Monthly Archives: June 2012

Buena Vista Street and the Red Car Trolley

Over at Disney California Adventure (aka the Mouse-Next-Door), a new entrance plaza is unveiled–Buena Vista Street. Just as Main Street, U.S.A. is supposed to represent a small-town main street at the turn of the century, Buena Vista Street represents the streets of Los Angeles as Walt encountered them when he stepped off the train in 1923. Which incidentally is the year after our house was built.

Anyway, replacing “Sunshine Plaza” (of which I was never a fan), Buena Vista Street is everything you would want a park entrance to be, and more. Like Main Street, the details are exquisite, from the architecture to the window displays, everything is lovingly detailed.

For the preview we entered through a super-secret doorway in the walls. By the time you read this, you’ll be able to walk right in.

Super secret!

You’re immediately hit with some amazing buildings.

Sepulveda Bldg (home of the bathrooms)

Even the lockers are awesome

And one thing members of my family are particularly looking forward to–the Red Car Trolley.

The Red Car Trolley is a real working trolley. It will run up and down Buena Vista Street all the way to the Tower of Terror.

There is a small queuing area

The interior of the trolley is fantastic too. And seriously, it had that “new trolley smell.” Like the new car smell, except in a trolley. Heh.

I really really really really can’t wait to eat at the Carthay Circle restaurant. The chef is the same one from the Napa Rose, and it looks amazing. However, since it’s inside the park, we have to wait until Kevin’s pass is no longer blocked out. So, like, September. Ah well, it will be crowded this summer anyway.

The trolley is fun to board and the conductors are really happy to be running it.

I just really like this picture:

And here’s a shot of the length of Buena Vista Street!

Stay tuned for more Cars Land/Buena Vista Street coverage!


Cars Land

That’s right, I said Cars Land! Or should I say CARS LAND? Or how about


Yeah, that’s good. The biggest thing to happen to the Disneyland resort since the 50th is the expansion of Disney California Adventure (also known as the Mouse-Next-Door) with Cars Land and Buena Vista Street. The officially open on my birthday, Friday the 15th, and as much as I want to be there just to, you know, be there, my pass is blocked out.

Fortunately, I got into an annual passholder preview!

My ticket to fun! And my Winnie the Pooh watch!

I actually got to see Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, and I’ve got like a million pictures (actually 249, no joke) so watch this spot for the best in Cars Land and Buena Vista Street coverage! And by the best I mean my cheerful good humor and often mediocre photography! And exclamation points! Woot!

Cars Land is very well hidden behind shrub-covered walls and just plain old construction walls. The annual passholder preview entrance was back in Pacific Wharf, and I got a quick peek when they were letting out the earlier time slot (my time slot was 1-5pm).

I see it! I see it!

After  a bit of a wait, I made it past the walls, and it was seriously like being instantly transported to the desert. I know people say that whole “instant transformation” (just add water!) but really. It’s Disney, so I know you know what I’m talking about.


Traffic was controlled by dividing the main walkway into the land in half with traffic going in and out on either side. This was extremely efficient, as I was wondering how they were going to control the chaos of people getting in there.

I think the thing that struck me most about Cars Land was the sheer scale of it. These mountains are HUGE. It’s weird to have been watching the construction step by step, like from on top of Mickey’s Fun Wheel, or peeking out over the walls, or videos on Youtube, and then have it be so vastly different stepping inside there. The mountains look like the size of real mountains when you’re standing there. The scale is incredible.

The feeling of distance is amazing

The mountain range serves as the backdrop for the whole land.

There are three attractions in Cars Land: Radiator Springs Racers (the “E-ticket” combo dark ride, thrill ride, and awesomeness), Luigi’s Flying Tires (which is basically a giant air hockey table and you’re the puck, and also there’s beach balls), and Tow Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (which is a kind of spinning ride where your little vehicle gets swung out to the side and if you don’t hang on to something, you bash your hips up at every turn, ask me how I know). I rode all three and will be covering those separately.

Right now I just want to give an overview. If you’re familiar with the movie, or if you’re like Theo and are VERY familiar with the movie, Radiator Springs is all there.

Looking down the street from Radiator Springs Racers

I also want to memorialize this picture, because it will be a very, very, VERY long time before this street is this empty:

Hooray for annual passholder previews!

Radiator Springs is, of course, based on the various small towns along the old Route 66. As we all know, Route 66 was largely replaced by the interstate highway system and I have driven that highway so many times I really can’t count (this is what happens when you grow up in California and then go to college and graduate school in the Midwest, kiddies). Although I never drove the length of the actual Route 66, I have seen its vestiges, which makes Radiator Springs quite nostalgic for me.

Get your kicks…

Like every other amazing Disney land, Cars Land is filled with the tiny, impeccable details that makes it so authentic.

For example, a tourist with a bright backpack taking a picture–TOTALLY authentic

Route 66 was littered with these rough-and-tumble junk shops, and Cars Land has one of its own.

Curios and beat-up license plates

Some things are right out of the movie, like Luigi’s Casa Della Tires.

Home of Luigi’s Flying Tires

And Ramone’s body shop

This picture doesn’t do it justice

And here’s a picture I can’t really think of anything to say about.

Looking back toward Radiator Springs Racers

There are eateries–Flo’s and the Cozy Cone. Flo’s V8 Cafe is right out of the 50s

Is that guy singing “YMCA” or something?

And the Cozy Cone Motel, which is so awesome.

Love this place. LOVE!

The whole Cozy Cone Motel is one of my favorite parts of the Cars movie. It’s modeled after the old Wigwam motels where you can sleep in a teepee, because that’s all kinds of politically correct now. I always always always wanted to sleep in a teepee but my parents never let us. Kevin finally realized the dream a couple of years ago, staying there on his way to New Mexico, but I still haven’t done it.

And of course, if you’re a car, you’re not staying in a teepee, you’re staying in a cone!

Well the best part of the Cozy Cone at Cars Land is that there are five cones in the back, and each one is a food window serving a different kind of food, and all of the food comes in a cone.

I mean, how awesome is that?

There’s also Doc Hudson’s medical clinic

Just for show

It’s the Hudson Hornet!

And that’s where you’ll find a bathroom.

Because I know you were totally wondering

One great thing about Cars Land is that the imagineers planned all kinds of shaded rest areas like this one:

Nice and peaceful

It was awesome to have a few places where you can just sit down, cool off for a second, and do a little people watching. They really thought through everything.

And of course, there’s the obligatory meet and greet

Well dad-gum!


Both Mater and Lightning McQueen talk. Not necessarily TO you, but they know when you’re standing there and make comments. Mater told me I looked like I’d been through the car wash. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that.

For added authenticity, Mater and McQueen actually drive around. I mean, not fast or anything, and surrounded by a phalanx of people like Secret Service agents guarding the President’s limo, but still. They drive.

Mater on the move

And speaking of Mater, here’s his junkyard.


And here’s another picture looking down the street.

Love those bluffs

And of course, Radiator Spring’s founder

Radiator Springs Fire Department


The big achievement in Cars Land is, of course, Radiator Springs Racers. I did ride it, and I took pictures of the queue, but I didn’t take pictures of the ride itself because I like to fully enjoy the experience before I do it all behind the lens. I went back to ride it again but it had broken temporarily and my feet were killing me, so you’ll have to wait on full ride pictures. I will show you these though:


Stick around for more Cars Land and Buena Vista Street!




Redwood Creek Challenge Trail Wilderness Explorer Camp

Back over to the Mouse-Next-Door, there’s an attraction I particularly love–the Redwood Creek Wilderness Explorer Camp.

It’s all woodsy and stuff

The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is sort of tucked away in this little area of California Adventure, and is a great place to just immerse yourself in a truly interactive attraction.

It was originally tied to the movie Brother Bear, which I never saw, but is now themed in with the Pixar movie Up, which I love, love, love (SQUIRREL!). Part of the challenge trail is walking in the footsteps of Russell (the Boy Scout-like character in Up). You can move through the trail collecting Wilderness Explorer patches.

Actually badges, not patches

When you go in, you can get a map of the badges. They have a little scratch off area for each of the stations to mark your progress. If you don’t have your own personal map, you can follow this one

For the directionally-challenged, like me

At each station, there’s an activity to do. For example, you can howl like a wolf


While you slide down giant slides that look like tree trunks.


At the bottom. We had to do this approximately 5,000,000,000 times that night.

How sliding down tree trunks is connected to wolf howling is a little beyond me, but it’s fun. Theo particularly loved this part.

The area is defined by a number of activities, from the slides to a kid’s zip line to just a whole lot of rope bridges. For a while Theo was too anxious to walk on the ropes, but he got over it.

Daddy and Theo on a rope bridge

The whole trail is multi-level, so it’s fun to see the different vantage points.

After you’ve finished your Wilderness Explorer badge hunt, there’s a small theater where you can watch a graduation type show.

It’s pretty much super-cute

At the show you take your official Wilderness Explorer Oath, call for Kevin the bird thing, get a Wilderness Explorer sticker, and do a meet and greet with Russell from the movie.

Unless you find Russell positively terrifying, which Theo does.

Go figure.

There are also other things to do. A little kid zipline on tires is super cool.

In a princess dress, no less!

Unfortunately I am too big for this, so chalk that right up with the Jedi Training Academy as things I wish I could do but can’t.

There’s also a smaller slide, which Theo didn’t like quite as much.

Kind of goes side to side

And a lateral rock climbing wall that again I’m too tall for

It’s like they just don’t want me to have any fun

And left over from the Brother Bear theme, a cave of wonders with these hand thingies that light up and tell you your spirit animal.

My spirit animal is apparently a skunk, which to be completely honest is pretty disappointing.

The Redwood Creek trail is really great if you’ve got kids who need to blow off some energy after waiting all day, and fun for adults as well. It’s sort of one of those hidden treats at the Mouse-Next-Door, and I do recommend it.

Penny Arcade

I have fond memories of the Penny Arcade, namely as the cheapest place that costs money in Disneyland. Like, a lot of Disneyland is free (and by free I mean included with your admission ticket) and there are some things you pay for (like frozen lemonade) or the penny squashing machines. And the Penny Arcade, that actually cost a penny.

I mean, one day they’re just going to stop making pennies, so let’s live it up!

The Penny Arcade, Candy Palace, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Blue Ribbon Bakery, and Carnation Cafe were all closed for quite a while for the major refurb, and many are now open.

The opening of the Penny Arcade is now where the Restaurant That Can’t Decide What It Wants To Be Called is.

I took this right after the musical chairs, actually.

So I have to say, they mashed the Penny Arcade and the Candy Palace into one sort of conglomerate, because you walk under that “Penny Arcade” sign and see this:

Stuff for sale

That stuff is candy, my friends. CANDY.

I love candy. It’s probably a personal failing of mine.

Rows of candy

If loving candy is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Candy in a case

I particularly love the candies in the case. You can get all sorts of awesomeness. My favorite is the s’mores. It’s like a brick of graham crackers and marshmallows dipped in chocolate. What’s there not to love?

There are only a couple of jobs I REALLY wish I could have at Disneyland, and this is one of them:

Candy maker!

There are two more. Can you guess what they are? I’ve mentioned them here.

Go ahead, guess!

You know you want to.

Anyway, aside from the candy and merch, there are the arcade games that made the Penny Arcade be Penny Arcadeable. Yes, that’s a word. Pronounced arcade-able.

Yes, I can make up words just because I want to. It’s my blog.

Dance, Pinocchio! Dance!

Put in a coin and watch Pinocchio do this thang.

I also love the pipe organ thingie.

This is still in the back of the store

Yeah, about that. I should probably mention that the Penny Arcade used to have its games lined up along the middle and walls of the store. Now with the expansion of the Candy Palace, they’ve moved the games up to the front right by Main Street.

These things, you put your money in and watch a movie. Much easier without glasses.

Of course, there’s the Kiss-O-Meter, which measures the awesomeness of your kiss. It’s pretty much a high schooler’s worst nightmare because what if you’re there trying to impress the guy/girl of your dreams and your kiss registers “frigid.”

I don’t even think we’re supposed to use the word frigid anymore. Besides, that sounds like a brand of freezer.

You can get your fortune read (but not Fortune Red) here, with Esmeralda.


There she is.

And if you weren’t able to impress that girl/guy with your Kiss-O-Meter, you can always try the True Grip Challenge

Trust me, people, this never ends well

And there are a couple of other fun arcade games as well. Now for those of us who grew up in the 70s/80s and think that “arcade” is synonymous with pinball and Ms. Pac Man, it’s not an arcade, but it is an arcade in keeping with the time period of Main Street, U.S.A. And anyway, it’s fun. So bring some spare change and check out the Penny Arcade.

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