We had a fantastic time. Though I am still concerned about the toon direction of travel, the DL we visited is the DL I fell in love with when I was my daughter's age. The fireworks and parades were 1st rate, the cast members were fantastic (my 4 year old Mikey went up on the tender of the train, other cast members played with us, we just happened on characters without lining up, the park was clean and well maintained, there was live music everywhere). It was wonderful.
The Grand was still excellent, clean, well maintained, great service, including free coffee brought to me in the business suite while I checked in on line.
And as for dining, we had some great meals - notably Steakhouse 55 (excellent fillet mignon and a great wine list - nice flourless chocolate cake), Blue Bayou has really improved and a waterside table helped, and Tortilla Jo's was excellent also. We also dined at Plaza Gardens, Goofy's Kitchen and Storytellers which were all quite good. We were really surprised by the quality of Rancho de Zocalo - for counter service it was excellent, and having real plates and utensils was fab after the paper and plastic experiences in WDW and DLP.
We thought the new additions - Subs redo, HM upgrade, ToT, Monsters Inc, the 50th exhibit, Turtle Talk, Jedi Academy were all very good (Mikey got to fight both Darth Vader and Darth Maul in the same show which was awesome as we are both big Star Wars fans). My only concerns were the dumbing down of the farm at DCA and the fort at Tom Sawyer Island.
One bad thing did happen however. We had an LP meet at Aladdin (fantastic show, my fav non Broadway/West End Disney show now). We were the 3rd group of people in line. Mufrsmom was holding my son, and I was ahead of them. As they were going up the stairs a group cut in front of them and they fell, and then as I tried to help them up, we got trampled on, literaly ( Murfsmom is still on crutches with facial and rib injuries nearly a week later). There was no cast control or support. My wife went to find a cast member to tell them what happened, but they did nothing until after the show. Thankfully Mikey was alright, but murfsmom was strapped up and put into a wheelchair. A manager came down (as well as a lead) and I had a conversation about crowd control risk assessments and litigation impacts/responsibilities. Tom (the suit) seemed to listen and said he would make the necessary changes (I am asking all LPers to be diligent and see that they do).
But other than that incident (and another sad situation for som new found friends), we had a fantastic time. Found some great merchandise that would not be available elsewhere (a tomorrowland Hawaiian shirt, a Main Street Station hand painted watch and of course the necessary embroidered ears)! Although there was a national cheer competition going on, it did not adversely affect the park except for large crowds on the weekend (that combined with 2fers and last free weekend for APers without blackout) led to 45 min waits for Monsters Inc and Casey Jr. But not a problem (it did not feel uncomfortable as WDW, but then again I think the climate impacts there too).
And the LP community, wow!!! We met no less than 42 people this trip and had a wonderful time with them all. So, I am a born again DL fan, but I will still hold my due diligence and raise flags of concern where warranted. I think for my sanity, I will steer clear of WDW for a little while until I hear of improvements, and channel my energy into my home state of California.
Also, the rest of the trip was cool. We stayed in SF for 5 days (managed to get some nice tailored suits and have some great meals at the Fairmont, Top of the Mark, Stamford Court, Chinese, Mexican and Seafood), rented a Cadillac and went to Monterey via San Juan Batista, then off to Santa Barbara with a stop for dinner at Madonna Inn in San Louis Obispo for old time sake, then we stayed at the wonderful Marriott Vacation Club Newport Beach - fabulous resort that reasserts my faith that timeshare works for some - 1600 sq foot 2 bdrm suite with ocean views, full kitchen, fire pit for making smores, great pools and great service. While we were there we managed to see the baby pandas at SD Zoo, pay our respects to Shamu, play with Lego in Carlsbad, shop at Fashion Island, and experience a sub par chicken dinner at Knott's Berry Farm - chicken, biscuits and boysenberry pie/punch were great as always, but the potatoes were watery and the corn was canned.
We were quite impressed with the Cheesecake Factory at Newport Beach however. The food was a very good quality at a great value. And we had to break down and eat at A&W's. Taco Bell, Del Taco and Carl's Jr, as well as some 50's drive-in's while we were in the area.
We found that if we ate upscale, the food and service were excellent, and great value. If we went to where the masses were going, the food was very salty, fatty and too much.
So meals of memory and places we would dine again - Top of the Mark, Cheesecake Factory, Steakhouse 55 and the Blue Bayou.
We have been saving to go to HKDL and TDL, but after these last 3 weeks, I cannot wait to return to the original DL! What a dilemma???!!!
If you would like more detail including pictures, please go to this link: