Monday, August 6, 2012

Disneyland/DCA Trip Report 8/4/12 (I found the crowds, and escaped them in the Carthay Circle Lounge)

If you read my last trip report, about my July visit to Disneyland, you know I marveled at the lack of crowds in Disneyland on a Saturday, and discussed my opinion that right now Saturdays are a fantastic time to go to Disneyland. I posted that on a Friday, and the next day I found myself in Disneyland, ready to eat my words. I've had good luck on Saturdays, but it's still the Summer, and it's still a weekend in Disneyland, and you'll often encounter crowds. This Saturday, I encountered lots of crowds.

Now, let me say right off, I've seen much busier days at Disneyland. But I've had a good run of luck going to Disneyland on Saturdays, so I was getting complacent, and so even if the crowds were far from unbearable, it did put a damper on my day, a little bit, just because of where my expectations were set. My last visit, I expected huge crowds, was surprised by the lack thereof, and had a great time. This time, a typical (actually, probably, still somewhat light by Summer weekend standards) crowd threw off my plans (no lines, ride everything, twice if I want to), and led to disappointment.

So let me revise what I previously said, slightly: Saturday is still a pretty good time to visit Disneyland. Just know it's not a fool-proof plan. Some Saturdays will be extremely busy. But even then, Disneyland knows how to handle busy Saturdays in the Summer. All the rides are open and running at full capacity. Plenty of entertainment is on hand. Crowd control is well-managed. And as I have said before, Saturday crowds are more balanced, tourists spread out across the park trying to see everything, not APers who flock to the best attractions and know all the same tricks I know. For instance, this weekend Splash Mountain had a pretty long line, but I got on with essentially no waiting thanks to the single-rider line; single-rider on a busy day when APs aren't blacked out can often be close to a 30-minute wait, on the busiest days. So there are secrets to getting around some of the Saturday crowds. Combine that with the flexibility of a frequent visitor, who can say, that line's too long, I'll skip it, it'll still be here when I come back, and you can still get a lot of enjoyment even out of the busiest Saturday.

That said, I just wasn't feeling it this trip. Partly because of the crowds, partly perhaps because I've been there a lot lately, partly because things have just been a bit hectic for me lately, or maybe because this is the third trip in a row I went by myself, but I wasn't in full Disneyland mode this trip. Not to say I had a horrible time, and some of the new experiences I had and will discuss below were quite enjoyable, but when you go as often as I do, some trips won't be quite as special as others. Which isn't to say that Disneyland "loses it's magic" if you go too often, it just means that sometimes you have to be patient, and just wait for your next trip for the magic to overtake you.

But just because this trip wasn't legendary doesn't mean I wish I hadn't gone or that I didn't get to do anything. I actually went on most of the rides in Disneyland that I consider the core attractions. I did fail to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which I'm always disappointed to miss. And I missed Pirates of the Caribbean, which I would have gone on had the line been shorter, but frankly this isn't an attraction I need to ride every visit. On the other hand, I rode Splash Mountain (via single-rider), a ride I often miss. And it appeared that most of the broken animatronics have been repaired (one vulture was still broken, but that's all I noticed). And I rode Alice in Wonderland for the first time in a long time. A very enjoyable dark ride, right up there with Peter Pan, but I just am not interested in waiting more than 10 minutes for any Fantasyland ride, so I don't get to see it often.

And I finally got to see the Voices of Liberty! Either I was mistaken about their Sunday-Tuesday schedule, or it was extended. Around noon, I was just leaving Disneyland for DCA and lunch, when I heard the announcement that the Voices of Liberty were about to perform in the Opera House. So of course I made a bee-line to the Opera House. I couldn't believe the crowd for the show, easily over 100 people, around 150, I'd say. I've never seen that many people at Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln before!

I must admit, I wasn't that crazy about the Voices of Liberty. Their voices were fine, and their patriotic songs fit the venue okay. But I found it a bit light-weight compared to the Lincoln performance. Not as bad as the awful song they play as the audience is leaving, but still not quite enough gravitas for the venue. And between the songs and Lincoln, the whole performance took about 35 minutes, which is a lot of time to ask people to take out of their visit to Disneyland. The Lincoln show itself is just about the right length, it doesn't really need a pre-show in the theatre. If the Voices of Liberty help get people in to see Lincoln, by all means, keep them singing. But I doubt they'll stick around after the Summer (except maybe to resurface around Christmas time and do some caroling). There were eleven singers in the performance I saw, and I have to imagine that paying that many singers is not a cost effective means of filling a few seats for Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

After Lincoln, I left for DCA and lunch at the Carthay Circle Lounge. The menu for the Carthay Circle restaurant doesn't interest me all that much, but some of the appetizers at the lounge looked interesting, and it seemed a cost-effective way to check out DCA's new centerpiece. After hearing that customers of the lounge were not allowed to use the restroom in the restaurant, I intended to boycott the whole establishment, but as Disney apologized and said their employees didn't understand the policy (I don't believe that--I think they just furiously backpedaled when people responded with outrage), I decided I could try it out (I'm still a bit uneasy about the whole thing--I don't mind an expensive restaurant, I just don't like the idea of it being the focal point of the entire park; it's like if Club 33 was inside Sleeping Beauty's Castle). Seeing how crowded the park was, I was a bit concerned I'd even be able to get in the lounge at 12:30, but I had no problems, it was actually pretty empty. The decor was nice, elegant but not stuffy. A nice quiet place to sit down and relax. I sat at the bar, and ordered a botanical gin & tonic, which had star anise, cardamon, and mint in it. I was promptly served a generous pour of gin on the rocks, with aforementioned herbs, and a separate little carafe of tonic water to mix myself. I added a splash of tonic and gave it a sip. A good drink. The herbs added a nice aroma, but I could barely taste them. At $10.50, it wasn't cheap, but considering it was about the same price as the cocktails sold at the Mad T Party out of a slurpee machine, I thought the price, for the venue, was fairly reasonable. I mentioned I was hoping someone would order a Manhattan, so I could see them make the ice sphere for it, and the bartender was kind enough to demonstrate the process for me. It was really quite amazing. I was expecting a machine akin to a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine, but in fact it's just two brass blocks, with half the sphere shape carved into either side. The brass, a good conductor of heat, apparently, melts the specially-ordered ice cylinder quite quickly, and a bit over a minute later, the bartender removed a perfectly spherical ice cube. It was completely clear, looking just like a crystal ball. I kicked myself later for not videotaping the process, as I didn't expect much from it, but it was really quite amazing. Well worth seeing, should you get the chance. (Here's a video someone else took of the process)

I thought about ordering an appetizer and dessert, but decided to get two appetizers instead, after noticing the deviled eggs with smoked salmon. So I ordered that and the duck confit sliders. As you can see from the picture, the servings were not exactly generous (though I ate one of the eggs before taking the picture). The sliders were actually slightly larger than I expected, and the eggs were as filling as you would expect three hard-boiled eggs to be, so I didn't leave here hungry, though I wasn't exactly full, either. But both were excellent. The bread for the sliders was perfect, just hard enough, and the apricot preserves went great with the duck. And the deviled eggs were delicious. How do you go wrong with eggs, smoked salmon, and lemon creme freche? (answer: you don't) $10 for three eggs might sound a bit steep, but I would gladly pay it again. I probably wouldn't go here for lunch again, but for an indulgent afternoon treat, I can see myself coming back here for a cocktail and a light snack. The bartenders were very nice, and talkative, hopefully I didn't annoy them too much with my questions. I mentioned that I was torn between my gin & tonic or ordering a Pimm's Punch (I decided the gin & tonic was the classier choice), so later when he made someone a Pimm's Punch, he gave me a shotglass of what was leftover in his shaker, which was nice of him (it was very tasty, and I am sure I will be trying that again). I got the impression that the lounge is rarely that busy, so I think this could be my new retreat when the hustle and bustle of the park gets to me. I generally don't drink when I'm at Disneyland, but a finely-crafted cocktail does give an adult spin to the day. In particular, Space Mountain was a lot more fun with a very light buzz! Though alcohol and marching around all day in the hot sun isn't a perfect match.

So overall, I was impressed by the lounge. Total charge for the food and drink was $41, including tip and 15% Premium AP discount on the food (not alcohol). Expensive enough that this won't be an every-trip indulgence, but I did enjoy it, and hope to return sometime.

After visiting the lounge, though, it was all downhill from there. DCA was even busier than Disneyland, and every time I checked, the single-rider line for Radiator Springs Racers was closed (the stand-by line was steady at two hours, which seems typical for the ride). I rode Tower of Terror with a Fastpass (the third elevator shaft, which has been out of service for some time, was open again, which helped with wait times considerably) and The Little Mermaid, which had a 15 minute line at one point (insanity!), but no wait when I went on it. I don't think I rode any other rides in DCA, though I did enjoy the various entertainment options (Ellis Island Boys, Five and Dime, the Newsies). I thought about seeing Aladdin, but ultimately did not (I assume the carpet's still broken).

And that's basically all there is to say about this trip. As it was obvious to myself that I just wasn't feeling this trip, I decided not to stay too late, and get home at a reasonable hour. I left the park around 7:45, stopped at In-N-Out on the way home, and was back home before 10. I don't mean to sound too negative about this trip, it was nice to just get out of town for the day and blow off steam, and I really enjoyed the Carthay Circle Lounge, a nice new experience for me. But the crowds definitely were disappointing, a reminder that visiting in the Summer can be stressful. I won't be able to go back before SoCal AP blackouts are lifted; I'll probably stay away for a few weeks after that, as well, let some of the pent up demand die down. But I look forward to returning to the park in September. And soon after that, to enjoy Halloween Time. That's the nice thing about having a lackluster visit, there's always next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment