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Although it’s roughly two months after the fact, as I just completed my August 2010 Disneyland trip report, I thought I’d write up a condensed, photo-heavy version of the report here. Since TouringPlans presently seems to have a bit of a Walt Disney World bias, I don’t want to spoil some of the ‘surprises’ of visiting Disneyland for those readers who have never been. Instead, I’ll give my basic impressions.
The reason we took the trip out West, in the first place, was because one of my college buddies was getting married. I couldn’t believe this was true, so I had to be there in person to witness the event (plus I was in the wedding, so I sort of had to). Knowing it would probably be several years before we visited Disneyland otherwise, we decided to tack on a few days to the front-end of the trip for visit to Disneyland. We flew in from Indianapolis, saying hello to John Wayne before heading to our “resort”.
If given five words to describe me, most of my close friends who choose “frugal” (or a less flattering variant thereof) as one of the words. When I found a $50/night hotel within walking distance to Disneyland, I jumped on it. The proprietors were obviously playing fast and loose with the term “hotel,” as it was more akin to a Hoover town.
I will admit, even though I saw images of Sleeping Beauty Castle prior to the trip, I was shocked by its (lack of) height. Because of this, I tried to photograph it from perspectives and with lenses that made it appear larger than life. Similarly, some of the lands were a tad aesthetically jarring, without smooth transitions between some lands (Splash Mountain is very close to Haunted Mansion). At the same time, there was very little wasted space, which was nice. If you walked 100 feet from any point in the park, you were almost certain to run into an attraction, or at least it seemed that way.
Prior to the trip, we decided that we weren’t going to do any thorough research (meaning anything that would include photos or video of the park) as we wanted it to be entirely fresh. Our sole means of preparation was picking up an Unofficial Guide and reading some information inside to determine what would be our ‘must do’ attractions if time became of the essence.
Once we arrived, we followed a TouringPlan on the first day, but after that we realized that we liked the park enough that we’d be back in the very near future, so we focused more on immersing ourselves in the experience, and only followed a TouringPlan loosely. In retrospect, I wish we would have adhered to one a little closer, as it would’ve been nice to accomplish a bit more. But, c’est la vie.
In the three days we were there, we accomplished quite a lot, but also left a lot undone, which is the way I like to visit, as it gives us reason to come back. We spent two days at Disneyland park and one at Disney California Adventure; ideally, I think we could’ve used about two more days, one at Disneyland and one at DCA.
I don’t have the space here to properly run down everything, so I’ll just cover some of my favorites. Of the parks, Disneyland was my favorite. No small surprise here, as Disneyland is the original, and the one that has the bulk of the attractions. If the Magic Kingdom is your favorite Walt Disney World park, it is doubtless that Disneyland will be your favorite Californian park. It’s like a smaller Magic Kingdom, but with more attractions. The only land, from a personal perspective, that I would say is superior at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is Tomorrowland. Granted, unpopular attractions such as Carousel of Progress and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover are two of my favorites, and I refuse to consider the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage part of Tomorrowland in Disneyland, so perhaps I’m a bit biased.
I also probably prefer Walt Disney World’s Frontierland, and that’s even after you combine Disneyland’s Critter Country with its Frontierland. Then again, I love those unpopular, irreverent, singing bears from Tennessee.
That said, Disney California Adventure is no slouch. Going into the trip, I had heard so many stories of how DCA is lacking, cheaply done, etc. Perhaps enough has already changed that this is no longer the case, but we were both very impressed by DCA. The one area I’ve heard the most negatives about, Paradise Pier, we actually found to be quite charming. It reminded us of a quaint, almost Victorian style, turn of the century boardwalk. It certainly does not deserve the same kind of scorn levied at Animal Kingdom’s Dinoland! Maybe it’s just the photographer in me talking, as Paradise Pier is rife with great photo ops, but I found it to be a very nice land, especially at night. Other lands were equally well done; for my personal enjoyment, this park easily surpassed Animal Kingdom. Once everything in the Blue Sky Cellar comes to fruition, it could surpass the Studios as well.
My favorite land was probably New Orleans Square. Featuring the heavy-hitting duo of Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, plus wonderful theming, a superior version of Fantasmic!, and the delicious Blue Bayou restaurant, this land really won me over. I know I will probably lose all respect as a Disney fan for saying this, but the only thing I didn’t like about New Orleans Square was Blue Bayou’s Monte Cristo sandwich. I know I am a healthy eater, but I don’t know how anyone could eat that much deep fried ‘stuff’. Their ribs, soup, and the ambiance in general were all exquisite, though.
New Orleans Square only wins by a tiny margin. Adventureland, with the original Tiki Room and Indiana Jones Adventure, was perfect; Toontown demonstrated how cool that land can be if built with the mentality that it’s not temporary; and even Fantasyland had some great attractions. I did, however, discover that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was not superior to Pooh, and somehow, Disneyland’s Snow White’s Scary Adventures is actually worse at Disneyland than WDW. Other than that, and a less-than-stellar Tomorrowland, Disneyland was a real heavy-hitter. Hopefully Magic Kingdom will be equally impressive when all of the ongoing refurbishments, plus Fantasyland Forest, are complete.
My favorite attraction? That’s a tough question. I had two, actually. Indiana Jones Adventure and Aladdin the Musical. In my full trip report, I likened comparing the two aforementioned attractions to comparing “apples to hand grenades.” Both were absolutely incredible, and its really hard to decide between them. We enjoyed Indy so much that we rode it at least 6 times, and although Aladdin ate up a big chunk of our day the first time we saw it, it was just so good that we ended up seeing it a second time.
Overall, the trip was great, and Disneyland is now in our “rotation” of parks to visit. Before the trip I had read advice from many individuals indicating that it’s not necessary to stay in a Disney resort in California because there aren’t any real guest advantages and because third party hotels are within walking distance. However, after being a little afraid for my safety walking back to our motel on the second night of our trip at 1:45 a.m., I think the Grand Californian is in the cards for our next trip. We are the type of people who like to escape reality when we visit Walt Disney World (heck, we don’t even rent a car for this very reason!), so being “on property” out West will be worth the additional cost for us.
Those are my thoughts, and some of our photos from the trip. If you’d like to read my thoughts on Disneyland in more detail, check out my full trip report here.