A few months ago, we began thinking about where we would go for our summer vacation. After thinking for a while, I came up with my idea for a dream vacation. This “dream vacation” was to fly out to California and visit as many theme parks as we could. After researching just a little bit, we found an Adventures by Disney Southern California tour. The tour would teach us more about Disney history and take us to the Disney parks. Shortly afterwards, we booked our Adventure and added a few more stops to our trip. After months of anticipation, we finally left for California. We woke up early in the morning, hopped on the plane, had a rather enjoyable five hour flight on Virgin America, and finally landed in California. That’s where this update kicks off. In this update, I will talk about our trip before we even arrived at any theme parks. So get ready for to hear about Disney and Hollywood history along with a ton of non-theme park fun!


So, we finally arrived in California. Just seconds after getting on the plane, the first “sign” of what was to come looked right at us.


Oh look, there was another sign about what was to come! Speaking of this billboard, it was gone by the time we left California.


Next, we got our bags and hopped in the car that Adventures by Disney provided to us. After a 45 minute drive to the Loews Hollywood Hotel (thanks LA traffic), we finally met our adventure guides, Rhiannon and Lauren. They were very friendly and always happy. They were some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.


After arriving at the hotel, we got some pizza in the shopping mall that is Hollywood Boulevard. Since we had the afternoon on our own, we walked down to Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood. It was a very fun attraction. I love how they let you come so close to the figures. After visiting this attraction, we had dinner with the group. Ironically, during dinner we were told that we were going to visit Madame Tussaud’s as a group for the evening. It was a great surprise and we had more fun the second time. One last thing, there’s another sign of what was to come! 😉


The next morning, it was time for a Hollywood tour. The tour started in the mall next to our hotel.


This mall is also known as Hollywood Boulevard.


These elephants were actually props in an old movie. I’m not sure which one, but they are definitely cool statues!


Here’s another cool detail on the columns.


Across Hollywood Boulevard is the El Capitan theatre. This theater is one of the three main theaters for premiers in LA. The other two are the Dolby Theater and Chinese Theater, which are just down the road. At the time they were playing Inside Out, but we won’t talk about that until later!


Next, we walked over to the Dolby Theatre. This is where the Oscars are hosted.


The red carpet literally runs through this mall on its way into the Dolby theater. Tip-If you want to avoid Hollywood Boulevard, which is a complete nightmare, there was a lady with an 8 foot long snake on it, you can sneak through the mall. There are entrances by the Loews Hotel, Chinese Theater, and in-between.


Next, we walked down Hollywood Boulevard to the Chinese Theater.


It is a really beautiful and detailed facade!


All of a sudden I’m thinking about Hollywood Studios.


And now I’m missing the hat again (I know someone hates me for that). Thanks Chinese Theater!


The theater is just as beautiful on the inside.


The screen in there was HUGE! We got to sit down, eat some popcorn, and watch a short film about the history of the theater.


This is probably the coolest feature of the building, the roof of the theater.


After visiting the Chinese theater, we had a few minutes until our next event. So, we were given a little scavenger hunt on the walk of fame. We had to find several Disney related stars. This is by far the best one! We were the first ones to complete the scavenger hunt.


Our next stop was the Jim Henson Company, which was formerly Charlie Chaplin’s studio.


At the building, we saw a demonstration on how they film the puppets. We also viewed their soundstage, but I wasn’t allowed to take pictures for most of the tour. Currently, the Jim Henson company makes programming for younger children and largely uses animation instead of puppets.


Following our visit to the Jim Henson company, they took us out to Tam O’ Shanters, which was one of Walt Disney’s favorite restaurants. The Fish and Chips were delicious! Next, we hopped on the bus and drove out to Walt’s Barn.


Walt’s Barn was a great surprise. It was not on the itinerary, but it was the highlight of the day. The barn, which was the center of Walt’s backyard railroad, is currently a museum that celebrates the history of trains at Disneyland. There were several great pieces of Disney history within the barn. Also, it is now the home of one of the original Disneyland Railroad cars.


For the afternoon, we had the freedom to do what we wanted, but Adventures by Disney had a couple of surprises for us. The first of which was an Ice Cream party at the Disney/Ghirardelli store. We had some delicious shakes before dinner on our own at In-N-Out. It was a delicious burger restaurant, it lived up to my expectations.


The night’s final surprise was over at the El Capitan theatre, where we were provided tickets to see Inside Out. Inside Out is such a great Pixar movie. We had seen it already, but we were happy to see it again. The best part is the cat at the end!


The next day, we went over to Disney Studios! I found where the hat went! 😉


The water tower was under construction when we arrived.


Studios are a strange place. They are like office parks that you can’t take too many pictures in.


The one thing that I could see was in production was The Muppets! I can’t wait to watch the new tv show later in the year.


Yep, the Muppets were filming at Disney Studios. They aren’t part of the Jim Henson Company. Look, Oswald is in the back!


Here’s a Mickey topiary that Michael Eisner brought from Walt Disney World to Disney Studios. There a complex watering system within the plant itself.


Here’s a shocker, the studio has its own store. The day we were there, if you answered a Disney trivia question they gave you a free Inside Out button. I got the question right! 🙂


This special street sign was actually a movie prop from the movie “The Reluctant Dragon.” It was intended to be removed, but it still stands today. Here is the IMDb page for the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034091/?ref_=tttr_tr_tt


This looks like it came straight out of Saving Mr. Banks!


The next stop on our trip was animation!


Across from animation is the on-site theater. Oh look, it’s my “favorite” movie.


Here’s another shot of the animation building.


The hallway of the building is filled with Disney memorabilia and concept art for the animated films. Inside, I even saw a couple of signs for what was being created. The most noticeable of which was the Alice in Wonderland sequel.


After walking through the hallway of the animation building, we took a tunnel under the road and into the inking and painting building. This tunnel was built to preserve the quality of film being transported between buildings.


After our walk through animation, we went into the Frank G. Wells Building, which is the home of the Walt Disney Archives.


I was really excited for the archives, but I was rather disappointed. There were books that we couldn’t touch (SO many awesome Disney Parks books that I wanted to read) and a few displays to look at. I think most of the artifacts were in the back, which was not an area that we visited.


After our Archives visit, we explored outside of the main Disney headquarters building.


The seven dwarfs are the pillars of the building. They are very detailed!


They had a Partners statue facing the building.


They also had this famous statue!


This is the third and final statue from the plaza.


Now, here’s one thing I forgot to mention earlier, this is the Disney Legends plaza!


All of the Disney Legends’s handprints are within the plaza. Shortly after our visit, a few more were probably added!


After visiting the Disney Legends plaza, it was time to leave Disney Studios. We passed by Walt’s office on the way out! 

Disney Studios was a very interesting stop on the trip, but it was not nearly as cool as our next stop, Walt Disney Imagineering. So, we drove over to imagineering, had lunch there, and then got ready for our tour of imagineering. Dave Fisher was the imagineer who took us around. He is the head writer for Shanghai Disneyland (I think that’s what he told us, I know he wrote the story for Mickey Avenue). We started by meeting Lucky the Dinosaur, who still works and lives at Imagineering. We even got to take some photos with him! We then got to hear a bit about how animatronics work, some history of the building, visited the sculpture studio, and walked over to another amazing place at imagineering. This “place” was their virtual reality room. They had it set up so that we were virtually walking through the Magic Kingdom. You could walk around the same model that exists on Google Earth in 3D. Only one person at a time can see the complete experience (they wear a special hat that controls the projections based on location in the room). It actually feels real. It was really cool. Here’s an article about it that came out the week after we visited! http://fortune.com/2015/08/13/disney-imagineering-vr/ By the way, this technology isn’t going to be used in the parks anytime soon. It’s only possible for one person at a time to walk around in the virtual reality. After our imagineering tour, the group would visit Mickey’s of Glendale, but it was being set up for the D23 Expo. They did give us a special pin that was exclusive to the store as compensation, but I would have loved to go. Next, it was time to go to the happiest place on Earth, but you won’t get to see that until later!

We had a great time in Hollywood and at imagineering! If you have any questions for us, comment below and be sure to follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter! You can also find us on YouTubeGoogle+, and Tumblr! Thank you for visiting Theme Parks and Travels! Be sure to follow us here on WordPress and share with the buttons below!

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