Contrary to what my blog posts and career may indicate, I didn’t really “grow up” on Disney. Sure, as a younger kid, I knew of Mickey Mouse, watched some of the old cartoons, and knew there were places called Walt Disney World and Disneyland. I just really had no desire to go and see them. I was raised in Philadelphia and like most kids in my neighborhood, I was obsessed with sports (and I still am). The Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers were all I ever thought about up until my first WDW trip in 1991. But as soon as I got to the Magic Kingdom, I was hooked. I wanted to experience ALL there was in the Disney universe. I took something like 20 trips to Walt Disney World between the ages of 12 and 25 (including working there for quite a bit) but didn’t get out to Disneyland until my wife and I took our honeymoon in 2008. I was HOOKED all over again! Disneyland is the mecca for Disney fans. The sense of Disney history and nostalgia that you get from just walking up to the turnstiles gives me goosebumps right now as I’m writing this, 3000 miles away from the Disneyland esplanade. If you consider yourself a big Disney and Walt Disney World fan but haven’t been to Disneyland, I’ll tell you why you need to go as soon as you can scrape the funds together. Here’s my spin on a Walt Disney World Fan’s Guide To Disneyland.
So Similar, But SO Different – I had been to the Magic Kingdom literally hundreds of times. I had studied the Disneyland map, read the Frommer’s guide from cover to cover a few times, and thought I had a good handle of what it would be like navigating Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom. Boy, was I ever WRONG! At first glance, Disneyland looks a lot like the Magic Kingdom in WDW. There’s a Main Street USA, a castle, similar lands, etc. But really, that’s where the similarities end. While the Magic Kingdom goes around almost in a circle around the Hub, Disneyland is full of narrow passages and dead ends. They may look very much the same to the naked eye, but trust me, grab a guide map on your way in so you can figure out how to move around the park. You’ll be glad you did!
Size – Another shocker for me was the difference in size between the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort. WDW is enormous! Its almost the size of San Francisco and nearly twice the size of Manhattan. When you compare the Disneyland Resort’s footprint to WDW’s, it’s not even close! The entire Disneyland theme park can fit inside the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom. That’s not to say there isn’t a TON to do in both Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure, though. Both parks are crammed with attractions, unique restaurants, and one-of-a-kind experiences. The relatively small size of the Disneyland Resort also works to its advantage in a way. Not only are both theme parks, the Downtown Disney area, and all 3 resort hotels (The Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian) all within walking distance, the theme parks’ entrances FACE EACH OTHER! If you happen to have park hopper tickets, you can bounce back and forth between them all day if you’d like!
Attractions – Disneyland shares quite a few attractions with the Magic Kingdom including It’s a Small World, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Peter Pan’s Flight, and more. Disney’s California Adventure also has some WDW favorites like Soarin’ and Toy Story Midway Mania. I promise you though, you won’t want to miss the Disneyland versions of these popular Walt Disney World attractions. Pirates, for example, is a little longer and has some show scenes that are different from MK’s version. The Haunted Mansion’s exterior is COMPLETELY different and it gives off a totally different vibe than the Magic Kingdom’s version. Plus, Disneyland has retired WDW attractions like Snow White’s Scary Adventures (still scary), Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (still creepy and scared my kids!), and the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (although it’s been re-themed to a Nemo attraction). Add Disneyland classics like the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Storybook Land Canal Boats and you just have to go experience this place for yourself!
Different Lands – While the Magic Kingdom has the only Liberty Square in any Disney theme park, anywhere, the Disneyland Resort theme parks boast some pretty unique and awesome lands as well. Disneyland’s New Orleans Square (home to both their Pirates of the Caribbean & their Haunted Mansion) is an amazingly themed journey into the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans complete with live music, beignets, and the terraced balconies. Critter Country is where Disneyland kind of hides it’s Splash Mountain and Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attractions (both slightly different than WDW’s). Critter Country also dead ends at one side, so don’t try to make that loop around the park! And Cars Land over at Disney’s California Adventure may just be the most complete and immersive land the Disney Imagineers have built in decades. You NEED to be there when they turn on those lights on Route 66!
Food – It drives me a little bit crazy when I hear folks saying that all Disney’s theme parks offer are the standard burgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets. These days, that couldn’t be further from the truth and the Disneyland Resort has some of the best food selections of any theme parks, anywhere. From the Banyan Beef Skewer at the Bengal Barbecue in Disneyland’s Adventureland (spicy and ridiculously delicious) to the Chili CONE Queso in Disneyland’s Cars Land (chili + cheese + Fritos = a little bit of heaven in a BREAD CONE!), to the amazing atmosphere, appetizers, and drinks at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel (please, just go, I ‘m begging you), you really can’t go wrong with any food choices in Disneyland.
So I think what I’m saying here is, if you’re a WDW veteran looking for a little bit of a change but still want to be surrounded by that Disney Magic, take the plunge and head out to Disneyland. I’d suggest four nights to get the most out of your trip with four days in the parks. It is smaller than WDW but there is just so much to do, eat, drink, and experience that I think anything less than that and you’d feel like you were really missing out! There’s just something about walking up and down the same sidewalks as Walt Disney did that gives you such a sense of history, nostalgia, and magic. It’s hard to explain in a blog, but I guarantee you will feel it once you walk underneath those train tracks and make that turn out into Town Square. Once you see Sleeping Beauty Castle for the first time at the end of the street, I guarantee you’ll think about when you can plan your next trip!
Thank you, as always, for reading this blog post. If you have any more tips for WDW veterans that I missed, I’d love to hear your opinion so please leave a comment here on this page, send me a Facebook message or post on my wall HERE, Tweet me HERE or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, you can always also share any or all of these posts to your favorite social media platform by clicking any of the social media buttons on the top or bottom of every post. Thank you again so much, and please enjoy the rest of your stay here at Ear To There Travel!
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