Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure

Updated 9-19-2008

Disneyland is often thought of as the standard for all theme parks to aspire as it has played host to millions of guests including heads of state and celebrities since it opened in 1956. Over the years the park has changed with the times, but the same charm that captivated you as a child still remains in the present.

One of the nicest features to Disneyland is the Fast Pass system designed to reduce wait times for the more popular attractions. Here is how it works, instead of waiting 35 minutes in line for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, I inserted my park ticket into a nearby Fast Pass machine and was given a boarding time for the ride roughly 45 minutes later. During this time, I was able to get on Splash Mountain and The Haunted Mansion before returning to a special Fast Pass line that by-passed the main ride for Indy and had me loaded in a couple of minutes. By using the Fast Pass I was able to ride three rides in the time that it would have taken to ride one.

I was also able to use Fast Pass on such rides as Star Tours, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Autopia, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain. While I would have liked to have had The Matterhorn included as a ride option, it is still a great system that will help guests especially those with children better manage their day at the park.

One of the amazing things about the park is the incredible detail that is paid to the sets in the rides as well as the costuming and lighting. Despite the age of some of the rides, they still are as vibrant and lively as they were when I first saw them many years ago. The Haunted Mansion has had a nice makeover as new projectors have been installed making the ghostly residence seem to come alive. I was fortunate to get on Splash Mountain as it had been scheduled for maintenance the week I arrived, but it was postponed for a week later allowing me to get in several rides during my stay. The big drop at the end of the ride never gets old and the opportunity to get a picture of your expression at the rides end always makes for fun as you can see your expression on the big display monitors.
The new Finding Nemo Submarine adventure is still the busiest ride in the park,. I took the Monorail to Tomorrowland and arrived in line ten minutes after the park opened. To my surprise the wait was already 40 minutes for this attraction. I waited in line and enjoyed the ride. Mixing computer imagery and mechanical props, riders take an underwater tour of Nemo’s world and see all manner of favorites from the popular film “Finding Nemo”. While the submarine is a bit cramped for those over 6ft like myself, it was a very enjoyable ride. Since the lines even at closing time push over an hour, my advice is to make this your first stop of the day and be prepared to wait.

During our trip we also had the chance to visit the updated Pirates of the Caribbean ride to see the changes that were made to enable the ride to integrate better with the film series.

I am happy to say that the changes while very nice do not hinder the enjoyment of the ride from those who grew up loving the original version. A clever screen of mist was added with the image of Davy Jones as well as the clever inclusion of Captain Jack Sparrow to two classic scenes as well as all new dialogue and a new final scene that fits the ride perfectly.

Guests with younger children will want to take part in the Jedi Academy where they can don Jedi Robes and get hands on light saber and Jedi training under the leadership of Jedi Masters as they prepare to face Darth Vader and the legions of the Dark Side of the Force.

During our trip we spent some time in the Downtown Disney area between the two parks enjoying the vast number of shops and dining options. Aside from a very large Disney store that features souvenirs that will offer something for everyone, there are also numerous dining and shopping options. The inclusion of a 20 screen movie theater is also a nice plus as after a day at California Adventure we were able to unwind over a movie and dinner before returning to our hotel. The close proximity of restaurants, shops, and a theater so close to the main gates to the parks is a huge benefit to people who are tired after a long day at the park and desire creature comforts and convenience.

One such benefit Disney offers is the Disney Vacation Club that offers deeded timeshares for purchase which allows guests to not only have top accommodations at all of the Disney Parks, but enjoy cruises and resorts the world over including the Disney Cruise Line.

This was our first trip using the Vacation Club and aside from a nice room at the Paradise Pier we were given many gifts and perks from the Disney staff including V.I.P. tickets, line passes, and special seating for the parades and fireworks. I also was able to great discounts on my food and gift purchases all over the parks, hotels, and Downtown Disney.

I really enjoyed my time at Disney’s California Adventure as I rode Grizzly Rapids a few times, and got to experience the ride in the dark. I had never ridden the attraction at night, but must admit that riding a roaring rapids style ride in the dark was an amazing experience that I look forward to repeating on our next trip.

The very enjoyable Soarin Over California and California Screamin were as always very enjoyable as was the Tower of Terror and the numerous exhibits. (Note that there are many rides at California Adventure that are suited very well for the younger guests). During our visit, I was able to experience the newest attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania. With a wait of nearly an hour and a half, I was resigned to spend the better part of the night in line. Thankfully, I was able to use the single rider line which allowed me to fill in to cars that hand empty seats and lowered my wait time to twenty minutes. The ride is an amazing experience as riders don 3D glasses as they compete against each other in a 3D Toy Story Themed Shooting gallery. Players fire at moving targets in a series of environments that change as the ride goes along. Players stop at a segment and fire at targets using a cannon that can be raised and lowered and is fired by pulling a rope. The faster you pull the rope, the faster you fire, which makes for some frantic interactions. Since the targets change, I was told that no two rides are the same as players are given random environments to shoot at during each ride. The targets are amazing and come at you in spectacular 3D. Each has a clearly listed point value and I was amazed that when popping a balloon earned me a spritz with water, and shooting a rocket earned me a rush of air when I hit the target. As the ride unfolds, players can track their accuracy and score thanks to a screen in the display of the cab. At the conclusion of the ride, players are told what level prize they would earn in the carnival.

This ride is simply amazing and is a clear example of the magic that is only at Disney Parks. A simple concept of a shooting gallery is taking to a new and interactive direction, with amazing detail. One moment I am shooting darts, another time rings, and yet again cannons. I talked with several people in line who told me that no matter how many times they ride, they never get tired of this attraction. I had such a great time, I am looking forward to my next trip even more than usual.
With great rides, food, and a fantastic series of parades, Disneyland is still the best value in theme parks and while it does not have the thrill rides of other parks, it has the best atmosphere and tone of any park on the planet. You have to try very hard not to have a great time at Disneyland as the helpful staff and the vast array of things to see and do make this a must see attraction when visiting Southern California. For frequent quests, I would suggest looking into the season pass that is now offered as it is a great value for frequent visitors.