Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Trip to Cali 2013

Hello everyone!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!  This blog is going to talk about Cody and my trip to California in 2013.

Our first stop was Disneyland and California Adventure.  We went to both parks in one day which was incredibly intense!  We were suuuuper tired after all the walking that we did.  Basically the two parks combined are a "best of" Disney World.  They had all of my favorite Disney World rides all condensed together.
Here is our first picture at Disney's California Adventure in Cars Land.  We rode the new ride Radiator Springs Racers first thing in the morning.  Cars Land is one of the few things that Disneyland has that Disney World does not, so I wanted to make sure that we experienced the area.  We waited half an hour in the single riders line for the main ride in this area.  Fast passes for this ride were CRAZY!  People were lined up an hour before the park opened to get fast passes for it and I think the line to get a fast pass would have been longer than us just waiting in the single riders line for the ride. By the time we got off the ride, the fast passes were gone for the day.
Here we are waiting in line. 
This is a picture from the end of the ride.  People were taking pictures all throughout it.  Basically it drives you through the cars world and then you race another car at the end.  It was cute.  But not worth the 2 and half hour wait it had by the middle of the day.  I'd suggest riding it because it's unique but either get a fast pass or go on the single riders line.
 Love this picture of California Adventures in the morning!  Cody and I had a lot of fun on Toy Story Mania here... and riding on the roller coaster!  We were shocked when the rollercoaster went upside down... we almost lost the bag Cody was holding onto.
Here we are at night right before getting in line for World of Color.  You can see that the loop in the rollercoaster is lit up behind us.
Here is part of the World of Color show.  I have wanted to see World of Color since it first came out nearly 5 years ago.  I've been dying to see it!  If you've been to Hollywood Studios in Orlando it's kind of similar to Fantasmic but it features more water fountains.  This was the holiday version of the show and it was basically an advertisement for Disney's new movie Frozen.  I really wish that I could have seen the original World of Color show.
Only thing about this show that I didn't like was that unlike Orlando's Fantasmic, this show does not have any stadium seating so it was really hard to stand for all of that time. And in order to get a good viewing/standing spot you have to get a fast pass for it in the morning.  Basically we waited a half an hour before the park opened to run and get a fast pass in the "blue" section.  If you get a fast pass for the blue section you can line up first to get standing room for the show.  If not, then you get a fast pass for the yellow section which means you just fill in.  The fast pass says that you can return an hour before the show to get your spot. However, we got to the spot the show was going to start about an hour or an hour and half before people were supposed to return and people were already lined up for it.  After all that waiting people ran right in to get the best spots and we felt a little bit lost.  We did end up getting a standing spot in front of a wall so that we could lean against it, but you can see that people still filled in ahead of us, and they raised their kids on top of their shoulders so that the kids could see which made it really kind of hard to see all of the show.  We could have gotten a standing spot in the very front but that is in the splash zone and we didn't want to get wet.   It almost made the show not enjoyable because of the long wait standing around and then limited view.
Overall it was a neat show.  I wouldn't say that it was more impressive than Fantasmic.  It was very similar in nature.  I would like to see the real World of Color show instead of the Holiday version because that version looks a lot more impressive/beautiful.
Here we are in front of the castle.  I was shocked by how small the castle is compared to the one in Orlando.  I'd say it's about half the size.  They do allow you to walk through it.  Once inside you basically go through a storybook of Sleeping Beauty with some showing of scenes on a tiny movie screen.  If you're closter phobic I would not recommend this walk through for you.  It's more so for kids and it's very narrow and dark.  There is not enough room to move around people ahead of you that are moving slower than you, so we kind of got stuck in the castle and it wasn't too exciting.  I really wanted to get out as soon as I walked in and realized what it was.
Here was the castle at night. I would recommend getting really close to the castle at night if you want to see the fireworks over it.  It's a lot smaller than the one in Orlando and it doesn't play as big of a feature in the firework display at night.  The one in Orlando changes colors and has shapes displayed on it.  This one seemed to stay the same throughout the whole night.  We were standing pretty far back and it was a little hard to see the castle and the fireworks over the crowd.  So for best views move closer to the castle.
Here we are in Cars Land! 
Another one!  That's love right there!  :)
This is a view of all of cars land.  We ate at the V8 diner and it was really good food for a pretty good price.  Disney always impresses me with the food choices that they have and how reasonably priced it is there.
The pretty Christmas tree!  They had quite a few of them around the parks.
Here we are in front of the Walt Disney statue.  I recently watched "Saving Mr. Banks" and I really liked the movie.  He was such a nice iconic man.
Here we are in front of the park at Disneyland.  The entrance is almost an identical setup to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando.  The parks themselves are pretty similar as well, except that the Bobsled ride or a ride just like the Animal Kingdom's Mount Everest in located in this park.  It almost felt like things originated in Disneyland but were perfected in Disneyworld.  Having rode on the bobsled ride and Mount Everest, I'd have to say the later is a more impressive ride.
Here is the "It's a Small World" attraction lit up at night.  I think that we had really bad timing when we went to see this attraction.  It was about 5 pm right after it had lit up and their was a parade starting at 5:15 so there was limited walking room.  I won't lie it was a bit of a nightmare walking around there.  We weren't even able to stop by it for long because we were trying to get out of the crowds.  Disneyland seems much smaller than the Magic Kingdom to me, because it was incredibly narrow and the crowds were immense while we were there.  Maybe it's because there are four parks people can choose from in Orlando instead of just two in California and that makes everything even more crowded.  Also, the parades were a little bit frustrating.  We weren't interested in watching them and everything is roped off during them so it makes it hard to get around.  I know Cody was pretty frustrated by it.  We ended up leaving the park for an hour or so during the parades and just sat down for a while.

I won't lie.  I'm still an Orlando girl.  I'm not sold on Disneyland.  I'm honestly not sure if I would go back there or not.  If we are to go back, I'd do it very differently than our trip this time.  We really tried to pack everything in by doing both parks in one day.  It was too hard on us and it was very crowded.  Next time, we'll go with kids and we'll do it over a few days.  But I think my next trip to Disney will definitely be to Disney World in Orlando.
 The day after Disney we had a slow start to make our way into Hollywood!  :)  We had a "Go LA Card" which got us into a whole bunch of stuff in LA.  The first thing that we did was reserve a tour bus to go see celebrities homes later on in the day.  Then we went on to tour the Dolby theater where the Academy Awards are presented.  It was really neat to get the tour.  I enjoyed learning about the theatre and the story behind how these little statues became known as the Oscars.  Apparently, when it first came out there was a secretary that looked at the award and went "Oh wow that looks like my uncle Oscar."  From there the nick name stuck in private amongst the people whole worked behind the scenes.  It wasn't until Walt Disney won one and called it an Oscar on the air that the name stuck and became known world wide.  We got to stand on the stage and look out at the seats.  We weren't allowed to take pictures but learning the history and viewing all of the famous pictures of people won have won in the past was fun.
Here we are on our tour of Hollywood.  Unfortunately, we got the late tour so half of our tour was in the dark and it was kind of hard to see all of the places on the tour.  We weren't too close to the Hollywood sign but you can kind of make it out in the distance behind us in this picture.
Here is LA behind us.

Parking is a nightmare in LA.  Not only is it hard to find a spot but it's pretty pricey.  I swear we spent the most money in California trying to find places to park.  Once we got to our hotel that night we didn't really want to have to drive anywhere so we were looking for places close to our hotel.  We asked the girl at the hotel desk if she had any recommendations and she said "Well you're in California you should try some Mexican food.  Go for something exotic.  If you walk about a mile down the road there is a good Mexican place. Or you could go across the street to get some US food."  I thought that was pretty funny.  There is quite a big population of Hispanics in California.  We didn't really feel like walking all the way to the Mexican place she suggested that night, but we did go to the Saddle Ranch Chop House across the street.  It was a great place.  We were standing there waiting for a table for probably like 10 minutes, and the hostess said "Hey you've been waiting here a while. How about I buy you guys a drink on the house?"  And that kind of set the mood for our night there.  Our waiter was brand new... he said it was his first night on the job and I think we were his only table because he was super attentive to us.  It was kind of funny.  But he was a cool dude.  I saw a lot of people get comped things while we were there.  A lot of people got free deserts with their meal, and they brought out a round of free shots on the house at one point.  And they had people riding a mechanic bull and music in the background.  It was a neat place to eat at.  We were happy that we went there, and we were even happier that it was directly across from our hotel.
Next came what was probably our favorite part of California and that was touring the Warner Brother's Studio. 
We went on a VIP tour and it was excellent.  We were in a group of about 12 people and we rode on  a cart which is basically a really big golf cart that seats 12 people.  It was about a 2 and half hour tour and I honestly think it's the best studio tour in LA.  We also went on Universal's Backlot Tour and Sony's while we were there, but I felt that Warner Brother's was by far the best.
Our guide personalized everything that we got to see.  She asked us what shows we liked and then based on the groups' interests she personalized the tour.  I feel like every tour you go on at Warner Brother's could be completely unique experiences.  There were some standard parts that were scripted that she talked to us about, but a lot of it was our small group asking questions and her taking us to place we were interested in looking at. There we only a couple spots where we were allowed to take pictures, and none on any of their sets.  Speaking of sets we were able to go on set of the Ellen DeGeneres talk show and the Big Bang Theory.  The Ellen stage was very classy and pretty.  We learned during our Dolby tour that she is going to be hosting the Academy Awards this year.  Love Ellen!  And it was really odd/cool seeing the Big Bang Theory set.  All of the furniture was covered with white clothes to prevent dust from getting on them and it really made a difference to how the set looked.  I was shocked by how SMALL the sets really are.  They look much bigger on tv.  Also The Big Bang Theory is unique in that it's set up in sequence.  Meaning it starts with Penny's apartment, then the elevator/stairway, and then the guys apartment.  They say usually the sets are not set up the way you see them on screen.  There were a lot of groups at The Big Bang Theory stage because I think everyone wanted to look at it.  I know Cody was bummed that we didn't have time to see the Two and a Half Men stage area.
There are a lot of stages at the WB and each one has a plaque saying what number the stage is, when it was built, and then it lists the feature films and television shows that have been shot at it.  But it only lists the hit tv series and not the ones that only lasted for a season or two.
This is one of the practical sets that they have set up.  You walk into what looks like a house, but you can see that it doesn't have a roof and the walls can easily come apart.
All sets are kept extremely cold because the lights that are used during filming can be up to 120 degrees.  You can see the vent in the top of this picture... this is used to pump air conditioning into the set to cool the actors down.
This is a "Bush Wagon"  basically if they ever want to hide something in a shot they pull in a bunch of these bush wagons in to cover it up.  The camera focuses on the shot that it wants and all the viewer sees is green in the background which looks like natural greenery.
Stage 24 is where a couple of famous tv shows were shot including Full House and then Friends.  Our guide told us that John Stamos often comes by and covers the plaque up with a piece of paper that says Full House instead of Friends.  They say they think he's not happy that Full House didn't get a plaque too haha.  From the looks of the studio Friends was the only show that has a plaque so far.  
Here are some pictures behind the scenes of where they make the film sets.  Our guide told us that Warner Brothers is basically it's own city.  If a natural disaster hit LA they could be self sufficient for up to 7 days. 
Here is more of the area where they make sets.
They also had a car lot... the first one I noticed was... The Mystery Wagon from Scooby Doo.  :)

 Next I noticed the four different Bat Mobiles that they had lined up.  Pretty neat.  All the guys were taking pictures with them.
Next was the Ford Angelina from the second Harry Potter book.
In this area they also had a green screen section.  First they showed a couple of movie clips to show you how the green screen worked, and then they had one that we could stand in front of.  Here you can see Cody and I looking at the Hogwarts Express.
A part of the tour that was really exciting was a tour of the coffee shop set of Friends.
Here we are on the couch where so many scenes were shot from.
The WB tried really hard to preserve the set of Friends.  They said that after every show this menu was changed.  This menu is from the last episode of Friends.  They hair sprayed the chalk to get it to stick forever and not fade.
Here you can see us behind the scenes.  You can see all of the carts behind us.  One of the last things we got to do was go in the WB museum.  The bottom floor had all kinds of different show and movie costumes, and then top floor was completely devoted to the one and only... Harry Potter!  :) 
Big Bang Theory
There were two walls of Smallville costumes.

The other wall.
The Hangover
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!
Here I am being sorted into a house by the Sorting Hat.  Poor guy next to me... we were joking that this is all that he probably does all day... every day... he places the hat onto different people's heads for a picture.  He must be in so many people's pictures lol.
This was so realistic that it was creepy!  I didn't realize that they had a wax figure of Emma Watson in the movie for the scene when Hermione is petrified in the Chamber of Secrets.  I walked over to this and I was like woaaah... creepy realistic!  I wonder how she must have felt looking at it!
Hehe!  One of the first scenes in Harry Potter.
The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Dementor costume
 Tom Riddle's diary and the costumes from Chamber of Secrets. 
Overall I have to give this tour a very high rating.  It had a lot of very good characteristics.  First we were soooo excited to not have to walk it because we were still tired from our Disney adventure.  It was nice to be in a small group and to be able to ask questions and see what we were interested in.  Next time I go to LA, Warner Brother's would definitely be on my list of places to check out again.
Next we took a quick pit stop for Cody to look at the Rose Bowl Stadium.  We were there about 3 days before the Rose Bowl game was played and there were people everywhere!!  When we were first going I didn't expect anyone to be there, let alone be able to park and walk around.  But it was like an amusement park with guys leading us in and showing us what spot to park in and everything.  Crazy! I didn't think there would be so many people there, but it looked like there was a festival going on there. Cody was really excited to see the stadium.  In the end we only stayed long enough to take a few pictures before going on to our next stop...
... which was Universal Studios Hollywood!
First thing we did was run to go on the back lot studio tour.  It was a 20 minute wait to get to the 70 minute wait point.
But lucky for us they had a "Groups of 2" line!  Kind of like a single riders line at Disney.  We were like yeeeesssss!!!  We win!  We ran into that line and we got onto the ride in about 5 minutes.  Yippee for being a group of 2!
Here is an aerial shot of Universal Studios.   
Here we are on one of 4 huge trams going around the tour.  Now I'm not saying that this tour was bad, but there were just SO many people on it.  It was very theme parky and totally scripted.  There was no way to ask questions or any personalization like the Warner Brother's tour.  But with that said... there were still some unique things to see on the tour.
For instance...  Wisteria Lane from one of my old favorite shows Desperate Housewives.
It was neat to see all of the houses and the whole block.
Another interesting part of the ride was the King Kong in 360 3D.  Basically it was a like an Imax theatre in 3D and King Kong was defending our tram from different dinosaurs that were attacking.  It was completely immersive, not only did we watch everything around us, but our train was thrown around and things spit at us.  Afterwards the producers of the ride talked about how hard it was to make it in 360 3D because basically people could look anywhere and see the show.  I'd say that it was pretty neat hearing about the behind the scenes stuff.

They also had a show of "Who-ville"  staring the Grinch.  They performed a show and danced.  These were the highlights of the tour for me.  But they showed us quite a bit of different things throughout the tour.  It was a little bit corny and dramatic at parts because it was meant to be a theme park attraction, but I'd say if you go to Universal Studios Hollywood you have to go on it.  But I don't know if I'd go to the park specifically just to see it. 
Here is where one of our favorite shows The Voice is filmed.
Universal was incredibly pretty at night.  I actually thought that it was better decorated than Disney.
I loved the outside of the park. 
All throughout the park they had arches that were decorated pretty too.
They had an Dr. Seuss area where the Grinch was located and all the Who's.  They had Who's singing Christmas music and walking amongst the crowd.  I really liked the big tree that changed colors.
 Here you can see another view of it.  It was memorizing to look at.  Cody and I were there for a bit.
We got to Universal Studios around 1 pm and by 8 pm we had done just about everything in the park.  And that includes watching all the shows that they offered.  Mind you we used their single rider lines for the back lot tour, the transformers ride, and the mummy rollercoaster.  There just isn't much to do in Universal Studios for the day.  Overall we had a nice time there.  It was a fun way to spend the end of our day. 
One thing that I really like about Universal is their City Walk.  It has tons of shops, restaurants, and bars all around.  We ate at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant just outside of the park.  It was surprisingly priced pretty cheap.  I think my meal of half a chicken, and two sides was around $13.  I was pretty shocked by that.  I expected the prices to be outrageous for some reason.
Here we are on the last day of our trip.  Have you really read all of this blog to get to this point?  Thanks for staying with me.  I'll try to keep this short as I can, but you know me...  I'm wordy.  This is about our tour of the Sony Studios.  This tour was about right in the middle if you compare it to Warner Brother's and Universal's back lot tours.  We were in a group of about 30 to 40 people and it was a walking tour.  Because it was such a big group we felt that we had to push ourselves to stay in the front so that we wouldn't miss out on everything.  Our guide walked with one family and while we were walking to different areas he was talking and telling them a lot of things that I think most people in our group missed out on.
This is at the very beginning of the tour.  It's a giant rainbow to honor the Wizard of Oz which is considered the Gem of the studio.  They say that it is the most iconic film ever filmed on their lot.  The rainbow is pure steal and painted with over 160 gallons of paint.  In this area is also a model of Central Park in New York and we got to see where some outside scenes from The King of Queens were shot.

At Sony we got to see how sounds are made and added to movies.  Sony has one of the best sound studios in the business.  They say that they rent it out to other studios to us for a fee.  It sounds like renting out space is pretty common in Hollywood.  If a studio can they always try to use or repurpose a building or space that they already have.  This helps them control costs and the environment.  It's amazing to see all of the different houses and areas that the movie studio can dress up for different scenes. Also, they showed us a room where all noises in movies (besides dialogue) are made.  Such as shutting a locker, a squeaky door, opening a lock, doing dishes, foot steps, and etc...  It was neat to see this behind the scenes stuff.  They had like 10 different types of materials (wood, concrete, carpet) to make footsteps on.  They say that even with all the technology that they have they still do this by hand.  They have someone watch the scene and then they time the footsteps up correctly on the right type of material for the scene.
During the majority of the tour we were not allowed to take pictures.  They walked us onto the set of a new drama the Goldbergs and showed us that set.  We were supposed to get to walk onto the set of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, which is why we really wanted to go on the tour, but they were being fumigated that day so we didn't get to go inside.  Cody and I watch those shows every day and we were really excited to get to see the stage.  I was pretty bummed we didn't get to go.  The best I could get was this picture of the Wheel of Fortune bus.
Sony houses Happy Madison productions which is owned by Adam Sandler.  The Goldbergs is being directed by his company.
Here are Adam Sandler's Cadillac golf carts.  High roller!
Last, for the end of the day we went down to the Santa Monica Pier.  Due to the Rose Bowl it was incredibly crowded.  I heard a local saying that it was more crowded that day than it normally is during the summer.  We hung around the pier for a little bit and then we jumped on to a hop on hop off bus. 
Unfortunately the bus we were on did not have a live guide.  It was one of those tours where you listen to headphones.  But this super fancy car, called a Bugatti, on Rodeo Drive was the high light of our trip.  You can see people standing around and taking pictures with it.  I guess there were only 450 of these cars made and they are over $4 million a piece.  The owner of the car owns a shop on Rodeo Drive.
 To end the night we went back to the pier and then made our way back to the hotel.  We had a hard time figuring out where we wanted to eat at, and we ended up going to a pretty good Mexican restaurant by our hotel.  We had our trip very well defined in Vegas... we knew where we wanted to go every night, but we didn't do enough research to figure out where we wanted to go to eat every in California.  I know that some people like to go with the flow and figure it out as they go, but to us that is actually kind of stressful.  We never know where we want to go, and sometimes we don't always pick the best places.  Next time, I think I'm going to research more throughout our whole trip to figure out where we want to eat every night so that we aren't left hanging at the end of the night trying to figure out where to go.  Overall, it was a good trip.  We don't think that we'll be back to LA anytime soon, but we enjoyed it while we were there.  I hope you enjoyed my blog!