Downtown Disney

May 19, Part 4: Tortilla Joes

After we woke up from our nap we realized the A/C wasn’t working again–and this time it wasn’t working in either room. We had called engineering every day since we checked in and we just didn’t want to call them again. But that was just the thing that tipped the scales in favor of spending one last night in Downtown Disney for eating and shopping and then driving home to see our kitties and reassuring ourselves that everything was okay at home. This was the first time we had been away from home for so many days in five years. When we lived in Florida, we only stayed overnight one night at a time.

There were so many places to eat at Downtown Disney but we really wanted to try Tortilla Joe’s and that was about all we were up for eating anyway after that big lunch at the beach. Rich placed our order at the walk-up window (there is a separate restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating as well) and then sat down with me while we waited for our name to be called. We didn’t hear it but another nice guest walked over to tell us our order was ready. Are these friendly people all Californians or out-of-staters? I don’t remember my fellow Californians being so friendly. LOL! Or maybe after our journey, we’ve changed–not as stressed–and are now attracting friendly vibes.

We shared an order of two different kinds of tacos and they were scrumptious–we will definitely be back to try the restaurant.

Tortilla Joe’s Tacos: 2 corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, and choice of meat

1 order of Marinated Beef Tacos
1 order of Shredded Pork Tacos

After we ate, we headed for World of Disney—similar to but not as large as the one at WDW. We bought two picture frames for the photos that were taken of us. BTW, we forgot to mention the gift shop at the Grand Californian, which was a favorite. In fact, before this trip we were hoping to buy a light blue wrap to put on our couch and we found the exact color at this gift shop with the Disneyland logo on it. We bought that and we really loved this store—the CM was very friendly and the shop had a lot of nice stuff in it.

After World of Disney, we stopped in at Basin (a favorite from our WDW days), but didn’t find anything we had to have. We popped into Compass Books and Café, which was a wonderfully large book store for a Disney location we thought. We noticed many books on baseball. I, of course, believe that baseball and California are synonyous (grandpa was a pro pitcher). LOL.

We checked out Marceline’s Confectionary but were afraid any of the chocolate items would melt so we didn’t purchase anything. And we stopped in at Island Charters, which had delightful beach-themed merchandise. But what caught our attention was Willie Nelson’s Reggae CD being played. It was way cool! We purchased that and more about that in our final comments.

We headed for the Disneyland Hotel and was approached by a CM with a survey about our thoughts on Downtown Disney–we loved it! Then we continued on our way to the Hotel (under the Mickey hat) for a quick look around to see if we’d like to stay there in the future. I stayed there years and years ago and was curious how it stood up today. This was the first time I had seen the NeverLand Pool since the redo and noticed how much nicer the pool area and grounds are here compared to Paradise Pier. The pool area may even be nicer than the Grand Californian’s pool area. We concluded that this would be a good choice during pool weather.

Next: Check out, Drive Home and Final Thoughts

Balboa Pier

May 19, Part 3: Ruby’s on the Pier

We were bubbling over with ideas about which beach we wanted to go to but the top three were:

  • Newport Beach
  • Balboa Island
  • Corona del Mar

We ended up at Balboa Pier and after parking the car, we walked along the beach for a bit, watching people enjoying the beach and watching the waves. It was a week day so it wasn’t very crowded at all.

Then we decided to walk to the end of the pier. And since we were ready for lunch by then, we decided to have lunch at Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier.

The man who seated us by the window was very friendly. It was a small room but there was additional seating on the rooftop patio, which opened after we were seated. We preferred to sit inside because it was another hot day.

I had the yummy Kobe Beef Sliders, French Fries, and a Strawberry Milkshake and Rich had a BLTA (A=Avocado) Club with French Fries and a Double Vanilla Milkshake. Everything was scrumptious and just what you need on a day at the beach. (I wish I were there right now having lunch.)

After our tasty meal we decided to continue touring the beach communities from the car. So we headed south on Highway 1 and I reminisced about my childhood going to these beaches all summer long. One of our favorite family outings was to drive around Balboa Island just as it was nearing dusk. We eventually reluctantly turned back at Irvine and back to Paradise Pier in time for a short rest and an evening at Downtown Disney before heading home.

Next: Final Night at Downtown Disney

Evening Wrap-Up

May 18, Part 9: Changes to DL During Fireworks

We took our favorite route past Big Thunder Mountain (love this ride at DL—haven’t ridden it since that fatal accident several years ago but may have to rethink that on future trip), past Big Thunder Ranch and through the back door to Fantasyland. We love Disneyland’s Fantasyland—especially at night. And, in the past, unlike WDW, jumping on rides during the parade was a great way to catch up on a bunch of rides. So, we headed for Storybook Land Canal Boats. Uh, what do you mean this ride is closing because of the fireworks? We headed for several more Fantasyland rides—closed and roped off for the parade. Yikes! This was one of the most frustrating things about the MK at WDW and now it’s caught on at DL. Help! This is not my Disneyland.

We noticed the Matterhorn was operating so we got in line for that. The line moved quickly and we were soon seated in our bobsled, each with our own seat. We had read that the Matterhorn was getting new seats and we were hoping it was so because these seats are very tight for two adults—unless one or both of you is quite small. I used to do the squeeze in my 20s, but, well, that’s been a while now. The Matterhorn was a blast! It had become the symbolic ride for returning to Disneyland so this ride was a must!

Because of the parade, there wasn’t much more we wanted to do in Fantasyland so we headed back to Adventureland to kill some time before our FP for Indy. We decided to go ahead and get in line for Indy but just as we did, the ride closed due to malfunction. We browsed the shops in Adventureland—love this place—especially after dark—and then we seemed to be surrounded by loud noises everywhere. The parade, Fantasmic, and the fireworks all seemed to be going off at the same time.

Note: After living two miles from the MK at WDW and listening to fireworks going off every single night, we hate fireworks! I know—it sounds like such an un-Disney thing to say. But my ears still ring after living that close to what sounded like gunfire going off outside our window every single night. The fireworks were perhaps exacerbated by the layout of the Townhome community, causing a ricocheting effect.

But by now we noticed Indy was back up and running and the line was short, so instead of waiting for our FP, we jumped in line. And what can I say other than this is the best ride on Planet Earth? Okay, so it’s my kind of ride. It touches the adventuresome spirit inside of me and it becomes the biggest thrill ever. Now Rich loves ToT because he loves that freefall feeling, but Indy gives me that big adventure experience (it is in “Adventureland” after all), which I much prefer. It’s just awesome.

Note: My back/tailbone area has been acting up since our last move and this ride really hit it where it hurts most. Without notice the muscles can start to spasm, sending shooting pain up and down my spine so I had to give an all-out effort to hold my back perfectly still—squeezing my stomach muscles as tightly as I could. Well, that worked—my back didn’t go out—but the muscles in my stomach killed me for about a week—I could barely sit up—it hurt so much. But it was worth it!! LOL!

By this time we were absolutely exhausted and we still had to walk all the way back to Paradise Pier (the monorail closed early tonight due to the fireworks). This is when you really want to stay at the Grand Californian—the location is perfect for everything. We gave our Indy FPs to a couple waiting in line and it we hiked back to the resort, up the slow elevator for 15 flights and crawled into bed. We knew then that we’d never make it back to DL early next morning before going to the beach.

Next: Beach Day

Dole Whip Float

May 18, Part 8: Disneyland

Where were we? Oh yes, we just finished the Winnie the Pooh ride. By now we decided it was time for a Dole Whip so we headed back to Adventureland.

Note: it was so great to spend time to/fro New Orleans Square – one of our favorite lands in Disneyland and one that WDW doesn’t have. We had planned to spend more time there dining/snacking but once we discovered Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and the surrounding authentic New Orleans atmosphere, we spent more of our time at DD. One night there was a fabulous blues musician performing between the Jazz Kitchen and the House of Blues. Later, we wished we had picked up one of his CDs.

Anyway, back to Adventureland and the Dole Whip at Tiki Birds. At DL it’s located right at the Tiki Birds attraction – one side open to those already inside the outside portion of the attraction and the other side open to those passing by. We were of the latter and the line was long, but we were soon enjoying our Dole Whip Floats.

Note: The last time we were at Disneyland, they only had Dole Whips and since then we had become accustomed to enjoying a Dole Whip Float at WDW. Thinking we would have to settle for just a Dole Whip (such a sacrifice), we were happy to learn Disneyland also has Dole Whip Floats now. Also, no need to walk past the spitting camel Aladdin ride because DL doesn’t have that – yay!

Our First Look at DCA

Saturday, May 17, Part 7: DCA from the Grand Californian

While the two engineers were working in the room, housekeeping stopped by to ask if we wanted turndown service. Rich said no but he accepted the stack of chocolates she handed to him. I was a bit disappointed since I love turndown service so Rich turned down the bed and turned on the low lights over the bed and spread out the chocolates just below the pillows. He’s a very talented guy.

We were good to go. Since we already had a sneak peek into Disneyland that afternoon and we were anxious to see DCA for the first time, we headed for DCA via the Grand Californian. Tomorrow morning was “Magic Morning” and Disneyland would open at 7 am (yikes, that’s early) for those staying on-property. The thought at that time was we would do DCA tonight and Disneyland tomorrow morning.

We crossed the street and jogged to the left to the Grand Californian porte-cochere. Directly across the street from Paradise Pier is where they’re constructing the Grand California DVC Villas—can’t wait to take a tour of that on our next trip.

As soon as we entered the Grand Californian we knew we were on Disney property. Okay, so maybe hotels like Paradise Pier would have been good enough before we spent so much time at the wonderful resorts at WDW, but having done that, the standard has been raised. It was an interesting juxtaposition—knowing we were at Disneyland but feeling, resort-wise, that we were back at Disney World. It looked and felt so much like Wilderness Lodge.

We took a tour of the resort, including the gift shop, noted the restaurants, pool area and entry into DCA and decided we must come back at Christmas and stay here. Entering DCA we landed in the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area. Grizzly River Run—the whitewater raft ride was still quite popular as the weather was still quite hot. But we stuck to the shade and were quite comfortable. We popped into Rushin River (play on the “Russian River” in Northern California) Outfitters and took a look around—really loved the atmosphere there.

By this time we were hungry so we headed for the Pacific Wharf Area. While we really enjoyed the architecture—so reminiscent of the San Francisco Bay Area where we lived for over 20 years—the eating areas were a bit disappointing. Why had I pictured Rita’s Baja Blenders to overlook the water the way the Margarita Bar did at Downtown Disney at WDW? We thought the Asian restaurant (forget the name and can’t find it listed anywhere so maybe it’s never open—did it used to be Pucks?) looked good but it wasn’t open. We walked up to San Andreas Shakes and the CM said, “We’re closing” just as we got there. Huh?

The menu at Pacific Wharf Café didn’t appeal to us, there was a very long line at Farmer’s Market and Cucina Cucamonga. We were getting hungrier by the minute and the hungrier we were, the more difficult it was getting to be to make a decision of which long line to stand in. We had a PS at the Vineyard Room for tomorrow night but with the heat and desire to see and do as much as we could, we weren’t sure we would make any of the sit down meals. This was more of a scoping out trip.

So, we wandered over to the Terrace Wine Tasting and were quite impressed with their long list of wines by the glass. Nothing like a delicious glass of Eschelon French Pinot Noir to take the edge off your hunger. We would have liked to have sat down to enjoy the wine but all of the tables were taken by families (one table was completely filled by kids) waiting for their Wine Country Trattoria PS. We would like to see some improvements here: have a more private seating area for those wine tasting (read: adults only) separate from the families waiting to eat at either the Trattoria or Vineyard Room.

In fact, as we were standing in line for our wine, a kid started screaming at the top of his lungs that seemed to go on forever. The woman in front of us turned to us and said, “That sure is annoying. I was hoping to relax with a quiet glass of wine.” We agreed.

We took our wine back over to the Farmer’s Market area and grabbed a picnic table. We weren’t really too impressed with this area because it just seemed like one big food court. I pictured these eating areas as being more integrated into an attraction area.

After our wine, we headed for Paradise Pier—the one part of DCA that is the most heavily criticized. We agree with the criticisms. Maybe it’s too reminiscent of a tacky beach theme park—Disney seemed to make no attempt to Disneyfy it—other than add Mickey to a roller coaster. The attractions are too pedestrian. What we’d like to see is more of a Boardwalk/World Showcase area like at WDW complete with water, Friendship boats, and a hotel like the Boardwalk Inn or Yacht Club. Heaven knows, Disneyland could use more resorts like at WDW—Disneyland’s weakest link. We tried to hunt down a place to eat but still no success.

At the far end of Paradise Pier, we finally found food at Pizza Oom Mow Mow, which had fabulous pizza. Rich had a slice of sausage and mushroom and I had the barbecue chicken—huge slices and delicious!

We walked back to Paradise Pier and awaiting us in our “Big Kahuna Suite” was a plate with 2 Chocolate-Coated Mickey Head Rice Krispy Treats. YUM! YUM! We shared one and saved the other for the next day.

Next: Alarming Morning

The Big Kahuna Family of the Day

Saturday, May 17, Part 2: The Arrival

We parked the car in the self-park parking garage and headed over to the Registration Desk around 12 noon. Imagine our surprise when the CM said, “Welcome. You’re the Big Kahuna Family of the Day.” We were being upgraded to the Big Kahuna Suite, we were each given a lei, several Mickey balloons, and the CM took our picture in front of the Surfer Dude Goofy, which we could pick up later at the desk when it was ready. Woo hoo!

She then asked, “Is this anybody’s birthday?” and because this was an early birthday celebration, I said, “Yes, it’s mine.” She asked my name and then she proceeded to give me a personalized “Happy Birthday” pin with my name on it.
Well, by now, we were feeling really special. We couldn’t wait to see the suite and we were hoping this meant it would be ready right then–-or why else would they be bestowing such an honor right now? Well, it was not ready yet (slight disappointment here), but we were given a number to call to check when it would be ready.

Anaheim was having a heatwave and when California has a heatwave, it is not pleasant. In fact, it starts to get humid and, coming in from the dry desert of Las Vegas, we were feeling like we were back in Florida. 🙂 How ironic that we would decide to celebrate my birthday in May instead of July to avoid the heat. LOL.

So how to kill some time before our room would be ready? Downtown Disney for lunch? Disneyland to activate our Annual Passes? What about our luggage and what about my purse? I didn’t want to walk around Disneyland and go through bag check with my purse. So we checked in our bags with the valet desk, grabbed our IDs, held on tightly to our AP vouchers, and headed for Downtown Disney.

Next: Deja Vu at Rainforest Cafe

The Big Kahuna Family’s Welcome Home

The day after we post a trip report segment on Passporter, we’ll post it here, later to be archived in the “Trip Reports” section. So, let’s get started with “The Big Kahuna Family’s Welcome Home” trip report.

Saturday, May 17, Part One: The Journey

We started loading the car at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and were soon on our way. It was fun driving in the desert and we were sailing down the road, sipping our coffee, and starting to get hungry. I asked Rich where the breakfast cookies were and he said, “Oops, I think we forgot to pack them—guess we really didn’t want to eat those.” LOL. We stopped off at Burger King in Baker—a place I had car problems before so it was a bit nerve wracking getting off the road and stopping in Baker. But, alas, no problems this time. We each got a croissant breakfast sandwich and were back on the road.

As we drove past Ghost Town Road, I pointed out the sign to Calico and we made note that we should go see Calico again. I hadn’t done that in years and this was something we could do on a day trip. It was a glorious feeling to turn south at Barstow—our first milestone—and head for Victorville. I had heard a lot about how much it had changed but it seems to have changed for the better, IMHO.

I started seeing more familiar landmarks and we stopped for gas in Norco. Oh boy, now there’s a story. Years ago my mother threatened to move us from our beach city to Norco and I cried all night. She changed her mind then but later moved us all the way to Oregon. Maybe I should have settled for Norco. LOL. Norco had changed but it still retained its cowboy feeling. The good news was we found gas for less than $4 per gallon.

We were soon on our way and the traffic was picking up a bit. I recognized signs that I hadn’t thought about since I was a kid hanging out with my grandmother—street signs such as “Jurupa” and “Limonite.” We couldn’t decide between taking the Riverside Freeway or the Pomona Freeway and we decided on the Riverside. We decided to try the Pomona Freeway on the way back. I remember when the Pomona Freeway didn’t even exist and we had to take Harbor Blvd. right past Disneyland to drive from our beach city home to my grandmother’s house in Pomona. My how things have changed.

But not much longer and we were exiting on Ball Road, turning left onto Disneyland Drive and noticing the brand-new Downtown Disney entrance for the first time—it felt like we were approaching Disney World. It was so exciting and felt great to be back home.

Next: The Big Kahuna Family of the Day