Kalynda Jensen

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is Finally Open!

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway – Finally Open!

On March 3, 2020, Disney World’s Hollywood Studios unveiled its newest attraction – Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. This attraction is the first attraction that debuts the characters that started it all – Mickey and Minnie.

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway Entrance - Credit Disney Blog
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Entrance – Credit Disney Blog

Where is it at?

When you visit Hollywood Studios, you will find that the attraction is in the same building that used to house “The Great Movie Ride” (ah, an all-time classic that we all miss). The ride is a slow-moving trackless ride that features some surprises that make it much more.

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway Beginning - Credit Disney Blog
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Beginning – Credit Disney Blog

Ride Description

You start out in the pre-show room to watch an actual movie short called Mickey and Minnie’s “Perfect Picnic” – from there, you are transported INTO the cartoon as you board a railroad type ride vehicle. All four of the ride vehicles line up behind the main Locomotive car when loading but end up separating throughout the attraction and move throughout the track like they are all dancing among each other. Speaking of dancing, there is a scene where you do a little dancing in your car (one of those surprises).

The ride immerses the guest in a whimsical world that puts you right into the center of a cartoon, with bright luminescent colors and changing set designs. The attraction is great for guests of all ages, as there is not currently a height restriction. If your child can sit with the lap bar on the outside of their body, including a baby simply sitting on your lap. Beware that the lines will continue to be quite long for a new attraction, but this one is worth the line.

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway Finale - Credit Disney Blog
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Finale – Credit Disney Blog

Our Favorite Ride at Walt Disney World

If you are interested in learning more about some of the most amazing rides located at Walt Disney World, check out our review of Avatar: Flight of Passage!

Disneyland’s Blue Bayou Fantasmic Dining Package Review

Disneyland's Blue Bayou Fantasmic Dining Package Review

While at Disneyland this past August, we booked the Fantasmic Dining Package, which included reserved seating for the Fantasmic Show and meals (appetizer, entrée, dessert, and a beverage) for our whole family at the Blue Bayou Restaurant in Port Orleans Square.  Continue reading our Disneyland’s Blue Bayou Fantasmic Dining Package Review!

How was the experience?

Let’s just say that the Blue Bayou Dining Experience wasn’t our best meal that we’ve ever had and for more than one reason. Let me start off with the positive attributes. Let me start off by saying, the ambiance of the restaurant is beautiful. The restaurant’s setting is like you are on a patio, on the Bayou, overlooking the waters during the night. There is a slight hint of light throughout the restaurant, like the light that the beautiful moon can give off. The room is so dark that each table is also donned with candle lights so that you can see what you are eating and of course the menu, to know what to order.

The restaurant’s water view is inside the famous “Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction” and the restaurant acts as a live backdrop as guests start off on the ride, through the smooth sailing waters of the Bayou. The attraction is so silent during this part, that it’s like the boat is floating across glass.

Back the Restaurant and the Food

The menu that we could order off for this package was a prix fixe menu with several choices for appetizers, entree, and dessert for both adults and children. For appetizers, I got a salad that was covered with feta cheese and dried cranberries with a house-made ranch. My husband’s appetizer was the red beans and rice soup. Both of our appetizers were very good. The kids ended up picking the vegetables and ranch, which came prepared in a cute little cup to eat out of.

For entrees, we both ended up electing the Ribeye with mashed potatoes and broccolini. My steak was okay- it was not the best steak I’ve had on Disney property by far. Maybe it was cooked a little too much, but the veggies and mash were good. My husband really enjoyed his food. The kids ended up getting macaroni and cheese and the other had a pasta dish. Unfortunately, our 3-year-old had fallen asleep before the restaurant, in the stroller, and was a bear when we were trying to wake her up. My 9-year-old also had been feeling sick that day, so I ended up not eating at the table, and kept excusing herself outside to get some fresh air. (There were other personal issues with her that just made the meal very difficult to get through).

Disneyland's Blue Bayou Fantasmic Dining Package Dessert
Disneyland’s Blue Bayou Fantasmic Dining Package Dessert

Our desserts were very good and unique. I had the crème Brule and my husband had “The Maleficent” which was a pudding type dish on top of a bowl of cotton candy, served on a light-up dish on the plate. It was beautiful to look at and was Instagram worthy! My kids both ended up with a chocolate brownie, covered in chocolate ganache with sprinkles. Due to how both of the kids were acting, we ended up taking all their food to go and they ate it about an hour or so later at the outdoor seating area near the Mint Julep (which we will cover another day).

So, the food was okay in some respects and could have been better in others. Our server didn’t really add to the experience, as our reservation was at 3 pm, and it must have been during a shift change because it seemed like he couldn’t wait to get off work. When we had the check at the end and he gave us back our card, he asked: “Is your card out of the check holder, they are sending me home and I need to take it.” I understand shift change, as my husband and I have both been in foodservice, but this could have been a better experience had our server acted at all interested in serving us.  We were so frustrated with barely being able to enjoy our experience because of the issues going on with our kids, that we just wanted to leave, so we did not end up speaking to the manager or anything. Had we just been sitting there, all trying to enjoy our food, then I probably would have said something.

Disneyland’s Blue Bayou Fantasmic Dining Package Review – Worth it?

So, based on the price – $64 per adult, and $29 per kid (for lunch prices), I would say that it was a bit much for the quality of food and service that we received. The good news is that we bought our entire vacation package through Costco, and with that came a $150 gift card that covered most of this meal.

The package came with reserved seating for Fantasmic, where we were also given cushioned seats to sit on. (Picture seats that you might get at a football game to sit on (with no back)). The reserved area was a large roped off area right in front of the water, where you could sit down on your cushioned seat, among all other guests who booked the same package. The view was awesome. It was right front and center, with no one blocking our view at all. For the water that is spraying throughout the show, we ended up feeling the mist as we were so close. The show itself was just okay. The same-named show is at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, and I much prefer that show over this one in California. It was good to see once, but If someone offered it to me again, I’d move on to something different.

Disneyland’s Blue Bayou Fantasmic Dining Package Review – Final Thoughts

So, was the package worth it? If our experience was better during our meal – the food was better, the service was better, and our kids were awake and happy, then maybe it would have been. Based on the price and the show just being “meh,” I would recommend possibly doing something else with your money.

Headed to Disneyland?  Before you go, you need to have a good understanding of Disneyland’s MaxPass system.  To learn more, check out our post about Disneyland’s MaxPass to learn more about whether or not you should spend the money to upgrade!

Is Disneyland’s MaxPass Worth It?

Is Disneylands MaxPass worth it

While at Disneyland this August, my and family and I took advantage of Disney’s MaxPass. Disneyland’s MaxPass works like Disney World’s FastPass Plus system by virtually booking fast passes from the mobile app. So, is Disneyland’s MaxPass worth it?

How Disneyland’s MaxPass works, and how it differs from Disney World’s FastPass Plus

For Starters, you cannot even begin to use Max Pass until all members of your party (which are tied to the max pass system in your phone) pay $15.00 per person per day. This cost is well worth the expense per person. Also, you cannot use the Max Pass until each member of your party scans their ticket to get through the front gate of either Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure.

Once you are in the Parks

Once you scan your park ticket to get into one of the parks, you can literally start looking for your first fast pass for the day. Not every single attraction has a fast pass option here, but all the major attractions that have long lines have one.

MaxPass also includes Disney’s PhotoPass system which is only available to guests who purchase MaxPass for the day.  According to Disneyland’s website:

You can capture all of your memories with unlimited Disney PhotoPass photo downloads** from the day. Download and share photos from select dining locations, attractions, Character Greetings, Disney PhotoPass Photographers and Magic Shots.

Galaxy's Edge MagicShot

Galaxy’s Edge MagicShot

MagicShots with SpiderMan
MagicShots with SpiderMan

How to use Disneyland’s MaxPass

  • Start off with making sure that you’re Disneyland app is pulled up on your phone and hit the plus (+) sign in the middle of the toolbar.
  • You’ll select “Get FastPass”
  • From there, you’ll select the number of people in your party that you are searching for FastPasses for
  • If you want everyone, select all.
  • The attractions that are available will show, and the time that the attraction is available.
  • For whichever attraction you are looking for, select it and confirm it.
  • The app will tell you that you are booked for the attraction and give the time that you can book your next FastPass attraction.

How to Use MaxPass for Photo Pass

When you log in to the app on your phone, you will need to click on the plus at the bottom of the screen to bring up this screen:

Link Photos to PhotoPass

Once here, you can either input the code at the bottom of the screen when you exit a ride to link your photo to your app, you can link a PhotoPass card (we never did this as we already had it added by purchasing MaxPass), and you can bring up your code to show Disneyland Photographers so that the pictures that they take will show up in your app. When we first arrived, we took a screenshot (see below) of our PhotoPass QR Code and saved it as our home screen so that anytime we came upon a Disneyland Photographer, we just had to open our phone for them to scan the code and save our awesome pictures!

MaxPass - PhotoPass
PhotoPass QR Code to present to the Disneyland Photographers.

Tips for using Disneyland’s MaxPass

We would always arrive at the park as close to opening (or earlier) as possible, and for the most part, the park has very light crowds for the first few hours. This is your time to get on a lot of attractions without FastPass option, or just without having to use one.

Try and book your first fast pass reservation within the first hour of opening, however, as you can take advantage of a major attraction with a shorter line, as well as make your next fast pass reservation faster than if you waited until later in the day to book one.

Major Attractions can and most likely will run out of FastPasses!

Radiator Springs Racers
Radiator Springs Racers ran out of Fast Passes each day we were there, and it was not a busy week.

For example, at Disney’s California Adventure, “Radiator Springs Racers” is one attraction that will run out of fast passes. We could always get one early, but by early afternoon (1-2ish), the attraction was giving return times of 7-9pm, or possibly already running out. “The Return time”, is the time that you can return to the queue and get into the fast pass line.

What are Return Times?

One thing to take note of, if “return times” are within an hour or so of the moment you are logging in and looking for the fast pass, then there are plenty left, and the park is that that busy.

If the return times are several hours later or well into the evening, fast passes are going very fast and they will run out.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission Breakout
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout – Overall Family Favorite that we rode 4 or 5 times.

So, is Disneyland’s MaxPass worth it?

We were unsure if this would be a good investment since it costs a family of 4 $60 extra per day to use this feature, however, we are so glad that we did. Our tickets were purchased with MaxPass, so with that, we rode all of the major attractions several times over because of it, plus we had park hopper. Being able to go back and forth between the two parks if we wanted to makes it really easy to ride Radiator Springs, Incredicoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy, Indiana Jones, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad repeatedly (to name a few)!

If you are thinking about planning a trip to Disneyland and are debating getting Disneyland’s MaxPass, we recommend getting it and have a blast!

If you are just interested in Walt Disney World, check out our post on Avoiding the Lines at Walt Disney World.

Family Vacation to the Disneyland Resort

Family Vacation to the Disneyland Resort in California

We admittedly have been a Disney World Family, because those have been the parks we’ve traveled to over and over again. However, in the week of August the 12th, 2019, we visited the Disneyland Resort in California. We had so much fun and highly encourage anyone and everyone to visit Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.

The vacation experience, in my opinion, is different from traveling between Disneyland and Disney World. I’d like to breakdown our experience and just tell you about our experience and a high-level overview of how that was different than when we typically travel to Disney World.

Traveling from DFW to Anaheim, California

First things first- we took a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and landed at the closest airport to Disneyland – John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California. The flight took around 2 ½ hours and was smooth (For the most part).

John Wayne Airport

When we landed, the airport is so small in Santa Ana, that it was very easy to grab our luggage and head out. We should have thought about what time our bus would arrive to take us to the hotel because we stepped out of the airport (past the security line) and had about a 40 min wait. We walked outside into the beautiful 72-degree weather (a huge plus to traveling to Southern California) and saw a small ticket window that said Disneyland Express. There was a handwritten sign (yes- I said that) on the window that said: “Ticket attendant is on a break but will return before the next bus is scheduled to arrive.”  The bus schedule was basically every hour- and I understood why. Once the attendant came back (about 10 min before the bus was scheduled to arrive), we gave her our vouchers for the bus and proceeded to board it once it was ready. We waited about 10 minutes on the bus, to allow any other travelers to make the bus.

The Disneyland Express

The Disneyland Express bus was air-conditioned and offered a restroom in the back if needed. (My opinion- go before you get on the bus, because it was basically a port-a-potty and smelled like it). The drive took around twenty or so minutes to make it to the Disneyland Resort area where we stopped at all three Main Disneyland hotels (The Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier, and the Grand Californian). Many people on the bus will be staying at one of these hotels because this transportation comes with booking at those hotels. We booked through Costco Travel (highly recommended) and the package came with vouchers to take the Disney bus instead of private transportation. We were the last to be dropped off at Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Convention Center (which was about 3 or 4 blocks away from the main entrance to Disneyland). The travel between the airport and our hotel was around 30 to 40 minutes because of the traffic on the main road that traveled to Disneyland (Harbor Blvd).

Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Convention Center
Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Convention Center

Homewood Suites by Hilton – Anaheim Convention Center

Our hotel was very nice and offered family suites that we loved. They came equipped with a separate living/kitchen area from the bedroom area. We had a King bed and a set of bunk beds for the kids. The bunk beds had the regular top and bottom bunk but also had a trundle bed that pulled out underneath the bottom bunk. This would be great for a larger family with lots of kiddos. Breakfast was also included every day. Not just continental breakfast either- at least one meat option each morning, eggs, pancakes, waffles, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and many other pastry options. They also have bottomless coffee all day long. Also, during the week (Monday- Thursday) from 5-7 pm, they serve a light dinner which is all included in the price of the stay that changes nightly and includes free drinks (draft beer and wine). The hotel stayed very clean all of the time, as they were continuously doing maintenance and cleaning. The one thing that was weird, was that the lobby had an orange smell to it that I wasn’t too fond of, other than that it was fine. (Some freshener that they were using).

Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Convention Center Family Suite
Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Convention Center Family Suite

The hotel had a good-sized swimming pool, and two smaller pools for toddlers, as well as a hot tub. There was a half-court basketball court and putting green, as well as the gym and a small arcade. There were laundry services and a small take and go area with bottled water, fruit, and popcorn, etc. Housekeeping did a wonderful job on our room every day. My only complaint on the hotel was that if the AC wasn’t extremely cold, then the room would get very humid and had a smell to it in the living room area only. The bedroom was fine. When the AC was running full blast, it was perfectly fine. We were gone to the parks way too much to say anything about it.

Toy Story Parking Lot and Shuttle to the parks

As far as traveling to the parks, we were literally about 200 yards or so to the Toy Story Parking Lot, which had constant buses traveling to the front of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. We would literally walk to the bus loading area, get on the bus, and were in the parks in about 5 minutes with traffic. Every single time that we went, which was various times from 7:30 am; 8:00 am; 6:00 pm, 2:00 pm, etc for various events/reservations, there was never more than a few people standing with us. This parking lot is the overflow parking lot to Disney’s other parking areas as well as widely used by all of the guests in walking distance to this lot.

Walking to the Toy Story Parking lot from the hotel is a breeze!
Walking to the Toy Story Parking lot from the hotel is a breeze!

Once we arrived at the front drop off area, you go directly through security to one of three areas- left to Disney’s California Adventure, straight to Downtown Disney, and Right to the original Disneyland.

How was the Disneyland Resort experience? What were the differences?

Overall our experience was very laid back and easy. There are no fast pass reservations to book in advance. As a matter of fact, you cannot book fast passes until you get into the park for the day, so as far as being stressed about planning, there really wasn’t any. We were able to stop and eat where we wanted to and booked fast passes for major attractions over and over again. At Disney World in Florida, we typically book our fast passes 60 days in advance and wake up at 5 am to ensure that we get all the options that we are looking for. Now – we love the thrill of this, so it is fine, but this Disneyland trip allowed us to just explore the park and go at our own pace.

The other difference between the coasts is the Dining Reservations. At Disney World we book 6 months in advance for the best restaurants, to ensure that a table is available. At Disneyland, we booked a reservation 30 minutes before we planned on eating and had no trouble at all.

Meeting Stitch at Disney's California Adventure
Meeting Stitch at Disney’s California Adventure

The biggest difference in the experience is the type of crowd that you are therewith. The crowd at Disneyland is comprised of vacationers (sure), but there are tons of local people from Southern California or really all around the state. So a lot of Disney experts refer to this as “ a local park” – it doesn’t make it any less magical, it is just an observation. There are so many local people that may show up at 5 pm one day after work, just to grab a quick ride on Space Mountain and have a churro or funnel cake – wouldn’t that be awesome?  At Disney World, based on its’ sheer vastness in size and multiple parks (4 theme parks and 2 water parks  + Disney Springs), people from all over the world find themselves saving for years and years to attend their “trip of a lifetime” vacation. You have people who are first-timers, as well as people who are returning for another week’s vacation. You have groups of people who have saved their entire lives to take their families on this vacation and are experiencing that magical feeling for the very first time. The view of the castle as you round the curve down Main Street and you see the castle at Disney World takes your breath away.

How will we Disney in the future?

I’ve been asked, “Which park do you prefer?”  This is something that I honestly cannot answer that question. We would take them both at any time. I felt like I would miss the magic picking California this time, as opposed to heading to Florida (sort of like I was cheating on my home park), but I was pleasantly surprised, and we had the time of our lives. We had characters walking around all over the place, we rode multiple mainstream attractions several times over, and the food was amazing. I would say to anyone asking “Which park should I pick,” that if you can – take the leap of faith and travel to California and try it out— you will not be disappointed.

We are usually blogging about our adventures about Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Learn more about Mobile Ordering Coming to Select Disney World Resorts!

After Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland, What Should we Expect at Disney World?

After Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opened at Disneyland - What Should we Expect at Disney World?

Watching many Disney vloggers over the past few weeks, one thing is for sure – I should have booked a reservation in Anaheim and got a reservation for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! I watched so many videos of bloggers during their 4-hour reservation time that was allotted (if you were staying at a Disneyland hotel) and there was hardly any wait for Millennium Falcon. Now, I cannot say that was the case for Olga’s Cantina, which always showed a very long line, but everything else seemed very reasonable in terms of traffic flow. Disneyland was smart about this – from their opening day, which was May 31st and until June 24, 2019, you must have a reservation, and your reservation time is only for 4 hours. This is a way to control the crowds and slowly introduce people to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Disneyland = Successful Opening!

From every video that I’ve seen, it looks amazing. They also started out with opening only one attraction – The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, to slowly introduce the public to the land. Eventually, the second attraction called Rise of the Resistance will open as well. This will obviously add even more people to the land since there will be two major attractions, but for now, it looks very manageable. We will find out on June 24, 2019, what the regular crowd will look like.

So, this seems like an awesome idea, right? A reservation system to get into the land and only have a 4-hour window? Seems like a smart way to control the crowd for at least a few weeks.

How will Disney World be Different?

However, Disney World is not doing this. On August 29, 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios to anyone and everyone who wants to attend. The actual park is scheduled to open at like 6:00 am that morning I believe and I’m sure that there will be people getting to the parking lot way before then.  They are only going to let so many people into the land, however, so they will be controlling the capacity, but on a first come and first serve basis. I guess this is also fair but will provoke a somewhat Hunger Games feeling to arrive in the morning.

How is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge going to differ from Toy Story Land or Avatar?

Any time that there is a new attraction- and a very popular and fun attraction, Disney World Rope Droppers come out in full force. My family and I rope dropped Hollywood Studios in November 2018 because we could not get a fast pass for Slinky Dog (that had only opened in June 2018) to ensure that we were able to ride it. The park opened at 9:00 am this morning and we made it to the park at 7:45 am in hopes of being some of the first few people in line. We did make it to the turnstile line with about 5 families in front of us, but by the time that all turnstiles let people in and we made it down the main stretch of Hollywood studios, we were behind a group of people that were probably close to 50 people. From here, it was crazy. Cast members slowly walked the group to Toy Story Land behind a large sign that one of them held, which said “This way to Toy Story Land.” So, when I mentioned Hunger Games, it really was an approach to out speed-walk the person next to you. People were getting nudged & jostled in the thick of the crowd, so my husband had to take my 3-year-old and maneuver her through the crowd like he was a racecar driver with a stroller. We clipped some ankles, but we also were clipped by strollers behind us. No one was doing anything on purpose, it was just the name of the game.

Rope Drop on Opening Day?

Knowing this, what will this rope drop look like at Hollywood Studios for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?   Will there be a huge line waiting in the wee hours every morning, the night before?  What will this do the rest of Hollywood Studios? Will there be no crowds anywhere else? Or, will so many people hope to get into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that when they can’t, they go to every other Disney Park and there will be lines everywhere?

We are heading out that way in August of this year, but it will be around two weeks before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. We have some favorite YouTube vloggers that will more than likely be there, so we hope to report our findings and observations in the next few months!