A Trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth with the Most Magical People on Earth

Itinerary:

  • Thursday: Fly to LA
  • Friday: Disneyland
  • Saturday: LA dinner and night out
  • Sunday: Fly back

Dates: April 23-26, 2015

Our Odyssey:

It all started one night this past February in Chicago,
where I was celebrating the birthday of my dear friend Andres. We were at a
spunky gay dance club with Doug and Maria, two other good friends of mine, and
Andres and I were reflecting about that magical time we went to Disney Land
together to celebrate reaching a big milestone on a project we were working on
together at UCLA. We each paid for the other’s ticket, bought cute tiny hats,
ate turkey legs, drank cocktails with ice cubes that light up, and rode the
Tower of Terror (one of those free fall drop rides) at least 5 times.

Obviously, we decided, we needed to go again sometime soon.
And so, Maria, Andres, Doug and I decided to plan an April trip to Los Angeles
which would include, of course, Disney Land.

Over the planning period, Doug bailed, my close friend Tony
joined, and since Tim works in LA, he decided to stay through the weekend join
as well. Conveniently, Tim ran into another former co-worker of mine, Jeremy,
on a car rental shuttle in LA. Jeremy is famous for his love of amusement parks
and for that time we went to Six Flags and he may or may not have feigned a
handicap to get us passes to ride roller coasters from the back of the line.
Please withhold your moral judgment, I maintain that I had nothing to do with
this.

And so, rather than flying to Madison from Baltimore after
work on that Thursday, I flew to LA. Tim picked me up at the airport, and the
next morning Tim, Andres, Tony and I rode to Disney Land, which is in Anaheim,
together. Jeremy and Maria met us there later. We booked two rooms at a hotel
across the street from the park, so we could play all day at the park, and then
check out what Downtown Disney had on offer for nightlife.

We started our day at Disney Land, the original Disney
amusement park. I’ve been to Disney Land 3 times before, and Disney World
several times a kid, and I have to admit, as dorky and cliché and touristy as
it is, I really love Disney amusement parks. My favorite ride? Space Mountain,
hands down. As it was a Friday, we were lucky to have hardly any lines for most
of the rides.

One of the quirkiest attractions at Disney Land is the
Enchanted Tiki Room. Despite it’s intriguing name, you’ll likely leave this
attraction less enchanted than you would like. The tiki room is literally that,
a small hut in which everyone sits on benches. Overhead, there are mechanical
birds that sing a song about the tiki room (Hillary Duff did a cover of it
years ago which you can enjoy here).
The mechanical birds are also quite old, and as they move, you hear every
little creak and rickety motion over the music they are “singing”. It’s hard to
sit through this without laughing, and one of my fondest memories of a trip Tim
and I took here a few years ago is going to the Enchanted Tiki Room with no
idea what we were getting into. So naturally we had to take our friends there
this time.

We spent the afternoon at California Adventure, the newer
park which contains more “adventure” style rides (roller coasters, the Tower of
Terror) and only slightly overpriced alcoholic beverages. We enjoyed wine,
margaritas and beer in plenty while frolicking around the most magical place on
earth. What could be better?

Maria left that afternoon to head back to LA to spend time
with her sister, and the rest of us rode the Tower of Terror a few last times
before heading to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tikbar that is themed after, you
guessed it, the Enchanted Tiki Room. We had to wait in line to get in, which
was exhausting, but once in we got drinks with my favorite glowing ice cubes
(bonus- you can take them home as a souvenir, since they are not actually ice
cubes but rather plastic cubes with a multi-colored light inside). They also
had some themed drinks where, upon delivering the beverage, they would darken
the bar and make a loud rumble noise to mimic a volcano erupting. It was pretty
cute.

The next day we made our way back to LA. Tim, Andres, Tony
and I made a failed attempt at doing a hike up to the Hollywood sign (failed
because of rain, not lack of desire), so we instead took a walk around
Hollywood, visiting the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk
of Fame, and catching a view of the Hollywood sign from an outdoor shopping mall
near the Dolby Theater, where the Academy Awards are held.

I’ve been to the Chinese Theater a few times, and I’ve
always been fascinated by the hand prints and foot prints of the film stars
that line the sidewalk outside the theater. Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, John
Wayne- to name just a few of the most famous film celebrities whose hand prints
live on outside the theater. I enjoy imagining what it would have been like
back in the 1940s to be asked to put your hands and signature in a block of cement-
it captures my idea of the excitement and newness of what we now consider old
Hollywood.

That evening Jeremy, Tim, Andres, Tony and I got dinner at
my favorite restaurant from when I worked in LA several years ago- Craft. This
restaurant is just a 10 minute walk away from the Courtyard Marriott I would
stay at, and is known for its upscale family-style comfort food. I always enjoy
their cocktails, grilled octopus, mushrooms, and fish. I used to enjoy their
phenomenal chocolate soufflé, but they no longer offer it on the menu. It’s
very sad.

After dinner we ventured out to Venice Beach to visit some
of the relaxed beach bars there. Venice is one of my favorite areas in LA- it’s
grittier and more laid back than Beverly Hills or Westwood, and I love that
it’s right on the beach.

From Venice we headed towards West Hollywood, where we met
up with Maria and her sister at a bar that had a great cover band playing all
the best ‘90s hits.

The next morning, Andres and Tony headed to the airport and
Tim and I had the day to ourselves before I flew out later that night on a
red-eye bound for Baltimore. It was a great, lazy day, and we topped it off
with dinner at another of my favorite restaurants- Bazaar by Jose Andres. Bazaar
serves Spanish-style tapas with an inventive twist. Dishes like roasted brussel
sprouts with “lemon air” and cotton candy foie gras make it a very unique
dining experience. In addition to those two items, we also enjoyed stuffied
piquillo peppers with goat cheese, seared chicken, eel tacos, and ended with
dessert of chocolate mousse tarts (which were served in a separate dessert
section of the restaurant).

After our delicious dinner, Tim drove me to the airport,
where I said goodbye again to a city that I had gotten to know so well during
my three years of traveling there for work from 2011 to 2014. Some don’t like
LA- they say it’s too prissy or stuck up. And sure, there’s some of that, as in
any city. But I also found kind people, fun bars, delicious food, and of course,
the most magical place on earth.

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