(Rachel is taking over the blog again today with Part Two of “The Great Debate: WDW vs. Disneyland”)
A few weeks ago I decided to write a post comparing the two US-based Disney parks. (This time next year I’ll be able to include Disneyland Paris!) I tackled categories such as weather, transportation, location, and more. I decided that the crux of the debate is the parks themselves, or rather, the attractions that compose each park. I started out planning to compare both coasts’ parks in one post, but I got a little carried away…so this will also be split into two posts.
Without further ado, below are my thoughts and opinions about Disneyland Resort’s attractions.
The first Disney park, Disneyland, opened in 1955. It was exceedingly unique in its design, composition, and attractions. Never before had something been built based on not only one man’s idea, but also preconceived characters (this is not researched, so I could be way off here…but this is my perception of how it came about). The idea that a guest could have an experience based on something they’d seen in a movie or cartoon was novel. Of course, Walt Disney had other progressive ideas in mind, being an inventive and innovative man.
One of the great things about Disneyland is the concept that so much has been preserved – if not the actual structures, at least the mindset. The park itself is small, especially compared to its sister park, Magic Kingdom. But there are so many experiences packed into the smaller square footage. Take Fantasyland, for example. There are so many “classic” rides – Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, King Arthur Carrousel, Matterhorn Bobsleds, “it’s a small world” (just Google “it’s a small world holiday”; you’re welcome) and more. All of these rides provide a feeling that you’re in some undefined year in the past.
Then you have classics in other lands: Jungle Cruise in Adventureland (thanks for not including real animals after all, Walt!), Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland, Pirates of the Caribbean in New Orleans Square, Space Mountain in Tomorrowland. All also located in Disney World, but somehow have such a different (not to mention smoother, longer, what have you) vibe in California. And the Haunted Mansion, another classic – is it any wonder New Orleans Square is my favorite land? – even gets a holiday makeover in the form of a The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay every fall and winter. So unique and fun!
Across the way, about the length of a football field, we have California Adventure. Not quite a classic yet, as it was opened in 2001, but something completely unique and special in its own way. It was initially conceived as a park celebrating California and its many different regions, and still includes much of that same flavor, but it has morphed into even more in the years since opening.
Cars Land, the newest land in the park, with its gleaming Ornament Valley backdrop and exquisitely lit-up Radiator Springs, is extraordinary (and the hubby’s favorite Disney land, period). Radiator Springs Racers, with a similar ride track to Epcot’s Test Track without the sense you might get whiplash, might be the best ride in the park. It’s really something special.
Paradise Pier evokes the feeling of a 1920s boardwalk, and sensory wise, is similar to Walt Disney World’s fun Boardwalk Resort. California Screamin’ is one of the best thrill rides Disney has to offer. But it’s more than just the thrills that make this land exciting – it’s the entire perspective of the park one gets from this area. I could literally spend hours just in the area, taking in all of the awesome scenery.
California Adventure is also the birthplace of Soarin’, which is one of the best rides Disney has ever conceived (in this author’s opinion). I’m still getting used to the new “Around the World” version (compared to the excellent original “Over California” version), but it’s still a fabulous ride.
I would also be remiss if I at least did not mention “a bug’s land,” which, yes, is technically the kids’ area, and not one we typically spend a lot of time in. However, it’s one of the best themed lands Disney has to offer. Between it and the ever-immersive Cars Land, California is rife with making guests feel like they’ve literally been transported to another place.
Let me say this about Disneyland and California Adventure: Attraction wise, especially if we’re talking about the number of attractions, it’s hard to compare. I’ve heard that Disneyland (not including California Adventure) has more rides than all of the Disney World parks combined, and it definitely feels that way. Maybe it’s due to the smaller space, but it feels like, inch for inch, Disneyland and California Adventure evoke more feelings of immersion than the Disney World parks.
But who will ultimately come out on top? You’ll have to read Part 3 to find out!