In my past few posts about the fabulous TouringPlans #Everywhere adventure, I discussed my excitement about going to Disneyland and how I went about budgeting for my trip. This article is going to be very different because I’m going to get into my expectations, hopes, and fears about Walt’s first park.
Even though the October trip will be my first to Disneyland, no Disney parks fan can be completely ignorant of what goes on out west. Over the years I have built up quite a mental database of things that I think I think about the Disneyland Resort, in the process pushing old stuff out of my brain such as the state capital of Minnesota. Some of the things below I know for sure and some are speculation, but all are rhetorical. That’s right–I’m not looking for any confirmation or contradiction whatsoever to the ideas below. I will find out in a few short months and follow up with my findings then, please allow me to continue my limited ignorance (about Disneyland. My general ignorance is boundless).
As is natural for someone who has visited Florida often, I tend to compare everything at Disneyland to its equivalent at Walt Disney World. It also helps that the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland contains a comparison chart that Disney World-ers like myself can use. The author Seth Kubersky knows a ton about the differences between the two resorts (and hopefully we’ll get him out of Diagon Alley at some point to hear more about it). I’ll get to the incomparable things in a bit, but first, here are my general assumptions about those entities that exist on both coasts.
Things I Expect to Be Better at Disneyland
- Fantasmic! — I am not the biggest fan of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version of Fantasmic!, but I am very hopeful for the show held along the Rivers of America in Disneyland. I know it’s right within the park, I know that the dragon is very impressive, and I know that people get their spots hours beforehand (something I am decidedly not excited about). People that have seen both versions seem to unanimously pick Disneyland’s as the best.
- Pirates of the Caribbean — This is another one that people unanimously say is better out west. I honestly don’t know what the differences are at all except for the part where the boat floats past the Blue Bayou restaurant. I have purposely not looked up the other instances where the Disneyland and Disney World versions differ, but I’ll let you know in about 3 months.
- Space Mountain — The futuristic indoor roller coaster looks pretty similar, but I am told by quite a few that it is better at Disneyland. I think it has something to do with the decor and the sound system, but I’m not sure. Honestly, I don’t really like Space at Disney World very much, so I’m hoping this is true. I know one thing I am excited for is the side-by-side seating at the west coast mountain. One of the reason my kids haven’t ridden Space Mountain yet is because we’re worried they wouldn’t like sitting alone. The Disneyland version seems to fix that.
- General Wait Times — Yes, I know Disneyland gets very busy, but I also know that there is a much higher percentage of local visitors. My expectation is that these local, regular visitors are there enough that they’re not going to play around with 3 hour lines. Hence, attractions like Indiana Jones Adenture or the Matterhorn won’t get super-crazy lines (just regular crazy). Also, some attractions like Toy Story Midway Mania and Soarin’ Over California, both of which develop huge lines at Disney World, have much lower waits at California Adventure because, frankly, there’s more to do at California Adventure than either of the Walt Disney World parks those are found at.
- Food — I don’t know why, but I get the feeling Disney tries harder with the food at Disneyland than at Disney World. There are some great meals in the Florida park, but my impression is that the overall percentage of great spots to eat is higher in California. Of course, that might just be due to Guy Selga, Jr. being a Homer Simpson-like food critic (I love everything!).
Things I Expect Are Better at Walt Disney World
- Tomorrowland — This takes a lot for me to say because I don’t love the Floridian land of Tomorrow. Parts of it are good, but the Stitch’s Great Escape / Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor corridor is the theme park representation of the word misplaced. Why I expect the WDW version to still be better than its California counterpart is basically because of one thing…the PeopleMover. I just can’t picture a Tomorrowland without it.
- Splash Mountain — I really know very little about Disneyland’s Splash Mountain except that all riders sit in a line like a small-time flume ride. Simply that has lowered my expectations.
- Tower of Terror — There are two things I know about the Tower of Terror: (1) My favorite part in the Hollywood Studios version is when the ride vehicle leaves the shaft. (2) The California Adventure version doesn’t do that.
Things I Expect to Be Shockingly Different
- Haunted Mansion – Under normal circumstances I don’t think there are many differences between the two versions. What will presumably make the Disneyland house shockingly different is the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay that will be decorating the Disney domicile during our trip. It’s far from my favorite movie, but I am extremely exited to see the incredible visuals added to an attraction that I already love (well, one just like it anyway).
- The Castle – It looks so tiny!
- Size and Space – From my skills as an amateur cartographer (i.e., eyeballing Google Maps) it seems to me that Disneyland is about 3/4 the size of the Magic Kingdom. I also know that Disneyland has more attractions, which seems incomprehensible to me. Everyone tells me how much more quaint the Disneyland Resort is compared to the sprawling Walt Disney World, which seems to also be borne out by the extremely close proximity of the two west coast parks. As someone who is used to carrying children through miles of theme parks, I expect to find the smaller size and compressed space of Disneyland both exciting and disorienting.
Of course, not everything is comparable to Walt Disney World (and vice versa), which is why visiting Disneyland is so exciting. With that in mind, here are my partially-educated thoughts on what I’ll find when I see something new and unique:
- Cars Land — This is a biggie. A life-size, fully-realized Radiator Springs (from the Pixar movie Cars) makes me all tingly…and I’m not even sure why. I like Cars just fine, but it’s hardly a world I’ve dreamed of walking through. There is something alluring, however, about a really well done, immersive land (which is why I’m kind of excited about Pandora, too). The rides and the views sound great and all, but what I’m really way-t00-excited about is the neon lighting ceremony at dusk…life could be a dream (sh-boom)…if I could take you up in paradise up above…
- Paradise Pier — From something I’m very excited about to…Paradise Pier. I have lived my entire life on the east coast, visiting junky seaside carnivals and second-rate amusement parks. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised by California Adventure’s version, but you shouldn’t bet on it.
- World of Color — I know very, very little about this very well reviewed nighttime spectacular. I know that it has water fountains like the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but that’s about it. I’ve purposely never watched videos and have seen few photos. I have mixed, and often contrarian, feelings about Disney’s nighttime shows (I love Wishes, like Illuminations, don’t particularly enjoy Fantasmic), but am expecting to love World of Color.
- New Orleans Square — I am on record as loving Walt Disney World’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort. I am an unabashed lover of the real New Orleans, Louisiana. Therefore, a section of Disneyland that evokes those memories sounds divine.
- Toontown — Sure Walt Disney World had a Toontown, but that’s gone the way of the flying elephant (the most rare and endangered of pachyderms). Even so, Disneyland’s looks more thorough and, dare I say, zanier.
- Fantasyland — Okay, I know the Magic Kingdom has a Fantasyland, but they don’t even seem comparable, which is why Disneyland’s premier area is all the way down here. I love the German fairytale look and the fact that there are more dark rides (I have also never seen video of Alice in Wonderland or Pinocchio’s Daring Journey). I love that it’s a small world is different (and better I hear). Most of all, I love that it’s something my kids will go nuts for.
As I mentioned up top, please do not give away details in the comments. Suggestions, questions, and observations are always welcome, but I intend to find out if I’m right or wrong on my own. Don’t worry, there will certainly be at least one follow-up post where I revisit this list to see how my instincts are working. Then you’ll have plenty of time to argue with me about Paradise Pier, but for now please stick to arguing with me about Illuminations.
Thanks for reading!