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Theme Park

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Completing the Disneyland World Tour

Hong Kong DisneylandAnd with that, I’ve now been to all the Disneys.  Yeah, that’s right — all my friends might be getting married and starting families, but have they been to every Disney park in the world?  No?  Well then, I think we all know who the real winner is (what’s that? It’s them? It’s 100% them?  Yeah, that sounds about right).

Hong Kong Disneyland

It certainly can’t compare to the magnificence of the two Disney parks in Tokyo — particularly DisneySea — but Hong Kong Disneyland is still pretty great.

Hong Kong Disneyland

I’m not going to go into the same level of obsessive detail I did for Tokyo, but I do have some brief thoughts.

Hong Kong Disneyland

The Disney magic starts on the subway ride to the park.  Yes, those are Mickey-shaped windows, and Mickey-shaped hand holds.  Delightful.

Hong Kong Disneyland

The park was shockingly empty.  There appeared to be a decent amount of people when you were walking around, but we didn’t wait longer than ten minutes or so for any rides.  Some rides didn’t have a wait at all.  It was amazing.  Coming from the insane crowds of the Tokyo parks, this felt flat-out bizarre.

Hong Kong Disneyland

There were some great rides here, but the highlight was, without a doubt, a Haunted Mansion-esque ride called Mystic Manor.  I had heard really good things about it, so my expectations were pretty high, but it still managed to blow me away.  The animatronic technology was probably the best I’ve ever seen, and the ride itself was so fun, with so much personality and a really delightful amount of attention to detail.  It was easily one of the best rides I’ve ever been on.  We did this one twice, and I honestly regret not doing it a third or even a fourth time.

Harry Potter and the Delicious Creme Brulee

Universal Studios in Osaka, JapanUniversal Studios has a location in Osaka, and I figured that since I quite enjoyed my visit to Disneyland and DisneySea in Tokyo, I’d give it a shot.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

The only wrinkle was that the big draw here is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I hadn’t seen a single Harry Potter movie.  So I watched them all over the last couple of weeks — that’s just the way I roll.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

The Harry Potter area was pretty amazing, including an impressively detailed recreation of Hogwarts.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

And, of course, there’s the famous Butterbeer, which I obviously had to try.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

It’s basically a cream soda float, only with melted ice cream.  It was fine, I guess?  It cost a whopping 600 yen (almost seven bucks Canadian) for a tiny cup, so it’s not cheap.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

The centrepiece here is the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was easily one of the best rides I’ve ever experienced.  It also made me feel like I was moments away from vomiting everywhere, so that was unfortunate.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

Otherwise, the park was enjoyable but not quite up to the standards of the two Disney parks in Tokyo, especially DisneySea.

It was also insanely crowded, as you can see from this board with a listing of all of the various wait times across the park.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

Yes, that’s a 170 minute wait (!) for the Harry Potter and Despicable Me rides.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

As for the food, it was mostly nothing special, though there was one thing called a croissant brulee that was shockingly amazing.

Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan

It’s creme brulee with a croissant base; the custard soaks into the croissant, and it basically becomes the best bread pudding that you’ve ever had (only with a crispy, sugary top to make things all the more delightful).  It was so much better than I was expecting it to be.

Disney Food Extravaganza

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanThe food at Disneyland/DisneySea in Tokyo was shockingly good.  I was expecting something along the lines of Disneyland Paris, which was pretty much nothing but boring theme park staples like chicken strips, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

Instead, there was a veritable cornucopia of interesting  (and surprisingly delicious) treats.  It was so amazing that I felt compelled to write a whole post about it.  So buckle up, because here’s a breakdown of everything I ate in both parks (it’s interesting, trust me!  No?  Everyone stopped reading several sentences ago? Yeah, I get it).

Tokyo DisneySea

Now, this is going to seem like an absurd amount of food (and yeah, it kinda is), but in my defense I arrived at the park at 8:30 in the morning and didn’t leave until around 7:30 that night, so this was breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Also, everything looked good and I wanted to eat it.  So there’s that.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanPopcorn
They had popcorn stands all over the park, each selling one particular flavour.  These flavours ranged from the standard to the bizarre.  I sampled three different varieties, and they were all great.  It helps, I’m sure, that these stands were all very popular, so the popcorn was always quite fresh.

Disney food in Tokyo, Japan

There was blueberry, which had the perfect amount of sweetness and a surprisingly pronounced blueberry flavour; curry, which wasn’t spicy at all, but absolutely nailed the flavour; and garlic shrimp, which was so good at replicating that particular flavour that it almost seemed like a magic trick.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanChocolate Churro
You can’t go to a Disney park and not have a churro (unless you’re at Disneyland Paris, in which case they don’t sell churros like a bunch of stupid jerks); I had two at DisneySea, and the first one was chocolate.  Imagine if a churro and a brownie had a baby, and you kind of know what to expect here (it was delicious, in case that description didn’t tip you off).

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanSweet Fried Burrito
This was filled with banana, caramel, and a bottom layer of some kind of chocolate cake.  The whole thing was wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried.  Do I even need to say that it was delicious?  Because of course it was delicious.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanUkiwah Bun
This was an Asian-style bun filled with shrimp and designed to look like a life preserver.  Even if this were bad, this is what it looks like when they give it to you:

Disney food in Tokyo, Japan

Delightful.  It was otherwise a pretty standard bun; it was tasty, though nothing about it particularly stood out.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanGyoza Sausage Bun
Another bun; this one is shaped to look like a giant gyoza (a Japanese-style dumpling), and filled with gyoza filling.  Tasty stuff.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanTiramisu Ice Cream Sandwich
This was probably the most disappointing thing I ate all day, and it was still pretty decent.  It’s basically a standard ice cream sandwich with a vague coffee flavour.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanPotato Churro
Churro number two.  This was actually a churro in name (and shape) only; it was actually a savoury creation, with a lightly crispy exterior, and a creamy, vaguely chewy interior (I think from potato starch?).  It was bizarre at first (especially since I was expecting something sweet), but after a few bites it grew on me.  It was kind of like a cross between Pringles and mashed potatoes, only a little bit chewy.  Odd, but good.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanBourbon at the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge
So DisneySea has a Teddy Roosevelt-themed bar on a full-sized steamship in the old New York area of the park.

Disney food in Tokyo, Japan

I went there and had a bourbon, mostly just for the novelty value of drinking whiskey in an old-timey bar in a Disney Park.

Disney food in Tokyo, Japan

They served it in a shot glass — I don’t know what they thought I had in mind for the evening, but I certainly didn’t drink this in a single shot.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanSeafood-Cheese-Curry Fried Pizza
At this point I was actually pretty full, but then I saw a stand selling these things, and obviously I had to try one.  I mean, what do I look like, someone who isn’t going to try a fried pizza filled with cheese and seafood curry in a theme park?  This could have been disastrously bad, but I think it’s clear at this point that Tokyo Disney isn’t kidding around when it comes to food.  It certainly wasn’t great — the crust was a bit soggy, and the seafood a bit overcooked — but it way better than you might think, and a tasty way to end the day.

Tokyo Disneyland

The selection of food at this park wasn’t quite as awe-inspiring as what they’ve got going on in DisneySea, but it was still pretty impressive in its own right.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanSweet Potato Tipo Torta
I had absolutely no idea what this was going to be — it’s sort of churro-shaped, so I figured it would be something like that.  It’s not that at all.  The exterior is crispy, flaky, and buttery, like a really good pie crust, and it’s filled with a creamy, custardy sweet potato filling.

Disney food in Tokyo, Japan

This was shockingly good — it was easily the best thing I ate at either park.  It also had one of the longest lines, so clearly, everyone knew what’s up.  I wish I could eat these all the time.  I wish I could eat one right now.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanSoy Sauce and Butter Popcorn
I was a bit popcorned-out from the three boxes at DisneySea, but I felt compelled to try this flavour.  This was a rare misstep from Tokyo Disney.  Not that there was anything wrong with it — it basically just tasted like standard popcorn.  The soy sauce flavour really didn’t stand out at all.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanSmoked Turkey Leg
Another Disneyland classic.  This was quite tasty, with a nice smoky flavour, though it turns out that eating a turkey leg by hand is actually a bit of a pain thanks to all of the inedible bits you have to navigate around.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanPretzel Filled with Sweet Cream Cheese
This tasted more like a bagel than a pretzel, but it was nice and fresh, with a very generous amount of sweet cream cheese filling.  Yeah, it was good.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanStormtrooper Dumplings
These were mochi balls with little Stormtrooper faces printed on them, which is delightful, obviously.  They also tasted really good, with three different fillings — custard, strawberry, and caramel.

Here’s a little thing that shows you the surprising amount of care Tokyo Disney puts into their food: the strawberry filling is clearly made with real strawberries, because there were a few little strawberry seeds interspersed throughout.  Any other theme park would just use cheap strawberry flavouring and call it a day, but not here.  It’s so great.

Disney food in Tokyo, JapanPork on a Chinese Bun
Last but certainly not least, there’s this Chinese bun with pork belly and some kind of sauteed greens.  The bun was fluffy and perfect, the pork was unctuous and tender with a really tasty sauce, and the bitter greens helped to cut the richness of the pork.

Also, it looked like Mickey’s glove.  Come on, man.  Food this good at a theme park?  Delightful and delicious?  What is this madness?

Disney food in Tokyo, Japan

But that’s just the way that Tokyo Disney rolls.  And not only was everything really good, but it also wasn’t crazy expensive.   Pretty much everything was between three and six bucks Canadian, which certainly isn’t cheap — but it’s still quite reasonable for food at a theme park.

So there you have it.  If you go to either Disney park in Tokyo (and you should definitely at least make time for DisneySea — it’s magical), make sure you go with an empty stomach.

Disneying it up in Tokyo: Day 2

Disneyland TokyoAfter the amazingness that was DisneySea in Tokyo, I sort of figured Disneyland would have a hard time measuring up.  And yeah, it’s definitely not as good; DisneySea was such a memorable experience that I could easily recommend it to anyone, even people who wouldn’t otherwise be all that interested in visiting a theme park.

Disneyland Tokyo

Disneyland, on the other hand, was great (I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad Disney park), but it’s definitely more ride-oriented.

Disneyland Tokyo

There were some pretty memorable rides, though.

Disneyland Tokyo

There’s the classics, of course.  Pirates of the Caribbean, which is fun, though it can’t quite live up to the version in Shanghai, which uses cutting-edge technology in a way that’s downright mind-blowing (it’s probably the best ride I’ve ever been on).

Disneyland Tokyo

There’s Splash Mountain, which I really enjoyed, and which certainly lives up to the “splash” in its name — I got thoroughly soaked, though I think I was just unlucky, because it seemed like everyone else in the car (the log?  The vehicle?  I don’t know what to call that thing) barely got wet at all.

Disneyland Tokyo

The Haunted Mansion was fun, especially because they had completely overhauled it with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme for the season.  It was seriously impressive how thoroughly they had modified the ride; it wasn’t just a few cosmetic changes, it was a complete transformation.

Disneyland Tokyo

There’s a Winnie the Pooh ride, which was insanely popular, with crazy long lines all day.  Meanwhile I don’t think I waited longer than five minutes for Pirates of the Caribbean, so go figure.

Disneyland Tokyo

I also quite enjoyed the Who Framed Roger Rabbit ride, though I have to wonder if anyone under the age of 20 has even heard of that movie.

Disneyland Tokyo

And there’s a Star Wars ride — a motion simulator that has you flying around with X-Wings (and going underwater with the Gungans, for some bizarre reason).  I actually skipped this in Paris because I was afraid it was going to give me motion sickness.  And it kinda did, but totally worth it.

Disneyland Tokyo

Plus, like at DisneySea, the food was surprisingly great.  So come back tomorrow for way more detail on the food in Disneyland and DisneySea than any rational person needs.

The Best Disney Park Ever

DisneySea in Tokyo, JapanYou might recall that while I was in Paris, I took a trip to the local Disneyland (because that’s what any reasonable person visiting one of the greatest cities in the world would do, right?  Go to a theme park?).

Well, I’m in another of the greatest cities in the world, and there’s a Disneyland here, so take a guess at what I did (hint: it involves both Disney and Land).

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

Actually, I doubled down; there are two Disney parks here.  There’s Tokyo Disneyland, and there’s DisneySea.  I’d heard that they’re both packed with enough stuff to do that they really need at least a day each, so instead of trying to cram them both into one day, I’m doing a two day Disney extravaganza.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

Up first: DisneySea.  This is the park that, from what I’ve heard, was meant to be slightly more adult-friendly than the typical Disney park.  So it’s a bit less ride-heavy than you’d expect.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

But there are still a bunch of rides, of course.  The most popular one — by far — is called Toy Story Mania, so I figured I’d head there as soon as the park opened to avoid the crowds.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

It turns out that literally every single person in Japan also had this idea, because look at this madness:

That monstrosity is just the Fastpass line, which allows you to come back and do the ride at a designated time with a much shorter line.  I did not stand in it, because it was nuts and I’m not nuts.

But of course, the line for the ride itself never got much shorter than about 80 minutes, so eventually I just bit the bullet and waited.  And after all that it was easily the weakest ride of the day — basically just a glorified arcade game shooting gallery with a few neat 3D effects thanks to the 3D glasses you have to wear.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

The best thing about it, weirdly enough, was the line itself.  Once you get to the indoor portion of the line (which takes about an hour), it’s as if you got shrunk down to the size of a toy, with a bunch of humongous toys strewn about.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

It’s neat.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

The other rides were way better, including a pretty exciting Indiana Jones ride,  and a Small-World-esque ride called Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage which is notable for how impressively animated all of the animatronic figures are.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

But a lot of the appeal of the park is how impressively detailed everything is.  The park is divided into various themed sections (one is like old-timey New York, another is Aztec-themed, etc.), and just walking around and taking it all in is really entertaining in and of itself.  The amount of thought (and money) that must go into building a park like this is staggering.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

There are also some pretty great shows.  There’s one called Fantasmic that starts like a pretty typical nighttime laser/light show, and ends with a Fantasia-inspired sequence in which Mickey fights an enormous animatronic dragon, complete with some pretty impressive pyrotechnics.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

But the best show (and the best thing I saw/did at DisneySea) was easily Big Band Beat.  It’s a really fast-paced, Broadway-inspired song-and-dance show featuring a full big band and some very elaborate musical numbers.  It was so much fun.  It was half an hour long, and it absolutely flew by.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

(I didn’t take that photo — obviously I couldn’t take out my camera and snap a picture in the middle of the show, so just go with it).

And the food was so good, I’m actually going to do a whole separate post about that, so stay tuned (you’re on pins and needles, I can tell).

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

I’m Going to Disneyland

Disneyland Paris, France

It might seem weird to go to Disneyland by yourself, but you know what?  It’s the happiest place on Earth.  You know what’s weird?  Not going to Disneyland by yourself.  Yeah, that’s right, I turned it around on you.

Disneyland Paris actually consists of two connected parks — Walt Disney Studios Park and Disneyland Park.

Walt Disney Studios Park is the smaller of the two, and could probably use some updating (there’s a studio tour ride that references new and hip films like Pearl Harbor and Reign of Fire — yes, Reign of Fire, that fifteen-year-old Matthew McConaughey movie that you forgot existed, features very prominently in the ride).

Disneyland Paris, France

But!  It had my favourite ride of the day, a Ratatouille-themed ride that used some pretty mind-blowing technology to make you feel like you’re running around with Remy.

That park also had my least favourite ride of the day, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which actually would have been pretty fun if it didn’t make me feel like I was going to throw up and/or pass out (or both — both seemed like a very distinct possibility).

Disneyland Paris, France

Disneyland Park is the main event, and there’s so much to see there that you could probably be entertained just walking around without doing any rides.

Disneyland Paris, France

Some other thoughts:

It’s a Small World is still as insanely catchy as ever.

Disneyland Paris, France

Disney owns Star Wars, which is something they won’t let you forget; it’s everywhere in the park.

Disneyland Paris, France

I feel like they need to take another shot at a Haunted Mansion movie, because that ride is kind of nuts; it starts out like a pretty standard haunted house, and gets pretty insane by the end.  I feel like a movie version of that, done well, would be fun.

Disneyland Paris, France

They don’t sell churros in the park like a bunch of jerks (isn’t that a Disneyland standard?? ) but this cookie, which has a bunch of Nutella in the middle, was quite tasty.

Disneyland Paris, France