Disneyland Travel Guide

Welcome Matthew Long back to the blog today, as he writes a post for us!

Visits to Disneyland and Disney World are vastly different trips. Part of what makes Disney World great is how immersive it is. Once you set foot on Disney grounds, there’s no reason to leave. A trip to Disneyland, on the other hand, almost demands that you spend some time outside the Disney parks. Los Angeles is one of the most iconic and massive cities in the country. Orange County, where Anaheim sits just south of LA, lacks a bit in diversity but has plentiful charms of its own.

lighthouse tea party castle

Not everyone taking a Disneyland vacation will have the time to see other sites, but I’d highly recommend building in a day or two extra if possible. If I’m planning a trip for myself, I’d ideally take a full 7-8 days in the area with just three or four of them in the Disney parks. That ratio, and what to do with the extra days, will vary for everyone, but there are plentiful options to engage any interest.

Here are some of my favorite activities in the Disneyland vicinity. I’m going to stick mostly to Orange County, for a couple of reasons. First, I know it best and it’s considerably easier to get to if you’re staying in or near Anaheim. Second, LA is a vast world in itself, and I can’t pretend to play tour guide for it. I’d definitely recommend visiting, but you’ll get better recommendations on specific places to visit elsewhere. Anyway, here we go!

Hit the Beach!

Southern California’s beaches are legendary, and they live up to their reputation. There are three main beaches I like to hit if I’m staying close to Anaheim. Huntington Beach is the biggest, or at least it feels like it is. It has a long main street leading out to the prototypical pier stretching above the waves. There are shops and restaurants to hit on the way to the water, and the beach itself is busy but beautiful. If you do nothing else, walk to the end of the pier, watching the surfers below as you go. Huntington is the place to go for the stereotypical California beach scene.

Paradise Pier rose close darker

Further south are Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Newport is a little glitzier, and I’ve never spent a ton of time there. Laguna is also extremely high-class, but the beach and downtown area is smaller and almost quaint, in a super-rich way. I don’t know if it’s still there, but they had a great little bookstore across from the beach last time we visited, if you need something to read while you lay on the sand. Bonus points if you or your significant other loved the old MTV shows set here. Our plan, if we have time, is to start at Laguna or Huntington and work our way along the PCH toward the other, stopping at whatever beach or shopping or food interests us in between.

There are plenty of other beaches further north or south. Venice Beach is probably the most famous. Seek out whatever interests you, but if you’re just wanting some time by the ocean, the three main Orange County beach towns will satisfy you.

Go to a Game

Los Angeles is home to a lot of sports teams, some of them among the most famous in the country. Anaheim is home to baseball’s Angels, whose stadium is just a few miles from Disneyland. Unfortunately, the Angels don’t have a destination ballpark or anything else special, except for Mike Trout, maybe the best player in the game. To the north, Dodger Stadium is legendary and a much better pick, if you have the time to get there. There are tons of other options, depending on the time of year and your preferences. The Rose Bowl, for a UCLA football game, is the other classic stadium in driving distance. USC doesn’t have as great a stadium, but they’re one of the most storied football programs in history, as are UCLA and the Lakers for basketball. LA’s a great place to kill an afternoon or evening for a sports fan.

King Louie drummers Magical Map

Play in Another Park

Disneyland isn’t the only amusement/theme park in town. Knott’s Berry Farm is a short drive away. I haven’t been there in years, but I have good memories of it, and I understand it’s received some upgrades recently. We’ll be visiting on our trip in August, so I’m sure Wandering in Disney will make some mention of it afterward. Further north are Universal Studios and Harry Potter. I can’t personally say much about either of these, but I’m sure they’re a great time if Disney’s offerings don’t fully satisfy.

Go Shopping. Or Eating

Not everyone sees shopping as a desirable vacation activity, but if you do, there aren’t many better places to be than LA. My Orange County shopping experience is mostly limited to walking around beach towns and a couple of gigantic malls, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and Fashion Island in Newport. They’re all enjoyable, if they fit what you’re in the mood for. LA offers pretty much anything under the sun. There’s the legendary fashion boutiques of Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. Maybe you feel more at home in the hipster, cool kid towns like Silver Lake. I’m not a great guide, unfortunately, but it won’t be hard to find anything you might want to shop for.

tiki room full

Similarly, Los Angeles is one of the great places to eat in the country. There are celebrity chefs, restaurants with celebrities, and everything else you could want. If you’re into food, you probably already have some places in mind. If you’re not but still want to try something new or fancy or interesting, there are billions of lists out there to point you in the right direction.

Take a Second Trip, to San Diego

San Diego sits an hour or two south of Anaheim, depending on traffic. I love San Diego, but it’s probably not worth a day trip, if only because there’s plenty to do closer to Anaheim. But if you have an extra couple of days and want to spend a night somewhere different, there’s no place better than San Diego. A possible itinerary: hit some beaches on the way down, starting with La Jolla and working your way down to Mission and Pacific. You could spend the whole trip on the beach if you want, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so. Coronado Beach is also gorgeous and is a little closer to downtown. For the evening, I love walking around the Gaslamp District, the trendy area for nightlife, or heading to Old Town, a former mission that’s now an enjoyable little tourist trap with great Mexican food. There are plenty of fun neighborhoods to enjoy the next day, but it’s hard to pass up Balboa Park, a sprawling park in the middle of town with beautiful old buildings, gardens and museums. It’s also where the zoo sits, which shouldn’t be missed if you have the time.

Belle purple rose

 

 

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That should be more than enough to keep you busy in the little free time you’re likely to have. This barely scratched the surface of what’s available, so just get out there and see what you can discover. Happy travels!

– Matthew

My Favorite Queues In Disney Parks (So Far…)

People associate many things with Disneyland and Walt Disney World – Fireworks, Mickey Mouse, castles, Dole Whip, and happiness are words and phrases that come to mind.  Waiting in line is another phrase that’s unfortunately associated with Disney.  Now, I’m not here to convince you that waiting in line isn’t bad.  On the contrary, waiting in line isn’t fun at all especially compared to seeing a great show or riding on a wonderfully made attraction.  Standing in line during the middle of a hot day can lead the best of us to question our decisions up until that moment.  While all that is true, not all lines are created equal.

Get it? It's a line.

Get it? It’s a line.

Disney is in the business of storytelling and theme park attractions often begin telling the rides story in the queue (a fancy theme park word for line).  Of course, some lines are extremely boring and hot.  They don’t tell any stories and are just leading up to a ride.  A post on the worst of those is coming in the next few weeks.  This specific post is about my favorite queue’s I’ve been in.  I debated on whether to make this a top-10 list or not but decided against it, due to several updated queues that I haven’t been in (Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom being the biggest name).  Also, queue’s add or lose details fairly often and keeping up with that is somewhat difficult.  Instead, I’m just going to go park by park and share some of my favorite queues in them.  I’ll update the post as queue’s get updated and I experience them.  As always, if I leave one of your favorites off the list then let me know in the comments!

Favorite Queue’s in Disneyland 

Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
Disneyland doesn’t have the blessing of space that some of the other U.S. Disney Parks do, and this shows up more in their queues than anywhere.  While they utilize the space extremely well, there aren’t many elaborate stories told throughout the queue.  Star Tours really packs a lot into the queue, with many odes to the attraction before it was updated.  The story also begins here as you are waiting to board your flight to a different galaxy.  While the line is a little crammed, it does feel like boarding an airplane at times.  There’s also a few visual gags with the droids and some intricate details around.  While it doesn’t rank as highly as some queues across the country, it’s near the top of the list at Disneyland.

Indiana Jones Adventure
This attraction definitely takes the cake for longest queue in Disneyland.  While the outside of this attraction isn’t all that exciting, the inside is filled with dark tunnels and architecture that makes you feel like you’re the great archaeologist himself.  There’s some gags throughout the line (pull the rope) and you also pass a few props from the movie (the car).  Indy’s office is also included in the queue as well as a pretty fun little introductory movie.  This queue is massive but still really well themed, especially once inside the building.

Watch the gap

Jungle Cruise
The two queues I listed before this were indoors, sadly this one is outside.  Still, most of it is shaded.  This queue gets you ready for your journey through the world’s rivers and shows you just a bit of the pun-filled mishaps you’re about to endure.

Disney California Adventure

Soarin’ Around The World
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of any DCA queue but I’ll throw a few out here.  My wife picked this one because of the giant hangar that it feels like you’re in.  That fits the ‘Soarin’ theme.  Still, there isn’t much to look at here.  At least it’s air-conditioned!

Radiator Springs Racers
This queue keeps up with the incredibly themed Cars Land as it weaves you into Radiator Springs most popular roads.  The water tower always stands up to me and is really nicely done.  I’ve only done the regular queue once in my life and all 736 times (roughly) I’ve either had a FastPass or done the single-rider line which I highly recommend even with a group.

Stanley Oasis water tower_edited-1

Tower of Terror
The outside of this queue is next to nothing but the inside is incredibly themed.  The elevator (that doesn’t actually move) is a nice pre-show and the loading zone is chilling yet fascinating to see.  This ride is well themed throughout and that starts as soon as you enter the building.

Magic Kingdom Park

Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
While I don’t like the ride inside, Journey of the Little Mermaid provides an incredible queue.  Blending beautiful rock-work, intricate details and some interactive elements, this attraction shows the best of what Disney can do with queues.  This is fascinating to look at, fun to experience, and there are a few surprises along the way.  While I generally roll my eyes at people who say, “I just walked through the queue and didn’t even go on the ride” this is one instance where I don’t think that’s such a bad plan.

Littlemermaid

Pirates of the Caribbean 
Much different from its West Coast namesake, this Pirates of the Caribbean has an incredible queue that roams through pummeled villages.  You see the wreckage that the pirates have caused even before getting on the ride to take part in the battle.  This is beautifully done and quite long.  Like Indiana Jones Adventure, there is a number of things to see in a massive space.

Haunted Mansion 
This is an interactive queue that was redone a few years ago.  While walking through the outside of the mansion, there are a few things to hit that make sounds.  It’s a lot better than I made it out to be.  The area is beautiful and the interactive parts don’t look out-of-place.  The pet cemetery is my favorite part here (shout out to Mr. Toad) and there are a number of details throughout that get you ready for what’s inside the mansion.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 
Another interactive queue, this one allows you to shoot cannons out into the ‘wilderness’ and watch the after effects.  It’s a little bit worse than it sounds, at least if you’re into cannons.  Still the interactive elements here are pretty interesting as are the details throughout.

Epcot

Test Track 
I’m having a hard time here, as there aren’t many queues that really impress me.  Test Track makes the list because you get to design a car.  For some guests that will be a blast, for others it will be just another way to pass time.  The rest of the queue doesn’t do much for me.

American Adventure
This is a bit of an honorable mention because you don’t really need to stand in line for this attraction.  The building is beautiful and worth exploring though.  More than anything, get to the show 15 minutes early to experience the Voices of Liberty.  It’s one of the sweeter, more beautiful moments in Walt Disney World.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania 
This queue is interesting as you’re shrunken down to the size of a toy (use your imagination, kids!) as you enter the building and then see Andy’s room from that viewpoint.  There’s some fun quirks to the queue and the bright colors are a change from most lines.

Hollywood Tower of Terror
I said in the opening that some attractions and rides start as soon as you get into the queue.  This attraction starts as soon as you start walking down Sunset Boulevard towards it.  Tower of Terror towers above everything and you can hear the shrieks of those in that faulty elevator all throughout the day.  When in the actual line, there is an eerie feeling to the outside portion.  I once saw a large frog jump on the back of a guy’s shirt and just sit there for a few seconds.  The shock wore off after a few seconds and I told the guy there was a frog on his shirt he panicked and then the frog jumped off and into the night.  It was strange.  Back to the queue, once inside the details are unmatched by anything at Walt Disney World.  There is so much to look at and not enough time.  The elevator, again, presents a great pre-show and this time it actually moves!  This is close to a perfect attraction and some of the credit goes to the queue.

Camp Wocka-Wocka

Muppet-Vision 3D 
The line here isn’t used very often anymore.  Still there is a lot of Muppet humor through the queue.  There are movie posters that have been ‘Muppetfied’ and they’re good for a laugh.  Once inside the building, the pre-show movie is one of the best at any Disney Parks around.  There are also some great props lying around the big room.  You probably won’t have to wait long for this ride, but there are worse places to wait in.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Expedition Everest 
Like Tower of Terror, the story of this ride starts as soon as you step foot in Animal Kingdom’s Asia.  There are warnings, offerings, and other signs of the Yeti (no disco balls though) that haunts Everest throughout Asia.  Once inside the actual queue the newspaper clippings and artifacts continue to tell the story that lead to your ascent up the mountain.  It’s a very well done queue, and one that you have to dig a little deeper for the story than some other places.

cropped-cropped-ak-everest2.jpg

Kali River Rapids 
This is the Journey of the Little Mermaid problem all over again.  The queue is vast and incredible.  The ride itself is lacking (although better than Little Mermaid).  You can gather many details about this river and the story of the ride while standing in line.  It’s also a beautiful area with green and the kinetic energy of the water flowing by.  This is an easy queue to put on the list but sadly the ride itself doesn’t give a great follow-up.

That’s my list so far!  Did I miss any queues that are your favorites?  Let me know in the comments.  Thank you for reading our blog and we hope you have a great weekend!

– Andrew

Guardians Of The Galaxy To Take Over DCA’s Tower Of Terror

I’ll keep this fairly short since we wrote about this in our latest question of the week, but it was confirmed tonight that Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout will be taking over the Tower of Terror attraction in California Adventure (it will not be in Disney World, for the time being).  The announcement was made at San Diego Comic-Con and was met with a few boos.  After the Disney Parks Blog posted about it, many fans were outraged and voiced their displeasure online.  Tower of Terror is set to close in early 2017 and open with Guardians of the Galaxy that summer.

DCA TOT

As for what the attraction will be, well I think this quote from the Parks Blog sums it up pretty well:

Deep inside his fortress-like collection, the mysterious Taneleer Tivan (aka The Collector) is displaying his newest acquisitions, the Guardians of the Galaxy. They are trapped in customized display cases, suspended over a vast abyss. Unbeknownst to their unscrupulous captor, the intrepid Rocket has escaped and is enlisting the Collector’s VIP guests for help. Guests board a gantry lift, which launches them into a chaotic and hilarious adventure as they join Rocket in an attempt to break his fellow Guardians out of captivity.

For a little more information on the ride click on the link above and watch the video featuring Joe Rohde, head imagineer of Marvel entertainment in the theme parks.  It was fairly informative and a decent description of what to expect.

As for my reaction, I was a little more upset than I thought I would be.  In my post a few days ago, Tower of Terror was the first attraction off the list of Must-Do’s.  With that in mind, it shouldn’t be a big deal to replace it, right?  Well, maybe it should have been on the list because I was not happy about the announcement.

Via the Disney Parks Blog

Via the Disney Parks Blog

I guess the place to start is on the optimistic side… I think the attraction will be cool and well done.  This seems to be a pretty decent idea for the ride and it will be updated to add some different ride sequences throughout (in theory).  Joe Rohde is one of the best Imagineers out there and I have a decent amount of faith in him making this a quality and fun attraction.

The other piece of good news this brings is that more Marvel attractions are on the way.  Sure, I’d rather Disney be creating some attractions that are independent of movies and are creatively exclusive to the theme parks but Marvel has a fun, vast library of content to draw from.  The company has been surprisingly slow in adding Marvel attractions and this signals that some are coming, at least in California.

Via the Disney Parks Blog

Via the Disney Parks Blog

Now the negatives, which definitely outweigh the positives for me.  Tower of Terror is a good attraction.  California Adventure has some really nice rides but certainly could use more.  Instead of building a new, exciting experience we have to cancel out one of the parks better rides to get something new.  This move doesn’t help with park capacity (which is an issue for all Disney Parks), the attraction lineup or enhance the theme.  It draws more people in (possibly) to an already crowded park.  This continues a worrisome trend at Disney.

As most of you know, Frozen Ever After just opened in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot.  Frozen was the highest grossing animated film of all-time and definitely deserved an attraction in the parks.  Disney knew this and decided to use an already existing ride to speed up the time table and, let’s be honest, save a little money.  Because of this Frozen Ever After is placed in a land that it doesn’t have any business being in.  The same will hold true for GotG-M:B (what a terrible acronym).

Via the Disney Parks Blog

Via the Disney Parks Blog

Instead of building new and doing the IP justice, Guardians will be placed in an already existing ride that everyone knows the layout of.  It will also be the eye candy of Hollywood Boulevard and, as the concept art shows, doesn’t really fit the area with that exterior overlay.  I understand the urge to get Marvel into the parks as soon as possible but we’ve waited since 1955.  I think we could wait for another 2 years while they build a whole new attraction.  Even if the attraction is well done and successful, like Frozen Ever After, it will be a big black eye on the theming of California Adventure.  People will counter with that overused Walt quote about how Disneyland should always be changing, but that’s not the point.  The point is that without a cohesive theme, a park will have a poor design.  Arendelle isn’t Norway.  You shouldn’t take the Hollywood Tower out of Hollywood Boulevard.  These are obvious statements but ones that Disney isn’t following and now ruining the themes of lands because of it.

I love new attractions.  And I don’t mind replacing attractions.  But replacing attractions with overlays that don’t fit the theme of an area is ridiculous and cheap.  On one side of the entrance to DCA there will be a richly detailed land themed to California’s mountains.  On the other side of the entrance there will be a street in Hollywood with a tower that is from space at the end of it.  This trend of reusing ride systems for new attractions that don’t fit the area needs to end.  As for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout I guess we hope for the best and see the ride for what it hopefully will be – a fun ride in the wrong spot of the park, that cost us a great attraction.

Tower of Terror old fashioned

What do you think of this news?  Please let us know in the comments and if you are passionate about either side of this debate, let Disney know what you think.  That’s the best (only?) thing we can do as fans.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Must Do’s For First Timers: Disney California Adventure

Disney Parks are one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world thanks in large part to people making their first visit to the park. I often hear of people going to the parks for the first time and they hardly know anything about the parks. Some people will do the proper research and make a plan. Others will just show up without any idea of what to do or what is there. I feel badly for those families, as they don’t know what they are getting themselves into. They also won’t be able to accomplish nearly as much as they’d probably like.  With that in mind, I’m going through each U.S. Disney Park and making a list of attractions that everyone, who’s going to the parks for their first time, should do.

Carthay Circle old fashioned

Last week I started this series in Disneyland.  Today we move across the Esplanade to Disney California Adventure.  With the Disneyland installment there were many attractions to list.  Disneyland will have the most ‘must do’s’ out of all six U.S. Disney Parks, as it packs an incredible amount into the limited space they have.  That’s not to say California Adventure is bad.  Since it’s rebirth around 2012, California Adventure has added quality while maintaining a few classics that it opened with.  Completing all of these attractions in one day shouldn’t be hard, especially if you take advantage of FastPass while at DCA.  Let’s get to the list!

California Screamin’ 

There are a lot of attractions at California Adventure that I’m on the fence about putting on this list, California Screamin’ is one of those.  The pros:  It’s a great roller coaster themed to the California pier coasters in Southern California.  The cons: That’s all it is.  Still, it is beloved by many and a really fun ride, especially if you are a roller coaster lover.

sunset california screamin paradise pier

Grizzly River Run

This may be the most underrated Disney attraction in U.S.  It had been a few years since I rode it (due to me always being there during refurbishments) but when I finally revisited it I was blown away.  I think it’s hard to give raft rides a theme once actually on the attraction (like Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom) but this one manages to accomplish that.  Rushing down the river in Grizzly Peak packs many thrills along with beautiful sights.  There are also some mini trails that go around this attraction and offer some fun views and photo opportunities.  If it’s open when you’re there, go on Grizzly River Run.  It’s worth getting soaked for.

fog grizzly river run

Radiator Springs Racers 

The best attraction in California Adventure and one of the modern marvels of Disney Imagineering, Radiator Springs Racers is the biggest ‘must-do’ on this list.  It’s a beautiful attraction on a very large-scale.  The rock-work on the outside of the attraction is incredibly well done and the audio animatronics inside are some of the best Disney has created.  RSR is a great combination of dark ride and thrill ride.  It takes you through Radiator Springs (from the movie Cars) and you run into some familiar faces along the way.  To read more about it, see what Cassie said a few months ago.

Cars Land Cadillac Mountains and signs night

Soarin’ Around The World

To be honest, I haven’t seen the update to this attraction.  I will in less than a month and I’m really looking forward to it.  Reviews have been stellar and I think an update to the original (Soarin’ Over California) was needed.  This attraction takes you hang-gliding high above some of the world’s most beautiful sights.  The seating here is really what makes the attraction unique and the smells are some of the most memorable at any Disney Park.

Grizzly Peak Airfield Soarin'

Toy Story Midway Mania

This one barely makes the cut.  The attraction is basically playing Boardwalk style games with Toy Story characters.  Some of the technology is pretty cool but it’s nothing out of this world.  Still, the attraction is incredibly fun with the right people.  The Mr. Potato Head animatronic in the queue is really great, as well.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion

Another one that I will experience in the next month but I’m basing this off of reviews and what came before it.  This is a broadway style production of Frozen in a beautiful theater.  Aladdin came before it and was really well done, and many have said Frozen is the same.  They are using some interesting technology throughout the show and the acting is near Broadway level.  This takes up a longer amount of time than most attractions on this list (I would recommend a FastPass here) but it is worth it and a nice break.

Hyperion Aladdin theater DCA

World of Color – Celebrate

I’d be more comfortable putting the original World of Color on this list.  This version isn’t as well done, as it feels a bit too commercialized.  Still, seeing the fountains, colors and projections that this show offers is a must at least once.  This is California Adventure’s nighttime show and it has some incredible moments.  Here’s our review.

World of Color lots of colors

Cars Land Lighting

This is a little moment inside of the immersive Cars Land.  At sunset every night, music comes over the speakers and Cars Land lights up in all it’s neon glory.  It’s a small moment and easy to miss even if you are inside the land but it’s sweet and well done.  At the very least, walk around this area after dark.  Like many lands at Disney Parks, Cars Land takes on a new energy at night and looks fantastic.  We spend many hours there soaking in the environment, eating and riding a few attractions.

Cars Land at night

Just missed the cut:

Tower of Terror – This attraction doesn’t compare to its counterpart on the east coast, still this is a great ride.

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – This attraction isn’t anything special but it’s impossible not to laugh while on it.

The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – My wife would be upset if I didn’t mention this.

Paradise Pier fun wheel from bridge

Did I leave anything off the list? Do you have any questions if you’re a first time guest going to Disneyland? Leave me a comment and I’ll try to fix the list or help you out!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (7/17/16)

Every few weeks our writers get together and discuss a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answer.

MK gold fw

Question of the Week: With rumors of Guardians of the Galaxy coming to Epcot and a Marvel Land coming to DCA… Would you be excited for Marvel attractions to show up in the Disney Parks?

Leslie – Yes, yes, yes, yes, and more yes. Now that I got my excited fan girl answer out-of-the-way. I was never a huge Marvel fan as a child, growing up and seeing these movies has been a wonderful introduction for me into the fandom. There are some who want traditional Disney, but traditional Disney is this embrace of change and this continued growth. I want the rumors to be true, I want to see this growth just as much as I wanted to see Star Wars land slowly arrive.

FoF Peter Pan skull

Andrew – I’d be excited to see what they could come up with, as I like most Marvel films. I don’t really want it replacing anything as I think most US Disney Parks need to up capacity instead of just changing attractions out. Doing that seems short-sighted and doesn’t let Imagineers full creativity, instead shoehorning them into an already existing area. I also don’t think they need to add attractions at the expense of ending the park theme. Marvel attractions in California Adventure should have a story that takes place in California. Marvel attractions in Epcot need to fit the idea of what area they’re in. If they don’t then theme parks aren’t themed anymore, they’re just rides in areas. Still, I am in favor of Marvel attractions coming to the Disney Parks.

If you got to pick, which parks would you put Marvel attractions in Leslie? And what characters would you want most want to see?

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Leslie – I do not have a problem per say about having the Marvel attractions in Epcot I simply do not know where they would put it because I don’t know if I would really want to get rid of anything, except maybe the Ellen and Bill Nye ride, that’s a good bit of space to be used. Otherwise I think Epcot and CA would be the best parks for Marvel attractions. I think they would fit the area the best other than Hollywood Studios. I worry putting Marvel attractions alongside Star Wars would pull more guests into Hollywood Studios rather than spreading guests between the parks.

I would love to see Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye (cause he is under appreciated) and Loki the most.

Star Tours guy

Melissa – This is hard for me because I feel I could go either way. I feel whatever attraction they added that was related to Marvel would be high thrill and a lot of fun! As a roller coaster lover I feel I would love them no matter where they put them. But at the same time, they don’t feel truly Disney to me…rather an offshoot of it. I think I’d prefer it becoming a separate park in general. One thing I love about the Disney parks is how they can almost flawlessly pass from one theme of a section into another. I guess I just can’t envision a marvel attraction just thrown in there. If they made a Marvel Land I think that would be better!

Grizzly Peak Airfield Soarin'

Cassie – I am not the biggest Marvel fan, but I think there is A LOT to work with, so much that it could take up a park all of its own. I know that creating an all marvel themed park is an extravagant idea, but I think keeping it to one land or one small area maybe isn’t enough. Plus, it isn’t like marvel is slowing down any time soon! The movies are endless!

Tower of Terror old fashioned

Would you want Marvel attractions in Disney Parks?  Where would you put them?  Let us know in the comments.

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our Facebook page.  You can easily access both of those on the right side of this page.  If you have any questions about the Disney Parks or trip planning you can leave us a comment or email us at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  We’d be happy to help!  Thank you again for reading and have a great week!

– Andrew

Must-Do’s For First Timers: Disneyland

Disney is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world thanks in large part to people making their first visit to the park.  I often hear of people going to the parks for the first time and they hardly know anything about the parks.  Some people will do the proper research and make a plan.  Others will just show up without any idea of what to do or what is there.  I feel badly for those families, as they don’t know what they are getting themselves into.  They also won’t be able to accomplish nearly as much as they’d probably like.

Partners night 60th castle

While I’ve tried to make our site helpful to first-time guests, there is still plenty more to cover.  I do think that reading about FastPass, dining, and hotels is helpful but what about simple attractions that everyone should try?  Would that be helpful?  Duh!  That’s why I’m writing about it.  And I wouldn’t take up 3+ hours of a rainy Monday to write about something that I thought was only an okay idea.

We’ll go park by park through all of the U.S. Disney parks (moving west to east) touching on attractions and shows that everyone should try to see on their first visit.  Of course, time isn’t endless (unless you are one of those crazy Time Stoppers) so people may not be able to complete everything on these lists.  I’ll try to keep from adding too many attractions on to the list so it’s somewhat doable.  Let’s get started with the Disneyland Must-Do’s For Dummies (that’s a better title but not as accurate) First Timers.

The Mountains

Matterhorn night waterfall

Let’s knock out a few attractions right off the bat.  The ‘Disney Mountain Range’ is made up of Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and, Disneyland’s honorary member, the Matterhorn.  These are all thrill rides of varying degrees and are some of the most popular attractions in the park.  Big Thunder Mountain, the Matterhorn, and Space Mountain are all roller coasters themed to different areas.  Big Thunder is themed to the wild, wild west and is termed the wildest ride in the wilderness.  As far as roller coasters go, Big Thunder really isn’t that wild (no roller coaster at Disney is THAT wild) but it is themed marvelously.  It’s a pretty good starter roller coaster for those who haven’t experienced coasters before.  The Matterhorn Bobsleds is steeped in Disney history and is themed to the Swiss Alps.  Aside from the castle, this attraction is the park icon as it towers high above the rest of Disneyland.  Space Mountain is in Tomorrowland and themed as a ride through space. If you want to know what it is in simpler terms, it’s a roller coaster in the dark.  Of course, it’s a much better attraction than just that but I’ll save the details.  As of July 2016, Space Mountain is currently HyperSpace Mountain and has a Star Wars theme. This overlay probably won’t last more than another year.

Hungry Bear Splash River Boat

Splash Mountain is different than its mountain brethren because there’s a stream that runs around.  That streams leads you on a flume ride with stunning show scenes.  This attraction would also be considered a thrill ride as it has several drops and then one extreme drop.  The soundtrack, scenes and story are what make it a classic though.

Haunted Mansion

Located in New Orleans Square, Haunted Mansion is that daunting building of the land, much like the mountains in their lands.  This mansion has 999 ghosts and is looking for one more.  While a scary premise, Haunted Mansion isn’t all that scary.  The track system is brilliant and is one of the first ‘omnimovers’ in the theme parks.  Meaning that the track constantly keeps moving and can move guests through at a rapid pace.  That means the line will move much faster than other attractions, so keep that in mind if the line looks really long.  The Haunted Mansion is a Disney masterpiece that is a must-do.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye Adventure

Apparently they don’t use that name anymore on the website.  Indiana Jones Adventure* is a fantastic attraction for thrill seekers.  It contains many nods to the different Indy movies and also uses a unique ride system.  As you cruise along in a jeep, the story takes you on an expedition to see old artifacts and Indy helps you out along the way.  This thrill ride doesn’t have history that other attractions on this list have but it makes up for it with a unique, bumpy and exciting.

*notates that I think that’s a stupid name.

“it’s a small world”

iasw blog

From one of the most thrilling attractions to uhh… How should I describe this?  If you haven’t noticed I’ve been trying to do short descriptions of each attraction and telling you why it’s a classic that’s not to be missed.  Here it goes for this one… A whimsical, slow boat ride where thousands of dolls sing a catchy, good song over and over again for approximately 12 minutes.  Yeah, that doesn’t sound great.  But, “it’s a small world” is maybe the most hopeful attraction ever made.  There’s also the beautiful Mary Blair artwork throughout the attraction and on the exterior.  Made for the 1964 World’s Fair, “it’s a small world” is a true Disney classic that shouldn’t be missed.

Jungle Cruise

From one boat ride to another, the Jungle Cruise is distinctly ‘Disney’.  This cruise takes you through the World’s most famous rivers, showing the animals that inhabit them.  Much to Walt’s disliking, these animals aren’t real but are instead audio-animatronics.  While on the cruise you’re likely to run into some bad jokes and puns by your skipper.  The Jungle Cruise has been around nearly as long as Disneyland has been, making it a classic.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Mr. Toads Wild Ride castle background

Located in Fantasyland, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is exactly what the name says it is.  You go on a wild ride with Mr. Toad.  If you think going on a drive with a toad sounds like a bad idea then you’re probably right.  But, this wacky story and classic Fantasyland attraction help it narrowly make my list (it was the last attraction on it).

Peter Pan’s Flight 

Another classic Fantasyland attraction.  Peter Pan’s Flight is the most famous and popular attraction in that land.  You soar high above scenes from the movie as they take place below.  I’ve tried for years to come up with why this attraction still ranks near the top of my favorites.  Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just an extremely well-executed dark ride, or maybe it’s the history.  I don’t know but I think all first-timers should brave the wait and go on it.

Pirates of the Caribbean 

Pirates of the Caribbean is maybe the best attraction at Disneyland.  With incredible detail, audio animatronic figures, and unbelievable scale, Pirates has something for everyone in the family.  It may be a bit spooky at first (like Haunted Mansion) but really it turns into a slow boat ride with amazing show scenes.  Another similarity Pirates shares with Haunted Mansion is that it loads very quickly and gets people in and out at huge numbers per hour.  There’s a ton of Disney history in this pirate-filled ride through the Caribbean.

Paint the Night Parade

Belle purple rose

One of Disney’s most recent additions easily makes the cut as this parade is bright, beautiful and enormous.  I’m not much of a parade person but this one really drew me in with its bright lights.  The soundtrack is fun, there isn’t a bad float in the lot, and there is a nice assortment of characters.  Don’t miss this parade.

Disneyland Forever

Disneyland Forever sparkly castle

There are rumors that this fireworks show is on its way out.  But no matter what fireworks are going on at Disneyland, you should probably go see them.  There is a reason why so many people end their night with fireworks on a day at Disneyland.  It’s because the whole day is leading up to this huge show that will likely take your breath away.  While some shows are more well done than others, Disneyland Forever is very solid as far as story but really shines when it comes to technology.  I don’t know what’s ahead for fireworks at Disneyland but every first-timer should see them regardless of the show.

Explore the Park

Okay, my final one is a bit of a go with me here.  This isn’t an attraction to ride but something to do for not just Disneyland but most of the U.S. Disney Parks.  Just take time to explore the areas and soak in the experience.  This looks different for each person.  Some will be drawn in by the neon glow of Tomorrowland at night, some by the jazz music of New Orleans Square.  Some will spend their time soaking in the small-town feel of Main Street or the whimsical details of Fantasyland.  I spend a lot of my time by the Rivers of America (although that’s harder to do right now).  If you just run from attraction to attraction then Disneyland isn’t much better than parks all around the World.  If you take the time to learn the stories of the lands, see the details in the architecture and figure out the themes then Disneyland becomes much more than a place with cool rides.  I think it’s important to at least recognize that as first-time guests (and repeat guests) will want to run from place to place.

Light with tree limbs

Here’s a few that narrowly missed my list:

Fantasmic! – This nighttime spectacular will surely be on my list when the show comes back next year.

Disneyland Railroad – Same goes here, when it reopens the Disneyland Railroad will be on this list.

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln – This is hard to leave off the list.  A great show with an animatronic Abraham Lincoln giving a speech.  The pre-show has some beautiful models and art work.  There is so much history in this attraction and it’s really well done.

lighthouse tea party castle

Mad Tea Party – A sort of rite of passage Disneyland ride but it really isn’t that great of attraction.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant- Same as the Mad Tea Party.

Enchanted Tiki Room – Another Disney classic where birds sing to you (the birds aren’t real).

Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough – While it’s not super exciting, walking through a castle is a special moment especially to kids.

Did I leave anything off the list?  Do you have any questions if you’re a first time guest going to Disneyland?  Leave me a comment and I’ll try to fix the list or help you out!  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Disney Park Power Rankings (July 2016)

In the last half-year I’ve tried to come up with a way to give quick updates on the U.S. Disney Theme Parks without sounding like a press release.  Due to my excellent and professional writing I found this task to be difficult.  I’ve had to turn down countless job offers due to these posts and I’m sick of it.  With that in mind, it’s time for a new format! (Okay, maybe I just wanted to try something slightly more unique than giving quick updates with brief commentary.)

FoF MH and SW

This new idea for a park update post is extravagant.  So extravagant, in fact, that it demands its own line and capital letters:

Theme Park Power Rankings!

That looks good, right?  I know it does.  But what are these Theme Park Power Rankings, you might ask?  Well, let me guide you through the mystery.  If you’re unfamiliar with power rankings, they are used a lot in sports writing when columnists/bloggers have no other ideas for content.  The writer gets to decide which team or player is playing best on the current date and then ranks the teams in that order.  Why use this overdone format?  Well, not many theme park blogs are brave enough to venture into the world of power rankings.  Allow me to take the fall for everyone else.  Why so many rhetorical questions in this paragraph?  Because those are the easiest to answer.

These power rankings will feature the six U.S. Disney Theme Parks.  Like real power rankings are supposed to do, they won’t reflect which park is the best overall.  Disneyland and Magic Kingdom would constantly be at the top of the list if these rankings were just ‘what park is best’.  Instead, these will reflect new attractions, entertainment and dining.  They will also take into account any rumors of the last few weeks.  Confused?  You’ll figure it out.  Are these rankings strictly my opinion?  Yes, but my opinion is always right…  Ready to start?  Me neither, but here we go anyway!

gargoyle

  1. Magic Kingdom – Walt Disney World’s original park gets the top spot on these arbitrary rankings by default.  Magic Kingdom hasn’t screwed anything up recently so they get the top spot.  They premiered a new daytime stage show that has received very good reviews.  While I’m not usually a big fan of daytime stage shows, I’m looking forward to seeing this one.
    There is a curious rumor going around (and it seems to be nearly a sure thing) that the Muppets will infiltrate Liberty Square.  My favorite characters in one of my favorite theme park lands?  Sounds great, right?  Well, I’m not so sure.  Liberty Square is set in colonial America.  There weren’t any Muppets back then.  While immersive, themed lands have become a trend to build, taking care of excellently themed lands that exist has been put on the back burner.  Breaking theme in different areas frustrates me.  Still, I think this could be done correctly.  The Muppets can fit most areas as they can be dressed up in any way.  The rumor is that they will interact with guests who are walking by Hall of Presidents.  If this is done in a non-intrusive way then this could be a draw for kids and muppet fans.  Time will tell!  Imagination
  2. Epcot – With the successful opening of Soarin’ this park should be at the top of the list.  Throw in Frozen Ever After (breaking theme aside) and Epcot has added two quality attractions in the last month.  The animatronics in Frozen Ever After look spectacular and this attraction is much higher quality than most of us expected.  They have run into malfunctions with the ride nearly every day so hopefully those get ironed out shortly.
    So, why doesn’t Epcot get the top spot that it has rightfully earned?  It’s due to another one of these rumors popping up.  While the Muppets in Liberty Square gives pause, Guardians of the Galaxy in Epcot’s Future World makes me stare at a blank screen dumbfounded for 15 minutes.  The rumor is a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction (or two) will be replacing Ellen’s Energy Adventure in the next few years.  Guardians is a great franchise but it doesn’t belong in Epcot.  Or at least it doesn’t belong in the old idea of Epcot.  If they are going to start adding different franchises to this park then the park needs a new theme entirely.  That’s a shame.  Epcot was once the greatest idea ever for a theme park.  Now it’s been morphed into something else because businessmen don’t see the corporate synergy flowing through the old version.  While this is a post for another day, I’ll be sorry to see Epcot break further from its theme.  On the plus side, I’m glad that it’s not rotting to pieces like Hollywood Studios did for a few years.  If the theme is going to change hopefully what they add will be full of quality and will have some sort of theme.  giraffe
  3. Animal Kingdom – Last I checked in on Animal Kingdom they were set to open up the park at night.  That happened and most of what they opened were well received.  The Tree of Life Awakenings are beautiful.  The safaris at sunset have drawn pretty good reviews.  Tiffins (a new signature restaurant) and the Nomad Lounge are both seen as upgrades over other Disney restaurants.  The street parties fit the area well.  But, there’s one black eye.  The Jungle Book nighttime show is terrible by all accounts.  It was hastily thrown together as imagineers to sort out the issues with Rivers of Light.  Disney hasn’t updated us on whatever is happening with Rivers of Light, which is unfortunate because that show will almost surely be better than this Jungle Book show.  Once Rivers of Light opens I believe Animal Kingdom will become a much stronger option.  Until then, it sits in the third spot.  Hyperion Aladdin theater DCA
  4. California Adventure – Not much going on here.  Frozen Live at the Hyperion Theater opened to strong reviews.  Soarin’ took the place of Soarin’ Over California.  There are rumors of a Marvel Land coming.  Hmm… Maybe this park should be much higher.  Hey, I’m no power rankings expert.  This is my first time!
  5. Disneyland – Disneyland had a big summer last year and has coasted on those additions through this year.  There isn’t much going on here either.  Some more bad rumors persist here.  Disneyland Forever, the new fireworks show that debuted last summer, is said to be on its way out once September rolls around.  Some of that has to do with Star Wars Land construction and some of that has to do with budget cuts.  Hopefully Paint the Night won’t be Disneyland’s only nighttime spectacular.  I would be sad to see any of the new shows go, as they are all well done.  September 2016 to summer 2017 could be a fairly bad time to visit Disneyland, with a lot of construction going on and many attractions down.  sharp Disneyland Forever
  6. Disney’s Hollywood Studios – This poor park just can’t seem to get much right.  DHS debuted two new Star Wars shows, one during the day and one during the night. The one during the day has drawn bad reviews, although they’ve ironed some issues out.  The fireworks show, Star Wars A Galactic Spectacular, is a mixed bag.  When standing in the right spot, this show is well done with great projections.  When standing in the wrong spot the projections are hard to see and the fireworks are well off-center.  My advice would be to get there fairly early and see the fireworks in the courtyard in front of The Great Movie Ride.  With so few attractions and shows that have issues, it’s still up for debate if Hollywood Studios is worth going to.

I should mention that Disney Springs has probably had the strongest year of any Disney Park area.  While not a park, Disney Springs seems to be opening something new every week.  There are great restaurants and stores to try.  If I was to include it in my power rankings, it would probably be in the top spot.

Now comes the fun part!  You get to tell me what an idiot I am for the order of my rankings.  Yes, I know DCA is too low.  You can still remind me in the comments.  Also, let me know if you have any questions about what is going on in the parks.  I’m happy to help however I can!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (7/2/16)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answer.

Question of the Week: Let’s rehash an old question here… With the extreme heat and high crowds would you want to go to a Disney Park on the 4th of July to experience the special offerings? Would you rather go on the 4th than a day without special events but with normal weather and crowd levels?

Leslie – I think everyone should experience each holiday at least once. I regret not being able to see the 4th of July fireworks. You couldn’t really see them from Disney Springs and I had to work. That being said the parks are definitely packed to the extreme, the fireworks however I heard are amazing and can be seen from pretty much anywhere due to how many there are. So for me personally I would rather do the holidays than a normal day. They feel more magical sometimes.

DSC_8041_edited-1

Andrew – I agree with Leslie that I’d like to experience all of the special activities at Disney Parks on the 4th. While 4th of July would be on the bottom of the list of holidays I want to experience at Disney (mostly because of the heat) it would still be special and something I’d like to try. If I had to pick a park to experience it in, I’d probably choose Epcot, as both them and Magic Kingdom usually do a special show. I would just go in with the expectation of not doing very many attractions that day and with the goal of finding some shade.

Lowering the flag

Melissa – Hmmm… this is hard. I love the 4th of July. It’s one of my favorite holidays and I think experiencing it at Disney would be extraordinary. But at the same time I don’t really love it when the parks are so full you can hardly walk through them and I feel on a specific day holiday it would be that full. I also like days that aren’t super busy because you can get a lot done in that day which I always feel is a successful day. So I think what I’m getting at is that I’d choose both?

Finale Disneyland Forever

What would your choice be?  Let us know in the comments!

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy what you’re reading then please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook account.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  If you have any questions about the Disney Parks or trip planning, leave us a comment or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  We’d be happy to help!  Thank you for reading and have a fun, safe 4th of July weekend!