DCA (05/16/24) & Disneyland (05/17/24)

Rick_UK's avatar

Final trip report from my US trip ... these were the first parks we visited, but the last I have written up. We had a travel disaster on the way out, we were 3 hours delayed out of Manchester which meant we missed our transatlantic flight out of Dublin and had to fly the next day, so the schedule for the trip was somewhat disrupted (caused a few headaches with hotels and rental car, but the Disney tickets could be moved with a few taps in the app).

We stayed in Anaheim, I scored a free hotel with some points I had with IHG. It was clean ... about 15 mins away in an Uber but it was quite an interesting location with various non-family friendly things occurring in the parking lot.

First time visits to both parks - overall, I want to stress (because it's not all positive) - we had a great time.

DCA

The Park

My expectations were low - so much has been said and written about this park over the years, its troubled start, efforts to transform it etc.

For me, it still feels like it's trying to find its feet, it has some nice parts to it and some fun rides, but overall it just feels like a mess - if it wasn't a Disney park, maybe it would get a pass for various things. It's definitely made worse by the fact that it shares a location with a park that is practically perfect.

I was expecting it to feel a bit like the second park in Paris and there are a lot of shared characteristics, which makes sense that they were built in the same era.

I was a little disappointed as we came into the park (just after the 8am opening) - it felt like they weren't quite ready for us, rides eased into action from then until around 10am when most things were open. I was thinking that we could do a bunch of rides in the first couple of hours, but the larger ride inc. Incredicoaster, Radiator Springs Racers and Guardians just weren't open yet.

Overall, I just got the impression that the park still didn't really know what it wanted to be, there wasn't much entertainment, characters and the like have been shoehorned in to rides over time - I'm not saying it wasn't a great park, I just don't think what they are trying to do with it works, for me. It's a great add-on to Disneyland, but it doesn't really stand alone (and you might argue, it doesn't have to. It's a ~0.75 of a day visit with the crowds that we experienced - even when big chunks of the day were spent sitting around eating and drinking.

Highlights

Radiator Springs Racers - probably one of the best amusement park rides ever built. I was surprised how long and detailed the dark ride section was. We waited about 80 minutes for it - which was, I think, the longest we waited for anything during our visit.

Incredicoaster - the ride is very fun - it exceeded my expectations ... but despite a six month closure to 'transform' it ... it's still like something out of a regional park in so many ways. The Incredibles stuff feels lazy. The same can be said for the Wild Mouse.

Guardians - this was the most fun we had in the park I think, pre-transformation, it was exactly the same as the Paris version of ToT - from a theme perspective, I much prefer ToT - but I'm sure the Guardians stuff is a bigger hit with the majority. The Tokyo version of the ride is still my favourite.

Little Mermaid - this was cool, it felt like a classic Disney dark ride despite being less than 15 years old.

World of Color - great show, it actually made the Bellagio fountains a bit of a let down by the time we got to Vegas. It shows the breadth of the Disney portfolio - it's so broad it's actually a bit jarring to jump from Pocahontas to Star Wars/Marvel.

Disneyland

I'm not a 'Disney guy' - but I think this is perhaps my favourite park anywhere. It has so many great attractions.

Highlights

Space Mountain - great ride, just keeps going and going ! Reminded me a lot of Tokyo. I think I prefer this to the Paris version, which is too similar to Rock n' Rollercoaster.

Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railroad - WOW! This is the perfect family attraction, I knew absolutely nothing about it before we hopped on, so it was a great surprise.

Indiana Jones - makes far more sense when it's not in Japanese. Probably my favourite dark ride ever.

Matterhorn - this is charming and sketchy all at the same time. Credit to them for keeping it running. It was closed for quite a few chunks of the day, but we got on it without too many problems with G+.

Fantasyland - Fabulous area - everything about it is brilliant.

A note on Star Wars and Marvel

Neither of these IPs appeal to me, at all. Perhaps in part because I don't really know the films etc, there is very little charm to be had and they jar with almost everything else in the parks. Everything associated with them is very industrial, run down looking and sparse. Something like Rise of the Resistance is incredibly impressive from a technical perspective, but overall it felt pretty clinical. Some 'Wow' moments, for sure - but there was something lacking, for me.

Also, with both the Star Wars rides, we were batched with non-English speakers and there was lots of confusion (particularly on Smuggler's Run) about what to do, what the colours were about when assigned to you. That ride felt pretty much redundant alongside Star Tours, but whatever.

... I know some people love all this stuff, but it just wasn't our bag. I think the Star Wars stuff would have worked much better in DCA - but perhaps that wasn't workable from a space perspective.

Genie+

This worked really well for us, although it did take a bit of getting used to. You almost have to know how the park and how the system works in order to get the most of it. I made a few errors.

For example, the Autopia standby queue was showing 5 minutes, so we ignored he Genie+ / LL and hopped into standby (thinking that we might get an quick re-ride later) ... however, the standby queue was about 25 mins and the LL folks were essentially walking on. For our Disneyland day, by around 17:00 many of the larger attractions, access via LL was offered at around 23:00 - that might be normal, but I wasn't really ready for that.

Food etc

We thought the food offerings were pretty good, Ballast Point was a great recommendation from the other thread - thanks for that. Aside from that we did largely do counter service stuff, but we did drink far too much when we were in DCA.

Operational Observations

At any Disney park all around the world, I always find it fascinating that they do all sorts of stuff that other operators wouldn't dare entertain. Nothing new here, I just can't sometimes believe what I am seeing ...

  • The polite but firm 'WAIT!' around moving vehicles, no gates, no messing around - but if you didn't hear or see the instruction, you're getting hit.
  • Equally, there are a good few areas where low zones aren't as inaccessible as you would expect them to be in some parks.
  • Contact between vehicles - I noticed this mainly on Matterhorn, but in the station area, vehicles in neighbouring blocks are dispatched before they are cleared, so the one behind goes into the back of the one in front ... which is designed to absorb the impact.
  • I am trying to think of the specific examples - but I was surprised that we were unrestrained in the pitch black for long periods of time.
  • Riding with bags, nothing too extreme this time around ... however I have previously ridden Rn'RC with a wheely suitcase.

Last edited by Rick_UK,

Nothing to see here. Move along.

eightdotthree's avatar

Rick_UK:

particularly on Smuggler's Run

It’s a bad design. No one gets that it’s interactive or knows where to look. I honestly think they need to make the interactivity a hidden feature for people who know what to do.

Glad you enjoyed Ballast Point.


Great TR. We are booked for September, and our first time visiting Disneyland and California. Will remember to book a reservation at Ballast Point.

Rick_UK's avatar

Just to touch a little more on Genie+, as above, I am glad that we bought it and it did help at various points of the day. However, I do miss the days where you could go to a park without a mobile phone being an integral part of the day. “You don’t need to use Genie+” I hear you say, true … but having any understanding of what is open and what the queues are like was seemingly only available via phone or a screen in the central hub, so I guess you can do it … but at your own detriment. Props to Disney for their wi-fi though, very thorough coverage.

We didn’t particularly miss not having a Park Hopper. Arguably, we may have done less drinking in DCA and spent a bit of time in Disneyland on the first day. I didn’t have any first hand experience as to how easy it was to park hop, I had WDW in mind and it’s (obviously) nothing like that – but even so, walking from Galaxy’s Edge to Toy Story Mania still seemed like it could be a time hoover, I was cool not having it.

I did wonder if the jarring between the two parks would be less if you were hopping between them, rather than having a full day in a Denny’s followed by a full day at a Michelin starred restaurant. I do still think that there is value in having a day at a park, rather than a day across lots of different parks.


Nothing to see here. Move along.

Hopping is great at night on the weekends. I remember during the 60th summer I would park myself on the far half of Main Street for the first Paint the Night Parade, enjoy, pivot and watch Disneyland Forever (that shot off <15 min after the parade,) make it across the esplanade and watch WOC (again <10 min wait) then walk back to DL and arrive in NOS just in time to watch the Peter Pan segment and the second half of Fantasmic. 4 night shows in 2 hours.


2022 Trips: WDW, Sea World San Diego & Orlando, CP, KI, BGW, Bay Beach, Canobie Lake, Universal Orlando

hambone's avatar

If DCA is a Denny's, what does that make Six Flags Discovery Kingdom?

eightdotthree's avatar

Before California Adventure started receiving its updates it was nice to do Disneyland in the morning/early afternoon then hop over to escape the crowds. There was a brewery truck that had a perfect IPA in San Francisco or whatever they called that area. You could walk up to the Lamplight Lounge and sit at the bar. California Screamin was a walk-on! Those were the days... lol.


I do like DCA, but it does have sort of a uhhh….dare I say….Six Flags feel to it? But the Ops are alot better than SF. I did enjoy staying at the Grand Californian and walking right into the park. That’s amazing.

I visited in 2014 and I really enjoyed DCA. Incredicoaster was still California Screamin' and I really enjoyed it. Radiator Springs Racers was amazing, the rapids ride was one of the best I've ever done, and I genuinely enjoyed the park. Heck, they even had the rocket ship ride that reminded me of the old Geauga Lake rocket ships. In fact, the only ride in California (both parks) that has a Florida WDW counterpart that I thought was better here in Florida was Tower of Terror. I absolutely loved Disneyland & DCA.

Golden Zephyr. When just about every park in the country had a silver-rocketed circle swing, and even though DCA’s is a reproduction (Zamperla, I think maybe) I went straight for it. It reminded me of the good old days and I couldn’t wait for a ride.

Rick_UK's avatar

I read that Morgan built Golden Zephyr.

We hopped on it too, it's similar to our local 1904 Flying Machine at the Pleasure Beach.


Nothing to see here. Move along.

Am I wrong in thinking that your Flying Machine is perhaps the only one left, (not a Traver), and one of the oldest rides on the planet?

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