Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat, we love Disney. From the movies to the music to the cartoons to the merchandise we love it all. And of course the parks, we absolutely love the theme parks. No matter where else we go or what else we see there is still a childlike rush of excitement every time we cross the threshold to a Disney park. We love them so much in fact we have been putting off writing a blog entry about it, it’s a big topic to tackle.
A visit to Disneyland is far from free, obviously magic is expensive. But magic is what it is. It can be felt in the air. I’ve personally seen it transform mature adults and brooding teenagers into giddy 5 year olds again and getting to see the unguarded inner child of someone you love, even briefly, is priceless.
We have been to a number of Disney Parks so hopefully we get the chance to share our experience in each of them. We are starting with Anaheim because we were there last weekend and its fresh in our minds. So without further ado here are the 5 Greatest Things from the Disney California Adventure park (or DCA for short).
#5 – Food
We do like an expensive meal from time to time, but we also love something deep fried and sold by a dude with a cart on the side of the road. Fortunately both can be found in DCA. For lunch we chose the Carthay Circle Restaurant, because when you eat a 3 course meal there you also get priority seating for the World of Color show later in the evening. The restaurant is modelled after the Carthay Circle Theater down to the carpeting and wallpaper. The Carthay Circle was a legendary theater from the golden age of Hollywood. It opened in 1926 and was unfortunately demolished in 1969, but not before being the site of many official movie premieres including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia.
The food itself was excellent, I had the Fire Cracker duck wings, the perfectly cooked tri-tip with mushroom risotto and deconstructed lemon meringue tart. The restaurant has a full bar with an incredible wine menu. The service was up to Disney standards which in my experience is top of the line.
For a late dinner we went to Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill and were pleasantly surprised. Expecting something a little more like fast food we were pleased to get heaping plates of freshly prepared meat, wraps, salsa, guacamole, beans, rice, and enchiladas. A couple of awesome meals sandwiched around popcorn, churros and frozen lemonade, not bad at all.
#4 – Shopping
I think I may have already mentioned that we love Disney, including Disney things. Not surprisingly there is plenty of it for sale here. All manner of things to write with, to wear, put up on your walls or book case are available for purchase. We were pretty fiscally responsible, but it was still great to window shop. A couple of highlights: Roger Rabbit figures, ‘Gallery of Light’ boxes that are the opposite of shadow boxes and artistic sketches. They sell a pair of Mickey ears that change colors and are synchronized with the World of Color show.
To me what sets Disneyland apart from other parks is the immersion factor. Other companies have themes, but they are more of a construction design. Here the illusion is taken to the extreme from the big picture to the smallest details. When you are in one area you generally do not see the others. In DCA the districts are:
Buena Vista Street – Based on 1920s LA. This is the entrance to the park and leads to the other areas.
Hollywood Land – Home to a variety of shows and rides. Also home to some of the cooler shops and interactive animation displays.
A Bug’s Land – Designed to give a bug’s eye view of the world this district does a great job of making you feel small. The rides in this area are primarily meant for smaller children.
Car’s Land – Based on Radiator Springs from the movie Cars in the American Southwest.
Grizzly Peak – National Park themed with plenty of trees and a wolf shaped mountain at the center.
Paradise Pier – The most impressive portion of the park, this district recreates the classic boardwalks from the coast. Its home to a large number of rides, shows, games, shops and restaurants.
#2 – The Rides
Of course these are the big attractions. Disney is known for being a little bit tamer than some of its competitors in terms of ride intensity, and this is probably a fair comment. What is lacks in vomit causing velocity it makes up for in fun and detailed theming, even in the queue areas. There is always something to look at and enjoy. Many of the rides are present at other parks, but are still a lot of fun. Our favorite rides in DCA were:
The Radiator Spring Racers – a slot car ride that uses the technology developed for Test Track in other Parks. Much velocity.
Grizzly River Run – an 8 rider raft ride down a raging river (good thing my ‘r’ key was working for that sentence). The rafts are designed to spin, so you know someone on the boat is getting soaked, but you are never sure who.
Soarin’ Over California – a hang gliding ride over Cali complete with a variety of sights and smells. You have to resist the temptation to raise your legs to avoid the Golden Gate bridge!
Mickey’s Fun Wheel – A ferris wheel Disney-style. Not only does it spin in the traditional way but the gondola’s slide on tracks around the wheel as well.
California Screamin’ – It’s a rollercoaster that does 90kms an hour and goes upside down. Enough said!
#1 – World of Color
In most Disney parks a show is put on every night that is some awesome it would be a special occasion anywhere else in the world. The Magic Kingdom has a great fireworks show, a couple other parks have Fantasmic. California Adventure has the World of Color, which may be the best of the bunch.
It is a water show that has almost 1200 jets all of which can change color. A screen is created out of mist so that movies can be projected onto it while the fountains dance around it. Lasers, flame throwers and smoke jets are also part of the show. I am certainly not doing it full justice, but hopefully the pictures give you some idea and maybe a video will follow!