Mahalo Disneyland for 60 Magical Years! - COMPLETED

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juneau biscuits's picture
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Mahalo Disneyland for 60 Magical Years! - COMPLETED

Disneyland 2016-Castle Down Main Street 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Aloha!

My name is Len and some of you might remember me from my trip report to Walt Disney World this past Christmas! If you haven't seen it, and are curious, here is the link:

http://www.wdwforgrownups.com/forum/mele-kalikimaka-wdw-adventure-2015-completed

Having visited a Disney park in 2015, I didn't think I would be back to one for a couple of years. However, my wife Sue had a workshop in Las Vegas about a month and a half ago. She asked if I would come along, but not being a big Vegas fan, I initially declined. Sue asked me again as she really wanted company and I jokingly asked if I could stop at Disneyland first. To my surprise, she said YES! Faster than you can say "Bob's your Uncle", I immediately began making plans to visit the park during the tail end of its 60th Diamond Celebration.

As with my WDW trip, I took hundreds of photos and am roughly half done with post processing. It will be a few more weeks before I get the majority done that I want to use for this report, but I thought I'd do a quick intro so that folks here don't think I've gone AWOL!

Some quick thoughts before I get back to Lightroom and Photoshop. I think my pictures, at least composition wise, are much better this go around. One of the reasons is that Disneyland is so much smaller than WDW! Attractions are closer to each other which works for wide angle shots (I like seeing two different icons or attractions in one image). The less commute time between lands allowed me to take just a bit more time composing and studying my subjects.

Whereas I'm happy with a good number of my night shots, I totally failed at shooting dark rides. Not sure why, but you won't see many ride shots for this report. I did manage to get a pretty decent shot of the Abominable Snowman from the Matterhorn, which you'll see later down the road.

Because I was at DL for roughly 3 and a half days, I don't have as much to report as my WDW trip. I'm going to break this report down by the parks and resort rather than a day by day accounting. I think it will keeps things less confusing and much more focused.

Okay, I think that's it for now! The image I'm leaving you with is similar to the first one I posted for my last report. For WDW, it was a picture of Cinderella's Castle looking down Main Street after park closing. This one is very similar except you can sub in Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Unfortunately, you'll immediately notice the security guard on the right side of the street. I waited a good half hour for him to leave, but he wasn't budging...LOL! I think a lot of my "after hour" shots have one or two stragglers in them (it became a running joke with me), but it didn't bother me too much for some strange reason.

As Arnold always says, "I'll be back!"

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HI Len. Nice to see you again. Looking forward to your report.

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Hi JoAnn...how have you been? Going to try and finish up the rest of the photos ASAP so I can get started on this report!

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Welcome back! Can't wait to see and read more!!!

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Hey JMed!!! It's great seeing and hearing from everyone again!

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I am so excited to read your report I loved the last one so much and adore your photos clapping

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Thank you danijrod! Hope everything has been well with you!

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Can't wait to see more of your fantastic pictures! mickey

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I'm SO excited for this! I thought your last batch of photos were amazing so I don't even know what to expect with these if you say they're even better! yay

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Hi! Welcome back, I'm looking forward to enjoying your beautiful photos.

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Len, simply the best pictures! May of your shots could easily be marketed. You help me see Disney in much more detail. I still think you should send some of your shots to Disney. I would be great to see a WDWFGU member published and recognized. Cant wait to see what else you have. Thank You.

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Thank you for the kind words (and immense patience) jtownpluto, Allie, Kristen K., and Mcheal! With all that's going on in Florida, not sure if this is the most appropriate time to start my trip report, but hopefully, it will help to pass the time as (the good Lord willing), the hurricane subsides!

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Disney's Grand Californian 00 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Okay, I've finally finished processing enough photos which will give a good cross representation of the Disneyland parks and hotel (at least according to my eyes and actual experiences). I didn't take nearly as many pictures as compared to WDW, but I was dealing with basically two parks that are much smaller and more intimate than their Floridian counterparts. I'm probably way off base, but it felt like both Disneyland and DCA could easily fit into Epcot with tons of room to spare! I'll get to the comparisons and differences in more detail when I get to the park portion of this report, but in general, I found it much easier and less stressful to cover most of the major park attractions and highlights even though I had much less time.

As mentioned in my first post, I'm going to attack this report a bit differently. I won't be doing a chronological day by day approach, but rather breaking it down by parks/hotel. So without further adieu, let's get this report rolling with pictures and commentary on Disney's Grand Californian resort.

Like much of the California resort, the Grand Californian is much smaller and more intimate than its Florida cousin, The Wilderness Lodge. Yet both have a lot in common with its rustic, outdoor theming, abundant use of wood decor, and a real "home away from home" feel. The more intimate feel is mostly a result of not having huge amounts of space that is Florida's trademark. When I walk into Wilderness Lodge, it's an "Oh WOW!" feeling...the sheer size and immensity of the lobby forces the air out of your lungs. For GC, it's more of a subtle feeling of amazement...it's beautiful but not in a out of this world sort of way. The above picture is a 9 shot panoramic image to give you an ideal what the lobby looks like when walking though the entrance door (you can immediately tell it does not have the height nor immensity of WL). The Disney theming is almost non-exsistant. If not for the big "D" over the fireplace commemorating the Diamond Celebration, you might not know it was a Disney hotel.

Disney's Grand Californian-Lobby View from the 3rd Floor by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Lobby Long View by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Front Desk Side View by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

This wasn't our first time at DGC as Sue and I had stayed there in fall 2010. We paid a little under $300.00 a night which was pretty acceptable to me. No luck this time around as our summer travel dates added another $250.00 per day for a hotel room here. Now, I don't think any Disney resort is worth $500.00 + a night (and we're talking your basic room, not a suite) including my much loved Wilderness and Animal Kingdom Lodges. So you can be sure it was painful paying the tab for a two night stay here. The reason I bit the bullet was that it happened to be Sue's birthday, and some readers may remember she is not a big Disney park fan. The main reason for our trip out to the west coast was a training seminar in Las Vegas for my wife's job. Being that she's a sweetheart, Sue allowed me to stop off at Disneyland first to take in the Diamond Celebration. The least I could do was have her stay at top notch resort, and hey, what's a grand??? Right???

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Entrance Sign by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Entrance Booth by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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I must say the staff @ GC was outstanding and up to Disney standards. Jeremiah checked us in and he was super friendly and helpful. He initially had problems locating our reservations, so he comped us four fast passes which we used for Soarin' and Radiator Springs Racers. A lot of fellow forum members enjoyed my cast member photos, so let's start off with a few of the resort folks!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Front Desk Cast Member Jeremiah by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Front Desk Cast Members Kimberly & Ellie 02 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

My initial reason for taking cast member photos was to document the various outfit worn throughout the resorts and park (I really liked the uniforms Disney provided for GC cast members...very classy). But that reason became secondary to the personal interaction and chance to engage with cast members one on one. It's also really helped my confidence in approaching strangers to take their photo. I get the occasional "no" and sometimes suspicious looks, but for the most part, people are happy to oblige. At Disney, I have literally no fear, as I think cast members are encouraged to make visitors happy, even pesky ones with cameras!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Cast Members Joni & Courtney by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

I've begun to notice a pattern while traveling, and not just to Disney parks. Tripods attract security like bees to honey. There's something about a camera on a stick that sets off alarms and questions...LOL! I had read about non-guests getting asked to leave Grand Californian while shooting the hotel interior. Being an actual guest, I didn't think this would be an issue. Nonetheless, I had double checked with Jeremiah if it would be okay to photograph the lobby with a tripod during the wee morning hours. He assured me it was no problem and that staff on duty would be more than happy to accommodate me. I set the alarm for 3:30 am and headed down the stairs, bushy haired and groggy eyed. Some custodians were mopping the floor so there were those "Wet" cones lining the floor. I made sure to stay out of their way and set up my tripod at the far end of the room behind the cones. Before I could even pop off the lens cap, I saw a security guard approaching me from the corner of the room. He asked me what I was doing and if I was a guest here. After answering his questions, he warned me about staying away from the slippery areas and left without saying another word. Looks like we both needed coffee and some happy pixie dust...LOL!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-2nd Floor View of the Front Desk Lobby by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Birdseye View by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Fireplace 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

During the morning, we would grab coffee from Hearthstone Lounge, a really beautiful area to sit and relax with a drink or bite to eat. I made it a point to head here to shoot some pictures without a soul around.

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Hearthstone Lounge 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Hearthstone Lounge Corner View by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Hearthstone Lounge Fireplace by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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After finishing up in the lobby, I wandered down various corridors and took a peak at both Storyteller Cafe and Napa Rose restaurant. We were blessed to eat at both locations which I'll discuss further into this post. I headed outside to shoot the exterior as well as the front entrance sign (two photos posted earlier). On the way back inside the hotel, I was stopped by Mickey Mou....nah, you guessed it, another security guard. He asked the obligatory "Am I a guest" question which I answered in the affirmative and showed him my key card. He looked at it, expression blank, and said "You've been taking a lot of pictures". Not to sure how to respond to that question, but I smiled and laughed to make light of the situation. The dude said nothing and walked away. Okay, I know security is doing their job, and its not an easy thing, but talk about making me feel uncomfortable. It made it sound like I was casing the joint and planning some form of robbery. The $550.00 tab per night seemed even more wacky at that point. If anyone felt like they were getting robbed, it was me...LOL! Alright, enough of being a Debby Downer. Again, I respect security and the tough job they deal with on a daily basis, so I just need to roll with it and accept that tripods will bring me a little bit of grief!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Front Entrance View 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Front Entrance View by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Driveway Under the Moon by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Valet Parking Wait Area by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Gate to the Swimming Pool by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Directory Signage by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Acorns Gifts and Goods by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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WOW!!! What a resort!! Great pics and I'm so glad you started it now, I need distractions from the storm. Bring on more!

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"I do not like the cone of shame."

"I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell."

"It seems to me that we have a lot of story yet to tell."

Jennifer Huotari | Create Your Badge

The Huotari's Disney Adventures | Promote Your Page Too

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After I checked in, Sue went to a massage appointment at Mandara Spa as part of her birthday package. I headed up to the room to take photos before it had that "lived in" look. I'm only including one picture here of the beds, because frankly, a majority of the shots were pretty uninspiring (probably due to my photography skills, and not the room itself).

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Room Interior 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

We had dinner reservations that night at Carthay Circle Restaurant, but that won't get covered until the Disney California Adventure portion. We did, however, have dinner the following night at Napa Rose. This was our first time dining here and it was not a disappointment!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Front by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Drink Menu by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Bar by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Cast Member Ryland Serves Up a Cold One by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Kitchen by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

While both Carthay and Napa are exquisitely themed and designed, Napa has the clear edge in food quality. We started off with the "Seven Sparkling Sins" as an appetizer. Instead of describing each item in my often times insufficient writing style, I'll just copy and past Disney's explanation:

"An array of tantalizations featuring spicy beef & peanut roll, curried crab taco, seared ahi nacho, shrimp in cucumber wrap with lemon dill creme, citrus cured salmon corn cake, tangerine grilled scallop and grape leaves with pheasant for two"

Immaculate in presentation, this appetizer proved to be worth the $45.00 price tag, with the spicy beef and ahi nacho my two favorites. As with our meals at WDW, we split the entree and went with Skillet Roasted prime New York and added a side of Truffled "Mac & Cheese" Orecchiette Pasta.

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Appetizer by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Appetizer 02 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Ribeye Entree by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

While taking our order, our waiter asked if we were celebrating a special occasion. We mentioned that it was Sue's birthday the other night, but we had already had special treatment at Carthay Circle. Nonetheless, our waiter still brought my wife a birthday dessert on the house! It was made out of chocolate ice cream with a cookie type foundation that contained a pinch of sea salt. The contrasting flavors of sweet and salty made it quite a treat!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Napa Rose Birthday Dessert by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

I'm not a wine guy, but I have to say the restaurant had one impressive wine room:

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-The Wine Cellar @ Napa Rose by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

All in all, we give Napa Rose two thumbs up (equivalent to a 5 star rating)! The true test of a good restaurant for us is whether we'd go back, and Napa passes the test with flying colors!

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Our second meal at the Grand Californian would also be our last for this Disneyland trip!
It's always bittersweet knowing our time at Disney has come to an end, but it was somewhat tampered by the fact that our vacation was only at the half way point and Las Vegas was awaiting. The meal was a morning buffet at Storytellers Cafe...a perennial favorite of ours. Other than Chip and Dale seeming to appear at every character breakfast we've attended, I really enjoy these meet and greets mixed with some really delectable food!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Storyteller Cafe Entrance by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Entrance to Storyteller Cafe by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

I've come to the conclusion that I don't do well at buffets except for breakfast. I think it's the sheer variety on the menu and how you can eat according to whether you want to do healthy (cereal, fruit, oatmeal) or go for broke and load up on cholesterol, fat, and grease (bacon, link sausage, pancakes, waffles)! I'm always more of a meat and eggs type of guy at the beginning of a trip, but always find myself gravitating to bananas, yogurt, and Wheaties towards the end of the vacation. Since this was my first and only buffet at Disney, but also the last meal, I kind of fell in between...filling my plate with a little of everything (okay, maybe bacon took up a bit more plate space than the other food groups). We had a fantastic server named Ian who epitomizes what one expects from Disney service. Our glasses of coffee and OJ were constantly filled, plates were consistently cleared, and Ian talked quite a bit with us about family, food, and travel. He had a trainee in Andrew who followed him around, learning the ropes. I've no doubt Andrew will turn out to be a top notch waiter.

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Storyteller Cafe Dining Area by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Storyteller Cafe Pastry Buffet by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian-Servers Andrew & Ian @ Storyteller Cafe by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Storyteller Cafe Dining Booth by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian-Erin @ Storyteller Cafe by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Storyteller Cafe Dining Area 02 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Not having any children, our character interactions tend to be short and sweet. Take couple of photos, give a hug or high five, and off the characters go. Perhaps because it was a bit slow, but Koda (Brother Bear) really had fun with Sue. I was roaming around with my camera and headed back to our table to find Koda sneaking up on my unsuspecting wife. He was obviously having a ball with her, and Sue really didn't know what was happening as you can tell from her expressions. As most know (since I've repeated it a billion times), Chip and Dale are the least favorite Disney characters, but one of them (I still cannot tell the difference) also had fun with Sue!

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Koda Looks for His Next Victim by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Koda Gets A Kick Out of His Sneakiness by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Koda Eyes Out Sue's Breakfast by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Grand Californian 2016-Dale Admires Sue's Breakfast by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Overall, it was a great way to end our stay at the Grand Californian. Would I pay $500.00 a night to stay here again? Probably not, unless our next trip happens to fall on Sue's birthday again...LOL!

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Wow, the hotel is gorgeous. And, as usual, your pictures are fantastic. I especially love the lobby pictures, such a beautiful place. The Storyteller waiting area is adorable.
This may be an odd question, but what's the big deal about taking pictures? Everyone takes pictures at Disney- is it just the tripod issue? Do they think you're taking photos for resale?

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jtownpluto wrote:
Wow, the hotel is gorgeous. And, as usual, your pictures are fantastic. I especially love the lobby pictures, such a beautiful place. The Storyteller waiting area is adorable.
This may be an odd question, but what's the big deal about taking pictures? Everyone takes pictures at Disney- is it just the tripod issue? Do they think you're taking photos for resale?

Not too sure jtownpluto...but it only happens when I'm shooting on a tripod. The most heat I've taken are at the resort hotels and Universal's Diagon Alley. I've been asked what I plan to do with the photos, and I always answer with the truth...it's for my own enjoyment and collection.

With all the things happening in our world, I can only imagine it's going to be a lot more scrutiny of photographers and cameras in general.

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Well, please keep dodging that security, because your pictures are really stunning!

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I have just caught up and just WOW. I love your photo's, it seems like every detail is more noticeable. I think the cast member photo's are great Smile. So far it's sounding like a good trip other than the price tag and security ha!

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Love the pictures. Amazing trip report. I want to stay at the Grand Californian.

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Gorgeous pictures! I can't believe you have the discipline to get up at 3am to take them but boy am I glad you do! I love all the people-free shots! I really have to get out to Disneyland (I went once when I was 3 and DH has never been) but it probably won't happen until DD is a bit older so we can do all the attractions. Your pictures will have to tide me over in the meantime laugh

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danijrod wrote:
I have just caught up and just WOW. I love your photo's, it seems like every detail is more noticeable. I think the cast member photo's are great Smile. So far it's sounding like a good trip other than the price tag and security ha!

It was a great trip, and I'm probably complaining a bit too much about the hotel room price. Nothing a couple of churros couldn't solve...LOL!

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jhugo wrote:
Love the pictures. Amazing trip report. I want to stay at the Grand Californian.

Despite all my gripping about the cost, the Grand Californian is definitely a keeper!

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Allie wrote:
Gorgeous pictures! I can't believe you have the discipline to get up at 3am to take them but boy am I glad you do! I love all the people-free shots! I really have to get out to Disneyland (I went once when I was 3 and DH has never been) but it probably won't happen until DD is a bit older so we can do all the attractions. Your pictures will have to tide me over in the meantime laugh

Hi Allie! I can't believe myself either when that alarm goes off...LOL! I really use to have a more relaxing time at Disney when I wasn't so into photography. It's always a bit surreal when I hear of fellow Disney park fans not having been to Disneyland, but I guess its because I live on the other side of the country (so to speak)!

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Before delving into the next part of this report, I thought I would briefly cover Downtown Disney and give some random thoughts on this shopping area. Compared to Disney Springs, Downtown Disney is likely to be a big disappointment to those use to the Florida complex. As expected (due to space limitations), DD is really more of a glorified strip mall. It does contain a number of high end eateries, and the assorted name stores, but the theming is almost non-existant (to my mind). After having an amazing experience at Via Napoli Ristorante at Epcot, we were looking forward to a similar experience at the Anaheim counterpart. Both the food and service were a big let down, and we really missed the atmosphere and quality found back east. We had hoped to give Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel a try, but our schedule couldn't accommodate it. We did tour the lobby and the gift shop which used characters from Fantasia as part of their merchandising displays. I can't honestly remember if I've seen this anywhere else...

Disneyland 2016-Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria Entrance by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney Downtown 2016-FInding Nemo Treats by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disneyland 2016-Fantasia Alligator @ Disneyland Hotel Store by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disneyland 2016-Fantasia Dancing Hippo @ Disneyland Hotel Store by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Unlike Disney Springs where live entertainment is found at every corner, DD has one main stage for musical bands. Performers there were quite good on the times we listened, but beyond that, not much happens that I can remember. If you do stay at the Grand Californian, you can exit or enter into this shopping area which is a big plus. I'm not much of a shopper, but DD has most of the goods you'll find in the parks.

Downtown Disney 2016-The Rayford @ Disney Downtown Live by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

A side note to our hotel agenda. While the last two nights at DL were spent at the Grand Californian, I stayed the first three days at the Carousel Inn & Suites. Right across Disneyland, this hotel was clean and priced right. I would have recommended it to anyone planning to stay at a Good Neighbor hotel, but their last day of operation was earlier this month! Not to sure if it was purchased by another hotel chain, but my guess is that Disney bought them out.

Disney Downtown 2016-Carousel Inn & Suites by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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Next up: Disney California Adventure!

Disney California Adventure 2016 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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Ooooo I can't wait for the parks portion!

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Great trip report Len. I'm really enjoying your pics of Disneyland. They are beautiful. I will put Disneyland on my bucket list. Maybe that will be a trip I'll take once I retire in about 8 years. laugh