The family and I have been on vacation since the 14th. We’re taking our annual pilgrimage to Arizona to spend a holiday with my side of the family. We also took a side-trip to Disneyland as our present to G for her fourth birthday. This would be Lisa’s and Grace’s first trip to Disneyland and my second. (I spent a few hours there in June of 2004.)
We spent four days and three nights here and stayed at the Grand Californian on the concierge level. (We wanted a nice view of Disney’s California Adventure (DCA) and since we had stayed concierge at the Grand Floridian, we wanted to compare to something similar.)
Overall, it was a fun trip. We’re glad we went. I think we spent just the right amount of time there and were there at a good time of year. We got to see the Haunted Mansion’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” overlay and the crowds were pretty manageable. (The worst day for the crowds was Saturday, which wasn’t surprising.) We spent three days at the Magic Kingdom and one at DCA. (Well, most of one day at DCA, but the rest at the Magic Kingdom.) The Monte Cristos at Blue Bayou were tasty and the service at Napa Rose was wonderful.
Inevitably though, Lis and I would wind up comparing it to our usual Disney stomping ground, Walt Disney World, and, quite frankly, it doesn’t seem to measure up.
Disneyland has a lot going for it to be sure. First, it’s the first. This is where it all started and that needs to be appreciated. This is the only park Walt Disney was directly involved with from start to finish. We like the theming of Adventureland better than WDW’s. New Orleans Square is nice with no WDW equivalent and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride still exists at Disneyland. (Then again, WDW still has the People Mover / TTA, which I like a bit better anyway.) While we haven’t been on the revamped Pirates at WDW yet, I like the one at Disneyland better, even when the updated aspects are not counted. The updated Space Mountain was nice and the aforementioned “Nightmare” overlay to the Haunted Mansion is great fun. Lis liked their Downtown Disney better, even though it is smaller.
On the other hand, there was a lot that surprised (in a bad way) and disappointed us. First and foremost was the general grumpiness and lack of helpfulness of most of the cast members. We assumed that all Disney cast members were friendly and helpful, at least while on stage. I guess we just assumed that this level would be about the same across all the Disney parks, especially at the U.S. parks, but not so. The cast members at Disneyland are quite a bit less helpful (especially at DCA — try to find a map anywhere in the park after you’ve gone through the gate and everybody’s always pointing to someone else) and even grumpy. Sure, there were some exceptions such as the concierge staff and Poe at Napa Rose, who patiently helped us avoid a four-year-old, time-zone-related meltdown.
While on the topic of Napa Rose, the food at Disneyland is not as good as at Walt Disney World either. Now, having the default for the kid meals be fruit instead of fries is a great idea, I’m not sure if this is a Disneyland thing or something that’s across all the Disney parks. (I do know that they announced a commitment to better, more nutritious food at their parks, I’m just not sure if this is part of that initiative or something else.) As for restaurant quality, I’ve heard that Napa Rose is the tops for Disneyland. It was good, but not great. The food tasted good, but the tenderness of the steaks we got there was only a couple steps above “leather.” Nothing we had really wowed us. At WDW, the two top restaurants are Victoria and Albert’s and the California Grill. Both are easily head and shoulders above Napa Rose. And at WDW, there are so many other good choices which are also around the same level as Napa Rose.
There are other things that Disneyland stuffers from just because it’s so tight on space. A lot is jammed into that space and there’s no option for some of the other niceties we enjoy at WDW, such as the bike paths, the water mice, and the wide variety of resort options.
Overall, we had a good time at Disneyland. I’m glad we went, but I have no desire to go back there anytime soon. WDW has and is so much more.
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