Friday 14 September 2018

Disneyland | LA Day 5 & 6

After years of dreaming and begging my friends to go with me, I finally made it to Disneyland! As I mentioned in my previous post on California Adventure, I spent two of my three days at the original Disneyland park. Despite getting to the park the moment it opened and not leaving until it closed at night, I still was not able to explore every corner of it and was unable to enjoy all of the rides. Coupled with the fact that Pixar Pier was closed off during my visit only means it is a must that I re-visit Disneyland California. 

Disneyland has 8 distinct regions, and their 9th and biggest one yet aka Star Wars is currently being built. Starting with my favourites:

Main Street, U.S.A. ; Adventureland; New Orleans Square; Tomorrowland; Fantasyland; Frontierland; Critter Country; Mickey's Toontown

I adore Main Street as Walt Disney himself walked down that very path and they have worked hard to maintain the same charm and wonder from its opening day. The shop facades are beautiful and they line the path leading to the iconic Statue of Walt and Mickey waving to guests in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. This street is iconic and also happens to feature another favourite: Starbucks. There are no rides per se in this region, but instead you can take short little tour around the street on a horse-drawn carriage, a vintage car or even a super rad old double decker bus. This also happens to be the hub for your Disney related shopping. But if you are a dork like me, you are going to die for the little museum dedicated to Walt Disney's legacy. There you can look at some of his sketches, the actual bench he was sitting on when he thought of building Disneyland and lots of old pictures of him. 

Intricate wrought iron banisters and the aroma of bayou cooking will lure you into New Orleans Square. It took some expert craftsmen to bring the mystic-filled alleys of New Orleans to life. There are a few places to eat here, but I settled on the more affordable restaurant, New Orleans Cafe. There I got my first taste of Ratatouille and Gumbo and it was so delicious that I came back on my second day for lunch. My friend and I were just randomly chatting about how I hope to someday return for my birthday and unbeknownst to us, our server overheard part of our conversation and surprised me with a birthday Mickey-shaped beignet complete with rainbow coloured Mickey sprinkles and a lit candle. Best service ever! I later also grabbed a whole bag of those classic powdered sugar beignets and sipped on refreshing virgin Mint Juleps over the two days. The only bummer was that the ride that spurred one of Disney's biggest movie franchises, Pirates of the Caribbean, was closed for maintenance. 

Tucked behind New Orleans Square was the busiest part of Disneyland, Adventureland. For such a small space, Disney managed to pack it with some of the coolest rides and attractions. Indiana Jones Adventure is a MUST! Like the majority of the bigger rides at Disney, this ride is hidden from view and even as the line winds through the corridors of the tomb, you still do not get a single glimpse of this epic ride. 

You will also find Pineapple Dole Whip in Adventureland, a frozen treat that is practically synonymous with Disneyland. I do not know how to describe it, but imagine a creamy soft serve that is pineapple flavoured. It is located to the entrance of another hallmark Disneyland attraction, the Tiki Room!!! Truth be told, I had no clue what the Tiki Room even was and honestly stumbled across it completely by chance as I was eating my Dole Whip. Dancing plant dolls mysteriously descended from the tree as an unmarked door swings open beckoning patrons to enter. I am so glad that I followed the crowd inside. You are treated to a marvellous show of singing birds, statues and flower animatronics. I do not want to give away too much because this is a show that absolutely captures that Disney Magic and I think what made it better for me was that I was an unsuspecting audience. 

Tomorrowland is a pretty significant portion of Disneyland and is home to several large attractions including Autopia, Star Tours, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Space Mountain. I find Tomorrowland to be quite fascinating. It is one of the five original lands that opened in 1955 and is not the typical fantasy you would associate with Disney, but instead Tomorrowland is what they imagined the future and outer space could possibly be. Space Mountain is beloved by guests and after riding it myself, I too joined the Space Mountain fan club. During the entire ride you are in pitch darkness while a super dorky alien sci-fi music plays in your ears. By not having you sense of sight, every twist and turn in the ride is a surprise and overall experience is more immersive. 

Walt Disney set out to create an amusement park that could be enjoyed equally by children, adults and elderly and I truly believe he met his goals. Part of that has to do with how the rides are designed to tell a STORY and you as the rider get to experience that story firsthand. 

So there are no massive gut wrenching drops or crazy loops because Disney rides are not about cheap quick 20 second thrills. But what really blew me away and makes Disney truly stand apart from other amusement parks is the fact that every ride that I went on was designed to be accessible for those in a wheelchair. I commend Disney for taking the extra step to ensure everyone can enjoy their attractions. On Space Mountain a section of the track shifts over with an empty cart. This allows the the individual that needs extra assistance to get into the cart without feeling that they are holding up the ride. Once they are ready to go, that cart slides back onto the main track. I do not consider Space Mountain to be a "kiddy" ride as it features fast accelerations, sharp turns and takes place in complete darkness. I really doubt other non-Disney parks designed their big coasters to be as accessible.  

"I felt that there should be something built, some kind of amusement enterprise, where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that's how Disneyland started" - Walt Disney

I kept trying to save Sleeping Beauty's Castle for my last day, but when I finally felt ready to explore every corner of Fantasy land and the Castle, I learned they were closing that area of the park in order to prepare for the fireworks show. I was beyond choked as it was my last night at Disneyland and I did not get to see the castle. Still bitter and upset about that, so if you go, make sure you visit the castle earlier in the day. 

Each night, Disneyland finishes with fireworks spectacle. The staff will ever so slightly start ushering guests from the outer edges of the park towards Main Street, U.S.A. This is because the end of the fireworks signals the closing of the park. I talk about the methodical crowd control planning that has gone into Disney Parks in my California Adventure post too. The fireworks lit up the sky above the castle, but what I was not expecting were the video projections on the castle and on ALL of the storefronts along Main Street. I think my favourite part was when thousands of colourful balloons were projected on the stores with the music from Up filling the air. The fireworks show ends with that classic "When you wish up on a star" that we hear at the beginning of all Disney movies. I live for it!

I will be writing a few more shorter posts on my Disney trip. One of them will be on Club 33 and the other will be all about my souvenirs including pressed pennies. 



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