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Photo TR: Divv California Adventure


Divv3k
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Like the vast majority of my trip reports this is WAY too late! This is a trip my friend Michael and I took in May 2013. Seeing as we’re both movie fans and I’ve managed to up Michael’s interest in theme parks over the years we decided that a trip to California was in order. Not only to visit the parks but also see some movie studios, take in a little trip to Vegas and a few days in San Diego –which I had visited a year earlier and really loved!

 

Some of these updates will be quite short so this might not be as extensive as my usual trip reports but going through my photos I felt I had some decent stuff that I wanted to talk about, so indulge me please in this California Adventure!

 

UPDATES:

 

Part 1 – ARRIVAL & HOLLYWOOD (Below)

Part 2 – UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

Part 3 - PARAMOUNT STUDIOS

Part 4 - WORLD'S OLDEST OPERATING MCDONALD'S

Part 5 - DISNEYLAND, DAY ONE

Part 6 - DISNEYLAND, DAY TWO

Part 7 - SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN

Part 8 - WARNER BROS STUDIOS

Part 9 - KNOTT'S BERRY FARM

Part 10 - DISNEYLAND, DAY THREE

Part 11 - WORLD'S FIRST MCDONALD'S MUSEUM

Part 12 - BUFFALO BILL'S

Part 13 - LAS VEGAS!

Part 14 - SEA WORLD SAN DIEGO & MORE!

 

Our itinerary had us arriving into LAX – which I was a little afraid of given the horror stories I’d heard over the years. I had myself and Michael well prepared for a hellish arrival. Much to my surprise this was the easiest US arrival I’d ever experienced! I think we arrived at a good time because we went straight through security and our bags were waiting for us! I’m not sure what kind of bizarre airport I traveled through but I don’t expect to be so lucky the next time I’m at LAX!

 

Given that it was evening by the time we arrived we just took a quick trip down to Hollywood Boulevard to get some dinner and take a look around. A bit of a tacky place I must say but still – there’s some really cool looking buildings around here and I really regret not being able to visit any of the movie theatres. Maybe next time!

 

Here’s some photos!

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Like all my trans-continental adventures of recent years this one starts on a big BA plane!

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Hey look, it’s Las Vegas! I’ll be seeing you later!

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Looks like we made it to the right place! I was a little worried about getting through LAX given the horror stories I had heard but somehow this turned out to be the easiest and smoothest arrival in the US I’ve ever experienced! We walked off the plane, straight through security (it seemed like our flight arrived at a time when no other did because there were no lines at customs) and then our bags were there in minutes. We were off the plane and on our way to the rental car place within 10-15 minutes. I realise this is probably a huge fluke but I wish my experiences of arriving at US airports were always like this!

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Here’s a clear sign you’re in Hollywood – Batmobile Limo sitting outside your hotel as you check in.

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After checking into our hotel we decided to venture down Hollywood Boulevard for a gander.

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This hotel is a big deal or something for some people. Looks cool.

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Woo! Chinese Theater! Sadly, the theatre was closed for its IMAX renovation at this time which is a shame as I’m a movie theatre geek and would have loved to have seen something in here.

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Hi Shawn!

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Egyptian Theater! Sadly, this place wasn’t showing many movies when we there so I’ll need to try and get inside this one some other time.

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This guy is important. Important to this Trip Report at least.

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For our first meal of the trip we went for the most "Hollywood" restaurant we could find...

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The first of very many burgers on this trip.

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Michael can deepthroat a burger really, really well.

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Hollywood Boulevard was way more tacky than I expected but I still thought it was pretty cool. I’d love to come back and see a few movies in the various theatres someday.

Anyway, out Califoria Adventure has begun! Up next – Universal Studios Hollywood!

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Our first full day took us to Universal Studios Hollywood! This was a new park for me and one I was really excited to visit being a big fan of the Orlando version.

 

We weren’t sure what to expect from the crowds given that this was a Sunday in May so we arrived for opening and made our way straight for Transformers and managed to get multiple rides on it before any queues started to form. I really liked it! I mean, it’s still no Spider-Man beater but that ride system really works well and I don’t think there are many themes that it wouldn’t work for. Although I do still think this was a missed opportunity to get some really kick arse animatronics into Universal but maybe that’s just wishing for too much. Mummy’s good if you don’t compare it to the much superior Orlando version and Jurassic Park is more or less identical to Islands of Adventure’s – which is certainly a good thing!

 

The real star of the park is obviously the Tram Tour which was really great. As a HUGE Back to the Future fan I was super excited to see the Hill Valley square in person. There’s just loads of great moments in there and my only regret is that we didn’t do the VIP tour that lets you get out the tram! Next time.

 

The rest of the park is good, but when we visited there were loads of construction walls around the Despicable Me and Potter sites which made the upper half of the park a little less appealing. Still it was a fun day and I’m itching to get back!

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When you see this globe it can only mean one thing. You’re in Hollywood! (Or Orlando or Singapore or Osaka)

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Nope, definitely Hollywood!

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If you needed any more assurance that you’re in a movie studios park just consult the statues.

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Yeah, this Trip Report is really late.

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First stop – Transformers! This ride is by far the best thing to come out of the movie franchise.

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The animatronics in the ride are REALLY lifelike!

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Optimus Prime shrunk himself down in order to fulfil all your photo op desires.

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Try not to think of Orlando’s version of this when you’re riding and you’ll really enjoy it.

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Universal spared no expense bringing us a Jurassic Park attraction.

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Spinosaurus. He wasn’t on InGen’s list.

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SKLOOSH!

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One of the few water rides I’ll happily take a soaking on!

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Onto the backlot tram tour. This was a lot of fun!

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Save the Clock Tower! It was so awesome getting to see the Back to the Future square in person.

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More behind the scenes stuff.

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InGen – We Make Your Future.

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It wouldn’t be a backlot tour without some kind of flooding scene. So here it is.

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Apparently this is the only western set that’s left on the Hollywood backlots so it gets used by loads of studios whenever a western setting is needed.

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Disaster! I mean, Earthquake! It was cool seeing how this tour influenced a lot of attractions that got expanded upon in the Florida park.

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Like this one! Here's one place where Hollywood has something cool that Florida doesn't!

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Shark still looks fake.

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If you want to sleep with a gardener then this is where to go.

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Bates Motel! Some shady dealings are going on here apparently.

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The War of the Worlds plane crash scene was incredible! It looked so real.

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I really love that they kept this for the studio tour. It really shows the scale of some of these big budget productions

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If you want to pretend you’re not in California anymore just stand in front of this screen.

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Don’t mess with these dudes. Or something.

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Lunch. It was adequate. I found it strange that there was still a Flintstones themed cafe here, but hey I guess that’ll go eventually.

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I last saw the Water World show in Osaka where it was all in Japanese. The English version doesn’t make any more sense.

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Back to the Simpsons! Yeah, the ride system is still a bit jerky and uncomfortable but the pre-show is awesome which pretty much makes it worthwhile.

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Unfortunately, there were no Flaming Moe’s to be found around here.

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Seeing as the park is built on the side of a hill you get some pretty decent views. (If you look beyond the weird looking dude in the foreground)

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Warner Bros Studios! We’ll see you real soon!

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Oooh! The original DeLorean from Back to the Future! This was pretty awesome to see!

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More awesome BTTF props. Hydrate Level Four please!

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The Blue Brothers are still doing their thing here though I kind of get the feeling that less and less guests know who they are as the years go by.

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We rounded out our evening with a visit to City Walk where I was really excited to introduce Michael to a TPR favourite for dinner...

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Upon leaving the park we passed this. We didn’t even drive here but if you don’t take a photo of a sign that says “Jurassic Parking” then you’re not even human.

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Buca!!! Once again this place was awesome.

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Pizza porn. As always Buca gave you more food than you could possibly eat. Tremendous.

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So that’s Universal Studios Hollywood. Maybe the Orlando version has slightly better versions of the attractions but if you’re a movie fan then the tram tour absolutely is a must do. This was a great way to start of our trip!

 

Up next – The Paramount Studios Tour!

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Cool start of the report!

 

Customs has never taken me more than an hour at LAX, and often less. The one time it took an hour, we got stuck behind a plane full of entitled drunks that had just returned from Cabo San Lucas.

 

Can't wait to see more, I love reports from around my area

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One of the reasons for this trip to California was to get a look behind the scenes at some of the movie studios based in Hollywood so we were very excited to take this two hour tour of Paramount Studios! They actually run a longer deluxe tour but we had plans for the afternoon and a longer tour coming up at Warner Bros later in the week so this was a good opportunity to get a look around.

 

As our visit was in May most of the TV shows which usually film there were on hiatus so the studio was a bit quieter than usual but it was still really cool to see the place and start to recognise places on the backlot from movies and TV shows from over the years!

 

In the afternoon we headed over to CBS Television City for a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson but since they don’t allow cameras this update is all about Paramount. Here’s some pictures of the things we were allowed to photograph!

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Our second full day in California took us to Paramount Studios in Hollywood!

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Here’s a look at Paramount’s lot and a list of all the shows that have been filming here lately.

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Hey, look! Hollywood sign off in the distance!

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This was Lucille Ball’s office at the studios. Apparently she was a big deal or something.

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In order to understand what your tour guide is saying they give you these very snazzy looking ear pieces. I’m going to distribute these to everyone I have a conversation with from now on.

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OOOHH!! A building filled with nothing but ladders! The fun never stops at Paramount.

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Here’s one of the main cross sections of Paramount’s backlot. It’s amazing how many times I’ve recognised this place when watching TV shows since I visited. Glee for example has used it a few times.

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You can tell that Michael’s ready to break into a song and dance number of his own.

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Sunnydale! Any Buffy fans out there? This was cool to see – many a monster chased occurred on this part of the backlot!

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If you want to pretend the sky is blue in your movie then film in front of this.

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Now here’s a historic stage at Paramount Studios! Stage 4 was home to the Ops set from the best Star Trek show of them all - Deep Space Nine!

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And here’s an even more historic bathroom – this was Patrick Stewart’s favourite bathroom on the lot back in his TNG days apparently.

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As the tour comes to a close you get led over to the famous arched gate for the studio.

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A fun fact we learned on the tour – the Paramount logo features 22 stars which represent the original 22 actors who were contracted to the studio. Wow.

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Inside this building was one of the most fantastic looking movie theatres I’ve ever sat in. Directors often use this to test their movies out on the big screen and give staff screenings. How much I would give to see a movie in here!

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The Forest Gump bench! Apparently a few years ago Tom Hanks sat on this bench handing out chocolates to people on the studio tour. What a guy!

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Of course, like any good tour this one ends in the gift shop where you can buy copious amounts of Paramount tat!

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And that’s Paramount Studios! I’d love to do the longer tour at a time when more shows are filming and I’d certainly pay the extra to do so the next chance I get!

 

Up next – a visit to a very historic California landmark!

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On our drive from Hollywood to Anaheim I had scoped out a very historic spot for us to stop for dinner - the oldest still operating McDonald's restaurant in the world! I love McDonald's and the history of the company fascinates me so when I realised we had the opportunity to visit here I couldn't not go!

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I'm not letting history pass me by!

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Anyone looking for some old school hamburgers?

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There it is! Built in 1953 this was the third McDonald's restaurant ever built and the oldest that is still operating!

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Before Ronald McDonald, Speedee was the mascot of the company - even in the 1950s McDonald's realised that promoting the speed of their service was important.

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Michael's absolutely buzzing to be sampling a taste of California history.

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Here's the original cash registers that were used at the store 60 years ago.

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Whilst the full expanded menu is on offer here I had to order something classic - cheeseburgers, fries and a shake. That's pretty much all the original menu consisted of.

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Next to to the counter there's a little enclosed seating area that was added later.

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There's also a little museum next to it - here's how the McDonald's corporation ending up hitting it big, the milkshake mixer. When Ray Kroc sold these to the McDonald brothers in the 1950s he ended up owning the franchise rights to the company and the rest is history.

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Some old school McDonald's tat.

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Here's the original menu from 1953! Wow, this place was cheap!

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The museum also has a little section saluting Speedee. He was a creepy looking guy.

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The arches of the restaurant were designed to look just like the logo that would become infamous all over the world. Talk about foresight!

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Alright, that's dinner sorted! If you're like me and fascinated by the history of what became one of the biggest companies in the world then this is a fun place to stop by.

 

Next stop - Disneyland!

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Wow. Very cool about the McDonalds, Divv.

 

I remember, when my mom and I visited DL in....Easter 1963 (!),

we took a local bus to go to Knotts Berry Farm, from where

we stayed close to DL.

 

And I remember looking to my right, and seeing that original McDs!

I think this was just before they introduced Ronald to the world, lol.

 

Great that you got to visit the place.

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Cheers, guys! More McDonald's history to come in this TR!

 

Great TR so far. Didn't visit the other movie studios when I was out there - which I kind of regret. Looking forward to seeing more!

Next time you're in LA you absolutely should do a studio tour or two. You'd love it.

 

Nice! I'm not going to be surprised when we find out you have some way of counting fast food credits

Ummm... I think NED may have a tab to cover such stats....

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Now for one of the main highlights of the trip - Disney! Less than a year before this I made my first visit to the resort when I had a spare day on a business trip to California. Jeff Johnson was a fantastic tour guide that day, making sure I got on as much as I could and i really did hit the majority of what both parks had to offer. The only issue was that my visit feel mere days before the opening of Carsland. There were previews going on inside the land on that visit but alas I was not one of those people. I had been haunted by peaking through construction walls and seeing guests enjoying the attractions. So I was really glad that less than a year later I was going to actually visit Radiator Springs!

 

So what did I think of it? The land itself is fantastic, it just looks amazing for me I would say it looks better than Potter at Islands of Adventure and only behind the best parts of DisneySea in Tokyo (Mysterious Island!). The Radiator Springs Racers ride itself is really great too with some of the best animatronics I've ever witnessed (but still, if only it had some sort of lava monster to compete with Tokyo! Can't have everything I guess).

 

The rest of our days time here was spent park hopping where I played tour guide this time showing Michael around both parks and no doubt boring him with inane Disney Divvia.

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Seeing as this is "Divv California Adventure" I guess we better start at Disney California Adventure!

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First stop of the day at Disney California Adventure is a favourite - Tower of Terror!

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This is a wait I can live with!

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I've learned that when Soarin' is a walk-on you have no choice but to ride at that point or forego it forever.

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Okay, so it's not quite up to par with Tokyo or Florida but it's better than Paris simply by not being in Paris!

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Alright, let's get to the real fun of this visit - Carsland!

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Good thing we went straight for Fast Passes first thing this morning!

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Wow, now that looks pretty awesome!

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There's some really great attention to detail in the theming here.

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The ride itself is really great too. The racing aspect of it adds a fun dimension.

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Lightning McQueen says"'Sup Bitches?"

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Not only does Carsland have a cool signature ride it has some great signature food items too!

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Check out my Chili Cone Queso!

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The Mater whip ride is a nice side attraction in the area - nothing earth shattering but they did a good job with it.

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I loved the cool references to the Cars short films in the Mater queue.

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Outside of Carsland, Muppet-vision is still going strong which is definitely a good thing in my book! Hope it can hold on a bit longer before something else comes crashing in! Still my favourite 3D show in any park!

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The Red cars weren't running when I made my last visit, they look really cool!

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Alright, time to hop on over to Disneyland itself!

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I could have sworn there was a castle here last time...

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Here's the standard "wait board photo" to refer to when planning your next ride.

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We hit up Star Tours - I didn't do this last time because I had already been on the revamped Florida version. It's Star Tours so it's fun, the 3D and new effects have certainly improved the ride.

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Isn't he a little short for a Storm Trooper?

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Here's a new addition thanks to that Marvel purchase!

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Just chilling out with Iron Man...

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For a Marvel movie geek like me the Iron Man exhibit was really cool. The suits look great up close!

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Haunted Mansion. It's brilliant.

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Captain EO and Space Mountain - does it get any more futuristic than this??

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This was cool to see - Wreck-it Ralph style Fix-It Felix arcade machines that were made to look old school!

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Splash mountain is still doing it's thing.

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Another park hop and we re back in DCA.

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Toy Story Mania's frustrating lack of Fast Pass meant that we had to suck it up and stomach an hour or so wait.

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At least the ride is still bags of fun, we would go on to ride ti a few times on this trip but I just wish they had a damned fast Pass option like Florida does!

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California Screamin' - any ride with NPH narration is good in my book!

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I didn't appreciate it on my last visit due to all teh walls that were up around the park but it actually looks pretty decent now!

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I had heard so many great things about Carthay Circle that I made sure that we had reservations for our first night here.

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Here's some OMG Amazing Salmon.

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And some ultra tasty ravioli.

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Finished off with some incredible rhubarb and strawberry pie. Seriously, this whole meal was tremendous. I'd eat here again in a heartbeat.

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Our Dinner at Carthay Circle also meant that we got reserved spots for World of Color!

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This was a cool show and I was certainly more impressed with it than I expected. (still not quite a "Fantasmic beater" though).

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And that brings our first day at Disney to a close. There's still more from here to come though!

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The next day it was another early start as we were off to Disneyland again!

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We had another early start today so that we could get a look around Downtown Disney before the parks opened.

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This is the place in Downtown Disney I wanted to see!

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I love that they have Disney Lego models at their Downtown Disney stores. I just wish they could somehow work some more models into the parks!

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OMG. HOT. This is like porn for me.

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Super early in the morning and we saw this line of girls camping out for a gig in the evening. Turns out it was for Olly Murs. Who knew that guy had fans all the over here?

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Today was all about mopping up those rides we missed the previous day - I learned from Jeff last year that if you want to do the Submarines then you do it early!

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I guess we better such it up and get this over with...

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Roger Rabbit is an largely unheralded Disney dark ride, I feel that it does a great job of capturing the spirit of the movie.

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Michael only wishes he was pounding dogs.

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Here's another big ride that I missed by mere days last time (it was down for rehab) - Matterhorn!

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This Monte Cristo sandwich was good but man, it was heavy! I could have done with a lie down after this!

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For lunch I knocked another item off my Disneyland bucket list and arranged for us to have lunch at the Blue Bayou!

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The glowing drinks were a nice touch!

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After lunch we proceeded to sweated out our Monte Cristo comas on Jungle Cruise.

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After visiting Hong Kong Disneyland between my two Anaheim visits I was slightly disappointed by the lack of fire in this one!

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Of course, we couldn't resist another quick park hop over to Radiator Springs!

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A day later and it still looks pretty awesome!

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Oh no, a parade!

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We rode Little Mermaid. I still like it. Maybe that's a little to do with the lack of lines I always encounter at it but I think it's fun.

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This is Michael's "Why the hell are you making me ride the rapids, Divv?" face.

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Getting ready to leave but seeing as we were already wet we figured we'd stop back over at Disneyland for one more ride...

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How do you do?

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Pretty good, show us your bone!

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And that's it for Disneyland for a few days at least - we left in the evening in order to get to our next hotel, conveniently located in Valencia...

 

Yup, I'm afraid that's what's next... Six Flags Magic Mountain.

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The next park on our trip was a new one for me – Six Flags Magic Mountain. This is one of the parks that I had heard loads about over the years on TPR and having visited a decent number of Six Flags parks in my time I figured that I had my expectations set reasonably. I wasn’t expecting greatness, but wow even with my low expectations I was really underwhelmed by Magic Mountain. Actually, I really hated it. I don’t know if it was the operations, the staff, the clientele, the attractions but the place doesn’t give off a very nice vibe and the potentially positive aspects of the park seemed to have the life sucked out of them by Six Flags. And this was a reasonably quiet day that we visited...

 

We started off running with everyone to X2 and got into a reasonable position in the line and then I started to witness the wonder of Six Flags Magic Mountain staffing. Dear lord, they are slow. The ride is very similar to Dinoconda in China and I really couldn’t tell them apart all that much. It’s an okay ride that’s good mostly for sucking up the crowds.

 

We started to make our way around the rest of the coasters and the contrast to our visits in previous days to Disney and Universal couldn’t be more stark. Tatsu was a particular wonder – we got into a station with next to no line and still waited an age to get on the thing. At least it’s one of the better B&M Flyers.

 

Green Lantern is another curiosity – curious in that Six Flags somehow managed to completely mess up one of the best rides in the world! How they can take a ride that’s the exact same make, model and layout as the incredible Insane in Gronalund and turn it into such a tame kiddie-like ride beggars belief.

 

After enduring the park for about half the day we decided enough was enough – I was missing a few kiddie credits and Viper but I was so done with this place that I just decided to bag them.

 

I could go on about how much I hated this place but I’ll get on to the photos...

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Here we are at Walley World!

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Unfortunately there's no moose outside to stop us getting in.

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The first thing you have to do here is join the rest of the zombies on the run to X2.

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This was where I first got it witness the stunning ineptitude of the SFMM staff.

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The ride is on the whole very similar to the new one in China - in look and experience. It's a fun ride but clearly it's a nightmare to operate.

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Tatsu! It appeared to be a walk-on but appearances can be deceiving at Magic Mountain. It took us a while to get on this one too.

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Still, the ride is pretty good as far as B&M flyers go. Some pretty intense spots on there.

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Superman only had one side open. I'm not sure if that means I missed a credit or not by the time I left here I kind of stopped caring about the credits.

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Green Lantern - this should have been a thing of pure joy at SFMM. Something to get really excited about! Unfortunately the ride has been neutered so much that it's only a mere shadow of the incredible version in Sweden.

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As far as B&M stand ups go Riddler is certainly one of the better ones.

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As a fan of Vacation I was very excited to get a ride on the Screemy Meemy. Of course only one side was open but I guess now I should be glad that I even got to ride it at all!

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Parking lot coaster. It's even more stunning to witness this in person. Seriously, it looks awful. How much does a few bags of gravel cost?

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As B&M floorless coasters go Scream is about as cookie cutter as they get. You know what to expect from this.

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YOLOcoaster!

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Actually we were a few weeks to early for this so we didn't get to live at all. Oh well.

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Apocalypse! The best ride in the park by miles for me!

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Although it was a bit on the short side as GCIs go. Apparently the reason for that is due to the expensive sound system they fitted onto the trains. The sound system that no longer works. Nice one, Six Flags.

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Funicular Railway credit! It's a sad day when this is the attraction in the park that's getting me excited.

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The original Goliath! The ride entrance for this is pretty cool.

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There it goes. Reveling in the uniqueness of its name.

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There you go Michael. You can tell everyone about how awesome Magic Mountain was now.

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We were getting to the middle of the afternoon and we still had some kiddie coasters plus Viper to do. After this one we decided to call it quits. I was so done with this place.

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A rare photo of Michael and I. Michael's the one on the far left with the red nose.

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So that's Six Flags Magic Mountain. Despite still needing a few credits there I'm in no rush to get back.

I usually try my hardest not to be negative in trip reports but this place really was a chore to visit. Maybe I got here on a bad day or maybe it's Six Flags as a whole that have just started to get really sucky over the years. Hey, maybe it's me and I'm just really jaded by big corporate parks like Six Flags now. Who knows?

 

At least I visited so I could form my own opinion on the place. The day wasn't a total loss though - we both popped our Cheesecake Factory cherries this evening since we left early which was pretty awesome. Every cloud, eh?

 

Next up - The Deluxe Tour at Warner Bros studios!

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I know SFMM has its up days and down days, but do you think that maybe being at the DLR for 2 days before visiting may have affected the visit? I just know it's hard going from one of the best themed and well run parks in the world to SFMM the very next day.

 

I have found that when showing friends from out of town around, I like to do SFMM first, that way it 'seems' good and fun...until the visit to the DLR

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I know SFMM has its up days and down days, but do you think that maybe being at the DLR for 2 days before visiting may have affected the visit?

No. Divv knows a good and a bad run park when he sees it. He's been to China.

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I could not agree more. Had the WORST time there last spring when half the coasters weren't running due to wind. By the way, wind in SFMM terms means "we are too damn cheap and lazy to staff our rides, so we will make up any excuse not to open them."

 

The sad thing is that I went to the park in 1980 and had a great time back then. Maybe I was still in awe of Revolution and Colossus before they got neutered, trimmed to death, and restraints changed.

 

The highlight of my trip was leaving and going to In-and-Out Burger then DCA for the evening.

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My feeling for the day. F you SFMM!

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I haven't been to Magic Mountain in a few years, but I feel the same way about it that Divv does. Even back then, I felt it to be a "cold, poorly run" park, only to be outdone by Castles and Coasters with smoking ride attendants.

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Awesome report. It really does seem like a chore going to that park. I can't honestly remember the last time I was actually excited to go there. Only Six Flags could utterly destroy a park that has such potential.

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