Monday, October 26, 2015

Disneyland: Mickey's Halloween Party 2015

Date of Visit: October 25, 2015

After being disappointed by Halloween at Magic Kingdom last year, we decided to take advantage of currently having Premier Passes (and use the last of this year's DVC points) and do another Disneyland trip this year specifically to enjoy Halloween time at Disneyland. I was a little worried that the only reason we preferred the Disneyland Halloween party was because it was less crowded and had not been sold out like all parties were this year. However, it turned out to not feel as chaotic as Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party last year even though it was more crowded than last Mickey's Halloween Party experience in 2011.

We got in line to enter Disneyland for the party around 2:30pm. The lines weren't very long and they started letting us in early, so we had our wristbands, treat bags, and were actually in line for Buzz Lightyear by 2:50 p.m. To kill time until the pre-party in Mickey's Toontown started at 5pm, we did the full circle tour on the Disneyland Railroad (really missing not having 'it's a small world' to kill time this trip) and Buzz Lightyear again.

At 5pm we went into Mickey's Toontown for the pre-party, which featured three treat trails and some photo ops. Mik enjoyed that two treat trails went through attractions we haven't done in years (Minnie's House, Mickey's House, and Donald's Boat).

The first trail we did was Minnie and Mickey's houses. The entrance for this one queues over the trolley tracks some, but we got in it before it got long enough for that to be an issue. Mik especially enjoyed being able to go through Mickey and Minnie's houses without having to do the character thing, which is why we never do them.

The Donald's Boat trail was the only one with a truly accessible queue as it didn't go over the trolley tracks. It does end where there's no cutout on the curb, but as long as there isn't people parking strollers where they're not supposed to like we experienced it's easy to follow the sidewalk to the cut out.

I'd say that I wish we skipped the trail over by Roger Rabbit's, but then it was the only one in Toontown with my favorite Werther's candy. The accessibility of the queue is absolutely horrible though because it has switchbacks around the trolley tracks where the tracks are crossing each other making it very difficult to avoid getting stuck in the tracks, which we did for a second at one point. I really don't get why they have it set up that way because not only are there a lot of wheelchair and scooter users at these events, but the treat trails are lines that strollers can actually go through so more than half the groups have some sort of wheeled vehicle.

After hitting each trail in Toontown, we decided to head over to Critter Country because Mik had been wanting to try the pulled pork dog and it seemed a good place to start the party at 6pm. We got there right as they were opening the treat stations there and hit one before getting dinner, which was perfect timing as we got our food before the Hungry Bear started to get quite busy.

Once fed, he was ready for hit the treat trails. We started in Critter Country and worked our way back towards Main Street hitting the trail in New Orleans Square and the one along the Rivers of America. The one along the Rivers of America was particularly enjoyable because the water is "spookily" light up and has fog.

Walking down Main Street after dark was fun as they had projections on the buildings and Halloween music playing.

On Main Street we got our Annual Passholder treat, which was a drawstring bag with a Disneyland 60 logo and a brownie pop.

Next we did the treat trail that goes behind the buildings on Main Street towards Tomorrowland. This was our favorite trail because the walls have a lot of attraction posters on them.

In Tomorrowland, we were going to start with the Space Mountain trail, but the line was all the way back up the ramp to the ride entrance. Thus, we decided to do the one near Autopia and check back later. The Autopia one is rather long with you hitting one station and then taking the long ramp up to the Monorail platform before hitting the other stations, but it was also one of the best in that the line moved steadily because of that long gap between the stations.

Next we headed to Fantasyland. The line for the one by the Matterhorn was very long and barely moving, so we skipped it and went to the one that goes through Pixie Hollow, which was another area that was fun to go through without the character aspect.

We then took a break to enjoy the seasonal projections on Sleeping Beauty's Castle and visit the Dwarfs Fountain.

Next we did the trail at the Fantasyland Theatre. At this point, Mik was getting tired and worried about getting out of the park before the parade. Thus, we decided to head out via Tomorrowland checking to see if the lines had gotten shorter at the ones we had skipped earlier.

The Matterhorn one was even longer than before, so we again skipped it. The Space Mountain one we would've done even if it was long because we knew it had the Werther's, but it was actually much shorter than it had been earlier.

On the way out of the park we stopped to take some pictures of the decorations on Main Street and hit one last trail in the square on Main Street.

Overall we really enjoyed Mickey's Halloween Party. Mik particularly enjoyed the experiences of the different treat trails, especially when they went through areas we don't typically go. While it was crowded, the trails definitely got shorter other than the Matterhorn one as it got closer to parade time. Also, even when the lines went past the Trail Entrance signs it always was easy to find the end, which is the main problem that made us hate the Magic Kingdom party last year.

Mik said it just seemed better laid out and organized. Plus, the giant Mickey Pumpkin on Main Street is just totally a necessity. Also, since I had visited Disneyland Paris last week the daytime decoration game seemed much weaker here and I really did need to see the nighttime lights on Main Street to be impressed with Halloween at Disneyland again.

We also really liked that it seemed much easier to collect the snack/healthy options this time including some stations being just apples and carrots. Of course, we still also got a lot of candy, but Mik is happy to have some snacks for the plane trip home tomorrow.

Destination Info:
Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland
1313 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 92802

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Disney California Adventure: Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!


Date of Visit: October 22, 2015

I don't think we've been on this ride in at least five years (or at least not since we started this blog in 2011). I always ask Mik if he wants to go on it since it seems the only things we ever do in California Adventure is Toy Story Mania and the Pop Cone in Cars Land. Toy Story Mania was down that morning and he was still not really interested in going on Monsters, Inc until I double checked that we in fact never had done a review.

When you get to the front of the line they direct you to the wheelchair loading/unloading area which is just to the left of the regular boarding area. We then had to wait a few minutes for the wheelchair accessible taxi to come around.

They have you roll in backwards and then turn to face forward and roll back against the row divider. A block is then put in front of the back wheels for safety. I think there is then a lap bar that comes down. I don't really remember, but it looks like there is one in the picture.

After the ride, Mik reconfirmed that the reason he doesn't like the ride has nothing to do with the accessibility. In fact, he said it's one of the best "wave" vehicles. He just doesn't really like the ride as it is not as good as the classic dark rides or the newer ones like The Little Mermaid. It also makes him really wish they'd renovate some classics to have wave vehicles.

Probably won't get him to go on it again anytime soon, but at least it was useful to kill some time when Toy Story Mania was down and he was trying to stay in the parks until places were open for lunch.

Destination Info:
Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
Disney California Adventure
1313 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 92802

Friday, October 23, 2015

Disney's PCH Grill Beach Side Bonfire Dinner Buffet

 Date of Visit: October 21, 2015

With so many different things we love and always new things to try at the various quick service places around the parks, we very rarely do any table service restaurants at the Disney parks. We also usually end up grabbing dinner at the hotel (or making in our room when at DVC resort), though, because Mik tends to prefer to just do the parks in the morning/early afternoon. Since this hotel doesn't have a quick service option, we decided it was a good time to splurge and do a more table service dinner for once.

Mik tried the fish tacos, mac and cheese, fried chicken, deviled eggs, and shrimp alfredo pasta. He enjoyed everything, but his favorite was the fried chicken.

For dessert, he had to have the pumpkin cheesecake, which he said was the same or similar to the one he enjoyed at the French Market the day before. He also tried the vanilla bean dessert filled ice cream cone. His favorite thing, though, was dipping the house-made marshmallows (strawberry and plain) in the warm chocolate sauce from the S'more Bar.

While it is much pricier than what we tend to spend on a single meal at Disney, it was an enjoyable experience and it was worth doing. Mik particularly enjoyed that he could have just a little of a lot of different things. He also liked that it was one of the few buffet opportunities that did not include characters, which he's not a fan of. Only thing we didn't like was the carpet was very thick making it take a lot of effort to roll him through the seating area, which is why I only took him to see the buffet options once and on the way out he noticed he missed some things he would've gotten if it was easier to take him back to look.

Destination Info:
Disney's PCH Grill
Paradise Pier Hotel
1313 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 92802

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Disneyland: Paint the Night Parade

 Date of Visit: October 21, 2015

We kept putting off see the Paint the Night parade the last two trips because we knew we still had another trip. This being our last Disneyland trip until probably the next D23 Expo, I insisted that we make sure to watch the parade this time. I know Mik usually doesn't like parades, but I remember him really enjoying when the  Electrical Parade was at California Adventure. Thus, I wouldn't let him talk me into seeing it by myself.

We knew we'd be in the parks at night the day we're doing the Halloween Party, but we wanted to enjoy the Halloween stuff instead, so we picked one of the few nights there wasn't a party during our stay. It also meant getting to see the parade at 7pm, which is much more appealing than the 8:45pm or later times to us.

We headed over to Disneyland from our hotel (Paradise Pier this time) around 5pm thinking we could leisurely get some dinner and/or snacks before staking out a spot. That wasn't exactly the case as already much of the front row spots were claimed. Of course, I knew people had been staking out spots really early for this parade, which is why we skipped it the last two trips, but the park was much less crowded than those trips and I didn't think getting a spot on Main Street would be as much of a problem this time.

Mik's main reason he was resistant to even see the parade was having to get a spot hours early. Thus, I agreed that we would still get the Pumpkin Twist he wanted before finding a spot. After that was successfully acquired barely before they closed, we did manage to get a good front spot right next to the reserved area on the square facing The Mad Hatter.

There is also a wheelchair seating area on the corner right where the parade route ends, but the area was still being used as a character greeting area and didn't get set up until about 30 minutes before the parade. We have used that spot for parades before and it is a good view if you get in the front, but it ended up being even more crowded than where we were and it would've been harder to end up with a front row spot there than what we did.

Overall we both really enjoyed the parade. Despite being reluctant to see it, Mik really did love it at least visually. The only thing he didn't like was that the spot we picked ended up being right under a speaker, so the sound bothered him more than usual. He still agreed it was a great spot otherwise, especially considering our options were limited. He especially liked that it ended up seeming easier to get out of the park after the parade than normal, although that did require us to roll off the curb rather than backtracking to a ramp.

Destination Info:
Paint the Night Parade
1313 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 92802

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lane Motor Museum

Date of Visit: October 5, 2015

We had been meaning to go the Lane Motor Museum for a few years now, but every time we drove through Nashville to/from Huntsville it seemed to be a Tuesday or Wednesday and it was closed. We almost missed it again because I had completely forgot about it until Mom picked up a pamphlet on it.

Mik loves the car museums and this one certainly did not disappoint. He particularly enjoyed that it was different in that it had a lot of European cars. He found the microcars interesting and enjoyed that they were in a variety of colors, although the signs for many of these were behind them and I couldn't roll him up to read them (not an issue throughout most of the rest of the museum).

The 1966 Subaru 360 Van was another vehicle that caught his attention.

We also found it interesting that there are some photos showing how the building used to be a bakery and gave some history on the building.

One of the most interesting vehicles on display is the 1959 LARC-XL. This is U.S. military amphibious craft. Mik wasn't able to see it because you have to go up some steps to look out the window, but there was a video showing it being driven through Nashville to the museum that he enjoyed.

 Of course, Mik's favorite part ended up being the miniatures. In particular, he enjoyed the miniature dioramas that were on display that included junkyards and a hot rod shop.

The Lane Motor Museum is now one of Mik's favorite car museums he's been to. Mik also mentioned that the museum was a great deal because this was only $9 a person compared to the $17 to $25 a person for the other museums we visited in Nashville this trip.

Destination Info:
Lane Motor Museum
702 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN, 37210

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Date of Visit: October 4, 2015

Mik had a choice between the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum or the George Jones Museum for today. He choose for us to go to the Hall of Fame because isn't familiar with George Jones. Also, he thought maybe he could first learn a little about him there and then be interested in the George Jones Museum like he was with the Johnny Cash Museum.

Mik wasn't too interested in the videos playing and the particular music selections in most of the exhibits (it was a lot of Johnny Cash actually, which even I was beginning to get tired of).  He did particularly enjoy the selections in the "Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillip" exhibit, though. He also liked that it was nicely laid out to be able to roll into the listening booths and select the songs.

I couldn't get him interested in the many listening booths in the "Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats" exhibit, but how can you not listen to the original Honky Tonk Man?

As expected, Mik's favorite part was the cars including Webb Pierce's silver dollar convertible. Taylor Swift's sparkly guitar also really caught his attention.

Accessibility Notes:
  • To get up to the entrance is a ramp on the side of the building to the right of the main entrance that isn't entirely obvious, but also not that hard to notice.
  • The elevator situation for navigating between the levels is again not entirely obvious, but it actually can be extremely confusing. Everyone starts by taking the elevators to the third floor. The signage that points to continue to the second floor only leads you to steps. We were going to head back to the elevators we came up, but I noticed an elevator by what is currently the exhibits on Eric Church and Stringbean. This worked no problem other than Mom decided to continue down to the first floor to go to the restroom and then couldn't get back up because you need your ticket to get back up and I had them all. The second floor and museum visit ends at the Hall of Fame and again it's steps. This time you're closer to the first set of elevators. The elevator locations are pretty conveniently close to the stairs, but they really should have some signage to tell you where to go, especially from the 3rd to the 2nd as that elevator is easy to miss.

Destination Info:
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
222 Fifth Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Opry Country Classics at the Ryman Auditorium

Date of Visit: October 1, 2015

How I got Mik to even agree to go the Opry I don't know, but he went and despite finding it too loud enjoyed it enough that he is not ruling out ever going again. His main problem was it was too loud and I don't remember it being that loud when Mom and I went last December, but we sat in the balcony that time and it may be louder on the main floor.

The location and view of the seats on the main floor were pretty good. The only annoying thing was the usher had people come into our row from our side when there seats were actually closer to the other end of the row. It's hard enough letting people into your row regularly, but the way the wheelchair spot is at end of row makes it even harder.

Destination Info:
Ryman Auditorium 
116 5th Ave North
Nashville, TN 37219

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Johnny Cash Museum

 Date of Visit: October 1, 2015

Mik knew about at least some of Johnny Cash's music (mainly "Walk the Line"), but he was interested in visiting the museum when I mentioned it when planning our Nashville trip because he did not really know much about Johnny Cash. The museum is small, but it did provide a good overview of Johnny Cash's life and career (music, TV, film).

Throughout there are interactive iPad displays. These were interesting, but they were mostly too high for Mik to use. The ones at the beginning with videos of Johnny Cash performing songs in each decade of his career Mik couldn't really reach, but would've enjoyed more than one song from if only the headphones weren't too big as that was the aspect he found too frustrating.

Mik's favorite part was the area about Johnny Cash and the Bicentennial in Washington, D.C. He really enjoyed watching Johnny Cash read "Ragged Old Flag." He also liked watching the "Hurt" music video at the end.

The admission price is a little steep at $17/person, but it was still a worthwhile experience. It just would've been better if the iPad displays were easier for Mik to use or at least the headphones fit better for him.

Destination Info:
Johnny Cash Museum
199 3rd Ave South
Nashville, TN 37201