Q: What's the best attraction that isn't at Walt Disney World?
A: I would say "Disney's Aladdin -- A Musical Spectacular," a stage show at Disney's California Adventure. A large well-appointed new theater, excellent staging and special effects, and a talented cast result in a show as good as the shows on Disney Cruise Line. The only stage show at Walt Disney World that even comes close is the newly-opened Finding Nemo show at Animal Kingdom. I loved them both and it's great to see live shows making a comeback at Disney resorts. But in a head-to-head comparison Aladdin seems to be the clear winner.
Honorable mention goes to California Screamin'at Disney's California Adventure, and Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland park.
Q: Is there any compelling reason for those living far away to visit Disneyland Resort rather than Walt Disney World?
A: This is a matter of personal preference, but I would say no, not as far as attractions are concerned. Of the 20+ unique attractions at Disneyland, the only headliners are the three mentioned in the previous answer, plus Matterhorn Bobsleds.
Here are some possible reasons for those from the Eastern US to visit Disneyland Resort:
Q: What was better, what was worse, what was a surprise or disappointment?
Better: Park entry -- they just scan the bar code on your pass. Pirates of the Caribbean, Winnie the Pooh, and ToonTown are better at Disneyland. Autopia is better than Tomorrowland Speedway. Park-to-park transportation is much better -- it's a 100-yard walk!
Worse: Mulholland Madness is just an inferior version of Primeval Whirl -- it doesn't spin. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters has fewer targets but at least you can tell when you've hit them. "Disneyland -- The First 50 Magical Years" is worth seeing if you have the time, but "One Man's Dream" at the Disney-MGM< Studios is much better.
Surprises: The Disneyland Railroad goes through a covered section with a large dinosaur display ["Primeval World," which is satirized/honored as "Primeval Whirl" at Disney's Animal Kingdom's Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama - Ed.]! Space Mountain has side-by-side seating and a very different track than at Walt Disney World; it has only one small drop and a smoother ride. The film about California, Golden Dreams, is somewhat like the movies in World Showcase, but better and longer. I watched a session of the Jedi Academy, which was a real treat for a Star Wars fan.
Disappointments: There is no "Partners" statue with Walt and Mickey, and no Roy and Minnie bench. The Main Street Electrical Parade was not running. There is no Tomorrowland Transit Authority ("people mover") in Tomorrowland. Matterhorn Bobsleds was awkward to ride; you tend to slide around in the plastic seat and the restraint didn't feel adequate.
Q: What was the strangest experience you had at Disneyland Resort?
A: FASTPASS®! I only got two, and both times I had to ask for help. To avoid the problems I had, you need to know two things. Disneyland FASTPASS® machines don't pull your pass in like the ones at Walt Disney World. And they expect you to put in your park pass with the magnetic stripe up. (Unlike the rest of the world where the stripe goes down.)
Q: Does Disneyland "feel" the same as Walt Disney World? Does it have the same "magic"?
A: Inside Disneyland Park itself the answer is yes. There you are in pretty much familiar territory, and the magic is still there. Some have suggested that Disneyland cast members are less "magical" than those in Walt Disney World. Upon reflection that may have been true, but the difference was minor and didn't affect my enjoyment. If there is a difference, it is balanced by the intimacy of a smaller park, and the realization that this is Where It All Began.
On the other hand California Adventure has an entirely different feel to it than anywhere in Disney World. The Hollywood Pictures Backlot area does feel somewhat like a small, through-the-looking-glass version of Disney-MGM Studios, but the rest of it is ...different. It feels like it was assembled from random parts. Nevertheless, I had a good time, spending nearly half of my park time there exploring this "part-Disney and part-something-new" park. "Adventure" really is the right word for it.
Q: Are you going back?
A: Someday ... But it's hard to justify taking the whole family when Walt Disney World is bigger and closer!
About the Author: Richard Mercer is a veteran of 11 Walt Disney World trips, three Disney cruises, four MouseFests, and now one trip to Disneyland! In "real life" he is a mathematics professor at Wright State University in the Dayton area.
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