California 2003  

We passed through Los Angeles on our way back from our Honeymoon and promised ourselves that we would return. And return we did.

We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel which is located within the Disneyland borders in Anaheim. The original Disneyland was expanded in 2001 to include a new theme park (California Adventure), a shopping and entertainment area (Downtown Disney) and the Grand Californian Hotel. All are in close proximity which meant that the hotel was an ideal location for Disney buffs like us ;-).

Los Angeles itself sprawls across a huge area and wherever you choose for a base, you really can’t avoid getting on the mad L.A. freeways to get about.


The original Disney theme park, but sadly, not the best. Walt Disney got his sums wrong when he built this park and didn’t buy enough land. After the park was built, it was therefore impossible to do a lot to it to make it bigger and better as it is bounded on all sides by roads. Florida was Disney’s second attempt and he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again, buying up 44 square miles of land that in no way could he ever have needed.

Everything in Disneyland seems (read ‘is’) smaller than in Florida . The castle is smaller, Main Street is shorter, each of the themed lands are smaller. However, this is Disneyland and the magic certainly still exists for the millions that go there (at least the ones that haven’t been to Florida first!).

California Adventure

Disney managed to squeeze this park into their lot by converting the huge car park into a multi storey. The reason it was needed is that Disneyland had become so popular that it was filling to capacity as soon as the gates opened each morning. Because there was only one park, most people were only spending a single day here and hence staying elsewhere within California. By building the second park and a night time entertainment/shopping district, Disney could persuade more guests to stay on-site and thereby milk them for more dollars. The only bad thing here is that it took Disney 46 years to realise they could do this!

Having said all this, California Adventure is a bit of a pick n’ mix of rides and shows taken from the parks in Florida . That’s not to say that this is a bad thing, but it’s not so good if you’ve already visited Florida, as many of the rides here seem familiar but misplaced.

There are a few rides worth a mention here though. California Screamin’ is a roller coaster that starts with an acceleration of 0 to 55 in 5 seconds and continues in this manner for a couple of minutes. Some advice here: Do not ride twice in quick succession!!! You have been warned! We had to leave the park shortly after we made this mistake as Mike developed a dizziness that wouldn’t shift without a lie down. Having said that, it’s a great ride.

Soarin’ over California is a ride like none we have been on before. Mike isn’t able to do simulator rides due to motion sickness, and we were a little worried about this ride as it is a sort of simulator (but in huge proportions). Our worries were unfounded and it was a great show.

The Electrical Parade is a night time parade of floats all done up in lights (like some of the trams in Blackpool, but on a much larger scale) and it is quite spectacular though you need a good camera to get any pictures at all.

Universal Studios

This park is a completely different set up to the Florida version. The major attraction at this park is the Studio tour. Of course, being in Hollywood, this is a real studio with real sets to see (we even saw some filming being carried out in the distance). It is much more interesting than the Florida version that was only developed to milk the tourists. Universal have been adding rides to the park over the past several years and there are a number of good ones to fill up the rest of the day after the tour. We enjoyed our day here.

Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard

No trip to L.A. would be complete without a nose around the Hollywood area. A walk down the Hollywood walk of fame on Sunset Boulevard, and of course a guided bus tour of all the stars houses in Beverly Hills . We also checked out the famous Pinks Hot Dog stand where many famous people have been known to get in line for a Chilli Dog and Fries (and the line is long!). Whilst waiting, we saw a limo draw up to take a party of kids away (presumably we should have recognised some of them as sons/daughters of the rich and famous, but we didn’t!).

We went shopping in Rodeo Drive (well, actually we bought a book from the next street along but hey, so what, we carried a bag with something in it down Rodeo Drive, that’s enough!).

We also found a Cheesecake Factory in the “Golden Triangle” to have dinner in. Now this isn’t a factory as such, but a chain of restaurants where they serve excellent food, and also rather large slices of Cheesecake for desert. Unfortunately we had to have our Cheesecake “to go” as we forgot to leave room!

Venice Beach

“You haven't seen it all until you've seen Venice!”. Well, there’s a beach, and a promenade with shops on it (most of which are selling the same gear), a few street performers, many dodgy looking characters that might be about to pick your pockets, and hoards of people walking up and down. Why??? Sorry, we didn’t get it, and promptly left! Thankfully our car was still where we left it!

Knotts Berry Farm

There were no crowds at all here even though there seemed to be a few school parties at the entrance when we arrived. Knotts Berry Farm has an interesting history about it that you can read on their own web site. The theme park has just a few rides and shows but there are at least three particularly good ones. Xcelerator launches you from stationary to 82mph in just 2.3 seconds! Ghost Rider is an extreme bone shaking wooden roller coaster we had no intention of riding a second time! Mystery Lodge was an intriguing Native American storytelling experience with special effects that were rather hard to explain.

Longbeach and the Queen Mary

Longbeach doesn't have a great deal going for it in terms of uniqueness. It has a beach that is, well, long. There are shops, and restaurants, but nothing much that sets it apart from any other area of LA, However the one thing it does have is the Queen Mary. She's a magnificent ship and definitely worth a visit but be sure to leave plenty of time to poke around in all her nooks and crannies and see all the exhibits on board. It's fascinating to see how the different classes of passenger lived and dined while on board and also to see the crew quarters, messhall and bridge. There's even the indoor swimming pool where we were told we might see one of the many ghosts that haunt the area. We didn't.

After exploring the ship we set off into the city of Long Beach in search of a restaurant and encountered the locals competing in a mini-golf tournament up and down the main street. We're still waiting for someone to explain that one to us.


We found the Cabazon Outlets just over an hour drive east of Ahaheim and this was sufficient to build up our “stash”.


Our favourite eating holes were:

Outback Steakhouse – This is a chain and we’ve seen them about before but never tried one. When we arrived we could tell it must be good from the number of people waiting for a table. It was very good and we have been to another Outback since to confirm that they are good in other locations too. It was here that we discovered garlic mashed potatoes. Apparently there are some Outbacks in the UK but not yet near us!

The Madison – This was quite a find and not as expensive as we thought it might be. We had a Chateaubriand for two, carved at the table and it was awesome!

Cheesecake Factory – We have tried several of these in different locations and they are all very good.

Tony Roma’s - Famous for Ribs, we agree that they are good. We have since discovered that we can get full racks from Costco and that they are just as good!

Napa Rose – Located within the Grand Californian Hotel this was extremely good, though with a price tag to match. At over $200, we think this is the most expensive meal we have ever paid for!