Thursday, February 21, 2013


   The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA has changed much in the last few years!  All I can say is WOW!
   Of course "Disneyland" itself has evolved so much since I was a kid growing up in Southern California, and making regular visits to the park.  Gone are the Chicken of the Sea - Tuna Sandwich boat, and Skull Rock.  No more Skyway between Fantasyland & Tomorrowland.  The gigantic parking lot is now Disney California Adventure theme park.  I mean even the streets around the Disneyland resort look different.  After spending so many trips flying east to Walt Disney World near Orlando Florida, it's really fun to head out west and visit the old Home Park and enjoy the different experience.

Fantasyland still looks vaguely familiar

   We just returned from our 3rd visit since 2002, but I would estimate this to be my 16th visit since I was born. I now see Disneyland as a "Resort" rather than "Just a Park".  We spent 6 nights at one of the Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels, and could have easily spent a few more.  With 4 day Park Hopper tickets in hand, we made our plans for the week, and went with a Monday-DCA, Tuesday/Wednesday-Disneyland, Thursday-DCA strategy for park touring.  Monday was an eye opener for this old Disney theme park vet.  The changes to Disney California Adventure park left me amazed.  What was once considered the Ugly Step Sister of the Disney park lineup is now ready to go toe-to-toe with any Disney Park for pure fun.  It has something for all age groups (our group had ages 3, 29, and 53 x 2).  After entering the park, the march down Buena Vista Street (Kind of the "Main Street" for DCA) was sparkling.

Having fun with Grandpa on Luigi's Flying Tires in Cars Land

   We stayed at the Best Western Stovall which is on Katella Blvd. right across the street from Disney Drive which leads to Downtown Disney.  It was an easy walk for us, and we would just cut through the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel and step right out into Downtown Disney then a short walk to the esplanade which is basically a common area where the entrances to the two parks face each other.  That is one of the big differences between the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World.  I mean, can you imagine having The Magic Kingdom just steps away from Disney Hollywood Studios and being able to simply turn left for one park or right for the other, and just walk across a few yards from one park to another? 

Eating at Disneyland is another experience that is very different from Walt Disney World.  Since so much of the attendance is based on locals, the eateries don't seem to require the fanatical 6 months ahead reservations that drive much of the WDW trip planning.

   Being the "Off Season" and having a bit of a plan makes 2 days at each park a good way to see pretty much everything on the check list of attractions.  Of course, more days is always better! 
   Even though Disneyland is similar to The Magic Kingdom in Florida, there are plenty of things that are exclusive to the West Coast version.  The Indiana Jones ride is one of the marvels of the Disney universe.  It has thrills, and just seems so grand, so big, you drive into those caverns and caves, and just think... "Wow, Disney has come a long way from the plywood cutouts and black lights!" (That's exactly what my Daughter and I were saying to each other as we walked the exit queue from the ride).  The Matterhorn is just a classic coaster ride, and I don't see how any visit to Disneyland would feel complete without a ride (or two) on The Matterhorn Bobsleds.  The Nemo Subs, Pinocchio's daring journey, Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Toad's wild ride, and Casey Jr. Circus train, are just a few of the many rides that you can only find at Disneyland in Anaheim.
If you are a WDW Veteran, be ready for "Castle Shock"
   One big difference is in the castles of Disneyland and WDW's Magic Kingdom.  My Daughter who had not been to Disneyland in a bit more than 10 years, just couldn't get over the difference.  Cinderella's Castle in Florida is over 100 feet taller than Sleeping Beauty's castle in California.  Almost twice as tall, if they were side by side, Cindy's castle would soar over Sleepy's.  There is one advantage that California's castle has over her bigger rival, and that is the Walkthrough attraction where you can actually walk through scenes of the sleeping beauty story inside the castle! 

   Things are a little tighter in California.  There is so much packed into a smaller area at Disneyland.  With 22 less acres to work with, you may feel the crowds a bit more at Disneyland.
I LOVE Toontown!

   Something that Disneyland has which can not be found in Florida is Mickey's Toontown.  Home of Gadget's Go Coaster, and Roger Rabbit's Car-toon Spin.  It's a crazy and colorful place.  At just around 3 acres, it's crowded and full of little adrenalized Gremlins running wild (and having the time of their lives).  If you are adults without kids in tow, you might not spend much time here, but if you have a little cutie who is looking for a trip making experience, then this is your place! 

Everybody eats good at Blue Bayou!
Bring on that Montecristo!

   Another high point of the trip was lunch at The Blue Bayou Restaurant in New Orleans Square.  To step inside this dark and relaxing place is to find yourself transported away from the park for just a bit.  With boats from the Pirates of the Caribbean floating gently by, crickets chirping, fireflies over the water, and some delicious food served in very generous portions, if you can get a reservation here, I would highly recommend it.

   If you want a more casual eatery, I can wholeheartedly suggest The Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country.
You have to try the Lemon "Bumblebee Cupcake"!
Featuring Chili-Cheese Burgers, Sweet Poato Fries, A Fried Green Tomato Sandwich (really!), Salads, Desserts, and drinks.  Set by the Rivers of America, it has 2 levels with lots of deck space.  Pull up a chair and watch the Sailing Ship Columbia or Mark Twain Riverboat sail by.  Nestled in the tall pines of Critter Country near The Winnie the Pooh ride, and Splash Mountain.  It's one of our favorites!
A great spot at The Hungry Bear

   This is where the Disneyland Resort experience has really improved.  DCA has taken a lot of criticism since it opened in 2000.  I doubt you'll hear much griping for quite a while now.  With the creation of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land, DCA is every bit as fascinating as her sister park across the way.  67 colorful and fun packed acres of something you just can't get at WDW in Florida.
Cars Land comes alive at night!

   Cars Land is just amazing.  I know it's been said many times before, but now I know that it is so true... You will feel like you've stepped into the movie.  The shops, eateries, and attractions are as detailed as anything ever dreamed up by Disney Imagineers.  The big attraction is Radiator Springs Racers, and if you don't want to stand in a gigantic line just to get a Fast Pass, and don't mind possibly riding separated from your group, it will cut your wait time in half and probably more!  In fact,  My Daughter and I did the single rider line twice, the first time, we ended up riding together in the same car, and the second time we ended up riding in different vehicles, but racing each others cars at the end!  This ride has it all, theme & thrill, it is probably in this old guy's top 5 rides in all of Disney.  
Red's Apple Freeze is YUMMY

   I think the most laughs for our group as a whole came out of Cars Land's other 2 attractions.  Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Flying Tires.  The lines were short and we rode each of them several times.  These are attractions that both kids and adults can have fun with.  I don't know that I would wait 45 minutes or longer during more crowded seasons, but if the wait looks like anything under 30 minutes, I would say GO FOR IT!
Bug's Land is a hit with the little ones

   Our Grand Daughter had a blast at Bug's Land, Some great little attractions for the kids and this was a big hit with us!  Also, lunch at Ariel's Grotto made our first day complete.  Eating with the princesses was something we won't soon forget, it seems pretty popular, so for this one I would suggest making that reservation as far ahead as possible.
Going for a spin on Francis' Lady Bug Boogie
   The Hollywood Land area is like a mini version of Florida's Disney Hollywood Studios.  The 45 minute stage show of Aladdin was great.  And we enjoyed just walking on to the Monsters inc. ride twice.
King Triton's Carousel is just plain fun

       Paradise Pier is an original area of DCA, but it too has been improved.  Toy Story Midway Mania, California Screamin', Goofy's Sky School, and Mickey's Fun Wheel are just a few of the attractions in this large midway area  set along the water.

   We had an early dinner at Fiddler, Fifer, & Practical Cafe on Buena Vista Street,  It's a neat venue with good food, but I think they may need to fine-tune the ordering system.  There was just a bit of confusion in the pickup area, I think if they can get this perfected, they've got a real winner on their hands!

   The Pixar parade, Boudin Bakery Tour, and Blue Sky Cellar help to round out the offerings of a world class theme park done Disney Style!  Add The pageantry of the spectacular World of Color Show which ends the day, and it's a "10" in my book!

Another great thing about the Disneyland Resort is the Downtown Disney area which is actually "connected" to the esplanade between the two parks.  Great restaurants, shops and snacks in a fun filled themed walkway.  A Monorail station is located here and it's great if you want to ride the monorail to Downtown Disney, or from DTD back to Disneyland.  Touring the 3 great hotels of the DLR is also a great way to spend some time exploring.
The newly designed grounds of the historic Disneyland Hotel are beautiful

    It's not 43 square miles of wonderland like Walt Disney World in Florida, but it is an amazing place that is only getting better with time.  It's definitely no longer "just a park"!

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