The Happiest Place on Earth has always been one of my favorite California destinations. From Sleeping Beauty to the Princess and the Frog, Disney characters have been with me throughout my childhood. Going to Disneyland to me was getting to meet all of my favorite characters in person, and ride through the sea with the Pirates of the Caribbean and run from the Queen in Alice in Wonderland. But with new advances in technology and season changes, the rides and attractions have changed to stay modern.

When Captain EO went away, admittedly I was pretty angry with that, but for the 20 or so years it was around, I always went to see it. I heard that the brass at Disneyland wanted to change up Star Tours and make it 3D. I’ve been on Star Tours probably over 30 times, and it never occurred to me that the experience would be that much better with the 3-D experience. Let me tell you, it’s eons better.

Walt Disney Imagineering, Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic teamed up to create this new and improved excursion with over 50 different possibilities. So chances are, your five-minute hi-def Dolby 3-D ride will never be the same experience twice.

In keeping with “reality”, I noticed the Droid who tells you funny little anecdotes right before you get on the ride, now informs you that you are being thermally scanned. Fortunately it’s not invasive or scary as it is in real life, but a little sad that we have come to that nonetheless. There are new characters, new missions and even new worlds to travel in the Star Tours: The Adventure Continues attraction.

Even Main Street, U.S.A. got an upgrade with the Soundsational Summer parade. This summer, Mickey and friends, including Princess Tiana and Mary Poppins, travel through the town showing off their drumming, singing and dancing skills. The opening lines of “It’s a music celebration” are an understatement. So many Disney movies are featured in the parade, with musical arrangements provided by “Glee”’s vocal director Tim Davis. From Aladdin to the Lion King, Peter Pan to the Three Caballeros, the Soundsational parade truly has something for all ages.  

Over on the other side of the “globe,” OK across the park, lies Disney’s California Adventure. June 2011 is the first time I’ve ever visited California Adventure, and the only real reason why is because I thought it was all about roller coasters. A fan of these, I am not. Then, I found out that California Adventure not only house elecTRONica … a club modeled after that virtual world of lightcycles and Flynn, but also one of my top three favorite Disney movie and characters, Ariel and her Undersea Adventures.

A cross between Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, Ariel’s Undersea Advenures takes you on a dark ride through the abridged version of the movie. You get to meet Ursula, Prince Eric and, of course, Sebastian the Crab. All of the colors and melodies really do make you feel like you’re either a part of the movie or … a kid again. After you walk out, head over to Ariel’s Grotto and grab some pasta!

It’s Disney domination in the seas as Disney Cruise Line added a West Coast stop at Port of Los Angeles. The 2,400-capacity cruiser takes you on a seven-night cruise to the Mexican Riviera, including Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. Also, Disney is currently working on a hotel in Hawaii called the Aulani. It’s shaping to be as authentic as you can get to the native land with it’s amenities like Kapa cloth and quilts. Walt Disney Imagineering has been working with locals of Hawaii to ensure that the hotel embodies the true spirit of Hawaii. Of course, the Disney trademarks will be hidden throughout the room: Mickey in the walls and fixtures, and even a Minnie Mouse silhouette through the lamps.

One thing is for sure about Disney, they will always remain modern and continue to capture the hearts of all ages.  

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