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Walt Disney World 373 to Disneyland 1: Part I

I'm back and overwhelmed by all the messages I have received wishing me good luck on the Disneyland Half Marathon and my first trip to the Disneyland Resort. Some of you were planning your first trip to Anaheim as well and mentioned how you were looking forward to hearing my thoughts and impressions from my first visit. I felt a huge responsibility to take in as much as possible and to also be as honest and thorough as possible so here goes:

Let me start by saying that your messages made me take this trip so seriously that the day before running the Disneyland Half Marathon, I walked a total of 14+ miles through Disneyland and California Adventure to experience and observe as much as possible on that day alone.

I think it would be best to revisit and touch upon those areas I had mentioned on my pre-trip blog:

Footprint Difference

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Disneyland theme park to be bigger than expected. This may have been because of the many people who have told me how small this theme park is in comparison to The Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Well, it IS smaller than Orlando's park but although the park is smaller it seemed to offer more space to many of the classic and popular attractions.

For instance, DL's Pirates of the Caribbean seemed to have at least one-third more space than it's Florida cousin. The attraction "rooms" were on a grander scale and the overall ride experience appeared to be at least five minutes longer, with additional scenes.

More on attractions later.

The park itself seems a bit smaller than The Magic Kingdom, the streets are more narrow and the distances between attractions are far shorter but having said that I was impressed by how well spaces was used in the park.

I must admit that my first view of Sleeping Beauty castle was a bit of a shocker. That icon appeared to me as being smaller than I had expected. I even thought to myself, "Hmmmm, I can throw a baseball over this castle!"

It struck me as being odd that although the Disneyland theme park was not as small as I had expected, the centerpiece for the park, Sleeping Beauty Castle was smaller than I had expected.

SB_Castle1.jpg

When I caught my first glimpse of Sleeping Beauty castle I found myself making an immediate comparison to Cinderella Castle in Florida. I also began to understand how longtime Disneyland visitors must feel when they first walk down Orlando's version of Main Street USA.

The buildings in Orlando are taller than their counterparts in Anaheim, but they really have to be. The buildings along Main Street, USA in Disneyland are the right height. They work well with Sleeping Beauty Castle. The shops and buildings along Main Street USA should not come close to the height of the castle at the end of the street.

Sleeping Beauty Castle is quite quaint and, by the way, you can walk through it.

Quality of the Character Experience

I had been told that the character experience in Disneyland exceeds that of which you will find in Orlando. I don't know if I had a large enough sampling of character experience to really make a sound observation on this point. I will say that from the limited amount of experience I did have that I observed the characters to be at least as good as their counterparts on Florida.

I also noticed that character handlers, unlike in Orlando, were not found to be near the characters at all. Could it be that your average Disneyland guest has adopted such protocol with the characters that handlers are not needed as much as they are in Walt Disney World? Perhaps the WDW guest is more aggressive requiring a character handler to insure proper protocol is exhibited by the guests.

One more interesting observation. The characters popped up in the most unusual places. For instance, I recall seeing Peter Pan appear out of nowhere just outside some restrooms in Fantasyland...again with no handler in sight. There seemed to be quite a few "spontaneous character meet and greets" in Disneyland...or at least it seemed so.


Nighttime Spectaculars

Unfortunately I was not able to catch the fireworks display over Sleeping Beauty, nor was I able to witness DL's version of Fantasmic, and I regret that. The plan was to do so my first night. I think getting up at before 4 A.M. ET (1 A.M. PT), flying out to the west coast, and then kind of running out of gas a little after 9 P.M. PT (Midnight on the East Coast) played a part in my missing these two shows my first night.

The next morning I had a nice chat with a cast member named Scott who mentioned that the big difference between the East coast and West coast Fantasmics is that the show elements for DL are hidden before and after the show and in WDW those elements are always there because it takes place in an amphitheater.

You see the DL Fantasmic show elements, lights and all that jazz, are hidden in the water, and on the first queue they spring into action. The Orlando version has all that infrastructure in place before during and after the show.

It appears that there is a bit more magic to the DL version than the WDW version. However, I have heard some who have seen both that the Orlando venue is more comfortable.

The one show I was most interested in seeing was World of Color at Disney's California Adventure. The only chance I had to see this show was my last night in Anaheim. Unfortunately that morning I had rose around 4 A.M. to run the 2011 Disneyland half marathon. That, plus my crazy schedule that day, left me no time to take a break before the 10:15 P.M. showing.

A few weeks back I had purchased a World of Color Picnic Package which was to secure a spot for me at the World of Color Reserved Viewing section located in Paradise Park. This also came with a box lunch which guests pick up on the day of the show. So are you saying, "Mike is it worth it?" I can tell you that I personally would not do it again. I'm not sure it is worth the cost. Instead I recommend just getting a Fast Pass to the show.

The 10:15 show saw guests lining up almost one hour in advance. There are several color sections in the viewing area. My area was yellow and I stood for almost an hour before heading to my section. When was the last time you spent an hour in Fast Pass status?

I was told the further back from the water you are the more you will see. I agree. If you are too you may not catch all the images during the show.

So what did I think of World of Color? It struck me as sort of another version of Fantasmic. It seemed to have all the elements, including some familiar images and music. The difference was that Fantasmic sort of tells a story or at least has a theme. I guess the theme here is color. The lights and water and colors are quite nice to look at but this is not new technology.

Back in the late 80's I recall watching a lights, water, and music show in Sea World Orlando. The Disney imagineers came along and added the water screens and images. Yes there were a few special effects here and there but there is so much you can do with the technology as it stands today. Although during the show I saw familiar images and heard recognizable music I longed for something fresh and new.

DL_World_O_Color1.jpg

There were portions of the show which contained some new animation and never before heard music. For me it was all too short. I'm sure those who love classic Disney animation and music will enjoy this nighttime spectacular.

If you have the time to go see World of Color on your initial trip to Disneyland you should give it a try, espciallly if you have children. If you want to do more research on the World of Color than I suggest you check out any videos you may find on the internet.

Overall, I think WDW edges DL/DCA for nighttime spectaculars. I think that Illuminations: Reflections of Earth tips the scale in Walt Disney World's favor.

Disney Dining

I expected to find the dining experience at the Disneyland Resort to be quite good...and it was. During my stay I enjoyed several meals in the parks, Downtown Disney, and in the Disneyland Resort hotels. The quality of the food was very good and the service was excellent.

I really missed not being able to use my Tables in Wonderland card. I did find out, however, that in some restaurants a DVC membership will give you a discount on your bill.

Here is a list of the restaurants I was fortunate enough to visit:

Napa Rose
Storytellers Cafe
Lucky Fortune Cookery
Catal
Naples Risorante Pizzeria
Tortilla Joe's
Uva Bar
Surfside Lounge

Was there a favorite? They all have their good points. If possible you should try Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. Save your pennies.

The one regret is that I did not have time to check out the Tangarora Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel. WDW's Polynesian Resort used to have a restaurant called Tangarora Terrace. It was famous for introducing Tonga Toast. The California edition is a quick-service eatery near the Disneyland Hotel.

In terms of overall dining experience I would say the nod is given to the Disneyland Resort.

So that's some of what I experienced on this trip. There is more to come.

The previous post in this blog was 373 to 0 .

The next post in this blog is Walt Disney World 373 Disneyland 1: Part II.

Comments (10)

Amy Stewart:

Mike,

Sounds like you enjoyed the trip to DL! In regards to character interaction at DL vs DW...I LOVE the availabilty of characters at DL but they do need handlers. When we have gone they are mobbed, people do not always respect a line nor do they care if you are standing in line they will cut, push, shove your kids out of the way...the characters themselves are VERY good at handling such problems. The Queen of Hearts moves about often, using her personality as a way to make people behave. Minnie Mouse held up her hands to make the crowd stop and then gestured for my daughter to come forward for pictures since we had been waiting paitently for her. We watched Donald Duck skipping around the flag pole one afternoon. When the crowd got to unruly he simply moved, skipped, played with people on the park benches until the line settled down. It was fun to watch but so frustrating when your children are being nice and others are not. In all I love the magic of LOTS of characters but really hate they don't all come with a crowd control.

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Amy, if everyone behaved the characters would not need handlers.

Angela Beaulieu:

Hi Mr. Scopa, I was so excited to see your story about Disneyland! We have been to Walt Disney World about 12 times, but for our next trip, my family of five will be going to Disneyland .Our trip will not happen until next September but I am already planning. I was wondering how you liked Storytellers Cafe, because it is on our list to try. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I look forward to your other words of wisdom concerning Disneyland.

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Angela,

LOVED Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian. We had breakfast there and the service and the food was probably one of, if not the best I've had in any Disney Resort hotel restaurant. I thought the value was also good.

Enjoy.

Mike

Mike,

I completely agree that Disneyland squeezes a lot more into a small space. Pirates at DL is far superior than the MK version. Until the recent make-over of the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, I would have given the nod to the DL version in New Orleans Square. Now, I think the MK version is superior.

You didn't mention eating at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square. That's always been one of my favorites. :) I've also enjoyed Bengal Barbecue. I don't know if it's still there, but it used to serve up some pretty spicy skewers at reasonable prices.

I think for me one of the things that makes DL special is the fact that Walt himself was there and was involved in the designing and planning of so much. For example, there's a restaurant in Frontierland, it used to be "Aunt Jemima's" and, obviously, was a sponsored place... that Walt used to particularly enjoy for breakfast. There is a restaurant on the right hand side of the plaza at the North East end of Main Street where he (or perhaps it was Roy) used to enjoy roasted chicken dinners.

Also, I know you haven't gotten there yet, but I also love the fact that so much stuff has been packed into so little space. There are a lot more attractions at DL than the MK.

I've often said that if I had a day to spend in any Disney park, it would be Disneyland. If I had a week for vacation, I'd go to Walt Disney World. Of course, that was before Disney Seas opened in Tokyo. ;)

Have a great one, my friend.

Brian

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Brian,

It just seems like the space was put to much better use in DL than in WDW's Magic Kingdom.

I somehow got the sense that the average guest in DL was a bit more Disney-wise than the average WDW guest.

I concur with your thoughts on the one day and one week decisions.

Mike

suzi wilson:

I really appreciate this post! We have been trying to decide if we should make the long trek to the east coast instead of DL again.

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Suzi, for what it's worth...if you've never been to WDW you owe yourself a trip.

Also, one thing to consider, there is a LOT of construction going on in DCA this year. For some that is an issue.

Mike

Hi Mike. This was a great post and had some nice insights into Disneyland that were different than I'd heard before. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on more attractions and how they compared to Disney World. I visited DL once as a kid in 1985 but haven't been as an adult. We're planning to go but are waiting until Cars Land is done. Also, then our daughter will be 4 or 5, which makes it more worthwhile. Great post.

* * *
Thanks Dan. I am writing Part II and hope to post that in a few days.

Mike

Cara Richards:

Hi Mike - thanks for the post. Glad you enjoyed your time in Disneyland. A shame that you didn't get a chance to experience the fireworks (I'm guessing Magical is still on?) and Fantasmic, as they're both great nighttime shows. Disneyland's version of Fantasmic is awesome, and I have to say has the edge on the one in WDW, even if the viewing is a bit on the crazy-side. I was also surprised how small the castle is my first time to DL, but it has a wonderful charm to it that special all on it's own. Haven't done Tangaroa Terrace yet, but was fortunate enough to have a cocktail at the Enchanted Tiki Bar next door just last month, and the theming was awesome. Just like being back at my favourite resort - The Polynesian.

Cara
Portsmouth, England

Keith Despain:

Mike,

It was nice meeting you the morning of the 1/2 Marathon. Your tips to me on the WDW Today podcast were wonderful and helped ease my mind about food the morning of the race. I can have serious headaches if I skip a meal period, let alone before my first 1/2 marathon. Your advice was spot on and my finish time was actually faster than my training time.

I was very much interested in your observations about Disneyland and am glad that you enjoyed visiting what some of us on the west coast call Walt's Park.

As a fan of both WDW and Disneyland, I think that each offers its own unique experience. I'm always pleased to read first timers report that they had a wonderful experience. I've seen too many bash Disneyland because it's not WDW who've never experienced the place or don't give it a true opportunity.

I wish I could visit WDW more often, but am now hoping to someday pull off the coast to coast challenge.

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Hiya Keith.

Glad your race went well.

I agree that each resort has some strong points and not so strong points.

Good luck in the Coast to Coast Challenge.

Mike

Lori:

Great review Mike. As a California native, DL has and always will hold a special place in my heart. It will always remind me of summer trips as a child. I still take a picture in the same spot my folks took one of us kids each summer.

We love WDW and make a few trips a year now, but it's great to have a slice of Disney only 45 minutes away by air. Makes for a great long weekend getaway...and a super excuse to keep up my Premier Annual Pass (lol!).

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Hi Lori,

I'm convinced there is some microchip technology built in to the Annual Passes that allows those bad boys to give us subliminal commands that say, "Come back...come back!"

Mike

Lilu:

You know, I have to admit. I've always been really unimpressed with Disneyland food, but that's probably because I'm a vegetarian. There's just not much there (and if it is, it's pizza). We usually only spend a day to run around Disneyland. I think we're planning three days between Disney CA and Disneyland, next trip.

Disneyland's shows, on the other hand, always blow me out of the water and make me feel like I'm 6 years old again. It's awesome.

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Hi Lilu,

I travel with someone who lives the vegetarian lifestyle and so I recognize the challenge of finding a restaurant that offers choices...there's only so much pizza you can eat.

Mike

david:

I dont always understand the point of these comparisons. i Can understand talking about the diferences between the specific rides and stuff, but i dont understand peoples need to keep score. WDW is AWESOME, Disneyland is AWESOME, they are both great for different reasons, there is no BETTER PARK, they both rock. you can pick one or the other, i will choose BOTH !

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David,

Everything is relative and it is human nature for us to compare everything in our lives.

Regarding WDW and DL, my goal was to point out what I felt were strengths for both resorts and to help those who are trying to decide where to go, what awaits them there.

Mike

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 13, 2011 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was 373 to 0 .

The next post in this blog is Walt Disney World 373 Disneyland 1: Part II.

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