Heather’s Anaheim and Disneyland Getaway

An Ode to MSP (Minneapolis Airport)

In 2007 when I was a shiny new travel agent I flew to Walt Disney World via Minneapolis. Since then I never had a reason to have to fly through this major hub. Five years ago I thought this was an outstanding airport as I did the Home Alone Dash from one gate to the next to make my connection and guess what? I was TOTALLY right. Although there are most likely thousands of people milling about I really don’t feel crowded or like I am in the way. There is not just some shopping like I’ve found in other major airports, there is SHOPPING. A mall area with the high end items and duty free that you expect in an airport as well as surprises that I may check out in a bit like The Body Shop. If shopping isn’t your thing well then eat! The food court had options for all tastes from Arbys and Burger King to Sushi to bakeries to countless sit down pubs and lounges. Too bad it’s so early, I would have had 5 lunches for sure! I do recommend visiting Caribou Coffee as a delightful alternative to Starbucks. My turtle mocha “zebra” style with both dark and white chocolate is unreal! Compared to my surprisingly enjoyable visit to Denver (another major hub) earlier this year this is a palace of an airport! Ultimately, the point is that I can honestly say that if I could choose my flights purely based on their layovers MSP would be my #1 choice every single time!

So here I am on my Anaheim OC Visitors and Convention Buerro Familiarization trip. What is a Familiarization trip you ask? It’s a trip that travel agents go on to become more familiar with a destination, do hotel tours etc. It is actually a lot more work than it sounds although I have a feeling this particular trip will be a blast. Tonight we met for a cocktail party and some bowling with various suppliers in the area. We had a blast getting to know each other and I got to show off my mad bowling skills. Afterwards some of the other agents and I, who were all staying at the Marriott, stopped by the concierge lounge for dessert before heading to bed. I love hotels that offer concierge lounges for their higher floors (I’m on floor 18 of 19). It’s great to be able to stop by and grab some fruit, a snack, or your morning coffee. The lounge is only open on weekdays though which is too bad, I feel as though I will be wanting to stop in on Saturday after my Disney day.

Day 2

After a hotel tour and breakfast at the gorgeous Hilton we piled into a bus and headed down to Universal Studios. We arrived and received our passes then rode at least 4 or 5 escalators down to the lower level of the park (what’s up with this park being placed both on the top and bottom of a mountain??) to ride the brand new Transformers ride . This ride was unreal. Even though you know it’s all fake I honestly covered my head as a car came flying through the air towards me. These types of rides are to blame for my intolerance of 3D movies at the Galaxy. It’s just not even close to real enough.

I really enjoyed the attractions I saw at Universal Studios, even the “Tram-tastic” back lot tour, although it is very long (like 40 minutes). It is a really small park though, with only a handful of big ticket attractions so it is not a whole day excursion in my opinion.

We visited a mall called the South Coast Plaza this afternoon. It was beautiful but very high end. From there we traveled to Huntington Beach to do a tour of the Hilton there, have an amazing supper and then have s’mores on the beach. What a great experience. There are tons of fire pits along Huntington Beach that you can use (assuming they’re available, apparently in the summer you would have to reserve it early in the morning. If you’re staying at the Hilton they can arrange the whole thing for you of course). If you’re planning a trip to California and want to spend some time by the beach this seemed like a really nice area to visit. One of my friends on the tour thought he may even get married there!

Once we returned to Anaheim a few from our group decided to go out for a quick drink. We walked from our hotels down to Downtown Disney. It turns out a lot of the bars and restaurants actually close early on Thursdays (again, this is probably something that varies based on season). We found the piano bar was still open for about another hour so we had a seat and ordered some drinks. What a fun bar! We sang along to Sweet Caroline and Don’t Stop Believing like superstars.

Disney Day

Yesterday was our Disneyland/California Adventure day. We started the day off with a character breakfast at Disney’s Grand Californian hotel. I had heard mixed things about these breakfasts with regards to the quality of food. Personally I was really impressed with the buffet. It’s comparable to any nice all inclusive resort I’ve visited with a good selection of both healthy and unhealthy options. There were no Mickey waffles available on the buffet line, they are included though, you just have to order them separately. I really enjoyed being able to meet characters while I had breakfast. The best part was watching a little girl dressed as a princess offer Turk from Tarzan her banana. Kids are always 10 times cuter when they’re at Disney!

After this we toured all 3 Disney hotels which took quite a bit of time and we were all anxious to get to the parks. I’m so glad we did tour them all though because we got to view the Adventureland Signature Suite. This room was UNREAL. Honestly the very best hotel room I’ve ever experienced. Think about a theme room at Fantasyland hotel in Edmonton, then think about the old Adventurer’s club bar that was a part of Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World. Combine the two and you get the Adventureland suite. When you ring the doorbell the masks on the wall let you know that someone is at the door (chanting in a creepy loud song). There were two bedrooms plus a day bed situation in the main living area. A handful of bathrooms including one with a  sauna. But it’s just the decor that blew us all away. We were told that it is about $2500 + per night, but if you happen to have a money tree I say DO IT!

Once we were in the park we were on our own to do as we wished. My friends and I accomplished a LOT in the hours that we were in the two parks. At Disneyland my favorite attractions were (not surprisingly) the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain. The cool thing about the Haunted Mansion is that Disneyland is all set up for their Halloween celebrations. So the Haunted Mansion is Nightmare Before Christmas themed. At California Adventure we did quite a few of the rides as well. The favorite between my group was clearly the Tower of Terror. We actually did it three times! After our first go at the tower we started playing a game to see what kinds of crazy poses we could do for the pictures on all of the rides. All of the silly things we did really didn’t compare to the couple who were sitting in the Tower of Terror reading magazines like it’s no big deal and not scary at all. Maybe next time we’ll have to bring props…

We had a reserved area to view the World Of Color show which was really nice to have. There is not really a lot of actual seating for World Of Color which is a bit frustrating as it’s a fairly long show at the end of the day. Everyone’s legs and feet are tired by this point. I saw a lot of kids on dad’s shoulders. The show was beautiful but I think I still prefer Fantasmic as a fireworks alternative. I do recommend checking it out if you’re there though. You might as well since all of the rides near the lake are shut down well before the show and during the show. They do restart the rides after. A good tip we learned is that as long as you’re in line for a ride when the park closes you will still get to ride that ride. So you don’t need to run out of the park as soon as the fireworks or show ends, you can get one last ride in and avoid some of the crowd craziness trying to get out of the park.

Oh, by the way, if you loved the Adventurers Club at Walt Disney World you should check out Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. No, it doesn’t really have even half of the magic as the Adventurers Club but it was a good alternative. Ordering any of their specialty cocktails causes some type of mayhem to happen somewhere within the bar. Everyone inside this bar (staff and guests) was having an absolute blast. We went there on a Friday night and had no hope of getting a seat inside the bar so I would recommend going early if you want a seat (pick a bar stool right at the bar for your best experience)


Adam’s Anaheim – part II

We started our day driving to Universal Studios Hollywood from Anaheim.  Los Angeles traffic is as bad as everyone has told me.  I did get a glance at the famous Hollywood sign on the hills, but due to the smog amongst the Universal Studioscity I wasn’t able to grab a picture of it.  We had the “Front of The Line” pass at Universal Studios.  If you are willing to spend a little bit extra to enhance your visit to Universal studios I highly recommend it.  It is about $50.00 more, but gains you access to a premium secondary line which gets you on the ride much faster.  It is great if you are running a bit low on time or if it is busy in the park.

Definitely do the Studio tour, this is the trolley ride through King Kong, Jaws and the back lots of TV and Movie sets.  The tour lasts 45 minutes, and it really gets you into the Hollywood blockbuster spirit.  We stayed for half a day but a full day is what you need here.  After Universal Studios we drove back through LA to Disneyland Parks.  We had made it there for the first night of Halloween themed Disney.  The park was transformed into a classic Halloween feel and the nightly parade was going through the crowd.  It definitely brought back memories of Halloween as a child because even in early October almost all the guests were dressed up in Halloween costumes for the evening opening.  After a few rides in Disneyland Park we walked right across to California Adventure Park where I went on the Tower of Terror ride back-to-back.  There is a new night-time water and light show called “World of Color”.  I definitely recommend this twice a night showing of Disney movie clips using projected clips onto water mists and illuminated jets of water being shot high into the air.  To get a good vantage point of the show make sure you get a Fastpass ticket for the show at the Grizzly River Run Fastpass service machines when the Park opens.

World of Color

We toured all three hotel properties on the Disneyland Resort.  Disney’s Grand California Resort and Spa has the complete look of a forested lodge retreat with a private access to Disneyland California Adventure Park.  All three hotels have a character hosted buffet breakfast buffet.  I definitely filled my stomach with a variety of things; including far too many Mickey Mouse shaped waffles.  The Disneyland Hotel offers a bit more of a contemporary and sophisticated style of rooms.  It also has some pool renovations happening at the moment but I  would love to see how the pool will look in November 2011.  The Paradise Pier Hotel is a very bright hotel that would be great for kids that still want to feel like they are in the park – even when in their hotel.

Before catching my flight back to Saskatoon from Los Angeles International airport I took a sunset walk down the Venice Boardwalk.  What a fantastic time I had.  I will definitely come back to California; there is so much to do in this area and I just kind of belong here.

Adam’s Anaheim – part I

I left Saskatoon nice and early on my flight to Los Angeles.  I had one connection in Calgary, which was fairly straightforward.  I followed the signs to the United States connections and the arrows on the floor to the connecting US flight baggage claim to take it through to customs.  I flew with Air Canada the whole way and had TV entertainment with my flight from Calgary to Los Angeles.  I was picked up from right outside the baggage claim in the centre pick up island by the colourful Disneyland Resort Express.

Be sure to pay attention to which Transit Company is picking you up as they will pass you by if you do not signal them or make it clear they need to pick you up, (they have many stops to make at LAX).  From LAX airport my bus ride was about 40 minutes to Anaheim, (traffic depending).

Adam in Anaheim

My room at the Marriott hotel in Anaheim is spacious and nice.  Our first stop for the evening was Medieval Times, a fantastic dinner show that really takes you to another time.  Medieval weapons, horses, battles, and theatre set the mood for a chicken feast that you have to eat with your hands.  The following morning we stopped into the Anabella hotel for a tour and breakfast.  This mission style boutique motel is a great choice for a stay in Anaheim, the rooms and size of this hotel are ideal; it has a great location being close to Disneyland Park.  Only a 10 minute drive away we were off to Knott’s Berry Farm.  Learning about the origin of the park was very interesting.  Who knew it all came about from a Boysenberry plantation then later on a busy chicken dinner restaurant?  My favourite ride was the Xcelerator.  Going from 0-132 km in 2.3 seconds is my kind of thrill ride.  During the Halloween season they have opened up the night time Knott’s Scary Farm.  We were only there during the day but got a sneak peak at one of the spooky mazes.  I know the night time park would spook kids as well as adults.  They have done a great job with the decorations and the whole theme of the park.

After Knotts’s Berry Farm we drove 35 minutes to Balboa Island.  This is a beautiful long coastline beach with lots of housing, shops, fun and a we did a wonderful harbour cruise.   The Balboa

Adam at Knott's Berry Farm

Harbour Cruise was only $14 per adult, and $7 per child which is a great value for the seeing massive yachts and ridiculously large past and present homes of the famous.  We finished the night off on Newport Beach at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort for dinner and a s’more dessert offered by the hotel, fireside on the beach across the road from the hotel.  I am loving California – I knew I was going to.  There is a lot more to explore, I have not even been to Disneyland yet!   That is to come tomorrow!