Today we are headed to Disney California Adventure. Unlike Disneyland, which is somewhat weirdly familiar, this park would be totally new territory for us. Now DCA, as it will henceforth be referred to, has had it’s fans and it’s detractors and has suffered a bit of an identity crisis over the years. At it’s opening in 2001, the park’s Californian theme was criticized as being redundant, seeing as the park itself is located in the same state it represents. Why would people want to go to a re-creation of Hollywood or the rugged Mountains when the real thing is located less than an hour away from the park? Well I, for one, can attest to the fact that Disney’s version of Hollywood is MUCH better than the real thing, but that’s for a later discussion. Since then, the park has had a couple major facelifts and seems to be coming into it’s own.
Once you enter, what YOU will see is Buena Vista Street, a meticulously detailed plaza representing 1920s Los Angeles. What WE saw unfortunately, were construction walls.
We started our exploration at Paradise Pier, a romantic Victorian-style boardwalk.
First order of business was lunch of course. I had heard good things about Boardwalk Pasta and Pizza-plus they had beer.
This elaborate pizza oven is just for show. They only had those pre-made flat breads you just heat up. They actually put them on a conveyer belt that comes out through the fake oven. I can’t decide if this is clever or simply ridiculous.
We split a heaping plate pasta along with a nutty, fruity salad. Plenty of food for two.
As we were enjoying our lunch we were treated with some real Disney Magic. We noticed a small stage with some instruments lying about it, most notably a stand up bass. The band showed up and proceeded to play the most sunshiney, happy 1920s jazz music! The smiles on our faces were about a mile wide. We grabbed another beer and spent the next hour relaxing and marveling at the enormous talent of these musicians.
Ladies and gentleman, I bring you the Ellis Island Boys:
Ellis Island Boys is the group’s “Disney Name”, they actually play outside the park under the moniker of The Reynolds Brothers. They are not supposed to tell guests this information because they are “on stage” when they are in the parks, but Jeff managed get it out of them. Their pedigree is quite impressive. The guitarist has played for Cab Calloway and Julie Andrews. Although Orlando has it’s share of talented musicians and singers, the proximity to Los Angeles gives Disneyland the clear advantage in the talent department.
You may have noticed that there is a huge, daunting roller coaster in this area of the park. I’m not a fan of the several stories high, outdoor coasters. I’m absolutely sure that my restraints will let go and I’ll be flung into the atmosphere. Give me a dark, disorienting indoor coaster any day. Consequently, this attraction did not make it onto my touring plan, but Jeff pulled the “You can’t travel ALL the way to Disneyland California and not go on the roller coaster” argument on me. Dang it!
He also made me go on Mickey’s Fun Wheel (a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one) with the cars that swing perilously back and forth. They had sick bags in the seats!
I think we can do with a more serene ride about now. New to DCA is Ariel’s Under Sea Adventure. This is in the tradition of the “Dark Ride,” meaning you sit in a moving vehicle which takes through a series of animated vignettes. This attraction showed some big improvements in the genre, but it’s not the most exciting of rides. I can see kids really digging it though.
This Ariel animatronic has recently been changed. Apparently her previous hairdo was supposed to look like it was swirling up in the water, but ended up resembling a Soft Serve Ice Cream Cone. Fans made such a fuss that they changed it. I thought she looked just like a Hon from Baltimore.
Another dark ride we checked out was Monster’s Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue. The concept is the same, but the cool factor was ratcheted way up for me. They had me from the start when played the Ragtime Music (surprisingly scored by Randy Newman) from the movie as we wound through the queue. It was the cat’s pajamas!
Plus, the posters that hung on the walls of the queue were so super cool!
Harryhausens Sushi restaurant is straight out of the movie. It’s a tip of the hat to Ray Harryhausen, a pioneer in stop-motion animation and special effects.
When you climb into your taxi cab the onboard TV screen announces a city-wide calamity. A toxic tot is on the loose! The Child Detection Agency is dispatched to keep her from infecting the entire city with her humanity. On the TV, multi-eyed-witnesses tell reporters the horrors of the child thing running amok! I’m not sure how we could be of assistance though.
Next we made our way through A Bug’s Land. In this area you are made to feel like you are shrunk down to the size of a little ant (Heimlich reference). The theme is so adorable and filled with detail. There’s a problem though. It’s lousy with children! I know, can you believe it? I would have loved to have nosed around some more to enjoy the theming, but it was over-run with screechy toddlers.
Look at all the details on this little ride. So cute!
Next up: Carsland-A study in poor timing or the perfect scheme to ensure a second visit?