Disneyland Observations from a WDW fan perspective

Friday, November 7, 2014

I was definitely out of my element walking down Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland. I had read up, I had listened to podcasts, I had planned as much as one can plan when one has never been to Disneyland before.

I knew I was especially excited about a few very important things; Matterhorn and all the other DL specific rides, Pirates, and Haunted Mansion's special holiday overlay. Steve fully expected me to be his tour guide for the evening, hustling him here and there with a clear vision and plan in mind. I definitely didn't have a plan because this was just a tiny part of our seven day road trip and I really wasn't sure what to expect from this event. For starters, I needed a map?!?!

My observations:

This is not like WDW, not at all. It is similar, yes, but in more of a cousin way than a sibling way. Sure, some of the rides are almost (but not quite) the same, but that in many ways is where the similarities end.

We saw far fewer families with children than I expected. I think we both had preconceived ideas that we would stand out as a couple without children, but it was quite the opposite. This is so very much a locals park. I feel confident saying that the majority of the attendees that night were older teens and very young adults and they were (with very few exceptions) very thoughtfully and elaborately attired. Steve was certain many times that he was seeing the REAL Cinderella walk by, that was how intense some of these costumes were.

Bengal Barbecue. We were absolutely starving when we finally made our way to Indiana Jones (one of my DL specific must dos). The ride was down so since we had to wait to ride anyway, we enjoyed drying off from splash a bit at this little spot in Adventureland. I am not sure if I liked the skewers or the jalapeno cheese pretzel more (probably the pretzel because jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzel!!). The portions were a bit on the small side, but the skewers were flavorful and decidedly yummy. My carnivore spouse was VERY happy with this choice.

What is with the yellow strap? I can't recall ever being asked to "pull up on your yellow strap for me, please?" at WDW and there it was on the Matterhorns, Indiana Jones... What is with the yellow strap?

The duplicate rides (ones at both WDW and DLR) were just plain out better here. Pirates, Space, Thunder. I worry that these might be tarnished at WDW a bit for me now and that is saying a lot because those are some of my favorite attractions.

Haunted Mansion's Jack Skellington overlay was so amazing I would have rode it five times had the line not been so long. It is just so well done and executed perfectly. Steve has NEVER seen the movie (?!), so a lot of it was over his head and I can imagine anyone who hasn't seen the movie would be incredibly lost. This was one of my favorite parts of our entire evening. If you can get to Disneyland next year to see it, I cannot more highly recommend it.

When I first talked to Steve about this trip, my plan was attractions, ambience, snacks and attractions. I was completely uninterested in waiting in long lines to meet characters and yet, there they were, characters just standing there waiting for someone to come play. We happened upon Pluto (no cue), Goofy (just entering from backstage), Woody (walked right up to him as you can see below in that too bright photo), and Genie & Prince Ali had a very short wait while Steve was getting a snack anyway, so WHY NOT? Not only were the lines short (for some characters), but they really wanted you to stick around. Prince Ali said, "that's it?" after I took our selfie because I felt badly taking up too much of their time. They clearly didn't think I was. I asked Genie if he thought we would all fit for the photo and he tried to climb into my phone which was hilarious. When I approached Woody, I told him my nephew was his biggest fan and this was a photo for him and he posed perfectly. The characters were reminiscent of how I remember Disney with my own family as child. Characters were just walking about, with no cueing, no scramble of people racing to get their attention and be the first one. On top of that, they were so interactive and really took their time (not just with the kids) and made these moments truly memorable. I won't soon forget this one.

The biggest observation was how I felt as a rookie out there. It has been a long, long time since I haven't known my way around a Disney Park (at least in a general, let's go here and then there way) and I was utterly lost. It was nighttime, landmarks were more challenging to find in the dark, and half the time I didn't even know the landmark I was looking for. I was frustrated that I couldn't seem to find my dole whip. It feels especially hard when your partner for the night keeps looking to you as the guide and you can only shrug your shoulders. Though challenging, this was a really good reminder of what that first timer experience is like and I have renewed energy to ensure my clients are prepared properly to not only have a good itinerary, but find their way with confidence.

Have you been to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World? How would YOU compare the two?

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