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10 Things Disneyland Could Use that Disney World Already Has

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If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that this post is coming from someone who loves Disneyland.  But I also love Walt Disney World and have been there dozens of times (in fact, I was at the World the week before Labor Day).  Having just returned from Disney World, I’m woman enough to recognize that my beloved Disneyland is lacking a few things that Disney World has.  Again, Disneyland is a wonderful, wonderful place, but there are a few things that Disney World has that would make Disneyland even better.

1. A better dining plan.  While I plan to expand on this in a future blog, the Disneyland dining plan is all kinds of wonky (that’s a technical term we use in the travel industry).  Anyone who complains about the Walt Disney World Disney Dining Plan has not tried the Disneyland Disney Dining Plan.  With Disneyland’s dining plan, it’s possible to come out a few dollars ahead, but it’s more likely you won’t save a dime.  Disneyland’s dining plan is really just for people who want to prepay their meals.  Disney World’s dining plan includes a certain number of meals during your stay.  If the restaurant participates, and most do, it doesn’t matter how much that entrée costs, it’s covered.  Except for the character meal vouchers, at Disneyland you are buying vouchers worth exactly what you pay for them.  If your meal costs more than your voucher is worth, you’ll be adding some cash.  If your meal costs less, no change is given.  I fully understand this quick summary doesn’t capture all of the nuances of the Disneyland dining plan, so stay tuned in the weeks ahead for more.

2. Disney’s Magical Express There are several options to get to Disneyland from one of the local airports, but none of them has the biggest advantage that Disney World’s Magical Express has: none of them is free.  I always love boarding the Magical Express bus when I land in Orlando without having to think twice about my checked luggage.  I feel like I’m entering the magic right there at the airport.  At Disneyland, you are either going to have to rent a car, purchase a transfer on the Disneyland Resort Express, go with another ground transportation company that you find yourself, get a taxi, or have a friend pick you up!   

3. A water park.  I’m no land use expert, and Disney certainly is “space challenged” at Disneyland as compared to Disney World, but a water park would be such a terrific addition to Disneyland!  Sure, there are plenty of water parks in the Los Angeles area (and that’s not surprising when you consider the generally great weather that SoCal enjoys), but anyone who’s been to a Disney water park knows that Disney’s water parks are a cut above—way above.  Both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are superb at Disney World!  These water parks have the same great Disney theming and top notch execution that Disney brings to its other theme parks.  There has been plenty of talk about a third gate at Disneyland, but perhaps a water park is exactly what the resort needs!

4. Disneyland should standardize some things with Walt Disney World.  Disneyland can be an intimidating trip to book because there are so many little details that are different from Disney World’s.  All unused Disneyland tickets expire; dining reservations are made 60 days out; the final payment on your package is due only 30 days before your vacation; you can add tickets to a room-only reservation, and it doesn’t become a package; different dining plans; and the list goes on.  While each of these may be a little thing, standardizing all of them with Disney World would make Disneyland much less confusing for the regular Disney World traveler.

5. Earl of Sandwich Haha!  I had to add this one in.  Man, I love that Caribbean Jerk Chicken Sandwich.  If you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has an Earl of Sandwich, you probably don’t get the same excitement I do when I see that sign in Downtown Disney.  Food can be pretty expensive at any Disney resort, but Earl of Sandwich provides tasty and interesting sandwiches for very reasonable prices, with some yummy side dishes and desserts, to boot.  This would be a welcome addition at Disneyland’s Downtown Disney District.

6. DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park Okay, bring on the haters of DisneyQuest.  I know it has tons of untapped potential, and I fully admit that–aside from our Xbox 360–my family is not necessarily up-to-date on the latest and greatest video game technology.  But we have so much fun at DisneyQuest!  We went back 3 times on our trip to Disney World a few weeks ago!  Sure, you can find some of this stuff in every arcade, but one great thing about DisneyQuest is that you’re not going to keep pumping quarters or dollars into the machine. They’re all covered in your entrance fee (and if you buy the Water Parks and More option on your tickets, the price is already covered)!  That’s kid heaven!!  And there are lots of excellent games that you’re not going to find in an arcade.  Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for Buccaneer Gold has you and your friends standing on a pirate ship and shooting virtual canon balls at other ships!!  Well, standing on a mock up of the front of a pirate ship.  Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters is bumper cars taken to a whole ‘nother level.  In Mighty Duck’s Pinball Slam, you are the pinballs!  DisneyQuest is hard to explain if you’ve never been, but trust me, it’s not just a 5-story arcade (and I haven’t even mentioned the super yummy desserts).

7. Another monorail stop.  How about a monorail stop in Disney California Adventure?  The Disneyland Monorail is great, and the new Mark VII models are awesome!  But Disneyland’s monorail is really just a ride, not so much a mode of transportation.  It’s handy when you’re at the far side of the Downtown Disney District and want to get into Disneyland or vice versa, but that’s about it.  Consider how much clamoring there is at Disney World to expand the monorail system to all the parks in Florida (and of course, you already have two parks, three hotels, and the Transportation and Ticket Center directly connected to the monorail).  At Disneyland, adding a stop at DCA or in the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa would really make the system complete.

8. The female Cast Members from Epcot’s Norway Pavilion.  My husband added this one.  I’m sure no explanation is necessary.

9.  A Disney Value Resort.  Disneyland has some great hotels, and if you’re willing to fork out some bucks you can stay at my favorite Disney property anywhere, the Grand Californian.  But if you are looking for somewhere that’s just clean and comfortable to lay down your head at night, that’s a lot to spend.  Disney World’s Value Resorts are a great option for guests who don’t spend much time at the resort and/or who want to minimize their lodging expenses while staying on property.  These resorts are Disney-themed, clean, and provide a Disney-level of quality service.  You know what you’re going to get when you stay there.  Unfortunately, at Disneyland, if you want to spend less than $100 a night on a hotel, you’re going off property.  Off property does have some good options as I’ve discussed in a previous blog, but there is always a level of uncertainty with a property you’re not familiar with.

10.  Seating at Fantasmic! I can’t imagine how it would work or where there’s room, but the superb Disneyland Fantasmic! show needs better seating.  Or any seating.  I don’t say this lightly, because the current setting for Fantasmic! at Disneyland is actually really cool—but seating is a problem.  If you’ve never seen Fantasmic! at Disneyland, imagine watching a performance of Fantasmic! that takes place on Tom Sawyer Island while you watch from the shore standing amidst some of your favorite attractions in the middle of Disneyland.  This area in front of the Rivers of America is an awesome setting for Disneyland’s Fantasmic!  But it’s so hard to see!!  You can wait several hours for the show, and people do, and when everyone stands up, you suddenly find you can only see part of the action.  And your kids may not be able to see at all!  The show, itself, is better at Disneyland, but the seating at Disney World makes it a more enjoyable experience.  So, how would I add seating to Disneyland?  Frankly, I don’t exactly know.  But I know Disney has Imagineers who could figure it out (or at least make it better), even if they can’t build an entire stadium similar to the one at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, while still retaining the charm of Rivers of America.

So let me say again, in case you missed it (!), I love Disneyland.  But even with the space constraints at Disneyland, there are a few lessons Walt’s original park could learn from Disney World.  Of course, Disney World could learn some lessons from Disneyland, too!  But that’s a blog for another day…

So, what are your favorite Disney World features that Disneyland should incorporate?


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Tammy Whiting

Tammy has been a lover of all things Disney for most of her life. There’s nowhere on this Earth she’d rather be than on a Disney cruise with her family. She’s a Space Force wife and proud mom of two wonderful children and one beautiful daughter-in-law . She fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2008 and became a travel agent specializing in Disney vacations. She now owns her own travel agency - Storybook Destinations. You can reach Tammy at Tammy@StorybookDestinations.com.

31 thoughts on “10 Things Disneyland Could Use that Disney World Already Has

  • There may not be much seating for Fantasmic at DL, but there is some.

    The best way to get it without waiting hours at a table is to be among the first people to get into the Frontierland area after the fireworks end for the second Fantasmic showing. Head straight to the River Belle Terrace and grab a spot on the patio closer to Pirates. It’s not perfect seating (there will be a few light posts in the way), but it’s seating.

    Everyone in the patio has to have a chair… but I have grabbed chairs from the inside seating area and brought them outside before. Just don’t let yourself be seen… 😉 Also, the perk of sitting here is the hot chocolate, coffee and desserts (and sandwiches) you can buy to much on while waiting 30 minutes for your show. Nothing like a warm late-night snack to get you in the mood for Fantasmic!

    • That is an excellent tip about the seating at River Belle! Thanks!

  • Sci Fi diner food is really good. I get the club or reuben sandwich I think. It’s just overpriced. Even the $7 hot dog is good.

    You’re just paying for the atmosphere. Otherwise, I’ve never had bad food at sci fi, or even mediocre. It’s sandwiches (and it’s expensive for those sandwiches).

    But compared to all disney offerings, it’s not too different price wise. If mama – melrose wasn’t my new favorite at DHS, I’d go there more often.

  • All of these comparisons are pointless and largely a joke. The differences of these 9 reasons not counting reason #8) are all easily explainable as to why the two properties are indeed not aligned. The bottomline is that the overall experience at Disneyland is a he’ll of a lot better because you are not so reliant on transportation that can eat up so much of your valuable vacation time and there are more Ttractions in both DLR parks than WDW parks combined. Plus the entertainment is better and most all of the duplicate attractions are better in California. And while DLR may not have as may restaurant the variety of food offered on all levels is better and the quality of food is consistently better. So these 9 reasons are a joke to even compare the two properties against.

    • I think that the fundamental difference between Disney parks and other theme parks is that it’s not about a bunch of cool rides, or as many rides as possible. Disney is about the magic; the escapism. I could wander around WDW parks for an entire day, riding nothing, just taking it in.

      It’s just not possible to achieve that at Disneyland, because of the lack of space. Everything looks a little bit worn from overuse; and you don’t get to fully immerse yourself in the story of anything. You look out of the Sun Wheel and see Grizzly Mountain – how do they fit together? It’s like a cowboy in Tomorrowland.

      I hear people describe Disneyland as Walt’s park, and I don’t feel that’s quite right. It was Walt’s first attempt – his practice run, when he didn’t have free rein, and couldn’t do all he dreamed and imagined. WDW is what Walt achieved without constraints.

      • Walt died four years before WDW opened. You cannt say WDW is what Walt achieved. WDW is what a corporation run by a money man achieved trying to second guess what Walt would have wanted. Disneyland wasnt a practice run. That is incorrect in your reflection of Walt and his dream called Disneyland. What frustrated Walt was that he didn’t have the money or foresight to buy up the land around Disneyland, but he didn’t see any need to “fix” or improve upon the park itself. In fact, in no drawings of the Disney World site before Walt died included any details of Walt intended to be as the amusement park he had set aside for the plot of land. The MK is a fully dreamed up park from a corporation and not from a vision of one man – Walt Disney. Doesn’t make it a bad park, but it doesn’t make it exactly the dream of what Walt wanted as an improvement to the practice run of Disneyland.

        I can tell you this when Walt was designing Disneyland his Imagineers fought him over the castle. They wanted a large castle to be this shining icon visible outside of the park for people to see as a landmark to know when they were approaching the park. Walt said no. He felt that large castles were cold and impersonal and would resemble too much of what large castles in Europe respresented as a way to intimidate the commoners who lived around the castle. He wanted his castle to be more intimate and inviting as if to welcome people into the heart of the park once they entered Disneyland’s Main Street. When Walt died that was one of the things the Imagineers first decided was to make the castle big at WDW since they no longer had to fight Walt. Hardly call that Walt’s dream at work when his own philosophies in designing the park wasn’t fully followed. I hate that you can see a fairytale castle in Froniterland and Liberty Square. Talk about not fitting together.

    • I do love Disneyland, Octruth. If you read some of my previous blogs you’ll see that I completely agree with you about transportation, the shows, the rides. These are just a few things, in my opinion, that could make it even better. While some of these things would be very difficult maybe even impossible to do, others wouldn’t be hard at all. How nice would it be to have free transportation from the airport? To have a better dining plan to enjoy those great dining experiences?

      • totally agree. fantasmic is better at DL. but i wouold prefer to sit for 26 min rather than stand- same with world of color.

        I actually think tower, haunted and splash are better at wdw. the moivng sensation at tower in DHS really is disorientating and there are more special effects than DCA. In terms of haunted and splash- the exterior is better at DL, but at MK the override is better (though not by much). Walking among the ewoks village is better than waiting in the sun in tommorowland for Star tours.

        On the other hand: GRR is a better ride than Kali. Pirates and Space are amazing at DL compared to WDW….

        Point of the post: somethings are better at wdw, and some at dl. enjoy the differences!

      • Well said. Each one does something better and I love them both! 🙂

      • On the transportation to and from the airport I would agree with you if LA was as small as the town of Orlando, which only has one airport. LA has five airports. It is cost prohibitive to provide free airport shuttle service from five airports. Which airport or airports do you choose to provide free shuttle service? And just know Magical Express isn’t free. Anyone who stays at a WDW hotel is paying for that service in a resort fee. That’s why it is crazy when people choose not to use Magical Express when staying at WDW because they are paying for the service whether they want to or not. Trust me, as much as Disney is nice and magical they are a business and nothing is truly free. Magical Express is a non-owned Disney service so Disney has to pay Mears to operate the service. Disney passes on that cost through their resort fees at the hotels.

        At least with Disneyland Resort Express if I don’t use their service I’m never charged for it regardless.

      • You’re right, nothing is really free. As someone who always uses Magical Express from MCO I do appreciate not having to rent a car or pay for a shuttle, though. Since I now have to fly when I go to Disneyland, I would love not paying for a shuttle or rental car there. But your point is valid. Someone would pay for it.

      • And to be fair to you I have not read any of your previous blogs so I will be sure to check them out 😉

      • Excellent! You’ll see how much I really do love Disneyland. 🙂

  • Parking at the hotels. The Grand Californian experience is really marred when you have to schlep to and from that monstrous parking structure over the way. It feels very unDisney.

    • Ooh, good point! Some of the parking situations aren’t great. On one stay at the Disneyland hotel we were staying in the far tower. We parked so far away by the time we drug all our bags from our car to our room I was sweating so much I wanted to hurt someone!

  • I agree that adding this stuff to DL would be nice for the really hardcore Disney fan from outside California but would it really be profitable overall? For example, most tourists to DL stay maybe two or three days-I think it’s easier to budget without the dining plan if that is the case. Magical Express would work if one is going to SO. Cal soley for DL but with its small size a family is likely to do other area attractions as well for which a car is needed. Finally, while Disneyland does not have value resorts per se, they do have a list of “Good Neighbor Hotels” to show quality off-site hotels.

    • Some of it would definitely not be profitable. I’m pretty sure adding seating to Fantasmic wouldn’t make Disney a dime. It’s obviously crazy popular just the way it is. You’re also right about the good options to stay offsite. I wrote another blog about how easy it is to stay offsite at Disneyland. But I would love a cheaper onsite option as well!

  • Disneyland tried a dining plan similar to WDW’s in the Fall of 2008. We were invited to try it as part of our vacation at that time, and for whatever reason, it was not implemented. There were not a whole lot of restaurants that it could be used for, and it was more trouble than it was worth because no one realized what it was.
    I think that the WDW-style dining plan would be difficult to implement because of the few restaurants present on Disneyland property.

    • It may be hard, that’s true. But WDW does has a lot of non Disney owned restaurants that still participate. Disneyland needs the Downtown Disney restaurants to be part of their dining plan for it to be effective.

      • At WDW, the dining plans are offered only to on-site hotel guests. Disneyland has only three on-site hotels. So I wonder if that’s part of the reason there isn’t a comparable dining plan. Now what would be great would be adding a dining plan to Good Neighbor Hotel packages as well! It would keep a lot more off-site visitor money inside the Disney gates.

      • That’s true. When you’re staying offsite, there’s so many cheaper options right there! Mimi’s, Denny’s, McDonalds and the list goes on. We eat offsite a lot more when we’re staying on Harbor Blvd.

  • I don’t really feel the same about these (except for the value resort.) Mainly because they don’t really apply to how we tour the parks.

    I do wish Disneyland had the people mover. They have that unused track. I just wish they’d bring back the people mover!

    I know there isn’t space for it, but the main thing I miss when I’m at Disneyland is Epcot.

    • We miss Epcot too. 🙂

  • an online dining reservation system- something DL needs!

    #8-10 and 2 I agree with

    i don’t eat the dining plan so I’m not interested in that, but i do agree that its poorly run at DL.

    perhaps WDW should do some of the things disneyland does with tickets- both already expire (you have to pay extra at wdw for the no expiration), but adding tickets to a room without creating a package is a perk i think. WDW package have much stricter rules than their room only reservations.

    • I agree, some people avoid adding tickets on at WDW until they get there for that very reason.

  • I was just thinking about how Fantasmic! needs a better option for seating this morning. And the same goes for World of Color. In my head I was picturing some kind of seats that rise out of the ground before the shows. Improbable and maybe not possible, but come ON, this is Disney we’re talking about. I’m pretty sure they can do anything…

    • Right!! This is Disney! Some of the greatest imaginations on Earth!

    • I agree also! When we went to DL in 2006 ppl would line up at like 5pm for fantasmic seats! That is RIDICULOUS I have other things to do on vacation than to line up 4 hours before a show! The one night we attempted to see it we were so far away and behind others we couldn’t see much. We went back to the hotel and found the show on youtube.

  • Disneyland needs a Dining App for making dining reservations. Although there are fewer restaurants that take reservations and Disneyland dining continues to be less competitive than WDW, it’s difficult to determine availability without calling the Disney Dining phone number.

    • That is a great one! Online dining reservations would be excellent.


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