SoCal fun: Hollywood, Ren Faire, & Disneyland parks

Two years ago, I blogged about our visit to Disneyland and California Adventure and predicted it would probably be another seven years before I visit again but we decided to cough up the dough for park hopper tickets once again, and it was fun, but my gripe about long lines is still one of my major beefs about visiting these parks. They are still using the reservation system, which leads you (falsely) to believe the park will be less crowded.

My other main issues are the ridiculous amount of money you have to pay to get in, and also the audacity of charging people extra money to take cuts in front of us poor folk, making the lines that much longer.

We finally got to do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which was extremely cool, but it broke while we were on it and had to wait 20 minutes for them to let us off. Fortunately, we were able to try it again later in the day, and I would say it is the best thing at Disneyland right now. It’s a combination of several different types of rides – the traditional Disney “dark ride,” motion simulator, a walk-through portion, and a small drop. It makes you feel like you’re in the movie, more than any other ride I have been on. I hope they figure out how to keep it from breaking. It was “temporarily closed” several times while we were there that day.

I assume the increasing price of Disneyland tickets reflects all the cool new attractions, but a lot of the time, you can’t even get on them because they’re closed, or you don’t have time because the lines are so long.

I guess I didn’t learn my lesson about park hopper tickets the last time we were there. You can’t do everything you want to do at both parks in one day. Maybe you can if you pay extra for their line-cutter passes. I wouldn’t know.

It is important that you put the (free) Disneyland app on your cell phone because you need to check it frequently to see the estimated wait times for rides and stuff like that. (You can just uninstall the app after your visit.) Also be aware that parking is $30, because apparently Disney is not making enough money from admission fees and overpriced food and drinks – and Genie and Lightning Lane and all the other ways they price-gouge those willing to pay more (whilst screwing over those of us who aren’t).

If you read my last post about the Avengers Campus at California Adventure, you know we had to wait more than four hours just to get into this new, Marvel-themed area of the park. This time, we walked right in, which was nice. Last time, we couldn’t get on the Web Slingers ride, but this time we did. It was a sort of video game/ride hybrid. It was fun, but not really what I was expecting. My daughter is more of a Spidey fan than I am and also more of a gaming type, so she was more into it than I was.

We also got to see the Guardians of the Galaxy dance-off this time, which was a little dorky, but that’s par for the course. Ha. We also got to see the Dora Milaje and Spider-Man shows again, which are short but very cool.

Costumed characters the day we were there included Black Panther, Ant-Man, Black Widow, and both captains – America and Marvel. Get in line early if you want to see the Doctor Strange show. We missed it both times we were there unfortunately, so I can’t comment on it.

My husband, daughter, and I have become somewhat obsessive Marvel fans. If you aren’t a huge fan of the franchise, you can skip California Adventure altogether, unless you have small children. Last time we were there, we only had time for the Avengers Campus, but this time we went on the Cars-themed Radiator Springs Racers, one of the park’s most popular rides. The line was super long, but it was fun.

I keep saying I’ve had enough Disneyland, but I’m a sucker. I say I won’t be going back anytime soon but … we’ll see.

The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale

We visited the Renaissance faire again this year, and it was fun. We love to go in costume, and also look at everyone else’s costumes – the employees’ and visitors’ costumes are always impressive. We didn’t attend the joust this time, but I would definitely recommend it if you go next year. Also, it’s usually hot, so I also recommend bringing an umbrella. I brought a paper parasol that I purchased there a few years back, and it helps when you’re not in the shade. My complaints from last year stand: The bird show has still not returned (maybe it’s gone for good, I don’t know); there aren’t as many bands playing on the stages; and it’s a bit of a hassle to get into the parking lot.


We went to a show in Hollywood recently, so we made a point of checking out the new Carrie Fisher plaque that was unveiled a few weeks ago (May the Fourth!) at TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s). That area is a bit annoying and touristy but it’s worth a visit if you’ve never been there, if only to cross it off your bucket list. Parking was $30 here too, in the lot we chose. It’s pricey, but if it’s nighttime when your show gets out, it’s nice to not have a long walk past dark alleys, which can be anxiety-inducing.

I feel very fortunate to live in Southern California. I don’t live in Los Angeles, but I’m about an hour or so away, depending on traffic, so there are lots of fun things to see and do. What cool sci-fi things are there to do in your hometown? Comment below or visit me on my Facebook page!

Tune in next time when I will return to my usual programming: reviewing my favorite TV series and movies! Until then:

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Avengers Campus is cool but not 4.5-hour-wait cool

My daughter loves the Marvel movies. She has seen all of them multiple times, and has watched the “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” series multiple times too. When I found out the Avengers Campus at California Adventure would open during Disney’s limited capacity and California resident only rules, I (foolishly) believed it would be a good time to go, before all the crowds show up on June 15. Well, as you can tell by the headline, we had to wait more than four hours in a standby line just to enter the new “land” at California Adventure, and even though it was pretty cool, it was decidedly not worth waiting in line for four and a half hours.

Because we bought park hopper tickets, we left the park to switch over to Disneyland after we were done at Avengers Campus, so we didn’t have time to see anything else at California Adventure. Having bitched about that, I will say that the Avengers Campus was the reason we went to California Adventure, and we got to see what we came to see so I shouldn’t complain. (But that hasn’t ever stopped me before.)

There is another way to get into the Avengers Campus more quickly – be one of the lucky few to acquire boarding passes for the new Spider-Man ride, “Web Slingers.” You can get those boarding passes only through the Disneyland app, and you have to have the “fastest finger” – I logged on and was poised to hit the JOIN button at 7 a.m. and noon (the only times you can get passes) and the slots were full within seconds. So we didn’t get to bypass the line, and of course we didn’t get to try the Web Slingers ride either.

Once we made it in, we got in line for the Campus’ other main attraction, the “Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!” This attraction opened in 2017, replacing the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Because of social distancing rules, the line was outdoors. I think the coolest part of this ride is actually the “museum” indoors, but we sort of had to run through that part. I took a couple photos; among other artifacts, we recognized the astronaut dog in Tivan’s collection from the film. The ride itself is not a roller coaster – instead, it repeatedly drops you 130 feet at 39 mph. (The GotG ride is the tall building behind the Quinjet in the top photo.)

We were looking forward to having lunch at the Pym Test Kitchen but sadly, the mobile ordering for the new restaurant was unavailable by the time we entered the Campus. (It looked really cool though and I was happy to see a lot of vegetarian selections on their menu.) There is also a bar, a shawarma kiosk, and a dessert kiosk, where my daughter had a green churro – I mean a “Sweet Spiral Ration.” (I have celiac, so no Terran Treats for me, but she said it was good.)

We loved the gift shop next to the Guardians ride. They had some great GotG merch and we did make a few purchases there since the Guardians are our favorite. They even play the GotG soundtracks in there which made it that much more fun.

The other gift shops were just OK – the Spider-Man themed gift shop, Web Suppliers, was very small and only sold Spidey stuff, and there was also a kiosk that sold miscellaneous Avengers stuff. I see a fourth Avengers gift shop listed online but we didn’t see it. (I guess it’s possible that we missed it. Somehow?)

We spent just under two hours inside the campus, and saw several costumed characters but did not stand in line to be photographed with them. (We were done with lines by then.) The characters we saw were Loki, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Black Panther, Thor, Ant Man and the Wasp, Doctor Strange (more on that in a minute), and three Dora Milaje who put on a show. That was pretty cool.

Spider-Man also does acrobatics on the rooftops (the one that flies through the air is an animatronic Spidey), and there’s a Black Widow and Black Panther stunt show but we didn’t see that. We also did not see the “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance-Off!” I guess the Guardians had the day off when we were there because we didn’t see any.

So there’s another cool area inside the campus called the Ancient Sanctum and I didn’t realize that Doctor Strange would be performing a show there or we would have lingered a bit longer. By the time we caught a glimpse of him, the small area was already packed with people – but they don’t tell you when the next show will be and we didn’t stay long enough to find out.

We went to the park on Monday, June 7, so it’s possible that by the time you read this, they will have a different (hopefully better) method of letting visitors into the campus. I naively assumed we would be able to get in after a short wait even though we didn’t get a boarding pass, because we arrived about an hour early to the park. But a lot of people arrived even earlier. Live and learn.

By the way, we brought my sister and nephew, who aren’t Marvel-obsessed like us, so they opted to forgo the Avengers wait and instead enjoy California Adventure’s other offerings. You would think that because so many were there for Avengers, the rest of the park would be a breeze – especially as the Disney parks were (supposedly) at limited capacity – but they waited in line for 45 minutes to get hot dogs, only to be told they had run out of hot dogs. So it wasnt exactly smooth sailing in the rest of the park.

Also worth noting is that due to social distancing rules, there were no trams running to and from the parking lot, and the parades were cancelled.

My recommendation for Avengers Campus is to go after the crowds have died down a little, and also check it out in the evening if you can – the pictures I’ve seen of the Campus all lit up at night look really awesome.

Galaxy’s Edge

The Star Wars themed land at Disneyland opened in 2019 but we had not seen it yet because our last visit to Disneyland was seven years ago. Galaxy’s Edge is larger than the Avengers Campus – 14 acres to Avengers’ six – and the fact that we did not have to wait in a long line to see Galaxy’s Edge automatically made it that much better. Ha!

Because the same system for the Web Slingers ride is in place for the Rise of the Resistance ride, we didn’t get to go on that either. Boo. But we did go on the Millennium Falcon ride (which is more or less the same attraction as Star Tours – a nausea-inducing motion ride). The area also has costumed characters. We saw a Rey, a Kylo Ren, and some stormtroopers. The shops are very cute and I definitely got the feeling I had been transported to a galaxy far, far away.

For me, costliness and crowds are deterrents to more regular visits to the Magic Kingdom, and it may be another seven years before we return. But the weather was nice (I don’t love the heat so overcast is what I deem nice), the company was good, and it was a pleasant enough diversion on a summer day in Southern California.

See more photos on my Facebook page! All photos by EarthToShawna

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