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July 2007 Archives

July 4, 2007

Disneyland Tips

I've been asked about "Tips" for visiting Disneyland...so here's a few
things that I hope will be helpful.

Main Street 1. Be at the park when it opens. You can do a LOT of rides in the first couple of hours after the park opens when most of us lazy southern California people (who have to drive in from somewhere else) are still arriving. If you're not staying within walking distance make sure you allow enough travel time to be at the front gate when the park opens - if you're driving and parking at the Mickey and Friends parking structure, make sure you allow time for the tram ride, too. The parking structure usually opens an hour before the park does - though it opens at 7:30 on mornings when the park opens at 8:00.

2. Use Fastpasses, especially for popular rides like Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, and Soarin' Over California. Here's a tip...the Fastpass machines for Roger Rabbit's CarToon Spin at Disneyland and Grizzly River Rapids at DCA are not linked in with the rest of the Fastpass network, so you can get a Fastpass for either of those, and then right after that get a Fastpass for some other ride.

Toontown City Hall 3. If you want to eat at the Blue Bayou, Ariel's Grotto, the Plaza Inn Breakfast with Minnie, or Goofy's Kitchen, make Priority Seating arrangements in advance by calling Disneyland Dining at 714-781-DINE (3463). And if there's *any* table service that you really, really want to try, make a PS in advance so you won't be disappointed. Sometimes you can walk up to table service restaurants and be seated without much of a wait, and sometimes you can't.

4. Toontown opens an hour after the rest of Disneyland does - and right after it opens is a great time to be there and interact with the characters before it starts to get crowded.

Pooh and Tigger 5. Saturdays and Sundays are going to be busy days at any time of year - unless it's raining. If you must be there on a weekend, be prepared for crowds and long waits. Attractions that are usually uncrowded even on busy days are: Disneyland, The First 50 Magical Years in the Opera House on Main Street, Innoventions in Tomorrowland, The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh in Critter Country, the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland, and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience in Tomorrowland. The first two shows of Aladdin and Jasmine's StoryTale Adventures are usually walk-ins, though later shows fill up.

6. If you have a ticket that allows you to parkhop, then do that. Disney's California Adventure (DCA) doesn't open until an hour or two after Disneyland does, so start your day at Disneyland, and when people start pouring into the park around 10-11:00, head over to DCA and get a Fastpass for Soarin', see Aladdin, ride Monsters, Inc., etc, and enjoy DCA while it's least crowded. If you want to head back to Disneyland later in the afternoon for the parade you can easily do that.

Animation Building 7. By all means spend time in the Animation Building at DCA. There's two different shows (Turtle Talk and Animation Academy) in there, plus interactive activities in the Sorcerer's Workshop. We like just sitting in the main gallery and watching all of the animation on the video screens - there are clips from almost all of the Disney animated movies. It's a nice place to relax and take a break, especially on a hot day.

8. See the Aladdin show at DCA. It's a wonderful live show with great musical numbers, comedy, elaborate staging and special effects. My favorite place to sit for overall viewing is the front row of the Mezzanine level, but I think if you're in the first couple of rows of the Orchestra section you feel like you're part of the show yourself!

Until next time,


July 8, 2007

Attraction Comparison: Space Mountain vs. Space Mountain

As a blog topic, Deb Wills suggested that readers might be interested in a comparison of attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It sounded like an intriguing idea to me...see what you think!

I thought I'd start with one of my favorites: Space Mountain. Which is at Disneyland in California, and at Magic Kingdom in Florida. Both are Fastpass attractions, and from the outside they look pretty similar - both housed in a circular futuristic-looking white building. (Below is Space Mountain at Disneyland, below that is Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom.

Space Mountain Disneyland

Space Mountain Walt Disney World.jpg

But once inside, I find they are markedly different. Magic Kingdom's (MK's) version has two loading areas, and two tracks, whereas there's only one loading area and track at Disneyland (DL). The ride vehicles at DL feature three rows of two side-by-side seats, while those at MK feature a car that looks more like a rocket, with three single passenger seats. (Each ride has two cars per "train".) DL's vehicles have a lap bar (every rider has their own bar), whereas MK's vehicles have a T-shaped bar that goes between the legs and across the lap. Personally I find MK's vehicles to be very uncomfortable - you sit so far down in them that with your legs stretched out in front of you that it's very awkward to get up out of them! Though they look a lot swoopier than DL's cars. (Below: DL rocket left, MK rocket right.)

Space Mountain Walt Disney World.jpgDisneyland Rocket

Space Mountain Walt Disney World.jpgDisney World rocket.jpg

Once the ride begins, I think you might as well consider them to be two completely different experiences - about all they have in common is that both are a roller coaster ride in the dark (or in the case of MK, in the semi-dark).

As you leave the loading area at DL you start hearing futuristic space music in your ears...while at MK all you hear are the screams of fellow riders. The music really adds a lot to the experience at DL - the crescendoes of the music seem to be synchronized with the drops and twists of the ride. The DL ride is also DARK - quite unlike the MK ride, where it's light enough to see the track in front of you, and you can see what's coming. That's my biggest complaint about the MK version of the ride.

Space Mountain at DL re-opened in 2005 after an almost two-year rehab - and the improvements really show. Though it was smoother than MK's attraction even before the rehab, now it's even better, and I think it's a little faster, too. I find MK's Space Mountain to be rough and jerky - more like the Matterhorn at DL. I feel pretty beat up after getting off of Space Mountain at MK, but I feel exhilarated after a ride on Space Mountain at DL.

Near the end of DL's ride the cameras capture your photo, and you have the opportunity to see (and purchase) it after the ride. I do have to say that the exit to the attraction is a lot more interesting at MK - at DL you simply climb a set of stairs and go through some space station-y looking hallways, while at MK the escalator passes by various scenes - that whole "lab retriever" thing always cracks me up.

I think it's probably very obvious that I much prefer DL's Space Mountain to MK's...The music makes a huge difference, but even without the music I find it to be a smoother, faster, darker, and better-themed attraction.

To Infinity...and Beyond! (Oops, sorry, wrong attraction...)


July 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

Today is Disneyland's 52nd birthday. I'd have to say that Walt's Big Experiment looks pretty good 52 years later!

This year we've already seen the the second annual Disney's California Food and Wine Weekends, and the openings of Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island and the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Coming up, Disney has announced the return of Disney's HalloweenTime this fall - this year it starts earlier, on September 21. Haunted Mansion Holiday will be open then, and all of the Halloween decorations will be up. Mickey's Halloween Treat will be returning to Disney's California Adventure for 11 nights in October - this year, in addition to all of the trick or treat stops there will be a "character cavalcade" show.

And after that there will be the always wonderful "Merriest Place on Earth" holiday celebration, with all of the special decorations, parade, and fireworks show.

Next year Toy Story Mania will be opening at Disney's California Adventure, and who knows what else Disney might have planned?

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!


AllEars.net pages on items mentioned here:

Disney's California Food and Wine Weekends
Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Disney's Halloween Time
Mickey's Halloween Treat
Toy Story Mania

July 21, 2007

Disneyland: Staying On-site vs Off-site

As many of you know, when considering a trip to Walt Disney World, the issue of whether to stay on-site or off-site can be rather hotly debated. At WDW staying on-site certainly has advantages with its access to Disney transportation, proximity to the parks, and the wide range of resorts (and room rates!) available.

At Disneyland it's really not so much of an issue, though.

Location, location, location.
Though Disneyland was originally built in the middle of an orange grove, the city of Anaheim grew up all around it, and it's surrounded by its own variety of hotels with a wide range of prices and amenities. In fact, all of the Disney-owned hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier, and Grand Californian) are all "high-end" hotels, so those traveling on a more modest budget have no choice but to choose an "off-site" hotel. Proximity of the Disney hotels is a non-issue, though, since several of the off-site hotels are actually closer to Disneyland's entrance than the Disney hotels! Just a short walk (~5 minutes) across Harbor Blvd are several moderately priced hotels that provide clean-but-no-frills accommodations at a much lower rate than any of the Disney hotels - and there's that shorter walk to the parks, too. Now, there's also no theming at those hotels, either, but some of them do offer a complimentary continental breakfast, free parking and high-speed internet, *without* the "resort fee" Disney charges.

So what about transportation?
The Disneyland Resort is a "walking" resort - other than the trams from the two parking areas, the only Disney transportation is the monorail, and it only has two stations: one inside Tomorrowland, and the other at the far end of Downtown Disney. It's closest to the Disneyland Hotel, but it's really not so convenient to any of the hotels that I'd consider it a factor in deciding to stay there.

That Disney theming
Of the three Disney hotels, only the Grand Californian was originally owned and built by Disney - the Disneyland Hotel and the Paradise Pier were originally built by third parties, and later acquired by Disney. So a lot of the "Disney" touches in terms of design and theming are missing from those two hotels. Both hotels were constructed as very ordinary rectangular high-rise towers (three at the Disneyland Hotel and one at the Paradise Pier) - pretty boring and quite a contrast from the beautifully designed Grand Californian across the street.

The Disneyland Hotel has done a lot of remodeling and renovation in recent years, and it does have a lot more of the "Disney resort feel" these days. The grounds and landscaping are quite nice, and the Neverland Pool area can compete with any of the WDW pools. The Paradise Pier suffers from a lack of space, though - the hotel itself takes up all of its lot, and there's not much room for niceties like landscaping. The pool area is actually built on top of the convention center.

You notice I haven't really mentioned the Grand Californian - it's really in a class by itself, at least in comparison to the other Disneyland hotels, and reflects Disney resort theming at its finest. And it has the price to go along with that, too...

So...on-site or off-site?
Well, in my opinion, at Disneyland it's really a matter of economics. If you can afford to stay at one of the Disney-owned hotels you're going to get more of a Disney experience in terms of theming, service, and room decor than you will at any of the off-site hotels. But as far as proximity to the parks goes, a number of the off-site hotels are better choices, as well as being much more inexpensive.

What about you? Where is your favorite place to stay at Disneyland, and what do you like about it?


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About July 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in July 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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