Posted in My Travels

San Diego Zoo and La Jolla Tide Pools and Caves Day 10

I LOVED THIS DAY SO MUCH!!

Day 10!  

It was another day of leaving our hotel in bathing suits because we had a big day lined up.  First, we hit up the Donut Bar for breakfast. We read online that this was the place to get unique donuts…and that there is always a line; and yup, there was definitely a line when we showed up.  My husband went to grab us coffee, at Achilles Coffee and Starbucks nearby, while the girls and I waited in line for donuts.  The wait was about 25 minutes, but the people watching in the area was so abundant that the 25 minutes flew by fast!  The place inside was adorable, and the amount of donuts on display was something else!  There were your average donuts, of course, but also some creative ones like a grilled cheese donut!!

Also, just something I noticed… The donut money is pretty lit in San Diego because the owner had a Ferrari out front with personalized Deadpool and Donut Bar advertising all over it.  (Who knew!?) 

We grabbed our order of donuts and took off for our next destination, where we were going to enjoy those fried babies!  Oh where were we off to?  Well, THE SAN DIEGO ZOO!!  SANDIEGOZOOOMG!! <– That was my tagline the whole morning.  I have been dying to go to the San Diego Zoo since I was a kid.  It’s the work-home of Joan Embery, guys!! JOAN EMBERY!!  

Hmm, I don’t feel your excitement.  Do you know who Joan Embery is?  Well, professionally she is the goodwill ambassador for the Zoological Society of San Diego, but my memories are that she was the only “guest” I cared about watching on The Late Night with Johnny Carson.  She would bring on some of the coolest animals that I had ever seen!! And that those animals would make Johnny and his guests squirm, made it fun!  

We took the donuts, coffee and our kids to a seated are right across from the zoo inside Balboa Park.  The donuts were delicious!  The perfect start to this fun day.  After we wolfed down those donuts we trekked right over to the zoo. We had purchased the tickets before leaving for this California trip, and mapped out where we wanted to start, to make the most of our one day there. We walked in, took a hard left towards the Skyfari.  This is a sky ride from one side of the park to the other.  It is super fun, and a great way to cool down.  The aerial views from the Skyfari were fantastic; you could see inside a lot of the fenced in areas.  Super cool!

After the Skyfari we walked down to the polar bears while stopping at each African animals along the way.  The polar bear exhibit was so great.  We got inside the area where you can see them in the water.  They spent a lot of time just chilling above, so all we could see were their chubby bums.  Once in a while they’d dip their head in or bite at some food that was chained underwater.  Once we walked to the exterior of the pool we could see them up close. through the glass.  They were playing with one another, swimming around and floating. Their floss like white fur outside the water was so fluffy!

From the polar bear we took a walk down the hill towards the hippopotamus.  At first I thought the animal was alone leaning on a small rock, but as soon as I walked to the right I saw the rock was a baby hippo!!  Aweee!  We back tracked to the entrance of the hippos to make our way to the panda bears.  Now, this is the part of the zoo I have been dying to see since we made these plans.  We have never seen a panda up close before! My gosh how cute and CHUBBYYYY!! We saw a mother and son panda, who were so docile and happy just being.   I wanted to jump into the area with them to lounge with them, scratch their bellies and feed them some bamboo.  But I was told I couldn’t go in with them.  Bummer.

From our visit with the pandas we walked up the hill towards the entrance to the treetops.  This zoo is just the coolest place!  We got up to the top, then went to check out some birds and an ape exhibit to the left, then went down an incline to cross the bridge.  We ended up right outside the elephant area, well, right outside a refreshment stop.  We grabbed slushies for everyone, except Mum and Dad’s were vodka soaked.  🙂

So, I love elephants.  They are such a beautiful, smart and bold animal.  This was my favorite part of our zoo trip.  The space was beautiful, and the elephants seemed so happy.  They had two Asian elephants and two African elephants.  They were doing their own things, eating, scratching, frolicking, uhm, poopin’.  haha   We spent a lot of time in this area watching them all.  There were other exhibits peppered around, but it was an elephant sanctuary really.

After we exited the elephants, we made our way up the prairie towards Australia to see the koalas.  This was another stop that we enjoyed.  Koalas are absolutely adorable!! They are so furry and slow paced.  They were climbing up their poles that were laced with eucalyptus.  Munch, munch, munch, snooze.  I swear each lil koala would be awake and asleep in seconds.  They were also chunky, I just wanted to squeeze them!!   We took a walk through Africa before exiting the zoo.  We saw a lot of beautiful animals, and learned so much.  I wish this zoo was closer!

We were all a little munchie, but we had another destination before heading back to the hotel, so we had to make a stop to an In and Out Burger.  We had to!  Their burgers and fries were too good to pass up, and I even had a Coke!  I never drink soda, but man a fountain Coke is hard to pass up in the heat.  Mmmm mm…  soooo good!

Our next stop was to Nicholson Point / La Jolla Tide Pool area.  The plan was to check out that one spot then go to the hotel, but instead we got to the tide pools then explored the whole way down seeing the Children’s Pool, hiking up a cliff, and walking all the way to Shell Beach where we ended up seeing caves.   I want to say that trek was about a mile, but not a straight one because of the turns from beach to cliff/walking path.

This area was the most beautiful sight.  Really, what a special place.  There were tide pools, cliffs, caves, seals, pelicans, lots of waves, sea moss and so much to look at around us.  At this point, the sun was starting to come down, so the sands glowed a warm gold and the ocean was glimmering like a dream.  Our girls were having a blast splashing in the waves then walking in the caves or looking into the pools.  My husband and I had fun doing that, too!   When we exited the top of Shell Beach it spilled out onto a big park.  There were so many people around getting ready to enjoy their nights on the beach.  I loved seeing everyone.  San Diego is hyper diverse.

Our first 24 hours there, and I was in love with everything that we were seeing.  ESPECIALLY THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER!!!

After we explored the beaches, we headed to our hotel to soak up more sunshine! The sun was still hot, even though it was starting to set more.  We got at least an hour of sunshine time.  Once the sun set we hit up the pool area again.  The kids went to swim with my husband, because they like the abuse of being thrown around by a 6’3″ monster! And, well, I stayed in the hot tub!  Ooh the heat of the hot tub was perfection.  While in there I got to meet some nice people. Once they disappeared my husband got in. We got to have a lot of alone time to talk.  He is a great conversationalist, and I love hearing his point of view of things we experience together.

I also loved that he reminded me that it was time to eat and how he wanted a burrito.  hahah  So we got out of the tub to run to get ready for dinner.  By the time we got cleaned up we realized how late it was, so we went to grab take out again.

Where?  THE SAME PLACE AS LAST NIGHT! haha  It was too good to pass up!  And one of my vacation goals was to eat a lot of burritos while in San Diego.  This time we ordered a few more dishes to try.  Holy glutton over here. But it was worth every calorie.  EVERY ONE.

Before we knew it again, it was almost midnight, and even though our last full day in San Diego would be a relaxing one, we wanted to get to bed.

What a fun day!!!

Next up…our last days, 11 and departure, in San Diego.

And yes, I had to update the look of my blog …again. The phone viewing feature was confusing some people because it was starting the page with the menu rather than the actual post.  This is much cleaner now!  Woo!

Posted in Party Time!

Let’s Fiesta!!

Hello Everyone!

This Saturday we celebrated our daughters’ birthdays.  The theme this year if you can’t guess from the blog title was…a …. FIESTA! Olé!  

Every year we throw a themed party, of our kids’ choosing, and we try very hard to make sure it is not just a theme thrown together, but one that is a special escape for our guests.  Like a few parties of our past that I blogged about before … the Circus, Paris, Japan and Harry Potter.

We are huge admirers of the Mexican culture, all of us but namely me, so I am sort of surprised this theme hadn’t come up before. My thought process to execute this party was to keep with the authenticity of the culture. The heartfelt music, the vibrant colors, the flowers, the rustic street food, the folk art, and the overall natural beauty that we love in Mexico.  It all sounds amazing, and that is because Mexico is amazing!

Let me get started with the details.

We sat down one night to talk about what we could put together to convey the fun of a fiesta in an invitation…and we came up with this!

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The Food was my favorite part of this whole gathering.  I LOVE MEXICAN FOOD.  We ordered catering from Three Amigos in a town nearby.  Our good friends had introduced us to this place through their parties, and it was just a no brainer for this themed one.  and A big thank you to my sister-in-law who went to pick up this for us on her way over!  YOU ROCK!

Our menu selection was simple Mexican street food; it was loved by everyone.  We ordered chips, salsa, guacamole, chicken tacos, beef fajitas, rice, beans and all the accompanying items like lettuce, tomatoes, more salsa and guacamole, sour cream and cheese.  There was a lot of food!!

Then I worked on what to do for the Cake.  At first, I had talked about getting the cake from our bakery, but for some reason my husband and I talked ourselves out of that and made it ourselves.  We loosely designed a cake, then went from there.

Friday before the party I woke up early to bake the cakes (and cupcakes, and brownies, and cookies!).  The cake and cupcakes were a rich chocolate cake.  The brownies were fudge chocolate with a hint of cinnamon, Mexican Chocolate (which is my favorite!) and I made Mexican chocolate chip cookies.  *drool*   As everything was cooling my mother showed up, and we made different color marshmallow fondant for the cake.  We had a lot of fun making a mess in the kitchen, lots of powdered sugar everywhere!  Then I layered the cake with chocolate frosting, then crumb coated it with a vanilla frosting.  It was a pretty tall cake!

Saturday morning my husband, who is the artist, took the cake and layered all the fondant as I stuck on the FIESTA bunting I had made a week prior.

I think it came out pretty great!  Especially for a cake made with so much love from my family.  🙂

The cake was set up with all the treats that I made but also zeppole that my mom made, donuts, butter cookies sent over from my good friend’s mother (huge surprise!), oreos and candies.  The cake table looked like a kids fantasy!

Another one of my favorite crafty things to put together is the photo backdrop for every party.  I think it is a lot of fun and adds another element to the party.  For this I grabbed a serape, an extra-large hay bale, a cactus cut out and some plastic clothes with a printed image of the national eagle to create the Mexican flag.  We ended up having a few sombrero from past parties we have attended, and boom…cute backdrop!  Oh, and mustaches!!

The decorations was an aspect of the party that I wanted to get right.  The one thing that you will see everywhere there is a Mexican fiesta is the colors.  Everything is colorfully bright and cheerful.  I made tissue paper flowers, about twenty of them, to decorate the entrance of the yard along with colorful draping cloths.

Then I hung extra-large papel picado above the patio from the second floor windows.  Which are pretty high, but I didn’t take a shot of them but you can see some of the papers hovering above the heads of our guests.

The tables were set in colorful cloths and as the centerpiece I had fashioned mini serapes with a pair of maracas, a colorful glass vase filled with an array of colored tissue flowers and a Virgin of Guadalupe candle.  It all came together real well.

Then along the back fence I had hung Mexican folk art every few feet.

The party favor came to me totally by luck.  I was walking in a store when I happened to see these pineapple glass jar cups in a set of four.  After a quick hunt in the store, my daughter and I gathered together 24 cups! Yes for 24 kids!  (ay dios mio..I know)   After slipping a piece of colorful tissue inside, and topping the cups with construction paper leaves and handwritten Gracias notes, it was the cutest addition to the day.

Our kids and I decided to dress up for the occasion together.  Usually it is just them, but they love when I put my hair up with flowers, and I think it made our guests and their parents happy to see us all dolled up.  I got a lot of compliments.

We filled the air with Mariachi music, and the party started!  Here are the photos I had taken of the day’s fun:

Posted in My Travels

Our First Day in San Diego Day 9

About five years ago, we had mapped out a whole different California trip than the one we actually took. We planned landing in San Francisco, spending a few days road tripping in a vintage convertible all the way down the coast. Hitting all the major attractions and cities along the ride then stopping in San Diego for a few days. We even planned out a whole new trip a second time, two years ago, going in reverse up the coast in a giant SUV from San Diego to Seattle!!  But. Such is life and as other travel opportunities arose, we had always postponed this California trip.  Then when my husband brought it back up last year, I was not going to let it go by again. We just went for it, editing it down to what we really all wanted.  So if you have been following along, or not, we came up with landing in LA then driving with stops to San Diego, in a normal SUV!

Absolutely happy that we got to make this trip happen this year. And this trip allows us to go back to California to finish our original plans.

Notice that San Diego was always a destination point?  Well, go look!  I have dreamed most of my adult life about San Diego; even if I had never been before. Weird, I know, but there has always been this draw.  Maybe because my genes are direct from Sicilian, where it’s hot, desert-like weather combined with the ocean and an easy going-ness?  Who knows, but I think it may be due to the fact that I am growing tired of Boston’s ten minute Summers, and fifty year Winters.  I mean, who needs this much time out of the sun and in the gloom!!??   Not this bird!!

Ok, I will stop sounding like I am 75yo.  :)~

Day 9!  Woo! We made it to San Diego!

We sadly left Anaheim at 11AM.  We said goodby to Disneyland and made a bee line straight to La Jolla, which was an hour and a half away.  We knew our room would not be ready, but we took off in our bathing suits with hopes that we could make it to enjoy the beach.  My husband is such a sweet person, he changed all the drive coordinates this whole trip so we could drive along the coast (EVEN ON OUR LAST DAY DRIVING TO THE AIRPORT! I know he is pretty awesome). He even took us on a fifteen minute drive after we got to La Jolla just to see some of the ocean.  Explanation… Where we were driving the whole time was not vistas of the ocean so much, but of cliffs as high as buildings! The ocean was in the distance, but the cliffs were so impressive it didn’t matter where the ocean was.  IT WAS SO COOL!!  Everything so far was perfect, and I already felt so at home.

We rolled up to the La Jolla Shores Hotel.  This hotel is very pretty, and in such a convenient location, close to the smaller downtown area of La Jolla, and with parking beneath the building.  It is built in the Spanish style, most likely in the 70s; lots of brown tiles, fountains, piazza in the middle. It was also located right on the ocean.  The view was spectacular!  As soon as we arrived, we checked in (rooms not ready) and ran straight to the beach.  Ahh that sand, how much do I miss it!

We got into our rooms not too long after we hit the beach.  So we each took turns to check it out and put some stuff away.  We finished up at the beach at around 7PM, then went to hang out at the pool/hot tub for a bit.  The pool was a real decent size, and the hot tub was fun.  The kid swam a long time, and my husband and I sat in the hot tub.  Which was so hot that I didn’t want to get out. The jets were in the perfect spots, the timer was over 15 minutes for sure and all the kids stayed away. Man, I miss that hot tub.

One of our traditions on beach trips is to eat a meal on the beach if we can.  Keeping it casual. We grabbed some drinks from a local liquor store then take out from the Taco Stand in downtown La Jolla.  This place rocked and was hella-busy!  We got a mix of  burritos and tacos.  Everything was amazing, so big!, and their salsa was one of the best I have had in a long time.  Totally a must eat spot when you are in San Diego..we know there are a couple of locations in the area.

This day turned to night so quickly!  We were having such a great time laughing and snuggling up that before we knew it the clock said midnight.  So, off to bed we went. We had another big day ahead of us!

 

Day 10 is next where we go to San Diego and La Jolla Cove, probably my favorite day of this whole trip.  🙂  San Diego is a beautiful place.

Posted in My Travels

Disney California Adventure Day 8

Day 8!

Our only real plan was to eat breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Carsland on this morning.  Oh, and getting MAXPASS.  Which was a big help getting us on the rides we wanted, or repeating rides!

It was another hot day, but not as hot as the day before. Yep, I brought it up again! We got to the park in the same happy manner, the Pixar Fest music playing in the background as we walked to the gates.  We entered Disney California Adventure (DCA) with such a positive outlook, we were all so excited for our day ahead.

Now, DCA’s entrance felt like the old MGM Studios at WDW to me, which as we all know it now as Hollywood Studios, but it will always be MGM to me. And I don’t care.  You enter this park on Buena Vista Street, the main drag of the park entrance. Which is named after a street in Burbank where Disney’s studio company is or was, and that’s the connection from the top of my head.  The street is not all that long, but it branches to the themed areas of the park, from counterclockwise: Grizzly Peak, Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, Carsland, a Bug’s Land, and Hollywood Land.  FYI, a Bug’s Land is on its way out soon in favor of a Marvel theme land.

Our visit started with a walk down to Starbucks then we made a bee line right over to Carsland for breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe.  It was really hard to not get distracted with trying to do other things before fueling up.  But we did it!  We were floored at Carsland, like, we all were shocked at how engulfed in Radiator Springs we all felt.  We know this Pixar movie pretty well as our oldest daughter was obsessed with it for years and then our youngest jumped on board when she was at that same age.  They both said they wanted to live in that land, and I agreed!  It was spectacular.

Flo’s V8 Cafe was .. just super.  The design was set up after a 1950’s diner with everyone working there dressed from that era.  It was so cute.  We opted to grab breakfast to eat outside in the ‘gas pumps’.  It was perfect.  We had a good spread of food, which was all a great start to our day.  The girls got the brioche French toast with bananas, my husband the waffle and I got the chicken tamales plate, so my husband could eat the eggs. As I don’t eat scrambled eggs.  Everyone left an empty plate, so I think that answers the food question. The French toast was delicious and the waffle was, well, a waffle!  My tamale tasted great, but it was a little bit on the dry side.  (I am a tamales-aholic, so I know my tamales!)

After breakfast we started our big day!

The rides and attractions we experienced, almost in order:

  • Carsland: Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree- Our first ride of the day!  You sit in a hitched trailer that a tractor pulls around in a frenzy of whipped turns.  It was sort of like if a Tilt-a-whirl tied to the Scrambler, if you know amusement park rides at all.  Super fun, and lots of laughs.
  • Carsland: Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters-  This ride is adorable!  You sit in roadsters that move along in a choreographed dance to a song sung by Luigi.  You can’t help but laugh on this ride because the cars go in a sequence you won’t quite know because there is no track ahead of you as everything is under the ground.  It’s a lot of driving across the ‘dance floor’!
  • Carsland:  Radiator Springs Racers (twice) – Ok, we all love love love this ride!  It is similar to Test Track in WDW,  the idea being you are in a car that goes through the building then speeds out onto a track… but this BLOWS TT OUT OF THE WATER!  It is so fun! We experienced a different ride, we got on twice, and on the second one we got to race one another (we sat single rider).
  • Pixar Pier: Toy Story Midway Mania- We all love this game!  It’s point and shoot gallery style game on big screens as you ride through, competing with your car mates.  Though this is the same as WDW’s attraction, we all thought it felt like it lasted a bit longer here.  We rode this twice, and both times we got off the ride thinking it was way better than WDW’s!!
  • Paradise Gardens: Golden Zephyr- Super fun ride gliding in a big silver zephyr in the sky.  The view from this ride was special for sure!  We don’t know why it’s called golden when they’re silver; so if you know, pls dm me.
  • Paradise Gardens: Jumping Jellyfish- What a fun ride!  This is a parachute ride that brings you high up into the sky then let to float down.  So cute and the belly giggles from everyone going up and down make your laughter even harder.  Super cute!
  • Paradise Gardens: Goofy’s Sky School (twice)- My my.  I wasn’t a fan of this like my kids were. This is a very jerky coaster.  It reminded me of the one and only ride I don’t like at Disney’s Animal Kingdom … Primeval Whirl.  It’s the same ride disguised with my main man, Goofy!  Jerky at every turn!
  • Pixar Pier: Incredicoaster (twice)- My husband and oldest rode this roller coaster twice, and they thought it was AWESOME! The coaster goes along with Jack Jack and his newly discovered powers.
  • a bug’s land: Heimlich’s Chew Chew- This is not a dig at this land at all, but a Bug’s Land was meh overall. This train was sweet and perfect for anyone with a baby/toddler.  My kids were not all enthralled even if I laughed the entire two seconds the ride lasted.  🙂
  • a bug’s land: Flik’s Flyers- It’s a super cute ride as it’s fashioned as if the bugs used discarded items for this ride-like a Chinese food container, Cool Whip tub, etc. This ride Goes up and twirls around softly.
  • a bug’s land: Tuck and Roll’s Drive’em Buggies- This ride was a bummer for us as it broke down as they were on it.  It’s bumper cars but the kids didn’t get to bump anyone else.  hahah
  • a bug’s land: Dot Puddle Park- The kids definitely took advantage of the water fountains as it was hot!  The theming was great, and the other kids looked like they were having a blast.
  • Hollywood Land:  Red Car Trolley (is this a ride?)- This is a great way to give your feet a break and got us from Hollywood Land to the top of Buena Vista.  The perfect place to get us back to Carsland!
  • Hollywood Land: Monster’s Inc Mike and Sully to the Rescue- On this ride you are whisked away in a taxi following along the rescue story of Boo of Monster’s Inc.  The best part of this ride is Roz at the end before you exit, she is real-time interactive!!  She made fun of some folks in glasses then called me out for recording her on Snap… which was super unexpected!
  • Hollywood Land: Sunset Showcase Theater Disney Animation- Our kids are into the arts, and they miss the Magic of Animation/Animation Station at WDW Hollywood Studios, you know, MGM.  When they heard there was the Sorcerer’s Workshop they had to go to there. They had a blast drawing moving cartoons and checking out the Beast’s Library.
  • Hollywood Land: Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission Breakout- This was ridden by my husband and oldest, it’s a free fall ride that was originally fashioned for Tower of Terror… renovated for this theme.  They said it was just as fun, but a little different.  Not sure what that means, but that’s what I got folks! 🙂
  • Grizzly Peak: Soarin’ Around the World – This was our last ride of the night. I won’t be talking about this ride, it is exactly the same ride at WDW except it was a little smoother on take off. Which is awesome.  What I am going to talk about is this special wait getting on.  The park was closing and we had one last Maxpass for 10PM; the line got pretty long real fast. There was a little boy with his dad behind us. He was pretty amped up talking a mile a minute (his father was making the glazed over face like he was all set).  So, I did what I do, I talk to strangers, especially cute ones. 😉  I knelt down, getting eye level is key with kids, then started a conversation I will never forget as long as I live. This little boy, myself and my two children had the funniest time talking, which lasted forty-five minutes. The ride had an issue, so we ended up waiting in the line together conversing. What a cutie. He was three years old, but wise beyond his years.  He spoke Spanish and we got to exchanging words. We played some games, talked what normal three-year olds talk about, like “colors we liked”, “our favorite animals” and “favorite numbers”.  He had an accent, sounded a lot like Miguel from Coco, HE WAS THE SWEETEST BOY EVER.  He grew so attached to us in this short amount of time that he didn’t want to leave my side. Especially when we got separated into our seating zone lines. He started bawling his eyes out, crying for us and his father couldn’t console him until he saw that there was a fence between us. He could see me, it broke my heart. He ran up to the fence, reaching through, trying to hold my hand. 😦  It was sweet but I felt so sad for him.  After the ride he found me, dragged me by the hand to meet his mother.  Gah what a special kid!

-Symphony Swings was down off and on during this day and we couldn’t catch it while it worked.

We drank and ate:

  • Skim latte, skim decaf caramel macchiato, skim double choc chip Frappuccino- Starbucks inside Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe
  • Chicken Tamale Breakfast- Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Cars themed Waffles- Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Brioche french toast w bananas- Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Vodka Pomegranate Limeade w lemon fizzy foam (two)- Cozy Cone
  • Mac n Cheese- Cozy Cone Motel
  • Corn Dog- Corn Dog Castle
  • Mint chip milk shake- Shmoozies
  • Affogato- Shmoozies
  • Corn on the cob w butter
  • Sourdough bread samples from the bakery tour
  • Water, water, water
  • Carne asada rolls- Lamplight Lounge
  • Lobster nachos- Lamplight Lounge
  • Chicken sandwiches- Lamplight Lounge
  • Cheddar Burgers – Lamplight Lounge
  • Scream Canister (drink)- Lamplight Lounge
  • Open Ocean with a Splash (drink)- Lamplight Lounge
  • The Last Word (drink)- Lamplight Lounge
  • Graham cracker white chocolate caramel apple
  • Mike Wazowski shaped Rice Krispie treat
  • water, water, water, water!!

Dinner reservations were at the Lamplight Lounge. If I had to rate this place on a star system, I’d give it a solid 3.5.

We got seated downstairs on the deck right on the water to the right.  Wow. The location of this restaurant on the water, with the view of the park – namely the Incredicoaster of Pixar Pier- was perfect.  Seriously, it is probably the most beautiful restaurant setting of any amusement park Disney owns.  The aesthetics were real nice.  They designed it with very large cozy chairs set up around oversized coffee tables, which made it feel more relaxed and bar-like. Which was perfect.  The waiter we had was super nice and very well-rounded with the menu.  The cocktails were actually way better than we had thought they’d be.  I got The Last Word, which was so good..I would go back for that! But the food?  Well, I hate giving anything but good reviews but it was just …meh.  Nothing really blew us away.  We got the lobster nachos and carne asada rolls to start.  The rolls were good for the most part, but the nachos were just ok.  Then we got burgers and sandwiches for mains.  We got the chicken sandwich, which felt like it was missing something, and the burgers were decent.  It just felt like something was missing from the things we weren’t all that happy with, know what I mean?

 

Well, after dinner we ran across the park, caught the Paint the Night Parade on our way to Carsland.  We all wanted to see that area lit up at night and ride the Radiator Springs Racers one more time! It was so beautiful at night!! After this, we closed out the park riding Soarin’ then took a leisure stroll down Buena Vista shopping and buying treats for the rest of our trip.

Everything about this park felt spectacular, and we all left saying that this was our favorite Disney Park of them all.  OF THEM ALL!!! There was something about the size and the overall theming.  It felt more like being at an amusement park, the kind of park that leaves you with lots of great family memories.  It left us all feeling, just simply, happy.  It was uncomplicated and fun!

We had a hard time leaving Disneyland behind.  We always felt sad leaving WDW, especially as we spend a ton of days there, settling into a way of life, but Disneyland…it was truly magical. 🙂

 

Posted in My Travels

Disneyland First Timers! Day 7

Sorry for the delay!  I have been dealing with a lot at home, and just hadn’t any time to draft this up.  Which is why I am using my lunch break to make this magic happen!

——

As much as we loved the bustling city and relaxing beach stops of our Southern California trip thus far, this part, Disneyland, was as special.  We thoroughly enjoyed Disneyland (DL) just as we had hoped.

 

Day 7!

This was an extremely hot day!  It was pretty humid and the heat index was off the charts.  

We started by having a pretty big (delicious) breakfast at our hotel before walking over to the parks area.  We entered the parks via South Harbor Blvd, which was the opposite side of where we went the night before to Downtown Disney.  Being this close to the parks was fantastic.  We all commented on how it felt like going to the Magic Kingdom (MK) from the Bay Lake Towers (BLT) at the Contemporary in Walt Disney World.  Which is a resort we all enjoy staying due of the proximity to MK.  *With the major differences here of being outside of the property and way more people walking along with you.  The MK walk from BLT is literally like your own private entrance!

The walkway to the Disneyland Parks here had the most charming, manicured, square-cut trees.  With Pixar Fest happening, there was that faint Pixar music that we heard at Downtown Disney being piped in, which I loved so much.  Who doesn’t get amped up hearing The Incredible’s movie theme song early in the morning!? Your stride changes a bit, you seem to have a bounce in your step and a smile on your face. It’s pretty magical from that point on.

Since we planned one day per park, we realized this was going to be a challenge because of the amount of people slated to be at the park as they just reopened annual pass holders back from Summer.  Also, DL’s fast pass system is the old school paper tickets, and being unfamiliar with the park (wanting to see more) was a big obstacle, but also we were fighting time.

If you have never been to DL, but have gone to WDW, the set up is basically similar to MK. Meaning they both have themed areas at almost in the same directions as one another; with three exceptions in DL.  They have the following… Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Adventureland. Knowing where these are at WDW, you know Main Street USA is where you enter down to the castle.  The castle is the central point with Tomorrowland to its right, Fantasyland behind it, Frontierland and Adventureland to its left.  Did I get that right? Yes, ok. So. Knowing generally where the rides we wanted to get on first were, and how the fastpass system worked, we planned to opt out of chasing down characters we had met before, or, rides that we had gone on at WDW IF we had to skip something for time.

There is a MAXPASS system in place at the parks. It’s $10 a person per day, which we didn’t get the first day, stupidly.  We both thought it was $40 a person, for some reason. I am not sure what we were thinking, but we did get it on our next visit which was a HUGE help getting us on rides faster.  The MAXPASS grants you access to book fastpass (FP) and to see/save photopass pictures through their app. The rule is you book one FP per person, you can’t get another electronically till that one is spent.  Like at WDW, except you get three per person to book in advance to start.

Even with the FP set back, we did a lot.  And since they had opened the gates that day for their annual pass holders return from the Summer off, the amount of crowds was manageable. There were a lot of people there.

We did a lot for what we had to deal with and time!!

The rides we got on:

  • Snow White’s Scary Adventure*- I loved this when it was at WDW, it was the very first ride my husband had taken me on during my first visit. (Snow White is my favorite Princess of all time.) Naturally, we had to ride this first to show the kids. This ride makes its way through the Seven Dwarfs lives in the cottage and glimmering mines, the haunted forest, the Evil Queen’s room and exits to the happily ever after.   I miss this ride a lot!
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey*- This was a cute ride, similar to Snow White’s, with all its plot twists along Pinocchio’s story.  I loved seeing Figaro everywhere, he is my favorite cat.
  • Big Thunder Mountain- We all love this ride at WDW, and this one was very different but still the same.  It wasn’t as jerky, which made it a little more enjoyable, and I felt like it was more daring with its drops and swoops.  We definitely wished we lived closer to ride it more and more!
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride*- This was a first for me and the girls, my husband had ridden this at WDW as a kid.  The ride moves along pretty quick, though, but we thought it was a lot of fun!
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats*- This is the sweetest water ride to ever exist.  It is a simple cruise down a canal overlooking all the homes of the storybook characters and some Disney ones from over the years.  It was so well constructed, and adorable.
  • Mad Tea Party (twice)- This is a ride also at WDW, but it is outdoors adorned with colorful lanterns above.  So pretty at night!  I noticed it wasn’t as big, not as many riders can get on at once, so the line took some time to get through.  Overall, aesthetically we liked this location, but the short length of the ride and wait in line was a bummer.
  • Indiana Jones Adventure*- So, we all loved this ride a whole bunch.  It was super fun, thrilling and kinda creepy! Lots of twisty turns, bringing the action as close to you as possible.  Lots of effects that surprised us all. I wish they create this at WDW… but make it a little less jerky, please.
  • Jungle Cruise- This is a ride I have not gotten on in years, since my first visit in 2002 to be exact.  Each time we have brought our kids it was either down or they didn’t care to go on it.  This time, because it was so frackin hot and the line was at 15 minutes, we jumped on!  So happy we did.  The cruise takes you on an adventure with animatronic exotic animals and people along the way.  I re-lived a lot of the funny jokes.
  • Space Mountain (twice)- When I say ‘we’ rode this, I mean my husband and oldest daughter did.  Our youngest would rather die than ride it again.  ha  They did say that it was different from at home, one loved it more and one loved it less.
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage*- This is a super cute ride, that is themed with the Pixar movie Nemo, but used to be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea- Submarine Voyage ride, which I never got to ride. It is an underwater adventure where you go “deep” into the ocean for exploration, then it turns into a Nemo adventure looking for him all over again.  Our kids really enjoyed it, looking at all the under sea ‘fish’.  BUT…if you are claustrophobic, do not go on this ride.  Like I don’t even have claustrophobia and I was feeling a little too uncomfortable for my taste.  But to be fair, it wasn’t the whole time, just when we had a small leak that dripped on another guest in our submarine.  My brain, apparently, was not having it. hahah
  • Autopia-Take a ride in the coolest gas-powered cars!  This is a racecar ride that most amusement parks have, but the cars at Disneyland were tres cool!  We had a blast letting the girls each take the wheel, as we feared for our lives… we keep doing this to ourselves.  To our surprise this time, they did great!  In my car, with our youngest, we only slammed into the guard rails at the center like 50 times while she screamed and let go of the wheel but leaving her lead foot on the gas.
  • Disneyland RR- After our non-stop running around, we decided to get to our next destination, dinner, by railway.  This was actually totally fun, and different from WDW’s.  The RR rides around the park, but also through tunnels of time.  Cute.
  • Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin*- We had to hustle to get here after dinner. Toontown closes early for the fireworks display, it was around 8:30PM this night.   It was such a fun ride, sort of like Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, but bouncy and kookier.  The girls loved it!
  • it’s a small world- This begins outside in DL, which is great, and it definitely went longer than its sister location at WDW.  There seemed to be more lands/countries and I appreciated them way more! I actually love looking at all the details of the cultures, clothing, and the DL version was just a touch better than at WDW because they peppered in some Disney characters.  Hands down cute!
  • Alice in Wonderland*- The ride takes you on the adventure of Alice in Wonderland in a giant caterpillar car.  Immediately you are shrunken down to fit through the doors. You avoid chases by the Queen of Hearts and her staff of cards. And you end up at the Mad Tea Party.  It’s really cute.

* Not at Walt Disney World

FYI- The Matterhorn and The Haunted Mansion, the two rides I was looking forward to most, were shut down.

We got to meet for the first time:

  • Kylo Ren
  • Rey
  • Darth Vader

We drank and snacked on:

  • Dole Whip (No swirls at DL, folks!)
  • Churros
  • Mickey Bars
  • Mickey Shaped Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Frozen Lemonades
  • Frozen Lemonades with Cherry
  • Waters..like I think fifteen waters a piece!  It was really hot.

 

Aside from all this, we did stop to have dinner.  We had booked reservations for the Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square.  This was a nice area of the park, set up to look like New Orleans.  If you have ever stayed at the Port Orleans Resort at WDW, which we had our first family trip- on the French quarter side, it had the same feels of that location.  Very ornate and pretty.

Cafe Orleans was pretty fun.The aesthetics inside and out felt like we were somewhere else; we sat outside on the patio. The mint julep drink was so pretty AND super delicious!  We ordered dinner at a snail’s pace because we found out that some of their items, like their fries, were fried ahead of time in my husband’s allergen. With a little maneuvering he got to order basically what he wanted.  Just no fries.  Which was a bummer, because those fries rocked!  Hey, I felt bad the whole time I ate them with the kids in front of his face.  😛

The waitress refilled our glasses a lot, which we needed in the heat. Even though the kids were drinking Sprite and Coca Cola, which I don’t normally let them unless we go out or are away, I wasn’t caring at all. They needed the sugar and liquid to make the rest of the night.  Did I mention enough how it was sweltering hot out there? I feel like I haven’t.  Not nearly enough.  The sun was shining bright and the sky had no cloud in sight.  Perfect but the humidity was over the top ridiculous.  I wore a sheer top that I was boiling in.  And I can handle high temps.  My kids were just sweating standing in the shade and every twenty minutes we finished a bottle of water running for another one. We even drank from the weird water bubblers around the park when we had no water bottles in sight.  It was so hot!  OHMYGOD, I forgot to mention, it was so hot that an older woman fainted in front of us waiting to get on Big Thunder Mountain!  She was about to get on and just dropped.  That is how hot it was!

Ok, back to dinner..in the heat.  As the food arrived it felt like a scene from some eating contest.  The plates were overflowing with food, holy portions!  The kids and my husband ordered 2 monte cristos and a three cheese monte cristo to split up, and I got the nicoise salad..with fries. 🙂   Their meals were not sandwiches, they were like donuts!  GINORMOUS SQUARISH & TRIANGULAR SHAPED DONUTS!  It was obscene!  I was pretty happy to see that none of them could put a dent in their dishes.

After dinner, we had to run on a few rides before the Pixar Fest ‘Together Forever – A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular’ Fireworks started. I put a list of all the rides above, basically, in order of how we got on them.

Once the night sky got real dark, the show started.  We got to watch the show by the it’s a small world building. WOW!  We were told they were pretty special there, and they weren’t kidding.  What a view!  We got to stand pretty close to the projections on the ride, and, there was a lot of space for people to sit on the ground!  It floats through all the music and scenes of Pixar’s great movies.  The best part for me, however, was Wall-E and Eve.  It was magical and perfect with the fireworks.

We did all this and we still had time to take our time walking down Main Street USA to shop around… twice!  I got the girls some birthday surprises, which they both celebrate their big days in September.  We left the parks by walking back to the hotel.  We were absolutely spent after all the running around and non-stop fun.

 

This was another great day!  We all felt that Disneyland had a great magical feel. We fell asleep looking forward to our next big adventure…Disneyland’s California Adventure Park!  YEE!!

Posted in My Travels

Victoria Beach, Crystal Cove Beach and the Big Disneyland Reveal- Day 6

Hey Everyone!

Day 6! I loved this day so much…the beaches and THE BIG SURPRISE!  We drove from Laguna Beach to Anaheim; telling our kids it was “on our way to San Diego”.  Don’t you go north to go south? :)~  Well, they had no idea what direction we were going, so it worked for us.

Before Anaheim we did make two stops. One to Victoria Beach to see the Pirate Tower, and, one to see the cliffs and tide pools of Crystal Cove/State Park.  Laguna may be the most beautiful beachy place on American soil.

Victoria Beach/Pirate Tower

We got straight into bathing suits and water shoes before breakfast because our first stop of the day was to Victoria Beach, south five minutes from our hotel.  A quick FYI- you will need to pack water shoes to walk most of the beaches we visited this trip. These are no places for flip-flops as they’ll get wrecked guaranteed.

Victoria Beach is down an obscure set of stairs in a residential area. So there is some searching for it, but this website I referenced in my research earlier in the Summer definitely helped us find it. Well, his lens perspective seems wonky now that I have been there and looking back on his site, but he tells you were to go, address included.  There are a lot of stairs, and the parking is on the major street a block or two away, which is also a highway. Though it was free for two hours. So depending on your activity level, you may need to look into this area further if you need assistance with path ways.

The second you hit the beach from the stairs the views are picturesque. Truly beautiful.  The beach is rather large, which wasn’t expected.  You are facing a long-span of beach to the left and cliffs to the right. We had seen a lot of locals hanging out and walking towards the left, so of course, we went right.  Wow, JUST WOW!  We started off our walk along the surf.  The water was so blue, looked lushly weighted as it was rushing over these volcanic like rocks.  It seemed like a dream, really.  Then to the right we saw another gathering of rocks, a man-made wall and there was the Pirate Tower!  Super awesome!

The Pirate Tower was constructed for a former senator at the beginning of the last century as a walled in spiral staircase, but was adopted later by the next residents and the neighbors with pirate lore. It is nestled in the cliffs by what looks like a built out area where people had made a wading pool of some sort.  Then to the right beyond the tower were a collection of jagged rocks that housed the greenest sea moss and tide pools.  The tide was active, and the waves rolling into the cracks of the rocks would fill up the basins created between the rocks and exploded out on the outer side. it was absolutely beautiful mayhem. The booming sound of the waves surfacing above was spectacular!