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Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland

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dagobert

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Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland
« on: June 29, 2016, 02:07:36 PM »
Recently we returned from our USA trip, right in time for the UEFA Euro 2016! We had a fantastic time in the US, met many friendly people (and one weirdo ;-)) and we can't already wait to return, hopefully next year.

Our trip inlcuded Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Palm Springs. All towns were fun to visit, but Chicago will always be my favourite city in the US.

In LA we visited both Disneyland and Universal Studios, the Hollywood Blvd, Downtown LA, Santa Monica and the Griffith Observatory. San Francisco was all about Alcatraz and the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Now I can say, that Disneyland Paris is still my favourite Disney park. Disneyland was great, but I was surprised how much I like DCA. That park is really cool and takes the third place after DLP and EPCOT on my Disney parks list. It has great rides, Buena Vista Street looks gorgeous and it offers Californian Craft Beers. It's a very adult oriented park and I liked that. Paradise Pier with the Fun Wheel, which is really a lot of fun, and California Screamin' might be my favourite area of the park.

Disneyland Anaheim

My wife Claudia and I are big Disney Parks fans. Although most of our vacations aren't to Disney, we try to go to a Disney park at least once a year, usually it is Disneyland Paris, since we have Annual Passes. So far we had been to DLP seven times, twice to WDW and once we did a Disney cruise. Next on our list was the orginal Disneyland. Traveling to California just because of Disneyland would be stupid, so we made it part of a bigger California vacation.

At first I want to say that we had three wonderful days at Disneyland, but it couldn't claim the top spot on my Disney parks list. I guess DLP will always be my favourite Disney park. Not only was my first park I've ever visited, it is also my "home park" and will always hold a special place. While DL was great, DCA was even better, and honestly I was quite surprised by that. In fact DCA is now my third favourite Disney park behind DLP and EPCOT.

Before our Disney adventure could start, we needed a place to stay and of course park tickets. At first we wanted to stay at a Disney hotel, but the room rates were rather high, even without park tickets. So we looked at hotels and motels off the Disney property and since we don't stay at Disney hotels in Paris anymore, we decided to do the same in Anaheim. We just didn't want to spend such a huge amount of money on a Disney hotel, becuse we still have some vacations coming up this year and so the money is better spent somewhere else. After looking around for several days on Booking.com we found the Knights Inn Anaheim. At first we were a little bit reluctant, because some years ago we stayed in several Days Inn Motels and the experiences varied from very good in Toronto to "we have to get out here asap" in Orlando. However the ratings weren't that bad and the hotel was recently refurbished. Additionally we got a very good price for six nights and so we decided to give it a try. The motel was located on Ball Rd and was approximately 10 to 15 minutes by foot away from DL. We don't mind walking and since pavements led over the Interstate, the way to the parks was fine. Just for comparison, Disney's Santa Fe at DLP is located 15 to 20 minutes by foot away from the parks. And a Starbucks was located right next to the motel, which was very convenient, since the lines at the Disney Starbucks locations were always long, especially in the morning. The hotel even offered a pool, but we didn't use it. Our room was located on the ground floor and as mentioned before, it was newly refurbished and so it looked very nice. The walls were a bit thin, because we could hear the family on the first floor walking, but besides that, it was very quiet. I guess everyone was just really tired after a day at the parks and so there wasn't any energy left for being loud.

Thanks to the Disney Tourist Blog we got our three days Park Hopper Tickets at ParkSavers.com and that saved us 22 Dollars per ticket. We got a print out that we had to redeem at the ticket booth, which we did in the evening before our first day in the parks. The ticket also included Magic Morning that allowed us to enter DL an hour early on one day. Of course we made use of that, although that meant 7:00 o'clock in the morning. I have never been that early in a Disney park, neither at WDW nor at DLP. Honestly I was very surprised that the parks open at 8:00 o'clock and close at 23:00 o'clock during weekdays. At DLP the parks open at 10:00 o'clock and close at 18:00 o'clock (WDSP) and 20:00 o'clock (DLP).

During our stay, we saw many groups of teenagers and apparently there was a special event called Grad Night on one evening. While it must be cool to celebrate graduation in a Disney park, we found it cute, because when we graduated from high school, we partied hard all night for several days in clubs and bars. Nonetheless the kids behaved very well most of the time.

Many warned us that the crowds might be crazy and so we tried to be at the park entrance early. Security at DL was a mess and Disney can learn a lot from Paris or Universal. It took them forever to look into all the bags and so the lines were long. They should install the scanners like at DLP or Universal, because it would reduce the wait times. After security the lines at DL's maingate were already long and so on our first day we decided to go to DCA first, since there were no lines. We walked straight to Radiator Springs to do the Cars ride at least once. This land is truly beautiful and the ride is also a lot of fun. Maybe it is not on the same scale like Harry Potter, but it is wonderful. We loved the Radiator Springs Racers, but unfortunately we did it only once. The lines were just too long during the days. There's just a minor thing that bothered me a little. First you walk through Radiator Springs, then you board the car and then you drive through Radiator Springs again, although it's clearly not the town from outside the ride. Other than that, it is a great attraction and I totally understand the long queues. We also did Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, which basically is a copy of DLP's Cars Race Rally with a different theming. The new Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters looked already boring from the outside, so we skipped it. Except for that ride, WDI did a terrific job with Carsland and hopefully it will get cloned somewhere else, like at WDW.

Our favourite area of DCA was Paradise Pier. Not only does it have two great rides, but it also looks cool, like the seaside amusement parks seen in many US movies. California Screamin' might be the best Disney coaster. It's fast, it features a looping and a catapult start. Thanks to its smoothness I put it even before DLP's Space Mountain and Expedition Everest. We rode it several times per day, due to the short lines. Toy Story Mania was already a favourite of ours at WDW and so it was one at DCA too. The biggest surprise for us was the Fun Wheel. The swinging gondolas were indeed a lot of fun, what a cool idea. Paradise Pier is also home of the Cove Bar and enjoying some drinks there was so relaxing.

Over the three days we also got to do Soarin', still one of my all time Disney favourites, Monsters Inc. - Mike and Sully to the Rescue and The Little Mermaid. We knew TLM already from Florida, but it still is a cute ride with hardly any wait times and so we rode it several times to escape the heat. The Monsters ride was okay, nothing special, but since we didn't know it, we gave it a try, but doing it once is enough. As for Soarin', I'm glad we could do the original version one last time before it got replaced by Over the Horizon/Over the World.

Except for the first day we always started with DL and in the afternoon when it got crazy in the main park, we headed over to DCA. On contrary to DL, DCA is a much more relaxing and adult oriented park, which we enjoyed a lot. We spent a lot of time at Cove Bar and at Sonoma Terrace to taste many Californian craft beers. For us, Disney is more than just a park full of rides, and enjoying drinks and the atmosphere is as equally important to us. That might be the reason why we like EPCOT so much. I guess Sonoma Terrace is my favourite drinking spot at Disney. It's so relaxing, no kids, only adults who like to get a rest from the craziness and the nicest CMs in the whole resort.

dagobert

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Re: Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2016, 02:08:02 PM »
It took us some time to "get" Disneyland, it was the same problem we had with the Magic Kindom. It is Disneyland, it looks like Disneyland, but it just doesn't feel right. It's hard to discribe, but I guess it has soemthing to do with familiarity. I know DL is old and so it is rather small and not very stunning. However it is a very charming park, but unfortunately it gets very crowded due to the small open areas. That's why we went there in the morning and left when it got packed. Besides that, DL has the best themepark ride ever. The Indiana Jones Adventure is so fantastic that we had to ride it several times. The theming is amazing, it starts with the queue area and continues through the ride itself. There's only one downside. It seems not to be very reliant, because it broke down often, at least once or twice a day. Do Dinosaur at WDW and Indiana Jones in Tokyo face the same problems? In Adventureland the only other attraction we did was the Jungle Cruise, and it was as boring as the one in Florida. I'm surprised it's still there. But we got tons of Dole Whip. I wish it would be available at DLP too.

My favourite area in DL was New Orleans Square. It's beautifully themed, but after noon, you can hardly move there. Of course we did the HM and POTC. Both rides were fine, but it was a bit strange that there was a ghost talking in the HM. POTC is a classic, but our ride was a little bit ruined thanks to the constant and loud commentaries from the guests behind. Even after asking to be less loud, they didn't stop. At least we weren't the only ones who found that annoying, because the family in front of us complained about them too.

We visited WDW twice and both times Splash Mountain was closed due to refurbishment, but this year we finally got to ride it. I don't know the movie Song of the South, but the attraction is great. It had some catchy songs, nice scenes and the cool drop. It would make a great addition to DLP. In Critter Country we also did Winnie Pooh, which we knew already from WDW. However it seems like the DL version is different, but I might be wrong on that.

Frontierland was rather small, but BTMRR was as good as at WDW and DLP. The explosion scene looked cool and I'm looking forward to it in Paris where the scene is currently being installed. While the mountain seems to be smaller than in Orlando and Paris, the ride layout must be the same, at least I got that impression. Due to the SWLand construction I was under the impression that they emptied the river, but luckily that was not the case.

In Tomorrowland we only rode Space Mountain, because we got Buzz in Paris as well and we wanted to save Star Tours with the Force Awakens scenes for Paris next year when it reopens. Space Mountain was better than in Florida, but it still is not as much fun as DLP's. Even the Star Wars layover didn't change that, which I think was not that great. The Submarines seem to be very popular. That's the only ride we wanted to do, but had to skip it, because we didn't want to stay in line for an hour.

A positive surprise was Mickey's Toontown. It looked lovely and Roger Rabbit was a cool ride that we really enjoyed. The whole land would be a nice addition to DLP, although I would like to see Duckburgh from the Donald Duck comis coming to life instead.

And this leaves us with Fantasyland. It's always tough to judge Fantasyland from other Disneylands, because the one in Paris is just the most beautiful one, even Anaheim can't match it. However, it comes close. It's a very charming Fantasyland with the most beautiful open air Tea Cups ride. DL is home to many unique attractions like the Matterhorn, Alice in Wonderland and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. We only did the attractions new to us and so we left out Pinocchio, Snow White or Peter Pan. While we really liked Mr Toad, the Matterhorn was a very unpleasant experience. It was way too bumpy so that I don't want to ride it ever again. Alice was a cute ride perfect for kids.

dagobert

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Re: Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2016, 02:08:40 PM »
What I liked most about Disneyland was that nature had grown into the park. That adds a lot to DL's atmosphere and gives it its charm. Another cool thing was the Disneyland Marching Band. They were really entertaining. The moment they played Hooked On a Feeling from Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, I realized that Marvel is indeed part of Disney and it felt like it has always been that way. People were cheering and clapping and that song filled the whole area with so much energy. It was just great.

I'm a vegetarian and my wife Claudia is vegan and so eating at Disney might be a challenge. While WDW is great when it coes to catering for vegetarians and even vegans, our home park Disneyland Paris is not so much. Since WDW was doing so fine, we had high hopes for Disneyland. Although it was not as good as in Florida, we weren't disappointed. First there was Dole Whip and we got several of them each day. They are just so delicious. We didn't eat breakfast in the parks, because we got coffee from Starbucks on the way to the resort and bought fruits and Clif Bars from Wal-Mart. I read somewhere that Disneyland is very strict when it comes to bring food into the parks, but none of the security guards said anything against our water and fruits. For lunch and dinner we either went to Smokejumpers at DCA for a veggie burger with fries or to the Royal Street Veranda at New Orleans Square for the vegetarian gumbo in the bread bowl, which was also vegan. The gumbo was the best quick service themepark dish I've ever had. It was so good that we went there every day. On our last evening we had lunch at Wine Country Trattoria, since they offered two vegetarian/vegan pasta dishes. While the food was pretty good, it was a bit pricey for the small portion, the experience at the restaurant was unfortunately rather bad. It had nothing to do with the food or the restaurant itself. The family on the next table was so rude and loud, the kids threw their food around the table, ran around the table and ate in such a disgunstingly manner, that we had to request another table, which we got. On the bright side, the Sangria was also very good. I know it's a themepark and people are supposed to have fun, but I can't stand it when children or even adults can't behave at the table, may it be a quick service restaurant or a table service restaurant. And in a table service restaurant I expect people to use cutlery and not their fingers.

The next thing that was annoying was queue jumping. Families made a sport out of it, like how many family members can we get through the queue without lining up? One member is queueing, while the rest is still enjoying the park. Then a quick call before reaching the boarding area and suddenly they all appeared. Unfortunately that seems to be a normal behaviour, since no one cared and it happened so often.

Besides these two issues guest behaviour in general was fine. However compared to Universal Hollywood it could be better at any Disney park. So far Universal Hollywood offered the best guest experience at any themepark yet. The worst was definitely Cedar Point. I guess that's mainly because of the more mature audience at Universal Hollywood. Less children equal better behaviour. I was surprised to see so many young mothers with really small babies at Disneyland. Many of them were still children themselves, at least to my standards, and were totally overburdend. I can't imagine that the babies felt comfortable in the heat and with all the loud noises. But since I'm not a dad, I don't want to sound super smart. It was just an observation I made.

Due to Disneyland's size, strollers and these electrical wheel chairs are a much bigger problem than at WDW. They had to use huge areas for stroller parking and some children were already big enough to walk. I guess in recent years after visiting Disney I turned into a person that doesn't like children:D.

Given its age, Disneyland is a wonderful place every Disney fan should at least visit once. Do I need to visit again? Definitely. Do I like the resort? Yes I do, but until now it is the least favourite of mine. The main reason for that is just the overwhelming crowd. I don't want to imagine how packed the park must be during the summer months on weekends. The biggest surprise for me, was that I didn't fell in love with Disneyland, but with DCA I did. It's just a great park, with beautiful areas like Buena Vista Street, Grizzly Peak or Paradise Pier. Even Hollywood Land looks nice and I would really hate it, if the ToT will be changed to Marvel.

And thanks to this Disney trip, my wife is now addicted to the Disney Tsum Tsums. We had to get some of them and so we ended up buiying Chewie from Star Wars, Stitch and Pascal from Tangles. Besides that we got the Starbucks Disney Mugs, two pins and a magnet.

Pictures can be found on my blog:

http://reisewarnung.blogspot.co.at/search/label/Disneyland%20Anaheim
« Last Edit: June 29, 2016, 02:11:00 PM by dagobert »

dagobert

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Re: Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2016, 02:10:04 PM »
Universal Studios Hollywood

Last year we visited Universal Studios Orlando and we were a bit underwhelmed. On Disney fansites there is a tendency now that Universal does everything better than Disney currently does and so we had very high expectations, which weren't met. So we were a little bit reluctant visiting Universal Studios in LA, since it is much smaller and offers only one park. However since they opened The Wizarding World of HP, we decided to give it a try, because my wife loves the HP books and Forbidden Journey, unlike Escape from Gringotts in Florida, is definitely a fantastic attraction. Like in Florida we only got the regular ticket without the fastpass feature and it proved again that it would not have been worth the extra cost. We were there on a Sunday and the crowds were low. We expected many more visitors, since DL, DCA not so much, was already crowded during weekdays. Maybe we were lucky, but I don't understand the fear that Universal might be a big threat for Disneyland, even with HP. The longest line was at Forbidden Journey and never exceeded 35 minutes.

The park itself is beautiful, but very light on attractions, which also contributed to our thoughts, that the waiting lines will be crazy. We got to do all the rides and attractions we wanted to do and still had plenty of time left. We did Forbidden Journey and The Mummy three times and all other rides once. Universal relies heavily on screen based attractions, and most of them aren't very entertaining. I liked Transformers better than in Florida, I don't know why since it's the same ride, but in my opinion the 3D was better. However Spider-Man at IOA and Ratatouille at DLP are still ahead in terms of story, Transformers is just a stupid movie franchise, and I feel the 3D effects are also better and sharper in the aforementioned rides.

The Simpsons, Shrek 4D, Despicable Me - Minion Mayhem were also screen based. While The Simpsons simulator was at least entertaining, Shrek was a stupid 4D show in whic even the children sitting next to us didn't laugh. Minion Mayhem was okay, but everyone likes the yellow tictacs. Near the Minion Mayhem I also saw one of the strangest items sold at Universal - artificial bananas. They looked liked bananas and should have tasted like bananas thanks to articfical flavours, but they just weren't bananas. Why not selling real bananas?

The Mummy was great, it had some very cool effects, and I think it is a little bit different compared to the one in Orlando, but I'm not entirely sure. Jurassic Park was a nice water ride and I prefered it over the Florida version, because we didn't get as wet as in Orlando. The Animatronics should, howeve,r get an upgrade, because the dinos didn't move smoothly or looked broken.

My highlight, besides HP and The Mummy, was the Studio Tram Tour. Disney's tour in Florida and especially the one in Paris look like a bad joke compared to Universal's, understandable since we drove through an actual movie studio. While there wasn't that much action going on, it was wonderful to see the backdrops, the fake cities and other interesting movie locations. The guide also talked a lot about the effects and how certain shots are achieved with certain techniques. For me it was very entertaining and interesting. The King Kong attraction was entertaining while Fast and the Furious was stupid, but that was mainly because I don't like the movie franchise.

All in all it was such a relaxing and wonderful day there, so that I would recommend Universal instead of Disneyland to every tourist who has limited time in LA. Not only were the crowds much lighter, Universal might also be more interesting for non-Disney fans. As I mentioned before we got to do everything we wanted. We also had a great lunch at Blaze Pizza, which will be a great addition to Disney Springs. My wife is vegan and they offer a tasty vegan cheese pizza and so we went there for dinner again. Universal Studios itself is very bad when it comes to the vegetarian/vegan options. We also had plenty of time to enjoy drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe and at the Hog's Pub inside the HP land.

What I also liked about Universal were the CMs and the security checks. They were quick but still thorough and I didn't mind the airport scanners they installed at the entrance. At Disneyland they were a mess. It took them forever and maybe they should also install these scanners to improve the security.

Retrospectively, the day at Universal was one of the most relaxing days during our vacation. Only the price for the ticket was too high compared to Disneyland. Universal just didn't offer enough to justify that price. We purchased the ticket online, which saved twenty dollars per ticket and granted early entrance. I also got the impression that Universal is aimed towards a more adult audience, and we really liked that. There weren't as many strollers and kids as in Disneyland. Instead there were many older couples and young adults.

Universal and LA in general seem to be a prefered destination for Asians, because we saw so many guided tours at Universal and in Hollywood, and we assume that they were Chinese. They behaved nicely, so I'm curious about the coming reports from SDL.

Pictures:
http://reisewarnung.blogspot.co.at/search/label/Universal%20Studios%20Hollywood
     



daddyof2

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Re: Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2016, 08:24:42 PM »
Thanks Dagobert, I'm surprised at the queue jumping - I thought it was a European thing and wouldn't be so common in the US

c3po

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Re: Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2016, 01:20:00 PM »
Thanks for such a detailed report! It's been 18 years since I visited DL - DCA was still under construction then, but your report makes me want to go back.
[size=85]1972 - Disneyland; 1974 - WDW; 1988 - Disneyland; 1996 - Disneyland; 1998 - Disneyland; 2000 - Disneyland; 2003 - WDW (Coronado Springs & Grosvenor Resort); 2009 - DLP (Newport Bay Club); October 2010 - DLP (Sequoia Lodge); October 2014 (Disneyland Hotel); September 2015 (Sequoia Lodge); March 2017 (Sequoia Lodge GF)

wimmekepunk

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Re: Trip Report - Three Days at Disneyland
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2016, 03:31:21 PM »
A great report.

We were there two weeks later (pics of that trip can be found on this site somewhere).
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