Disneyland First Visit First Impressions

It may have been only two-and-a-half days, but our first visit to Disneyland exceeded our expectations – it was wonderful!  Our Good Neighbor hotel was fantastic and allowed us quick and easy access to the parks and Downtown Disney.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we did not see a single cloud the entire time we were there.  So with a great place to sleep and sunny skies, we got busy making the most of our limited time.

Disneyland First Visit First Impressions

Our first stop was Disney California Adventure.  So many things felt super familiar, it was odd to not know exactly how to navigate the park without a map.  Much of DCA felt like Disney’s Hollywood Studios and construction walls certainly made us feel right at home.

We were captivated by Pixar Pier and the areas around it.  There’s so much to take in and the theming was completely immersive – which we loved!  Raymond made the observation that the way the attractions were laid out reminded him of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.  We visited Tivoli in 2015 knowing it was inspirational to Walt Disney before Disneyland was built and we noticed many similarities – mainly the way attractions, restaurants, shops, and kiosks were crowded together in an exciting way with something interesting to see or do from the ground to the sky.

We used both paper FastPasses (on Friday) and MaxPasses on Saturday and Sunday and both were certainly handy.  The paper FastPasses made us feel sentimental since those have been long gone from Walt Disney World.  MaxPass was worth every penny!  We used several (4+) a day and with all the PhotoPass photos included, we were very satisfied with how it worked.  We did miss having Magic Bands though.  We’re so used to the convenience of being able to enter the parks and purchase everything with them – doing without felt like an inconvenience.

Disneyland was a delight!  I could not believe how many attractions we could experience in just a couple of hours.  I’ll write separate posts on the attractions themselves, but I’m going to try to describe here how charmed we were by this park’s overall atmosphere.  We expected it to be as magical, interesting, delightful, and exciting as we find Magic Kingdom.  What we didn’t expect was for it to be more.  More of everything that makes us love Disney parks.  Disneyland feels like Disney World’s more mature, wiser and more beautiful sibling.

Yes, as you may have heard (or noticed yourself), Sleeping Beauty Castle is quite a shock.  Like your eyes are playing tricks on you – Where is it?!  It should be the centerpiece at the end of Main Street, visible just after entering the park.  That it doesn’t appear where and when it should certainly takes some getting used to.  Sleeping Beauty Castle’s relatively tiny stature does not detract from its beauty.  Once you get close enough to take in the details, it seems as perfect as can be.

One-stop security is awesome!  As you approach the central plaza in which the entrances to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney are located, there’s a single security stop for bag-checks and metal detector screening.  After that, park-hopping takes mere moments and, compared to Walt Disney World, seems absolutely effortless.  We loved this aspect…except after 5:00 pm.  Word of caution – if you leave the parks and return in the evening, two things happen.  Security lines are extra long due to decreased screening capacity and the sun is brutal!  We were there in September and the setting sun was blinding which made waiting in that looooong security line seem more horrible.  The necessity of arriving before the after-work crowd was one of our biggest take-aways.

Thanks for reading…I have much more to tell you, so please stop by again soon!

Disney Cruise Port Activities – Vancouver Food Tour

When we travel, we like to take advantage of touring options that meet two specific goals.  The first is that we don’t view our chosen travel destination through the window of a vehicle and the second is that we see and learn as much as possible in the time allotted.

For example – We experienced both Barcelona and Copenhagen via Segway tour and those experiences were educational, entertaining, and covered a lot of ground!  We did a walking tour of Bergan, Norway that taught us about the city’s amazing history.  We learned a good bit about Alesund and Geiranger, Norway by sea kayak and mountain bike respectively.  You get the idea.  We like a bit of adventure with our history lessons.

Disney Cruise Port Activities – Vancouver Food Tour

Vancouver presented a challenge for me.  I knew the weather would likely be rainy, so I searched online for an activity that fit the criteria and would still be enjoyable in wet weather.  When I came upon the Gastronomic Gastown Tour, I knew I’d found a winner!  This three-hour walking tour combined both the history of Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood with the opportunity to taste the fare at four different restaurants.  This sounded perfect to me and Raymond agreed. Disney Cruise Port Activities - Vancouver Food Tour

With some careful time-calculations, I figured we could make the 3:00 pm tour on arrival day.  Our plane was scheduled to land at about 11:45, I figured an hour through customs, an hour to our hotel and we’d have plenty of time!  I figured wrong.  Or I should say…I didn’t allow enough wiggle room for a flight delay, which we had.  We landed 30 minutes late and customs took 90 minutes. If our driver hadn’t been waiting for us (thank you Disney Cruise Line ground transfers!), we would never have made our tour.

We rushed into the Fairmont Waterfront at 2:45, checked in, ran our suitcases to our room and hit the street; arriving at the Gassy Jack Statue to meet our tour group at exactly 3:00! Disney Cruise Port Activities - Vancouver Food Tour

Vicky, our guide, was friendly and knowledgeable and was equally as excited about Gastown’s revival from near demise in the 1970’s as she was about the neighborhood’s awesome food scene. (I found this link about Gastown history with a wonderful collection of photos.) Vicky had us introduce ourselves and say where we were from and what our favorite food is. Disney Cruise Port Activities - Vancouver Food Tour

Our first stop was at La Mezcaleria, an authentic Mexican restaurant for tacos and cocktails.  The flavors of the Carne Asada tacos we chose were delicious and well-seasoned.  The cocktails were not too strong (considering this was the first stop) and a bit exotic for Raymond and I who are not typically mixed-drink kind of people. Disney Cruise Port Activities - Vancouver Food Tour

Next up was Nickli Antica Pizzeria for pizza and beer and we were thrilled with the quality and flavor.  This was my favorite stop on the tour.  The pizzas were absolutely wonderful!  Not too heavy and with perfectly cooked crusts. Disney Cruise Port Activities - Vancouver Food Tour

Third stop was at Tuc Craft Kitchen for pork belly with dipping sauce, a Scotch egg, and parsnip fries.  We enjoyed glasses of red wine with our dishes.  This was by far Raymond’s favorite place.

Finally, we dropped in at Wildebeest for dessert.  Crème brulee with rhubarb jelly on top was served with..uhm…a pretty pink drink (for the life of me I can’t remember what it was!).  The crème brulee was an incredible combination of sweet and tart and I ate WAY too much of it.  The rhubarb was a perfect compliment to the sugary, crusty-topped sweet custard.  If you know me, you know I don’t have a sweet tooth and normally skip dessert.  I was so glad I was all-in for this one!

As we walked between restaurants, Vicky directed our attention to points of interest and wove stories of Gastown’s history throughout the experience.

The three hours flew by and before we knew it, our appetites for both food and information were completely satisfied.  We wrapped up the tour with a lesson about the famous Gastown Steam Clock.

Sure, it was still early when we arrived back at the Fairmont, so we made time to enjoy a whisky at the bar before turning in.  The next day would be our 29th anniversary – the main reason for our getaway and we had so much planned!

Follow along for more about this trip as we enjoy our anniversary dinner at Notch8, sail away on the Disney Wonder and make our first ever visit to Disneyland!

Just Back Trip Review – Highs and Lows of our Disney Land and Sea Adventure

Good Gracious! Raymond and I are still exhausted! But very pleased with the heaps of happy memories we amassed on our Disney Land and Sea vacation. We thought of the 9-day trip in terms of phases. Phase 1: Vancouver, Phase 2: Disney Cruise on the Wonder, Phase 3: Disneyland. Today my goal is to put together my initial thoughts on the trip overall. (There will be detailed posts for every phase later.)

Just Back Trip Review – Highs and Lows of our Disney Land and Sea Adventure

Vancouver was great! The weather? Not so much. That didn’t keep us from enjoying an entertaining, educational, and delicious food tour on Saturday. Sunday was our anniversary, so we spent the day at a leisurely pace. Originally, we’d planned on either biking around Stanley Park or visiting Granville Island’s marketplace. The rain made both of those sound unenjoyable, so we strolled around in the rain, stopping to eat at Cardero’s on the harbor. We’d eaten here once before with Megan and Joseph prior to our Alaskan cruise in 2011, so we enjoyed happy memories along with a light lunch. Dinner that night was a fancy one at Notch8 in the Fairmont Vancouver just a few blocks from our hotel. Fantastic meal!

We crossed the street late Monday morning and stepped aboard the Disney Wonder. Since repositioning cruises tend to sometimes offer (relatively) bargain prices, Raymond had booked concierge stateroom 8044 for our anniversary celebration and the experience did not disappoint. I’ll fill you in on all the concierge details later but getting on the ship first to enjoy a special lunch in Tiana’s Place was fantastic and kicked off the cruise in a special way.

Tuesday, we docked in Astoria, Oregon. We had no idea what to expect from this little town of 10,000. The early weather predictions showed a huge chance of rain, so we were overjoyed when the day turned out to be sunny! We had a 3-hour bicycle tour planned from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. This turned out to be a perfect way to enjoy this port of call. Astoria is charming, the ride along the waterfront was flat, and the folks we met were as friendly as could be. I can’t decide what was my favorite part of the day but seeing sea lions for the first time was amazing.

Wednesday and Thursday were at-sea days. Raymond and I spent a lot of time in the fitness center trying to mitigate the accumulation of cruise food and beverage calories. We took a spin class both days and found Nicholas from South Africa to be an excellent (and challenging!) instructor. As a bonus, we also had some excellent whale-watching opportunities in the fitness center since it’s at the top of the ship and has huge windows.  We dined at Palo (adults-only restaurant) for both dinner and brunch, enjoyed two different beverage-tasting seminars, saw a movie, drank lots of coffee in Cove Café, and had a wonderful time!

Friday, we arrived in San Diego. We managed to get off the ship, Uber to the car rental place, pick up our ride, drive to Anaheim, drop our bags at the hotel, and enter Disney’s California Adventure before lunch!  Thus, Phase 3 began earlier than expected and with the most perfect weather imaginable. Once at Disneyland, we made the most of every minute!

I have so much to share with you!  Were mistakes made?  Yes, two major ones that resulted in (relatively minor) unhappiness.  We found so much to love about every aspect of this vacation and would do it all over again (with a couple of important modifications).  I’ll cover everything in detail, so please stop back by over the next couple of weeks.

Now?  I’m still catching up on sleep!  But I’ll be back soon and hope you will be too!

Disney Dining – Who Would Love Enzo’s Hideaway?

Looking for someplace new to try at Walt Disney World?  Want to get away from the noisy crowds?  I may know just the place for you.

Disney Dining – Who Would Love Enzo’s Hideaway?Enzo's Hideaway

The menu is basic Italian.  The setting is so off the beaten path, it’s actually underground.  You might want to consider giving Enzo’s a try if any of these seem appealing…

You want a more grownup experience – While I can’t make any guarantees, there were no children in Enzo’s when we were there.  When you’re on vacation at an ultra-kid-friendly place like Walt Disney World, sometimes it’s nice to know a place where mostly only grownups go!  Great date-night option.Enzo's Hideaway

You love a good cocktail before (or after) dinner – Oh, the choices!  Not the run of the mill offerings, the cocktail menu is glorious!  We enjoyed wine with dinner, but for dessert I chose one of the fancy cocktails on the menu and I was simply delighted.

You love a cozy, quiet atmosphere – It’s low-key.  The vibe is intimate, casual, and a bit hushed.  We loved that aspect.  Even though we were a party of six, we wanted to be able to enjoy conversation without loud music playing or other interruptions.Enzo's Hideaway

You love a good night out in Disney Springs –  Sure, there are bunches of new places to try, but Enzo’s has a certain quiet charm perfect for a cocktail, meal, or an after dinner drink.Enzo's Hideaway

You appreciate Disney theming – It’s a speakeasy!  The entrance is unassuming and the interior does not disappoint.  We were expecting a feeling of “secret club” and that’s exactly what Enzo’s feels like.  We’d been to The Edison for cocktails the night before and were familiar with the layout of that restaurant.  Imagine our delight when we asked for directions to Enzo’s restrooms and we were shown an industrial storage area to cut through that ended up…at The Edison’s restroom area!  Genius!