Backstage Magic/Southern California trip report 7/31/17

Discussion in 'Adventures By Disney' started by scrapbookjulie, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    Just got back last weekend from our first ABD. It was a great trip. Thought I'd share a few of the details for others considering taking this trip. The travelers are me (45), DH (45), and DD (15).

    Arrival Day

    We flew in the day before which was fortunate since we had a 7 hour delay. Ugh. The ABD driver was there to meet us. It was easy to find him on our way to the luggage. Took us about an hour to get to the hotel. After we checked in, we walked over to the mall area and ate at Hard Rock Cafe. We pretty quickly realized that Hollywood is not our kind of town, so this will be our one and only visit there. LOL Not a fan of the crowds on the street, the people wearing snakes, the people smoking pot, etc. It's definitely not a place where the "glamorous" celebrities are hanging out. ;) For the record, though, ABD takes you out to Hollywood Blvd at 8am, long before any of the crazies are out of bed. So it's not something that would ruin your official tour experience.


    Day 1 - Welcome Dinner

    We had the whole day free before meeting our group at dinner, so we spent the day on our own at the Warner Bros Studio tour. Highly recommend this tour. Took us about 3 hours. We just used Uber to get there and back from the hotel.

    We checked in with our guides when we got back to get the details for that night's dinner. They were set up at a table on the second floor of the hotel. I really enjoyed both of our guides, Lo and Lori. They were super friendly and knowledgable and welcoming. Made the trip a good one for everybody.

    We met for dinner at 5:30. Dinner was upstairs in the hotel. It was a buffet. I am a really picky (plain) eater, so I won't comment much on the food for the trip other than to say my husband always found plenty he liked to eat. I was a little more hit or miss. I didn't starve. But I didn't really enjoy the dinner food.

    The dinner was a great time. They strategically sat us at tables with people who we might have something in common with. My DD was with the 16yo girl on the trip, and we also were sitting with grandparents who were with their 9yo granddaughter. I really enjoyed several of the families on our tour. We had fun with the group. Having never done a tour before, I wasn't sure if I'd like that aspect of the trip, but I really did. With DD being an only child, it was nice for her to always have someone besides mom and dad to chat with, whether that be a kid, one of the guides, or even the other adult adventurers. There were 29 people on our tour (20 adults, 9 kids). I felt like this was a perfect size group.

    At the dinner, besides eating, we introduced our families and said why we chose that trip. We played a Disney ABC game. (My table won, so we got to go to the buffet first. LOL) We played another game for fun matching the castles to their correct park. We got our first day pin. We also took photos using cute props that the guides had for us.

    Speaking of photos, I really liked that part of the trip. I heard a couple people complain that we took too many family photos. But as a scrapbooker, I appreciated that. And I also liked some of the pictures that the guides captured that I wouldn't have been able to...like my family on rides together. Our trip ended Friday, and the photos were posted yesterday (Thursday). There were 1600 photos. I downloaded 110 of them. :)

    In all the other trip reports I've read, there was a surprise group activity after dinner. Our group did NOT have an activity. That was a little disappointing for DD since dinner ended early, and then we had the rest of the night on our own in Hollywood (which we already knew we didn't love.) We went back to the mall for a bit, then we just got some rest which is really necessary for all the early mornings on this trip!

    I'll be back later to report on a couple more day's activities. Please let me know if you have any specific questions!
     
  2. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    Day 2 - Hollywood

    Keep in mind when I say the following that I did really enjoy the whole trip...but this day for me was probably the least interesting. I wish they could somehow combine Day 2 and 3. DD and I love Disney. But as far as learning the history behind it, I am more of a "give me one fun fact, and then let's keep moving" sort of gal. DH, on the other hand, who only does Disney every year to humor DD and me, actually probably enjoyed this vacation more than any other Disney trip we've taken (besides the cruise...we all agree that's still our favorite family vacation). He liked learning the history behind everything. There were a couple hours during the week that DD and I had to grit our teeth and just listen when we weren't overly interested. When I mention in this trip report that we went somewhere, just assume that there was a worker there who gave a detailed history of that spot!

    We had buffet breakfast in the hotel at 7. All the breakfast buffets were very good. At 8:30, we left on a very short walking tour. I got plenty of steps in during the park days (20-26,000), but less than 10,000 steps the other days for those wondering how much walking there is.

    We walked past the Dolby theater and went to the TCL theater. We went inside there, got popcorn, and watched a short video on the history. Then we had a little time to look at the handprints and stars outside. We then got on a bus to go to Jim Henson Studios. A puppeteer showed us how the puppets work and let anybody who wanted to try operating it give it a try. We then went to lunch at Tam O'Shanter. We chose our meal the night before at the welcome dinner. This restaurant was kind and did at least let me swap out the sides I didn't like for fries. LOL We ate with another Disboards family who had a younger daughter that my DD loved hanging out with. It was nice to meet them! :)

    After lunch, we did 2 "surprise" stops. I'm using quotes for surprise because I've seen them mentioned in many reports. They just don't officially announce them in case plans change a bit. Then people don't get mad or disappointed! We went first to Griffith Park to ride the carousel that inspired the one at Disney. It was fun because it was fast and because the operator chose a Mary Poppins theme for our music. Then they gave us our pin for the day. Then they took us to Ghirardelli's for ice cream sundaes. We could order whatever ice cream we wanted from the menu. Delicious.

    We were on our own for the rest of that night. DD, DH, and I went to the wax museum. Had a great time there.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
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  4. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    Day 3 - Disney Studios and Imagineering

    We left the Loew's hotel this morning. Had to have our luggage ready for pick up in the room before 8. Breakfast buffet was at 7 again, I think. When we quickly went back up to the room after breakfast, the luggage had been picked up.

    We first went to Disney Studios. I thought this tour would be similar to the Warner Bros tour where we got to see backlots and sound stages and see where things were filmed. But it was not like that at all. We were just in the area with the office buildings. Lots of history, took some photos, saw the "Legends Plaza" with all the Disney legend handprints, went in to the Archives, which was pretty much just a little room with some books in it. LOL Got vouchers for lunch at the commissary for an entree, side, dessert, and drink. Lots of choices there. Then had a few minutes to look around the gift shop there.

    Then we took off for Imagineering. No photos allowed there. Our group split into 2 groups. We learned about some sound things, went into a virtual reality room, and saw the sculpture room. It was pretty interesting there. DH the engineer really enjoyed it. After the tour, we got our pin for Day 3 and each got 40% off one item in the gift shop, Mickey's of Glendale. I got a sweatshirt, and we got a souvenir for a neighbor. DD got something...but I can't remember what it was for the life of me.

    Then we had a bit of a bus ride to get to Disneyland. The guides passed out snacks when we left and also again before we got to the hotel. They played Disney cartoons whenever we were in the bus. I tried napping since I knew it would be a late night and early morning.

    When we got to the hotel, we checked in, waited a few minutes in our rooms for our luggage, and then it was time to meet up for dinner which was in a suite upstairs in the hotel. Buffet dinner...once again, DH liked it. That was my least favorite meal for sure.

    After dinner, we headed into the park for the parade and fireworks. We had a nice roped off area near the castle to watch the parade. The guides gave the kids glow bracelets. Even though I knew it was going to be a tiny castle compared to Disney World, I was still surprised by how little it was. But I did really like how Tinkerbell was able to fly all around during the fireworks show rather than just make one flight out of the castle. She gets a workout! I am pretty sure we got one fast pass that night to use after the fireworks. My family used it on Space Mountain. We headed back to the hotel since the next day was an early morning and a long, fun day.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  5. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    Day 4 - Disneyland

    Now we get to the part of the trip I'd been most excited about...getting to the parks! I've been to Disney World almost every year since I was 4, but I've never been to Disneyland. So I was excited to compare the 2 places.

    We started early today. 6:45, I think? Headed right to the park. Took photos in front of the castle. Listened to a Disney Ambassador talk about her job. We had a park employee with our group for this morning and the next. He facilitated getting us in to all our stops. Nice guy. Liked him.

    We went to Plaza Inn for a character breakfast. Character breakfasts are my favorite things of all time, so I was happy! Saw Minnie, Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Hook, Fairy Godmother, Rafiki, Chip and Dale. Good buffet.

    From there, the guides took us on a few rides: Matterhorn, carousel, Peter Pan. Loved that. We went behind the scenes at the Indiana Jones ride to see how that works and got to walk on the ride. It actually stopped for quite a while during our ride, so we got to stay on and ride a second time uninterrupted. The next hour was one of those grit my teeth and bear it hours for me. We broke into 3 groups so we could get into Walt's apartment. Had about 20 minutes there, about a 20 minute tour of main street (which felt like 14 hours to a person who was having fun on the rides and seeing the characters LOL) and 20 minutes in the Lincoln movie.

    After that we were on our own for lunch for an hour. We got $20 vouchers for each of us. We used 2 for our lunch and saved one for later. We chose to eat in Toon Town since our group was meeting there an hour later for an optional visit to Mickey. Not many people showed up for Mickey. I think because it was so so so so hot. It was about 95 degrees. And it was one of the rare times that it was extra humid. Lucky us! Anyway, I think a lot of people went back to the hotel to nap or swim. But we of course had to meet the Mouse. I'd never seen him in his Steamboat Willie outfit, so that was fun.

    The group was meeting again in a couple hours for a reserved spot for the daytime parade and a Dole Whip. We skipped that activity because we aren't huge parade people, and we wanted to use the time for rides. The guides had put 5 fast passes on our tickets, plus an extra fast pass for Star Tours. We also wanted to do all the Fantasyland rides and compare them to World.

    We loved a lot of the rides, but we had a lot of bad luck. Almost every single ride broke down (or stopped for whatever reason) while we were on it or waiting for it. Don't remember ever having that issue at Disney World. But that did not ruin our time! We had fun.

    It was so hot that for the first time ever, my family left a Disney park for an hour. LOL We really did need relief from the heat. We used our other voucher to get dinner back at a burger place by the hotel pool. Then we actually all fell asleep for a half hour nap. We cleaned ourselves up a bit, then headed back to the park for the Fantasmic show with the group and a couple more rides. They had a spot reserved for us on the sidewalk right in front of the show. Unlike World, you don't sit and watch. You have to stand. But our standing spot had a great view.

    I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things we did since the park days were so so busy! Ask any questions. Maybe that'll jog my memory.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  6. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    Day 5 - Disney's California Adventure

    We started the day early with another character breakfast. Woo hoo! This time it was Goofy's Kitchen at our hotel. This was DD's favorite meal. Saw Pluto, Goofy, Minnie, Chip and Dale. Good character interaction at both breakfasts. Most characters came around to our tables 2 or 3 or more times since we were the first people there. But Dale never made it to our table. Odd. I grabbed him and took a selfie with him when I walked past him for my second course. ;)

    Then we were off to California Adventure. Wasn't sure if I'd like DCA as much as DL, but I really did! I know I'll forget a few details since it was another busy day, but I'll try to remember as much as possible.

    We went to Paradise Pier for a few rides as a group. Rode Toy Story Mania, Goofy's Sky School, Little Mermaid, and the carousel. We got a tour/history of Carthay Circle restaurant and 1901. (That was the snoozer part of the day for me but probably very enjoyable for many others. LOL) We went behind the scenes to see how Radiator Springs worked. That was interesting. Then we rode it. We didn't walk right on like at Indy. We waited in the fast pass line, which was maybe 20 minutes but felt like eternity in the heat. Then we did a ride on Soarin and a behind the scenes there. After that, we were on our own for lunch and free time until dinner. We got another fastpass for Radiator Springs, a fastpass for Guardians (my favorite ride hands down), and 5 more fast passes for whatever (except Guardians). We honestly didn't even have time to use all 7! We saved a couple for Screamin', which was down most of the day, but it didn't open back up, so we had to wait until the next day to ride that one.

    We met back up at the hotel at 5:30 for a slide show of our trip. It was cute, and I was glad the guides emailed it to us. Then we went back to DCA for a fancy dinner at Carthay Circle. Great steak. Here the lady looked at me like I had 5 heads when I asked for french fries. In case anyone is wondering, the answer there is no. LOL They gave us light up Mickey ears at dinner, and then we went to the World of Color show. It was good. I liked Fantasmic way better, though.

    We were on our own then. I think we hit Toy Story one more time to burn up one of our fast passes we saved. Then we headed back to the hotel.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  7. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    Day 6 - Goodbye Breakfast and final thoughts

    The last morning was a breakfast at Steakhouse 55 in the hotel. I thought it would be a buffet, but you had 3 choices. It was good, but I preferred the buffets on the other mornings. Some people from our group had already left, but a lot of people were flying out that night or staying another day like us. So we did run in to a few of our new friends at the park that last day.

    After breakfast, we used the last day on our 4 day park ticket to go back to the parks and ride the things we didn't get a chance to (the ferris wheel, Screamin' which was DD's favorite) and other rides we liked and wanted to hit again. The guides got us one last fast pass on our tickets to use that day. We got to meet Groot, too. :) DD did quite a bit of pin trading on the last day, so that was fun for her.

    I liked a lot of things about the tour. If I ever went out of the country, I would 100% use ABD. It was so well run, and I would like the comfort of having a group of friends with me. As for using ABD at Disney...I am glad we did it once. I definitely wouldn't go back for this same tour again and again. I heard the history now. I got to see behind the scenes. I'm good. It was interesting, and I certainly liked having fast passes for everything without having to worry about running around the park to pull them from the machine or learning how to use the new max pass system, so that was nice. But the day I was probably happiest was probably the last day when I was traveling at my own (very fast) pace. ABD does a nice job making sure there's a bathroom break or a snack break whenever you need it, but for a Disney commando, that feels like burning daylight. ;)

    This was our one and only trip to Disneyland, and I'm happy we tried ABD for it.

    Like I said before, I'm quite sure I forgot a lot of things I wanted to mention. So if you have any specific questions, let me know!
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  8. RedM94

    RedM94 DIS Veteran

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    Look forward to following along! Thank you for the trip report.
     
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  9. danv3

    danv3 Mouseketeer

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    Thanks so much for your report. We're taking this trip in October so a recent report is really helpful!

    Did the guides happen to say anything about why there wasn't a special event on the first night? I know it's not something officially on the schedule, but it seems like it's in every trip report, so I've come to expect it (whether that's fair or not).
     
  10. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    The guides didn't say why there wasn't an activity. They just said if we needed suggestions on where to go, they could provide some. I was hoping to do the wax museum, so we just did that ourselves the following night when I knew we'd have the whole evening free.
     
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  11. hilarys

    hilarys Hilary S

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    Glad to read your trip report. My husband and daughter were at DL the same time you were there (my DD even saw the ABD group having dinner at the DL hotel) and they also reported that it was an unusually hot and humid week. Did you have Lori as your guide?

    It sounds like your trip definitely covered some things that ours did not and vice versa - a good thing for people to keep in mind is that this trip has a lot of variety in things you will do based on what is happening in the parks at the time.

    Not sure if you read my trip report, but I completely agree about Hollywood. I am a California native and even went to college in Southern California and had never been to the hollywood walk of fame area before I took the ABD. I don't like it at all and feel bad for the folks who come thinking that they will be staying in a glamorous area where the stars are. I wish the ABD could stay somewhere else, but at least the hotel is very nice and it makes it very convenient for the activities of the first full day.
     
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  12. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    That is funny that your husband and daughter saw us there. :) Lori was our guide. Lo (Lauren) was the other one.

    I tried to read all the available trip reports before we went, so I'm sure I read yours! I will read it again now to compare the two trips. :)
     
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  13. danv3

    danv3 Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for the info. We're hoping for the wax museum as well--not planning to pay for it ourselves but we'll go if they'll take us.
     
  14. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    The tickets are pretty expensive. So we were standing at the entrance looking at all the ticket packages to see if there was any discount that applied to us. One of the employees came over and started talking to us about the different tickets. Told her we were already on a Dis tour so we didn't have time to see any of the other attractions except for the wax museum. She said she could take off $5 each ticket. I was like, "Great...we'll take it." She walked away to get us a coupon code. When we went to pay, she hadn't taken off $5 each ticket...she gave us each ticket half price! Made the wax museum visit much more worthwhile! We then spent the money she saved us purchasing family pictures there. LOL

    Anyway...long story short, if you go on your own, be friendly to the employees, and maybe you'll get lucky and get discounted tickets. :)
     
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  15. White Rose

    White Rose DIS Veteran

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    I wonder if ABD is cutting back on "surprises" because in 2015 we got the wax museum all to ourselves, it was closing for the night and we were allowed in and we were the only ones in it. We also got a movie at El Capitan after ice cream with free popcorn and drinks. This was Halloween time, we were there in early oct, so not sure if that makes a difference. We did not have the same experiences as others, and we stayed at the grand Californian had had breakfast there. Ours was an adults only trip.
     
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  16. scrapbookjulie

    scrapbookjulie Mouseketeer

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    For whatever reason, I felt like there weren't many "surprises" on our trip. It's possible that I read so many trip reports that the "surprises" were just normal to me? But I don't think that's it. I've read several trip reports that were very similar to what my group did, but those also included several mentions of things that were so wonderful and surprising that the writer wouldn't spoil it for other groups. Nothing extra like that happened on our trip.

    I'm not saying that as a complaint. I wasn't expecting anything over and above what was advertised. Just wanted to mention it in case someone was booking the trip expecting huge surprises around every corner!
     
  17. danv3

    danv3 Mouseketeer

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    Did you go to the Halloween party on your first night at the parks? I'm going in October, and on our first night at DLR, when the tour would otherwise go to Disneyland, the park closes at 6:00 for a Halloween party.
     
  18. White Rose

    White Rose DIS Veteran

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    Yes, we did! You can call to confirm that with a vacationista, we did, because if tickets were not Included we were going to buy them. I won't spoil any possible Halloween themed surprises...if any. Winks.
     
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  19. wishiwasindisneyjen

    wishiwasindisneyjen Earning My Ears

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    Thank you so much for sharing your experience! :)
     
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