Tag Archives: theme park

One More Universal Day (or Getting In All My Rides)

It’s almost been one year since I got my Universal Studios annual pass. I’ve totally gotten my money’s worth with my pass since I only had to go 2 times to make it worth it. But I wanted to get in one more day before my pass expired. Also, when I went, I still thought I needed surgery so I wanted to ride all my favorite rides before I couldn’t go on them for a while (like what I did at Disneyland).

I went to Disneyland with my friend David and he and I were both in agreement that we wanted to try to get as many rides done as possible. What we didn’t think about was that the park was going to be a bit more crowded than we expected with it being spring break for a lot of schools. But we managed to really time things out right and I think the we kind of killed it with getting in all of our favorites.

Our first stop was the tram tour. I love the tram and there are also so many fun little theme park elements to the tram that is just fun to experience each time. And this time, I really liked seeing King Kong since David and I had recently gone to see the new King Kong movie. I still miss the old King Kong, but the new one is still awesome. I don’t know if it was because the park was so crowded or if there was something else going on, but there seemed to be a couple of places where the tram was stopped for a pretty long time. Our tour guide tried to keep us entertained with as many facts as he could think of, but you could tell that he was hoping that we would start moving again soon.

And for me, the highlight of the tram tour every time is to go past the Bates Motel where I used to work during Halloween Horror Nights. Even though I don’t want to work there again, I miss the good times that I did have there. And every time the tram goes by my old workplace, I can’t help but smile at the memories of me scaring so many people there.

After the tram tour, we headed down to the lower lot to ride the rides down there. I usually don’t seem to make it down to the lower lot, so I was glad that we did that. We ended up riding the Transformers ride twice and The Mummy roller coaster once. Those are both pretty great rides and it made me wonder why I didn’t make the effort to go on them more often in my visits over the past year. But at least we fit them in this time.

We then headed back up to the upper lot to ride The Simpsons ride (another one that I don’t seem to go on that often) before heading over to the Harry Potter section of the park.

First, we rode the Forbidden Journey ride. That is one of the best rides in the entire park and since the last time I was there they changed the ride from being 3D to 2D. I have to say that the 2D version was much better for me and I felt more into the ride than I had the previous times riding it. I would have gone on it again, but I think we were both feeling a bit tired by that point.

But before we left the park, we had one more stop to make. David also has an annual pass to Universal but he had never tried Butterbeer before. That is one of my favorite treats in the park and I couldn’t end our day without getting one so David could finally try it.

Even though I really enjoyed the hot Butterbeer when I had it, I think the frozen one is really the way to go. And I think David liked it too so I’m glad that we made the stop to get them before we left the park for the day.

When we left, it was pretty much during rush hour so we decided to get some dinner at CityWalk. I’ve had dinner there a few times, but we went to Karl Strauss which I hadn’t been to since I worked at Universal Studios. I used to go there all the time for a late lunch before my shift started because it always has good food and they were always so nice to all of us who worked there. This time, I got a burger that had a blue cheese sauce on the side. That was awesome and I was so full when I was done.

I think that this was the perfect last Universal day with my pass. I’m thinking about getting another annual pass since they are pretty inexpensive (only about $20 more than a 1 day ticket), but I probably won’t do it until after the summer is done since most of the summer is blacked out for the pass level I would get. There aren’t as many rides at Universal as there are at Disneyland, but it’s still a fun park to go to and I love having awesome places to go for a fun day adventure!

I didn’t know at the time that the surgery was going to be canceled, but I still totally consider this a way that I was able to celebrate not needing surgery this week and it really was a great celebration. But how I celebrated only hours after I heard the news will be in tomorrow’s post. And I think it was the perfect nerdy way to celebrate!

A Universal Adventure (or Lunch And A Tram Tour)

This past Monday I was originally going to go to Disneyland. That didn’t end up happening (and I’m glad I did change my plans), but since I had my afternoon free I decided to make some other plans. I thought about it for a minute and realized that it has been a while since I went to Universal Studios. I’ve got about 2 months left on my pass and wanted to make sure I went at least one more time before it expired. So I called my friend Robert and he was free too so we decided to go to the park to hang out!

Since I was coming after my workout and Robert had to go to work at 4pm, we didn’t have a ton of time at the park. But since we both have passes and didn’t really care too much about what rides we went on, this worked out perfectly. We made plans to meet up at the gate at noon and I rushed to get ready to drive over to meet Robert. We ended up having pretty perfect timing and got to the front gate within minutes of each other.

As soon as we went inside, we went to get some lunch. Robert has been working his way through the menu at the Three Broomsticks restaurant in the Harry Potter section of the park, so I was happy to go there so I could help him get a few more things knocked off the list. Plus, the food is pretty good there and isn’t like traditional theme park food. I was pretty hungry after my workout (and it was lunchtime), so I got the bangers and mash for my lunch. It was a bit more food than I normally would eat, but it was perfect!

It wasn’t too crowded at the restaurant so Robert and I had a nice time just relaxing and catching up. He works for the Oscars so he’s about to get really busy with helping out at the show. So I wanted to take advantage of the time we had to hang out before he gets too busy with work. We had just seen each other recently (he came over to watch the SAG Awards at my house), but we both have had a lot of things happening in our lives lately. So it was nice to catch up.

After our lunch, we were debating about if we were going to go on a ride or just walk around the park. We ended up deciding to go on the tram tour since that’s always fun to do and it was a pretty nice day out. I had told Robert a while ago about how it was interesting to sit in the very front of the tram because of the way some of the theme park elements of the tour work, and it was awesome to find out that we were going to sit in the first row of the front car!

We had a nice time going through the tour. It is silly and gimmicky, but it’s always fun. I like to see what the backlot looks like when they are filming different shows, and I really do love the theme park elements and how cheesy they can be sometimes. When we were getting close to the Jaws part of the tour, the guide told us that Jaws was under refurbishment and we could not go through it. I could see that it was all torn up, but the guide told us not to be sad because we were in for a special treat. And as we got closer to the ride, we saw that one the animatronic Jaws was off to the side getting ready to be used!

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one of the Jaws out of the water so that was a really awesome thing! I do love the Jaws part of the tour so I’m glad they are working on keeping it looking nice so it will be around for a while to come.

One of the last things on the tour that we always see is my old workplace. I love going past the Bates Motel or Bates house. Even though I had some unpleasant experiences with working Halloween there (specifically with guests who decided to hit or attack me or other employees), I do still look back at that time with happy memories and I miss working there. So getting to see where I worked does make me happy.

After the tram tour, Robert had to head home so he could get ready for work. I thought about staying at the park to walk around a bit more, but I decided to head home so I could avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic. We were in the park for a little more than 2 hours, but even though it was a fast visit it was the perfect thing to do that day!

I don’t know if I’ll be back to the park before my pass expires. I am looking at getting another pass for next year if I can find a good deal like I did this time. But if I don’t make it back for a while, I’m glad that I have had a couple of great days at Universal and really got my money’s worth with the pass.

A Calm Disney Day (or Enjoying An Empty Park)

Since I average going to Disneyland almost once a month (except in the summer when my pass is blacked out), it seemed perfect timing to go to Disneyland this week! And not only had it been almost a month since the last time I was there, it seemed like a lot of other things were saying it was the perfect time to go. It was supposed to rain on Monday, which usually means the parks aren’t that crowded. And, this past Monday was the first day of school for many schools in the area which also usually means the parks might be on the empty side.

I went with Michelle and Dani (as usual) and we took my new car. Dani was with me when I bought the car, but Michelle really wanted to see it. Plus, I need to drive more so I get used to the car! Usually Michelle or Dani drive, so it was my turn to be the driver for the day. And since we went down around lunchtime, there wasn’t too much traffic that we had to deal with.

When we got to Disneyland, we were very happy to see that the parks were empty! It was exactly what we wanted and the rain had already stopped so we were pretty excited to have a great day! We didn’t have a bunch of rides that we wanted to get done, so we decided to take things easy and just go on whatever seems fun to us at the time.

We went into California Adventure and our first stop was Toy Story Mania, where I’m hoping that I can get back to having great scores on the game. I’m not that good at it anymore so I need to remember to read up on the tricks to the various games on the ride to hopefully get the high score in my car. Next, we went right next to Toy Story Mania to ride on California Screamin. All of us were going to go on the ride, but Dani got a phone call she needed to take so she had to skip out on the ride. Michelle and I were able to sit in the front of the roller coaster and even though we didn’t plan our photo together, we had similar poses.

I wish we could have gotten a better photo, but there was a ton of glare on the screens and we didn’t want to spend $39 on the photo. So I used the photo I could access from my phone and that has the writing on it.

After that ride, Dani was off the phone and we headed over to Soarin’ Around the World and realized when we were done it was the perfect time to check out the Frozen show. I hadn’t seen it yet and when it opened you had to get a Fastpass for the show as soon as the gates opened. But now, you could walk in and get into the show. So we decided to take a show break in our day.

We wanted to sit in the orchestra section because I don’t like to do stairs, and we were toward the back of the line. But it ended up being perfect because even though we were in the back of the theater, we were in the center and it was a great view of the stage.

The Frozen show was pretty good! I’m still sad that the Aladdin show is gone (and I loved getting to see my friend in it), but this is a fun show too. The cast was very good and while the sets were almost all digital ones they helped to transform the space. The show is a bit long (over an hour), but it was a nice break for us in our day.

Continuing on with our leisurely pace in a pretty empty park, we had dinner in Cars Land before heading over to Radiator Springs Racers. Since the cars seat 3, we fit perfectly in the front row of our car. The sun had set right before we rode and that’s my favorite time to ride the ride. The outside portion of the ride is so beautiful and we had so much fun.

We walked over to Disneyland after that to ride a few more rides for the night. HyperSpace Mountain is still one of the best roller coasters and we were able to get on the ride quickly. We were trying to think of a good pose for the photo, and we decided on Michelle doing the Darth Vader death grip trying to kill me and Dani. I’m not sure if that’s what the picture ended up looking like, but I love the ride photo either way!

We went over to the Tiki Room for some Dole Whips for dessert and we were just in so much shock about how empty the park was! We could have walked down Main Street with our arms out and not hit anyone! It was a nice change over the past few visits where it was so crowded that I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I know that having it so empty is a rare treat, so I was just trying to enjoy it.

We got our Dole Whips quickly (no line!) and went into the Tiki Room to eat them.

The last ride for the night for us was Indiana Jones and we were all just being really silly during the ride and jokingly yelling at Dani since she was in the driver’s seat. Fortunately, the other people on the ride with us didn’t mind that and we just had a fun time being weird.

On our way out of the park, we went through the stores just to see what they had in stock. We all have different things we have been looking for at Disneyland and Michelle was able to find the mug that she had been wanting. And after our shopping, it was time to get back into my car to head home.

We didn’t get a ton of rides done, but it was the perfect Disney day. My next Disney adventure might be later this month and there’s a chance that there will be no rides that day. But I’ll write about that if that ends up happening!

Disneyland At Christmastime (or An Evening Of Rides)

When I knew I’d be meeting with the liver surgeon on Monday last week, my first thought was that I should do something fun after the appointment. I went to Universal Studios with Michelle after my first appointment (when I found out it was actually a tumor), so it seemed fitting to do something like that again. I asked Michelle if she was free, and she was. So we planned an afternoon at Disneyland to celebrate whatever news I got.

I knew most of the news going into the appointment (thanks to my OB/GYN giving me an update and sending me the MRI report), so I wasn’t feeling that odd going to Disneyland. I knew surgery would be happening next year and that there is no reason to stress. I did double check with the surgeon that I was cleared to ride rides at Disneyland since I’m aware there are risks of the tumors rupturing. Thankfully he gave me the all clear.

Michelle and I didn’t have a ton of stuff on our Disneyland list. We knew we’d be coming back the next Monday (yes, I went again yesterday) so we were taking things pretty slow. When we got to the parks, it was almost time for sunset so we decided to head over to the giant ferris wheel to try to view the sunset from high above the parks.

sunset

It was a pretty amazing view and we managed to time it out really well!

Our next stop was a quick dinner (soup in bread bowls again since it was so cold out!) and then off to ride Radiator Springs Racers. Walking through Cars Land during the holidays is so fun with all the cute decorations and every year it makes me smile.

cars-land-tree cars-land

I love Radiator Springs Racers at night since the outdoor part of the ride looks so beautiful then. And I tried to get a fun picture on the ride, but I forgot when you sit in the back your arms may get cut off in the photo.

radiator-springs-racers

Before our next ride, we made a quick shopping stop. I had been looking for some cute Disney ears for a long time. I had some I loved and ended up losing them about 12 years ago when I moved from one apartment to another. But I found some that weren’t too expensive (and the headband part didn’t hurt) so I decided to treat myself! And right by where I got them, they had a really cute photo backdrop setup!

new-ears

Our last stop before going into the other park was Tower of Terror. They are doing a really fun thing at nighttime where they don’t have the effects or sound happening. That makes the ride so much fun! And while we were in line, we noticed a man who was getting a bunch of hugs from various employees. Turns out, he had just done his 200th ride on Tower of Terror! I told him how cool that was and he let me know he was actually known for riding Radiator Springs Racers over 8,000 times! Everyone on the ride thought that was amazing.

tower-of-terror

When we walked into Disneyland, I was just so happy with how beautiful the park looked with all the lights on the trees and buildings. But Michelle commented how the castle didn’t look that nice. She said that it usually has more lights for the holidays. Then, as if someone in the park heard her, we heard an announcement to please stay where we were because they were going to dim all the lights so they could properly light up the castle for the night! I had never seen that before and it was a lot of fun to watch.

castle

Next on our adventure was to ride Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster. Michelle and I have forgotten who is in the lead with wins on that ride, so we decided that we are going to start a new count since we have no clue who is ahead of not (so this ride didn’t count toward the new tally).

And of course, we had to go to Space Mountain. I wanted to make sure my new ears were in the photo, but I knew I couldn’t wear them during the ride because they would fly off my head. I held the ears by my legs for the ride and then grabbed them and held on just before the photo. I put them on backwards, but they still look cute!

hyperspace-mountain

As we were leaving Space Mountain, it was about time for the fireworks to start. We knew we’d probably be watching them again in a week, so we watched a bit with an obstructed view and left to try to get in at least one more ride.

fireworks

Our original plan was to go on Indiana Jones, but just as we walked up to the line they announced it was closed due to technical difficulties. So we ended up going on Jungle Cruise which is all decked out for the holidays. The jokes were as corny as ever, but I love seeing the lights around the ride. And at nighttime it really is beautiful.

The fireworks were done by the time we got off the ride and there wasn’t a huge crowd by the castle. So we decided to wait a bit so we could get some photos in front of the castle with nobody else in the photo. That was something I don’t get to do that often.

nighttime-castle with-the-castle

By that time, the park had been closed for a bit and we didn’t want to miss the tram back to the parking lot. So we headed out and waited for a tram to take us back.

We ended up doing some planning at Disneyland for our adventure we did there this Monday. This week, we went to celebrate our friend Dani’s birthday! And that post will come later this week!

A Harry Potter Afternoon (or Enjoying Some Butterbeer)

Since my appointment with the surgeon about my liver was in the morning, I knew I’d have that afternoon free. And when I have an afternoon free, I always contact my friend Michelle to see if she wants to go to Disneyland or something. We had gone to Disneyland recently enough, so we decided that we should do another adventure at Universal Studios. And right before that day, we discovered that they were offering one of the special Harry Potter drinks as a hot version for the first time there! So we figured it was meant to be that we went to the park.

Our entire reason to go to Universal was to ride the Harry Potter ride again and to get the hot butterbeer. We decided to get our drinks first since we were both a bit hungry and wanted a snack. We were warned that the drinks were hot so we decided to find a place outside to sit and people watch while we waited for the drinks to cool down.

hot-butterbeer

For those of you wondering, yes the hot butterbeer is awesome! I really love the frozen one, but this is just as good. It’s not as sweet as I expected it to be (except for the topping which was a bit too sweet but I didn’t taste that until I got to the end of the drink) and it felt like such a treat! We just hung out and relaxed while enjoying our drinks (and discussed the craziness of me having a tumor).

Our next stop was to ride the main ride in the Harry Potter section. After my fat shaming incident, things have gotten much better and I do enjoy the ride now. I use the alternative loading area so I have more time to get into the ride, but there is no issue with me fitting into it. The ride was just as fun as it was the last time and I know it will be one of those rides that I go on each time I go to Universal.

The only other ride we went on was the little roller coaster in the Harry Potter section. It’s a cute little ride (nothing too crazy), but since we didn’t want to do too much else in the park it was a nice way to spend some time.

Besides the butterbeer, the other main thing about going to Universal was to see the Harry Potter castle lit up at night. With the time change, there was finally a chance to see that happen. But we had some time to kill before the sun went down. At least the sky looked really pretty while we waited.

sunset-at-universal

And we got to check out one of the short shows that they do as well. I hadn’t seen one of the shows before, but this was really cute (even though I haven’t really read or watched Harry Potter and didn’t know all the references).

harry-potter-show

They do character photos after the show and we had no plan to stick around for it. But then they decided that the line would be starting behind us and we realized that since we were first we might as well take advantage of it and get a fun photo from the day.

group-photo

And before we knew it, the sun was down and the castle was lit up. It really was beautiful to be there looking around because they worked really hard on making this section of the park look amazing.

castle-at-night

You get sucked into the world and it feels like the outside world doesn’t exist anymore. You get to escape, which was perfect since this was the day before the election and we were both scared what would happen (I’m still pretty freaked out now after it’s all gone down).

We walked back through the Harry Potter land to get back to the main gate to leave the park (it was only a few minutes before the park closed so we weren’t going to stick around). We went to a fun Chinese restaurant at Citywalk for dinner to wait out rush hour traffic before heading home.

It wasn’t that long of a visit to Universal Studios (we were there less than 2 hours), but it was a lot of fun. After being nervous about my doctor appointment and then in probably a bit of shock after, I needed something to distract me from my day and make things end on a positive note.

My pass to Universal is about halfway done. I’ve got about 6 months to keep going to the parks and then I’ll have to figure out if I want to get a new pass. Before this, I hadn’t been to the parks since I worked there, but now I’m really enjoying it. It’s not as fun as going to Disneyland most of the time, but this is much closer to me and I still have a great time there. I’m hoping I’ll get at least another couple of visits in before my pass expires and I have to make a new plan on what to do.

Recovering At Disneyland (or A Never-Done List)

After going the hospital last week, I spent several days not really doing much. I worked from bed, I rarely left my house, and I tried to make myself get better. I wasn’t getting better as quickly as I wanted to, but I was finally noticing some improvement toward the end of the weekend (during the headshot day). And it’s a good thing that I was getting better because I had a Disneyland day scheduled for Monday and I didn’t want to cancel it!

My friend Michelle knew that I was at the hospital last week and what was going on with me. She was checking in with me to make sure that I still wanted to go to Disneyland. I knew she’d be ok with me if I had to cancel it, but I was feeling like I could do an easy day there (no crazy roller coasters) by Monday and around lunchtime we headed down to Anaheim.

On the way, we picked up one of Michelle’s friends who also has a pass for Disneyland and has Mondays off like we do and we were at the park by about 1:30 to have a low-key day. I’m glad all of us have passes because there was no pressure to get a ton of stuff done and I didn’t feel too guilty about being limited in what rides I was ok with going on.

Since I am on a soft food diet right now, I knew my food options at Disneyland would be limited but there was plenty that would be ok. And one of the first things we did in the park was to go get a Dole Whip!

dole-whip

It turns out that Michelle’s friend had never had a Dole Whip before, and as soon as I found that out I decided we needed to figure out what else she hasn’t done at Disneyland before so we could check things off of her list of never-done things! We ate our Dole Whips during the Tiki Room show and then were off to our next ride!

I was limited in what Halloween things I could do, but the Haunted Mansion is a smooth enough ride that I was totally ok riding it! I love how it is decorated for the holiday season and every time I ride it I notice more and more stuff. And it was a gloomy day outside with lots of clouds so it seemed like the sky matched the ride.

haunted-mansion

Our next stop was the Jungle Cruise (another smooth ride) and we had a pretty fun skipper on the ride. Lots of good cheesy jokes and there were a couple of jokes that he said that I had never heard on the ride before! We were trying to figure out what other rides would be easy smooth ones, and we saw Buzz Lightyear and headed over to that. Michelle and I have been battling each other on that ride since we started going to the parks together. This time, I was beat but I have a feeling I’ll have a comeback soon.

buzz-lightyear

Next was another never-done thing for Michelle’s friend: the Nemo Submarines! None of us are huge fans of going in the submarines (they are a bit tight inside and sometimes they don’t smell very fresh), so we watched the video in the alternative viewing room. The video is just as good as the ride, plus since it was a grey day outside I knew that the stuff in the water wouldn’t have been as nice and bright as it is in the video.

We then tried to ride the monorail (riding in the front of it with the driver was another thing on the list), but the monorail ended up breaking down in the station while we sat on it. It was unfortunate, but we figured we could walk over to California Adventure to continue our day. But right when we were ready to ride the monorail, it started to rain pretty hard! None of us were prepared with umbrellas, so we just tried to walk as quickly as we could across to the other park.

We wanted to ride Radiator Springs Racers, but it was closed before of the rain and possible threat of lighting. And by that time, we were all feeling a bit hungry (Dole Whips aren’t that filling). And all I really wanted to get to eat was soup in a bread bowl. I hadn’t had one in a while and was really craving it. Plus, it was a soft food that I could eat and I knew it would fill me up! We found a table out of the rain near the bread bowl place and sat down to enjoy our dinner.

By this time, my stomach was starting to hurt a bit again. It may have been due to hunger or walking more than I was used to, but our dinner break really helped to get me feeling almost normal again. After dinner we were headed over to the Little Mermaid ride (another thing on the never-done list) and realized that after the rain stopped there was a gorgeous sunset right behind the ferris wheel!

mickey-sunset sunset

The last 2 rides of the day were going on Little Mermaid and then Soarin’ Around The World, but we weren’t done yet! We were getting ready to head over to the Animation Academy to draw a bit (another never-done thing) and we decided to look around the stores a bit to see what they had. Sometimes there are some really cute things and even though my budget didn’t really have extra money, I was happy to check out what was in stock.

One of the things I love checking out are the Dooney and Burke Disney purses. They are limited edition collections that are released from time to time. There have been a few patterns that I love, but I never have been able to get it because all the purses were sold out. So we were totally surprised to discover a new pattern in the store that was Disney villain themed that we had never seen!

birthday-purse

It turned out that pattern was released that day and there were still a few purses left in stock! Michelle was celebrating her birthday the next day (which is why in that picture you see the birthday button) and decided that the purse was going to be her birthday present to herself! It’s such a cute purse so I’m super excited for her! And to know that we happened to be in the park during the first day of the pattern release made us say that it must have been fate for her to get that purse!

Our final stop of the night was one more thing from the never-done list for Michelle’s friend: the Animation Academy. We ended up doing the last 2 classes before park closing. The first one was drawing Sally from “Nightmare Before Christmas” and the second one was Winnie The Pooh. I think that my Sally looks much better than last time and my Winnie The Pooh wasn’t too bad!

sally winnie-the-pooh

My Sally is the big one on the right and my Winnie the Pooh is the one in the middle.

After drawing, California Adventure was closed (Disneyland had one of the separately ticketed Halloween parties so we couldn’t go back) and we went to the trams to get back to the car.

I’m so glad that I didn’t skip going to Disneyland. I think knowing I had this coming up helped me get better and kept me motivated. And I was able to push myself to see what my body was able to handle and realized that while I’m still not 100% I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. I’m glad that I had done the earlier trip to ride all the Halloween rides since I only got to do 1 of them this time. But even with doing the easy low-key rides, I still had an amazing time with awesome friends!

Epic Disney Evening (or 8 Rides In 3 Hours)

After my dentist appointment was over, I had something fun scheduled. A few days before the appointment, my Disneyland friend June asked me what I was doing on the day of my appointment. I told her that I should be free after 4pm and she asked if I wanted to go to Disneyland for a few hours to check out the Halloween stuff.

I said yes right away since I wasn’t sure if I’d be at the parks anytime while the Halloween stuff was up (now it looks like I’ll make it there next month), and even though it was going to be a long drive in rush hour to get there I was super excited! I needed something positive to focus on during the dentist appointment, and I think knowing I had a Disneyland adventure after really did help keep the panic away (June and I have already said that we will have to go to Disneyland after my next appointment).

The drive down was a bit longer than usual, but fortunately there were carpool lanes on a few freeways we used. It was just over an hour to get to the parking lot but it took quite a while to get through the parking booths and parked (lots of people going into the parks for some after-work fun). By the time we got into Disneyland, it was 6pm and we were on a mission to check out all the Halloween themed stuff.

Our first stop was the Tower of Terror. This ride will be closing in a few months, but before it closes they are doing a special totally dark version of the ride at night. Instead of seeing the various scenes before the elevator drops, it’s totally dark and you only hear the voiceover. There are some tricks that they do that make the ride feel very different, but I don’t want to give away the fun! But I have to say that riding it was really awesome and I was laughing so hard I was crying.

tot-total-darkness

They also have a really awesome photo spot in front of the ride and we took advantage of that. I’m glad we did that because I’m hearing now that the Hollywood Tower sign was taken down that night and I don’t know if it will be put back up before the ride closes.

tower-of-terror tot-photo-spot

After Tower of Terror, we actually decided to leave California Adventure and go over to Disneyland where the other 2 Halloween rides were. We really only had a plan to ride those 3 so we were on a mission to get them done! Our next stop was going to be Space Mountain, but as we passed Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters with almost no line so we made a quick detour and battled each other on the ride. I ended up hitting one of the secret targets that gets you a ton of points, so I did beat June. But I’m guessing if I hadn’t hit it that June would have beat me.

Then it was time to ride Space Mountain. I’ve loved the Hyperspace Mountain overlay, but for Halloween they do a Ghost Galaxy overlay. It’s fun to ride the ride with different theming and it does make it feel like a totally different ride even though it is the same track. It felt super fast and while we did pose for a photo during the ride, the photos weren’t working so we didn’t get an official ride photo.

The last Halloween themed ride we wanted to go on was Haunted Mansion Holiday. This technical lasts through Christmas, but we wanted to go on it for Halloween too. They have added some stuff to the ride each year and it was very fun spotting what was new and different while riding it. It was just as good as I remembered it from last year, and while I love the regular Haunted Mansion too the Holiday one is fun too!

haunted-mansion-holiday

After accomplishing all of our Halloween rides, we realized we had about an hour before the park closed. We were impressed with riding 4 rides in 2 hours, but we wanted to see what else we could do!

Our next stop was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We noticed it while walking back from Haunted Mansion because it looked so beautiful in the dark!

nighttime-at-disney

It had been a while since I had been on the ride and it was more intense than I remembered. I wanted to keep my hands up in the air (how I ride roller coasters), but I kept sliding on the seat so I had to ride with one arm up and one holding on.

We decided to continue on with our crazy ride count and went to Fantasyland where several rides had almost no line at that point in the night! We almost walked onto Snow White right away! We figured this ride fit into the Halloween theme of the day since it is one of the scarier kid rides (which is probably why there was no line). Then we ran next to Snow White to ride Pinocchio which also had almost no line.

With about 5 minutes until the park closed, we decided to do one final ride which would bring us to 8 rides between 6 and 9pm (which is insane since on a normal full day we don’t always get 8 rides done!). Our final ride of the night was the Carousel which was also a walk-on. It was a nice calm ride to end our evening with and it felt like we really had the perfect Disneyland outing.

Since our first 2 rides (Tower of Terror and Buzz Lightyear) both had ride photos, we decided we needed to do a ride photo or a selfie on each ride that we went on. Some of them are in the dark so it’s not as easy to see, but we did get our 8 ride photos in that night.

disneyland-rides

As we were walking out, it was pretty crowded since the park was now closed for the night and everyone was heading home. But I did manage to get a picture of the big Mickey pumpkin in Main Street with no people in it! I don’t know how that timing happened, but I thought it was pretty cool!

mickey-pumpkin

Overall, this was the perfect thing to do after a dentist appointment. It kept me positive, gave me something else to focus on, and I got to walk off all the nerves I had while walking from ride to ride. We had no idea that our 3 hours at Disneyland were going to be so amazing, but I’m so grateful that June had the idea to do this because it really was one of the best Disney adventures!

Another Universal Day (or Having Much More Fun)

I’ll admit, my last trip to Universal Studios wasn’t the best time. I felt bad about being stopped by the “fat police” for days after it happened and it really upset me every time I thought about it. I know I’m probably making a bigger deal out of it than it was, but for me it was just humiliating and I never wanted to have an experience like that again.

After that trip to Universal, I did some research online and found out that for the accessible loading area for the Harry Potter ride they have a loading area that doesn’t have a moving walkway (which means I would have more time to get onto the ride). It reminded me of the accommodations Disney makes on Space Mountain so I kept that in mind for when I could go to Universal again.

I made it back to the park this past Monday and I’m happy to say that the day went so much better! I went with my friend June, but it turned out my friend Robert was going to be there too so we all got to hang out!

We started our day with taking the Tram Tour. Both Robert and I are ex-employees so we had a bunch of fun talking about our time working at Universal while on the tram tour. And I got to show him different places that I had to go for work while I worked there for Halloween. I got to share with him some crazy stories from my 3 years there and all of us enjoyed seeing the silly stuff on the tour. One of my favorites has always been Jaws and I got a pretty decent picture of the shark coming up to the tram (we were sitting in the first row of our car so it was tough to not get the tram railing in the photo).

jaws

And of course we got to go by my old workplace on the tram. Because Halloween Horror Nights is about to start, the Bates Motel was hard to see because of the HHN stuff that is already in place.

bates-motel

But the War Of The Worlds area (where I worked my second year at HHN) was still looking as great as ever!

war-of-the-worlds

After the tram, we were starting to get hungry so we walked over to the Harry Potter section and went to Three Broomsticks for lunch. Both June and Robert have been to the park a bunch so they both have been working their way through the menu at Three Broomsticks. They were able to share with me what was good and what was too filling to eat for a lunch if you are planning on still riding more rides.

While I am working on HDE, I also wanted to make a good choice for food. There were a couple of things that looked good to me, but I also knew that I didn’t want to feel too full and I might get a snack later. So I ended up getting the chicken salad (which was one of the cheapest things on the menu so that was nice) and I was pleasantly surprised by how giant the salad was!

lunch

It was really good, but not as filling as I would have liked. I ended up being hungry again sooner than I would have wanted to, but that’s not the worst thing. If I had planned things out better, I probably would have gotten a side of something with my salad. That will just have to be something I do next time.

After lunch, we headed over to the Harry Potter ride so I could hopefully have a better experience. Robert wasn’t going to ride it, but because of the alternative loading area he was able to wait where the load/unload area was (and he held our purses so we didn’t have to use the lockers). The alternative loading area was actually a fun adventure to get to and while the wait was probably longer than the regular wait, it was totally worth it! Oh, and I wasn’t stopped by the fat police so that was pretty awesome too!

The bench you ride on it brought over to the side where you can load. Nothing is moving around it and I was able to get into the seat easily without feeling rushed. June helped me pull the harness down and it locked easily. When the employee came over to check the harness, he asked me if it was too tight because I could loosen it 2 clicks and still have it low enough to be ok. I don’t know if I’ve gotten that much thinner or what happened to me last time was a weird experience, but obviously I am small enough to have harness options now. I did loosen it one click (we put it down really tight because that’s what they did last time to me). After we were all set in the bench, they handed us the 3D glasses and the bench moved over toward where the regular ride was.

When we moved over, we had to wait a minute or two for our bench to have a turn to go into the ride system. But while we were waiting we were able to see all the benches from the back that were on the ride track! Both June and I are total geeks about seeing how the rides work, so this was so exciting for us. Even when we started the ride we could see a bit of the track and arms controlling the benches before we got into the regular ride.

I seriously enjoyed this time on the ride so much more than last time! I know that last time I was feeling pretty upset the entire ride time and that made it tough to focus on the ride and have fun. This time, there was no stress and everything was just amazing for me! And when the ride was over, we got moved back over to the alternative loading area where I could take my time getting out of the bench (which I needed because my hip was locking). And after we were out of the ride, we were able to see a bit of the ride track for the regular loading area (which was behind us) and found out the loading area is actually 20 feet above the ground!

After that, Robert had to head out to get ready to work that night. But June and I were going to stick around a bit longer and headed over to watch Waterworld. It’s such a fun show to watch and I enjoy it every time! And we sat all the way on the far side, so it was a different view than I’m used to seeing.

waterworld

Our final ride of the day at Universal was the Minions ride. This is in the place that the Terminator ride used to be in and I had never been on it before. It was a cute little ride, but probably not one I’ll be doing all the time. It was a bit jerky and it’s in a corner of the park that I’m not usually in. But I’m glad we got to ride it this time because I’ve been curious about it.

I think it’s pretty clear that this trip to Universal was significantly better than the last time. I’m so glad I learned about the alternative loading for Harry Potter because I know I’ll be using that from now on. It really helps me and makes a huge difference in my enjoyment in riding the ride. It’s tough when I feel super rushed to try to get in and out of a ride and this makes that go away.

I’m not sure when my next trip to Universal will be. My Mondays are starting to get really busy and my pass might not be good for Sundays at all (and if it is, I’m not sure if I want to deal with the crowds). I’ll totally be there again at least one time before my pass ends next year, I’m just not sure how soon that will be. But I’m already looking forward to it!

A Very Full Disney Day (or Finally Able To Get Back To The Parks)

I haven’t been to Disneyland in a while. Mainly, it’s because the type of annual pass I have doesn’t allow me to go during the summer (which is fine with me). The last time I was there was on Father’s Day so I could ride the new Soarin’ ride, so I was antsy to get back and have a real Disney day.

My pass type was finally able to go back this week so my friend June and I had made plans to get back to the park on Monday. We were discussing that at my birthday party, and my friend Dani wanted to come with us too! Dani is a big Disney person too and she’s never been to the parks with us. Plus, she was going to be getting her first annual pass so she’s getting ready to have a full year of Disney adventures too!

Our day didn’t start super early. I had a workout in the morning and none of us cared to be there as soon as the park opened because we knew we were going to be staying there late. Once we arrived, we got through security and Dani got her pass (she paid in advance and just had to pick up the card at the ticket booth) and we were off to California Adventure.

Our first stop there was Soarin’. Even though I got to ride it twice back when it opened, neither June nor Dani had been on the new version. I was super excited to see what they thought about it and I was ready to see what new things I noticed and saw while watching it for the third time. I think the ride actually got a bit better because the scents that are used are more distinctive and I wasn’t as overwhelmed by the newness of it all. And June and Dani agreed that it was a good new movie and totally worth going on again another time.

We were going to do some more rides at California Adventure, but the Tower of Terror was down that day and we didn’t feel like waiting in the long line for Radiator Springs Racers because we had lunch reservations. So we headed across to Disneyland where we spent the rest of the day.

Our first stop in Disneyland was to ride Indiana Jones. This is always a fun ride for me and this time was no different. I know that other people have mentioned to me that some of the effects have been down in the ride, but I thought pretty much everything seemed to be working. We did have 2 times where the ride stopped (once in the dark and I was feeling a bit panicky when that happened), but other than that it was a pretty good ride.

The next stop was our lunch reservations. Since we heard that the Paint The Night parade and the current fireworks show were going away soon, we wanted to make sure we could see them one more time (and for Dani, for the first time). We decided to splurge and go to the Blue Bayou for the Paint The Night deal where you got a 3 course meal and reserved seating for the parade and fireworks!

Blue Bayou

As soon as we were seated, we experienced what we considered one of the most awesome and magical things we’ve seen at a restaurant lately.

Blue Bayou Menu

The menus had LED lights in them so you could read them! It is pretty dark inside of the restaurant and I was totally ready to use the flashlight on my phone to try to read it. But when we opened the menu and saw that it lit up, we all were so excited and amazed! We may have loved them so much that we had our server take a photo of us with the menus lit up.

Menu Lit

We did have a small problem when we got our menus. They didn’t say they were for the Paint The Night deal and when we brought that up to our server she said that the Paint The Night thing was only for dinner. I was really confused because when I made the reservation I was very specific in what we were trying to do and I guess something got mixed up when the reservation was put into the computer. Fortunately, our server was able to get us the special menu for lunch (just a few items weren’t available) and we were ready to enjoy a very special lunch.

Paint The Night Menu

We each had our 3 courses (I had shrimp for an appetizer, steak for my entrée, and creme brûlée for dessert) and it was really delicious! This wasn’t a cheap meal, but we enjoyed it and I think it was totally worth the cost. Plus, non-alcoholic drinks were included so I decided to get a lemonade with my meal too (I usually only drink water). We relaxed while we ate, and it was a nice grown-up meal!

After a huge meal like that, we decided to go on the Pirates ride since it wouldn’t be too much movement after eating. And it was fun to see where we were just eating lunch from the ride side. We ended up sitting in the front of the boat, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. It was nice with the extra leg room and having an unobstructed view of the ride, but we did get splashed on a lot during the 2 drops.

After Pirates (and our food had settled a bit) we were ready for some more exciting rides. We went over to Tomorrowland and went on Hyperspace Mountain. It’s still one of my favorite rides in the park and I always have so much fun riding it! I love the Star Wars overlay and I’m really hoping that they keep it because I think it adds so much to the ride! And of course, we had to try for a silly ride pose. Since there were 3 of us, we went for “hear no evil, say no evil, see no evil” and I think we really succeeded at it.

Hyperspace Mountain

What ended up being our last ride of the night was Star Tours. Again, none of us were chosen to be the Rebel Spy, but it’s still fun and Dani hadn’t been on it since they changed the ride to be in 3-D. We had originally also planned to go on Big Thunder Railroad after Star Tours, but the ride was down when we got over there and we didn’t want to wait to see how long it would be until it opened again.

Since we had some time before we needed to line up for our reserved seating for Paint The Night, we decided to get some character photos with the Star Wars characters that were out. Our first character stop was Kylo Ren, and I think this may be the greatest character photo I’ve ever been in. When it was taken, none of us knew the photo was being taken. Dani was being silly with Kylo Ren, June was pretty much laughing at Dani, and I was posing for a photo that I thought would be happening soon. I think I look like a total goober in it, but I seriously love this photo so much!

Kylo Ren

As soon as we saw the photo after it was taken, we all laughed so hard. It’s so perfect and completely not posed that we are all doing something totally different.

The other character out was Chewbacca, and we tried to go for a classic Charlie’s Angels thing, but Chewbacca decided he wanted to show off his muscles instead.

Chewy

Finally, it was time to head over to Main Street for our reserved seating for the parade. There was a line when we got there of people who also had reserved seating, but when we were finally let into the section we were able to sit on the sidewalk right behind the people sitting on the curb. We had a pretty great view and I was just so happy that we could sit down to watch the parade. Plus, we had a gorgeous view of the train station while we were waiting.

Train Station

The parade was really fun to watch and I enjoyed it just as much as the other times I had seen it. While I’m sad to see it go because it’s a good parade, I’m glad we are getting the Main Street Electrical Parade back soon! Since this was the last time I’d get to see this parade, I tried to get some great pictures, but I also just focused on enjoying it and having fun.

Paint The Night Belle

As soon as the parade ended, we made a mad dash back toward Main Street to get a great viewpoint to see the fireworks. I loved it when I got to see the fireworks from the castle last year, but I had never seen them from farther back before.

Main Street Viewing

While we couldn’t see the projections on the castle that well from how far back we were, we were able to see all the projections that were on the buildings on Main Street. That was pretty amazing and it was a beautiful show.

Main Street

And as always, the fireworks were great too.

Fireworks

I tried to get some great fireworks pictures, but I think that Dani wins with the one she took that had the Mickey fireworks in it!

Mickey Fireworks

After the fireworks ended, even though we had been at Disneyland for 10 hours already, we weren’t ready to go home. We walked over to the Disneyland Hotel to try to get some food at Trader Sams, but it was just super packed and there were no tables for us to sit at. So we walked back to Downtown Disney and we got some sandwiches at Earl Of Sandwich (even with the big lunch we had, we were all hungry at 10pm).

After our late dinner, we walked back to the car (the tram to the parking lot had already stopped for the night) and headed back home.

It was a full Disney day, even though it wasn’t the most ride-filled day. I had such a great time with June and Dani and I know that we are going to continue to have some amazing Disney days coming up as we don’t have to worry about summer blackout dates anymore!

Castle

A Disney Morning (or Dealing With The Heat For One Ride)

My Disneyland pass is about to be blacked out for the summer. I don’t mind that I can’t go during the summer since it’s usually more crowded than plus the heat can be pretty bad. Sometimes I wish I could be there when some of my friends go, but I don’t want to have a more expensive annual pass just for an occasional summer day in the parks.

I had gone last week with my friend June to the parks to ride all of my favorite rides and to say goodbye to Soarin’ Over California. That was a great way to spend one more Disney day before being blacked out for 2 months, but I ended up going back for about an hour this past Sunday.

With Soarin’ Over California closing, Soarin’ Around The World was opening. The opening day was on Friday and I had some free time on Sunday to ride it so I decided to head down for a quick park visit.

Even though I got there around 9am, the heat was already pretty bad. I didn’t think to wear a hat since I was only going to be there for a quick stop, so I was trying to stay in the shade as much as possible. But even with the heat, nothing could take away my excitement to check out the new ride!

Soarin

The line was pretty short, which I was surprised by. I figured with it being a new ride and it being a Sunday, the lines would have been out of control. But it was only about a 25 minute wait when I got there.

My quick review of the new ride is that I really liked it! I thought I wouldn’t since I loved the original so much. This new version has some elements of the music from the original but I like that they didn’t keep it exactly the same. And while I liked the movie a bit more in the original (and the scents that they have), the movement of the ride is better in the new one and it was a bit more exciting to ride.

I actually enjoyed it so much that I rode it twice back to back! I figured I should maximize the short amount of time I had in the parks and there weren’t any other rides I wanted to go on (or have to walk in the sun to get to). The only other thing that I did at the park was take some time to cool down inside of Starbucks because I needed some air conditioning time. But I got a seat at the window so I could enjoy the cool air with a view.

California Adventure

The park was pretty empty while I was there and I’m guessing people wanted to stay away because of the heat. A lot of people in the park seemed pretty overheated and I think people were surprised at how bad it was that early in the morning.

When I got to the tram to get back to the parking structure, I was the only person in line to get onto it to ride back.

Empty Tram

But after I sat down, I saw tons of people coming over that wanted to leave the park. We ended up being about half full on the ride back and at the parking lot there was almost nobody there to ride the tram to the park. If I had a full day to be there (and had been prepared to be there all day), I would have stayed because all the rides had pretty short wait times and I think I could have gotten a lot done. But that wasn’t in the cards for me that day and I’m just happy that I was able to go for the short time that I did.

My car was parked on the top of the parking structure that day. While it was annoying because I had to let my car cool down before I could try to sit inside of it, I did get a pretty fun view of the Star Wars Land construction that is going on right now.

Disney Construction

The construction changed even between my visit on Monday and my visit on Sunday. I’m excited to see how much things will change by the time I go back to the parks at the end of August or beginning of September. I know that the construction will still be taking a long time, but I find it fun to see the work in progress and seeing how Disneyland changes throughout the years.

Even though my Monday visit was really my goodbye to Disneyland for the summer, I’m glad I had this bonus short trip to say hello to what will surely be one of my new favorite rides.