My family's first visit to Disneyland: Part Five
Written by James Rao
[Editor's note: A few handy links to our first four installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four. Go read those if you haven't yet. No cheating!]Tweet
With our daily visits to Disneyland and DCA complete, we had one more trick up our sleeves: Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland, a separate ticket event for Friday night, September 27. With our special tickets, we were not allowed to enter the park until 4:00 PM, so we busied ourselves that morning by washing clothes in the guest laundry, getting packed (we would check out of the Paradise Pier Hotel the next morning), and enjoying some relaxing swim time in the resort pool. We also spent a couple hours exploring the other two Disney hotels (both amazing as well) and Downtown Disney. Finally, around 2:00 in the afternoon we moseyed into Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel for lunch.
Trader Sam's is a small cocktail lounge with a great tropical setting. If you are a fan of the Jungle Cruise, the original Tiki Room, or the now defunct Adventurer's Club, you will love this joint. The walls are covered with photographs and souvenirs, supposedly collected by Sam himself, or sent to him by his many friends. The place is very unique and fun, with the bartenders ringing bells, performing a variety of gags, and calling out catchphrases known only to those regulars who endlessly straggle in and out while my family looked on in wonder wishing we were "in the know" as well. The food is relatively authentic with many Polynesian-style dishes offered. We ordered the Hawaiian Cheeseburger with Sweet Potato Fries and the Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos. Both were quite delicious, however the fish tacos were on the small side so they might be best served as an appetizer for the main course. For those who have the time and inclination, I highly recommend a visit to Trader Sam's.
After Trader Sam's we made our way to Disneyland to get in line for the 4:00 early entry to the Halloween Party. We weren't the only ones with this idea. By the time the park opened to party goers, the lines (filled with costumed Disney fans) stretched out across the esplanade all the way to DCA's entrance – so much for avoiding the crowds at a separate ticket event!
Once inside the gates we were each given a shiny orange wrist band (required to stay in the park after 7:00 PM) and a small bag for trick or treating. One word of advice for these parties: bring a large bag of your own for candy because Disney cast members are wonderfully generous with the portions they give out and the bags Disney supplies will not suffice. We brought a pillow case and a back pack – both of which were mostly filled after just 90 minutes of trick-or-treating. We also got a map for the party and a list of events and event times.
Our plan for the evening was to visit some of our favorite attractions until about 6:00, get a quick bite to eat at the Hungry Bear restaurant, then set about trick-or-treating until 9:00PM, followed by the Halloween Screams fireworks, the Mickey's Costume Party Cavalcade (parade), and then a series of final rides on our favorite attractions (Space Mountain, Indy, and Pirates). Keep in mind that there are many other Halloween festivities at the park including meet and greets, dance parties, a Toontown pre-party (where you can meet Roger Rabbit), and the like. However, with only five hours of actual party time, and fairly significant crowds at all the party specific events, our goals were set accordingly.
When we got inside the park at 4:00 the place was packed due to the day crowd overlapping with the party crowd, and for the next couple of hours we saw attraction wait times soar. For example, Ghost Galaxy had a 75-minute wait, Pirates was 30 minutes, and Indy was 45. So, plans changed. We grabbed Fastpasses for Indy first, and then scouted out the Jack Skellington character greeting area in the French Market. Note, Jack and Sally are greeting guests throughout the day, and are not exclusively tied to the Halloween Party itself. However, the line was very long, so we just nabbed a few pictures then busied ourselves with some last day souvenir shopping before heading back to Indy when our Fastpasses became active. What a great ride!
After Indy we headed to TomorrowLand and nabbed Fastpasses for Star Tours. Our return time was a ways away, so we crisscrossed back to Critter Country utilizing the Walt Disney Railroad (in order to view the Primeval World Diorama) and bought a light dinner at the Hungry Bear restaurant (we weren't very hungry just needed something more substantial than a snack). We shared a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, a Pioneer Chili Cheeseburger, some Zesty Slaw, and a Lemon "Bumblebee" Cupcake. The food was good, but not great, and I definitely wish I had asked for extra fried green tomatoes. The cupcake looked beautiful, but did not taste as good as it looked. If you prefer a light-tasting cupcake, then you'll like this one, but I was hoping for something sweeter. Luckily, Pooh's Corner was nearby so we went in and grabbed a couple of delectable dessert treats to share (the oft ballyhooed Peanut Butter Sandwich and Peanut Butter Heaven are wonderful snacks). Satiated at last, we headed back across the park to ride Star Tours.
After Star Tours, we did a bit more shopping in Tomorrowland then positioned ourselves for our first trick-or-treat location. At 7:00 PM sharp, cast members started politely tossing folks out of the park who did not have party wrist bands. And for the first hour or so, wristband checking was preformed quite frequently around the park. Crowds, while still significant at the trick-or-treat stations and some of the headliner attractions, thinned appreciably as the night moved forward.
For those who have not been to a Disney Halloween Party before, there are about a dozen trick-or-treat paths spread throughout the park. These paths consist of several stops along a predetermined route where friendly cast members dump loads of candy into whatever container visitors happened to bring along. And we're talking the good stuff: Milky Way, Almond Joy, Snickers, Twix, Hershey bars, etc., and tons of it. The candy flows freely at Disney. Over the next 90 minutes we visited a half dozen different trick-or-treat paths which provided an estimated 35 pounds of chocolate for my soon-to-be-diabetic family to snack on for the next few months. SCORE!
Note: One of the nice things about going on some of the trick-or-treat paths is that they wind through attractions that most folks with a limited amount of time to spend in the parks don't get a chance to visit (unless they are annual passholders). For example, the Toontown trail went through both Minnie and Mickey's houses, and the Frontierland trail went through the Golden Horseshoe. So we were able to at least see the inside of these attractions which otherwise we would have completely missed.
After 90 minutes of trick-or-treating, we positioned ourselves at the end of Main Street just outside of the Central Hub and prepared for the Halloween Screams fireworks show. I grabbed a couple hand dipped corn dogs from the nearby Little Red Wagon to snack on while we waited. Hand dipped is definitely the way to go! The fireworks were supposed to start at 9:30, but maintenance delays (a common theme for our vacation) extended that start time to 9:45. Once the show finally began it was pretty cool. Jack Skellington hosts the show and his dog Zero makes several flying passes above Sleeping Beauty Castle. The fireworks start when the song Grim Grinning Ghosts begins and proceed as several of Disney's infamous villains (Ursula, Oogie Boogie, and Maleficent) arrive on the scene with their own montage of classic Disney songs. Jack and Zero return at the end to usher in the Scream-Along finale. It is a good show, worth the investment of time, but from what I understand it is very similar to the Hallowishes show at Magic Kingdom. (I can't confirm that info though since I have not attended the Halloween party at WDW).
We hung out after the show waiting for the 10:30 parade. We had really good seats and thanks to the delay in starting the fireworks we only had about thirty minutes to wait. We finished our corn dogs and soon Mickey's Costume Party Cavalcade began. After hearing so many good things about the Magic Kingdom's Boo To You parade, I must admit I was very disappointed in what I witnessed at Disneyland. Where was the Headless Horseman's pre-parade ride? Where were the grave diggers with their shovel scraping act? Where was the cool Haunted Mansion float? I guess I should have done more research, because I was definitely underwhelmed by this fairly standard, fairly short (maybe a half dozen floats is my guess), Halloween parade. I am not saying it was bad per se, but it was not what I expected or wanted to see.
After the parade we had about an hour and 15 minutes to pay our last respects to this grand old park, our favorite attractions, and our SoCal theme park adventure. We used our time wisely to visit Ghost Galaxy (the wait was down to about ten minutes at this point), Indiana Jones, and the attraction that really started our whole trip, Pirates of the Caribbean. Finally, exhausted, loaded with candy, and satisfied with all our hard work, we headed back to the Paradise Pier Hotel and crashed.
The next morning we left the Disneyland Resort to begin the second half of our SoCal vacation – the non-theme-park half. Overall, we had a wonderful time. There were a few bumps in the road, but those bumps were minor compared to the amazing adventures we experienced and the memories we made – memories that will last a lifetime. I do not know when, if ever, the Rao Family will have the wherewithal to make it back to the Disneyland Resort and Walt's original park, but at least we can hang our hats on the six days we thoroughly enjoyed in September of 2013. Six days that proved the old "Horizons" adage is true: If you can dream it, you can do it.
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