Disneyland Trip Report and Review

This week’s blog post will be a quick recap of our trip to the west coast and Disneyland. When I say ‘we,’ I’m referring to my wife (Lindsay) and myself (dork). This was our first time to California, so we had to visit Disneyland. Despite having been to Walt Disney World 20+ times, I was stoked about my first visit to ‘The Original Magic Kingdom’.

We flew in late on Monday (8/22) and went to Disneyland and DCA on Tuesday and Wednesday. We also had a surprise trip back to Disneyland on 8/29 (more below). We stayed at the Candy Cane Inn after reading several good reviews on TripAdvisor. I have zero complaints about the hotel. We enjoyed being able to walk to Disneyland (never done this at WDW). The breakfast was free and bus transportation was perfect.

Walking into Disneyland that morning was simply breathtaking. Seeing Walt’s work firsthand was incredibly exhilarating for me. As soon as we turned the corner on Main Street, my wife’s first comment was “Oh the castle is so cute… and small.” I had not realized how much smaller the castle was compared to Cinderella’s Castle. However, it was still gorgeous. I’m going to write this post similar to how my brain functions – in short, random bits of information. I also included a few low-res photos. So, here we go:

I loved the feel of Disneyland, but it’s just not the same as Magic Kingdom at WDW for us. MK is our home park, so there’s probably no beating it.

Space Mountain DL doesn’t really compare to Space Mountain WDW. It’s infinitely better. It was so smooth and the soundtrack makes a big difference. If you make it to DL, certainly don’t skip Space Mountain because “I’ve ridden it at Disney World.” No… no you haven’t.

Pirates and Buzz Lightyear were also much better at DL. I loved how Pirates was in “reverse order.” The order at DL actually made more sense to me. As for Buzz, the handheld laser guns on Buzz make all the difference. While I couldn’t break 100,000 on Buzz at DL and I easily hit 600,000+ at WDW, I still prefer DL.

New Orleans Square is amazing. I’d recommend eating lunch here, however if you can’t eat there, definitely just spend some time walking around. We ate at Cafe Orleans and it was de-flippin-licious.

Overall, I was disappointed in the Cast Members at DL. Seeing so many workers walking around the parks (no utilidors) certainly takes away from the Disney experience. I also overheard a Cast Member complaining about work and swearing while walking near Main Street. I’ve never heard this before at WDW. Overall, it just seemed the Cast Members at DL were simply working a job while at WDW where workers seem genuinely happy and motivated. My experience with DL Cast Members at Guest Relations and food service was much better. There were some shining moments that made me say “This reminds me of WDW.”

I was extremely disappointed with Tomorrowland at DL. The land feels crowded and cramped, even on a day when crowds were extremely light (crowds were 3-5 for the @TouringPlans peeps). I literally can’t imagine this area on Christmas Day. Also, without The Peoplemover, the land just doesn’t compare to WDW. Not even close.

Scott and Lindsay on Splash Mountain

The Matterhorn Bobsleds were closed for refurbishment during our trip. While this was disappointing, we knew this before our trip, unlike everyone else we ran into. We encountered one guy who said he hadn’t been to Disneyland in 25 years. When he was at the park 25 years ago, the Matterhorn was closed. He claimed that the Matterhorn was “the only thing I wanted to ride!” I just wanted to tap him on the shoulder and tell him to try researching his “once in a 25 year trip” next time. No big deal for us… we’ll get it next time.

Indiana Jones was my favorite ride of the entire trip. The theming of this ride was incredible! When you come into the main area of the ride with the massive skull… the fire… the bridge. Amazing! I literally forgot I was on an attraction and felt like the movie was literally happening around me. I have never had this feeling before. Loved it!

The Fireworks show ‘Magical‘ was awesome! This show is part of the ‘Soundsational’ summer series at DL so it was great to see it. The show certainly makes me yearn for something new at Magic Kingdom (even though I love Wishes).

Fantasmic! was 234,235,232 times better than WDW. We always skip F! at Disney Studios, however, we loved it at DL. We grabbed a chair at a nearby restaurant about 20 minutes before the show and had a great view. Even though it’s a similar show, it’s completely different (I hope that makes sense).

Disney’s California Adventure

When we first walked through the turnstiles, I have to admit I was disappointed. All I could see were construction walls. While I fully understand the need for construction and additions, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the excessive construction  took away from the entry to DCA. However, I kept reminding myself “Keep moving forward.”

Our favorites at DCA: Monsters Inc., Little Mermaid, California Screamin’ (at night), TOT (at night), Paradise Pier (at night) and World of Color.

Monsters Inc. is without a dobut the most underrated ride at Disneyland/DCA. We walked on this ride several times. The immense detail in this ride makes it almost necessary to ride multiple times (6-7 times for us). Loved it.

We also rode the new Little Mermaid ride probably 6-7 times. Every time, we noticed something new. When this ride comes to WDW, expect long waits… this will be a new Peter Pan IMO.

Tower of Terror is slightly different at DCA. I won’t spoil it for those wanting to ride, but I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn’t say I prefer it over the WDW version, but you must ride this thing at night.

Paradise Pier at night was just stunning. The feel of this part of the park is incomparable to any other feeling I have experienced in a Disney park. Just walking on the Pier at night is an attraction itself. While there, we enjoyed the Silly Symphony Swings and Mickey’s Fun Wheel. I rode California Screamin’ shortly before it closed for World of Color (8:30 p.m. when we were there). Riding it at night and looking at all the lights around the pier was one of the highlights of the trip.

World of Color

Everything you have heard about World of Color is true. It’s the best show I’ve seen anywhere… period. This show alone is worth the trip to Disneyland and is like nothing else you will expereince in any other Disney park. The first time we saw the show, we were on the front row near the water. While this location offers a great view, we did get a little wet. If you’re at DCA on a cool night, stay back… the mist will get you. We did the picnic deal which includes fastpasses. While the food is nothing special, it’s worth it for the fastpasses. We picked up our food around 8:45 p.m., ate dinner while watching a little bit of the 9 p.m. show and went to our fastpass area around 9:45 p.m. for the 10:15 p.m. show. The only suggestion I have for WOC is to see it twice (if possible). It’s just that good.

This is a Disney blog, so I will VERY quickly sum-up the rest of our California trip. After two days at Disneyland, we drove north to Yosemite National Park, then to San Francisco, then drove down the coast along Highway 1 back to LA. We were in California for a full week. If you’re planning a trip to California, I highly recommend this route. We drove 1,300 miles but it never felt like it – and it was worth every minute!

SURPRISE! We’re going back to Disneyland! 

Scott and Lindsay at Disneyland

So after driving down the coast on our last day, we arrived in Malibu around noon. We had tickets for the Jay Leno show that afternoon. However, I received an e-mail from my contact at Disneyland that she was able to get us tickets to Disneyland for one more day AND VIP WORLD OF COLOR SEATS. WHAT?! WOOT!

It’s pretty rare for adults to get a surprise trip to a Disney park. You see the commercials with kids getting the big “Disney surprise,” but this was our moment. We had a slow last day planned in LA before our early morning flight the next morning. However, after receiving the e-mail, we gladly said “WE’RE GOING (BACK) TO DISNEYLAND!”

The parks were extremely slow on 8/29 (TouringPlans rated 2). We went into Disneyland around 4 p.m. and rode Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, the Mark Twain Riverboat and walked through New Orleans Square one more time.

Who is that dork with a backwards cap? Seriously?

Then, we headed over to DCA for Monsters Inc., a ride on Heimlich’s Train and did It’s Tough To Be a Bug, Toy Story Mania and Little Mermaid a few more times before taking our seats for World of Color. We were lucky to get the VIP seats, but they were incredible! If you have the opportunity to take advantage of this perk, DO IT! It’s an unforgettable experience.

To wrap up, the trip was amazing. The surprise at the end might be one of the greatest moments I’ve had in my life. However, I now expect to end every vacation with World of Color. I guess that means we have to go back. 🙂

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Planning a DL Trip

I have been so busy planning our trip to California next week, I have neglected the blog. Shame on me. However, the post I had planned for this week was “Using Twitter to Plan a Trip.” Ironic, huh?

This being our first-ever trip to California (and obviously our first trip to Disneyland), I am naturally feeling unprepared for the trip. Our trip will take us to Disneyland for two days, Yosemite National Park, the coast and back to LA.

While I made a conscious effort to do minimal planning to keep that “first-time feeling” when we walk through the gates, I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have been relying heavily on some Twitter friends for last-minute tips for Disneyland. Don’t be surprised if you see @scgustinwdw tweeting “I can’t find ____” or “I’m lost! Help!” sometime next week. However, Twitter is incredible lifeline… and I’ll be using it.

Just yesterday I was debating how we could see World of Color, Fantasmic and Magical in only two days. I sent out my question on Twitter and received several responses. While @guyselga said if needed, we could likely see Magical at 9:30 p.m. and rush over to catch the 10:30 p.m. Fantasmic, @kidanikatie said Magical “isn’t worth it.” Conclusion: Given our limited time at DL, we’ll probably just skip Magical. Now see here! Without Twitter, I would have likely sprinted across the park to see all three shows. Twitter = win.

I hope to post a few “trip-updates” times while on vacation, so this blog make take a bit of a topic-detour. If you have any epic tips for Disneyland, please share!

Disney Interacting on Twitter

The official Disney Twitter accounts are often the subject of many questions: Do they do a good job with the accounts? Are they just Twitter-bots? Why can’t Disney interact with its followers?

@winfailormeh asked its followers “The Official Disney Twitter accounts: WIN, FAIL or MEH?” After looking over the replies, the only consistent complaint I could find was the lack of interaction between Disney and its followers. Many brilliant minds have speculated the lack of interaction stems from a lack of staffing. Less-brilliant minds (only kidding) have suggested it’s a conscious decision made by Disney to prevent the possibility that incorrect information be sent out to followers. Despite the debate and discussion, last week, @Disneyland gave us a rare glimpse at the elusive “@” in three of their tweets:

By now, I fully expect your jaw to be on the ground. I’ll give you a second (pause). Alright. Disney responded to @ZeeZees request for Disneyland tips and took the opportunity to plug the Disney Parks Blog. Double win for Disney – Ka-chow! While the reply was pretty random, it certainly gives me hope that Disney might soon see the value in interacting with its followers.

While it’s possible the employee behind the @Disneyland account that sent the replies was not schooled on Disney’s Twitter policies, I’m hopeful that the replies were some type of test by Disney. I mean seriously, how awesome is to see Disney responding to people?!

Also last week, @Disneyland sent out a reply by commenting on a photo tweeted by @borsche28:

What an awesome tweet by @Disneyland! I would be insanely pumped if Disney complimented a photo I took in the parks. Very cool!

On August 2nd, @Disneyland responded to a question by @blon1204.

Again… another great example of the kind of direct interaction Disney fans crave on Twitter.

Would seeing consistent replies from official Disney Twitter accounts give you a reason to follow additional Disney Twitter accounts? Would you pay more attention to Disney tweets if you felt there was an actual person monitoring the Disney Twitter accounts?

‘Fantasyland Today’ – How awesome?

Today, it’s time to play “If I ran things at Disney.” It’s a great game (without a doubt) and it’s my favorite thing about the Betamouse podcast – those guys do a great job at brainstorming new ideas for Disney. So I’m going to take a run at this:

Credit: mousesteps.com

Imagine if there was a digital team dedicated to keeping up with the progress of Fantasyland. Every weekday, you could go to the Disney Parks Blog or the Disney Parks YouTube channel and watch a daily 30-second video update on what’s happening at Fantasyland. I envision the topic often being “here’s what we’re doing today.” Even if it’s simply moving steel or finishing rock-work, there are so many stories that can be told from behind the construction walls.

Credit: mousesteps.com

There are several YouTube channels where people upload every day from their life. Imagine how awesome it would be to check in on Fantasyland progress by watching the daily webisodes, as opposed to visiting sites like WDWMAGIC.com to get aerial views and other pictures taken atop Dumbo (which are my favs).

I think Disney really misses the chance to keep the public up-to-date on its projects. Disney is spending millions of dollars on this Fantasyland expansion. I would hope Disney would look closely at every possible way to get the biggest bang for their buck – and creating a daily video series would certainly be a way to do this. I felt strongly that Disney missed out on a great opportunity with Star Tours 2. They could have done so much with this launch. Unfortunately, I was left wanting more. Thankfully, @StarTours2Live picked up the slack.

What do you guys think? Would you watch the daily video update? Am I alone when thinking they would have PLENTY of things to discuss every day?