Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First Trip to Disneyland

Angie Kennard

I asked Glendon to write a blog for us since he just travelled to Disneyland for the first time. Here is what he had to say:

My First Trip to Disneyland By Glendon
I want to try to give an overview of the Resort and detail the good and not so good things as well as the differences between Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort.

This trip started out as a solo trip then with some help I was able to surprise Larissa with the trip for her birthday and Adam decided to tag along as well. So after months of planning and research we were finally off to the Happiest Place on Earth. We we’re going from Oct 19th- 25th. I was going to be able to celebrate my birthday at a Disney Park for the very first time!!! I was really looking forward to that (as well as the $72 gift card).

We arrived at LAX at about Noon PST and grabbed our luggage and went to wait for the Disneyland Express. Not the same as Magical Express, no video but still a comfy ride to your Disneyland area hotel. The platform was easy enough to find and it wasn’t too long of a wait. We had a 45 min drive to the resort area. Without the video to watch the drive seemed incredibly long!!! But at last we arrived at the Disneyland Hotel where they collect your transportation vouchers or you pay for your transfer if you didn’t opt for it as part of your pkg. Unlike Magical Express you have to pay for this service. We were staying at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel and were the last stop on route. The hotel has a retro theme to it and is quite nice. Some things do need some updating but overall it was a nice hotel. We checked in and had a room in the centre of the resort on the ground floor. Our room was clean and large but there was no way 2 adults could share those double beds. Luckily enough our room had a cot so Larissa would be able to sleep on that (she did say it was quite comfortable). Since we only had 4 day hoppers we decided to just have something to eat and head over to Downtown Disney.

We had our lunch/dinner at Mimi’s CafĂ© right across the street from the HoJo. This place is soooooo good. It gets rave reviews from all of us. We ate here several times over the next few days. Portions were large and prices extremely reasonable. After we dropped off my leftovers at room (each room has a fridge and coffee maker) we headed to Downtown Disney.

To get here you simply walk down the street to the Disneyland Resort Main Entrance and instead of going into Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure you keep heading straight and wind up in Downtown Disney. I love the World of Disney here in Anaheim. It is a long store so it’s a lot easier to keep track of people here as opposed to all the connecting rooms in Orlando. At this Downtown Disney you will also find an AMC, Lego Store, ESPN Zone, Sephora, Anne Geddes and a great mix of different eateries. We visited Downtown Disney several times over the trip. Not as large as the one at Walt Disney World but I found it better to not have a bunch of stores all selling the same Disney merchandise over and over again.

Now onto Disneyland itself, we actually didn’t hit the park until Oct 20th, which was my birthday. Now if you have been to WDW you need to know that the Disneyland Resort is nowhere near the size of WDW. That being said Disneyland Park has more attractions than Magic Kingdom. We we’re able to do the Halloween version of Space Mountain, called Ghost Galaxy. It was a lot of fun and we rode this more than any other ride the whole trip. We enjoyed the Matterhorn even though it was incredibly bumpy. Some other standout attractions were the Haunted Mansion Holiday, which was a nice change to the normal Haunted Mansion. It’s a Small World with the addition of the Disney characters was nice. Big Thunder Mountain seemed longer and more detailed. The same goes for Pirates Of The Caribbean as well. Indiana Jones was a lot of fun but also very bumpy, same ride mechanics as Dinosaur at AK.

The two biggest differences between Magic Kingdom and Disneyland are both in size. First would be the size of the castles; Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is less than half the size of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. Which if you are a WDW vet can be seem like a lacklustre centrepiece. But Aurora’s castle has a great walk through attraction which tells the story of Sleeping Beauty. Second size difference is the size of the Park itself. Unlike Magic Kingdom at WDW and other Disney parks there’s no subtle transition between lands. While waiting in line for Haunted Mansion you can hear the people screaming as they come down the hill of Splash Mountain. It is quite clear they had no more room to expand the park so they just squeeze in new additions wherever they can find the room. Which makes going from attraction to the next really quick but does take away from the general theme of each area. Our biggest problem with the lack of space was when we wanted to watch fireworks and see Fantasmic!

At Disneyland this year fireworks (Halloween Screams) were being presented nightly which meant many annual pass holders came each night and “set up camp” on Main Street USA literally sprawling out on a blanket with food etc. While waiting for fireworks. Not only did this make for it hard to navigate the HUB or anywhere on Main Street it seemed also very different than Magic Kingdom. I have never seen people do this at WDW for any of the fireworks, but with Disneyland being a local’s park that is the reason for it. The show itself was fantastic (we even saw it right from the HoJo one night) and very similar to Hallowishes at Magic Kingdom.

Now onto Fantasmic. At Walt Disney World it is presented at Disney's Hollywood Studios in the Hollywood Hills Theatre so everyone gets a seat and everything tends to happen in some sort of orderly fashion. Well at Disneyland, Fantasmic is presented on the Rivers of America where there is no seating and just like the fireworks people set up camp and sit for hours before the show. We did manage to see the second show by literally trying to dive our way through the crowds once they were told to move for cleaning up between shows. Now as for the show itself it was GREAT!!! The Peter Pan and Ursula sequences were awesome and the new Dragon!!! Wow I really hope we get this Maleficent dragon at Disney's Hollywood Studios someday.

As for the different lands of the park I must say there were three that really stood out to me. New Orleans Square was beautiful and I truly felt as if we were somewhere completely different. Mickey’s Toontown was fun and I really enjoyed seeing Jessica and Roger immortalized in their very own ride. Finally Main Street USA felt more quaint and real to me at Disneyland than at Magic Kingdom. I guess having the front porches and random places to sit seemed to make it more like a real street to me rather than just a bunch of stores lined together.

Whenever I go to Walt Disney World a big part of the trip for me is meeting characters and Disneyland didn’t disappoint. We got to meet all sorts of Characters. From Villains to Mickey and Friends, to movie characters and fairies. Some meets are more random at Disneyland than the actual meet and greet areas at Walt Disney World, which can make it more fun to find the Fairy Godmother just hanging out by the castle or difficult to find a certain one, but you can always ask at City Hall. The one truly cool character I got to meet was Jack Skellington. He does meet and greets by the Haunted Mansion during the HMH. I was really happy I got to meet him.
Disneyland is really easy to navigate and I am glad that I have been. It was nice to see the original park. Some say you should not try to compare it to Magic Kingdom but it is really hard not to do. The Halloween decor was really cute and fun at both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.

Now as for Disney’s California Adventure you can certainly tell this is a “new” park. There is all sorts of space here. It is very reminiscent of Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. This park is not as easy to navigate as Disneyland but with the upcoming addition of Cars land that may change. I loved the theme of this park and it has some truly amazing attractions. California Screamin’ was tons of FUN!!!! This rollercoaster looks like your traditional Boardwalk wooden rollercoaster but it’s not! Mickey’s Fun Wheel was a great twist to your typical ferris wheel ride. Adam was a little surprised by this one! The Tower of Terror was different here, no random sequences but we still enjoyed it. Soarin’ was just like being back at EPCOT again.

The park itself is quite beautiful and the Grizzly Peak is interesting. This park is in the midst of a major overhaul and upgrade so there really wasn’t too much to do here.

Characters were plentiful here and easy to find. We also attended Mickey’s Treat or Treat Party here at Disney's California Adventure. It was sold out and really busy but nowhere near as bad as Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom. It was fun and we got to meet a lot of characters but not having fireworks did seem to make the party a bit of a letdown.

This is where I picked up my birthday Fun Card and button. The line at the Town Hall in Disneyland was out the door but at Disney's California Adventure there was no line! We had our only sit down Disney Park meal at Ariel’s Grotto here at Disney's California Adventure. It was my birthday breakfast. It was good but I do think Akershus at Epcot is better. The Princesses were lovely and this is the only way you can guarantee a meet with Ariel here at the Disnelyland Resort. I got to meet 5 Princesses here since Adam and Larissa decided to let me have my birthday moment with each of the ladies. I met Ariel, Snow White, Belle, Aurora and Cinderella. We met Aladdin and Jasmine at Disneyland a few days later.

Here at Disney's California Adventure the Halloween decor consisted of Goofy’s Candy Corn Acres, the main entrance plaza was decked out with all sorts of Candy Corn fruits and vegetables goofy had grown as well as a HUGE candy corn which was the backdrop for various character meets throughout the day.

Once all the additions and upgrades are added I really think Disney's California Adeventure will become the park it is was meant to be.

Overall I am glad I visited the Disneyland Resort. It was nice to see “Walt’s Park”. Will I go back? Not sure. I would one day love to visit Disneyland Paris and Tokyo but you never know. I would suggest that if you do decide to make the trip to California be sure to see Hollywood, Los Angeles and Universal Studios Hollywood. They were great additions to our trip to Disneyland.

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