Observations From Disneyland and Disney California Adventure: December 23, 2013

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DSC01401Guy here again with another Observations post. December 23 was a rarity for me: I spent all day in Disneyland/DCA (8 AM until 12 AM). I like to spend a full day in the park at least once a year. It gives me the opportunity to test out our optimizer and submit plenty of wait times to our Lines app. Plus, I had a friend in town making his once-a-year visit. This gave me the chance to tour like a tourist instead of a local (this means actually riding rides).

DSC01402Our first task of the morning was to grab FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers over in DCA. We arrived at the front gate at 7:25 and got through the turnstiles in less than 5 minutes. After entering the park we made our way to the FASTPASS line, which at this point was surprisingly short considering the park was only 30 minutes away from opening. By the time my friend and I got in line, it was only back to Carthay Circle Restaurant.

31 more pictures after the jump:

morningfpsIn the morning it is possible to rapidly acquire FASTPASS tickets if you feel like walking. Disney allows guests to obtain other FASTPASS tickets immediately after getting tickets for Radiator Springs Racers. We took advantage of this and picked up tickets for World of Color Winter Dreams and Soarin’ Over California. We then ran over to Disneyland and picked up FASTPASSes for Space Mountain.

sm30Lets start talking about the crowds. Our Crowd Calendar predicted Monday, December 23, as 8 out of 10, which is obviously pretty busy. But, like most days, the first couple of hours after park opening saw low crowds. During these couple of hours we went on all the attractions that would have massive waits later in the day. We road Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain, Soarin’ Over California, Radiator Springs Racers, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and ate breakfast all before 10:30 AM. After that the crowds started to pick up. As you can see in the image above, that is the difference only a half hour can make. The wait time for Space Mountain was only 10 minutes at 9 AM, but then at 9:30 the wait has gone up to 45 minutes!

DSC01404Speaking of breakfast, we ate the delicious Brioche French Toast from Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land. I find it funny that this is on the breakfast menu, considering it’s basically a giant dessert. I consider this “breakfast, in name only.” Anyway, it’s insane how good this is, especially if you love caramel like I do. As an added bonus you can enjoy a beautiful view of Radiator Springs Racers while you eat!

DSC01406Our FASTPASS for RSR was for 10:15, so we were ready to go at the gate! At this point DCA has been open for 2 hours and the posted stand-by wait time was 105 minutes.

DSC01407I’ve written about mornings at Disney California Adventure before, but I’ll say this again: everyone is focused on Radiator Springs Racers in the morning. You can walk on almost anything else in the park for the first couple of hours because almost everyone is headed towards Cars Land.

DSC01413Lightning and Sally greet us when we arrive in Radiator Springs.

DSC01414I’ve probably ridden Radiator Springs Racers 50 times at this point, but for some reason I never get the “paint side.” No joke: 95% of the time my car ends up driving in to Luigi’s Tires instead.

DSC01423Racing through Ornament Valley.

DSC01424Lightning and Mater at the end of the ride.

DSC01432A bit later we headed in to Animation Academy to draw some characters. This has always been a fun little side thing in DCA, one that I think most tourists skip over. Whenever I go to a show it seems like the crowd consists of mostly locals. Many times I see people drawing one character and then immediately running to get back in line to draw another. But hey, why not? It’s fun!

DSC01431My interpretation of Piglet. Our host Chris’s was much better.

mulanandguyI make no effort to hide my love for Mulan.

DSC01433By 12:30 PM the Toy Story Midway Mania wait time was up to 50 minutes. I’ve seen it worse than that a few times, but this is higher than usual.

DSC01434But there was no time for Toy Story, we were hungry! We headed over to White Water Snacks to get one of the hidden food gems of Disneyland Resort, the Carnitas Angus Cheeseburger! This beast is covered shredded pork and a huge scoop of guacamole. In my opinion this is the best burger on property. I think if this were sold inside the parks, it would be the most popular quick service entree. It’s that good!

DSC01436With most of DCA done, we headed back in to Disneyland. At this point crowds were thick in most places of the park, especially the usual bottlenecks like the entrance to Tomorrowland, all of Adventureland, and Fantasyland seen here.

DSC01437Back in Big Thunder Ranch they had a bird on display! I can’t recall ever seeing that before.

DSC01439The little cabin inside Big Thunder Ranch has this nice little display inside.

DSC01440This cow, which we named “Depressed Cow,” didn’t look too happy. But that didn’t stop us from standing and staring at him for at least 10 minutes. All he did the entire time was sit there and chew something.

DSC01442Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I’m taking every chance I can get to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies before they retire on January 6. As always, their show was very entertaining and had the entire crowd howling in laughter.

DSC01454I managed to get a picture with Big Al after the show!

DSC01456My sweet tooth was raging after eating the gigantic Carnitas Hamburger earlier. Something wonderful happened while we were watching Billy Hill: Disneyland’s Twitter account announced Peppermint Ice Cream was back at Gibson Girl! For some insane reason when the holiday season started the decision was made to only sell the Peppermint Ice Cream at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue (a sit down restaurant) and not anywhere else in the park. This baffled many fans on Twitter because this has been a favorite for many years. But then out of nowhere Disney announced it was back “while supplies last.” Anyway, we promptly made our way to Gibson Girl after the show. Before I tried the Peppermint Ice Cream a few years for the first time, I didn’t think I would like it because I’m not a huge fan of peppermint-flavored foods. But the ice cream has a very light peppermint taste and is still very smooth, with just a hint of cinnamon. Because I was feeling Christmasy after being in the parks all day, I decided to complete the effect and order it in the crushed candy cane cone.

DSC01459After the yummy ice cream we headed back in to the crowds to use our Indiana Jones Adventure FASTPASS. The stand-by wait was up to 100 minutes!

DSC01460For a moment the line stopped moving, so I had to grab a picture of the office in the Indiana Jones queue. I’ve always enjoyed all the details crammed in to this small space, but I hardly ever get to see it since FASTPASS pretty much ruined the queue for this ride back in the mid-2000s.

DSC01462Speaking of details, I love this Sallah Tours sticker on the side of the transports. This is easy to miss by the time you are able to see it you are getting on the ride.

DSC01463After Indiana Jones Adventure and a few other rides we made our way through crowded Main Street and headed back to DCA for Viva Navidad and World of Color Winter Dreams.

DSC01464 - CopyThe clear skies made for a beautiful sunset.

DSC01478-22We had some time before Viva Navidad started, so we caught the last performance of Five & Dime. I’ve always enjoyed this show, but I kind of wish they would let the group change it up every once in a while. Billy Hill, for example, changes their show multiple times a year and has special seasonal shows. I think Five & Dime would make a great “real” band that would add a lot to Buena Vista Street.

DSC01465It wouldn’t be a proper trip to DCA without a ride on the Red Car Trolley, a.k.a. The Second Greatest Disney Attraction of All Time (the first being the Main Street Omnibus, obviously).

DSC01550It was finally time for Viva Navidad. I admit, I Tweet about this show more than any grown man should, but I don’t even care. It’s just so much fun! I enjoy the music and especially the energy the performers bring to each performance. I recently attended a presentation on how Disneyland prepares for holidays in the parks, and they confirmed that Viva Navidad is successful and will be back “year after year!” Anyway, after Viva Navidad my friend and I had been in the park for almost 12 hours, and things were getting a little foggy. We did see World of Color Winter Dreams, but I won’t bore you with pictures (because, let’s be honest, all World of Color pictures look the same). We did make it until park closing at midnight, thanks to several portions of green tea at Starbucks.

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Guy Selga Jr.

Disneyland writer for TouringPlans.com and co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. Also a Disneyland local and appreciator of Disney theme park history. Twitter and Instagram: @guyselga

2 thoughts on “Observations From Disneyland and Disney California Adventure: December 23, 2013

  • December 28, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I enjoyed reading your day at Disneyland! Glad you captured it with photos!

    • January 10, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Thank you!


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