Sometimes people ask me why we travel to both Florida and California to the parks. People who live near me (only a five hour drive to Disneyland) sometimes don’t see the point in going all the way to Walt Disney World when Disneyland is so close by. Once I’ve explained the size difference and huge amount of “extras” at Walt Disney World, many understand. I find it’s often more difficult to explain the other way. People who live in the eastern U.S. can’t understand why a trip to Disneyland would be worth it. Sure, it’s the original, but it’s also smaller and it just has the same stuff as Disney World, right? Yes, it’s the original and yes, it’s smaller, but NO, it does not just have the same stuff. There are lots of things you can do at Disneyland that you can’t do at Walt Disney World. Rather than trying to cover them all, here are my top 10.
10. Navigate the Rivers of America with multiple watercraft. At Walt Disney World, you can take a ride on the Liberty Square Riverboat, which is lovely, but at Disneyland, you have options. Not only can you take a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat, you can also sail on The Columbia, a replica 3-masted ship complete with cannons and guns, or paddle yourself in one of Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes.
9. Watch Jack Skellington take over the Haunted Mansion for the holidays. While only available late September through the Christmas holiday season, this had to make the list. The Haunted Mansion is completely reimagined highlighting favorite characters and scenes from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
8. Ride from a bug’s perspective. While Flik’s Fun Fair has attractions designed for the littler visitors, adults will enjoy it, too. I love Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train and enjoying the scents strategically placed throughout the ride, Flik’s Flyers are fun, we always ride Francis’ Ladybug Boogie, and my son’s favorite is Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies. I also like to just look around and see the cute atmospheric touches such as the firefly lights, the giant clover shades, and the cereal box tunnel.
7. Take a submarine to find Nemo. Climb aboard a submarine for an underwater trip on Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. You’ll start your tour in the shallows where a masked and finned Darla is looking for more victims and then go deeper to see and hear the aquatic adventures of Nemo, Marlin, Dory, and their friends.
6. Tour the homes of some famous mice (and a dog, a duck, and chipmunks). While removed to make way for the Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom, you can still see where the characters live at Disneyland. In Mickey’s Toontown, there are self-guided tours of Mickey’s House, Minnie’s House, Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Treehouse, Goofy’s Playhouse, and Donald’s Boat as well as character greetings and a couple of rides, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and Gadget’s Go Coaster.
5. Go on an adventure with Indy. Indiana Jones Adventure transports you to the Temple of the Forbidden Eye where someone does not heed the warning sending you and your fellow riders through a high speed, thrilling journey.
4. Enjoy fine dining inside Pirates of the Caribbean. Ahhh… the cool respite of Blue Bayou Restaurant. Enjoy a bug-free, heat-free evening along the waters of the bayou while enjoying some wonderful Cajun and Creole specialties including a non-alcoholic mint julep. Watch out for those scurvy pirates, though, as the boats for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction sail by.
3. Be transported into a World of Color. This water and light show is unlike anything I’ve seen in all my travels. You’ll see scenes from Disney and Pixar films (projected onto a 19,000 square foot screen of water), fountains, lasers, lights, and fireworks all set to an amazing soundtrack.
2. Take a stroll through Radiator Springs. Cars Land is simply amazing. You will literally feel like you walked right into the movie. Enjoy the attractions Luigi’s Flying Tires, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, and Radiator Springs Racers (one of my favorite attractions in all the Disney parks I’ve visited) or dine on chili “cone” queso or an ice cream cone from the Cozy Cone Motel, a meal from Flo’s V8 Cafe or a healthy snack from Fillmore’s Taste In while watching Lightning McQueen and Mater cruise down Route 66.
1. Walk from park to park. No 30-minute plus boat, monorail, or bus trips here. Disneyland’s and Disney California Adventure Park’s entrances are just a 5-minute walk from each other across a central plaza. One side of the plaza also opens to Downtown Disney. You can easily go back and forth seeing different attractions and dining at different locations throughout the Resort. You can also easily enjoy the restaurants and shops at the three Disneyland Resort hotels, which are also a short walk away.
Honorable Mentions –
That was my list, but I have a few honorable mentions that have been suggested by family and friends.
My husband says Pirates of the Caribbean should be included because while similar, he thinks the ride is better at Disneyland because of the extra “drop” at the beginning and the longer ride. My son thinks that the Boudin Bakery Tour followed by lunch at the Pacific Wharf Cafe should be included simply because he would eat broccoli and cheese soup in a sourdough bread boule every meal if we’d let him. I have a theater friend who thinks that Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular should be included because it’s like getting a taste of Broadway right in the park. My fellow Disney enthusiast thinks my list is missing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride because it’s a classic and while it was removed from Walt Disney World to make way for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, at Disneyland, you can have your Pooh and Mr. Toad, too. Plus, there’s California Screamin’, Goofy’s Sky School, Alice in Wonderland, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Monsters Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue… gawrsh, I had forgotten all the great things that are “unique” to Disneyland. I guess you’ll just have to go there to see for yourself!