Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

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horizons1
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Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

Post by horizons1 » Aug Wed 18, 2021 10:13 am

I'm going to Disneyland! My wife and I decided to take advantage of what we think will be the calm before the storm when the new Key program goes live by getting over to California this weekend. The Key kicks off next Wednesday, so it seems from what I've been reading that locals are holding back on visiting while they wait for the $399 SoCal Key to be available. That should mean a fun weekend for us.

Initial impressions: Planning this trip is a bit stressful because of my anxiety over getting to ride RotR and Web Slingers. Both require virtual queues, and the process is so complicated. We are going Friday and Saturday, staying at the Paradise Pier Hotel. To maximize our chances, I need to head out to Calif Thursday night and spend a night somewhere en route. That will allow me to attempt the 7am virtual queue and, if successful, get to the park in time to make whatever window comes up. Then, I also need to already be in the park by noon for the second virtual queue opportunity. And if my boarding group isn't called by noon there isn't a chance that day to get a second queue for Web Slingers because you cannot be in both queues simultaneously. It will be a little easier on Saturday since we'll already be there, but having to manage a schedule and plan an extra night on the road just to accommodate a ride access policy is not very fun.

Naturally, I'll provide a complete update upon my return.
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Re: Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

Post by horizons1 » Aug Mon 23, 2021 4:54 pm

Day 0, Thursday, August 19, 2021

Our trip to Disneyland was last minute and intended to take advantage of the unseasonably low attendance leading up to the debut of the new Magic Key Pass program. We booked 2 nights at Paradise Pier Hotel with 2-day park hoppers. Just like we did a couple years ago, we used Costco Travel which grants a $185 Disney Gift Card.

Because my wife and I wanted to make at least one of the virtual queue opportunities for Rise of the Resistance, we decided to drive out Thursday night from Arizona instead of Friday morning. Despite having to pay for a hotel night, it turned out to be a good idea. We drove until we were tired and decided to stop in Corona, about 35mins SE of Disneyland. Was kinda fun not knowing where we were going to end up! Because of work we couldn't leave until after 7pm, but we made good time and arrived at the hotel around midnight.
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Re: Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

Post by horizons1 » Aug Tue 24, 2021 1:19 pm

Day 1, Friday, August 20, 2021

Disneyland open until 11pm, DCA until 10pm

Because we weren't sure what side we could get to the park, we decided not to try the 7am virtual queue window. We left Corona around 9:45am and got to Paradise Pier Hotel at about 10:30am. There was a cast member at the bottom of the parking structure informing guests that there is no garage elevator and to drop bags off on the lower level. I asked if I could take a spot in the open lot. He said it's normally reserved for valet but since there's no valet right now he let us. That made easy access to the car.

We left our bags and headed over to Disneyland. It was not dead, but definitely low crowds. Wait times were very short across the resort all day. I don't think I saw anything longer than 30min (RSR) and the longest we waited was about 15min (Smuggler's Run).

First stop, Space Mountain, which was almost a walk-on at 10:45am. Star Tours, Buzz and Big Thunder were almost the same. Next, we walked over to Galaxy's Edge Smugglers Run where we got to both be pilots. It was fun, but I can see where repeated rides get old fast. All this was completed before noon, giving us time to sit down and get ready to try for a virtual queue for RotR at noon. We got it! Estimated wait was only 2 hours. Nice.

I'd not been to Galaxy's Edge before and don't have much to say that hasn't been said elsewhere. I like the layout and the look. I like the nooks and crannies that make the land feel bigger than it is. My wife was surprised there were only two attractions.

Lunch was mobile order at French Market, and we would have been better off just going there and ordering in person, it wasn't crowded. To their credit, food prep was fast and we got our meals promptly. Herb-roasted Chicken (dry) Mashed Potatoes and Gravy (good), served with Chef's Choice of Vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower, heavily seasoned and delicious.) We also got a Cajun-style Chicken Caesar Salad which has the same chicken, although it was not as dry. The gift card is no longer a plastic card, it's just a barcode. You can enter the number into the Disneyland app and that helped with the mobile food order, but for the rest of our dining we had to have them scan the barcode, with varying degrees of hassle as I will describe later.

The weather was beautiful all weekend, with a cool overcast morning burning off to a sunny but still comfortable afternoon. The high on both days was around 80. Just lovely. So we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the French Market's patio before heading over to RotR.

Rise of the Resistance was spectacular and I am glad I didn't watch any YouTube videos to spoil it. I knew bits, but it was so nice to have it unfold for us completely fresh.

Since we cleared that virtual queue with still a lot of day left, we were able to get virtual queue for Web Slingers. Turns out that's pretty easy to do as it's not as popular as RotR. Our return time was over five hours though, so we decided to go back to the hotel and get settled.

We walked back through Grand Californian. Paradise Pier check-in was contactless. There was a cast member at the door who stopped us and took our name, then had us sit in the hallway while she got our keys. We had checked in online, so it was pretty fast completing the process.

Our room was on the 7th floor, facing west. We were overlooking the pool area and had a great view of the DL Hotel. The rooms haven't had much of a refresh. Sorry there's no pic, but I can describe it as being "barely Disney". The hallways have a nice Disney carpet, but inside the room it's a beachy wallpaper, a "Goofy Learns to Swim" poster, a Mickey on a Life Guard Chair lamp and Lighthouse lamp that both look like they were lifted from the Beach Club, and that's about it. The beds were old and squeaky. Otherwise, the room was fine. Great blackout curtains and good A/C. Hot water in the shower. All you really need. The PP food & beverage offerings were still shuttered during our visit which was fine, although a nightcap at the hotel might've been nice :)

After unpacking we took a little break in our room and then headed back over to the parks (around 5pm). Walking to Grand Californian, we decided to have a grown-up beverage at Hearthstone Lounge. It's tucked away in a corner of the expansive lobby and we enjoyed a cocktail and some free bar snacks. Paying required that I walk over with the waitress to her POS in order for her to scan my gift card barcode. Otherwise I would've had to let her walk away with my phone. That was awkward. I could've printed the gift card barcode - in retrospect that would've been better.

We stopped at Soarin'. 10 minute wait at 6pm. Nice. We walked on Radiator Springs Racers in the single rider line with zero wait and we were both in the same car. Standby wait was posted as 25 minutes. Then we walked onto Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters and got notified that Web Slingers was ready for us. I had no idea what that ride is, but it's just Kinect-meets-Midway Mania. It's the same ride, just using your hands instead of a pop gun. Not worth riding again.

We rode Incredicoaster and then headed over to see if we could get a walk-up at Blue Bayou. It was about 8:50pm when we got to the desk and they said "sure" and had us wait about15min. We watched the beginning of MixMagic Fireworks while we waited. Not a great show, but I get that it's filler.

For dinner, we shared a House Salad and a Monte Cristo Sandwich. Delicious. It's been years since we've eaten at Blue Bayou. It was great as always. At check time, I once again had to walk over to the POS and have the waitress scan my barcoded gift card.

After dinner we still had over an hour left, so we went for a second ride on Smuggler's Run. Total walk-on at that time. RotR closed at 9pm but we did ask the cast member if they ever let on late walk-ups. He said maybe and to try right before closing. More on that in Saturday's report.

We closed out the last hour hitting most of Fantasyland. Casey Jr., Pinocchio,
Snow White's Enchanted Wish (nice improvements), Storybook and Alice. Interesting to note that all the dark rides have two operators, one working the offload. I think that's been there a while, but I remember the causal days where one person ran a ride alone.

That's it for day 1. We left after the park closed and were very happy with the low crowds. Hard to believe it was a Friday in August and amazing to see no surge in attendance in the evening when SoCal residents would normally pour in. Fantastic.

Step count 25,207, 12.29 miles

More to come in my day 2 report.
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Re: Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

Post by horizons1 » Aug Wed 25, 2021 10:37 am

Day 2, Saturday, August 21, 2021

Disneyland open until 11pm, DCA until 10pm

The day didn't start great. I had set my alarm to get up in time for the 7am virtual queue window. What I neglected was to set the alarm to go off on Saturday. I missed the window by four minutes and was buggin' all morning because of it. Still, I vowed to make the most of the day, not knowing if the park would be slammed and we didn't get another chance to experience RotR.

Got to the park around 10am. It seemed busier but not Saturday-in-August crazy. Wait times posted were all relatively low, but we had hit all the big stuff Friday so this was a day to take our time.

Saw Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Then we noticed all the Main Street vehicles were running so we took the Omnibus from Town Square up to the Plaza.

There was a light rain, more of a mist, actually, all morning. We got on Jungle Cruise with a posted 20min wait and the actual was about 15. Riding Jungle Cruise in a light rain adds to the theme.

We decided to grab a Mickey Pretzel as a snack and wait for the noon virtual queue window to open by relaxing in the Tiki Room courtyard. At noon we got a boarding pass for RotR with about a two hour wait for our slot.

We had fried chicken for lunch at The Plaza Inn with mashed potatoes, veggies and a roll. Their fried chicken is so good, I always try to get it. The day was nice so sitting outside was a pleasure. There is a corn dog cart next to the restaurant that seems semi-permanent and the corn dogs were huge. A few people in The Plaza Inn dining area were eating them and they looked hearty.

After lunch, we rode Space Mountain single rider with no wait. Then took the train around from Tomorrowland to Toon Town station where we disembarked and walked around to Galaxy's Edge and our 2nd ride on RotR. It was good fun the second time. The wait inside the building was longer this time, maybe 20mins of walking through the tunnels.

After that, we took an afternoon break back at the hotel. While my wife relaxed at the hotel, I put my swim suit and flip flops on and headed over to DCA to ride Grizzly River Run. So convenient passing through the Grand Californian entrance to DCA and the ride is right there. Using the single rider line I rode twice and it's so fun riding when you don't mind getting soaked. I had wanted to do this on my DL trip a couple years ago but the ride had broken down so it was satisfying to complete this particular mission.

After heading back to the hotel to change into dry clothes and retrieve my spousal unit, we went back to DCA. Hit the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and then two rides on Incredibles, once in the normal queue (10min) and a second time via single rider. Then single rider once more on RSR and it was time for dinner.

My wife wanted a sandwich, so we thought the Pym-ini looked good at the Pym Test Kitchen. We didn't order via mobile and there's only a single walk-up register so we had to wait in line about 10mins, then another 5mins while the cast member took the military ID of the person in front of us back to the kitchen to ask a manager if she could accept it for alcohol. No, they denied it, which was surprising. The Pym-ini, which is described as "Salami, Rosemary Ham, Provolone and Sun-dried Tomato Spread on Toasted Focaccia, served with Marinara Dipping Sauce and Arugula Salad" was not very good. It's small and was served cold, which seemed strange for a panini. We also split some Potato Bites (tater tots) which were good. For my meal, I chose the Shawarma Palace food cart and ordered a "New York's Tastiest" which is a Chicken Shawarma Wrap, Garlic Spread and Coconut Yogurt-Tahini Sauce with Pickled Vegetables. The sauce is served on the side and there were hardly any veggies that I could see, but it was pretty tasty. It's classified as a "snack" but it was good enough for dinner.

On our way back over to Disneyland, we checked out Mickey's Philharmagic. If you recall my review from 2019, I saw it on the day it opened in DCA and was disappointed by how they shoehorned it into the Muppetvision theater. Well, they must've spent some time working on it because the experience was much improved. They use the bulk of the screen now, except for the beginning and end orchestra scenes which are still tiny. They also installed the Donald tail-side animatronic on the back wall for the final gag, something lacking from the first version. The addition of Coco was well done too.

Back at DL, we hit the Matterhorn where the wait was only 5 mins. As you can see, we never spent more than 20mins in line anywhere during our two days. Didn't even need single rider here, but nice that they have it.

We did one of my favorite things - riding the Mark Twain at twilight. I like it after sunset when the lights are on everywhere. It's so peaceful and magical.

Afterward, we walked back to RotR. It was about 8:25pm, and the attraction closed at 9 but we thought we'd ask about our chances of getting a walk-up. The cast member was very nice but he said it was unlikely and that he never saw it happen. We were skeptical but decided to come back right at 9 and try again. So we walked over to do Winnie the Pooh. Sigh. My least favorite of the Pooh's. I just don't get why the ride vehicle keeps rocking after the rain scene and all the way through the end of the ride. There is no Tigger bounce, the vehicle just rocks the whole way. Lazy cost-cutting.

Back at RotR, there are two groups of cast members. The first group (the one we approached before) works the entrance and makes sure people have their boarding passes out. The second group is part way down the outer queue and scans barcodes. There is a gate right there, and there were 4-5 cast members just standing there chatting. We went up to one and asked if there was a chance we could do a walk-on. He opened the gate and waved us through! It was about 10mins before the ride closed. We had the entire queue to ourselves and got to the Rey preshow completely alone. About ten other guests trickled in, but that was it. We had the attraction almost to ourselves! So cool.

Fireworks from Galaxy's Edge looked great, especially since we didn't care to hear the soundtrack. We then headed back to Peter Pan, also 20mins. It would've been worse but we got into the queue before the rush of post-firework guests from the other side of the castle.

Our final attraction was the Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough. It was about 10pm, and while DL was still open another hour, we were beat. So we slogged back to the hotel and straight to bed.

Step count 29,475, 15.19 miles

Tomorrow, some general observations.
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Amy
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Re: Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

Post by Amy » Aug Thu 26, 2021 8:20 am

Wow ~ sounds like a great weekend trip ~ and lots of miles logged as well! I'm guessing it is easier to get a last minute RotR walk-on at DL rather than at WDW. My experience there is that the CMs are much more laid back and easy going. I'm sure WDW is just a lot busier as well.

horizons1
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Re: Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

Post by horizons1 » Aug Thu 26, 2021 11:03 am

Yeah, I was reading on another blog that virtual queue slots for RotR were available well into the afternoon (at least through 5pm on Saturday) so it now makes sense why it was completely dead at 8:45pm.



Day 3, Sunday, August 22, 2021

I was going to try out the Paradise Pier Hotel pool just to use the one open amenity but it was too cold! So we used the app to check out (we were contactless with the hotel the whole time except for the greeter at the door).

Some general observations from the trip:

The virtual queue system is a pain in the butt. Having to plan around specific times just to get a chance to get into the queue was annoying. Missing the first window on Saturday caused extra anxiety leading up to the noon slot. I get that Disney needs to manage the crowds but it's not my style of Disney-going to have to plan so intensively.

No Fast Pass is a wonderful thing. Since everyone is in the standby line, the line just keeps moving. So great. I did, however, notice they were using the FP line at a few attractions for some guests. Not sure what kinds of passes they had that let them use it. Could they be testing the Lightning Pass system with select guests?

The monorail and submarines were closed for refurb. The monorail would've saved some walking, of course. And Haunted Mansion is closed for the overlay work. Otherwise, everything was up and running.

We loved the water bottle filler-uppers they installed in Galaxy's Edge. I hope they expand these throughout the park. We each brought in a bottle of water and just refilled all day.
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Re: Disneyland Trip Report August 20-21, 2021

Post by Amy » Aug Fri 27, 2021 6:33 am

I totally agree that I hate having to plan out almost every second of every day now for a visit. I'm sure it's great for some people, but I want to relax and go with the flow on vacation. Hopefully the demand for RotR eases up and it can go to just a standby line soon. And the pay to use what is essentially a FP, nah, not happening for me thanks, I'm already spending way too much on the whole trip.
I hope the water bottle filler-uppers expand too. I'm a great proponent of the free water that's available at the parks, but it isn't always easy to breeze in and out to get one, especially during busy meal times. I'm sure there are others, but the Electric Umbrella immediately comes to mind as one place you could pop in and easily get some ice and water from the fountain drink refill station, but of course that won't be there on my next trip...assuming I can ever afford another one, sniffsniff.
Thanks for sharing your whirlwind trip report horizons1!

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