It was our final day in California and it was going to be a long one. We had reservations at 8:15 for the buffet at Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. We debated about taking a cab but decided that we would be on the first shuttle from the hotel and walk through Downtown Disney which worked out fine. Chris isn’t a big fan of getting up early or breakfast so he decided to sit this one out.
Goofy’s Kitchen is a character breakfast and we found the characters to be very interactive! Chip at one point even sat down at our table and was checking out what we were eating. We enjoyed having fun with them and taking some pictures. We also really enjoyed the buffet. It was listed as a brunch but we figured that at 8:15 am it would be breakfast foods only. Not so! We were surprised to find pizza, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and other lunch type foods as well as classic breakfast dishes. And I had no problem enjoying some pizza and macaroni and cheese alongside my eggs and Mickey waffles. I even had ice cream for dessert!
After we were stuffed, we walked back through Downtown Disney to Disneyland. Chris and I had to use our one day, one park only pass this day so we had decided to spend the full day in Disneyland. As we entered the park, we headed to the right to do my sister’s favorite attraction, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Apparently my sister is the only one that shares the love for this attraction because we had a private showing as the only ones in the theater. On our way in I was very happy to find “the bench.” I had read that it was in Disneyland but I wasn’t sure where to find it. As you enter the Opera House, there sits the bench that Walt Disney sat on in Griffith Park while his daughters rode the merry go round and he came up with the idea for Disneyland.
We then headed towards the rear of the park to check out the Big Thunder Ranch area which was decorated for Halloween. There were some animals in a petting zoo type of setting but what we liked most was all of the figures that were made with pumpkins and the pumpkin carvings.
Chris met up with us at this point and we spent the rest of the morning / early afternoon going on a various rides. It was very busy so getting fastpasses was important. We did wait for about 45 minutes to get on the Nemo submarine ride but that was the longest wait of the day. We had previously decided that we were going to take a park break around 2 pm and go to Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland hotel. We also had to pick up our tickets for the Fantasmic Dessert Package at Town Hall. So we made our way out of the park, picked up the tickets and then walked once again through Downtown Disney to Trader Sam’s.
Inside of Trader Sam’s is small and it was crowded so we found a table outside. We ordered some drinks and some food to share. It was a nice sit down break from the parks. On our way back, we took the monorail from Downtown Disney into Disneyland. It stops at Tomorrowland so we were right where we left off. The parade was in the last few minutes so there was almost no line for the Matterhorn which had been a big wait for most of the day. We hopped on that ride and noticed that within 30 minutes the long wait had returned there.
We did some more attractions until it was time for the Fantasmic Dessert Package. This package is unfortunately being discontinued which is too bad because we really enjoyed it. We had to check in and then wait in line to choose our seats. We then were told to return at around 8:30 (the show started at 9). There were already a lot of people who started sitting around the viewing area on the ground as early as 5 pm so having assigned seats was excellent. We had folding chairs right in front of a railing that was on a higher level than the guests seated on the ground. It was the perfect place to see the show.
After we were seated, a cast member came around with our dessert boxes. We each received a pretty large size box. Each contained several cheeses and crackers and then 6-7 bite size desserts and some chocolates. The cast member also will bring you the beverage of your choice. There was soda, coffee, tea and water. All of the food was great and there was a lot of it. None of us finished our box. Chris and I handed ours over to my sisters because we were leaving the next morning.
The other benefit to the seats was that we were allowed to stay in them for the fireworks. Of course we couldn’t see the castle from where we were but got the general idea and the music and narration played in our area as well.
That was our last activity of the entire trip and it was a great way to end. After the fireworks, it was time to take the shuttle back to the hotel and pack. My sisters were staying for a few more days so we said goodbye to them that night.
The next morning, the driver arranged by Adventures by Disney arrived and we made a quick 20 minute drive to Long Beach airport to fly home.
Our whole time in California was wonderful. I had a great time as part of Adventures by Disney and touring around on our own. As always, it is sad when a trip ends and you have to come home. This time though there was a silver lining as there was only 2 ½ weeks after we got home until Chris and I headed to Walt Disney World in Florida for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend. As of writing this, we are already home from that trip… so more trip reports coming soon!
After leaving our ABD group, we went up to our room and gathered our belongings. We were checking out of the Grand Californian and moving to Homewood Suites in Anaheim, about 1.5 miles away. Our plans were to store our luggage at the Grand Californian and come back to make the switch of hotels after lunch.
Luggage stored, we headed over to meet my sisters in Disneyland. We had fun walking around and going on rides. Chris and I were sharing tidbits from our ABD trip with them. We were also able to see Mickey and the Magical Map show in Fantasyland. It was a cute little show and I liked the use of the screens behind the characters.
We had a 3 pm reservation at Café Orleans. My sister, Carrie, and I wanted to try both kinds of the Monte Cristo sandwich… the original with ham and cheese and the 3 cheese version (with no ham). So we eat ordered one and then shared. For those that don’t know, a Monte Cristo is a ham and cheese sandwich that is battered and fried. It was very good though heavy. We both agreed that we liked the 3 cheese one the best. I had my eyes on the pumpkin beignets for dessert but after eating the sandwich, I was stuffed. I was hoping to get some beignets at some point, but never did.
After lunch, Chris and I parted ways with my sisters so we could get our luggage and check in at the Homewood Suites. My sisters were staying there as well. We got a taxi from the Grand Californian and were quickly at Homewood Suites.
I wasn’t thrilled about leaving property but it ended up working out great. The Homewood Suites was very nice. There is a free breakfast in the lobby every morning and they run a shuttle bus ($5 a day per adult) to and from Disneyland. The bus left the hotel on the :15 and :45 of the hour and picked up at the Disneyland bus stop on the hour and half hour. We found the bus to be right on time all the time. It reminded us of using Disney buses in Walt Disney World but better because you knew exactly when the bus was going to be there. The Disneyland bus stop is maybe ¼ mile from the plaza that connects both parks. We found the whole system to be very convenient and easy to use. Would I rather stay at a Disney hotel? Yes. But for less than half the price of a Disney hotel, I would rather stay here and be able to stay longer.
Disneyland was closing early for the Halloween party so we moved over to California Adventure when we met back up with my sisters. It was a Friday night.. and Disneyland was only open for people going to the Halloween party… so it was very crowded at California Adventure. We still managed to go on some rides and even caught a little of the Monsters University parade. The only difficulty we had was Toy Story Mania. The wait time was listed as 50 minutes but after about 30 minutes, we realized it was going to be longer than that. It was well over an hour before we got on and then even the ride itself had problems. After almost every game, a message would come up saying we had to wait to go to the next one. At least they put things on the screen for you to still shoot at. They don’t add to your score but it was something to amuse yourself with while waiting.
After we finally finished there, we wanted to check out the Mad T Party. Did I mention it was really crowded in California Adventure? While it was really crowded at the party too. We couldn’t really walk around that much and stood off to the side watching the band and crowd. We got some drinks and I may have had some fun with the glow ice cube. J
We called it a night around 9 pm and headed by to grab the bus to Homewood Suites.
This morning was the final breakfast for our Adventures by Disney trip. Again it took place as a buffet at the Storyteller’s Café. Our guide, Jason, said that is scheduled for 7:30 – 8:30 but the restaurant reserves the area until 10 am because they know that guests from the trip linger and don’t want to leave. Our group was no different.
Most of our group was there although a few folks had left already for early flights. The email list that was created the night before had been copied and handed out to everyone.
It was sad, and I admit to a few tears, but at least we still had a few days in California. So at 9 am, we left to check out of our room and met up with my sisters.
Final Thoughts on this Adventures by Disney trip
- It was awesome!! Everything was super organized which appeals to my OCD nature. J
- The guides did not overwhelm you with the schedule for the whole day or trip. Each activity flowed into the next and they took care of one thing at a time.
- The guides took care of everything. I was somewhat reluctant to release control since I am usually the one that makes all our vacation plans and then has to make sure we are everywhere we need to be and on time. It was so nice to not have to worry about anything.
- We were very fortunate to have a great group of adults. Everyone was on time, did what has asked of us by the guides and mingled very well together.
- There were a lot of surprises and perks which made the trip even better.
Tips for taking an Adventure by Disney trip
- Have some idea of activities or places you would like to go in the area during your free time, but I wouldn’t recommend making reservations. Timing can change during the tour and there are optional activities that happen during the free time that you may not want to miss. (There was one place that Chris and I wanted to visit in Hollywood. I was glad we didn’t pre-purchase tickets because it ended up being a surprise optional activity on the first night.)
- Don’t research too much before you trip. That is easier for me to say than do! I did do a lot of research and read any trip reports that I could find. Unfortunately some of the reports did not indicate what activities were surprises so I knew some of the things that had happened on other trips. The surprises that I didn’t know about were so much fun that I would say you really don’t want to ruin that for yourself. Also, not every trip is exactly the same. You don’t want to be disappointed if you don’t do an activity that was included on someone else’s trip.
- If possible, try to book your pre- and post- nights with Adventures by Disney. We were very happy to already be in place in Hollywood… and not so happy that we had to pack up and move hotels when the trip was over (although that ended up working out fine).
- Be prepared for long days. It is possible that other Adventures by Disney trips have more down time but because we were in Disneyland, we chose to go from early morning to late night with no stopping.
I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this trip. I am already thinking about when it would be possible for me to take another one!
If you are ready to plan your Adventure, contact me at Christine@magicaladventuresawait.com to get started!!
This was our last full day of Adventures by Disney. It went soooo fast.
We started out with our group at the breakfast buffet at Storyteller’s Café in the Grand Californian hotel. It is a character breakfast as well. There were not a whole lot of guests there at that time so our group enjoyed a lot of character interaction.
Then it was off to open another park. This time we got into California Adventure before it was open. There was a guest who was quite upset that were entering the park when he was just told the park wasn’t open. The cast member was very patient but it took several times of explaining that we were a special group tour before he quieted down.
Again, there isn’t too much I can share about exactly what we got to experience in Disney’s California Adventure. We did get to go on Radiator Spring’s Racers as a group which was a lot of fun!
And again, we ended as a group at around 1 pm and were sent off with fast passes for the afternoon. My sisters were flying in this day so we met up with them and were able to share some fast passes for all of us to do some ride together. We rode several attractions and had a really nice afternoon.
We parted ways for now from my sisters and headed back to the hotel to get ready for our farewell dinner with our Adventures by Disney group. We all met in the lobby and then were led to a conference room in the hotel. There was a screen and laptop set up and the guides showed us a slideshow presentation with pictures that they had taken of all of us over the course of the trip. It was so much fun to see and re-live. Then we were asked what our favorite moments of the trip had been. There were so many great responses. Many touching on the fact that our group as a whole worked really well together and how wonderful the guides had been. Our guides said that this was their first “hiccup free” trip and they shared some of their favorite moments. The moments they shared were reactions and expressions that different people in our group had to different surprises and activities that we had done. It just reinforced for me at how connected and involved the guides were in our trip. They weren’t just dragging us around from place to place but really cared about how we experienced everything.
From there we headed over to the restaurant location. I am not going to say where we ate because it was not something we knew until that morning. I will say that it was an excellent meal. ** Surprise alert ** I will say that when we arrived to dinner, each place was set with Mickey “Glow with the Show” ears. It was so cool to see them all lit up when we entered and it was a great surprise that we each would have a pair of ears to wear to the World of Color show that night. (Glow with the Show ears look like the standard Mickey ears but the ears light up. The lights are synced to different shows in the parks so in the audience the ears will all match and light different colors during the show.)
During dinner, Summer Rose came around to verify our departure information and transportation. Chris and I were staying 2 extra days but we were switching hotels to a Homewood Suite nearby. The policy for Adventures by Disney is that if you book your post-trip stay through them, they will provide private transportation back to LAX. We ended up booking our own post-trip location and we were flying home from Long Beach airport, so I had arranged our own transportation. When Summer Rose came around to us, she had our plans listed as staying the 2 extra days but remaining at the Grand Californian and using ABD transportation. I explained what our arrangements were and she said not to worry and she would change the car service to pick us up at Homewood Suites. She did not have to do that at all so that was a great surprise!
After dinner, we all went to the World of Color show. World of Color is the night time show in Disney’s California Adventure. It involves music, images being displayed on water and lights… and it is very difficult to really describe well. We really enjoyed it. Our Adventures by Disney group had a reserved section, of course, and it was great to see everyone’s Mickey ears light up along with the show.
When it was over, that was pretty much the end of our Adventures by Disney trip (we just had breakfast the next morning). No one wanted to leave. Someone started an email list so we could each add our contact information. The park was now closed, all the guests were leaving and the Disney cast members were cleaning up around us but our group was still standing there not wanting the trip to end. But eventually we had to move along, especially since we had to park to move to our next hotel in the morning.
After a long day and a late night, we were up and ready to meet the group at 8 am. We met in the lobby of the Grand Californian and then walked all together over to Disneyland. Once again, our guides led the way and we were escorted right into the park which didn’t open until 9 am. There were already people lining up waiting to get in and we overheard some comments questioning why we were allowed to go in… the perks of Adventure by Disney!
We took a group photo in front of the station and then walked down an empty Main Street. The guides were encouraging us to run, skip, and do whatever we wanted because when do you have Disneyland to yourself! It was also a great chance to get some photos without a single person in the picture…when does that ever happen!!
After some photo ops with our individual families and as a group, we were taken over to the Plaza Inn for breakfast. The breakfast there is a buffet and character dining. Again, we had a reserved section and were free to help ourselves to whatever we would like from the buffet. The characters that visited us were Minnie, Captain Hook, Tigger, Chip and Dale.
After breakfast, it was time to begin our backstage tour of Disneyland. We divided again into our two smaller groups for this part of the tour. And once again, I don’t want to give anything away and I would think that some of the attractions change anyway from time to time. Basically, we got to ride one of the attractions and then we were able to go backstage and see how that attraction worked. We got to see a ride vehicle and ask any questions about the ride and how it operates. It was really interesting. We also got to get right on a few attractions with no wait using the power of Adventures by Disney!
Also included in this part of the tour was a visit to Walt’s actual apartment above the firehouse on Main Street. (We were not allowed to take photos. The guides took one photo of each family in the apartment.) It was really incredible to be up there where Walt and Lillian Disney and their family used to stay. It was very small and nothing fancy but what is cooler than living inside of Disneyland! There were photos on the walls and a lot of stories were told about his time there. He loved to watch the guests in the park and you could really see how he could watch without calling attention to himself, from the window of the apartment and from patio connected towards the back of the apartment. There is lamp in the window that used to be lit to signal that Walt was in the apartment. It stays lit all the time now as a symbol that Walt’s presence is always in the park.
From there, we all came back together for instructions on the rest of the day. It was around 2 pm and we would now have the afternoon and evening free with the exception of meeting back together at 7 pm for the non-Halloween Disneyland parade. We were each given a $20 food voucher that could be used in Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure or any of the Downtown Disney or resort food locations. They also gave us our park ticket, which was a 4 Day Park Hopper. And they gave us each 5 “super Fastpasses.” These Fastpasses could be used for any attraction in either park (except Radiator Springs Racers) at any time. Cool!!
** A note about the park hopper ticket. Now, I knew we would get a 4 day park hopper. And I knew that Chris and I would be staying for a 5th day. I asked prior to the trip if I could upgrade to a 5 day park hopper by paying the difference and I was told ‘no.’ So we had to purchase a single day ticket for our extra day at $100 each (and it wasn’t a park hopper because that would have been another $50 each). Because this trip included the Halloween party and we were escorted through the gates, we only used the ticket for 3 days. So there was really a day left on the ticket…. but it had an expiration date of the last day of the ABD trip so we still weren’t able to use it and had to pay for the single day. Out of the whole trip, that was the only thing that bothered me. Many people in our group added at least a day to the trip to spend time in the parks. Why not let us be able to upgrade the tickets? **
So we were off on our own in Disneyland! Several people in our group chose to go back to the hotel to rest / nap. But not us! We were out to use those Fastpasses and make the most of our time in the park. The Fastpasses were only good for that day so we looked on the map and located all the attractions that took Fastpass. We weren’t happy to find that none of the Fantasyland rides take Fastpass (unlike Walt Disney World) so those would have to wait. We also found that some of the attractions that took Fastpass (like Autopia) had a 5-10 minute wait so we didn’t want to waste them there.
After riding everything we wanted to, we ended up going on Indiana Jones 3 times in a row! It is a really cool ride and parts of it are different each time. And you get a really different experience depending on where you sit in the vehicle. We found that the front row had a milder ride while the back row really experienced a lot of movement. We still had enough Fastpasses to go for a 4th time, but we decided we would rather pay it forward to someone else. There was at least a 30- 40 minute stand by wait most of the time, so we stood at the stand by entrance and waited until we saw a party of 2 and then handed our Fastpasses off to them.
We used one of our food vouchers to share a counter service meal at the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country. I had a fried green tomato sandwich and Chris had an order of onion rings. And before we met up for the parade, we stopped at Starbucks to get a coffee and a cookie to have during the parade.
The set up for the parade was the same as during the Halloween party. There were 2 rows of benches reserved just for us and our guides were there. We were early this time so we got a seat in the front row. The benches were a little pushed back from the curb this time and we had several people not from our group that came to sit in front of us. Our guides would come over and tell them that the area is reserved. We actually felt bad because there really was room there but one of the guides explained they used to allow that if the group was ok with it, but then it led to problems so they keep a completely reserved area. They told us that we weren’t to say anything to the other guests and they would take care of it… and they did.
The parade was cute. I’m not really a big parade person but I liked seeing everything without people in my way and this one lasted longer than the Halloween parade. When it was over, the guides gave us a time to meet for breakfast and again we were on our own.
We were going to call it a night but then decided to see how long the wait was for Haunted Mansion. It was 25 minutes (and doesn’t accept Fastpasses during the holiday season) so we decided to go ahead. The line moved along and we enjoyed the ride again.
Then we really decided to call it a night. We made our way into Downtown Disney and I stopped in the World of Disney megastore while Chris continued on to the room. I picked up a few items and then went back to the room myself. There were treats waiting for us! There were 2 Mickey shaped rice krispie treats with chocolate dipped ears and a carafe of milk from Adventures by Disney. There was also a framed photo of one of our group shots from the day before and an envelope with 3 photos of Chris and me from that day. Another great surprise and perk from Adventures by Disney!
We had an early start this day and it was going to be a long day. We would be moving hotels today so we had to have our bags packed and ready by 7 am. A great feature of Adventures by Disney is how your luggage is handled. We had luggage tags that had our names of them. We had to leave our bags inside our hotel room ready to go with those tags attached. When we were at breakfast, the guides asked us how many bags were left to be transported. They pick up your bags, transport them to the next hotel and deliver them to your room at the new hotel. It was excellent. A big perk to Adventures to Disney!
We had breakfast (buffet again at Preston’s) and then met for the bus at 8:15. This morning we were going to Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Studios. Both locations are not open to the general public. We were not allowed to take any photos in Imagineering. We were allowed photos in most, but not all areas of the Studios.
At Imagineering, we were met by 2 Imagineers. I don’t want to give away too much about what we saw there. It is a tour that is apparently always changing as they are always working on different things. I had read that previous tours got a sneak peek of new attractions coming to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. We didn’t experience that. There was actually a large area inside that was completely walled off. The Imagineer that gave us the tour said it is so top secret that even he doesn’t know what is in there. He knows the concept (and wasn’t sharing) but not what the specific attraction will be. It was really cool to be in the building where attractions are created and designed.
As we came out of that building, we walked across the campus to Mickey’s of Glendale which is basically a Disney store for employees. We were given time to shop there. Many items were things you can find in the Disney store or at the parks but the big draw were apparel and other items that said “Walt Disney Imagineering” because that is the only place you can purchase items like that. I managed not to go crazy though and just got a sweatshirt.
We were then back on the bus and headed to Walt Disney Studios. Our first stop there was lunch / shopping. There was another store which was more like a regular Disney store and the commissary where all the employees eat. We were given a voucher for our lunch and then had about an hour to get lunch and go shopping. The commissary was very good and had a wide variety of hot foods that were made fresh. Our voucher got us a main dish, side dish, dessert and beverage. I had a meatball calzone with a bag of chips, a brownie and a water. It was all very good and filling.
After we were all gathered again, our guides gave us a tour of the Studios. Walking on the grounds alone was very cool. Especially after seeing Saving Mr. Banks. Not only did the movie depict events that actually occurred on that lot, but many scenes of the movie were actually shot there so it was fun to see. We got to walk around Legends Plaza where there are plaques honoring all those people who have received a Disney Legends award. We went briefly into the Disney Archives area where we were able to look at some of the displays and do something really cool (SURPRISE ALERT). We got to hold an actual Oscar that was won by Disney (it was for a nature documentary)!! I was very excited about that!!
When we were finished it was time to head to Disneyland!! It was about a 90 minute drive. But of course, Adventures by Disney wanted to make it as pleasant as possible. So they passed around snacks and water and we watched a movie for the drive. They also recommended trying to take a nap because it was going to be a long night! Normally the trip would involve dinner at Disneyland and then we would have been free for the evening. But this was the night we were going to the Halloween party so we had a lot more activities to go!
We arrived at the Grand Californian and again experienced the advantage of traveling with ABD. As we stepped off the bus, the guides handed us a folder with all of our room information and our keys and we were off. No dealing with luggage, no waiting online to check in. We went right up to our room and our luggage arrived within 10 minutes.
We had about an hour to get settled and then we had to meet downstairs for dinner. We would be eating at the Storyteller’s Café in the Grand Californian. There was a bit of confusion with the staff of the restaurant when we arrived. This location was a change from the original itinerary due to the Halloween party. At first they had the wrong number of people and then the restaurant staff said that we were all to have the buffet while our guides insisted that we were supposed to be able to order from the menus. In the end, it was the buffet, which was fine with me and everyone seemed agreeable to that as well. I was actually happy because the Storyteller’s Café makes the BEST corn chowder. I knew it was on the buffet and it was as good as I remembered!
We all enjoyed dinner and then gathered outside of the restaurant for the walk over to Disneyland. We lined up as a group with one guide at the front and one in the back. Summer, at the front, told the cast member that we were the group from Adventures by Disney and they just started putting wristbands on us and we were in! Our guides said they would help anyone that needed direction but other than that we were free to go and just needed to meet up for the parade at 8:30.
I have never been to the Halloween party at Walt Disney World (though I have done the Christmas party). I thought the energy of the party was amazing. There were so many people in full costumes, children, adults and whole families. There was Halloween music playing all down Main Street and I loved the decorations. (Planning note: if you had never been to Disneyland before, I think starting with the Halloween party would be very overwhelming. I was at least a little familiar, but it is dark and there are so many people that I had to use a map a few times to figure out where we were going).
A few other notes about the Halloween party: They were checking for wristbands a lot. Much more than I saw at the Christmas party in WDW. Also, the lines for the character greeting were not bad at all, except for the stormtroopers. And though the party ended at 11, it seemed that a lot of the characters were gone by 10. There may have been a schedule in the map but I didn’t pay much attention.
We headed into Tomorrowland and took advantage of short wait times to do Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear. We also did some trick or treating. There were trails set up which were basically a line that would go around to 4-5 different treat stations. There would be a cast member at each station that would put a few pieces of candy in your bag (everyone gets a bag when you enter the park). There were also apple slices and baby carrots in bags if you wanted a healthy choice. The lines weren’t that long for the treat lines but there was a bit of a wait. Honestly, I couldn’t understand why because you get the candy in your bag and move along… but it wasn’t too bad and we ended up doing 2-3 of the trails and came back with a good amount of candy.
Reserved seating for the parade is the way to go! Jason and Summer Rose were in a roped off section with benches for seating. We arrived at around 8:25, had a seat and the parade started. There were two rows of benches and we were one of the last few of our group to arrive so we were in the back row. But it was still a great view and totally beats sitting on the curb for 2+ hours staking out your spot.
The parade was cute though I thought it was a little short. It maybe lasted 15-20 minutes. When it was over, our guides said the Disney folks were going to turn the benches towards the castle and we should come back around 9:25 for the fireworks. It really wasn’t much time to do anything so we just took a restroom break and then headed back. Again we were in a roped off area with benches. It was great. I really enjoyed the special Halloween fireworks. They used projections on the castle and had Zero, Jack Skellington’s dog, flying around similar to Tinkerbell at Walt Disney World.
It was going on a 14 hour day at that point but it wasn’t over yet!! The party ended at 11 pm and our guides told us where to meet them at 11 for a special option activity. Of course, we couldn’t miss that! So we rode Space Mountain, which had a special “Ghost Galaxy” overlay for Halloween, and had a snack and met up with our group at 11.
Sorry, once again, this activity was a surprise and I’m not going to spoil it. But it was very cool and when it was over (around 11:30) we were walking through a “closed” park. Yes, the party ended at 11 and where we were it was empty. But as we were headed down Main Street there were still quite a few people in the park. And even though it had closed over 30 minutes ago, no one seemed in a rush to leave. There were still families taking photos in front of the decorations and just taking their time. Someone asked the guides how long it takes to completely empty the park at closing and she said “a while.”
So our day that started at 7 am, finally came to a close at midnight. It was time to go to bed because the next morning we would be opening up Disneyland at 8 am!
Started out at the gym and then we met our group for breakfast. Most mornings there was an hour window for breakfast. You could come any time you would like and there was a reserved area for our group. Today it was from 7 – 8 am at Preston’s, the restaurant in the hotel. It was your standard breakfast buffet with hot and cold foods available and they were making omelets to order.
After that, we had time to run up to the room to get what we needed and met back in front of the restaurant at 8:30 for a walking tour along Hollywood Blvd. Our hotel sits on the end of the Hollywood and Highland complex that has stores and restaurants and the Dolby Theatre. In one corner of the complex, there is a “picture taking” spot with a good view of the Hollywood sign. That was the first stop where our guides gave us the history and some stories about the Hollywood sign.
We then walked further into the complex to talk about the large pillars and elephant statues that are incorporated into the complex. Those are actual set pieces from an old movie (that I can’t remember the name of) from the days when they didn't have computers and other effects so they had to build everything to exact size.
Walking a little further, we came to the Dolby theatre which is the location of the Academy Awards. The guides explained how it is set up for that night and we walked down the steps that are where the red carpet is on Oscar night.
We then walked onto Hollywood Blvd and down to the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s). I don’t remember the exact position of our guide, though I believe he was a manager of some kind. He said “Come on in. I have popcorn for you.” So we went inside, while the theater was closed and there was a small popcorn and water for each of us to munch while he gave the tour. He explained the history of the theater and talked about each of the costume exhibits in the lobby. We then got to go into the theater and watch a short movie about how they renovated the theater to make it IMAX. He then spoke about a lot of the different premieres that have been held there and all the elaborate features that some have included. From there we went out front to where the celebrity hand prints and foot prints are located. He pointed out a few and had stories about each one. Chris and I both said that we didn’t think much of this stop when we saw it on the itinerary but it turned out to be one of our favorites.
That was the end of the walking tour. We had a brief stop at the hotel and then we were on the bus to go to Jim Henson Studios. This was the first location we visited that is not open to the general public. We divided into smaller groups and our group started with a movie about the history of the lot which was originally bought and built by Charlie Chaplin. The movie was made with the Muppets so it was informative and entertaining. Then we went to the reception area where there is a display of awards and some original puppets from various Henson projects. We then got to meet a puppeteer who took us into an area where he could show us how they can now work with digital puppets. There was also concept art in this area for upcoming projects (that was where we couldn’t take pictures). And finally a demonstration of how puppet work is done for TV / movies in the sound stage. One member from our group got to try their hand at it as well with the puppeteer. That was probably my favorite part of the tour.
From there we back on the bus and went to Tam O’Shanter for lunch. Tam O’Shanter was a favorite restaurant of Walt Disney. It was where he used to take his employees before he had a studio with a commissary. There is a booth that was his favorite and we each got to sit in the booth and our guide would tell us a little bit about the history of Walt and the restaurant. We also had lunch here, which we had ordered previously at our tour check in . Chris and I both had the prime rib and mashed potatoes. It was very good.
After lunch, we had a surprise activity. I have seen this activity described in other trip reports but it isn't on the official itinerary so I’m not going to give it away. We then headed back to the hotel and were surprised again with an optional activity. I know…so many surprises that I’m not telling… you will just have to take the tour to find out!!
And then we had the rest of the afternoon / evening free. Chris and I decided we want to go to a movie at the El Capitan theater. They had a “VIP” ticket that included reserved seats, popcorn and a drink for $22 so we decided to do that. The theater is owned by Disney and shows one movie at a time (all Disney). That night it was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The movie wasn't on the top of our “to see” list but we wanted to go to a movie at that theater so that was what we were seeing.
It was a week night so there was maybe 10 people in the whole theater. We sat alone in the 3 rows that are reserved for VIP tickets. There is a classic organ and organist that plays before the movie which we wanted to see. But apparently that doesn't happen on weeknights. But there was a great “curtain opening” feature and only a few trailers and NO commercials. The movie was actually very cute and we liked the little souvenir buckets that came with our package. When we left there was a staff person waiting for us with a little gift bag. We were all excited until we got back to the hotel and only found ads for upcoming movies in the bag. But all in all, it was a nice experience and good way to spend in the evening.
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.