Saturday was an event I look forward to all year: Media Family Day at Disneyland -- which, for the last few years (at least) is also Gay Day at Disneyland. I'm not sure exactly why that tickles me so much: there's nothing really different about the group: men, women, couples and families -- all enjoying a day at the park.
Maybe it's all those red shirts. Or maybe it's the 70s disco tunes we heard wafting through Downtown Disney one year (probably a coincidence). We just always seem to have fun.
Of course, it could simply be the Halloween theme. The park is decked out with pumpkins, the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain have been retooled for the season, and there are lots of photo ops with Disney's most popular villains (I saw "Cruella De Ville" more than once on Saturday).
Socal Mom Tip: Arrive Early
Our family has a strategy for our Disneyland visits: we aim to get there right when the park opens so we can cram in as many rides as we can before the lines get unbearably long. That means heading straight to one of the more popular rides (like Indiana Jones) and grabbing a Fastpass -- then to another popular ride (like Space Mountain). This allowed us to enjoy some of the Disney classics in time for California Adventure's opening at 10:00.
I wasn't able to do that this year. For the first time in ages, I did not arrive at the park until after noon. And even if I had gotten there early, I would have had to recalibrate my rideshare plan. For one thing, CA Adventure now opens at 8:00 a.m. And for another, the new hot "E" ticket ride is the new Radiator Springs Race Car attraction in Cars Land. I discovered just how hot it was when I wandered out that way about 2:00 p.m. and discovered that there were no more FastPasses to be had for that ride for the day. And the wait time without one was a whopping 105 minutes.
It's All Happening on Buena Vista Street
I missed the summer unveiling of the new parts of California Adventure, so ended up spending a lot of time there on Saturday. I was entranced by the renovated entrance, Buena Vista Street, which was inspired by the Los Angeles Walt Disney encountered when he first settled here in 1923. And even though I'm not as old as that, the replicated street looked much like the city I remember when I was little.
Buena Vista Street culminates with a replica of the Carthay Circle Theater, which was where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered back in 1937. I'm pretty sure my mom and dad took me to see a movie there when I was a kid (before 1969, when the place was torn down).
The re-constructed replica of Carthay Circle is an elegant restaurant, with something of a surprise for longtime Disney fans: a full bar on the ground floor, which serves actual cocktails.
And on 2:00 in the afternoon on a day of special events for media, families and gay folks (and I'm sure there was plenty of overlap between those groups) -- that bar was hopping.
The period Mission Revival architecture of the "theater" is carried into the interior decor. The place is gorgeous, the menu sounds great -- and I plan on making reservations the next time I go, just so I can sit there for a while and admire it. (It's also good to know that purchasing an entree and a dessert can also get you a spot for premiere viewing of California Adventure's World of Color show -- another newish Disney attraction I've not yet had the chance to see. So I'm thinking I definitely need to include it in the plan for my next trip!)
One more thing about the new Buena Vista Street: The Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe there features Disney's first Starbucks! (So I can get two of my five favorite "food groups" right there in California Adventure.)
I wrote about Cars Land for AskPatty over the summer -- before I had a chance to see it. Now that I was there, I HAD to take some photos of my own (you know -- because it's not enough to just use the beautiful, professional ones on the Disney media site. I have to do it myself):
But the highlight of my Halloween Disney visit was meeting up with Sweatpants Mom and her family. It was nice, because we have a similar dynamic: We sent the teenagers off on their own and then we headed out to Downtown Disney for tapas and drinks.
For the last two Disney visits, my husband and I have dined at Catal, the Patina group's outlet at Disney. It turns out that this is something of a tradition for them, too. We sat at the outdoor bar, where they're celebrating Oktoberfest with a variety of beer (although Marsha and I stuck with cosmos).
We ordered small plates off the bar menu, including ahi tacos, cod fritters, garlic fries and grilled asparagus. Everything was out of this world.
Satisfied, we headed back to the park for the ultimate Halloween ride: the Haunted Mansion. During Halloween and Christmas, it becomes a Nightmare Before Christmas adventure, which is a lot of fun for fans of the Tim Burton classic. Each year I look forward to seeing what kind of gingerbread cake the park's pastry chef has created for the dinner and dancing scene (yes, it's real gingerbread and every year it's different!)
Anyway, this was the scariest part of the evening, because it had become so very crowded. Disneyland is a lot of fun at night, there are fabulous evening shows (Fantasmic! is staged right by the Haunted Mansion, and it is spectacular). And people just like to be there after dark.
All in all, it was another wonderful day at the Park.
DISCLOSURE: I was not paid for this post. I was, however, comped park-hopper tickets as part of Media Family Day.