Part 4 -- Disneyland Park Wednesday, September 12, 2018
This is a bit of a pilgrimage, of sorts.
I have it listed that Disneyland Park is the 77th theme park I've ever visited. Go ahead and make fun of me for having that statistic, it's alright.
That means that I visited 76 theme parks before making it into the one that, by many accounts, has the right to call itself the most important theme park ever built. I mean, it's Walt's original, and it paved the way for a multi-continental empire that sets the standard for parks everywhere. It all started with a mouse. Well, and a rabbit, and some shrewd land deals in the early 1950s, but who's counting?
So, on our second day at the Disneyland resort, we entered the original mouse house.
And even though you prepare yourself for it, you just can't help but notice -- that castle is tiny!
The day went similarly to our prior day at DCA, with one big exception. Aside from obvious kids rides and spinny things, we intended to ride everything in the park once, since it was our first time there. While we were able to basically complete DCA in a single run-through, we weren't quite able to do the same for Disneyland. Those Fantasyland FastPass-less dark rides ended up taking a bit of time, and we even had to leave one (Alice) for the next day. We also nixed much of Tomorrowland, but got through pretty much everything else, including all of the major attractions.
Well, all but one -- we were visiting during the Matterhorn's scheduled maintenance, which was unfortunate. Thankfully, that ended up being the only ride we had to miss all week. The only other attraction that was totally down and out at Disneyland was the Tiki Room, and maybe the Columbia ship.
Crowds were again very manageable. We used FastPass on Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, and Star Tours -- and our waits were 10 minutes or less for everything else, sans a couple of those dark rides. We did lunch at the French Market and dinner at Bengal Barbecue. Both were pretty good, especially the skewers at BBBQ, though I'd vote to skip the breadsticks next time.
We watched the Pixar Play parade in the late afternoon, and the rest of the family called it a day after sunset. I stuck around for another lengthy set of night pictures -- yet again leaving the park just over an hour after closing time!
How Was Disneyland? It's weird to finally be at the original, when I've been to the Magic Kingdom more times than I can count, and also visited Disneyland Paris in 2016. What struck me the most about Disneyland was actually how it reminded me more of Paris than of the Magic Kingdom. Yes, I know I've got that in reverse, since Paris was obviously heavily influenced by Disneyland in the first place. It also reminds me a little of the whole Kings Island / Kings Dominion effect, where maybe there's something very familiar right in front of you, and then you turn the corner and it's entirely different from what you're used to.
I'll probably take the Magic Kingdom as my favorite of the three "classic" Disney parks I've visited, but all three are a pretty close call. Some of the cloned attractions are too similar for me to really tell a difference between. I'd put Big Thunder, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, and several of the dark rides in that category. Anaheim definitely has the best Pirates of the three, and throw in Indiana Jones (far superior to Dinosaur) as well. Orlando has the best Splash Mountain and Space Mountain. Paris has the best Buzz Lightyear and Small World. Basically, there are top-tier versions of attractions at each park. So, my official trip report recommendation is to visit all of them!
Aside from that, I'm not sure how to really review a park like Disneyland. It's only the most iconic theme park on the planet. I wish the meals were a little cheaper. I wish some of the pathways were a little wider. I wish Fantasmic wasn't such a cluster, but I'll get to that in a later trip report! There's not much else to say, really. This park is a classic, and it's crazy that it took me so long to visit.
How were the attractions?
There's a lot to get through here, and I'll try to do it all in one shot, even for the rides I didn't get to until the next day.
Peter Pan's Flight / Mr. Toad's Wild Ride / Pinocchio's Daring Journey / Snow White's Scary Adventures / Alice in Wonderland / The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh -- I don't think I'm the target audience for these attractions. Glad to ride each of them once, but I can only take so much of these rather basic dark rides, and Disneyland just has so many of them. The best of the batch is probably Mr. Toad, which has a bizarre story that's probably a little more PG-13 than your average Disney-going kid is going to recognize.
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin -- I'll list this dark ride by itself because the cars spin! If you aren't enthralled by the scenery, might as well try it out while rotating.
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy -- The first of two "overlay" rides at Disneyland Park. I'm guessing the scenery on the original version is pretty close to Orlando, but the Ghost Galaxy additions definitely ramped up the thrills a little bit. That's good, because the coaster isn't quite as exciting. Lots of turns, but no drops. That surprise airtime is the best part of the Magic Kingdom version, so I found this one a little bit lacking.
Haunted Mansion Holiday -- The second "overlay" ride, and wow, it's good. Haunted Mansion is already awesome, but the extra effects and theme are even more creepy and exciting. This ride was very popular all week, even on the days with light crowds. I guess Jack and Sally have a bit of a following.
Jungle Cruise -- Bad jokes and second-rate animatronics, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Splash Mountain -- Seemed shorter than the Orlando version. More importantly, it seemed much wetter. Would have liked to have gone on this more than once, but just didn't feel like risking a soaking.
Pirates of the Caribbean -- This ride is long. It's the original, and it's easily the best and most complete of the three I've been on. If I have to hear that "dead men tell no tales" one more time, though...
Indiana Jones Adventure -- It's like Dinosaur, but it's not bad like Dinosaur! This ride system works really well for a storyline in which you're trying to avoid danger in a hundred different ways -- sprint across the bridge, sneak past the snakes, and so on. Might be even more fun if you aren't carrying loose objects that you're worried about getting knocked around, but thus is the life of the photographer.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad -- A great, lengthy family coaster. Maybe even a little bit of force here and there. I love the effects in the lifts -- the "fuse" thing on the final lift hill was really cool, and probably the most notable difference from the Florida version.
Star Tours -- If you're going to do a straight-up simulator, make it fun and exciting. Star Tours gets it done. I was not the spy. I'm not that good at keeping secrets anyway.
It's a Small World -- They're really sticking Disney characters all over Small World now, aren't they? The best part of this ride was not getting backed up in the final tunnel on the way into the unload station. That happened to me in Paris, and the song was stuck in my head for days.
Casey Jr. Circus Train / Storybook Land Canal Boats -- Two Disneyland originals that I first experienced in Paris. They almost feel anachronistic here, but they traverse a well-landscaped section of the park that harkens to the storytelling that the whole Disney empire was built on.
Gadget's Go Coaster -- It's a roller skater, but it's the best-themed roller skater in existence! I'm not a closeted Rescue Rangers fan at all, I swear!
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters -- I maxed out the version in Orlando. I maxed out the version in Paris, which is very similar to the one in Anaheim. I just couldn't do it here, much to my frustration. I wish it were easier to tell which laser is yours. I wish it were easier to hit the hidden target on Zurg's chest. Maybe I'm just making excuses...
Autopia -- It's a giant ad for Honda.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage -- I think I went on 20,000 Leagues in Orlando a long, long time ago -- way back before I could remember. I didn't know what to expect out of this ride, as it didn't seem to get a lot of attention. Aside from the cramped seating, I was impressed! It was a lot more interesting than I'd thought it would be, with some impressive effects -- both practical (I love the bubbles) and simulated (I have no idea how they get the screens looking so good underwater).
Star Wars Launch Bay -- Basically a museum space if you're really interested in Star Wars stuff, or if you want to get your picture taken with a character. I fall into neither category, so it was a quick stop for me.
Pixar Shorts Film Festival -- Got some time to kill? Watch a few Pixar short films. We got to see For the Birds (good), Lava (cringe-worthy), and Piper (excellent).
Disneyland Monorail -- Kind of pointless as a transportation device at Disneyland, but you'll get some views you can't get from elsewhere.
Disneyland Railroad -- On the other hand, there aren't a lot of good views from the train. The whole dinosaur / Grand Canyon thing was unexpected.
Sleeping Beauty Castle -- If you aren't totally done with fantasy storytelling after all the dark rides, this walk-through is worth five or ten minutes.
Tarzan's Treehouse -- I guess the Swiss Family Robinson fell out of style? There are a lot of trees, so the views are obstructed, but it's one of the only places in Disneyland with any sort of elevated vantage point for pictures. Those will be in a later report.
Pirate's Lair / Tom Sawyer Island -- Not a whole lot to do over here, but you can go through some caves, run across a suspended bridge, and stand on the stage where Fantasmic is performed.
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln -- A.K.A. "The Hall of President." Walt was clearly a big fan of #16. You'll learn about American history, and you'll get a speech from a Lincoln animatronic. Only Lincoln. No other Presidents. Just want to be clear on that. For reasons. Anyway, when you're done, check out the museum housed in the same building -- it's got a great scale model of Disneyland and plenty of other historic photos and information.
Here's another survey marker -- the "golden spike" underneath Sleeping Beauty's Castle. It's sometimes said to be the geographic center of the park, and while that's not exactly true, it does sit on the main north-south sightline that runs from Main Street into Fantasyland.
How about some live music on the way into the park?
We started in Fantasyland, opting to just knock out Peter Pan as quickly as possible.
It's not a /bad/ ride, but I don't think it's worth its capacity problems.
Mr. Toad was probably the best of the Fantasyland dark rides, and it deserves some credit for being the only existing Mr. Toad ride at any Disney park. I probably rode the Magic Kingdom one a long time ago, but I can't say for sure.
J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq. Master of Toad Hall & Incurable Adventurer.
Where are we going today? To nowhere in particular? Or perhaps to burn in hell?
Mr. Toad control panel shot for you ride ops out there.
Pinocchio's Daring Journey! Another dark ride!
Snow White's Scary Adventures! Another another dark ride! And we didn't even get to Alice in Wonderland on this day -- we came back to it later in the week.
A mountain I can't climb.
Sadly, I couldn't ride it either -- it was behind construction walls during our visit.
But here's some info about the ride's history. I had no idea it was the world's first tubular steel coaster!
A roller coaster that /was/ in operation -- Space Mountain, with the "Ghost Galaxy" Halloween overlay.
The queue setup is far different than the Magic Kingdom version. Mostly outside, and mostly elevated. I kind of missed the "star tunnel."
That said, the interior section of the queue near the station was pretty cool. I have no idea if these are the normal lighting colors, or part of the special overlay.
Disney engineering at its best -- they can yank a ride vehicle off to the side to do wheelchair transfers, allowing the coaster to continue to operate in the mean time.
Let's jump on over to Critter Country for a couple more rides.
Winnie the Pooh is yet another dark ride, but honestly it was a little more fun than Snow White and Pinocchio, etc.
A bear loves his hunny.
And you just have to give some credit to the design of the ride vehicles, because those are pretty cool.
Splash Mountain in Florida is one of my favorite rides, of any type, anywhere. Would the California version hold up?
Interesting that this version uses one-per-row seating, while the Florida version is two-per-row.
One thing I love about both versions is how the ride station is built into a deep canyon, and feels completely disconnected from the outside world.
The verdict? A very good ride, but a bit too wet, and not as complete a storyline as the version at the Magic Kingdom.
There is a good spot for photos of the big drop on a nearby bridge.
The terror is strong in this family.
Cover your eyes if you want...
This family has no fear of the briar patch.
We did lunch at the French Market in New Orleans Square. It was good. From my experience this week, I think Disneyland Park has better restaurants than the Magic Kingdom.
Just next door is a very decorated Haunted Mansion.
Scarecrow Santa will eat your soul.
Christmas in September!
Skulls and wreaths! It's quite the combination.
While we were in line, a big promo shoot was going on, featuring live Jack and Sally characters.
It was really neat to see this alternate version of the Haunted Mansion. I've been on the Magic Kingdom version a ton of times, and the layout of this one looked pretty similar to me, so getting the special theme on our visit was a big plus.
I think this stairway leads to 21 Royal, one of those "have a great dinner for the price of a car" types of special deals...
We continued our day in Adventureland.
First, a tour of the jungle.
The skipper is telling a joke. Approximately 4 people are laughing. This is pretty much par for the course on the Jungle Cruise, and that's exactly how it's supposed to be.
Hey, point that thing somewhere else!
These friendly lions are protecting that sleeping zebra! Ha ha ha, am I doing this right?
Hey look, it's ... the front side of water?
Yo ho. The original Pirates was up next.
The treasure map specifically promised monsters, and I did not see any monsters.
Construction update -- the Tropical Hideaway restaurant was still being worked on in September.
The Tiki Juice Bar, however, was serving up Dole Whip floats as always. Please excuse this horrible Disney-mommy-blogger-on-Instagram quality photo. I promise I won't do it again.
I could have waited in line with 20-30 other people, but I ordered on my phone and it was ready before I got there. Pro tip! Mobile ordering works! Try it!
Hearing some big thunder in the distance...
Another little survey marker -- this one is on the Big Thunder ride platform. They've got the elevation listed at 138 feet above sea level, which is pretty close to accurate!
Attention Dollywood: some theme parks are able to keep their decorative lead cars on their roller coasters. Just to let you guys know.
Hmm, what's down this dead-end near Big Thunder?
On a remote outpost planet, new adventures await...
Back in Fantasyland, yes, we actually rode the circus train.
I think this is actually a miniature train, whereas the Paris version is a powered coaster.
Does anybody /really/ want to sit in the monkey cage?
You get some great views of the storybook castle displays on the ride!
Another view from an attraction that never made it over to Florida.
Dropping in on the Sultan.
Another big castle. Sorry, I'm a bit out of practice with my Disney movies. Someone help me out here.
Wave to the conductor. Don't feed the wild animals.
For another view of the storybook scenes, let's head out on a boat.
Hmm. It feels a little bit moist in here.
The seven dwarfs call this place home.
Toad Hall, where you can take a wild ride.
Fake mountains of all shapes and sizes.
Scenes from the classic Pinocchio...
...and mixing in some recent stuff from Frozen.
This looks like quite the seaside estate.
An impressively creative job of hiding what I presume is the boat maintenance area!
Alright, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Time to brave Small World.
Small World's crazy facade was new to me when I saw it in Paris -- inspired, obviously, by the original here in California.
The Magic Kingdom version, with its indoor loading station, just doesn't have the same effect.
Grim Grinning Clocks.
Is "Small World" really the happiest cruise that ever sailed?
47,000 singing dolls (give or take) fully intend to convince you of that.
I have been to Paris and this is exactly what it looks like.
Is that a roller coaster? With a goat? Am I in Pigeon Forge?
The figure in the window has a few too many arms.
Disney characters everywhere!
I found the "Ohio" scene. I'm right at home!
Do not look directly at the sun: it will blind your soul.
Here's the big grand finale where everyone sings in peace and harmony and you're too busy trying to get the song out of your head to notice.
Not a ton to see in Mickey's Toontown, but there are a couple rides worth checking out.
Mickey conducts the fountain in a low-key Sorcerer's Apprentice reprise.
Daisy Duck: figurehead.
New credit! Gadget's Vekoma Roller Skater!
It's got a lift hill!
It's nothing special as a coaster, but they themed it up quite nicely...
...especially for people who might have a soft spot for the Rescue Rangers. Does this buy me any Elissa points, or are those limited to Chip 'n' Dale on their own?
The rest of Toontown is a bit heavy on the design-crazy.
Roger Rabbit maintains a home here, though his movie has sort of faded from the public consciousness.
Nonetheless, you can just spin your car a lot and enjoy the ride that way.
Monster cheerleaders. This probably makes sense if you've seen the movie.
Not as cheerful as the cheerleaders.
Sports! With monsters!
Does this count as the marching band?
Sulley rides along.
"I didn't do it!"
I don't know what this thing is, but I guess it's kind of cute?
We have superheroes!
This guy is pretty incredible.
Dancers and parade floats!
A very detailed Jack-Jack.
So, I should mention a little more about this parade. You've got the big floats, and you've got the dance groups, but you've also got another factor to contend with -- water. This float shoots water. Pretty much every float shoots water. They were indiscriminate about where they shot it. A guy with a big camera lens was not immune, and had to be quick to duck if necessary.
Bouncy stilt guy #1 looks kind of upset.
Bouncy stilt guy #2 is much happier.
Speaking of happiness, we have Joy.
We also have sadness.
And a pink elephant that has nothing to do with Dumbo.
I like turtles.
Crush's eyes are lookin' a little bit tired...
Baby sea turtles!
The clownfish were handled by puppet actors in wetsuits.
The diving mask is a nice touch.
There will be bugs.
Colorful ants, spending their retirement days on a swing.
That's a garden hose, not a belt.
A very colorful bird.
Russell looks on with glee.
The army men have arrived, amid a sea of bubbles.
Buzz's leading ladies.
The green hair is a little bit out-there.
Aliens with guns. Guess what they shoot?
Your esteemed photographer risked his lens for this picture.
Just a couple more floats to go.
Buzz pilots his own laser cannon thing.
The rest of the toys get their own float at the end.
Woody has a water cannon and he's not afraid to use it.
OK, so basically everyone has a water cannon and you're getting wet
It has to be tiring to keep up a gymnastics routine like this for the entire length of the parade.
So, that's the end of the parade! I'm kind of take-it-or-leave-it on Disney's daytime parades, but no question, this was at least entertaining.
Sun is beginning to set on the mountains...
...and an orange glow illuminates Tomorrowland.
One more attraction to check out today -- The Disneyland Story and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
"The actual park bench from the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round in Los Angeles, where Walt Disney first dreamed of Disneyland."
With apologies to Aqualung.
No photos allowed during the Mr. Lincoln performance, so here's one of the curtain before the show.
An original 1965 advertisement poster for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
In the museum space adjacent to the Mr. Lincoln show, there are paintings celebrating famed inventors like Orville and Wilbur Wright...
...Thomas Edison, Henry Ford...
...and Michael Jackson!
As Captain EO!
The greatest inventor of our time.
There's also a detailed scale model of the US Capitol.
The more interesting model, though, is this one of Disneyland as it appeared on its opening day in 1955.
A look straight down at the park's main entrance. Slightly lighter crowds than I'd have expected for opening day.
Fantasyland in its original form. A few of the rides have shifted position since then, but the general layout is similar.
Tomorrowland looks drastically different 63 years later.
Main Street looks about the same, and that's probably never going to change.
So, let's get started with the night pictures! City Hall is looking festive, as always.
Halloween Time means a giant Mickey pumpkin near at the south end of Main Street. Cool view to get both that and the (teeny tiny) castle in the same shot.
Tomorrowland is always in motion.
Streaks of light from the Astro-Orbiter frame the Tomorrowland sign.
The adventures continue!
Hey, one of those things is not a planet...
The Star Trader, with all the Mickey lights lit up through the magic of long-exposure.
Autopia (powered by Honda) looks good at night.
A view over the Submarine lagoon, with Autopia (powered by Honda) in the background.
The lights in the lagoon, along the submarine track, are very colorful.
Caught a sub heading into the waterfall!
This was not an easy photograph -- there's no direct lighting on the Matterhorn, so I had to run a really long exposure to get it bright enough.
It's a world of laughter, a world of tears...
...it's a world of long-exposure spinny clock faces.
Rounding my way through Fantasyland for a few pictures.
This is a 20-second exposure of the Tea Cups. It looks kind of insane.
Dumbo is a flying blur.
The Carrousel shines and spins.
You can try to pull up the sword, but does anyone really want to be the king of England?
Big Thunder Mountain is closed for the night...
...but the rocks are still glowing red.
The Zocalo Park was set up near Big Thunder Mountain for El Dia De Los Muertos.
An angle of the Partners statue that most people don't get pictures of.
From this view, it's like Walt is focusing on tomorrow.
The view down Main Street, finally starting to clear out the crowds.
From this side, the Mickey pumpkin is winking.
A look up at the castle, glowing purple at night.
The best straight-ahead view I could get through the remaining crowds.
"I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place...where parents and children can have fun together."
Partners and the castle.
Partners and the castle, another version.
A long-zoom version of the Partners statue.
With Main Street basically clear of people, I decided to try a few more distant views of the statue and the castle.
From near the north end of Main Street...
...and one more from about halfway down Main Street. Try getting this shot during the middle of the operating day!
The Disneyland Railroad station, park side.
The Disneyland Railroad station, entry gate side.
Finally, outside the front gate just after 10PM. A great first day at the original Disney park!
Two days at Disneyland complete, and two more to go.
I really need to get out there to try the Ghost Galaxy overlay one of these years. While I prefer Orlando's Space Mountain or the drops you mentioned, Disneyland's has an incredible soundtrack and those final turns are pretty wild if you have a full train (now pretty much a guarantee thanks to the single rider line).
If you think you're isolated from the outside world on the Splash Mountains at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, you need to ride the one at Tokyo Disneyland. The entire queue and station is inside a cave deep within the mountain itself. Plus it's even better than the Orlando one. Really there aren't enough reasons to recommend visiting Tokyo Disneyland.
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Canobie Coaster wrote:I really need to get out there to try the Ghost Galaxy overlay one of these years. While I prefer Orlando's Space Mountain or the drops you mentioned, Disneyland's has an incredible soundtrack and those final turns are pretty wild if you have a full train (now pretty much a guarantee thanks to the single rider line).
If you like turns, DL's Space Mountain is the Space Mountain for you! I guess some day I'll have to experience the original soundtrack, but the Ghost Galaxy overlay features one that is intentionally creepy -- plus, I mean, the "ghost galaxy" creature itself is pretty scary!
Canobie Coaster wrote:Really there aren't enough reasons to recommend visiting Tokyo Disneyland.
Some day this will happen, and that is an absolute guarantee!
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