Ah, Disney. What a concept. What an amazing concept. And we have availed ourselves of the Disney concept many times throughout the years. Thanks to the Physicist's conferences, we have gone to Orlando more times than I can count on one hand. We've stayed off the Disney World properties in some of the nicest hotels in Orlando. And we've stayed on property at the beautiful Disney World Yacht Club Resort three times. A dream come true in which we were able to walk onto Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We've been to all the Disney World Theme parks except for the water parks. We're all about the rides, the shows, the food, the magic.
We LOVE Disney World. So when we booked our trip to California for the Teen's graduation from High School trip, we had to book tickets to Disneyland and California Adventure. You can read my initial impressions here.
Our second and third days in the parks were very chaotic and surreal and somewhat like an episode of The Twilight Zone. The parks were super crowded and it was incredibly hard to move around Disneyland. The Teen determined that part of the reason was that the lines for the rides were primarily outdoors rather than in OUR Disney where the majority of the lines are indoors.
Yes, we consider Disney World OUR Disney. We are freaks that way.
We are used to crowds having been to Disney World during Spring Break, but not to the magnitude where we were afraid a stroller might mow us down at any point and where I spent the majority of our travels to and from the rides with my hands pressed close to my thighs in an effort to make myself as small as possible. Despite the crowded feeling, we had a great time running back and forth between the parks which are super close to each other. That was a bonus.
In an effort to make the most of our experience, we chose to spend the majority of our days doing the stuff we can't do in Disney World as well as revisiting some rides that are favorites for the Teen. So first up? TOWER OF TERROR in California Adventure. This Tower is a little different from Hollywood Studios' Tower. There is no drive out and then a drop, make that several drops in darkness and worse. This Tower just drops you a bazillion times. Small children do cry on this ride (and one poor girl did on ours). I rode it once and the rest of the family rode it a second time.
Screamin' Coaster was a win at California Adventure. We rode it twice. So much fun and had an old world Pier feel to it. A definite do-over. We ate in the wine country area--the food was lackluster and mediocre for what we paid, but the wine was necessary :-) We also rode Goofy's Flight School which is very similar to the Dinosaur land Tilt a Whirl ride in Animal Kingdom. A fun ride. We also rode the Grizzly Rapid ride which was one of the best rapid rides we've ridden and far superior to the Animal Kingdom rapid ride which basically has only one drop and you either get drenched or not. After all the running around, we paused to watch the hilarious Aladdin show in the backlot. Well worth the wait and so good.
We left California Adventure at around 7ish to go over to Disneyland to watch FANTASMIC. Another vastly different experience for us. The show is essentially the same, but five minutes shorter due to the missing Pocahontas element. There was no line, but unless you had a blanket and a stroller, you could be Sorry Out of Luck for finding a suitable viewing spot. Unlike the Hollywood Studios version, there is no stadium or benches. You sit on the ground and wait forever for the show to start while praying a stroller doesn't knock you over, or that a vat of drinks isn't spilled on top of your head as people jostle through the throng to get to the blanket they've set up three hours earlier to mark their family's spots for the viewing of the show (I am not joking--people do this). Fortunately, we had great seats, fun neighbors to chat with while waiting for the show to start, and the show was wonderful. But which experience do I prefer? OUR Disney experience wins hands down.
The last day we hopped between Disneyland and California Adventure by starting off at California Adventure and getting FastPasses for the World of Color water show. You can get fast passes for the first show, then visit the parks and continue using the fast passes for the rides. We chose to get the passes for the 9PM show and then headed to Disneyland. We rode Indiana Jones' Adventure ride and LOVED IT. Great ride. So much fun. We got fast passes to ride it a second time that afternoon. We went to the Tiki Room and watched the classic Disney show. A blast from the past as Disney World no longer carries that show. We rode Pinocchio's Adventure, the Storyland Canal boats, watched the parade which was outstanding and indulged in way too big ice creams in waffle bowls. Delicious. We braved the crowds to ride Astro Blaster and Pirates of the Caribbean. We wanted to eat in New Orleans, but I couldn't eat there due to my shellfish allergy so it was sandwiches and cokes at the Liberty Bell. Not a grand meal, but plugged the holes.
We left Disneyland around 7ish and went back to wine country for grown up dessert AKA wine while the Teen went to Ghiradelli and got a decadent sundae for herself. Then we walked to the entrance of the water show and waited for an hour for it to start. Even with Fast Passes, you can't wait until the last minute to see this show. The best viewing spots will be taken up by throngs of people. It's standing room only.
The World of Color show was outstanding. We enjoyed it so much and it was the highlight of the day for us all. If you go to California Adventure I highly recommend that you attend the show. After the show concluded, we were herded out of the park and watched the Disneyland fireworks show as we walked to the main street which lead to our hotel. A mile later and we were back in the Doubletree, exhausted after our two day endurance test at the parks.
My take on the experience is that it is worth it to go, but it didn't feel the same to us as far as giving us a sense of magical elements. We missed the ability to walk on and off the properties with a hotel and pool and amenities close at hand. When we're at OUR Disney World complex, we can go back and forth from the hotel and the parks with relative ease. The food at the restaurants is more varied and from a bigger variety of locales. We really feel like we're escaping the world when we are on the resort properties.
Perhaps if we had stayed on the property at the top dollar prices, we might have felt differently about the magic not being the same, but I am not sure. We felt compelled to stay on the parks all day--from 9:30/10AM until 10PM at night. We paced ourselves and had plenty of rest time, but we missed being able to truly relax for a few hours by the pool before heading back out again. And, to be honest, I thought the food and drinks were overpriced for what you got, particularly once we arrived at Universal City and ate dinner in Wolfgang Puck's Bistro.
But all in all, we had a great time and we'd definitely go again if only to ride on the revamped MATTERHORN which was closed the entire time we were there and then to go to the California Adventures' new land which features CARS.