Sunday was our last full day in the parks and we planned to make it a long one. Disneyland was open from 8 AM until midnight so we slept in a little past 8, deciding that 15+ hours at Disneyland would do instead of 16+. Disappointing, I know. I might have pushed for a little more sleep but we had a reservation at 9:15 and wanted to be there in plenty of time.
Most of the day was spent inside of Disneyland. The goal for the day was more Galaxy’s Edge and to fill in the attractions we’d missed. Before our reservation at Oga’s Cantina, we grabbed FastPasses for the Matterhorn and then walked through the Frontierland entrance to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
As I covered in our full review of Oga’s Cantina, we really enjoyed the experience but it doesn’t quite reach its full potential. Still, we liked it well enough that I’ve already made a reservation for the Cantina on our upcoming trip to Disney World. I really enjoyed my drink, The Outer Rim, and will spend the next week trying to talk myself into getting something else in the name of research. What an incredible sacrifice I make for you, our loyal reader.
I don’t drink alcohol very often so I was slightly worried about having a drink before 10 AM would do to me, not that the drinks are very strong. With that in mind, we decided to follow up Oga’s with a ride on Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. Smart, I know. It was fine though as our pilots were smooth and some of the best we encountered all trip. All of that buildup for no payoff.
After a quick walk through of Galaxy’s Edge, we walked back to Main Street then Tomorrowland. Our FastPass window for Matterhorn had just opened so we grabbed another FastPass for Space Mountain (it was a mountain day). I destroyed Melissa in Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and then we walked over to the Matterhorn, stopping to look at the submarines on the way.
I don’t often compare Disneyland to Magic Kingdom but lately I’ve been trying to pinpoint why I like the former far more than the latter. While maybe not the main reason, I think the Matterhorn plays a pretty big role. The actual ride is great but the mountain looming over the castle in a charming way adds a good deal of character and perspective to the park. The Matterhorn also eases the transition to Tomorrowland, fitting in with the submarine lagoon. It’s not so much that Magic Kingdom misses out on an excellent ride, as that park has some quality rides that Disneyland doesn’t, but instead that the park misses out on a beautiful visual icon.
Our ride and a well earned back ache later, we decided it was time for lunch. I opted for something a little heavier, knowing that we were going to another bar later that afternoon. That means it was time for Plaza Inn Fried Chicken! While I’m at it, I don’t think Magic Kingdom has any restaurant as charming as this one. It’s a perfect fit for Main Street.
Continuing what I’m calling our ‘Disneyland Charm Day’ (not a good name, I’ll keep working on it), we walked over to the Tiki Room, Melissa grabbed some Dole Whip and we enjoyed the show. I’m excited to get back to Disneyland and try a few different Dole Whips from Tropical Hideaway.
Our Space Mountain FastPass window was open at this point so we walked back across the park to get in line. Unfortunately, the FastPass line wasn’t moving at all and, after checking the app, we realized that the ride was temporarily shut down. Weirdly, the Cast Members were telling people that they needed to stay in line and it would be moving shortly. After standing in the same spot for 10 minutes we cut our losses. Typically we would have held out but had plans to meet a relative about half an hour from then. The Cast Members were being very strict and not letting people use their FastPass again later like they usually do when a ride is down. It wasn’t a big deal but the whole situation was strange.
With a couple of minutes to spare, we went over to Launch Bay to collect our Halloween Annual Pass magnets and pins. Launch Bay is a huge waste of space at this point but the magnets were cool.
We were meeting a cousin at Trader Sam’s that afternoon and planned to take the monorail from Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, the monorail was down at that point. It was a very unsuccessful afternoon in Tomorrowland. Instead of a nice ride through the sky it was a brisk walk through Downtown Disney. On the bright side, both parties were running late. Here’s some brightly colored pumpkins that were in Downtown Disney that I must have thought were fun to look at…
Eventually we met up at Trader Sam’s and had a really good time with a few drinks and the Panko-Crusted Long Beans. Trader Sam’s (at the Disneyland Hotel) remains one of the best spots at Disneyland Resort to hang out. The atmosphere is great, the food and drinks are delicious and the bar still remains a hidden gem. Despite the hidden gem status, it’s a small place and is popular so go at off-times. Even if you don’t drink Trader Sam’s is well worth checking out.
After an hour or two hanging out at the bar we headed back into Disneyland. At this point the monorail was back up and running so we took it back into the park for a beautiful evening. The weather had been great the entire weekend, especially that night as the sun started go down.
We walked over to It’s A Small World once we were off the monorail. I’ve never liked the addition of characters on the ride but I forgot how much I love Disneyland’s version overall. The facade is stunning and adds some mystique to the attraction. It’s A Small World is generally the butt of all jokes, and I get it, but I admire the message. Thinking about how many worldwide issues the attraction has ‘lived’ through in itself is reassuring in a strange way. From the civil rights movement to numerous wars, worldwide tragedies to triumphs, It’s A Small World comes out on the right side of history with a constant message.
Despite all of the positives, I’m not sure if the attraction would get made today. It’s the type of ride that theme parks seem to be moving away from and that’s somewhat sad to me. That’s what makes Disneyland one of the best theme parks in the world, a mix of these classic attractions that stood the test of time mixed with state-of-the-art new adventures.
(Dismounts soap box.) While it was a long day in the parks we did quite a bit of sitting, eating and drinking. We were somewhat hungry so we decided to split the Carne Asada and Enchilada Platter at Rancho del Zocalo. It was very tasty.
With the low wait times around New Orleans Square and Adventureland, we took a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise. Go to Disneyland in mid-September if you can, wait times are amazing. After a few quick rides it was off to Main Street to get a spot for Halloween Screams, Disneyland’s Halloween fireworks.
The nighttime spectacular is fun but imperfect. Like most of the recent Disney nighttime shows, Halloween Screams uses a ton of projections on the castle and down Main Street. All of the projections are sharp and the pyro looks very good. From a story standpoint, the show runs through a slew of Disney villains, relying heavily on Nightmare Before Christmas characters. Melissa and I both enjoyed the show but weren’t blown away. Still, any chance to see Oogie Boogie is worth taking.
We were doing the Nighttime Spectacular Sprint™ and as soon as the fireworks were over, we rushed over to Fantasmic!, which we’d gotten a FastPass for earlier in the day. At first we just barely missed the sitting section but after a few people left they let us over to the superior section.
Having not seen Fantasmic! since the changes a few years ago, I was very excited. The show at Disneyland has always been one of my favorites. Overall, I don’t think the changes affected the show all that much. I’m curious how long they’ll roll with the Pirates of the Caribbean section as that IP seems to be fading from the public eye. Fantasmic! remains iconic and one of the best shows around. One downside is that Mickey wasn’t doing his final trick (from the roof to the ground) at the end. I’m not sure if that issue has been resolved but I’m hoping so.
The nighttime spectaculars were over but our rushing around was not finished. We had a FastPass for Haunted Mansion Holiday and barely made it over to that before the window closed. I’ve already touched on the overlay in a previous installment so I won’t dive back in here. In short it’s a perfect overlay and vaults Haunted Mansion into a top 3 Disneyland attraction during the Halloween and Christmas season.
Being a Sunday night before the work week, Disneyland had really cleared out by about 10 PM. We headed off to Galaxy’s Edge for the remainder of the night and walked straight on to Smugglers Run. We were the pilots again and were far more successful than the first time we rode the attraction. Practice makes perfect pilots. Alliteration! This is getting long if you couldn’t tell by my alliteration joke so it’s time to go heavy on the photos and much lighter on the text…
Once we put on our best Han Solo/Rey and Chewie act (I’m not going to say who was Chewie, make up your own mind) there was about an hour left in the park day but Galaxy’s Edge was completely empty. So empty that Chewbacca was just roaming around with no one to talk to. I was out with my tripod taking some photos and Chewie was just standing with me for a minute, looking at my camera. It was weird and a bit surreal. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it but having Disneyland feel like a ghost town is always strange. Anyway, here are some photos. None of them are from when Chewie was hanging out with me because when you are standing side-by-side with a galactic superhero it’s very hard to take photos.
Even with the park empty, security let people linger for quite a while. We slowly made our way back towards Main Street before catching a bus to the Toy Story Parking Lot and walking to the hotel. Here are a few more photos from Main Street.
The next morning we checked out of our hotel, left our bags with bell services and walked over to Disneyland around opening. We’d gone all trip without one of our favorite treats, the Raspberry Rose Macaroon from the Jolly Holiday Bakery so that ended up being our breakfast. I mean, there’s fruit in it so it’s healthy!
We happened upon Mary Poppins, Bert, and a horn section playing in front of the castle and stopped to watch their set. Disneyland’s Main Street and Fantasyland are great in the morning with the roaming characters and entertainment. If you’re lucky enough to have a few days in the parks then take the time to stop and watch. They performed for about 15 minutes, playing songs from Mary Poppins. It was a great way to start a leisurely morning.
There wasn’t much on our morning agenda outside of finally getting to ride Space Mountain. We got a FastPass for the attraction and then walked around before riding the Matterhorn again.
One attraction we had missed up until this point was Alice in Wonderland and it was a priority. This is the most underrated dark ride in Disneyland or Disney World. There’s a level of zaniness on the ride that perfectly fits the film it’s based on. While it’s not quite on the level of the classic dark rides, Alice in Wonderland is not to be missed.
From Alice, we walked over to Toontown Train Station and did a full loop on the Disneyland Railroad. This is another attraction we hadn’t been on since the track was changed and we both came away impressed. The rock work around the river is beautiful and is one of the highlights of the ride. Of course, nothing can beat dinosaurs.
By that time our FastPass window opened for Space Mountain. I should say HyperSpace Mountain! I know people aren’t fans of this layover but I don’t have a problem with it. Having the attraction brighter doesn’t diminish it in my eyes (backwards pun not intended) and the soundtrack is great. I’m glad the overlay isn’t permanent and it’s nowhere near the quality of Haunted Mansion Holiday but it’s fun for what it is.
After narrowly escaping the empire, we park hopped to California Adventure for our lunch reservation at Lamplight Lounge. As I mentioned in our review, we came away impressed with the restaurant. It’s one of the most relaxed restaurants at Disneyland Resort and the food was excellent.
It was my birthday the next day so we celebrated there. They brought me Pear Sorbet as a birthday dessert and it was fantastic. Strangely, the dessert wasn’t on the menu and I have no idea if you can order it. If you can, you should.
We finished the trip off with a lap around the park, including a quick ride on Toy Story Mania via FastPass and Radiator Springs Racers via the single-rider line. Melissa somehow snuck in some last-minute shopping and ended up buying a shirt while I said goodbye to my best bear friends in Grizzly Peak. It was a perfect way to finish a whirlwind trip.
Eventually, we walked back to pick up a rental car near Harbor Blvd., picked up our bags and drove it to the airport. We could have taken a shuttle or Uber but the cost of the rental car was $15, cheaper than any other option. This is well worth checking out if you’re trying to find a cheap and easy way back to the airport. I booked through Expedia and used Alamo.
After spending the last few years away from Disneyland, mostly at Disney World, we came away refreshed with the state of the California resort. Disneyland, specifically, looks great and is in better shape than ever. The wait times were incredibly low and it’s nice that both parks have 20+ attractions. We’re looking forward to more time at the resort over the next year!
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Categories: Trip Reports