Disneyland (CA)

A Disney Vet’s First Trip to Disneyland

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If you’ve been reading the TouringPlans.com Blog over the last few months you may have noticed I was planning my very first trip to Disneyland. This week I’m here to report my trip to have been a great success! All of that planning paid off and I had a wonderful time in California. There is so much to say about my first trip west, but I’ll try to keep it within reason. So without further ado here is an overview of my trip:

First thing was first and I had to purchase my park ticket. I opted to buy the Premier Pass since I will make good use of it on both coasts. A great perk of being an annual passholder at the Disneyland Resort is discounts on nearly everything! I was able to get a percentage off on food as well as merchandise in almost every location throughout the resort. This was one of the difference between Disneyland and Disney World I really enjoyed, as you might imagine. I also really appreciated cast members asking if I had an annual pass every time I paid for something whereas I always have to ask for my discount in applicable locations in Florida.

Once I had my ticket I was off and running to the parks! It was so much fun exploring the original Disney park at Disneyland and their latest creation at Disney’s California Adventure (DCA). If you haven’t had the chance to visit the West Coast Disney parks I highly recommend it. Disneyland allowed me to see Walt’s original vision and experience attractions we don’t have in the East. I loved the charm here thought everything was just gorgeous (tiny, but gorgeous). Obviously, the star of the Show at DCA is the newly opened Cars Land. Any parks fan will love what the imangineers have created here. Not only did I marvel and their newest effort, but it made me really excited for future projects. Both parks have a lot to offer any fan and I hope I get to return again in the next few years.

As a Disney World regular I spent a lot of time being confused while I was in California parks. It felt really strange to have Pirates of the Caribbean next to the Haunted Mansion. I was equally turned around every time I couldn’t find a bathroom or wanted to buy a bottle of water. It took a couple days for me to get my bearings, but even then I was still out of sorts from not knowing where everything was. I suppose this is how most Disney parks visitors feel the first time they visit! So if you are a Disney World vet heading west any time soon brace yourself for confusion.

I was also pleased with my stay at Paradise Pier. I wasn’t sure what to expect since the resort was bought by Disney and renovated rather than built from the ground up. The hotel wasn’t amazing, but it was nice and I was glad to have stayed there. On the other hand, the off property options are good here too. While I have only stayed off property a couple of times in Florida, I really wouldn’t mind doing so again in California. There are a ton of options within walking distance to the main gates of the parks. Something to suit every taste and budget is available in Anaheim and you’ll be sure to find something to fit your needs. I was really impressed with the ability to walk almost anywhere rather than taking the buses or monorail in Disney World.

I found the food offerings at Disneyland to be a mixed bag of some really yummy meals, and some not so great ones. On the whole, the counter services restaurants at The Disneyland Resort are impressive with tasty offerings served with real plates and silverware. Table service meals were a bit more hit or miss for me during my trip. I was really disappointed in Carthay Circle where I had bad service and mediocre food for a high price. I had a nice (and huge) lunch and Cafe Orleans and would certainly return there on future trips. The Blue Bayou was fun and I’m glad I got to go, but I’m not sure if I’m in a hurry to go back.

There are certainly differences between Disneyland and Disney World and perhaps I’ll explore them in some future blog posts, but I loved my time spent in any Disney park. I must admit, though, Disney World still feels like home to me even though I really enjoyed my time at Disneyland. I found myself calling Disney World “home” during conversation with friends while we walked around the parks. I’m not sure if was just because I am so familiar with Disney World, or I missed Epcot (my favorite), or what but I just didn’t feel the same way in California as I do in Florida. That’s not to say I had a bad time or disliked Disneyland, it is just a different animal.

I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Disneyland, but I certainly look forward to it when I do! I’m also really looking forward to going back “home” to Disney World next month. How about you? Have you recently made your first trip to Disneyland? Share your impressions and experiences with me in the comments!

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Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is khelmstetter05@yahoo.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

7 thoughts on “A Disney Vet’s First Trip to Disneyland

  • We go in 10 days! I will let you know what I think then! I am very excited but also nervous about the “confusion factor” as I am expecting the same thing to happen to me. Booked CC WOC package and I guess we shall see…

  • Perfect article for me to read as I’m going to Disneyland next week for the first time…we only have a day or so to spend there but I plan to take full advantage of getting to see the original park after having been to Disney World so many times.

  • We native Californians –or West Coasters–feel the same the first time we go to WDW. We are overwhelmed at WDW–and get lost easily. I find Magic Kingdom too large, and find most of the intimate magic that Walt put into Disneyland ‘lost’ in the larger park in the East. That’s not to say there aren’t some beautiful parts to the MK–because there are! We just find ‘our’ Disneyland to be so much more endearing.
    Having travelled to all the Disney parks worldwide–except Hong Kong—I can say that each park has it special treasures and delights. Some food great, some not so great. Some amazing things, some things kind of underwhelming. But the magic always seems to be there!

    I’m glad to read you enjoyed your trip. It’s always fun to visit the other parks–and to see the differences as well as the similarities (and when you travel abroad the different languages!!)

    • Thank you for this article. I’m not complaining, but almost every blog has an article about someone who has been to WDW several times making a visit to Disneyland. What about the other way around? It would be nice to see an article about what to look out for, for someone like me who has been to Disneyland 100 times and is planing to go to WDW for my first time.

      • I had that experience in May this year. I did not stay on property but I could answer some questions.

  • I grew up going to Disneyland, but hadn’t been there in about 18 years until this August.

    You have summed up many of the differences nicely. Your take on the food is particularly interesting. We ate at Carthay Circle, the Blue Bayou, and Cafe Orleans, too, and I agree with what you wrote about all of them!

    Service at Carthay Circle was disappointing (for these prices, you should get plates to share appetizers and fresh knives and forks between the appetizer/entree course–Carthay Circle did not provide either for us–not to mention we were in a half empty dining room and got put at a table on the hallway…not a good experience at all especially at the very high prices they charge).

    The Blue Bayou is okay but not worth the cost.

    But we really liked Cafe Orleans. Everybody in our party of 9 was happy, and we had great service.

    Character meals are really different in DL, with many more random characters popping in.

    We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and were happy there. It is nice to be in the Disney bubble, even if that bubble in California is not as large as the one in Florida.

  • I recently went back to Disneyland for the first time in over a decade. I absolutely loved it. I had an amazing experience at Carthay Circle, it was one of the highlights of my trip. It was nice to be able to walk everywhere the weather was amazing, however I found myself completely warn out at the end of every day. It made me miss the relaxing bus rides.


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