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Nobody Does It Like Disney! Part Two

By:  Erica I. Peña-Vest

In the last installment of my column, I talked about Disneyland with the promise that this month I would address Disney's other properties in Southern California.

Disney's California adventure was first opened in 2001, so if you haven't been to Disney since then you are in for a treat.  The Disney Imagineering team wanted to create a park that represented all the facets of the Golden State, from a recreation of the Golden Gate Bridge that marks the park's entrance to a Hollywood backlot.  Adding this extra park allowed Disney to import popular rides from its Florida parks and add some thrill rides for the older, adventure-seeking crowd that wouldn't have fit in at Disneyland.

The Tower of Terror is a themed ride based on the popular 60's television show “The Twilight Zone”.  Not for the feint of heart, be prepared to enter another dimension, and be prepared to scream once you are seated on the elevator.  California Screamin' is a rollercoaster situated in the boardwalk area of Disney's California Adventure.  The boardwalk has all the sights, sounds and smells of a typical amusement park, but the rollercoaster is anything but typical.  As only Disney can, they have taken a hallmark ride and raised the bar a notch, leaving guests breathless as the coaster stops at the end of the ride.  The third hallmark ride is the Grizzly River Rapids, Disney's version of the classic log flume ride.  But once again, Disney has taken an old staple and raised the stakes.  Instead of riding a classic gondola, Disney's ride features round rafts that spin and twirl as they are bounced along in the turbulence of the flume.  There is no such luck as picking a seat where you are more or less likely to get wet, as the rafts spin with the mercilessness of a roulette wheel, meaning that no two rides will ever be the same.

Of all the rides and attractions at Disney's California Adventure, my favorite is Soarin' Over California.  Perhaps to the readers of this column, the sensation of flying is nothing new, but for me, being suspended in mid air in front of a three story Imax style movie screen is as close as I will ever be to truly flying.  Once again, Disney's Imagineers have been able to dial up magic on demand, so that I can feel the wind in my hair and smell the orange groves that seem to be just out of reach under my feet as I visit many of California's most famous landmarks from a hang glider pilot's perspective.

Along with California Adventure, another great addition to the Disney property is Downtown Disney.  Disney has added a street between their two parks that is open to the public where you can do some serious Disney and non-Disney shopping and sample some of the best cuisine of Anaheim.  World of Disney is the ultimate Disney store where you can find almost anything you want – Disney-wise – under one roof.  I recommend you save some shopping money for Downtown Disney.  It conveniently makes both souvenirs and collectables easy to find and also brings your some of your preferred mall staples to one area making it the perfect ending to a day at the park. 

Now let's get to my favorite part. I get to travel extensively both as a hobby and for work.  In my travels I get to visit some of the best and most famous restaurants in the nation.   As a food critic for a military newspaper and other publications, you can surmise that I know when I find great food and I know when I find great service.  I was thrilled on my recent trip to Disneyland Resort to find that three of my new favorite restaurants are located at Downtown Disney.  Catal Restaurant and Uva Bar, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria and Tortilla Jo's Mexican Restaurant are three phenomenal restaurants in their own right yet in very different ways.  Catal Restaurant is a fine dining establishment with a Mediterranean menu.  My party ordered various appetizers and meals and everything we tasted was delectable.  Normally, I would tell you that the highlight of any restaurant is the meal.  At Catal, there is something that outshines their food - their service.  If you ever have a chance to visit, indulge in a culinary experience you won't soon forget.

During my visit to Naples Ristorante, I found some of the best pizza I've ever tasted.  They have an authentic Italian menu that leaves you wishing you had time to try one of everything!  My greatest surprise came from visiting Tortilla Jo's.  It had come highly recommended by locals but I was skeptical.  As a Hispanic woman who grew up eating authentic Mexican food prepared in my mother's and grandmother's kitchens, the last place I would have expected to find great Mexican food is at a theme park, but I was wrong.  Not only was Tortilla Jo's a fantastic surprise, I enjoyed it so much, I would travel al the way to Anaheim just to eat there.  It was that good!  Even though they are probably most famous for their outdoor cantina that serves over 100 different tequilas, I think their homemade corn tortillas, that are the staple of every meal, are their strongest selling point.  Definitely not something that should be missed.

In my final installment, I will give you more recommendations on what can't be missed in Anaheim.  From a bowling experience you will never forget to some of the chain restaurants that can't be missed.  Until next time…

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MilitaryConnection.com is proud to be featuring the travel articles of Erica I. Pena-Vest to our users. Erica is a travel industry veteran with over ten years of experience in public and media relations. Erica has worked with hundreds of travel writers before becoming one herself in 2004. As a Navy wife, Erica understands the needs of military families and focuses her research and articles to travel deals for those in the armed services. Erica's travel column is appropriated titled “Sweet Land of Liberty”. MilitaryConnection.com works hard to bring a multitude of resources and information to our audience. This site has thousands of pages of resources and information. There is something for everyone. Users refer to MilitaryConnection.com, as the “the Go To Site” for the military and veteran communities. When the next tour is back home, it's on MilitaryConnection.com