I'm a lifelong Southern Californian, but haven't been to Disneyland in quite a while. My interest in Disneyland has been piqued recently. After joining micechat my enthusiasm for a visit grew, and my wife and I made the trip to Anaheim this week. We picked a tuesday in late february since the crowds should be at a minimum. It was an awesome day at Disneyland and California Adventure and here are some notes from our trip from the point of a view of a Disneyland newbie.
I've included pictures so the report isn't just dry text, but I'm sure you've all seen the places I'm talking about, so these are random pictures from the day, mostly of quiet spots.
The adventure started with finding the parking. I'm from Southern California, so I know where the parking for Disneyland is, but I'm not familiar with the route to get there. Coming from San Diego, I went north on I-5 and took Disney Way. Disney Way ends at Disneyland, and you have to turn south, doubling back in the direction you came from. Then after a detour around Disneyland you turn north again. Then following the signs, you make a U-turn and once again head south to get to the parking. I knew where I was eventually going, but that sure seemed like a convoluted path to get to the parking. Once inside we drove for what seemed like a mile before parking. That's one huge parking garage!
Thanks to information I've gleaned from micechat, we had a rough plan for the day, including rides and sights we wanted to see. We started in Tomorrowland, getting a fast pass for Star Tours and then heading for Space Mountain. We had a funny incident in the Space Mountain queue when we were the first of a batch of people to go into the building. We headed down a corridor, but then seemed to come to a dead end. We stopped, thinking we had misled all the people behind us down the wrong path . We then realized there's a door at the end of the corridor which can't be seen until you go all the way to the end. Anyway, the ride was quite a thrill. A rollercoaster in the dark is an ingenious idea. I don't know how they fit that ride inside that building, but I don't think I want to see it with the lights on…I have a feeling that would spoil the illusion of the size of the ride!
We then went to Buzz Lightyear since our Star Tours fast pass wasn't quite ready. That was a fun diversion. Sort of like a dark ride that you participate in. I take it that's in the building that housed the old 360 degree theater?
After that we headed to Star Tours. Even with a fast pass we had about a 15 minute wait. I wasn't sure exactly what the Star Tours ride was before our visit, but I thought it was a great simulator. You get a lot of feeling of motion and I thought the use of 3D in the projection was really well done. It even had some funny moments.
We were ready for a snack after that, but first went by Indiana Jones to pick up a fast pass. We then went to the Jolly Holiday for some pastry. I had banana nut bread that was especially good. My wife had a cookie. That's a nice place to sit and watch people go by through the hub.
After eating, our Indiana Jones fast pass wasn't ready yet, so we went over to the Matterhorn. There was a 30 minute wait for the matterhorn, which seemed like a lot for a tuesday morning in late february. I have to admit I was let down by the Matterhorn. My childhood memories of a thrilling rollercoaster misled me. I found it to be rather tame. The problem is the lift just doesn't go very high, so there's not much speed on the way down. The bigger problem was the discomfort. At the end I felt like I had been sitting in a rock crusher. I thought it was just me, until I heard some other people complaining when they got out of their bobsleds.
We then headed to Indiana Jones. I kept an eye out for the eeyore in the queue, but must have missed it. There was a breakdown just as we were about to board. I'm not sure what the problem was, but they had the lights on in the tunnel and CM's were walking along the track. I'm glad I wasn't on the ride when that happened. After about 15 minutes we were underway. I was pretty impressed. I thought the big room with the rope bridge is very well done. I couldn't make out all the things we were being told by Indy, so I'm not sure exactly what the story was, but the visual experience was enough that it didn't matter .
Our plan was to head to New Orleans square for lunch, but first we went into Pirates of the Caribbean. The wait there was only a few minutes and we were off in our boat. Here's a case where my childhood memories did not let me down. This is a towering achievement in Imagineering. It's even more impressive when you consider this was based on an original idea…they weren't borrowing from an established movie franchise. After almost 50 years the magic still holds up. The story, the imagery, the animation are all captivating. The sense of space in the bayou and pirate ship scenes is breathtaking. The attention to detail in things like the clouds above you really carry you away to another time and place. Some parts were strangely dark however. The part where the pirates are chasing women around and around was in the dark, so you couldn't really make it out.
After that, it was lunch at the Cafe Orleans. We sat at an outside table at the railing so we were overlooking the river. I had the seafood crepe and my wife had the salmon. By the standards of a theme park, the food was nothing short of fantastic! It was great to sit and enjoy our meal while looking over at the island while the ship went by. After lunch we wandered the streets of New Orleans Square. It seems like the shops aren't interesting as I remember, but it's still a great place to stroll.
We next boarded the train for Toontown. Passing the northwest part of the park, we were struck by how much land is out there. There's a large outdoor theater that doesn't seem to be in use. Between that and Innoventions and the land next to autopia, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of space available for new attractions if the need arises. On the other hand, from what I can see, Disney is getting big crowds paying top dollar for admission. There's probably not much incentive to improve the park at this point.
Anyway, after getting off at Toontown, we picked up a Roger Rabbit fast pass. Toontown seemed kind of eerie. I gather it's had things removed and isn't as nice as it used to be. We went into fantasyland while waiting for our Roger Rabbit fastpass. We went on pinnochio, which has all the hallmarks of a classic dark ride: it's fun and fantastic, with a story to make you feel like you've been through an adventure. We wandered fantasyland for a bit and were struck by the enormous popularity of the princess meet and greets. It's a tuesday in late february and people were waiting 45 minutes to see a princess. And there were a number of such princess attractions, all equally crowded. I can see now the reason for the new princess faire attraction.
We headed back to Toontown to use our Roger Rabbit fast pass. The sign outside said a 30 minute wait, but we walked in and immediately were seated in a car. The puzzling thing is I didn't see anybody waiting for standby, except I could see the front of a line of people getting on the cars. I asked the CM about that and he said they are all waiting in what he called the "million dollar queue". I'm a little sorry I didn't get to see that. But not so sorry that I'd want to wait 30 minutes . Roger Rabbit was a lot of fun, a great dark ride with the extra twist that you can spin the cars, sort of like the teacups. The only thing is: that movie came out a long time ago and I don't remember the story. So I don't really understand the sequence of events that were portrayed in the ride.
We were next headed for Adventureland, but first visited Alice in Wonderland. Another classic dark ride, especially well done. Kind of weird seating in the cars though, with 1 up front and 2 in the back. So it was mostly just 2 people per car. Anyway it was a lot of fun with some great visuals and memorable characters. I suppose it's old news here, but the part of the ride where you ride along flower petals has been transformed into something with all the charm of a construction site, featuring tarps, planks, and scaffolding.
Our next destination was the jungle cruise. This queue was surprisingly long, over 30 minutes. This was the only time of the day were I felt like we were being treated like cattle. Shuffling along, back and forth through the queue, upstairs and down, sort of like manacled prisoners in Les Miserables. We got on the boat and were off for our cruise. I remember things being the same as when I was a kid: the rhino chasing people up a pole. I couldn't help noticing the boat captain doesn't shoot the hippo anymore: he just fires the gun in the air to scare him . The sights on the cruise were pretty interesting, but it seemed like mostly 10 minutes of corny jokes.
Next it was to the tiki room, but first we stopped for a Dole Whip. I'm not normally a big fan of pineapple, or ice cream for that matter, but I really like the tangy taste. It seemed way bigger than I could eat, but it's hollow on the inside, so we managed to eat it all. The tiki room was terrific, with classic animatronics that are still impressive and entertaining after all these years. There's a beautiful artistic touch to the way they are designed and presented that makes them timeless.
It was getting late in the afternoon at this point and still had California Adventure to visit so we made our way down main street to the exit, stopping in a few shops along the way.
Inside California Adventure, we headed down Buena Vista street towards Carthay Circle. The fruit stands at the corners are a quaint touch that lend a lot to the atmosphere, but I'm guessing they have pretty low sales compared to the other vendors in the park . The Carthay tower at the end of the street makes a great visual focus as you enter the park. It has the advantage of being a lot more harmonious with the street that leads to it than the main street/medieval castle of Disneyland. We headed down Hollywood to the Tower of Terror to get a fast pass, then wandered the park a bit.
Thanks to micechat, I learned of the photopass system and we had our picture taken at a few places. In Disneyland it seems the only place to find the photographers is at the entrance and at the castle. In California Adventure they were at numerous locations. I think the reason might reflect a key difference between the two parks. California Adventure is more scenic.
Yes, Disneyland has main street and New Orleans Square. But Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland are small and crowded, without any attractive sightlines or views. Tomorrowland, I'm sorry, is just plain ugly. The unused people mover track, the monstrosity blocking the entrance and the unused tower where the flying rockets used to be lend it an air of blight. As many have mentioned, the energy that used to be there with a wide walkway with moving objects overhead has been replaced with a sad atmosphere of neglect. The autopia is about as "tomorrow" as television. Where was I? Oh yes, California Adventure. On the other hand, California Adventure has numerous views that are worth savoring. Carthay Circle is perfectly placed with the surrounding area which makes it great for gazing. The view across the water to the ferris wheel is downright inspiring. After dark, things get even better. Thew view of Radiator Springs when entering from the boardwalk is great and looking down Route 66 with the neon lights at night is magical. I was quite impressed with California Adventure.
We took a ride on the Mermaid ride. This is a dark ride, but it's different than the typical fantasyland dark ride. Instead of riding a car through a story, you ride a car past a series of stages. On each stage is an animatronic performance. In fantasyland dark rides you generally don't see other cars, you're having your own adventure. On the other hand in the Mermaid ride the cars are all jammed together cheek by jowl through the ride. I suppose this gives it a very large capacity for the number of visitors per hour. In any case it's a great example of animatronics done well and lots of fun.
We then headed to the Tower of Terror. I'm sure there are many drop rides at places like Magic Mountain which are just a bare structure that takes you up and drops you down. But the added dimension of the theming and story at Tower of Terror really makes it special. I particularly liked the CM costumes. We had a scary CM who opened the library door and gave us quite a fright. The boiler room is fantastic to behold, but it's a little odd that you go upstairs from the lobby to reach the boiler room . We were soon seated and strapped into our seats in the elevator and, after a couple of stops at scenes to set the story and intrigue us with visuals, the ride began. It was truly scary. For the first time during the day, I really needed the seatbelts! That was quite a thrill.
By this time it was getting close to 8:00 and the end of the day, so we visited the cozy cone motel for a queso cone to share.
That brought our adventure to an end. It sparked some nostalgia and created some new fond memories.