Off-site hotels Archives

August 16, 2009

Disneyland First Time Visitor - Your Tips

Last month I asked for your tips to help AllEars® reader Nancy plan her first trip to Disneyland this fall. Thanks to everyone who responded. In the interests of length, I have edited and combined similar responses.

Before we start, though, I wanted to mention that AllEars® blogger Jack Spence wrote a couple of blogs sharing his thoughts on Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, and I think those would be helpful:
Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom Part 1
Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom Part 2

Several of you commented on preparing yourself and setting your expectations.

From Craig:
I think the most important planning step for a frequent WDW visitor going to Disneyland for the first time is attitude. When you're a frequent visitor to one Disney property, half of the fun of visiting another Disney location for the first time is to see the many similarities and many differences between the two. Be prepared for smaller, but don't make the mistake of equating smaller with not-as-good. I'll allow for one disappointment: arriving at Main Street for the first time, be prepared to wonder what happened to the castle.

From Amanda:
The first thing I would suggest is to go into the trip realizing that DL is a lot different than WDW. Some WDW vets express disappointment when they see DL for the first time, because they expect it to be the same. It isn't, but it's wonderful and so much fun in its own right! :)

From Maureen:
For the first time DL visitor:
-read some history of DL so you can appreciate its past as well as its present
-be sure to do the rides and attractions that are unique to DL
-take time to notice the little things;the shops are filled with wonderful, charming detail
-start planning your next trip because you'll want to go back !

From Dan (a first time visitor last year!):
I would suggest taking two full days (at least) to see the Magic Kingdom. There's just so much packed into the space (yet it doesn't seem cramped).

A number of you mentioned concentrating on the attractions that are at Disneyland but not at Disney World, such as the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, Grizzly River Rapids, and Monsters, Inc.

From Dayle:
Ride the Storybook Land Canal boats - charming and amazing examples of bonsai. Matterhorn Bobsled since this is a Disneyland original. Indiana Jones - much better than Dinosaur. I also think Space Mountain and Autopia are better than the Magic Kingdom counterparts.

From Kameo:
[After arriving at park opening] I'd recommend heading straight to Matterhorn in Disneyland. It is fantastic (though a little rough) and does not have fastpasses. The line can be unmanageable if you wait to ride it later in the day. Also, you absolutely must hit Indiana Jones. It is a great ride (think of the ride vehicle for Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom) and you should hit it or Space Mountain immediately after Matterhorn.

From Dan:
I'd say make sure to take the Disneyland Railroad for a complete circuit of the park, as my suggestion to first timers.

From A.D.:
Others will have plenty to say about attractions - the only one I want to highlight is the Sailing Ship Columbia, a very under-appreciated attraction; don't miss the museum!

From Barb:
Couple of things they really gotta go for in Disneyland. Our Pirates of the Caribbean, just a much better start and finish than WDW, our Peter Pan, for the amazing fiber optic stars :)

From Shirley:
You absolutely, positively, must experience the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. I still do not understand why they don't have this fantastic ride at WDW. The waiting area is not to be missed as well.

The #1 recommendation was the Aladdin show at DCA, where I received several comments such as the following:

From Dayle:
Biggest recommendation for first time visitor to Disneyland Resort is to see the Aladdin show at the Hyperion Theater within California Adventure. This is a Broadway caliber production with fantastic sets and performers.

From Amanda:
At California Adventure, definitely make time to see the Aladdin musical! There is one character especially who makes the experience very entertaining! This is something I would go see multiple times on a vacation because it's that good!

And of course there were lots of recommendations on places to eat! :-) Quite a few of you suggested the Blue Bayou (I have to admit it's not one of my favorites, though).

From Gabriela:
While dining at DLR isn't as big of a deal as WDW, I would suggest at least one meal at the Blue Bayou. The best food may not always be guaranteed, but there's just something about eating right next to PotC.

From Suzie:
I think that the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Blue Bayou restaurant are must dos. The ride is awesome, of course but the eatery is wonderful and themed so well!

There were quite a few other less-well-known recommendations, though:

From Dayle:
In Disneyland, skip the ice cream carts and go to the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street. For maybe a $1 more, you get a large hand scooped ice cream sundae with the fixings.

From Kameo:
For food, be sure to try the corn dogs! They are in the little red cart just to the right of main street when walking toward the castle. They are the best value in food at Disneyland.

From Barb:
They gotta head to DCA for a swirl ice cream at Catch A Flave- absolutely the best ice cream in the park. We actually will make the drive up from San Diego just to get a taste of it ;)

From Gabriela:
And if you know someone who can get you into Club 33, then go for it!!! Other table service restaurants worth a stop include the Carnation Café on Main Street, and Wine Country Trattoria over at DCA. Great counter service places for me include the French Market at DL (good t.s. food at c.s. prices, mint juleps and live music! what's not to love?), and the choices over at Pacific Wharf at DCA.

From Connie:
If you enjoy character dining, do go to Disneyland Hotel's Goofy's Kitchen. It is one of the best character dining experiences-I have been to many. So many unique characters that you do not usually see or meet. The characters intermingle with the children so well. Another very nice dining experience is at Paradise Pier in California Adventure. It is Ariel's Grotto. Here it is a restaurant, in Disney World it is a meeting area. I would strongly suggest arranging a Fantasmic package with dessert so you can really enjoy the show.

And there were quite few miscellaneous, but very helpful, suggestions!

From Kameo:
As with Disneyworld, always arrive to the parks at open as this is the time you will get on the most rides in the least amount of time.

From Van:
Just returned from DL for the first time with my son. I would recommend going on the welcome to Disneyland Tour if for any other reason than the priority seating to Aladdin and the fastpasses which can be used for any ride, even those that don't normally take fastpasses, like the Matterhorn. It is relatively cheap by Disney standards and you can save money with your Disney Visa Card or AAA.

From A.D.:
For the convenience factor, many of the "Good Neighbor" hotels located near Disneyland are just as close as the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier. (The monorail will save you some walking *if* it's open, but it won't save you much time, especially if you have to wait.) Disney's Grand Californian Resort is the only place that really will save you walking time over the other hotels in the area.

From Shirley:
The New Orleans square is beautiful as well (another "why don't they have this at WDW"). Be sure to stroll through it and grab lunch there as well.

From Brittany - a Jungle Cruise Skipper!:
Ride the Jungle Cruise at night, it's more exciting that way. It is not like the WDW one in many ways! The Celebrate parade is fun, IF you have small children, but please don't wait around for an hour for it, it's good, but not that good. You MUST watch the fireworks in Sept. if Magical is still the show going on then try to stake out a spot before 9pm. The very best spot in my humble opinion would be in the Plaza, which is that little area just after Main Street USA but just before the Hub.


Disneyland AllEars® Meet and Greet!

AllEars® Team members Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lisa Berton and Cathy Bock invite you to come by and say "Hello!" at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 11, 2009, at the Disneyland Plaza Garden Stage.

Directions: Walk down Main Street until you reach the statue of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney. The entrance to the outdoor covered stage with tables and chairs will be up and to the left.

Let us know you plan to attend by emailing allearsnet at yahoo dot com

August 25, 2008

Disneyland Trip Report

Thought I'd post a trip report from my day trip to Disneyland on Thursday - I went up to spend the day with my "Evil Twin" Pam and her son Mark. (No, we're not really twins, but we look like sisters - so we say we are twins separated at birth - separated by several years, different parents and birth places on opposite coasts, that is. Oh, and by the way, SHE is the "evil twin". :-) )

Left San Diego at 6:35 and had NO traffic, which really surprised me, so I was parked in the parking garage by 8:00, and back at Space Mountain by 8:15 where I met my ET and her son.

I thought the park might be fairly crowded since this is the first week that those who have the Southern California Annual Passes have been able to return to the parks since June, but the park was pretty uncrowded for the first couple of hours. We pretty much walked onto Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. We wanted to ride Indy but it was down. :-(

We also went over to Pirate's Lair, since Mark and Pam hadn't been there yet. We hung back at the entrance to Dead Man's Grotto and let everyone else go in first so that we could take our time going through there, and play with the special effects, like the chest holding Davy Jones' heart and the treasure area with Pintel and Ragetti's pop-up head and swing-down arm and eye. Mark and Pam found some things I hadn't noticed before - down at kid's eye level there is a "cursed treasure window", where you can see a box filled with gold coins until you reach in to touch it, and then it disappears. And there's another view into a different treasure chest which has a genie in a bottle. Fun stuff. :-)


Jack Sparrow was not in his usual meet-and-greet spot, but when we left the island he was waiting to board the raft to go across.

After a late breakfast (Mickey pancakes!) at the River Belle Terrace we went over to DCA - both Mark and I really wanted to ride Toy Story Mania. He'd done the one at Walt Disney World earlier this summer. Unfortunately when we got back there the line was 70 minutes long. Why, oh why did Disney NOT make this a Fastpass attraction??? Seems like a really bad decision to me.

So we did a couple other things - Orange Stinger and Mulholland Madness, though MM went down for about 10 minutes while we were in line. I still say that's the scariest ride in the park - every time we go around one of those 180 degree turns I have visions of the car flying off the track. <shudder>

We'd gotten Fastpasses for Grizzly River Run and Soarin' on the way in, and it was time to use those. Mark got pretty drenched on GRR - he was sitting right by one of the openings in the raft. Pam and I were in the middle and not quite so wet, but we were both glad we had quick-drying shorts on!!! (I always feel sorry for the people who wear blue jeans and ride GRR - they end up having to walk around in wet jeans for the rest of the day!) The Fastpass line for Soarin' was all the way up the ramp almost to the building entrance, so even with the FP we had a 15-20 minute wait. The standby time was posted at 35 minutes - I'm not sure I believe that.

For "lunch" we had ice cream from Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream - yummy. Mark was pretty tired (they had had a long day the day before, plus early entry already) so we went back to their hotel, the Howard Johnson's Anaheim.

I'd read a lot of good reports on this hotel, but I'd never been there...I'm happy to say that it seems to be just as nice as they say. The room was on the order of a Walt Disney World moderate, I would say - except that not many moderate rooms have a view of fireworks, and a number of the HoJo rooms can see the Disneyland fireworks - including their room. Earlier this summer the hotel opened a new water park area called Castaway Cove - it has a number of water features including a spiraling water slide. Mark had a lot of fun there, and the water seemed to revive him.

We went back to DCA later in the afternoon. At the information booth at the front of the park I asked the wait time for Toy Story Mania - still 60 minutes. So we went to Monsters, Inc. instead, which had only a 5 minute wait. I pointed out the Attention All Monster Passengers sign, which I think is really funny, but most people seem to miss it. And we also took a look at the Harryhausen's menu that is posted on the wall - how does some Yukitori or Ice Scream sound to you???

We got about 3/4 of the way through the ride when it stopped. And after a couple of minutes the lights came on. And then we were told that there had been an automatic shutdown of the ride due to proximity sensors on the cars (people weren't loading/unloading fast enough, apparently), and they walked us out of the ride. Which was kind of interesting for me, but I felt bad for Mark and Pam since this was their first time on the ride. No "sorry for the inconvenience, here's a Fastpass for you", either - just a "try back later" attitude. (If you're counting, that's three rides so far that had problems...and they'd had an issue with Space Mountain the day before.)


By the time we got out of there the Pixar Play Parade had started...but we were hoping to get around it to get back to Toy Story Mania, thinking the line might be a little shorter. The parade seems to be back to its original version - the stilt-walking chefs and bungee-jumping rats in the Ratatouille segment are back, as are the twirling acrobatic cowboys on the Toy Story float. When we were there a few weeks ago I saw that the "bug's life" float was back to its original configuration with the flower swinging bugs in the center - that was taken out of service not long after the parade started because one of the swings broke during the parade. Hopefully the original parade has been running all summer - I haven't seen the full parade since early May, when it was still missing the more acrobatic elements.


It took a while to make it back to Toy Story Mania, and the line was down to 45 minutes by then. The CM told us we'd picked a good time - that once the parade ended it would be over an hour again. The line kept moving well, and we were on the ride in a little less than 45 minutes.

Man, that ride is a lot of fun!!! Mark and I rode together and he beat me by a substantial margin (31,000 points), but he was nice and didn't gloat *too* much. :-) He noticed that at the end when your scores come up, if you keep shooting, it shows up on the screen as confetti.

We had dinner at the Farmer's Market - they still have the California Wrap on the menu from the Food and Wine Festival. (Other restaurants that have kept the F&W menu items are Pacific Wharf Cafe and Award Wieners.) The wrap seemed smaller to me, though. For $7.99 it wasn't very much food. I really wanted to eat at the Pacific Wharf Cafe, but as usual the line was ridiculously long, and it's always very slow moving. (And they also replaced my favorite salad - the Nicoise - with the F&W festival Mandarin Chicken Salad. Which is good, but the Nicoise was better!)

I needed to get on the road after that, since I had to drive home and go to work the next day. Pam and Mark walked me to the tram, and we said goodbye, though I'll see them in San Diego, too.

Other random observations from the day...

  • I saw the new Mark VII Monorail Blue go by a number of times - but never when I had my camera out, of course. It looks very swoopy and modern.
  • The weather was GREAT - a summer day in southern California just doesn't get any better! It really wasn't too hot at all.
  • The parks were not as crowded as I expected - though Pam told me DL was really busy when they went back after I left. Soarin' never had more than a 45 minute standby wait posted - and it's usually an hour - same for Grizzly River Run. I think Toy Story Mania is pulling a lot of people back to Paradise Pier and off the other big rides.

And a few things Lee and I noticed on our visit several weeks ago:

  • Award Wieners has a new seating area - they took out the outdoor section of the Muppets Inc. queue and put in tables and chairs. Still left the Muppet stuff there, though. It looks like there's quite a bit of shade there.
  • The parking lot trams have a new seat - it's more of a rubberized surface than the slick fiberglass, and not so slippery.
  • As I mentioned in my Toy Story Mania blog entry there are two new food stands on the Boardwalk - Hot Dog Hut serves (surprise!) hot dogs, chips, and drinks, and Don Toma's offers turkey legs, chimichangas, and drinks.
  • The Snow White 75th anniversary exhibit has been removed from the Animation Building, and the animation screens have returned to running the various clips from classic animated movies. I missed those during the Snow White exhibit.

Thanks to Mark and Pam for sharing some of their vacation with me - I had a great day.

Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

September 22, 2007

Staying off-site - the Best Western Park Place Inn & Suites

bwpp4.jpg Earlier this summer I wrote a blog entry about staying on-site vs. off-site at Disneyland, and how there were certain advantages in proximity to staying off-site.

I had the chance to experience this for myself on a recent overnight trip when I stayed at the Best Western Park Place Inn & Suites, which is as close as you can get to Disneyland's entrance - the hotel is right at the crosswalk of Harbor Blvd that goes over to Disneyland's bus area and main entrance.

I was pleasantly surprised when I checked in just before noon on a Saturday and my room was ready! I put the parking permit on my car (good until 3 p.m. the day I checked out) and grabbed my bag and took it up to my third floor room. The hotel is one very long narrow building with external staircases and corridors, though there are elevators, too. Not much in the way of landscaping or grounds - it's either building or asphalt parking area. (Though as you'll see in a later photo, there were some potted plants on the edge of the walkways on the first floor.)


My room was quite nice - much better than I was expecting, actually. Just inside the door was a small seating area with a sofa (which pulls out into a full-size bed), a table, chair and a lamp. Beyond that was the bedroom area with two queen-size beds, a desk and chair, wardrobe with television, and a good-sized refrigerator and small microwave. A closet with full-length mirrored doors held an iron and ironing board as well as extra pillows. The sink and vanity were outside the toilet/shower room - there was a lot of counter space on the vanity, which had a blow dryer and a coffeemaker. The shower head was nice and tall, and the shower curtain was one of the bowed-out "no touch" types. All the rooms had individual wall-mounted air conditioning/heating units. Everything was very clean and the carpet, tile, furnishings, bedding, etc. all looked fairly new.

The pool area is located in the center of the complex. Nothing special about the pool - it was on the small side for a hotel pool. There's also a hot tub there. The laundry room and vending machines are nearby. There's a small store in the lobby where you can buy sundries, souvenirs, and some food items.


Wireless internet access is included, though I didn't bring a computer so I was unable to try it. There's also a free Continental breakfast available next door at Captain Kidd's from 6:30-8:00, but I had to be up and off early enough that I didn't check it out.

But the best thing about the hotel is its proximity to Disneyland. It took me less than 4 minutes to walk from Disneyland's main entrance to the hotel's entrance - and it only took that long because I had to wait about a minute for the light at the crosswalk to change. That's a lot closer than any of the Disney hotels - even the Grand Californian, where even if you cut through DCA it's still a little further than that.

It's not themed, and it's not Disney, but it was clean and comfortable - and very close to the parks. A good value for my money, and I'd stay there again.

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About Off-site hotels

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Off-site hotels category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Limited Time Magic is the previous category.

Planning is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.