Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report – Part 4

If you missed part 1, 2, or 3 of this trip report, click on the corresponding number to catch up.  If you missed our Japan trip report, click here.  

After watching Dreaming Up on the morning of our 3rd full day at Tokyo Disney Resort, we walked over to Tomorrowland to redeem our FastPasses for Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters.  Like Toy Story Mania in DisneySea, Buzz was not much of a priority for us but the FastPass window was short and we had done every other attraction in the park.

Buzz Lightyear animatronic TDL

Buzz was basically the same as the Disneyland version (the blasters are handheld instead of attached to the car like in Disney World) except better maintained.  If you have read the other installments of this trip report then you know that’s the case with much of Tokyo Disneyland – a greatest hits of castle parks with some bizarre twists.

After taking down Zurg we went to lunch at Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, which I reviewed earlier this week.  The restaurant is a must-do although it might not quite reach they hype that photos would lead you to believe.

Queen of Hearts entrance Small World TDL

All in all, Tokyo Disneyland has a very strong counter-service restaurant scene.  We enjoyed almost everything we ate at Tokyo Disney Resort, but I preferred the counter-service at Disneyland to DisneySea and the table-service at DisneySea to Disneyland.

After lunch we rode a few attractions that didn’t have much wait, starting with Philharmagic.  This was an exact replica of the version in Disney World, just in Japanese.  Philharmagic is a perfect afternoon attraction, out of the sun and a place to sit.

Splash Mountain was next via the single-rider line.  This took our wait time from over an hour to under 15 minutes for the ride.  Tokyo Disney Resort sits single riders with the same gender, guys with guys and girls with girls.  I don’t really have any commentary on that, just thought it was somewhat interesting.  In our case, Darin and I always got paired up quicker than the ladies did so we’d get to jump them in line.  This led to Darin being able to eat a ‘Tortilla Dog’ while we waited for them.  This was a hot dog wrapped inside of a tortilla.  Revolutionary stuff.

Cool bear outside Splash water TDL

The mini Splash Mountain land Tokyo Disneyland has is a treasure.  Guests can wander down to the water, around the train tracks and explore a restaurant in the area.  Tokyo Disney Resort felt far more accessible than our parks stateside.  Maybe it’s because they aren’t afraid of guests jumping into the water or doing something else stupid.  There were less fences and more areas that felt adventurous instead of walled off.  The Splash Mountain area was a great example of this.

We walked around a little that afternoon and realized how exhausted we were.  Since Tokyo Disneyland Hotel was a 2-minute walk from the Disneyland gates, we went back and took a nap that afternoon.  On the walk out we stumbled upon a pirate band playing some tunes outside of New Orleans Square.

Pirate band TDL

After resting for a while, we were back into the park for our FastPass at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Westernland (which is Tokyo Disneyland’s version of Frontierland) has the biggest footprint of any land in that park.  It almost feels like the land is cut into 2 sections with the aforementioned mini Splash Mountain land and then the rest of the area.  Big Thunder Mountain rests right by Camp Woodchuck, which is a large counter-service restaurant offering great views of the river.

Riverboat going by TDL

Melissa got a churro and we hung out in the area for a while.  The larger Westernland gave it a more peaceful feeling than I’m used to.  It still absolutely invoked the old west, the land just felt less crowded with more secluded areas.

Captain Galley's seafood pizza TDL

I was also hungry and decided to go with the Seafood Pizza at Captain Galley’s.  It doesn’t look the best but this was easily my favorite ‘snack’ I had at Tokyo Disneyland.  The seafood is surprisingly fresh and the sauce was great.  If this hadn’t been our last evening at Tokyo Disneyland I would have eaten more of this, I crave it all the time.

The sun set was shaping up to be a colorful one so I left the group for a while to take photos.  It didn’t turn out quite as good as previous nights but I still got a few photos that I liked.  Here are a couple of them.

Castle rock bench flowers TDL

Tree castle sunset TDL

Monsters Inc from treehouse sunset TDL

We met back up in Adventureland, climbing through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and then doing The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!  The treehouse was largely the same as Disney World’s but it did offer outstanding views of the park.

Treehouse light castle TDL

The Tiki Room was an odd experience, as this one features Stitch.  It starts off like a typical Enchanted Tiki Room but things keep going slightly wrong until the pesky alien pops out of the center doing some Elvis moves along the way.  I had no idea what to expect from this going in and ended up pleased with the results.  The show is no masterpiece and is probably worse than the original, but I did enjoy it.  Stitch was a nice little mix-up to an attraction that still paid respect to the classic version.  Granted, we watched it in Japanese (audio translations were available) and I may have liked it less if I knew the actual dialogue.

Stitch Tiki Room TDL

Seeing Dreamlights, the electrical parade, from the front row was a priority for us that night so we got our seats pretty early that evening.  I ended up liking where we saw it on the first night better even though we weren’t in the front row.  Still, Dreamlights was no less impressive.  This is easily the best Disney parade I’ve ever seen.

Smee Dreamlights TDL

Genie lamp behind Dreamlights TDL

Chipmunks blimp Dreamlights TDL

After the parade we headed to dinner at Hungry Bear Restaurant.  This quick-service location is in Westernland and serves Japanese curry.  I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and the restaurant as a whole.  The others weren’t quite as high on this place but it was one of my favorite places we ate at the resort.  I’ll have a review up on Hungry Bear soon.

Hungry Bear Restaurant entrance TDL

We took the short walk over to the Country Bears and caught the last show of the night there.  As I said in part 2 of the trip report, the full Country Bear show is glorious.  Since it was the last show of the night, the cast member was very kind and let us walk around and take photos of the attraction after the show.

Our goal for the night was to try to fit in everything we hadn’t done yet.  That started with the train which is different from the ones in the U.S. parks.  Japanese law is that any train that makes different stops has to charge guests money, so instead of circling the whole park the Tokyo Disneyland train (called Western River Railroad) takes off in Westernland, does a loop of the area, and then goes right back to where it starts.  That’s the short version of it.  Even with being a shorter ride than stateside, Western River Railroad offers beautiful views and even has a Primeval World Diorama (dinosaurs) like Disneyland.

Art on Cinderella Castle wall TDL

Next we walked through the castle.  This is usually a pretty popular attraction but since it was late the area had cleared out quite a bit.  I enjoyed the walk through but I wouldn’t call it one of the essential Tokyo Disneyland attractions.  There are some beautiful artwork and displays to see if you have the time.

We were starting to get fairly tired so we went on the teacups to wake up.  While going there we were very excited to find that It’s a Small World had opened.  The attraction was scheduled to be down for our entire trip but had soft opened that evening in advance of the 35th anniversary festivities the coming weekend.

IASW inside photo TDL

We weren’t allowed to take photos on the attraction but it was sparkling.  The maintenance was obvious and beautiful.  All of the colors really popped and there wasn’t a section of the attraction that disappointed.  They did add characters to this version, which isn’t my favorite thing but that argument is old and tired so I’m not going to get into it.  This was the most beautiful version of It’s a Small World I’ve ever seen.

The park was right at closing time so I went to take some photos while the others shopped.  Melissa got the Dreamlights soundtrack, as the shops offer quite a bit of park music.  She’s planning a post on merchandise that will hopefully be up in the next month.  Here are a few of my favorite shots from the night.

Splash Mountain night from rocks TDL

Frontierland by the railroad TDL

Castle flowers turret TDL

35th sign Castle Turret TDL

35th Icon and castle TDL

We were going to switch hotels the next day so Melissa and I wandered Tokyo Disneyland Hotel for a while that night, soaking in the grandest place we’ve ever stayed.  I’ll have a review shortly but this was perfect place to stay for our first time at the resort.

Back of Tokyo Disneyland Hotel TDR

Mickey Fantasia fountain Tokyo Disneyland Hotel TDR

The next morning we dropped off our bags for the hotel to store and then headed out to Tokyo DisneySea.  We had planned to get FastPasses for Toy Story Mania but the line to do that stretched all the way through the land so we decided against it.  It was a Friday and the park was noticeably busier than the previous days.  The crowds still weren’t too bad, the attractions just had slightly longer waits than other days.  DisneySea, and Disneyland for that matter, both have high capacities that hide crowds well.  DisneySea is large and pretty spread out so crowds don’t bunch up as easily.

Magic Lamp Theater entrance TDS

We got a FastPass for Tower of Terror and then headed over to the Arabian Coast to an attraction we hadn’t done yet – The Magic Lamp Theater.  This is part 3D show, part live show.  It’s also pretty strange.  There was some bad dude trying to swindle people and a kid who stopped him along with Genie.  I think?  The attraction was fine and kind of funny but I wouldn’t worry much about seeing it if you are on limited time.

Green giant wide lens Sinbad TDS

Having experienced the unmatched Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage our previous day at DisneySea, my goal was to see how many times I could ride it this day.  We started early without any wait and it got better every time.  This dark ride is phenomenal, with so many amazing animatronics and a beautiful song.

Water in front of American Waterfront TDS

We took a slow walk back to the American Waterfront with a stop at Journey to the Center of the Earth for a FastPass.  After riding the outstanding Tower of Terror, it was time for Tokyo Disney Resort’s most recognizable snack…

Green alien snacks TDS

The Green Alien Mochi lived up to the hype.  Each one had a different filling, all of them being either a pudding or yogurt instead of the ice cream that I’m typically used to getting in mochi.  They are also under $5 and one of the cutest things you’ll ever eat.  I know at least one of those things will appeal to you.

We spent the next while soaking in the details of the American Waterfront and, boy, are there a lot of them.  The are tells the story of a thriving city and each shop, attraction, restaurant and facade plays a role in it.  There are plenty of areas that aren’t out on the main streets to explore or sit in.  A whole post will soon be devoted to this incredible land but here are a few photos from it.

Steamer line in Cape Cod TDS

Gotham Tours American Waterfront TDS

Shanghai Sue's Saloon Wet Your Whistle sign TDS American Waterfront

Mcduck's Department Store and statue TDS

DisneySea is a park that’s constantly in motion be it water, boats, trains or cars.  How they maintain that constant while still holding true to a late 1800’s based land is an incredible accomplishment.

The resort was celebrating Easter at the time, mainly at DisneySea as the 35th anniversary took center stage at Disneyland.  Part of the American Waterfront had a few beautiful Easter areas for guests to take photos in.

Disney Easter TDS

Fancy Mickey TDS

Along with these decorations throughout the park, there was also an Easter show in DisneySea’s harbor.  This show didn’t seem to have much of a plot, but I only caught the last half of it.  While there wasn’t much story, it did look like over the top fun with some crazy floats, an incredible set of characters (Max is back!) and jet skis!

Easter show Duffy Chipmunks TDS

One of the hardest things to explain about Tokyo Disney Resort is how detailed it is while also being completely over the top and boisterous.  The resort seems to know exactly when to scale back and when to go over the top.  This makes the resort fun for anyone with an open mind.

I was watching the show from the side and was able to make it down by the dock to where no one else was watching, mainly because the floats didn’t go over there.  One of the jet skiers was waiting there though and he/she probably got sick of me taking photos.

Jet skier waving with mountain behind TDS

All in all, I don’t think that show was really my thing but I admired the gusto it showcased.  Frankly, anything with jet skis and Max has my respect.

Easter Harbor Show jet skis TDS

Disney Easter Harbor show Max TDS

We used our FastPasses to Journey to the Center of the Earth and then piddled around the area until our lunch reservation was near.  I took some photos before we had lunch at one of Disney’s best restaurants, Magellan’s.

Mickey undersea 35 Mysterious Island TDS

Tower of Terror and Mediterranean Harbor TDS

Magellan's sign outside TDS

We’ll talk about our amazing lunch and the rest of our trip on our 5th and final installment!

Thank you for reading and let us know if you have any questions or thoughts!  You can do that below in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages, all of which you can find on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

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What Comes Next For California Adventure?

Pixar Pier, California Adventure’s latest update, opens today (June 23rd).  Media have had access to the land over the last few days and the reviews coming in are pretty negative.  Frankly, I’m not surprised as I have next to no excitement for this project and think it was a waste of time and resources.  I’ve already outlined my thoughts on Pixar Pier in this post so I won’t rehash that here.  Instead, I wanted to take a look ahead at the near future and distant future of California Adventure.

Any look ahead is supposed to look into the past for patterns, at least that’s what my English teachers usually told me.  A brief synopsis of California Adventure is as follows: Park opens in 2001 and sucks.  Park gets slightly better over the next few years with minimal investment.  Park gets much better with large investment around its 10 year anniversary which lead to the opening of Cars Land, Toy Story Mania, a remodeled entrance, and Grizzly Peak becoming more cohesive.  Then, the park continues to change but instead of fixing what’s broken they start to tinker in the name of corporate synergy.  This has made for fun attractions but less cohesion in the park.  That trend continues through the opening of Pixar Pier.

California Adventure is not the only park that has been affected by Disney’s (new-found) love of synergy.  With the company making more and more acquisitions, there seems to be a push to get those into the parks.  Star Wars will be inside of the hallowed Disneyland.  Epcot is getting a Marvel attraction that isn’t cohesive to the park at all.  Not all of these moves are bad but I’m of the opinion that they will hurt the parks long-term.  California Adventure, with Mission: BREAKOUT! and now Pixar Pier has definitely been the park affected the most.  Both new areas are taking the spots of attractions and lands that weren’t broken and, in some cases, loved.

It’s not that these additions are always bad.  Most everyone will admit that Mission: BREAKOUT! is fun but it has nothing to do with California which is the park’s theme.  The same goes for Pixar Pier to an extent.   So, what comes next will likely be more of this.  In fact, we know that more Marvel attractions, and a whole land, are on the way.  While these attractions could be set in California to help the park’s cohesiveness, it doesn’t seem to be a priority and would likely feel forced.

Marvel Land will definitely hold at least a few great attractions that are enjoyable but it will also further diminish a park that seems to have lost its identity.  Instead of being a park with a direct theme, California Adventure seems to be on its way to becoming a studios park showcasing the best of Disney.

Outside of the addition of Marvel Land, the next project that would seemingly be on the docket for California Adventure is Hollywood Land.  The area where Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! resides is a black hole in the park and is undoubtedly the park’s weak spot.  Being already called Hollywood Land, and sitting right next to the Hyperion Theater, points to something that may stay on California Adventure’s theme.  The new Mickey dark ride coming to Hollywood Studios seems like a perfect fit for that area, paying homage to one of Hollywood’s greatest stars and Disney all in one shot.

Can there be a compromise between the park’s theme and these new additions?  Yes, but it needs to be done with more care than what Disney has done recently.  Cars Land works for a couple of reasons, the main one being that it is a spectacular land.  The second being that the land is set in a desert, making that fit in with the California theme even if Radiator Springs isn’t actually in California.  Pixar Pier essentially gets a pass for this too because it still is a pier, even if the Pixar tie-in dumbs the area down.

I don’t see the current trend slowing down anytime soon.  While I still enjoy the park and think the attraction lineup is quite strong, I think it may have already hit its peak thematically.  Instead of being a park based on adventures that guests can have in California, the park will strictly be adventures inside of a park that is in California.

What are your thoughts on the future of California Adventure?  Let us know in the comments! If you enjoy what you’re reading on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Queen of Heart Banquet Hall Review

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall is a counter-service restaurant in Tokyo Disneyland’s Fantasyland.  The restaurant is buffeteria-style and themed to Queen of Hearts’ Castle from Alice in Wonderland.  One of Tokyo Disneyland’s most popular restaurants, Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall is one of the most often seen photos from Tokyo Disneyland for those that haven’t been there.  Typically, lines are very long and the restaurant is crowded.  This review will cover our experience at Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall along with any tips we have.

The atmosphere Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall creates is truly remarkable.  Coming up with a stateside version is a pretty difficult task.  Be Our Guest comes to mind as the closest match, but the environments are very different.  The outside of the restaurant invokes the zaniness of Alice in Wonderland, with the castle rising above (like Be Our Guest) hills and some heart-shaped plants.

Queen of hearts banquet hall outside TDL

Once inside, the environment is enveloping and unmatched as far as counter-service (or table-service?) locations go.  Gigantic plants grow above guests and beautiful murals adorn the walls.  Card soldiers line the walkways and details abound in every room.

Inside Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall TDL

The buffeteria room has a checkerboard floor pattern and is very busy.  The entire restaurant is vibrant and wild.  Much like other areas of Tokyo Disneyland, it feels like controlled chaos as the senses are overloaded yet things are done orderly.

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall food line TDL

As I’ve already mentioned, the atmosphere is second to none when it comes to restaurants.  After walking around Tokyo Disneyland for a few days previous to our meal, the atmosphere didn’t feel as mind-blowing.  Tokyo Disney Resort is no stranger to outstanding and enveloping areas.  Also, other areas have a bit more story while this area feels a bit like an Alice in Wonderland greatest hits area.  That doesn’t lessen Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, it just doesn’t make the restaurant as jaw-dropping as some photos do.

The cuisine served at this restaurant will be familiar to most American visitors.  Salads, chicken, fish and beef are all served and while they might be slightly different from your usual food at home, they are very familiar.  Here’s a look at the menu and a link that you may need to run through Google translate.

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall menu TDL

For our entrees, we ordered the Rotisserie Chicken and Swordfish.  Melissa had the chicken and we both found it to be solid but not spectacular.  The gravy on the chicken was rich and added a nice flavor.  The chicken was juicy although I didn’t taste much of the garlic seasoning that was listed with it.  This was a good option but not the standout.

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall fish TDL

That honor belongs to the swordfish, which was quite delicious and has a nice mix of flavor.  In general, Tokyo Disney Resort does fish better than other meats and this is no exception.  The fish was tender and had some great flavor that was only augmented by the tomato sauce (almost like a salsa) along with it.  The potato topping was a nice touch.  Neither dish came with many vegetables, which seems to be the norm throughout Japan.  The fish was table-service worthy while the chicken was decent for being a counter-service spot.

Somewhat surprisingly, the fish was just a touch over $10 while the chicken was about $14.  Both were decent values but obviously, I would recommend the fish.

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall cake strawberry TDL

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall had desserts that matched the vibrant restaurants.  We opted for the special cake that came with a souvenir plate.  This is a familiar practice in Tokyo Disney Resort and a good way to get a cheap souvenir.  The cake was moist and delicious, and I typically don’t like cake.  I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the desserts offered.

Overall, I thought the food was good but not the best we had at Tokyo Disney Resort’s counter-service restaurants.  Where Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall really excels is the atmosphere and that alone is worth going in, getting a dessert and sitting down for a while.  The food certainly isn’t a deterrent but the atmosphere is worth an extra stop in your day.

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall moon TDL

The biggest drawback of the restaurant is the crowds it draws.  If you go right in the middle of lunch or dinner time then there is a decent chance that you’ll be waiting for an hour or more.  Instead go at off times, right at opening, between 2-4 PM, or right before closing.

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall is one of the best counter-service restaurants anywhere and definitely worth having a meal at.

Overall Rating – 9.5/10

Do you have any thoughts or questions about Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (6/18/18)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is our (late) Father’s Day edition.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Time to get sentimental. What is a special memory you have with your dad at the Disney Parks or something that reminds you of your dad at the Disney Parks? If you’re feeling ambitious, go for both!

Mackenzie – My dad is a huge Disney fan and I grew up going to Disneyland. Number one: Jungle Cruise will always remind me of my dad, because the jokes are super cheesy and my dad loves them (and so do I). Also, anything in Toon Town reminds of my dad and family. My family would run around and try the different things you can interact with and if my dad would find a pretty funny one, he would come find us and show it. One my favorite memories with my dad in the park was my very first time riding Tower of Terror in California Adventure. I was super nervous, scared, and a little creeped out because of all the spider webs. He told me I would be fine and told me it would be worth it. He made me brave that day (and every day since). Ever since that day, I have loved that ride and immediately rode it again with just my dad (the first time my sister went too, but she did not like it). Whenever I think of my dad I think of our shared love of corny jokes and Disney.

Elephant bath Jungle Cruise TDL

Andrew – One of my favorite Disney moments with my dad was going golfing with him last year at Disney World. We both hit shots that were fairly close to the water and there was an alligator hanging out down there. We had been warned to not go anywhere near them but my dad kept inching closer and closer, trying to get his golf ball. Melissa and I waited anxiously several feet away before we finally were able to persuade Dad to just leave the golf balls and move on. As far as things that remind me of my dad at Disney Parks, that prize has to go to Dole Whip. Anytime I call him when we’re at the parks he asks me if I’ve had any and reminds me how good it is.

Cassie – I took my dad to the Disney parks when we lived in Los Angeles. My dad is very scared of heights and water attractions yet somehow my mom and I convinced him to go on splash Mountain. I’m still not sure how we did that. Anyways, he ended up having a really good time on it of course because it’s an amazing ride. However, the picture of his face falling is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s nothing like seeing your dad screaming at the top of his lungs while falling from that ride. It was a wonderful day all around and I’m really glad that he went on a ride that meant so much to me even though he was so so so scared.

Splash Mountain trees

Let us know your answer to the Question of the Week, as well as any Disney questions you have, in the comments below.  Thank you for reading and let us know if you have any questions or thoughts!  You can do that below in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages, all of which you can find on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

 

Largest Expansion Ever Coming to Tokyo DisneySea

Earlier today Oriental Land Co. announced that Tokyo DisneySea will be receiving its largest expansion ever slated to open in 2022.  The expansion revolves around three Disney animated classics – Peter Pan, Frozen and Tangled.  There will also be a hotel added to this area.  If the figures prove to be true then this will be the largest amount of money (over 2 billion dollars) ever spent on a Disney expansion, regardless of country or park.  Here is a link to the English press release.

This expansion will be at the back of DisneySea and is an all new port.  Backstory reads that a magical spring has appeared, making way for this Fantasyland-style area.  Each IP seems to have a mini-land that will feature (at least) an attraction and restaurant.

Arendelle (Frozen) is the first addition listed.  This area will feature a boat ride that, seemingly, will tell the story of Frozen.  The land will feature Elsa’s castle and the concept art features a beautiful mountain beside it.  The restaurant here will sit inside of the castle.

The next section will be themed to Tangled, with Rapunzel’s tower being the mini-land’s icon.  Tangled’s attraction is also a boat ride, with guests boarding gondolas and experiencing the lantern festival as well as other aspects of the movie.  This land’s restaurant description seems to be closely connected to the Snuggly Duckling that is seen in the movie.

Last but not least comes the Peter Pan portion of this new port.  This area will be themed to Never Land and feature two attractions.  The first sounds very ambitious, being a boat ride that is on a rescue mission.  Eventually, the boat is sprinkled with pixie dust and ends up flying.  Speculation is that this attraction will use Shanghai Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride system.  The second attraction (which might be a meet-and-greet?) sends guests into Pixie Hollow.  Never Land’s restaurant will feature views of the land from a Lost Boys hideout.

The new hotel will be themed to Disney Fantasy.  Logically, the hotel will sit in between DisneySea’s Fantasy port and Disneyland’s Fantasyland.  The hotel will have 475 rooms and will be an upscale resort.

All in all, that’s 4 attractions, 3 restaurants, a new hotel (with 2 other restaurants) and a gift shop.  Without a doubt, this is the largest expansion I have ever seen at an existing Disney Park.  While this all is termed as one land, a case could be made for this being 3 additional lands and a hotel.

As I mentioned, this fantasy port will sit at the back of DisneySea, over a mile away from the entrance.  It is much closer to Disneyland’s Fantasyland than it is to DisneySea’s entrance.  This leads to conjecture that this new land will add an entrance to DisneySea and Disneyland.  There is some logic behind that and it would be fairly interesting to see the two parks combined in that way, similar to Universal Orlando with Harry Potter.  The press release did not mention anything of the like but some of the art released seemed well aware that the parks were so close together.


I have somewhat of a mixed reaction to the news.  I’ll start with the good, in a somewhat unorganized list.

I love that this is an expansion instead of a replacement.  DisneySea is the best theme park in the world and I don’t want areas to be replaced.  I’m hoping that nothing in the existing park will be replaced and the press release makes it seem that this is the case.  Please don’t touch Sinbad!  Likewise, another Disney hotel in the area is wonderful news as there aren’t enough official Disney hotels at the resort.  The hotel looks beautiful and has a prime location, being inside of the park.

The concept art is beautiful and the ginormous price tag indicates that the land will be absolutely beautiful and matching to DisneySea’s overall aesthetic.  There is plenty of water throughout the land, making it feel like the rest of DisneySea.

If there is one area to nitpick when it comes to DisneySea it is that there could be a few more attractions.  This will certainly take care of that (minor) problem, potentially adding 3 new E-ticket attractions.  On top of that, the Peter Pan and Tangled rides sound spectacular.  I really like that they are water based, again, matching the park’s main idea.

As you can tell, there is quite a bit I’m excited about here.  What I’m not excited about is simply that this feels like Fantasyland.  DisneySea has a few characters throughout it but a whole land devoted to Disney in a park that is largely for adults feels like a strain. Tokyo Disney Resort guests love characters, so I understand why this decision was made but I hope it’s not dumbing down the overall product.

DisneySea does exceptionally well with ports themed to real world places and literary work (Arabian Coast, Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront and Mysterious Island).  I think it’s somewhat risky to have a more abstract (or fantasy based) idea to build a gigantic land around.  With water flowing throughout, the ports transitions should feel organic but will it feel too similar to Fantasyland right next door?  And will it feels like it belongs in DisneySea, a more sophisticated park known for its intricacies and real life feeling, not cartoonification (a word I made up for this post).

ToT ground night TDS

Overall, I’m more excited than I am concerned.  The attractions are ambitious and budget allocated will make sure that the land looks incredible.  I don’t think the fantasy port will detract from the already existing and marvelous DisneySea.  As a stand alone port, this addition will be incredible.  My worries reside in cohesion and originality.

If you have any thoughts or questions about this expansion or Tokyo Disney Resort in general please let us know in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages which you can find on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

What Does A Disneyland Vacation Cost?

The question I’m asked most frequently about Disney Parks is how much a trip costs.  Frankly, there isn’t a quick answer I can give.  There are many factors to a Disney vacation that are specific to the people going on them.  Where you live, how long you are traveling for, what kind of lodging you prefer and eating habits are just a few items to consider.  With that out-of-the-way, I thought it was time to give a general guide to the costs of a Disney vacation.  We’ll start this series with Disneyland before moving on to Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland in later posts.

Partners night

For this post, I’ll go through the different portions of a Disneyland vacation that will cost guests like hotels, park tickets and food.  I’ll mainly be listing the lowest price possible for guests with a little commentary in each section.

Before we begin, a word of advice.  When you start looking at any vacation don’t settle on the week before you look at prices.  Have a list of weeks or weekends that work for your group and then price out what is best.  I know this can’t always be done but it will save money.  For Disneyland, I would usually start looking at prices around 6 months in advance.  If you’re planning a trip for the middle of summer or over a holiday then looking a little earlier wouldn’t hurt.  On to the different parts of a Disneyland vacation that will cost you.

Airfare

I’m not going to put a price down here because I don’t know where you live.  Having said that, airfare to Disneyland can be had for fairly cheap all around the country if you are flexible.  Much of this is thanks to Disneyland having three airports in its general vicinity.  If you are mainly focused on Disneyland then flying into John Wayne (Orange County) Airport is ideal.  Long Beach Airport and LAX aren’t bad options either so searching for flights to and from all 3 of them is a good idea.

If you live along the west coast or even on the west side of the country then flights can easily be had for under $200.  East of that, deals are still to be had.  Even for international flights, LAX is a great hub to fly into making this cheaper than other American options.

Along with airfare, transportation to and from the airport is something to consider.  As I mentioned, flying into Orange County is a great option as far as location.  If Disneyland is all your trip entails then taking public transportation to and from the airport is the cheapest, and a relatively, easy option.  You likely won’t be spending more than $10 a person on transportation if that’s the case.

Traveling around LA and Southern California, which I recommend, raises the cost exponentially.  Renting a car for a couple of days would be ideal in that situation, although paying for parking at a hotel generally prohibits us from renting one for the whole stay.  I’ll get to more of this in a different category.

Hotels – $150/night

This largely depends on when you go and where you want to stay.  Obviously, the more popular times of year and the nicer hotels will cost more.  Even in those busy times, $150/night for a hotel can be done but you may be sacrificing some convenience.  My favorite sites to search for hotels are tripadvisor and Expedia.  If you are planning something last-minute then Hotel Tonight is a good option.

For a more lavish trip, you could spend anywhere from $175 to $500 a night.  For Disneyland, I prefer location above all and don’t worry much about the hotel’s extravagance.  There are hotels to stay away from (feel free to ask specifics in the comments) but, for the most part, the cheap hotels will offer close to the same thing.

If you do go to Disneyland during a less popular time (September, January, etc.) then finding a hotel under $150/night should be fairly easy.  If you wanted to stay a night or two at the beach or in LA it may be slightly more expensive than what I’ve estimated, again, depending on the time of year.

Park Tickets – $306 for a 3-day Park Hopper Ticket

Disneyland tickets will likely be the most expensive portion of your trip.  I do recommend the park hopper option if you are there for more than a day.  But, if you are looking for a way to save money then forget the park hopper.  I prefer four days at Disneyland and that is where you start to see more value, but completing most of the attractions and shows in 3 days is doable.

Buying from the official Disneyland site or at the park is the easiest (and safest) route but it isn’t the cheapest.  Mousesavers always has great advice on discount tickets and they currently recommend aRes Travel.  They currently offer a 3 Day Park Hopper for $306, 4 days for $329 and $346 for 5 days.  They also offer ticket bundles for other attractions around Southern California if you are interested.

Food – $35 per day/person

I’m guessing that you could eat for slightly less money a day than I listed but this is eating the way I’d recommend.  Kids would definitely cost less than this.  But, I do recommend mainly eating in Disney Parks as the surrounding options aren’t great and the counter-service in Disneyland is pretty solid.  This cost could surely go up if you have a few sit-down meals, which I recommend, but didn’t include since I’m trying to make this cheaper.  Get breakfast at McDonald’s or a grocery store and then eat in the parks for your other 2 meals most days.

Haunted Mansion night

Souvenirs 

This will vary depending on how often you go and basically whatever you want to spend.  We don’t spend as much on souvenirs at Disneyland anymore outside of the occasional sweatshirt or special item.  But if it’s a first time trip and/or you’re taking kids then the souvenir budget will be larger.  We always set some sort of budget for both souvenirs and food and then borrow from one or the other depending on what we end up wanting. $50 a person seems more than reasonable but you could go without spending anything here so I didn’t put it up top.

Other Expenses

This and airfare are the other portions of a Disneyland trip that I can’t really factor.  I’m a firm believer in doing a few things outside of Disneyland just because I love Southern California.  The beaches are pristine and there are some beautiful and unique places to visit.  Your itinerary will depend on individual interests but much of what I recommend doesn’t cost much extra.  Staying at the beach for a night may be a little more expensive than a Disneyland hotel.  Food will likely be the same unless you go to a nice restaurant.

Columbia Mark Twain evening

If you are doing some exploring then ultimately I recommend renting a car for a few days before Disneyland and then returning during the Disneyland portion of the trip.  There are several other fun options throughout Southern California in terms of theme parks, namely Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry FarmHere’s a list of other places to go in Southern California.  Again, if you have specific questions please leave them in the comments below.

Total

For a family of four, this ends up totaling somewhere close to $3,000 for a 5-night stay and 3-day ticket.  That is before airfare is factored in but is fairly liberal in some other areas.  Speaking for Melissa and I, we have done Disneyland trips for a long weekend for around $1,500.  That’s before factoring in travel rewards on credit cards and other discounts which we recommend taking advantage of.

Astro Orbiter castle

If you have any questions or thoughts about the cost of a Disneyland trip please leave them in the comments below!  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages which you can find on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

One Addition Each (U.S.) Disney Park Should Make

A while back I wrote a post in which each Disney Park made a trade with each other.  The goal was to make each park stronger individually and as a whole.  I think I did a pretty good job and the post was such a rousing success (not really) that it was time for part 2 of the series.  This time, instead of a trade, each park gets an addition.

This is more pie-in-the-sky ideas than the original post but I will try to make each addition at least somewhat realistic.  I’m only going to add to the U.S. Disney Parks because that is what our readers are generally most familiar with.  Some additions will be more specific and some more general, some small, some big.  We’ll start on the west coast and head east.  Let’s get started!

Disneyland – New Fantasyland

Ideally, the addition to Disneyland would be more space for future expansion.  I just don’t know where they would get the extra room so I’ll leave that to the professionals.  Instead, I went with what I’ve been clamoring for over the last few years – scrapping Toontown and turning it into more Fantasyland.  The footprint is big enough to fit in a few attractions and mini-lands.  Adding some dark rides based on recent movies like Frozen, Tangled and Princess and the Frog would be a definite upgrade.

California Adventure – Anything Based on California

California Adventure is a bit of an oddity in that you look at the attraction and dining lineup and it seems like a great park.  While I certainly like it better than some, it always seems to be missing something.  Recently, the park has strayed away from its theme and name in the name of Disney synergy.  I think adding a few more California related attractions or areas would serve the park well, making it feel more cohesive.  I don’t have any big ideas outside of maybe adding a few replicas of famous sites throughout the Golden State.  Maybe even a small walk-exhibit that showcases those models and tells you a little bit about them.

Soarin light

Magic Kingdom – A Nighttime Parade

The rumor is that Magic Kingdom will be getting a new nighttime parade for the 50th anniversary in 2021.  Even if that is true, I want it sooner.  Night parades add an energy to the parks that you don’t get elsewhere.  While fireworks are exciting, most guests are at the front of the park to see it.  A parade stretches through most of Magic Kingdom’s footprint and adds kinetic energy.  I also considered a quality table-service restaurant.

MSEP dragon

Epcot – Restoring the Imagination Pavilion 

This topic has been brought up over and over again in the Disney community.  Unfortunately, of all the items on the list, I think this is the least likely.  Journey Into Imagination turned sour after a couple of updates to the ride.  Since then, the Imagination’s popularity has severely decreased and is hardly worth visiting.  Epcot needs more attractions and pavilions that appeal to kids and this could be that area.  Unfortunately, Disney seems set on adding characters, who aren’t original to the park, wherever they can.  I also considered just adding anything to the buildings that sit empty in Future World.

Imagination Pavilion sun

Hollywood Studios – A Water Adventure Ride

I could have put most anything in the Hollywood Studios section outside of more Star Wars or Toy Story attractions.  The park is in need of just about everything.  Over the next few years that will change and the attraction lineup should actually be one of the best in the country.  There is one glaring hole in the plan though – a water ride.  Hollywood Studios is the only park that doesn’t have some sort of water based attraction and I’d like to see that change.  I’d like for the story to be more original but if it has to be a Disney property, an Indiana Jones or Disney Villains attraction would be my top choice.  More importantly, I’d love for the company to utilize the vaunted Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean ride system in this attraction.

Echo Lake night DHS

Animal Kingdom – Pandas

Unlike other parks on this list, Animal Kingdom can be a little more flexible in their additions.  Adding pandas to the park would be an attraction in its own right, as only a handful of zoos in the United States have the animal.  The pandas would fit well in the beautiful land, Asia.  Ideally, I would add another walking trail to showcase the pandas at the end.  While this seems like a somewhat easy addition, pandas are notoriously hard to bring to the United States and I’ve got to think Disney has been trying.  There is no doubting that adding a panda exhibit to the park would bring Animal Kingdom up another level or two.

Prayer flags AK MJT

Those are the additions I would make to the U.S. Disney Parks, what would you add?  Let us know down below in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

China Voyager Review

China Voyager is a counter-service restaurant in Tokyo Disneyland’s Adventureland that serves noodles and ramen.  The prices are under $10 other than the set meal, which includes dessert and a drink.  This review will cover our experience at the restaurant and also includes photos and thoughts on the theme.

China Voyager outside TDL

We stumbled into China Voyager after Dream Lights one night.  Earlier in the evening the restaurant had been quite busy so I would recommend eating at off-hours.  When we arrived, about half an hour before it closed (restaurants generally closed about an hour before the actual park) there was next to no one in line.  Even if the ordering bay is crowded, China Voyager had ample seating to hold guests.

The restaurant’s back story, as explained on the Tokyo Disney Resort website, revolves around old pirate recipes.  A chef who was on a pirate ship passed on his recipes to his grandson who, in turn, opened up a restaurant inside of an old boat house.  China Voyager follows that theme, with the ordering bay inside of a boat house with many ship materials.  Subsequent seating areas are either inside of another building that looks like a large storage shed or another boat house and there is seating right along the water.

China Voyager front door TDL

We opted to sit by the water and thoroughly enjoyed it.  That evening was quiet and peaceful, a perfect place to slurp noodles as loudly as possible.  The other seating areas are fun, but I would recommend sitting by the water if possible.

China Voyager’s atmosphere is very strong considering it is a counter-service restaurant.  There are plenty of fun details to augment the back story and a good amount of seating.  The ordering bay isn’t very large so that could get crowded but the atmosphere is otherwise a plus.

China Voyager food options

Like most other Tokyo Disney Resort restaurants, China Voyager had models of their food options in a glass case near the entrance.  The menus are in both Japanese and English so there isn’t a language issue there but it is nice to see the food that is offered.

From what I understand, the menu does change from time to time at China Voyager.  Currently, ramen is the only item offered.  This can be a bit confusing with the name, as it is Japanese ramen offered (which is inspired by Chinese noodles).  Frankly, I don’t know where the name came from but it’s a good name so I digress.

Spicy ramen China Voyager TDL

The option seen above is the Spicy Miso Ramen, which my friend Darin had.  I thought it was fine but definitely preferred what I ordered.

China Voyager Ramen TDL

Melissa and I ordered the Black Pepper Ramen and the Shrimp Ramen.  The broth was a bit lighter than other ramen I’ve had but still packed plenty of flavor.  Both the noodles, shrimp and pork were delicious.  As a whole, I preferred the pork option a little more just because the black pepper added a tiny bit of heat and more flavor.  That also came with an egg while the shrimp did not.  Either one is a quality option though.

As far as value goes, all of the ramen dishes were right around $10.  The set meal, which came with a drink and mango pudding, was about $15.  While maybe a little more expensive than other ramen places in Japan, China Voyager is a very good deal for a theme park.  One bowl of ramen is more than enough to fill me up and getting that for $10 is a bargain.  This is one of the better counter-service values at any theme park.

I absolutely recommend going to China Voyager.  As I mentioned, the restaurant can be busy but that’s because it’s very good.  It is easily in my top 3 of Tokyo Disneyland’s counter-service and I’m sure we’ll be going back to this restaurant many times in the future.

China Voyager inside TDL

Do you have any questions or thoughts about China Voyager?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages, all of which you can find on the right side of this page.  Have a great day! 

– Andrew

Which Walt Disney World Hotel Is Right for You?

Walt Disney World, once renowned as Vacation Kingdom, offers many hotels/resorts for guests to stay in.  There are roughly 20 Disney owned on-site hotels throughout property as well as a number of Disney Villas, off-site hotels and on-site hotels not owned by Disney.  With all of the factors that go into a hotel (theme, location, price, etc.) the choices can be overwhelming when you sit down to plan a vacation.  This post will take a brief synopsis about the theme of each Disney World resort.  This post will only go through the Disney owned, on-site hotels.  Many of the off-site hotels are more generic and have brand names you will recognize.

Obviously, cost is an important issue when considering a hotel.  Having said that, price of a hotel isn’t the purpose of this post but I will list the hotels in order from (generally) the cheapest to most expensive.  Prices range depending on the time of year, number in your party and day of the week so putting a price range isn’t worth your time or mine.  Similarly, this post won’t cover what each hotel offers but instead be a broad overview of the theme.  I do have reviews of some hotels so just click on the hotel name if you are curious about any, providing we have a review of that one.  If you have a specific question about a hotel please leave it in the comments.  Let’s get started!

Disney’s All Star Resort – The All Star Resorts are separated into 3 different hotels – Music, Movies, and Sports.  Themes of each hotel have to do with their titles.  Most of the theme is built around huge statues that represent either movies, music or sports.  The areas are anything but subtle and completely over the top, still they do offer some fun and are impressive for what is otherwise a budget hotel.

Mowgli Baloo Pop Century

Disney’s Pop Century Hotel – The idea behind Pop Century is to take guests on a journey through the 50’s through roughly the 90’s.  This is done mostly by those oversized statues and icons like at the All-Star Resorts.  The pool shapes reflect those of the decade they are in.  There is also plenty of Disney related statues that are fun to look at.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort - The Lion King

Disney’s Art of Animation – This resort celebrates the Disney’s legendary animation studio, with a lobby, rooms, pool and courtyards all reflecting different Disney classics.  The hotel is slightly more subtle in theme but still offers plenty of gigantic characters throughout the grounds.

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – Caribbean Beach’s theme is in the name.  The resort revolves around the water and has several beaches that guests can relax on.  From here on out, the resorts go for more of a transportive place to stay rather than a hotel with a bunch of statues around.  The food court and pool also mimic areas in the Caribbean.

Caribbean Beach lighthouse

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – Coronado Springs is sprawling resort that centers around a giant lake.  The theme invokes Spanish Colonial Mexico through the beautiful architecture.  Coronado Springs also has a beautiful pyramid at the pool area, that houses the water slide.  If you like the architecture of the southwest then you will probably enjoy Coronado Springs.

Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside & French Quarter –These are two different hotels, a 5 minute walk apart, that are both themed after the New Orleans area.  Riverside is more of the country around New Orleans instead of inside the city.  The resort is quite large and has beautiful, lush grounds.  French Quarter is smaller and is an idealized version of its namesake.

Port Orleans bridge

Cabins at Fort Wilderness – There is also camping at Fort Wilderness, which is significantly cheaper.  Fort Wilderness is a large campground with plenty of areas to walk around.  It feels like an organic campground and even the common areas feel purposefully underdeveloped.  There is a little ranch on one end of the resort and the other end features more of the log cabin aesthetic with restaurants.

Wilderness Lodge inside

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – Wilderness Lodge invokes the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  There is running water throughout and gorgeous greenery all across the resort.  The actual hotel is a beautiful lodge with dark wood and a stunning open lobby.

Giraffe Bird AKL

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Animal Kingdom Lodge is very much like Animal Kingdom.  The theme and vibe feels the same, invoking parts of Africa, India and Asia.  The lodge is also open with a beautiful nature aesthetic, similar to Wilderness Lodge.  There are animals right outside the hotel in a beautiful savanna and all of the restaurants invoke animals in some way or another.  Basically, if you love animals then you’ll love this place.

Disney’s Old Key West Resort – Old Key West rests on a golf course and is themed after Key West.  There is a lot of open land here and the lobby and main commonplaces center are adorned in pastels and relaxed island living.

OKW golf course

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort – Saratoga Springs is similar to Old Key West in that there is quite a bunch of open space.  The theme mostly rests in the lobby and surrounding areas.  Saratoga Springs takes its lead from Saratoga, New York and centers around the historic horse racing area.

Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort – These resorts have separate lobbies but are essentially in the same building.  Their lobbies are different in that the Yacht Club is more excited about yachts and the Beach Club is more excited about beaches.  Weird, right?  Otherwise the resort centers around a ritzy feeling area by the beach.

Yacht Club beach

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn – The Boardwalk Inn is an ode to older boardwalks, with colorful buildings and entertainment on the actual boardwalk.  There’s a weird, giant clown face by the pool that showcases that old-fashioned entertainment or to haunt your dreams.

The Boardwalk night

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – The Polynesian is a resort built like a Polynesian Village.  There is a fun volcano sculpture by the pool and a wide open lobby with a relaxing island vibe.  I don’t have much to add here, the Polynesian Village Resort is like a Polynesian Village, obviously.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort – The Contemporary Resort embodies the spirit of Tomorrowland, with a monorail going through the A-frame structure of the hotel.  While the grounds aren’t exactly futuristic, the main hotel is beautiful with a nice mix of the futuristic aesthetic and luxury hotel.

Contemporary from boat

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – The Grand Floridian Resort is a Victorian-themed hotel with beautiful, luxurious buildings.  Grand Floridian’s goal is to be the nicest hotel at Disney World and, whether it succeeds or not, the luxurious vibe is the theme here.  A Victorian theme works pretty well as all of the buildings fit the beautiful style.

Grand Flo water

Do you have any thoughts or questions about these hotel themes?  Let us know in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report – Part 3

If you missed part 1 or 2 of this trip report, click on the corresponding number to catch up.  If you missed our Japan trip report, click here.

Our first full day at DisneySea started similarly to our previous day at Disneyland – with a bunch of rides.  We got FastPasses for Tower of Terror, rode Journey to the Center of the Earth and then went on the other attraction in the land – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Unlike the old Disney World and Disneyland version of this attraction, guests don’t go in actual submarines but instead in these ride vehicles.

20000 Leagues Under the Sea TDS

I liked the change as this wasn’t nearly as cramped or claustrophobic.  These also don’t go underwater but gives the illusion that they do.  20,000 Leagues is a fun attraction and a bit interactive as guests search for undersea items with a movable light.  I really like the look of it and thought the attraction fit extremely well in Mysterious Island.

From there, we went to Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull which resides in the Lost River Delta.  The attraction fits in the land, as the ride building is a beautiful pyramid rising out of the rain forest.  The area invokes a Central or South American vibe with more vegetation than the rest of the park.  Indiana Jones Adventure isn’t an exact copy of the Disneyland version but it is pretty close.  Having said that, it is well worth a ride.

Raging Spirits cool statue TDS

After Indy came Raging Spirits, a roller coaster that’s original to DisneySea.  This is also in the Lost River Delta and looks fantastic.  The ruins and statues fit in well with the area.  Unfortunately, it looks so good that it oversells the attraction.  Raging Spirits has a loop in the middle of the ride but otherwise is very slow-moving, like a small roller coaster.  Our group kept remarking about how we didn’t think we’d make it through the loop because we were going so slow.  It’s a beautiful area but the actual ride is one of the worst in the park.

Water from Cape Cod ToT boat TDS

By then our FastPasses for Tower of Terror were up so we walked across the park to get there.  Typically, I’d recommend a touring plan that doesn’t involve going all the way across the park so early in the day.  DisneySea is different though in that half the allure of the park (probably more than half) is the atmosphere.  Walking all the way through it in the morning, before it became more crowded, was very pleasant and worth our time.

Inside of ToT TDS

Tower of Terror at DisneySea is different from the version stateside.  The Twilight Zone is not known in Japan so the ride has an original story based around the character Harrison Hightower.  Hightower owns this hotel, that sits in the American Waterfront, and is a collector.  He has many adventures and has collected a small museum of items, many of which sit in storage by the elevator.  Eventually, greed becomes Hightower’s downfall as he takes a Tiki-statue that he shouldn’t have and that ends up haunting his hotel.  The dialogue is all in Japanese but this wasn’t a hard story to keep track of because the beautiful visuals and details.

While the ride system isn’t as impressive as that of Hollywood Studios, I preferred this version because of virtually every other aspect.  The original story is fascinating, the facade is stunning and I thought the upkeep of the attraction was wonderful.

Light Bulbs building American Waterfront TDS

After our haunted ride, we walked over to Toy Story Mania to see if there were any FastPasses left.  The attraction wasn’t much of a priority for us as the actual ride is an exact replica of the American versions.  Toy Story Mania is DisneySea’s most popular attraction so we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were FastPasses available for that night.  We got our Fastpasses and then strode around the American Waterfront, grabbing a snack along the way.

The American Waterfront is an astounding land based on late 1800’s New York.  Brick buildings abound and a giant steam ship, the S.S. Columbia, looms over the land along with the Tower of Terror.  This Port-of-Call invokes the bustling spirit of the Industrial Age, with interesting modes of transportation abound.

Electric Railway light Port Discovery TDS

One of those modes of transportation is the Electric Railway that chugs from the American Waterfront to Port Discovery and vice versa.  While the ride is simply a way to get from one place to another, it is beautiful and offers outstanding views of either the ocean or DisneySea.  Modes of transportation in theme parks are important to the park’s energy.  Much like water,  without some form of movement I think a land can become stale.  This is another aspect of what makes DisneySea so alluring.  There is movement in every land via both water and transportation.  Most lands had boats going to them but the Electric Railway was an excellent way to add kinetic energy.

Aquatopia guy peace sign with volcano TDS

Port Discovery is DisneySea’s smallest land in terms of footprint but it packs a punch.  This port uses a very similar color scheme to the connected Mysterious Island, making them feel like distant cousins.  Port Discovery offers 2 attractions, Aquatopia and Nemo & Friends SeaRider.  Aquatopia (seen above) is a trackless ride system in the water where these bumper boat-shaped ride vehicles speed and spin around the track.  It’s a largely unassuming ride but is a boatload (pun intended) of fun.

After riding Aquatopia, we got SeaRider FastPasses and headed off for lunch in Mediterranean Harbor.  We ate at the sit-down location, Ristorante di Canaletto.  I’ll get to a review in the future but the restaurant offers pizza and pasta that we all enjoyed.  The building is absolutely beautiful and the outside seating offers outstanding views.  Unfortunately, that day was quite windy so no one was sitting outside but I would recommend it if available.

Mediterrenean Harbor Canal day TDS

The colors in Mediterranean Harbor are breathtaking and that day offered beautiful blue skies to match the bright buildings.  We had planned to ride the gondolas that afternoon, and then again that night, but both instances were too windy so the ride was down.  Wandering these narrow back streets are worth a few minutes though as they are completely transportive.

With the gondolas closed, we walked around Fortress Explorations which is an interactive area to walk around and explore.  This lies in and around the castle that sits at the base of Mount Prometheus.  As Melissa describes this walk-around attraction, it’s like Tom Sawyer Island only way more awesome.  Every building has some sort of exhibit, like an interactive museum.  In front of the castle sits a big pirate ship that guests can walk around and explore.

Ship Harbor TDS Fortress Explorations

Walking around the ship offered beautiful views, although those exist everywhere in DisneySea.  My favorite part of Fortress Explorations, and it’s hard to pick a favorite, is a planetarium where guests can move around the planets with a wheel.  The room is a stunning blue and I can’t believe that it’s in a theme park instead of a museum.

Planeterium Fortress Explorations TDS

Fortress Explorations is an astounding attraction that Disney doesn’t seem to really make anymore.  It’s part science center, part playground and has incredible architecture.  The attraction isn’t a ride but it’s not to be missed, being one of my favorite parts of DisneySea.

Castle from ship Fortress Explorations TDS

After spending plenty of time exploring, we walked over to Lost River Delta and watched Out of Shadowland.  This is a stage show about a girl, Mei, who feels disconnected to the group she goes camping with and ends up lost in the woods.  She connects with nature and the story goes from there.  I was impressed with the projection mapping, singing performances (which are live), and acrobatics in the show.  While the dialogue is all Japanese, the story was easy to follow and quite touching.  The finale is spectacular.

Out of the Shadowland stage TDS

If you have more than one day at DisneySea then I would definitely recommend the show.  If not, then it’s a toss up.  If you are looking for a nice place to relax for a while and see a very good show then this is a great option.

After the show we walked back along the south side of the park, which is parallel to the ocean.  This path led through Port Discovery and back to the American Waterfront, passing through Cape Cod.  As I mentioned, most of the American Waterfront is themed to New York but there is a smaller section that is based on Cape Cod.  This is a beautiful area to walk through, with a lighthouse and smaller boats strewn across the water.

Rock lighthouse Cape Cod TDS

Cape Cod doesn’t have many attractions in it.  There is a quick-service restaurant that also serves as a Duffy meet & greet.  Otherwise the area centers around the beautiful view seen above.

We made our way to the S.S. Columbia, the gigantic steam ship in American Waterfront.  This ship houses a restaurant, Turtle Talk with Crush and the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge.  We were there for the lounge and ended up loving it.

Teddy Roosevelt Lounge table TDS

The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge is an ode to the former president.  Full of rich, dark wood, the lounge has a masculine feel with photos and relics of Roosevelt’s hunting trips and expeditions.  They also have portraits of his family and some other great details.  The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge feels incredibly authentic, another feather in the American Waterfront’s hat.

We all had drinks and got a few snacks to have.  The food was good but secondary to the remarkable lounge.  I have no clue why this restaurant doesn’t exist in America.  It would immediately be the best lounge in any of the U.S. Disney Resorts.  I recommend this spot for lunch or an afternoon snack when feet get tired.

We spent the early evening wandering Mediterranean Harbor and the front of the park, trying to ride the gondolas again but it was too windy.  Here are some photos.

Gondolas canal bridge TDS

Boat Mediterrenean Harbor right side TDS

Volcano fire Castle bridge TDS

Light ToT TDS

We made our way back to the Arabian Coast around sunset, which was quite pretty.

Arabian Coast sunset TDS

As you enter the Arabian Coast there is a big courtyard, showcasing beautiful architecture and grand buildings.  Inside of that courtyard is a double-decker carousel and the Magic Lamp Theater.  It’s a nice place to linger and everyone knows that a carousel with an upper deck is superior to a normal carousel.

Arabian Coast carousel TDS

Moving back through the Arabian Coast, the port-of-call turns from a courtyard into a marketplace.  The streets get narrow with shops and games to explore.  Toward the back of Arabian Coast is one of my favorite snacks in DisneySea, the Chandu Tail.  This is a pastry filled with chicken curry and it was absolutely delicious.

At the very back of the land lies Jasmine’s Flying Carpets and Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage.  The former is just a typical spinner ride, albeit a vibrant fitting one.  Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage is anything but typical, even with a rather unassuming facade.

Sinbad big green guy TDS

Sinbad is a slow dark ride where guests travel by boat to follow Sinbad’s journey.  The ride deserves its own post but I would go as far as to say that it’s currently Disney’s best dark ride.  The story is wonderful and intricate, though fairly easy to figure out even with the dialogue in Japanese.  There is an original song that plays throughout the ride that is beautiful and catchy.  Along with that, there’s a huge amount of animatronics, all in splendid condition.  At first, Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage feels like an average ride.  As it goes, all the factors combine to turn it in to something much more.

We took the short walk over to Lost River Delta after the attraction and ate dinner at Miguel’s El Dorado Cantina.  This was a Mexican food counter-service restaurant that wasn’t all that great.  I would recommend a few other restaurants over this one.

JttCotE Monster TDS

After dinner, the park had really cleared out (not that it was very crowded in the first place) so we were able to do a bunch of attraction, some with FastPass, some without.  Those included some of the hits like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania.  I’m happy to report that I was the winner of Toy Story Mania that night in a hard-fought match (but Melissa has won the past 3 times in Disney World – don’t you love it when I edit?).

TSM night TDS

While the actual Toy Story Mania ride was a copy, the queue was more interesting and well designed.  On top of that, the area surrounding it was fun.  Called Toyville, the area is reminiscent of Coney Island which is fitting considering the New York based land right around the corner.  Toyville is especially beautiful at night.

We also rode Nemo & Friends SeaRider somewhere in there which is a simulator attraction that ‘shrinks’ guests down to fit inside of some strange robot fish and then swim around the ocean.  It was a pretty fun attraction but not anything mind-blowing.  I’m not a huge fan of simulator attractions in the first place so it may be a difference in opinion.

Jumping Jellyfish King Triton's Kingdom TDS

Before closing, we went over to Mermaid Lagoon to enjoy the more juvenile attractions.  If staying until close, this is definitely an opportune time to do this if you have already done the major attractions.  There was next to no one in the area and we had our pick of attractions.  Cast Members seemed both surprised and excited that we were there.  While the rides aren’t exciting for adults in the area, it looks very nice in there and they hide the little kid area inside of a magnificent castle.  Other parks should do that.

After riding all of those rides in about 15 minutes, we split up.  I went to take photos and the others went to get in another ride or two and then shopped.  I had a decent amount of luck taking photos before my camera battery died.  Here are a few favorites.

Raging Spirits night TDS

Mediterrenean canal night TDS

ToT ground night TDS

We went back to the hotel about half an hour after closing and crashed pretty hard.  The goal for that first day was to get in as many rides as we could and we succeeded.   Even having done that, there was plenty of time to explore the most beautiful park in the world.

The next day had us up and about for Disneyland’s opening.  Like any other Disney Resort, being at the parks at opening in Tokyo certainly gets you on the most rides possible.  We rode several that morning, including Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Pirates.

Pirates skeleton treasure TDL

Eventually, we headed over to Roger Rabbit Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin in Toontown.  This was one of the few rides we hadn’t done on our first day there and we enjoyed the attraction, although it is mostly the same as Disneyland’s.  The queue was more elaborate and enjoyable.

Toontown is where we wanted to be for the morning showing of Dreaming Up, so we settled in after our ride.  I decided to go get a drink instead of sitting in a puddle of sweat (it was a little hotter that day) and left the others sitting.  The parade came around before long (it ends in Toontown) and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it over there.  I had a big lens on my camera but the guy behind me had a huge one.  This made for good photos, as many of the performers would look our direction.  Unfortunately, this meant Mackenzie, who was standing in front of us, was bumped routinely by camera lenses throughout the parade.  Not to worry though, I always blamed it on the other guy!

I’ve spent plenty of time recounting Dreaming Up on this blog so I won’t do it again.  Here’s one more set of photos though!

Alice up close Dreaming Up TDL

Pinocchio side eye Dreaming Up float TDL

Minnie waving Dreaming Up TDL

Peter Pan float tall wendy looking Dream Up TDL

To continue on to part 4, click here!

We’ll pick up our next installment after the parade and into the next day at DisneySea.  Thank you for reading and let us know if you have any questions or thoughts!  You can do that below in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages, all of which you can find on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew