After a wonderful morning in Fantastyland, we headed down towards the Rivers of America, Frontierland and New Orleans Square for a bit of lunch and a trip to the Caribbean.
As you come from Fantasyland, you make your way around Big Thunder Mountain and come out into Frontierland. Frontierland is home to the cowboys, pioneers, gold rushes, red rock, salons and the most importantlys the Rivers of America. The River is an artificial body of water that was built in 1955 when the Park was opened. It surrounds Tom Sawyer Island (which you can visit by ferry from the mainland) and is home to two large boats that circle around the harbour.
The Mark Twain Riverboat is not just a vehicle that circles the island but also a main attraction! Guests can embarked on a scenic 12-minute journey on this amazing Victorian Steamboat. The waiting area (pictured above) is designed to replicate the real design of loading areas from the 1890's but I'm sure with a little but of Disney flare!
Once you're on board you can freely move around all three different levels. The lower deck's bow has chairs to sit on and relax throughout your journey (although there's not a whole lot so if you plan on sitting get to the front FAST!). The upper deck has the best views of the different sights and the Super secret PRO TIP is if you go to the upper deck, you'll find the captains station. If you ask a crew member, you can be given permission to ride inside the wheelhouse and afterwards are given a Steamboat Pilot Certificate. Neat!
Photo Credit: Flickr Jasperdo
Front the upper deck you can see into Tom Sawyer's island and watch the canoe's paddle by. During a hot day, remember to bring a drink on-board and you can find it to be a nice relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the park.
The other boat that is home to this harbor is a giant pirate, theSailing Ship Columbia. It is actually a full-scale replica of the Columbia Redviva, the first American ship i go all the way around the globe! Now, anyone one of you can get one and journey around this small world.
This is pretty appropriate since you are steps from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride!!! It's so cool to come from a land full of fairies and flying elephants and then in a few feet suddenly be be in a land of pirates and southern charm. The pirate ship play's a role in the nighttime show "Fantasmic" as Captain Hook's Pirate Ship. Liam and I fit right in here. He had lent me his pirate hat for the day before I got my official Mickey ear and I loved wearing the pirate hat around here. I got a lot of attention and go to do a lot of "ARGGGGGGG"s.
We wandered along the river and originally were going to get some lunch right away but the line for Pirates of the Caribbean ride was so short that we just couldn't pass it up. Pirates of the Caribbean is such a famous ride now, more so because of the movies, but the fact that it inspired a film in itself means there was a lot substance there to begin with and I was excited to see what inspired all this hype to begin with. The rides tells the story of a band of pirates and their exploits as you follows them on their journey.
You get onto a small boat with the rest of your fellow travellers and begin to slowly float down the the river. At first, when you enter, you pass by the Blue Bayou Restaurant. This place is so neat, I'm obsessed with people watching so I would get so much amusement out of eating my dinner while watching the riders pass by every few minutes. Either way I loved that even before the animatronics start you are immersed into the environment of the Bayou with the scenery and ambient New Orleans music even before the excitement of the ride begins!
Ok! Now here comes the real stuff. SCARE ALERT! There are two drops in this ride! WHAT?!! They're really minor and I totally survived but I didn't see it coming. I was fine and in fact I kinda liked them. I think for the first time I actually understood why people like roller coasters, that scary thrilling feeling. But since I didn't know it was coming there was a moment there when I did feel like I was going to die or maybe just jump out of the boat. Luckily, I did neither and enjoyed the ride immensely! I was really hoping I could ride it again but we just didn't have time.
All the animatronics in Disneyland are amazing but the ones on the Pirates rides I feel like have an especially close attention to detail and are super realistic. I can see why this one inspired such a deep storyline for a movie. They've definitely gone back in and added some extra feature to some characters so they more closely resemble their movie counter parts. The rides doesn't really mirror the movie very closely (which I'm fine with since I'm not the biggest fan) but the story it tells is just as compelling for a quick. It's dark and stormy, and sultry and scandalous! The perfect Pirate tale. And all the characters and pirates look just like the real thing! You can't believe it's all animatronics! You really think for awhile there it must be real actors but it's only when you get close that you can tell it's not real.
After the ride is over and you disembark your boat, you step out into the streets of New Orleans. Since we had pretty much come straight down from Frontierland, we hadn't had much of a chance to see the sights of New Orleans until this moment. And while on a regular day this would a sight to see, with all the garlands, ornament hung from the balcony and jewels draped across the lane ways, it felt like stepping out into a decadent ballroom or glittery dreamland! Everything was sparking in vivid colours and it was rich with opulent extravagance!
New Orleans Square is one of the next themed land areas to be found in Disneyland. It's based off the 19th century image of New Orleans and unlike many other feature areas of the park, this part cannot be found replicated in any other park around the world. It unique to Disneyland California. The land was opened to the public in 1966 and Walt got to see it's opening just before he passed away in late December so its significance as one of the last pieces of the park that Walt had his mark on is very important to Disneyland's history.
There are definitely some parts of Disneyland that feel more modern and updated for the newer attraction goers. They seem to need faster rides and more 3D experiences. But in New Orleans, there was especially that feeling (as in Fanataslyand) that the idea wasn't about gadgets and gizmos, it was about creating a world around you to build an atmosphere to be whiskered away inside. To be immersed into. You didn't need to ride a roller coaster here to get a kick, or blast a gun to feel energized. Just the feeling of being transported to another world was enough to make me feel like I was walking on air. I could have strolled around this area and felt like I got more than moneys worth.
You can even visit the parasol lady and get your name personalized on your very own parasol. So, while you're walking around this hot, New Orleans square, you can look just the part too. This is the perfect, unique Disney souvenir that's not cheesy or traditional and one I would highly recommend getting. Now not everyone is looking for this kind of disney experience and I know that. Some people want to be exhilarated. So I'm also glad there's also the Astro Blasters and Space Mountain for everyone else too. Best of both worlds :)
After walking around for a bit we were STARVING so we decided to grab some food at the FRENCH MARKET. There are so many options for food in this area. It is for sure the best place for food in the park. But the French Market is my pick for the best selection, the best price and the best self service. The other options are the River Belle Terrace which serves Breakfast and Lunch but I've read the reviews aren't as high as for other places along this strip so if the lines are too long and this is your only bet it's a fair shake. The Royal Street Veranda serves all sorts of delicious Gumbos!! Vegetarians gumbo, Steak Gumbo, Creamy Clam Chowder (all three are served in a sourdough bread bowl)! They are scrumptious and definitely worth a try but if there are people in your group who don't love gumbo this place doesn't have much else.
The Blue Bayouu serves lunch and dinner and is the fancy sit down restaurant I mentioned that you can see inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It's a beautiful place where soft twinkling lights and candlelit tables greet you upon you entrance and you can watch under a canopy of mossy laden trees the Pirates of the Caribbean riders go by. At the Blue Bayou you can get the famous Monte Bistro Sandwich (served only at lunch time) and equally amazing Royal Street Seafood Jambalaya! BUT both these options are also available at the French Market for a cheaper price since you're not paying for the atmosphere. So, if you're just with your sweetheart and want to have a romantic evening, choose the Blue Bayou but if you've got the kids, opt for the French Market like we did for a yummy yet budget friendly option.
We choose for our lunch time treat the infamous Monte Cristo Sandwich. A Ham and Swiss sandwich which is then fried and lightly covered in powered sugar. Sounds weird but it's absolutely delicious.
I also found myself at the very retro and mouth watering Mint Julep bar. There, I got myself a neon-green mint julep which almost defies explanation! As well, I grabbed few of those famous Mickey beignets for the kids which are so tasty but the powered sugars got all over me! Next time I think I'll have to eat them while standing over a sink or something.
Once lunch had been completed we decided to finish our time out here in this corner of the park and headed on over to visit Critter Country!
Critter Country, another one of the lands in Disneyland, was themed to show off the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the bears hidden therein. It was therefore, no surprise that Winnie the Pooh started to pop up as one of the main attractions inside this part of the park. Various types of trees have been planted throughout Critter Country to create a forestry atmosphere and it does feel as you move from New Orleans to Critter Country that the environment changes from an urban, city scape to an rural wilderness.
The different attractions that can be found in this area are: Splash Mountain (which is the huge draw to come down here), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoe Rides, The Haunted Mansion (which is also sort of consider part of New Orleans) and then two additional food areas are the Hungry Bear Restaurant (which is amazing!) and Pooh's Corner (which has some of the best treats in the Park!
We all went on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as it was the perfect ride for all ages. We bordered an adorable little beehive vehicle (probably one of my favourite vehicles) and went on a journey throughout Pooh's little world. Once more, the animatronics were amazing and it was such a joyful ride. It's based on the film and includes an incredibly vivid dream scene, rain scene, and some unexpected special effects.
After the Winnie ride, Dan and Micheal ran over to Splash Mountain to brave the waves. Not being someone who can ride any of these attractions with big drops, I just think of them as just being thrills with nothing much more but there IS so much more to them! There is an entire plot to Splash Mountain. Each scenes from the mountain represents a segment of the "Song of the South" which tells the tale of a Br're Rabbit who leaves home in search of adventure.
But of course there are troubles along the way for the poor rabbit as you will see as you follow him along his adventure. Amazing animatronics mirror his follies and near death experiences and eventually his joyful return home. The set design here is much more in line with the natural landscape but has that cartoon-esque treatment that fits into the Disney oeuvre. Next time I come, I think if there's not too long of a line, I might just try and be brave enough for this one since it seems like there's one two big drops and no big dizzying loops! With all the stories woven in there how can I keep missing out?!
If you're not going to spend your time on the Mountain though, while waiting for your loved ones, spend it in Pooh's Corner! Pooh's Corner is a snack and souvenir shop in the corner of the Critter Country that's full of delectable Disney chocolates handmade to perfection. The chocolate apples are the most amazing treats I've ever seen. They are made to looks like different Disney characters and are as delicious as they are enchanting. Yes, they're expressive, I know. And if you’re a season pass holder don't get them ever time. But if you're like me and come once a year - TREAT-YO-SELF! They're so beautiful and it feels like a work of art in addition to a dessert. But my favourite thing to grab here other than the apple, is the honey rice krispie treat. It's way cheaper than the apple and much cuter.
After a quick snack break, it was time to board the beautiful train that would take us all over over to TOON TOWN! I couldn't believe how much we had already seen but how much there was still left to see. We were elated to get the chance to sit down, even for a few minutes. We watched the trees and critters pass us by and we couldn't wait for the next instalment!!!
NEXT UP...MICKEY'S TOON TOWN!!