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Disneyland trip report from a WDW veteran's perspective

Atomicmickey

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I had the great fortune to have an extra day in my schedule when recently doing some work in Los Angeles, and so it was a no-brainer for me to visit Disneyland. I had a great day, was there from early in the morning until they started to close Downtown Disney, and so thought I’d share some of my thoughts on comparisons that I noticed between Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

A bit of background, I first visited Disneyland as a child, in 1974. I have since been back for two, one-day visits. (Including a visit where the Rocket Rods were actually operating!) I have been to Walt Disney World many, many times, including a visit just earlier this year. So while I am familiar with, and have emotional ties to, both places, I’d call WDW my Disney “home”, and so visited Disneyland with an eye towards comparing and contrasting the two.

I guess my enthusiasm for the sudden opportunity was high, and I was most excited to experience the intangible—to be able to explore “Walt’s Park” and take in the history of it all. This is, after all, where the dream began so long ago. Walt did not live to see Walt Disney World—but he built this park, walked here, loved it. I was looking forward to taking that all in.

First impression and comparison to share is the environment around the parks. In WDW, there is an exhilarating sense of “crossing the threshold” when you enter Disney property, go under the sign, and are directed to your resort by those familiar purple signs. The approach to Disneyland is not so romantic, as of course, Los Angeles encroaches almost right to the front door. It was an hour and fifteen minutes of bumper to bumper traffic in the morning fog to get to Disneyland for me, and honestly, even about 5 minutes away, it still looks like you’re in a regular semi-shabby Los Angeles industrial suburb. L.A. is really something—of course there are pockets of beauty and tranquility here and there, but the whole experience of travelling to the park is not a pleasant one. My first glimpse of the Matterhorn as I approached the park was a great sight to see.

Once there, the familiar Disney detailed landscaping and architectural marks guided me to a parking spot, and I took a tram to the plaza between Disneyland and DCA. Hey! One-Day Park Hoppers! Now there’s a great idea. And it is oh-so-easy to park hop here—the two parks are only a couple hundred yards apart! No trams or monorails necessary.

First impression on entering the park—wow, the castle is small. Small. Small. Now, of course, it rewards inspection, with its great detailing and amazing Sleeping Beauty walkthrough. It’s charming—and the original—but it makes me realize just how much they “went for it” when creating WDW’s.
Big points for DL’s Main Street U.S.A., though, which retains the “many shops” instead of “Wal Mart with varied facades” that they use in WDW. I really enjoyed visiting the Magic Shop, and the Penny Arcade, remembrances from my youth. Though, in its defense, the WDW mega-store allows you to walk the distance of Main Street on a hot day, in air conditioning, or on a cool night, heated. I’ve done both.

I also noticed that it seems that DL has more ‘street traffic’—the trolley, horse drawn train, and small cars seem to operate more. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe it was just the day for some reason.

I loved the opportunity to visit the firehouse knowing that Walt’s apartment is upstairs, there. I really enjoyed Mr. Lincoln, more intimate than Hall of Presidents, of course, and an original. The new animatronic is pretty cool.

I started my day with a train ride around Disneyland. A great way to start, and to take in the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas that WDW does not have. Another original that is fun to see, and did not disappoint.

General impression of the look and feel of DL as opposed to WDW, is that it is much more “park-like”, more green. It felt more intimate, less wide open spaces, and had a great exploratory feel to it. The pavement dips up and down a lot more than the flatness of WDW. Strange when you think that they just flattened the bridge to Adventureland in WDW, to better accommodate handicaps. I enjoyed this aspect of walking around the park quite a bit. I hope the new FL expansion brings a lot more trees, water and this sort of feel. I loved New Orleans Square, that has an Epcot feel to it. Great detail and atmosphere.

There is a lot of chatter on message boards about the different approach that WDW and DL take towards refurbs and overlays. My thoughts run a bit against the grain, I think. While I was in DL, It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain were all closed. WOW. That’s a triple threat of closures right there. I had fun, but remember I was there on a whim and a chance, so I wasn’t that upset. But had I planned a trip months in advance to bring my whole family there, I would have been unhappy with this. (Side note: I seem to have a Pirates curse—I have been to DL four times—and three of the times I have been there it’s been closed for refurb. Was really looking forward to this one because the ride here is so much more than the one in WDW.)

Let’s talk overlay. The Haunted Mansion, specifically. Hmm. Well, it was curious to see, but I can’t say I’m a fan of messing with the original, one of my favorite rides. So I’ll almost call this another “ride refurb/closure”, because I didn’t get my true Haunted Mansion fix. Not serious, but not a plus in my book. (I am also a bit of a Grinch when it comes to holiday overlays and such. I’ve been to WDW during Christmas season, and honestly—when I go to Disney, I want Disney, and Disney music, not wreaths and Christmas tunes. I get the parties, but wish that during the day the parks were season agnostic. I know I am in the tiny, tiny, tiny minority on that one. Not a complaint, just an observation.)

The most fun of the day was going on classic attractions that WDW does not have. Matterhorn (milder than I remember) Nemo submarines (quite good and an acceptable evolution of the submarine ride, IMHO), Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Wow, you really end up in Hell. Yup. Did not get a chance to do the Storybook boats. I enjoyed ToonTown, waited in the longest line of the day for CarToon Spin, but really liked the Queue and the ride was mild fun. I also did Splash Mountain, Big Thunder, and found them nearly indistinguishable from their WDW counterparts. Cool projection effect on the wall in Big Thunder, though. Maybe WDW’s will get this during the upcoming refurb.

Towards the end of the day, I hopped over to WallLand/DCA. I am really a fan of what they are doing here, I had never been in the park before, but all the new stuff is going to be great. CarsLand is HUGE. Really something to see that, even just in progress. I have never liked the idea of an “exposed” roller coaster in a Disney park, but I have to say that California Screamin’ is a total blast. I did quite a bit in this park because it wasn’t busy. New Little Mermaid ride was completely underwhelming, sadly. I think the exterior and the queue in WDW is the best part of the ride, the fact that it will add water features to a park walkaround, but I don’t really care about going on this attraction again. I hear they may be “plussing” it just a bit for WDW and that will be a good thing. Lots of blank areas with plywood cutout undersea plants, what’s up with that? I rode the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which is a scaled-down, pale imitation of its WDW counterpart. I wonder why they wouldn’t build the same ride? This was shorter and quite disappointing. Monsters, Inc—Mike and Scully to the rescue, very mild, very kiddie. Good for what it was. Similar to the Mermaid ride. Aladdin the Musical was very fun, though the carpet did not fly and Aladdin and Jasmine were invisible for most of the key song, I imagine due to the mishap they suffered there just a few weeks prior.

The biggie here was World of Color, though. WOW. This is some incredible technology on display, and the show had some great moments. This is the thing that puts DCA over the edge for me, near “Illuminations” type entertainment. As I said, the tech and programming are the stars of the show. The drawback is in the show itself. Rather than a unified theme, like “Wishes” or “Illuminations”, this felt like a disconnected series of vignettes. I think the Bug’s Life segment lasted about 15 seconds, just enough for Heimlich to pop in and say one line. Also—more than other shows, I felt like this was more “promotional”. Lots of stuff from the recent Pirates movie, for example. As a show, I enjoyed this part, I like the music, and the added fire elements were thrilling, but I started to feel that I was “being sold to” as opposed to being entertained. When you start to feel like you’re watching a commercial, that’s not good. Work on the flow of the show, please! And less commercials--hey, I'm already there spending my money--I get it! I get it! Point is—the tech is thrilling and the opportunities to do different things are immense. Criticisms notwithstanding, this was a grand highlight and a great reason to visit DCA in and of itself. High marks!

A quick note about CM's. They were uniformly great. Although, I have no problems with the CM's at WDW, either. A lot of people put the DL CM's on a bit of a pedestal, all I can say is, I received the service I have come to expect and enjoy from Disney. I would say that the CM's here seem older and a bit more experienced, not as many college program kids, I think. But no complaints from me on either coast.

Alas, too soon, my day was done. Got a slice of pizza and wandered around their Downtown Disney and drove the late night LA traffic home.

Overall, I had a great time. The park was, as is often said here, in great shape. Beautifully kept and manicured. The big question now is, WDW or Disneyland? Well, interestingly enough, I think my heart is still with WDW. Firstly, although I read about the gripes about WDW maintenance and such, when I’m in the parks there, I honestly don’t see it in the same way that a lot of people on the boards do. Yes, sometimes Brer Rabbit doesn’t hop (but for me mostly he does). Yes, the Yeti doesn’t work. Etc. But the maintenance issues, though I am not denying them—are overwhelmed by the good around them. Point being—they don’t detract significantly from the Magic. I also think, having gone to WDW over the past few years several times, that things are on the upswing. So. Yes, Disneyland sparkles a bit more, but I can’t wave my arms in the air about it that much. What WDW offers is that “world” experience, with the resorts (I’m lookin’ at you Port Orleans and Poly!), the ‘carefree’ bus and monorail transport, the experience of an entire area of the planet that is a magical place. No crazy L.A. around it.

Oh, and Epcot. Probably my favorite park.

It didn’t help that three of the attractions that are thought to be significantly better at DL were closed. Tower of Terror is less than WDW. Haunted Mansion wasn’t Haunted Mansion. These are little things, but then so is a missing rock on a hill in WDW’s BTMRR, and so we pick and choose our fan-battles, don’t we all?

I think a family trip to the DL resort could be in the offing, once CarsLand and the revamped DCA entrance are opened. I think it would be an enjoyable trip. We’d probably mix in some Hollywood, some beach, some driving around L.A. with it, as opposed to the “total immersion” WDW experience that we crave and seek out.

So, hats off to “Walt’s park” and all the little details. I had a great day there. At this point, interestingly—and personally, I’m still going to call WDW my Disney “home”.

Hope you enjoyed my trip report, let the banter begin!
 

Atomicmickey

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
A couple of other notes I didn't mention in my already lengthy report!

Jungle Cruise--points to WDW for the longer cruise with the interior section of the temple. Jokes were the same, of course! And the skipper fired his gun--which I don't think they do anymore in WDW. ( I really liked one cruise we took in WDW where the skipper insisted that the Hippos were afraid of THE STRING that attached his gun to the boat. :lol:)

Indiana Jones--I almost can't believe, even though I know it is true, that Dinosaur is the same ride. The interior decoration and effects are SO much better here, it transforms the ride completely. It shows that with a little work, (turn up the lights a bit in WDW, and get all the effects working!) Dinosaur could be so much better. Love the big room with the big head, shaky bridge, fire effects, wow!
 

Magenta Panther

Well-Known Member
Great report and observations, AtomicMickey. I feel the same way, FWIW. Disneyland is Walt's park, and it's a thrill to walk its streets knowing he walked them too. But at WDW, you do truly escape from the mundane world in a way you can't at Disneyland. Walt, you know, always griped about the cruddy surroundings that sprang up after Disneyland opened, and he worked hard to correct that when he designed WDW, thank goodness.

I've never spent Christmas at Disneyland, so can't comment on the music and decor. I bet it's lovely though.

I hated DCA and am soooooo excited about Buena Vista Street. Everything I've seen and read about it seems to indicate that it will be amazing. It will truly be a tribute to Disney history and Disney magic, the way Disneyland and WDW should be. My next trip to Disneyland will be after the Street has opened. Imagine seeing the Carthay Circle theater and the new Partners statue! I can't wait!
 

Mickey_777

Well-Known Member
I'm with you when it comes to holiday overlays. I really dislike holloween and Christmas decorations covering up the attractions and showing up in all my photos. I just want to see the park in thier intended form.

Did you happen to notice how must faster Splash Mountain is at DL? It felt twice the speed as Splash at WDW and the AA's are pretty ugly since most came over for the America Sings attraction (I thought they looked like they have oversized heads and outdated even though they work just fine). To me it was almost too fast to enjoy and take it all in. And you're right about Indy. It's just a world class attraction.

How did you like Big Thunder Mountain being completely outdoors? That almost kills it for me. I really prefer loading underground and hearing "The wiiiildest ride in the wilderness!"
 

Atomicmickey

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
The new statue is going to be called "Storytellers", and is just fantastic. Here's a pic of the study maquette that is in the Blue Sky Cellar. Can hardly wait to own a bronze collectible of this to put next to my "Partners" statue!

storytellers.jpg
 

wdwmagic

Administrator
Moderator
Very interesting report, one that I share a lot of opinions with. Refreshing to actually read a balanced report comparing the two resorts.
 

nemofinder22

Well-Known Member
Very interesting report, one that I share a lot of opinions with. Refreshing to actually read a balanced report comparing the two resorts.

I agree!

Great trip report! It was a great read, you seemed to get a lot done in one day.

Sucks about Pirates, so close yet so far :) hopefully it will be open on your next visit.
 

Atomicmickey

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Thanks, guys. I'm just honestly trying to parse my feelings on these matters. So much of this is subjective, and in the fan community, these things are so fine-tuned. In the end, it's just personal opinion on things, even in the face of some maintenance issues, etc.

I had a great time at Disneyland. I will again. I can say the same about WDW. I'm just glad there are such places to visit!
 

OklaHoops

Member
WDW vs DL

I love both parks but WDW is so much more than DL. I prefer WDW but enjoy my time at either park. It's just the happiest place on Earth!:sohappy::sohappy::sohappy:
 

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