Harbour Galley

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LOCATION

Critter Country – When you pass through New Orleans Square on your way toward the Critter Country entrance, stop when you reach the Haunted Mansion. The mansion should be on your left, and the Harbour Galley will be on your right. If you can’t find the Harbour Galley (it’s a little bit hidden), ask a cast member and they will point you in the right direction.

EXPERIENCE

Service Type – quick service

Seating – outdoor patio on the waterfront

Reservations – yes

Entertainment – none

Menu

CONCEPT

The Harbour Galley is a seaside quick-service restaurant located on the shores of Critter Country. Guests can choose from a variety of comfort food options, and the adjacent patio overlooks the Rivers of America, Tom Sawyer Island, and New Orleans Square. Thanks to its tucked away location, the Harbour Galley is a quiet dining option where guests can slow down and take in the sights and sounds of the Disneyland waterfront.

MY RATING – ★★★☆☆

To be perfectly honest, I’m wary of eating seafood in an amusement park, even Disneyland. I’ve never tried any of the seafood items at the Harbour Galley, so I am not going to address those in this review. That being said, I thought the other menu items I’ve tried at this restaurant have been pretty good, and I absolutely love the patio overlooking the Rivers of America. Even if you only stop at the Harbour Galley for a drink or a snack, take a few minutes to sit down and enjoy the view; this restaurant has one of the best vantage points in the park.

MY FAVORITES

  • Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • Barbecue Chicken and Slaw Stuffed Baked Potato
  • Hot Cocoa

TRIVIA

The Harbour Galley is one of the only restaurants in the park that is not open for dinner service.

Buena Vista Bugle

As you explore the shops and restaurants around Buena Vista Street, you may notice stacks of newspapers on tables or counter tops. Take a moment to pick one up, and you’ll discover one of California Adventure’s hidden gems: The Buena Vista Bugle.

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This Disneyland Resort newspaper began circulation in 2013, in celebration of California Adventure’s reopening. The Buena Vista Bugle publishes a new issue a few times a year, though it has yet to print on a particular schedule. Many Disney fans collect this free newspaper, and each edition covers stories about the Disneyland Resort’s activities. Next time you’re on Buena Vista Street, stop to check out the Buena Vista Bugle; you never know what you might learn about the park’s happenings!

Disney Animation

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LOCATION

Hollywood Land – When you arrive from Buena Vista Street, follow the main road and you’ll see a huge sign for “Animation” on your right. Enter the building along the blue wall that reads “Once Upon A Time” and you’ll land in the main lobby for Disney Animation.

CONCEPT

When California Adventure opened in 2001, Hollywood Land was originally dubbed “Hollywood Pictures Backlot”, and focused more on filmmaking than the land does now. As part of the Backlot, Disney Animation offered guests to experience the animation process for themselves, and to learn how animation starts with sketches and moves to digital production. After this land became Hollywood Land, much of the filmmaking themes disappeared, but Disney Animation survived the transition. Today, it is both a testament to Hollywood Land’s original identity, and a unique place for guests to access some behind-the-scenes info about their favorite Disney films.

EXPERIENCE

Guests arrive in a lobby, the “Animation Courtyard”, which showcases Disney animation in progress. Many guests like to sit down and take in the Animation Courtyard, but those interested in a more involved experience can choose from a number of activities within Disney animation:

  • Animation Academy – This workshop is the most hands-on animation experience in the Disney Animation building. Guests receive step-by-step instruction on drawing their favorite Disney characters, and have the chance to learn tips and tricks from Disney artists.
  • Character Close-up – This walkthrough exhibit demonstrates how Disney animators develop concepts for characters, and how they bring these characters to life. The centerpiece of the Close-up is an amazing Zoetrope machine, which takes Toy Story sculptures and animates them before your eyes!
  • Sorcerer’s Workshop – If you’re seeking adventure or want to step inside a magical world, wander through the Sorcerer’s Workshop. Guests can explore three different rooms: The Magic Mirror Realm, Beast’s Library, and Ursula’s Grotto. Each room has its own set of interactive activities, from character quizzes to voice-overs of your favorite Disney scenes.
  • Turtle Talk With Crush – Ever wanted the chance to chat with a Disney character? This 15-minute show enables guests to interact directly with Crush from Finding Nemo. Crush loves to talk about his friends, his favorite snacks, and life under the sea. Since Crush answers questions from the audience, every session is completely different, so guests can visit this show repeatedly and have a brand new experience each time.

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MY RATING: ★★★★★

I think Disney Animation is one of the most underappreciated attractions in California Adventure. Many people walk by without even knowing it’s there! My favorite spot is definitely the Sorcerer’s Workshop, particularly Beast’s Library and Ursula’s Grotto. The activities in these rooms are really fun, and there’s nothing better than stepping right into the scenery of classic Disney movies. All of the workshops and shows in Disney Animation are both entertaining and informative, and you’ll leave this attraction with a new appreciation for how Disney movies come to life.

VISITING TIPS

The schedules for the shows in Disney Animation change daily, so it can be difficult to plan when to visit. Check back periodically for wait times, and work Disney Animation into your touring plan when convenient. If you’re just interested in exploring the Sorcerer’s Workshop or Character Close-up, visit whenever you’re in Hollywood Land; as self-guided walkthroughs, there will be no lines.

One final tip: Disney Animation typically closes a few hours before California Adventure does, so don’t put off your visit until the end of your day.

TRIVIA

In Beast’s Library, pay attention to the photo above the fireplace when the lights flicker and you hear the thunder. Though you can’t see him, Beast will scratch the photo during the rumbling!

When Disney Animation first opened, the animation screening room featured a short film, “Return to Neverland”, starring Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite. After a short run, Disney Animation replaced this film with one narrated by Walt Disney, titled “One Man’s Dream.” Both shorts stopped running in Disney Animation by 2005.

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Mad T Party

MadTParty1LOCATION

Hollywood Land – On most weekend nights and holidays, you can find the Mad T Party in the rear of Hollywood Land. When entering from Buena Vista Street, you’ll see signs for on your left. If you come from A Bug’s Land, you’ll see the Mad T Party straight ahead, just beyond the Hyperion Theater and the Monsters University dorm.

CONCEPT

The Mad T Party is a dance party and a light show experience inspired by Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland. Live performers or DJs blast electronic music as party guests watch various performing acts, enjoy specialty food and drinks, or explore the Rabbit Hole, a foggy tunnel with tons of special effects. Whether guests just pass through as they explore Hollywood Land or stay for the full experience, the Mad T Party offers a fun and unique experience in California Adventure.

EXPERIENCE

The Mad T Party is set up with a couple of different areas for guests to explore. The main stage, which showcases performers or bands, always draws a big crowd. There’s also a side stage, which has various street performers that always amaze the audience (my favorite is the aerialist group!). You can also find a wave of guests by the snack bar, enjoying the drinks and food items available exclusively at the T Party, or playing the Alice-themed arcade games. And for those seeking their own adventure, the Rabbit Hole offers a sensory experience mixing light, sound, and color. The Rabbit Hole also has an added challenge of finding the password to get inside; look for the Mad Hatter somewhere in the T Party and he’ll give you the password for the evening.

MadTParty2MY RATING: ★★★★☆

Depending on how crowded the park is during your visit, the Mad T Party can be overwhelming or a lot of fun. If the crowds are really massive, it’s hard to navigate the back area in Hollywood Land, and the lines for food or for the Rabbit Hole get pretty long. But if you’re visiting the park on a day that isn’t too crowded, the Mad T Party is a lot of fun. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the music they play at the Mad T Party, so I never stay for very long, but it’s cool to check it out when you’re nearby.

VISITING TIPS

The Mad T Party is basically a small concert mixed with food and an arcade, so there is no good or bad time to visit. If you want a spot right in front of the stage, you might want to get there as soon as it starts up for the evening, but otherwise, you shouldn’t have a problem visiting. The hours for the party fluctuate based on the season and the performers, so ask a cast member or check the boards on Buena Vista street for more specific times during your visit.

TRIVIA

You can purchase glowing Mickey ears in various places in the park that glow alongside shows. These ears also light up to match the Mad T Party performances.

The Mad T Party replaced ElecTRONica, an similar attraction based off the 2010 film Tron: Legacy.

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Village Haus Restaurant

VillageHaus1LOCATION

Fantasyland – When you enter through the castle, you’ll find the Village Haus on your left, around the corner past Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. If you arrive in Fantasyland from Frontierland, you’ll see the restaurant first thing on your right. And if you enter Fantasyland from Tomorrowland or Mickey’s Toontown, you’ll find the Village Haus at the end of the main path, after the King Arthur Carrousel and the Casey Jr. Circus Train.

EXPERIENCE

The Village Haus Restaurant offers diners a selection of burgers, sandwiches, and desserts. Diners can choose to eat in the interior Pinocchio dining room, or on the rear patio. At night, diners sit in the glow of lanterns, and at any time of day, guests can relax and take in the Fantasyland scenery from the quiet comfort of the Village Haus.

CONCEPT

Service Type – quick service

Seating – indoor dining room and outdoor patio

Reservations – no

Entertainment – none

Menu

MY RATING – ★★★★☆

The Village Haus Restaurant doesn’t have much variety in its menu, but the food it does have is decent, and the desserts change seasonally. What I like most about the Village Haus is its atmosphere; the outdoor patio is surrounded on three sides by tall Bavarian towers, and opens up to the forest in the back of Fantasyland. At night, the patio glows under festive lights, and the scenery is that much more magical. Stop by the Village Haus when you want a sandwich or a dessert, and enjoy the beauty of Fantasyland.

MY FAVORITES

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich
  • Seasonal Cupcake

TRIVIA

Though the exterior is reminiscent of a Bavarian village, the interior features murals from Pinocchio, which takes place in Italy.

The Village Haus opened in 1983, shortly after the debut of New Fantasyland.

Toontown Police Scanner

Most park guests visiting Mickey’s Toontown head straight for Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin or Mickey’s House. But those who take time to explore the shops and Toontown’s city center will find a lot of fun gags, optical illusions, and a hidden gem: the Toontown Police Scanner!

When you cross under the bridge and arrive in Toontown, head over to the city buildings on the right-hand side. Follow the path to the right of the 5 and Dime, behind the Clock Repair shop.

MickeysToontown3 In this back area, you’ll notice a blue and orange pole with a policeman’s cap on top of a telephone. Pick up the phone, and you can eavesdrop on the Toontown Police as they discuss their daily activities. Some of the reports include suspicious characters, the weasels causing trouble around Toontown, and banana peel accidents.

ToontownPoliceScanner1Next time you’re in Mickey’s Toontown, stop and listen to the Police Scanner. You’d be surprised how much trouble the toons cause throughout the day!

Halloween Features And Decor

Every year, from mid-September through October, Disneyland transforms into a Halloween celebration filled with pumpkins, specialty treats, and lots of detailed decorations. Not only do the lands take on orange and black accents, but some of the rides undergo special Halloween transformations as well. The following is a breakdown of all the fall/Halloween features, décor, and special events you can find in the park during the Halloweens season.

LAND CHANGES

Each of the lands in Disneyland and California Adventure have added touches of fall and Halloween décor, but the most significant changes occur on Main Street USA, Buena Vista Street, New Orleans Square, and Frontierland. Main Street USA showcases a massive Mickey pumpkin at the front end of the street, and every flagpole, lamppost, and window is covered in fall colors, jack-o-lanterns, and eerie details. Similarly, Buena Vista Street lines its windows with Halloween display, and both streets feature subtle orange and black color schemes for the duration of the Halloween season.

NOTE: I am visiting Disneyland soon, and will post a photo of Main Street here.

New Orleans Square is perhaps the most spirited place in Disneyland during Halloween. All of the antique shops grow elaborate cobwebs, and you can find skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, and other spooky décor. Though Disneyland is not at all scary during Halloween, New Orleans Square is the closest the park gets to a creepy spot in the park.

NOTE: I am visiting Disneyland soon, and will post a photo of New Orleans Square here.

Frontierland’s Big Thunder Ranch undergoes a Halloween transformation every year as well, inviting guests to join in the festivities. Some years, the ranch becomes a “Dia de los Muertos” festival, and other years, it hosts a Halloween carnival. During the Halloween season, Big Thunder Ranch always has tons of entertainment, activities, and delicious specialty snacks and beverages for guests to enjoy. You can find more information about this year’s festivities here.

NOTE: I am visiting Disneyland soon, and will post a photo of Frontierland here.

RIDE CHANGES

Haunted Mansion – From Halloween through New Years, the Haunted Mansion transforms into a “Nightmare Before Christmas” wonderland. Instead of eerie chills and mysterious ghosts, guests encounter Jack Skellington and his Halloweentown friends as they embark on a journey through Christmastown. The music in this version of the ride is very upbeat, the characters are friendly and enthusiastic, and there isn’t much haunting happening in the Haunted Mansion. Visiting the Haunted Mansion from September through December is a completely different experience than the rest of the year, as the ride bears little resemblance to its normal spooky personality.

Space Mountain – During the Halloween season, Space Mountain becomes “Ghost Galaxy”. The ride is virtually the same, with one major difference: ghosts! As riders fly through the cosmos, they encounter a number of ghosts rushing past their ships, growling and shrieking as they disappear into the dark.

Note: The only downside to “Ghost Galaxy” is that because the ghosts are projected into the sky, the interior of Space Mountain is a little brighter, and at times you can see the track. It somewhat takes away from the sensation of floating through space, but it’s still a fun seasonal treat.

SPECIAL SHOWS, EVENTS, AND PARADES

The parades and shows remain the same during the Halloween season, with the exception of one major event: Mickey’s Halloween Party. (more detailed post coming soon!) Mickey’s Halloween party includes special villain meet and greets, a spooky parade, trick-or-treating, and a Monsters University-themed dance party.

You can find more information about Halloween activities in Disneyland here.

NOTE: I am visiting Disneyland soon, and will post a photo of the Halloween décor here.

Disneyland Explorer

BASIC INFO

App Name: Disneyland Explorer

Company Name: Disney

App Price: FREE

Free version: N/A

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HOW IT WORKS

Disneyland Explorer is an interactive guide to both the parks and the Downtown Disney district of the Disneyland Resort. Users can scroll through each land, and can see photos of different rides, attractions, and restaurants. Some of the lands include beloved Disney characters, and each captures the spirit of a different spot in the park. As an added bonus, once you’ve scrolled through all of the different lands, you can use your finger to direct a fireworks show over the castle!

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MY RATING – ★★★☆☆

If you’re preparing for your first visit to the park, or taking little ones on a trip, this app is a great way to familiarize yourself with the different lands and get excited for your time at the resort. Each land is simplified into a mini guide that fits on your screen, so you basically get a summary of each area in the park. However, the Disneyland Explorer is not a map, so it does not show rides or attractions in their proper locations, nor does it place lands in the correct order. Instead, this app is a general overview and introduction to the magic of Disneyland and California Adventure, and is more useful before a trip than during.

APP USE & TIPS

Make sure you scroll through the maps slowly; it’s really easy to breeze past entire lands as you explore.

Rainforest Cafe

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LOCATION

Downtown Disney – Take the Monorail from Tomorrowland and you’ll arrive right beside the entrance to the Rainforest Café. If you walk from the park gates to Downtown Disney, you’ll find the Rainforest Café on your right, at the end of the Downtown Disney district.

EXPERIENCE

If you find yourself seeking adventure during your trip to the Disneyland Resort, consider spending a meal deep in the jungle. The Rainforest Café offers diners an immersive rainforest experience, complete with a massive waterfall, tons of plants, and a variety of jungle animals. Diners also experience periodic thunderstorms, which bring the rainforest to life!

CONCEPT

Service Type – table service

Seating – several dining rooms, plus limited outdoor patio

Reservations – yes

Entertainment – periodic thunderstorms and chatter from animatronic animals

Menu

MY RATING – ★★★★☆

The Rainforest Café is definitely a fun place to eat in Downtown Disney. Each time I’ve had a meal here, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how good the food is, and the jungle experience is very cool (albeit somewhat loud!). Another major plus: the Rainforest Café is located right next to the Downtown Disney Monorail stop, making it really easy to travel from Disneyland to your meal, and back again. If you’re considering venturing outside of the park for a meal, the Rainforest Café is a great spot.

One last tip: whether you’re visiting during peak holidays or on an off day, make a reservation! No matter how crowded the park is, the Rainforest Café seems to be consistently in demand.

MY FAVORITES

  • Chicken Tenders
  • Big Islander Chicken Caesar Salad
  • Rainforest Burger
  • Tropical Tortellini
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Sparkling Volcano

TRIVIA

The Sparkling Volcano, a massive chocolate dessert, is by far the most popular item on the Rainforest Café menu.

You can often find live entertainment on the stage adjacent to the Rainforest Café, especially on the weekends or during the holidays.

Disneyland Waits

BASIC INFO

App Name: Disneyland Waits

Company Name: VersaEdge Software

App Price: $0.99

Free version: yes

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HOW IT WORKS

Disneyland Waits is the simplified version of Disneyland Maps. This app provides a list of wait times for all of the rides in both California Adventure and Disneyland, broken down by land. You can click on each ride for a brief description, a photo, or to submit your own wait times for each ride.

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MY RATING – ★☆☆☆☆

While I appreciate how this app breaks down the rides by land, and the “submit wait time” feature is really convenient, this app is just not useful. The listed wait times are consistently wrong, usually by at least 10-15 minutes. In fact, I have seen listed wait times that have been off by 45 minutes or more. Given that the times are so far off the mark, I would not recommend using this app during your visit to Disneyland.

APP USE & TIPS

The only difference between the paid and free versions of this app is the presence or absence of ads.