My Retroactive Submission to Paulie’s Corner (Episode 50)

Dear Paulie,

Your “Paulie’s Corner” segment is my favourite part about the WDW Northeast Podcast. Don’t get me wrong, I also love Dean’s views, Mike’s curse-laden passion for his local Disney Store, and the very human-like robot named SAL 9000 that you get to do your news segments. But it’s your fun game of forcing your cohosts to spit out imagineering genius on the fly that I most look forward to.

On episode 50, you tasked the guys (and guest gal) with coming up with a new immersive themed bar/restaurant/lounge a la Trader Sam’s. Seeing as I’ve had these mental plans rolling around in my brain like a hamster in a ball, I thought it best to write them down, flush them out, and submit them for your approval. Without further ado, I present to you:

Wonderland.

I present to you: the entrance. Just picture this with signage.

I present to you: the entrance. Just picture this with signage.

I originally conceived of Wonderland as a club, but that was many years ago when such a thing had an appeal to me. Now, as a crotchety old person, I shall repurpose it as a bar/lounge/restaurant. And in keeping with the rules of your game, the location I wanted to suggest two weeks ago was Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Raze the Tomorrowland Speedway, and plop in Wonderland — keeps it close to the teacups (and expands Fantasyland!) and yanks out the loud, stinky eyesore that is the Speedway.

The foyer will be so disorienting, you'll have trouble finding your way out. Have another drink.

The foyer will be so disorienting, you’ll have trouble finding your way out. Have another drink.

However, since listening to your podcast, the news of Tokyo Disneyland’s expansion, including an entire Wonderland Land, hit the news wires. So obviously, I’ll have to place a sister location of Wonderland there. It’s just too easy.

Here’s the general gist of Wonderland: every aspect of Alice’s Wonderland is represented.

You start with the exterior that is designed to look like the real world that Alice lived in and daydreamed about escaping — lots of daisies everywhere and a cute kitten named Dinah. The entrance to the venue would resemble a rabbit hole, obviously. The foyer is the “falling down the rabbit hole.” The hostess station is the glass table with the bottle labeled “Drink Me.” A replica will be handed out to every guest and act as the buzzer, alerting them that their table is ready. Once that happens, they will be escorted through the DoorKnob.

But where???

Your table's ready!

Your table’s ready!

Like Be Our Guest’s three themed rooms, Wonderland will be composed of multiple dining rooms, bar areas, and lounges, specifically:

  • The Caucus Race and Sea of Tears
  • The Beach of the Curious Oysters
  • The White Rabbit’s House
  • The Flower Garden (with Smoking Caterpillar)
  • The Mad Tea Party
  • Tulgey Wood
  • The Croquet Field

MadTeaPartyBut it won’t stop at a slapping a simple wallpaper in each room — oh no! We’re going full-fledged Wonderland “we’re all mad here” mad. Behold: Each room will have its own Background Music Loop, its own furniture, its own cast member costumes, its own scents, its own lighting (much of it dark, made to make you feel like you’re outside at night a la the Mexico pavilion), its own style furniture, its own menu (food and drink), and its own glassware. For example:

The Mad Tea Party is a tea party. Duh. The only glassware you’ll encounter there will be in the form of a tea cup or teapot. Menu will be tea-centric (think: small plates, finger sandwiches, scones, etc.). Drink menu will include a wide variety of teas and tea-themed cocktails.

Buttery.

Buttery.

Flower Garden will smell flowery. And will make you feel like you’re three inches tall. All tables will be giant mushrooms, and the chairs are leaves. (Sadly, while a hookah lounge would be an obvious choice here, I think we need to draw the line somewhere for the Disney audience, and it stops at smoking). Cocktails will be fruity with an abundance of garnishes. Complimentary bread and butter will be in the shape of bread and butterflies.

Curious Oysters Beach will be seafood-heavy. Ordering from the raw bar will result in a mandatory moment of silence for the oysters who gave their lives for your delicious enjoyment.

The most delicious room, yet also the saddest.

The most delicious room, yet also the saddest.

The White Rabbit’s House will make you feel like you’re dining/drinking in his actual house with all of his oh-so-precious furniture and belongings. And yes, there will be cookies labeled, “Eat Me.”

It's like dining at Grandma's.  If Grandma were 3 ft. tall and a rabbit.

It’s like dining at Grandma’s. If Grandma were 3 ft. tall and a rabbit.

Tulgey Wood will be the darkest of all the rooms — both literally and figuratively. It’s here that we’ll hang out with the Cheshire Cat, the Mome Raths, and the myriad crazy creatures Alice encounters before finally breaking down and crying that she gives herself very good advice, but she very seldom follows it. Drinks here will be trippy. Absinthe may be involved. Glasses will be mismatched or entirely nonsensical — perhaps shaped like a shoe or a upside-down hat. Food will be ironic.

Hopefully you enjoy eating on plates made from shovel blades and frisbees.

Hopefully you enjoy eating on plates made from shovel blades and frisbees.

Interestingly, while I’ve had this vision for almost a decade (it was something I thought up in college, one day dreaming of being a bar designer or some such nonsense that appealed to me that week), it wasn’t until riding the Alice in Wonderland dark ride at Disneyland for the first time three weeks ago that I really felt it come alive again. That ride comes as close to anything I’ve ever seen to matching the look and feel I have in my mind. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that I swear I had this idea after drinking too much Jack Daniels in my dorm room umpteen years ago, I’d think I were copying Disneyland. But I’m not!

Disneyland's Alice dark ride: pure Wonderland perfection.

Disneyland’s Alice dark ride: pure Wonderland perfection.

Regardless: let’s make this a thing, shall we?

I thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Your #73 fan,
Rhiannon

A super immediate quasi-trip-report-not-really high-level reflection on my journey to Disneyland, as written at 35,000 ft. and possibly fueled by smuggled nips, all because Jenn applied THE PRESSURE

*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?

imageOne 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?

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?

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

“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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Overall Retrospective:

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.

Preparing for Disneyland

I figured since I can’t seem to keep up with trip reports to Disney World, I should just stop going* — and go to Disneyland instead!

*Until next month.  Like, less than four weeks from now.  Because addictions are hard to kick.

Just so you know, this will officially be my first ever visit to Disneyland(!!).  I’m having mixed emotions so far.  Sadly, my type-A, obsessive, overly methodical, anxietized personality is making it hard to simply go, “wheeee!!!  I’M GOING TO DISNEYLAND!”  This personality is an asshole, by the way.

Instead, I’ve spent the better part of the past six months second-guessing every decision I’ve made along the way.  Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a high-level time line of how my trip planning has gone thus far:

  • October: Booked my airfare.
  • December: Realized I picked shitty dates to go, obsessively looked for flight options to change them, yet found nothing still affordable at that juncture.
  • January: Used a newly established work release deadline as an excuse to change my dates.  Flight options still sucked, so what makes more sense than paying for expensive airfare?  Pay for cheaper airfare, extend your trip, and use any money saved on a hotel room, obviously.
  • Early February: Went to book a hotel room.  Discovered that anything I’d want was sold out.  Ended up in what is allegedly a “nice” hotel, but three miles from DL gates.  Queue multi-month-long freak out and over-analyzation about transportation options.
  • Late February: Realize I fucked up again re: a decision on which airports to be flying in and out of (long story, but half of my trip will be in San Diego for work).  Agonized daily over the fact that all flights were now sold out and I’d be unable to fix this lapse in judgement.
  • March: Decided, “screw it,” I’m giving myself an extra day in DL, and rebooked my rental car.
  • Sunday Night: Post-several-bourbons, booked a second (not as nice) hotel across the frickin’ street from DL.  #Options.

I figured as a means to both appease my spasming brain and to also say, “hey, I still write shit!,” I’d type up a “First-Timer’s Planning Guide for Disneyland, As Written by a Psychotic First-Timer.”  Enjoy!

Things I’m Doing to Prepare:

  • Order the Official Disneyland Planning DVD: One of the few free things still left from Disney, the Disneyland Planning DVD is a fun way to start getting pumped for your trip!  Sort of.  Maybe.  Not really.  Let’s face it: I learn more about Disneyland observing an hour’s worth of Twitter foaming than I did from that DVD.  It’s way too short, and frankly, it doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know.  Yes, I’m assuming you know nothing like I do.  We still know more than this professionally made DVD.  Oh well; you get what you pay for.  At least you’ll get something in your mailbox that isn’t a bill?  Who doesn’t love mail???
  • Download the Google Earth App: Refrain from sleeping, opting instead to stay up all night, pretending your phone is a tiny Soarin’ screen, and you are navigating your way around the resort in a hang-glider.  As unhealthy as this may sound, I promise you it’s at least 2716% more informative than Disneyland’s official planning DVD.
  • Use Google Maps’s New Pac-Man Feature: Do a Google Maps search for Disneyland.  Press the Pac-Man icon in the lower left hand corner.  Play Pac-Man using the paths of Disneyland as your course!  Incidentally, this also at least 639% more informative than Disneyland’s official DVD.
  • Read Blogs: Preferably written by people who have been to Disneyland before.
  • Consult Food Blogs and Menus: I can’t sleep at night unless I know exactly what I’ll be eating on any given day at least five weeks in advance.  Also, nothing would crush my soul more than coming home from a trip to Disneyland only to learn that I’d missed out on “THE BESTEST THING EVER,” which is likely to happen if you don’t obsessively stalk every blog and review you can get your mentally-ill hands on.

Questions that Plague Me:

Regardless of how many blog posts I read or how often I actually try to pay attention for the first time ever to what people from the west coast have to say on Twitter, I’m still left with many swirling questions keeping me up at night as I hang-glide over a 5.5″ Soarin’ screen.  Question such as:

  • Should I pack an umbrella?  I mean, sure, every site I read says that it never rains in southern California and that they have about one year left before they have no water at all because they care more about lush golf courses than they do their average citizens, but according to weather.com’s 10-day forecast, there’s a 10-60% chance of rain throughout my stay!!!!  WTF?!?!  Oh, wait, that’s Disneyland Paris.  Nevermind.
  • How much do cabs really cost?  Like, less than $8.50 per trip to a hotel three miles away?  Fuck it.  I’ll cancel that hotel and stay in the one across the street.  I can’t be bothered to navigate parking structures and wait for trams.
  • Most people say that at Disneyland, it’s all about the Quick Service food.  As someone who’s used to mainly sticking with table service establishments at Disney World, just how many corndogs does one need to consume to equal a three-course meal?
  • How many MagicBands should I bring with me?
  • Will I even remember how to use paper FastPasses?  Will I remember how to trip other patrons as I sprint first thing in the morning to the headlining attraction’s FastPass kiosk? What’s a FastPass kiosk without iPad screens?

Personal Goals:

  • 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.

Lingering Concerns:

  • How does pin trading work there?  I’ve heard rumours that pin snobbery is alive and thriving — that the CMs themselves will turn down a crying Make-A-Wish child if their pin isn’t up to snuff.  Like, there’s a perceived tier system of pin value, and one must trade for a pin of equal value???  I don’t even know what this means, but if there’s a new element in pin trading called “potential for rejection,” I may have officially lost one of my very few social-interaction nerves.
  • Do we dare guess how much a whopping four-day stay at Disneyland is going to end up costing me?  As it is, thanks to my constant plan changing mentioned above, I’ve already added an additional night’s stay (+$65), stretched out my rental car contract (+$15), switched to a more expensive hotel (+$80), and I haven’t even ordered my first tiki cocktail.
  • What if I end up liking Disneyland more than Disney World???

Kill, Refurb, Marry: Disney Sidekicks

Kill Refurb MarryWelcome to another installment of Kill, Refurb, Marry, the ever-so-inventive game brought to us by This Happy Place Blog and Mouse on the Mind, AKA the only thing that I actually get off of my ass to write about these days. (Hopefully this will change soon, otherwise I’m going to start lapping myself in trip reports (already have ten days’ worth in the backlog!). Also, I should write something other than trip reports).

Anycrap, this month’s theme is Disney Sidekicks. So without any further ado, let’s get to the slaying…

Kill

Useless.

Useless.

Flounder. Mostly because I’m hungry as I type this, but also because he’s a pretty crappy friend. Dude, your BFF is about to throw her life away for some dumb boy she’s never met, and you’re all, “oh no. Stop. I can’t. Don’t. OKAY I’LL HELP YOU BECAUSE I’M ACTUALLY A SPINELESS JELLYFISH INSTEAD OF A DELICIOUS FLOUNDER.” Fucking useless. Friends don’t let friends make deals with sea witches without an attorney present. Bruce had it wrong the whole time; fish should not be friends — they should be food.

Refurb

Also pretty useless.

Also pretty useless.

Speaking of useless fish friends, how about Dory? If we could refurb her brain, I’m pretty sure Finding Nemo‘s running time could be reduced to a compact 15 minutes. It could be shown as a short before Frozen VI: Sorcerer Olaf — The Big-Assed Hat Returns.

Marry

This one’s pretty frickin’ obvious: Kronk. Same reasons as last month.

YUMMY.

YUMMY.

Oh, is that cheating? Do I need to have non-repeated selection? Fiiiiiiine.

I’ll go with Rajah. Who doesn’t want to have a giant kitty as your companion? He’s furry and ferocious all at the same time! Sure, he’s not as good at kleptomania as Abu, and I do value good thievery skills. But I’m going to stick with a feline as my chosen friend. His being a tiger and all, I figure I stand less of a chance of being labeled a Crazy Cat Lady just because my life partner is a cat. If you have a tiger, you’re not a Crazy Cat Lady, you’re a Cool Cat Lady. Right? Because if you say otherwise, you’ll be turned into a cat treat faster than my Siamese can land himself in an expensive medical predicament.

Purrrrrrrrrr.

Purrrrrrrrrr.

Kill, Refurb, Marry: Disney Villians Edition

Kill Refurb MarryWelcome to this month’s installment of Kill, Refurb, Marry, the ever-so-inventive game brought to us by This Happy Place Blog and Mouse on the Mind. Today we’ll be slaying and seducing villains! (Sort of. I mean, I’m assuming that if you’re marrying someone, there will be some intimacy going on, am I right? That’s how I’m choosing to look at it, because I’m a glass-half-full-of-evil-sexiness kind of person).

Let’s just move on before someone starts to psychoanalyze this too much.

Kill
DrunkatDisney. He’s a Disney villain, yes? Wait, you’re saying he doesn’t count? Damn, okay, then…

How about Hans from Frozen? He’s a pretty shitty person. He finishes other people’s sandwiches. Need I say more? (Plus I keep getting the below image sent to me by D@D, and I’m scarred for life).

DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN.

DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN.

Refurb
How does one refurb a villain? Is it like, “gee, Ursula, you’re almost the evilest, but you were dumb enough to be foiled by a 16 year old who thought giving up her entire life, family, home, and voice was a fair trade for a dude she’d never spoken to before. Next time, try a more foolproof plan.” Or are we angling more for the rehabilitation route of refurbishment?

StressedHookLet’s assume the latter, in which case, I shall seek redemption for Captain Hook. I think all he needs are some anger management courses, meditation, Xanax, and most certainly relocation. The poor guy just wants to hang out with his bros on the open sea, and next thing you know, this flying dick in tights is always harassing him, even recruiting gangs of unsupervised children to mess with him, ultimately having him amputated by a wild animal! Put yourself in his awkwardly large shoes — you’d probably be pushed to villainous insanity as well! Give the poor guy a break and a fresh start.

Marry
This is tricky, because there’s just so much sexy to choose from. Sure, you may also have to deal with some “negative” personality aspects that may accompany someone labeled by the entire world as a “villain,” but maybe they’re just misunderstood? Bad boys need love too.

How about Gaston? Ohhhhh, Gaston. AND HE’S FRENCH. Sure, he’d spend the tenure of our marriage more interested in talking about himself and throwing my books in the mud, but maybe that’s a small price to pay for someone so skilled in interior design and growing chest hair? Then again, I’m not sure I could afford him… do you know how much you’d have to spend on eggs each month?

I love this man and his spinach puffs.

I love this man and his spinach puffs.

Dr. Facilier? Creole is part French! And he’s a doctor! He can afford his own eggs! But then again, being followed at all times by evil shadow spirits would get old pretty fast. You sell your soul to the devil, and next thing you know, there’s always a third wheel on date night. Not cool.

No, I think it’s pretty obvious where my heart belongs, and that’s in the dumb yet affable possession of Kronk. That voice, those biceps, the cooking skills, and that tiny little manskirt he always wears. What’s not to love??? And he’s really not even that evil! It’s not his fault Yzma is a homicidal, power-hungry, highly fashionable loon. He’s just her loyal henchman. And hopefully, one day, he can be my betrothed. If he can speak Squirrel, he can probably learn French, right?

Kill, Refurb, Marry: Disney Parks Souvenir Shops

Kill Refurb MarryYadda, yadda, yadda… insert same old description of how this game works here. Refer to This Happy Place Blog and Mouse on the Mind. NOW ONTO THE GAME:

This month’s theme is SHOPPING!!!! AKA I’ll marry all of it, thank you. I’ve yet to meet a store I’ve not loved. Unless there were a store that only sold olives, Crocs, and Justin Bieber albums. I would most certainly risk breaking parole to burn the crap out of that store. Luckily for me (and local emergency responders), no such store exists at Walt Disney World.

However, in the spirit of the game, I have to pick something. So let me think…

Aha!!!

In the I’D RATHER HAVE A FROZEN SHOP INSTEAD OF THIS BULLSHIT category, the winner is:
The Planet Hollywood Super Store at Hollywood Studios

I mean, why, dear god, why?!!?! Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea, and is that person still employed with the company? The answer better be “no.”

Does anyone actually buy anything here? How does this store even make money? Who’s coming to Hollywood Studios, encountering this store, and thinking, “gee, we were dumb enough to have an ADR to Planet Hollywood last night, and I soooo enjoyed my meal there, yet I forgot to get a souvenir shirt to commemorate my frozen chicken fingers and Costco jalapeno poppers! Thank heavens for this random pop-up location of nothing but Planet Hollywood merchandise no where near a Planet Hollywood! Now I can get t-shirts for the whole family — and cups, too!”

This person should also be killed, in addition to this store.

Refurb:
Leota SignMemento Mori.

Needs to be bigger. Hands down. Who needs Tangled-themed bathrooms? I say take over that area for the expansion. Add dining while you’re at it. I need me a haunted meal. Probably Magic Kingdom’s first ever bar, as well. You know what we need more of? Fantasy suites that no one ever gets to stay in — throw a few of those in the Haunted Mansion — access via a secret passage in the store. Oh, and secret passages in the store. Real Fortune Tellers. A library of ghost stories. Death certificate printing station. I’m envisioning something the size of World of Mouse when all is said and done. Anything less is just not giving the Haunted Mansion the respect it deserves.

Memento Mori was a good start, but now that I’ve tasted the sample, I want the full meal. PLUS IT.

Marry:
Pablo JeanThe open-air market in the Mexico pavilion!

Okay, perhaps this is cheating, because I basically love the entirety of the interior of the Mexico pavilion, but hey! — that market is a big component of it! I love everything from the woven blankets to the over priced tequila bottles to the Three Caballeros merch. Why, it’s where I adopted my sugar skull, Pablo Jean! It’s one of the few stores on property where I keep a running wish list of items I’m going to slowly procure. Hint: 97% of them are Dia de los Muertos-related.

Te amo, Mexico!

An FAQ for Busch Gardens First-Timers, written by a Busch Gardens first-timer

In an effort to fully embrace my Florida residency and recent zeal for near-death experiences, I decided to take a walk on the wild side(TM?) and visit/sign up for an annual pass sight unseen to Busch Gardens. Allow me to share with you some information I wish I had had prior to my recent day trip north, as well as some additional facts and observations. You’re welcome, as always.

Q: How much does a pass to Busch Gardens cost?

A: I don’t know. It was confusing. There are apparently 27 different pass options/add-ons, and trying to figure out what the hell is what was not entirely simple. (Do you want to go for one day? Two days? A month? A year? You want to go to Sea World, too? How about Adventure Island, whatever the hell that is? A tour of scenic Tampa? Hey, you want to cut lines? How about a dining package? Premiere parking? You want to line-cut the line-cutters???). Not to mention factoring in any discounts such as FL resident, AAA, Southwest Rapid Rewards (yes, that’s a thing there), military, etc. I wrestled with this decision for about a month.

Ultimately, I opted for the annual pass at $156/year, or $13/month, thanks to their option for FL residents to pay over time. This includes free parking (otherwise $17/day) and a 10% discount on all food, drink, and tacky merchandise. Meanwhile, a one-day pass with no add-ons is around $85? So it’s like, yeah, I’ll buy 365 passes for the price of two. Thanks. My boyfriend, Mark, was considering joining me for the day, and with a Southwest Rapid Rewards discount applied, his one-day pass would’ve been $64.

Q: But don’t you have to pay for parking anyway in order to pick up your AP?

A: No! It was wonderful! I was ready to fight tooth and nail on this issue if necessary, but I simply drove up to the gates, showed the dude my voucher for the AP, and he let me drive on through. This is in stark contrast to Disney, who mandates that you have the actual, physical AP before they’ll let you start parking for free. +1 for the Busch.

Q: Is parking a giant free for all because it’s BG, not Disney, and therefor more like a third world Black Friday experience?

A: Actually, no. Just like Disney, there are sad human beings whose sole responsibility in life it is to wear neon orange, stand all day on asphalt, and point. Not only that, but the parking situation reminds me more of the Magic Kingdom than anything else: unless you plan on walking a mile, you need to take a tram from the parking area to the front gates. I was rope-dropping and figured parking in such a primo spot would mean I’d walk right in. Au contraire. I had to wait for and board a tram, just like all the other plebeians.

Q: So how was the process to pick up the AP?

This is what passes for "ears" at Busch Gardens.

This is what passes for “ears” at Busch Gardens.

A: Shitty, I tell you. As you approach the main entrance, there are three types of booths: 1) Self-serve electronic kiosks, 2) Guest Relations, and 3) regular human-manned ticket windows. The voucher for my pass instructed me to approach one of the self-serve kiosks where I would scan the voucher. I did so. An error message then appeared on the screen and instructed me to visit Guest Relations. So I headed over there, only to find that not a single window was open. Finally, I headed to the regular ticket window, as clearly that was my only option remaining.

I approached the window and handed the woman my voucher. She began to scan and process it when suddenly the National Anthem came on over the speakers, she stopped what she was doing, stood up, and wordlessly held up a single finger to me indicating that I would have to wait until the song was over and her patriotic duty fulfilled.

Now, I’m all for respecting the troops, our country, the right to shoot whomever we want with our legally owned AK-47s, but isn’t there a more polite way of going about this? A single finger point??? Not allowed by the Mouse! Surely this was my first sign that I was not in Disney anymore.

Q: I bet you were really missing MyMagic+ by now. Didn’t your wrist feel naked without your MagicBand?

A: I did, and it did. Interestingly, when I printed out my AP voucher, I was also offered to print a voucher for a free “wristband” to use for “touch to pay” purposes. A BG MagicBand! A BuschBand, if you will. Yet when I asked Ms. Americana where my BB was (I had handed her the voucher, after all), she replied, “oh, did you want that?” No, I was just handing you all of the recyclable material I had in my purse. “I don’t know,” I replied, “do I?” “Meh, it’s just a wristband thing. Whatever.”

A++ for salesmanship! At this point, I’d had enough of the one-finger-pointer and her “I’ve been on duty for all of 30 minutes and already want to kill myself” attitude, so I said, “whatever,” and left, sans BB.

Q: Sounds like your rope-dropping efforts were foiled by now. How screwed were you when it came to crowds?

A: Crowds? What crowds?? I had parked by 8:45, arrived to the entrance via tram by 8:52, and finally passed through the gates after AP retrieval hell around 9:07. Opening time: 9:00. Saturday after Thanksgiving. The only crowd calendar I could find that even acknowledged Busch Gardens’ existence said not to go on this holiday weekend. And yet…

… nuthin’. It was like a ghost town. Though, my friends that I was meeting up with, who had been before a few times in January, reported that this was pretty packed comparatively.

Fascinating.

Q: So, initial impressions?

A: I was actually pleasantly surprised. Maybe it’s because I had such low expectations, but I found their valiant efforts at theming to be rather charming! They have a variety of themed areas, from Egypt to some generic African area to Morocco. If I had actually grabbed a park map or done any research prior to writing this post, I could probably tell you more, but oh well. You get what you pay for here.

My only real complaint, aesthetically speaking, would be their insistence upon using classic crappy carnival games throughout the entire park. It’s rather distracting when you’re wandering through [insert name of sub-Saharan African country here] and there’s a bang-a-mallet-on-a-thingy-to-see-how-strong-you-are game complete with giant neon stuffed animal prizes. Theming fail.

Q: How about the rides? What did you end up doing?

A: First up, we went to Cheetah Hunt. I find the name of this attraction to be slightly misleading. Why are we hunting cheetahs in a park focused on animal conservation? Poor kitties. Oh, wait, we are the kitties. And we’re hunting. Or something. I don’t know…

We stood outside waiting for Cheetah Hunt to open for at least 20 minutes. Busch Gardens: not overly concerned with punctuality. Once we were let in, we walked right on.

Q: At any point, were you once again reminded that you’re not at a Disney park?

A: Oh my god yes: their loading process is nonexistent. It was insane. A veritable free-for-all. It was like the dark ages of the Southwest airlines boarding process before they started assigning numbers. You’d reach the head of the line, and then… whatever! Stand wherever! Pick a lane, any lane! Only a party of two and approaching a row that could fit five? Who cares about filling three extra seats!!! Let it fly! Single rider line?? What’s that?!??

I was aghast.

I mean, just the pure inefficiency of it all! Nearly 1/3 of every ride vehicle left the station empty. And try aligning yourself with your party if you’re an odd number and it’s two people per row — you end up standing in adjacent rows, constantly letting people ahead of you because the line length for each row was that varied. Sheer madness, I tell you.

Q: Okay, other than that, how was it? Give us a breakdown of each of the coasters.

A:

    Cheetah Hunt: Good. Long, classic coaster style with two people per row in a train of cars, has upside-down points, has a few bigger drops, but generally considered the least intense of the big guns at BG. What sets it apart from the rest are its “bursts.” Think: the first 2.6 seconds of Hollywood Studios’ Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. AKA, the thing I hate most about RnR. And Cheetah Hunt has three of these throughout the ride, allegedly meant to simulate the cheetah’s acceleration as it runs and hunts. #Theming. Luckily, they’re not as intense as RnR’s, and by my second ride on Cheetah, I was less daunted by them.

    Montu: Pretty frickin’ incredible. You sit in a row of about five people, give or take, and your legs dangle freely beneath you, as the vehicle hangs from the track above your head. Montu is fairly intense with many upside-down loops and giant drops, though I found that the floating-beneath-the-track aspect makes for less of a jarring impression in my gut (thankfully). My only negative comment would be that I wish the harness were slightly more adjustable. It’s like finding a pair of shoes you love, but they don’t come in half sizes; the 9 is too small, and the 10 is too big. Well, I had the harness clicked down as tight as I could, but there was still enough wiggle room left that every time the full weight of my body was thrust against it, facing down over a dozen stories in mid-air, I was pretty sure I was going to slip out and die. Not the kind of thrill you want from a thrill ride. Whatver, I’ll just diet some more until I can click that bitch down one more notch. #Motivation!

    SheiKra: According to my coaster-loving friends, this is the biggest and baddest at the park. Its claim to fame is that it gingerly guides you 20 stories into the sky, tips the entire ride vehicle (three rows of about seven people across? Close to that?) 90 degrees to allow you to face the ground and contemplate your life for about five seconds before dropping your ass. No gradual slope — nay, a 90 degree free fall on a track. And after a few loops and swoops, it does it again (albeit at a lesser height the second time). I admit: I had my doubts about this one, but I managed to be talked into it. Pros: The views were astounding! Cons: Well, the impact only lasts a few seconds. You can handle anything for a few seconds, right? Sure, you can! Ultimately, I’d most definitely do it again. I would’ve gotten right back on again that day if it hadn’t taken me so long to stop shaking.

    Kumba: My favourite! Kumba is the twistiest of the lot, just running you through loop after loop after another upside down loop. It reminded me of the real-life version of every coaster I build on Sum of All Thrills. Highly recommended!

    Gwazi: AVOID AT ALL COSTS. My legal team is currently writing up our lawsuit against Busch Gardens; I’m citing trauma, emotional distress, and a dislocated neck (we’re pretty sure that’s a thing). Gwazi is BG’s old timey wooden roller coaster. I was warned that it was going to be a rough and bumpy ride, but I simply scoffed, “please — I consider Space Mountain to be a full body massage.” Well, if Space is a Swedish massage, Gwazi is a chimpanzee on bath salts repeated hitting you on either side of the head with lead cymbals as you try and maneuver a jackhammer through 30 feet of solid rock only to discover the secret lair of a troll who punches you in the throat. I’m going to go with “not recommended.”

Q: Regardless of your near-death experiences and legal woes, it sounds like you accomplished quite a bit! Was this thanks to FastPass+?

A: Surprisingly, no. I was worried that I’d regret not purchasing BG’s version of FP, but it turned out to be completely unnecessary — even on this “crowded” holiday weekend. (After waiting 15 minutes for it to fucking open) we walked straight on Cheetah Hunt. Then we were about to walk straight on Montu when it shut down due to technical difficulties, so as an apology, we were given FPs to any attraction in the park. Gwazi was initially shut down due to technical difficulties. We walked on SheiKra, walked on Kumba, got off, and walked right back on it, could’ve walked right on Falcon’s Fury had we desired (we did not; this is BG’s straight up, straight down free fall ride of 335′). When Montu was finally back up, we walked right on that.

The only lines we saw were for Cheetah Hunt later in the day (posted wait time: 65 minutes); we simply used our FP from Montu. And then Gwazi, when it finally opened, was 25 minutes (of time that would’ve been better spent convincing me not to go on Gwazi). Incidentally, these are the only two coasters whose ride vehicles are two people to a row, train car style. Coincidence? I think not. Perhaps if BG actually organized their load process and filled all seats in an orderly fashion, there’d be little to no wait at these attractions. Just my opinion.

Q: Wait, I thought there were animals and shit there? Why are we only talking about roller coasters and carnival games?

A: I was getting to that! Jeez. Yes, there are lots of animals — lots! And actually, I was quite pleased with their displays. You know how you can never see the fucking cheetahs on Kilimanjaro Safaris? Those assholes are always hiding way up in the farthest corner of their hill like they’re too cool for Animal Kingdom? Well, at Busch Gardens, the cheetahs are in an enclosure right off the walkway on your way to Cheetah Hunt! Just right there, next to you. Nothing but open air and some plate glass between you and some big kitties. Hell, you know how on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, yeah, the tigers are closer to you than the damn cheetahs, but still… too far away? Like, ten feet below you and hiding in corners? Not so at BG! Those cheetahs are right on your level, and they come up to the glass like they’re happy to attack you be there.

Now, whether or not this close approximation is in the best interest of the animals that we’re allegedly working to protect and help, who knows. Perhaps those cheetahs would rather have a hill to hide on. Whatever. All I know is, if you’re at Busch Gardens and hoping to see some animals up close, you won’t be disappointed! We got so close to a lion, we almost felt the mist of his urine as he was marking territory in earnest. Good times!

And look how close we got to this sad little homeless man:

Can I adopt him?  Or at least get him a warmer blanket?

Can I adopt him? Or at least get him a warmer blanket?

Q: Coasters: check, Animals: check. What about other attractions for people who fear death and large cats?

A: I guess? I don’t know. We were focused on the thrill rides and trying to catch the animals doing it.

Allegedly they have their own version of the safari ride, but we did not do that. And they have something called the Skyway (I think?) that takes you on a leisurely tour of the park from a happy little gondola in the sky, but that was shut down when we passed it as well. What is up with everything having technical difficulties there?? Is that normal? Are they the Pirates of the Caribbean of Florida theme parks?

Regardless, there seemed to be other things to do there. There was even a sing-along train ride! Though no one seemed to be singing, and there wasn’t anything Frozen-related about it, so is it even real?

Q: We’re over 2500 words into this un-authoritative view of BG, and you’ve yet to mention food or alcohol; it’s like I don’t even know you.

A: Don’t get your panties in a wad. I write what inspires me. The food there did not inspire me.

We paused around 11:00 for a beverage, and I was admittedly pleased that of the mere six or seven beer-by-the-bottle options this one quick service stand had, one of those was Kona Longboard. Well played, BG.

But the food? We had passed by some Colony House Something I Forget Its Name that boasted a buffet for a mere $16.99 (that’s like, less than 50% of Disney buffet prices), so we decided to check them out. Turns out it was dinner only, so instead we were stuck with their lunch offerings of pizza, chicken nuggets, turkey sandwich, or turkey club (which, in an utter dick move, substituted ham instead of bacon). So inspiring! Not.

But the real ass-kicker, the easiest way to send me into a table-flipping rampage: they had ketchup packets instead of ketchup pumps. WTF?!?! Who the fuck has time for that bullshit?! I mean, seriously. Ketchup packets are the worst things to happen to humanity since wedge-heeled sneakers (PICK SNEAKERS OR PICK A PAIR OF WEDGE SHOES; YOU CANNOT HAVE BOTH — GOD DID NOT INTEND FOR YOU TO HAVE BOTH). Who uses just one ketchup packet?? I use one ketchup packet per french fry. You end up spending a half hour just opening 39 ketchup packets, and by the time you’re done, your fries are cold, your beer is warm, and your entire table is covered in a layer of trash. That kind of life is not worth living.

Q: At least it was 10% off?

A: Oho! I forgot to tell you!

Q: Forgot to tell me what?

A: Go ahead and ask me what to wear/how to pack for Busch Gardens.

Q: Okaaaaay…. what should I wear/pack for Busch Gardens?

A: Nothing. You should wear something with pockets, sneakers with laces, and then bring nothing else.

Q: Um, this doesn’t sound overly shocking or abnormal.

A: The fuck?? Sure it does! My standard WDW uniform is: sundress (no pockets), flip flops, and a backpack containing my life. I can probably count on one hand the number of outfits I own that have pockets, I only wear sneakers to run, and I sure as hell never go anywhere without a purse of sorts. What kind of monster do you take me for??

Q: Okay, fine, so you’re a prissy bitch. What’s your point here?

A: My point is this: what do you encounter directly in front of you on every coaster at WDW?

Q: A sign saying, “this is not a real roller coaster”?

A: No, jerkface, a pouch in which to store your shit!

Never having been to any theme parks other than Disney in over 20 years, I simply assumed this rule was true across the board. It is not. At BG, there are no pouches, and you must instead secure your belongings in a locker each time you board a coaster to the tune of $0.50 a pop, or you can rent a locker for the day at $8. And even if you do this, you’re still stuck leaving your flip flops in a public cubbie hole next to the ride platform every time you board anything where your feet dangle. Ditto on sunglasses for every coaster.

Q: I’m failing to see what this has to do with you not getting discounted beer.

A: Hello! Because thanks to Ms. I Don’t Give A Fuck About Customer Service back when I picked up my AP, I never got the BuschBand, and thanks to the fact that I finally gave up on life and locked all of my shit in a locker way at the front of the park, I didn’t have my AP on me to prove that I get a discount.

Q: This sounds like a lot of finger-pointing for someone who proclaims to be highly offended by pointed fingers.

A: Bite me. You know an injustice occurred here!

Q: Whatever. You’re the one who wore flip flops to ride roller coasters.

A: COMFORT IS IMPORTANT WHEN TOURING, ASSHAT.

Q: This FAQ has taken a real ugly turn here.

A: I think we all know whom to blame for that.

Q: Uh, you?

A: I was going to go with MyMagic+, just for funsies.

Q: Are we done here, or what? Any other pearls of wisdom you care to share with us, or can we all move on with our lives?

A: Let me review my notes…

Okay, one interesting tidbit: at one point throughout the day, I realized that something was missing… something I’m used to seeing constantly when touring Disney: ECVs. There aren’t any at BG. And when you start to think about it, it makes sense — people in ECVs are usually the elderly, the injured, the handicapped, or “people of size” — none of whom are likely to be interested in 30 story plunges.

Q: That seems like a pretty broad-sweeping stereotype.

A: If your 87 year old grandmother still gets her rocks off to inversion loops, more power to her. But I didn’t notice much in the way of handicapped accessibility to any of these roller coasters, and as for people of size, well… the seats aren’t huge, and for safety’s sake, you really need to be able to be strapped in tight.

Q: Fine, whatever, you’re still marginally offensive. Anything else?

A: Well, in case you’re interested:
Miles walked: 6.66
Number of Pins Traded for: 0

Q: Seriously? Did you just trick us into reading yet another one of your trip reports by disguising it as an FAQ????

A: [crickets]