I have only been to Disneyland once, and only for a few short days. Although, you only need a few days to experience Walt’s Magic Kingdom.
I had prepared myself for the rumored “underwhelming” Sleeping Beauty Castle, but I was not disappointed at all. Sure, it’s not as grand as Cinderella’s, but it is just as beautiful and amazing to look at. Seeing the icicle lights draped on it at night made it even more magical!
We went in December of 2011, just before Carsland opened up. There was a lot of construction throughout California Adventure, so we still don’t have a good feel for what the park looks like. There were giant walls and facades everywhere, with cast members directing traffic for those who weren’t sure where they were going. My husband did get a photo peek of Radiator Springs from California Screamin’. We can’t wait to go back and see it now that it’s been open a few years. Plus, we really want to eat food in a cone. I hear that alone is worth a trip to the west coast.
Visiting at Christmastime was magical. I loved seeing all the holiday decorations all over the place. We can’t hear Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song without thinking about walking down Main Street at Disneyland. We even got to the park super early one day to get the special Disneyland candy canes! Of course, they were too precious to actually eat, so we hang them in our stockings as part of our holiday decor. Unfortunately, one of them suffered the curiosity and excitement of a little baby’s first Christmas this past year. 😦
As far as the attractions go, in my opinion, every attraction that has a duplicate at Disney World, I much preferred the Disneyland version. Of course, we were there during a time when two popular attractions undergo a holiday transformation, so that may have led to my preference for Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World. Just being perfectly honest here, neither my husband nor I had ever seen The Nightmare Before Christmas until this trip. We watched it on the flight over, and we were glad we did.
I was also very impressed at how easy it is to park hop between the two parks. Yes, I counted, and it was exactly 186 hops from the exit gate of Disneyland to the entrance gate at California Adventure. It was also convenient to have the entrance to Downtown Disney nestled right there between the two parks. Everything all in one place, without ever needing to drive or catch a bus, monorail, or boat to get there.
Two other things that did impress me over Disney World were the food options and character interaction. Before we had a child, we wanted to maximize our time in the parks and not waste it dining at a table service restaurant. Quick service options are pretty similar throughout the Disney World parks. Don’t get me wrong, there are some standout options, like Sunshine Seasons, Columbia Harbor House, and Flame Tree Barbecue, but nothing like what they offer in the realm of quick service at Disneyland. Our trip preceded my Disney travel planning career, otherwise I would have more specifics for you here. All I can remember after 3.5 years is that I enjoyed the quick service much more at Disneyland.
I loved how characters were able to roam the park and interact with guests more than they appear to at Disney World. It seems every time a character is on Main Street or Fantasyland, they instantly generate a line in Florida. They are more relaxed and casual about that in California. I don’t know how many times I saw Mary and Bert strolling down Main Street and saying hello to the guests. Of course, you are more likely to have this kind of experience at the Magic Kingdom if you can get to the park at rope drop, but it seemed to happen throughout the day at Disneyland.
In case you didn’t know, today is Disneyland’s 60th anniversary. 60 years ago today, guests were walking down Main Street for the first time. While that may sound like a wonderful memory to have, true Disney fans know what a train wreck of a day that actually was. Many forged tickets allowed unpredicted crowd levels to consume the park on an extremely hot southern California day. Thankfully, Walt Disney used that day as a learning experience to develop ways to accommodate that many guests.
I just wanted to take this special day to share with you some of my memories from our Disneyland trip, as well as some of my husband’s photos. I hope you enjoy!