Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World – What’s the difference?

DisneylandvDisneyWorld

K and I recently returned from 5 whole days in the happiest place on Earth… Orlando! I had such a good time on my trip, I wanted to share my experience and some helpful tips with you on theculturebite.

Being from California and a regular at the Disney parks in Anaheim, it was hard to understand the difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World other than its size. WDW spans across 30,000 acres of land and consists of 4 parks – Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. When planning for our trip, our biggest questions were:

“What Disneyland attractions are in Disney World?”
“What makes Disney World different than Disneyland?”
“Do I need to visit all Disney World parks?”

With those questions in mind, I built a grid of all Disneyland / California Adventure attractions and mapped them to the corresponding Disney World park. I’ve also listed out the current unique attractions at each Disney World park.

If you were to ask me which park I’d recommend, I don’t think I could answer. I love each park in its own way. I love Disneyland because I grew up there. I also think the biggest draw of Disneyland and California Adventure are the thrill rides. There are so many between both parks that you could spend an entire day visiting each ride only once. If you’re interested in the entertainment and activities, Orlando’s Walt Disney World is for you. The new Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom is a must see as is Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pure Gluttony on Day 2 of Sydney, Australia

There has been no shortage of eating on this trip. Even as I write this post, I am bursting at the seams. Diet starts when I return. I swear…

Early Monday morning, K and I headed for Circular Quay to grab a ferry to Taronga  Zoo.

Meal #1

On our way, we each grabbed a personal pie for breakfast at Pie Face, an Australian fast-food chain restaurant that has been taunting me since I arrived. K got a breakfast pie filled with scrambled eggs and sausage and I got one filled with chicken and mushroom. The pies sound better than they taste. Dry and flavorless is what I would describe them. I was disappointed since the pie took up a good portion of my stomach and I still had tons of eating to do.

After the short delay, we were back on track to Circular Quay. We purchased a ferry/zoo combo pass (Zoo Express) for $50 per person. It was a little overcast that day, but the skyline of the Sydney Harbour was still picturesque. We stood out the back of the ferry and took pictures like there was no tomorrow, as did everyone else on the ferry.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at Taronga Zoo. This zoo is amazing! The animals were so alive and happy, completely opposite from the zoo in San Francisco. You start by taking a gondola to the top of the zoo and work your way down. There are about 9 areas of the park each dedicated to a series of animals – seals, giraffes, koalas, etc. The best part of the zoo was the gorillas. They were hilarious! There was a sign outside of the gorilla pin stating, “The gorillas are getting used to a new adult gorilla that has recently joined the group.” And after watching them for several minutes, we immediately figured out which one of the gorillas was the new kid on the block. The poor adult gorilla was being picked on by the 2 younger gorillas!

Meal #2

While there, we split an order of fish n chips from one of the stands. It what you would have expected purchasing food from a stand at an amusement park. Frozen, mass produced.

Meal #3

When we got back to Circular Quay, we walked over to the Woolloomooloo district for the Tiger Pie at Harry’s Famous Pies. Now this combination is the strangest combination I’ve ever seen. This Australian favorite is a personal beef pie with a scoop of mashed potatoes and a heaping scoop of “mushy” peas. All that topped with gravy. We doused a couple of their sauces on the pie and dug in. It’s an interesting mix. Tasty, meaty, salty, heavy. It was pretty good, and I’ll probably grab another if I ever come back to Sydney.

Meal #4

At this point, I have no idea why we stopped at the Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar at the Westfield Center. But, we did and ordered 3 golden lava buns to snack on.

Meal #5

After killing some time at the mall and in the hotel room, we headed out for dinner at Mamak, the most recommended restaurant from my Australian coworkers. Mamak specializes in Malaysian food. Sydney seems to have a great representation of really good Asian foods because of its proximity to the native countries. With a fully packed restaurant and a line out the door, it was obvious this place had it going on. Luckily, K and I were seated right away. We ordered the Roti Canai, the chicken satay and fried chicken with coconut rice. To drink, we order 2 hot frothy milk teas. The best meal of the day by far. The roti is much different than the one back home at Banana Island. It was soft and chewy with a little bit of crunch on the outside. It came with 3 dipping sauces – mild, spicy and a little dab of shrimp paste. The chicken satay was uh-mazing. 6 skewers of really tender, juicy chicken with a giant bowl of sweet peanut ginger sauce for dipping. There was obviously way too much sauce for the amount of chicken, but we managed to consume it all somehow. Last but not least was the fried chicken and coconut rice. I have never had a piece of fried chicken like this. The coating on the outside was orange and extremely thin and crispy. The inside was flowing with juices. Oh gosh, I hope I can find this meal back home somewhere.

At the end of the day, I did not want to look, smell or talk about food for the rest of the night. Tomorrow, was a new day.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Role-Playing Adventure

Are you ready to save the Magic Kingdom?

I just read on the Disney Parks Blog that a new role-playing adventure called Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is coming to Walt Disney World in early 2012.  Merlin the magician will be recruiting guests to become apprentice sorcerers by helping them with maps and clues to show where and how to defeat an army of Disney villains.  They already have some giant crates and new spaces showing up throughout Adventureland.

This sounds really exciting!  It sounds like they are adding a scavenger hunt element into the park, as if there weren’t enough things to do there.  Once again, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom will be debuting in early 2012.  I’ll keep you guys updated!

Disneyland – Star Tours: The Adventure Continues

This weekend, we had the opportunity to visit Disneyland!  And as an added bonus, we were able to check out the updated Star Wars ride, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.  I sorely missed the ride when we took a trip to Disneyland in December and noticed that it was closed for renovations.  What was a Star Wars geek to do in Disneyland without RX-24 to take me on a trip headed for Endor?  Oh yeah, there’s always Jedi Academy!

Star Tours: The Adventure Continues opened in Disneyland on June 3rd, 2011.   We didn’t get to Disneyland until June 4th.  Luckily for us, the hosts for our trip, APTRA, reserved Fast Pass tickets for that day.  The standby line was about 240 minutes.  You read that right, 4 hours!  The fastpass return line was only 20-30 minutes.  Once again, use our strategies for avoiding the long lines at Disneyland! Of course, there were certain parts of the day where the fastpass return lines were 150 minutes.  More on time saving tips on the bottom.

Star Tours now has 54 different variations switching between the characters you encounter and destinations you can travel through.  The ride starts with an encounter with either Darth Vader or an Imperial Probe Droid with SkyTroopers.  On our first ride, Darth Vader stopped our StarSpeeder 1000 to look for a Rebel Spy that is on board.  It turns out that the Rebel Spy photo is actually someone that is on the ride with you.  This adds to fun factor because you never know when you might be the spy!  Darth Vader then uses Force Pull to pull the StarSpeeder towards him, where R2D2 responds by firing lasers at him, allowing us to make our escape out of the Star Tours hangar.

We light speed our way to our next scene.  This part can either be on Tatooine, Hoth, or Kashyyyk.  On our first ride, we went to Tatooine and got caught up in a Pod Race.  The motions and scenes were actually pretty neat here.  As we fly into a few racers, we latch onto a pair of the Podracers turbines to give us extra speed.  It’s neat seeing Sebulba from the Episode I here.

Once we get back into space, you encounter a Rebel leader that asks for your help in Episode IV hologram-style.  This could be either Princess Leia, Admiral Ackbar, or Yoda.  On our first ride, Princess Leia says something about the rebel spy, and “Help my Star Tours, you are my only hope”.  C-3PO agrees to help, and we’re off to another destination.

The scenes for the final destination can be Naboo, Coruscant, or the Death Star (above Geonosis).  We had the Death Star for our first ride.  When you exit lightspeed, you encounter Boba Fett next to a mid-construction Death Star.  He’s here to get the bounty for the revel spy.  After fighting with him and flying through the Death Star, you make it safely back to a Rebel Hangar.

Our second ride had us speeding away with the Millenium Falcon from Skytroopers looking for the spy.  We took a podrace trip through Tatooine again.  Admiral Ackbar asked for our help in bringing the Spy back this time.  On this ride we took a trip through Naboo.  You start out in the sky, but C-3PO loses control and we end up in the water (nearly hitting Jar Jar Binks).  Here we are attacked by Naboo’s Sea Monsters and finally fly (swim?) our way out of the water and into a hangar.  In the hangar, we crashed into a starfighter and droid.  The3D effects are great and really make you duck out of the way as the starfighter almost hits you in the face.

On our last ride, we had Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and Naboo again, but the second scene was on Hoth.  I thought this was really neat, as you fly through the snow, nearly buy it under an AT-AT and finally lose control while sliding down a snowy mountain path.  I’m hoping I get to encounter Kashyyyk, Yoda, and Coruscant the next time I get to a Disney resort!  Needless to say, I had a lot of fun on this ride and would definitely recommend it to everyone!

The beginning of the queue still has the familiar C-3PO, R2D2 and StarSpeeder interactions.

Rex and the Baggage Scanner.  The Baggage Scanner has some pretty funny interactions.

Alright, here are the tips as promised (in addition to these):

  1. Get to the park at opening.  Or, if you are a Disney resort guest, an hour before opening.  This allows you to grab your first Fast Pass early.
  2. Once you are in the park, skip the photos in the front and grab your entire family’s tickets and run over to grab your fast passes.  While everyone and their mom’s are taking their photos at the Mickey Lawn, you will get your Star Tours passes at 8:15am for 11:30am.  Once you get the fast passes, return to take photos, or…
  3. Ride the other Fast Pass rides.  This is your chance to wait in line for Space Mountain or Indiana Jones.
  4. After two hours of your first fast pass, grab that second Star Tours fast pass for 11:00pm.
  5. Run over to California Adventures (opens at 10am) to grab your World of Color fast passes.
  6. While we’re here, let’s wait in line for Ariel’s Undersea Adventure or Toy Story Mania.  From there, do anything you want.
  7. 9:00pm Watch the World of color.  You can also watch Fantasmic and/or the Fireworks show.
  8. Sometime between 10:00pm-12:00am, time to use the Star Tours fast passes.  I choose to ride late, because the families have to go home and the wait times shorten to 20 minutes.  The wait times during the day for Standby was around four hours and for fast pass, two and a half hours!
  9. Another tip for the ride itself, the back row corners are the parts with the most turbulence.  Those seats are for the thrill seekers out there!
  10. Also, if you don’t care much for parades, fireworks, or World of Color, these are the best times to wait in line for rides!

Let me know what variations you got!  Also, did anyone find the hidden Mickey’s on this ride?

Bonjour, Paris! – Day 11

The title of this post comes from a song in “Funny Face,” one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies. In this movie, Audrey is discovered by a big name fashion magazine editor and is taken to Paris to become a model. When they first land in the city, Audrey, Fred Astaire, and the magazine editor visit several famous sites from the Eiffel Tower to the Latin Quarter while singing, “Bonjour, Paris!” – which was my inspiration for this Parisian itinerary.

Hotel Beaubourg

This day was mostly a travel day for us. We really only had time to do one sight and have dinner after checking in. We had previously stayed in vacation apartment retails in both Rome and Barcelona, but we decided to end our trip at a cute 3-star Parisian hotel, Hotel Beaubourg, in the 2nd arrondissement. It was in such a convenient location. Just moments away from Notre Dame and the Louvre. It’s close to a grocery store, a bakery, and several meat and cheese shops too. The only thing this place lacked was a complimentary breakfast. Their breakfast was at around 9 euro per person.

Eiffel Tower

Paris Eiffel Tower View

I pre-purchased tickets to the Eiffel Tower for a 6pm entrance time so K and I could bypass the ticket line. Thank God I did because it was about 20°F and I could not wait outside in a line an hour long. We eventually spent that hour in another line for the elevator to get to the top of the tower. I chose 6pm because I wanted to catch the sunset from the summit, and luckily, we made it just in time. It was amazing. Watching the large orange sun sink behind the city of Paris was breathtaking. I did kind of have to fight my way to the front of the window as the sun was going down, but once I stopped and actually looked at the view, I immersed myself in the experience. I was at the top of the Eiffel Tower watching a sun set over Paris in a cloudless sky. How many people get to experience that? Well, I’m sure many, but now I am one of them.

Paris Eiffel Tower Night

The one Cliffbar I had during the day wore out about 4 hours before, so I was ready for dinner. On our way to the closest restaurant we could find, the Eiffel Tower began twinkling! Just like a Christmas tree! Every night at 9pm the Eiffel Tower twinkles for about 10 minutes. The picture above is not of a twinkling Eiffel Tower.

Dinner: Le Champ de Mars Brasserie

Paris Champ de Mars Cafe

The first restaurant we found was Le Champ de Mars Brasserie, a cute little French cafe at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. Since it was my first authentic French meal, I went all out. I ordered coq au vin (chicken cooked in wine) with the French onion soup to start. Parisians actually don’t drink French onion soup, but I wanted it anyway. The chicken was amazing. So tender and juicy, the meat fell off the bone. The fettuccine served with was naked. No sauce at all. That’s because you’re supposed to use the wine reduction sauce from the chicken to wet the noodles. Oh mannn, so good. French onion soup can often be salty, but it wasn’t the case for this one. You could actually taste the onions and the crusty cheese on top. K got the steak frites and the escargot. He was a happy camper because he never gets to eat snails (I don’t like them). The snails were swimming in a butter, garlic and parsley sauce, but for some reason, K was a little unsatisfied. After his first bite, he mentioned he actually preferred the Chinese snails over this. His steak, however, was a winner. Beautifully charred and seasoned, the medium rare steak was tender and juicy. Rick Steves says that Parisian steaks are a little more rare than what Americans are used to. Tip: order medium if you want medium rare.
Paris French Onion Soup

Paris Escargot

Paris Steak Frites

Champs-Élysées

Paris Arc de Triomph

After dinner, we headed for the Champs-Élysées, Paris’ famous shopping street, to see the Arc De Triomphe. It was about 11pm at this time, and the street was still filled with people. Thank goodness we made our way here because we found an H&M that seemed to be open 24 hours. Did I mention it was about 20°F? We stocked up on gloves and scarves to keep us warm.
Paris Louve Pyramid Night

We trekked back home by foot and stopped at the Lourve for a night time photo op. Gosh it was beautiful. The white lights shining through the glass pyramids lit up the museum square.

We finally made it home and called it a night for our next full day of Parisian fun.