Disneyland: All About the Park That Walt Built

I am excited to start a new series today from Rachel, all about Disneyland, the first Disney theme park. This week she shares with us some of the ways that Disneyland is different from Walt Disney World. Thank you Rachel! 🙂

Disneyland Fireworks9photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/myjedilightsaber/3729160583/

Fresh off my very first trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth this past spring, my husband and I began planning our summer vacation. We decided on San Diego, with Sea World, LegoLand, and the zoo in our sights. However, the CityPass tickets we purchased offered us, much to my delight, three days’ admission to Disneyland. Although we did not set out to plan a second “Disney” vacation, I began planning in earnest only to find there wasn’t much in the way of advice, etc, for Walt Disney World’s sister park. It seems as if everything online is geared towards Walt Disney World.  The result: this short series of articles on planning your Disneyland vacation!

First, a little background. Disneyland, the original Disney theme park, opened in July of 1955. It is the only one of the Parks to be built and directly supervised by the man himself, Walt Disney. Walt had an apartment in the park, over the fire station in Main Street Square. Disney’s California Adventure Park, which I like to describe as a Boardwalk-type amusement park fused with elements of Epcot and Hollywood Studios, was added in 2001.

The original park is laid out much like the Magic Kingdom, and has most of the same attractions. It is designed like a wheel, with Sleeping Beauty’s castle the “hub” and all of the lands, the “spokes.” New Orleans Square, home of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, was added to the park in 1966. Bear Country, now known as Critter Country and home to Splash Mountain, was added in 1972, and Mickey’s ToonTown opened in 1993.

There are quite a few differences and distinctions between the two parks. While the layout may be similar, Disneyland Park does feel smaller. (The entire Disneyland Park complex is 430 acres, to the Walt Disney World Resort’s 25,000 acres!) That has both good and bad points for me—less walking, but more crowded. Disneyland has a few rides you will not find in Florida, including the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Davy Crockett’s Canoes, Autopia (one of our favorites), and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. You can still find Mickey’s ToonTown in the original park, and my kids particularly loved this area.  We also really enjoyed the Princess’s meeting area, Princess Fantasy Faire. Designed like a garden walk, it features three different princesses. They rotate throughout the day so you never know who you’ll get to see and there’s a PhotoPass photographer with each one for your picture-taking convenience. We enjoyed this after a trip to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my daughter so happy.

California Adventure Park is a blend of classic California, beachfront boardwalk, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. In the Golden State area, you’ll find Grizzly River Rapids, Soarin’ Over California, and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, an Up-inspired play area where kids’ can earn their Wilderness Explorer Badge. (A “secret” entrance from the Grand Californian hotel is in this area as well.) The Paradise Pier area of the park features classic beachfront Boardwalk style. Attractions include the Mickey fun wheel, the silly swings, and a classic coaster, California Screamin’. The Hollywood Pictures Back Lot features Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Monsters Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue and several A Bug’s Life-inspired rides.

One of the big differences I found to be a really great thing is that the parks are right across from each other. The resort has a T-shaped design. Downtown Disney is the bottom of the “T”, with the two parks forming the horizontal line for the top of the “T.” The tram from the parking area drops guests off at Downtown Disney. You walk through the security check and then to your left to enter Disneyland Park or to the right to enter Disney’s California Adventure. This was a great concept, I thought, for park hopping. You can also ride the monorail from the Tomorrowland station to Downtown Disney and back into the park. (Have your hand stamped and have your ticket with you.)

The differences aren’t limited to the parks themselves. The hotels and dining plans operate differently as well. The next article will detail hotel choices, both on property and off.

Find out how the FREE services of a Disney World travel agent can make planning your Disney vacation simple…and for a limited time, get a FREE Disney gift card when you book your trip with me! ($2000 minimum package cost)

Rachel is a Virginia native who now lives in Louisiana. She is married with two children, ages 5 and 3. After dreaming and wishing for several years, her family had their very first Disney vacations this year and are now addicted to researching and planning—whether for themselves or for others. They now plan to visit the parks at least once a year.

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