comfortable).
To get from the airport to our Disneyland resort, we used a car
service which had been recommended by others on Intercot. The Disney
web site suggests using Disney Express, a bus service, which I
looked into and found the prices to be $30 per person one way. It
also appears the bus runs on a fixed schedule which could entail a
rather long wait for the next scheduled bus. For the car service, we
were met upon arrival by a driver who had already secured a cart for
our bags and would have made a grocery stop for us if we had
requested it. The cost, including gratuity was $95 – only $35 more
than the bus would have cost but, for us, worth the personalized
service and quick transport.
While at Disneyland, we got to ride the monorail for the first time
ever. We took the monorail from the Disneyland park to Downtown
Disney. That same day, we also rode from Downtown Disney back to the
park. If you do this, be aware you have to have park tickets and
show them in order to get on the monorail in Downtown Disney. This
is because the monorail station is inside the park when you exit.
Because we were spending a few days in the San Diego area, we had
reserved a rental car through Alamo which is located in Downtown
Disney. It was very easy to walk over to the rental car location and
pick up our reserved car which was parked in a parking lot just
beyond the rental office.
As Disney Vacation Club members, I had reserved a studio at the
Grand Californian right at our seven month window. I was delighted
that I did not have any difficulty in booking this as I have heard
that it can often be difficult to book this resort at the seven
month mark. When booking, we were not given a choice of views – only
of the type of accommodation you are requesting. Our room was not
ready when we arrived and we were texted with our room information a
few hours later. Our reservation is for four nights.
The Grand Californian is quite impressive in the style of Wilderness
Lodge and/or Animal Kingdom Lodge. The public spaces are large with
plenty of places to lounge. There is a fireplace in one alcove and
also one in a lounge around the corner from the main lobby.
We are assigned to Room 2504 which is a typical vacation club studio
room. The bed is queen size and, while I do prefer having a king, we
can make do. We have a balcony and a view over California Adventure.
From our room, we can see the ferris wheel, California Screaming and
a few other rides. During our stay, we enjoy the sights and sounds
from our balcony. We can hear the folks who are riding the Goofy
coaster (this ride is not wholly visible to us as there are trees
blocking our view) scream. When the park closes, the absence of
screams makes it a bit eerily silent. We were also able to see many
of the effects from World of Color and I saw many of the floats from
the California Adventure parade – all from our balcony.
We made it to the pool one afternoon. I found the pool water to be
extremely chilly!! One quick chilly, plunge and I was done with
that. I spent the majority of my time in, or around the hot tub,
which is huge!!
Unlike other trips to Disneyland, we did not spend any time at all
at Disney’s Paradise Pier (where we have stayed before and would
gladly stay again) and only visited the Disneyland Hotel on the
morning we were leaving (We have stayed here before as well).
From our Disney Visa card, we had accumulated enough points to pay
for our park tickets. Before our arrival, I ordered a Disney Rewards
card and transferred the right amount of money needed to pay for our
4-day park hopper passes. In retrospect, we did not need the park
hopping option and, basically, we did not do any park hopping – the
one exception was on our first day when my husband thought it would
be nice to cut through California Adventure to get to our
destination which was the Disneyland park. This proved to be a
mistake especially due to construction in the park which caused us
to have to wend our way through the entire park to get to the exit
and finally to the entrance of Disneyland. Walking through Downtown
Disney to enter the Disneyland park is a much better option!!
I only made a few reservations in advance of our arrival and a
couple of those were made just a few days before we arrived. Prior
to arrival, I had booked a lunch at Blue Bayou and then, just before
the trip, added a dinner reservation at Napa Rose and a breakfast at
Uva Bar and Grill – Downtown Disney: Had lunch here on our
arrival day. Nothing special. It was just nice to be out of doors
after a brutal New England winter which included lots of below
normal temperatures. After a late lunch here we are not hungry in
Hearthstone Lounge – Grand Californian: One evening, we had drinks
here while sitting near the fireplace. Cute spot and quite relaxing.
This spot offers continental breakfast in the morning. Nothing huge
– think muffins, Danish, coffee etc. Still it’s a relaxing spot for
breakfast if you’re looking for something quick. One evening, we
stopped here quite late (close to 10) and found the place to be
really hopping. We ordered a flatbread and drinks which hit the spot
La Brea Bakery – Downtown Disney: We hax croissant breakfast
sandwiches here – so huge we could easily have shared one –
especially since each sandwich is also served with breakfast
Blue Bayou – Disneyland Park: We have a lunch reservation at this
location. Although it has gotten mixed reviews, this turns out to be
my favorite meal of the trip. We also enjoyed that we were seated
right up front and could watch the boats from the Pirates ride glide
by us while we dined. My husband had the Monte Christo sandwich and
I had a steak. Food and service were both excellent.
House of Blues – Downtown Disney: If you dined at the House
of Blues anywhere else, you know the menu and food. I had a Shrimp
Po Boy while Gene had a burger. The biggest draw was the ability to
eat outside in pleasant weather.
Carnation Café – Disneyland Park: Made a lunch reservation for this
spot on the same day we dined there. We requested outdoor seating
which was granted. I had a turkey sandwich while Gene had a burger.
Both were good. This location is a favorite and I’m glad we stopped
Napa Rose – Grand Californian: This is a Disney signature
restaurant. We dined here once before (10 years earlier) and I
actually found that first experience to be better than this most
recent one. However, that impression may be colored by not feeling
well on the evening we dined here. We shared an appetizer for two
which includes shrimp with beans, pork ribs with noodles, and
chicken with corn. For dinner, we both order the filet mignon which
is quite yummy. My husband had a strawberry dessert while I opted
for a specialty coffee. I had a misunderstanding with the server
over my coffee and was initially delivered a cold coffee. This is
quickly rectified and I am happy.
Steakhouse 55 – Disneyland Hotel: Having not spent any time
“across the street” at the Disneyland Hotel this trip, we get a
little turned around on our walk over there but finally get to our
destination only to find that I’ve messed up on the time of our
reservation and we should have been there earlier. It’s all good,
though, and we are quickly seated. This restaurant is lovely, and
the service and food are good but I am still not feeling well so do
not eat much. I had ordered eggs benedict which were excellent. I
don’t recall what my husband ordered but he ate it with relish. I
wish I had made a dinner reservation at this location.
We enjoyed both parks. While we
were there, fastpass as we used to know it at Disney World was still
in use though we did not use fastpasses often. Most of the lines
were 20 minutes or so – at least for the rides we wished to
experience. A few were a bit longer. One thing that was quite
notable to us was that it seemed park visitors were nicer and more
patient than what we have experienced in Florida. People waited
patiently in line. We saw very few instances of possible “line
cutting” while we often see this in Florida. I’m not sure what
causes this difference. The only thought I had was that Florida
tends to get a lot of infrequent or single time visitors from all
over the world while California tends to get more folks who live
locally and visit often so don’t have the same sense of urgency in
getting on the rides.
During our park time, we greatly enjoyed experiencing the rides that
are unique to California and/or no longer exist in Florida. I’ll
mention some of my impressions here though this does not cover all
the rides/attractions we experienced.
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey: Well worth a ride
Snow White’s Scary Adventure: Different than the former ride in
Disney World but certainly worthwhile.
Casey Jr. Circus Train: Cute, but don’t wait on line for this
one unless it’s a must do for a toddler with you.
Alice in Wonderland: Love this ride!! Wish they would
transplant it to Florida. No wonder it seems to attract longish
Storybook Land Canal Boats: Again, cute, but I wouldn’t wait
on a long line for this one and you see many of the same things
while on the Casey Jr. Circus Train.
Roger Rabbit Ride: Fun
Finding Nemo Submarine: As a long time fan of the former
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride, I really wanted to ride this. It
did not disappoint. It is a mixture of scenes reminiscent of the old
20,000 Leagues ride along with the Finding Nemo ride in Disney World
in which you ride through the attraction in a clam shell instead of
Space Mountain: I’m not a big fan of Space Mountain in Disney
World – one ride per trip is more than enough for me but I LOVE this
version. It is so smooth a ride!!
Pirates and Haunted Mansion: These rides, of course, are must sees!
Autopia: Again, don’t wait on a long line here unless you are
with a child for whom it is a must do.
Indiana Jones: We didn’t get fast passes and this was one of
our longer waits. In my book, it’s just an okay ride.
Enchanted Tiki Room: This show is a long standing favorite of
mine. One thing of note, is that the stand that serves Dole Whips
has two lines – one out on the pathway outside the show entrance and
one inside the waiting area for the show (The line inside the show
area seems to be shorter than on the other side). Also of note,
folks are encouraged to bring their Dole Whips into the show with
them. Seating in this show is far more uncomfortable than in
Florida. Sit in the back where the seating has higher backs you can
Carsland: Wow!! I’m impressed!! Do not miss this area of the
park!! Make sure you ride Radiator Springs Racers!! It’s sort of
like Test Track with a Cars theming though much more of it takes
place outside and you are matched up with another car for a “race”.
We only got to do this once. Hint: Go get fast passes before you get
on line for your first ride. Even getting on line at park opening
means you will be in a long line!!
Monsters Inc: This ride was having mechanical troubles. It
was closed when we arrived. We got on the moment it reopened but
some of the effects were not working while we were on the ride and
it was already closed again as we exited. From a past trip, I know
this is a worthwhile destination.
World of Color: We got fastpasses for this. Hint – getting a
fastpass for this show does not interfere with your ability to get
any other fastpasses in the park. The show was quite good and I’m
glad we took the time to see it but I would not rush back. The
concept is similar to Fantasia using water as screens for the show.
There are some sections of the performance in which fire in
incorporated into the show and that is pretty cool. The show is also
quite lengthy – longer than I expect it to be.
Following our stay at the Grand
Californian, we rented a car and headed south to San Diego –
Coronado to be more precise. Here we spent three nights at the Del
Coronado – a very impressive old hotel. I’ve heard the Grand
Floridian was modeled on this resort. The resemblance is quite
noticeable. We have an ocean view room located in the old section of
the hotel which was built in 1888. The room is huge and includes a
king bed and walk in closet. We don’t have a balcony but do have
huge windows that open, letting in refreshing breezes.
USS Midway: We spent one full day exploring the USS Midway, a
retired aircraft carrier which is now a floating museum in San
Diego. You can wander through the ship on a self-guided tour (You
receive headphones as part of your admission price). There are many
airplanes on board to view and learn about. There is also a guided
tour through the bridge of the vessel.
San Diego Zoo: Another full day was spent at the San Diego Zoo. The
zoo is much hillier than I expected but a number of transportation
options are available for getting around including buses which
circle the zoo and have set stops; escalators; and a tramway. We
paid extra for a bus tour which we took first thing. It helped us
learn the layout of the zoo how to organize our visit. Favorites
from the visit include the koala bears, polar bear, sun bear and
pandas. Hmmm – you’d think they only had bears!! They actually have
a wide variety of animals here.
Balboa Park: The San Diego Zoo is located right at Balboa Park.
These grounds are beautiful and I wish we had time to fully explore.
As it was, we went to a restaurant located in Balboa Park for lunch
on our zoo day. There are a number of museums and shops on the
grounds – all of which seem quite interesting though we did not get
to do any of them.
Walks along the beach: Since the Del Coronado is an ocean front
resort, you have quick access to the beach. It’s a really large
beach. You can take long walks on the sand or along the sidewalk.
Most of our dining in the San Diego area was “on the fly”. Of note:
Sun Deck – Del Coronado: We were there on the weekend and this
location was “hopping”. It was hard to find a seat without walking
up and down a couple of times. We had lunch here on our arrival day
– quite yummy. On our last evening, we were able to score seating by
a fire pit and enjoyed relaxing with drinks around the fire.
Bluewater Grill – Coronado: Located just down the street (walking
distance) from the Del, we had an excellent meal here. This location
used to be part of the hotel and is built in the same style as the
restaurant but is now independent from the Del Coronado. It’s
located on a marina with very nice water views. Service and food
were excellent and we would return here in a heartbeat!!
Prada Restaurant – Balboa Park: This spot was recommended to us and
I am glad we went even if just for the walk through Balboa Park to
get here. It is a charming restaurant with indoor and patio seating.
We ate on the patio. We each had burgers and fries. The quantity of
fries served to one could easily have fed three and the burger was
quite large as well.
We could have easily spent another week (or more) in the
Coronado/San Diego area and still have left wishing we had more
The news reel just unrolled
three big changes coming to the Walt Disney World resort. From more
new venues at Disney Springs, to an expansion at the Wilderness
Lodge, to Brunch at Chef Mickey's; it's been a busy couple days in
the INTERCOT News Room.
Get more details and join in
the discussion on these two refurbishments on the INTERCOT
Stores & 5 New Restaurants Announced for Disney Springs
Reveal Expansion Plan for Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Mickey's to Offer Brunch Beginning 5/31/15
start to prepare for the Holiday Road, this edition is on its way
out. Whether this edition has given you reasons to hit up Walt
Disney World for Star Wars Weekends running now through June 15th or
experience Disneyland for their 60th Celebration kicking off May
22nd, we hope it's given you some great ideas for an early Summer
Disney trip! We'll be back in a few weeks with more great tips,
news, and deals. See ya real soon!
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