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My First Visit to Disneyland!

by Meghann on September 2, 2013

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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!


Hi Bobbi!

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.

Cars Land.jpg

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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?

1 Jen September 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I’m glad you had such a great time at “my” Disney park! I’ll be making my first visit to WDW in January. It’ll be interesting to compare. I agree with you on the Cars ride. It really is one of the best.
Jen recently posted..Disneyland Half Marathon Race Recap

2 Sheena September 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm

I love love love Disneyland! When I lived in San Diego, we had season passes and I’m guilty of calling sick once or twice to go in on a Tuesday or Wednesday ๐Ÿ™‚

3 Katie September 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Wow! You really got around with tons of walking, nice job!!
Katie recently posted..Looking Back: Moving Back

4 Sara @ LovingOnTheRun September 2, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Looks like you all had a great time! I have never been do Disneyland either, but it is on my list of things to do for sure!
Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted..Weekly Training Recap: 8/26 โ€“ 9/1

5 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs September 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

So jealous of your trip! Looks like you had an amazing time! ๐Ÿ™‚
Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs recently posted..A Long Weekend in Instagram Photos

6 Ja @Ja on the RUN September 2, 2013 at 9:24 pm

It’s nice that you shared the differences and similarities of the 2 Disneys. I love California Adventure!!! ๐Ÿ™‚
Ja @Ja on the RUN recently posted..Coast-to-Coast Trip Part 2: Los Angeles, CA

7 Kristen @ glitteranddust September 2, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Sitting in the driver’s seat of the Indiana Jones ride is pretty hard to beat. I also love Space Mountain. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in California Disney is my favorite – what a rush!

Glad you had a great time. I have been to Disneyland a number of times (being on the west coast), but have yet to make it to Disney World. Bucket List!!!
Kristen @ glitteranddust recently posted..Fantasy Football 2013

8 Jill C. September 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I haven’t been to Disney World since I was 12, but my favorite ride then was the Rock n’ Roll Rollercoaster. I also loved Space Mountain. Oooh, and there was this fun alien ride/experience thing that I loved; an alien escaped and we had to endure it breathing on us, and spitting. I don’t know how to better explain it since it’s been over 14 years since I’ve been, but it was seriously fun.
Jill C. recently posted..Poop Rant!

9 katie September 3, 2013 at 2:30 am


10 Emily K. @ Leaf Parade September 3, 2013 at 10:42 am

Looks like you had so much fun! I haven’t been to Disney since I was a little kid, and since then I haven’t felt particularly eager to go (theme parks and big crowds of small children can sometimes stress me out!) I thought about doing the WDW Princess Half next year. I thought it looked really fun, but I ultimately wasn’t sure if I would really enjoy a trip to Disney. But! You have me feeling pretty excited about doing a Disney race in the future! I think I may explore this further — thanks!
-Emily K.
Emily K. @ Leaf Parade recently posted..Paleo Almond Joy Brownies.

11 Melissa @TryingtoHeal September 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

I wish I had been closer so I could have joined you ladies! I miss you both! I’m glad you had a good time at Disneyland though; I certainly miss it! I hope that means you’re going to come back so we can hang out there in the future ๐Ÿ™‚
Melissa @TryingtoHeal recently posted..All These Adjustments

12 Lulu September 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

looks like fun!

13 Elizabeth @ Positive Change September 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm

What a great time! Next year my husband and I are hopefully running the coast to coast challenge!! Can’t wait to visit!
Elizabeth @ Positive Change recently posted..Hello Blog World!

14 Ashley September 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I was ALWAYS a DisneyWorld girl growing up, but this post may have me converted!

15 Kashi @ Cape Island Runners September 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Very cool recap! I grew up with WDW, very fun to see what DL looks like. Looking forward to the next installment!
Kashi @ Cape Island Runners recently posted..The Back-Up Plan

16 Anna B. September 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Hi Meghann! This is my first time visiting your blog. I was initially here to check out some healthy recipes, but then I came across your post about your adventures in Disneyland and found myself reading this instead out of curiosity. It was mainly because me and my family were just recently talking about a trip we’re planning to go next summer which is Walt Disney World in Florida for the VERY first time! I’m excited about it, but this post made me a lot more so! lol It was fun reading this, and I look forward to your next post ๐Ÿ™‚
Anna B. recently posted..Saffron Extract Weight Loss Video Review

17 Mary @foodandfunontherun September 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Love the recap! Looks like you had so much fun over there! I am thinking we may need to make a Disney World trip in the near future!

18 Beth September 3, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I’m not a Disney person but you make this look like a lot of fun. Carsland is super cute. ๐Ÿ™‚
Beth recently posted..August Recap/Stats (Shameless Format Theft)

19 Caitlin September 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm

i’ve been to disneyland several times but not since i was 5 or 6 (i used to live in california). i was from FL and kept accidentally calling it disney world, ha. i think it’s funny that they just changed the cali park’s name to land instead of world. if they open another one i wonder what it’d be called…disney-territory?
your short hair is looking cute as ever! that Mediterranean food is pretty nice for a theme park!
Caitlin recently posted..New Haven: A Labor Day Tradition

20 Rebecca@Running.Food.Baby. September 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I’ve been to both DL and WDW – I do say that I prefer WDW. It was really weird to go to DL after being to WDW so many times – they are really similar. We went on Boxing Day (HAHAHA) a few years ago and because the parks were so busy, they gave us the option to go to California Adventure first and not go into DL until 3pm – for the same price. We took them up on that offer. I really really liked California Adventure and was glad to have had the opportunity to go. After 3 we went to the regular ol’ DL and got on most of the rides. We did not get to ride Space Mountain, but we went on Materhorn twice.

One thing that I have learned to do is go into the Single Rider line, even when I go with my husband. We went on that Indiana Jones ride and asked if they were accepting single riders – they were! Bonus! So my husband and I go through, by-passing the whole line. We thought we were VIP’s or something the way we were walking though the line. We get to the single rider staging part and boom on a ride immediately. Hilarious part – we ended up on the same car! We have done this so many times. Between fast passes and single rider lines, I manage to get on most of the big rides.

Although I think I shouldn’t tell people my secrets……shh
Rebecca@Running.Food.Baby. recently posted..Last day of Summer

21 Becky September 3, 2013 at 9:20 pm

So weird that you were on my side of the country (I’m from Phoenix)! Did you notice any Arizona State, bright gold/maroon pitchforks, or University of Arizona, dark blue/red bearcat, shirts? Arizona residents tend to pack out Disneyland, we really only know how to vacation in California or Vegas because they’re within driving distance!

22 Chelle September 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Why is it so funny that the parks are close together?

23 Meghann September 3, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Because the parks at WDW are no where near each other. They’re all a bus or a monorail ride away!

24 Megan Dyan September 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I asked this on one of your Disney Sports complex posts…but please! I would love to know what Disney blogs you read. Please share!!
Megan Dyan recently posted..Pumpkin Spice Cookies

25 Meghann September 3, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I read Disney Parks Blog Disney Food Blog Disney Everyday Running at Disney Heather’s Looking GLass and I’m sure a ton more I’m thinking of at the moment ๐Ÿ™‚

26 Lauren September 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Great recap! I’ve been to WDW a bunch of times but never DisneyLand. It was cool to see the comparison!

27 Jessica September 3, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I don’t know why I always thought Disneyland wasn’t as nice but it almost looks… dare I say.. better?
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28 Joelle (on a pink typewriter) September 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

I haven’t been to Disney Land in ages! I want to do one of the Disney races– they seem so fun! Ps. Next time you’re in SoCal, you should come down to San Diego!
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29 Heathers Looking Glass September 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

So glad you got to do so many rides and it was great to see you again! GLad we got to run part of the 10k together!

30 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats September 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

This whole post has me smiling. I need to make a Disney visit ASAP!

31 Michelle @ Running More Than Errands September 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm

So glad you enjoyed Disneyland! I haven’t been there yet buy LOVE Disneyworld! I’ve heard awesome things about the Princess Half and hope to one day run that. I’m a new runner so I have to work up to it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love your blog!
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