Friday, January 19, 2018

Top Ten Tips for Disneyland

Disneyland. I love it. I hate crowds, and screaming children, and being run over by strollers, and to be honest, the guys in the suits creep me out a bit, but I absolutely love the madness that comes with visiting "The Happiest Place on Earth". I love the smell of kettle corn when you get off the tram. I love the sound of Disney music piped into Main St. USA. I just love all of it. I've had year passes to Disneyland off and on for a long time and there was a period of time I was going with my S.O. a 4-5 times a week. Needless to say, I learned some pretty awesome tips and tricks. Now, I want to share my experience with you so that if you go to Disneyland, even if it is just for one day, you can maximize your time there and try to preserve your sanity. These tips and tricks are primarily geared for summer visits because that is when the park gets most of its guests, but much of it applies year round. Note: I am not affiliated with Disney. This is not an official Disney post. Disney did not pay me for this post. Not all photos are from Disneyland Anaheim, some are from other locations. I am just a crazy fan.

1.) Dress for success.

 I don't mean wear a business suit or like you are going to a job interview. That isn't the kind of success I mean. You may think that jean shorts and flip flops and a tank top is the absolute most comfortable thing in the world. I know I do. That is not what you want to wear to Disneyland though. I'll start at the top. If you have long hair, bring a hair tie to get your hair off your neck if it starts to bug you. You may want to put it up on some rides too just to keep it from getting in your face (Space Mountain I'm looking at you). If you can pull off wearing a hat, do it. Especially in the summer. At the height of summer Disneyland gets hot, and I mean hot. Plus, it's humid and you are surrounded by tons of people. Wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses can make you more comfortable. Tank top is a good idea all year round but a tee-shirt works too. Sunscreen is a must and always, always take something to put over it. A light sweater in the summer and a hoodie in the winter is a good bet. Shorts are okay to wear but you run the risk of getting a wet rear end on some rides and there is just something about not having a barrier between the water on the seat and my thighs that freaks me out. I suggest wearing capris/crops, longer shorts, or if you feel comfortable in them, leggings. I would suggest staying away from dresses as you are going to be climbing in and out of rides, crouching down, bending over etc. I just find them to be less than practical. Here is my biggest piece of advice: wear comfortable shoes. You may live in flip-flops and sandals but after standing in them all day in the heat your feet will be filthy, tired and in general, unpleased. Sandals also increase your risk of being run over by a stroller on main street (I wore sandals once, got run over 4 times.) I highly recommend athletic shoes but any kind of sneaker would do. I've seen girls in heels and if that's what you want to do.... okay, but I would never. I can't imagine how much my feet would hurt at the end of the day.

2.) Plan food in advance. 

Food in the park is prohibitively expensive. Sometimes worth it, sometimes not. I find that getting a snack like a pickle or some fruit is a bit pricey but often worth it. Lower end eateries in the park (like Bengal BBQ) seem a bit overpriced for what you get in my opinion. What I normally do is this: Eat breakfast before the park, like a big breakfast. Take snacks like a bag of chips and a meal replacement bar or granola bar. Dehydrated fruit and beef jerky also works. Then splurge on one meal in the park. My favorite is Blue Bayou ($$$$) but Red Rocket's Pizza Port is pretty good and has nice salads too. Another option is to get a turkey leg and/or churro from a cart. Do your research ahead of time to see what restaurants/eateries interest you and plan accordingly. The official Disneyland list is here. It's broken down by cost, location (Disneyland/California Adventure/Downtown Disney), and type of dining.

3.) Hydrate.

This may seem to go without saying but make sure you drink plenty of water, especially in the summer. Bottled water is expensive in the park but if you have a bag you can bring your own. I will often put a bottle in the fridge and a bottle in the freezer the night before (put it in a sock or a plastic bag so that the condensation doesn't get anything else wet) and take both with me. When I exhaust both of those (and yes, it happens) I decide if I want to fill my empty bottle with Anaheim water from the water fountain or pay $3.00 for a bottle of water. When I know it's going to be hot I'll take an extra bottle or two just because I didn't do that one time and ended up spending $15.00 on water alone and that was with rationing. I know that water can be heavy but if you are on a budget it might be worth it to bring your own. Plus as you drink it, your bag will get lighter and you can use the money you save to buy souvenirs.

4.) Plan your rides.

I know I keep telling you to plan this and that and you might be thinking that you don't want to be on a strict schedule. That isn't the kind of planning I mean. I mean if you are going with a group, talk about what rides/attractions you cannot miss. For example, when I go, I have to go on Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain. My mom has to go on It's a Small World. My dad has to go on Space Mountain and Star Tours. So I know that when we get there we will make sure to do all of those. If you do a little research ahead you can find out when is the best time of day to hit each ride that you want to do and if fast passes are available. Take advantage of fast passes! Get the Disneyland wait times app to see what you can fit in where. Go here for the app: MAC/ANDROID. Some of the tips I learned from all my time there:
Longest wait times: Indiana Jones (often offers fastpass), Space Mountain (often offers fastpass), Star Tours, Matterhorn (worse in the afternoon), Haunted Mansion (during the holiday season when it is Nightmare Before Christmas Themed), Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toads Wild Ride
Places to rest/cool off: Main Street Cinema, Tiki Room, Disneyland Railroad (also a great way to get around the park), Jungle Cruise, California Soarin' (California Adventure), The Wishing Well (To the right of the castle if you are on Main St.)
Rides/Times to Avoid: Avoid doing Space Mountain at the height of the day as much of the line is outside in the sun with little to no shade. This is why fastpasses are great. Avoid doing Matterhorn at night when the line is the longest. I don't know why they are longest then but they are. Avoid Splash Mountain at the height of the day in the summer, the line will be incredible because everyone wants to cool off. Instead try one of the above suggestions.

5.) Ticket Tricks

Before you go, research coupons and discounts for Disney tickets. Decide if you want a multi-day or single day, and if you want multi-park or single park. From experience, it is easy to spend a whole day in each park but if you only want to go on a couple rides at California Adventure then you may be able to do it all in one day. Purchasing tickets online is by far the most convenient way to purchase your ticket. Because of the popularity of e-tickets the ticket booths at the park do not generally have long lines for tickets, even at opening times. So if you really want to buy your ticket at the park you can easily do so. Also, I cannot stress enough to plan take advantage of the fastpass system. It will save you time and possibly a sunburn. I generally use it for Space Mountain and Indiana Jones.

6.) Splurge a bit.

Get a a pair of ears (at least once). Get ice cream at the Gibson Girls Ice Cream Parlor on Main st. If you have little ones, get their faces painted or do the princess experience at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (Fantasyland, right by the castle). One of the best suggestions I can make as far as splurging is doing a dining package. Seeing the shows (fireworks, Fantasmic, World of Color, etc.) can be a nightmare. You spend hours sitting around waiting for the show to start or you are standing behind rows and rows of people who don't care if you can see or not. If you buy a dining package (maybe for a restaurant you were going to anyway) you get priority seating in a reserved section for the show. You show up 20-30 minutes before it starts, they let you in and you watch the show from a great vantage point. You have to make reservations in advance for some restaurants and for all dining packages. You can do so online or over the phone at (714) 781-DINE (3463) between 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM daily (Pacific Time). Get your picture taken everywhere there is a professional photographer. You don't have to buy them, but you can and it's kind of fun. Research before or buy (Amazon or Park it's available through both) the book of Hidden Mickeys. It's fun to find them throughout the day and sometimes they are in areas where you are waiting in line anyway. Talk to "cast members". Sometimes they can give out fast passes or tell you about hidden things in the park. It's always nice to greet them with a smile, even if you get nothing in return.

7.) Shop Smart.

You don't want to be carrying around a 3 foot mickey all day. You can make purchases and have them sent to the front for pickup later or you can just do your shopping at the end of the day. I happen to really hate the crowd on Main St. at the end of the night so I will often get out of the park as quick as I can and then do my shopping at World of Disney in Downtown Disney. It has most of the stuff you can find in the park with a few exceptions. There are area specific things that you can only find within the park such as some Star Wars memorabilia and some of the safari themed things available in Adventureland. Additionally, for your Mickey ears, you have to go to Mad Hatter (near the teacups) because they have the best selection and they can put your name on it, other stores have ears, but Mad Hatter is the best. You can also participate in the pin exchange. Buy/Bring a Disney pin and you can trade with any cast member who is wearing a lanyard or in shops that have a pin display. The pin you are trading must be a trademarked Disney pin (it has the Disney logo on the back). You can often find Disney pins cheap online or at collectible shows like Frank & Son in City of Industry, CA.

8.) BYOB- Bring Your Own Bags

You want to bring a bag for keys, sweaters, souvenirs, snacks etc. I really recommend a simple backpack with few pockets. You will need to go through security before entering the park, the fewer pockets, the less time that will take. Additionally, a backpack is easy to carry all day and the arm straps make it easy to take with you on rides like space mountain and Indiana Jones. Just put it on the floor, pop a foot through one or both arm straps and you are set to go. Large tote bags that can't be closed can be a real pain as even if you secure it (which they rarely fit in the "protective pouch" on rides) the top is still open so things can fall out. In your bag make sure you bring a plastic bag (I bring a gallon Ziploc) for your camera, cellphone and anything else that really shouldn't get wet. If you go on Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run (in California Adventure) you will more than likely end up wet. You can occasionally get wet on Pirates of the Caribbean but not very much. Bring some cash with you. If the credit card machine goes down in one of the smaller shops or if it doesn't have one (I think one of the shops in adventure land doesn't have one) it's good to have a bit of cash on you. I also bring an extra pair of socks and underwear (just in case I get drenched), a camera, sunscreen, lip balm and a hair tie. If you are planning on waiting around for a show (the light parade, fireworks etc) it may be a good idea to bring something to sit on if you don't want to sit on the cement. Sometimes I will bring a shawl with me instead of a sweater in the summer it works as a sun-shield, sweater if it gets chilly and a blanket if I need to sit on the ground.

9.) Have a Good Time.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it's easy to get overwhelmed by people and waiting in line and spending so much money. Try to remember that you are making memories and enjoy every minute. People watch. Don't be afraid to take a moment to yourself (going to the bathroom can be good for that). Ask for help if you need it. Don't worry about looking stupid. Enjoy every moment. When something happens that irks you (and something will, I'm sure) take a breath. Find the humor in things. Eavesdrop. People watch. Take pictures of everything. Go on rides you don't think you will like at least once. Stay flexible. You spent almost $100 if not more on your ticket, use it to the full.

10.) Leave Like a Pro

When it comes to leaving the park at closing time, it can be the most stressful part of the whole day. In order to leave the park everyone must go down Main st. so you have the entire park funneling down that one space. This includes children that are overstimulated, hyper, and grumpy because they didn't take a nap, parents who are overstimulated, tired, and grumpy because they didn't get a nap and everyone else. I really, really, really hate crowds. I mean this blog is called the Travelling Recluse for a reason. So here are three tips I found really helpful. 1.) Avoid the rush. There is generally a rush of people leaving after each show. If you can stay away from Main St. for a bit while everyone filters out it can make the going a little easier. 2.) Monorail. You can pick up the monorail by the Submarine ride and it will drop you off at the far end of Downtown Disney. Not many people take this route. You still have to deal with the crowds of Downtown Disney to get back to the tram to the parking lot but it is a lot less crowded than Main St. 3.) Exit through the shops. Most of the shops on Main St. are connected inside so you can almost enter a shop at the square and walk all the way to the entrance inside the shop. Yes, you still have to pop out onto Main St. a time or two. Yes, there are still crowds. I just found that people moved slower and there was less chance of being pushed, stepped on, or run over by a stroller if I went through the shops.

Have a Great Trip to Disneyland

I hope these tips helped you plan your trip and you enjoy the park as much as I do. It can really be something truly special to share with friends and loved ones. Drive safe!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

"The Truth is Out There" A visit to the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico

I'm not a person who believes that I've been abducted by aliens, and while I believe they exist I don't believe that they visit humans, much less do all this probing. I believe that there is so much universe and humans can't be the only intelligent life in it. That being said, I have wanted to visit Roswell for many, many, years. I love science fiction and couldn't help but want to visit the mecca that is Roswell. I finally had the opportunity last summer and  went to visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Adult admission is only $5 with discounts for children, military personnelle and seniors. Open 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. we arrived around noon. There is free public parking and while there were quite a few people there it wasn't uncomfortably crowded, even for me.

The museum was housed in a way that seemed almost temporary with the displays being housed in movable cubicles. The floor was unfinished concrete and it didn't seem to really be laid out in any particular order. There was an area that housed old movie memorabilia including movie posters and props. There were also dioramas throughout the museum with a large one in the center (see top photo). According to the museum Facebook they will be having renovations soon. I can't wait to go back and see the new and improved museum.


A lot of the displays were photos and records of alien appearances. Some of them I read and others I skipped. It was all pretty interesting though. One of the things I really enjoyed was the above "Palenque Astronaut," a door size carving along with its accompanying "translation." I thought it was interesting to see the interpretation of claims of alien contact from such an ancient civilization. After spending some time in the gift shop, which had all kinds of neat alien things, and taking some photos in the alien themed photo booth, we headed to lunch at Big D's Downtown Dive. I had the Tomahawk, a burger on Native American fry bread and garlic fries which were out of this world. pun intended. I have to say that the museum really wasn't what I expected but I am so glad I went. It was a once in a lifetime experience and really really fun. 


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Quick Visit to Saguaro National Park in Tuscon Arizona

Photo By:Kristen Lee

Just outside of Tuscon, Arizona is the Saguaro National park. 143 square miles of natural desert with trails and drives allowing you to enjoy the park from the comfort of your own car. One of the many national parks in the United States Park system, Saguaro National Park is conveniently located outside of the bustling city of Tucson. The park is located on either side of the major metropolitan hub, complete with an airport. The Saguaro National Park and the surrounding desert (called the Sonoran Desert) is the only place in the world where you can find the Saguaro cactus, making it a truly unique place to visit. During the summer, there is very little wildlife during the day but if you visit around sunset you may see lizards, rabbits or even a deer (like we did). Like Joshua Tree National park, Saguaro National park is surprisingly green for a desert park and in springtime the wildflowers must be amazing. We arrived there in late summer, after the major blooms had faded, however, many of the cacti still had remaining blooms on their crowns.

Photo By:Kristen Lee

When I graduated from Community College I took a road trip from California to Texas to see my best friend. On our way from Los Angeles to San Antonio my mom and I stopped in Tucson and took a drive along the Cactus Forest Drive loop in my car. It was easy to find after we put the address in my phone GPS. There was a small entrance fee ($10) which was good for the entire week to both sides of the reserve. Being the middle of summer it was hot, even in the car with the air conditioning on, so be sure you have plenty of water. The gentleman manning the kiosk was friendly and asked where we were from while he gave us our receipt, park maps and directions. He even reminded us that there is no water in the park itself so be sure to bring some with you. The park was clean and bright and while we can’t speak to the state of the bathrooms, they were available on-site. There are picnic areas and hiking off the loop as well as a visitor center and gift shop. On the other side (the west side) there is also a wildlife area with a small museum. The drive was slightly hilly but was well paved, nothing that requires four wheel drive or all-terrain. The loop is one way and takes a while to drive although it probably took longer because we were getting out to take pictures regularly. You can stop at any time, just pull over to the side of the road so that others can go around your car to continue their drive. While the loop itself can probably be done in 20-30 minutes, you can easily spend all day hiking, picnicking and taking photos. How long you stay, is really up to you. Additionally, the closeness of Tuscon means that it only takes minutes to get back to restaurants, shopping and the comfort of your hotel.

Photo By:Kristen Lee

I was really hoping to see a bright, desert sunset, like the ones I grew up with in the Mojave Desert but the sunset was muted. It was still beautiful and it wasn’t until the sun started to set that we began to see animals. One of the things I really enjoyed seeing was the cacti that had died. While this may sound grim, they were truly beautiful because what was left of them was their basic structure. Additionally, it was really interesting to see the way that the birds lived in the barrels of the healthy cacti and even the cacti that had died. We had arrived in Tucson from California the day we had visited the park so we got there in the afternoon. I cannot imagine visiting at the height of the day when the sun would be its strongest. Still, I think that visiting the park in the early morning may allow for great lighting for pictures, as well as providing the remaining evening coolness.

Photo By:Kristen Lee

While some may find the desert lacking beauty, I was surprised at just how beautiful I thought the Saguaro National Park was. I especially appreciated that I was able to see the beauty from my car and while I would have loved to have taken advantage of the hiking trails it was just too hot. The smoothly paved road, plentiful turn-outs and short duration of the loop makes this a great excursion for someone who has mobility issues, problems with standing or walking long distances, and those who don’t handle the heat particularly well. While my mother and I both deeply enjoyed this trip I think that families with small children may struggle as it may be boring for little ones. This problem may be solved by visiting during a cooler time of year when you can allow young ones to get out of the car and stretch their legs, although be careful to keep an eye on them, Saguaro cacti have long stickers and they are everywhere.

Photo By:Kristen Lee

National Parks Service - Saguaro National Park
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Drive We Took