Friday, January 31, 2014

I Went to Disneyland! A First-Timer's Impressions

I can't even tell you off the top of my head anymore how many times I've been to Walt Disney World in Florida.  It makes sense - it's just one state away and pretty darn convenient.  I have sat at the feet of FastPass masters and learned all the ins and outs of touring the parks.

Disneyland?  Complete newbie.  And a whole different ball game.

The first huge difference that I experienced was the close proximity of.... everything.  When Walt Disney was building the park, he didn't have cash leftover to buy up the property around it.  People know a good thing when they see it, and the land was quickly bought up and populated with hotels, shops and restaurants, much to Walt's chagrin.  What that means for the modern tourist is that once you get to your hotel, you don't need a car for pretty much anywhere.  We never set foot on a shuttle bus, which is impossible to do at the Florida resort.  We walked to other hotels, to Downtown Disney and to & from the parks. We walked to the race start, for goodness sakes!  This was a definite DL plus for me.  The only transport we rode was this sweet baby, because I felt the need to ride some sort of Disney transportation.  We went from Downtown Disney to the middle of Tomorrowland - straight into the park.  Lovely.



We stayed at Paradise Pier hotel which is across the street from Disney's California Adventure (DCA).  Here is the view from our hotel room.  The Tower of Terror is to the left and the big Mickey wheel is on the right.  Aside from the nightly fireworks waking us up - we were still operating on East Coast time - it was really cool to be that close to the parks.



The proximity between the two parks was amazing, too.  They aren't even across the street from each other - they are across a courtyard.  You can bounce back and forth between the two all day long.  Brings new meaning to the term "park hopping"!

Disneyland
Our first stop in the park - I had to experience DL's version of Space Mountain!  I was warned that there were just a few rides that were different between the resorts and this was one.  My impression?  WDW for the win on this one.  I didn't like being in the complete dark.  At WDW it's still dark, but there are more lights here and there.  Just a matter of taste, I guess!



These little babies, though, are winners anywhere!  New Orleans Square is a beautiful thing because they serve Mint Juleps and Mickey beignets.  April and I split a 6 pack and were like 3 year olds with powdered sugar all over our faces.



Here was something kooky - Thor was at Innoventions and we wanted to see.  'Cause, you know, Thor is hot.  So we wait in line.  Then wait in another line.  Then go in a room and wait.  Finally, a wall disappears and there, before us and with far too many clothes on, is Thor.




I have to admit - I giggled because the whole situation was pretty funny.  He comes out with this booming voice and a long soliloquy.  With very little segue, he invites us to line up to have our pictures with him.  The DisBroads do enjoy hamming it up and we all got some good ones!  It would have been nice, though, if those long blond locks had been flowing!  I sent this to my husband with a remark about touching Thor's hammer.  It was completely and totally ignored.



Another comparison:  let's talk castles.  Sleeping Beauty Castle is pretty.  But once you have seen Cinderella's, you are just underwhelmed, I'm sorry.



For lunch we are back to my new favorite place, New Orleans Square.  Cafe Orleans has a Monte Cristo sandwich that was gonna be the reason I died of a heart attack during the half marathon.  Patty and I split this (after I had a cup of gumbo) and we still didn't polish the whole sandwich off.  This beautiful thing is a MUST try!



Want one in the DL WIN column?  Pirates of the Caribbean.  Hands down, waaaay better at Disneyland!  You float by the beautiful Blue Bayou restaurant that immediately reminded me of the view of the San Angel Inn from the Gran Fiesta Tour boat in Epcot's Mexico pavilion.  The DL Pirates is longer than WDW's and has a legit drop - not just the little bump that you experience in WDW.  Loved it.

It's A Small World - this building is massive.  And beautifully lit at night.  I was thrilled that they still had their Christmas things up inside the ride.  It put a great, fresh face on a ride that was becoming ho-hum to me.  The outside of the building alone is a huge win.



Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.  I had to do this.  I'm a president geek and I could not come all the way across the country without checking it out.  The verdict?  It ain't no Hall of Presidents.  Go for the experience, but if I ever get back to CA, I'll skip it.

Disney's California Adventure

California Screamin' - LOVED it!  Good thing they had shoulder restraints because I came up out of the seat about 3 times.  That's a good ride.

Carsland - My five year old would LOVE this place.  The rides are perfect for little ones, too.  I just did Radiator Springs Racers and it was #awesomesauce.  The same concept as Test Track but with a whole lot more theming and a better ride.  Tip - if you want to ride, get there ASAP and get a Fastpass.  Normally, you can't get another FP until after the ride window on your first FP opens up.  RSR has been so popular, however, that they disconnected it from the FP system.  For example, we got there around 10:30 and got a FP return time of 7:35pm.  If I wasn't able to get another FP all day long, that would have been ugly.  So you can hold a RSR FP as well as one other FP.

Eat breakfast at Flo's V-8 Cafe.  Brioche French Toast.  Ehrmergerrd!



Tower of Terror has a couple of differences but the essence of the ride was still the same.  April and I pulled our best "Amy and April are not impressed" faces for the camera.



We lucked out with our lunch at Carthay Circle.  This is one of the nicer restaurants at DCA and it was where we chose to eat with a group for our post-half celebration!  As we were walking through the dark and quiet restaurant I was thinking, "I'm going to fall asleep in here."  We kept walking, though, to a large table out on the patio that overlooked Buena Vista Street.  The weather was perfect and we couldn't have asked for a better spot.  Obligatory blogger food shot:



Got some fun character pics!  I like getting character pics, but they usually aren't on my "must" list.  The only thing that makes the difference to me is getting autographs for Thing 3's book.  I surprised him by taking a Disney Junior Encyclopedia to the Wine & Dine Half with me and getting characters to sign it.  I took it along on this trip, too, and had to gather more of his favorites.  I hit the gold mine with these guys!



















One big difference I noticed between DL and WDW?  The cast members.  Or the lack thereof.  Disneyland has much fewer cast members than Walt Disney World.  Because DL walkways are so narrow and the ride ques were not built for the number of tourists DL now gets a day, ride lines spill out and snake all over the main streets.  At WDW there is almost always a CM at the entrance of each line to keep order.  At DL, you are on your own, baby!  There's also a marked lack of diversity.  I like to look at CM's nametags and see where they are from.  At the WDW resort, while there are a good number of people from Florida, there are just as many if not more from everywhere else in the world.  At DL?  I didn't see a CM that wasn't from California.  Nobody is flying across the country to go work at Disneyland; they are homegrown.

I'm sure this is 90% a case of preferring what you know, but as much as I enjoyed Disneyland Resort, I am definitely a Walt Disney World Resort kind of girl.  I love the vastness and the distinct personalities of each park.  I love the diversity of the cast members, especially the international flavor of the World Showcase staff.  I see Disneyland as a super fun place for local California and West Coast families to hold special.  I just see Disney World as being more of a national / international vacation destination.

The main thing Disneyland has that Walt Disney World doesn't?  Walt's fingerprints.  I was actually walking where the man himself walked.  He had his hands in every single aspect of that park during his lifetime.  That's something that simply can't be replicated and is meant to be honored.

Have you been to both parks?  Do you have a favorite?  

14 comments:

  1. I've never been to Disneyland, but I really want to go. The closeness of everything kind of blows my mind, and I'd love to experience it.

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    1. I really liked that. Knowing that I didn't have to stand in line for a crowded bus at the end of the day was a huge plus for me!

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  2. I love Disneyland better I think because of the proximity and because you can stay within walking distance at a Non Resort hotel for alot less if you choose. Yeah the castle is smaller, but I think the Toon Town, The Kids Rides (Casey Jr, the Storyboats) make it extra magical for the little ones. Plus during the week not alot of people there compared to weekend. That space mountain made us all motion sick...and fo course I love Indiana Jones ride. That said, we are closer to WDW. I think both have their pluses and minuses..... they are similar and just different enough....

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    1. I do wish we had more time there. I don't think it got a fair chance because my time was so limited with the time difference and race mornings cutting into park time.

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  3. I haven't been to Disneyland since 84 or 85. I know it's a lot different know than it was when I went. Would love to go back one of these days.

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    1. I would love to go back when I have more touring time!

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  4. LOVE this post! I went to DL for the first time last summer for Dumbo Double Dare, and while I have to admit -- it's just not the same as WDW -- I still had so much fun! I'm going back for DDD this summer and is it weird to say that one of the things I'm most looking forward to are mint juleps? Haha. SO GOOD! :) Glad you had such a great time!

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! Much like the real New Orleans, I kept finding myself heading back to New Orleans Square whenever it was time to eat!

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  5. Too funny. I went for the first time to WDW a few weeks ago on marathon weekend and was underwhelmed. I hated all the time wasted on buses from here to there, and the rides seemed like imitations to me. I much prefer the Disneyland parks. Epcot, though, is definitely a win. If you're interested in my comparisons, they're here http://redhairandrunningshoes.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2014-01-19T17:28:00-08:00&max-results=5&start=5&by-date=false and the post on the day before talks a bit about Epcot, but is mostly about the race.
    I will say that in regard to Walt not being able to get the surrounding land...the company has added to it over the years, including pushing one of the last remaining orange farmers out so they could build a parking lot. It wasn't pretty. Very interesting to read your comparisons, though! I didn't go on Space Mountain or Pirates at WDW so I'll have to take your word on those rides!

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  6. Love the review. Does it made me a sad person that I waited until my husband and kid were completely involved in something so I could read this in peace? Never been to DL and I've loved reading your recaps from your Tink experience.

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  7. Haha, I should have just stuck with you guys, my DL experience was exactly the same! Space Mtn = better at WDW; the castle = just not right; beignets = OMG, put the ones at POFQ to SHAME; I ate one of the 4 quarters of that Monte Cristo sandwich, yum! Thanks for the great DL/CA review, it took me back (ok it's only been two weeks, but some of it was starting to fade!).

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    1. That's too funny! And, yes, life is moving swiftly toward Princess - it's nice to give Tink some more attention!

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  8. Oh yeah and the monorail was crazy, open windows?? And such a short track. But they are fancy looking!

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