Disneyland Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Part IV


Time for the final installment of our Disneyland Christmas trip report. Read the previous parts here. Candlelight Processional was next on the agenda. We’ve been to Candlelight Processional numerous times at Epcot, seeing a range of narrators from Neil Patrick Harris to J. Peterman from Seinfeld. I’ve always enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s the highlight of the Christmas season at Walt Disney World for me. It’s not worth the long wait in standby and since we’ve already seen it several times, it’s difficult to justify the dinner packages. Sarah also enjoys it, but could take it or leave it.

Despite this, we were intrigued when we realized that Candlelight Processional would be occurring during our Disneyland trip, and looked forward to attending, even if it meant dealing with congestion and heavier than normal crowds. Taking last year’s anomaly out of the equation, Candlelight Processional only has four performances each year at Disneyland on two nights. There is no seating for the general public (in the past there have been very expensive VIP dinner packages, but none this year to our knowledge), but day guests can stand outside the roped-off Candlelight Processional seating area. Prime spots fill up fast, and we’ve heard of people camping out for hours for benches or good views. (Disclosure: we were invited guests of Disneyland at Candlelight Processional–the invitation included our seats plus a one-day Park Hopper ticket for each of us–we’re APs, so those went unused.)

Candlelight Processional is definitely more of a spectacle at Disneyland. The backdrop of the Main Street USA Train Station is much nicer than the America Gardens Theater at Epcot, and the seating area feels more intimate and inviting. The various lighting and other effects are great, and really add to the sense of pageantry. The procession from Fantasyland to Main Street is also a really neat touch. Kurt Russell was the narrator for the performance that we saw, and he did an excellent job, as did the choirs and orchestra.

All in all, it was an excellent show that surpassed the Epcot version, although I can understand the differences. Epcot’s show is run from a utilitarian perspective; it wouldn’t make sense to have an intimate show in Epcot (the theater there could be twice as large and it would probably still fill up for each show!) since it’s for all park guests–or at least those who purchase dining packages. While it would be cool if Walt Disney World still did it on Main Street, that just isn’t feasible, and I prefer that everyone has the opportunity to see Candlelight. (more…)

Disneyland Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Part III


It was a busy weekend, so both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland opened at 8 am. I had gone to bed just after 2 am the previous night, and got up at 7 am to make it to the park by 7:45 am. Even though she went back before me, Sarah didn’t make it to Disneyland as early as I did.

Several of you have asked how I can function on so little sleep, and the answer is simple: caffeine. I used to not drink soda at all outside of our trips, making its effects more intense, but I now (sadly) drink it more regularly. The key to success isn’t just drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages, it’s drinking a lot of them and drinking them well into the night. For example, the previous night, I probably had a 32 oz Coke at 11 pm. Most people avoid doing this because it will keep them awake, but when you’re that physically exhausted, it doesn’t have much impact at night.

Instead, it’ll cause you to wake up earlier than you otherwise would’ve. This is the key–most people can stay up late, no problem, but can’t turn around and get up early the next day, too. I don’t know the science behind this (there probably isn’t any!), but my unscientific guess is that your body “overrides” the caffeine at night because it’s just too tired, but once that override is lifted (after you’ve had a bit of sleep), the lingering caffeine in your system can work its magic. At least, that’s my guess.

I hope there aren’t any medical professionals out there reading this, because it probably sounds absolutely nonsensical to anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about. I don’t know what I’m talking about, I just know what works for me. Nor do I actually “recommend” anyone else do this, as I can’t imagine it’s technically “safe” to consume this much caffeine in a single day. But what fun is it being safe…especially when there are theme parks to explore?!

Anyway, I got to Disneyland just before rope drop and set out to take some photos in the hub. Rope Drop at Disneyland is each of the lands being blocked, plus the inner circle of the hub. I have no idea when the hub is blocked off…perhaps Partners is considered an attraction? In any case, guests such as myself like to congregate against its rope to take photos of the empty hub.

Also for whatever reason, security Cast Members stand in this area of the hub. On this particular morning, the security guards were standing right between guests and Partners. These security guards essentially ruined a great photo op that guests could have enjoyed, and I don’t believe for a second that the security guards “didn’t know” they were in the way. (The numerous guests holding cameras up were probably a decent tip.) In fact, I’ve seen it happen before. I don’t think there’s a good reason for security there in the first place, but assuming there is, would it be too much to ask for them to stand off to the side to allow guests unobstructed photos of Partners and Sleeping Beauty Castle? That’s why the guests are at the rope in the first place with their cameras up–not for a glamour shoot of sharply dressed security guards.

My interactions with security at Disneyland have been much better in 2013 than in previous years, but this irks me. It’s totally unnecessary, and strikes me as one of those things they’re doing just because they can. An arbitrary exercise of “power,” in a way. Even if there are only a few bad apples (and to reiterate: this is definitely a very small minority), it still reflects negatively upon the whole bunch. (more…)

Disneyland Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Part II


I’m not quite sure where to start with Viva Navidad! Part of me wants to call it a surprise hit, and for most guests, I think that will be a fair assessment. However, after being blown away by Opa! A Celebration of Greece over Memorial Day weekend, and hearing that Viva Navidad received an even bigger budget, I had guarded but high expectations. I suppose Viva Navidad was a surprise hit even for me in the sense that it far surpassed even my expectations. 

Simply put, Viva Navidad is the type of thing you’d expect to find in Epcot’s World Showcase (but won’t). It has shades of vintage EPCOT Center, and reminded me how well that park used to integrate entertainment, education, and culture. To be sure, Epcot still hits some of these notes, but nothing has done the concept of “EPCOT Center” as much justice as Viva Navidad in the last…I dunno, decade.

This is undoubtedly high praise for a humble street party tucked back in what I’d hazard is the least-visited corner of Disney California Adventure. To be sure, I’m not saying that Viva Navidad is better than the likes of Soarin’, Test Track 2.0, etc. I’m saying that it embodies the spirit of EPCOT Center better than these attractions, and does what it does better than those things. In other words, for what it is (a street party), Viva Navidad is pretty near perfect. (more…)

Disneyland Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Part I


Early in 2013, we booked a trip to Walt Disney World for the first weekend in December. We had missed Reunion in 2012, and weren’t going to let it happen again. Even that early, airfare was somewhat pricey. Then, in June, I received an email alert from Airfarewatchdog (I plan on doing a post explaining how to leverage Airfarewatchdog alerts and ITA Software soon) with airfare from Indianapolis to Los Angeles for $110 round trip on numerous dates. I booked two trips that day, one in October and one in December, and planned on booking more later when I had time to consider other dates. It was clearly a price mistake, as airfare more than doubled in price a couple of hours later. The weekend I booked the December airfare was the same weekend as Reunion, so we had a dilemma. Since we hadn’t yet seen Cars Land or Buena Vista Street for Christmas, Disneyland won out. (Next year, Reunion!)

We only booked a weekend trip, leaving home early Saturday morning and returning on Monday, but it was well-worth the visit to see Disneyland Resort at Christmas. Our friend Guy picked us up from the airport. Guy is an interesting fella: he is well-versed in all things Disneyland, is a fan of wearing sunglasses when it’s not sunny out, is an enthusiast of Nike shoes and Captain EO, and has a dog that’s way cooler than him.

I had been checking the weather forecast prior to our trip, and it called for rain our first day. It rains around 11 days per year in Anaheim, so I was pretty excited. I know, “excitement” is not the normal reaction for rain, but it makes for some great photography, especially at Christmas when the reflections are especially great. Unfortunately, right after we checked into our hotel (the Ramada Maingate, which now replaces Desert Inn as our top pick along Harbour Boulevard) it stopped raining for the day. I guess that’s better than it raining on us for a few hours, and then stopping a couple of hours before night…

Sarah and I were both starving, so our first stop was somewhere to eat. We stopped at Cafe Orleans to see if they had any availability, and the wait was an hour. We then checked Blue Bayou, with similar results. Not wanting to wander aimlessly any longer, we opted to just do Hungry Bear Restaurant. This seems to be our default when we can’t think of anywhere else to eat, and while I like it, we eat there way too much. (more…)

Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report – Part 12

Our first stop after lunch at Magellan’s (if you haven’t read the rest of this trip report, go here to get caught up) was Fortress Explorations, which was literally right next door. Only Henry and I had been up here earlier in the trip. Henry actually wandered around in it a bit, while I just rushed in for a photo of the Chamber of Planets while I was doing a nighttime shoot. Henry was pretty enthusiastic about the place, and I’ll admit that Sarah and I weren’t initially too keen on the idea of spending our last valuable hours doing Tokyo DisneySea’s version of Tom Sawyer Island.

One of the great things about this trip was not only that the fun experiences were inherently outside of our comfort zones because we were in Japan, but that being with another couple caused us to do things we otherwise probably wouldn’t have done. It’s not that Henry or Kate forced us to do a bunch of things we didn’t want to do (quite the contrary–they were awesome travel companions), but they definitely did have ideas of things to do different from our own. In this case, without Henry’s persuasion, we probably wouldn’t have experienced one of the coolest things at Tokyo DisneySea.

A quick note before we get started: this is the first trip report installment in my new style of photo+caption(esque) text. If you notice a difference between this style and how the trip reports are usually written, what do you think? Is this better or worse? (more…)