^Awesome recommendation, thank you very much! If the cost isn't too great, and it fits into our schedules, we may do that.
Following Pirates, we wandered around, taking our time getting to Hungry Bear while we explored the details in New Orleans Square.
Hungry Bear was next. After hearing of the extensive refurbishment and reading of the new menu, this was one of our most anticipated meals of the trip. We really enjoyed Hungry Bear on our last trip because of its tranquil location, and its theming to one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions, the Country Bears. I was a little worried that some of this theming would be eliminated during the refurbishment, but my fears were allayed once we arrived at the pick-up window and the bears were still right behind the counter. A minor detail about which most guests may not care, but for me, it’s the little things that matter.
In advance of the trip, Sarah had her mind dead-set on one of the Lemon “Bumblebee” Cupcake; she was actually reasonably excited about it. Once we saw it in person, there was good cause for this. It was huge, and looked very well prepared. It actually looked like it would be worth the $4.99 price tag (but honestly, we would have bought that sucker if it were $29.99, given the hype we built for it in our heads).
Although I thought the cupcake was large-enough for us to split, I think Sarah had other plans, asking why I didn’t get my own. I said I would just eat any of it that she didn’t want, if she didn’t want any. She didn’t up not eating a fair portion, even though she said it was absolutely delicious. And it was absolutely delicious. Moist, rich but not to the point that you can only eat small portions, and most importantly, balanced in flavor. This last one was big for me. All too often lemon flavors are too strong, and are overbearing on any supposed complimentary tastes. Here, the lemon was understated with a honey-vanilla taste, and was a perfect pairing with the chocolate of the cupcake itself. This cupcake is the stuff legends are made of.
Backtracking a bit (sorry, that cupcake gets me worked up!), we had a delicious meal at Hungry Bear. I decided in advance that I was going to go way out on a limb there, and try the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, which was a huge departure from my normal fare. It didn’t contain meat. While I will experiment with my food, I am an unabashed carnivore, and will not try a vegetarian plate, no matter how good it may otherwise sound. In fact, I was so confused as to what one of these “vegetables” things might look like, that when I initially received a chicken sandwich by mistake, it actually took me biting into the sandwich to realize that it was not what I had ordered.
The Fried Green Tomato Sandwich was okay. A little disappointing, but better than a lot of Disney counter service dishes; I think part of the problem was that I had set my expectations for it a bit unreasonably high. Plus, it was a bit odd biting into a sandwich and not tasting a delicious animal in there. The fried green tomato itself was a bit too small, there was too little dressing, and the multi-grain bread a bit too dry. Otherwise, the condiments and vegetables on the sandwich were abundant and seemingly fresh.
Sarah got the Turkey and Provolone Sandwich, which was good, but is not the type of thing I order at Disney. I’d rather have something a bit more complex, and I think if you can’t make a decent turkey sandwich, something is wrong.
My other disappointment is the sweet potato fries. Thematically, I think they work well here, but Disney is introducing them everything, so it’s not a matter of theme, it’s a matter of them being trendy. Sweet potato fries are marginally better for you than regular fries. However, to offer them as the only fry-like option is a bit disappointing, given that they don’t have broad appeal. I think if Disney is going to offer unique menu items--and it absolutely should--it needs to offer balance. That said, if it’s a matter of offering only conventional foods or a bit more unique options, I would much rather have the unique options. I think a mixture of the two is the best business model, and I have to believe the kitchens at issue here are large enough to accommodate both, but what do I know.
Overall, it was a good first visit to Hungry Bear, and we knew we’d have to come back to sample the rest of the menu!
After Hungry Bear, it was time for Pooh. (Like that clever word play there?) Pooh became one of Sarah’s attractions out west. I think this is because of the quaint, wooded outdoor queue and for the fact that it’s not in Fantasyland with a thousand screaming kids and strollers bouncing all around, but she says she likes the attraction itself far better, too. To me, they are just slight variations of one another, and if anything, I think Florida’s is slightly longer.
Although, to be fair, I haven’t really made an effort to study the differences, so I could be wrong. If anything, I think it’s like comparing the two Haunted Mansions, not like comparing the two Pirates of the Caribbeans. The difference in the former case is minor, the difference in the latter case is substantial.
When we exited the ride, we saw Tigger! It has only been since last summer that we last got our photos with the Pooh gang, but the line was pretty much non-existent, and we had never gotten our photos taken with the characters in Critter Country, so we figured why not.
The little area set up for these photos worked well, and had good flow. You waited in one line, then once you met one character, you moved along immediately to the next, and so on. I believe EPCOT’s Character Spot uses a similar system, but it has been years since we’ve done that.
Since Splash Mountain was closed, and I wouldn’t be able to get “real” photos of it, I wanted to get some shots of the Splash Mountain area. What a beautiful and tranquil area of the park without the hectic pace of Splash Mountain crowds!
It’s a small world was up next. To give you an idea of how much we love the Disneyland version of this attraction, last August we rode it, around six times, which in retrospect was a mistake because we ended up missing things like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, but it really is that good--and that superior to its WDW counterpart. I cannot wait to ride at Christmas. I think you won’t be able to pull us out of the place at night.
Much ado has been made about the Disney characters, and I think, for better or for worse, you’ve probably already formed an opinion on them by now. Beyond these characters, I think the number one thing that makes the attraction for us is the exterior load area and portions of the ride. The clock facade within the building just doesn’t do it at WDW, and the presence of all those gorgeous topiaries, the queue curving over the bright blue water, and the crisp white facade behind it all really set the whimsical tone for what’s to come. It’s all brilliantly executed, and much better than the “attraction court” generic facade and queue at WDW.
It’s somewhat ironic that in WDW, where space is so plentiful, WED elected to design Fantasyland in a tight corridor with bland store-fronts for the attraction, when Disneyland, where space is not plentiful, was designed (or rather, has evolved to allow) Fantasyland (and iasw) attractions to have unique facades, and breathing room among one another. Hopefully WDI solves some of the congestion with the Fantasyland Expansion, but short of a stroller parking garage, I don’t see how they can remedy the existing traffic flow problems.
This is one of the big reasons I support the decision to tear down the old Skyway building. Reading the sentiment expressed in online threads livid over its removal makes me understand why Disney largely disregards the desires of fervent fans.
People seriously want old, vacant buildings that clearly are remnants of former attractions just sticking around indefinitely? That seems more than a little ridiculous to me. Did they honestly expect the Skyway to come back or something? I know the building is far from the eyesore that River Country (a WDW water park that has been slowly rotting away in the public view) is, but people seem to be clamoring for RC's removal because it no longer has a purpose and doesn't fit the area. Likewise, a Skyway building with a large opening in it, while pretty, no doubt, doesn't fit.
There are ways to embrace the past without having relics of it around that obstruct future progress. The Skyway buildings (are and) will be missed, no doubt, but does anyone honestly think that the best use of the limited Fantasyland real estate in this area is for an old attraction building that serves no purpose beyond that of an aesthetic reminder of days past? These changes will open up this area, allow for much needed expansion of the Peter Pan’s Flight queue, and allow for a better use of the space. Saying that the Skyway is being replaced with a bathroom, and that's disgusting, is reducing this to overly simple and misleading terms. The Skyway is being removed to allow for important infrastructure changes to Fantasyland that will allow for PPF to have a better queue, will facilitate traffic flow in this area, and will also bring newer restrooms to the area. To me, it’s a no-brainer.
After it’s a small world, I convinced Sarah that we should give the monorail try. This is another attraction we hadn’t done last trip. It was something I really wanted to do then, and it was still something I really wanted to do. I absolutely love the monorail trip through EPCOT (on the monorail trip from the TTC at WDW) so I figured this would be equally fun. Plus, those new Mark VII trains?! Phew! They are slick!
The initial views were pretty cool. Then, and I knew we would do this since I saw the monorail pass overhead when we were on Harbor, we went over Harbor Blvd and could see all the crappy outside world from the car. All the Disneyland regulars reading this may not think twice about being pulled back from the suspended reality when they walk through the tunnel and leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy, but as primarily WDW regulars, this is huge for us. Once we begin a trip down there, we usually see very little of the real world until the end of the trip. We take it so far as to not watch the news, avoid checking email, and avoid driving a rental car.
In a pros and cons list of each coast, this is one substantial advantage WDW has over DLR. I realize that most Disneyland guests are locals coming only for a few hours on a weekend or after work, so it isn’t really practical or possible to suspend reality like this, so maybe my position on this isn’t relatable for these folks. For this reason, however, I think at least one on-property WDW vacation is necessary for all DLR fans. Just as WDW fans should not buy the ridiculous hype that Disneyland is small and doesn’t offer all of the experiences WDW does, DLR fans should not buy the ridiculous hype that WDW is a broken resort, falling apart in every conceivable location.
Sorry, back to the monorail ride. Beyond that view of Harbor, the trip was cool. It was neat seeing inside DCA and seeing the entwined nature of all of the transportation in Tomorrowland is extremely cool. I can only imagine how cool the PeopleMover would have been out there. Although I’m sure there would need to be substantial work to bring it back to contemporary safety standards, it seems well worth it given the kinetic energy it would bring to Tomorrowland.
Following our monorail ride, Sarah went to use the restroom while I snapped more photos in the area. Not to beat on a dead horse, as I already covered this at length in my last report, but that kinetic energy is desperately missing from Tomorrowland. I think the look of Tomorrowland is on the right track with the recent refurbishment of the exterior of Star Tours, but there are still plenty of those garish golds left from the Tomorrowland reboot of the late 1990s. And, for crying out loud, do something with the Orbitron. It just sits there now, lifelessly, as if it was the former site of a mad scientist’s experiments gone terribly wrong. Okay, I think that’s enough on Tomorrowland for now. I could probably fill an entire trip report with things wrong with Innoventions, alone!
The Tomorrowland Speedway is typically an attraction we avoid doing because as adults who don’t really revel the idea of driving, and also don’t really revel the idea of waiting in long lines or bland rides. From the monorail, by contrast, Autopia appeared to be mildly better, with some roadway signs and some nice landscaping to make the attraction a little more interesting. Plus, since it was a Disneyland classic, we figured we at least owed it to ourselves to try the attraction.
The posted wait was 20 minutes. Not bad, but longer than we’d ideally like to wait. Thirty minutes, a time that felt like an eternity in the sun, after waiting, we finally stepped into our vehicles.
I will grant it this: Autopia is better than the Tomorrowland Speedway. That’s really about all I can say. Some of the scenery was pretty cool, and the drive itself was fairly scenic, considering the circumstances, which was nice. I could see it as a nice diversion on a future trip if it had a 10 minute or less wait time. I won’t go as far as to say I think it wastes valuable real estate, because, although it does have a sizable footprint, I realize not everything in the parks should be about me or my demographic. I think there is great importance in these simple ‘childhood’ attractions, and things like this and Tom Sawyer Island should exist and should continue to entertain inquisitive children for years to come.
With the advent of smart phones and more advanced video game systems, and the permeation of both deeper into society and into the hands of children at younger and younger ages, I fear that soon attractions like these that allow free reign of the imagination may not be as popular because they’re not as compelling with children, but I really hope I’m wrong on that. Not every piece of entertainment should be produced for easy consumption or for today’s shortened attention spans. But this is a Disneyland trip report, not my soapbox for the world’s problems.
Following that, we headed over to a land with which we fell in love last trip: Mickey’s Toontown. I think there is a huge divide concerning Toontown. A lot of Disneland fundamentalists (ha, I make it sound as if it’s an extremist religious group) don’t like it because it’s not in keeping with the other themed lands, whereas frequenters of Walt Disney World love it because it’s so much better than our (now defunct) version of Toontown. So much better.
More on this later. For now, our only purpose back here was to grab FastPasses and catch the Disneyland Railroad to Main Street.
The Disneyland Railroad is another attraction we hadn’t done last time, and it’s one we rarely do at the Magic Kingdom. I find myself almost ashamed to say this, as I know the railroads are held in high esteem by so many, given their special place to Walt, but they’re one of those attractions that we always find ourselves saying, “oh, we’ll just catch the train when it’s actually at the station and we’re nearby” and we never end up in such a position.
This would actually be the first of two trips aboard the Disneyland Railroad, with the second definitely being the more special of the two. On this one we got to see a lot more of the scenery, which, I had learned after our first trip, includes dinosaurs! I love dinosaurs!!!
The trip around the park was very peaceful and largely uneventful, save for the Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World.
Even though I had heard about it prior to the trip, I never expected Primeval World to be so awesome. I expected it to be more like the opening portion of the diorama, a ride-through of an area filled with static dinosaurs in the style of the taxidermy regular animals. When I saw that the dinosaurs were Universe of Energy-style AAs that were battling it out, I was nothing short of impressed!
After getting off at our stop on Main Street, USA, we headed for the First Aid Station, so that Sarah could get some bandages. Sarah’s feet had been hurting her from her new sandals, so these would hopefully assist with the pain. Oddly enough, a shop in Tomorrowland told her she could purchase bandages from them. We knew First Aid gave them out (and was a short walk from Tomorrowland) so we headed there.
Then, it was off again for Indy! While in the queue, my head spun with photo ideas. I couldn’t execute any of them at that time due to the lines, but I was hopeful that some of them would be possible later at night. After another trip to the fountain of youth in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, we headed to the front of the park.
Once at the front of the park, Sarah stopped the Dapper Dans for a photo. They asked her for her name, and immediately began serenading her with a song about her. I don’t know if this is some normal ragtime tune about the name “Sarah” and I am just inept when it comes to music, but it was very cool. I fumbled with my camera trying to videotape it, and got all but about 30 seconds of the performance. It’s these little touches that make Disney, Disney and make us keep coming back.
We then left for California Adventure. We would be meeting up with Henry Work that evening for dinner at Napa Rose, and he was getting closer, so we headed over to California Adventure so that we’d be closer to the Grand Californian, which was our meeting place.