2017 Tiki Bar Visits

I visited 25 tiki bars in 2017, which is a mix of luck and effort. I was fortunate to visit some new cities, where I was able to visit some great tiki bars. In particular, the tiki bars in San Diego and Portland were highlights. Some bars below I was able to visit several times.

Surprises? Tiki-Ko in Bakersfield is amazing and well worth going out of your way to visit. I had suuuuuper high expectations for False Idol and Hale Pale and in both cases all the expectations were exceeded. Superb places!

The Jungle Bird in Sacramento
The Jungle Bird in Sacramento
  1. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (Orlando)
  2. Trader Vic’s Emeryville
  3. Smuggler’s Cove (SF)
  4. Forbidden Island (Alameda)
  5. Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (Anaheim)
  6. The Jungle Bird (Sacramento)
  7. Longitude (Oakland, RIP)
  8. Kona Club (Oakland)
  9. Pagan Idol (SF)
  10. Hukilau (San Jose)
  11. Cat Eye Club (San Diego)
  12. Bali Hai Restaurant (San Diego)
  13. False Idol (San Diego)
  14. Trad’r Sam (SF)
  15. The Alibi (Portland)
  16. Hale Pele (Portland)
  17. The Shameful Tiki Room (Vancouver, B.C.)
  18. Tiki-Ko (Bakersfield)
  19. Bamboo Hut (SF)
  20. The Royal Hawaiian (Laguna Beach)
  21. Aku Aku (Orlando)
  22. Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room (Santa Cruz)
  23. The Kon-Tiki (Oakland)
  24. The Tonga Room (SF)
  25. Luau Lounge (SF)

Thanks to Julie Crossman who was my partner in crime for most of these visits.

Also thanks to Jim and Richelle for the fun SF Tiki Bar Crawl on the hottest day in San Francisco history. It was too hot but still lots of fun. We visited three bars in one night (Smuggler’s Cove, Bamboo Hut, and Pagan Idol).

The Best Thing on the Internet This Week

As has been previously chronicled, I’m a big fan of attraction posters from Disney theme parks. So, it was with wonder that I saw this week’s blog post from the Disney Parks Blog detailing some tidbits from the upcoming holiday overlay for the Jungle Cruise. There was a preview of some of the decorations for “The Jingle Cruise” but the attraction poster that was released truly got me excited to experience the attraction with the new elements.


You can compare this poster with the original from back in the 1950’s (the original Jungle Cruise attraction poster was #3 on my list of all-time attraction posters). I love how this new poster riffs on elements from the original, like the kid with a candy cane instead of a 1950’s cap pistol.

The Jingle Cruise is coming to both the Magic Kingdom in Florida as well as Disneyland in California. We’re heading down just before Thanksgiving and this is already the top of my “must do” list.


Bad App Icon, Disney

Disney is extending the experience for their theme park guests beyond phone reservations and paper park maps. They are moving purposefully this year into their “NextGen” initiative where guests can do a number of things from their smartphones including making meal reservations and managing FastPass reservations.

The app that does this (or, soon will…) is called the My Disney Experience. And here’s the iPhone icon for the app.


Anyone else feeling what I’m feeling?  That this is a really ugly icon.

The Mickey Mouse shape is quite well-chosen, as this design marks the RFID-based keyless entry to the parks and at many attraction entrances. Thus, the phone icon supports the physical locations where guests will leverage this next-generation experiences. But unfortunately that Mickey logo isn’t the only thing on the icon.

Why is there that awkwardly-placed Disney banner on the icon? Who would be confused that this app wasn’t from Disney? Their most famous corporate spokesperson is right on the icon! Who is going to say “where is that Disney app? I see the Mickey Mouse one but where is the Disney one?” Nobody, right?  You didn’t see Apple put their logo on top of the original “iPod” app on the original iPhone. Why would Disney think that they needed to put their name on icon?

The text-description for the app says “Disney World” so why not leave the Mickey logo alone? Because Disney puts that corporate banner on many of their apps as some sort of consistent branding strategy. This is corporate synergy at it’s worst. That Disney banner is just plain ugly.

Top 5 Disney Roller Coasters

5. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Disneyland Paris

dscn1283Big Thunder features an excellent use of hiding the track and incorporating the coaster cars into the storyline for the attraction, with the cars being part of a mine train. The track is similar in the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom variants, but the Disneyland Paris version by far the best. Taking the place of Tom Sawyer Island within Disneyland Paris’ Frontierland, the guests board the coaster and go under the river to travel on an island in the middle of the river. There are some great experiences when you coast on track hanging over the water. The finale takes you back under the river through a dark and thrilling tunnel.

4. Space Mountain – Disneyland

Far smoother than the version at Walt Disney World, this version also has 2×2 seating that is more friendly to families. The twists and turns in the dark are thrilling as is the energetic musical score by Michael Giacchino.

3. Space Mountain: Mission 2 – Disneyland Paris

This version shares little in common with the domestic predecessors. The guests “take off” via linear induction launch and then you plunge into the darkness of the mountain. This version is wilder than the other Space Mountains too, with three three inversions. Also features music by Michael Giacchino.

2. Calif Screamin’ – Disney California Adventure

Whereas most Disney coasters try to hide the track with rock work or darkness, the exposed structure of California Screamin’ sets a wonderful backdrop for Paradise Pier. The design follows the wooden coasters of the era it celebrates, but thanks to steel track technology, this is a smooth and thrilling coaster. Over 6000 feet, by far the longest Disney coaster (by over 1000 feet), this is the only coaster at the Disneyland Resort with an inversion.

1. Expedition Everest – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

For the summit of our list, this one seems to be the Disney coaster that everyone can agree on (it ranked at the peak coaster by each member of our family). Plenty of thrills with a g-force inducing backwards section as well as a gigantic drop. But it also appeals to those who avoid inversions. It also includes the pinnacle of Disney place-making, as they’ve created an entire Hymalayan town of Serka Zong surrounding the attraction. The queue tells the story of past expeditions who experienced the mythical Yeti and is quite beautiful too. While it’s disappointing that the attractions animatronic Yeti has been motionless for many years, it’s still a thrilling encounter on one of Disney’s best attractions ever.


Top Disney Attraction Posters

One of the things about the Disney Parks that I love are the attraction posters. These were important in the early days of Disneyland, used as a way to promote attractions throughout the park. To this day, there are still attraction posters in the tunnels under the railroad tracks leading to Town Square on Main Street USA. This is my list of favorite attraction posters, and you’ll definitely notice there’s an aethetic that I like. In fact, there’s only one in the entire list that departs from the original 1950s style.

A great place to see many of these posters is in the Pizza Port restaurant in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. It’s actually kind of an ironic decorating choice; what says “tomorrow” better than posters from the 1950s?

Disney has released an incredible coffee table book about attraction posters called Poster Art of the Disney Parks. It’s a large sized book and focuses on presenting the posters in a way that speaks for themselves, rather than a whole lot of text describing the process. Well worth getting.

16. Autopia – 1955 (Bjorn Aronson)

The promise of the open road with dad and son. Too bad the actual ride has the car riding on a track so you can’t really steer off the road. The 1950’s design is pronounced in this poster and does set the tone for many future classic posters.


15. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – 2008 (Danny Handke)

Several nods to the “cult appeal” of this Fantasyland classic, especially since it was produced so recently. Why are Mr. Toad’s eyes like that? Hmm… There are absolutely no drug references in this poster.


14. Skyway – 1956 (Bjorn Aronson)

If there’s a single ride I could bring back to Disneyland this is it. I love the bucket ride! I want to see Disneyland from the air, too! Sadly, it’s no longer available. But, we do have this great poster from pioneering artist Bjorn Aronson.


13. Soarin’ Over California – 2010 (Greg Maletic)

The first of the “retro” posters that Disney put together to relaunch Disney California Adventure earlier this year.  The flat color style fits in fabulously with some of the classic posters from the 1950s. It’s clear Maletic has studied from Disney poster pioneers Aronson and Hartley.


12. Silly Sympony Swings – 2010 (Greg Maletic)

I like the red color on the skin of the riders in this one, which creates a nice contrast with the blue sky and the color of the attraction. Mickey’s treatment is quite nice here, too.


11. People Mover – 1967 (Ken Chapman)

Kudos to Goodyear for sponsoring the centerpiece of 1967’s New Tomorrowland. Of course, there’s nothing “new” about this poster style, which looks like it would fit in place if the attraction launched a decade earlier.


10. Mickey’s Fun Wheel – 2010 (Greg Maletic)

I like how many of the new DCA posters include a tagline. The mimicking of the lights in the letters of FUN WHEEL is also a great design choice.


9. Monorail – 1961 (Paul Hartley)

This design was later used at Walt Disney World where they replaced the Matterhorn with the Contemporary Hotel.


8. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – 1963 (Paul Hartley)

Is the show supposed to be funny or is it maybe a little bit dangerous? This poster perfectly sets up the tension of the attraction.


7. Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse – 1962 (Paul Hartley)

Proving I’m not including just my favorite attractions in this list. I never much cared for this attraction, and much prefer the Tarzan’s Treehouse remodel, but this incredible poster simply must be included. Great nod to the Jungle Cruise too.


6. Grizzly River Run – 2010 (Greg Maletic)

The saddest part of DCA’s relaunch was a deemphasis of the park’s former icon, Grizzly Peak. Fortunately, this poster restores it’s prominence.


5. Monorail Mark VII – 2008 (Scot Drake)

The only poster with a different design style. Though, at its heart, there’s still a strong sentimental quality to this poster that was created when the very retro designed Mark VII monorail cars debuted. Plus, a nice inclusion of Space Mountain and the Submarine rides, too.


4. Fantasyland / Dumbo – 1955 (Bjorn Aronson)

Strong and robust color choices from this classic. Technically a nod to three attractions, it’s clear Dumbo gets top billing. Pink Elephant… get it?


3. Jungle River / Adventureland – 1955 (Bjorn Aronson)

I’m not sure if the Jungle Cruise attraction was ever called the “Jungle River,” but this is a classic nonetheless.  Spot the kid with the cowboy hat shooting at the hippo.


2. Matterhorn Bobsleds – 1959 (Paul Hartley)

Very strong design with 1959’s E-ticket attraction. Bold use of darker colors are a contrast with the more typical pastel colors normally used in the posters. And doesn’t it look like an exciting ride?


1. Red Car Trolley – 2010 (Greg Maletic)

I simply love this poster, since it tells you everthing you need to know about the new Disney California Adventure. A great sense of nostalgia for the park’s “main street” entrance area, Buena Vista Street. The Red Car Trolley isn’t really a great mode of transportation (you can walk faster than it moves), but the use of this vehicle gives the street a kinetic energy. You could easily see a Disneyland poster that replaces the trolley with a train and the Carthay Circle Theater with a castle.


The Majesty of Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Here’s a great photo of the mountain range over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This is a shot taken by my wife Julie of the Expedition Everest attraction, and it almost looks like it is a painting and not a photo. This has not been retouched, other than with iPhoto’s ‘enhance’ feature.


Expedition Everest is my favorite attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The ride is thrilling and I love the look of the mountain and the entire section of the park where the ride sits. It feels like you’re walking around in Asia, not Florida.

The Yeti is seen in the attraction, and this was a much-hyped component of the attraction when it opened. Unfortunately, there are problems with the massive figure and it no longer moves. Instead, a flashing light shines on the beast, causing some to call it “Disco Yeti.” And, yes, it’s a bummer. But considering you see the figure for less than two seconds it is hardly a huge disappointment. Especially when even at stationless figure is thrilling. Who wouldn’t want to avoid this paw, eh?


Disneyland Park is TWICE as Good as the Magic Kingdom

We visited Walt Disney World over the New Year’s break, and very much enjoyed our time there. As a longtime Disneyland visitor I always find the Magic Kingdom to be a disappointment. There are many things to like about the park, to be sure. But as a Disneylander I am left with an unsatisfied feeling. There are some obvious differences in the park, especially with super-headliners like The Matterhorn and Indiana Jones not at the Magic Kingdom. On the other hand, as a newer park there are different/improved things in Florida as well.

Main Street Vehicles at Disneyland
Main Street Vehicles at Disneyland

So, I decided to see if I could quantify this. This analysis looks only at attractions and not at shows, character greetings, fireworks, shopping and dining, or other intangibles. Instead, we’re just looking at attractions to experience.  What I did was compare the attractions in each park. If they were clones (or near clones) of each other, then that would be a wash and even out from a points perspective. If a similar ride was “a little” better in one park or the other, then I would award one point. If it was significantly better then I would award two points.

In terms of attractions unique to one park or the other, 1-3 points are awarded based on value/scope. So, Shunken Ned’s Jungle Boats at the Magic Kingdom only gets a 1, whereas something of larger scope and appeal such as Mickey’s PhilharMagic gets a 3.

In my ratings below, I’ve tried to be as fair as possible. In some cases I actually awarded points to the attraction I actually prefer less, due to historical value or other elements. An example of this is Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, which I prefer but lacks an extra scene in the Magic Kingdom version (which, therefore, gets the points). I grouped attractions more or less together by land, though this wasn’t completely equivalent due to differences in the parks.

Disneyland Magic Kingdom Notes
Main Street USA
Main Street Vehicles 2 Main Street Vehicles Vehichles rarely run at MK, greater variety at DL too
Disneyland Railroad 1 Walt Disney World Railroad Primieval World missing at MK
The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln The Hall of Presidents 2 Greater scope and entire land built around this attraction. But DL has the Steve Martin movie.
The Disney Gallery 1 none Not much of an “attraction”
Sleeping Beauty Castle Cinderella Castle 1 Much larger castle including a restaurant. But DL has a walk through.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant 0 Dumbo the Flying Elephant 0
It’s a Small World 1 It’s a Small World Larger attraction features Disney characters in DL.
Mad Tea Party 0 Mad Tea Party 1 Can spin the cups much faster at MK
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 1 Better queue and theme and ride at MK
Peter Pan’s Flight Peter Pan’s Flight 1 Better animatronics at MK
King Arthur Carrousel 0 Prince Charming Regal Carrousel 0
Snow White’s Scary Adventures Snow White’s Scary Adventures 1 More focus on Snow White at MK
Mickey’s PhilharMagic 3 Excellent 3D film with Disney music
Casey Jr. Circus Train 2 Mild thrills for kids
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride 2 Dark ride with cult following
Alice in Wonderland 2 Used to be a 3 until OSHA forced changes on outdoor portion
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey 2 Dark ride
Matterhorn Bobsleds 3 Disney classic
Storybook Land Canal Boats 2 Charming boat ride
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room 0 Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room 0 Essentially similar once again
Pirates of the Caribbean 2 Pirates of the Caribbean Much longer ride at DL
Jungle Cruise Jungle Cruise 1 Longer attraction with extra scenes at MK (but Trader Sam is better at DL)
Tarzan’s Treehouse 0 Swiss Family Treehouse 0 Essentially similar
Shrunken Ned’s Junior Jungle Boats 1
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin 2 Fun Dumbo-like attraction
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye 3 Super-headliner
Splash Mountain 0 Splash Mountain 0 Essentially similar
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 0 Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 0 Essentially similar
Frontierland Shooting Exposition 0 Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade 0 Essentially similar
Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island Tom Sawyer Island 1 Themed better at MK and big plus for Fort you can enter
Mark Twain Riverboat 0 Liberty Belle Riverboat 0
Haunted Mansion Haunted Mansion 1 Extra scene in MK, but better looking exterior at DL. Edge to MK for elaborate queue and hitchhiking ghosts
Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes 1 Only runs on weekends and busy season
Sailing Ship Columbia 1 Runs less frequently than Riverboat
Country Bear Jamboree 1 Would be a 2 if animatronics were well maintained
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters 2 Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin Much better experience with hand-held blasters in DL
Astro Orbitor 0 Astro Orbiter 0 Essentially similar
Space Mountain 2 Space Mountain Far better track, audio effects, seating in DL
Autopia 0 Tomorrowland Speedway 0 Essentially similar
Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover 2 So sad that this isn’t running at DL anymore
Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress 1 Very very dated animatronic show
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor 2 Wish it was funnier
Stitch’s Great Escape! 2 I like it better than the predecessor but nobody would be sad to see this go
Disneyland Monorail 2 Part of Walt’s vision of a world in motion
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage 3 Nemo overlay works well and preserves a Disney original
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue 3 Super-headliner
Captain EO Tribute 2
Innoventions 1 Not very compelling, but maybe more than Carousel of Progress
Mickey’s House and Meet Mickey 2 Charming fun
Minnie’s House 1
Goofy’s Playhouse 1
Donald’s Boat 1
Chip ‘n Dale’s Treehouse 1
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin 3 Immersive dark ride
Gadget’s Go Coaster 2 Short kiddie coaster
Disneyland 51 Magic Kingdom 24

As you can see, Disneyland’s rating was 51 with Magic Kingdom only ranking as 24. That’s twice as many points!

Magic Kingdom currently suffers due to the construction of the new Fantasyland attractions. So, the loss of Mickey’s ToonTown surely hurts. That said, the Magic Kingdom is still far, far behind its cousin in California.

If you have any thoughts on the rationale or my ratings, please leave a comment below.

Fort Langhorn at the Magic Kingdom
Fort Langhorn at the Magic Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom ABCs

This list was inspired a recent episode of WDW Today podcast. I love the show but their website’s comment systems sucks something awful (everytime I try to post something with a carriage return I get website errors… and yes, I tried on Mac and PC).

The concept is that if Disney brought back the old ticket books, what would the attractions of today’s park rate. The best attractions were “E” tickets while the most basic ones were only an “A” ticket.

My opinion is that the ticket should be based on the time it takes to experience the attraction. So, the two animal viewing trail attractions are definitely C tickets. I’m almost tempted to bump Maharaja to a D because I think the theming is so great (see the photo…).

This list includes the actual attractions as Disney has broken them out. I think there’s a good “spread” of free and ticketed attractions (remember: Main St. Vehicles were an “A”)

Where are the Tigers?
Where are the Tigers?

No tickets
Oasis Exhibits
Cretaceous Trail
Habitat Habit

A tickets:
The Tree of Life
Conservation Station
Affection Section
The Boneyard

B tickets:
TriceraTop Spin
Wildlife Express Train

C tickets:
Pagani Forest Trail
Maharaja Jungle Trek
Kali River Rapids
Flights of Wonder

D tickets:
It’s Tough to be a Bug
Festival of the Lion King
Primeval Whirl
Finding Nemo the Musical

E tickets:
Kilmanajaro Safaris
Expedition Everest