In part 1 of this report, I mentioned that over multi-day visit to the Disneyland Resort was a replacement for an originally planned trip to Walt Disney World around the same time and that we decided to delay the trip because our son had become skittish about visiting theme park attractions. Since the Disneyland Resort is so much closer to home and we visit it much more frequently, we figured that our visit there would be a better opportunity to keep trying to re-build his courage while not really feeling like we are missing all that much if what we can do remains pretty limited.
During this visit, we let our son largely set the pace and do a lot of the choosing when it came to the rides and shows that we visited, but we also gave him a lot of encouragement to work some new experiences into the visit as well. He visited his favorite attractions (King Arthur’s and King Triton’s Carousels, Mad Tea Party, Tuck and Roll Drive ‘em Buggies, Goofy’s Playhouse, Playhouse Disney Live, Enchanted Tiki Room) while also talking him into visiting several that weren’t on his previous "approved" list (such as MuppetVision 3D, the Aladdin stage show, Toy Story Midway Mania, and the Mark Twain Riverboat). We still didn’t do any of the major thrill rides, even though he is now tall enough for many, but he definitely is making progress.
One thing to note is that we did almost entirely stick to visiting attractions that our whole family could do together. I really was the only one in our party that could have done most of the major thrill rides, since our son isn’t really up to them yet and everyone else in our group has restrictions due to medical conditions. I’m certain I could have gone off to do some of the coasters had I wanted to, but I really was far more interested in family time. I do look forward to the time when my son is ready to do some of those bigger rides with me, but I’m also in no rush about it. The experience of seeing the attractions with my child is so rewarding that I don’t miss the thrill rides.
In the rest of this post, I’m going to write up specific notes on a few key attractions. Our visits to the Disneyland Resort have become less frequent than they used to be and these trips ended up being the first opportunity to see a few new attractions and shows. I’ll also include a few notes about some of the other attractions and shows that included some memorable element.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
The re-themed and re-opened version of Disneyland’s classic Submarine Voyage was the major new attraction for summer of 2007. Due to the extremely long lines (often over 2 hours or more) combined with our son’s skittishness, we hadn’t yet visited it before this trip. We were pretty determined to finally see the ride on this visit, with my father (who is a major Disney-enthusiast) being particularly excited to have the opportunity to ride the subs again.
During our first full day at the parks (Monday 6/23) the ride was having a lot of technical difficulties, resulting in it being closed for much of the day. I’m not really sure if it ever actually opened that day as it was listed as "temporarily closed’ every time we checked in. We did leave the resort for dinner at Knott’s that evening, though, so it may very well have opened later in the day. Seeing it closed so much on Monday did make us (my father in particular) pretty nervous about whether or not we would actually get an opportunity to ride it. On Tuesday, though, the ride was opened and we found that it had a posted wait time of around an hour shortly after we had finished our lunch at the Blue Bayou.
One really nice feature of the ride is that they offer a special, alternative experience for disabled guests who are unable to board the submarines. Off to the side of the dock where guests board the regular ride, there is a building containing a small theater (it seats about 30 guests) where they show a high-definition video presentation of the full ride experience. My mother suffers from severe arthritis in her legs (she has to use a motorized scooter much of the time) and couldn’t possibly have managed the narrow ladder to get onto the ride. My wife has a back condition and also had doubts about whether or not she could board, thus she decided to join my mother and attend the alternate version. They took our son along as well, since we were pretty doubtful that he would be willing to board the rather claustrophobic submarine.
Guests using the alternate experience enter through an entrance near the monorail entrance. With the fairly high-capacity and fairly low-demand for it, they found that they only had to wait for the next available showing. After helping them to get situated in the line for the alternate experience and arranging where to meet later, my father and I were prepared to head around to get into the hour-long queue for the regular ride. Much to our surprise, the ride attendants instead escorted us to a nearby waiting area and told us that we would be put onto the next submarine. That means that we boarded the regular ride about the same time that the others entered the theater, thus minimizing the amount of time our family was separated.
Having read plenty of threads regarding disabled policies at the parks on various discussion boards, I admit that I hesitated a bit to even post about our experience, considering the fact that it essentially meant we were able to reduce a 60 minute wait down to around 10. I want to state clearly that we did not ask for that accommodation and were fully prepared to wait in the line. We did really appreciate it, though, as that essentially gave us back about an hour of family together time in the park that we hadn’t expected to have. Certainly the various health issues do have an impact on the amount that we were able to do in any given day and I have to say that I think Disney’s decision to help out a bit in this way is a good one.
The ride itself is a lot of fun and I really think they have done an excellent job with it. It definitely is a very different experience from the old Submarine Voyage (there is a great nod to the original ride at the end), but I do think the more fantasy-oriented approach works well, although I kind of wish they had found a way to shift the ride entrance over to the Fantasyland side instead of keeping it in Tomorrowland. The various projection techniques are reminiscent of the Finding Nemo ride-through that was added to The Living Seas in Epcot a couple years ago, although the scope of the Disneyland ride is much larger.
The vehicles do continue to be a bit of a hindrance to the experience. Besides the slow-loading nature (which results in the ultra long lines), they have also made the seating a bit more cramped than it used to be, probably in an attempt to up the capacity a bit. I don’t know if it is a result of the projection effects requiring a more precise viewing angle or if I’ve just gotten older since the old ride closed, but I also found that I had to lean forward a lot more than I remembered from the old ride, leaving me with a bit of a sore back at the end. For this reason, I actually think my wife would have a really hard time with the ride and probably should stick with the theater version. I’m at least glad that the alternate experience is available in order to provide something for the guests that can’t ride the subs themselves.
Toy Story Midway Mania
We didn’t wait as long to ride the big new ride for this summer. We have now been on Toy Story Midway Mania at California Adventure three times, once during the 4-day stay, once on the morning of July 5, and then one more time this past weekend before joining some friends for dinner at Downtown Disney. The ride has very quickly become a family favorite. The wait times were all in the 45-60 minute range and the line moves pretty continuously, so we have found it to be a pretty easy wait.
Considering our son’s typical reactions recently, we really didn’t have particularly high expectations that we would be able to get him to go on this one. When we went on the ride for the first time, we decided to all get in line and see if we could arrange a parent swap at the front of the line if he didn’t go on it. We figured that, worst case, one of us would sit the ride out and then get back in line while others babysat.
While he was pretty fussy and quick to give his "I don’t want to ride" arguments when we got into the queue, he did finally end up deciding to ride. I think the nearly an hour wait worked quite a bit to our advantage as it gave us some time to talk with him and try to reassure him. We talked quite a bit about how the ride was based on Toy Story (he hadn’t seen the movies at that time, but he knew the characters) and also spent a fair amount of time emphasizing the other kids in the line, including ones younger than him. It also helped that my father had already ridden the Walt Disney World version and was able to help describe parts of it.
It also turned out to be helpful that we had already taken him to see MuppetVision 3D, so there was an immediate sense of familiarity when we got to the part of the queue where the 3D glasses were distributed. The final deciding factor came, though, from a bit of cleverly-themed phrasing in the safety spiel that was heard in the last part of the queue right before boarding. In that spiel, they referred to the ride vehicle as a"game tram". When we heard that, we immediately emphasized with our son how he regularly rode on the parking lot trams without being afraid. He accepted that and even now sometimes calls the ride the "indoor trams".
One part that was really funny was that, even though we had been emphasizing the theme of the ride throughout the wait, as soon as the ride started and we went past the first pictures of Woody and Buzz he exclaimed "Oooh! It’s a Toy Story ride!" The first time through, he did tend to grip the lapbar pretty tightly the whole time (the ride does have some fast turns) and did seem a bit nervous even though he was obviously having fun. He didn’t really try to actually work the interactive element of the ride during the first two times and I basically scored all the points that he got (on the second ride, I typically switched to using his gun when they started the count-down to the end of a game). By the third time, he was taking more interest in the controls and actually scored most of his points for himself. He took a pretty strong interest in his score and often brought up how many points he got even quite a while after riding. It is a shame that they didn’t use the "email-a-photo" technology that is on Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, but it did occur to me on the 2nd and 3rd rides to use my cell phone camera to snap a photo of our scores.
There have already been a lot of articles written about the ride itself, so I won’t go into much details there. I really think that the mix of the 3D ride-through technology with the interactive "shooting gallery" concept works extremely well. Unlike previous interactive rides, the cause and effect is very clear and obvious. As for the 3D, I was impressed by the technology involved with the Spider-man ride at Islands of Adventure in Florida, but felt that the ride itself was kind of lacking in storytelling and particularly heart. I am pleased to now see Disney using similar technology and applying their superior storytelling skills.
One of the highlights of the ride is actually outside in the queue area. They have an animatronic figure of Mr. Potato Head that serves as an old-fashioned midway barker, giving various speeches intended to attract riders. It does use the voice of Don Rickles (who voiced the character in the movies), but is programmed with a very wide variety of phrases. An operator is stationed somewhere within site of the queue, which allows phrase selection that simulates a limited amount of interaction with the crowd (i.e. referencing the color of someone’s outfit or acknowledging when a joke gets no reaction from the crowd). It is a lot of fun to watch. During our first visit to the ride, our son was so focused on his indecision about the ride itself, that he didn’t really notice the animatronic. By our second visit, it definitely did catch his attention and he was watching it with a big grin on his face. Of course, he then spent the rest of the queue periodically asking us "why was there a talking potato?"
My only real complaint about the ride is that, even as good as it is, it really does seem a tad redundant. From the very first time that I started to hear details about what this ride was going to be, I found myself really wondering about whether adding a Toy Story based interactive dark ride really was the best idea they could come up with, considering that they already had Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters in Disneyland (as well as similar rides at some of the other Magic Kingdom parks). Both are really good rides and, in each case, the theme really does work very well with the concept. Still, I can’t help but think that this suggests that the vision of the current Imagineers is a a bit more narrow than it should be.
Innoventions Dream House
Pretty much since it opened, I have always felt like Innoventions was perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in the park. The basic idea of a large exhibit in Tomorrowland that is used as a showplace for new or future technologies is a solid one. It fits the land’s theme well (in fact, better than some of the other attractions there) and could certainly provide fun and interesting experiences for guests. Unfortunately, the attraction has pretty consistently fallen down badly in execution. With a few exceptions (must notably, Honda’s Asimo robot demonstration), the sponsors have generally used Innoventions for exceptionally mundane presentations. The result has been an attraction that should be pretty well suited to frequent visits has instead been one that we avoid.
Recently, Microsoft joined existing sponsor HP to fully re-work the lower level of Innoventions into a new high-tech house of the future exhibit, both an enhancement to the existing Innoventions complex as well as a bit of a throw-back to the House of the Future exhibit that was part of the original Tomorrowland when the park first opened. This takes up the entire first floor of the complex and is a pretty highly-themed exhibit representing the interior of a house equipped with lots of high-tech equipment, although mostly current or soon to be available items from HP and Microsoft.
The Dream House exhibit had just been showed to the press the week before our visit and was expected to be opened that week. We stopped by on Monday of the 4-day visit, but found that the exhibit was still closed off with guests instead entering Innoventions through the exit ramp up to the second level. We talked with the attendant at the entrance, who told us that it wasn’t expected to open for at least another week. We never thought to check back again during the rest of the 4-night visit, although I later heard that it actually opened on Tuesday. We finally did visit the attraction on the 4th of July.
I have to say that I was generally rather impressed by the exhibit, a lot more than I had expected to be. For starters, the entire exhibit is considerably more elaborately themed than anything I had previously seen in Innoventions. The different sections are all made up to look like different parts of a real house (living room, dining room, girl’s and boy’s bedrooms, etc.) with pretty extensive decoration. It all has a rather cozy feeling to it that I found quite appealing. The storytelling aspect to the exhibit is further strengthened by having the attendants all playing the part of various members of the fictional Elias family (the name comes from Walt Disney’s middle name), staying in characters as they gave various demonstrations.
The technology in the exhibit isn’t extremely futuristic and I do think it could have used a bit more variety, but it still is interesting to see. The most dominant technologies are Microsoft’s Windows Media Center (the audio/video/photo management software that is a standard part of Windows Vista) and Microsoft Surface, which is the table-top sized touch screen interface that they have recently been showing at trade shows and other similar venues. Media Center is shown on the big-screen TV in a media room as well as on various smaller screens throughout the various rooms of the exhibit. The idea is that it is all connected to a centralized media server and you can call up various media from pretty much any part of the house.
Microsoft Surface was used in various table-tops throughout the attraction, providing access to a variety of entertainment or informational function. Some of the demonstrations involved using the touchscreen to manipulate photographs in various ways, including organization, sizing, cropping, etc. Another really cool example was the use of a Surface table as a big electronic book where you could actually turn the pages by simply moving your hand across the book. The dining room had a demo that was guided by one of the "family-member" performers who showed how various specially designed objects could be placed on the table to trigger specific programs. One example that I recall included a figurine of a fish that triggered an interactive "fish tank" program. Not very practical, but interesting. One thing that I thought was particularly notable was that our 4-year-old very quickly took to interacting with the Microsoft Surface tables and was easily able to figure out the user interfaces.
My favorite part of the exhibit was the boy’s bedroom. When you go into this room, one of the family members reads the story of Peter Pan as various clips from the movie are displayed on big video screens mounted to the walls of the bedroom. There is even a cannon toy in the room which a kid from the crowd gets to use during the battle scene of the story, with the shots actually registering on the screens. The whole thing is very charming and also rather effective. The girl’s bedroom featured an interactive mirror where a touch-screen interface could be used to electronically try on various outfits or different hair styles. I wasn’t as impressed by that, although admittedly that might be because I’m male…
We actually spent about an hour or so fully exploring the Dream House exhibit and would like to go back and spend some more time there on a future visit (for one thing, a few elements weren’t working). I do think they could stand to upgrade the technology a bit with a bit more variety, but I overall think this is a huge improvement for Innoventions.
Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Stone Tiger
As a tie-in to this summer’s release of Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull, Disneyland replaced the long-running Aladdin storytelling show in Adventureland with this new kid-oriented Indiana Jones show. Everyone in our group pretty much agreed that the show was a misfire on several levels and hoped that perhaps the vastly superior previous occupant of the theater would return once the value of tying in to the movie is pretty well past.
Pretty much everything about the show points to it being a pretty obvious rush job to quickly take advantage of the renewed interest in the character (which is, of course, already featured in a major E-ticket attraction in Adventureland). All of the hosts and hostesses at the theater were still wearing the middle-eastern style costumes that were designed for the Aladdin show. The set on the stage is still largely the same, even including the large walk-through tiger’s head designed after Aladdin’s Cave-of-Wonders. The globe-trotting nature of the Indiana Jones character does make it pretty easy to adapt a show to just about any setting, but it still is a pretty obvious indication that not too much effort or expense went into this show.
The new show maintains the basic storytelling format as the previous Aladdin show, even though Indiana Jones really isn’t as kid-friendly a basis for such a show. The seating is still set up with a large section of ground-seating in the front for children and then a number of rows of chairs behind for adults (and kids that, like our son, are still timid about sitting by themselves). The storyteller this time is introduced as a female colleague of Indy that enlists the help of the kids in the audience to work out a series of clues that were left behind before Indy disappeared in his quest for a legendary object of great power. Of course, Indy himself eventually shows up at the end after a few kid volunteers have helped out with the various tasks indicated by the clues.
The basic idea isn’t that bad, I suppose, but it really doesn’t amount to all that much other than some nice photo opportunities for the kids that are chosen to help out. The old Aladdin storytelling had a lot of humor and a fairly substantial story (the plot of the movie) to hold the attention of the rest of the audience. This show really gets rather tedious during some long segments where most of the audience is basically just watching other people’s kids going through some fairly uninteresting motions.
There is also a major story problem with the way the show has been structured, but I can’t really go over that without spoilers. If you want to see the show and don’t want to know details about what happens, please skip ahead to the next paragraph. BEGIN SPOILERS: The big twist of the show is that the storyteller ends up to be a villain who was trying to obtain the powerful artifact for herself. The climax of the show is a fight sequence between Indy and the storyteller, who eventually is defeated. The problem is that Indiana Jones isn’t really a character that instantly generates any kind of audience connection when he isn’t played by Harrison Ford. That results in an ending where you are basically expected to be rooting against the character you have followed for the first 3/4 of the show and rooting for a stranger that just showed up. That really doesn’t work. The Indiana Jones show in Florida gets around this problem by making the whole presentation a behind-the-scenes demo and identifying the person playing Indy as a stuntman. Trying to make a more literal Indiana Jones show really was a pretty bad idea at its root. END SPOILERS
In addition to the show in the Oasis, they also added "Indiana Jones Moments" at various points around Adventureland. These are just short (about 5 minutes or so) little stunt fights between Indiana Jones and some random villain. The specific one we saw was on the upper level of the Jungle Cruise queue. While I suppose these can be a bit of a disruption of crowd control in the already confined area of Adventureland, they also are kind of fun. I think this was really a better choice of tie-in than the fairly lame longer show.
The Enchanted Tiki Room
The other attractions that I’ve discussed in this post so far have been new ones, but I did want to make note of our visit to this one classic attraction. June 23rd (the second day of our visit) was the 45th anniversary of the opening day of The Enchanted Tiki Room. When we visited the attraction that afternoon, we were pleased to find a completely packed theater and some very appropriate attention being paid to the anniversary.
Upon arrival at the waiting area for the attraction, the castmembers at the attraction all made a point of letting the visitors know of the anniversary. Most of the castmembers were also wearing the standard Disneyland "Happy Birthday" buttons (with the number 45 printed on them) that are usually given out to guests. A pretty large percentage of the guests at the show also seemed to be fans who were pretty aware of the significance of the day, although I did overhear one fairly clueless visitor inquiring at the nearby juice bar about whether the pre-show was the entire attraction or if there was something else to it…
The castmember that usually "wakes up" Jose to start the show first gave a short speech in recognition of the anniversary. I wish that I had made a recording of it or could even find a transcript online as I thought it was really excellent. I wouldn’t be surprised if Walt Disney Imagineering prepared a script for this as the speech managed the delicate balance of acknowledging the show’s significance without breaking the illusion. The speech talked a bit about the characters and their connection to Walt Disney and then went into a brief discussion of how they led the way for such attractions as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. The speech managed to convey all of this while never using words like "animatronic", "mechanical", or anything else that would even begin to suggest that the birds were not real.
I made a number of visits to the Florida park (at the time there was only one) when I was a kid and the Tiki Room was very much a family favorite. I’m saddened that the Walt Disney World version has been replaced with a very poorly-conceived attempt to update the show, but I remain very happy that the original show is mostly still intact at Disneyland. It is missing the old Offenbach segment, a trim that I do acknowledge was probably a correct one as its elimination has almost entirely stopped walk-outs. I do wish they would perhaps program the show to allow that segment to be added back in on special occasions like the anniversary, though.
While we pretty carefully avoided the pre-publicized anniversary merchandise event that was held the day before (and I heard was something of a madhouse), I’m really glad we were there and able to visit the show on the actual anniversary. It made for a pretty special occasion.
Fireworks (including Fourth of July)
The fireworks shows at Disneyland (and the other Disney parks) usually have a lot more substance and complexity than you find in a typical fireworks show. Disney pretty much pioneered the synchronization of fireworks to music and, particularly in recent years, they have been regularly raising the bar for the use of fireworks as a storytelling medium. The various versions of Illuminations at Epcot and the finale for Fantasmic! at Disneyland really started this trend and then Believe…There’s Magic In the Stars, the fireworks show introduced for Disneyland’s 45th Anniversary, definitely set a new standard for the traditional over-the-castle fireworks show. They have continued to grow this talent with the current Remember… Dreams Come True at Disneyland and Wishes at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom as well as special holiday shows in both California and Florida.
Our main reason for braving the crowds and working out all the complex logistics to visit Disneyland on the 4th of July is because we consider it to be the best place in this area to see a great fireworks show. For the past several years, Disneyland would show the regular fireworks show followed by a special patriotic addition that was usually both highly moving and viscerally spectacular. Those special performances shot off an amazing number of fireworks in a very short time, while still managing to continue Disney’s recent mix of expert synchronization and storytelling.
This year, we were pretty excited to find out that Disney was producing a full-length, original patriotic show for the 4th of July instead of running the regular fireworks show followed by a tag as in previous years. The new show had the somewhat awkward title Celebrate America: A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky and versions were being produced for both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The Disneyland version was scheduled to be shown only on the 4th of July itself, although the Walt Disney World version did run for a couple different nights around the 4th of July. Unfortunately, through no fault of Disney, the evening ended up being marked by a fair amount of disappointment.
From experience, we have found a favorite place for viewing the 4th of July fireworks that still affords a good view, but isn’t as crowded or logistically difficult as most of the more popular locations in the park. We do still generally have to stake out our spot about 2-3 hours before the scheduled start time, though. Fortunately, other good friends also view the show from the same location, which allows for some good socializing during the wait for the show to begin.
The first sign of trouble came about an hour before the show when a castmember came over to where we were sitting and let us know that there was a small chance that we would be required to move. She indicated that wind conditions were such that there was a little bit of concern that we could end up in an area that would have to be evacuated out of concern that ash and other debris from the show could fall there. She said that they would likely make the final decision around 30 minutes before show time. Fortunately, we never heard anything more about this and were able to stay in our seating area.
The next sign of trouble came about 15-20 minutes before the start of the show with an announcement that the show might have to be "modified" due to wind conditions at upper elevations. This announcement was repeated a couple times before the start of the show and it never was entirely clear what the modifications might be. Our guess was that the show probably included some low-level fireworks set off near the castle (a standard element of the regular show) and that those might need to be removed. That was really only a guess, though.
The show did start on schedule without any additional announcement at start time about potential modifications. It opened with some patriotic narration and then launched into a substantial and impressively choreographed display of fireworks set to various patriotic music. While our location didn’t provide an optimal view of the castle, we could see that they were, in fact, using the low-level fireworks near the castle as well as all the other various launch points used during the regular show. It was an impressive display and one that we were enjoying tremendously.
A little over half-way into the show, though, it abruptly came to a halt. First, the audio cut-off and then soon afterwards all of the lights that had been dimmed for the show quickly came back on. At that point, an announcement came over the sound system stating that the show could not continue due to wind conditions at high elevation. The show was then over and our next possible chance to see the rest of the show, including what I’m guessing would have been a spectacular finale, will be July 2009. The portion of the show that we saw was absolutely great and I’m glad to have seen it, but I do have to say that this ending really did cause a tremendous deflation of mood. As we made our way out of the park and back to our hotel, I can’t say that we ever were quite able to shake the rather downbeat mood that this abrupt ending brought on.
Again, I don’t really fault Disney at all for this as they clearly can’t control the weather and also must stop the show if it becomes unsafe. I am sure that they made every effort to keep the show going and I strongly suspect that the fireworks never would have started at all had it been any night other than the 4th of July. I later heard that there was a long line at Guest Relations as people were asking for refunds and that Disney was pretty freely giving them out. Asking for a refund for this kind of thing is not something I could ever see doing personally and I do tend to think it is a pretty tacky request, but I also can at least understand the mentality behind it. I certainly can understand Disney’s reason for deciding that it was probably better to give out refunds when they didn’t necessarily have to than to deal with highly disappointed customers telling their friends (which, today, could be large numbers of people on the Internet) about their disappointment and Disney’s lack of caring.
What I saw of the show was great and there are videos of the full Walt Disney World show (which had an identical soundtrack, although the pyrotechnics were customized for each park) pretty readily available online that give an even better view of what the whole show would have been. I do hope that they do the same or a similar show next year and that the weather cooperates so that we get a full performance.
On a happier note, we did see Remember… Dreams Come True in its entirety twice during our 4-night June visit and we still saw bits and pieces of it on the other two nights as well. On Wednesday night, we staked out a spot in the Town Square area (near the train station) of Main Street to watch the show from inside the park. We have found that this part of Main Street doesn’t fill up nearly as early as the areas closer to the castle, but you can still see pretty much all of the effects in their entirety from that vantage point. It also puts you pretty close to the main gate, allowing for a pretty quick exit at the end of the show, if so desired.
The partial showings we saw were on Sunday and Monday night. On Sunday evening, we went into California Adventure to watch the Electrical Parade and the fireworks started going off as we were walking back to the hotel. The view isn’t very good from much of anywhere inside the park, so we just kind of glanced at them through the trees and between the buildings during our walk back. On Monday night, the fireworks started going off just as we got off at the Disneyland Drive exit during our drive back from dinner at Knott’s. We ended up watching most of the show from the Grand Californian parking lot before heading up to our room. We even could faintly hear the soundtrack, which was being piped into the pool area at the Paradise Pier Hotel, which is right across from the parking lot.
Finally, our last viewing of the show was on Thursday night from the balcony of our hotel room. During the 4-night stay, our room was located on the 4th floor of the hotel and the window faced directly towards Disneyland. We had a pretty good view of the Matterhorn from the room and could even see the top of the castle. This also meant that we were in a pretty good location to see pretty much all of the fireworks. To make it even better, there is a TV station available in the rooms at the Grand Californian which plays the soundtrack during the show.
Thanks to all of this, our last night of the initial 4-night visit ended with us getting a few desserts from the concierge lounge and then sitting on our balcony watching the fireworks show as the soundtrack played through the TV speakers in the room. All-in-all, that made for a rather magical way to end that visit.