D23, Disneyland, and Galaxy's Edge, part 1
Better late than never, a recap of our vacation to Disneyland and the D23 Expo 2019. I've decided to split this into two parts because it was becoming a very long recap, and the Galaxy's Edge section has a lot of photos. Wherever you see a "little planet" 360 photo, you can click on that to get a VR view of the scene.
- Wednesday, August 21: Arrival day
- Thursday, August 22: Disneyland (minus Galaxy's Edge)
- Friday, August 23: D23 day 1 - Star Wars and Hulu costumes and Disney Parks
- Saturday, August 24: D23 day 2 - More costumes, Avengers, and The Right Stuff
After flying out of Orlando with Delta (and actually not having any problems on the flight in to LAX), we arrived at our hotel, the Staybridge Suites Anaheim At The Park. We chose this hotel because we got a suite with a kitchenette for an equal or less cost than smaller rooms at hotels on the other side of the park, and this hotel was still on the same block as Disneyland. We got to our room to find that we faced the backside of Batuu!
However, even with our proximity to Batuu, it turned out that the walk to Disneyland, even to Downtown Disney, was exhausting. We walked to Downtown Disney that evening for a really mediocre dinner at Taqueria at Tortilla Jo's (bland and the upcharge for a dollop of sour cream was pure extortion), and promptly Ubered back to our hotel afterwards.
The first night... not a big success.
Our first day at the park was all about Disneyland, except Galaxy's Edge. We wanted to give Galaxy's Edge its own day, so we did everything else we could in the park today.
First, we took some pictures on Main Street. Click the photo below to view the 360° version:
Next, we headed over to the Enchanted Tiki Room.
I have to say that I like Disneyland's version of the Tiki Room more than Disney World's. The space is smaller and more intimate, the cast members were super enthusiastic, and they still have a working fountain in the center of the room.
After the Tiki Room, we stopped for a loaded Dole Whip, which was absolutely amazing. I wish Disney World would make Dole Whips like this. Dole Whip, mandarin orange, mango, candied hibiscus, coconut, and Pocky!
I think after this we rode Pirates of the Caribbean. Most of the rides were walk-on at this point, so after that we rode the Haunted Mansion. On our first trip we missed out on the Haunted Mansion after it broke down while we were in line. During this trip, this was our only day to ride it, since it was closing for the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay on Monday, so we rode it twice.
Eventually we made our way over to Fantasyland, where we rode some more easygoing rides like Snow White's Scary Adventures, the Casey Jr. Circus Train, and the Storybook Land Boats.
Then, we went to ride "it's a small world". We also missed this ride during our first Disneyland trip since it was down to remove the Christmas overlay.
We ended up in Toontown at Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, which was a lot of fun. We noticed that a lot of rides were breaking down intermittently throughout the day. First, "it's a small world" was closed, then Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Since these rides are at the back of the park, we just kind of waited around until they reopened. At one point we went to the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland where we got a very tasty "grey stuff": a cone of red velvet cake covered in grey whipped icing.
We rode Star Tours and checked out the Star Wars Launch Bay, which is very similar to the one in Orlando.
Back on Main Street, there was an art gallery full of original concept artwork for the Haunted Mansion's 50th anniversary, and some art inspired by the ride. I wish I could've gotten more and better pictures, but all of the artwork was behind glass and gave off horrible reflections.
Finally, we ended the night at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. This was something I've been wanting to do for a long time, but reservations fill up fast. The Blue Bayou is the restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean, kind of like the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. I jumped at the chance to make reservations when they became available, but I miscalculated a bit and made them for 8:00 at night, which means we had dinner at 11:00 our time. It seemed like it would be impossible to stay up and in the park that late, but we did.
I had the vegetable pasta, which sounds very basic but was actually an amazingly prepared dish. It was a lot of food, too, and I took half of my plate back to the hotel to eat another night. Overall, the ambiance was phenomenal and I'm so glad that we got to dine inside of Pirates of the Caribbean!
After dinner we were so tired from the long day that we made our way back to the hotel without staying for the fireworks.
After getting back to the hotel on Thursday, we started seeing tweets saying that lines were already forming outside of the convention center for D23.
Here's an interesting thing about D23 Expo: people are insane. Unofficial lines started days before the expo. People slept on the convention center basement floor overnight. There were fights. Crew members didn't know which line went where. People smelled bad. We were not partaking in this bizarre D23 ritual. We watched the drama unfold on Twitter as we snuggled in our extremely comfortable hotel beds.
Since we weren't able to get a reserved spot into any of the large panels, we decided to postpone our arrival at D23 on Friday morning to avoid the rush of people trying to get in first thing. We ended up streaming the D23 Legends panel and watching it from the comfort of our hotel room, which turned out to be a great idea. We didn't end up going to the convention until about 1:00 that afternoon, and by then you could breeze right through security.
We started off doing a lap around the outside of the convention floor, where some of the smaller vendors were set up. Jelly Belly had a booth set up with some jellybean Frozen 2 art in progress.
There were a lot of costume displays around the expo, and I was excited to see the display of stormtrooper costumes through the Star Wars movies.
There was also a Hulu booth that had props from various Hulu shows like The Handmaid's Tale and Brooklyn 99. It was very strange to see The Handmaid's Tale represented at D23.
Information about the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel wasn't out yet, but they did have a model of the "ship" at the Disney parks booth.
The Disney Parks booth was my favorite place to visit during the D23 Expo, so we stopped by every day. This is what we saw on the first day: the Tron lightcycle cars for the new rollercoaster, Tron and Mickey's Runaway Railway costumes, new Epcot branding, and a display of Epcot merch from its 1982 opening day.
Later in the afternoon, we were able to catch a panel. We didn't have any panel reservations lined up until Sunday, and we weren't about to wait in hours-long lines for a panel, but we were able to get into the Bill Farmer panel with a very short wait. It was great hearing the longtime voice of Goofy talk about his time with the Disney company, how he got into voice acting, how he became the voice of Goofy, and what projects he'd like to work on in the future.
Panels are very strange at D23. They implemented a sort of FastPass system for panels this year, which involved waiting in a virtual line online and selecting the panels that you'd like to attend. Even though they tried to put limits on how many panels one could reserve, lucky people who ended up first in the virtual queue snatched up all the major panels right away. We ended up waiting about an hour and a half in the virtual queue, and by that time there wasn't anything left except for Sunday panels. It seemed to be a randomized queue, and the lucky people were playing within the rules, but it was a definite misstep on Disney's part to allow hoarding of the main weekend attractions. Even worse was seeing people with media passes on social media bragging about not having to deal with the online registration. How unprofessional!
Even though we didn't get to do any of the main panels, though, we ended up at some great smaller panels, and the Bill Farmer panel was one of the best of the weekend.
The last thing we did on the first day of D23 was sign up for Disney+. I wanted my Founders Circle pin!
Enjoying our easy breezy first day of D23, we decided to show up fashionably late on Saturday as well. There was still a lot of drama going on regarding overnight lines to get into the expo first thing in the morning, and our goal was to avoid sitting on a convention hall floor if at all possible. (Spoiler: we never sat on the floor all weekend.)
First, we checked out the Marvel costumes on display. I only grabbed pictures of a few, but there were a lot of costumes. I also took a 360° picture that isn't the best but will give you an idea of what it was like (click the photo below):
We also saw some costumes at the Disney+ booth for their new Christmas movie, Noelle.
There was an Avengers pavilion showcasing some of the upcoming Avengers attractions around the parks.
Then, we caught a short panel promoting the upcoming National Geographic series The Right Stuff, based on the book by Tom Wolfe. On-location shooting has been happening around the Orlando area and Kennedy Space Center.
I was surprised how many NASA/space exploration fans there were in the audience... until I realized that one of the actors played Captain Hook on Once Upon A Time. Maybe, perhaps, his involvement will result in a few fangirls being educated on the history of early space travel.
We also looked at the art contest submissions for the Haunted Mansion's 50th anniversary celebration. These two pieces of artwork in particular I'd buy as posters and hang on my home office wall.
As we were leaving for the evening, Jason noticed that there was a Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles right down the street from the Anaheim Convention Center. It's a rare day that I'll eat chicken, but I have to say that the chicken and grits that I got were extremely tasty.
We had a busy day planned for Sunday at the D23 Expo, as well as a full day at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on Monday, and a day at Disney's California Adventure on Tuesday. I'll cover those days in the next post.