March 14th, 2006

Rat: Inflatable

Back from Disneyland

On Friday, we (wife, housemate, and sister-in-law) drove down to Anaheim. They picked me up from work in the early afternoon and we took to the road. Stopped at the Palace Grill in Santa Barbara which was quite crowded but quite tasty, too. An otherwise uneventful drive down 101.

This was my first time seeing Disney's California Adventure. It's an interesting addition with a handful of really good rides. But the theming is based on different areas of the state that I live in, which is a bit odd. We drove past Monterey, redwood forests, and Santa Cruz in order to get to a Disney simulacrum of them.

The coaster California Screamin' is marvelous. It's built to resemble a wooden coaster in a boardwalk setting. But it's actually a modern tubular steel track with an entirely steel framework. It's fast and smooth. The linear launch is strong and it features an inversion in the form of a large loop. It's probably the most extreme roller coaster which Disney has created (though Rockin' Roller Coaster in WDW is close). Our group had to try this one out several times – okay, six – to be sure it was as good as it seemed. Yep!

They've added a Tower of Terror at CA which is similar to the one in Florida. The major difference is in the pre-show you see while riding. The elevators move forwards through a dark area in the Florida version which has some fun light effects. That's missing in the California replica; it's been slightly simplified and, except for the loading dock bits, the car's movement is just up and down. Still, it's quite a rush.

We also spent plenty of time in Disneyland proper, visiting some of our favorite rides. Space Mountain a few times, Big Thunder a few times, through the Haunted Mansion, and so on. I tried out the new Buzz Lightyear ride for the first time. That was actually pretty good. It's one of those interactive dark rides; they had a line of buggies moving through set pieces and they give you a gun with which to shoot little targets.

On Sunday, we took a break midday to return to the hotel for naps. Recharged, we returned to the park for an evening round. The crowds had thinned a bit. We went looking for dinner, hoping they'd thin out further.

Dinner was found over at the (relatively) new Downtown Disney area. There's a nice restaurant there called Catal. Look for the signs advertising an "Uva Bar", though I still have no idea what that is. Good food but high prices. Still, it was nice to have something gourmet rather than theme park food.

Returning yet again, the park was even emptier. We stayed until the midnight closing. One fun ride at night is Splash Mountain. The wait time was basically nothing; we got on the ride about as quickly as we could scamper through the mill house and burrows to the loading dock. Now, keep in mind that it was about eleven at night, unusually cold, and the wind was blowing. On the other paw, we planned ahead and brought dry clothes packed in sealed plastic bags.

So we got wet. Rather wet. I can say that, despite the late hour, I was fully awake after a half-gallon of cold water poured down my right leg. As our log floated back to the dock, the attendant said, "Want to ride again?" The rest of the group made indecisive noises. However, being exposed to bouncing rabbits and upbeat showtunes does something to my brain; I said, "Sure!" So we got really, thoroughly, chillingly wet. But damn it was fun!

Monday, we did some final rides and took care of shopping. Then it was out to the car to begin the long trek home. What I noticed is that, on the third day of walking, the parking lot trams were much farther away. My body was beginning to rebel at this shocking treatment ("What? We walk ten miles and eat only a churro? Are you mad?") so it was almost a relief to climb into the car for the journey home.
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