On Friday August 10th, after dropping my lovely wife off at work and quick stop to top off the gas tank, (No, you don’t have to worry; Pam got picked up from work Friday evening by our youngest. J) With a full tank and the trays loaded with a Book on CD in place, I hit the freeway and started motoring south. About 8 hours later, after hitting a couple of choke points along the route, and the requisite traffic jams inherent to the L.A. driving experience, I was pulling up in front of the Disneyland Hotel. A half hour later, after checking into the hotel and a very nice room overlooking Downtown Disney, I was in the check-in line for Destination D. One of these days I will learn to read all the signs behind the check-in desk. After giving with the gal in line for A-to whatever my name and not finding it on the list, she ask if I was a Diamond level guest? With my yes, she point me the nice young lady (Karen) sitting in front of a sign with a great big diamond on it. Doh!!! Checked in for the next day’s event, and sufficiently merchandised, it was off to the room to drop off my booty and on to DCA.
For those of you who may not know, Disney California Adventure has been undergoing a major retrofit for the last couple of years. I won’t go into my deeper thoughts on the subject, but, suffice to say that, to me, DCA has never really felt that much like a Disney Park. Yeah, there were a few things in there that I liked, but we never spent a lot of time in that park. Well, this is the first trip ever, mostly because of the short time I was there and my commitments elsewhere, which I actually did not make it into Disneyland. A real bummer, but, I will survive; I wanted to see the new additions to DCA, and my beloved Corn Dog Castle was back in operations. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Red Wagon at Disneyland too, but, a stop at the Corn Dog Castle has been a tradition since DCA opened. It was one of the things that drew us to DCA in the early day. So, after renewing my annual pass at the ticket booth, it was off to the DCA turnstile.
Approaching the entrance to DCA, you’ll immediately notice the absence of the C*A*L*I*F*O*R*N*I*A letters. Next, one see the new turnstiles which have a similar design to those of Disney Hollywood Studio in Florida, and a more 30’s feel to them. Also now missing is the Golden Gate Bridge which I’d always felt looked a little out of place. As I walked into the park, I was fortunate to have one the new Red Car Trolleys stopped at the end of its run near the gates adding to the ambience of walking onto a 1930’s styled Los Angeles street, with its stucco storefronts. As I came around the corner, gone was Sunshine Plaza with its brass disaster of a sun, replaced by a beautiful recreation of the Carthay Circle Theater – home to Walt Disney’s 1937 world premier of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This rendition of the Theater houses a new Disney Dining experience called Club 1901 on the second floor with a Lounge on the first. On what is now know as Buena Vista Street, in front of the entrance to the Hollywood Backlot, sits the newest sculptural addition to the Parks, the Storytellers statue. This is another statue of the Walt and Mickey, with Walt appearing to the dress in an attire of his 1920’s arrival to Los Angeles and Hollywood. But, unlike the Partners Statue, raised and fenced in, in the hub over at Disneyland, the Storytellers Statue is at ground level and accessible for guests to have their pictures taken with it. All in all, my impressions of Buena Vista Street are wonderful, with the shops along the street well themed to that of the 1930’s. A future trip will be need to give review to the new restaurant in the Carthay Circle Theater, but, the reviews I have read are very good and give my experiences with Disney’s other fine dining offering, I would expect nothing less than excellence in 1901. Since it was still well before dusk, and I was hungry, I bypassed Cars Land and headed off to the Corn Dog Castle to satisfy that craving that had be building for the entire drive down. I’ve had corndogs at many places around the country and we have a Dog On A Stix here locally, but, nothing is quite the same as a Disneyland corndog – dark, crunchy, and about 10 inches in length. Fresh and hot, dipped in mustard, it is pure nirvana.
Corn dog fix satisfied and dusk rapidly approaching, it was off to Cars Land. Standing at the entrance, I was immediately reminded of the many trips we took from San Jose to Camarillo when I was a kid. How many of you remember that the 101 we know today was but a future notion. The highway ran through every little town between here and Los Angeles – Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Salinas, King City… billboards advertising all the great little roadside attractions and cafes along the route. But, looking down this Main Street, I was immediately transport into the Radiator Springs of Cars. There’s Fillmore’s and Sarge’s, Flo’s and Luigi’s, and at the end of the street, the Cadillac Range looms in the distance… the tailfins of several years of 50’s caddies jutting out. And then as the darkness of night began to envelop us, what I was really there the experience this evening. The speakers came alive with “Live Would Be A Dream”, and slowly as the music played the lights and neon of Radiator Springs sprung to life from one attraction to the next. Again, I remembered with great fondness, those many trips south, most often in the evening hours, and all the neon signs as we transited one small town to the next. Remembering the movie and being a child how came of age in the 60’s, I had been anxiously awaiting this moment since I first learned of the building of Cars Land – I was not disappointed. After the 400+ miles on the road, and the fatigue that often accompanies elation, it was time to turn in and prepare for the early morning events of Destination D. Arriving back at my room, I was in time for the nightly fireworks display at Disneyland. With the music piped into the room through the TV and a room on the 8th floor of the Disneyland Hotel Adventure Tower – Downtown Disney side, the only place better to watch the fireworks would be in front of Sleepy Beauty’s Castle. It was an interesting perspective to watch the show from a side angle. If you’ve experienced the fireworks in front of the Castle, or even from the Esplanade between the parks, you would probably think that the colorful bursts in the sky were coming from directly behind the castle. Not So… the smaller bursts do launch from the castle, but the large starbursts come from a backstage building behind ToonTown. Just an interesting side note.
So, Cars Land, done… corn dog, done… fireworks, done… time to head off to Neverland and a nights rest for a busy day to come. One last surprise for the evening, the lights on the nightstands have two switches, one for the light and the other... well, flip the switch and you hear “When You Wish Upon a Star,” I could be wrong on the music but, as you listen to the music, especially if the other lights are out, you notice the headboard begin to light up with fiber optic firework bursts. There’s that special Disney touch, and a really wonderful way to slip off to Neverland for the evening. Nighty Night Tink.
Next, Day 1 of Destination D…
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