There’s a home video from twelve years ago that I watch whenever I need a little laughter and happiness added to my day. Picture this: I was holding onto my cousin’s hand as we walked through the gates of California Adventure. My younger sister sat happily in the stroller, as it was her turn to relax and enjoy being pushed around by various members of our family. During this part of the day, I was actually excited that it wasn’t my turn in the stroller because I suddenly had a strong urge to dance. My family congregates in the entrance of Disney California Adventure (aka DCA) as I began dancing to the beat of the Beach Boys song playing overhead. I let go of my cousin’s hand (which, at the time, felt too constricting for the various dance moves I was excited to break out) and tried to entice my sister from the stroller so that she’d come dance with me. Apparently, I wasn’t a very convincing little girl because she stayed seated in the stroller (either that or she didn’t want to give up her throne). I continued to dance around my family, the monorail flying through the miniature version of the Golden Gate bridge and the huge sun wheel swinging majestic in the background. Shops adorned with colorful cutouts of palm trees and beach balls lined the walkway and entrance into the park.
The park entrance that I danced around in as a little girl is now Buena Vista Street. Although I hate change (probably more than the average human), I love the change that was made to the park entrance. Buena Vista Street has quickly become one of my favorite parts of DCA and Hollywood Boulevard has consistently been a close second. So without further ado, here is a day in Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Boulevard.
Start off the day a half hour before rope drop (usually this will be 7:30), and head to Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Café on Buena Vista Street for breakfast. Enjoy from hearty meals like the bacon and gouda sandwich or spinach, feta, and egg white wrap. If you’re craving something extra extravagant, try the banana walnut bread or chocolate croissant. Sit near a window so you can watch the guests entering DCA, eager to start their day (people watching is one of my favorite pastimes, and the Disneyland Resort is the best place to do it).
As soon as you finish breakfast, head to the Hyperion Theater and get fastpasses for Frozen—Live at the Hyperion. The fastpasses for this show are reserving your seat for the afternoon performance. The sooner you get fastpasses to rope drop, the closer seats you’ll get to the stage. After reserving your seats, stroll to the backside of Hollywood Boulevard. Fun fact: there’s a window on the third floor of the building across from the old Tower of Terror (please say a rosary for the tower that it rests in peace in the Twilight Zone). The light on in the window is an homage to Walt Disney’s office which is in the corner of a building on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank.
Head to the very back of Hollywood Boulevard and wait for the Red Car Trolley to pick you up (this would be a great time to say that rosary for the Tower of Terror as you wait, and do me a favor: angrily shake your fist at the signs reading, “Mission Breakout coming summer 2017”. That’ll teach Disney not to mess with iconic attractions like the tower).
Board the Red Car Trolley and take a ride through Hollywood Boulevard and down Buena Vista Street. The trolley was added when Buena Vista Street opened in 2012. The street was added as a throwback to Hollywood from 1923-1937 (the time when Walt Disney first set foot in LA to the time when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered). As you ride the trolley, imagine that you’ve traveled back in time to old Hollywood as you inch down Buena Vista Street. Ride the trolley all the way back to the entrance of DCA, and after disembarking, try to spot Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who’s normally milling around this area of the park. If you spot him, visit with him for a while. He’s very important to Disney history (if you want to learn more about the significance of Oswald, check out this blog post).
Stroll through the shops on Buena Vista Street (my favorite is Elias and Co. Side note: the store was named after Walt’s father, Elias. When you walk into the store, look up to the displays on the shelf and you’ll see a manikin adorned with 1930s clothing. That’s actually the outfit that Walt Disney wore for the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937). Meander along the street and visit with some of the locals such as Donna (she never goes anywhere without her pooch), Officer Blue (he’s patrolling the street with happiness), Phiphi the Photographer (she’s traveled the world taking photos along the way), and Molly the Messenger (she’s the delivery girl who even delivers mail to Santa during the holiday seasons).
Before heading back to Hollywood Boulevard for lunch, catch a quick show by Five and Dime outside of Carthay Circle Restaurant. I love listening to the old-time feel of Five and Dime; the show never disappoints.
Grab lunch at Award Wieners and enjoy the best wiener in a supporting roll (it took me seventeen years to finally understand that pun). Enjoy from options like the Uptown Chili Dog or the BBQ Crunch Dog.
Then, head to the backlot and take a spin through Monstropolis and watch as the town frantically looks for one of the most dangerous creators to ever walk this Earth, humans (ohh the horror!). Spoiler alert: turns out humans aren’t as harmful as monsters thought.
Head to the Hyperion Theater and relax, sit back, and enjoy one of the newest additions to DCA, Frozen—Live at the Hyperon. Although I do miss Aladdin, Frozen is a wonderful addition to the park that “Let it Go” haters would even be happy to see.
After Anna and Elsa manage to live happily ever after in Arendelle, get a quick snack before embarking on your next adventure. For all of you health nuts out there, grab some fruit or veggies and hummus from Fairfax Market. If you’re looking for a more indulging treat (for the record, you are on vacation so I give you full permission to indulge), head to Schmoozies for a delicious smoothie or a mocha frappe (my grandma swears that these mocha frappes are sent from God himself, and I have to agree with her).
As you enjoy your treat, sit on one of the benches lining the boulevard and wave to Mickey and the newsboys as they pass by in the trolley (if you want to see the full show with the Newsboys, they perform throughout the day in front of the Carthay Circle Restaurant).
With your new brain freeze thanks to Schmoozies (I’m assuming that you went with the less healthy option here), head to the Animation Building. If you’re looking for a place to rest your sore feet, this is the place for you. Some of my favorite memories from DCA are relaxing in this building, sitting on the ground, looking up in awe at all of the Disney movies playing before my eyes on huge screens. The activities you partake in within the Animation Building are up to you (just be sure to spend a couple hours here as there is a lot to explore). If you’re eager to laugh off some energy from the day, head to Turtle Talk with Crush where Crush from Finding Nemo answers all of your questions about living as a 152-year-old turtle. Contrary to popular belief, this show is not just for little kids. I still enjoy it today and I’m (legally) an adult (even though I don’t feel like one most of the time). If you’re itching to meet Anna and Elsa after seeing their show at the Hyperion, head to Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome and talk with the two sisters. If you’re interested in animation, head to the Sorcerer’s Workshop where you can watch your sketches come to life on an animation reel, or take a quiz in the Beast’s Layer to see what Disney character is most like you (pro tip: The right answer is to always eat with nice people for lunch, and not eat nice people for lunch). If you think you have what it takes to be a Disney animator, head to the animation academy where a real Disney animator will walk you through the steps to drawing one of your favorite characters. My family loves to visit the animation academy at least once during our vacation, and we have contests to see who can draw the best character (my sister always wins; I don’t even know why we still call it a competition). The animators draws a different character every half hour; there’s a board outside of the Animation Building that shows all of the characters that will be drawn during the day. If you have young ones, I recommend that you spend less time at the Animation Building and instead, budget your time so that you can see Disney Junior—Live on Stage.
Before leaving the Animation Building, walk through Off the Page (the shop inside the building); admire the artwork hanging on the walls and flip through the books about everything Disney. There’s even an animator in the shop at times drawing Disney characters. It’s always fun to watch them.
Head outside and find a spot along the street to view Pixar Play Parade. Wave to your favorite Pixar characters and sing alone to songs from Cars, Finding Nemo, and A Bug’s Life.
After the parade, head to the Carthay Circle Restaurant for dinner (I recommend that you make reservations for Carthay Circle at least a month in advance as it is oftentimes very difficult to be seated without a reservation). If you want a truly magical experience, make reservations at the restaurant for the World of Color Dining Package. The package includes a three-course dinner from a select menu as well as prime seating for World of Color. My family did this last year and found we were more than stuffed after our delicious dinner and that our seats for World of Color were the best seats we’ve ever had.
Carthay Circle will always hold a special place in my heart. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Hollywood (it was demolished in 1969 by its owner) and the restaurant is an exact replica of the old theatre. You’ll notice as you walk through the restaurant that there are many pictures of Walt Disney in his early years as he started producing feature length films. I hope you’ll appreciate the history behind this restaurant as you enjoy your dinner here, which is the perfect ending to your day in Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Boulevard.
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