Podcast Episode 110: Shannon’s Disneyland Trip Report

A few weeks ago, Shannon attended an agent education program at Disneyland in California.  She’s back to tell us all about what she learned and how Disneyland differs from Walt Disney World in Florida!

Happy listening!

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Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary written by Guest Blogger: Danielle Brabson

IMG_20150514_085914985It’s the big 6-0 for Disneyland this year and they are setup to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary. The streets are decked out with the Disney ‘D’ and diamond banners. The castle has been given an extra dose of sparkle. If you’ve been wanting to visit Disneyland or haven’t been in a while, now is the time to go. You’ll get to enjoy an extra special Disneyland experience! I am disappointed to miss it but we just got back from a visit in May and I haven’t been able to convince the hubs that we should go experience the 60th Anniversary since we already have reservations for our usual Christmas trip in December.

The celebration started on May 22nd with a 24 hour celebration at both parks – Disneyland and California Adventure. Both parks were open from 6 am on May 22nd to 6 am on May 23rd. There was an opening celebration on Main Street at 6 am to start off the 24 hours of fun!

In addition to the 24 hour celebration, they have created a new parade – Paint the Night, a new night-time show – Disneyland Forever, and a new World of Color show – Celebrate.  All geared towards paying homage to the heart of Disneyland and Walt’s dream. They are all sure to be over the top and ready to dazzle the crowds.

The new Paint the Night Parade is an updated electrical parade. The Disney Parks blog says “This dazzling nighttime procession is led by Tinker Bell flying in a magical, musical overture, spreading pixie dust along the Disneyland parade route. Right on her tail (but never growing up!) is Peter Pan, perched high atop an enormous drum inspired by a float from the classic “Main Street Electrical Parade.” I’ve heard that this parade is AH-MAZING! I would expect nothing less from Disney.

After the parade you’ll be able to witness a new nighttime show that is more than just IMG_20150512_142516179fireworks. It looks like they are incorporating lasers, video projections along Main Street and other parts of the park along with fireworks. Magical is the only word I can think to describe this and I haven’t even seen it! It is 14 minutes of magic that transforms the park and is complimented with a fantastic soundtrack.

Over at California Adventure, they’ve also updated World of Color. I love World of Color, the fact that they can project images on water and have it look clear and crisp if amazing to me. Maybe I am easily impressed but I think they do a great job presenting it and incorporating so many Disney characters seamlessly into the show! The Disneyland website explains it the best  I think “Filled with never-before-seen surprises and dazzling special effects, and hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and the one-and-only Mickey Mouse, it’s an unforgettable opportunity to follow along on Walt’s incredible journey of imagination—from his earliest creations, to his very first visions for The Happiest Place on Earth, to today’s Disney magic… and beyond!

Featuring soaring fountains, fire and laser effects, stirring music and towering screens that come to life with new and classic Disney animation, World of Color: Celebrate! reminds us all that if we never give up on our dreams, then anything is possible!”

In addition to all the fun shows and entertainment there have added some new food and drinks to celebrate as well. Get a 60th anniversary cupcake, enjoy the yummy 60th anniversary Martini at Carthay Circle Restaurant (make a reservation for dinner you will not be disappointed!). And as a true Disney fanatic you should make sure you accessorize ” the Diamond Celebration Made with Magic Mickey Ear hat, Paint Brush and Mickey Glove—and others you know and love, including the Sorcerer Mickey Wand and Minnie Mouse Headband.

Each marvelous Made with Magic piece has been programmed to light up at key moments, matching colors and flashing to the beat during all-new nighttime spectaculars, such as:

So go and enjoy all the magic and fun for the 60th Anniversary!

Guest Blogger Danielle Brabson: Disneyland’s Fantasmic & Dining Package

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Whenever we go to Disneyland I always like to take advantage of the Dining Package options for shows like World of Color or Fantasmic.  Here’s the reason I do it. I want to see a show and I have to eat so why not combine them and make it easier on myself? Selecting the Dining Package for a show or entertainment eliminates additional wait time to get a FASTPASS to see the show all while enjoying a relaxing meal. We usually plan at least one nicer sit down meal on our trips and I always coordinate this with a show.

On a trip to Disneyland last year, when it was just myself and my daughter, instead of our entire family of five, we splurged and got the Dining Package option for Fantasmic. It included assigned seating to view the show and a dessert box. It was FANTASTIC. This box of goodies did not disappoint. It was filled with different cheeses, grapes, crackers, and wide variety of desserts. Desserts were a mini cheesecake, lemon tart, chocolate lava cake, a jelly filled cookie with chocolate on the bottom (that was by far my favorite), a couple of macaroons and shortbread. A drink of your choice (water, milk, pop or hot chocolate) was also part of the deal. We were able to sit and eat all this while watching the show.

Doing some research for our next trip I found that Disneyland changed their dining options with Fantasmic. Initially, I was sad and disappointed (I’ve been dreaming of that cookie since that last trip!!) until I saw the new options.  While they no longer have assigned seating, they increased their Dining Package options to include a sit down dinner meal, a meal on the go, or a desert option.  Selecting any of these options will get you a FASTPASS (without having to wait in line) to a reserved viewing area.

For the sit down restaurants, you can select the Blue Bayou or the River Belle Terrace. It’s a three course meal that includes a starter, entrée and dessert, with a set price for both adults and children. The Blue Bayou is a great restaurant, it’s actually located in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which gives it a fun ambiance. It’s a little more “formal” than the River Belle Terrace. Last time our family ate there the meal was awesome. It was enjoyed by the whole family which is sometimes quite a feat with a couple picky eaters.  River Belle Terrace is a little more casual and also provides a yummy menu as well. Our family has also enjoyed dinner at River Belle Terrace, their roast beef is phenomenal!

If you’re short on time or don’t prefer a sit down meal, you can still take advantage of getting the reserved viewing FASTPASS, by reserving a Grab & Go meal from Aladdin’s Oasis.  You’ll reserve your Grab & Go meal and then pick it up at your reserved time. You can eat it when you’re ready! There are a limited amount of these meals so book your reservation online or by calling before your trip!

The last option, which is probably going to be my favorite, because well it’s dessert, (and boy does Disney know how to do dessert) is a sampler of sweets and a choice of drink. You’ll pick up this yummy goodness from the Honey Bear Restaurant, which is over by Splash Mountain and is pretty close to the Fantasmic viewing area.

The Fantasmic show itself is pretty cool. It includes a bunch of different things going on from live action, animatronics, lights, fireworks and lasers. It’s pretty cool in that it’s Mickey’s dream and it includes many different characters from all across the Disney spectrum. It’s on the water and Tom Sawyer’s Island. The water adds a lot of visual entertainment as you catch the reflections of things in the water as well as the images being displayed both in and on the water.

If you haven’t seen it, you need to experience it at least once, and why not take advantage of the Dining options at the same time! Make sure you check the schedule for the viewing times.

Guest Blogger: Danielle Brabson Review of Disneyland’s Grand Californian and GC’s Club Level

GrandCalifornianHotel01As Disneyland’s premium hotel, The Grand Californian Resort and Spa is a fantastic place to stay at Disneyland.  I know opinions on this vary, and we have stayed both on and off property, but we prefer to stay on property. The hotel itself is beautiful. It’s built as a craftsman era hotel, with a great deal of detail in all the woodworking and stone that surround you in the hotel. The lobby is fantastic and is six stories high. You can look down from each floor into the massive lobby. The lobby is well-appointed with plenty of seating and a giant fireplace. There is even a TV with little chairs so the kids can have their own spot to watch Disney shows. And at Christmas time (which is when we usually go) it is even more magical, but Christmas at Disney is its own post all together!  There are plenty of restaurant choices as well. The Grand Californian houses one of Disneyland’s fine dining restaurants, Napa-Rose-e1321321280926-768x1024Napa Rose. We got to enjoy Napa Rose on our last trip! There is also a great family restaurant, Storytellers, as well as some quick service places like White Water Snacks. If you’ve been to Disney World the Grand Californian is similar in theme to the Wilderness Lodge. We will always choose the Grand when visiting Disneyland and we also always select Club Level. Here are few reasons why.

Pros:

  • It’s the closest to the park entrances of all the on property resorts. We debated staying at one of the others but when looking at the map we liked the proximity of the Grand to the parks. We have a younger child (2.5) so the ease of quickly being able to get back to the hotel for a nap if needed was a highlight for us.
  • It has its own entrance to the California Adventure Park. Again the ease of getting back to the hotel was a draw for us (as was being able to get right into the park from the hotel on Magic Morning).
  • Some rooms have bunk beds and a trundle. So for our family of five, this was great. The older kids got one of the bunks and the younger one got the trundle. So everyone had their own bed, no sharing and less fighting (well except who got to sleep on the top bunk…).
  • The sink is separate from the shower and toilet. I believe this is the case with most Disney hotels, and it’s a positive for sure. As someone can be showering while others are getting ready. There are double sinks and plenty of room to move around.
  • You have multiple view options, this is not a huge one for us but I know others that like to have a view to go along with the rest of the Disney magic.
  • You leave the hotel and you’re right in Downtown Disney. So in the event you forget something (like tennis shoes…) or just need a break from parks and want to shop or eat you have so much to choose from without having to walk or get in the car and drive somewhere. There is a World of Disney right there as well so you can get all your Disney Souvenirs!
  • The pools! Yes plural! There are three pools at the Grand. The children’s pool and also a pool that includes a water slide. There are even cabana’s you can rent to enjoy a rest day at the pool.
  • Pinocchio’s Workshop – You can leave your kids here to play and you can go P16-0002enjoy time alone and maybe go to the full service Spa or Napa Rose. We utilized this on our last trip and the kids (ages 10 and 8) had a good time. They ate dinner, played games, did crafts and didn’t complain! This is open to all guest staying on property but it’s located in the Grand.

What about Club/Concierge Level?  We really like the Club level. It offers its own check in area on the 6th floor and a lounge which has food and drinks throughout the day and evening. I’m sure there are plenty of articles out there that debate if the Club level is worth it and it’s probably not for everyone. This is my experience with it and why we like it.  The lounge is only available to guests on the Club Level floor and a valid room key is required to enter the lounge. There are three “meals” throughout the day and drinks are always available.

The breakfast is a nice option for us because the kids are antsy to the get the park and don’t want to sit down for a full meal and I am not the traveler who keeps milk in the fridge so the kids can have cereal in the room. The breakfast choices are usually assorted pastries and muffins, fruit, cereals and milk, bagels with cream cheese, assorted meats and cheese (we usually make a bagel sandwich). And of course juice, coffee, tea and pop. This year they added an espresso machine so you can really get moving!  You can also request bottles of water which are great to take into the park with you if you’re bringing a bag since you can refill them at any restaurant for free.

The afternoon tea option has assorted tea sandwiches, cookies, and fruit. There are also goldfish crackers and a party mix (think Chex mix). We usually fill a lidded to-go cup with the snacks and either bring them into the park or back to the room with us. And again all the drinks are available anytime throughout the day.

The evening reception offers beer and wine, assorted cookies, scones, chocolate dipped strawberries, nuts and dried fruit. This is a nice option if you’re taking a quick break from the park and want to spend a few minutes relaxing.

You can also view the fireworks from the balcony, and they broadcast the music along with it. So it’s a great option if you have smaller kids that will be going to bed earlier than others.

The last thing they have is story time with cookies and milk. The kids can sit on the floor with their cookies while a cast member reads them a few stories. You can sit at a table and enjoy a glass of wine and relax right along with them! It’s a nice way to end the day.

An ending note about the Club level is the personalized service you receive. They will call you to touch base before your trip to make sure of your plans and any additional needs. They will also help you make dining reservations and offer dining suggestions. We were there when it was raining and they helped us repair rips in our rain gear by sharing their duct tape! They really up the magic factor in my opinion.

Cons:

I had a difficult time coming up with cons, but finally had one.

Sometimes the line to get into California Adventure on Magic Morning can be huge and it’s faster to go to the main entrance. However, I will note that on my last trip they seemed to improve the logistics of this so it wasn’t as bad.

Like I said at the beginning this is our preferred hotel on the Disneyland Resort, so of course we would recommend it. I hope you get a chance to enjoy some time there too.GrandCalifornianChristmas