Disneyland in California is where it all began, it’s the only park that Walt Disney opened and dedicated himself. It was a challenging opening with many issues on that day, but it has remained a constant site of magic in Anaheim since 1955.
It is difficult not to compare Disneyland to Walt Disney World during my visits, and I always worried that it would be distracting. The size difference is very noticable, but it doesn’t take long to realize that Disneyland has some amazing things that make it SO very different from Walt Disney World.
Below are 8 reasons you should visit Disneyland!
1. Walk In Walt’s Footsteps
Walt Disney World (WDW) has the Keys to the Kingdom tour that I have done many times but the “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour” had something that WDW didn’t – Walt himself. Throughout the tour there were many stops along the way where we stood in the park and listened through our earpieces to Walt’s own voice talking about the very place that we were standing in. As we listened to his dedication speech, there were quite a few misty eyes in the group and I found myself covered in goose bumps as we walked in his footsteps. The tour was an additional cost to the park admission, but worth every penny.
Throughout the park you can FEEL the history of Walt, you can see his influence. Once of my favorite spots to visit is the Main Street Opera House where you can visit Walt’s Griffith Park bench where he dreamt up Disneyland.
2. Cars Land
While I know this is technically in California Adventure – I still consider it all part of Disneyland. In my opinion, Cars Land is one of the BEST themed lands in Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Walking up Route 66 and approaching the Cadillac Range mountains while passing Flo’s Café – it doesn’t get any better! You honestly feel like you’re right in the middle of the movie – the animated movie. How is that possible? I don’t know, but they make it happen. Radiator Springs Racers is the big feature attraction here and it does not disappoint. It’s such an immersive experience; I don’t think they could have possibly made it any better!
3. The Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland is a different layout and building than you see at Walt Disney World. Without the overhangs, you get to watch as you walk toward the Mansion and enter through the front door. While much of the attraction is similar – it does reside in New Orleans Square in Disneyland and Liberty Square at Walt Disney World.
The other fun fact about this Mansion is that it gets transformed for Halloween for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – it was ghoulishly fun to see the additions of these characters in to the already wonderful mansion. The Hatbox Ghost who originally made a short appearance in the mansion in 1969 has materialized again and is one of the 999 happy haunts that live there. Remember though…there is room for 1,000 and they’re always looking for volunteers!
4. Attractions I Miss
I can’t talk about Disneyland without covering the fact the Mr Toad still lives at Disneyland. One of my absolute favorite attractions when I was a kid was replaced by Winnie the Pooh at Walt Disney World, but it’s still at Disneyland! It’s so much fun to experience some of the old dark attractions that are long gone from Walt Disney World. Between Toad and Snow White’s Scary Adventures – I can spend my whole morning in Fantasyland enjoying them again and again.
Fantasmic was a similar show to WDW, but with some very different elements. The first noticeable difference was that due to the size of Disneyland, I felt much closer to the show than I do at WDW since we usually sit near the back of the theatre for an easy exit. When you’re sitting that close to the show, it’s larger than life and feels incredibly immersive. You have a much different perspective when you can clearly see all of the elements of the show. At Disneyland they had Peter Pan – a giant pirate ship with Peter, Wendy, Captain Hook, Smee and all the others fighting on top of the masts. I have to say – I was impressed with what they were able to do with such a small space!
6. The Food
The dining experiences at Disneyland are delicious. From restaraunts to snacks – there is something for everyone and THEN some! The Blue Bayou (inside the Pirates of the Caribbean) and Carthay Circle Restaurant in California Adventure were incredible experiences. From Mint Juleps and Beignets at Cafe Orleans to the BEST character breakfast at the Plaza Inn – you will never be lost looking for a good table service spot.
Now if quick service and snacking are more your speed – there are plenty of things to keep you going! Corn Dogs at the Corn Dog Castle, Mac & Cheese at the Cozy Cone Motel, Churros everywhere and popcorn? Yes – sweet treats, salty snacks and dole whip of course. If you want to grab and go with some BBQ – Bengal Barbecue was one of my favourites. A vegetable or beef skewer hit the spot perfectly. The variety of options was impressive, you would never go hungry.
7. The Grand Californian
In fairness, I have only stayed at the Grand California and Paradise Pier – but the Grand Californian is my favourite. The hotel is not onloy gorgeous but it has it’s own enterance to the California Adventure park, that’s how CLOSE you are to the parks. When you stay at the Grand Californian you are right in the middle of Downtown Disney and Disneyland park is just a short walk away. It makes it very easy to take a break mid day and go back to the resort to unwind and relax. The Disneyland hotel hosts Trader Sam’s Tiki Enchanted Tiki Bar and it’s close by, I highly recommend stopping by for a drink here!
8. The Relaxed Vibe
It’s difficult to explain the feeling – but there doesn’t seem to be the ‘frenzy’ of planning that there is at Walt Disney World. We have guessed that it’s due to the fact that so many of the visitors at Disneyland are locals – but we never felt pressure or rushed to get things done. The characters wander around (most without cast members) – the Max Pass you arrange that day, you can get dining reservations without being up at 6am 6 months in advance. Imagine that? A “go with the flow” experience! Honestly – as much as I love Walt Disney World, I absolutely adore the relaxed way I can spend my days at Disneyland. I’m not a planner by nature – so this suits me just fine. I love to get up in the morning and decide what to do – without having it all planned in advance. THAT is a big plus for me.
An honorable mention…. Oswald
Before there was Mickey – there was Oswald. Oswald made his debut in 1927 as one of Walt’s first animated stars and he signed a contract with a distributor who brokered a deal with Universal. During contract negotiations the following year, Walt discovered that he no longer owned the rights to Oswald. It was on that train ride home that a devastated Walt Disney first drew Mickey Mouse. In 2006 Disney regained the rights to Oswald and he used to appear at Disneyland! The fact that this lucky rabbit came before Mickey felt like such a big piece of Disney history – I was thrilled to meet him and have my picture taken. I’m hopeful that he will return for photo ops soon.
Have you been to Disneyland?? Do you agree with my thoughts? Leave me a comment and let me know.