Roses and Roller Coasters

Rose Bowl

Being a third generation Duck and a proud alumni, it was such a treat to kick off 2020 with my husband at the Rose Bowl and cheer on our Oregon Ducks to victory! It was such a close game between the Ducks and the Wisconsin Badgers, but the Ducks won by one point!

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We flew into Burbank the day before the game on New Year’s Eve, and stayed at the Marriott Courtyard in old town Pasadena, which was an ideal location. It’s a short walk to the shuttles that can take you to the stadium on the day of the game, and it’s also only a couple blocks away from the famous Rose Bowl Parade.

It was really special to catch up with my aunt and my cousin at the game! They live in a different state so we don’t get to see them very often (my aunt is also an alumni of the University of Oregon and a lifelong football fan!).

Disneyland

We spent the day after the game at Disneyland. I hadn’t been since I was 14 and I’d never been during the holidays, when the whole park is decked out in holiday style.

However, I must admit that the thing my husband and I were most excited about seeing at Disneyland was Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I have very fond memories of watching the original trilogy with my parents when I was a kid and building the Millennium Falcon out of Legos with my little brother.

So… was it worth all the hype?

YOU BET IT WAS!

*Cue Star Wars Theme Song*

Disney definitely knows a thing or two about bringing a fictional world to life, and the attention to detail at Galaxy’s Edge on both a large and small scale was truly astonishing. The full-size R2 droids (like the one above) would suddenly start beeping as if to say a cheerful hello, and Stormtroopers “patrolled” the area in full regalia, much to the delight of passersby.

We didn’t know about making reservations at Oga’s Cantina in advance, but luckily when we walked by the line wasn’t long and we waited less than 10 minutes before being taken to a shared table (when we walked by later on, the line was huge and we overheard that the wait was 45 minutes).

Keep in mind that the majority of the tables are bar counter height and are for standing (there are some seated booths, but definitely limited availability). The Cantina serves both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (and yes, minors are allowed. This is Disneyland, after all). My bright blue drink was called “Jedi Mind Trick” and was grapefruit-flavored and pleasantly tart.

Though we were lucky with a short wait time at the Cantina, we did not get so lucky with the Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run ride. Though we purchased the MaxPass so we could reserve a time slot for rides in advance and not have to wait in the regular line, unfortunately MaxPass is not available for any attractions in Galaxy’s Edge.

So we waited. And waited. And then waited some more. In total, we waited almost two hours, which–albeit long–isn’t the worst Disneyland line I’ve ever heard of.

When you finally get inside the ride itself, you’re divided into groups of six before being taken into a small room that looks just like the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit. Each person has job responsibilities for operating the Falcon (pressing certain buttons when they light up, etc.). The flight simulator does not use 3D glasses, but the room does shake and move to make you feel as if you’re truly flying Han Solo’s famous spaceship.

As much as I love roller coasters, I do sometimes suffer from motion sickness. I’m particularly sensitive to 3D rides, virtual reality, and immersive flight simulators with TV screens.

Thankfully, I was only a little bit dizzy after this particular ride, and I personally think it helped that I sat in one of the back seats and not right up front, which would’ve put me closest to the screen.

All in all, it was quite the fun ride, with hands-on and immersive features. But was it worth the long wait? That’s debatable. Flight simulators are not my personal favorite due to the motion sickness factor, so I’m admittedly a bit biased.

My husband and I both preferred Hyperspace Mountain, which is a ride on an actual roller coaster. I always prefer a real roller coaster over a simulated one!

Sleeping Beauty’s castle is beautiful at night, especially with the icicles and holiday decor. The fireworks show at 9:30pm was definitely worth staying for (they also had artificial snow falling at the end!). ❄️

We ended up spending almost 13 hours at Disneyland, with our final ride of the evening being Indiana Jones (always a fan favorite!).

I will say that the park was extremely crowded that whole day, though we knew it would be because of winter break.

A few things I learned:

  • You can make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance, and if you’re going during a busy season, I would definitely recommend lunch and/or dinner reservations.
  • The MaxPass is soooooo worth it. The Disneyland app is super handy and makes it very convenient to reserve time slots for rides on your phone. It saved us SO MUCH time, and we actually got to go on all the rides that we had hoped to.
    Clothing Layers: Though it was sunny and comfortable during the day, in the evening I got pretty chilly with only a light jean jacket over my t-shirt. Granted I’m one of those people who always gets cold, but I wished I’d brought more layers, such as a sweatshirt and a beanie.

Universal Studios

Not gonna lie, the main reason we went to Universal Studios was to finally see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We visited Universal about six years ago, but at that time the Wizarding World was a few months from completion.

Not sure whatever happened to my Hogwarts letter, but I was like an excited little kid as we strolled through the village of Hogsmeade. Its cobblestone streets and familiar shops (like Ollivander’s and Honeydukes!) transported me to the magical times of my childhood when I would stay up all night reading the latest Harry Potter book.

We had purchased the Universal Express Pass in advance and got to skip the line and go on our first ride of the day with no wait time at all! It was the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, and–while it’s a fun little roller coaster with some sharp twists and turns–was extremely short in length.

We then rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is a motion simulator type ride inside Hogwarts castle, but with a bit of a twist. Some parts of the ride use screens and movement to mimic the feeling of flying, and other parts of the ride utilize real objects and various special effects.

I was a bit apprehensive about this particular ride because of the motion simulator aspect, but I found that the combination between screens and real objects actually made it easier for me to handle (as opposed to other rides where you’re staring at a screen the entire time). I was a little dizzy by the end, but the thrill of the ride itself far outweighed my slight discomfort.

Afterwards we stopped for a refreshing glass of Butterbeer (which actually has no alcohol in it and tastes like frothy cream soda).

After more rides in other areas of the park, we had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, which was a busy restaurant straight out of the pages of Harry Potter with the antique feel of an old British pub.

Though the waiting area to pick up your food was a bit chaotic, our meal was well worth the chaos. My husband loved the sauce on the ribs, and my beef roast was excellent!

Shop my outfit here.

And this wouldn’t be a style blog without a bit of outfit inspiration! I call this look: Hogwarts, but make it fashion. 😉 Being comfortable and casual was key for our busy day at Universal, but I also wanted to show my Ravenclaw spirit with a classic scarf.

Pro tip: I ordered my officially licensed Harry Potter scarf on Amazon the week before our trip! Definitely a more cost effective option than buying one there. #RavenclawForLife

Griffith Park

We began our last full day in Cali with a short hike at Griffith Park. I really wanted to see the sprawling views of Los Angeles and, of course, the iconic Hollywood sign.

After doing some research online, we decided to do the Mt. Hollywood Trail near the Griffith Observatory. We wanted something shorter and moderate, and this route fit our needs perfectly.

We parked on the street on Western Canyon Road (the Observatory parking lot was full and to park on the street the cost was $10 per hour). We walked about 15 minutes uphill from our car to the West Trail, which eventually merges with the Mt. Hollywood Trail. This part of the West Trail is fairly steep, but only took us about 10 minutes before it leveled out quite a bit.

When we reached the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook (there’s a rectangular stone monument there with that name inscribed next to some stone benches), we stopped for photos. You can see the exact view from this spot in the photo below.

And look! To my right is the Hollywood sign!

*Cue that Miley Cyrus song*

Originally we’d planned to continue onward and hike to the top of Mt. Hollywood (which is about 2.5 miles round trip from the Griffith Observatory parking lot). However, based on our time frame for the day, we decided to head back down and check out the Observatory.

La La Land is one of my favorite movies so it was fun to see this memorable location from the film. It was a pretty busy day, but the entrance to the Observatory is free, so we perused a few of the exhibits and enjoyed more panoramic views of LA from the back deck.

In total, between our hike and our time at the Observatory, we were in Griffith Park for a little over two hours. Of course, one could spend an entire day exploring the longer trails, but for us, this was perfect.

Ladurée

Ladurée is a famous Parisian macaron shop, and if I’m in a city that has one, you bet I’m going to go there for afternoon tea! Their location in Beverly Hills is small but beautifully decorated, with pastel furniture and macarons to match.

It has a far smaller capacity than the Paris shop on the Champs-Élysées (you can read more about that location in my Paris post from our trip last year). It was still a lovely place to enjoy tea and macarons after our morning hike.

I highly recommend their signature tea, Thé Melange Ladurée. It’s a black tea and is one of my all-time favorites (I love the sweet spices, subtle rose flavor, and hint of vanilla). It pairs perfectly with their rose-flavored macarons!

All in all, we had an amazing week, and the weather was so sunny and beautiful (a welcome reprieve from the dreary winter rain for us Oregonians!). My husband and I love to travel together, and we’re always thankful for every opportunity that we get to do so. It was such a great way to start this new decade! ❤️

Wishing you all a happy and blessed new year!

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