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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Wanderlust & Fairy Dust, Embracing the Journey the West Coast Way

Updated: 3 days ago

“Meet me in California / I’ll be there waiting for your call / I’ll be there waiting for you / ‘Cause you know in California / There’s something better for us all” —Plain White T’s, Meet Me in California


This post took me a hot minute to sit down and organize. There was a lot to cover with this trip, and I'm just getting my creative groove back, but here we are. It's done!


I have to preface this by saying that my Mom and I are both Disney enthusiasts, we've done Disney World 5 times together, but since we didn't particularly care to go to Florida we thought "why not try Disneyland?" I of course had to get my pop culture fix in and insisted we do a day in Hollywood too!


So, if you're a Disney loving, pop culture enthusiast, then read on...if not, what are you even doing here? lol


( If you wanna skip the dialogue, I'm going to list all the things we did for each day's itinerary at the bottom. We loved them all! )


First off, Mama dukes gets all the credit here! She researched her ass off for months, as she always does, and planned this entire trip making sure we had tours set up, lightning passes, were able to make all the rides and shows we wanted to do, have the food we wanted to eat, and then some. Which, we did, and even had leisure time to do some things twice! We had park hopper passes for 3 of the days we were there; Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, and Monday was Hollywood.


I had never been to California up until this trip, but it's been on my bucket list for so long! I've always wanted to drive up the whole coast in an RV or something. Hit places like Orange County, Malibu, San Diego, San Francisco, Napa, Santa Barbara, LA, and of course, Disneyland. Loved this trip so much I'll definitely be planning to go back for the rest!


We were there from Friday, May 10th to Wednesday, May 15th, and honestly the weather this time of year, to me, was perfect! Mornings started cool, the sun was always toasting by 10:30, and then it cooled back down at night starting around 4/5 PM. Ideal combo for being in the parks 11 hours a day. I gotta say, my lifesaver, and the only way I was able to do this trip, was thanks to the electric scooter I rented for the week! When my mom's feet were bothering her too I would give her rides - we got in trouble a few times in the parks for it but oh well lol.

motorized scooter best western California

A fun perk of the Genie Plus package that we got was the picture pass! This allowed you to stop at any of the designated spots set up throughout the parks at different scenic locations, there's a ton, and have your picture taken by a professional. All the pictures that you take, even on the rides, are synced to your app/account free of charge. The photographers have you doing all the same poses, but they make it fun! And it's a great way to get the main shots while you're roaming around, like in front of the castle, without having to take any yourself!

Mickey Mouse Disneyland California
Cinderella's Castle Disneyland California

Having done Disney World so many times, I knew going into this that there were some rides I was excited to do again, and there were definitely some I could do without. cough, Star Tours. That ride gives me vertigo, not a fan. And this is coming from a roller coaster junkie, so that says a lot.


Our non negotiable's we make sure to hit are Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, Soarin', and of course the parade with all the Disney characters! Usually splash mountain and Fantasmic as well, but they weren't open yet. The World of Color Show was an amazing substitute though! Each ride and event we did I coudn't help but be in awe of all the work and coordination it takes to make everything work when, and how, it's supposed to. It's all in the details!

Thunder Mountain Railroad Roller Coaster Disneyland California

Its A Small World Disneyland California

We also did The Guardians of the Galaxy, which is the equivalent of Disney World's Tower of Terror ...honestly though I liked Guardians more! They had it set up really cool to match the feel of the movie with different props, and it felt like there were more drops, if ya like that sorta thing. Even my mom who doesn't do most rollercoasters does this one!

Guardians of the Galaxy Disneyland Adventure California

Ok, let's break it down a little further!


DAY 1 - TRAVEL/DOWNTOWN DISNEY

From the moment we got to the airport I was in the best. mood. ever. I always get hyped on travel days, but it's quite impressive how even at 36 my child like wonder hasn't lost its edge. Never grow up!


Once we landed the weather alone was enough to have me smiling ear to ear. I'm a sucker for palm trees!

California Palm Trees

The first night we didn't have much planned, and we weren't far from the parks, so we did Downtown Disney to grab a bite to eat and look around.


Downtown Disney California is a little different from how I remembered Disney World's version to be (haven't been since 2015), but I enjoyed it! Every food spot was so good, and there was plenty of shops to pop into for sourveniers! We did Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes and I swear to god, I had the best fried pickles I've ever had in my life!

Disneyland Downtown Disney Restaurant
Black Top Craft Burgers & Shakes sits in the center of Downtown Disney
fried pickles dill














After refueling we did a little looking around in the shops to scope out what we might want to come back and buy, and ventured to look at the gates of Disneyland and Disneyland Adventure. They're right across the promenade from each other so it was definitely set up conveniently without having to take a shuttle between parks.

Disneyland Disneyland adventure downtown Disney California

Honestly had no problems adjusting to the time difference there, sleep came easy, and early on the first night, which was perfect to be ready for our first full day of Disneyland!


DAY 2 - DISNEYLAND

Up and out early, ready to tackle the day. There was a lot of ground to cover!


We spent the day bouncing around to different rides and shows; Space Mountain, the parade and the fireworks were my faves of the day.


FYI, food wise, unless you have a reservation at one of the restaurants, you're better off going back to Downtown Disney to eat. They just have more of a variety of sit down places rather than carts or smaller meals. Depends on what you want! We ended up hitting Earl of Sandwich - not the Tavern! My mom absolutely loved her caprese, and I went with a spicy tuna trap. Let me just say I never, ever order tuna out, but I was intrigued to try it, and I wasn't disappointed! (Albacore tuna salad, romaine, roma tomato, olives, banana peppers, chipotle sauce and balsamic vinaigrette). YUM!!! Devoured it!

Disneyland park entrance

spicy tuna wrap Disneyland downtown Disney
jungle cruise ride Disneyland Adventureland California



Disneyland parade Mickey Mouse













DAY 3 : DISNEYLAND ADVENTURE


Started off the day fed and happy! We had a complimentary breakfast at our hotel (shoutout to Best Western Plus Stovall's Inn) and then we went to Beignets Expressed for the fluffiest, most delicious beignets I’ve ever experienced without being physically in New Orleans …that's on the travel bucket list as well. But I'm still craving these since being back on the East Coast.  This spot is in Downtown Disney, and they have all different assortments you can choose from, but I just wanted the classic powdered sugar ones with a chocolate velvet dipping sauce.  Good lawwwwddd. Salivating.

beignets downtown Disneyland California

One of our favorite rides to hit early on is Soarin'. Even though it's a short "ride", definitely get a lightning pass. We do this one every visit, but it's just so cool! its a virtual reality experience that "flies" you all around the globe. Breathtaking views from all corners of the world that lets face it, will most likely never get to see or experience in real life.  This one doesn’t give me vertigo like Star Tours, not sure what it is about that one that just launches my stomach in 10 different directions.  I kept my eyes closed for a lot of it.


Aunt Cass’ Cafe was a great choice for lunch!  Right in the heart of San Fransokyo Square, an alternate version of San Francisco, there’s plenty of spots to stop and eat.  I got a California roll sandwich (Shrimp crab salad, wasabi mayo and yakisoba sauce in a milk bread bun, topped with masago) and my mom had a turkey pesto club (Roasted turkey breast, pesto aїoli, havarti, bacon, arugula and tomato on herb focaccia). Right across from there was a spot to order frozen margaritas, so obviously we did! Ordered them with a nice spicy rim, because spicy makes it better and is how I prefer everything.  Between the drink and the heat I was feeling it. Driving a scooter with a buzz is…interesting lol trying to dodge humans and strollers coming at you in every single direction all at the same time. Everything everywhere all at once!  

Disneyland Adventure food California San Fransokyo Square

Disney World doesn't have Pixar, or Avengers, so there were a lot of new things we wanted to try like Radiator Springs Racers, which I guess you could compare to the Test Track in Epcot, but better.  This entire area was built to look identical to scenes from Cars.  All the different stops that Lightning McQueen hits on his detour, including Carburetor Canyon, which is how the ride is designed.  All I kept thinking was how much my nephew would love this spot!  


Lamplight Lounge Boardwalk was the perfect reprieve, it had an amazing view of the park and great food!  We didn’t want anything too heavy, there were still rides to be ridden, but we were famished by the time we sat to eat.  We split the angus beef sliders (Bacon, pepper jack, onion jam, lettuce and pickle on toasted Hawaiian pretzel buns) with warm & cheesy dip (savory dip with ricotta, sautéed spinach, roasted poblanos, roasted peppers, crispy pork belly and butter-caramelized leeks, shredded white cheddar, mornay sauce and toasted sourdough).  

pixar pier, disneyland adventure, California incredicoaster

If you get the chance to catch The Guardians of the Galaxy Dance Off, I recommend it.  The guy who played Quill was fantastic, very Chris Pratt-esque.  If anything ya get to listen to some good throwbacks!  And in case you cared, the Incredicoaster is now my favorite roller coaster of all time, hands down.  Sit in the front if you can, and do it at night! The entire Pixar Pier is lit up, as well as the rollercoaster.  Which they also included in the light show for World of Color. 


The World of Color show was AMAZING! I don’t recommend paying the $90/person to have a dining seat saved, to me it’s not worth it because you can find other great spots along the fence by the water. Ya just have to get there at minimum half an hour before the show starts. It was cold that night, probably the only night I was really wishing I put pants on, but omg so worth it!  

world of color show Pixar pier Disneyland adventure California

DAY 4 - HOLLYWOOD

Ya’ll, THIS day was by far my favorite.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a kid at heart and love Disneyland, but movies and pop culture are where it's at for me.  It’s what my brain absorbs and turns all the lights switch on for.  The Warner Brothers Studio Tour was FASCINATING! They take you to so many cool spots on the lot, all full of fun facts and history.  Like did you know that the largest soundstage in North America is on this lot?  Stage 16, which rather than disrupt the original architecture, was lifted 30 ft during reconstruction.  We got to see props and sets for Gilmore Girls, Pretty Little Liars, You, Shameless, and of course, my ultimate favorite, Friends. 


I pretty much stroked out all day, especially because after you finish the first part of the tour they drop you at the Friends Cafe.  My Nirvana!  Literal Friends heaven! It’s at your own leisure which is nice, and necessary, because there is just SO much to look at! Not only do they have the entire area dedicated to Friends and their sets, but other famous movies and tv shows as well in a room on the other side.  Movie props from Selena, Crazy Rich Asians, Elvis, Casablanca, and more!  The food was great, the shopping was even better, and the nostalgia omg. Epic.  Getting to actually sit on the infamous orange couch in Central Perk was a dream.  The only thing that would’ve made it better is if Jennifer Aniston herself popped out from behind it.  

Friends set Hollywood Studio Tour California Los Angeles

When you’re done with that section you catch another shuttle that will take you over to the original fountain from the opening credits of Friends, where they also filmed the reunion, and a scene from Hocus Pocus.  Then back to the original building where you start the tour and can mozy through other sets from Game of Thrones, and all the DC SuperHero movies before finishing off at the gift shop. There's so much to look at, there's something for everyone.

Warner brothers studio tour Friends Hollywood

Had plenty of time to catch an Uber and go further into Hollywood to get to our next tour, even got to stop and hit up a dispensary a couple blocks away! Wanted a little treat for the rest of the trip haha. This one was a 2 hour bus ride all through the city that starts up by Carol Burnett's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Ours ended up being 2.5 hours because we had a great tour guide! I’m sure it makes a difference depending who ya get, but Michael was so entertaining through the whole thing! He knew so much trivia and spots that not only were super popular, but some hidden gems as well.  There’s just so much to look at it’s a little overwhelming, I kept having to remind myself to be present and just soak it all in! We hit spots like Rodeo Drive *cue Pretty Woman*, Laurel Canyon, The Dolby Theater, The Beverly Hills Hotel, and tons of celebrity homes! Taylor Swift was on tour, but we waved to her anyway! Word to the wise if you end up doing something like this around the same time of year, bring a sweatshirt! It got really chilly driving around with all the sides open and the higher we went into the hills, the colder it got! What views though!    

hollywood california los angeles bus tour

DAY 5 - DISNEYLAND/DISNEYLAND ADVENTURE


This was such a laid back day, it was nice we had it to finish off the trip because we were both shot! We had plenty of time to re-do some things we really enjoyed, like Grizzly Run, and I did the Incredicoaster again, but at night this time.  The best part of the day was claiming a spot on the waitlist for Blue Bayou that we had been wanting to get into!  Last day luck! THIS spot was my favorite, and here’s why.  


Ok for starters, the atmosphere is awesome.  If you go on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, you pass by the restaurant, really giving it an authentic New Orleans vibe. It's like being in two different worlds when you step back into the park and into reality.  Service was top notch, which is always great to have but especially at Disney, but the FOOD! The foooood. Favorite meal of the trip. My mom got an order of the crab cakes, and the strawberry & pistachio spinach salad (Toasted quinoa, blue cheese and purple radish with aged balsamic), which was delish but I was more content with my order, the Creole roasted chicken (Andouille sausage, roasted shrimp, Creole rice and Creole sauce) with a creme brûlée tart for dessert.  Oh! And our waitress was a doll and made an entire tea kettle of iced coffee for me.  Chef's Kiss, I give it 5 stars.


Also did stops at Sonoma Terrace for a drink and soft pretzel later on, and rode the Disneyland Railroad - which is great for both kids and adults! They have all different scenes set up with different landscapes of animals as you ride through the whole park, but it's just a nice break from the crowds to take in the scenery.  There’s only a few select stops so definitely have it planned where you can get on and off where ya need to. We learned the Main Street stop is not handicap accessible, so I would imagine that means strollers as well, so we just rode it all the way around the park and back to where we had left the scooter.

Disneyland Disneyland adventure California

Overall, coolest trip I've done in a while! I really felt like I got to explore a little and see sites I probably wouldn't have had it not been thrown into a tour.  I already want to go back and cover other spots, definitely do more studio lot tours. We didn’t make it to Venice Beach and the Santa Monica pier like we planned, my ankle was shot and couldn’t handle the walking. Plus, we were just exhausted.  Excitement and heat really take it outta ya! So when I do go back, which will hopefully be soon, those will be the first spots I hit. Oh, and San Diego! 


Leave any Disney or Cali tips/questions below!


Xx


** Each day is broken down by linked daily activities and places to eat.


DAY 1 - DOWNTOWN DISNEY

DAY 2 - DISNEYLAND

DAY 3 - DISNEYLAND ADVENTURE

DAY 4 - LA/HOLLYWOOD

DAY 5 - DISNEYLAND/DISNEYLAND ADVENTURE


Hotel was close to the parks, had great breakfast, and a gorgeous pool area!







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