Things I wish I would have known / Disappointment in DL

incorrigible

Member
Original Poster
I’m going to start with the list of things I wish I would have known and then provide a little trip report and context for the list. Let me preface this by saying I did not do as much research for this trip as I have for other trips as I’m currently studying for the first step of my professional board exams, so some of my assumptions / expectations are my own fault (I did read most of the guide on here for WDW veterans). However, I think my points are still useful information for the experienced WDWer visiting DL. Some of this may have to do with the timing of our visit as well, so as the good people on these boards comment, I’ll try to update my post as time allows. Here’s my list:

1. The hours of operation at DL and DCA are much more limited than at WDW. Most of the days we visited, the parks did not open until 10am and closed at 8pm.

2. Extra Magic hour (yes, only 1 hour) occurs only in the morning. The park with the extra magic morning hour alternates each day.

3. During EMH at DL, only PART of the park is open. During our time there, it was only Tomorrowland and Fantansyland that were open. Don’t know about DCA.

4. Fireworks and Fantasmic at DL only occur on the weekends (Fri, Sat, Sun). World of Color did happen every night while we were there


My wife and I just got back from a trip to California from NC. I was invited to a conference in San Diego and there was NO way I could go all the way to Ca without seeing DL, so we set aside 3 days to visit the Land (5/12-5/14/15). We stayed at the Best Western Stovall’s Inn. Don’t think we could’ve been happier with that selection.

I’ll start with the positives from our trip. BTMRR was probably the highlight for me. I had never seen all the fuses along the walls going as well some other minor effects and that was a very welcome surprise. We also got to see the Hatbox Ghost in the HM. We were also pleasantly surprised by the IASW ride at DL and its differences from WDW. Toontown was reminiscent of my trip to WDW when I was young and I think it fits so well thematically; plus my wife had never seen it, so that was nice. Food-wise, Steakhouse 55 was the highlight of our Disney time…it was truly fantastic!

Now for the negatives. The items I listed above highlight some of them. Obviously, more research would have allowed for more reasonable expectations, but I’m not sure I would have even have thought to look into some of those things. The extra magic hour and only PART of the park being open was one of the more irritating. Luckily, we used it our first day when it was at 8am. It seems like there was a real difference in crowds between 8am and 9am.

The most irritating was probably the WoC fastpass fiasco . We saw a massive line at 7:30 our first night, so we figured we’d get there early when we were going to see it. We got our fastpass in the morning, given this would be our only time to see it for the next decade or so, we thought we’d get there early so we could have a good spot in line. We got into the general area around 6pm. At around 6:30-7p, a lot of cast members were out, so we knew they’d be setting up the ropes soon. We asked several CMs where the entrance to our section would be. They either said they didn’t know or told us “right around here;” no one would give us a specific answer which was probably the most frustrating part. Well, it turned out there was a specific spot that a lot of people apparently knew about. After getting shoved and pushed around a bit, we ended up 100-150 people back in the corral. While we ended up with an acceptable spot I suppose, that whole process really put a damper on the experience. I just don’t get why they even have the Fastpass when it ends up being pushing and shoving into a corral.

Tied for most irritating was the lack of fireworks, Fantasmic, or even a parade during the week at DL. Maybe this was due to the timing with the diamond celebration stuff coming up, but it was REALLY disappointing.

We also had some other much more minor observations / opinions that didn’t meet our expectations. I was kind of disappointed by POTC. With the way I’ve seen it talked about on the boards here, I was expecting some really amazing differences. The extras seemed to be a bit of a ride through the bayou around the restaurant area and then a few still scenes. Those definitely make the ride better, but the queue lacked any real theming like the WDW one. I think this disappointment was more a matter of expectations than anything.

We were also surprised by Splash Mountain. I know the WDW has a pretty clear story (because I’ve been on it quite a bit), but the DL one didn’t seem to have the same story (I only got to ride it once so maybe I missed something). It was different; not necessarily bad though. The disappointment came with the big drop; it seemed a bit shorter than the WDW one. Anyone know if it is, in fact, shorter?

There was also a very different feel to DL. It felt much more like going to a Six Flags or something of that sort. Maybe it was because of the walk from reality into the parks and that we usually stay onsite at WDW; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just didn’t feel the same. I think seeing CMs walking into work and between sections of the park may have contributed. I’ve read about how Walt noticed that way back when, but would’ve thought they would have figured out a better way by now. I also think the CMs didn’t fully embrace the “onstage” idea as they do in WDW. As an example, we were waiting at the rope to get into Frontierland and some of the other people waiting were talking to the CM. Based upon their questioning, he was talking about how he was going to Indiana Jones to work after the rope drop and even showed us the little slip of paper with his assignment that he got when he clocked in. While it was interesting and I enjoyed the little glimpse “behind the scenes,” it also felt kind of wrong too (not sure how else to describe it).

Overall, we did not feel DL was as tourist / once-in-a-lifetime-trip friendly as WDW. I realize the majority of visitors are locals, but there should be some accommodation (like maybe fireworks / Fantasmic 1-2x during the week). While I’m glad that we went to see it for ourselves (I don’t think I would have believed anyone if they told me this), we don’t have any plans / desire to go back and I would discourage anyone from going to California just for Disney. I look forward to hearing about how common our experience was versus other times of the year, etc. Thanks.
 

GiveMeTheMusic

Well-Known Member
You definitely came at a bad time because of the 60th ramp up. The new fireworks and light parade will run nightly for the remainder of the celebration (around 18 months). Fantasmic has always been weekends only during the off season, and typically the day parade is shown every day. You came at a very weird time for that, which sucks.

The hours of the parks reflect the off season as well. Typically I would recommend anyone coming for three days in the off season make sure their trip includes one weekend day so you get the long hours and all entertainment.

But just a week later, the parks are now open 8am - 12am daily. Your timing was really poor, and although that may not be your fault, it's something to consider for anyone planning a trip.

EMH at either park gives you access to the most popular attractions before anyone else - Space in DL, RSR in DCA. It'd be nice if the whole park was open, but so few people use that benefit that I can't imagine them being able justify the operating expense. It's not like WDW where there are dozens of Disney hotels.
 

TP2000

Well-Known Member
What an interesting TR @incorrigible , thanks for sharing! :)

Let me preface this by saying I did not do as much research for this trip as I have for other trips as I’m currently studying for the first step of my professional board exams, so some of my assumptions / expectations are my own fault (I did read most of the guide on here for WDW veterans).

I'm afraid that's the key to your disappointment right there. You went to Disneyland expecting Disney World, and that's not what you got. Anaheim runs most similarly to the Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong operations. And it looks like Shanghai will be set up the same way, too. None of those other Disney properties runs much like Disney World. Anyone going to any of the Disney resorts around the world who expects it to operate like Disney World is setting themselves up for vacation failure.

Did you stop by either park's main Guest Relations office, or any of the ten (10!) Guest Relations kiosks staffed at all times in either park? Those Guest Relations folks at their kiosks are a wealth of knowledge and can help first-time visitors or seasoned veterans alike with tips, info, planning strategy, reservations, etc., etc. Did you speak with anyone at the various info kiosks to ask for strategy, help or suggestions?
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1. The hours of operation at DL and DCA are much more limited than at WDW. Most of the days we visited, the parks did not open until 10am and closed at 8pm.

4. Fireworks and Fantasmic at DL only occur on the weekends (Fri, Sat, Sun). World of Color did happen every night while we were there.

That's pretty standard for the off season, not sure what you were expecting?

The lack of weekday fireworks is more related to the slight tilt in axis our planet revolves on, and this time of year it's not dark enough for night shows until well after 8:00pm. They delay World of Color after 8:00 to get more darkness. Next month the first Paint The Night parade each night will begin in dusky twilight, not darkness. Anaheim is roughly on the same latitude as Columbia, South Carolina, further north than Orlando. In November and December when it gets dark in Anaheim at 6PM or earlier, Disneyland does the Christmas fireworks seven nights per week for two months straight. Credit there also goes to our planet's axis.

We were also surprised by Splash Mountain. I know the WDW has a pretty clear story (because I’ve been on it quite a bit), but the DL one didn’t seem to have the same story (I only got to ride it once so maybe I missed something). It was different; not necessarily bad though. The disappointment came with the big drop; it seemed a bit shorter than the WDW one. Anyone know if it is, in fact, shorter?

Drops are identical length and angle. I think the smaller Disneyland logs make it seem faster/shorter, as you sit lower. I'd been on Splash Mountain many times at Disneyland since 1989 when I went on WDW's for the first time in 1994. Until that point I had no idea there was actually a plotline for Splash Mountain. Who knew?! o_O The later Tokyo version tidies up the plot even more, and quite clearly lays out a storyline arc and its resolution, and also uses better set staging. Tokyo has the best Splash Mountain by far.

Overall, we did not feel DL was as tourist / once-in-a-lifetime-trip friendly as WDW. I realize the majority of visitors are locals, but there should be some accommodation (like maybe fireworks / Fantasmic 1-2x during the week).

The whole "majority locals" thing can be true on off-peak Sundays when the local AP's flood in, but when you were there on a May weekday the majority of visitors there with you were tourists. There's 20,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of Disneyland for a reason, after all.

While I’m glad that we went to see it for ourselves (I don’t think I would have believed anyone if they told me this), we don’t have any plans / desire to go back and I would discourage anyone from going to California just for Disney. I look forward to hearing about how common our experience was versus other times of the year, etc. Thanks.

Let's remember you did no real planning here, arrived with an Orlando frame of reference, and only went to Anaheim to see Disneyland. And it was the week before all the big 60th stuff started. Most tourists plan up the wazoo, and understand what they are purchasing beforehand. In this Internet Age, there's really no excuse for not knowing when Disneyland closes. Unfortunately, you couldn't have picked a worse time to visit, although through no fault of your own. I totally get that.

I lived in the Carolinas for several years and am familiar with that region. Southern California is very different culturally, climatologically, topographically and demographically, and is one of the world's largest and most vibrant cities. I would hope no one would plan a visit to SoCal just to go to a theme park. Disneyland is but one jewel in the glittering crown of man-made and natural wonders in this famous corner of the globe, and it should be treated as such.
 

flynnibus

Premium Member
Most of what you said simply had to do with the dates you visited.

Dl called their program magic mornings for a long time - it is not the same program as emh (which not everything is open for either...)

Yes dl is different in that you don't have that seclusion or buffer around it wdw used to be known for... But you forget that quickly once inside dl
 

Travel Junkie

Well-Known Member
I’m going to start with the list of things I wish I would have known and then provide a little trip report and context for the list. Let me preface this by saying I did not do as much research for this trip as I have for other trips as I’m currently studying for the first step of my professional board exams, so some of my assumptions / expectations are my own fault (I did read most of the guide on here for WDW veterans). However, I think my points are still useful information for the experienced WDWer visiting DL. Some of this may have to do with the timing of our visit as well, so as the good people on these boards comment, I’ll try to update my post as time allows. Here’s my list:

1. The hours of operation at DL and DCA are much more limited than at WDW. Most of the days we visited, the parks did not open until 10am and closed at 8pm.

2. Extra Magic hour (yes, only 1 hour) occurs only in the morning. The park with the extra magic morning hour alternates each day.

3. During EMH at DL, only PART of the park is open. During our time there, it was only Tomorrowland and Fantansyland that were open. Don’t know about DCA.

4. Fireworks and Fantasmic at DL only occur on the weekends (Fri, Sat, Sun). World of Color did happen every night while we were there


My wife and I just got back from a trip to California from NC. I was invited to a conference in San Diego and there was NO way I could go all the way to Ca without seeing DL, so we set aside 3 days to visit the Land (5/12-5/14/15). We stayed at the Best Western Stovall’s Inn. Don’t think we could’ve been happier with that selection.

I’ll start with the positives from our trip. BTMRR was probably the highlight for me. I had never seen all the fuses along the walls going as well some other minor effects and that was a very welcome surprise. We also got to see the Hatbox Ghost in the HM. We were also pleasantly surprised by the IASW ride at DL and its differences from WDW. Toontown was reminiscent of my trip to WDW when I was young and I think it fits so well thematically; plus my wife had never seen it, so that was nice. Food-wise, Steakhouse 55 was the highlight of our Disney time…it was truly fantastic!

Now for the negatives. The items I listed above highlight some of them. Obviously, more research would have allowed for more reasonable expectations, but I’m not sure I would have even have thought to look into some of those things. The extra magic hour and only PART of the park being open was one of the more irritating. Luckily, we used it our first day when it was at 8am. It seems like there was a real difference in crowds between 8am and 9am.

The most irritating was probably the WoC fastpass fiasco . We saw a massive line at 7:30 our first night, so we figured we’d get there early when we were going to see it. We got our fastpass in the morning, given this would be our only time to see it for the next decade or so, we thought we’d get there early so we could have a good spot in line. We got into the general area around 6pm. At around 6:30-7p, a lot of cast members were out, so we knew they’d be setting up the ropes soon. We asked several CMs where the entrance to our section would be. They either said they didn’t know or told us “right around here;” no one would give us a specific answer which was probably the most frustrating part. Well, it turned out there was a specific spot that a lot of people apparently knew about. After getting shoved and pushed around a bit, we ended up 100-150 people back in the corral. While we ended up with an acceptable spot I suppose, that whole process really put a damper on the experience. I just don’t get why they even have the Fastpass when it ends up being pushing and shoving into a corral.

Tied for most irritating was the lack of fireworks, Fantasmic, or even a parade during the week at DL. Maybe this was due to the timing with the diamond celebration stuff coming up, but it was REALLY disappointing.

We also had some other much more minor observations / opinions that didn’t meet our expectations. I was kind of disappointed by POTC. With the way I’ve seen it talked about on the boards here, I was expecting some really amazing differences. The extras seemed to be a bit of a ride through the bayou around the restaurant area and then a few still scenes. Those definitely make the ride better, but the queue lacked any real theming like the WDW one. I think this disappointment was more a matter of expectations than anything.

We were also surprised by Splash Mountain. I know the WDW has a pretty clear story (because I’ve been on it quite a bit), but the DL one didn’t seem to have the same story (I only got to ride it once so maybe I missed something). It was different; not necessarily bad though. The disappointment came with the big drop; it seemed a bit shorter than the WDW one. Anyone know if it is, in fact, shorter?

There was also a very different feel to DL. It felt much more like going to a Six Flags or something of that sort. Maybe it was because of the walk from reality into the parks and that we usually stay onsite at WDW; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just didn’t feel the same. I think seeing CMs walking into work and between sections of the park may have contributed. I’ve read about how Walt noticed that way back when, but would’ve thought they would have figured out a better way by now. I also think the CMs didn’t fully embrace the “onstage” idea as they do in WDW. As an example, we were waiting at the rope to get into Frontierland and some of the other people waiting were talking to the CM. Based upon their questioning, he was talking about how he was going to Indiana Jones to work after the rope drop and even showed us the little slip of paper with his assignment that he got when he clocked in. While it was interesting and I enjoyed the little glimpse “behind the scenes,” it also felt kind of wrong too (not sure how else to describe it).

Overall, we did not feel DL was as tourist / once-in-a-lifetime-trip friendly as WDW. I realize the majority of visitors are locals, but there should be some accommodation (like maybe fireworks / Fantasmic 1-2x during the week). While I’m glad that we went to see it for ourselves (I don’t think I would have believed anyone if they told me this), we don’t have any plans / desire to go back and I would discourage anyone from going to California just for Disney. I look forward to hearing about how common our experience was versus other times of the year, etc. Thanks.


The biggest takeaway I get from your observations was that you were in many ways disappointed it wasn’t WDW and that is setting yourself up for disappointment. Everything you listed as a negative was something you noted was different than WDW. DLR is not WDW nor should it try to be. The two domestic resorts are siblings but not identical twins. It’s easy to compare and contrast and we all fall into it, but I imagine you would have had a much different opinion of your trip if you were not constantly comparing the two. Disneyland operates like a regional theme park and so things like Fireworks only run on weekends during off season. They do make up for it though as their nighttime spectaculars are more numerous and are more expensive operationally than WDW, which needs to run the same schedule every night.

I think the biggest example of not giving DLR a fair shake is the Six Flags comment. Since there is no buffer like at WDW you appeared to dismiss what DLR offers inside the berm. In fact, Disneyland is much more detailed and layered than any park in WDW.

I’m not trying to beat you up, but based on your comments, it seems as though you would have had a better time if it was treated it as a new park that looks somewhat familiar instead of lamenting all the reasons it wasn’t WDW.
 

harveyt0206

Well-Known Member
I am a life long Walt Disney World-er....my first trip was when I was 3 in 1975. (Go ahead...do the math...I'm "old", I know ). We took our first Disneyland trip last year in January 2014. It definitely was a culture shock for this lifelong Walt Disney world traveler. But I have to say,after just a couple of days we were madly in love with both of those parks. What they lack in size they absolutely make up for in beauty and experience. We actually just booked our second Disneyland trip for this coming December 2015. I am so excited to see some of the 60th anniversary offerings and I am hoping that the new parade and fireworks will be running when we are there. I know Christmas is a little bit of a challenge because they have a special Christmas parade and fireworks show that they show that time of the year. But I really would love to see the new firework show. It looks absolutely amazing.

My point is this, give yourself some time to really look back and think about your experience. I honestly believe that when you start stacking up the pros, those few cons that you listed above will fall by the wayside. How can you not fall in love with something like the Indiana Jones ride or the exterior of It's a Small World? My point is this, give yourself some time to really look back and think about your experience. I always say that you don't know what you don't know until you know it. So now that you have an idea of how Disneyland works the next time you get to visit there you will have a different perspective and you will approach your trip in a completely different manner. Don't give up on the experience yet. World of color is always a little bit challenging in my opinion because you have people who will wait till the last minute to find their spot and shoehorn themselves in wherever they can. That is no different than what we experience at Disney World for the nighttime parades and fireworks. No matter how long you camp out in a spot someone, is going to come and stand in front of of you.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And good luck with your Boards.
 

GiveMeTheMusic

Well-Known Member
I am a life long Walt Disney World-er....my first trip was when I was 3 in 1975. (Go ahead...do the math...I'm "old", I know ). We took our first Disneyland trip last year in January 2014. It definitely was a culture shock for this lifelong Walt Disney world traveler. But I have to say,after just a couple of days we were madly in love with both of those parks. What they lack in size they absolutely make up for in beauty and experience. We actually just booked our second Disneyland trip for this coming December 2015. I am so excited to see some of the 60th anniversary offerings and I am hoping that the new parade and fireworks will be running when we are there. I know Christmas is a little bit of a challenge because they have a special Christmas parade and fireworks show that they show that time of the year. But I really would love to see the new firework show. It looks absolutely amazing.

My point is this, give yourself some time to really look back and think about your experience. I honestly believe that when you start stacking up the pros, those few cons that you listed above will fall by the wayside. How can you not fall in love with something like the Indiana Jones ride or the exterior of It's a Small World? My point is this, give yourself some time to really look back and think about your experience. I always say that you don't know what you don't know until you know it. So now that you have an idea of how Disneyland works the next time you get to visit there you will have a different perspective and you will approach your trip in a completely different manner. Don't give up on the experience yet. World of color is always a little bit challenging in my opinion because you have people who will wait till the last minute to find their spot and shoehorn themselves in wherever they can. That is no different than what we experience at Disney World for the nighttime parades and fireworks. No matter how long you camp out in a spot someone, is going to come and stand in front of of you.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And good luck with your Boards.


The Christmas fireworks show will take a break this year because of the 60th, so you should be able to see the new show during your trip.
 

catmom46

Well-Known Member
I definitely agree that the CMs at DL are very different from the ones at WDW. I always felt like the DL CMs were just doing their jobs, while the WDW CMs were actually immersed in their roles.
 

ajrwdwgirl

Premium Member
We did a five day trip to DL last year. Didn't do anything else. Had a blast.

They first time I went to California it was for 4 days with the sole purpose of going to DL, just like there are a lot of people that travel to Orlando/Florida and only go to WDW. We had a blast too! But each time we got back we add more time to see more of California.

As for the early entry, even WDW doesn't open all of the Magic Kingdom on EMH mornings. It is usually only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (and of course Main Street) that are open. So not much change there in comparing it to DL.
 

cheezbat

Well-Known Member
Your timing was all wrong. I knew about the decreased hours before I went last week, but didnt know about the lack of Fantasmic the parade or night fireworks. That upset me, but life goes on. I've visited at many different times of the year over the past decade, and if it wasn't for the big 60th, park hours might have been different and there would have been more rides open and stuff. DL definitely isn't WDW, and honestly, I think that's a good thing for the most part.

You literally chose one of the worst times to visit.
 

belle717

New Member
I definitely agree that the CMs at DL are very different from the ones at WDW. I always felt like the DL CMs were just doing their jobs, while the WDW CMs were actually immersed in their roles.

I'd say the exact opposite, when I was in WDW for 3 days, I came across way more grumps than I ever have in years of going to DL. From what I know of DL CM's, including friends who worked there as their summer jobs, they work there because they love Disneyland. I've also heard that WDW CM's are there because there are few employers otherwise. But these are all personal experiences. With that many people working for Disney parks, there are bound to be great CM's and bad apples, though.
 

catmom46

Well-Known Member
I'd say the exact opposite, when I was in WDW for 3 days, I came across way more grumps than I ever have in years of going to DL. From what I know of DL CM's, including friends who worked there as their summer jobs, they work there because they love Disneyland. I've also heard that WDW CM's are there because there are few employers otherwise. But these are all personal experiences. With that many people working for Disney parks, there are bound to be great CM's and bad apples, though.

I've also visited DL over many years, as a baby to an adult, and while I wouldn't say the CMs there are necessarily grumps, they also don't always seem to embody the "magic". Sure, they can be courteous and professional, but more often than not, their demeanor doesn't make me feel like I've been transported to a different world.

I've been to WDW several times now and overall my experiences with CMs are so much better than at DL, mainly because most of them just seem happier to be part of the "magic". But like you said, there are always bad apples in the bunch wherever you go.
 

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