I’ve been a huge Disney World fan for a long time. I stopped counting my visits at 50 (about 10 years ago) because I was going so often I could no longer keep track. I’m a Minnesota native, so it is no small feat to get myself to Orlando that often, but the trips really soothe my soul and are something I look forward to with the same level of excitement every time. I have been fortunate enough to start adding some trips to Disneyland in Anaheim, California to my travels. I knew the two resorts were similar yet different, so I wanted to offer my perspective on the Disneyland Resort as someone who spends many more vacation days at Disney World.
Disneyland is located in the middle of the bustling city of Anaheim. Regardless of whether you fly in through LAX or John Wayne, your drive to the Disneyland Resort will take you through the intense California traffic. The resort is really just centered in the midst of the city of Anaheim, which is a totally different vibe than the sprawling Disney World property. Once you are inside the resort, it still feels like a special enclave of Disney quality and service. Seeing Disneyland nestled in the center of a city helped me understand why Walt Disney purchased the large property in Florida upon which to build Walt Disney World.
Disneyland offers far fewer Disney-owned resort hotels than Disney World, 3 at Disneyland to the 30 options at Disney World. The Disneyland Resorts are all very unique and special properties and include something for everyone:
- Disneyland Hotel – the original resort of the Disneyland property, this amazing facility was built in 1955. The rooms are large and luxurious and some feature club level service in the amazing E-Ticket lounge which offers views of the nightly fireworks, snacks and drinks throughout the day. Monorail slides are featured in the fun pool area, and you don’t want to miss a stop at the original Trader Sam’s tiki bar.
- Grand Californian Hotel & Spa – this Craftsman-inspired resort features spectacular design and a gorgeous lobby. There are a variety of room types available including standard, club level as well as a number of suites. This resort features some amazing fine dining options including the Napa Rose which features fine California fare and wine selections. Another perk of this resort is that it provides its guests a special, separate entrance to the California Adventure theme park.
- Paradise Pier – this is the most budget-friendly of the Disneyland resort hotels. This resort features a seaside theme and a roof-top pool. There are a variety of room type options available here as well, including standard, club level and suites. Disney’s PCH Grill is a fun restaurant within the resort that offers a daily character breakfast with Donald Duck,
Disneyland also offers a huge array of Good Neighbor hotels. These properties have Disneyland’s stamp of approval and many are within walking distance of the parks or offer shuttle service.
One of the most fun differences at Disneyland was that the entire property is very walkable. I am used to needing a bus, boat, monorail or car to get from most resorts to the theme parks in Disney World, but Disneyland is entirely different. It’s an easy walk to the parks from any of the three on-site hotels, and the entrances to the two theme parks, Disneyland and California Adventure are literally right across from each other. With a park hopper ticket, it is so easy at Disneyland to go back and forth between the two parks multiple times per day.
Disneyland is comprised of two parks instead of the four at Walt Disney World, but both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure have totally different vibes. I was surprised at how compact Disneyland is – there are so many attractions and dining opportunities in what is a very small footprint. California Adventure is smaller than Disneyland yet somehow feels more spread out. It is home to a number of unique lands that you can’t find anywhere at Walt Disney World. Cars Land, in particular, is jaw-dropping – you will feel like you walked directly into the film.
The Disneyland vibe is much more relaxed and low key and part of that has to do with the fact that you simply don’t need to plan as much in advance at Disneyland as you do at Walt Disney World. Disneyland dining reservations open up 60 days in advance, as compared to 180 days in advance at Walt Disney World. The FastPass system at Disneyland is also entirely different. There are a couple of different ways to “do” FastPasses at Disneyland. First, you can use the in-park, manual process of locating the FastPass kiosk outside of your desired attraction to insert your park ticket and receive a return time for the FastPass queue.
My preference is to utilize the MaxPass system to really optimize your FastPass selections for the day. Using your Disneyland app, you will be able to purchase the MaxPass for $15 per day, per person, per ticket. So, if your family of four is visiting the Disneyland Parks for two days, MaxPass would cost $120 total. Once added, you can make your FastPass selections from your phone but only once you are inside the park. If you have park hopper tickets and are visiting both Disneyland and California Adventure on the same day, you can make your selections for both parks. I found the system easy to use and was able to secure far more than the three FastPasses I normally use per day when visiting Walt Disney World.
As a huge fan of Walt Disney, the best part about visiting Disneyland was the real sense of his presence throughout the park. There are so many historic attractions at Disneyland, it was such a joy to be able to experience original attractions that Walt worked on, such as Autopia, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Main Street U.S.A. retains so much original charm – I was specifically thrilled to see that the Main Street Magic Shop is still in operation, having closed at Walt Disney World years ago.
If you, like me, are a Disney World addict, let this be an invitation to you to head to the original Disneyland. The history and charm will remind you why you are a Disney travel fan and I guarantee you will be planning another trip to Disneyland before you know it.
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