Monday, November 22, 2004

Day 4 - Disney's California Adventure

October 19, 2004

Today, Tuesday, is the day we planned to spend in the Disney California Adventure Park (DCA). I also brought the camera for this first time this trip and planned to take lots and lots of pictures. In order to make it easier to lug around the camera, I emptied my purse of everything but the absolute essentials. But it didn’t do me any good, since Jason asked if I would carry his videocamera in my purse since he didn’t have a backpack with him. His camera is very small so I reluctantly agreed. He planned to look for a small backpack in the park to use to hold his camera. We looked at many places but didn’t find anything that would work. Finally, that evening we found just the right one at the Target down the street.

After taking some general pictures of the entrance to DCA, we headed over to my favorite ride at DCA, Soarin’ Over California. This ride is just amazing. There are three rows of seats facing a large movie screen. When the ride begins, this contraption lifts up the rows of seats until they are suspended one row above another right in front of the screen. The seats move in relation to what’s happening on the screen and you really feels like your para-gliding over California. To make the experience even more realistic, they add different scents to go along with the scenery so you really feel that you are flying over an orange grove or the ocean. At the very end you fly through Disneyland, above Main Street where you can see the parade going on below you and then you are suspended right in front of the fireworks display. I could ride this over and over.

Next, we did something that in hindsight was not very bright. There was only a 5 minute wait for Grizzly River Run, so we decided to ride it. That should have been our first clue. The second clue was the lockers that were available right next to the attraction that offered one hour of free use to put your stuff in while you ride the ride. The main reason we should have know better is that I actually rode this ride last year and I know you get wet. But we were blinded by the 5 minute wait. We dutifully unloaded everything into the locker and boarded our raft. We were absolutely drenched by this ride. At the very end of the ride is a geyser that shoots up at random intervals. As we approached we saw it begin to spray and there was nothing we could do about it except get even more soaked, it that was even possible.

After disembarking the ride and retrieving our stuff from the locker, we realized that there was no way that we could continue on as soaked as we were. It was threatening to rain and we had 1:00 PM reservations at Ariel’s Grotto. We made a mad dash back to the hotel and changed into dry close. The whole trip took us a little over an hour, but it sure felt good to be dry.

By the time we returned it was really starting to rain, so we headed over to Ariel’s Grotto and decided to just wait there until it was time for lunch. Ariel’s Grotto is a character restaurant in DCA themed to, of course, The Little Mermaid. This was our first character dining experience and it was a little awkward. We spent most of the time hoping and praying that the characters would not come to our table as we really didn’t know what to do. Minnie stopped briefly at our table and fortunately didn’t stay long. The place was packed with parents with their kids. We were the only table that didn’t have kids. Ariel was located in the lobby in her clam shell and kids could go up and talk to her and have their picture taken. Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto would take turns circulating throughout the dining area. It was very noise with all the kids and at one point all the kids joined the characters as they marched around the room to music and each kid banged on the bottom of a sand bucket with a plastic shovel. The food was okay but rather expensive, even with Jason’s 15% discount. We each ordered the Chicken Pot Pie and it was okay but not spectacular. At the end of the meal, our server brought us a little dish of cotton candy which was a nice touch.

Next, Jason decided to ride California Screamin’. I was hoping to get up the courage to ride it, but I knew I just couldn’t handle it. While he was riding I tried to get some pictures of the roller coaster. It was still raining so I put on the disposable rain poncho that we brought with us. It did a good job of keeping the rain off and was definitely a great investment at 89 cents each.

As it was still raining, we saw all the shows like Muppet 3-D Vision and It’s Tough To Be A Bug. Since we had a little time to kill before our Mysteries, Myths and Legends Tour, we decided to each get a Mr. Potato Head from the Engine-Ears shop. I had read about this on the website. For $18 (plus tax), you can fill up a cardboard box with a Mr. Potato Head body and all the parts that you can fit in the box. The box can’t be bulging and the lid has to be able to close. Many of the parts are unique to the Disney Resort and are not available anywhere else. We each assembled a box and went to town. After selecting a body, we opened the back and begin to cram as many parts as possible into it. The parts are separated into different bins, with three or four different parts to a bin. We go from bin to bin selecting one of just about everything and try to pack the parts as efficiently as possible into our boxes. The boxes filled up pretty quickly and we realize that we don’t have room for any feet. So after some debate, we decide to split the cost of a third box. We thought this would be plenty of room since we didn’t need another body, just parts. Well the feet take up a lot of room. Plus we spotted a teacup that Mr. Potato Head can sit in and of course we each need of one of those. We ended up biting the bullet and adding a fourth box so that we could include one of each of the parts. Even with Jason’s 10% pass holder discount, it still ended up costing us almost seventy dollars. Seventy dollars for two Mr. Potato Heads and some accessories. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

It’s getting close to tour time, so we make a quick trip to the car to stash the potato heads and then head on over to the Tower of Terror to await the start of our tour.

The Mysteries, Myths and Legends Tour was very fun. It was the first time I ever took one of the tours. Jeremy (dressed in a long black trench coat) greeted us, took our tickets and make small talk with us as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. A couple of the other tour participants had learned about the tour the same way we did, through the discussion board. Once everyone arrived, we were introduced to our Tour Guide for the evening, a foreboding and spooky gentlemen named “Gracey.” Gracey led us into the Hollywood Tower Hotel for our first ride of the tour. This was our first time on the ride and we were both more than a little nervous. I purposely did not ride this ride earlier because I wasn’t sure how well I would like it. I knew I would ride it at least once so I thought it best that the first time be on the tour.

As we made our way into the Hotel, Gracey shared with us some of the legends surrounding the hotel. All too soon though, it was time to board the ride. We were strapped into the elevator, the lights went off and we began our journey. The ride was at once both frightening and exhilarating. The ride is a serious of rapid ascents and plunges up and down the elevator shaft with occasional stops at various floors. At the very top the doors open and you get a glimpse out the building at the rest of the resort while a camera captures the terror on your face. Then the door closes and you plunge back into the darkness. I just hung on for dear life and prayed for it to be over soon.

At the end of the ride we were instructed to unbuckle our seatbelts, which I gratefully did. Then the bellhop tells us to put them back on, then take them off, and then put them back on. He does this several times, with the end result being that he sends us on the ride AGAIN. This time I wasn’t quite as scared as I knew the ride really didn’t last very long.

By the time we left the Tower of Terror, DCA was closed and we headed out of the park and over to Disneyland. We stopped at the esplanade between the two parks were Jeremy joined us again. He handed each of us a necklace with a glow crystal designed to ward off the ghouls and goblins, but really served to identify the members of the tour group.

The rest of the tour took place in Disneyland and we had a great time. We walked through the park stopping periodically while “Gracey” told us some of the mysteries and legends that supposedly occurred in the park. We rode the train to New Orleans Square and rode Indiana Jones. The final stop of the tour was Haunted Mansion Holiday just as the park was closing for the evening. We were ushered into the mansion and midway through the ride the “doom” buggies slowed down to about half speed so that we could see the special surprise. I won’t spoil it for anyone who may take the tour if it ever returns in the future.

After we left the Haunted Mansion, we were led back to spot in Adventureland and then the tour ended. It was kind of weird how it just ended somewhat abruptly. Jason and I made our way to City Hall to fill out a feedback form letting them know how much we enjoyed the tour and what a great job “Gracey” and Jeremy did.

It had been a long day and we were glad to head back to HoJo’s.


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