As a child, my parents would get my brother and I season pases to Disneyland for Christmas. As we got older, my parents used season passes as an incentive: get good grades, behave yourself, or you don’t get one. As we moved into our late teens, Disneyland passes lost their appeal, and when college came, I left the state for four years. For well over ten years, I didn’t have a pass.
All that changed during the summer, when my boy and I, in a fit of childhood nostalgia, got ourselves a pair. Since then, we go all the time. We finally ate at Blue Bayou, the restaurant inside the Pirates ride. However, there were still two things that needed doing: we still needed to experience the Nemo Submarine ride and we wanted to see the Halloween changes.
I didn’t want to risk taxing your Disney-tolerance threshold; I felt it would be best to make one Super Post of Awesome once my itinerary was complete.
First off, Blue Bayou. Like almost every single person in the universe who has ridden Pirates of the Carribean, I have always wanted to eat at the restaurant overlooking the beginning of the ride. The ambiance in the restaurant is quite pleasant, even while the old guy in the rocking chair and the banjo music always seems to creep me out.
We started our meal with the crab cake appetizers which were delicious, but not extraordinary. To drink I had a mint julep (non-alcoholic). The waitress kindly informed me that a company in Irvine makes the beverage specifically for Disneyland. I wish I could buy it by the case. My boy had “Pirate Punch,” a more juvenile drink assuredly, but incredibly delicious. It even came with a sippy cup and a straw that changes color like a Hypercolor t-shirt. As a bonus (!), you could choose between a light-up Tinkerbell or Captain Hook clip-on toy thing-y. The picture will tell you which one we got.
The Pepper Steak was moist and tender, comparable to most steak-houses. It came with these potatoes which were indescribably good. After the main course, we considered dessert, but we were too full to have any Crème Brûlée.
Overall, I have to tell you: You Must Do This. All told, we spent around $100 for dinner for two. It is worth the experience alone. Reservations are (obviously) recommended, practically required. If you want a table right on the waterfront, you might want to book a few weeks in advance and if you just want a whatever table, then a few days will do. Be mindful of holidays as the spots fill up quick.
While other sites have already blogged extensively about the Halloween theme, it is worth repeating here that over in Frontierland, by the Mexican restaurant near Big Thunder Railroad, Disney set up a Dia de los Muertos display, complete with papel picado and skeletal mariachis. As far as I knew, The Three Caballeros was as brown as the mouse got.
The highlight for me was seeing the changes to the Haunted Mansion. You may remember a few years ago, Disney added more to the back story about the “bride” in the Haunted Mansion to align itself to the Eddie Murphy movie’s plot. While the movie is a pretty shitty standard to align itself to, the changes to the Haunted Mansion weren’t obscene, and I don’t recall any die-hard Disney-philes complaining. Now, for Halloween, they have changed the entire ride to match up to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I won’t spoil it for you by supplying the minutiæ. All I’ll say is that I’ll be kind of sad when Disney changes it back to normal.
This is not the case with the Nemo Submarine. Since we went on a Wednesday, we did not have to stand in the ridiculously-4-to-5-hour-long line. It was our last ride of the day and hopped into the Nautilus within 20 minutes. My anticipation was at a peak: the Submarines were my favorite as a child. I loved the peepholes, the spiral stairs, the bubbles, the mermaids, the north pole, the ruins of Atlantis. It felt so real–in a way that sharply contrasted everything else in Disneyland, which felt so fantastical. Even as a child, I could never suspend disbelief on the Dumbo ride. I had fun, don’t get me wrong: but I knew it could never happen. Mission to Mars and the Subs were perfect precisely because you could believe it happening. I fell for it, each time.
As the ride began, I saw the flauxra and fauxna in the Imagineered harbor, and I still believed it. Once we started “diving” my wide-eyed expectations diminished, eventually sank quite low, and finally I felt like demanding a refund for the 20 minutes I lost in line. I kept thinking, “By now, I could have instead gone on Space Mountain. Twice.” All the educational wonder of the ride has been excised. Projections in the water were given to me in exchange, and I hated it. I might as well have just watched Finding Nemo, as the plot was more or less the same, but not as entertaining. If Disneyland at it’s best gives us back childhood wonder and awe, then at this moment, it brought out in me the worst of childhood: I was a bratty kid throwing a tantrum. I felt like crying and yelling and punching someone.
I got kinda pouty and only cheered up as we walked back to Main Street, with its Penny Arcade and Lincoln Theatre and Mickey Pumpkin. I looked above the fire station, to the light in Walt’s apartment. This made me sad all over again. Walt Disney once said, “I love the nostalgic myself. I hope we never lose some of the things of the past.” I wonder if he would feel like crying after exiting the Submarines, too.