My morning started at 3 a.m. East Coast time. I didn’t actually have to get up until 3:30, but I was so freaked out about sleeping through my alarm I woke up early. This should be a shock to no one. You know that commercial for Disney World where the kids are too excited to sleep? Yup, that was me. At least it was kind of nice not to be rushing around getting out the door.
I left my house at about 3:40 to head to JFK for the first time. It was really weird to be the only car in sight on the Garden State Parkway. This is one of the busiest highways in NJ and it’s also part of my commute every day and how I get to the shore. I’m used to it being jammed with cars, but at 4ish a.m. there were only a few others on the road. It was all smooth sailing til I got to the George Washington Bridge where there was already traffic build up. Welcome to New York. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad and I eventually found my way to where I was leaving my car for the next few days.
I had never used one of those third party lots, before but it was really a pretty pleasant experience and I’d do it again. The lines at JFK were not nearly as long as I thought they’d be and I was at my gate with time to spare. If there’s one thing lamer than sitting around the airport, it’s sitting around the airport before the sun comes up. Soon enough we boarded and off we went to California!
We even landed a few minutes early; how does that happen from JFK to LAX? Whatever, I’ll take it. It wasn’t so bad finding my way around an unfamiliar airport and soon I was on the Super Shuttle to bring me to the first night’s hotel. The Super Shuttle was fine, but it seemed to never end. There was only one other guy in the van when it picked me up so we drove around to the other terminals like three times picking other people up before we actually left the airport. I had to have been in the car at least 45 minutes before we actually left. I guess I can’t complain too much since it cost like $15, but at the time I just wanted to get there.
Eventually I was reunited with Doug at the Best Western where we stayed the first night. Yay! After a quick dump of my suitcase and a change of clothes I was off to the parks. We don’t mess around. First thing was first, and I had to buy my pass. This year I opted to buy the Premier Pass good for all the parks in the US. My credit card cried a little, but it made the most fiscal sense for my trips in the coming year. Of course, I had to take the Disney nerd picture with my Golden Ticket.
We met up with a bunch of our other friends shortly there after so they could see my reaction to Main Street and the castle. Everything is so tiny at Disneyland! Cute, but tiny! And that’s not a castle, it’s a house. Sleeping Beauty got jipped. I’ve appraised bigger houses than that.
After a bit of wandering around and saying “wait, why is that over there?” We did a few attractions and caught up with each other a bit. There was an overarching theme of confusion for me on most of the trip, but especially on that first day. “Why can’t I find the bathroom?” “Why is Splash in Critter Country?” “Where is Liberty Square?” You get the idea. I really loved seeing Disneyland, it just bewildered me.
Rather than going through a blow by blow of every attraction maybe I’ll just say this: there are definitely some things that are better in Disneyland and some that are better in Disney World and some that only exist in one place. I couldn’t help but make comparisons, but it didn’t necessarily mean that I like the overall experience at one coast or another better, they are just different animals. Disney World feels like home for me so it is where I am more comfortable and nostalgic. I really loved my time in Disneyland, but it’s not quite the same for me.
Anyway, after running around the parks for a while, including taking a spin on the canoes. (Don’t stop paddling!) It was time to head to Disney’s California Adventure for the first time. The new renovations are just gorgeous! We had a reservation for Carthay Circle, so my first impression was solely centered around Buena Vista Street since the restaurant is right in the center of the new area. I don’t really know what it looked like before, but now it’s pretty gorgeous.
Carthay Circle is also gorgeous… but that’s about where the good stuff ends. This restaurant has been touted as a a fine dining experience within a theme park since it opened in June. They’ve got a lot of work to do to get there. Our experience was not an especially positive one with crappy service and bland food. I mean how does bacon wrapped shrimp have no flavor? Bacon is supposed to make everything better. A few of my friends liked their dishes, but on the whole everyone was disappointed since this was supposed to be Disney’s great new restaurant. It got a big, fat meh from most of us. If you’re heading west any time soon, you may want to skip it til the get themselves together.
To boot I’m pretty sure I left my credit card in the little folder they put the check into. Annnnd of course they claimed they couldn’t find it, sent me to lost and found who couldn’t find anything either. Worse things have happened, but it’s never fun to have to deal with a real world issue when you’re on vacation.
We headed out after dinner to get our first look at Cars Land. Holy crap, Cars Land. It is freaking amazing. My friend Lee took us around to the back entrance so we could get the big reveal of the rock work surrounding Radiator Springs Racers. Whoa. Brace yourself for it, kids. We hit a couple rides before it was time for us to go see World of Color.
We totally got duped into getting the “Glow with the Show” ears. I’m usually able to fend those sorts of things off better, but they are just so fun. Anywho, World of Color has been talked up like crazy ever since it’s debut a few years ago so I went in with crazy high expectations. The water, the lights, and the music are beautiful and I really enjoyed the show, but I didn’t think it was the greatest thing I had ever seen.
After the show it was back to Cars Land to take in their new attractions. First up was Tow Mater’s which is cute and just plain fun. Just before we got on the ride a woman gave us a Fast Pass for Luigi’s so we got to do that too with minimal wait when it can usually be at least an hour. It was also fun, but totally not worth waiting an hour even though Luigi is the coolest Cars character. Then it was time for the star of the show: Radiator Springs Racers. It. Is. Amazing. Definitely one of the best attractions Disney has put together in a long time. The theming, storyline, and the ride itself just plain wonderful. There is a reason the wait times for this one are consistently between two and two and a half hours.
After our Cars Land adventure I had been up for about 23 hours and the park was closing so I was definitely ready to head back to our hotel. Doug was still lagging from his jet lag too so while some of our friends went for drinks at Trader Sam’s (don’t worry I made it there the next night) we headed back to the Best Western. Let me tell you how sweet it is to be able to walk to and from your hotel even if it isn’t a Disney hotel. This is a feature of Disneyland I could get used to.
By the time we got settled and got to bed it was about midnight which means I hit the 24 hour mark. I felt surprisingly ok, although I suspect my no sleep dopiness may have something to do with my lost credit card. I was probably so pumped up on excitement I just kept going. I had a great first day and was ready for more fun on day two!