Foto Fridays: Our First Visit to Disneyland

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.

The Domineering Castle?

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Back of the Front of Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland: Land of Compasses

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.

Space Mountain Starport

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.

King Arthur Carrousel

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.

Disneyland's Tomorrowland

Within the Castle Walls

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.

Paradise Pier: Fun in the Sun for Everyone!

Due South on the Esplanade (HDR)

Grizzly River Run (6 Stop ND Filter)

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.

Welcome to the Haunted Mansion!

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.

Clang Clang Clang Goes the Trolley!

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.

Disneyland's Summer Nightastic Fireworks - "Magical" (78 second exposure)

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.

Tom Bricker

Tom is an amateur Walt Disney World photographer. He recently married his princess, Sarah, to whom he became engaged at WDW on the beach of the Polynesian Resort in 2007. Tom and Sarah have a miniature dachshund named Walter E. Dogsney and a yellow cat named Yossarian the Cat. Together, Sarah and Tom run the website Tom's photography can be found on his Flickr page ( and he can be contacted via Twitter (@wdwfigment) and Facebook (

9 thoughts on “Foto Fridays: Our First Visit to Disneyland

  • October 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Great pictures and a great review.

  • October 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Thanks for posting your TR! Keep up the great blog posts, they have all been excellent!
    As always, amazing photos.

  • October 23, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Wow this is great! Fantastic photographs. You are very talented!

  • October 24, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Amazing pictures!! Not to sound too geeky, what gear and at what setting did you use when you shot those pictures? Any post-work done to them?

  • October 26, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I went to the MK in Disneyland for the first time a couple years ago and I still can’t get over how tiny the castle was. That’s the first thing I tell people when they ask me to compare the two MK’s. The second thing I say is how awesome Indiana Jones is, and the third is how much better Pirates is in Disneyland. If they are still interested in more of my Disney geekiness, I start to talk about how weird it is when Disneyland just pops up in the middle of downtown Anaheim…and even weirder is that you can park in a parking garage…

    • October 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

      Great trip report. Wish so many of your photo’s did not get blocked by my firewall at work. Have to look again when I get home. Only the last one with you and your wife got past.

      Would love to get your opinions on WDW vs DL same attractions. To me that’s whats fun about comparing the parks. For me POC, HM, IASW and Soaring go to DL. While TOT, Splash, BTMR, Tiki go to WDW. Think I left a few out.

      Can’t wait to see your pictures when I get home.

  • October 28, 2010 at 11:09 am

    This is an amazing trip report and the pictures are incredible. Ive never been to DL but hope to someday. What kind of a camera and lens did you use for your pictures?

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