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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Lucky Fortune Cookery
Naples Risorante Pizzeria
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.