So we purposely set no alarm for the morning and hoped to get a good rest. I slept pretty well but with the time change, I was awake by 7 am. I laid in bed for a bit but then decided I might as well get up and get the workout at the gym over with. The gym at the hotel was nice enough. Small but clean. There were individual screens on each machine but the TV function didn’t seem to work. I had my Ipod just in case there was no TV so I was fine.
After we were both showered and ready for the day, we headed down to Preston’s, the hotel’s restaurant. Now when we checked in yesterday, the woman at the desk said breakfast was included every morning of our stay. I didn’t think that was correct because we had added a pre-night before the official start of the ABD trip. So we asked at the hostess station and they confirmed that our included breakfasts didn’t start until the next day. No big deal though. We decided to order off the menu since we knew our other mornings would be from the buffet. I had a breakfast sandwich with egg whites, arugula, tomato and pesto and potatoes on the side. It was very good. Chris, who isn’t a big breakfast out person (which I can’t understand!), had a toasted bagel with cream cheese.
After we were done with breakfast, it was time to meet our guides, Jason and Summer Rose! They were set up right outside the restaurant at a table to great everyone throughout the day before our official dinner that night. We got to meet them briefly and they gave us some Adventure by Disney treats, 2 water bottles and a duffel bag. There was also a welcome letter with some logistical information and a list of the names of everyone on the trip. We found out that we were with a group of 27 adults. We also needed to pre-order our lunch for the next day. The choices were prime rib (which is the specialty of the restaurant), beef brisket and a vegetarian pasta dish. They told us to meet back right at that table at 5:30 for the welcome dinner.
We had the rest of the day to ourselves so we headed out onto Hollywood Boulevard on a mission to find the stars for Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. It wasn’t easy. We had tried searching for exact locations on the internet but we never could find the exact locations and there was even some conflicting information. Mickey Mouse ended up being pretty close so that was the first one we found. Walt Disney was harder. We ended up walking all the way to the end of the Walk of Fame on one side and then found it on the way back on the opposite side of the street. Again, we found the people trying to sell you things or panhandling to be pretty aggressive and I had had about enough of walking around there. So once we found the stars and took pictures, we headed back to the hotel to relax.
We found lounge chairs by the pool and spent about 3-4 hours there. It was a really nice day, warm in the sun and really comfortable in the shade. We stayed until around 4pm and then went back to the room to get ready for dinner.
At 5:30 we met again with our guides and now all of our fellow travelers. The first order of business was to take turns with various Hollywood props and take a picture. Some families got more into it than others but it was good way to start out with a Hollywood theme. We then were lead to a separate conference room that was set up tables for dinner. Once everyone was seated, we went around the room and introduced ourselves, how many ABD trips we had taken before and what we were most looking forward to our this trip. There were several people that had taken at least 1 ABD trip before. There were also a lot of couples celebrating anniversaries and/or birthdays.
Then we enjoyed a buffet dinner. Everything was very good. Wine was included with this meal and they told us it would be included in the last dinner as well.
At the end of the dinner, we got a time to meet back up in the morning. And they announced a surprise optional activity for right then. I don’t want to give it away but it was a nice surprise and a fun evening. Great start to the trip!
We (my husband and I) have been back for a week now. So it is time to start a day by day account of our Adventures by Disney Southern California trip plus a few extra Disneyland days.
Overall the trip was excellent. It was our first Adventures by Disney trip. We really enjoyed the experience and hope to do more trips with them in the future.
Before I get started, just a note on how much of what we experienced I will report on. One of the great things about Adventures by Disney (ABD) is that they like to include surprises in your trip. When I was researching this trip, I read some trip reports from previous guests and read about activities that were actually “surprises” but I didn’t realize that when I was reading them. I don’t want to spoil a surprise for anyone so I am not going to share any activity that was not listed on the itinerary that you receive from ABD. Now there were some other little things that happened along the way that were little treats. Those I will include but anyone that is going on this trip in the future should note that they may not occur on every trip.
So now we start with Day 1 (ABD Pre-night)
Chris, my husband, and I flew out to California from NY the day prior to the start of the ABD trip. We didn’t want to worry about any flight delays or problems and there is a 3 hour time difference so it was great to have the extra time. It was a rainy NY morning so it was a little slow getting to the airport, but our flight was on time and we had a smooth, uneventful flight out.
We had booked our pre-night stay with ABD so we would be heading to the Loews Hollywood Hotel which is where the Hollywood portion of our trip would take place. Also because the pre-night was booked through ABD, we were entitled to use the private transfer from the airport. (If you do not book your pre-night through ABD, you have to arrange and pay for your own transportation to the hotel.)
As promised, we arrived in baggage claim to find a driver waiting with an ABD sign that had our name on it. He had an empty luggage cart and we ready to help us with our bags. There was some confusion about what carousel our luggage would be coming out on and he was great about going back and forth between a few of them until we found the right one. Once our bags were collected, we walked out to his car and enjoyed a quiet ride to hotel.
The check in process was relatively smooth. At first there was some confusion about finding it in the computer but it was quickly retrieved and we were all set. Our driver had mentioned that he hoped we would get a room on the side where we could see the Hollywood sign. So the first thing we did was open our window… and there it was!!
The room was very nice. It had a king size bed and good amount of space around the rest of the room.
At this point, we were starving so we dropped our bags and headed out to walk to Fat Sal’s. We had seen Fat Sal’s featured on Diners, Drive ins and Dives and we actually passed it on the drive to the hotel so we knew exactly where we were going.
Fat Sal’s is known for its “fat” sandwiches which basically cram a lot of different items into a hero size sandwich. Chris and I each ordered a different kind so we could cut them in a half and then trade so we could each try 2 kinds. So we ordered the “Fat Sal” which was roast beef, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, gravy and French fries. Yes, all of that on one sandwich. The other one we chose was the “Fat Anthony” which consisted of lettuce, tomato, 3 different Italian meats, chicken fingers, onion rings and French fries. We also ordered cheese fries to share. Yes, that is a lot of stuff on the sandwiches and while they weren’t small.. they actually weren’t ridiculously huge either. Of course, we also had just gotten off a 5 hour flight and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We didn’t have any trouble finishing them. We both agreed that the Fat Sal was the better of the two. We really liked the gravy and everything together just worked.
After finishing up there, we went to walk a bit around the hotel. The hotel sits right on Hollywood Boulevard so right outside you have the Walk of Fame, the Chinese theater, the El Capitan Theater and the Disney / Ghirardelli store. We didn’t spend much time. Just took about 30 minutes to look around.
Unfortunately, there was some interesting folks on Hollywood Boulevard. Now, I am quite used to what we call “scary” characters (people dressed up like different characters that want a tip to take a picture with them) from being in Times Square. Times Square is also home to people that want you to take their tour or buy their CD or whatever else they are selling. A simple “no” while you keep walking is usually enough for them to move along. Not so on Hollywood Boulevard. I found these folks to be quite aggressive and they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. While we didn’t have any problems, it does make for an unpleasant experience when you just want to walk around and look the celebrity stars or hand and foot prints outside the Chinese theater.
After a brief walk, we were ready to relax in our room for the night. When we got to our room, we had a voice mail from one of our ABD guides, Summer Rose, reminding us to stop by to meet them in the hotel tomorrow for a welcome package. We were very excited to get started!
So this blog will be a little quiet as I will soon be setting out on some trips. My husband and I will be heading to California for an Adventures by Disney tour. We will be getting to go backstage at various locations in Hollywood and in Disneyland. At the end, my sisters will be joining us for a few days of more fun at Disneyland.
When we get back, we will only have a few weeks until we head out to Walt Disney World in Florida. I am going to run the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. We added a few days to that weekend to do some backstage tours there as well.
Of course, I will be writing a trip report here of both experiences. So stay tuned...
This past Sunday, my sisters and I participated in the Tunnel to Tower 5K to benefit the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower Foundation.
The cause and the reason for the race is amazing. The race honors Stephen Siller who was a firefighter who had just gotten off of work on 9/11. When the events happened, he tried to drive back into the city from Brooklyn to help. The tunnel was closed already so he strapped on 60 lbs of gear and ran through the tunnel. He passed away there (unclear where, possibly in the south tower). So the race has you "follow in his footsteps.” The course has you go through the tunnel and enter into Manhattan. Then there is about a mile more around lower Manhattan until you reach the finish line. It is listed as a 5K but the course is actually about 3.6 miles.
During the race, there was a lot of firemen who did the race in full gear. When you come out of the tunnel, there were West Point cadets holding flags on one side and firemen in dress uniforms each wearing a banner with a full photo of a firefighter who died on 9/11. There was a lot of chanting "USA" and good energy during the race. I loved all that.
Now, if I just focus on it as a race, there were some issues. Yes, it was over 25,000 participants so that isn't easy to manage. They did corrals A-G. I was in B but my sisters were walking only and they were in G so I stayed with them. For security, you weren't allowed any bags or water bottles at all. We had to arrive at 6:30 to take a ferry from Manhattan to the start in Brooklyn. That went well and was very organized. But then of course the race doesn’t start until 9:30.. and our corral didn't start until 10:20... so like runDisney races, a lot of waiting.. but with no water or port a potties around...
When we came through the tunnel after 2 miles, there was supposed to be water. I saw tons of empty cups all over.. but no water.. they had run out. Then as we continued, the streets were closed to traffic but part of the course went through a park which was open to the public. At times we didn't even know if we were still going the right way because there were no signs and no volunteers. A lot of the bands and cheerleaders were packing up and leaving as we came through.
And again at the finish line there was supposed to be a ton of food and water but we couldn't find it. We didn't want to walk further than we needed to because we had a mile to walk back to our car so we missed all of that.
I almost feel bad saying anything negative at all about the race because of the cause and reason we all were there. Again, I am so happy to have supported the foundation and really loved all the energy and positive spirit throughout the race. It is certainly not easy to manage that amount of participants at what is really a local 5K. I was told that the corrals were new this year due to safety concerns of previous years and I’m sure other issues will be worked out in years to come.
I will end with what I thought was the most touching moment of the whole day. As the corrals were being walked up to the start line, we pasted a Brooklyn fire department that lost 7 of its members on 9/11. In fact the street they are located on was renamed “Seven in Heaven” in their honor. Some of the current firefighters in that station were standing outside watching us walk by. All of the firemen in their full gear that were doing the race, left the corral and went to shake all of their hands. The whole crowd cheered.
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.