A Tourist In My Own Backyard (part 3):

A Day at “The Happiest Place On Earth”

The final installment in my “A Tourist In My Own Backyard” series takes us to “The Happiest Place on Earth” — Disneyland!  I hadn’t been there in many years so was really excited when my friends visiting from Australia wanted to go there. Disneyland is definitely a place everyone coming to the U.S. for the first time should visit. It’s fun for kids of all ages!  Going in the springtime was perfect too, since the crowds and heat weren’t too unbearable. Countless books have been written about Disneyland so I’ll just mention some things I noticed on our visit and give some tips to future visitors.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

1) First of all, for a theme park of this size they did an amazing job with what could’ve been a horrific parking situation. To make it as hassle-free as possible, they even have an overpass so cars and buses can exit the freeway and bypass the Anaheim street traffic below. It takes you directly to an enormous parking structure (the second largest in the world) where attendants guide you to your parking space, filling up the spots one by one.  Each level, named for a famous Disney character, has its own individual escalator, so when you return to your car later in the evening, you just get on your escalator and don’t have to go up each level individually. From here you board a tram that takes you to Downtown Disney, a district right outside the park’s gates with lots of shopping and dining opportunities. When it’s time to go home, you’ll have one last chance to buy that souvenir you couldn’t find inside the park.

Space Mountain

2) Tickets to Disneyland are quite pricey, with a single-park ticket (ages 10 and up) costing $76. Kids ages 3 to 9 are $68 each. If you want a Park-Hopper ticket for admission to neighboring Disney’s California Adventure Park too, tickets cost a whopping $91/$101. All this is in addition to the $15 for parking and any food and souvenirs you may buy. As you can see, for a typical family to visit Disneyland it can really break the bank. That being said, we were there from noon to about 10:30 p.m., rode over a dozen rides and saw the spectacular fireworks show over Sleeping Beauty’s castle—so I’d definitely say we got our money’s worth. Plus, all the memories are priceless.

3) Disney’s FastPass is one of the greatest inventions of all time! They allow guests to make the most of their visit by spending less time waiting in lines. The biggest and best rides like Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain all offer them. How it works is you insert your ticket stub into a kiosk outside the ride’s entrance. It then prints out an additional ticket with a time window for you to return to the ride (for example: between 3:15 and 4:15). Then, you can go to a different attraction (one with a shorter line) in the meantime. When you return to the original ride you get to skip the long line and only have to wait about five minutes. Also printed on the ticket is the time when you can get another FastPass. So technically you might be able to have two FastPasses at one time. During peak season, certain rides like the Indiana Jones Adventure and Splash Mountain can have lines exceeding two hours, so this is an awesome idea.

It's A Small World

4) They’ve updated a few of the rides at Disneyland since I was there last.  When we arrived, we decided to make a counter-clockwise loop of the park. Our first ride of the day was the Tomorrowland classic, Space Mountain. The roller coaster still speeds inside the dark, futuristic-looking mountain, but in the past you could still see what was going on around you by the glow of the orange “sun” in the middle and all of the shooting stars. Now, it is literally pitch black inside! You can’t see a thing, making the ride more thrilling than ever. Another renovated attraction is one of my favorites, Pirates of the Caribbean. Due to the popularity of the films, Disney has updated this classic so now you can see Captain Jack Sparrow popping up in different scenes throughout your boat voyage. Also, Davey Jones’ tentacle-covered face is projected onto a wall of fog right before the big flume drop.

5) If you don’t want to eat junk food like hamburgers, hotdogs, popcorn or cotton candy all day, there are a couple of decent restaurants to choose from. We ate at the Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante, a Mexican restaurant with burritos, enchiladas, grilled chicken and carne asada plates. A meal was only about $12 and we were able to eat outside on a sunny,  bougainvillea-draped patio. In fact, we got FastPasses to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and ate while we waited for them to become valid. Another nice sit-down restaurant is The Blue Bayou, which overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. You’ll feel like you’re in New Orleans on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Main Street, U.S.A.

Here are some random thoughts:

  • Sleeping Beauty’s castle is much smaller than I remember it being. Or maybe I’ve grown?
  • Where are all of the costumed “cast members”? When I was a kid I remember seeing them everywhere—Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto. We didn’t see any except for Tinkerbell when she flew across the night sky at the start of the fireworks show. Our Aussie friends really wanted to take some photos with Mickey or Donald, but left disappointed since we never saw them.
  • Besides the rides I already mentioned, other “must see” attractions include: the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Haunted Mansion, Mad Tea Party, and Jungle Cruise.
  • Some of the oldest attractions are still lots of fun, too. We enjoyed a tropical serenade by the birds in the Enchanted Tiki Room, soared with Dumbo the Flying Elephant, climbed in Tarzan’s Treehouse (formerly the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse), and cruised around on “it’s a small world.” These rides are all catered to children but they haven’t lost their magic.

Here’s a video of the fireworks big finale. How can this not make you smile?

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Disneyland Resort

Address: 1313 South Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92802

Phone: (714) 781-7290

Google Satellite: Google Satellite Image

Official Web Site: Disneyland Resort

Click here to read “A Tourist In My Own Backyard” : Part 1 and Part 2!

Here are some photos from our day at Disneyland:

The Haunted Mansion

The Matterhorn Bobsleds

Mad Tea Party Teacups

Entrance to Tomorrowland

Walt Disney & Mickey Mouse

Matterhorn & Submarine

Finding Nemo Submarines

Thunder Mountain Railroad


The Jungle Cruise

The Matterhorn

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