Tag Archives: tour

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.

Day 2 At Disneyland (or Gardens and Roller Coasters)

Monday was another fun-filled day at Disneyland. After going to bed pretty late due to the evacuation of the hotel, I was pretty surprised that I woke up early and feeling pretty well rested (those hotel beds are pretty awesome and magical that way).

My parents and I started our day with breakfast in Downtown Disney before heading over to Disneyland for our first adventure for the day.

While planning this trip to Disneyland, I knew that my mom would love it. She’s a Disneyland person like I am. But my dad really isn’t a big theme park person. But I saw that Disneyland had a tour of the gardens of Disneyland. And my dad is a big gardening person. He has a really green thumb and takes a lot of pride in making the front and back yard of their house look really amazing. So I got us all signed up for the Cultivating The Magic tour.

As soon as we checked in, we got name tags and a headphone/audio set up so we could hear our tour guide without her having to speak too loud. I felt a little touristy in my getup, but I was super excited to do something at Disneyland that I’ve never done before.

IMG_2941

We had an amazing tour guide, Amberly. She was super knowledgeable about all of the plants and really made the tour a lot of fun.

IMG_2943

Part of the tour included going on a few rides. First, we were taken on the Jungle Cruise. Our tour group got a private boat and instead of hearing the usual Jungle Cruise jokes, Amberly gave a tour of the plant life in and around the ride. That was pretty amazing!

IMG_2946 IMG_2944

Next we went on the Haunted Mansion. We did learn a bit about the plants in front of the ride, but inside the ride we just rode it like everyone else. I’m not sure why that ride was part of the tour, but I’m not complaining since that’s a ride I go on anyway.

The last ride included on our tour were the Storybook Land Canal Boats. This ride is another favorite of mine and I was so excited that this was a part of the tour. Again, like the Jungle Cruise, instead of hearing the usual spiel, Amberly gave us a tour of the gardens on the ride. My favorite (and I think my dad’s favorite) is the succulent patchwork garden.

IMG_2951

Our tour pretty much went into every land of the park. We learned that all the plants in Tomorrowland are actually edible or usable in some way and that in Fantasyland by the Dumbo ride, there is a rose that is named the Disneyland rose.

IMG_2949

Our tour ended over by Tomorrowland which was perfect because my family’s plan was pretty much to do all the roller coasters in the park. Because that was our plan, my mom decided to not wear her wig at all during the day. This was the first time she has been wigless for an entire day since losing her hair, and I thought that was very brave. Her hair is growing back and I think it looks great!

We rode Space Mountain first and then we headed over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Big Thunder just reopened after a long refurbishment, and this was my first chance to get to ride it.

IMG_2963

It was really great and I love the improvements. The only problem I had was trying to keep my hands up for the entire ride. My parents rode together so I rode alone. And since the restraint in the ride is a lap bar for the entire bench, there was a lot of room next to me. And whenever the ride took a turn, I flew across the bench. I ended up having to hold on with one hand.

Our next coaster was the Matterhorn. I personally don’t love this ride, but my mom does and she really wanted to ride it. I got a great picture of the three of us before the ride started.

IMG_2969

I’m glad I took a picture before the ride because my dad really didn’t like the Matterhorn. He had the same complaints that I have: too rough, too little padding on the seat, and it makes your bones hurt.

After the Matterhorn, it was getting really hot inside the park so we took a lunch break in Downtown Disney (where it was nice and air-conditioned!). After lunch, my mom decided she wanted to rest and my dad and I headed back into the park for one final ride.

I wanted to take my dad on Star Tours. It was redone a few years ago, so obviously my dad hadn’t been on the new version yet. And I don’t know if my dad and I have ever ridden Star Tours together. As a kid, I was terrified by the ride. So my dad would take my brother and my mom and I would ride the People Mover while we waited for them.

Fortunately, I’m over my Star Tours fear so my dad and I got to enjoy the ride.

IMG_2971

After that, we joined my mom back at the hotel where she was resting by the pool in the shade.

IMG_2972

We relaxed at the pool for a while. I had to head back to LA that evening, but I wanted to wait until rush hour traffic died down.

We had a very busy two day trip, but it was so perfect! My parents had a great time and I got to spend some nice quality time with them. I’ll probably see my parents again sometime this summer. I’m hoping to make it to Tahoe and my parents might be coming down here to see a show at the Hollywood Bowl (my dad has never been and my mom hasn’t been in 50 years).

I know that my mom and I will do another Disneyland adventure in the future and now I’m thinking maybe my dad will join us for it as well! And if not, at least I got to show him why I love Disneyland so much and I know that he at least understands it a little bit.

Day 2 Part 1 Of NYC (or Trying To Get Used To The Cold)

Krystle and I had decided that the first part of our second day in New York was going to be our touristy day. We had purchased tickets for one of those hop on hop off buses and figured that we could combine that plus using the subway to get around the city and maximize the day.

We started by heading by subway to Union Square to have breakfast at Chocolate By The Bald Man (yes, they have breakfast there and not just desserts).

IMG_2757

I had an egg scramble and it came with a sugar biscuit and a dish of melted chocolate on the side. I used the biscuit to dip in the chocolate and it was amazing!

After breakfast we crossed the street where the hop on hop off bus had a stop. We only waited a minute or two before we saw the bus headed our way. While it was a pretty sunny day, it was in the low 40’s and very windy, so we were pretty cold.

But despite the cold, we got seats on the top of the bus so we could have the best views.

DSCN1211

We were in awe over all the amazing architecture around the city. While Los Angeles and San Francisco (where Krystle and my brother live) have good-looking buildings, the ones in New York are very different. We spent a lot of the time on the bus just enjoying the view.

DSCN1218 DSCN1234

We got off the bus near where the 9/11 Memorial and the new Freedom Tower are located. We didn’t know that you needed tickets to see the 9/11 Memorial, but we were lucky enough that they still had same day tickets (and that the ticket time was only about an hour later). We waited around for our time at the memorial at a nearby store and once we could go in, we got through all the security checkpoints pretty quickly (it’s similar to what you go through at the airport).

The last time I was in New York, it was August of 2000. I went to visit the World Trade Centers (somewhere I have a picture of me standing between the two buildings). This was the first time I was in the city with the towers being gone. It was different. But I think that the memorial is beautiful and that it was done so well and tastefully.

DSCN1237

And the new Freedom Tower looks amazing as well.

DSCN1241

We walked around the memorial for a little bit and then headed over the subway. We got the subway over to the Empire State Building, where we got tickets to go up to the 86th floor observation deck (there’s a higher observation deck but it was almost $20 more per person to go up there).

Up at the observation deck, we took lots of pictures. I got a picture of the view of each side of the building.

IMG_2792

And of course we took selfies at each side as well.

IMG_2787

Since it was such a nice day, we also had an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty.

DSCN1251

After the Empire State Building, we hopped back on the bus to go on some more of the tour. We planned to take it back to the hotel, where we would get the subway to our next adventure of the day: getting blowouts at DryBar.

But that story is going to have to wait until tomorrow’s post.

Family Time (or A Culver City Type of Day)

My mom and Aunt Cindy got here yesterday in the afternoon, so I spent the morning doing errands and cleaning up and the afternoon with them.

My mom and dad normally come to visit me together (my dad’s first solo visit was for the Pat Metheny show), but my mom has been here a few times alone. My aunt has never visited me while I’ve lived at my current house, but now that I think about it, I don’t know if she’s ever visited me in LA before.

The first stop when after they both had gotten in (my mom was driving from the Bay Area and my aunt was coming in from Sacramento), was my house. It was nice and clean (I hope), and my aunt finally got to see my cute little house. I gave her the grand tour, which took all of 2 minutes, and then we were off for an adventure.

My aunt grew up in Culver City (my mom and her siblings grew up in the LA area too, but in the valley), and had not been back in years. I was always telling her about different areas, but she couldn’t quite picture it. So we did a little driving tour of Culver City.

We went to check out my aunt’s old house. My aunt wasn’t sure she wanted to go inside, but my mom has an awesome track record of getting to see the inside of houses she grew up in, so she tried. And we did get to go inside and see my aunt’s old house.

I had never seen it before, but according to my aunt, a lot of the place was exactly the same as how it was when she lived there with her parents. Even the tiles in the kitchen were the exact same! She’s going to find some old photos so I could see what it looked like when she lived there.

After that, we drove around to see her old school, which is one of the schools that I used to substitute teach at!

Finally we had a nice early dinner at Ugo.

We ended the night early since both my mom and aunt had long drives earlier today. We have more adventures planned for today, and I’ll be writing about those tomorrow!