For most of my life I was a Disney World nerd. As a kid I remember going to the park (and then parks) and having a brilliant time. When my wife and I got engaged we opted to do a Disney wedding at the Magic Kingdom Wedding Pavilion. And when we left we decided that we would come back as often as possible.
In my mind Disney World was the place to beat. It must be better than Disneyland because, well, it was bigger! It was newer! It was WORLD! For most of my life I made that assumption and had little to no desire to see or experience Disneyland.
Nearly 2 years ago an aerospace company in Southern California started courting me. They flew myself and my wife out from our home in Minnesota to interview. Being that this company is only about an hour away from the parks, we opted to make a visit.
On my initial trip I decided to try out Disney's California Adventure since I had never done that park before. The interview had literally lasted all day so it was 7:00pm before we were able to make it out there. First thing we experienced was the Mickey and Friends parking structure. That was strange. Since it was so close to park closing there were no cast members there to guide us. We had no idea what we were doing or where we were going. The experience was awful. Finally we made it to a ticket booth. The park closed in an hour and we had to buy tickets at the full price. My wife thought I was crazy, but I wanted to experience this park. Or at least step through the gates.
Lets not forget that 2 years ago California Adventure was under some pretty heavy construction. A good chunk of stuff was starting to get walled off, and we had no idea what we were doing. With only 1 hour to be in the park, somehow we managed to make it over to Hollywoodland, ride Monsters, and leave. My view of Disneyland remained unchanged: inferior.
After a bunch of negotiations, 8 months later the aerospace company hired me and we moved out to Southern California. This offered us plenty of time to do the parks right. The day I landed my wife and I headed to Disneyland proper and spend the afternoon and evening there.
Upon entering the park I was taken aback at how much smaller things were. Main street wasn't as tall, but somehow it was more inviting. The castle was much smaller. Tomorrowland was not a huge hike up and to the right, it was just right there! I very quickly started to realize that while the park was smaller, it still had all the stuff I wanted. Now I just didn't have to walk as far. BONUS!
Then evening came and something unexpected happened. First we saw the fireworks show, "Remember... Dreams Come True". At first I was pretty impressed with the show. And then the hub locations around main street lit up with fireworks during the Haunted Mansion scene. My jaw hit the floor. Never had I seen a show like this as Disney World. They shot fire from the castle, had Tinkerbell fly over the castle not just from it... My brain exploded. This was the moment I started falling in love with the park.
A few days later I was able to convinse my wife to watch Fantasmic!. We had both seen this show at Hollywood Studios and were less than impressed. We both assumed it was the same, but I wanted to try everything the park had to offer. At first it all appeared to be similar, until we hit Peter Pan. I had missed the ship sailing in from the side, so I jumped at the "cannon fire". Impressive. Then we hit the villan sequence. So much better than Hollywood Studios. All in all I was pretty impressed. That is, until we hit Maleficent. That whole sequence was just awesome. No silly strobing of the lights, no cheesy black dragon made out of torn un laundry scraps. What we had was a great dragon that seemingly comes out of nowhere and breaths fire! Once again my jaw hit the floor. While "Remember... Dreams Come True" made me fall in love with the park, Fantasmic! cemented that for me and made it absolute.
Not too long after falling in love with Disneyland, which was like falling in love with Disney World all over again, we decided to move to Anaheim. We now live 1.8 miles away from the parks and can hear the fireworks at night. It is awesome. After a long day of dealing with some extremely complex issues, it is nice to get away to the parks and let the world of Disney take over.
We still love Disney World and even spent our last anniversary there. We'll likely be going back again later this year. But for anyone who ever thought of Disneyland as a 2nd rate park, or just not worth the effort after you have seen Disney World... Hopefully my story will help you decide to at least give the park a chance. I can't imagine missing out on this beautiful park had I never actually gotten a job out here.