Chronic Travel Bug: Disney’s California Adventure!

Alright, so my last post about was about the classic Disneyland, and how to take on the Mouse with a chronic illness. It was actually a very challenging post to write, but I think I learned a lot from it, so hopefully this post will be more organized? I’m going to start with Attractions, then Dining, then Special Secrets – don’t miss that last section! Because one of those secrets is the entire reason I decided to travel.

A quick introduction: when you first enter Disneyland, you see the iconic Main Street leading up to the castle, which represents Walt’s childhood and vision of the world. When you enter California Adventure, you are confronted with old time Hollywood, exactly as it was when young Walt moved out here to pursue his dreams. As a filmmaker, writer, and general dreamer, it’s a powerful experience. I knew we were in for a treat.

A general note: We visited during Christmastime, and while Disneyland was extremely crowded, California Adventure was fairly empty, giving us free reign to do everything we wanted to get done in just one day.


The Animation Building in Hollywoodland

This is truly one of the most unique and illness-friendly things you can check out at Disney’s California Adventure. My healthy hubby said he wouldn’t have minded spending the whole day there – and you certainly could! With everything from animation history to a Toy Story zoetrope, this place is a Disney fan’s dream come true. Here, you can learn to draw Disney characters at the Animation Academy…

Which is a lot of fun. If you have RA or any other arthritic condition, try and do this early in the day. It’s not terribly detailed, and they encourage you to sketch lightly, and it’s something you can’t miss! Our favorite part of the animation building, though, was the Sorcerer’s Workshop….

You begin in a room full of nickelodeons and other old forms of animation. The magic mirror on the wall tells you the secret to animation is that the flashing of the still images tricks your brain into seeing an animation. It’s spooky, but you haven’t seen nothin yet!

After that, you enter the Beast’s Library, where enchanted books tell you which Disney character you are most like. I got Ursula – hubby got Woody. I’m decidedly more evil, I guess. As you answer questions in the book, the library becomes more and more worn and dark as the petals fall from the enchanted rose. Just hanging out in that room for a while is an unforgettable experience!

Finally, you descend into Ursula’s grotto, where you can sing and Ursula will “steal” your voice, and sync it to a classic Disney scene. It’s amazing, and anyone will have a great time there.

California Screamin’

This classic looking roller coaster on Paradise Pier is not without a touch of Disney magic. The whole ride is synced to an original soundtrack, which enhances the ride and takes it to a whole new level. I’m not sure if they have any kind of aid for the deaf or hard of hearing, but either way, it’s a great roller coaster.

Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular

This was my husband’s favorite thing from the whole trip, and man, is it amazing. Do not miss this show! If you stay with the Disney good neighbor hotels, you get preferred seating, and we were on the second row, center! Before the show, kids in front and on either side of me asked if it was really my first ever visit (because of my awesome button, which you can read about in the previous post). When I said yes, a little gentleman asked if I was having fun, and a little lady told me I was going to LOVE this show. A great welcome committee, those ones, and I’m pretty sure none of these kids knew each other.

Anyway, I can hardly do the show justice trying to describe it here. There was colorguard in it, which was so beautiful that I cried. And the Genie….well, they did not bother trying to recreate Robin Williams or trot out the expired social references from the film – oh no. Genie referenced Harry Potter, Twilight, and did the Gangnam Style dance with Carpet. Yeah, you read that right. Now go see it!

A Bug’s Land

Sad to have to do this, but SCENT WARNING. Yup. For a whole land. This part of the park is truly unique, and most of the rides are geared towards younger audiences. Most of the rides are things like trains, bumper cars, you know, kiddie stuff. But the way that Disney has cranked it up a notch is by adding smells. To like, everything! And I loved it. But I know that many of my readers wouldn’t be able to tolerate even walking through this area (unless Disney is using magical healthy safe scents, which is possible, because nothing is impossible at Disney. But I’d say err on the side of caution unless you can be sure).

The rides here are fun, and when we were there there were no lines for any of them. Flick’s fliers is a dumbo-style flying ride, which is a nice way to kick back, sit down, and get a nice view of the park.

Heimlich’s Chew-Chew Train was another one of hubby’s favorites. It’s just a little train ride, but your “train,” Heimlich, is “chewing” through everything, and you can smell it all. Cupcakes, candy corn, even watermelon! That one was my favorite, because they squirted you with water when you went through and it’s really like chewing through a watermelon.

Finally, there’s the 4D show, “It’s Tough To Be A Bug.” They have this one in Disney World, and it’s just as scary in both places. And yes, sorry, there are a lot of scents in this show. But this show is crazy anyway, I screamed a LOT during it. And there were kids there looking at me like I was so immature. But they have wasps “sting” you with some device in the back of your chair, and bugs crawl under your butt and feet, again, with some kind of device in the bench and ground. And how creepy is that!? I bet you’d scream too!

King Triton’s Carousel

It’s just a carousel, but with fishies and seals and stuff! Yay! Who wouldn’t have fun on that?

Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

This ride is brand-spanking new, and by golly it is amazing. It’s like a dark ride or Haunted Mansion, in that you’re in a slow-moving vehicle, and you travel through the story of the Little Mermaid. But these anamatronics were some of the most amazing that I’ve ever seen. Most of the story’s underwater (of course), and it looks like it! Ariel’s hair was always swaying and billowing around her like she was underwater! And she wasn’t! When I stepped off that ride, I turned to my husband and said “That was art. That was actual art.” It was so, so beautiful! A feast for the eyes! Really, you’ve just got to see it to understand.

Cars Land

Cars land is also brand-spanking new, and we were worried we would have to wait in crazy long lines to get to see any of it. Luckily, we arrived at the park early (you can read more about that under “Special Secrets”) and we were able to snag a fastpass to the “big” attraction, the Cars Racers.

And, as you can see, it was raining, so that kept a lot of the crowds away. We finished cars land early in the day with little to no wait time for any of the rides. Of course, Car’s Land was all decorated for the holidays…

Those “garlands” behind us are radiators. Fun, right? The two “small” rides are Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, in which you sit in a trailer pulled by a tractor-cow-thing, and they all square-dance – What does this mean, exactly? Well, basically, all the cars weave in and out of each-other, and you get swung this way and that, and it is AWESOME. I was giggling the whole time.

The other “small” ride is Luigi’s Flying Tires. You get to drive a hover-car. YES. You actually hover, you actually drive it, and it’s actually amazing. Be forewarned, the way to “steer” is by leaning forwards and back, and side to side. So I imagine at the end of the day, this ride would be a lot of physical work when you may already be straining yourself – so if you have any kind of chronic pain condition, I highly recommend doing it early in the day when you’re fresh and energized.

And finally, the main event – the Cars Racers. I’ve only seen Cars once, but I recognized every moment and got to relive it live. The beginning is the “sight seeing” drive Lightning does with the girl car. A musical score bursts at just the right moments as waterfalls and canyons are revealed to you, and it’s like the best road trip ever. Then you go indoors and drive through some “story,” in which you’re preparing for the big race! Then, you and another car pull up to the starting line, and YOU’RE OFF!

And even though it’s not like you have any control over the vehicle, it’s still really exciting because you and the other car are neck in neck. I can get really competitive, so when WE WON I actually shrieked. “WE WON WE WON!!!! AHHHHHHH!” Obviously, this ride totally sucked me in.

Mickey’s Fun Wheel

This ride sounds innocent enough, and really it is, but…it can also be very, very extreme. See, you make a choice right at the start – you can either ride a normal ferris wheel car, or a free-swinging car. What is a free-swinging car? It’s a car on a little oblong track, so that as the wheel goes round, you slide out to the edge and swing – a lot.

A quick note about accessibility: yes, wheelchairs are allowed on the swinging carts, through I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes. It seems like a terrible, terrible idea to me, but I’m sure they lock you in securely…see, in the normal carts, we don’t even have seat-belts. Normally, I’m a bit of a fraidy cat, but this time, it was husband who was scared silly. As we swung, I felt like I could easily fall down on top of him, or he on me. I am amazed we all stayed in our seats. I offered to hold his hand, but he insisted on not moving a muscle. With no seat belts and being only kind of enclosed, it was a bit precarious. I had a great time. But hubby said never again. So! If you think this is going to be a nice, relaxing ride, you better get on the normal carts!

Monster’s Inc. – Mike and Sully to the Rescue!

This is another dark ride type ride, slow moving through a story. I really liked it, and there’s a lot of fun stuff they do with the anamatronics to bring the Monster’s Inc world to life.

You do have to walk through the Mad T Party to get to it, though, and this could prove embarrassing if that loud pumping rave music makes you need to white girl dance. I had a cast member stop me and ask me not to do that in the walkways. Ooops.

Silly Symphony Swings

This is your classic swing ride, just like at the state fair. But you know what’s awesome? They have two-person swings! So you can ride with your hunny-bunny! Well, really, they’re for moms to ride with their younger kids, but, if there are none around or you can run faster than them, they’re all yours!

Soarin’ Over California

Again, it pains me to do this, but. SCENT WARNING: This ride does use scent throughout.

Which so so sucks because it’s so so amazing! Soarin is a fairly new ride, and I didn’t really get the hype. You sit with your feet dangling, and they make you feel like you’re flying. Well, that’s cool and all, but nothing all that new. Once the ride started, I smiled. This was pretty cool. They blow wind in your face, and they pump in these amazing smells. When you fly over the forest, you can smell the pine! When you fly over the orange groves, you can smell the citrus! When you fly over the coast, you can smell the ocean. You get totally swept up in it all.

And then….at the end, you fly over Disneyland. I screamed, just in surprise I guess, because it had the lights, it was decorated for Christmas. It looked just like it had the day before, when we were really there! Then I cried and cried and cried and cried because it was all just soo beautiful….

So, endosisters: be aware that your crazy hormones are reeeeally going to stand out here. I cried at like, everything, and I don’t know why.

Toy Story Mania

I had the pleasure of riding this as soon as it opened in Walt Disney World, and it’s only gotten more amazing since then. Like Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, this is a dark ride meets a video game….heavy on the video game. It’s 100% virtual and 100% interactive. You can unlock secret areas, and it’s just too cool, really. I’m not sure how to explain. It’s like being in a video game. All the games are sort of like midway games – you knock over bottles, shoot wooden ducks, pop balloons, etc. It’s so fast-paced, and your heart will be racing by the end…if you’re fiercely competitive like me, haha. Hubby won this time, no pictures to prove it though. Hmm, wonder how that happened…

Also, if they need to stop the ride to get a wheelchair on or off, no worries! It puts up a “target practice” game for no points, but you’re still playing even during the stall.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Oh man. What can I say about this ride? Well, I’ve ridden the one in Florida many times. It terrifies me, not only because I hate the feeling of falling, but because the story is really fricken scary! My Dad had to drag me on literally kicking and screaming the first time I rode it! Anyway. I’ve ridden it many times since because it really scares me, and I walked confidently on to it’s California counterpart because I knew every twist and turn and it wouldn’t be so scary.


tower of terror disneyland
Like, could we make a bigger scene?

It is. COMPLETELY. Different. Than the one in Disney World. Same story I guess…but everything happens in a different order, and when I thought we were still in the storytelling part, BAM, we’re plummeting to our deaths! So don’t think you’ve got this one pinned, cause you don’t. It is…scary….

Husband wanted to ride it again, but when we got back in line, the power went out….for real. Sufficiently filled with the heebie jeebies, I insisted we flee.

The Blue Sky Cellar

I admit it, I only came in here because night was falling and I was cold. But it’s actually pretty cool. It’s a look behind the scenes into the imagineering process…and it has really comfy padded benches for the weary to sit down and pass out while their healthy counterparts look at all the cool stuff.

World of Color

This show is amazing. Think the Bellagio in Vegas, plus a lot of Disney magic. This show makes the Bellagio fountains look like a squirt gun. Disney uses all kinds of lights and effects and turns the shooting water into a big screen where they project the best moments from classic Disney films.

Want a front row seat? Really? Are you really sure? If you’re sure, it’s all yours! But you will be in what is known as “The Wet Zone.” and in December, it was a questionable decision. But we had a cheap rain poncho from the hotel gift shop, so we decided to brave it. It wasn’t that bad, actually. I wore the poncho snuggie-style, and husband stood behind me, and we both stayed pretty dry. Our camera got a little wet, but it’s a trooper.

A word of warning, though. This show features all the best moments from great Disney films….including Mufasa’s death. Yeah. The audience collectively burst into tears as the lights went dark and Simba’s voice echoed in the night…. “…….Dad?” And oh how they lingered on this moment!!! After this they go into a happy ending montage, but it was hard to enjoy knowing that Simba wasn’t going to partake.

world of color mufasa's death

Excuse the language but I DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THIS, that’s how universally upsetting this is!!!


Ariel’s Grotto

So this will actually take a little explaining. We had no plans to go here, and we didn’t even really know what it was. But while in Disneyland, I spotted a lady who had this beautiful glowing Ariel…


My mother loves Ariel, and when I saw it I knew I had to get it for her for Christmas. Social anxieties cast aside, I asked the woman where she got it. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak English, but after some gesticulating I got “California Adventure” out of her. So the next day, after we got off the Ariel ride, we asked some cast members where we might find a little glowing Ariel. They told us it came with kids meals at Ariel’s Grotto. We thanked them and headed that way, but they stopped us. It was clear that we didn’t know what Ariel’s Grotto was, but we needed to get that Ariel. They made us reservations, and informed us that it was character dining.

Aww who cares if it’s for little kids! I need that Ariel! Plus I don’t really mind having lunch with the Princesses. Anyway, that explains how we ended up here. It’s really fun, and the food’s great, but it is pricey. Like, when we got our check, we almost threw up all the expensive food we just ate. Like…WOW. I’ve never spent that much on a meal. But we agreed that we had come to have fun, and we had a great time, the food was good, so it was all worth it.

The meal began with a tower of appetizers that could have been a meal in and of itself…

And luckily everything on here was IBS friendly, and my tummy was kept happy. Main course did not agree with my tummy as much, as delicious as it was…

It was a sort of seafood sampler. I don’t know anything about seafood except that shrimp are yummy, and I saw the lobster in there too and thought why not? Go big or go home. Here’s the problem. I was trying a bit of almost everything they had, and hubby got the one non-seafood dish – pasta with sausage – and everything there is really, really spicy. It was so good…and so bad for my tummy. Luckily, I filled up a lot on the appetizer, and was able to sample each lovely bit of my sampler without making my tummy riot.

Also….there were two oysters on my plate. I looked at husband. Neither of us had ever tried oysters before. We filmed ourselves trying them for the first time…. and wow. Oysters….suck. They are….bad. I don’t know why anyone thought to eat them, and then decided to keep eating them. The most accurate description I could think of was….*WARNING: explicit/graphic language ahead!* that it was like eating a used condom. Bleh! But man….it sure was an experience.

Then dessert was of course, freaking amazing.

And my #1 Disney dinning tip is to always take dessert home for a decadent breakfast the next day. Mmm mmm mmm.

Unfortunately, since we unexpectedly had a three course really expensive late lunch, we just had some microwave stuff at the hotel for dinner.

Special Secrets:

Christmas Candy Canes:

This is the reason we planned this whole trip. The Disneyland Candy Canes. I had seen this travel channel special that looked at all the culinary delights the Disney Parks cook up for Christmas, and the grand finale were these handmade candy canes. They’re very difficult and time consuming to make, so they have this team of candy cane craftsmen come in only on certain days and make candy canes all day. Even working non-stop, they can only make 50 or so a day. Long story short – these babies are hard to get.

We did a lot of research and came up with a game plan. Firstly, in 2012, they would be offering the candy canes in California Adventure as well as Disneyland. Since this was their first year being offered in California Adventure, and clearly it wasn’t something in the public eye, we figured that would be our best bet. So we arrived at 7:30 before the gates opened. We found the shortest line, and they even scanned our tickets early so that when the gates opened we could just run right in. It was cool to see the opening ceremony too.

Then we were off. I’d already told my husband to just leave me if I couldn’t keep up. I had my phone, I’d find him, but the priority was to get to the candy shop before all the canes were gone.

When we arrived, we were given wristbands with a pickup time on them. They told us our candy canes would be ready then, and we had two hours from that time to pick them up before they were given away to people in the stand-by line who didn’t know to arrive early.

When we came back to pick them up, a lady behind us in line was talking to a cast member. She had a little girl with her, and was saying that her pickup time wasn’t until 11:30, but there had been a family emergency and she needed to leave now. She wanted to get her candy cane early. I walked up, holding out my arm. I told her I’d trade times with her. The head candy cast member knew us from earlier (we made a scene over how awesomely excited we were about candy canes) and said she’d remember us, and gave one of our canes to the woman. It felt good to help someone out, and this is good advice for you spoonies – if anything goes wrong, there are people around you willing to help if you just ask for it. 🙂

So we picked up one candy cane then, and would come back later to get our second. We had only planned on eating one anyway, the other was to take home. It all worked perfectly. And oh my goodness, those candy canes are something else. I’ve never tasted anything so wonderful.

disneyland candy cane

So now, I can cross that off my bucket list. Amazing.

Fiddler, Fife, and Practical Cafe

This is the cafe we chose to sit down and enjoy our candy cane in. Right next door to the candy store, this cafe is named for Disney’s three little pigs. We got a seat by the bar at the window, and enjoyed reading a Disneyland newspaper while we enjoyed our treasure. I wonder who writes the Disneyland Newspaper, and how I can get that job….

It began to rain, so lots of people came in from the street to wait it out. I noticed there were these emerald green hummingbirds in the tree outside our window! We were content to watch them for a long time. I’d never seen real hummingbirds like that before.

Once the rain let up, we prepared to go, but I had noticed a man with two fussy little girls behind us earlier. They were waiting for their mom to come back with lunch, and the girls were crying. I approached the father and told him that they were welcome to have our seats by the window, and that there were humming birds outside. His face broke into a relieved smile, and he said his girls would love that. I think that might have been my favorite event from the whole trip.

Stuff Like This:

donold duck water painting disneyland disney parks secret

Yeah, that’s painted with water on the ground. Amazing.


We had such a wonderful time in the parks. A Disney vacation really is the perfect mix of relaxing and adventure for someone with a chronic illness. Next time, I’ll talk about the dreaded “last day,” and how to have a good time even when you’re completely exhausted! In the mean time, don’t forget to check out our shop for some Chronic Travel Bug gear!

10 thoughts on “Chronic Travel Bug: Disney’s California Adventure!

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