* Time of Year: Spring
* Travel Method: Plane, Rental Car
* Resort: Disneyland Hotel
* Ages Represented in Group: Adult
* Disneyland Experience Represented in Group: Rookie (but WDW Vets)
* Comments: Julie visited the West coast on a business trip and took her husband along so they could visit Disneyland during the excursion. The report is a fun one, comparing Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel to their counterparts in Florida.
Trip to Disneyland, California May 1998
Participants My husband and I, Walt Disney World Vets but 1st time visitors to Disneyland
Accommodations at the Disneyland Hotel, Concierge Level
We are WDW veterans who have made at least one annual trek from Central Illinois to Orlando for the past 10 years. We always stay on at a WDW resort on property and do not even leave WDW property from our arrival to departure. When I found out that I would be traveling to Newport Beach, CA on business I thought that there was no way that I could be this close (14 miles) to Disneyland and not go there. My husband decided to travel with me, so this is a brief recap of our experience and how we compare Disneyland to WDW. Of course, it is also a different perspective for us because we are traveling without our 2 children (ages 10 & 5).
I was looking forward to seeing some of the attractions/shows that are not at WDW, mainly Fantasmic and Indiana Jones. My husband enjoys Disney, but is not quite the fanatic that I am. He is going along with this idea because he knows how much it means to me and he also knows he will enjoy it once he is there. But, keep in mind he normally loves to go to Disney World just to play all of the golf courses while I hit the parks with the kids and he thinks there are alot of better things that we could be doing while in Southern California rather than going to DL.
This visit to DL is a bit of a challenge since we will really only have 1 full day at the Park. As with any Disney trip, I have planned to the extreme and tried to think of any details that I know may enhance our experience. We will be staying on the Concierge level of the Disneyland Hotel, because I cannot stand being this close to Disney and not staying close to the center of the "magic". It will be interesting to compare this to staying on property in WDW (we have stayed at The Poly our favorite -- several times, Wilderness Lodge, Port Orleans, Caribbean Beach and The Grand Floridian on our past trips).
On Thursday, April 30th we flew into John Wayne Airport from Chicago OHare. After picking up our Sebring convertible we proceeded to our hotel for the "business" period of my trip the Marriott Beach and Tennis Resort. The location was wonderful with a beautiful view of the Pacific and across the street from a great shopping center "Fashion Island" with great shops and excellent restaurants. We spent the afternoon getting acclimated to the area (this was the first visit to Southern California for both my husband and I), driving south along PCH to admire the views. We couldnt settle on a place for a late lunch, so we ended up eating at The Cheesecake Factory. Had our favorite of spicy cashew chicken and were so stuffed that we couldnt even order cheesecake! By this time it was around 4:30 p.m. and we didnt have anything else to do, so I talked my husband into heading for Anaheim. About 1 hour later (hit some traffic on the freeways), we pulled into the parking lot. There were no attendants, so parking was free! Parked in the Timon lot right by the tram loading area and got right onto a tram. There is major construction going on with Disney working on the California Adventure. Of course, the main difference that I noticed between MK in WDW and DL is how much MK benefits from Disney controlling all of the land around the park. It really keeps the fantasy alive. Although, once we were in the park you would never have known that you were in the middle of densely populated Southern California. We went right into the front gate and started our stroll down Main Street U.S.A. Looks very similar to MK, but the castle is missing. Not actually missing, but Sleeping Beauty Castle is dwarfed in comparison to Cinderellas castle in Florida. It was very charming, though.
The crowds were extremely light. We would come to appreciate this even more later in the trip. We immediately headed to Indiana Jones and walked right though to the loading area. It took us only about 10 minutes barely enough time to appreciate the theming of the attraction, but no complaints! We really loved it and agree with all of the kudos that it has received. We exited the attraction and went right back on for another turn. We had heard that there are so many combinations to the ride, you seldom experience the same ride twice. Well, we experienced the exact same ride the second time, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Due to crowds on the weekend, we never had another opportunity to ride it. The lines were averaging 90 minutes on Saturday.
Then, we headed over to Pirates and walked right on. This version is definitely longer and darker than WDW (with 2 water drops), but we prefer the entrance at MK through the "dungeon". We did check out the Blue Bayou and agreed that we had to try it out on the week-end.
Then, we headed over to the Haunted Mansion. I like the outside of this version better than DL. It seems more like a New Orleans home that happens to have 999 haunts inside. Again, this was a walk-on.
We were starting to see one of the advantages to DL was the condensed nature of the park. Due to size constraints, we could circumvent the park fairly quickly. We headed over to Big Thunder Mountain and rode toward the back with a group of high school valley girls who screamed the entire time. It was great fun!
We kept on walking around the park and decided to hop on the Matterhorn since the line was so short. We did not have high expectations of this ride, after reading some other trip reports, but we had a great time on it and really enjoyed it. By this time, the park was closing (it wasnt open late on a Thursday night)..so, we headed for the tram, got on right away and were in our car and back on the freeway in a few minutes.
On Friday, I had to attend a business meeting and my husband took advantage of this time to play golf with some business associates at Monarch Bay in Laguna Niguel. The weather was beautiful and he said that he had a wonderful day (his actual quote was, "It doesnt get much better than this"). We met up after his round of golf and had an early dinner at a seafood restaurant called The Rusty Pelican that was recommended by some of the locals. Delicious fresh caught swordfish from Catalina Island. It was our intent to go back to the room for a nap and then head to a nightclub. We lade down at 6:30 p.m. and when we woke up to was early morning. The time change (2 hrs. earlier than Central Time) threw us a bit.
One note since we were staying on the Concierge level of the DL Hotel, we were able to call the Concierge on Friday a.m. and request that he make reservations for us for dinner Saturday at the Blue Bayou. He made reservations as requested for 6:30 p.m. with a waterside table. This was a great convenience, since I didnt have to trek over to New Orleans Square to make the reservation on Saturday morning.
While planning the trip, I initially thought that we would get up early Saturday morning drive to Anaheim and I would drag myself to Guest Relations by 5:30 a.m. to wait in line and reserve a spot for the Fantasmic Gallery seating (they would begin accepting reservations at 6:00 a.m.). Of course, my husband thought I was nuts. So, I told him that I didnt want to hear any complaints from him while we held down a patch of concrete for a couple of hours on Saturday night. He said that he didnt care since we rode pretty much everything that we wanted to on Thursday.
We checked out of our hotel in Newport Beach and drove to The Disneyland Hotel at around 7:00 a.m. It was an early entry day and the park opened at 6:30 a.m., but we did not end up getting there until about 8:20 a.m. My husband insisted on eating breakfast first, so after we stored our luggage with the valet we went to The Monorail Caf for breakfast. He had the poached eggs and hash, I had the ham & cheese omelet and the total came to a little over $20 with my MK Club discount. We then hopped on the monorail to the park.
Our main goal was to ride Space Mountain since we had missed it on Thursday night. We thought it was far superior to the WDW version. We liked how the line worked for loading (you had more of a feeling that you were getting ready to load and launch). And we LOVED the soundtrack. It makes the ride! We also thought it was darker than WDW, which added to the experience. After getting off, we went right back on since the line was relatively small and we both thought it ROCKED!
After SM, we headed to Star Tours. Basically, it was the same experience as the one at MGM.
We also wanted to make a point of riding the train around the park. We headed to New Orleans Square to catch the train, but stopped off first for a mint julep and fritters. Very tasty. We then hopped on the train and road it 1 times around to Tomorrowland so that we could catch the monorail back to the hotel for lunch and to check on our room.
We walked around the hotel a bit and saw some of the interesting photos and items on display. I particularly enjoyed seeing the original aerial concept view of Disneyland that Walt used to introduce the park to the TV viewing audience.
We then headed to Strombolis for lunch. Nathan had the margherita pizza and I had the traditional calzone. The bread that was brought to the table prior to the entrees was wonderful! There was a thin pasta-like flatbread served with Italian salsa made of tomatoes, onion, olives, etc. and warm breadsticks served with sun-dried tomato spread. I could have made a meal of the bread alone! The desserts looked wonderful and Nathan had the chocolate amaretto crme brulee while I chose the tiramisu (one of my favorites). Unfortunately, we were both disappointed. Nathan said that the brulee tasted like pudding and my tiramisu tasted like cheesecake stuck inside of ladyfingers. I am used to the delicious tiramisu at Maggianos Little Italy in Chicago with amaretto soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese truly delicious. This was nothing at all like it. Neither of us finished the dessert. The total with tip and the MK discount was a little over $30.
When we did early priority check-in this morning, the hotel clerk told us that our keys would be sent up to the Concierge lounge for pick-up. They gave us an access key to the lounge on the 11th floor of the Sierra Tower to use in the meantime. It was about 1:00 p.m. after our lunch and we decided to stroll over and see if our room would be ready (not counting on it knowing how the Disney 3:00 p.m. check ins usually work). When we arrived at the lounge, we found that our key did not work. But, there were 2 Concierge CMs sitting at the desk in front of the door and one of them opened the door and let us in. We explained our situation and got this blank stare from the Concierge. He said that we did not have access to the Lounge. I said that since we are staying on the concierge level, I believe we do (I was a little miffed at his attitude). We mumbled under his breath, checked our reservation on his computer and said that it did not indicate that we have access to the Concierge lounge. He was an arrogant little snot! We have stayed on Concierge levels many times, including once at The Grand Floridian and NEVER experienced such inadequate and rude service. We ended up wasting about 1 hour of our time going back to the front desk and informing the clerk at the Concierge priority check-in area of the problem. She apologized profusely and said that of course we had access to the lounge and would note the problem with the service that we experienced. Our room would not be ready until closer to 3:00 since we had specifically requested a King NS with a marina view. She wasnt aware that the Concierge staff would have the keys, but after checking with a supervisor said that it was taken care of. Needless to say, we were not impressed with the Concierge service at this hotel and would not recommend it to anyone staying there.
We decided to head back over to the park after looking in several shops around the hotel. Nathan wanted to find a piece of wall art (a sericel or such). We took the monorail back and could not believe the crowds. With the limited walking space at DL, traffic and crowd control appear to be a problem. We waded through the mass of humanity and made our way to Main Street to check out the Disneyana store. Evidently, today was the grand reopening of the store and we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes to get in. A CM said that some people had waited 4 - 5 hours earlier in the day. They were selling commemorative Disneyana pins that were date stamped with 5/2/98 for this day only. You had to have a special coupon to purchase it. My husband and I received a coupon and purchased 2 of them. We looked around the store and he didnt really see anything he was interested in. We did purchase 2 cool coffee mugs that have a black/white photo of Walt walking through the entrance to Sleeping Beautys castle with the caption "Walts Magic Kingdom". They are really unique.
We then decided to check out the Walt Disney Story and Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Again, I really appreciated the history surrounding DL. The recreations of Walts formal and working office were interesting. We could have spent a lot of time here. I also enjoyed the short film with Walt introducing the concept of constructing audio-animatronic people.
I have to admit that I was a little choked up because I am so grateful to Walt for giving me some of the most magical moments and cherished memories of my childhood and allowing me to do the same for my children. That is one of the reasons I love all things Disney it brings that all back to me. Walt was a true visionary.
We enjoyed Mr. Lincoln and it reminded us of "Hall of Presidents". After heading out of the show, we went back to Tomorrowland to take the monorail to the hotel The crowds had continued to swell and we had to wait about 20 minutes for a chance to get on the monorail. We took the glass elevator up to the Concierge Lounge and found that our key was waiting. Talked to a great Concierge who asked how our check-in went. I told him that he didnt want to know. When he pressed for details I gave him a brief summary of our ordeal and he was extremely gracious. He said that he knew who we were talking about and it would be taken care of. We grabbed a few cold drinks from the fridge in the lounge and then went to our room on the 9th floor.
The room was your standard business/convention hotel fare with the added touch of Disney cels in the room and MM Amenities (like WDW). We had a great view of the Marina. I loved that you could open the sliding doors and let the breeze come into the room while watching all of the activity in the Marina area.
We relaxed in the room a bit. The concierge lounge offered complimentary evening hordoevres and wine from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., so we stopped by on our way back to the park. There were approximately 4 to 6 bottles of various red and white California wines along with cheese & crackers, veggies & dip, chips & salsa, etc.
At about 5:45, we took the monorail back to the park. On our way over, the monorail operator announced that a 3rd showing of Fantasmic had been added at 11:45 p.m. As soon as we got off the monorail, I charged over to Guest Relations to find out if there was Gallery seating available for this show. The sign still indicated that all Fantasmic seating was sold out, but I asked anyway and was told to go to City Hall. I trekked over there and found that we could get in with no problem. I paid (my husband asked me how much it was and when I told him, he just shook his head and walked away to sit down). I was VERY excited! They told us to show up at the Gallery 30 minutes before show time.
We then walked to New Orleans Square for our 6:30 p.m. reservation at Blue Bayou. We were seated at a wonderful waterside table and the atmosphere is really beautiful. It reminds me of the San Angel Inn at EPCOT. The menu was a bit limited, but I had the Cajun spiced prime rib and Nathan had the crab cakes. No dessert for me due to the buffet later, but Nathan could not resist the crme brulee. He enjoyed it and said that it was "real" crme brulee. They no longer offer a MK discount and our dinner came to about $55 before tip.
I hoped that the crowds would lessen as the evening went on. Unfortunately they did not. We both wanted to go on Indy again, but said "no way" when we saw the 90 minute wait.
We strolled around the park, went to Toontown and found my daughter the retired "Jewel" beanie (she was thrilled when we got home). We then waited about 40 minutes for Roger Rabbit. We got on the ride and it shut down just as we entered it due to wheelchair loading taking too long and tripping the system. The CMs were very nice and came to get us. We had to get out of the cars and walk through the attraction (pretty bizarre) back to the front of the line. They told us we could wait about 10 minutes or come back to the front of the line at any time the rest of the evening. We waited.
We then went on BTMR. It is much better in the dark and we really enjoyed it. By this time the 10:15 Fantasmic was starting and we sat near the Diamond Horseshoe for a rest. We could see some of the effects from this vantage point. After the show ended we entered New Orleans Square through Frontierland and went right up to the Gallery. As it turned out, the 2nd performance did not have any Gallery seating available to the public because Newt Gingrich and Sonny Bonos widow reserved it for a private viewing.
We waited about 10 minutes before our name was called and we were seated right up front. We were still so stuffed from dinner that we could not force ourselves to eat any of the desserts although they looked wonderful. There was rich chocolate cake, Apple cheesecake, a fruit tray and a platter of petit fors and pastries. My husband had coffee and I had a mint julep. Service was exceptional the CMS were very kind and attentive. There were 15 on the gallery and we all thoroughly enjoyed the performance. This cannot be beat as far as the being the best place to watch the show from.
Fantasmic is wonderful! The best nighttime show that I have seen Disney stage. I will be anxious to see the version that will play at the MGM Studios. My husband (ever the cynic) said that he still prefers Illuminations because he enjoys more fireworks than stage productions.
After Fantasmic, the crowds exited the viewing area and left the park since it was now 15 minutes past the 12:00 a.m. closing time. Took the tram over to the hotel. We considered going to the Neon Cactus to hear the band, but they were playing Tejano music and we really needed the sleep. We had received turn-down service in our room and a tin of Mickey Shorts-bread (butter shortbread from Scotland shaped like Mickeys shorts) was left by our pillows along with some character mints. After our late night, we slept in on Sunday. We stopped by the concierge lounge to a quick breakfast (bagels, coissants, coffee). After the 11:00 checkout we drove over to PCH and up to Huntington Beach to check out the surfers. There were high surf warnings for the day so the surf was really large and beautiful.
We stopped at Hard Rock for a quick lunch before heading back to the airport for our 3:00 flight home. The flight was uneventful and we ended up back at home in Illinois at 12:00 am.
Of course DL cannot compare to the diversity and vastness of WDW. But, I enjoyed it because I got a sense of what Walt had in mind when he created the park. It is the original, after all. I think that you can feel his special touch in many aspects of the park and it is very special because of that. It always makes me a little sad that he never got to see the realization of his dreams of taking advantage of the space in Florida to create a wonderful world.
Disneyland Hotel -
The hotel is nice, but as Ive heard others mention it lacks much in theming compared to WDW resort hotels. But, our room was very well appointed (I always love the Mickey toiletries) and very comfortable. I think that it still reflects Disney quality and I would probably recommend staying there. The cost of our room did not seem extremely high to me in comparison to the cost of WDW hotels and we were able to get a 10% MK Club discount. And, what a location - - you cannot beat being directly on the monorail line.
I dont know why, but there seemed to be many unhappy and rude people in the park. While we were in line for the Matterhorn, a women cut under the chains to get in line (it was no big deal since it was kind of silly to go to the end of the chains since the line was short). She let us move in front of her and her 2 children. Then, her husband came up with about 4 more children who wanted to get in line. The man behind her was irritable (understandably so) and said something about her cutting in line. She just went off and her husband started launching 4 letter words at the guy. I thought this was just a wonderful way for them to behave in front of their children and told my husband that I was glad that our children werent with us. We also saw similar situations at the Blue Bayou and other areas where people had to wait. I havent experienced this as much at WDW (although I know that tempers can flare there as well).
CMs at the park were great and had the Disney spirit. The hotel was another matter. We felt like we could have been at a Hilton or Marriott we are used to CMs going out of their way to make your stay enjoyable and making themselves available to help in any way. The CMs at the DL Hotel dont have that special charm.
My husband and I agree that it is unlikely we would make a trip to Southern California just to go to Disneyland. But, if in the area again we would definitely go back.
Any questions or comments, please e-mail me.