Restaurant Review: Carthay Circle

The “Premiere” private dining room at Carthay Circle.

On the Friday after Labor Day, we decided to treat ourselves to a birthday lunch at Carthay Circle (in California Adventure). First step: make a dining reservation using the Disneyland App while driving to Disneyland from Ventura (very convenient feature of the App!).  After we arrived at DLR, our first stop was the Guardians of the Galaxy ride to pick up FastPasses. At 9:45 am, the FastPasses being issued for GOTG were for 2:00 to 3:00 pm, which was perfect for our 1:20 pm lunch reservation

We arrived and checked in at the restaurant, having a seat in the peaceful and beautiful lounge area on the first floor. When your table is ready the host or hostess looks for you in the lounge, rather than using a loudspeaker system, like many restaurants. The host pointed out several interesting museum-quality photos and artifacts as we walked up the stairway to the dining room.

This is a very elegant restaurant in the outside world, complete with waiters in white shirts, ties and jackets (not character costumes), unique furnishings, and impeccable service. The waiters are not rushed and have time to talk (about the restaurant, including fun trivia) to the guests. Our server was impeccable!  My friend ordered the Sesame & Ginger Crusted Salmon; I had the Chilled Soba Noodle Salad. Both were really delicious. I know that TripAdvisor and other sites include reviews about how expensive Carthay Circle is, and yes, it is one of the most expensive restaurants at DLR. However, you aren’t just paying for your food. You are paying for wonderful service, a beautiful location and Disney history. 

Link to menus here

Menu shown below is the Summer Menu; a few new items have been added for fall. 

By the way, Carthay Circle offers a free tour of the restaurant every morning at 10:30 am.  It’s definitely worth doing. Lots of background information about Walt Disney, the restaurant and hidden Mickeys. (No, they don’t give food samples, unfortunately.) 

Have you been to Carthay Circle? What was your favorite part of the experience?

WHERE TO STAY: Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn

  My new favorite place to stay when I go to DLR for more than one day. Read on to find out why....
My new favorite place to stay when I go to DLR for more than one day. Read on to find out why….

The Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn is one of the best places to stay near Disneyland. Location, location, location!  It’s 1/2 block from the DLR Transportation Hub, on Harbor Blvd, along the east side of DLR (for reference, Downtown Disney is on the west side of the Parks). Walking time is literally 4 minutes from the hotel to the DLR security gates and ticket booths, and one more minute to the Disneyland and California Adventure gates. See this post to find out why you should have your passes in hand before you get to  security and why….)

The hotels along this part of Harbor Boulevard–on the east side of DLR–are actually as close or closer than staying on Disneyland Resort property. These hotels are usually less expensive than the DLR Resort hotels. And many offer Automobile Club, Senior Citizens, Annual Pass, Military, Government Employee, and other discounts.

TIP: Be careful when booking any hotel that says it’s walking distance to Disneyland: often the hotel is close to the Parks boundaries, but not very close to the Park entrance.

First impression: The rooms are newly remodeled, with new furniture and lighting and  VERY CLEAN.  My room had two queen sized beds, a desk, flat-screen TV, microwave and refrigerator. I love that the three lamps in the room (one on the desk, and one on each of the two nightstands) each had at least one USB and one electrical outlet. We all need to charge our electronics, right? 

Other amenities included a coffee maker (with coffee and tea), iron and ironing board, and a full-length mirror (in the bathroom).

I really like the layout of the bathroom. The the toilet/tub & shower are in a separate room from the sink and mirror, which makes it easier for more than one person to get ready at the same time.

The breakfast was GREAT!

Seriously, this is one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a hotel this close to Disneyland.  (click on the arrows above to see all the choices)

Breakfast foods included a very impressive assortment:

  • pancakes
  • hash brown potatoes
  • ham
  • scrambled egg patties;
  • fresh fruit (apples and oranges that day)
  • nonfat Greek and low fat regular yogurt
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • donuts, bread, sweet rolls, bagels & cream cheese, and muffins
  • 4 kinds of cold cereal (both healthy-ish and sugary)
  • Instant oatmeal (3 flavors, with raisins, chopped peanuts, CHOCOLATE CHIPS, dried cranberries, granola and brown sugar toppings).
  • Three kinds of juice, milk, coffee and tea (4 flavors of TAZO tea, both with and without caffeine).  
  Healthy eating: I suggest the   oatmeal, yogurt, and hard boiled eggs with fruit (for lots of energy and no sugar high!) PSSST. Don't tell anyone--I usually bring a small Ziploc container of protein powder & add it to my oatmeal.   
Healthy eating: I suggest the oatmeal, yogurt, and hard boiled eggs with fruit (for lots of energy and no sugar high!) PSSST. Don’t tell anyone–I usually bring a small Ziploc container of protein powder & add it to my oatmeal.  

The breakfast room was clean and staff worked hard to keep the food well-stocked.

Tip: get to the breakfast room early to avoid the crowds. How early? 45 minutes to one hour before you plan to leave for the park. See this post to learn what time to arrive at the parks. It’s safe to assume that some people staying here will have 3+ day passes, which entitles them to Extra Magic Morning (park admission 1 hour before the official park opening time). 

Another really great service is that the hotel staff will store your luggage while you are at the parks on the days you check in (if your room isn’t ready) and after you check out. This service saves you money (Lockers at DLR are $12-15 per day) and effort because you won’t have to haul your luggage through DLR security (and yes, they look inside). I’ve been to another hotel on Harbor Blvd that charged $2 to leave your luggage in a locker on their property (I won’t mention names, but it’s near this one).

Pricing (always important): I paid about $169 plus the DLR resort fee for a total of about $195.   I figure I save at least $30 over some of the other hotels, because I don’t need to get a locker at DLR on day of arrival ($12-15/day X 2 days) and my breakfast is included with the room rate ($10+). If you drive to DLR, you’ll save even more because you won’t pay for parking at DLR   ($20/day).

LAST TIP (I promise!): Don’t get the Anaheim Inn confused with the other Best Western on Harbor (BW plus Mini-suites). It’s actually closer to the crosswalk leading to DLR, but it’s a bit more expensive and I haven’t checked out the breakfast there. Please let me know (in the comments) if you have stayed there and what you thought.

All in all, it was an enjoyable stay, made great because of the Best Western Anaheim Inn’s close location to the Parks. I will definitely stay there again!

The Grand Circle Tour (Disneyland Railroad)

  The Guided Tours booth is where all of the Disneyland Park tours begin. (After you pass through the turnstiles, walk through the left tunnel, below the train track next to the Main Street station. It's just to the left of City Hall. 
The Guided Tours booth is where all of the Disneyland Park tours begin. (After you pass through the turnstiles, walk through the left tunnel, below the train track next to the Main Street station. It’s just to the left of City Hall. 

To celebrate the reopening of the Disneyland Railroad (it’s been closed since January 2016), Disneyland has started a new tour. It’s so new that when I joined it, the tour had been given only 4 times and hadn’t yet been advertised on the Disneyland web site or the Disneyland app. (One of the Disneyland train conductors told me about the tour)

Everyone on the tour received this cool badge on a lanyard (Our “credentials”) to identify us as members of the tour.

The tour begins in the charming courtyard behind the Tour ticket booth, with specially-decorated donuts from the Jolly Holiday Bakery, coffee, hot chocolate, and fruit (not shown here are the apple slices and bananas, too). A gluten-free option is also available on request (my flourless brownie was amazingly delicious!). Our guide (Carlos) said he wanted to make sure we had enough energy to do the walking portion of the tour. Each person also gets a listening device with headphones for use during the tour.

Carlos, our Tour Guide, kept telling us that because this is a new tour, a few things were still being ironed out (such as, I was the first person to ask for a gluten-free treat instead of the doughnut). He was an excellent tour guide, always keeping things moving and leaving time for questions. He said it was his fourth day of doing this tour, but you wouldn’t know it because he didn’t miss a beat. Very professional.

  Carlos, our Tour Guide extraordinaire! (the guest behind him was not on our tour)
Carlos, our Tour Guide extraordinaire! (the guest behind him was not on our tour)

This tour is different from Disneyland’s other tours because it’s one of Disneyland’s new “immersive” story-telling tours that use video, film and audio clips to help tell the story. Carlos carried an iPad Pro to show us historic film and pictures, as well as for playing interviews, radio clips, and other spoken information.

This post is a brief summary of the tour…you wouldn’t want me to give away everything, right?

After our snacks and coffee, the tour started outside City hall by introducing Walt Disney’s fascination with trains as a young boy that eventually led to construction of Disneyland Park and the Disneyland Railroad as we know it today. From there we learned about the Main Street Station,  followed by a short walk along Main Street, stopping at several places, including a stop to watch train-related cartoon inside the Main Street Cinema. 

  This is a 1955 map of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad, back when DRR only had two locomotives. (From my personal collection)
This is a 1955 map of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad, back when DRR only had two locomotives. (From my personal collection)

From Main Street, we walked through Frontier Land to New Orleans Square, with stops along the way along way to further develop Walt Disney’s relationship with trains, animation,  movies, and Disneyland.

After a “comfort break” in New Orleans Square (restrooms and water fountains), we boarded one of the DRR trains, and not just ANY car. We rode on the Lilly Belle, which Lillian Disney (Walt’s wife) helped to design after his passing. Our guide continued the story with more information about the inspiration for and history of the car, as we rode along the portion of the railroad route between New Orleans Square and the Toon Town station. Of the four people on this tour, I was the only one who had ever been on the Disneyland Railroad. The Imagineers did a great job of re-routing the train tracks for Star Wars Land construction, including incorporating some new (and references to old) scenery into the route, while hiding most of Star Wars Land construction (other than a crane and some building shells).

All of the furnishings are antiques or custom-made reproductions, and the colors are Lillian’s favorites. Yes, the car has Hidden Mickeys too.

After stopping at the Toon Town station (did you know it used to be the Fantasy Land Station? and that it’s been relocated several times?) our train ride passed through the freshened-up Grand Canyon and Primeval World exhibits (they’ve got some new lighting and special effects — and a new narrator! — but the stories are the same).  At the Main Street station, we disembarked and met Eric, one of the Disneyland Railroad Cast Members, who told us more interesting stories about the trains and answered our many obscure questions.

At the very end of the tour, we each received an illustrated Map of the Disneyland Railroad, complete with illustrations of each of the locomotives that make up the fleet. (Sorry, no picture! I have to leave something to surprise you, right?)

Bonus Train experience…another first for me. If you see this caboose, definitely ask to ride in it (but not on a warm afternoon…it has no air conditioning!).

By the way, according to the Tour Guides, taking this tour will now be the ONLY way to ride the Lilly Belle.

I highly recommend that you make your tour reservations in advance (up to 30 days before you visit the park). 714 781-8687 or  https://disneyland.disney.go.com/events-tours/#/park-tours/Same day Walk-up reservations are sometimes possible (at least 30 minutes prior). The tour is currently only being given in the morning, so get to the Tour booth early if you haven’t made advance reservations. 

Soooo.. What is your favorite part of the Disneyland Railroad?

 

What to do on a Really Crowded Day at DLR (Part 1)

Also known as “You know the Parks are going to be super-crowded, but you NEED a Disneyland Day.” 

You’ve read When to Go Parts 1 and 2, and checked Touring Plans’ Crowd Calendars, and the results are not good.  Maybe friends or family are visiting and they really “have to” go to Disneyland, but it’s the middle of summer or that crazy week between Christmas and the New Years Day weekend. What do you do?

  Photo courtesy of OC Register
Photo courtesy of OC Register

Your options:

Option 1: Go Anyway (but follow a carefully thought-out plan)

Option 2: Spend a day doing other fun Disney activities

Option 3: Use the time to plan a trip to DLR on a less-crowded day

Option 4: Spend a day at another cool destination in Southern California

I’ll discuss Option 1 in this post, since that’s what this site is about. The other options are definitely good second choices, especially on THE MOST CROWDED days at the Parks. (More about the other options in Part 2 .. and maybe Part 3.)

First, here are some Rules for having a good Disneyland (and/or California Adventure) day when it’s really crowded:

1. Make sure you’ve checked the Disneyland website and you know what the parks hours are. Take advantage of the longer hours that the parks are usually open on the most crowded days. In other words, get into the parks early and stay until closing. Most people don’t know about getting into the park before Rope Drop. And a tsunami of people leave the parks right after the fireworks show, especially people with small children. Most people leave relatively early on Sunday nights and weeknights that aren’t followed by a weekend or holiday. (In summer, this staying late rule doesn’t work as well because so many people are there on vacation.)

 photo from MyVeryGeekyLife
photo from MyVeryGeekyLife

2. It will be crowded. Make the best of it and think of it as a chance to (see #3)…. 

3. Ride some rides, and visit some attractions and parts of the park that you usually don’t see.

4. Plan your meal times away from the usual “lunch at noon to 1 pm; dinner at 5 pm to 7 pm.” Use the time when other people are eating to enjoy the somewhat shorter lines.


The first row of pictures below show wait times at Pirates of the Caribbean, HyperSpace Mountain, and Autopia on a very uncrowded day at Disneyland. The clock on Hyperspace Mountain says 7:20 a.m. (We had an Extra Magic Morning hour before park opening at 8 a.m.)

The bottom row shows wait times on a more crowded day at Disneyland (the left and middle pictures) and California Adventures (the last picture), without Fastpasses. Yep, 120 minutes (2 hours!) for Radiator Springs Racers. We went to see Soarin’ Around the World instead. (If you were using the Disneyland App and clicked on each of the ride boxes, you’d see the FastPass return times).


The Plan

BEFORE you arrive at the parks (preferably at least the night before you leave home—or sooner!):

1.  Load the following apps onto your smartphone:

MOST IMPORTANT: The Disneyland App– It’s FREE and is a wealth of useful information. See this page for more info and a link to download it. 

Heads Up (game) – Many people play this game in the line for Toy Story Midway Mania (it’s rarely less than 30 minutes long; usually much longer). It’s a fun game and helps pass the time during long lines (and you can dazzle your friends with some Disney trivia!). (It’s also available at The App Store and Google Play).

2.  Be sure you have a valid ticket for your Disneyland day. This includes making sure your ticket (Disneyland calls it a “Pass”) or Annual Pass (“Annual Passport”) has not expired, and is not blocked out for the day.  If you have a One-Day Ticket, check the calendar on this page to determine if you’ll need to upgrade your ticket.  Go to this page to determine Annual Pass Blockout days.  If you don’t have a ticket (a Pass), buy one online here so you (and your friends) can be in the park, not don’t wasting time waiting in the ticket booth line. You can buy Annual Passes online, too.

3.  Review the tips about when to arrive at the park and add 15-30 minutes to your driving/train/walking time.

4.  Ask each person to decide on one “must-do” ride, attraction, or parade. Figure out locations of the rides and their FASTPASS kiosks (if available). Then set up sequence for getting these rides done first (or getting a FASTPASS for each of these). Parades don’t have Fastpasses, but you’ll want to figure in some time for staking out a spot on the parade route at least 30 minutes before the parade. If you get these done, everything else will be less stressful.

5.  Fully charge your phone, and bring a charging cable and a charger. If you don’t have a charger, consider getting a Fuel Rod at Disneyland. I think Fuel Rod is one of the best inventions EVER! See this page for my review.

On Your DLR day….

Plan to arrive at the turnstile lines (entrance gates to the individual park; where the Cast Member will scan your ticket) at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before the official park opening time. Why? For Rope Drop! See this page for details.  (If you STILL didn’t get a Park ticket yet, you can buy it through the Disneyland Mobile App on your way to the park: see this page.)

After you show your pass to the cast member and go through a turnstile, walk directly toward the Rope Drop area leading to your first “must-do” ride. This can be a good time to send one person to fetch snacks, coffee or other beverages while the others wait for the rope drop. 

  This is the Starbucks on Main Street in Disneyland. It had a line out the door right after people started entering the park. Within 15 minutes, the line had shrunk to this. Lots of Baristas in this Starbucks, so the line moves quickly.
This is the Starbucks on Main Street in Disneyland. It had a line out the door right after people started entering the park. Within 15 minutes, the line had shrunk to this. Lots of Baristas in this Starbucks, so the line moves quickly.

The California Adventure Rope Drop map is below–red lines are the location of the “ropes.” EXCEPT during my last visit to DCA, the Rope Drop area on the left side of the Buena Vista Street fountain–was relocated further into the Park. It’s now between the Little Mermaid ride and the Little Mermaid shop. Along the walkway to this rope, there are at least three restrooms and several places to get food. You can also get World of Color FastPasses before park opening near the Little Mermaid ride. (People with Extra Magic Morning tickets and guests staying at the DLR hotels are allowed past the ropes for one hour prior to park opening. The rest of us look on with anticipation).

The red lines near the Buena Vista Fountain (to the right–to Hollywood Land– and below it–toward Cars Land) and the purple line near the Little Mermaid ride are the locations of the Ropes that “drop” at the official DCA opening time. People gather behind the ropes waiting for the official park opening.

As soon as the rope drops, go directly to the FASTPASS kiosk for your first choice ride/attraction that you REALLY want to do (or ride that ride if the line is short).  Find the FASTPASS Return line after you get a FASTPASS. For example, the StarTours FastPass return line is a new location (near the Tomorrow Land entrance, facing the “Hub.” 

UPDATE: As of June 30, you will receive a paper FastPass “Reminder”  and your FastPasses will be loaded onto your Annual Pass or Park Pass (aka Pass). You’ll scan your Pass (not your FastPass!) at the FastPass Return Line for each ride. Some rides will have one scanner near the FP Return Line entrance; others will also have a FP scanner closer to where you get on (in?) the ride.  The scanner will not let you into the ride if you are too late or too early (usually 5 minutes early is ok) for your FastPass Return time

Next, get in line for a ride near the FASTPASS kiosk that you just visited (OR pull a FASTPASS for the next ride with a long wait time). Depending upon the return time of your first FastPass, you can usually go on another ride.  Repeat as necessary, with meal and rest breaks, of course. For more information about FastPasses and how to maximize their use, see this page from Disneyland Daily (Casey explains it very well..why reinvent….Thanks, Casey!).

If you’ve arrived before Rope Drop, you’ll be able to ride several rides and pull at least a few FASTPASSES during the first two or three hours that the park is open. Keep monitoring the Disneyland App for wait time and FASTPASS return times, because wait times seem to change for no apparent reason.

Sometime around 10 or 11 am, you’ll notice the park getting very busy and the lines will have gone from 20 and 30 minutes to 40, 50 and 60 minutes, with an occasional 120 minute wait. This is a good time to take a break and have a snack, or lunch.You’ll start going to the rides that are less busy, have fast-moving lines, or have moderate length lines, but are either inside a building (the air conditioning is a big relief during Southern California summers, late spring and fall) or longer than the average rides and shows. See the lists below for the rides that typically have the longest lines (especially in the afternoon and early evening)

Most popular rides at Disneyland (FP = FastPasses available)

Star Tours (Tomorrowland; FP)

HyperSpace Mountain (Tomorrowland; FP)

Indiana Jones Adventures (Adventureland; FP)

Matterhorn Bobsleds (Tomorrowland; FP)

Splash Mountain—on warm days–(Critter Country FP)

Peter Pan’s Adventures (Fantasyland)

Finding Nemo (Tomorrowland)

 

Disneyland’s less popular/shorter lines; some with longer length rides or longer shows (The first two are in air conditioned buildings; the Monorail has air conditioning too.)

Tiki Room (get a Dole Whip–from the line inside the waiting area–and enjoy it during the show)

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln/Disneyland Story & gallery

Tarzan’s Tree House

Monorail

Disneyland Railroad (on hiatus until mid-2017 due to Star Wars Land construction)

Mark Twain Riverboat, Pirate’s Lair, & Columbia Sailing Ship (on hiatus until mid-2017 due to Star Wars Land construction)

Autopia

 

Most popular rides at Disney’s California Adventure (FP = FastPasses available)

Guardians of the Galaxy–Mission: BREAKOUT (Hollywood Land; FP)

Radiator Springs Racers (Carsland; FP)

California Screamin’ (FP)

Toy Story Midway Mania (Paradise Pier; FP–just arrived on 4/7/2017)

Grizzly River Run (Grizzly Peak; FP — especially on warm to hot days)

Soarin’ Around the World (Grizzly Peak; FP)

Goofy’s Sky School (Paradise Pier; FP)

California Adventure’s Less Crowded/Shorter lines; some with longer time rides or shows (the first four are inside an air conditioned building)

It’s Tough to Be a Bug (Bug’s Land)

Animation Academy (Hollywood Land)

Turtle Talk with Crush (Hollywood Land)

Little Mermaid- Ariel’s Adventure (Hollywood Land)

Silly Symphony Swings (Paradise Pier)

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (Grizzly Peak)

Golden Zephyr (Paradise Pier)

Other Disneyland Resort Activities

Shopping, especially along Main Street (DL) and Buena Vista Street (DCA), and in Downtown Disney

Get a sample of chocolate at Ghirardelli’s and bread at Boudin’s (DCA)

Search for Hidden Mickeys all over the parks

Tour Carthay Circle Restaurant (Free! Arrive at 10:20 a.m. for the tour at 10:30 am.)

Get a cold drink or an ice cream cone, find a bench or chair, and watch people

Take the Monorail to Downtown Disney and browse the shops, enjoy some music (evenings), or have something to eat or drink from one of the many many delicious choices.

Watch candy-making at Trolley Treats (Buena Vista St- DCA); Candy Palace (Main Street-DL); Pooh Corner (Critter Country – DL); or Marceline’s Confectionary in Downtown Disney.

I hope these tips will help improve your next Disneyland Resort visit on a super crowded day.

Next installment: options 2 through 4:

Option 2: Spend a day doing other fun Disney activities

Option 3: Use the time to plan a trip to DLR on a less-crowded day

Option 4: Spend a day at another cool destination in Southern California

Watch Facebook for these!

Do you have a tip I didn’t list here? Please tell me about it in the comments box below.

 

 

 

Smartphone Smarts at DLR

I know you know how to use your phone. And I’m sure many of you are know much more than me about various cell phone features, so if I’m missing something really helpful or I mess up on something, please mention it in the comments below.

Hopefully, you’ll find at least one helpful tip that will make your next Disneyland trip better. 

  This article doesn't cover these kinds of phones.
This article doesn’t cover these kinds of phones.

By the way, most of these comments will be oriented toward iPhones, because that’s what I know how to use. I’ll use “phone” to refer to most types of smartphones.  I’ll use iPhone if it’s a tip that I know only applies to iPhones. If you have a cell phone that isn’t a smart phone—or even a Blackberry–this article probably won’t help you very much. (Sorry, just the way it is.)

tHE BIG TWO

Here are the two most important tips for using your phone at DLR:

1. Download the Disneyland App

2. Bring a cell phone battery charger

Disneyland App

Disneyland Resort has a very very very helpful App for your smartphone (whether it’s an iPhone or an Android-based cell phone). See this page for more information about how this app is CRITICAL for you to have a good day at the parks. (I know, that’s exaggerating. But it will help!) A new addition to this app is the ability to pay for MaxPass, (which allows you to get FastPasses from your phone and unlimited photos from the PhotoPass app). (More about these new features here: the Disneyland website)

Bring a Portable Charger

  For those of us who forgot to bring our extra phone charger...you can buy this one at DLR!
For those of us who forgot to bring our extra phone charger…you can buy this one at DLR!

Many stores outside the Parks (both online and walk-in) sell portable phone chargers of many types and prices.  How to choose a portable phone charger: read the reviews of various chargers on Amazon.com, www.cnet.com, idrop.com and any other site that you trust. Then charge and use your new charger at least once before your trip to the park so you can become familiar with its switches, cables and other features. Or buy a Fuel Rod charger (see below for description).

I know this is being Captain Obvious, but I must say it:  If you bring a phone charger from home, be sure it is completely charged before you enter DLR. Same with your phone: leave it on the charger (in your car, hotel or wherever) until the last minute before leaving your car, hotel room or wherever.

I  highly recommend the Fuel-Rod Charger, sold from vending machines at several Disneyland Resort locations (listed below).

The initial purchase price ($30, credit card only) includes:

  1. One fully-charged cell phone charger
  2. A USB cable and plugs to connect it to your phone. (The end of the cable that attaches to your phone has a mini-USB, and two adapters: Lightning for iPhone 5 and newer, and 30-pin for iPhone 4 and older.) 

When the charge runs out, you can exchange it (an unlimited number of times) for a new, fully charged charger at one of several vending machines (see below) at no extra charge. You take it home at the end of the day.

Special offer: These vending machines have a place for you to insert a promo code before you pay. I found a code on their website that gave me $2 off right before I bought my Fuel-Rod. Google their website (Fuel-rod.com), Fuel Rod Power promo code, discount or coupon, or check the FuelRod Facebook page.

The Fuel-Rod vending machines locations:

Disneyland:

  • Main Street USA locker area (as you walk into the locker room) 
  • Pooh Corner at Critter Country (new location)
  • Tomorrowland Star Trader (outside the store, near HyperSpace Mountain exit)
  • Small World Toy Shop (at the store exit)

California Adventure:

  • Buena Vista Street, just past the lockers, just inside the entrance to the photo store (behind Mortimer’s Market)
  • Paradise Pier, inside Seaside Treasures (the store across from the Ariel’s Grotto Restaurant and The Cove bar).

Downtown Disney:

  • ESPN Zone
  • Grand Californian Hotel (Convention area)
  • Paradise Pier Hotel (Lobby)
  • Disneyland Hotel (Fantasy Tower, outside the business center)

OR you can buy one from their website BEFORE you go to DLR. Here’s the link. (See below for my review of FuelRod below–after 3+ uses)

WiFi

UPDATE 7/27/17:  Free Wi-Fi (wireless) high-speed Internet access is NOW available in specific areas of both Disneyland Resort theme parks and the area between the park entrances (aka “the Esplanade”). 

Instructions for connecting (courtesy of the Disneyland website): To access complimentary Wi-Fi, first locate the nearest hotspot on the park map using the Disneyland mobile app or find hotspots on the map below. When you’re close to a hotspot, simply select the network “Disney-Guest” (be sure to accept the Terms & Conditions).

wi-fi locations

Disneyland 

  • Tomorrow Land: Matterhorn South (across from Galactic Grill) 
  • Fantasy Land: “it’s a small world” Promenade (across from the Pretzel and Lemonade stands)
  • Tomorrow Land:  Between StarWars Launchpad and The Star Trader store
  • Main Street, USA: Two, near the Hub (near the Castle end of Main Street). 1. By the “Partners” statue; and 2. By information booth/tip board by Jolly Holiday Bakery
  • Frontierland: Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante
  • New Orleans Square: along the Waterfront (Rivers of America)

Disney California Adventure 

  • Pacific Wharf: Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop
  • Cars Land: Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Cars Land: Sarge’s Surplus Hut (and possibly the neighboring Park area)
  • Hollywood Land: near Monster’s Inc ride & Avenger’s Meet & Greet area
  • Paradise Pier: Paradise Garden Grill seating area (near Goofy’s Sky School)
  • Paradise Pier: California Screamin’ boardwalk (between Screamin’ and Paradise Pier Ice Cream Co.)
  • Buena Vista Street: Carthay Circle Guest Relations tip board/info booth
  • Grizzly Peak: Grizzly River Rapids viewing area (overlooking the water wheel), across from the rear of Little Mermaid ride bulding and World of Color Fast Pass distribution area.  
  • Grizzly Peak Airfield: near Soarin’ Over California

Other DLR WiFi Locations

  • Lobbies of the on-property DLR hotels (Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and Grand Californian Hotel) and some of the other public areas (like the casual restaurants and the bars/lounges).  Of course, if you’re staying at one of these hotels, you’ll have WiFi service in your room.
  • Downtown Disney: many of the restaurants, including both Starbucks.

TAKING Pictures at the Disneyland Resort

You’ll be using your phone to take many pictures at DLR, but did you know that the Disney photographers will use your phone to take your picture with Disney characters (the ones you see in costumes around the parks)? They will!  And they take much better photographs than most people I know.

PhotoPass

If you have a Signature or Signature Plus Annual Pass, or you buy a day of Photopass or MaxPass), you can ask the nearby Disney photographer to take photos of you with the Disney characters—using their camera). Then you can download these photos and also the photos taken of you on rides (like Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin,’ and more), and view them on your phone via the Disneyland App.

Here’s how:  Link your Signature or Signature Plus Annual Pass (or purchased Photopass or MaxPass) to the Disneyland Resort app (available for iPhones and Android phones, FREE).

NEW: The Disneyland app allows you to crop these photos, and add filters, borders and stickers, all on your phone.

Battery saving tips

Does your iPhone (or other cell phone) battery die before the end of your day at the parks? Yep, it happens. But it’s not just because you’re taking lots of picture or checking wait times on the Disneyland app. There’s a few standard (and some more deeply hidden settings) that reduce your battery’s life.

WARNING: Don’t put your phone on Airplane Mode because you won’t get any phone calls or text messages, and won’t be able to use any apps that rely on online data—like the Disneyland app. In other words, keep the cellular service (and now WiFi too) turned on.

Low Power Mode

Apple has included a battery saver feature for iPhones running iOS 9 or newer. When your battery decreases to 20% capacity, you’ll see an on-screen notification asking if you want to turn on Low Power Mode. But don’t wait til it gets that low: You can enable Low Power Mode (LPM) when your battery is at 80% or even at full charge.  I try to put my phone on LPM as soon as soon as our car comes to a complete stop in the Mickey and Friends parking structure at DLR. (Oh, have I ridden too many DL and DCA rides? Maybe so.)

CAUTION: Turn LPM off when you begin to charge your phone. Not everyone agrees with this, but I’ve found that the phone charges more slowing in LPM than in standard mode.

How to Enable LPM (iPhone directions)

Go to Settings, click on Battery, and enable (turn on) Low Power Mode.  Apple says LPM will give your iPhone an extra three hours of battery life. (Before you do this, read the Trade-Off information below)

But there’s a trade-off: Low Power Mode disables many of your iPhone’s more battery-intensive tasks (like background updates of apps–like Mail, Facebook and similar). 

Here’s the full list of disabled or otherwise changed features  (courtesy of idrop.com):

  • Automatically reduces screen brightness, however the brightness can be manually increased.
  • Locks the screen after 30 seconds; this setting cannot be changed.
  • Apps will no longer automatically update content in the background.
  • Push updates for mail are disabled, and no notification of new mail will be displayed.
  • Automatic download of applications and updates is disabled.
  • Visual effects such as Dynamic Wallpapers and perspective zoom are disabled.
  • CPU performance is essentially halved. (Initial reports indicate that when Low Power Mode is enabled, an iPhone 6s Plus will run at a speed similar to an iPhone 5s.)
  • Always on ‘Hey Siri’ feature is disabled, however Siri can still be accessed manually.

Charging Lockers

Most people know about the lockers on Main Street at Disneyland and on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure.  But did you know that some of the lockers have built-in cables to charge your phone? These are different than the regular lockers.  These lockers cost $2/hour for charging. 


Review of Fuel Rod phone charger

I purchased a Fuel Rod kit during a visit to DLR in December 2016. The Fuel Rod vending/exchange machine showed that the price was $30, but I happened to find a Promo code that dropped the price to $28. (YAY!) The convenience factor of buying it at Disneyland when my phone was dead made it an good deal for me (even at $28).

Right out of the (handy storage) tube, the battery charged my phone from 22% to 72% in about 30 minutes. I used the included cable to charge my phone. When I got home, I used the same cables to charge the Fuel Rod so it’s ready for my next visit.

This is a cool device. It charged quickly, and I really like that the cable, adapter, and battery all fit in a tube that’s not much bigger than the FuelRod itself.

I’ve heard that Fuel Rod charger vending machines are located in some airports and other places, with chargers selling for $20. I haven’t seen these near where I live, at the three major airports I’ve visited recently, or anywhere else near DLR.  You can also buy one from their website Fuel-Rod.com  for $20 plus $5 shipping (US only).

UPDATE July 29, 2017: I’ve been using my Fuel Rod A LOT since I got it in December of last year. So far, I’ve used it to charge my phone at Disneyland Resort; on Amtrak, Disney Cruise Line, two other boats and two jets; on two islands; while hiking hills, becaches, and cities; and many other places. It has allowed me to be the only person with a charged phone on several occasions. It’s easy to carry, and my phone still fits in my pocket, backpack or purse when the charger is attached. I’ve exchanged it more than a few times at DLR and charged it many, many times at home. Overall, it’s still a great purchase.

Please note: I paid for my Fuel Rod charger with my own money and was not compensated in any way by Fuel Rod company.

 

 

.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Healthy Rocket Fuel???

Schmoozies is a Counter Service dining option at California Adventure (in Hollywood Land) that has a menu full of (wait for it..) SMOOTHIES. During the Summer of Heroes, they offer smoothies themed to coordinate with the new Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout ride in Hollywood Land.

Here’s the menu:

Rocket Fuel is probably named after the Guardian who denies that he’s a raccoon. 

Since the cast members make these beverages to order, I asked if they could substitute some ingredients. Fortunately, the CM at the order window said ok. Here’s my healthier version of that smoothie:

Frozen Espresso (don’t mess with my coffee!),
Deleted the whipped cream
Add yogurt (they use low fat vanilla yogurt—see it in the Strawberry -Banana Breakout on the menu)
Add banana and  strawberries.

OMG…It was delicious. Could this be an “off the menu” item during the Summer of Heroes?

Note: I asked for this variation when Schmoozies had only a few other customers. 

They also serve some crazy (dare I saw “out-of-this-world?”) doughnuts with the GOG theme. The Gamma-Sized Donut (has blackberry and black currant filling) is HUMONGOUS! I assume that’s a GOG thing too… or Incredible Hulk?  (Yes, the donut is sitting on a teenager’s leg—it is not forced perspective!). Donuts are served until 11 AM.

Schmoozies also serves some more normal beverages, such as Caffe Latte and Mocha, Espresso, Iced Coffee, Hot Tea, and bottled water. Flavorings are available too.  Lavender lemonade with a glow cube also appears on the menu.

How to Eat Healthy at DLR (resources)

Breakfast

Baked (High Protein) Oatmeal

Makes 4 servings (adult size= 1/2 of each pan).

This is a great recipe for taking with you to the DLR. It makes a lot, tastes yummy, has lots of protein, no added sugar, can be made in advance and is easily adaptable for different flavors. It’s part of my “Eating Healthy at Disneyland” plan.  Enjoy!! 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup rolled oats (I use Whole Foods bulk organic or Trader Joe’s gluten free rolled oats, too. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, Amazon.com sells Trader Joe’s gluten free rolled oats.)

¾ cup oat flour (Bob’s Old Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour preferred, also at Amazon.com)

½  tsp baking soda (or ½ tsp Xanthan gum)

1 tsp baking powder

½ to 2 tsp EACH ground ginger, cinnamon and/or pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

12 large egg whites (equivalent amount of refrigerated egg whites works too)

4 servings vanilla protein powder (I use MetRx Protein Plus Vanilla from Trader Joe’s.  Optimal Nutrition Cinnamon Bun flavor (from Amazon.com) also makes this recipe really tasty)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

Approximately 1 to 1  1/2  cups water (or milk of choice, or combination); see directions

2 tsp vanilla extract

OPTIONAL: (either one; I haven’t tried both together)

1 tbsp psyllium husks

1 tbsp chia seeds

Directions:

1.       Preheat oven to 360°  F.

2.       Prepare two 8- or 9-inch square baking pans by spraying with cooking spray (bakes faster and more thoroughly in two square pans than in one larger pan). 

3.        In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to mix the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and spices (and psyllium and/or chia seeds, if desired). Set this mixture aside.

4.     Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in another medium bowl (on medium to high speed) until very fluffy; then mix in the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract (on medium speed) until no pumpkin lumps are visible.

5.      In another medium bowl, use a spoon to combine the protein powder with 1 to 1 ½ cups water–a little at a time, mixing well to remove all lumps. You’ll want the mixture to be like a barely-pourable pancake batter or soft pudding. (The amount of water used will depend upon your protein powder. ****VERY IMPORTANT: Use a protein powder that you like, since it really affects the taste of the final product.) 

5.       Add the protein powder mixture to the egg, pumpkin, and vanilla mixture, beating well with an electric mixer (or spoon) until smooth (no lumps). 

6.       GENTLY fold the pumpkin/protein powder/egg mixture into the dry ingredients mixture (use a bowl scraper, aka spatula. .  . not a pancake turner), and mix until the dry ingredients are just combined with the wet ingredients (too much beating will make the dough very tough).

7.       Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25-28 minutes, checking at 25 minutes for doneness. Top should brown nicely and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the center.

Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm; room temp is good too. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

OPTIONS: Try adding shredded carrots and pineapple for a carrot cake-like taste. I’ve made it with chocolate protein powder too (I wasn’t crazy about it, but others might like it). Bananas are also a good flavor addition.

8/13/2016 UPDATE: Yesterday I made this with shredded zucchini and it was absolutely fabulous! Tastes a bit like zucchini bread.. but not as heavy (and much healthier!).