Final Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend Post: & Everything Else

I'm finally getting to the last post of my Disneyland Half Marathon Experience, and what I'm deeming to be my favorites post (although, the page is currently blank). The reason I am considering this my favorite post is that it encompasses all things vacation that do not include running. If you haven't read my other posts yet, I suggest you check them out:

DLR Meetup: DLR Meetup
10k & Half Marathon Recaps: DLR 10k & Half Marathon Recaps

Before I get into all the details of the trip, I must say this. Every single cast member we interacted with was unbelievably nice, accommodating and considerate. It was clearly noticeable from our first step onto property and last step leaving, so much I was really taken aback. This is something you don't really experience at Walt Disney World as much as you used to. Maybe, because the resort is smaller Disney can be more selective, I don't know. But, hat's off to the Disneyland Cast Members, you all were great!

The other overall note is the lack of shade or inside dining, especially in California Adventure. Every day of the trip, the temperature hit 94 and it was humid. Sadly, finding respite from the heat was a challenge with most dining being outdoor. Perhaps it was a weather fluke, but we wished the Disney parks had more air conditioned environments. 

My wife and I have not been to Disneyland in over 8 years. Being from Florida and having family there, we tend to hit the east coast Disney parks. However, since we had to be in California for the races, we decided to experience all Disneyland had to offer by staying at the Disneyland Hotel. I originally lobbied, passionately for the Grand Californian, but my wife brought up a good point. Since we always stay at the Wilderness Lodge when visiting Walt Disney World (which is not that dissimilar from the Grand Californian), we decided to stay at the original hotel in a premium level room. From my other posts, we originally weren't happy with the room, but it actually turned out to be a great one, so no worries. Our bed had LEDs that lit up in the headboard in the shape of Sleeping Beauty Castle and of fireworks exploding. A thoughtful addition from Disney, but which turned out to be the subject of a constant stream of tasteless jokes between my wife and I throughout the vacation.
We're like school in the class.
Resort Activities
We ate at Tangoa Terrace more than I would care to admit (especially with Downtown Disney right there), but it was so convenient. The food was as typical as typical goes: hamburgers, flatbreads, salads and sandwiches, mostly. None of which were standouts but also weren't terrible either. They also had a decent breakfast of egg wraps and platters.

The place I had really been anticipating was Trader Sam's and it did not disappoint! For those of you who love(d) the Adventurer's Club in the old WDW Pleasure Island complex, Trader Sam's is like its cool uncle who rides a Harley and swears. While the AC had floor upon floor of nooks and crannies to explore, Trader Sam's is a postage stamp and everybody knows everything that goes on. My wife ordered the Krakatoa and the place came to life. Tikis played the drums, volcanoes erupted, ships in bottles sank and the place began to rain (well, it was a water bottle from the bartender, but hey, it was still good showmanship). We found ourselves here a lot by ourselves and with friends Jen (@TRVLGRL25), Katie (@greenREVkt), Kim (@KimRunsDisney), Dawnley (@Hipster_Runner), Tracy (@ATurtlesPace), among others. It's such a great place, you have to check it out when at the Disneyland Hotel.

You Must Visit!!
I forgot how small it is, but they really pack a great experience into it. Brimming with history, we didn't want to miss any of it, so we spent as much time here as possible (the following recap is over a few different days condensed into one recap per park). I won't touch on Disney's terrible decision to close the Haunted Mansion the day before we arrived for Halloween changeover, or Big Thunder being down, but I will say those were major disappointments.

We started with lunch at the Carnation Cafe and ran into Oscar, of course. If you don't know Oscar, he's the longest tenured cast member at Disneyland with 55 years experience and he's one happy (and talkative) guy. He'd better get a window on Main Street when (if) he retires.
PB&J Soda
After lunch, we made our way through the park, starting with Adventureland and Indiana Jones & the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. This is my second favorite Disneyland attraction and it was amazing as always. We made our way around to Critter Country, but decided against Splash Mountain until later in the day. Moving towards the rest of the park, I decided to take my wife on the Mark Twain riverboat to show her the old Nature's Wonderland mine trains. As we ascended the decks, the riverboat captain asked us if we wanted to ride in the pilot's cabin, so we headed up to the very top of the boat. We struck up a great conversation with the captain and I mentioned how I used to be a cast member at Disney World, a mention I think she really appreciated. We spent the entire trip talking about cast member things, rather than "on stage" things, which was really nice. We even got to ring the bell and blow the whistle, childish delights no doubt, but it was a nice touch.
Okay, so we may have ragged on a few iPad photographers, too.

So, can I just run up there whenever I want?

Heading into Fantasyland, I had the experience my favorite attraction, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. The forever classic Disney dark ride is just so good and takes me back to being a little kid and trying to steer MacBadger/Toady/Moley's old car. In today's politically correct environment, it's nice to know you can still steal a car, commit suicide and go to Hell. Kudos Disney!
A great, terrifying story!
I won't bore you with all of the attractions & shows, but here are some highlights.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 1,000 times better than WDW but I can't ride it anymore due to the sheer number of moronic knuckleheads who insist on taking flash pictures on the ride. If you take flash pictures on that ride, you are a knucklehead. STOP IT!
- The Jungle Cruise: The first time we rode, the skipper was terrible. But, we decided to ride again at night and the skipper was killer! She even had a hairstyle from the 1930's to boot. I wish I could remember her name.
- Shrunken Ned: A Disney classic. You'll have to find him.

"A bit of jungle humor, there I say, what."
- Splash Mountain: I was in the front seat and due to the, um uneven weight distribution of the flume, I got full on soaked. Still a fun ride (Disney: fix the birds on the riverboat)
Water in my mouth!!!!
- Space Moutain: Too many turns, not enough drops. Music in the seats is good, though.
- Disneyland Railroad: Please continue to leave it the way it is. Are those real animals gone through taxidermy?
- The Seas with Nemo: Really well done, but I couldn't get over how deep some of the show rooms were and kept thinking there is no way to evac us all in time if something goes wrong.
- The Matterhorn:  My back still hurts. Worth it.
- It's A Small World: I love this ride. Yes, I am a sadist.

We also had some great food, namely the Blue Bayou. This has always been a family favorite and I couldn't wait to dig in. By all means, you must, must, MUST order the shrimp cocktail. In fact, order 12. I couldn't shut up about it the whole trip.  We also had a chimichanga for breakfast (a running joke between my wife and I), and of course, a Dole Whip, which I would happily wait in line for years to enjoy.
I'll take 5 of those, thank you.

Disney California Adventure
We also took a few days to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of DCA. First of all, the rehab of the park is simply awesome. Being a fan of all things yesterday, I love Carthay Circle so much. It feels straight out of 1920/1930 California (so I'm told). Great job, Disney!
Nice touch!
We headed over to Radiator Springs to check out all of it's PIXAR goodness and wow, it was cool. Cars isn't one of my faves, but it certainly was well represented here. I won't talk much about Radiator Springs Racers, except to say IT. IS. AWESOME! I normally tend to be pretty gruff at new Disney attractions, but this one was really well done, with themeing, animatronics, audio, lighting and pace all firing in perfect unison to provide an experience like no other. We also really enjoyed Luigi's Tires. Not so much the ride itself, rather watching people try to work the cars. Hilarious!

Other highlights:
- Soarin: No different than WDW, but still a winner
- Tower of Terror: This poor excuse for an MGM/DHS clone, but the cast members made it a lot of fun.
- Monster's Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue: Okay, what's going on here? There's a lot of room to add something new. Let's get that done.
- Mickey's Funwheel: My wife's favorite. We had to ride. I hate my wife.
Damn you, Mickey's Fun(?) Wheel
 We ate at Carthay Circle for the World of Color package one night. The food was pretty good and the staff was extremely nice, but what ruined the experience were the two knuckleheads at the table next to us. Between bickering with each other, the guy (who was a total dick) bossed the staff around like he was the most important person on earth. I hope they got a flat tire on their trip home. Seriously, these were awful, awful people.

We also ate at the Cocina Cucamonga for lunch and surprisingly, it was really good. I had the chicken tacos and my wife had the burrito, both were flavorful and filling. Whatever they use to season the chicken, it was terrific.

My final observation has to do with the nighttime shows. As mentioned above, we decided to the the Carthay Circle/World of Color dinner package to get good seating for the show. After all was said and done, the seating wasn't terrible, but it was extremely crowded. For the show itself, I'm only going to say I liked the technology to present the show (plus, having guests' Mickey ear hats interact with the show was genius), but the show itself was boring. The lack of story and the pacing left me bored after about five minutes. Fantasmic, on the other hand, was unbelievable! We caught the second show on Labor Day and were so glad we did. The Peter Pan scene, itself is worth the price of admission, and the Malificient Dragon is excellent. Clearly, Fantasmic is the better show.

So, awards time:
Best Park: Disneyland
Best Disneyland Attraction: Mr. Toad
Best DCA Attraction: Radiator Springs Racers
Best Overall Attraction: Radiator Springs Racers
Best Nostalgic Attraction: The Jungle Cruise
Best Attraction Ruined by Guests: Pirate's of the Caribbean
Best Queue: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye
Best Non-Attraction Experience: Shrunken Ned
Best Bar: Trader Sam's
Best Nighttime Show: Fireworks over our bed
Best Real Nighttime Show: Fantasmic
Best Attraction to Watch Me Vomit: Mickey's Fun Wheel
Best Restaurant: The Blue Bayou
Best Coastal Attraction (meaning attraction is at both DLR & WDW): Pirates of the Caribbean
Best Window on Main Street: The Sherman Brothers
Best Yeti That Works: The Matterhorn
Best Attraction that Had to Switch Its Vehicles Due to America: It's a Small World
Best Dessert: Dole Whip
Best Attraction to Make Me Panic: The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Best Place to Stay Cool: Innoventions
Best Reason to Go Back: All of the Above

We really had a great time on our trip, both running and non. We ran into old friends, but sadly missed out on seeing others, met new friends and had an absolute blast. We're' already thinking about next year's trip. Hope to see you there!
Aw, fo realz?