Thursday, January 19, 2017

Southern California Vacation

Dallin and I recently got back from a week in Southern California and we had such a blast!  It was a great time to visit and we did a ton of fun things.  I’m thinking of dividing this post up into a few different sections:  what we DID, what we ATE, and Disney Tips.  I searched the internet, books and any LA, Disneyland, and even San Diego advice and recommendations so we could maximize our time and money while we were there.  I hate passing up a good deal!  I found some great recommendations and discovered some of our own tips too.

To note-we are 2 adults and tried to pack in the most we could in our vacation.  These tips could change for people with children or if your preferences are different.  I want to share what worked (and what didn't) for us!

Our Itinerary

Travel Day/Arrival Day

We flew into LA and went to Tito's Tacos in LA for lunch (it was just ok), settled into our hotel and walked to Downtown Disney.  Next time I'd love to go to the Morphe Store while in the LA area.


Our first day we went to Disney’s California Adventure. I am seriously so surprised at how much I enjoyed this park!  It has changed so much since I’ve been there!  With the addition of Cars Land and some new rides it was one of our favorite days of our vacation.  
  • Make sure to get Radiator Springs Fast Passes right when the park opens!  They will run out by mid morning!  The stand by line is ridiculous so make sure to get a Fast Pass for this one. 

  • Spend some time in Cars Land, it seriously feels like you are walking in the movie Cars.  The attention to detail is amazing!

  • Get a free sample of bread at The Bakery Tour-Boudin Bakery and right across the street get a free sample of chocolate at Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop at Pacific Wharf.

  • Watch it's Tough to Be a Bug!, Frozen Live at the Hyperion, Crush Talk and World of Color (get Fast Pass at the beginning of day, this Fast Pass wont be counted as a ride pass so keep collecting them.)

  • Must go on Rides:  Toy Story Mania (So much better then Buzz in Disneyland.), California Screamin', Radiator Springs (with Fast Pass), The Little Mermaid-Ariel's Undersea Adventure,  Monster, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! 

  • Must eat at: Cove Bar and Cozy Cone Motels

Disneyland Day 1

The next day was Disneyland!  We had a Magic Morning (extra hour before the park opens to the public for guests with 3 day passes or if staying at a Disney Resort) so we arrived really early!  This was our best day at Disneyland because we got done with everything around noon.  Seriously, we rode all the rides we wanted to ride, had tons of snack breaks and still had so much of our day left!
  • Visit Star Wars Launch Bar
  • Always have a Fast Pass!  Stay on top of times you can get a new Fast Pass and collect them so you can maximize your time at the park.
  • Check my Disney Tips for more tricks that worked for us.
  • Disney out does themselves during the holidays.  The lights and decorations at Disney make it even more magical!
  • If you're close to Fantasyland/Tomorrowland and want a quaint place to relax or eat go behind Edelweiss Snacks for a perfect view of "It's a Small World." 
  • Check out the shops in Toontown, they have unique souvenirs including board games! 
  • Must go on rides:  Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at night (it's TOTALLY different at night), "It's a Small World" (for the holidays this ride is transformed on the inside and out!), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan's Flight (ride as soon as the park opens), Pirates of the Caribbean, Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Must eat at:  Blue Bayou, Pooh's Corner, Jolly Holiday Bakery Café, Stage Door Café and Mint Julep Bar

Universal Studios

We could not wait to check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Sadly beyond the Butterbeer, scenery, and the Three Broomsticks it was kind of disappointing.  Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey could have been cool if it didn't keep stopping every few seconds and the only other ride, Flight of the Hippogriff is really just for kids. The buildings and details were really impressing though! 

Besides the kind of disappointing Harry Potter world, the rest of Universal pleasantly surprised me!  Like Downtown Disney, Universal has CityWalk leading up to their theme park.  This is one thing I like way more then the Disney version.  With so many different shops and fairly reasonable places to eat it was easy to spend a little longer there!  This park can be done in a day, but make sure to schedule out all shows so you can ride all of the rides wanted in between show times.
  • Schedule out show times at the starting of the day so you can see all that you want!
  • Watch Shrek 4D
  • Stroll through CityWalk-Don't miss IT'SUGAR the biggest most amazing candy store!
  • Must go on rides:  Jurassic Park-The Ride, Transformers:  The Ride-3D, Studio Tour, Despicable Me:  Minion Mayhem
  • Must eat at:  The Three Broomsticks, Butterbeer at any cart in Hogsmeade, and Lard Lad Donuts

Rest Day/Downtown Disney

This day we wanted to chill out and relax.  We slept in and went to Downtown Disney for a movie and more window shopping.  We saw Fantastic Beasts at the movie theater there. 
  • Favorite stores there:  WonderGround Gallery and Marceline's Confectionery.  The art at WonderGround Gallery is our absolute favorite, they have so many unique pieces and every time we went they had new ones out!  Marceline's treats are delicious, we especially loved watching the candy makers at work in the big windows!  The Lego store and World of Disney are also a can't miss shop!
  • Must eat:  treats at Marceline's Confectionery and churro sandwich at churro cart

San Diego

We headed to San Diego for the day to go to the San Diego Zoo.  While we were there we decided to do a few other things in San Diego too.
  • San Diego Zoo:  Take the bus tour as soon as you get there to see what you'd like to see while you are there.  We loved how active the animals were it made it so fun!  There were also loads of different animals we had never seen at other zoos. Our Favorites:  elephants, pandas, hippos, and the reptiles!
  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill:  Only about 15 or so minutes away from the zoo this place is a must.  I don't even like sea food and they made me like it!  Best clam chowder I've ever had! 
  • The Donut Bar:  We actually missed this one, but boy I wanted to go!! If  you know me you know I'm a donut gal through and through.  Sadly we missed their opening/closing times so make sure to check their hours and schedule it out before you go!

Disneyland Day 2

We slept in only 30 minutes this day and it changed our WHOLE day!  We had to wait to get through security and wait to get in to the park.  That is how the rest of our day went too.  Lots of lines and waiting.  We made sure we saw and did everything that we really wanted to and we were so thankful our first day at Disneyland we got through so much!
  • Make sure to stay for the firework show at least once. We went the last week of November so everything was decked out for Christmas and at the end there was even fake snow on Main Street.  It made it so magical!
  • If you have a second day at the park save this for your shopping day.  We scoped out what we wanted for our few souvenirs to be on our first day and this day we got our absolute favorites. 
  • Grab some Ice Cream at Gibson Girl on Main Street before watching the firework show.
  • Repeat all your favorite rides!
 Travel Day/Fly Home

We flew out through LAX so we made sure we had ample time to get everything packed, check out, travel, and return our rental car before we had to be at the airport. 

We had so much fun.  I'm wishing I could go back next week! ;)  Let me know if you have any other travel tips or recommendations for this area I know we'll be back someday!

If you'd like to know what we ATE while we were there you can go HERE!
I'll be posting more Disney Tips soon!

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