I’m a huge Disney fan. I’ve been to Walt Disney World countless times, Disneyland Paris twice; and unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to visit Disneyland less than 10 times. Disneyland is my favorite Disney park. The only park that Walt Disney ever walked in, it holds a very special place in my heart. I can feel the Disney Magic in the air at Disneyland. Yes, the Disneyland Resort is much smaller than the Walt Disney World Resort, but for me, therein lies the charm. It’s so easy get around, and to park-hop in Southern California. At Space Mountain, and feel the need to ride Radiator Springs Racers? You can be in line at a totally different park in less than twenty minutes. After riding Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland, I feel like half of the attraction is missing in Florida. My absolute favorite version of Space Mountain is in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. I LOVE Radiator Springs Racers, and I cannot wait to experience Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. I enjoy everything about the Disneyland Resort, and I can’t wait to return. My plans are to be there in November 2019.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends, who is a client of mine visited the Disneyland Resort in Southern California. I asked Joanne a series of questions before she left home, and another list of questions when she got back…here are the questions and her responses.
Photo credit: All of the photos included in this blog entry are Joanne’s.
BEFORE THE VACATION:
- I know that you are going to Disneyland with your sisters for a few days the first part of December. Are there any first-timers to Disneyland or, for that matter, Southern California?
There are 3 of us going. It is my first time to DLR and Southern CA; Ann Marie has never been to DLR but has been to CA; Mary Ellen has been to DLR, when there was just one park, and lived in the LA area for a year (in the early 80’s). I’m very excited to be finally visiting DLR and at least get a feel of southern California. (Not looking forward to the 6-hour plane ride but it’ll all be worth it.)
2. Where are you staying when you arrive in Southern California? How are you getting from airport to hotel?
We are staying at the Paradise Pier Hotel for our stay so we can be immersed in the “Disney bubble” for as long as possible. For me, if this ends up being the only trip I make to DLR, that’s important. I like how close the resort is to the parks.
We will probably use Uber or the bus/shuttle service.
3. Do you envision this trip as a “Once in a lifetime” vacation, or do you see yourself returning to the Disneyland Resort?
It certainly feels like a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip. I’m treating it as that and plan to do as much as possible in the 4 days we’re there. Disney vacations should happen as often as possible and I do hope I’ll get back to DLR again one day!
- Do you have any dining reservations? Are there any restaurants that you are excited to try?
We haven’t made any dining reservations. I’m looking forward to trying Flo’s V-8 Café, Rancho del Zocalo, as well as eating Churros, a corn-dog and beignets! I have a feeling we’ll try the PCH Grill (at the resort we’re staying at). And, I’ve heard the White Water Snacks has amazing nachos! Food at Disney is as fun and exciting as the attractions/rides/shows!
- Have you decided which attraction will be the first attraction when you get to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure? Which Park will you visit first?
My plan is to head to Disneyland first and to ride the train around the Park first, to soak it all in! And I think I’ll probably want to head to Cars Land at DCA! As much as I like a plan when visiting Disney, I do like some spontaneity and have to be thoughtful that I’m traveling with my sisters who may have other ideas (lol).
- What are you most excited about seeing at the Disneyland Resort?
Just one thing?! I’m excited to see the park that Walt himself walked in and what helped him to envision WDW.
- Is there an attraction (or attractions) that you have been really wanting to experience?
I can’t wait to see Cars Land and ride Indiana Jones Adventure! I’m also excited to visit the rides that no longer exist at WDW (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventure) and to experience those that are the ‘same’ yet different (Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion).
- Since you will be visiting during the Christmas season, what do you expect the holiday decorations to be like?
Magical, of course!! I’ve been told the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World are amazing during the holidays, as well as how Cars Land is decorated. There is something amazing, that can be difficult to put into words, about Disney Parks during Christmas so am looking forward to experiencing it at Disneyland for the first time.
- Why are you going to Disneyland this trip and not Walt Disney World?
I’ve been fortunate to have visited WDW many times but have always wanted to visit DL and decided I was going to do it. My sisters said they would also like to go, so here we are. And, for me, Disney during the holidays should be experienced by everyone at least once.
- Are you expecting the parks to be crowded? Do you have any expectations of wait times?
If it’s not ‘wall-to-wall’, I’m ok with it and am hopeful that wait times aren’t longer than 30 minutes in general but do plan to utilize “maxpass” when possible. It’s Disney, so I’ll approach it all with a smile and be grateful I got to do it!
AFTER THE VACATION:
1. How was your trip getting to California? Were there any flight delays or transportation issues?
Trip to CA was uneventful (thankfully!) and there were no delays or issues. The flight out seemed long to me, but I watched 2 movies and a show (JetBlue has TVs!).
2. Which airport did you choose to fly into and why that airport? Once you landed in Southern California, how did you get to Paradise Pier? Compared to getting to your Walt Disney World resort, how did this portion of your trip go?
We flew into LAX because it had direct flights from BOS and the price was great ($312/RT!).
We used UBER to get to Paradise Pier. I’ve never coordinated an UBER trip before so I was a bit nervous but it went well. We contacted UBER once we were out of the terminal and curbside. (It was recommended to me to wait as they’re pretty quick to pick up and LAX personnel don’t let them sit around by the curb for more than a few minutes!). It probably took about 45 minutes to get from LAX to Paradise Pier, which I didn’t think was too bad.
(However, I like the convenience of DME from MCO, that it’s included in the price of your package and you don’t have to give getting to your resort much thought, knowing you’ll get there conveniently and comfortably.)
3. On your pre-interview, you stated that you thought that visiting the Disneyland Resort in Southern California may be a “Once-In-A-Lifetime” trip. Do you still consider it to be that, or do you plan to visit again in the future?
I would definitely like to return to DLR!!!
4. Which restaurants did you visit? Did you make any reservations once you got to the Disneyland Resort, or did you just “walk-up” to see if anything was available (or did you just try counter service/cafeteria-style restaurants?
We had a reservation at the Blue Bayou Restaurant (arranged just a few days ahead of time); the food was very good.
We also ate at the Rancho del Zocaro Restaurant (counter service; huge chicken tostada salad), Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen (had a fried chicken po-boy sandwich, my first, and it was delicious!), ate breakfast at the Surfside Lounge at Paradise Pier (small restaurant but really good food and attentive server), a breakfast sandwich from the Earl of Sandwich (big, yummy sandwich and inexpensive!), Peppermint ice cream in a waffle cone dipped in chocolate with jimmes (sprinkles for anyone not from New England!) which is a “must” for me at a Disney park, a Mickey shaped pretzel (of course!), a Churro, and breakfast at Flo’s V-8 Cafe (Brioche French Toast- soooooooooo good!).
5. Which attraction did you go to first at Disneyland? Disney California Adventure? Why?
The first attraction we experienced at DL was the Disneyland Railroad to get a feel for the park, and it seemed the right thing to do at the first park Walt Disney created.
Over at DCA, the first attraction we experienced was Radiator Springs and it did not disappoint! I’ve been wanting to see Carsland since I first heard about it so that’s where we headed first! (I may have ridden it a total of 7 times during our trip!)
6. In your pre-interview, you stated that you wanted to see the park that Walt walked in. After being to the Walt Disney World resort many times, what was your first impressions of walking in “Walt’s park”? Was it what you were expecting?
Definitely was not disappointed in experiencing “Walt’s park” for the first time. It’s smaller than the Magic Kingdom (in Orlando), which I was prepared for, but there is so much to do there!
7. What did you think of CarsLand?
I want to move there!! (haha!) It was so colorful and dynamic and was such an amazing replication of the movie that you felt like you were really there! Then, at night, it’s was even more amazing with all of the neon lights everywhere! It’s difficult to put into words but I absolutely loved it!
8. Were you able to ride any attractions that are no longer operating at Walt Disney World? What did you think?
Yes, we rode Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventure and they were fun! The ‘dark’ rides are just so classic and fun and for me, shouldn’t be missed.
9. How was the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye? Did you ride more than once?
I enjoyed it but rode it just one time (not sure my sisters would say they enjoyed it as much as me).
10. What did you think of the Christmas decorations in the parks? Did you have time to tour the resorts to see their decorations?
Christmas at Disney parks is something spectacular that everyone should experience at least once. Main Street was decorated so classically and the way I even remember my hometown ‘squares’ being decorated, with the tinsely decorations and wreaths. Carsland was especially cool, in my opinion!
Unfortunately, didn’t make it to the other resorts to see how they were decorated.
11. Are you glad that you visited Disneyland for this vacation, or do you wish you had visited Disney World?
SO GLAD I made the trip to Disneyland! I’m fortunate to say I’ve visited both coasts during the Christmas season.
12. Was there anything that you had planned to do, but wasn’t able to experience? Why?
Sadly, a few rides/attractions were missed – Alice in Wonderland and Space Mountain were two we didn’t get to. Alice seemed to be “down” any time we checked or the line was long (over 30 minutes) and just ran out of time to get onto SM.
13. How was the crowds in the parks? Did you take advantage of MaxPass?
The parks were more crowded than I had expected but not unbearable. It may have seemed more crowded due to how much closer together the rides/attractions are at the DL parks. However, most rides had waits of less than 30 minutes (some were only 5-10 minutes!) so that’s not unreasonable to me.
Yes, we purchased MaxPass one day and was absolutely worth it! I think we were able to get on 5 or 6 rides/attractions which allowed us to ‘do more’ and ride some more than once! Plus, it includes the photopass, which is nice to have.
14. Now that you have visited six of Disney’s theme parks, which is your favorite?
I’m not sure I could really pick one, but if I have to . . . Disney’s Hollywood Studios is probably (still) my favorite park.
15. What was your favorite attraction at the Disneyland Resort?
I absolutely LOVED Carsland, specifically Radiator Springs! I rode it 7 times (did I mentioned I rode it 7 times!) and would have ridden it again and again!
(Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT was amazing! Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Pirates of the Caribbean were ‘better’ at DLR than at WDW, in my humble opinion.)
16. What are the moments of your vacation that spoke most to you?
While in line to check in at Paradise Pier, Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse were in the lobby so we got to say “hi” to them and take a picture or two. Then, while we were checking in, Stitch hung out at the desk with us, being his usual mischievous self and trying to find out our room number from the cast member checking us in. It was quite silly! Our room was ready so we went upstairs and about 10 minutes later, there was knock on the door. It was the two Cast Members who we encountered when checking in and they had Balloons and a Stitch stuffed animal (with a “I’m Celebrating” pin!) for each of us as well as a room key Stitch signed with his room # (626) on it! It was so fun and unexpected!!!
Also, this was the first time my two sisters and I traveled together so that is something that I’ll always cherish.
17. Were you able to experience Haunted Mansion Holiday? What did you think of this Nightmare Before Christmas overlay to this classic attraction?
YES! Although, it took us two tries. The first time, we went into the queue, into the house, through the stretching room and were in line to board the ‘doom’ buggies (we were RIGHT THERE!) when the attraction suddenly stopped. About 10 minutes later, all of the lights came on and an announcement was made and we had to exit the building. We went back the next night and had better luck. However, when we were on the attraction, it did stop for a few minutes (our buggy happened to be in front of Jack Skellington as Santa) so that was cool. I won’t give it all away, but let’s just say that they do an incredible job transforming the Haunted Mansion into the Holiday version, from the exterior of the building and the stretching room to where you board the buggies and all through the entire attraction. The Haunted Mansion in Disney World is one of my favorite attractions so this was a nice introduction to the Disneyland version.
18. Did you ride It’s A Small World Holiday? Did you like this holiday overlay, or would you have rather experienced the classic attraction?
YES! It was amazingly beautiful all decorated for the Holidays, both inside and out! The exterior was lit up with lights everywhere as well as the inside, and a special holiday song was playing (in addition to the attraction’s theme song) which made it even more festive. There was a ‘show’ on the facade of the building when the fireworks were going off (it’s the same as what is shown on the Castle) which we watched and enjoyed.
The attraction is closed while the fireworks are going off (most of the queue is outside and there are fireworks that are set off somewhere behind the building) but they then start a line immediately following the show (which my sister found out from a friendly cast member). So, we stood near where they would be starting the line and got to follow the cast member (about 50 people ahead of us) along the queue and onto the boats into the attraction! I’m very happy that I got to experience the Holiday version of It’s a Small World and wish we had time to go back and do it again. What an unforgettable overall way to experience It’s a Small World Holiday for the first time!
I hope that you enjoyed this look into a Disney fan’s first time visit to The Happiest Place on Earth. If it inspired any questions, or if you would like to begin planning your first time to Disneyland, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help you in any way that I can. I would definitely recommend a Walt Disney World fan to visit the Disneyland Resort. If you’re a Disney fan, you need to visit “Walt’s Park”!