Running the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge may have been the main reason for my trip to California, but exploring Disneyland for the first time was definitely a large part of why I registered for the race in the first place. After watching dozens of documentaries, reading countless Disney blogs, and becoming a Disney history fanatic; I was finally here. Finally able to see what this other Disney was all about.
Look out, folks. I’m a Disneyland first timer.
Not going to lie. Hunting down the “First Visit” button was on the very top of my list of things to do in Disneyland.
Yep. I’m a Disney nerd, but luckily I’m not the only one. My friend Bobbi fits the bill, too. Bobbi and I go way back. She paced me for my first marathon, we were roomies at Foodbuzz in 2010, and we ran the Chicago Marathon together on 10/10/10. However, I’m not sure where time goes because apparently we haven’t seen each other in almost three years! Whoa. Luckily she has an annual Disneyland pass and when I emailed her to see if she was free to spend the day playing at Disneyland with me, she was 100% in. Whoop! Whoop!
I was fully prepared to spend my time exploring Disneyland by myself, but having a buddy there made it so much more fun. We spent a lot of the day discussing the differences and similarities between “her” Disney and “my” Disney. In a lot of ways, Disneyland and Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World are almost identical. They have similar “lands,” a similar layout, similar rides, and similar eateries. However, there are a lot of things that separate the two. Like the way they scan the tickets when you enter park (Disneyland takes photos instead of finger scanning like WDW) and I couldn’t believe it when I had to have my hand stamped when we exited the park (they stopped stamping hands YEARS ago at WDW, talk about a flashback!). The castle is another big difference (Sleeping Beauty < Cinderella), as well as the short distance between the two parks (Disneyland’s entrance is literally a stone’s throw away from California Adventure Park’s entrance).
Rides also felt out of place, like Star Tours in Tomorrowland. Obviously Star Tours belongs in Hollywood Studios. Obviously.
Oh, and look at the vehicles for Space Mountain.
Side by side? Not back to crotch? Whoa.
Don’t tell the other Space Mountain, but Disneyland’s version really impressed me. I liked the starry beginning when you reach the top and there’s a little more of a thrill factor to the course.
Oh, and ToonTown!
They bulldozed the majority of ToonTown in Magic Kingdom when they began construction on the New Fantasyland and Storybook Circus. I remember going to Mickey and Minnie’s house when I was a kid. Walking through Disneyland’s version of ToonTown was like taking a trip down memory lane.
I was told I had to ride Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean while I was in the park. It’s very similar to Magic Kingdom’s version of the ride (including the additions of Jack Sparrow through the ride), but with a different beginning and ending.
I think the entrance for the Magic Kingdom version of the ride is a little better. It’s dark, highly themed, and the perfect spooky pirate atmosphere. The DL’s entrance is a little slow and drags on, though I did enjoy the extra dip.
Honestly, I think it just comes down to preference on which version you grew up on. The ride itself is the same, it’s just the lead in that varies.
After we rode a few rides at Disneyland, I bought some clip-in Minnie ears for Sunday’s costume. It just so happened that as I was putting the ears in, Minnie walked right by. Surely that was a sign I HAD to get a photo with Minnie!
I told Minnie she was the inspiration for my costume on Sunday. I asked her if she was running, but she said she would be busy cheering the finish line. Understandable, that’s an important job!
We decked out of Disneyland and walked the 10 feet next door to Disney’s California Adventure.
I’ll admit that I made fun of how close the two parks were to each other on more than one occasion, but the truth is it really convenient. I liked not having to waste time on a bus or a monorail, the short walk was super convenient. Actually, all of Disneyland is really convenient. Everything (including the resorts!) are within walking distance of each other.
I pretty much fell in love with Disney California Adventure as soon as I walked in. I knew the park went through a lot of renovations in the last few years and you could really tell all the hard work the folks at Disney put into making the park great. The scenery, the rides, the food, etc. everything was great. Well done!
We headed right to California Screamin’ because who wouldn’t want to ride the roller coaster first?
The ride was awesome! The only problem was I lost a Minnie ear with that first jolt of speed in the beginning. Gah. So, lesson learned, remember to remove all hats (and Minnie ears) when going on California Screamin’!
We walked next door to Toy Story Midway Mania for our next adventure.
I was SO EXCITED about this ride! They recently opened a Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios in Florida, but the FastPasses always sell out early and the line is usually 2 hours long. Not cool. Because of the wait, I hadn’t had a chance to ride it in Hollywood Studios yet.
I was finally able to ride Toy Story Midway Mania at California Adventure. Same ride, just on the other coast. And it was awesome. NOW I see what all the fuss is about. Such a cool 3D interactive ride. It really puts all the other laser type of shooting rides (like Buzz Lightyear) to shame. The video game feel with the pull gun makes a little more sense to me (where the laser rides always feel random).
So much fun!
And I HAD to ride the ferris wheel!
There’s two options: swinging cars that move as the ferris wheel turns and regular cars that stay put. We opted for the regular cars and just enjoyed the views of the parks.
We made one last stop at Ariel (which is the EXACT same ride as the one that just opened in New Fantasyland!)…
Before heading to Cars Land to cash in our fast passes.
p.s. Cars Land is AWESOME. I can’t believe I didn’t snap anymore photos of the land because it really was one of my favorite parts of both parks. If you’re any sort of a fan of the movie, then you will appreciate all of the amazing details that went into recreating Radiator Springs.
Racers is currently THE ride at Cars Land. Fast Passes sell out early and the stand-by wait can get up to 2 hours during peak hours.
And I can definitely see why the ride is so popular. The technology behind the ride reminds me a lot of Test Track at Epcot (similar cars, similar high speed trills), but the story line is sooo much better. Besides the plain thrills of the ride, the animatronics bringing all of your favorite Cars characters to life are flat out amazing. Everything looks so real and authentic. It’s just an awesome ride.
I think our races say it all.
We had to go back to the expo to pick up my race shirts and goody bags, but we returned to DCA for dinner. One of Bobbi’s friends recommended Garden Grill in Paradise Pier as one of his favorite places to eat in the park.
It was a great recommendation. The quick service restaurant had a Mediterranean inspired menu that featured veggies, kabobs, and rice. I ordered the chicken platter with a cucumber vinegar salad. The meal was absolutely delicious. I think our whole table cleared all of our plates.
After dinner it was time to say good-bye to Bobbi. sniff. sniff. It was getting late and I had an early race to get to in the morning.
Don’t worry, I returned the next day to explore some more. I’ll be back with that in another post!
What’s your favorite ride at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure?