Why You Should Visit Tom Sawyer Island

Tom Sawyer Island, in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, are often overlooked areas of two of the most popular theme parks in the world.  Tom Sawyer Island can become ‘that no-attractions area that you have to take a raft to’.  It’s old-fashioned and doesn’t have any great thrill or advanced technology to it.  It makes sense that the area isn’t a big draw to many guests.

Tom Sawyer Island

With that being said, Tom Sawyer Island is under appreciated.  In this post, I’ll detail five reasons why I think this historic area deserves your attention.  Away we go!

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Tom Sawyer Island tells a story.

Like any great attraction at Disney Parks, Tom Sawyer Island tells a story as you walk around.  With Disneyland’s version being rethemed to the ‘Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island’, the theme is somewhat different from Walt Disney World’s version.  The Pirate’s Lair includes many references to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies while also sharing the characters from Twain’s great The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  For the record, I don’t like the Pirates overlay too much as I wish it would go back to just Tom Sawyer’s Island.  Still, there are plenty of references to both and the area sticks to a story.

Pirates Tom Sawyer

Over in Walt Disney World, the Pirates overlay doesn’t exist and the area just tells the stories of Tom Sawyer.  The islands share a name and theme but they are quite different from each other.  There are different areas to explore and see in both parks.  If you let your imagination wander, it’s almost like your on one of the many adventures Tom took.

Tom Sawyer Island is a break from the crowds.

Avoiding crowds while at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom is impossible.  There are big crowds and then slightly less big crowds.  Tom Sawyer Island offers one of the best ‘slightly less big crowd’ options.  People who aren’t going to spend a lot of the time at the parks don’t want to go to a place without attractions.  The numerous paths in the island also help spread people out so that guests aren’t running into each other very often.  If you want a break from all the people, Tom Sawyer Island is a perfect place to wander around without bumping into someone every couple of seconds.

Fort Wilderness

There is so much to explore.

As I said in the paragraph above, there are so many paths to explore.  The islands at both parks have 5 different areas (if not more, depending on which website you look at) that are full of paths to walk, caves to explore, and forts to see.  I love walking through the Fort Wilderness spot in Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland.  I also love walking by the water wheel at Harper’s Mill.  My wife loves going across the bridges that sway back and forth or bounce up and down.  I just run across those so I don’t get scared.  If you have little ones, they may like exploring the caves, searching for treasure.  If a peaceful venture is the goal soak in the details and the steady streams that flow throughout the islands.

TSI graveyard

There are great, unique views showing the rest of the park.

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When walking along the outside of the island, guests can stare out across the water and into different parts of the theme park.  Those views are only offered from Tom Sawyer’s Island.  Whether it’s staring at New Orleans Square from across the Rivers of America or watching a bird rest on some wood in the middle of the water, this area is not short of things to look at.  I also find it the most peaceful when right on the water.

Boat from TSI

Seriously, that water wheel is so cool.

One reason theme parks are such a draw is that they offer guests a chance to experience something they can’t anywhere else.  This doesn’t always have to be done with state of the art attractions, it can also be done in an old-fashioned way.  I don’t know how many water wheels I’ve seen in my life but I bet I could count them all on one hand.  While it might not appeal to some, I could stare at relics like this for quite some time.  This one is especially cool as your steps away from where Fantasmic! is performed.  Harper’s Mill is a fantastic area, made especially amazing by the unique water wheel.

Wheel in TSI

While Tom Sawyer Island won’t be winning any award for its thrills, I find it a perfect place to spend an hour or two exploring.  There are many details to see and trails to explore.  While it might not be at the top of many to-do list when going to a Disney Park, I do think guests really miss out if they skip going to Tom Sawyer Island.  Pirate themed or not.

TSI lighting

– Andrew

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Question of the Week (6/28/15)

Every week our writers get together and answer a Disney-related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers.  Leave your answer in the comments!

Question of the Week: As we’re reaching the hottest part of the summer, what is one of your favorite ways to cool off in the Disney Parks?

BTRBBQ lemonade

Kelsee – I know the go-to response usually goes to the water rides, but I actually love to go on Soarin’ Over California when it’s super hot out. The reason for this is not only the ride, but the waiting area to get on the ride. It’s so dark and cool inside once you get in the building and it’s heavenly compared to the heat outside. This is the only time where I do not mind waiting in line at all since it’s a break from the heat while still being able to wait to get on a ride. Most all of the other rides, you have to wait outside to get on and it makes the wait even longer. Even though most line areas are shaded, it doesn’t compare to getting to wait in the cool air conditioned building of Soarin’ Over California.

Leslie – I like to ride Star Tours most when it’s hot. The outside queue isn’t that bad and once you approach the doors you can feel the air conditioning. Waiting for Star Tours is also entertaining as you listen to all the droids. Plus it’s one of my favorite rides. When you exit the ride you have a chance to finish cooling down in the gift shop as well. With Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and Toy Story Midway Mania attracting most of the attention the ride is usually no more than a 30 minute wait.

Melissa L. – I like to get a frozen lemonade and sit in an air conditioned or shady part of the park! I love Disneyland’s frozen lemonade! It’s always super refreshing and cools you down quick!

Splash

Melissa H. – I am always torn between Pirates and Splash Mountain. I love riding Pirates when it is hot because the ride itself is cool and it is one of the longest rides in the park so I get to be in the cool for a long period of time. But I would go on Splash Mountain over and over again if I could! It is definitely one of my favorite rides.

AoA screens

Cassie – I usually grab a cool treat and take a nap in the animation academy. The air conditioning is excellent and I love watching the animated clips on the large screens. If it’s around lunch time when I get too hot I’ll also enjoy a meal in The Carnation cafe. It’s relaxing and cool inside, plus I’ll drink about 30 cups of the unlimited ice water.

Andrew – I’m going to cheat and give two answers, one on each coast. In Disneyland my new favorite place to cool off is Flo’s. Grab a milkshake, a seat and then explore some the wonderful details in the restaurant. Or stare outside and the fantastic theming in Cars Land.

flo's

In Disney World, my favorite place to cool off is the Haunted Mansion. The ride is longer than Disneyland’s and, in my opinion, better. It’s a nice, long and cool ride. And you can’t go wrong with a classic. I would also recommend the top floor of the Columbia Harbor House, as that’s hardly ever crowded and is a pretty unique place.

Stream in TSI

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Add-On Experiences for Kids In Downtown Disney

Disneyland and California Adventure both have opportunities for kids to enjoy unique experiences. However, if you take a stroll through Downtown Disney, you’ll find some fun extra special experiences for kids to add onto their vacation.

Girls walking

For example, even though Build a Bear Workshop is not an exclusive store to the Disney parks, it’s a fun stop to make a special memory and souvenir. You will not find the wide selection of products made specifically for the Disney parks anywhere else, so it a special store set apart from the other Build A Bear stores throughout the country.

build a bear

Ridemakerz is a similar experience to Build A Bear, except you get to build your own car instead of stuffed animal. This store may be a little more boy friendly (especially older boys) than Build A Bear, but girls still enjoy the store as well. Here you can build a replica of the Batmobile, Towmater or Lightning McQueen from Cars, or a scaled down copy of classic cars such as a mustang or corvette to name a few. This store is conveniently located right next to Build A Bear, so you can make one stop for two stores.

Build a bear 3

Anna & Elsa’s Boutique is the newest store experience to enter the Downtown Disney scene. This boutique is very similar to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique which is located in Fantasyland, except it is exclusively themed around the movie Frozen. This store starts at a lower price range compared to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which may make some parent’s budgets happier. You have the option to transform into Anna, Elsa, Olaf for girls, Olaf for Boys, or “Cool as Ice” inspiration which is a frosty makeover. Make sure to make a reservation for this boutique since its newer and widely popular among young kids.

hug a bear

At every turn, Disney finds an opportunity to make children’s experience exceptional and that does not fall short once you exit the parks into Downtown Disney. These store encounters are beyond the regular souvenirs shopping and help create a lasting memory your kids will remember for years to come. If you are looking for an interactive and fun vacation add-on to your kids’ trip, look no further than these stores in Downtown Disney.

– Kelsee

A Disney Chat (6/25/15)

Yesterday, most of our writers got together via the internet and talked a little Disney.  In this post, we’ll share the highlights from that chat.  Also, we have created an Instagram account.  You can follow us at WanderingInDisney on Instagram. Since this was a chat, the typing was a little less formal than a typical blog post, so bear with us.  Thank you and enjoy the chat!

MK gold fw

Andrew – This is a quick little blip more relatable to Cassie and Leslie since they see the parks more often but, how do you think Disney World and Disneyland look right now in general? It seems like a pretty interesting time for both resorts as Disneyland really geared up for their anniversary and Disney World is on the verge of some really exciting things that haven’t actually been announced.

Leslie – Disney World looks crazy at times if that is fair to say. Construction is everywhere as change is everywhere. That being said something new seems to be popping up everyday. We have had new things opening in Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs) as well as in Animal Kingdom (which I need to visit soon). Parks are filled and there is still more to come. Right now some rides are down for refurbishment but should open again while I am here so I am excited to see them soon.

Cassie – I had visited the parks I think three times just in the month of February and there was a lot of construction. The saddest part was the castle was covered up by a giant sheet basically with a fake castle painted on it haha….I felt so bad for families visiting at that time who had never been before and had to see that on vacation. BUT then I went again in March and April and the castle looked FABULOUS. Seriously, it is brand spankin’ new. Splash Mountain which was also closed down during the winter seemed like they had cleaned it up a lot and looked great!

Kelsee – I love what they’ve done with Paint the Night. Growing up I loved seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade and this is very similar, but upgraded. From what I’ve seen around the Internet, it’s amazing! Have you seen any of the new shows/parades Cassie?

Cassie – I unfortunately haven’t, my pass is blocked out for June and July so I won’t be able to make it back to see them until August. Some people from my work were raving about Paint the Night though…that is definitely my number one priority when I return.

Andrew – Yeah, I can’t wait to see that and the firework show.

Cassie – Yes! Speaking of the anniversary I just wanted to share with you all a cool piece of mail I got today. Sometimes Disney sends the passholders super cool gifts. It is an art piece by artist Liana Hee that was created for the Diamond Celebration. I just love this piece and found the gift to be super special!

Cassie anniversary

 

Andrew – Rumor has it, Disney CEO Bob Iger and the rest of the Disney board were on property in Disney World this week discussing and finalizing the budget for the Disney’s Hollywood Studios redo/remodel. I’m guessing the budget will be pretty good, at least on par with the California Adventure 2.0 budget. How much of Hollywood Studios do you think should remain and how much of it should be totally redone in favor of an expanded Pixar Place and Star Wars Land?

Leslie – To name a few things I want to go, Disney Jr stage (not gonna happen) Lights, Motor, Action, where the Backstage Lot Tour was, the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area gone and where they previously had the Frozen Sing Along gone.
What I don’t want to go but probably will is the Indiana Jones area, at least if they want more Star Wars things in the Star Wars area.

Andrew – People who have read the blog fairly regularly know that I’ve taken a few shots at Hollywood Studios over the last few months. There’s not much there and I wasn’t a huge fan to begin with. With that in mind, I think Tower of Terror should remain. Even though it scares the daylights out of me, it’s the best ride on property. The Chinese Theater is a great icon and I like it in the center of the park. Other than that, they could truly rip it all out and I would be excited. Of course, Toy Story will stick around with the rest of Pixar. So will Star Tours. I’m guessing Rock n’ Roller Coaster will because that’s a very good attraction but not one that I’m personally attached to.

Melissa H. – Really – I don’t feel like I can speak a lot to this topic since I haven’t been there since 2010, but the park itself seemed to have a few good things going for it. I think it would be really cool if they made 3 different lands – one dedicated to Star Wars where the existing Star Tours is, one dedicated to Pixar back where the current Toy Story ride is, and one that kind of remains the “real-life Hollywood” where they keep other attractions like Rockin Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror.  And I agree, I really liked the Indiana Jones stunt show, but it will likely go…

Kelsee – Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Midway Mania need to stay.

Andrew – Toy Story Mania is staying and getting another track to accommodate more guests!

Leslie – Also as much as it pains me to say it…the great movie ride needs to go… Please don’t throw stones!

Andrew – I like it. It needs updated, not needing to go. They’ve started updating it but there is more work to be done.

Melissa – Leslie, I agree that it either needs to go or needs some sort of MAJOR overhaul

Leslie – They did “redo” it with TCM. It is awful…

Andrew – Oh, I’ve heard people who really like it.

Leslie – They are insane…don’t trust those people Andrew.

Andrew – They need to redo the actual ride and scenes not just the script and the films. The idea behind the great movie ride is fantastic, it just needs better execution.

Kelsee – Ya, they need an upgrade to keep it around. I agree that the Chinese theater needs to stay. Very iconic throughout Hollywood’s history.  I love the idea behind the ride too, Andrew.

Leslie – The biggest problem with the “redo” is that the attractions cast members barely have a speaking role anymore. The new clips at the end are great, mixing classic and newer movies wonderfully. The end is now unfortunately my favorite part…

Andrew – Yeah, I’ve heard that some of the audio script is pretty clunky.

Leslie – It is easily 75% of the ride.

Melissa – Yeah, the actual interactive aspect of the ride was what I enjoyed about it. However, some of the scenes just seemed like they needed a major upgrade, or to at least speak to something a little more relevant to today’s park guests. Or I could just be down on it because I find Wizard of Oz terrifying….

tot

Andrew – How would you feel about a mini-Cars Land in an expanded Pixar Place?

Melissa – While I think it would be cool and extremely popular, I think Radiator Springs kind of needs that grand scale

Leslie – As much as I would love one, I want it to stay in California.
I want there to be a reason I want to go to Disneyland, if everything was at Disney World I would never want to visit anywhere else.

Cassie – Agreed. I feel like Cars Land saved California Adventures life

Andrew – Oh, I definitely agree.  I’d rather Cars Land stay in California Adventure alone but if they do move it, I hope Radiator Springs Racers goes in as the full ride and not a smaller version. I also hope it takes the spot of Lights, Motor, Action.

With that being said, I’d much rather see a few original Pixar related attractions like the long-rumored Monsters Inc. Door Coaster.

Cassie – We need an UP ride….badly

Andrew – Agreed.  Along with some Inside Out in Epcot!

Leslie – I also agree, but I still need to see Inside Out.

Melissa – That just gave me another idea about what the could do with the park… It would be kind of cool if they could incorporate real-world/life inspirations to the park to kind of keep the studio feel if they really wanted that. But, to come back to the current conversation, I think Disney could do SO MUCH by incorporating more Pixar in ALL of its parks.  I’ve wanted a Crush Coaster based off of the EAC for a LONG time!

Cassie – Right!!! There is SO MUCH to work with.

Andrew – That would be fantastic, Melissa.  I think there will be more Pixar in Epcot, DHS and California Adventure in the future. The other 3 parks, I’m not sure about.  I’m not sure I want it in the others either.

Stanley's Oasis

 

Andrew – This is more of a vacation tip question, but how much spending money do you think is good for a day at Disney?

Leslie – I give myself maybe $75. Mostly because I don’t buy many things anymore for souvenirs, and I like nice sit down restaurants. I also take advantage of free water from Starbucks or Quick Service places to keep hydrated. I also like to save my money so I won’t let myself spend more than I earn in a week, but at the same time I know I won’t be able to experience this ever again.

Cassie – For a vacationer I would recommend budgeting for around $50-$75 per person, per day. That being if you want to eat all three meals at the park, have some snacks, and buy maybe on souvenir.

For myself I usually grab a quick bagel or something cheap for breakfast, pack my own lunch, and just budget for dinner and usually a cool treat like an ice cream or dole. I can do a $25 Disney day easy…not counting the extra money for gas and parking.

Now for a special occasion, honeymoon, etc, I would say give yourself a bigger buffer. $100+ if you really want to treat yourself.

Melissa – Oh gosh… I really think it varies depending on who you are. I like to overestimate my money and I have been so many times that I feel like I know my own needs pretty well. When people ask me about money though my advice usually is:

1. If you aren’t on a dining plan and are going to be eating ALL meals at the park that day plan $10 for breakfast and $20 per both other meals (for a total of $50 in food related money). This is usually an overestimate for food so it allows you wiggle room to buy snacks or even extra money for other things. If you plan on eating at a specialty restaurant like Blue Bayou or Sci-Fi Drive In you will need to do some research and plan accordingly.

2. Plan about $15 extra spending money per day. That way you can pool it together to buy a bigger item or spend it on a locker or something smaller.

3. Out of park purchases like parking and stuff will bring your total up a bit.

That makes about $75 per day though

Andrew – I’m not a huge souvenir fan, so I might be a bit of outlier here. I usually spend around $50 a day because I like sit down restaurants and I like snacks and drinks. Like Leslie said, I never pay for water. I do usually eat two meals a day in the parks, one being a little nicer meal.

dragon

 

Thanks for reading out chat!  If you have questions, topics or comments that you’d like us to talk about in our next chat send them to wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  Have a great day!

Little Things Everyone Should Do In Walt Disney World

Going to a Disney Park is a rushed event.  There is an incredible amount to do and vacations, sadly, don’t last forever.  This is especially true in Walt Disney World.  With an amount of land that is bigger than most cities, there is no possible way to do everything even if you were there for a month.  akl

Those park guests that are visiting for the first time or don’t make it to Disney World very often usually feel rushed to get in all of the attractions.  This makes sense, as I’ve stated before, a theme park doesn’t work without attractions.  With that being said, if people are just attraction hopping I think they are missing out on some smaller activities that are worthy of their time.  That’s why I’ve compiled a short list of activities, tips, and sights that I think people should slow down and do while at Disney World.  Some won’t cost much extra time at all while some can take up a full day.

Wander through the hotels!

Grand Floridian drums_edited-2

A vacation itinerary doesn’t usually include “Go look around hotels that you aren’t staying at” but at Disney World this is a great, relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon.  The resorts at Disney World offer such a variety of themes and activities that no matter which ones you choose to explore, there will be plenty to do.  I really enjoy walking around the Grand Floridian grounds and soaking in the Victorian charm.  Wandering through the Contemporary Hotel is great because of the history behind the hotel and the monorail soaring above your head.  Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge offer breathtaking architecture and some very unique activities.  If you want to do this at nighttime, head to Port Orleans, soak in some of the New Orleans vibe and take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.  Those are just a few of my favorite resorts to walk around.  All of them have good to great restaurant options too so you can go make an evening out of it.

See the longer shows

American Adventure

While the theme parks offer many thrills, some of the best entertainment is in the shows that they offer.  In talking to other Disney Park goers there seems to be a hesitancy to go see the longer shows because they take up a larger portion of the day then the rides do.  While that’s true to an extent, I think you are missing some of the best parts of Disney if you do that.  The American Adventure in Epcot is an incredible show, taking guests through America’s past.  With a great pre-show from the Voices of Liberty, this takes around 45 minutes but it is well worth it.  Impressions de France is quite a bit shorter, at about 15 minutes, but it is, in my opinion, the best film shown on property.  Finding Nemo the Musical and Festival of the Lion King represent Animal Kingdom well (as does Flights of Wonder, if you’re looking for something a little more educational and animal based).  The Hall of Presidents is a classic attraction and a must-do, in my opinion.  Seeing these shows gives everyone a nice break and each of them are really well done.

Take the ferry from the transportation center to the Magic Kingdom.

There are a variety of ways to get to the Magic Kingdom.  If staying at a resort that’s not right by the park, then bus will be the option.  Monorail is an iconic option if staying on the monorail loop.  But, I recommend going by ferry-boat at least once.  While the monorail offers some unique and great views, the ferry frames the Magic Kingdom so well and really builds the excitement as you crawl closer to the gates.  Going across the Seven Seas Lagoon also offers great views of the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary.

Magic Kingdom ferry

There are many more things that I’d like to mention but that might come in a part 2 of this post.  What are some of your favorite little things to do at Disney World?  Please share with us in the comments!  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (6/21/15)

Happy Father’s Day to every dad who’s reading this, specifically the dad’s of all our writers here on Wandering in Disney!

Every Sunday our writers get to together and answer a Disney-related question.  Leave your answer in the comments!

DWMKFW

Question of the Week: With it being Father’s Day, I thought we’d have a ‘guy’ centered question. There seems to be a stereotype that grown men don’t really like theme parks. I’m not sure why that is but… If you were trying to convince a man to visit Disneyland or Disney World what would you bring up to try to persuade him to go?

Cassie – Happy Father’s Day to all! I think everyone has a little bit of a child still in them. No matter your age, everyone is young at heart. I would convince a reluctant older gent by asking him to tap into his younger self and try to see the park through the eyes of a child. I actually had to do some convincing with my father the last time we went to Disneyland together. He flat-out refused to go on splash mountain, but through the power of pursuant persuasion, we got him on it! Of course he had an incredible time on splash mountain and the picture of his face grinning from ear to ear proves it!

Splash

Leslie – Happy Father’s Day everybody! I know for my dad a big draw is the food. He really enjoyed his time at Disney but I think the food was his favorite part. With so many different delicious things to try it is easy to see why there is such a draw from the restaurants. Thrill rides are also a great attraction too, but I don’t suggest doing both around the same time!

Melissa H. – I think that I would really focus in on the food and the rides that I think would intrigue him. I would point out how many incredibly delicious things there are to try at the resort. In addition I would really want to point out the fact that when you are at Disney, the world outside of the gates seems to vanish and you can relax and enjoy your day for a while.

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Melissa L. –Hmmm this is hard for me since I’m thinking of my dad who doesn’t care for crowds, doesn’t like to spend money, and doesn’t like getting really hot. But, now that I’ve experienced the wonders of the Disney Dining Plan, I think that would be a great draw. Convincing them that you are paying for everything up front and knowing you want to walk around the park and not have to keep spending money on meals I think would make him happy!

Watch the gap

Kelsee – I would try to persuade them with the thrill rides. In general, guys seem to enjoy the bigger rides at the parks. Also, if they have children, it’s always a bit easier to use them as a persuasion tool because they’re going to the parks for their kid’s experience rather than just for themselves. Alcohol also helps in some situations since they do sell alcohol throughout California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort and Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. I feel like Epcot is especially a way to convince them to go since you can “have a drink around the world” at the World’s Showcase. Luckily, both my husband and my dad (though he is reluctant at times) enjoy the parks and don’t need much persuasion.

Andrew – I was also going to say the thrill rides and food. So, in trying to be different, I think there are plenty of other ways to persuade a guy who’s reluctant to go to Disney Parks, especially Disney World. The resort on the east coast offers some impressive golf courses, camping, boating, fishing, water sports, spring training baseball, and much more. The west coast has plenty to offer too, just not as much in the resort, as the beach is a few miles away, the weather is wonderful, and the cuisine is great. As for actually in the parks, the architecture is amazing to look at. Tom Sawyer Island offers a break from the people and some terrain to conquer. I believe the Disney Parks offer something for everyone and that includes all the guys who don’t think they would like being there!

Grand Flo

Let us know how you convince people to go to the Disney Parks in the comments!  If you like what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please go like our Facebook Page and subscribe to us via email or WordPress.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.

Thank you for reading and we hope you have a wonderful week!  Happy Father’s Day!

Top Character Dining Experiences at The Disneyland Resort

When going to the parks, one of the main goals (or at least mine) is to meet as many characters as possible. One of the most helpful ways to achieve that goal is the character dining experiences that Disney offers throughout the parks and hotels. I personally really enjoy character dining and recommend it if it’s in your budget to do so. Here are my top three character dining experiences at the Disneyland Resort.

Hallie with minnie

Ariel’s Grotto: I put this restaurant on top of the list for two reasons. The first reason being that I am a sucker for princess meet and greets and the second reason is because I love the view you get from this restaurant that you don’t get in the other character dining experiences. Located in California Adventure right as you step on Paradise Pier boardwalk, this restaurant overlooks the water and is a beautiful setting for a sit down meal. The food is very good and the menu has been updated in the last couple of years to make it even better. Seafood is of course on the menu as well as chicken and steak, to accommodate different taste preferences. Make sure to go for Breakfast or Lunch because the princesses are not there for dinner, however you will get a preferred seating ticket for World of Color if you go for dinner.

Kelsee Snow White

Goofy’s Kitchen: Unlike Ariel’s Grotto, Goofy’s Kitchen is a buffet style dining experience. Also, this restaurant is not located inside the parks but at The Disneyland Hotel which makes getting to your meal a little more of a walk since it’s at the far end of Downtown Disney. I recommend taking the monorail if you are in the parks to make your dining reservation, it drops you off very close to the Disneyland Hotel. They serve breakfast and dinner at this location and the food has always been pleasing when I have visited. There are a wide variety of characters that visit your table unlike Ariel’s Grotto that is just specifically princesses.

Hallie mickey waffle

Plaza Inn’s Breakfast in the Parks with Minnie and Friends: This is the only character dining experience in the Disneyland (the park itself), and it’s a very quaint and pleasant experience. My daughter had her 2nd birthday breakfast here and they did a great job with the food as well as making her experience extra special. This restaurant is also a buffet style dining experience like Goofy’s Kitchen. Minnie is always present for a meet and greet and many of her other friends are as well such as Tigger, Pooh, and Rabbit. The Mickey waffles were my absolute favorite and my daughters as well. This is a great stop for breakfast and the least expensive of the three dining experiences I have listed.

Hallie Winnie

It is highly recommended to make a reservation for all of these restaurants. These character dining experiences are a great addition to your vacation and help you see as many characters as you possible without chasing them all over the resort. They are more expensive than some non-character dining restaurants but the quality of time you get is priceless.

– Kelsee

Top Ten Delicious Disneyland Drinks!

Summer has officially arrived at the Disneyland Resort Parks and with it comes the summer heat! Both Disneyland and Disney World alike can get into temperatures of over 100*, but nothing beats the heat on a hot Disney day better than a delicious fun beverage. While it is very important to drink a lot of water when visiting the parks, it is also essential to try some yummy liquid treats during your visit! Here are my top ten delicious drink choices at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.

Water DL

10. Root Beer Floats from The Golden Horseshoe

Just like The Golden Horseshoe itself, Root Beer floats are a Disneyland classic. Served with the traditional Barq’s Root Beer and vanilla soft serve, this cool and delicious treat is one worth enjoying. On a hot day The Golden Horseshoe can serve as an air-conditioned oasis away from the afternoon sun. Grabbing a float and taking a break to watch a hilarious show at The Golden Horseshoe is a great way to chill out on a hot day. Also, if Barq’s Root Beer isn’t your thing, you can replace it with Coca-Cola float!

9. Frozen Margaritas at Rita’s Baja Blenders (21 and over)

At Rita’s you can enjoy a frozen margarita with proof of I.D. The sweet frozen treats come in your choice of traditional lemon lime or strawberry flavors. Personally, I have only had the frozen margaritas once as I find them a little too sweet. However, for those who enjoy the sweeter side of things, these drinks are for you! Rita’s also offers non-alcoholic blended drinks, perfect for anyone or any age. These frozen margaritas are sure to cool you down as you enjoy your afternoon at The Pacific Wharf.

8. Boysen Apple Freeze at Maurice’s Treats.

Forget the poison apple and grab a Boysen Apple from the newest area in Disneyland, Fantasy Faire! I recently tried the Boysen Apple for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed its tangy kick. The icy drink is comprised of apple juice, passion fruit and berry flavors. In addition, if you wish to pay a little extra, your Boysen Apple Freeze will come prepared in a souvenir goblet. This sweet and sour treat is quickly becoming a Disneyland favorite. Once you see someone wandering Fantasy Faire with one of these you’ll be sure to want one too! They are both beautiful and delicious!

7. Rose Petal Soda from The Carthay Circle Lounge

While I have only had to pleasure of visiting the Carthay Circle Lounge once, it is definitely on my to-do list to try again. Not only is their food outstanding, but also their drinks are one of a kind. The Rose Petal Soda is a totally unique and refreshing treat comprised of sparkling water, rose essence, and topped with an edible sugary rose petal. This drink is a sophisticated and delicious change of pace from any typical soda.

Jolly Holiday at night
6. Espresso at The Jolly Holiday Bakery Café

There is usually one point in a day at Disneyland where I will find myself needing a serious pick-me-up. An iced latte or blended mocha from The Jolly Holiday Bakery Café always does the trick. The espresso drink selection is rather large at this Mary Poppins themed café, including a variety of coffee and espresso drinks served either hot or iced. And, being a coffee snob myself, I must say the drinks are actually really great!

5. Handcrafted Beer at The Karl Strauss Beer Truck (21 and over)

For those of us beer lovers it doesn’t get much better than Karl Strauss. Sipping an ice-cold brew and munching a soft pretzel while watching the sunset at The Pacific Wharf is truly wonderful. I’ve also enjoyed the occasional brew while waiting in the long line at Radiator Springs Racers, it helps the time pass. The Karl Strauss Beer Truck carries a variety of popular beers on tap, along with a seasonal variety. My personal favorite would be the Tower 10 IPA, it truly rocks!

Ghirardelli

4. Milkshakes and Malts from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop

CALLING ALL CHOCOLATE LOVERS! These milkshakes are good, like, really really good. My personal favorite would be the sea salt and caramel banana shake. The shakes are made with a variety of ice cream flavors and Ghirardelli chocolate. They are, however, incredibly rich and filling. I would suggest sharing one or having it in place of a meal. Seriously, they are huge and decadent!

3. Ramone’s Pear of Dice Soda at The Cozy Cone Motel

This bright pink drink is sure to cool you down on a hot day in Cars Land. The Pear of Dice Soda is composed of simply Sprite and Prickly Pear syrup, combining the two flavors into a tart and sweet treat. I love this drink because of its awesome color and because it is super refreshing!

Mint Julep

2. Mint Julep from New Orleans Square

Not only is New Orleans Square my favorite place to be in Disneyland, but the Mint Julep is one of my favorite drinks. This delicious non-alcoholic beverage combines lime, mint, and soda, creating a mojito-like experience in a cup. Served alongside fresh-from-the-fryer beignets, the mint julep is a delightfully light and satisfying drink. I like to grab one of these bad boys before taking a ride around the park on the neighboring Disneyland Railroads.

Photo Credit - Laura Perkins

Photo Credit – Laura Perkins

1. Dole Float

There is a reason that the Dole Float is probably the most popular drink in the entirety of Disneyland, it is just that good. I am not ashamed to say that I have waited in the Dole Float line for over an hour on a hot day just to get my hands on one of these. The Dole Float is made with Dole Pineapple Juice and Dole Pineapple soft serve, topped with a paper umbrella. The soft serve has a waxy texture to it almost reminding me of the consistency of chapstick. Weird as that may sound, it is super tasty. My favorite spot to enjoy a Dole Float would be while taking a ride on the jungle river cruise. Tropical drink in hand, you will truly feel like you have escaped the park and are on a jungle vacation.

– Cassie

Favorite Quiet Place in Disney: California Adventure’s Real Route 66

It’s easy to be intimidated by the business of Disney World or Disneyland. There are gobs of people everywhere and a simple walk around the parks can turn into a game of ‘Human Bumper-Cars’. We’re starting a series for people who want to find places away from all of the crowds. Places to relax, take in the scenery and soak in the Disney details are a must for me while I’m at a Park. We’re looking forward to sharing some of those places with you. Here’s a look at some of our other favorite quiet places (more to come soon).

Cars rock

Today we travel to Disney’s California Adventure and Route 66.  Cars Land, which just celebrated its third birthday, has been the subject of much gushing on this blog.  Honestly, I’ve been the one behind most of the gushing.  I guess I should give someone else a chance to write about this land but… Well, they can once I’m done with this post.  Cars Land is completely immersive, of the highest quality, and a land that is easy to spend at least a few hours in.  This recently new land is also busy.  Very busy, in fact.  No matter the time of day, you are more than likely to run into the biggest crowds California Adventure has to offer while in Cars Land.  So, why mention all of this while talking about your favorite quiet places in Disney?  Because there is a little more to this land than meets the eye.

Disneyland Resort isn’t the easiest place to find quiet and lack of crowds.  Disneyland (and California Adventure to a lesser extent) packs so much into a pretty tight space that there aren’t  as many areas to find quiet as there are at Disney World.  Still, we have a few favorites and this is one of them.

cropped-cars.jpg

As you walk down Route 66 into the heart of Cars Land, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and the Cozy Cone Motel lies vibrantly on your left while Flo’s V8 Cafe sits on the right.  After savoring Radiator Springs and reaching the end of the main road, the Cadillac Mountain Range sits high above the courthouse.  This is where our journey begins.  Turning right and heading towards the Racers, is a road that is less and less crowded the further you go.  When first taking this road less traveled, Flo’s is on your right and the brilliant landscaping of Cars Land’s best attraction is on your left.  While this place is a little more crowded, it’s a fine place to stop and enjoy the hoots and hollers of the people racing around the desert.  You can go even further along the path and still see this attraction.  While not my favorite part of this quiet path, this is an excellent area to just relax and watch.  If you like it enough, just grab a table outside at Flo’s and soak it all in while drinking a milkshake.

Cars Land path

As the journey restarts, the path lazily winds around a couple of corners and the scenery gradually grows greener.  It’s at this point where this path truly acts like the park’s Route 66.  While it doesn’t have the sign that Cars Land does, this area transports us from the midwest America that is Cars Land to the Pacific.  As you leave the rock-work from Cars Land, you shortly reach the Pacific Wharf section of California Adventure.  In between these two areas is one of the quietest areas of the park.  I also love the theming that easily transitions you from the hot desert to the cooler Pacific.  Once at the Wharf, there are plenty of quiet spots.  One such spot is at the back-end of Ghirardelli (if coming from the Wharf).  Enjoy ice cream, as you relax in some quiet spots away from the crowds.  I’ve heard ice cream is the perfect entrée to your Flo’s milkshake appetizer.

Ghirardelli

Eventually the path will reach the food area of Pacific Wharf and the crowds come back, but before then it’s very pleasant and pretty quiet.  Another way to experience this path is going in the opposite direction from Pacific Wharf to Cars Land.  The rock-work frames the entrance to Cars Land perfectly and it’s a beautiful entrance to a great land.  It’s also one of the best photo opportunities in the whole park.

Melissa Cars

I recommend walking this area at sunset as it offers some unique and beautiful views sides of the park.  That’s definitely on my list of things to do on my next list.  Really, I’d walk this area even if it was packed.  I love the change of theming as you move from inland to coast.  It’s just a bonus that this area is usually less crowded than the rest of the park.  Soak it in, enjoy the different sights and theming, and take a minute to just relax.  This is a great place to do it.

Pacific Wharf Canning Co.

Do you have any favorite quiet areas in Disney’s California Adventure.  Let us know in the comments if you do!  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (6/14/15)

Every Sunday our writers get together and answer a Disney-related question.  Here is this week’s question and answer (leave your answer in the comments).

Question of the Week: Themed areas based off of film franchises seems to be the trend in theme parks right now (Harry Potter, Cars, soon-to-be Star Wars). What franchise, Disney or otherwise, would you like to be put in the parks?

Dragon Fire

Kelsee – Not being a Star Wars fan (boo me, right?) I honestly wish they were putting a Marvel Universe based area in place of the Star Wars themed area. However, I see where Star Wars can and will be a good addition to the parks, especially if they find a way to incorporate it into Tomorrowland (Disneyland) instead of Toontown.

Anyway, like I stated previously, I would love to see a Marvel Universe area. Granted, I know they can’t do anything in Disneyworld because of previous contracts with Islands of Adventure but I’d love to see it in Disneyland. I think that when Disney bought Marvel Comics, it is one of the best things they could have done.

I feel like princesses are such a big part of Disney and the parks, that there is always a missing piece for boys (or girls that like superheroes too) However, now that they own the rights to Marvel, I feel like they need to put something in that is as iconic as princesses but on the opposite side of the spectrum with superheroes. With the Marvel movies being such big blockbuster hits and returning so much revenue, I’m surprised nothing is in the works yet, there are rumors but no set plans so I have hope!

Cars Land

Leslie – Having now enjoyed the goodness that is Star Wars Weekends I honestly wish there was much more of it in the park. Star Wars is something that can reach all generations and with the new movie coming out I think it would be great to build on that. Plus the character interactions are some of the best I’ve ever been to. There could also be a new amazing mix of rides to go on. So if I could pick anything to be there today it would have to be Star Wars. All they have to do is leave Star Wars Weekend there permanently.

Star Tours robot

Andrew – I was pretty curious on what others would say on this question. Kelsee and Leslie took the easy ones wink emoticon so that brings me no closer to coming up with something. Honestly, I don’t really like this trend in theme parks. I’d rather theme parks be coming up with a mix of original and film based lands and attractions. Lately, it’s seemed as if those original concepts have been lacking in every theme park outside of Tokyo Disneyland Resort. I hope the trend switches, as they usually do, and we get back to more original content. By the way, yes, I’m very excited for a future Star Wars Land.

With all of that being said, there are franchises and movies that appeal to me. Lord of the Rings land or park would be pretty interesting but I think the whole concept might be a little big for a theme park, as most of the landscape fans have fallen in love with is attainable to see on a trip to New Zealand. So, since I’m against that I’ll go with a James Bond ride. I think this would fit wonderfully in the Hollywood Studios (or whatever it’s going to be called) park. James Bond is one of the most famous franchises in the world and it is a great representation of a classic action/spy movie, which that park lacks (okay, that park lacks a lot of things but the point remains). While I don’t think this will ever happen, I think this attraction would be really interesting as guests join Bond to defeat classic Bond villains and get the girl. If done correctly, this would absolutely be a hit. While there are currently James Bond attractions in some theme parks, they are in the smaller scale and I’m sure could be bought out.

Hogwarts Castle

Melissa H. – In all honesty I think it would be really cool for them to do more with the Indiana Jones franchise. To me, Indy has a sense of adventure, humor, and romance that appeals to both males and females. Currently, the ride in Disneyland is a big hit (and has been for years) so I think it could be lots of fun.  Because of the multiple story lines from the movies I think they could do a lot.

Harambe theater

Cassie – My first thought was also Lord of the Rings. There is so so much complexity to the books/films I’m sure you could do an entire park just with a LOTR theme. But I also agree with Andrew, seeing as the landscape for the series is so vast it may be a bit much. Like LOTR, a Game of Thrones ride or park section would be pretty crazy cool too…but probably not a great place to bring the kids seeing the violence and darker themes in the story. Still, the fan base and popularity for Game of Thrones has gotten so large I’m sure a lot of people would love the idea.

Melissa L. – Oh gosh this is hard plus I’m late to the game! I am actually a big fan of these themes parks or at least part of a park. I love seeing a story I love come to life such as Harry Potter and Cars and so forth. However, when faced with this question of what land should be created, I have no idea! All of the above ideas would be amazing and I’d visit those parks anytime! The only thing I can think of is having a whole land devoted to Tangled! That would be amazing!

Tangled

 

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