Friday, September 25, 2015

My First Disneyland Adventure

Beautifully lit Sleeping Beauty Castle

Now that its been over a month since I made my first journey out to California for the D23 expo, so I figured that I needed to write about my experience at Disneyland. I'll write a better article comparing the two once I get back from WDW, now that I know what to look for. There will be some comparatives in here, but just for the more notable items.

I stayed "off site" at a good neighboring hotel, The Fairfield Inn Anaheim, which was about a 15 minute walk to the parks. The hotel itself was nice, for the time that I stayed in it. I was put in a handicap accessible room, which was princess themed and had a picture of Cinderella Castle instead of the Disneyland Castle. The room also had a view of the night time fireworks "Disneyland Forever", from what I am told as I was never in the room late enough to see if it was true.

After getting settled I made my way to California Adventure. As I walked to the gates of Disneyland I got that great since of newness. Going to Disney World has spoiled me. I know where to go, when to go and what not to do, but Disneyland has a whole theme park I've never explored and a Magic Kingdom that, while it has some similar attractions, it's still completely different. Seeing the esplanade for the first time really cemented how small this resort was. To my right was Disneyland, my left was California Adventure, and straight ahead Downtown Disney. I didn't have to take a bus to anything, I just had to walk out the park and I could be at the other 2 Disney areas in a mater of 5 minutes or less.

It was around 2pm when I made it into DCA, and crowds weren't horrible. After all the hype over Carsland that I have heard since it has opened, that's where I headed first. The land is just as immersive as everyone says. The E Ticket ride, Radiator Springs Racers, had handed out all of it's Fastpasses for the day, so I opted to wait in the 40 minute line. I loved the theming of this queue. It kept you outside while feeling like you were visiting old storage rooms. I had made it to the area where Fastpass joins the regular queue when they asked for a party of three. I stated I was one person, but the family behind me was only two, so they took us straight to the front. While the outside of the attraction was beautiful, I found the ride lackluster. I would ride it again, but only if I have a Fastpass.


Radiator Springs Racers

I didn't have to much of an itinerary after that, so I just walked around the park to get my lay of the land. I promised my wife that I would save the big rides for when she was able to join me on a later date. I stumbled upon the World of Color Fastpass kiosk so I grabbed on for the late showing, which happened to be the only showing that was still avalible at the time. These kiosks were just around the corner from Soarin' Over Califorina, which had just been updated to a digital format, and is my favorite ride of Walt Dosney World. I made my way over, and noticed that they had a single rider line, so of course I took that line. Meeting some great people while in line, the ride itself was beautiful and will be great when we get the upgrade in our Soarin'. 

Carthay Circle at night
I didn't do any other rides while I was in the park, and I actually took a little break in the late afternoon after the day of traveling. Around 7, I made my way back to Califonia adventure. After hearing how much Carsland transforms at night, when they turn on the neon lights, that I knew I had to go a see this. It was beautiful. The way they light the area with mood lighting and the accurate neon lighting brings the area to a whole new level of detail. I then went to get in line for World of Color. They do the showings back to back, when they have two shows a night. So not to spoil anything, I walked in a few shops and got some ice cream. Once it was time to get a spot for the Fastpass viewing of World of Color, I found the best spot I could. 

Flo's Neon lights

Carsland at night

Carsland at night

This show was more amazing than I could have ever imagined. I had watched a few of the videos on YouTube, and felt that I would like it but didn't get the fascination with it until I saw it in person.  This was the the 60th anniversary show, World of Color: Celebrate!, and had a very recognizable song with it sung by Neil Patrick Harris, Celebrate the Magic. Accompanied by Mickey Mouse, Neil was the host of the show. World of Color takes you through the 60 years of Disney, from animation to the theme parks.  The clips from all the movies shown were put together in just a great way, and the evolution of Mickey, really shows you where he came from. I feel as though words cannot express how amazing this show is.

World of Color PreShow

Clip of World of Color: Celebrate

World of Color Celebrate during the Kiss Good Night

Thursday was my first time stepping foot on the roads that Walt walked on. There is no rope drop show at Disneyland like there is at Walt Disney World, so I didn't rush myself over to the park like I try and do when I'm going to the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Walking around the town square and looking at the room above the firehouse, knowing that this was Walt's park, what he dreamed and worked so hard to bring to life, just brought emotions over me. I won't say that I cried, because I didn't, it was more of a happiness to know that I finally got to come out and see this.

When I finally made it down to Main Street, I was a little off, well even walking into the park I was off,  as I am so use to the sights, sounds, and smells of Magic Kingdom, but mostly because I was missing our Cinderella Castle. Sleeping Beauty Castle is so much smaller than ours, and its more noticeable when you go into the lands, because you can't just look up and find the castle roof to see where you are, which can be great in some cases.  I made my way down the street and took my time taking in the hub area. The castle is decorated for the 60th anniversary, and is very beautiful. Standing at the foot of Sleeping Beauty Castle brought an overwhelming sense of joy. This is Walt's castle, the center piece of his dream. I did the walk through of the castle, since we can't actually walk into our castle, and after that I just wondered around the park.

I didn't have any type of agenda, well besides to get familiar with the park's layout. I made my way over to Tomorrowland, and grabbed some breakfast, while looking at the differences of ours and theirs. The castmembers were amazingly helpful in all ways, and seemed to enjoy their jobs (not that WDW castmembers don't). After eating, I got in line for the Marvel characters, Thor and Captain America, as we can't see them in WDW currently. Taking the back way out, I passed the Matterhorn and made my way back to It's A Small World. I loved this ride, while I still hate the song. Each scene has a Disney character hidden somewhere in it, and the little boy behind me pointing to everything probably helped me enjoy this ride more than I should have. Walking back into the portion of Fantasyland behind the castle, I stumbled upon Alice and the Mad Hatter and grabbed a quick picture with them, and by time I was done, the Evil Queen came by, so I followed and grabbed a picture with her as well.

Me with Captain America

Myself and Thor

Myself, Alice, and the Mad Hatter

Myself and the Evil Queen

Fantasyland has everything jammed into a small spot it seemed. Mr. Toads Wild Ride, Snow White's Scary Adventure, and Pinocchio's Daring Journey are all in a space that wouldn't seem possible to fit them, but some how they do. I continued to Frontierland, grabbing a Fantasmic fastpass along the way, and liked being able to take a look at the back of Thunder Mountain. I came around and wondered to New Orleans Square, and got on Pirates of the Caribbean, which is much different. After getting off that ride I made my way to find Club 33, to at least touch the door, and after passing it a couple of times, I found it.  The Haunted Mansion is almost directly across from Pirates, and the wait was short, so I hopped on that attraction as well, which is also different from the WDW version. There was one thing I had to do to make my wife mad, and that was a picture with the princess, most importantly Cinderella, and I didn't know if she would be visiting, so I made my way back to the New Fantasyland area to find that she was in fact visiting. So I got in line and 30 minutes later I had accomplished my goal. I was to meet some friends later that night, so I didn't do too much more and walked back to the room and grabbed a small bite to eat.

Haunted Mansion

Club 33 original entrance

After a quick nap, I made my way back to the park. When I walked in, I noticed people had already started to find their places for Mickey's Soundsational Parade, and knowing I still had a while before I was to meet my friends, watching the parade was now on my list. I enjoyed every minute of it as well, not more so than Festival of Fantasy, but its top 2 of my daytime parades. When the parade was over, my next stop was Toontown. I walked in and saw it, and then turned right back around when I realized I hadn't seen Mickey and the Magical Map ( I was in luck as the next show was seating and it was 5 minutes from Toontown). Once again, this show exceeded my expectations. The technology, actors, dancers, and performers where all top notch.

Now I made my way back to see Toontown, and time was drawing short to meet my friends, so I didn't get a chance to ride Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, but I did have to get in line to get a picture with the main mouse. The meet and greet with Mickey in his house was great. I never got to experience this in Walt Disney World, and the families that I was grouped with were amazing. The little girl in front was excited to see Mickey, but didn't want a picture, until it wasn't her turn, and she didn't want to leave. So the Castmemmbers let her and her family stay until we were all done. 

I was to meet my friends at the Fastpass distribution for Splash Mountain, and while there, I was handed a Big Thunder Mountain Fast Pass by a guest, and had given direction to the Haunted Mansion. Finally with my friends, we hit up Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder right off the bat. We walked back and Hopped on Mr. Toad, and the Matterhorn, before going back to Splash Mountain for our Fastpass. We were still a little early, so we decided to go on Winnie the Pooh, twice, without getting off.

All while this is going on, Fantasmic had started to run, and in Disneyland, this is shown in Frontierland/New Orleans Square on the Rivers of America. It is nearly unavoidable to not watch when you want to see it completely for the whole show and not the snippets that you catch walking by. We hurried to try and make it to the other side of the park to take in some of the Torrowland attractions, and along the way, I was asked some park operational questions (because my Pin Lanyard made me look official), and surprisingly I knew most of the answers.

Wading through the crowds on Main Street that were watching Disneyland Forever, the fireworks show for Disneyland's 60th, we slowly made it to Tomorrowland. The group was ready to go on Space Mountain, and I was curious on the differences, but was hesitant (it's not my favorite ride at WDW). The biggest difference to me was the ride vehicle, where the seats are two to a car, Disneyland's sits 6 to a car. There were probably other obvious differences, but I don't know WDW's version well enough to really tell.

Our last ride before heading out was the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. This ride would be great for little kids and small adults, but for a heavy man, it is not comfortable. It is a greatly themed ride, and fun, if you can get comfortable, and I will probably do it again, to appease the wife. We pretty much shut down the park, and made our way out to Downtown Disney, where I only went in to the much smaller World of Disney. The atmosphere is a lot different in their downtown district than what we currently have in Disney Springs, but I suspect that they are aiming for the Disneyland Atmosphere in Orlando.

I didn't get the memo on how we were suppose to pose.

I didn't make my way back to the parks until Sunday after my last few minutes at the D23 expo. My sole reason for going into the park was to catch the 3 night time entertainment options that I had missed on Thursday night, Paint the Night, Fantasmic, and Disneyland Forever. Stopping in the Emporium for last minute purchases, I met a nice Castmember, Lily if I remember correctly, and she told me the best way for me to see all three, without any hassle. First was Fantasmic, and when I made it over to the viewing area I found a lone chair in a corner, behind a tree. I should have ditched my friends the other night and used the fastpass...But I could still see the show, and with the different scenes that Disneyland has, it was fantastic. 

After letting the crowds leave out, part of the advise I was given and knew about from WDW, I took my time to get over to Main Street for Paint the Night. I will state, I love Spectromagic and Main Street Electrical Parade. Every time we are in the parks, I must see these parades. Paint the Night has big shoes to try and fill going into this. All the podcast and blogs that go through state that this parade is the the best night time parade there is, and I couldn't get it through my head that this was possible. But when that music started, and the first floats passed me by, I was in awe of it, and was actually mad at myself for missing the three other performances that had been shown when I was in the park.  Like everything else I have said, watching it on youtube, does not do it justice.

When the last float passed, the castmembers allowed everyone to crowd the streets for the firework show. I got a perfect spot for Main Street viewing. It should be stated that Disneyland forever uses the projection technology that Walt Disney World uses in Celebrate the Magic at the Magic Kingdom, but it is used differently. They project the different scenes on the Matterhorn, It's A Small World, the water screens of Fantasmic, and the store fronts on Main Street.  From each location you get a different view of the show and it encourages the crowds to spread out through the park instead of all on Main Street.

The firework show itself talks about the history of the park to begin with, but then moves to the individual movies, from the classics of Jungle Book and Mary Poppins, to modern favorites of Frozen and Finding Nemo. The projections really immerse you into the stories being told, and the use of the surroundings is great. For example, in the Finding Nemo portion, Nemo is swimming in the tank and needs to make it through the "flames" of Mt. Wannahockaloogie (which is the Matterhorn). This show is simply amazing, and I cannot wait to see it again. I spent the rest of the night roaming the park while the crowds slowly lowered. And when it was time to walk out of the park, I turned to the firehouse, and thank Walt for his great vision, so that we have the great theme parks we have today.

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