*Writing and publishing this on a dying iPad with a dying bluetooth keyboard with slow wifi; apologies for typos and formatting issues. AND YOU WONDER WHY I USUALLY TAKE MONTHS TO PUBLISH A TRIP REPORT; quality takes time, people.
Since someone is going to Disneyland on Monday and couldn’t wait the usual (and completely reasonable) eight to nine months to read my trip report, here is a super high-level report. A basic “let’s see what I did or did not accomplish from my original list of goals, let’s compare parks, let’s check in emotionally, let’s have feelings” kind of post. You know, the usual.
So… what were my goals? Someone remind me? Ahh yes:
Breakfast at the Carnation Cafe
Snacks and drinks at the Carthay Circle Lounge
- Pomme Frites at Cafe Orleans
Beignets at the Mint Julep Cafe
Corndogs from the Little Red Wagon
- The Fried Green Tomato Sandwich from the Hungry Bear
Dinner at Rancho del Zocalo
- Brioche French Toast from Flo’s V8 Cafe
- Lobster Nachos at the Cove Bar
Fried Chicken from the Plaza Inn
Nachos from White Water Snacks
Everything at Trader Sam’s
- Oh, and like, attractions and ambiance and shit.
What did I actually manage to do?
One drink at Carthay Circle Lounge: Look, it was a damn good drink, but I’m not made of money. After tip, we’re looking at about $15 per drink. At least at that price, they were made fresh (yeah, I’m looking at you, Cava). As for lunch, nothing was jumping out at me from the menu, so I opted to gingerly sip my (albeit strong) botanical gin and tonic and then stumble on my merry way.
Consensus: Recommended for drinks. Bring your wad.
Pomme Frites at Cafe Orleans: Yeah, they live up to the hype. My only issues was finding something else to eat there. As a former New Orleanian, I don’t accept just any gumbo. You can’t simply throw okra and andouille at me and call it authentic. Yeah, yeah, everyone said to get the Monte Cristo, but as someone who feels deep, personal shame at ordering and consuming French fries, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. (For the uninitiated, the Monte Cristo amounts to an extra large order of fried dough, now with meat and cheese). Also, $20 for a sandwich? What is this, the Boathouse? (Yes, my stinginess will become apparent as an over-arching theme here; deal with it).
Yes, I ended up ordering the gumbo. Where was the okra?
This is actually where I come to Official Reflection #1: I love traveling solo for many reasons, but I think the real Con is when it comes to dining. I’m the kind of person who loves to get apps to share, and orders different entrees from other party members so we can all share and try as many things as possible. This is hard to do when you’re alone and as Scrooge McDucky as I am.
Consensus: Do it. Get the Pommes Frites. And whatever else you feel you can live with yourself after consuming.
Pro-tip: Mix the remoulade with ketchup; otherwise, it’s just mayo. And if you’re dipping fries into mayo, you may as well have just ordered the Monte Cristo to begin with and called it a day.
Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at Hungry Bear: Decent. I’d rank it up there with the Lighthouse Sandwich from Columbia Harbour House when it comes to creative, tasty quick service options.
Consensus: Sure, go for it. Get it with the sweet potato fries, but only if you have the patience to shuck ketchup packets for 2.6 hours. There are no ketchup pumps at Hungry Bear; it’s Busch Gardens-level of accomdations here.
Mmm dessert breakfast… desfast? Breaksert?
Brioche French Toast from Flo’s V8: I refer you back to Official Reflection #1. First of all, this thing was not French toast; this was bread pudding. Second of all, this was a serving size most closely resembling a Stouffer’s family-size lasagna sheet pan of bread pudding. It was delicious; don’t get me wrong! But I wanted to take five bites of it and then pass it off to my non-existent friend while I ate a real breakfast of some eggs or whatever non-future diabetics eat.
Consensus: Get it for dessert; share with at least five people. This is assuming, of course, that you eat dessert after breakfast, as this item isn’t available during lunch or dinner hours.
Lobster Nachos from Cove Bar: HOLY FUCKING CRUSTACEAN GODS, this was amazing. I’m a self-proclaimed nacho snob, and most people fuck nachos up. Usually because they throw a tablespoon of shredded cheese on a pile of chips and call it a day. Sometimes because they use lettuce. Often times because of an overwhelming presence of beans. DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON OLIVES. And in general, just a lack of real, quality toppings in an appropriate ratio to chips. Lobster nachos at Cove Bar? Mutherfucking nacho perfection. And with lobster!
“Extra side of pico” = same size as nachos = LOVE
Consensus: What do you think? I’m even recommending this to Amanda and Kristen, who are deathly allergic to shellfish. Ladies, order this, know what it is to live and love, and then administer the epi-pen. Trust me: it’s worth it.
Pro-tip: Ask for extra pico de gallo on the side; what appears is the appetizer portion of their “chips and salsa.” Because even perfection can be improved upon with more toppings.
The Pu-pu platter and HippopotoMai-Tai (sans glass, because I already have one; do not ask me how): I realize I’m treading on thin ice here, but I’m going to be controversial for a moment: I wasn’t BLOWN AWAY by Trader Sam’s. Before you start cleaning your rifle: I loved it! I did! It was awesome! The food was good, the drink was good, the decor was so much fun! It’s just — that damn Twitter community has been building up this epic legend of legends for so long. Honestly, I think I would’ve required free shots, a foot rub, surprise character meet and greets with the cast of Ocean’s 11, and a commemorative pin in order for it to have lived up to its online hype. But I did love it! Just not enough to spend hours every day there like I had anticipated.
House Rules at Trader Sam’s
Consensus: Definitely go!!! Take in all the details. Ask for Kelley. That’s a man, by the way. Tell them Rich sent you. Tell them to put your drinks on Rich’s tab. And try the fried green beans — they’re way better than they sound.
Rides and shit: Yes, I did lots of those. But I’ll save that for another post, as I’m pretty sure anyone reading this for advice on an up-coming trip already plans to try and tackle it all! And if you’re reading this just because you’re bored, you’re probably thinking, “this has gone on long enough.”
Well, too bad for those people, because I’m not done yet! I have a two hour layover and another two hour flight to go!!! So here are my recommendations that weren’t on my to-do list:
Stay within walking distance: Probably too late for anyone going in the immediate future, but seeing as I waffled on this aspect myself, I just wanted to share. Pick the walkable option if you have it. I’m not usually a mid-day break kind of person at WDW, but that’s usually because it takes so long to get everywhere that I consider bus rides a rest. At DL, with everything nestled so closely together, I found myself actually needing to carve out rest time, else I would’ve burnt out quickly.
Get beer at DTD instead of DCA: Granted, not great advice if you’re at DCA and want beer ASAP. But I just thought I’d point out that similar beer options are available at cheaper prices within short walking distance. Beers in DCA started at $8 (from what I saw — obviously I didn’t run around checking prices at every venue), whereas you can get drafts for $6 at La Brea Bakery or $7 at Ralph Brennan’s (not to mention that you can also get 20 oz. or LITER portions at Ralph’s — and of Abita!!!).
Truth time: I required three of those little ketchups. So really, they were semi-shucked.
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen: Went there on a whim because despite my best efforts to be a quick service patron while at DL, I just couldn’t shake my table service habits. I had scheduled myself to eat at Paradise Garden Grill, but at the last minute, I caved and ran off to have someone wait on me and bring me pre-shucked ketchup. Ralph’s was truly great (again, I’ll name drop the fact that I used to live in New Orleans and have actually been to several of the Brennan family restaurants — this one, despite being oh-so-far away, lives up to those standards. And with liters of Abita to boot!) I highly recommend the garlic parmesan fries. And Abita. Did I mention the Abita?
Le Brea Bakery: Another one of my whims. When I realized that Rancho del Zocalo didn’t have a toppings bar (WTF?!?!), I high-tailed it out of there and went to La Brea instead. This is where I happily discovered $6 drafts and an excellent caesar salad and grilled cheese Jenga.
Uva Bar: Good food. Bad service. I recommend sitting at the bar if you think you may want the attention of your server ever again throughout your meal. The chicken gyro was delish, though in keeping with the second over-arching theme of this report: ask for extra tzaziki — life needs more sauce. Always.
The only way this would be better is if the tower were truly Jenga-sized. Now THAT’s a game where everyone’s a winner.
Commit at least 5 hours of your day to claiming a good spot for World of Color or Fantasmic: And this includes getting a FP. Or, you know, skip it and move on with your life.
Do not come up here to take pictures; you WILL be personally escorted downstairs by security.
Relax in the Grand Californian lobby: (But not the 3rd floor — they don’t care for the filthy likes of non-guests above the main floor. We’re probably carrying lice and Bud Light). It’s my new favourite Disney resort lobby. Don’t tell the Wilderness Lodge.
What can I say that no one else has already said a million times? “It’s charming.” “It’s really special to walk in Walt’s footsteps.” “The close proximity to everything is so nice and convenient.” “But damn, that real world is RIGHT THERE as soon as you walk out the gate.” “Why does WDW hate dark rides?” <– All thoughts I had while at Disneyland, none of them original.
However, in case you want to hear my take on the cliché statements above, here it is, for what it’s worth:
Being in Disneyland, I loved it. But there’s something so jarring about stepping out of it at the end of the day. Accuse me of having the memory of a goldfish (you would be accurate, by the way), but by the time I walked the 0.5 miles back to my hotel, my memories of the day became the cast members walking to their cars and bitching about management — not of the customer service in the park. It became filled with visions of Denny’s, IHOP, and homeless people panhandling for change (a pretty ingenious location, if you ask me — way to cash in on first world guilt!). Obviously, you could stay at the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, or Paradise Pier to avoid this immediate reentry shock, but I’m not that first world.
I also found that I missed reading CM’s name tags to discover just where in the US (or world) they were from. WDW feels like a lifetime goal for these people emigrating from all over just to live the dream of working at WDW. At DL, it’s a matter of what part of California they’re from. Without exaggeration, I saw two CMs not from California. It felt like I was hanging out at the local mall where local people come to work by default as opposed to a golden vision of The Mouse.
I loved Disneyland’s picturesque perfection; there’s something intangible about its Main Street that brings a sense of calm and warmth that WDW lacks. And riding Alice (officially my favourite ride of any at Disneyland), Mr. Toad (my childhood favourite from WDW, so heartlessly ripped away from us east coasters), Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and Pinocchio’s Journey, I forgot how much I truly loved the classic dark rides. I could’ve spent an entire day riding nothing but those, over and over and over.
But then I had to walk back to my hotel.
At the end of it all, my consensus was this: I wanted to pick Disneyland up and move it to a vast, secluded, unpopulated area of Florida. In other worlds, Walt, I’m totally with you, bro.