Sunday, January 31, 2016

Disneyland Recap: Saturday

In my last post you read about my crazy-early Saturday morning. Now we take a look at that brief time that I was awake and in the parks for the rest of the day. Spoiler alert: I was in bed by 6:30.


Yes that isn't a typo.

Anyway, the only things I had with me after my race were my phone and my park ticket (and my medal), but that was all I needed. The only thing I wanted to do at California Adventure was do Radiator Springs Racers right at park opening, because even though the ride has been around for over 3 years, it is still the most popular ride in the park. If I didn't get on it at the opening, I would be waiting for over an hour.

(FYI: I never wait in a line for an hour.)

I got to the entrance at 8:20, and saw a very different group of people waiting for the park to open than yesterday's group. It didn't take me long to realize why: this was the day for the Locals. Those lucky Southern California folks who just decide to wake up and drive to Disneyland for the day. Because they can. And they don't come in their yoga pants and walking shoes and tops-meant-for-exercise-but-rarely-used-that-way. No, these people come in their most stylish clothing, making someone who is still recovering from a 10K race look pretty ridiculous.

But there were a couple of us, so I didn't feel that ridiculous.

Buena Vista Street opened at 8:30, and I gathered in the group that would be heading down to Radiator Springs Racers once the rest of the park opened. We all stood there in a group, with most of the Locals checking their phones and chatting with their friends like this was another trip to the mall. I did talk to a man who was with his family from New Zealand for a bit; he was curious about my medal and why I was dressed like I'd been out for a run. I gladly informed him of the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend that he was going to have to deal with for the next few days!

Finally, we all headed down the street, and turned the corner into Cars Land. The cast members told us to stay off the sidewalks and just proceed down the middle of the road, but some people just had to get in front and didn't listen. The whole reasoning was that people don't realize the step and trip, and I get that. It was amusing to see people do it anyway.

The queue for Radiator Springs Racers is long, so I spent a good 5 minutes just winding along the switchbacks with the rest of the crowd. I wasn't waiting; it was all walking! I didn't have to wait until I got to the final section that takes guests up the ramp to their cars.

I gotta say, I'd been told that this was a great attraction, and I can confirm that this is a great attraction. It has dark ride elements mixed with top speed thrills, and it's all done so well! If you've ever seen Cars, you know how the cars talk: their bumpers move as their lips. Well, the audio-animatronics that they have do the exact same thing. It's like the characters really are in front of you and talking to you! I was enthralled by that genius bit of engineering.

There are two tracks at one point, and in the two rides I took in a row, I managed to see both of them. The idea is that the gang from Radiator Springs are helping you get your car ready for a race. One car sees Luigi and his tires, and the other car goes the other way and sees Ramone and his paint job. Then those two cars race each other outside, and the winner is random. Lucky for me, I won both times, too!

So I did the regular line and then immediately got back and did the single rider line, which was a small line compared to the giant line that had formed for regular riders. But once I did those two, I knew I had to get back to the hotel and change!

I relaxed in the hotel for just a little bit as I showered, charged my phone, and put my feet up for a bit. I wasn't in a rush; out of all the days at the parks, this one needed to be the least stressful and hurried. I didn't go back to California Adventure until 11:00 when I decided it was time for lunch.

First, the music group Five and Dime were performing on Buena Vista Street, so I stopped and caught almost their whole act. It was a lot of fun to watch, and they all play their own instruments!

My choice for lunch was the Cozy Cone Motel, which actually isn't a motel, but different food counters, each with a cone theme. One is desserts, one is snacks, one is entrees, and there's a few more, too. The longest line was, naturally, the one I wanted. There were three choices that all sounded appetizing: the Chicken Verde, the BBQ pulled pork and coleslaw, and the - get this - Chili CONE Queso. (Get it?) I spent the entire line going back and forth between these three, until I finally got to the front and ordered the Chicken Verde. It was served in a cone, but not a dessert-style waffle cone, but a nice, hard bread cone that held everything in without getting soggy.

I actually ate it at the outdoor seating of Flo's V8 Cafe as I listened to the great soundtrack of Radiator Springs (50s and 60s pop and Motown) and watched the meet-and-greet happening across the street. They had Lightning McQueen, Mater, and the fire truck guy take turns, but when they were coming and going, they would drive down the main street like they were just doing it on a normal day! (This area is really well done. Mad props.)

After my meal I was in need of some dessert. Nearby was the Ghirardelli soda shop, and I splurged on the Nob Hill Chill, which ice cream and hot fudge blended with chocolate chips. I gotta say, this was probably the only thing I regretted buying during my trip. It was just...meh. I was expecting more from Ghirardelli.

I wandered with my drink and found my favorite place in the park: the very bottom of the viewing area for World of Color, which during the day is left completely empty. People were so interested in getting to rides that no one was just sitting around. So I sat down and enjoyed the view from the other side of the pier! I also called my little brother on Facetime, so I could share with him my awesome view.

I got a Fastpass for the California Screamin' roller coaster, which said I just had to wait 30 minutes before I could go on. So I sat on a bench at Paradise Pier right by the start of the coaster, which meant every 45 seconds or so people would go screaming by at 50 miles per hour. (I was all right with that.)

That ride was great, too, but it only made me want to go to Cedar Point to ride more roller coasters.

The other really popular attraction is Toy Story Midway Mania, but since I've been on that so many times in Orlando, I saved myself some time and opted out. Instead, I headed back to Buena Vista Street and finally ventured down to Hollywood Land. After determining the line for the Monsters, Inc. ride was too long, I went across the street and did the Animation Academy instead. This is probably my all-time favorite attraction, and I am truly bummed that it no longer exists in Orlando. We drew Tigger, and I was very glad to do a character I hadn't done yet. My Tigger wasn't half bad!

This would have also been the point where I would have finally seen the Aladdin stage show that had been there since the park first opened, but the show had just closed LESS THAN A WEEK AGO. Out of all the attractions that were closed at Disneyland, this one was the one that made me upset. I'd heard so much about how great it was, but I didn't get a chance to see it!

There was another musical show that comes down to Buena Vista Street, alternating with Five and Dime, and they're called the Red Trolley Newsboys. They're supposed to be from the same time period as when Walt Disney first came to California (1923) and are conveniently selling papers, just like that really popular Disney Broadway musical, Newsies! Their act is fun, but after seeing Newsies in person less than a month ago, I wasn't as impressed by these guys. However, Mickey Mouse does come into the show dressed up as a newsboy, and that was fun to watch!

I also got my very first ride on the Red Car Trolley, and it was very nice and relaxing. There were two cast members on the trolley: one to drive, and one to give a nice little narration about Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land.

I hadn't made it a priority to check out Grizzly Peak, since the Soarin' attraction is closed for refurbishment and the other major attraction there is Grizzly River Rapids, a water ride. But I did take a walk through there and really liked the ambiance of the land.

The other attraction I really wanted to do today was Mickey's Fun Wheel. I can't help it - I'm a sucker for Ferris wheels. They have two options - one where you stay put and just go around, and another where you actually let gravity take you on a little trip, and you do a lot of swinging. That clearly did not appeal to me, so I just chose the normal wheel.

The queue for the ride was rather long, but luckily my sister was available to do a FaceTime chat with her, my brother-in-law, and my niece! That made the wait go much faster. I even got to take them on the ride with me, and the Fun Wheel offered great views of California Adventure and Disneyland!

My final objective for the day was dinner at the Pacific Wharf. I chose the kids' meal of chicken and rice, with milk and a fortune cookie. Instead of eating it in the giant eating area that is next to the counter service restaurant, I took it over to my favorite spot at Paradise Pier. There were still no people around, and I watched the sun set behind the roller coaster as I ate my dinner.

As I ate, a couple came over with two photographers and were taking their engagement pictures. They were being very artsy, and it was fun to witness. (I tried not to gawk too much, but it was cool watching the photographers do their work.)

My dinner was done, and so was my day. I headed towards the exit, but did catch a picture with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit first! It was a nice way to wrap up the day.

I was in bed by 6:30, but had to use three different noise diffusers to help keep out the external noise. (It was fun hearing the Disneyland fireworks, though.) Eventually I made it to sleep, and I woke up to my most challenging running day yet: the day of the Star Wars Half Marathon.

Click here to view my article on the Star Wars Half Marathon!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Disneyland Recap: 10K Race

Click here to view my recap of the previous day in Disneyland!

Races are a peculiar thing. Since running is so popular these days, races are required to shut down city streets so that thousands of people can take advantage of the wide lanes. To avoid disrupting city businesses too much, races start early in the day - sometimes even before the sun comes up.

That's why my wake-up call was at 3:00am on Saturday morning. I have the ability to march myself right out of bed without too much hassle, and this day gave me even more incentive to wake up.

I had laid out my race clothes (with my bib already pinned) the night before, and made sure my contacts got plenty of time to soak. I had purchased cheap, old workout pants and sweatshirts that I could easily shed once I started running. (They donate clothes left behind to charity.)I had packed bread and Jif To Go packets in my suitcase, and munched on a slice as I headed to the course. I wasn't even alone as I headed to the start; as soon as I left the hotel premises, I encountered several people dressed up in Star Wars outfits and running shoes, and knew I was with the right people.

I had to walk all the way across Disney property to get to the starting area, which meant crossing a completely empty Disneyland esplanade. After seeing it so busy the day before, it was strange to see it so quiet. There were quite a few security personnel around (as a matter of fact, I saw a large amount of security and police during my entire weekend at Disneyland. I wasn't intimidated; it made me feel safe.

When I made it to the gathering area, I was surprised to see how few people were there. According to the runDisney race booklet, runners were expected to be gathered by 4:00. Apparently this is not required - just recommended. However, my incredibly early arrival meant that I was able to do a photo-op with two First Order stormtroopers with no line. There were six stormtroopers around, and as the morning progressed the lines got longer, so I was glad I got there early. The cool thing was they had things they said. As I took a picture for someone else, one of them told me, "Proceed." There were other things they said - mostly about ratting out Resistance members and helping the First Order. (It was amazing.)

There was a stage with a few small sets of bleachers, and a DJ was playing (tacky) music to get everyone going. I made sure to use the bathroom as many times as I could to make sure I didn't have to go during the race; at this area there were two loooong lines of porta-johns. (This was far better than the Broncos 7K, where there were porta-potties everywhere, but most of them were locked!)

The DJ did manage to get the runners out in front to dance along to the "Cupid Shuffle." (Yes, I did, too. What can I say? I adore Participation Dances!) He also played trailers and teasers from The Force Awakens and Star Wars Rebels and video clips from the other six movies. Unfortunately there wasn't anything from The Force Awakens beyond what the trailers and teasers showed. I would have loved to have gotten even more video montages, but I guess that wasn't the case. They didn't even have any music from its soundtrack on the course! Bummer.

This was our chance to see the race announcers, Carissa and Rudy, as well as several other announcers that would cheer us on from the course. (One of them was in the Paradise Pier area of California Adventure later; he and his fellow cheerers claimed to be "Finn's cousins.")

Eventually they told us to get to our respective corrals, which led us down the street to Disneyland Drive. Corral A was right up against the start line, where a giant screen loomed overhead and speakers blasted Star Wars music. I was surprised to see how big these corrals were! They had giant balloons overhead to signify where the corral entrances were; I couldn't even see the entrance to E from the start line.

They call them corrals for a reason; everyone is herded in the same direction into fenced-in areas, just like cattle. Were we being led to the slaughter? Only time would tell.

I finally made it to Corral E (the final corral) which was past the Grand Californian Hotel to the left and the Paradise Pier Hotel to the right. There weren't speakers here, for which I'm sure the hotel patrons were very thankful. It made things a little quieter here. The corral was about half full when I got in there, so I found a curb and sat myself down. For a race, they sure make you do a lot of walking beforehand!

We waited back there for quite a while, and I started talking to a lady nearby who participates in these events with her daughter. Her children are educators, so we had something in common that we could talk about!

We overheard the National Anthem being played from a large distance away, but we all quieted down anyway. And then...we waited. We stayed in Corral E for a pretty long time after the song, because they all the other corrals make their way down to at least the B entrance before we got to start walking.

I started my race around 6:00, with Rudy giving Corral E its own "GO!" before we set out. It was hard to really start because we were all pretty cramped together, and there were quite a few people in Corral E that were walking this thing. I was doing a 1-minute jog and 1-minute walk, so I had to get past the walkers before really getting in my rhythm.

Of course, there were also the people who were doing the same kind of interval running as I was. Some were doing the exact opposite intervals of me, so they'd pass me while I walked, and then I passed them while they walked! I got to know several people very well because we were always alternating with each other.

The first leg took us down Disneyland Drive to Ball Road, a pretty busy area on a normal day. We came up and then off an entrance ramp to Ball Road, and the turns got pretty tight. After a brief run on Ball Road, past a few supporters waiting at a bus stop, we hit the backstage area of Disneyland.

This was quite a long stretch through those back alleyways, but there were some fun areas. The Mandalorian symbol and a picture of Yoda was shone onto a building, and Boba Fett was available here for pictures. (Just a note: I didn't take any pictures with characters or set pieces, because I was so far in the back. The lines were way too long by the time I showed up. There was Chewie, Sabine and Ezra from Rebels, R2-D2, and BB-8!) There were also a banner from the Disneyland Third Shift crew supporting us as we ran past, and the crew was on hand to cheer us as we passed.

Eventually we appeared at the Esplanade, in order to make our grand entrance into Disneyland itself. We were in Town Square for, oh, thirty seconds, but were veered off before we could head down Main Street U.S.A. A little more time backstage, and we emerged at the back of Tomorrowland, near Hyperspace Mountain. This was the best time to go through Tomorrowland, that's for sure; everyone was going in the same direction!

We turned towards the Hub, and as we passed the Astro Orbiter they actually had the attraction up and running! Actually, many of the outdoor attractions in Disneyland were going as we ran past. It made everything a lot more fun to see.

We took a right at the Hub and went right through Sleeping Beauty's Castle - over the moat and everything! Since this area had been closed down yesterday due to the concert, this was my first chance to walk through this iconic entrance - and over a real moat with a drawbridge that actually works!

Fantasyland was beautiful, especially with all the lighting and working attractions. We took a right and headed straight for the back of the park, where the entrance to Toontown was shut, but it's a small world was lit up and HUGE! I'm used to that attraction being inside a building, but the facade is all outdoors in Disneyland, and they light every last corner of it! It's actually still decorated for the Christmas season, which at this point in the year was a bit odd. (They kept it that way the whole weekend, too!)

We took the path that used to take people past the Big Thunder Ranch...but now Big Thunder Ranch has been closed for good (to make way for Star Wars Land, so I'm not complaining) so this area is usually closed. I'd heard so much about Big Thunder Ranch lately because it had just closed down a few days earlier, and a few people on Twitter and some podcasters I listen to were making a big deal about it.

That jaunt took us to the back of Frontierland, and I got one of my best views of the runners ahead of me at this point. They were zigzagging around the Rivers of America and heading up New Orleans Square. I made sure to get a shot of it. If I wasn't running, I would have picked that spot to watch the runners!

As I ran past Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I noticed something. The sky was beginning to lighten! If I timed it right, I could get some very pretty pictures of Disneyland or California Adventure at sunrise.

I myself made that zigzag path down the Rivers of America and up New Orleans Square. We took this path to get to Adventureland, meaning we hit six of the eight major lands of Disneyland on this run. Finally, we emerged at the Hub and made our way down Main Street U.S.A.

The white fences were lined up in the Esplanade as we crossed over from Disneyland to California Adventure, and it was lined with spectators and supporters cheering us on. And - finally, after fifteen years of waiting - I finally entered the Disney California Adventure theme park!

The first leg was down Buena Vista Street, which ends at the Carthay Circle Theater (which premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs back in the day, I found out) and loops left to Hollywood Street. This was all very fascinating, since I have never really understood the footprint of the park before. But before I could really let it all sink in, we were back out of the park, running around one of the bus entrances to the parks.

This bus entrance was probably the widest running path that the runners had all day. I was personally glad for it. There were quite a few spots - going from backstage to the park itself - where the entrance was the size of a double door, and everyone had to slow down to a walk (even if my timer was telling me to run). There were some areas backstage where they just had cones to prevent runners from running on the other side, but there were so many runners that people were just crossing over. I passed a cast member when we were going through a tunnel who had her Exasperated Teacher Voice on, yelling, "Guys, please stay to the right!" (We didn't run through this tunnel the next day, thank goodness.)

I also encountered my first vomiting runner at this point. He found a nice patch of bushes to run over to before throwing up, and we were all thankful for that.

Our backstage loop took us around until we entered the park at the very back...right into Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers. The sky was much brighter at this point, and even though I didn't get to see the sun hitting off the fake rock of Radiator Springs, it was still quite the sight to see.

Outside of Radiator Springs (I don't like to call it Cars Land) we turned left, and I immediately found my favorite part of California Adventure: Paradise Pier. We turned to the large lagoon, and the fountains from World of Color were shooting up into the sky, and we saw the beautiful view of the coaster and Ferris wheel. I would have sat there for hours watching that view, but we'd just passed mile 5 and only had one mile to go!

We went around the Pier, passing by all the boardwalk activities and games as the Star Wars music blared from the speakers. The loop wasn't that big, but it was still fun to listen to. I made sure to pause my iPhone music so I could listen to that instead.

Finally, we ran through Grizzly Peak and out a side entrance to the park, landing us right in Downtown Disney for our home stretch. The white fences were back, and so were many, many more spectators as we could sense that this was almost done!

The white fences funneled us all to the Finish line, where Carissa was welcoming people. As we passed a sensor, our names would appear on our screen, so she would actually call out names. And sure enough, she said my name as I made it to the Finish!

After the race, we still have to keep moving. (More walking! Who knew?) We made our way down more white fences to where volunteers were slipping medals over the necks of the finishers. (I know they do that for every race, but it seemed fitting for a Throne Room-style award ceremony a la A New Hope.) Then we turned a corner and a Mylar blanket to help us stay warm (sweat from a run combined with even a light breeze makes people cold - this thing really worked!). We also
received water or a Powerade. Then we turned again and there was a large tent with snackboxes and bananas. Finally, we could choose to have a picture taken with a backdrop of the 10K banner, or just go to the Friends and Family Reunion Area (which was the same place we'd started back at 4:00!). I didn't need the picture, so I headed to that old parking lot.

I'd finished the race in 1 hour, 32 minutes, and by the time I'd made it back there were quite a few people milling about, but it wasn't crowded. I found a spot in the bleachers to eat some of my snacks. The Goldfish crackers were especially welcome!

Since I wasn't meeting anyone, I checked the time and decided to forego the shower for a little bit and head back to California Adventure to see it as a tourist instead of a runner. But before I make this post any longer, I'll recap that adventure for a future post!

View Next Article: Saturday Disneyland Recap
My Rey hairstyle!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Disneyland Recap: Friday

Click here to view my recap of the previous day's Disney fun!

My wake-up call at 7:00 was one of the latest wake-up calls I had during the weekend! My hotel's continental breakfast was great - it was a large breakfast space with lots of seating, and they had all the necessary breakfast items: eggs, potatoes, oatmeal, pancakes, cereal, fruit, danishes, and DONUTS! (Lots of hotels don't have donuts anymore, and these were so tasty! The only thing they didn't have? Pork - no bacon and no sausage. Kind of a bummer, if I was more into bacon.

My short walk allowed me to get to the Disneyland front gate by 8:10 for an opening at 9:00. There was a line of about 8-10 people at each entrance, so I picked one and sat to wait. About 20 minutes later, they allowed people into the park. We got to walk down Main Street U.S.A. and see the teeny tiny Sleeping Beauty Castle at the end. (It would take some getting used to.) Since opening wasn't for another 30 minutes, they held us at the entrances to each land.

I chose Tomorrowland, and most of the other people did as well. We were all excited to see the new Star Wars additions called "Seasons of the Force." They overlaid Space Mountain to be Hyperspace Mountain, added a new scene to Star Tours, and used the lower level of their exhibition area as "Star Wars Launch Bay" with costumes, props, and meet-and-greets. (More on this later.)

I was in one of the first cars to jump into lightspeed at Hyperspace Mountain, and it was a lot of fun! The audio is piped in through the seats, and the story is great - you're in an X-Wing squadron and you run into a Star Destroyer and TIE squadron and have to beat them. You hear a lot of audio chatter between your fellow X-Wing pilots, and the video - while limited because the building is almost 40 years old - does its job well.

Saw a few Rey cosplays by girls -
I was so happy to see it!!
I grabbed a FastPass (they still have paper ones in Disneyland) for Star Tours and viewed a special film called "Path of the Jedi," which is a nice compilation of the most important Star Wars moments from the first six films, culminating in the big trailer for The Force Awakens that had premiered on October 19. It was a theater that had some additional effects piped in (it used to be for "Captain EO" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience"). When blasters fired on screen, the lights in the theater flashed. Explosions resulted in seat rumbling. It was a short film, but a nice way to wait until my Star Tours FastPass came up.

Another way to wait for time to pass was to head across Disneyland to Adventureland and see the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction. You are loaded into vehicles and are allowed to enter a sacred temple where you can achieve one of three wishes: riches, youth, or a vision of the future. You just can't look into the statue's eye...which inevitably everyone does, and then you have to escape the temple as it comes crashing down. It's pretty spectacular!

I wandered a bit through Adventureland, disappointed because the Jungle Cruise was closed for refurbishment. However, the skippers were doing improvisations outside the attraction, and even were doing mock Cruises featuring park guests!

This was my chance to get a world-famous Disneyland churro, and it was warm, full of cinnamon, and very, very tasty. I would definitely get that again!

I got to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, which has an almost completely outdoor queue. Once you get inside, you're almost on the boat! I loved this attraction here at Disneyland, because it was a lot longer than the one at WDW. As you go through the beginning, it's very quiet, and full of skeletons. But when you go down the second dip, suddenly the Klaus Badelt music kicks in and you're right in the midst of a boat/fort battle! It made me want to watch Pirates of the Caribbean again.

Star Tours was great, although I'm not big into the motion simulation stuff. They have quite a few new things added in for The Force Awakens, including following the Millennium Falcon through the junkyards of Jakku to an appearance of Finn to a message from BB-8.

By this time, my touring plan was suggesting lunch. I'd chosen a pretty carb-rich menu for my trip, and my first major meal was jambalaya from the French Market. While I'm not a big fan of andouille sausage, the rest of the meal was delicious! I actually did FaceTime with my parents during my meal and got to tell them all the awesome stuff I'd done so far.

New Orleans Square is a land that's not not in Walt Disney World, and I fell in love with it as soon as I stepped foot in it. It's mostly tight streets with wrought iron balconies and beads everywhere. It also features some great restaurants (I come back here later).

A great aspect of Disneyland is its live music. Since the Haunted Mansion was closed (another big bummer) there was a Dixieland jazz band that set up in front of the entrance, playing music and handing out beads. There was a couple with their small son listening, and one of the instrumentalists was giving him beads and instructing him to give them to his parents and other little kids. When he was told to give it to a little girl, he got pretty close, but then just dropped the beads at her feet. Adorable! Another band was on the balcony of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, and both bands were incredibly talented.

I had decided a few days earlier to go back to the runDisney Expo for one of the talks they have throughout the Expo. To get there, I went to Tomorrowland and caught the Disneyland Monorail! This monorail travels through California Adventure to the far side of Downtown Disney, near the Disneyland Hotel. It was only natural I take this route!

As I entered the hotel, I was surprised to see Chip, Dale, Goofy, and Pluto doing photos inside the entrance with no line! The reason I usually stay away from characters is because I don't like the lines, so this was a great chance to get some photos.

The speakers I was going to see were Matt Martin, Lucasfilm's manager of digital content who had just been promoted to the Story Group, and Cole Horton, an author of several Star Wars books. Usually runDisney presentations are based on running or dieting, but this one was about Star Wars...with some loose connections to running. They went through the movies and talked about the Hero's Journey and the state of the galaxy. One of the best thing was that a trailer for the newest part of Star Wars Rebels, a cartoon on Disney XD, had just been posted earlier in the day, and they showed it to us on their big screen!
Matt Martin of Lucasfilm

This was my opportunity to see the "usual" long lines that exist at the runDisney Expo, and I was very surprised to see the lines for the official Disney merchandise tent. I didn't have to be there, though; I had already seen everything I needed to know!

My intention was to take the monorail back to Tomorrowland, but they closed the monorail. That meant I had to walk back to Disneyland, which wasn't a big deal.

My re-entrance back to Disneyland was timed perfectly with finding a spot for the Soundsational Parade. There were about 45 minutes before it was going to start, and to my surprise there were a ton of great spots, including some benches around Town Square! I guess the parade has been around for almost 5 years, so it isn't as popular as it once was. However, as the parade time got closer, I noticed high school students that were fresh from class coming in. They knew all the words, and pretty much knew all the dance moves, too!

As I waited on my bench, I sat next to three people from New York, two of whom had just run the 5K race that morning. One of them was also doing the 10K and Half Marathon, and had also done the Walt Disney World Marathon the weekend before! (Talk about dedication...and money!) She and I had a very nice chat about running, as well as other Marathons and races.

The Soundsational Parade was great! I'd heard many positive reviews when it premiered back in 2011, and they really did some amazing things with the floats and dancers. My favorite section was the very beginning, with six drummers not only playing amazingly on snare drums, but dancing, too! Right behind them was a float with Minnie and Mickey. Mickey was up playing a drum set himself!

As I've gotten older, I have begun to appreciate the mechanics and engineering of the floats, as well as the brilliance behind the audio that changes with each themed float that passes by. Each float series featured dancers, the main float, and perhaps some secondary characters or dancers. This parade had a section for Aladdin, the Lion King, the Three Caballeros, the Little Mermaid, a Princess float, the Princess and the Frog, Peter Pan, and ending with Mary Poppins. The Mary Poppins section featured chimney sweep dancers, a very large float featuring the fox hunter and fox ("View Haloo!") and Mary and Bert on their carousel horses like in the movie!

I headed back to Tomorrowland to see the Star Wars Launch Bay, an exhibit area that featured costumes and props from the Star Wars movies. You enter to another opening crawl on the rug, and then the space opens up. Glass cases are all around featuring someone's costume, weapons, and several models of ships or vehicles. Each had a very nice description attached, so you understood when in the Star Wars galaxy that item existed.

There was an area where you could play the Star Wars portion of the video game Disney Infinity 3.0, but I wasn't here to play video games! I was, however, here to meet characters, and I hopped in line to meet Chewbacca!

They let in a few groups at a time, and I ended up being the last person in a group, which mean I didn't have people waiting behind me. That was great. It also meant I was hangin' out with Chewie by myself! (...and one PhotoPass photographer and Chewie's handler, who wasn't Han Solo, unfortunately.) I believe I said something like "This is such an honor!" because you have to play pretend when in a situation like this. I decided not to ask any questions about The Force Awakens, even though he did growl and roar. The picture they took first was a side-by-side shot, but I got what I wanted when I requested a back-to-back shot. It was pretty much perfect.

I could have also done a photo op with Darth Vader, but the queue was longer and I wasn't very interested. I checked out the Marvel exhibits on the second floor, then headed out.

You could make a sign to cheer on
runners at the races - this is mine!
One of the shops in Tomorrowland was selling nametags and other jewelry that you could customize with your name in Aurebesh, so I got a bracelet with my name on it in the language of Star Wars. It's pretty neat.

Friday was the lightest crowd day I experienced in my weekend, which was interesting because they decided to film footage for a 60th anniversary television show on that day. There was a stage set up right in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle as well as speakers and other equipment. I didn't think that was any different from normal, because in Walt Disney World they have a stage in front of Cinderella Castle all the time! The next day I found out that it was only temporary, and the space was clear.

This TV special also had a concert that was on that stage at 7:00pm for people who had a special ticket. Because of this, the usual nighttime spectaculars were being pushed to earlier times - the Paint the Night parade would be at 5:45 and the Disneyland Forever fireworks would be at 6:30.

I was already planning on making it an early night because of my planned 3:00am wake-up call for the 10K, so when I saw that I could conquer both Disneyland nighttime shows on Friday, freeing up my other night (Sunday) for the World of Color at California Adventure, I had to take advantage of it. I was thinking I would have to choose, and now it was so easy!

My supper was at the Carnation Cafe, a popular restaurant right on Main Street U.S.A. that has been around since the park first opened. It didn't take me long to get a table, and they sat me outside, where heaters had been set up over some of the tables. I had decided not to bring my jacket this day, and at this point I was starting to regret that decision. The heaters helped.

I ate a smoked turkey sandwich with fries, and splurged on a lemonade drink that had citrus foam on the top that was very tasty!

For the next hour I plopped myself on the curb of Main Street U.S.A. and rested my legs. It really worked out to have to sit and wait for these special things, because it meant resting my legs and not overdoing it before my races. I had no problem waiting.

Since I've known since May that I was doing this race weekend, I had not watched any videos of Paint the Night or listened to any audio. And because I remained spoiler-free, I was greatly rewarded! The audio mixed the song from Wreck-It Ralph ("When Can I See You Again" by Owl City) with the music from the Main Street Electrical Parade, as well as individual songs for each of the floats. The parade was essentially the Main Street Electrical Parade on steroids, and that made it great. I really appreciated how the larger-than-life characters or dancers still allowed you to see the operators underneath. This has become a trend in Disney shows (like the puppets in the Finding Nemo musical) that I really like.

After the parade, we all rushed to the center of the street, and the fireworks started 10 minutes later. I had a great vantage point of the fireworks, and an even better POV of the projections that they put on the buildings of Main Street U.S.A. For example, during a Little Mermaid section, giant coral and seaweed were blown up above the buildings, and the buildings were overlaid with bubbles and water. And in the Frozen section, snow fell! (Well, soap bubbles, but it looked like snow.)

The fireworks ended and I made my way out of the park. It felt really strange leaving at 6:45 when the park was open until midnight, but I knew I needed a lot of sleep before I ran 6.2 miles the next day!

Watch Paint the Night below, and click here for my recap of the 10K!