HEY DISNEYLAND, WE’RE BACK!
When I first came to the U.S. to visit my Sister in 2010, I did the typical tourist thing, touring the city, seeing Hollywood, going to Vegas and yes… GOING TO DISNEYLAND! I mean, whether you are 5 or 45, Disneyland remains one of the happiest places on earth. That is a big reason why as I was expanding my Lifestyle feed in social media, my biggest goal was to be invited to Disneyland to write about my experience there. Well, 2019 was a banner year for many reason for me and topping it off with a trip to Disneyland was the best way to end the year.
The Hubby and I arrived about an hour before opening on a Saturday the week before Christmas. We expected big crowds so we showed up early. We did have a decent sized crowd at the entrance area for the tram that takes you to the front gate, but we were on our tram and at the front gate within 30 minutes. We were pleasantly surprised at the ease we got in, but now it was on to mission #1 for the hubby… Off to find Galaxy’s Edge! After all, if it weren’t for Star Wars and Galaxy’s Edge, the hubby would have likely deferred his ticket to one of my besties and stayed home. After all, he grew up in Southern California. He says he probably has been to Disneyland at least 20 times but, not for over 2 decades. Thanks to him being a big Star Wars fan, he was excited to come along with me today just for that reason.
So, as we enter the park, we find that at first glance not much as changed in the 10 years for me, or 20 plus years for him. Main street looks like we both remember it. Hubby mentions to me that things seem smaller. Not that things are physically smaller in size, but that we both remember all the different areas of the park being farther apart and more stretched out. From main street, it feels like we can see almost everything. Of course, we cant, but we agree it is probably an optical illusion amplified by age…lol. Our memories from when we were young are ingrained in our heads about the Magic Kingdom and part of that magic must be that when we are younger, we truly envision a full kingdom that goes on and on. However, here on planet earth in the universe of reality, we spin around seeing the entrances and decide which part of the park to go to first. Since the hubby has essentially one goal today, and that is to visit Galaxys Edge, he says “Let’s go to Tomorrow Land”. Ok, so before I confuse you readers who plan on going after reading my blog. Hubby was wrong. We fortunately asked one of the many friendly Disneyland employees to point us towards Galaxys Edge, only to find out that it is NOT in Tomorrow Land. Well, duh right? I mean, everyone knows that Star Wars starts with that line “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..”. So, why would it be in Tomorrow Land right?..lol. So, after getting pointed in the right direction by a helpful Disneyland cast member, we make a beeline for Galaxy’s Edge which is accessed through either Fantasy Land or Frontier Land. Ok, I guess that makes sense. Star Wars is a fantasy story in the frontier of space, right? Sure, that works
Well, if you simply know nothing about Disneyland or Star Wars, or maybe have been living in a cave or another planet for the last 30 plus years, let me give you some basics about the newest park attraction. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a new themed land within Disneyland Park California. A nearly identical attraction is also found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. The theme land transports you to Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, roughly set in the time of the current Star Wars movie trilogy, Episodes VII–IX. There are some very minor differences between the parks, but to the average visitor, I am told the California and Orlando attractions are nearly visually identical. From the moment you walk into the land, you really feel like you are on a planet in a Galaxy far far away. The Disney designers and engineers did an amazing job encompassing so many aspects of the movie into the enviroment.
There are 2 basic parts to the land, one of which is the First Order Headquarters where you are likely to be closely monitored and possibly harrased by some very game and equally zealous Storm Troopers in their traditional white battle uniforms. Guests are frequently asked for “papers” by these local authority representatives and they make it known that the First Order has a tight grip on the area and they are are high alert for any resistance members that may be sneeking about. My hubby and I were approached by two such Troopers who approached us and demanded we show them our papers! Did they recognize me from my Social Media? Would they lock me away in some space dungeon or maybe hand me over to Kylo Ren or…maybe even Darth Vader himself or even the Emperor?! I was not sure how to answer. As I consider if I should show them my Disney Flex Passport or, did they want my earth ID? I was momentarily frozen. Then my hubby stepped forward, waived his hand in a circular motion in front of these well armed troopers and said “This is not the Influencer you are looking for, she can go upon her way”. The two troopers looked at each other and the one said to the other “She is not the Influencer we are looking for”. He then looked at us and said “Move along”… What? What just happened? I am not sure, but my hubby sure had one heck of a big grin on his face. He said he would explain it all to me later, but we should move along because we had to go fly the Millenium Falcon.
The biggest attraction in Galaxy’s Edge is the Virtual Reality ride called Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Currently, at the time of our visit and this writing, it is the only ride open within the Star Wars themed land. A second ride is scheduled to open on January 17, 2020 (Disney Hollywood Studios, Orlando opened December 5th) and is called Rise of the Resistance. We eagerly hopped in line for Smugglers Run and even though we were among some of the first to enter the park, and aside from the slight detour into Tomorrow land had come directly here, the line was substantial, although managable for sure. Maybe next time we come back, we can use the Disney MaxPass. You will want to check in advance, because some of the new attractions are not eligible for this Fast Pass option, although the majority of the parks other rides are and especially for a family, spending less time in line and more time exploring is definitely worth it. As we wind our way through what is clearly the inside of a rag tag spaceport, with all that you would expect, such as droids, random machine parts, steam and a lot of monitors and blinking lights. As we get closer to the launch bay, we see Hondo Ohnaka up above the crowd and he informs us that he is looking for discreet flight crews to deliver a backlog of hard-to-find items to particular clientele—no experience necessary! As we enter the lounge just outside the launch bay, we are each assigned our crew assignments. Each flight needs 2 pilots, 2 engineers and 2 gunners. The hubby and I are each assigned gunner positions and we get in line to board the Falcon for our mission. The doors open and the ground crew instructs us to take our seats and prepare for our flight. We find out that our mission is not exactly “legit” and I am immediately thinking, I will be busy with these laser guns! As you can see from some of the captured cockpit video, our crew did a good job and we made it back to the space port alive and with our cargo. The ride was a blast, and even though it was short, it was fun from begining to end. The immersion and role playing makes you feel like you are actually on a wild ride in the Millennium Falcon. Unlike the hubby, I wouldn’t normally consider myself a Star Wars “fan”, but Smugglers Run is certainly worth the line and a ton of fun! I cant wait to come back and experience the new Rise of the Resistance ride when we come back, or maybe in Orlando? (hint, hint hunny).
GALAX’S EDGE DINING OPTIONS
After our ride, we were getting pretty hungry and figured we could tour Batuu’s best food spots and find something good to eat. We checked out Oga’s Cantina and were continually impressed with the level of authenticity and the detail that is taken throughout the themed land. We decided to look further for our first meal and continued to stroll the marketplace. Here in Galaxy’s Edge, having Chewbacca pass by and then Rey coming through a few minutes later, hurridly asking “Has anyone seen Chewy?” is just plain fun. I have to admit that even though I never considered myself a Star Wars fan per se, I found myself caught up in the fun. The all encompassing feeling very much carries into all the eating places within the land. We strolled into another cafe (one of 5 total Restaurants & snack stands in the land) and looked over the menu. As was the case in all the places we visited, the names of the items are all themed and the variations and preparation of all the items all do look very alien and help to keep you in the fantasy mindset. We decided to split a Rontu Wrap which is very similar to a Pork Sausage and coleslaw in a pita wrap. I do say that it was pretty tasty and hit the spot. In addition to the wrap, we washed our Rontu meat down with a tasty “Blue Milk” which is in fact not real milk, but a kind of sweet smoothie concoction that was tasty and fun to drink. Even a standard Coke comes in a thermal detonator grenade bottle that my husband was thrilled with.
The selections of places to eat along with the decor and overall atmosphere of the themed land will likely not fail to impress even the most jaded visitor. As I mentioned, with all that is going on around you, coupled with the amazing details taken with the design, even getting a snack is part of the experience.
THE FULL GALAXY EXPERIENCE
Just walking around and seeing all the movie set quality displays is impressive in itself. However, Disney went all out with the full experience for visitors for sure. Visit Droid Depot for a price friendly souvenir. The build-your-own droid experience at Droid Depot is $100 plus tax. Additional upgrades, like a personality chip for your droid to interact with the land, are available. The combination of the experience and your own droid to take home is IMO a value for any Star Wars fan. If you are or have a true super fan in your group, then Savi’s Workshop is where Visitors to Batuu can visit this secret unmarked location to make their own lightsabers! This is both a show and a shop in one, Savi’s most certainly is the must-do experience for the Star Wars superfan. The price for your experience and ultimate Jedi souvenir is not cheap. This unique item and experience will set you back $200 plus tax. Even with the hefty price, this is one of the most popular features and items to buy in the land, so making a reservation is recommended or you will be waiting quite a while for your personal Jedi sword.
THE PARK OF MY MEMORIES
Once I had fulfilled my promise to the hubby to allow him to adequately experience the Star Wars experience, it was time to venture on back to my beloved traditional Disney park experiences. We will spend the remainder of our day touring familiar and even some new parts of the park we both remember. Although the hubby and I have both been here, as I mentioned it has been quite some time for us both. A near decade for me and 2 or more for him. Yet, so little has changed and why should it? All the traditional attractions are still here. The original and iconic Monorail, Disneyland Railroad (Which we happily rode around the park twice, just to take it all in and to let our feet have a rest), The Dumbo Ride, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World all are still there. We spent hours just strolling and taking pictures, trying to find Mickey & Minnie, exploring the castle and absorbing the ambiance that is unique to Disneyland. I wondered how things would feel for us since we visited with just the 2 of us and we didn’t have the usual experience of being with a large group or kids. I was pleasantly surprised at how much childish wonder and enjoyment we still experienced. Disneyland still had a hold on the child inside of our hearts. Neither of us were bored or complacent to any degree. We both still had that impish glee in our hearts for what Disneyland can provide for kids of all ages. We were 3/4 of the way through our day and already wishing we had more time. The magic of the magic kingdom is most certainly still there.
IT’S DINNER TIME, NOW WHAT?
One option that neither of us had the last time we were both here, was to leave the park on a short walk from the front gate and stroll through Downtown Disney where you have over 22 restaurants and eating establishments to choose from with a wide range of prices and levels of dining experiences. (Remember to keep your park tickets or get stamped before exiting the park) From Coffee and Desert Shops, to craft bars & fine dining options. We were pleased with our choice of Taqueria at Tortilla Joe’s for some delicious California style Mexican cuisine. They even offer a 10% discount to Disney annual pass holders as well.
NOW, BACK FOR THE GRAND FINALE!
One of my favorite memories about visiting Disneyland is experiencing the nigh time parade on main street. During the Holiday Season, the parade is even more special and dramatic. It is truly one of my favorite things to do at the Disneyland Park. The hubby and I claimed a spot on the curb along the round about curve at the top of Main Street so we could be sure to have a great view of the parade. We were not disappointed. The parade was indeed as wonderful as I have remembered it and a joy to behold for kids of all ages! With floats, dancers, marching bands and a gluttony of Disney characters, it truly is a sight to behold. Of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday parade without Santa. The screams of joy from the crowd and especially the children was infectious. Even the Grinch would be grinning from ear to ear witnessing such a splendid spectacle. One other treat that we were looking forward to at the end of the day was the ever popular and world famous fireworks show that is displayed above Cinderellas Castle and can be seen from almost everywhere in the park. If you can pace yourself to last the full day, this is truly a show that you have to experience at least once in your life. The combination of the fireworks with the collection of oohs and ahhs from the kids of all ages will literally give chills to the most cynical among us. Pace yourself throughout the day, so you can be sure to enjoy the celebration of the end of another magical day at the happiest place on earth.