Disneyland is one of my favorite places. For many years, I was an annual pass holder, and over the span of my life I have visited the park over 100 times. That being said, I want to approach this post with just a handful of highlights from my trip there earlier this week. I will admit - I am not a thrill-seeking ride junkie; I have a soft spot for the more classic, nostalgic Disney attractions. I thoroughly enjoy the details Disney puts into its parks to create an ambience and transport guests to another world. Please keep my personal perspective in mind while you read this post. I will also approach this post as a list, instead of my usual chronological storytelling.
IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER (because I can't decide): My top 5 highlights
1. The Red Rose Taverne
Along with most of the social media world, I too have become an admirer of the notorious red rose cups, hopeful to have my own one day. So, after checking some rides off our list, we decided to grab a snack (and more importantly a cup) at the Red Rose Taverne, a Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant. When we walked up, I noticed a line out the door. I assumed it was a mad crowd also on its way to get some cups. However, the line wasn't actually out the door! Due to some fortunate circumstances, we coincidentally arrived minutes before the doors of the restaurant opened (11AM). We were one of the first served, and also one of the first to discover the red rose cups are no longer available (it sounded like they had no stock, but may be expecting some in the future).
The restaurant is wonderfully themed; upon entry, you will find yourself in a small French tavern that Belle would even enjoy. Portraits of Gaston, the Beast's castle, and other film references fill the walls, and the hanging banners even reminded me of the West Wing of the Beast's castle.
OBVIOUSLY I needed to order the grey stuff, but I did exercise self control and order real food! We opted for the poutine flatbread and were pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. There was the right balance of fries, cheese curds and onions. The crust was not too thick and was obviously made from scratch. I would definitely recommend! The grey stuff was also amazing. The dessert is described as a vanilla mousse with red velvet gateaux with raspberry, but I felt that the mousse tasted closer to something cookies and creme. It was, indeed, delicious. Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!
Even though we walked away sans rose cup, I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful ambiance, delicious food and most importantly the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack playing in the background. There was a well balanced mix of instrumental score and singalong favorites such as "Be Our Guest."
PRO TIP: GO AT OPENING. YOU'LL SEE LESS OF A CROWD AND BE ABLE TO GRAB A TABLE INSIDE, IN THE AC. YOU MAY EVEN GET A SHOT AT A ROSE CUP!
2. Mickey and the Magical Map
After Mickey's Soundsational Parade (which we didn't entirely plan on watching), we caught the 5:15PM showing of Mickey and the Magical Map. If you like live action musicals featuring some very talented cast members, Mickey, and some iconic Disney characters, this show is for you. I'd rather not give too much away, but if you have a chance to catch this show, you won't be disappointed.
3. Thunder Mountain Railroad
This here's the wildest ride in the wilderness! I absolutely adore this Western-themed, fast-paced race through the canyons. While this train may not be the fastest or most intense ride around, there is something quite exciting about zipping in and out of caves, hearing the shouts of fellow passengers echo in the darkness. There is one part of the ride I particularly enjoy - there is a high hill that the train climbs, offering gorgeous views of Thunder Mountain itself, as well as the rest of the park. I snapped a quick selfie at that part of the ride, which you can see below.
PRO TIP: ASK FOR THE BACK ROW! THERE ARE SEVERAL PARTS IN THE RIDE WHERE THE FRONT SLOWLY INCHES OVER A DECLINE, BUT THE BACK GETS THE FULL SPEED/WHIPLASH. IT'S WAY MORE EXCITING IN THE BACK!
4. The Electrical Parade
Disney is so good at creating over-the-top experiences, parades and shows included. What I love about the Electrical Parade is that it doesn't strike me as over-the-top in the same way. It is (relatively) simple, clever, and effective. I also enjoyed watching my friend Esther get insanely excited! We attended the 10:45PM parade, so you can imagine how exhausted we were from the day, but she immediately perked up when the lights went off. Because the 8:45PM parade is a more popular time, crowds were sparse during the 10:45PM showing. I think this added to our great experience, since we had front row seats without having to claim our spot well in advance.
For those of you who don't know, the Electrical Parade is a parade of floats decorated in thousands of lights, creating a whimsical nighttime show full of uniqueness and character. The stars of the parade range from Mickey Mouse himself to funny spinning turtles. The soundtrack is catchy and definitely retro. Everything is made electronically, from the music to the floats. Even the characters are decked out in lights.
PRO TIP: MAKE PLANS TO SEE THIS PARADE! GRAB A SCHEDULE WHEN YOU ENTER THE PARK SO YOU CAN PLAN AROUND THE PARADE TIMES.
5. Haunted Mansion
I. love. this. ride. I love it so much, in fact, that I went on it three times. Two of those three times, I went alone. My friend really wanted to get on Splash Mountain (it was her first time in Disneyland!), but I am not a fan of drops, so we decided to split ways. I didn't have a plan, but as I was walking back from dropping her off in the single rider line, I passed the Haunted Mansion and noticed a 5-minute wait time listed. 5 minutes. In previous experience, I have been cheated by those little plastic numbers; I walked in as a 20-minute wait was listed, but the time was inaccurate and had not been updated. We ended up waiting about 90 minutes. I was not happy.
You can understand why I had become significantly more skeptical about wait times.
But it really was 5 minutes! I had never been on the ride alone, and it was a strange experience. However, I really enjoyed it. There is something I find quite calming and refreshing about doing something alone - it's almost as if you have more attention to give because you are not worried about the person you're with. Maybe it's just me.
I was in and out in less than 15 minutes, but my friend had still not finished with Splash Mountain. What did I do next? I went on Haunted Mansion again.
There is some concern with the level of scariness related to this ride. After all, it is called the Haunted Mansion, and it can seem a bit out of place at Disneyland, which is famously designated the "Happiest place on Earth." I'd like to clarify some of this concern - yes, the ride is spooky, but I don't consider it ~scary. There aren't crazy jump scares (although you will make some friends in the graveyard scene), no one will grab you, and there aren't bloody zombies terrorizing the mansion.
What you will find are well-executed details, cobwebs and dusty attics, waltzing spirits and a lively graveyard. Disney successfully creates the sensation of entering an old home, complete with chandeliers, vintage light fixtures and old, worn out carpets. The Haunted Mansion is a playful version of a beautifully creepy home with a dark past.
One drink that I believe is completely overlooked at Disneyland is the mint julep. While at least a couple restaurants in New Orleans Square serve them, you can also grab one on the go from the Mint Julep Bar. These refreshing drinks combine tangy lemon lime with cool mint, paying homage to the popular Southern drink but without the alcohol. Be wary - even though I could drink about a thousand of these, I have had friends who don't care for the mint, stating that it reminds them of toothpaste. My friend Esther was a skeptic at first, but after she had a sip of mine, we circled back so she could grab her own.
Something else you can grab at the Mint Julep Bar is Mickey-shaped beignets! Pronounced ben-yay, these french donuts are fried bits of airy goodness. It's best to keep your distance from these if you are counting calories. When we went, there were two flavors available - the plain, traditional beignets (with powdered sugar), and the "Lost Treasure" beignets: lemon-flavored beignets with gold shimmer dust. The plain ones were just as good as they always are, but the "lemon" version left quite a bit to be desired. I barely tasted any lemon, and I was even more upset that only one beignet out of the three had any gold on it.
There are SO many things I could say about Disneyland - this post was much more difficult than I thought it would be!
Until next time,