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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rethinking My Approach to Disneyland Dining

The Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Mickey Pretzel - a winner for a snack

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler's dad has been in the hospital for the last few days being treated for an infection that caused him to stop eating and lose most of what strength he has left. But it's being treated and he will recover for him to join us here back home. He loves going out to eat, especially breakfast, when he isn't fighting off infections. And indeed, with Mrs. DLT and I spending a lot of time at the hospital the last few days, we've been eating out a lot too. We've been eating out so much that I'm kind of getting sick of it actually. Mrs. DLT's father's favorite spot for breakfast that he enjoys thoroughly is right down the street - and it's dreadful. Mrs. DLT herself, not being the adventurous dining type, likes to play it safe, going to restaurants and mostly eating the things she knows she will like or at least should like. God forbid that anything like a mushroom, olive, artichoke heart, or pickle touch her plate. She'll run out of the place screaming.

How about a deep fried dill pickle from the Carnation Cafe?
It tastes just like it sounds.
And slowly, I've found myself falling into a dining rut as well when it comes to going out to eat. While I may be far more adventurous than Mrs. DLT when it comes to dining, and since we seem to go to the same restaurants over and over, I find myself ordering the same things I have enjoyed from that particular restaurant that I have had in the past. I guess you could call it going to the "old stand-by". Somehow, while I may consider myself an adventurous diner, I've actually grown quite conservative. So I've been thinking to myself the the last couple of days, if I'm going out to eat, I really need to stretch my palette and try new things (something Mrs. DLT usually does not do though she surprised me at the Olive Garden the other night by ordering grilled chicken breasts with peaches)

Baked Potato Soup from the Carnation Cafe - an "old stand-by"
I would have to describe our dining experiences on our last trip to Disneyland as a mixed bag and a little weird. Indeed, I really had opportunities to stretch my dining wings so and did so but I also left some dining opportunities on the table so to speak and I am a little disappointed in myself for that. It started on the night we got there. It was early evening on a Saturday and since our deluxe AP's have Saturday as a blackout day, we couldn't go into the park. But instead of going to Downtown Disney like we should have done, we walked up Harbor Blvd. and ate dinner (which turned out to be actually breakfast) at the IHOP (International House of Pancakes for those who don't know). IHOP is usually fine. I ate one yesterday. In fact, I at the exact same thing for breakfast yesterday that I had for dinner at Disneyland a little over a month ago. Can you see why I would be kicking myself? I missed an opportunity. What about Naples, Catal, Ralph Brennan's, or even somewhere we haven't been like the Earl of Sandwich? Blew it on my first day.

Chicken Tomales for me and Mrs. DLT from Concina Cucamonga in DCA
An "old stand-by" that proved to be a major disappointment.
Over the years, Mrs. DLT and I have had a lot of bad food inside the Disneyland Resort Parks. We've taken notes and learned lessons. Prior to our last visit, we pretty much had our dining routine down to a science and could go several days without a dining disappointment. But there was something of a collision on our last trip. Disney, to their credit, is constantly tinkering with menu offerings giving new and more adventurous choices. And since it had been almost 2 years since our last visit, there were also new places to try. We made to Flo's V8 Cafe, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, the Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe, the Jolly Holiday Bakery, and the revamped Carnation Cafe and had mixed results but at least these were the new places we made it to.

The 5 Cheese Ravioli from Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta - a winner in my book

I guess here is my source of dining frustration - you know that trip to IHOP when we arrived? Well, we actually went to IHOP for another breakfast later on in the week. Another missed park dining opportunity not mention the Anaheim IHOP is expensive compared to the one in your neighborhood. Mrs. DLT wanted to go up to Disney Character Warehouse in Fullerton (a wasted trip) so on the way back we stopped at Mimi's Cafe, another chain restaurant that we have locally. Not only another missed opportunity to try something new in the park but what I ordered in trying to be more adventurous was absolutely horrible. Here's another one - we went twice to the Fiddler, Fifer, & Practical Cafe but really, especially during the morning hours, the FF&P Cafe is not that much different than your local Starbucks only much, much larger (which is fine but there are a half dozen Starbucks within a mile of where I live). Starbucks serves wonderful beverages and very good breakfast offerings but we didn't need to go back a second time. Here's the real kicker. Twice we went to see Billy Hill and Hillbillies and both times it was around lunch time - we ended up actually eating in the Golden Horseshoe which seems to deep fry everything but the ice cream. You might as well put a sign on my back that says "Kick Me". Oh... wait a minute. We were in ToonTown waiting for our Roger Rabbit fast pass return time window to open. Again, it was around lunch time.... lunch time in ToonTown either means horrid pizza or a plain hot dog. We opted for the hot dog, a simple, plain hot dog with mustard. OK.... now you can Kick Me.

Bacon, caramelized onion, and arugala flat bread pizza from Village Haus
Very good but very rich. Probably something that should be split with someone else.
So there are at least a half dozen missed opportunities to be adventurous and try something new with Disneyland dining which now I find myself losing sleep over (a stretch of the truth but only by a little bit). I took Mrs. DLT and my sister over to look at the menu at the Carthay Circle Restaurant  praying there would be something that would catch their eye and both shook heads lamenting that their was nothing on the menu they would even order other than the cheeseburger but at $22, something they thought they could do without. But what about the duck wings and braised short rib raviolis??? Basically, with the Carthay, I was out voted. I wanted to try new menu items at Cafe Orleans and French Market, but we never made it. I have never had the fried chicken from the Plaza Inn (which is on my bucket list) but never made it there either. Never made it to the Blue Bayou, Wine Country Trattoria, or Big Thunder Barbecue, all of which we enjoyed on past trips. I wanted to try the skewers from the Paradise Garden Grill but never made it back over there either. Naples in Downtown Disney has made some the best pizza I ever ate - nope - didn't make  it nor did we make it the new Earl of Sandwich.

Turkey Dinner for Flo's V8. It was alright but did I have eat this twice? 
When (if?) I make it back to Disneyland, I'm going to make a concerted effort to change my approach to dining. First thing, ditch the chain restaurants simply because they are convenient. Second, stay away from typical park food - you can get hot dogs and fish and chips anywhere. Third, if there is a restaurant I really want to go to but others balk - I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue (or conveniently say I forgot something back at the hotel and need to get it but go to the restaurant instead - I have absolutely no issue dining alone). It's probably OK for snacks but fourth - never eat meals at the same place more than once a trip. Fifth, try to make agreements ahead of time that these are the restaurants were are going to. All menus are posted on the web. Make reservations if you have to. Me and Mrs. DLT are normally pretty good at this but going with my sister and her husband created different agendas from time to time. Sixth, be bolder with dining choices - you only live once.

You could make a meal out of Trader Sam's appetizer offerings.
Why didn't we?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Disneyland Traveler Blog Turns 2 Years Old

Mickey bangs the drum and gives a salute to the Disneyland Traveler Blog turning 2 years old
(well, not really...)

Are you kidding me? I've been writing this blog for exactly 2 years?? Doesn't seem that long but at a certain age, time goes by much quicker than it used to. I started this blog May 28, 2011 after finding out that running the two previous Disneyland websites I started proved to be a little too much work to keep updated and took the fun out of being a Disney fan. The good folks at Google provide a simple blog tool (a couple of them actually) that just says "go out and write what you want and we'll take care of all the back-end stuff that makes it visible for others to see and keeps spammers at bay - and BTW - it's free".  Who can turn down free?

So I get to write about Disneyland and other Disney endeavors and from time to time, maybe a non-Disney item or two. It's my hobby hence anyone who reads this isn't being asked to click on an ad so I can make a nickel. I write this for myself and hopefully others can find a certain amount of information, enjoyment, and entertainment. Though I hear from a few people regularly through comments or through email, I don't really know who reads this blog other than mostly other Disney fans. Google doesn't tell me who reads this but they do tell me how many. At the end of May 2011, there were 17 pageviews of this blog. This May, there will be around 6000 pageviews of this blog which now totals over 60,000 pageviews in its 2 year lifespan. That's chicken feed compared to the big boys in Disney web sites which are viewed by thousands a day but again, I'm not here to sell anything but the experience of being a Disney fan (and sometimes a Disney critic).

So to all of you out there who are taking the time out of their busy day to read this for whatever reason, a sincere "Thank You" from the Disneyland Traveler (and Mrs. DisneylandTraveler too). As I posted earlier, we are currently having some challenges that almost caused this blog to sign off as we have taken in and care for Mrs. DLT's father who suffers from the sadness of what is Alzheimer's Disease. It's difficult for us to see an opportunity for our next Disneyland trip at least  together anyway. But as I thought about it, even dealing with the current circumstances, being a Disney fan remains a constant and an outlet. As always, there is a piece of me that sits on a bench in a shady spot of Main Street USA on a bright sunny day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Quick Take On Mickey and the Magical Map

Mickey and the Magical Map - A Disney Promotional Photo
Mickey and the Magical Map made its debut at the revamped Disneyland Fantasyland Theater this past weekend and is getting mostly positive reviews though there is room for improvement to the live stage show according to those who have seen it. The highlights seem to be that anything that returns Mickey Mouse to a place of prominence in Disneyland is a good thing and that the Fantasyland Theater itself is now being put the use that it was designed for, namely live entertainment. The show is generally upbeat, imaginative, and colorful and at 22 minutes in length, a nice addition to guests overall Disneyland experience.

Some of the criticisms have come from the odd song selections used from Disney movies, a puppet Sebastian from the Little Mermaid that comes off as more weird the entertaining, lack of costume changes through the various sequences and songs by the on stage performers, an ending that isn't exactly rousing, and the show itself is heavy once again putting the Disney Princesses front and center which seems to have become the overall theme for all of Fantasyland these days.  

Now since I haven't seen the show I can't really be a fair reviewer (there are now full videos on YouTube if you want to check it out though) but here would be my take. The Fantasyland is a huge cavernous space in a park that is space challenged. Using the theater for a princess meet and greet like it has been for the last several years really failed to put the space to a good productive use. If getting in line (sometimes very long lines) to see Princesses wasn't on your Disneyland agenda then there wasn't a reason to give the area for most people a second thought. With Mickey and the Magical Map at least the area is now being used as it was intended and will bring entertainment to a broader spectrum of park guests. BUT..... when it comes down to it..... wouldn't you rather see some sort of ride attraction in that space? 

I suppose Mickey and the Magical Map will play for the next year or two. Live shows and parades tend to be expensive to develop so once they're in place, they stick around for awhile. If Mickey was a walk in like Billy Hill over at the Golden Horseshoe, then it is probably worth my time. If its one of those things you have to line up for long before the show starts, then I'll probably pass. This show isn't Aladdin or anywhere near it.

Funny....  I keep wanting to call it Mickey and the Magical Lamp for some reason.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Disney Collectible Curmudgeon Shows His Stuff

The Partners Statue from DCA
Try as I might, I didn't return home from Disneyland empty handed. A few trinkets made their way into the trunk of the car on the journey home. I admired the replica of the new Disney California Adventure Partners statue ever since Disney Parks Blog posted it last summer. Yep, at $155.00 it is way (,way) overpriced. I'm not even sure what it's made out of. But the little statue now sitting in our curio cabinet looks almost as nice as the real deal in DCA. We caught a bit of a break on the price. When we purchased our AP's, there is the 10% discount on merchandise that comes along with it. However, Disneyland was rolling out 20% discount coupons with meal purchases at park restaurants like it was toilet paper so basically, everything we bought was at a 20% discount. The 20% off the $155.00 makes the little statue a little more pleasing. I don't walk by it and think to myself "what was I thinking spending that much money on something that probably costs a few bucks to actually make". The deal with the 20% discount was that it had to be redeemed between park opening and 1:00 pm and had like about a 5 day expiration. No problem there, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler can shop pretty much any time of the day or night. We just rented a locker and stored up the purchases (which of course, eats up some of the discount - lockers aren't exactly cheap).

Footnote: From a historical perspective, the Partners statue is incorrect. Mickey is standing on a suitcase and the time period is 1923, the year Walt Disney first showed up in Hollywood to begin his empire. The problem is Mickey Mouse didn't make his first appearance until 1928. If Oswald the Rabbit appeared on top of that suitcase in the statue, it would have been a more accurate portrayal of the time. But Disney being Disney, don't let the facts get in the way of making a buck off someone like me. 

The real deal Partners Statue
Mickey and Minnie celebrate a bargain at $25
Next up is the little figurine of Mickey and Minnie's wedding (I suppose). This was spotted by Mrs. DLT and got snapped up quickly because at $25 or there abouts  this was a bargain for what really is a nice piece. And while we were at Disneyland, we were pretty close to our 15th wedding anniversary so the wedding themed figurine seemed to fit the occasion. Compare that $25.00 with a Disney Lenox figurine and its price tag and I had absolutely no issue with Mrs. DLT whipping out the charge card for that one. 

At about $40, this purse was a bargain
Mrs. DLT has a thing for purses, especially Disney purses. Mrs. DLT also will not go anywhere Mickey's Fun Wheel. So while myself, my sister, and her husband took our spins on the Fun Wheel (non-swinging side of course), Mrs. DLT was in the neighboring shops across the way on Paradise Pier and excitedly found this purse. So excited that she called me on my cell phone while I was 200 feet in the air at the top of the Fun Wheel. "Come see this purse she found" she was exclaiming. "Eh....I'm a little busy up here at the moment" as I tried to explain to her with the wind whipping through the Fun Wheel cage. But sure enough, when I got back down to the ground and her found in the store, she already had the purse clutched in her hot little hands. A quick check of the price tag and I told her go for it. The purse was around $40. On a previous trip, somehow I told her to go for a Disney Dooney & Bourke purse - a $200 purse (that she doesn't even use any more). I felt good about the purse with the price (only got the 10% AP discount on this one). And best of all,Mrs. DLT felt good about how the purse looked especially when a castmember asked where she got it because he wanted to get one for his wife.

There were a few other purchases along the way on our 5 day trip. Mrs. DLT picked up a couple of t-shirts for herself. As much as I bulked at the idea saying I don't need or want them, she picked me up a pair of shorts and a lightweight polo shirt (on the day she questioned my wisdom when I showed up to the park with a long sleeve shirt and the temperature approached 90 degrees). We also picked up a nice desktop pirate skull head for the boy back home but this was purchased at the hotel gift shop. We stayed away from the usual pins, mugs, and magnets but did pick up a mouse glove coffee scoop which is quite useful hear at home. All told - I guess our Disney shopping ran a little over $350 as I sit here. It was in the budget and we came home happy. I guess I'm not always a curmudgeon when it comes to Disney shopping.

How'd he get in here
Purse $40 - Herbie the Cat - free

Friday, May 24, 2013

Disneyland's 24 Hours Of (Fill In The Blank)

We are now six hours into Disneyland's 24 hour summer kickoff  (Monstrous Summer). So far, so good, with no reports of ill tempers, gridlock, fist fights, or other forms of mass chaos. The morning began quietly but reports now have the crowds levels starting to increase and the real action should commense shortly. Should be real fun when those showing up for the 24 hr. event get closed off to some of DCA's best attractions which will be put off limits because some bright person thought having a Grad Night at the same time wouldn't be too much of a problem. A crowd of 100,00 - 125,000 thousand people is expected by tonight and doesn't that sound like fun.
Really, I could live around the corner from Disneyland and you couldn't force me in there with a cattle prod today. The older I get the more I've come to recognize the value of a good night's sleep.
Take it easy out there and get home safely.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Soarin' Over California - A Great Ride Grows Stale

Someone recently asked me if I had gone on Soarin' Over California on our most recent trip to Disneyland. Eh...no.... It was closed four of the five days we were there over occupational health and safety issues. Now once upon a time a Soarin' closure, especially an  unexpected one, would have met with a reaction somewhere between sadness and fury. But this time being shut out of Soarin' just caused me to move on. There was no crying, no whining, no fist shaking.....just move on to the next ride.

You see over the years, the must-do Soarin' Over California attraction in DCA has grown a bit stale. I wouldn't say it's boring, just the sense of "been there, done that" a few too many times. The excitement just isn't there as it once was. Kind of a shame really because the technology behind the ride is really amazing and the understated but dramatic queue line with a great music score may be my favorite line to stand in.

With Soarin' - it's all about the movie and there is only so many times you can see the same movie before it gets old, even if you are flying through it. You here it all the time on Disney forums and message boards that the film needs to be updated. Been hearing that for years. Well now the time has finally come, especially considering the huge improvement that was made to Star Tours and the ability to take you to multiple destinations on the ride.

Yes, the film shown in Soarin' should now be able to made digitally on computers without having the expense of sending a film crew all over the world to shoot it. The film could then be easily adapted with more computer work to the movements of the erctor set seating arrangement that sends you into the air. And multiple films could be made and adapted to the same seat movements giving the illusion of several ride experiences when there is really one with multiple destinations projected in front of you.
The complacency that has set in with Soarin' Over California is quite fixable but I suppose as long as there is a demand to get on the ride by park guests, the budget money needed to get the attraction back to its original greatness can be used on other projects. Hopefully changes for the attraction come sooner rather than later. It is far too great of a ride attraction to allow it fall by the wayside with other park and ride updates that are seemingly always taking place. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Disneyland Traveler Turns Green (With Envy)

A view of Paradise Pier from the Grand Californian from this morning

You know how Marvel's The Incredible Hulk can turn a nice parsley shade of green when people get on his nerves and the rage builds? Well, I have my own way of turning green. It starts by waking up this morning and seeing a text message with the photo above attached from a co-worker who is down in Disneyland this week with her daughter and grand-kids (their first time). The photograph is from her balcony as she stays at the Grand Californian. I was in Disneyland a month ago and already I want to go back. The body parts which came back stiff and sore have had sufficient time to heal and the mind is already beginning to think, and plan, and scheme. Pictures like the one above only help to fuel the fire.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Remembering The Comic Book Store

I haven't bought a comic book in over 40 years. I'm not even sure Disney (owner of Marvel Comics) and other comic book publishers even want to print comic books anymore preferring the easier (and much more profitable) digital media to push their characters and stories to PCs, smart phones, and assorted iPads and tablets via subscriptions  One of my favorite shows on TV is The Big Bang Theory where one of the enjoyable pastimes of the geeky gang of scientists is a regular weekly visit to The Comic Book Store. 

So it's been more than 40 years and I still remember my visits to the store where I bought my comic books conveniently situated on the way home from school at the corner of 21st and Mission, San Francisco. I'm sure they sold other stuff in the little convenience store - candy and soda come to mind - but I remember the comics, and being surrounded by 3 small display walls of some of my favorite characters growing up. You know... that little store even had a special smell, probably from all the news and magazine print ink. I still remember it.

The comic books I bought were all Marvel - Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four - those I are the comic book superheroes I remember buying regularly at a price of about 15 cents I believe (I could be wrong but I know it wasn't much). It's funny how life comes full circle sometimes. My comic book buying days lasted maybe two years or so. Last week, I stepped in a movie theater to see Iron Man 3 while about 6 or 7 other Marvel movies rest in my DVD collection. It's almost as if Disney bought Marvel for people like me (along with a new generation of 10 year old boys), grown men who look fondly look back on reading the comic books of childhood.

With the massive success of Iron Man 3 at the box office, I owe Disney a 'thank you' once again for bringing back some of the great memories of being a kid. Then again, Disney probably knew all along there were plenty of people like me who are more than willing to part with some of their hard earned money to recapture their youth.

The first publicity still for Disney / Marvel Studios Captain America The Winter Soldier
Scheduled Release Date: April 4, 2014

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How Disneyland Messed Up The Mighty Matterhorn

During our week's stay at the Disneyland Resort, the refurbishment list had The Matterhorn scheduled to be down for most of our visit for "ride testing". Following the unexpected closure of Space Mountain by Disney and/or the Dept of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), Disney decided to forgo the "ride testing" of the Matterhorn and keep it open. After all, having the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Soarin' Over California all down at the same time might be a bitter pill to swallow for guests wanting to get the most out of their dollars.

Oh those horrible sleds - Ouch
But what exactly is "ride testing"? Well, most Disneyland insiders believe that it is an admission of guilt on the part of Disney that their 6 month refurbishment of the Matterhorn in 2012 may have missed its mark and instead of improving the mighty Matterhorn, they actually made the classic attraction worse - and worse not by a little.....Disney missed the mark completely.

Sure the mountain looks great with a spiffy new exterior paint job that accentuates the snow covered peaks once again, but other than a little clean-up and minor repairs, little was changed with the ride's interior. The big problem was with the new sleds. The Matterhorn is and always has been a bumpy ride. The first steel tubed roller coaster built in the U.S. has a lot of years (built in 1959) and mileage under its belt and every pimple sized blemish is sent right back to the rider. The old tandem sleds, cushioned and very amply spaced absorbed the jolts. It's not like that anymore. The Matterhorn is spine crunching hence the decision by Disney to tinker with the sleds and make them less of a literal pain in the rear. The tinkering is done in "ride testing".

At least the paint job is nice
I didn't ride the Matterhorn when we were there a few weeks ago. My sister came off the ride with a pained expression on her face. "That was horrible. My head and neck actually hurt." she rather regretfully said. No more Matterhorn for her. That was all I needed to hear having no desire to get on a ride only to get beaten up by it. Far too old to go asking for pain. 

And what a shame. The Matterhorn is a great ride gone bad for the sake of lawyers. Sure it's safer and up to code but in doing so, all the fun was taken out and replaced by pain and discomfort.

Fix it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Some Thoughts About Iron Man 3

So where does Iron Man 3, Marvel's latest super-hero movie, fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, IM3 is not as good as last years blockbuster romp - The Avengers. It isn't even as good as the original Iron Man. But Iron Man is a solid, entertaining film in this genre - but a entertaining film with flaws albeit, some of the flaws may be more my personal taste. I did like IM3 better than Iron Man 2 where seeing your super-heroes falling down drunk is not my idea of a good time. I guess in the Marvel movie world, Iron Man 3 comes in middle of the pack - Not as good as the best (Captain America The First Avenger is even better) but better than the worst (Iron Man 2 and Thor are at the bottom of my list).

There is some talk as to whether an aging Robert Downey Jr. (now in his early 50's) should continue on as Tony Stark / Iron Man. Some think he may price himself out of the role given Marvel's reputation as a rather frugal company (I'm sure Disney loves that). Marvel has made comments that they could just go the "James Bond" route and replace actors in franchise movies if circumstances or actors demands dictate a change is needed. My issue with Downey is that as the appearances as Stark / Iron Man mount (now in movie #4) he seems to be increasingly overacting the part, adding complexities to the character that aren't needed or wanted. It's almost as if he adds things to the Stark character to keep himself from being bored by the role. On the other hand, the Gwyneth Paltrow / Pepper Potts role expands in each movie in a very pleasing and graceful way. 
A couple of other quibbles with Iron Man 3. Did I really want to see 42 Iron Men in the sky at one time? Perhaps the true jewel of the first Iron Man is seeing this isolated solitary man of metal kick butt and take names of some very bad men - a super-hero every kid growing up wants to be. With 42 flying Iron Men (mostly remote controlled).... the figure loses some implact. He also seems a little too comfortable sitting on the couch. Some have complained about the Mandarin villian. I read Iron Man comics as a kid and can't recall the Mandarin but apparently he really is a villian and adversary for Iron Man. In the movie, the Mandarin is an actor, a front man for some very sinister and violent acts of terrorism perpetrated by others. This didn't bother me so much and I very much liked the comic aspects of Ben Kingsley performance as the Mandarin.

But issues aside, I enjoyed my 2 hours of Iron Man 3 (seen in IMAX and 3D). I was entertained and caught up in the story. Will I buy it when it comes to home video and Blu-Ray? You bet I will. In about 2 weeks, IM 3 has made close to a billion dollars in world wide box office receipts - a pretty good cash haul for Disney and Marvel.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the Return of Phil

An ABC/Disney/Marvel Publicity Shot for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It will probably be the most eagerly awaited, anticipated new TV series in years. Disney owned ABC has officially announced for the 2013 - 2014 television a new action / adventure series called Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. developed under the watchful eye of Joss Whedon last seen as the writer / director of mega-hit The Avengers. Will we see any of the usual Marvel super-heroes? Don't know but the series will see the return of scene stealer Clark Gregg reprising his role as Agent Phil Coulson.
But didn't Phil die in The Avengers? Yes.... or did he?
Anyway, looks like Tuesday night at 8 pm will be must see TV for Marvel fans.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Disneyland's Riverbelle Terrace - A Chair, A View, A Sandwich

It was our last night in Disneyland and we were going to see Fantasmic. We had given up sitting on that concrete walkway that they try to pass off for a viewing area years ago. What goes down must come back up. Not an easy thing to do at my age after sitting on the ground for hours on end squatting a prime spot. Nope....every Fantasmic viewing since 2005 has been from a table and chairs found at the outside dining area of the Riverbelle Terrace Restaurant. Facing the front of the restaurant, it's usually the table by the railing on the far right. Is it a perfect view? No...not quite, but it is pretty good and I have just what I need....a chair.

Now that table is a prime viewing area. You have to get there early. How early you ask? Kind of depends on how busy the park is. On a Friday night a few weeks ago, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I plopped our rear ends down about 5pm for the 9 o'clock showing of Fantasmic. We have been known to go up as early as 2:30 on a busy day in July. If you think it's crazy, as the day and night wear on, many people will have the same idea. And some think it is perfectly OK for them to show up 15 minutes before showtime and ask if they can join you at the table. Luckily, we usually have enough people in our group to make this rather questionable piece of Disneyland etiquette difficult.

So what exactly do you do when you show up for a show hours before it actually begins? It's called tag-team squatting and the more people you have in your party, the better. On this Friday night, after being in Disneyland since the previous Sunday, I was perfectly willing to sit, and sit, and sit some more. Mrs. DLT, still with a bit more energy than me, decided to use the time for some last minute shopping. While I sat, she shopped. When she came back, she asked if I wanted to go do something. No... I was good. But that's the routine for the table squatting. As long as one person stays behind, others are free to do whatever. My sister and her husband joined us off and on throughout the evening and we all eventually settled in for good about 8 o'clock, an hour before the show started. By that time, the Riverbelle Terrace patio is pretty packed and you find yourself giving yourself a pat on the back for getting there as early as you did.

Not Bad - but $12.99 (plus tax) sandwiches???
The Riverbelle Terrace is a counter service restaurant (cafeteria style) so the seating surrounding the place is open. The bus staff cleaning and wiping down the tables couldn't care less if you actually ordered something from the restaurant. I am not a fan of the food (lunch/dinner) served at the Riverbelle Terrace. Usually we go off in the surrounding areas and bring food back to our viewing table. The Jolly Holiday Bakery or Bengal Bar B Que are good choices for food to bring back to the viewing table. But every once in awhile I feel just guilty enough to actually order something from the Riverbelle Terrace. They mostly have sandwiches and salads. What gives RBT a different twist is that with the roast beef and turkey sandwich offerings, the meat is actually carved rather the usual pressed deli style meat. So the sandwiches are good.....but it's going to cost you...to the tune of about thirteen bucks plus tax, plus drink. I expect to pay high prices in Disneyland for food. It's a given. Of all the food that is offered in the park, I have the hardest time paying for what the Riverbelle Terrace serves up. The sandwiches are good but the accompanying baked beans taste like the kind that are massed produce and come out of a can. Baked beans comes with all sandwiches and you also get a choice of a small cold side dish like fruit, pasta salad, or potato salad. You can't go wrong with fruit I suppose but the prepared salads usually aren't very good. I would probably enjoy the meal if it was about 3 or 4 dollars less. The Jolly Holiday Bakery serves up roast beef and turkey sandwiches at less than 10 bucks and are far better.

For the price of this turkey sandwich plus drink, you could buy a whole turkey.
So that's what I think about The Riverbelle Terrace. Get there early, enjoy the view for Fantasmic, and skip the food. You could do better and cheaper. Note: when we used to take the Boy to Disneyland when he was younger, we would often go to the Riverbelle Terrace for breakfast because they served the classic Mickey Mouse pancakes that kids love.  This goes back to the time when the place was called Aunt Jemima's Pancake House and it was a favorite of Walt Disney. Haven't been there for breakfast for years though.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Very Special Billy Hill Performance

Over the years, I've probably seen Billy Hill and the Hillbillies perform maybe 2 dozen times on the stage of Frontierland's Golden Horseshoe Saloon. It's one of my favorite things to do at Disneyland and as one website called Billy Hill, one of Disneyland's real gems. (Note: I haven't seen them perform on the outdoor stage at Big Thunder Ranch which they do now during busy seasons).

Anyway, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies are highly skilled musicians that mostly play for fun, laughs, and wonderful entertainment. As with any performing band, much of their material, both in songs and comedy routines, remains the same from performance to performance relying a lot on interaction with their audience to keep things fresh and lively (and funny). But once in a while, Billy changes things up and one of the 4 Billy's is allowed to really show what they can do.

It should be noted that while there are 4 Billy's on stage, there are about 9 Billy's performing in teams (green team, blue team, gold team) to accommodate days off, vacations, and such. The 3 Billy's that are most frequently performing are the groups founding members Kirk Wall (front man/MC, guitar, fiddle, fake buck teeth, and fiddle bow up the nose), Dennis Fetchet (fiddle, Orange Blossom Special, and that Train Thing), and John Marshall (stand up bass).

Billy's - Kirk Wall and John David
On our last trip, on a day Kirk Wall wasn't fronting a Billy Hill and Hillbillies, an opportunity to solo was turned over to guitarist John David. Below is his great rendition of Mason Williams guitar classic appropriately named Classical Gas. Apparently he does perform the song in Billy sets every so often but it was the first time I had seen it and was blown away by his picking skills.

If you haven't been to Disneyland, make sure to make time to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies perform. If you go to Disneyland regularly and haven't seen Billy, skip a ride and go see them do their thing. Each performance is about 25 minutes and a whole lot of fun.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Me and Karl Strauss Check Out The World of Color

Prepare to Assemble
They were dropping like flies. It only took 3 little words to send others in my traveling party to go scurrying out of the parks and into "we've got other things to do tonight". The 3 words are World of Color. Mrs. DisneylandTraveler - "I think I'm going back to the hotel to do some laundry." My sister and her husband - "I think we're going over to Tony Roma's for dinner, are you sure you don't want to join us?"

No...it was World of Color night and I'm going to see it. Let's explore.

Mrs. DLT and I watched the Pixar Play Parade, went over to Flo's for dinner, then parted company for the next several hours - she to her laundry and me to the World of Color. Showtime was probably still 2 hours away.

WOC - an insidethemagic.com photo. My pictures of WOC stink.
You've heard and read (and probably seen) what a great show World of Color is. It is. But I'm here to tell you about the other side of WOC, the side that sends some Disney fans fleeing into the night in the opposite direction.

The wait for WOC is an ordeal, an effort in patience and the eventual onset of mighty sore feet. Knowing what my like was going to be like for the next several hours, I paid a visit to an old DCA friend, the Karl Strauss beer truck found in the Pacific Wharf area. Most DCA regulars over 21 know exactly where it is.

So I sat down and thought about my day (fun) and pondered my night (my poor feet) over a couple of the San Diego based micro brewery fine beers - The Red Trolley Ale. Not as potent as the Tower 10 IPA but rich, smooth, and balanced for those that like their hops. And even after finishing, I still had time to kill before the ordeal was to begin.

The Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale - I'll take two please.
I wandered around Paradise Pier and had a good time watching people have a good time. In general, Paradise Pier may be my favorite area of DCA. Disney wanted to capture that seaside amusement park look and feel, and while not perfect, they have improved that area of DCA. Paradise Pier has a feel of completeness about it. Probably easy to do when it basically goes around in a circle.

Bayside Brews - Paradise Pier
It's a long walk from the Pacific Wharf area to the far side of Paradise Pier (well, not really) but a man can work up a thirst on the walk around Paradise Pier. Disney thought of that and put up a beer hut next to the Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta and Paradise Garden Grill restaurants. Over here they serve different kinds of beer from the horrid Bud Light to the excellent Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA. But this was a night for me and Karl Strauss and the Bayside Brews served up the Karl Strauss Pintail Ale a far more herbaceous brew than the Red Trolley Ale. After the Red Trolley Ale, the Pintail Ale tasted like brewed up freshly mowed grass clippings which is kind of funny because I had a Pintail Ale two days earlier with the 5 cheese ravioli from the Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and enjoyed it thoroughly. There's a lesson here somewhere.

Before I made it to the World of Color Mosh pit, there was one more stop to make on the way. Yep, the Corn Dog Castle. The corn dogs from the Corn Dog Castle are so large (and greasy) that me and Mrs. DLT usually split one. Since Mrs. DLT deserted me on this night, I got the whole greasy corn dog to myself. Word of advice that I have passed on before - Disney offers either potato chips or sliced apples with their corn dogs. Pick the slice apples, it cuts through the grease that will begin to do a tap dance in your belly.

And so I arrive at my World of Color viewing area 3 beers (4 if you counts the Racer 5 I had at Flo's with dinner) and 1 corn dog down at about 8:15. Gee, I only have an hour to wait before the scheduled 9:15 show performance. And now you know why everyone else I was with disappeared when it came time for World of Color. As Tom Petty once sang, "the waiting is the hardest part". And for me, not just waiting - standing and waiting. Of course in my younger years, I could have done what many did around me and take a nice comfortable seat on the concrete ground. But I'm now many years on the other side of 40 (or 50) and the sitting on ground part of my trips to Disneyland is something I left behind years ago. No more. So I stood and waited for the World of Color. I actually go a spot by a post and chain link barrier which allowed a slight bit of leaning for some degree of relief. But its no fun, no fun at all waiting for the World of Color.

Another insidethemagic.com WOC photo. I've given up trying to take pictures of it.
So after standing and waiting for the show to begin an hour or more, the show starts. Its 25 minutes long of still more standing. I've written about the World of Color before, its a wonderful spectacle to see but could be better as the show tends more to meander rather than build. Some of the animated sequences work, some don't (Mufasa death scene from The Lion King). If you have never seen the World of Color - you just have to. If you have seen WOC a bunch of times like have, the biggest enjoyment from World of Color comes from the people around you seeing it for the first time. It's more Vegas than Disney. Fantasmic over in Disneyland is still the better nighttime show.

And so my exhausting World of Color night comes to an end. Thanks Karl, I couldn't have done it without you.

PS. For ten bucks ahead cover charge you can see World of Color from a seat at the Cove Bar. Yeah, it's a view from the side and maybe the back but that seat is a valuable commodity at my ages. I smell a new addition to my Disneyland Bucket List coming on.