Dueling Disneyland: Storybook Land Canal Boats vs. Casey Jr. Circus Train

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Among Disneyland Park’s greatest assets is its overabundance of attractions. With over 45 named rides and shows — more than any other park in the Touring Plans database — it’s inevitable to find some duplication among Disneyland’s lineup.

The existence of several pairs of extremely similar experiences makes crafting an efficient touring plan a little more interesting. A prime example is the pairing of Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train. Both Fantasyland attractions date back to Disneyland’s earliest days, and traverse the same elaborately manicured real estate.

It stands to reason that one of the two should be expendible on an efficient itinerary. Indeed, we do not include either attraction in our basic adult-oriented one-day touring plan. But we do suggest the inculsion of one or the other on all our kid-focused and multi-day plans. The question is, which trip to take?

The short answer is that our critical rating in the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland is 2½ stars for Casey Jr., and 3 stars for Storybook Land. But not so fast — both rides have their adherents, for good reasons:

Casey Jr. Circus Train

  • With both trains running, Casey Jr. can handle crowds quicker than the canal boats (though neither is a quick loader).
  • The trains’ modest velocity and elevation make it mildly thrilling compared to the sedate boats.
  • The monkey cage train cars, though uncomfortable for adults to ride in, make for a great photo.
  • The prerecorded Casey Jr. theme song is insistently catchy.
  • Unlike the Canal Boats, Casey Jr. doesn’t shut down during the parade.
  • At about under 4 minutes, it’s over quickly if you don’t enjoy it.

Storybook Land Canal Boats

  • Like at the Jungle Cruise, the live narration of the canal boat drivers adds immensely to the experience, especially if you get a clever one.
  • The boats give a much better view of the amazingly detailed fairytale miniatures along the waterways.
  • Though its maximum capacity is lower, Storybook Land can move guests quicker than Casey Jr. does with only one train running.
  • Over 6 minutes of cruising time means this one of the longer rides at Disneyland, making it a great return on your wait time investment.

I personally give the nod to the Canal Boats, but I urge everyone on a relaxed vacation schedule to give both a try, especially if the wait is under 20 minutes. While neither ride ranks among Disneyland’s most popular attractions, I’ve personally had “magical” experiences on both.

During my last visit to Disneyland, my wife and I were in line for the Storybook Land Canal Boats shortly before closing time. I noticed that we were the only people in the queue, and mentioned to my wife that we might get a boat all to ourselves. Just then a large family got in line behind us, and we assumed we would share our trip with them. But a cast member must have overheard us, because they held the group back and let us board alone for a private tour.

On an earlier occasion, we managed to board Casey Jr. just as the fireworks began. We not only got to experience the ride, but also had an exquisite view of the explosions seemingly surrounding us. The best part was getting an eyeful of the acrobatic Tinker Bell and Dumbo used in the Believe seasonal sky show.

On my first ever sailing through Storybook Land, I lucked out by boarding the boat of skipper “Mary Ann.” She split my sides with her sotto voce sunnily snarky side-comments, which I captured on the following video. I still see her regularly operating rides in Fantasyland, and never fail to notice her infectious enthusiasm.

For comparison purposes, here is a video I shot of a daytime ride on Casey Jr. Circus Train.

Which of these two rides do you include on your personal Disneyland touring itinerary? Neither or both? Tell me in the comments below!

Seth Kubersky

Author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. Co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and Beyond Disney. Contributor to Unofficial Guides to WDW and Las Vegas. Live Active Cultures columnist for the Orlando Weekly. Travel and arts journalist. Theatrical director and producer.

7 thoughts on “Dueling Disneyland: Storybook Land Canal Boats vs. Casey Jr. Circus Train

  • April 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm
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    The Storybook Land Canal Boats are a required attraction for me whether my kids are with me or not. It’s one of my favorite non-thrill rides.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm
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    Even as a ‘commando’ tourer, I have a tough time reducing my Disneyland experience to such calculated planning.

    Skipping one or the other in the name of an “efficient itinerary” doesn’t sit well with me. It requires reducing the attractions to their simplest terms, which I don’t think is appropriate.

    Despite their inter-connectedness, I view these attractions as starkly different, and think both are Disneyland classics that are worth experiencing.

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    • April 20, 2012 at 10:15 am
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      Tom, I agree that they are both worth doing when you aren’t trying to fit every E-ticket into one day. I try to do both on every trip, but when recommending a one-day plan to infrequent visitors, it’s hard to fit them in.

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      • April 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm
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        That’s a fair-enough point. Being more of a Disney ‘purist,’ I consider both fairly integral attractions. I’d rather do both and skip something like Star Tours. Of course, I can also experience Star Tours (with a much shorter line) at Walt Disney World. That said, I realize my inclinations are probably not at all representative of the general public!

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  • April 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm
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    I have only been DL once and I haven’t had the chance to experience the Casey Jr. train yet. I was surprised when watching the video to realize the song on the train is also used in the WDW Magic Kingdom morning opening show! I will be sure to try the train this summer when I return to DL.

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  • April 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm
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    circus train!!! my preschooler and kindergartener love the train. we have found at the times we’ve toured the park the train(s) move faster. being Dumbo fans, we stick with this attraction. I like to do either one or the other. however, it is always a thrill for the kids to go through the whale’s mouth on the SBL boats.

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  • April 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm
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    Thanks for the blog! Personally I prefer the canal boats for a few reasons. I think there is more to see and I like the cast member interaction. Plus now that my kids are a little older, the train seems really confined. I mean I get wanting to give guests the authentic “you-are-an-animal-in a-cage” thing but I am fine just watching :).

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