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I just wanted to share a few thoughts and pictures from our 3 days at DL last week. This was our second ever DL trip (first was May 2010). I'm glad we went the week of Labor Day as crowds were super managable. Here it goes. I hope I don't leave anything out. Please forgive if my commentary is random.
The weather was great all week. SoCal was going thru a "heat wave" that didn't feel like much to us since we're from the east coast where high humidity is the norm. A dry 100+ degree day felt like about 80 to us. Nice.
A major perk (depending on how you look at it) is that all you need to park hop, is cross the street. I'm guessing this is why a 3 day park hopper for DL is way less expensive compared to WDW. They have no buses or lengthy monorails to maintain. It's definitely convenient to just walk on over from one park to the next but if you're used to WDW, it may feel like one big park split in two. Or maybe it could feel like you're visiting DL plus the park with a few good rides across the street. I know DCA is coming together little by little but it's got its work cut out for it trying to get rid of that old image. To me at least, it'll always be hard to not to have that itch to hop back to DL a.s.a.p. after hitting a ride or two at DCA even when construction is complete. Most of our time was split 75% at DL and 25% at DCA and DTD if we had lunch there.
This visit gave us the chance to experience 3 new attractions for us. Ariels undersea adventure (Little Mermaid ride), Star Tours 2 (haven't seen WDW's yet) and World of Color. Little Mermaid was very nice. The AA's though are either fantastic or way too simple and plastic looking. In any case it'll be a very welcomed addition to FL at MK.
Star Tours left me underwhelmed mostly because of the lines it creates at DL. The 3D is great don't get me wrong but it was hands down the most popular ride at DL with consistent wait times of 40 minutes even on a slow day. Which is understandable since locals go all year long and need something "new" to do. We rode it a couple of times. That was enough for us. Why wait when Indy has 15 min wait times?
Speaking of Adventureland. DL's version is quite nice. It's sort of a bottle neck area and it can feel very crowded even when the park isn't. It's very nicely themed and Jungle Cruise here has a few elements not found at MK. I was also pleasantly surprised with how well themed the gift shops were. My wife purchases some Zebra styled Mickey ears and got many complements. I'm guessing they also sell these at AK. And then there's Indy. It's the best attraction I've been on. Haven't been on Harry Potter yet and don't know if I will anytime soon. But the point is that Indy friggin rocks. The main things I wanted to be open at DL (which is always refubing something) were Indy and Space Mountain. They were scheduled for some refurbs that week but they were open on all 3 days we were there. Thank you DL.
Ah yes Space Mountain, which by the way is rediculously great at DL, never really go over a 30 minute wait. Fast Passes were easy to come by as well. Awesome. Indy was the same. Pirates was infortunately open only one day of our 3 day visit so we were bummed about that. It was supposed to have been open that tuesday but oh well. A classic attraction indeed. It's longer but is it better? You'll have to judge in person. Haunted Mansion we knew would be closed so I can't really comment on that. Anyway back to Tomorrowland. I understand it's supposed to be classic and less neon and lights than Tommorowland at MK but I favor MK's version. Hey I like shiny things what can I say.
World of Color. Worth all the hype? I didn't think so. My wife loved it but I was like "Um...yeah it was nice I guess." We had a good view and the projected images just weren't that sharp or impressive. The fountains are great but I don't know. Maybe the show used to look sharper when if first debuted. IMHO, Fantasmic either at WDW and especially DL is better. Just my 2 cents.
DCA like many know is a major (new) work in process. Pictured above is the open/courtyard area inside the Disney animation building in DCA. This room is relatively simple but oh so full of Disney goodness. Clips and music from classic Disney films all day long. To me this should be the first thing anybody should go to if they need some Disney spirit. Great, great little place and the other rooms inside are beautifully themed with cool little things to discover here and there related to animation. Cool place.
ToT was fun as always. They say the drops are the same every time but I could swear the second time we rode it, we went up before we dropped. The first time we had a short drop first thing as soon as the elevator closed. Maybe it's cause we loaded on the upper floor. DCA has elevators on two levels for those who haven't been.
Toy story is identical inside with a very different and less elaborate queue outside. So great to be able to wait 30 min or less to ride. Soarin has another logo here but the attraction is the same. I was expecting the screen and image of the movie to be pristine since I heard it was in much better shape out at DL. It's as fuzzy as it is at EPCOT. The queue is more museum like. I actually think it's better than EPCOT's queue.
The rest of DCA has some pretty nice theming but right now there are tons of walls up as you can imagine. We saw It's tough to be a bug which to my recolection is identical even the queue. Still a fun show. California screamin was down while we were there. Grizzly River Run (or Kali river rapids for that matter) is too wet for our taste but it's nicely themed and has a cool semi-secluded walking area by the water falls. We didn't have time for MuppetVision 3D or the Alladin musical. Actually we were about to see Alladin but I just couldn't use 1 hour or more of valuable Disney park time to see "just a show". It just wasn't worth it to us. Last but not least was the Monsters Inc dark ride. It really is well done and one of the most movie accurate rides anywhere in my opinion.
Back to DL and Critter country. Splash at DL zips you thru the mountain at what seems to be a high speed. We were at DL in 2010 and I don't recall the boat/log going so fast. Is it always like this (compared to MK)? Anyhow, it's still a classic attraction and the first Splash Mountian. You can tell it's the first because, you'll have to forgive me but, the AA's are not as good looking as Splash at MK. And yes, I know...I know most of them came from America Sings. Pooh is fun and many of the same elements from MK can be found here too.
If Splash Mountain boats seemed to go too fast, IASW boats went waaaaay to slow (and not because the song is so annoying that it feels like it's taking forever . It lasted like 20 minutes. Speaking of Fantasyland, it's theming is awesome. In many cases better than the actual ride. Everybody makes fun of the castle but in person, it's big enough to me and it's the original. You can't deny the original. I just can't get over the fact that Mr. Toad sends you to hell. I don't know...kinda like a "What the _____?" moment. It's just a wierd concept to have at Disney. Has anyone asked the imagineers about this? Is this taken from one particular Mr. Toad book? Strange. Snow White is great until the abrupt ending. Pinocchio I think may be my favorite classic style dark ride of all time. But I have sweet spot for Pinocchio. Alice is up there too in terms of greatest classic dark ride ever. It really is good and merits the long wait times. Didn't get to ride Peter Pan cause of the lines. We just often headed back to Frontierland.
Frontierland is small compared to MK and sorta curves around in the back to meet with Fantasyland. Rivers of america is beautiful though. Prettier than MK. BTMRR is my favorite attraction at MK. DL's is nice but I noticed there is little to no classic Big Thunder Mountain music in the queue. Way disappointing. That's one of my favorite elements of the ride at MK. Has DL ever had this awesome hillbilly music? It does have some extra AA's throughout though which is a plus.
New Orleans Square is such a nice little area to roam thru and just walk around. Almost everything was closed during our time there but we did get a characature of ourselves done which is a unique souvenir. One of DL's more popular railroad stations is there. It's a very nice area. We took the railroad once around and the seating is like wide stadium seating, bench style, pointing you inward so your back is to the tree's on the outside. This way you can only view the park.
The only thing we did in toontown was get on Roger Rabbit. It's a very good dark ride and what we should expect from classic dark rides from now on if we're to get anymore in the future.
The food at DL resort is pretty much that basic Disney Parks fare. We did however make time to visit Steakhouse 55 and wow was it the best steak I've ever had. Probably the single best 3 course meal I've had. Crab cake appetizer, filet mignon with potatos au gratin and creme brulee for desert. Awesome and awesome. Pricey but worth it especially if it's a once in a while "on vacation" thing. So good. The DL Hotel is full of nostalgia and a true gem. We took some time to snoop around. DTD is also a great place to walk around and have a nice evening even while not going to the parks. We did this the evening we arrived. It's so great to be able to walk up to the turnstyles, peak into Main street, hear land music, and view the DL railroad station with the train going by without having paid a penny!!! Impossible to do at WDW. We also grabbed the Monorail back to TL here one night. I really dig the blu-light glass monorail logo at night inside. The trains are smaller but give you the same feel as WDW.
Final thoughts. We had a great time and that's the most important thing. I do however think it's unfair to compare the two resorts WDW vs DL. The magic is there at both and to me that's all that matters. Some attractions at DL are better. Some at WDW are better. WDW has some things DL doesn't and vice versa. One thing though, the whole myth that DL is spotless and WDW is falling apart is wrong. I'd actually lean that WDW is in better shape aesthetically that DL. And that's pretty impressive given the size of WDW compared to DL. I know we went right after the busy summer season at DL but it's never really a slow season at WDW anymore. All these threads have made me pay more attention to these things unfortunately. Who wants to spend thier Disney vacation looking for chipped paint? Who's checking to see if all the AA's are working perfectly? NOT this guy. Just enjoy your trip people.
Also, I don't want to take a shot at DL locals/regulars but there is one thing I found uncomfortable. While it may be true that locals are more laid back and not rushing to get everything done in one day at the parks (since they can go back whenever they want), it's a give and take situation. I found that locals, because they have done the attraction a zillion times, are less interested and often disrespectful on the rides and during shows. They talk, blurt at the screen and or repeat the spiel like they just don't care. I know you've done (insert attraction name here) a million times but please, don't ruin it for those who travel from far away to visit DL on a rare ocassion.
One last thing. For a WDW'er it's awesome to be able to get in line of Toy Story Midway Mania and Soarin with 15 minute waits. I got love for both resorts.