Saturday, August 20, 2016

California Adventure Ride Tracking Sheet

When my family goes to Disneyland and California Adventure every year, we keep track of all the rides we go on. Here is the sheet we use to track our rides:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Tropicana Inn and Suites Review

When looking for a place to stay when visiting Disneyland, two things are important to me. First, proximity to Disneyland. Second, price.

The reason proximity is so important to me is because I want to be able to walk to and from my hotel room as often as needed. The way we plan our day involves getting to Disneyland 30 minutes before it opens, going back to our rooms in the middle of the day to eat lunch and take a nap, and returning to Disneyland to stay until midnight. We have found that this is the best way to get the most out of the less crowded times and avoid the hottest part of the day while also avoiding the most crowded times.

Price is important to me because every year, there are either 8 or 9 of us that go to Disneyland. That's expensive! So we look for a hotel that offers a good price.

The Tropicana not only offers both proximity and low prices but the staff was very pleasant to work with. In fact, part of the reason I decided to write this review was because I was so impressed with the interactions I had with the employees there.

This was our fourth time staying at the Tropicana. We have also stayed at the Del Sol inn, located just a couple of hotels to the south. In the past, the Tropicana had offered a continental breakfast which we were disappointed to hear was no longer offered but, as we found out on our trip, it actually allowed us to get to the Park earlier by eating a quick breakfast in our room rather than making the trek to what used to be the continental breakfast room.

We have to get two standard rooms to accommodate our large family and always put a request in to have adjoining rooms so we can feel more like a family and also to make meal times easier. We typically book our rooms in January for the summer but this year we waited until early July to book for the 17th through the 19th of the same month. We put in the request to have adjoining rooms but because we booked so close to our trip and since they were completely booked after our reservation, I didn't figure that we would be able to have adjoining rooms. Well, they figured it out and when I checked in I was pleased to hear that our rooms were indeed adjoining!

Parking is also always a challenge at any hotel near Disneyland but the staff allowed us to park in a registration spot and since nothing was open, the valet took care of our car and found a spot in the valet parking. The only negative about our entire trip is that our booking agent through mentioned that parking would be $12 per night. That's also what the sign said as we pulled into the parking lot. But at the front desk they said it was $14. I'm sure I could have raised a stink over it, particularly since $12 is what their sign said. but (a) I'm not that guy that does that and (b) it wasn't that important to me.

Below are some pictures of our room:
The Tropicana offers either two queen beds or one king bed in it's standard room. We always choose two queens since it's easier to sleep 4 people that way.
The amenities are perfect for my family. A mini fridge to store all the food that my wife pre-cooked and loaded in coolers on the way down - and a microwave to re-heat that food during lunch and dinner. The TV we actually never use since we are always on the go or resting for when we are on the go! I would say that we never use the safe either but my 9 year old son used it to store his precious minecraft books in. It worked well until he forgot the number code he used for his password and I had to call the front desk to come unlock it for him...
Our bathroom counter was always kept stocked with towels and shampoo, soap, body wash, etc. You can also see plastic cups and coffee cups by the ice bucket. On the left hand side of the picture, only partially visible is the coffee maker that we used to heat water to put in our cup-o-noodles. There is also a mini-hairdryer attached to the wall on the left.
The bathroom was also kept well stocked with towels and the staff did a great job of making sure that it, along with the whole room, was cleaned well every day.
Here are another couple of pictures of the area:
This is the parking area that you see when you first pull into the hotel. A valet stand is immediately to the left of where I was standing when I took this picture. The stand is where you stop to check in with the valet before parking your car or checking in at the front desk. The parking lot goes in a horseshoe shape, making a left at the end of the parking that is visible in this picture. There is also a swimming pool that is about half way down the parking lot. 
The orange sign indicating the Tropicana can be seen in the middle of the picture. This picture was taken just across the street (Harbor Blvd)  looking back at the Tropicana on my way to Disneyland. From where I took the picture, it is just a couple hundred yards to get to the security check points. Walking to Disneyland from the Tropicana is literally the same distance, if not slightly shorter, than walking from the Disneyland Hotel.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Tropicana and will probably be staying there again soon! You can visit the Tropicana website here. Also, for a look at some other places to stay near Disneyland, check out my Where to Stay at Disneyland post here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Our Family's 2016 Disneyland Ride Stats

As you know if you are familiar with my blog, every year I do a breakdown of how our time was spent in Disneyland and California Adventure, including how many times we went on each ride, which park we spent more time in and, further, which Land we spent the most time in. I also ask everyone what their top 10 favorite rides are and award 10 points for #1, 9 points for #2 and so forth to determine what our family's favorite ride was. This year, eight of us went, including Liz and I and six of our kids, ages 16, 13, 10, 9, 7, and 2. Here's the scoop:

And the winner is...Thunder Mountain!
Attraction Break Down
Rank Attraction                           Riders
1 Thunder Mountain Railroad 26
T-2 King Arthur's Carousel 23
T-2 Splash Mountain  23
4 Autopia 22
5 It's a Small World 21
6 Pirates of the Caribbean 20
7 Grizzly River Run 19
T-8 Alice in Wonderland 16
T-8 Dumbo 16
T-8 Tea Cups 16
11 Winnie the Pooh 14
12 Casey Jr Circus Train 12
13 Star Wars Launch Bay 11
T-14 Hyperion Theater (Aladdin, Frozen) 8
T-14 Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage 8
T-14 Golden Horseshoe Stage 8
T-14 Jungle Cruise 8
T-14 Monorail  8
T-14 Peter Pan's Flight 8
T-14 Radiator Springs Racers 8
T-14 Soarin'  8
T-14 Star Tours 8
T-14 Story Book Land Canal Boats 8
T-14 The Little Mermaid 8
25 Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Through 6
26 Mr Toad's Wild Ride  5
T-27 California Screamin' 4
T-27 Matterhorn Bobsleds 4
T-27 Tarzan's Treehouse 4
T-30 Indiana Jones  2
T-30 Jumpin' Jellyfish 2
T-30 Silly Symphony Swings 2
T-30 Tower of Terror 2
T-30 Monsters Inc 2
T-30 Mark Twain River Boat 2
36 Pinoccio's Daring Journey 1
Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes closed
Disneyland Railroad closed
Pirate Lair on Tom Sawyer Island closed

Park Breakdown
Park Total riders % of Total
Disneyland 300 82.6%
CA Adventure 63 17.4%

Land Breakdown
Rank Land  Total Riders % of Total
1 Fantasyland 136 37.5%
2 Tomorrowland 57 15.7%
3 Critter Country 37 10.2%
4 Frontierland 36 9.9%
5 Grizzly Peak Airfield 27 7.4%
6 New Orleans Square 20 5.5%
7 Paradise Pier 16 4.4%
8 Adventureland 14 3.9%
9 Hollywood Land 12 3.3%
10 Cars Land 8 2.2%
T-11 A Bugs Land 0 0.0%
T-11 Main Street 0 0.0%
T-11 Mickey's Toontown 0 0.0%
T-11 Buena Vista Street 0 0.0%

Our family's favorite attraction in 2016...Splash Mountain!
                       Favorite Attraction
Rank Attraction Votes
1 Splash Mountain 54
2 Paint The Night Parade 44
3 Thunder Mountain 42
4 Grizzly River Run 38
5 World of Color 35
T-6 Frozen: Live at the Hyperion 23
T-6 Autopia 23
8 It's a Small World 20
9 Radiator Springs Racers 19
T-10 Star Tours 14
T-10 Tower of Terror 14
T-12 Pirates of the Caribbean 13
T-12 Tea Cups  13
14 Jungle Cruise 12
T-15 California Screamin' 11
T-15 Storybook Land Canal Boats 11
17 King Arthur's Carousel 9
T-18 Matterhorn 8
T-18 Casey Jr Circus Train 8
T-20 Peter Pan 6
T-20 Dumbo 6

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 2016 Trip Report

We took our family of eight to Disneyland and California Adventure from July 17th through July 19th. We purchased 3 day park hopper tickets and stayed across the street at the Tropicana Inn & Suites which was a great place to stay. Here is our trip report in pictures:

We checked in to the Tropicana on the 16th at about 4:15 and went to the ticket booth that night to pick up our tickets.
Here is a picture of the ticket prices. One of the major reasons for the over-crowding problems Disneyland is experiencing is due to the monthly payment option Disneyland offers potential Annual Pass Holders. In fact, as you can see from the picture, they actually encourage it by only listing the monthly payment price instead of listing the total price of the Pass

Security was tighter as search dogs were present... 
...and metal detectors were in use.
The increase in security lead to longer lines just to get to the esplanade. This picture was taken just a few minutes before 10:00 am.

Here are some pictures from Main Street:
The daily "high four" offered by cast members to early arriving guests. We always get to Disneyland a half hour before it opens to enjoy the smaller crowds in the mornings. 
Located inside Great Moments with Mr Lincoln
Here's a close up of the plaque on the bench. A great piece of history to share with the kids.
Clean up following the July 17 birthday celebration. (Disneyland opened July 17, 1955 so every year they do a celebration on main street). As a side note, I was a little disappointed that Disneyland didn't do something special for their guests who attend on the actual birthday of Disneyland.
Main Street Cinema - one of the Park's original opening day attractions.

Another opening day attraction.
One of my favorite stores to look in.
A perfect place to grab a nice cool treat - although our favorite place for ice cream is The Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland.
Castle Bros. had some really nice new apparel:

The Plaza Inn has been operating since July 18, 1965 and before that was called the Red Wagon Inn, Walt Disney's personal favorite Restaurant. It was the only restaurant in Disneyland at the time to offer full course dinners. 
About 11:00am each day is when the Park started to feel a bit crowded.

On to Fantasyland...
It's the little details such as this little window display located above the Peter Pan ride that are so often missed that add the extra touch of magic to Disneyland. 
A cast member bringing out another boat at 9:30am on the Storybook Land Canal Boats, one of my very favorite rides.

Mr Toad. For some strange reason, this was one of my favorite rides as a kid. The same can't be said of my children, as in the past it has been quite a task to get them to want to go on it with me!

I'm happy to report that Disney has added a thin layer of padding to the seats of the Matterhorn making it a little more comfortable to ride. It is still quite "jerky" as my mom used to call it, and the new Yeti effects that were added last year are a little too intense for my liking.
For those with a little more life experience such as my self (hey, that's a nicer way of saying old), or Disney fanatics, you might recognize these stairs which are hidden out of the way and apparently lead to nowhere in particular. They used to lead to the Fantasyland Skyway Chalet, which as you can see by the blue sky through the trees in the picture, is no longer there. The Skyway was a fun gondola ride that you could use to be transported from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland all while enjoying a spectacular view of Disneyland. It opened in June of 1956 and was closed on November 9, 1994.  Once the Matterhorn opened in 1959, the Skyway actually went through the center of the Matterhorn! At the time it was closed, Disney officials gave the reason for the closure as a staffing issue. They explained that the Skyway employees were needed to operate the new Indiana Jones ride that was going to be opening the following year. The LA Times also reported at that time that the Chalet would be used as a dining area but unfortunately those plans never came to fruition and the Chalet was completely demolished in May of 2016.
Now on to Tomorrowland:
The Tomorrowland train station which will remained closed until the Disneyland Railroad re-opens sometime in 2017.

Star Wars temporary home is in Tomorrowland until Star Wars Land opens in late 2018. Dark side banners hang from one side of the now defunct People Mover track...
...while light side banners hang from the other side.
Meanwhile, in the relatively new Star Wars Launch Bay, we had our picture taken with Chewbacca...
...and Kylo Ren. Meeting Kylo Ren is only available to Disney Visa Card holders. And as a warning, he is fully in character and intense...maybe too intense for young Jedi as you can see from my 2 year old in the picture. 
Hyperspace Mountain consistently had the longest lines in Disneyland. Although I've never been a fan of Space Mountain, I was looking forward to trying out the newly Star Wars-themed ride.
Around 1:00pm the wait time for Star Tours was 60 minutes. At their peak, the wait times reached about 75 minutes. We got fast passes for it, though I'm embarrassed to admit that I only went on Star Tours one time this trip...Ironically enough, I had been talking to a friend of mine about Star Tours earlier on in the year and he mentioned that he couldn't go on Star Tours because he got motion sickness. I thought he was crazy, until I got a little queezy myself  for the first time on it this year. I guess I'm getting old...
A well-themed stroller parking sign.
Autopia recently re-opened with a new sponsor - Honda.
The new blue and silver color scheme looks great!
The marquee had fun things displayed to help pass the time in line.
Autopia was my 9 year old son's favorite ride this year so we headed to it first thing on our second day. Unfortunately for some reason, Autopia didn't open that day until about 8:20 so we wasted some precious early morning time in line at an attraction that should have been open but wasn't.
Yet another nostalgic piece of history...This area was once an attraction called the Motorboat Cruise.. It was one of my favorites as a child. Unfortunately it was said to have closed due to the opening of Toontown, much the same way the Skyway closed for Indiana Jones. This area is now a lesser-known part of the park that is a nice, quiet place to sit and relax or enjoy a meal.
This is what the Motorboat Cruise looked like in 1984.
Off to Frontierland:
The Golden Horseshoe has become a yearly tradition for my family. Their hot fudge sundaes are a must and we've also become quite partial to their chicken nuggets.
The prices are typical Disney prices - on the high side for food - but the food is very filling and good here.

Chicken Breast Nuggets $9.49
Crispy Chicken Mixed Green Salad $9.99
Hot Fudge Sundae - a meal in itself! $6.49
Even though the Mark Twain Riverboat is docked while construction takes place on the Rivers of America, it is still open to exploration by park guests. 

This poster, hanging on the construction wall on the way to Critter Country, has created quite a stir and has the rumor mills up and running. In the early days of Disneyland, there was a very popular train ride called the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland which operated until January 2, 1977. It was replaced by Thunder Mountain Railroad in 1979, though parts of the old ride still survive today, such as some of the buildings from the faux town which can be seen on the hills above the current waiting area for Thunder Mountain and the mine across the beaver pond on the Thunder Trail. With the re-routing of the Disneyland Railroad to make more room for the Star Wars Land expansion, some people believe that this poster confirms that somehow Nature's Wonderland will be worked into the new Disneyland Railroad Route possibly similar to how the Railroad goes through the Grand Canyon.

Heading for Adventure in Adventureland:
The Jungle Cruise - one of my all-time favorite rides!

On to Tarzan's Treehouse
I love the view from the tree house.

Now on to Critter Country via New Orleans Square:
I would love a chance to stay in the Dream Suite!

Hungry Bear Restaurant.
Even though this store is in the far corner of Disneyland Park, my kids love it! Rumor has it that soon it won't be in the far corner anymore as Disney is expected to build a walkway connecting Critter Country to Star Wars Land.
My girls love to get to Splash Mountain about 30 minutes before the park closes and ride it over and over again until the doors are closed!
I miss America Sings, but i'm glad the old performers were able to find a new home in Splash Mountain.
Last but certainly not least, the construction update:
Mickey's Toontown train station:
Major scaffolding was in place around the train depot.

Rivers of America:
A worker painting some logs. The process he was using was dipping his paint brush in the paint and then using a flicking motion to apply it to the logs, perhaps to give them a more rustic look.

Here's a shot of the cofferdam. Behind the dam, the river has been drained and dirt is being moved to re-route the river, train tracks, and re-shape the island. I like how they have added scenery to blend into the river in front. Also notice the trees immediately behind the dam. Those are trees that were up-rooted from the island and the berms around Disneyland but that are being saved for future use as seen in the next pictures...
Star Wars Land:
This is what the back side of the cofferdam looks like. You can see the trees they have saved in the big crates, 

The view of the future Star Wars Land from the Hungry Bear Restaurant.

A view of the large crane from Fantasyland. 
That about wraps it up for this trip report.  Thanks for looking!