Blogs

Happy New Year’s Resolutions!

Of all of my endeavors in social media, our stuff with Disney Parks is the one I am most satisfied with. This year has been great, and I have added a lot of new followers, many of which I have to say comes from those folks who do #FollowFriday on Twitter! I have been able to keep a new, reasonably fresh pic up every day, even during the month I was laid up healing from knee replacement.

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This year, I plan to do more of the same, posting one or more pictures every day of the year, keeping up new pictures from my upcoming 2-4 trips to Disney World (and possibly Disneyland, that is still up for discussion after our wonderful trip last year)!

Still, I don’t think everything is perfect, and there are a few areas where I feel I need to change/improve.

  • Blogging consistently – We have been terrible about putting out blogs. Some of that is that I don’t post them very quickly, like the fact that I have a post that my wife wrote a few weeks ago that I need to edit. This next year I want to make sure we post at least one blog a month, some with tips about the parks, and maybe a blog or two about my process and tools (like the latest iPhone camera).
  • Scheduling less – In the upcoming days, my goal is going to be posting tweets live, to interact more with followers (based on advice from @ivysaysrawr). I won’t abandon scheduling altogether, as posting daily pictures will not happen if I have to stop and do this daily. All this means is that I am going to schedule tweets later in the day, and try to come back and post live if possible.
  • Paying more attention to everything Disney! – I missed an opportunity to go to the Midnight Magic party at Animal Kingdom on our next trip because I didn’t see that it was open for registration. I had weeks I could have signed up, but I missed it, only realizing it because I read someone else’s tweet…two weeks later. I missed the one at California Adventure last year the same way.
  • Changing Friday tweets – Friday’s from now on will be just #FollowFriday tweets (unless we are doing a countdown, perhaps, or if we are not posting a #FollowFriday post as I have not done during the Christmas month). No matter if I am mentioned or not, there is so much glorious noise on Fridays that the normal tweet on that day rarely sees attention. It is already so hard to figure out what to post, having an easy day on Friday will actually be kind of nice, even though picking out fireworks/explosion pictures is enough work on its own!)
  • Expand my Follow Friday list I know there are many great people out there to follow and recommend, and I like to really believe in an account before I suggest to others. I have been so busy this year that I haven’t taken enough time to consciously look for accounts to follow.
  • Listen to more podcasts – One of the reasons I have stuck with Twitter for almost 12 years is because of the community and the reasonable time involvement. I can be sitting in a doctor’s appointment, or a boring meeting, etc and read and reply to tweets in just 5 minutes. I work at home, so without a commute podcasts were never something I had time for. When I was recovering, I had a lot of extra time on my hands and really started to like the Dillos, the Monorail family, and the Disney DNA podcasts. Now that I am back to working 12+ hours a day, I haven’t listened as much.

Stretch goal:

  • Start a podcast, or at least guest on one – Over the years, I have been on several podcasts for technical topics. That is fun, but not Disney fun. I have contemplated starting a podcast for years, and have ideas, but the time commitment has been a blocker. To be honest, I have other side work that pays me, which leads to more Disney trips which leads to more pictures that have to take precedence.

All in all, I don’t want to change much. I am totally looking forward to meeting a solid number of my #disTwitter colleagues (and dare I say, friends) in early January for Jocelyn @disneygratitud1‘s meetup in late January!

I have met only a few people from my theme park twitter accounts over the years, and I hope it becomes more like my @drsql account. Through that account, I interact with people that I actually get to see occasionaly around the country at conferences and meetups. Of course it will be a lot more fun to meetup with people at Disney World because, you know… you are at Disney World.

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Disneyland vs. Disney World, Our Views

It is the age-old discussion that probably got started the day after Walt Disney World opened, which is better Disneyland or Disney World? Aren’t they the same thing? Is it worth going to one of them, if you know the other? The answer won’t surprise most people, but they are very different places. In this blog, I want to talk about our experiences, share a few extra pictures, and discuss the differences as we saw them.

Our Disneyland Experience was at the end of January 2019 – in some ways it feels like a lifetime ago – and in other ways it feels like yesterday. We have had so many life interruptions since then (and another trip to Disney World), that I have not had the time, or maybe more honestly, the energy, to write like I wanted to about Disneyland. I may still come up with some things I want to share later on – but I thought I would wrap this up with just some general thoughts and my take on the age old debate – should you go to Disneyland if you have been to Disney World?

 

We have already shared how much we loved the convenience of two parks – right outside our resort. The parks feel so quaint and at the same time have more than you could imagine seeing and doing. I feel like we didn’t get the full experience of the wonder that we should have had at the Disneyland Park. Sleeping Beauty Castle was closed for refurbishment while we were there. Because the center of the hub was closed off – it felt very awkward and there were a lot of construction walls. I am looking forward to going back and seeing it in all of its glory.

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I enjoyed experiencing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride again, an attraction I had ridden when I was young and my husband had never seen before. Toon Town was really cute, and there were lots of interesting little differences in almost every attraction that mirrors WDW. Some of these differences made the attractions so much more exciting to me – and just made me love them more. Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean were so cool – they were my favorites at the Magic Kingdom. I could have ridden them all day. I was fascinated by how many of the loading areas for the rides were located outside. I was not as impressed with the differences in Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. (Space Mountain really bothered my vertigo at DL and apparently, I have become far too comfortable with the safety bar in the WDW version of Splash Mountain – it felt very out of control to me!)

 

California Adventure was the big hit for me – I cannot wait to go back. I loved the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout! I was not expecting this at all. I really enjoy Tower of Terror and the theming – so I thought I would be disappointed in Guardians. The music, story, video, and immediate drop shaft without going through the Fifth-Dimension scene made the ride so exciting. I am so glad there are two different versions of the attraction to enjoy. The Frozen Show, Monsters Inc. attraction, and Soarin’ were great – but another reason I loved California Adventure so much was Radiator Springs. I am not going to lie; I think I cried a bit the first time I walked through that entrance. I have never felt so much like I had truly walked onto a movie set. The visuals are stunning, it just looks so much like the movie. Radiator Springs Racers was a spectacular attraction. The queue was perfect, I felt totally immersed and the race was so much fun. @drsql really liked Pixar Pier, even though my vertigo kept me from many of the attractions in that area, it was fun to see him enjoy it so much and I liked soaking up the atmosphere.

 

Another experience that I enjoyed at California Adventure was our anniversary dinner at Carthay Circle. The food was excellent and the service exceptional. They made our special night even more special. @drsql does not like to take too much time away from attractions for table service restaurants, but Hollywood Brown Derby is one of my favorites, so I really wanted to go to Carthay Circle for our one extraordinary meal. The atmosphere was beautiful, and you felt immersed in the time period. I wish that we had taken the time to really dress for the event – just for the fun of it. We were dressed nicer than our usual park attire, but still very casual and I did not feel out of place. It exceeded my expectations and I look forward to dining there again.

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We also enjoyed Downtown Disney since we had the opportunity to spend more time there than we do at Disney Springs. It is smaller, so much more manageable, and we walked through it often to get to our resort. Due to our schedule, we had an extra day to spend there and the opportunity to do The Void: Step Beyond Reality.

 

The Void was an incredible experience, one unique for me because I had never really played any type of virtual reality game before this one. I had been a little worried to try it because of my vertigo, but I always wanted to give it a shot. While we were there, The Void had two experiences that they were running, Star Wars and Wreak it Ralph. I definitely wanted to choose Star Wars and that was our intent when we first spoke to the cast member. We decided to go ahead to do some walking, eat lunch, and come back to The Void later in the afternoon. What the cast member failed to tell us is that at that time, they were only running Star Wars in the morning and that Wreak it Ralph was the only one available to play in the afternoon. We sadly decided to go ahead and try it since we would not have another time during our trip. It was so much fun. I didn’t have any issues with dizziness and the games were great! The only negative to the experience is that you do not have much time. There is really no practice before the first game starts, so you have to be ready to go. And the cost for 15 minutes of play is pretty high. I would have like to have had some practice before the scoring started and have it last at least 25-30 minutes for the cost.

Even though we knew some attractions and shows would be in refurbishment (that is always a possibility anytime you visit) – we really expected this to be our one and only trip to Disneyland. Due to the distance for us and lack of DVC options, it is just so much more expensive, and we can spend so many more days at Disney World. The only way I finally got @drsql to go…it was for our 30th Wedding Anniversary. Even though we didn’t expect it- we were not there very long before we realized we have to visit again.

I have often seen people discuss the need to visit Disneyland if you have been to Walt Disney World. As a matter of fact, over the years we have had many people tell us that due to the size we never really need to visit DL. I can honestly say, now I would advise any Walt Disney World fan to definitely go to Disneyland at least one time. It is absolutely a great experience, so similar but so different, we had a wonderful time.

There are so many things we didn’t get to do even though we spent two days at each park. I have my list already prepared for our next visit. Sleeping Beauty Castle, Fantasmic, World of Color, Grizzly River Run, and a Backstage Tour are high on that list. I wanted to visit Blue Sky Cellar and too many restaurants to count. Hopefully we will be making reservations for that visit soon – and now that we love Disneyland – maybe I can talk @drsql into Paris!!

Blogs

Staying at The Grand Californian

A review of any resort located on a Disney property is not exactly difficult to write, all the resorts, even the value ones, have tremendous charm. We stayed in most of the value and moderate resorts before joining the DVC several years back, and since then, have been able to stay at many of the deluxe resorts located at Walt Disney World. We enjoy staying on property so very much whenever possible because the comfort, location, and transportation options make the vacation even more enjoyable. Because we were not familiar with Disneyland, and since we were celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary, we decided to go large and stay at the Disneyland DVC resort: the Grand Californian. It turned out very similar and very different from Disney World resorts in amazingly good ways…and in one slightly negative way.

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I am a huge fan of the Craftsman style of architecture, the Grand Californian is an amazing example. The expansive lobby is warm and inviting, I wish we could have spent some time there, it was beautiful. As I mentioned in the last blog, it took us some time to check-in, there was a long line. The cast members were friendly and tried to make the process as quick and painless as possible.

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Our accommodations were lovely. We had a 1 bedroom suite which had a kitchen, living room, master bedroom and bath. My favorite thing was that our balcony overlooked the Grand Californian entrance to California Adventure. We could see the Soarin’ building and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail from our balcony and hear the sounds of the park. If we had been there longer, I would have spent so much time sitting out there – but the parks were calling, and we spent every minute we could in them. (In fact they were calling so loudly that the only pictures we have of our room are in our minds!)

The only negative surprise that we experienced at the Grand Californian was the lack of a store to purchase basic sundries on property. We had not planned on using our kitchen very often, but we were hoping to pick up a few basic items (soft drinks, bottled water, bananas, etc.) to have in our room. At the WDW resorts, the gift shops and counter service restaurants usually have some small items like this for available for purchase, and the DVC properties usually have a few frozen meals for purchase.

We did not have a car and really had not planned for the possibility we could not find these items. When the cast members told us there really wasn’t another option, we checked into the grocery delivery. There were generally minimums that we didn’t really need to meet (even paying resort prices we rarely spend $30 in a week), and honestly, the biggest concern was the four-hour delivery window, we would have had to stay in the room until delivery was complete. We did not want to miss that much park time, so on the second morning, @drsql walked to a close (Note: @drsql did not write that word close, as it was about a 2 mile round trip!) convenience store off property for a few small things and we relied completely on meals in the park. It was not a huge problem, but one we wished we had been aware of so we could have planned better.

 

I believe the most amazing advantage of staying on property at Disneyland was the proximity to the parks. At WDW we obviously have to use the resort transportation or our personal car to access the parks, which can take over an hour at times to get from room to entry gate. When you stay on property at the Disneyland Resort there is no need to ever get on a bus once you arrive at the resort. There was a private entrance to California Adventure and another to Downtown Disney. Security was handled at these entrances. (And others, like the Downtown Disney monorail stop, the entrance by the Disneyland Hotel, and another entry point by the entrances to Disneyland and California Adventure. I didn’t see it, but there were parking trolleys delivering people, and there must have been a security checkpoint around parking too.) So very different from the Disney World experience, in an amazing way. Once you were in the “land”, you were checked and could move around freely.

The proximity of the parks to our rooms was amazing – and almost won our hearts away from Walt Disney World. Just knowing we could make a quick trip back to the room to pick up something we had forgotten, or to dry off on the super rainy day, was wonderful!!

Blogs

Disneyland. How could it feel so familiar and yet be so very different…

We are avid Walt Disney World fans, going to the parks three or four times a year for the past 16 years. I have often wanted to visit Disneyland, but every time @drsql talked me into a longer trip or some special activity at Disney World. We finally made the trip this past January, a celebration for our 30th wedding anniversary.

When you decide to vacation at any Walt Disney resort it takes a good deal of planning, and we have become quite the experts with all our experience. As we were planning for this new adventure, we learned quickly that planning for Disneyland is an oddly different experience. Over the next several posts, I will be reviewing the differences we experienced in our vacation, things you should consider while planning, and what to expect your first visit.

 The differences are apparent from the minute you land at the airport. We chose to fly into John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County. This airport is closer to the Disneyland Resort and much smaller than LAX. Flying into MCO in Orlando almost gives the impression of flying directly onto the WDW Resort. It feels like you are already starting your Disney experience, with the store welcoming you and going directly to the Magical Express. The welcome is so warm, and the wait fairly short to get onto the bus that will take you and your luggage to your resort.

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 Landing in SNA, there was no indication that Disney was welcoming us. After we found our luggage, we tried to find the location of the Disneyland Resort Express. Although most of the resources we used while planning recommended public transportation, because we were not familiar with the area, we decided to take the Disneyland Resort Express to our resort. Reservations were not required, but there is a fee. The pickup area was not easy to locate. Our wait was significant, but not terrible, and the trip to our resort pleasant and short.

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As DVC members, we decided to use our points to stay at the nice resort (more details on that in a later blog), the Grand California. It is very beautiful, but the most surprising difference was the reception we received upon arrival. When we arrive at our home resort at WDW,  several happy and friendly cast members are standing out in front, welcoming us home and asking if we need assistance. As we removed our luggage from the bus and headed into the Grand Californian, we had no idea where to go and there were no cast members we could ask for assistance. We were several hours early, the line for check-in was incredibly long (there is not an option for on-line check-in), and we did not know where to go. After several smiling cast members passed us, even after trying to get someone’s attention, I decided to wait in line outside at the valet stand to see where we could check our luggage until it was time to check-in.

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 Eventually, they pointed us to a random line of people with suitcases to the left side of the lobby. They were waiting for the cast members to come with luggage stands to check bags. Although there was no noticeable signage indicating it, apparently that is the location to meet someone that can take your bags. After waiting for a while, there appeared to be only two cast members assigned to this task, we met a very friendly cast member who took our luggage and gave us information on how to get to the parks from the lobby. He explained that the check-in line would stay very long for most of the day and we should go ahead and enjoy some time at the parks until after our 3:00 pm check-in time. He spent plenty of time with us as we asked questions.

Our experience was not negative at all, it just all started out like going to a “normal” upscale hotel. This changed once we had ditched the luggage and took the advice we had been given and headed to California Adventure…through the gate inside the hotel. So maybe Disneyland is going to be ok after all.

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Blogs

Preparing for our first Disneyland Vacation

In just 3 weeks time, my wife and I will be making our first journey to Disneyland after many trips to Disney World. We started going to Disney World about 18 years ago, and thought that for our 30th Anniversary, we should do something different. Of course, looking back we probably should have done something at Hollywood Studios, since they created the new logo specifically for us (okay, our friend @CarsonMalone edited it for us!):

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I started this blog and twitter feed (@disneypicaday) last April, and my daily picture has so far been 100% pictures of Disney World, taken from those 18 years of trips, 2 and 3 times a year for the most part. Over the years, the process of planning for a Disney World vacation has changed, but I always felt like there was planning. With FastPass+, MagicBands, and dining reservations needing to be made at 6 months, ao I was ready to attack… Only to find that things are really different.

The primary early planning was getting a room to stay in. We were planning on staying on DVC points, probably at the Grand Floridian, so that had to be done by 6 months as normal in competition with lots of other people. But when I tried to call in and see about using points for the Disneyland Hotel at 6 months, they were like… they aren’t ready for reservations for next year. In the end, we ended up with a 1 bedroom suite, which is going to be amazing.

Dining reservations weren’t available until 60 days, and we got everything we wanted pretty easily (In fact, I somehow made a breakfast reservation for Christmas Morning for the Carnation Cafe… Not sure how it happened, but that probably cost me 20 bucks!)., Our dining reservations are for:

  • Blue Bayou For Lunch
  • Carnation Cafe for Breakfast
  • Carthay Circle for Dinner

But honestly, I am way more excited about several of the foods I have heard about:

  • Corn Dogs – Disneyland people always talk about how great the corn dogs are. I will give you my opinion when I see it (though I have had very few bad corn dogs in my life, so I can’t imagine I will be that negative!)
  • Fried Chicken – I am a fried chicken maniac. I have been on a low calorie diet for 5 years now, and my main indulgence has been fried chicken. Disney World has really only the Prime Time Diner fried chicken to speak of, and it is good, but it is a table service place where you need reservations.
  • Churros – The pictures of churros I see on twitter is just nuts, all different flavors, colors, etc.
  • Chili Cone Queso – ‘Cause, you know, it looks cool (and probably sounds better than it tastes, but who knows.

The only one thing I am sure of is that there will be loads of pictures that I will sprinkle into the feed once I get back, and probably a lot of interjection tweets like “Wow!”, “Weird!?!”, “Huh???”, “Amazing!!” from Jan 27-Feb 1.