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Trip Reports
10-16-2005, 06:13 PM
* Time of Year: Winter
* Travel Method: Plane, Rental Car
* Resort: Offsite
* Accommodations
* Ages Represented in Group: Adult
* Disneyland Experience Represented in Group: Infrequent
* Comments: Tim and Charlene visited the park in the midst of a West coast business trip. Tim considered the trip a preliminary to the trip the family is planning to WDW in the next few years with their son Alex.


This is a summary of our day in Disneyland on Feb 9. I have learned a great deals from reading trip reports and hope that this could be of help to someone who is planning their trip to visit Mickey.

Background :

I am a 35 yr old engineer accompanied by my 35 yr old wife who is a computer analyst living in Ottawa, Canada. We visited WDW way back in 87 when there were only MK and Epcot. There were two rides that I remembered from 10 years ago, Space Mountain and Peter Pan. As it turns out, these are still two of my favourites this time around.

We have been planning a trip to WDW with our 4 year old Alex and 2 years old Chris for quite sometime now. I have read thru numerous guidebooks including Sehlinger's guides to WDW, Disneyland, Birnbaum's guides to WDW, Disneyland.

I have also been reading this newgroup for quite a while and have learned a great deal. I have also gotten a lot of information from Al Lutz's site on Disneyland and Debbie's site on WDW (Thanks for the great work). I have been looking forward to trying Star tours, The Tower of Terror, Splash mountain, etc.

The only thing that had kept us from going to WDW last December was Alex's fear of the airplane. Alex had a bad experience as a two years old going to San Francisco with us and had been saying "I don't like airplane" everytime I mentioned going to WDW.

I am also a bit unsure as to their readyness in terms of enjoying themselves at WDW. Let's face it, going to WDW is expensive and I don't really want to line up for Dumbo and It's a small world all day. Alex and I have basically "agreed"(if there is such a thing with a 4 years old) on going to WDW two years from now when he is 6.

Enough "Prefaceing". Why were my wife and I going to Disneyland, you might ask? One day, my boss came into my cubicle and asked " You are approved to going to a conference in San Francisco, are you interested?" You can take an educated guess at what my answer was. My wife who never said no to a trip to California and I decided to take a few days off work before the conference to do some sightseeing. We rented a car at SFO and drove down 101 to LA. We basically have 3 days in LA and two days of driving time. We chose to spend Feb 9 (Sunday) in Disneyland as it would be less crowded than Saturday. We also spent Feb 10(Monday) at Universal Studio in Hollywood.

Since this is a disney group, I would just limit myself to compare similar rides found in both parks (eg. Back to the future vs Star tour, Jurrasic Park vs Splash mountain etc).

So, the purpose of this trip is "quench" my desire to try out the new rides and to act as a reconnaissance mission to get a feel as to whether Disney is appropriate for my four and two years old.

Hotel/Motel :

We got a copy of the Exit Info Guide at the Budget car rental office at SFO. It's full of coupons for hotels/motels for around $40 a night in the Anaheim area.

I had decided to stay within walking distance from Disneyland to get to the park early. As it turns out, the coupons were only good on weeknights and we paid around $60 at the Desert Inn right across the street on Harbour Blvd. It's your typical motel room and it's in the same price range as the few Best Westerns next door. Cheaper alternatives such as Days Inn, Angel Inn do exist around the area. Suffice to say, there is no shortage of accomodation choices in all price ranges in the surrounding areas. Most hotels offer shuttle services which we used. Although the Desert Inn is directly across the street from Disneyland, the parking lot itself has got to be about two miles long from the main entrance to the ticket booth. I would rather save my energy walking around the park.

Food :

I had wanted to try out the restaurant at the Disneyland hotel but never made it there. We had a really good and inexpensive lunch at an Indian restaurant on harbour blvd. We were also surprised to see numerous authentic Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in little saigon. The only thing that we sampled in the park were a couple of clam chowder in a bread bowl which were excellent. Not as good as the clam chowder we had in a tiny restaurant in Monterrey on the way down but nonetheless very good for theme park food.

Park Strategy:

I basically use a modified(read less rigid) one day touring plan from the unofficial guide. With the parking opening at 9 on a Sunday, I want to get to the park at 8:15, line up at the rope(right hand side to hit Space Mountain and Star tour) at 8:30.

Hit Space mountain, Star tour, Indy, Splash mountain first thing in the morning. Followed by Country bear, jungle cruise and some character photo sessions. Have lunch off site, take a nap, back to the park refreshed at around 3pm. Sample some tamer rides(to see if they are appropriate for Alex), see some shows have dinner and grab a spot for Fantasmic! To my surprise, our day turns out to be more or less as planned.

The Park:

Star Tours:

We were the first two person to cross the turnstile for Star Tour that day. It has its disadvantages as we didn't really have time to "linger" in the pre-show area. My wife was a bit apprehensive as she is having a bit of back problems lately. Being a startrek fan that she is, she decided to brave it. The ride was certainly a lot of fun and the twisting and turning didn't bother her back that much, she said. Although the ride is a lot of fun, it is clearly not as good as Back To The Future at USH,IMHO. The main reason I think is that the screen for Star Tour is essentially flat and the screen at BTTF has a bit of a curve that your peripheral vision is part of the screen as well. Other people who has riden on both have any comments? I must state that this is certainly not meant as a troll for a framewar :-). Alex might enjoy this since he has watched enough Startrek episode with me (I know we are talking about Star Wars BTW).

Space Mountain:

When we walk across to Space Mountain, the wait is around 15 mins at about 9:10AM. Charlene still remembered our ride at WDW 10 years ago. I told her to line up with me to enjoy the preshow and exit at 1 of the 3 "chicken" exit if she likes. She did go out on the last one and I ride SM by myself. What can I say? This is easily the best ride for me at Disney. I must say my wife made the right decision as the twist and turns on SM is quite sudden and sharp. It could easily aggravate or induce back problems. I would advise(as with Disney) anyone with back problem to avoid this ride. Definitely not for the faint of hearts and young children.

Indy :

By the time we walk all the way to Indy, the wait is about 20 mins according to the CM at about 9:30AM. The preshow is excellent. Disney's attention to details is so evident here. The ride itself is a bit "ho-hum". Other than the final "big rolling stone coming at you" scene, there is nothing special.

Splash Mountain :

Again, Charlene passed and instead lined up at the photo queue for Pooh and Tigger across from Splash Mountain. Splash Mountain is a walk-on at around 10:00AM.

The ride is good, the plunge looks a lot worse than it really is. I was seated on the first row and it certainly enhanced the plunging effect. Does anyone notice the one second or so stop time at the top before the plunge? By the time I got out, Charlene had just finished having her picture taken with Pooh and Tigger. The CM is kind enough to tell her that Eeyore will be coming in a few minutes and to take in Country Bear which starts in a few minutes and come back for the photo op with Eeyore without having to line up a second time.

It's now 10:30 and we(or I) have already gone thru the 4 big ones. It sure makes sense to be in the Park early.

Country bear Jamboree :

All in all, a bit boring for us adults. I am sure Alex will get a kick out of seeing teddy bears singing and dancing up a storm though.

Jungle cruise :

We were lucky to have a guide who's really enjoying his role. It must have been difficult to have to recycle the same jokes and one-liners 10 times a day, day in and day out. I can see how this ride could be much less enjoyable if the guide is not in the mood. Suitable for young children for sure.

It's around 11:30 by now and we headed out of the park for our lunch and nap. When we passed by the notice board at the end of main street with the posted waiting times, much to my surprise, Roger Rabbit in toontown has the longest wait of 50 mins.

Indy is next at 45 mins, following by Space and Splash Mountain at 30 mins. Folks, it pays to get to the park early!

After an inexpensive and filling Indian lunch and a nap at the hotel, we were back at the park at around 3pm. I had wanted to ride Matterhorn and Big thunder mountain but since Charlene is not too thrilled on roller coasters, we decided to take in a few production shows and sampled some "kiddy rides".

Haunted Mansion :

This is very well done. We especially like the ending. Although it's quite dark, I think Alex would handle this quite well with all the humorous ghosts floating around.

Hunchback of Notre Dame :

A great show. We showed up around 15 mins before show time and were seated on the left side and quite far back. Nevertheless, we still had a great view to the stage and a lot of the show is happening way up anyway. There are performers all along the corridors also. Definitely worth seeing.

Spirit of Pocahontas :

Not as good as Hunchback of Notre Dame, IMHO. Maybe it's just the storyline that has quite a bit less "actions". I would recommend Hunchback of Notre Dame if you only have time for one. The two shows are presented 30 mins apart. Since Hunchback of Notre Dame took about 25 mins, we barely have enough time to get to Spirit. We were 5 mins late and were seated way back. However you would still have a pretty good sightline.

It's a small world/Roger Rabbit car toon spin/Mr. Toad

I am happy to report that the "it's a small world" song didn't stay with me all day as was frequently reported. Mr. Toad I don't remember much about except that I think Alex might be bothered by the loud noises and the sharp/quick turns(for a 4 years old, that is). The wait for Roger Rabbit at round 7pm was about 25 mins. The preshow queue area was very well done. The ride itself was ok. It could actually be fun for adults if you have the energy to spin it real hard. Definitely not worth the 25 mins wait.

Peter Pan :

This is my favourite ride after Space Mountain. The fly-over atop London scene was incredible. The ride was just a bit too short for the 25 mins we had to wait in line for it.

It's around 8:15 by now and we fought our way back to the top of main street to try to get a spot to watch second Fantasmic show scheduled for 8:45. We were surprised to see that there were still a lot of spots around the water front so we bought a couple of Clam Chowder in a bread bowl(delicious) and waited for Fantasmic.

Fantasmic :

Sehlinger said that just this would be worth the price of admission. I have to agree. It's your basic good vs evil plot line with a lot of special effects from lasers, mists, hologarms. The "curtain call" with the characters coming out in the steamboats was great. I hope we will be able to see this with Alex at WDW by our visit in a couple of years time.

Characters photo sessions :

I must say that this is much better than I thought with queueing area for all the characters. It was a mob scene at WDW when we were there in 87. There was no way we could have had our chance if we had to fight with little kids to get near the characters. We had pictures with most of the characters including Daisy and Pooh.

Alex especially like our picture with our good friend, Mickey. So I asked him, would you like to go to WDW to have your picture taken with Mickey. He answered "yes, but we go by car". "But it's a 24 hours drive, Alex" "But I am scared of Airplane, Daddy". Looks like I still have a lot of work to do.

Summary :

All in all, a great day. All the advice of going in the off-season and going to the park early works out great. Our longest wait was around 25 mins for Peter Pan which seems to have long lines no matter what time of day it is. We waited 25 mins during the first showing of Fantasmic. Disneyland turns out to be a lot smaller that what I can remember of Magic Kingdom. We certainly enjoyed the park a bit more by taking a break for lunch and relax in the middle of the day. Space mountain is easily my favourite, with star tour a close second. We also enjoy our visit to Universal studio a great deal. It's a different sort of rides, the shows tend to be more "action" oriented with a lot of fires, explosions, etc.

Back to the future was incredible. It's certainly different than Disney and both are well worth seeing if you have the time. There is also a Canadian discount at universal studio, which amounts to 20% off. We were asked to show some ID when paying our admission with our mastercard. When my wife shows her Canadian driver license, we were told about the discount, ask for it. No such luck at Disney although there is a California resident promotion going on.

Tim and Charlene Poon