Disneyland’s Fantasyland. Probably the most storied and significant land in any Disney theme park worldwide. Yet, despite Fantasyland being Walt’s flagship land in the original Magic Kingdom, it’s quite a divisive place. Some love it for the way it pines nostalgic, preserving some Disneyland original attractions and emphasizing story over the latest technology. Others don’t care for it, scoffing at the cheap execution and long lines.If you’ve read my recent Disneyland trip report, you know I fall somewhere in the middle, really enjoying some attractions and the architecture, but thinking some plussing might be in order.
Since I’ve now taken two whole trips to Disneyland (and if you’ve done something twice, you’re an expert, right?! (to be fair, each were several day trips and we started most mornings in Fantasyland)), I figured now would be a great time to share my thoughts on Fantasyland’s top under-appreciated attractions, plus some strategies to avoid long lines.
Storybook Land Canal Boats – Walt Disney World fans constantly clamor for Indiana Jones Adventure to be imported to Walt Disney World, yet I rarely hear the same demands for the Storybook Land Canal Boats. That’s just crazy! Not only is the Storybook Land Canal Boats the epitome and essence of the Disney experience (dare I say this is the quintessential Disneyland attraction), but I think it would cost like $25 to build. Yeah, that’s $25.00, not $25,000,000. Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be that cheap, but I think the budget for this could probably be lower than the yearly budget for jewelry for Joe Rohde (no offense meant to the top genius at WDI).
Despite being such a low budget attraction, the Storybook Land Canal Boats work because the attraction so effectively utilizes a simple storytelling device, being shrunken down to the size of a pixie, before guiding you through a collection of painstakingly detailed scale representations of houses, villages and palaces from Disney animated classics. The storytelling doesn’t stop there, as music, lights, and landscaping all add layers of detail to make the attraction a full sensory experience. The best way to describe it, for lack of a comparable Walt Disney World experience, is like a ride-through PhilharMagic. It’s incredibly awesome, and often overlooked by first time guests who have heard more about thrilling attraction like Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain, and the Matterhorn. Yet, it’s one of the absolute best, and without question most charming, attractions at Disneyland. Cool Fact: I once saw a stray cat sleeping in one of the Storybook Land villages. It was like Godzilla-Cat!
It’s probably best that many people overlook this attraction, because even though it is overlooked, long lines for Storybook Land Canal Boats build quickly. This isn’t so much because of demand, but because the attraction has incredibly low capacity. Most of our Disneyland Touring Plans list Storybook Land Canal Boats as one of the first attractions you should visit, and this is very solid advice. I definitely agree with that advice, but really, you should experience this attraction twice: once in the early morning and once late at night, as it takes on a totally different character at night. Luckily, lines become fairly short around thirty minutes before park closing, presumably because the little tykes are too scared to be consumed by Monstro at that hour.
Casey Jr. Circus Train – A couple of weeks ago while I was carrying on about how awesome Casey Jr. Circus Train is, Sarah said, “why do you like that ride so much?!” I almost threw down right then and there (verbal fisticuffs, not physical ones). How can you not like Casey Jr?! It’s the Fantasyland-equivalent of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. It gives you stunning views of Fantasyland, has some humorous and playful ride vehicles, and catchy music. What’s not to love about that?! It’s simply executed, but this is hardly a criticism as it’s an attraction more about the ambiance and experience than the substance of the ride itself.
Unfortunately, this is another attraction that builds long lines early. We also have it listed very early in the day on our Touring Plans (it’s attraction #4 on our “Disneyland Dumbo or Die” Touring Plan).
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – If you’re a longtime Walt Disney World fan, you’re probably pretty excited to see this attraction make the list. I have to come clean on this one: it took me about 10 rides on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride before I finally warmed up to it. Even after that, I was still a little skeptical. Its execution is very low tech, almost to the point of fault. That said, outside of the Country Bear Jamboree at Walt Disney World, I don’t think there exists this irreverent of an attraction in any domestic Disney theme park. You go to a pub that serves beer, you get hit by a train, and you go to hell. This attraction wouldn’t pass politically correct muster in today’s climate, and this is part of the draw for me. Let loose and see this attraction as a child (and by the way, this is totally suitable for children of all ages), and I think you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Mr. Toad can accrue 30-60 minute waits at certain times of the day, but almost every time we’ve experienced it, we’ve walked on or waited in line for less than 10 minutes. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: “Booyah, Touring Plans!”
Matterhorn – Even if you have never been to Disneyland, you might be wondering why I’m listing this as a hidden gem. Okay, it’s not, per se. However, I have heard of some Walt Disney World fans who visit Disneyland skipping the Matterhorn because “we have Expedition Everest.” I know this might be controversial, but I’m going to come out and say it: I prefer the Matterhorn to Expedition Everest. That’s right, I like the decades-old low-tech and (relatively speaking) low-budget attraction over its contemporary with all of the high tech bells and whistles and bloated budget. You know why? Because the Matterhorn works! Its yeti, Harold, doesn’t dance to the disco light. It is an awesome attraction that offers exactly the right level of entertainment and thrills. I can’t wait to see what plussings Tony Baxter is making to it while it’s currently down for refurbishment.
Our Touring Plans that include Matterhorn list it early, and this is largely because it isn’t a FASTPASS attraction. I think this is the best strategy to follow, but if you’re using our LINES – mobile wait times app, make sure to check out wait times for it throughout the day, as my experience has been that the lines here (there are two lines, one for each “side” of the track) can fluctuate substantially throughout the day.
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through – Some of you probably zoned out when you read “Walk-Through.” Big mistake. This is one of the coolest Fantasyland attractions, and one of the most overlooked. Recently restored, it contains some pretty spectacular effects. Visit later in the evening when it’s least crowded.
This barely begins to even scratch the surface of the awesomeness that is Disneyland’s Fantasyland. I didn’t even mention Alice in Wonderland (absolutely amazing, and I don’t care for either Alice in Wonderland film), it’s a small world (far far superior to the Walt Disney World incarnation), Pinocchio’s Daring Journey (a “New Fantasyland” add during the 1983 overhaul), and the Mad Tea Party (again, much better than at Walt Disney World given its open-air setting), among many other great Fantasyland offerings. Make sure to set aside plenty of time for exploring this highly detailed Disneyland land!
What do you think of Disneyland’s Fantasyland? What’s your favorite attraction there, and why? If you’ve never been to Disneyland, which Fantasyland attraction do you want to experience most? Share your thoughts in the comments!