Tuesday 5 November 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth

We've made it! After a very very long flight and a prompt pick up by the car service we arrived at the Desert inn and Suites at 5am UK time and our Californian adventure had begun.

The hotel is only 5 minutes walk from the gates of the parks and although I miss the Disney theming of an onsite one it is clean and the beds are comfy.

An advantage of jet lag was that we were awake nice and early and got into Disneyland for 8am and it was lovely and quiet.

The park was built in 1955 and was the only one that Walt saw open before his death in 1966 so it's pretty special. I decided we should be proper Disney geeks on our first day and booked on the Walk in Walt’s footsteps tour ($109 each). Definitely worth the money, not least because it includes a trip up to Walt's apartment. This is where he and his family used to stay and it is gorgeous and being in there was magical.

Disneyland Park itself is lovely, the castle is minuscule but being 5 foot nothing I definitely think that good things come in small packages! To give you an idea of the size at 77ft it is a more than 100 smaller than WDW Magic Kingdom's castle!

As the second gate park, Disney California Adventure, is only 100 yards from the Disneyland Park it would have been rude not to pop across on our first day. This park opened in 2001 but it did not have much love until last year and the introduction of Cars Land. The big draw of this area is Radiator Springs Racers and I can happily report that it is absolutely amazing. Having queued for 50 mins I would have got straight back in the queue and waited all over again if I wasn't in need of dinner.

Speaking of dinner, it was time for a Jenni first! At this wonderous place called the Corn Dog Castle they do vegetarian corn dogs!! The queue was massive but it was worth it. Matt had a normal one and reported that it was very tasty too.

Our second day was Halloween so it was time to don costumes and go trick or treating. Disneyland has an extra ticket event for Halloween several nights a week from September and the cost is up to $79 each. We pretty much made this back in candy! Around the park there were treat trails where you walked round and collected chocolate in the bags they provided (too small- we had to go back to the room to empty them and start again!). The park was really atmospheric especially the rivers of America in frontier land which was covered in fog and lit up in spooky green hues. There were some amazing costumes, definitely put my cat outfit to shame! Two rides have a bit of a make over to celebrate the season with Haunted Mansion playing host to Jack Skellington as Halloween and Christmas collide (really fun) and Space Mountain is taken over by Ghost Galaxy (not very scary but a great twist on the classic).

The night ended with fireworks, which had Zero from a Night Before Christmas flying around the castle. I have to admit that I wasn't blown away by them but the music was great!

So we are now two days into our trip and we have four more park days, Hollywood and the zoo still to come. I may need new feet by the end of it but it's so worth it!

Next time - bye bye Disney
Jenni Weightman

Sunday 3 November 2013

Jenni's going to California! Blog part 5

Hollywood Baby!

For someone that hates early mornings catching a bus at 6.20am in the morning is not going to fun. But it’s all going to be worth it! The bus (plus two changes) will take us to Burbank, a city 12 miles from Downtown LA, and the home of the Disney Studios.

Unlike the Disney Studios theme parks of Paris and Florida the studios in Burbank are real life working studios, which opened in 1940 after the success of Snow White. Being a working studio means that that they are not open to the public but four times a year the D23 club hold tours for it’s members. A bit of Disney magic was definitely in the air for us because one of the days that had a scheduled tour was the very day that I had earmarked for a trip to Hollywood!

D23 is the official Disney Club and membership is available through the US Disney Store website. I went for the Gold level membership, which included four glossy magazines throughout the year and the membership card. Silver level is cheaper as it doesn't include the magazines. There is also now a free membership level but it doesn't include the membership card, which you need to attend events and receive discounts (you do get access to the website though with Disney news and some great looking recipes!).

The tours cost $60 for each person and last 2 and half hours so by 1pm we will be free to travel into Hollywood itself and go star hunting. Despite the slightly scary stories of the tourist trap that is Hollywood Boulevard we can’t miss the walk of fame or the view of the famous Hollywood sign from the Hollywood and Highland Junction. Plus there is a bit of Disney magic to be found here too with the El Capitan Theatre, a Disney owned cinema. I had originally planned lunch at the Disney’s Soda Fountain, which is next door, but it is closed while they change it into a Ghiradelli’s. Very annoying as I had already chosen cheese on toast for my lunch and we're going too early to get our free Ghiradelli chocolate

Our next stop will be the glamorous Rodeo Drive! Supposedly this is where the celebrities really are so we might even spot someone famous. There won’t be much shopping going on except of the window kind but I am hoping to come away with one of the blue boxes from Tiffany & Co. Then to finish our very packed day we will be visiting the Cheesecake Factory on Beverly Hills Drive. This is partly because I love cheesecake and partly because it links to The Big Bang Theory (one of Matt’s favourite shows) as Penny works in the one in Pasadena.

Sadly we will then have to start the long journey home (two and a half hours, two buses) but after all the excitement I think the sit down on the bus will be needed!

We’re all going to the Zoo!

As a zoology graduate I absolutely adore animals and as my local zoo pretty much only has Monkeys I love going to bigger zoos and safari parks. We have one spare day and rather than relax around the hotel, which we should probably do, we are off to San Diego Zoo!

The zoo is over 90 miles away from Anaheim but luckily there are plenty of bus companies, which do joint travel and entry tickets so it is pretty simple to get there. I’m also hoping for some nice scenery along the way as the route is via the coast.

I am beyond excited about seeing pandas, koalas and wombats! Matt is excited mostly because his favourite film, Anchorman, had a big section set in the zoo. He even has an Anchorman t-shirt all ready to wear when we go!

Next time- The happiest place on earth

Monday 14 October 2013

Show #45-Adventures By Disney Girls

Hello and welcome to the Minnie Minxes Disney Podcast - A UK based Disney podcast with a girlie twist. Join us, Kim and Michelle, your hosts for show #45 for the week of 14th October 2013. 

When thinking of booking a Disney holiday we immediately think of the theme park destinations. However there is so much more to Disney and in this show we look at Adventures by Disney (ABD). We will answer all your questions about this arm of the Disney company and if by the end you are not planning your first trip, we will want to know why! 

As neither us Minxes have travelled with ABD (yet!) we are joined by someone who will help us understand the product, share their experiences of nine, yes nine, ABD trips and can give the multitude of reasons why it is worth the cost. So with great excitement, we welcome Becci Mahnken of MEI Mousefan Travel, to the Minnie Minxes.

Becci has recently returned from an Adventures by Disney trip 'Scotland: A Brave Adventure' and takes us through her trip and explains that this just wasn't just a trip to Scotland but a retracing of the footsteps of Mark Andrews, and the team from Pixar, as they recreated Scotland for the movie Brave. Without spoiling the show, I am sure that despite the hefty price tag you will end up agreeing with both of us that ABD is something that should be on everyone's bucket list!

Anyway, a little information about our fabulous guest. Becci is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of a travel agency that has been planning trips to the magic since 1998.  I can wholehearted say their service is top notch, having booked a Disney cruise with them previously. My vacation planner gave me expert advice and ensured I was able to get the trip I wanted. So if you are in the planning stage of your next Disney holiday why not get in touch with them for an no obligation quote (by the way we were not sponsored by MEI Mouse Fan Travel for publicising their services on this show, it is purely our opinions from our experience of dealing with this company). 

We also given an update on the competition, we are running along with Liliane Opsomer, for a signed copy of WDW with Kids 2014. So listen carefully and follow both of our twitter feeds.

You will find this show, along with other great shows, in the Touring Plans Podcast network on iTunes under touringplans.com Podcast Network. Alternatively there is a direct player available on their website by following this link http://podcast.touringplans.com

MEI Mouse Fan Travel http://mousefantravel.com 
Minnie Minxes Twitter @theminnieminxes
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Sunday 6 October 2013

Show Notes Episode 44

Hello and welcome to the show notes for episode 44 of The Minnie Minxes Disney Podcast. You will find the show on iTunes under touringplans.com Podcast Network. Alternatively there is a direct player available on their website http://podcast.touringplans.com

In this episode we take a close look at safety and we discuss some recent happenings in the happiest place on earth where guests have been hurt.

We have also been fortunate enough to get some author signed editions of the newly published WDW with kids 2014. If you wish to win one of these books; follow us on twitter and follow @lilianeopsomer as we both will be tweeting a competition question. When you have both answers send a direct tweet to us Minxes and you never know the book could be on its way to you!

Next episode, will be out 14th October 2013 and is entitled Adventures by Disney Girls... intrigued? Well it is an amazing trip report about an Adventures by Disney trip.

Minnie Kisses

Kimmie and Michelle xx

Saturday 7 September 2013

Back from the magic

The jet lag has sunk in along with the post Disney blues. Yes folks I am back from my travels to Walt Disney World and what a fun packed trip it was. From meeting friends of new, and old, to new experiences to re-visiting old favourites; the holiday had it all.

Whilst I am not going to share everything with you right now, I hope this will give you a taster of some of the things that are ahead on the next episode of the podcast, episode 43 due out on 16th September 2013.

Originally I had planned out this holiday to be part parks and part Disney cruise, in fact I had shared some cruise planning with you all when we had the lovely Passporter Moms on the podcast. However due to personal reasons, I decided to cancel the cruise. In its place I added seven nights to the existing post cruise one night at the Art of Animation Resort.

So the plan was set for a pure fourteen days of Disney park hopping. No plans to visit Nasa, Universal or in fact no plans to step off Disney property. So one would think… hmm bet you managed to do every single park ride and attraction – wrong! I still didn’t manage that! Main reason being, well both weeks were incredibly hot and humid and I had some distractions from park time.

The first was meeting and spending the afternoon with Disney former “friend of” Merlin, author, park historian – Jim Korkis. This had to be the highlight of my holiday. We recorded two podcasts, which I can’t wait to share with you.

Another distraction led to my escape off property to Theme Park Connections in Winter Gardens. Now I know many of you know about this amazing treasure trove of Disney goodies but if you don’t – prepare to! I managed to purchase a Hollywood Tower hotel bell hop/cast member costume for more information visit Theme Park Connections

When I did get to the parks I made sure I used my time effectively. I had researched using the crowd calendars on touringplans.com Now I know we are part of their podcast network and you my question my impartiality on promoting them however well before we were network members I have enthused about their amazing data rich site. For a mere $11.95 you can get access to which park will be the best to visit and also estimated and live submitted attraction wait times. Add $3.95 to cover Universal Orlando and for the trilogy add on Disneyland, California for $4.95 but it gets better. We can give you the discount code “Minxes” to get you 20% off! Visit Touring Plans

So guys… prepare yourself for a wealth of Disney reviews, in park stories and top tips!

Thursday 5 September 2013

Jenni's Going To California - Food Glorious Food

I love food at the best of times but when planning for a Disney holiday there is nothing better than spending hours looking at menus, pictures and other people's trip reports to see what delectable delights will be available for us. 

Disneyland California does have a dining plan of sorts but it is available only for people staying on site and offers only convenience of prepaying rather than any actually saving you money. If you are familiar with the vouchers offered at Disneyland Paris it seems very similar to that rather than having dining credits like at Disneyworld. There are also no free dining promotions which are offered regularly to UK visitors to Florida, we had this last November and took full advantage.

Another difference between dining at the two American is the reservation windows. For Disneyland you have the chance to book restaurants only 60 days out which seems nothing compared the famous 180 days out at it's East coast equivalent. 

With this trip being on a bit of a budget we have decided to stick mostly to counter service and splurge on just one table service and one character buffet. Having a free breakfast available in our hotel should also help stretch the pennies a bit further. 

As always with food and Disney my first port of call was the amazing www.disneyfoodblog.com. The section for Disneyland isn't quite as comprehensive as the one for Florida but there are plenty of articles to whet your appetite and summaries of all the menus. Another great website for food that I have found is www.allears.net as it has full menus including up to date prices. Alternatively if you have subscribed to Touring Plans and have the Lines App for your phone, this has all the menus for the parks and a great option where you can search for particular food items.

For the two more expensive meals I have decided on Carthay Circle and Goofy's Kitchen. Cathay Circle is a beautiful looking restaurant in California Adventure which offers World of Colour dining packages.  This involves a 3 course prix fixe lunch ($39) or dinner ($59) including a soft drink.  Then at Goofy's Kitchen we have gone for the breakfast buffet, not least because of Mark Petar's recommendation of the Peanut Butter and Jelly pizza at the Minnie Minx meet up in Nottingham. This restaurant is within the Disneyland Hotel and costs $32.99 each. 

Counter service options are pretty varied although of course include favourites such as chips (remember to call them fries!), chicken nuggets, burgers and pizzas.  I have been really impressed at the veggi options available and also the wide variety of healthy options. I'm pretty excited about the large number of fruit carts that are spread over the two parks. But  it is actually the snacks I am most looking forward to! I greatly regret not getting a Jalapeno Cheese Pretzel in WDW so that is definitely on the list along with melted plastic cheese (which I have tried and failed to find in this country!). My plan for eating, other than the Carthay Circle and Goofy's, is to not really have a plan. I have made a spreadsheet (of course) which summarises the general options available at each restaurant, counter and food court with the average prices so that I know what to expect. But I like the idea of being in a park, feeling a bit hungry and deciding there and then where to go. This may all change a week before when I decide that I can't cope with not having it all planned out but we will see. A 'too eat'  list is definitely required though! One of the items on my list was the amazing Dole Whip Float but there is bad news about the only location that serves it in the park. The Tiki Juice bar is closed for refurbishment while we are there so I won't be able to have one, gutted!

I also want to visit at least one of the lounges in the Disneyland Hotels and Trader Sam's sounds amazing. This is a lounge based at the Disneyland Hotel and themed as an enchanted tiki bar. The cocktails sound amazing and I have read that ordering certain drinks causes magic things to happen! Hopefully this will make up for the lack of Dole Whips.

Out of the parks there are also many restaurants along Harbour Boulevard, in Garden Grove a short distance away and within the hotels in the surrounding areas. I do have a couple on my list but I don't know how likely it is we will get to them as I'd rather be in the parks! But with both Dennys and Ihop being open 24 hours and a hop skip and a jump from our hotel, if we get hungry at 2am we have nothing to worry about. Even if we don't eat at Denny's I need to get a photo of the sign as I mum's name is Denny (yep, we're Jenni and Denny!). 

Something  that I often forget about when dining in America is the tax that is added to the bill so I have tried to work this into my budget calculations as well. In Anaheim it is currently 8% but if your calculating it in your head it's probably easier to round up to 10% and then be pleasantly surprised when you get the bill!            
Next time- Hollywood baby!

Thursday 22 August 2013

Day Five

Day five is another park hopping day with the opportunity of extra magic hours at the Magic Kingdom I can’t resist a trip to hopefully get some shots on Main Street without the crowds.

As New Fantasyland has been toured in depth, this morning will start with Haunted Mansion and then Pirates. Unfortunately the Jungle Cruise is closed, insert massive unhappy face right here right now!

Lunch is going to be over at EPCOT and I am trying out Teppan Edo. I have heard really good things about this place and the menu reads really well. Plus it makes really good value on the dining plan as you all know I like to get the highest cost meals to really make the dining plan work! No doubt I will hit some character meet and greets and try to catch some good interactions before walking back to the monorail.

One thing this trip I am also trying to do is eat more at the resorts, especially counter service so today I will be trying out Gasparilla Grill over at the Grand Floridian. I love just sitting in this resort and relaxing and have already eaten in two of their eateries but this will be a new addition. Tonight also sees the first time I will be able to properly see wishes from my favourite personal spot on Main Street.

Bye bye day five!