Today’s Rope Drop [dot] Net interview is with everyone’s favorite Internet
trollpersonality, Howie from Maryland (known to some people as “Howie Berman.”) I think I first “met” Howie during one of the Mighty Men of Mouse listener drafts, but our “friendship” grew on Twitter (where Howie is master of Photoshop.)
If you follow Howie on Twitter, you know that he recently completed an epic trip to Disney World. This interview, however, covers his recent trip to Disneyland, including his thoughts how it differs from Disney World, and a little on why every Disney World veteran should visit it.
Two quick notes: First, Howie also did an interview, live from Disneyland, on the Mighty Men of Mouse podcast about this trip. I try to cover different ground than that interview, but I recommend that you give it a listen to get a fuller picture of Howie’s adventures. Second, as always, my questions are presented in bold with Howie’s answers following. I have made minor edits for readability, but have made every effort to not impact the content of the answers
How did you prepare for your Disneyland trip? Was it different than what you would do to prepare for a trip to Disney World?
This trip really fell into my lap. I had known about a work event that could potentially bring me to Anaheim in early October, but didn’t commit until July or so. It was the perfect scenario from a cost and scheduling standpoint. The sponsor of the event paid for my flight and accommodations, and even threw in a 1-day park hopper ticket (I was also able to purchase additional days at a considerable discount). My work commitments were primarily in the morning and early afternoon, so I was free to tour the parks from about 2pm local time until closing (which was sometimes as late as midnight). I would have 3-4 partial days in the parks.
The prospect of going to Disneyland was a big deal to me (and a daunting one). I had last been to Disneyland in 1999 while living in Los Angeles as a single, childless 23 year old. At that time, there was Disneyland Park and the Disneyland Hotel. No California Adventure. No Cars Land. No Grand Californian Hotel. No Downtown Disney. I was clearly going to be out of my comfort zone.
The first thing I did was add the Disneyland option to my existing Touringplans subscription. I needed to get back to basics and familiarize myself with the current attractions at both parks so I could prioritize, determine which days would be best for each park, and develop solid “half-day” touring plans that would fit my work schedule. I also discovered the DisGeek podcast (thanks to the Earvengers and Mighty Men of Mouse podcasts), which was a great primer for my trip.
Now originally, I had planned to bring my family with me, but it wasn’t in the cards. While I was bummed about not being able to share this adventure my wife and kids, I thought to myself, “You may never get an opportunity like this again, so make it count.” No kids. No debates about what to do to next. Just enjoy the moment. I had to see Toad again (it still kills me that this isn’t available in WDW). I needed to lay eyes on Cars Land. I had to see if the digital projection version of Soarin’ really was that much better than it’s Orlando counterpart. Oh, and I was going to get my hands on paper fastpasses again. Personally, I don’t have anything against FP+, but the nostalgia of the old system was calling my name.
If I was planning a trip to WDW (which I’m actually doing right now), I’d be making dining reservations at 180 days out, booking fastpasses in the middle of the night, maybe booking a tour, and doing a lot of detail work that would make the average vacationer’s head spin. This was going to be totally different. ADRs? I didn’t make one. Snacking was my strategy for this trip — less time eating, more time exploring and getting after it. I didn’t have to worry about FP+. I was really going back to basics.
What were your first thoughts upon arriving at Disneyland (especially after not having visited in over 16 years)?
The minute I was dropped off at the Anaheim Hilton, I noticed immediately that the area had changed considerably since I had last been there. I didn’t recognize it at all (and that was a good thing from what I had remembered of Harbor Avenue.) It was a harbinger of things to come.
I quickly checked in, changed, grabbed a few “essentials”, and made the 1/2 mile or so walk to Disneyland Park to meet up with Wes James, a guy I had never met in person, in a park I hadn’t stepped foot in in more than 16 years. Wes and I had been communicating over Twitter for the weeks leading up to this trip. We decided to do the Mickey’s Halloween Party that night. It made sense for me. For $60, it bought me 8 hours in the park on a relatively low crowd day. I could get into the park at 3:00 pm (three hours before the official start time of the party), and orient myself before Wes showed up.
Armed with a bullet-proof touring plan, I took the left off Harbor and made my way toward the gates. The first two things I noticed along the walk toward bag check were the entrance loop music (Muppets was playing) and a gorgeous view of Space Mountain to my right. I made my way through bag check, hung a right, and was stopped dead in my tracks by the entrance to Disneyland. I was excited. Really excited. I snapped a few photos of the entrance, with its oversized pumpkin decorations, and made my way inside.
Normally, when I go on a WDW trip with my family, we have a pretty good plan in place when it comes to touring. With a 5 and 3 year old, there’s often compromise. We love experiencing meet-and-greets, character meals, and shows as a family. No time for that this go around. Snacks and attractions. That was my mantra and I was sticking to it.
One problem, though. Once I started walking down Main Street, my plan was the furthest thing from my mind. I was in freaking Disneyland…by myself! And I was completely disoriented, so disoriented that my first attraction in 16 years was a trip on the Disneyland Railroad from the Tomorrowland Station…back to Main Street. Clearly, this was going to be a bigger challenge than I had anticipated.
Based on your “live from the park” appearance on the Mighty Men of Mouse podcast, it sounds like you did end up getting back to the “snacks and attractions” mantra. How did you make the transition from your unexpected Main Street return to riding Mr. Toad, Splash, and Alice?
Before my eventful trip on the Disneyland Railroad, I had connected with Wes and we were going to meet up at Splash. Mid-train trip, I had second thoughts. I really wanted Toad to be my first real attraction (obviously, I wasn’t counting the RR trip), so I got off at Main Street, called Wes back with the change of plans and made a bee line for Fantasyland. I waited for a couple minutes outside Toad until Wes showed up. When he did, we bro hugged, exchanged gifts (we’re good like that), and headed in. In the queue, Wes reminded me that he had made Cafe Orleans reservations, but we decided not to use them so we could maximize our party time.
When we exited Toad, we decided to hit a few more dark rides in Fantasyland–Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Pinocchio’s Journey (which might be my second favorite of the classic DL dark rides), and Alice. Fantasyland was starting to get a little busier at this point, so we headed toward New Orleans Square with the intention of riding Pirates. The ride went down while we were in line, so we headed to Splash in Critter Country. I was really interested to see how it compared to the WDW version after all these years. It was also time to get into my Halloween costume.
By now, people who have listened to the podcast know what your halloween costume was, but can you give a little more background on how you came up with that idea? Did Wes know that you were planning to do that?
I had originally planned to dress like Lou Mongello, but I didn’t want to pay for teeth whitening strips. When Wes and I firmed up our Halloween Party plans, I thought it would be fun to recreate the Dutch-Lou meet moment from the summer, but it ended up just being me dressing as Dutch when I couldn’t get Wes to take the plunge. (We did, however, recreate the Josh and Dutch moment on Splash from that same trip). (photo attached)
I found a $5 green visor on Amazon and an even cheaper wig at a local party store. I packed a dark blue polo in my suitcase, and I was in business. I didn’t wear the costume into the park. I did the unveil in the Splash queue for full effect. The wig was itchy. I don’t know how Dutch does it.
Based on what you’ve said here and the podcast, it sounds like you had quite the time at Disneyland. Is there anything you wish you’d known about Disneyland going in? What would you tell people who are Disney World “experts” that are preparing for their first trip to Disneyland?
Don’t let the relative “smallness” of Disneyland fool you. You are still going to walk a ton, so make sure you plan just like you would for Disneyworld–wear comfortable shoes, drink lots of water, etc. While it was super convenient being able to bounce from Disneyland to DCA to Downtown Disney, that convenience ends up making you walk more, in my opinion. Disneyland allows for “park hopping” in the truest sense of the term.
Try lots of food. Have a snacking mentality. Disneyland offers, in my opinion, some snacks and treats that are far superior to their Disneyworld counterparts–tiger tails and skewers at Bengal BBQ, mud pies at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land, and pumpkin beignets in New Orleans Square (for Halloween, of course) were some of my favorites. I ate zero sit down meals and regret nothing.
My trip to Disneyland also taught me to value solo touring. I know people feel weird sometimes getting on a ride by themselves (ask Russ Shuttlesworth), but I really embraced it. It was the first time I can remember that I got to see a Disney Park on my terms. I got to call the shots. I got to experience a ton in a short period of time because of that. If you’re faced with the opportunity to visit by yourself and feel little weird, don’t. Own it. I did, and loved every minute of it.
I do want to thank Wesley James for meeting up with me that first night in Disneyland. He really helped set the tone for an awesome experience, and it was great to meet him in person and learn from him all about his “home park.” Wes is a stand up guy and someone I’m happy to call a friend. I hope we get another chance to tour the parks together in the not so distant future.
A major thank you to Howie for taking time out of his day to talk with me about Disneyland. If this interview has taught me anything it’s (1) go to Disneyland, and (2) hang out with Wes while you’re there.
If you enjoy hearing Howie’s musings on Disney (and other things), give him a follow on Twitter @HoCoHowie. To finish things off, here are some more of Howie’s pictures from Radiator Springs Racers: