Confession: I’m a Disney fanatic. I love every and all things Disney. My goal is to visit every Disney location in the World. As of 2014, I’m up to 20 visits to Disney World (most recent details here), and last year, we were lucky enough to visit Disneyland Hong Kong. So naturally, while in California, we made sure to add Anaheim (Disneyland) as a stop.
I’ve heard a lot about Disneyland California from friends. Most say it’s tiny, and that there’s basically no comparison to Disney World – in size, fun, activities, you name it.
I have to say, I totally disagree. While size-wise Disneyland may be smaller, overall there are more rides here than in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
Some say you can do both parks in a day. How? I’m serious, I have no idea where that is coming from! Sure, you can walk into both parks in the same day, it’s very easy because they are so close, but you won’t accomplish much. There’s so much to see and do here!
We only spent one day at each park and it wasn’t enough. We saw and did a lot, but not everything. We felt like we needed two days in at least Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom alone.
The only truth I found to what most say is that the castle is small. Disneyland California’s Sleeping Beauty castle seems even smaller than Disneyland Hong Kong’s.
One of the first things we did was check out Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Here you need to get close for a decent castle picture!
Disneyland California has the same lands as Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, (Main Street, Fantasy, Tomorrow, Adventure, Frontier), and then some. There’s also New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and Toontown. There are a lot of similar rides, but they’re all a little different. Plus, Disneyland California is home to the Matterhorn, which may just be my favorite ride ever.
Disneyland still uses the original Fast Pass system (so no Magic Bands here… yet)! A lot of the rides don’t even offer Fast Pass, because there’s simply no room for an additional line. I loved the traditional Fast Pass, and it all worked out really well for us.
Our first ride of the day was Thunder Mountain, since there was only a 20 minute wait.
Next, we headed to Fantasyland. The lines here, although long, are constantly moving so the wait is actually fairly short. As much as I love the New Fantasyland in Disney World, there’s something very special about Disneyland’s Fantasyland. You’ll find a ton go classic rides like, Pinocchio, Alice In Wonderland (there’s an actual ride for it, not just Teacups!), Snow White’s Scary Adventure (I’m so sad Disney World took this away!), Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the Storybook Land boat ride, etc. Winnie The Pooh is found on the other side of the park by Splash Mountain, and I can’t help but feel it’s where it belongs. It bothers me that Winnie The Pooh is with the princesses and such in Fantasyland. It doesn’t fit. This Fantasyland also has Peter Pan, Dumbo, It’s A Small World, and a lot of the same rides you’ll find at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
Bottom line, I fell in love with Disneyland California’s classic Fantasyland. I actually see why they expanded Disney World’s version, as the old one just wasn’t enough. Here though, it is. It’s perfect.
We took a break from Fantasyland to head back to Space Mountain for a Fast Pass. After that, we explored Tomorrowland. I missed the People Mover. Disney World gets a one-up there.
Next, it was back to Fantasyland. I’m not kidding when I say there are SO MANY RIDES. We caught Anna and Elsa on the way to It’s A Small World. Frozen is all over Disney, and while I enjoy the movie, I’m kind of over it being EVERYWHERE. We’re not big parade people, so it was a great time to go on rides.
We didn’t get on the Matterhorn until nighttime (after the fireworks), because the line was crazy long all day. I don’t know what the ride is like in the light, but in the dark, it’s insanely fun! I LOVE THIS RIDE! Hint for those wanting to avoid the line: Watch the fireworks near the Matterhorn and hop on right after – no wait!
White Rabbit, are you home?
The Haunted Mansion is one of the rides in which the inside is almost identical to its counter part in Disney World. However, as similar as the inside is, the outside could not be more different. It isn’t much of an old creepy mansion here, but a New Orleans Manor. Cool little fact: The elevator in the beginning of the ride is an actual elevator – the ride is underground!
No matter the ride, we always thought, “oh my goodness, there’s no way the wait is only 20 minutes.” However, most of the lines are ONLY outside, so we thought we still had to go through an entire inside wait too. Not the case. The line you see is basically the entire line. You won’t find lines going from room to room, like they do at Disney World, here.
The most exciting ride for us was Splash Mountain. We made it! We typically visit Disney World in January, and every time Splash Mountain is closed for refurbishment. I haven’t been on this ride in YEARS, so I was excited to be visiting a Disney during peak season.
Pirates Of The Caribbean is another ride worth mentioning. Located underneath the Disney Dream Suite, Disneyland California’s Pirates Of The Caribbean is an underground ride, just like the Haunted Mansion. Also, it’s FAR SUPERIOR to Disney World’s version. I’m not ashamed to say this, and I stand by it. The drop is more significant (there are actually two). It’s overall simply better.
We didn’t get to Adventureland under after dark, which is a shame because I prefer Jungle Cruise during the day.
We also didn’t get much done in Adventureland. It was so late, and we ended up taking a break for fireworks. We originally weren’t going to, since we didn’t have much time left before the park closes. We still had a lot to do. But the fireworks went off and I couldn’t help myself. I had to watch. I don’t know how, but we found ourselves in a special roped off area near the castle, with an amazing view.
As I said, we went on the Matterhorn post fireworks, and it was great. My favorite ride. Then, near the exit, we noticed a booth with people who paint your name and incorporate characters into it. It was so gorgeous, and only takes about an hour for them to complete. I had to have it. So we got our last name done with Ariel, Tinkerbell, Sleeping Beauty, Captain Hook, Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, and part of Sleeping Beauty’s castle! It cost under $80, and I LOVE it. A perfect Disneyland 2014 souvenir.
Since we were in Fantasyland (I don’t get Matterhorn’s placement there by the way, but whatever, it’s amazing), we doubled back on some rides we missed earlier in the day.
By now, it was nearing the park’s close. We still had yet to go on most of the rides in Adventureland, or even step foot in Toontown. We LOVE shopping on Main Street, and didn’t have time for that either. We wanted to be sure to at least hit the Indiana Jones ride, so we headed there next.
I have to ask, why is the Indiana Jones ride not in Disney World?! I know they have the show in Hollywood Studios, but this ride. OMG. Amazing!
When we got out the park was closed. Bummer. Two days are needed here for sure.
All in all, I thought we’d visit Disneyland California once and move on. Sort of like how we felt about Disneyland Hong Kong. But we can’t wait to return. I love it just as much as Disney World. There are a lot of similarities between them, but they also each have their own unique aspects that I’ve fallen in love with. Equally.
I see our future Disney trips being a tough decision: Anaheim or Orlando?
Coming up next: Our dining experience at Blue Bayou, and then later, our day at Disney’s California Adventure!