TR: Disneyland (very, very long)
I’ll start this Trip Report off the opposite way of all my others by giving my summary first. Plain and simple, there is no greater park of any kind that I have been to than Disneyland. There is just something about the place that I absolutely love. From the minute I pass through the gates to the moment I leave, I have never had anything but a great time on these hallowed grounds that Walt built. That said, it’s obvious that my visit to “The Happiest Place on Earth” was as good as it gets. Like my DCA report, I will work my way around the park reviewing the rides I went on during my time there.
- Indiana Jones Adventure (rode 3 times, less than 20 minute wait each trip using Single Rider Line). On my last visit to Disneyland in 1997, this was the big new ride and I had proclaimed it as the greatest ride that Disney had ever done. In 2006, I rode its Florida relative Dinosaur and proclaimed that the best ride at the Disney World resort. I was hoping that Indy has held up over the years and there is no doubt in my mind that it has done just that. This is one incredible attraction with amazing set pieces (the temple room itself is enormous), fun and exciting special effects such as lunging mummies, scurrying mice, flames, lasers, and air blasts, the ride itself is aggressive and thrilling, and the finale where a giant boulder nearly crushes the jeep is one of the best finales of any Disney ride anywhere. Just an outstanding attraction on all levels and one that hasn’t become any less popular with the GP over the years.
- Dole Tiki Juice Bar (visited twice, 15-20 minute wait each time). Yes, I voluntarily waited nearly 20 minutes – TWICE – to get myself a Dole Whip Float. The line for this stand stretched clear back to the Jungle Cruise at points and I never saw less than 50 people waiting for their chance to get this Disneyland treat. The blend of pineapple juice and pineapple soft serve is simply to die for and I have no regrets spending that much time in line for a snack.
- Pirates Of The Caribbean (rode three times, less than 20 minute wait each trip). This would be my first encounter with the “new and improved” POTC, which worried me as I have constantly ranked this as the greatest dark ride ever. Thankfully, the ride has remained pretty much the same. The main differences were a mist curtain with projected faces of Davy Jones and Blackbeard, a change to the pirate ship battle where the voice over now mentions Captain Jack Sparrow, a few Johnny Depp figures lurking in the existing scenes, and a singing Johnny Depp figure at the end of the ride. Other than that, it’s the same Pirates we all know and love. This ride is a work of art as the scenery and set pieces are so amazingly detailed that I still find myself seeing new things. And the animatronic pirates have also aged very well as they blow anything local theme parks do out of the water. A true classic and still my favorite dark ride ever.
- Haunted Mansion (rode three times, less than 10 minute wait each trip). Perhaps the second greatest dark ride ever is Disney’s Haunted Mansion. This is another Disney classic that has held up amazingly well through the years as I still am awed by the “pepper’s ghost” ballroom scene every time I see it. From the descending “stretch room” to the graveyard where ghosts appear to fly through the dark sky, Haunted Mansion is one of those rides that just oozes excellence. I did notice that they updated the bride in the attic. She makes comments about “till death do us part” while a hatchet magically appears in her hands. That’s pretty morbid for a Disney attraction. ;)
- Splash Mountain (rode once, wait time approx. 10 minutes using Single Rider Line). As much as I love this ride, it still puzzles me how one of the most popular rides in the park is based on a movie that Disney has said they will never release on DVD. Regardless, Splash Mountain is one of the greatest flume rides that I have been on. The animated scenes featuring Brer Rabbit and the gang are colorful and humorous and the surprise drop in the dark always catches me off guard. The final drop into the Briar Patch is a doozie and thankfully I didn’t get too wet. The logs seem to have been redone since my last visit also and they really tend to bump around in the flume, especially for riders in the back of the log. Still, Splash Mountain is a great ride and one that the GP eats up based on the 40-60 minute waits I saw during my time at the park.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (rode once, approx. 10 minute wait). They removed the Country Bears for this? I wasn’t even a big fan of the Bears, but this is one of those rare instances where Disney didn’t really go all out. The plywood cutouts and relatively dull scenes combined with the swaying ride vehicle make for a rather boring ride, and this is coming from a Winnie the Pooh fan. Rode it once and moved on.
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey (rode once, walk on). We now begin our tour of the Fantasyland dark rides with a spin on Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. The newest of the Fantasyland rides, Pinocchio starts off cute and cuddly as Pinocchio dances to “Hi-Diddly-Dee”, then all of a sudden the ride turns evil in a hurry as we head to Pleasure Island to watch boys being captured, forced into hard labor and being turned into donkeys. Good family fun for all! As we progress, Jiminy Cricket pops up from time to time to warn us of impending doom, including a visit from Monstro the Whale. The final scene where the Blue Fairy disappears is a very cool effect and is probably the highlight of the ride. It’s not a bad ride by any means, it’s just the weakest of the Fantasyland dark rides in my opinion.
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures (rode twice, walk on both trips). This really is a creepy little ride. Again, the ride starts out innocently as the Seven Dwarves party with Snow White, then after a trip through the Dwarves diamond mine, the Evil Witch makes several sudden appearances, scaring (and perhaps scarring) all the youngsters on board the mine car. The end with the Dwarves killing the Witch is also rather disturbing. All that said, I love this ride and was saddened to see Disney World get rid of theirs as it’s a Disney classic.
- Peter Pan’s Flight (rode once, walk on thanks to Walk In Walt’s Footsteps Tour). Since I didn’t have to wait in the usual 35-60 minute line for this, I seemed to enjoy the ride a little more than usual. The suspended pirate ships that guests ride in are definitely neat and there is a scene with fiber optic stars that is pretty cool, but there really isn’t much else to this ride. It also seemed like the ride’s famous “fly over London” scene was exceptionally dark, which made the whole point of flying seem a bit useless. I do think it’s a cute ride, I just don’t see why it’s so insanely popular.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (rode three times, wait time < 10 minutes all three trips). My second favorite ride in Fantasyland is the last remaining one of its kind. Riding in a sporty “motorcar”, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride takes riders crashing through a fireplace, running down police officers, crashing through barnyard fences, blasting through an explosion of gun powder, barreling through a London pub, and then being handed a sentence of “Guilty!” by an evil judge. Somehow, you wind up on railroad tracks where a train hits you and you end up in hell. It’s so out there and crazy that you can’t help but laugh. Another classic and one that I hope remains at Disneyland for years to come.
- Alice In Wonderland (rode twice, walk on both trips). This has to rank as my favorite Fantasyland dark ride. I actually rode this first thing on Wednesday and Friday morning and managed to be one of the first riders aboard to avoid the slow-moving lines later in the day. Riding aboard a caterpillar (or worm?) shaped vehicle, riders fall down the rabbit hole with Alice and encounter the Cheshire Cat, a singing garden of flowers, the White Rabbit, and the Queen of Hearts and her awesome Playing Card Soldiers. The outdoor portion that nearly concludes the ride has been altered since my last visit (stupid OSHA regulations) and looks rather odd. But despite that, Alice is a fantastically fun ride and yet another Disneyland exclusive.
- It’s a Small World (rode twice, walk on both trips). This was my first time through small world since the Disney characters have been added and I have to say that if I didn’t know they were there, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. I’m all for preserving the classics, however the changes made here are so minor that it doesn’t change the look or feel of the ride. Alice, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Aladdin and Jasmine, Stitch, Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros and Nemo all make appearances now, and they seem to blend in effortlessly. The 10 minute boat journey through colorful sets depicting children of all nations is a lot of fun, even if the song does get a bit annoying… and it’s a great way to cool down on the hot days!
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (rode once, wait time < 5 minutes with FastPass). Having not been on this before, I did not know what to expect other than a long, slow moving line, so I grabbed a Fastpass and was able to skip what was only a 25 minute wait down to about 3 minutes. Again not knowing what to expect worked to my advantage as I thought this was a very fun and well done dark ride with the neat added twist of being able to spin your car. Some of the scenes were clever, and the ending gag of Roger throwing you a “portable hole” to escape was definitely a neat effect. The spinning isn’t nauseating (at least I didn’t make it that way!) and overall I was pleasantly surprised with this attraction.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds (rode three times, wait time < 5 minutes each trip using Single Rider Line). Ah, the Matterhorn. Aside from Sleeping beauty castle, the Matterhorn is a true landmark of Disneyland, with its snowy peaks towering high above the rest of the park. As the first modern coaster to use tubular steel rails, Matterhorn has held up relatively well through the years, and even with the widely criticized new trains, I still enjoyed my three rides down the icy slopes. After a long, dark climb to the “top” of the mountain, riders are sent spiraling and twisting down the mountain through a series of high speed turns and passing the trademark Abominable Snowman twice. I have always been a fan of this ride and it was great to be able to ride a few times without having to wait.
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (rode once, wait time approx. 10 minutes). Yet another Disneyland exclusive is this unique re-theme of the park’s classic Submarine Voyage. Being claustrophobic, I was a bit apprehensive about being cooped up in a sub for 10 minutes, but I climbed aboard anyways and enjoyed the ride. The technology used here to project the Nemo characters underwater is very cool. It’s almost like you are really there with Nemo and his pals. This was the perfect environment for a Nemo-themed ride and I do think Disney did a great job with this one.
- Autopia (rode once, wait time approx. 10 minutes). For some reason, I had never ridden an Autopia ride at a Disney park before as I always felt it was a waste of time. I mean, it’s just a turnpike ride like they have at Cedar Point and every other amusement park… not to mention the lines are always insanely long. Well, with just a 10 minute posted wait time, I decided to climb aboard and give Disneyland’s Autopia a ride. I have to say that I was actually rather impressed with Autopia as it offers a nice long course with some scenic views of the Matterhorn and Tomorrowland. Some of the drivers on the track opposite the one I was on seemed to be goofing off by stopping on the course and bumping other cars, and they were promptly scolded by a waiting Cast Member. This was one of those rides that I judged unfairly prior to riding as it certainly is not a ‘waste of time” as I had once called it.
- Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (rode once, wait time approx. 5 minutes). Very similar to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at the Florida Magic Kingdom, this fun interactive dark ride has guests firing their Astro Blasters at various targets to score as many points as they can. The further away the target, the higher the score. Despite the heavy use of plywood cutouts, I still enjoyed my ride on this and ended up doing far better than I usually do. I actually seemed to hit the further away targets this time. Add in a temporary delay where the cars sat without moving for a few minutes and I started racking up my score! ;) Definitely a fun ride and one that seemed to never have more than a 10 minute wait while I was at the park.
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (rode three times, wait time less than < 10 minutes each trip with FastPass). As I mentioned in my Quick Thoughts last week, Star Tours was probably the surprise highlight of my trip. Disney took a ride that was definitely showing its age and made it feel fresh and new again. The whole concept of having something different happen each time you ride is a good one, and on my 3 trips, I got to see 6 different locations. My personal favorite had to be a battle with Boba Fett, who attempts to destroy our Starspeeder with one of his sonic blast bombs, only to have it end up working against him. The Hoth scene was also quite cool. Honestly, the ride was a blast. The 3D wasn’t annoying as it added a nice sense of depth to the film, the projection was of very high clarity, and all of a sudden a ride built in the late 80’s feels like it was built just a few years ago. The new queue scenes are also rather humorous, especially the thermal imaging camera area where a droid (who sounds suspiciously like Patrick Warburton) rips on guests passing by based on their images on screen. With Space Mountain down, Star Tours was doing a good business, which is why I opted to FastPass it each time.
- Disneyland Railroad (rode once, walk on). Having never ridden the Disneyland Railroad, I felt it would be appropriate to hop aboard at the Main Street station and take a trip around the park. The train is unusual as the seats face outward (I guess it was designed that way so as to block your view of any behind the scenes stuff that ruins the fantasy world illusion) and makes stops in New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrowland. It’s overall a nice ride, however the leg between Tomorrowland and Main Street features a hidden highlight of Disneyland- the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas. The Grand Canyon is essentially a large painting with some still animal figures scattered throughout. The Primeval World though was really a neat scene. Populated with animatronic dinosaurs, it reminded me a lot of the prehistoric scene in Epcot’s Universe of Energy. The final scene of a Tyrannosaurus battling a Stegosaurus is quite an impressive visual. Definitely worth a ride if you’re at the park.
- “Walk In Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” Tour. As a huge fan of Mr. Disney, I was thrilled to take this guided tour of his park. While much of the info I had already known about, it was actually quite cool to stop at select places in the park and listen to audio clips of Walt speaking. You could almost picture him there as he was talking with pride about his wonderful park. Stops included the Castle, the Partners statue, the Petrified Tree in New Orleans Square, skipping the line on Peter Pan’s Flight and it’s a small world, a look at the lobby of Club 33, and the incredible opportunity to view Walt’s Private Apartment above the fire station on Main Street. Lunch is included with the tour and you also get a very cool pin that opens up and contains the Disneyland Dedication Speech text and the quote from the Partners statue. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for diehard Walt fans, it’s well worth the extra cash.
If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. Sorry for making this TR so long, but as you can tell, I am quite the Disneyland Fanboy. This was only my third ever visit to the park and I really need to make it a point to get out to Anaheim more often. I stand by my assessment that Disneyland is better than Walt Disney World as it has many intangibles that the Florida property just doesn’t have.
Link to pics is below, and my video is attached as well. A word of caution on the video: a lot of the dark rides seemed to be extra dark and lots of my footage did not turn out as I do not have a high-end video camera. My new Canon Elph330 HS did a respectable job on the bright areas though, so I did what I could. Also, there is about 3 minutes of it’s a small world footage, so feel free to skip through if the song drives you nuts.
Thank you for reading. I’ll try to throw together a quick TR for the totally average Knott’s Berry Farm next.
I still need to go to SFMM at some point in my life so I'll definitely get back there eventually!