The year is 2017 and our family has finally made it to the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. As a frequent visitor to the Orlando Disney World franchise, I was really pumped up about the visit for one it is a Disney trip, and here we now have a chance to experience a brand new Disney vacation and can also compare the two locations.
Despite most people saying you can do the two parks in 2 days, we purchased 4 day passes as we were traveling with another family that is also Disney fanatics and wanted to make sure we had the time to enjoy everything Disney has to offer.
We stayed offsite at a VRBO rental house but within walking distance, which was a huge plus considering we were 9 people in total. The house also had a pool and saved us a ton of money over Disney properties. Though we do love staying on Disney property when in Orlando, I did not see much of a downside to staying at a non-Disney property here. Plus our home had a Disney feel with Disney games, movies and art throughout.
Walking to the park took us through Downtown Disney. I really liked the layout here. You cross the Disneyland Hotel parking, then through Downtown Disney to reach either Disneyland on the north side, or California Adventure to the south. All in one convenient location. Downtown Disney California was much more enjoyable as Orlando’s is simply too crowded for my liking. It is smaller but has plenty of what you are looking for. I’ll also say the bag check and metal detectors are found outside of Downtown Disney, but I think that is now done in Orlando as well. It does seem to speed things up to get into the parks.
For our first day we chose to visit California Adventure. Massive long lines awaited us to enter as we arrived about 10 minutes after the park opening.
Once through, we then sped ahead to get Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses (FPs) as we were told these would be out soon. We had a 10 minute wait to get FPs!
We then waited in line for Soarin’ about 50 minutes – fairly accurate to the time posted. Overall I have to say the entire Disney parks in California have little to no shade!
Wear sunscreen. We visited in late March and temperatures were hotter than we expected.
After a couple of small rides, we picked up FPs for California Screamin and by now it was already time for lunch. I had a very expensive corn dog but must say it was a very tasty treat. The kids rode another couple of small rides and then California Screamin which ranks as probably my favorite coaster ever. I think coasters are “to each their own” so say what you will, but this was exactly what I want in a coaster: a loop, fast, several large drops. Long enough and fast enough for my preference.
We went to our Radiator Springs Racers FP time but it was closed for technical difficulties (this will be a theme of our trip) and were told we could return at any time.
We were closed out of the last Frozen show arriving about 20 minutes before the start as we were told we need to arrive about an hour early to secure a spot. We couldn’t get on several other rides that closed for unknown reasons, but were able to visit a few other attractions and then got lucky to get on the Racers ride just before dinner. We liked it a lot, rated it higher than Test Track at Epcot but interestingly the ride closed again shortly after our turn. I don’t know what the issue is but noticed on our app that the ride closes regularly (as does Indiana Jones in DL).
We hit the Mater kiddie ride and then had dinner at Wine Country Trattoria. We found the restaurant to be fairly good though my plate was short on sauce (I should have asked for more but looking back I think I was just too tired to really care).
We ended the night with the kids hitting a couple more rides, unable to ride a few that were again closed for unknown reasons, and waited in line for the Toy Story Midway Mania, which of course we’ve been on in Orlando.
We finished the night with the World of Color, which was very impressive but was not known to us that you really needed to be on one side of the bay to truly experience the attraction. We moved over to the correct side in time to catch about 2/3 of the show.
We enjoyed this park as we felt it had similarity to Disney Hollywood Studios and Epcot, all in one park, but also had more attractions for little kids than either of the above, so a big plus in that regard. We often feel stressed to reach all the Orlando parks and this is an easy way to hit something for everyone in one day.
Over the next 3 days we spent all of them at Disneyland. The first was a full day. The second was mostly a pool day (and a visit to family in the morning and lunch) with a Downtown Disney dinner followed by a couple of hours in the park. The third day was supposed to be a 7 am early day to the park but we didn’t get over there until 10 am and had to leave about 7 pm to get ready for an early departure. Still we were able to do nearly everything we wanted in this time frame.
We love Disney and Disneyland met expectations for the most part. At times, we felt Disneyland is not really built to handle the crowds as lines for rides extend into paths meant for traversing the park, oftentimes so crowded with long lines that there is no room left for walking! Also the maintenance of rides seems to be a major issue as ride after ride experienced closures at any moment. Waiting for 100+ minutes for some major attraction to close right at the end could have ruined a day. We were on Indiana Jones and luckily made it through 95% of the ride before it shut down and after a few minutes we were taken off and given a FP to any attraction. But had the ride broken down 2 minutes earlier this would have prevented us from riding the attraction during our visit. A potential major bummer!
I found some spots like the French Quarter sitting area where we enjoyed beignets was just wonderful. Large trees shaded us and was very peaceful. But overall this park is crowded and hard to navigate, especially right before, after and mainly DURING parades. Better to just watch a parade or stay far away from the route, maybe stand in line for a long wait ride if you are not into parades or fireworks.
We found the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean to be quite odd, you are entering what appears to be some type of French Quarter home! How do you end up in caves and fortresses!?! Still, the ride is similar if not the same as DW and a big hit. Plus Disneyland has several rides new to us and many more of the dark rides in Fantasyland featuring older Disney movies. We enjoyed all of this. Walking through the “little” (laugh) castle actually was a cool little attraction in it’s own right.
One very disappointing aspect here, again mentioned above was the ride closures. But in addition to that we found the trash in the parks to be quite disgusting. Water areas were routinely littered, as were ride queues and even on the rides trash appeared. Are Californian’s this disgusting or are Disneyland crews slacking? We found the beaches in CA to be quite littered as well. But also the cast in Disneyland seemed much fewer than in World. We had trouble finding anyone to ask questions about what a ride is, where to enter lines, or how to get around.
So, overall, we loved the ease of getting everything you really want in 2 easy to access parks, but found the maintenance and crowds to be a disappointment. Our next trip will likely be back to Disney World and not just because it is easier for us to get to. It just seems to be a little better experience with cleanliness, ability to handle crowds, and hopefully better maintenance of rides. Though to me it is a shame with the huge renovation to Orlando’s Fantasyland, that so many rides found in Disneyland are not present. We’ll have to give all of this some thought when the Disney urge returns!