When we walked out of the gates of Disneyland on March 13, 2020 for what was to be a 2 week closure who knew what was to really happen. Well we all know what happened next- complete shutdown! Slowly shut down restrictions were lifted and Disney put together their version of a food fest- which they call A Touch of Disney. Even though many people had visited the Downtown Disney District and had been shopping at Buena Vista Street there is nothing like a Disney Event and we wanted to be a part of it!
Let me rewind the tape just a bit because obtaining these tickets was no walk in the park. Once Disney released the details- $75 per person- including a $25 food voucher, parking at the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and unlimited digital photo downloads from your visit, it was real that Disney was going to do this. This event had very limited dates and would operate from 12pm-8pm only on each day.
The tickets were to go on sale March 4th and that’s all everyone knew… no time- just the date. According to fans way more anxious than myself- they were logging on at random hours of the night once the clock struck 12:01AM on March 4, 2021 and many did not sleep a wink as to not miss out on this long awaited opportunity. FINALLY- the online queues to get into the queues opened just before 8am and there we all sat, watched and waited to gain access and then we were in! All of our chances to get tickets were upon us and then it happened… the site crashed! Less than 30 minutes into the over 1 hour wait time was posted on the site- it crashed. This was the message we read- ‘The queue has been paused as we are temporarily unable to sell more tickets. When we can do so, the queue will reopen’. I honestly thought- it SOLD OUT. A little over an hour later the site was back up and the “You’re In Line” was back on the screen. The clocked ticked on for what seemed like forever. Finally the screen said ‘It is your turn.’ I was relieved and excited! The process from there was simple- pick the number of tickets… pick your date… pay the mouse and all finished. March 28th we were set to go to A Touch of Disney at Disney’s California Adventure… TOD at DCA. Now let me be clear- there was to be no rides, no parades, no fireworks and no shows- just food, shopping, limited characters and pictures. But we were going to be a part of the limited number of attendees inside DCA and that was what mattered.
March 28th could not arrive fast enough. Get up early and get ready, but oh wait… California usually has nice weather in March, but Mother Nature must have had a bad week for it was going to be 94* in Anaheim. SHEESH! Paper tickets in hand for admittance as well as we had scanned them into the Disneyland app- so we were doubly ready. We had read about some of the mishaps and fumbles TOD was experiencing, so we took some of the advice and hoped for improvements. And off we went.
Parking was included for the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure, but did not open until 11:30am, which was short sighted on Disney’s part. We did roll past just to make sure this had not changed and it didn’t. All attendees were greeted by Anaheim PD, cones blocking the entrance and a big sign telling all the structure would open at 11:30am. Dumb, but we knew so we had Plan B ready. Off to find a nice shady place to park, which many others did too in the neighborhood behind the structure. I am sure the neighbors didn’t really appreciate all of these mouse ear wearing people parking in their neighborhood- which we saw first hand from a man on a scooter who kept pacing back and forth while we were parked. I am sure he was glad when we all left the quiet neighborhood.
We rounded the corner for the structure about 11:26am and we sat with all of the others, until precisely 11:30am the parking attendants started scanning the tickets. An audible cheer echoed as well as honking horns celebrating the official opening of the structure for our day at TOD! Social distancing was not spared in the structure as each car parked in their own space with an empty one on either side. Mickey 8H was where we left our car and the excitement began to build. Who would have known a parking structure would be so exciting! With having an Annual Pass- you take for granted where you park and how you always remember where you left your car, because it was habit. We snapped a photo of where we parked because we were surely out of practice. We noticed completed construction including an additional elevator to the existing structure. The folks with strollers were happy to not have to wait as long to get downstairs to proceed to security. We took the escalator down as to see all that we had not seen in so long.
Security. The switchback lines were set up to accommodate many attendees. Security is set up backwards- meaning you walk into the security lines from the tram boarding area and out into the courtyard. Bag check was a breeze because they had lots of stations open to search bags, strollers and people. Next up the walk to TOD. Oh did I forget to mention- there are no trams running currently. Yes we were all walking from the parking structure to the park via the tram route. Oh My!
The Walk. Even though starting out the day with a long walk from the structure to the park didn’t really seem like fun- it kinda was, other than it was hot already at noon. In typical Disney style they had decorated the route for guests to take pictures, benches, hand washing stations and of course Security to make sure we all behaved. We even stopped a moment to search for any Disney cats, but none were out for us to see. We overheard guests talking about how excited they were to be back and others who were not happy that we were walking. Its always a mixed bag when things are no longer status quo.
When reaching the end of the tram route, we were treated to a photo opportunity featuring Autopia Ride cars from Disneyland and branded with the TOD logo. There were no hand wipes available here, so either don’t touch or have wipes to use yourself. It finally felt normal now, walking from the tram drop off location and rounding the bend to see lines to enter TOD. The extension of the lines was about half way out into the esplanade, but they were moving. Please wait here markers were placed 6 feet apart at each line to maintain the social distancing requirements. Soon enough it was our turn to walk through the gates of DCA. Plexi glass partitions separated us from the CM- who scanned our paper tickets, gave us each a Park ticket and our two $25 TOD Dining Cards and we were in! It took total of about an hour from when we entered the structure, parking, walking and through the gates to start our day.
Next up… what to eat first?
FOOD! With so many choices- it is often hard to pick, but we had some items on our lists that we had to try. The trick is to find out what you want to eat and order it- especially if it is at one of the 6 Marketplace carts or it is a very popular item- such as the Monte Cristo. One of the biggest mishaps for TOD was the Dining Card and I am happy to say- the glitch has been fixed! You can now enter your Dining Gift Card into the app and it will continue deduct the funds until there is a zero balance. Previous guests had to enter the 16 digit number each time they ordered. We also planned to order food and share it, since we knew the $25 Dining cards were not going to go very far. Its about 3 items per card, based on the cost of each item and trust me most of the food prices are on the higher end of the $9-10 range.
Mobile ordering is another way to order food. The trick here is you need to pick the time that you want to eat that specific food. Doing it ahead of time helps to ensure you get what your belly desires. Example- Ordering the Monte Cristo from Smokejumpers- the app gives you the earliest time it is available for pick up, but you can also scroll down for additional times and pick a time window and choose your desired time. The app sends you a text message when your window for pickup is open. You select- “Im here. Start my order”. Then a 2nd text message is sent when you can enter the mobile order pick-up line to actually go and get your food. This is the tricky thing because you can still wait 30-45 minutes after you tell the app to start your order- which is a long time in my eyes. Tip- when you receive the text- on your walk to wherever you are picking up the food, click the “Im Here. Start my order”. Then you won’t have to wait so long. Also- once your order window opens, you have 1 hour to pick up the order- much like a Fast Pass- or you will need to pick a new time for your food pick up. Our first food choice- the Monte Cristo had an hour and a half lag before the first pick-up window was available. This resulted in a 2nd food choice needing to also be ordered. Food planning is a must!
Food Allergies are a concern of many and this is a bit of a challenge when ordering ahead with the app. In some locations- there are places that note the common food variances- plant based and gluten free, but there are many others that are not so common. Tip- some of the mobile ordering locations specifically list the food ingredients but some do not. Some locations also allow guests to write special requests as well. When you arrive to pick up your food- tell the CM your allergy and they will assist you. Also make sure you tell the CM you pick up your food from so they know about the specifc allergy so they insure that you get the correct item. This is why ordering via Mobile Order is my least favorite way to order food. This is where you really don’t want a mistake to happen.
Below are the foods we ate and what we thought of them based on a letter grade (A+ to an F). We did spend extra money because our two $25 Dining Cards went pretty quickly and we were still hungry. Being it was super hot, we did not have any issues asking and receiving free glasses of ice water at all locations that had cups. Which is a great thing that Disney does. Paying for water makes me a bit crazy!
Monte Cristo-A+. Just as we remembered… YUM! YUM! It was so good, I didn’t want to share it, but I did. Hot and crispy deep fried goodness. Full of flavor that made our taste buds super happy. Dusted with LOTS of powered sugar that flaked off into the Berry jam when dipping.
Brisket Mac’n Cheese-A. This was really tasty and a good serving portion as well. The pork was shredded and mixed perfectly with the BBQ sauce. The mac’n cheese was very creamy and the pasta was not overcooked. We found a shady table in front of Soarin’ Over California. This was the best food we ate.
Very Very Berry Mickey Waffle- B-. On the top of my list and it fell short, but not for lack of flavor, but quantity. One little Mickey waffle with syrup, a small scoop of berries and a small dollip of whipped cream. Who eats just one waffle? The berries were full of flavor and a nice blend with the waffle, but such a small serving overshadowed this choice. Farmstand Punch-B. We pared this with the Very Berry Waffle and it worked since it was orange, pineapple, peach and lime juice with a slice of lime. Very refreshing on a hot day. Wished it could have been a spirited drink choice. We grabbed seat near the Wine Country Trattoria Vineyards at a somewhat shady table. More umbrellaed tables are totally needed so guests can sit and enjoy their tastings.
Dole Whip- A+. AMAZING! We ordered this in a cup, but when we got to the window, we requested a cone too and wish granted. Creamy… full of that pineapple flavor and COLD! Remember it was 94* when we visited. We enjoyed this while sitting along the Pixar Pier and in the shade. It was perfect! Man this was so missed.
Asian-Style Beef Barbacoa Street Tacos- B. I did not eat this item, however Brett did. Only 2 street tacos in this tasting, though full of flavor. Ginger and pickled onions were the major flavoring in this along with peppers which were not too spicy. The beef was tasty and tender and it all made a nice snack. It was really an $8 snack. Wish there was another taco included or some chips to make it more worthwhile. We found an umbrella in the shade on the Pacific Wharf to relax and cool our heals.
Cheddar Cheese Stick-F. I love cheese dogs, but this food option was a huge mistake. Even though the outside was crisp- it still was not hot and the bite into the cheese dog was well- just gross. It was a warm hunk of cheese that was not melted… how does this even happen? So back it went and the 2nd one was not any better. The worst part is the CM told Brett that its not going to melted in the middle… and to bring it back if I wasn’t happy… WHAT??? That is just plain crazy! Makes no sense, but I was not about to eat a gross lukewarm, not melted hunk of cheese. BLAH! So a normal corn dog was my replacement.
Corn Dog- A-. The Corn Dogs are always a must on my list for food while at Disney. We still wish there were fries with this instead of the chips (which just seems cheesy) and the cuties well let’s face it while yummy who wants healthy stuff with a corn dog. The challenge was this was my replacement for what I really wanted, which was the Cheese Dog. And the corn dogs at DCA are not the same as the ones at the Red Corn Dog Cart at Disneyland. Nope you can’t change my mind either no matter what. We sat in Hollywood Land in front of the Off the Page store and enjoyed the sunset and the dip in the temperature- finally!
Overall the food was mostly tasty, but not very filling. The inconsistency of the portion sizes to the cost of the items seemed a bit unbalanced. And having to spend extra money to just be satisfied was annoying. We eat at Disney all the time when we visit, we know the portions that they can dish up, so realize these are truly tastings.
Photos. One of the great things that is included in the ticket price is unlimited digital photo downloads from the day. This is a highlight for us, since we love to take pictures. During the previous visits to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street we only took selfies, so it was great to finally be able to have pictures together from real photographers. Photographers were snapping away all throughout the park. If you have a Disney Visa, there is an exclusive area near Grizzly River Run to have your picture taken. (Which by the way- has no water currently). Some of them even had a little magic they would add to your photos and a little surprise appeared. I think there were some challenges with Disney Characters being out for the photo opps due to the extreme heat on this day, which is totally understandable. The Disney Photographers were genuinely having fun and making the photos with each group magical!
Legacy Passholders (aka- Annual Passholders) also had a special area to go and pick up a TOD button and a Legacy Passholder magnet. A fun photo opportunity was also there, but unfortunately a Disney photographer was not. This really bummed me out, because unless you came with someone else you were only able to take a selfie or individual pictures and what fun is that. Updated News- We were told this past week that a Disney Photographer had been added to the Legacy AP area! YAY!
Cast Members. The true heartbeat of Disney who can make or break TOD and they lived up to it! There was not a single CM who was not exhibiting the Disney spirit. They were going above and beyond to ensure the guests were having a wonderful time. Helpful… Excited… Smiling… Genuine… I could go on, but you get it. They were on it.
Atmosphere. Music sets the stage and plays a huge part in the overall experience of an event. A hip new soundtrack was created for TOD. Classic Disney tracks were transformed into new versions by artists such as Fall Out Boy, Jessica Simpson and Gwen Stefani. I would have been happy with the classic songs in their original version, but TOD was something different and they must have felt a new soundtrack was needed. Some of the playlists seemed to be too short, for we heard the same songs over and over after being there all day.
Upon entering TOD you easily spotted cherry blossom trees in full bloom and the cluster of pink encircled the sparkling fountain at the end of Buena Vista Street. With all of the bright blooming flowers throughout DCA- there was no doubt that Spring had sprung.
Almost all of DCA was open for the guests to experience- except for just beyond the Monsters Inc. ride, around the buildings and extending to the Guardians of the Galaxy ride. No peeking at the soon to be opening Marvel Land later in 2021. All will have to sit tight and wait until DCA fully reopens very soon.
At Pixar Pier, guests were playing the various games and they all were FREE! We did not play ourselves, but we discovered a Disney 65th Birthday button was being handed out to the winners of the games. Pretty cool.
Once the sun sets and the light switch is flipped in DCA, a whole new experience unveils itself. This park has always been a nighttime park. Mickey’s Fun Wheel flashed its lights for all to see and reflected upon the lagoon. The lights in the fountain in front of Carthay Circle glistened. The neon lights down Hollywood Blvd flickered as the guests admired from where they stood. Cars Land went from a daytime desert to a glowing red rocked canyon. It was exciting to watch the expressions of the guests as they too witnessed those much missed sights.
Another amazing part of being at TOD is the people watching. There is never a shortage of seeing the matching shirts an entire family wears to celebrate their visit to a young couple who are just starting their lives together and sporting the Bride and Groom Ears. Witnessing the bright smile on the child’s face who is having a Big Hero 6 Balloon tied to their wrist or the kisses exchanged because he just bought her something she really wanted from Elias & Co. And of course the rubber bones of the child who refuses to hop in the stroller because he really does not want to go home. These little moments and so many more are all so special. Even though I know none of their names, we all came to this place to create memories.
Shopping. This is always a big deal for guests and for Disney. The huge miss here- no TOD merchandise. No shirts or magnets or tote bags or cups- nothing! Guests love this stuff. Maybe since it was such a short window for TOD to run or not enough time to make specific merchandise, Disney just opted out. Well that surely did not stop the guests from buying whatever else Disney was selling. When it says Disney, people will want it and will go get it.
And now its time to say good-bye to all our company. Yes 8pm rolled around and our day had come to an end. But we still had to walk back to our car in the parking structure via the tram route. Well it wasn’t so bad going to the park, but man was it brutal from the park. A long but peaceful walk and a great way to wind down a bit after a full day at TOD. Up the escalator to the Mickey level and there it was- our car! Over 15848 steps and 9 and a half hours earlier right where we left it. Whew… We are out of theme park shape!
What a day full of food, smiles, photos and most of all memories. TOD was an experience that had some misses, but mostly hits. Disney is dear to so many people and just to be a part of this event is exciting. We were happy we attended.
Touch of Disney runs Thursdays through Mondays from 12noon till 8pm each day. The event has dates until April 19, 2021, but is completely sold out.
See Ya Real Soon!
One thought on “A Touch of Disney- aka Disney Lite!”
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Here is my recent article written for Theme Park Duo. Check it out. I hope you enjoy it too.