A Year Spent at the Happiest Place on Earth / 2013-2014

disneyland sleeping beauty castle april 2014

Today my Disneyland pass expires. After having an annual pass to the Happiest Place on Earth since Christmas of 2004, I am so heartbroken to not just be able to head down there whenever I want. Looking back over the years, I feel so blessed and am so thankful for all the little moments and celebrating all the major milestones. It’s the place I fell in love, it’s where friendships were strenghtened, its the place where my little nieces and nephews saw a whole new world with a sparkle in their eyes. And oh my gosh, I miss it already.

On the other hand, Disneyland to me has always been a creative and artistic masterpiece. Every single nook and cranny has been thoughtfully executed down to the smallest detail. It has been crafted with love and a passion for the ideals of one man, Walt Disney. Walking down Main Street, I am just filled with so much creative juice that my heart just feels full and my mind is racing with ideas.

And while I am taking a break from having a pass for awhile… I will forever cherish all these days and nights spent in the most beautiful amusement park ever created. Okay, I think Paris and Tokyo Disneyland are the prettiest, but I haven’t been to those—yet.

So here’s to yet another great year spent at the Happiest Place on Earth—and my last for a little while! To the memories and photographs, to the friends and laughter.

See my 2010 year at Disneyland, 2011,  and 2012.

May 7

The day I got my pass was just to be able to get in for the day to take Rachel’s maternity photos… it was great to be back after not having a pass for 2 months. And of course, great to be there for sun kissed moments such as this…

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September 22

Saying goodbye to the Courtyard of Angels as they closed it down the following week to make it the new entrance to Club 33. It’s my favorite spot in the park, see my post on it here.

courtyard of angels 2013

November 11

My first trip with my newest Disneyland ride buddy!! I was pretty excited, can you tell?

amelia 5 months

November 15

First time seeing Amie as Mrs. Pankratz since the wedding! So much catching up to do while exploring Disneyland at its Christmas finest!

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December 8

Before going on Splash Mountain with the newlyweds… and before Amie was very upset with us for making her sit in the front row and get totally drenched.

splash mountain pankratz allen december 2013

January 12

Celebrating our annual trip for Rachel’s birthday.

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January 17

Because I just couldn’t pick which Ryan boy to post! And because they are both just so darn cute!!

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hudson january 2014 fliks flyers

February 9

One last trip before the husband’s pass expired.

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April 9

Molly’s first trip to Disneyland! And her buddy Grayson and my buddy Jess looking at ducks… again, couldn’t decide which kiddo to show! More photos from this trip here.

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April 11

Mia took her first spin around the teacups during what we thought would be our last trip together! Another couple photos from this trip here!

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April 30

Another “last trip before the pass expires…” I just love watching the kiddos experience the joys we take for advantage. Like the fun of a carousel.

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california adventure carousel grayson april 2014

May 4

Since I started my pass and this post off with 8 month pregnant Rachel, I thought it was only appropriate to end with 11 month old Mia in her mama’s arms.

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Wow… what a year it was! I can’t promise you that I didn’t cry a few times going through photos to create this post. I love these friends of mine who are more like family. And this park that sometimes feels more like home.

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Disneyland Secrets: Hidden Mickeys and other Fun Facts

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Many people are shocked to find out I only truly fell in love with all things Disney[land] just when I met my hubby 10 years ago.

I grew up on Disney’s movie magic and loved the random trips we took as kids but it wasn’t until Andy pointed out the random holes in the wall on the Pirates of the Carbibbean ride and asked if I could see the Hidden Mickey—that my love for Disney grew into a passion.

From there, my obsession with all things secret—and even mythical—about Disneyland began. I found an outdated website with Hidden Mickey sightings, printed out pages and pages and went through the park marking them off one at a time. Yeah, Andy kept his distance from me on those days. 🙂

What kept me so entranced by these hidden gems is the artistic detail the park Imagineers tended to. All this “hidden stuff” is just bonus fun to an already amazing place to visit. It’s what kept me going back trip after trip, year after year. It’s these small details that place the quality of Disneyland over an other amusement park.

So I just wanted to take some of these little gems and share them with you! And just like Andy sparked my curiosity oh so many years ago, hopefully I can spark yours!

All the photos below were taken by me, or friends, over the last 10 years of having our annual passes.

Hidden Mickeys

What is a Hidden Mickey anyway? According to the Hidden Mickey Guy:

An official Hidden Mickey: a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas.

The 50th anniversary celebration really brought Hidden Mickeys to the forefront. Where to many, the idea of Hidden Mickeys were somewhat mythical and unofficial, the 50th anniversary placed 50 “hidden” Mickeys throughout the park. Many were very obvious finds while a small percentage were trickier to find.

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But these small hidden gems, go beyond just those three interlocking circles. There are many more nods to other characters, and even past rides—or whole restaurants!

Let’s take a grand circle tour of the park, shall we?

Disneyland

Starting with Main Street….

There are a great many nods to the past found in the Main Street windows. Many of the painted window advertisements acknowledge past Disneyland Imagineers, artists, and animators. One of the more famous windows is for Elias Disney, Walt Disney’s father. Another famous window, and room, is above the firehouse where Walt Disney used to stay after hours in a furnished apartment. There is still a light in the window that is always on in his memory.

Main Street Cinema Hidden Mickey

Find this Hidden Mickey in the Main Street Cinema.

 

Fantasyland

My favorite Hidden Mickey is found in the top windows of Big Ben, of the London scene in the Peter Pan attraction. You can see just a silhouette of Mickey Mouse waving to you just as you finish circling the tower.

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Look closely in Mr. Toad’s left eye to find a little Hidden Mickey

 

Pixie Hollow Hidden Mickey

I was quite excited to spot a Hidden Mickey at the entrance to Pixie Hollow!

Adventureland

Indiana Jones has so so so many amazing finds! In the projector room, ask the Cast Member at the front of the line if they have a flash light. If so, they can show you, up in the rafters, an old Eeyore sign from the parking lot that stood in place before Indiana Jones was built over it! And then just before you leave the projector room, look back at the left wall and you can see a very subtle but GIANT Hidden Mickey on the wall made from the rocks and cracks.

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Another Hidden Mickey lies in the very next room, on the desk on the cover of a magazine is a scene from one of the original Mickey black and white cartoons from the same time period that Indiana Jones took place. These are my favorite kinds of Hidden Mickeys… where they seamlessly fit with the theme of the room and are pretty out in the open but still subtle.

Indiana Jones Hidden Mickey magazine

Another amazing fun Mickey find is on the ride itself. As you’re entering the first skeleton/bone room, look back over your left shoulder and you’ll find a skeleton leaning against the wall that is wearing those classic Mickey ears hats! So fun but so very hard to find! We once rode it over and over until we found it and now I can’t-not see it!

Like I mentioned, there’s a lot more “hidden” than just Mickeys. Sitting on top of the Jungle Cruise building sits a familiar totem from the Tiki Room.

Tiki Room totem in Jungle Cruise line

And notice any other familiar characters from our beloved Beauty and the Beast sitting in the Tarzan’s Treehouse camp?

Mrs. Potts in Tarzans Treehouse

New Orlean’s Square

I mentioned the Hidden Mickey on the Pirates ride earlier (in the top center of the right wall in the big ship fight scene)… but another fun fact is that the skull in the bedroom scene on the left is from an actual real life skeleton! At the time, 1960s, the technology to create realistic skeletons wasn’t quite there yet, so they got a hold of a bunch of real skeletons from a doctor friend of Disney’s. Since then, they’ve replaced the majority of the skeletons with artificial replicas but the skull in place above the skeleton in bed is still one of the originals! You can see the difference in the color tone as well, the original is a darker brown while the replica in the bed is whiter.

A very well known and easy to find Hidden Mickey can be found in the dining hall of the Haunted Mansion attraction. With an always changing display, you can find the tri-circle Mickey among the dinner plates.

I’m not sure if this really counts at this point, but Club 33 (posted about last year’s visit here and here) is a somewhat secretive restaurant. The more appropriate word though may be “exclusive.” It remains to be a secretive location because it is so exclusive and so expensive!

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Critter Country

Like the Eeyore sign, I love when the new rides give nods to what once stood before. On the Winnie the Pooh ride, you can see the deer, buffalo and moose heads that once hung on the wall of Country Bear Jamboree! It’s easiest to see them when you’re sitting in the front row of the honey pot, turn all the way around when leaving Pooh’s dream scene and they’re found just above the archway. Also, find a Hidden Mickey along the right wall after that in the honey.

Country Bear Jamboree in Winnie the Pooh Disneyland

Frontierland

Find this next Mickey while riding Big Thunder Mountain… however with the recent overhaul of the ride, this may not be there anymore!

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Golden Horseshoe Hidden Mickey

Can you find the odd ball out in the Golden Horseshoe?

Tomorrowland

You may remember the attraction that once stood in place of Innoventions… America Sings. Some of those singing chickens found their way to Star Tours—just without the feathers!

america sings chicken star tours

You can see the chicken-like resemblance in the feet of the robot on the right!

Find this Hidden Mickey on a tile in the first room of Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters

Find this Hidden Mickey on a tile in the first room of Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters

Toontown

Toontown is on a whole other level when it comes to Hidden Mickeys. These Mickeys are so obvious and more just for decoration, so they’re called Decor Mickeys. So many examples of which can be found in Mickey’s house itself. Even the music notes are little Mickeys.

hidden mickey joyce

California Adventure

I don’t know nearly as much about California Adventure as I know about Disneyland so we’ll just head over there for a moment or two…

 

mater hidden mickey 2007

Lasseter wine label

You may recognize the owner’s of this mock wine label as the Creative Director of both Disney and Pixar: John Lasseter!

It was once said that there are no Hidden Mickeys inside of the Tower of Terror. I heard that the creators of the ride wanted to distance themselves from Disney. Not sure if that’s true or not, but the only Mickey I’ve ever found happens to be my favorite one in California Adventure! When watching the ride preview video, and again on the ride itself, watch out for the little girl’s stuffed animal. 🙂

brother bear poster

There are at least 3 hidden Mickeys in this map to the Redwood Creek Park. There’s usually a cast member on hand to aide in the search as well.

hidden mickey chew chew train

Find this little guy toward the end of the Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train ride on the right side.

Ariel Line Hidden Mickey

There’s a good chance in all splashes of bubbles, water, or even honey (Winnie the Pooh) that there lies a Hidden Mickey. Find these bubbles in the ironwork outside Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

Outside the Parks

Mickeys and other secrets aren’t just confined inside the park walls. There’s lots to find outside “the berm.”

Keep your eyes out for those pesky Disney cats… it’s my hubby’s absolute favorite secret of the parks. When the park first opened, it had such a horrible mouse infestation that they unleashed a plethora of cats to capture them all. Only that led to a bunch of cats that have remained escaped all these years. We’ve found them mostly around the Rivers of America and along the train route but once had a cat spend quite a lot of time with us in the area that now houses California Adventure’s Radiator Springs.

Disney cat

This has to be one of the biggest and well kept Hidden Mickeys of all the parks… (photo found on the D23 site)

Along Disneyland Drive, near the corner of Katella, you can find this giant Mickey made out of the sidewalks. Many pedestrians walk this every single day and probably never really know or care to think about its odd shape!

Hidden Mickey Harbor

Here I am excitedly running around the Mickey with my Hidden Mickey book in tow. haha nerd alert!

grand californian hidden mickey

This cleverly hidden Mickey is within the concierge counter of the Grand Californian Hotel… there’s also a hidden fairy (not pictured)!

downtown disney marceline's hidden mickey

Do I really need to help you find this one? You’re a pro now!

Disneyland Parking Structure Daisy Hidden Mickey

Find this fun Mickey on the Daisy level of the parking structure!

Hope you enjoyed this post and will have fun finding some of these and more yourself!

Many thanks to my friend Lindsey who scampered around the park finding many of these little guys with me!

hidden mickey me_linds

If you want to try to find some of the above secrets and many many more… check out this great resource: Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort’s Best Kept Secrets. It goes much deeper than just the Hidden Mickeys. Also has two routes to take, a very descriptive way of finding stuff (like a cheat sheet), or a harder and less obvious hint to find them.

There’s also a fun app, for the less serious secret finder called Wishing Stars.

 So what are your favorite secrets of this beloved park??

Cars Land—Photo Tour, Part 2

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Here is part 2 of my Cars Land Photo Tour! See part 1.

Let’s continue down through Radiator Springs… just past the Cozy Cones on your left, you will find the Radiator Springs Curios shop.

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SHOPPING. Between the Cozy Cones and Luigi’s Tires, you’ll find one of the last shops in Radiator Springs… the Curios.

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SHOPPING. Across the intersection you’ll find Ramone’s House of Body Art, another store that just expanded since the grand opening.

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ATTRACTION. While I was so looking forward to the big Radiator Racers ride, I was super excited to be able to ride on Luigi’s Flying Tires, a ride that is based on a Tomorrowland Ride from the 1960’s: the Flying Saucers. They were never able to get that ride functioning to its full capacity so I really hoped they worked the kinks out for Luigi…

The line itself moves very slowly for a ride that seems to end as soon as you figure out how to get moving. Right before you board, pay special attention to the diagrams on how to ride.

You [and your ride buddy together] must lean in order to get your tire to move… but not lean too much. Or too little. There’s a special sweet spot that will really get your tire to zoom. With only 2 rides under my belt, I have yet to really master getting this ride down. Hope that changes next time.

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The below photo shows just how delayed this post has been… these inflated beach balls have long since been removed from the ride but as my only photo of the ride itself, this will have to do. 🙂

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ATTRACTION. And of course, the ride everyone waited years for… similar to the Test Track at Epcot, Radiator Springs Racers covers 6 acres of this 12 acre land.

Before you even get in line, a helpful tip for many is to get in the single rider line. It cuts the wait time down by over half the time if not more. But if you are in need of a Fast Pass, make sure you grab one outside of Bugs Land—these Fast Passes go fast!

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And the third option, actually waiting in line… it truly is an immersive line experience. So many items to check out, even the very realistic mold on the rocks. 🙂

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The ride itself truly takes you within this work of art. Getting to go up to the bridge from the movies and ride along with the other cars is just such a neat experience for any Cars fan.

But once you get inside the ride, the Cars come to life and away you go through an animated Radiator Springs, full of life size audio-animatorics.

Then comes the racing, once your car goes through either its final paint job by Ramone or a quick tune up at Luigi’s, your car is ready to race! Good luck!

california-adventure-radiator-springs-racers-bridge

Before you leave Cars Land, make sure you take a walk toward Pacific Wharf to be able to get the best look at the rockwork of Radiator Springs. It’s really the best place for photo opps too!

To get to this walkway, head for the gap between Ramone’s and Flo’s V8 Cafe.

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Well that’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed the tour!

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Cars Land—Photo Tour, Part 1

This post has been long overdue but last summer—and since then—I have been taking photos of the brand new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park. And while many of you may have been down to visit the gang from Radiator Springs, I know quite a few who haven’t. So this is just a broad glimpse into what exactly this new land contains—where’s the food, what’s a store, and of course a scoop on the rides…

CARS LAND is located between Bugs Land and the San Francisco Wharf. It has quite a few entrances but we will start our journey at the main entrance where you are greeted with a postcard like sign, welcoming you to Cars Land.

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OUTDOOR FOOD CART. Your first stop on the right is similar to the fruit stand that stood here before Cars Land came to being… at Fillmore’s you can get all the hippie dippy stuff: fruit, bottled beverages, and other snacks.

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ATTRACTION. Next up on your left is Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. This ride was actually a lot more fun than I had been expecting! Out of all 3 ride, this would be my second favorite. The line has plenty of decor for you to look at and read, plus it moves pretty quickly. The ride itself has you sitting in the tractors which then rotate along several discs—think Tea Cups but with half as much spinning.

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SHOPPING. back on the right, this shop has anything you can think or dream of that’s Cars related.

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Plus these really awesome hats!

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OUTDOOR FOOD CARTS. If you’re looking for some food without the sit down experience, a “quick” grab it and go, head to the Cozy Cone Motel. Each cone has a different type of food from popcorn to ice cream and they even offer breakfast if you come early enough! Keep in mind, these lines move pretty slow. More info on the food served can be found here on Micechat.

Outside the main office of the motel is your best chance to snap a photo with Mater or Lightning… keep an eye out for a hidden Buzz Lightyear inside the office too! 🙂

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RESTAURANT. A 50s diner, for the families who want more of a full, sit down meal with plenty of seating available—inside and outside.

More info on the food served can be found here on Micechat.

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And coming next week… Luigi’s Flying Tires and of course a look at the ride that covers 6 acres of California Adventure: Radiator Springs Racers!

A Moment: 4 Year Old Eli at Disneyland

Each and every moment with all these little children are so precious to me. But each time they learn something new and take those big steps to growing up, my heart breaks a little knowing those moments are gone.

Eli’s wonderful mommy, Jamie, said something so profound a few weeks ago… She said that she was getting so caught up in being sad that those moments have past, she was missing out on the moments now. So instead she would take each one for its worth and celebrate each new moment.

I took this to heart when we took Eli to Disneyland at the beginning of the month. The last time I went with Eli was when he was 2… he loved going on all the rides but did not like getting off, he didn’t understand that getting off one ride just meant going to another. This time, Eli told us which rides he wanted to go on, which was just so cool! This led to us really getting to go through the parks through 4 year old eyes. And that was just so much fun!

Okay okay, I am getting to “a moment!”

Eli wanted to go on the Jumpin’ Jellyfish ride in Disney California Adventure and as we waited in line, he watched the attraction as it went up… and down… up… and down. And as I snapped photos of the awed look in his face, I was struck with remembering a similar photo taken just 2 years before…

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All this to say, going forward I am going to keep trying living in each moment with all these little ones—and the big ones! Because really, Disneyland with a 4 year old, really is that much more fun! Especially when they start asking to ride the roller coasters!