Disneyland Park in Anaheim California holds a special place in my heart, it was the first Disney Park I ever attended in August of 2000 and can honestly be seen as the catalyst for my love of all things Disney and Theme Parks. Since then I try to head back to the Disneyland resort every few years to see how many of my favourite attractions are still there and all the things that have changed since my last visit. Disneyland Park has the history and magic that no other Disney park on Earth can ever match, being the only park Walt Disney himself ever stepped foot in, and whilst the park has changed a lot since it’s opening in 1955, over the last 64 years it has grown into my favourite theme park in the world to visit.
Family Rides – 10/10
Disneyland may very well have the most rounded selection of Family rides in any theme park I’ve ever been to. It’s a Disney park so of course, you expect the Family rides to be spectacular but Disneyland truly goes above and beyond what is expected, there are so many rides crammed into the park and almost everywhere you turn there is another great ride to experience with your family.
Fantasyland here really shines, being filled to the brim with rides, experiences and characters, a lot of which aren’t available anywhere else in the world such as the amazing Alice in Wonderland Dark ride, where you take a trip down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland, and you can also take a trip to hell on the fan favourite Mr Toad’s Wild Ride These two join the plethora of classic Fantasyland Dark Rides that let you ride through the stories of Peter Pan, Snow White and more!
Disneyland is also the only Disney Park in the World that still has its Submarine voyage, though rather than journeying 20,000 leagues under the sea, you now take a Journey Down Under with Nemo and Friends, giving us Australians an attraction that makes us really feel like we back at home in the Great Barrier Reef (Well if it was still alive and had talking fishes that is!). All of your other Disney family favourites are here as well such as It’s A Small World, the Disneyland Railroad and the original (and best) version of Pirates of The Caribbean!
Thrill Rides – 8/10
Whilst a lot of the bigger, more thrilling rides are located across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure, Disneyland manages to bring some strong thrilling experiences, especially for a Magic Kingdom styled park. The park includes the expected hat-trick of mountains including Splash Mountain, a great recently plussed version of Big Thunder Mountain as well as my favourite version of Space Mountain (That is at least when it isn’t taken over by Hyperspace Mountain or Ghost Galaxy). The classic three mountains are also joined here by their older brother, the original “Disney Mountain” The Matterhorn Bobsleds which is still an iconic experience, though it’s still incredibly rough (Even with the recent re-tracking of the entire ride).
The real stand-out of the park though has to be Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, which happens to be my favourite ride at the Disneyland Resort and one of my top 3 favourite dark-rides in the world. Indy really is the perfect mix of theming and thrills, using the Enhanced Motion Vehicle to tell an amazing, immersive story from beginning to end as you swerve away from snakes, dodge poisonous darts and escape the path of a rolling boulder, in an original story that isn’t just a simple retelling of any of the films
Experiences – 8/10
Disneyland is packed with little nooks and crannies that will often feature unique experiences for you to explore. One of my favourite things about Disneyland is that most of the characters still roam around the parks rather than meeting in specific Meet and Greet buildings, this allows for some great impromptu character opportunities. It really is a magical experience to walk into the park and be greeted by Disney Princesses as you approach the Main Street train station.
Disneyland is also home to some great walkthrough attractions including a nice little tour of Cinderella Castle, which is a lot smaller than those on offer at parks like Tokyo Disneyland but it’s still great to have something to do inside a Disney castle. There is also Star Wars Launch Bay which may just be a glorified Meet and Greet location for most people, but as a lover of the Star Wars Universe I found myself coming back multiple times and studying the displays they did have, and the little model for Galaxy’s Edge made me a giddy as a school girl! The best walkthrough experiences though have to be Mickey and his friends houses in Toontown, giving you a great chance to see how all of our favourite pals live! Also for all you Disney History buffs make sure you don’t miss the Disneyland Story featuring Great Moments with Mr Lincoln at the Main Street Opera House which features a great mini-museum before the historical main show.
Entertainment – 9/10
Disneyland has some of the best Entertainment options in the world including stage shows, parades and nighttime spectaculars that are all world-class, the only issue with their entertainment is that most of them are only shown during select days of the week and during peak season, so it usually becomes a trade-off between quiet crowds and a ton of entertainment on offer. Last time we attended the park we had to add an extra day on Saturday to our tickets so we would have the chance to see Fantasmic and Mickey and the Magical Map.
Speaking of Fantasmic, it has within the last couple of years debuted a brand new imagining of the show featuring Mickey Mouse a lot more as well as some modernising of the characters and movies featured throughout. Whilst for nostalgic reasons the old Fantasmic will always be my favourite Disney Theme Park show in the World, the new show does wonders for keeping the show fresh and familiar for a new generation of Disneyland fans (Though I can never decide if the current Disneyland version or the Tokyo version is the best Fantasmic currently playing around the World).
Some of my other don’t miss shows at Disneyland park include Mickey and the Magical Map, a great character show with some truly magical moments (Just make sure you sit centred in the theatre for the best view of the effects), all of the roving bands that exist in almost every land creating a natural soundtrack for the park, and my personal favourite show venue – The Royal Theatre where you can join the dynamic thespian duo of Mr Smythe and Mr Jones as they perform for you hilarious versions of your favourite Disney princess stories.
Staff – 9/10
Disneyland staff are incredible at their job and all of the staff seem to be super passionate about not just their job but the park and its history as well. The amount of staff you will find that have been there for many years is incredible and shows how some of these Cast Members see their career as much more than just another job. A big shout out as well to the nighttime staff who seemed to be a lot younger than the daytime staff but showed an equal amount of passion for the park and care for the guests within.
Theming – 8/10
For a small park, size-wise Disneyland does mostly go all out with it’s theming, almost every area in the park has great theming that envelops you in the worlds Imagineers created for you to explore. Adventureland is incredibly lush with foliage that brings you into the tropics, Fantasyland makes you feel as if you have walked right into a storybook and Frontierland makes you feel at home in the Wild West. The only disappointing land thematically is Tomorrowland which seems to be stuck in a limbo of thematic choices, with the Peoplemover tracks still sitting abandoned overhead and a mixture of themes leading up to Space Mountain, though to be fair the half of the land with the Submarine lagoon does allow for some beautiful shots.
The only other slightly iffy things thematically about the park is the Sightlines which can often allow you to see into places and lands you should not be seeing as well as certain areas of the park feeling a little dated and in need of some touch-ups. Overall though Disneylands theming is incredibly strong and rides like Indiana Jones Adventure has some of the best ride theming I’ve seen in the world from the moment you step foot inside the attraction’s queue to the moment you exit the ride, you are enveloped in the world of Indy.
Merchandise – 9/10
Disney really knows how to make me reach into my wallet, and the merchandise on offer at Disneyland is no different, offering a great variety of items from little knick-knacks to premium art and collectables. Disneyland probably has the perfect assortment of merchandise for my tastes, I always seem to leave with some great pins, t-shirts, collectables and at least one bigger art piece that will find itself in a prominent location in my house once I get home.
The pinnacle of Disneyland merchandise for myself though was everything that was on offer for the Diamond Anniversary back when I attended in 2015, I just loved the Blue and Silver colour scheme of everything and all of the limited edition items truly made the event feel special, and everything I bought that year still has pride of place in my house and wardrobe!
Affordability – 7/10
Disneyland is not a cheap park to visit for any amount of time, tickets, food and merchandise are all on the slightly more expensive end of the scale compared to most other Disney parks. Ticket prices have recently increased again as we expect them to this time every year, this most recent price increase has seen some annual passes rise in price as much as 25%. For day to day ticketing Disneyland uses the demand and date-based ticket prices with them ranging from $104-149 USD for a single day single park ticket, depending on the time of year and day of the week, which is pretty crazy to think that a one day Disneyland ticket in peak season will cost you over $200 Australia Dollars.
One upcharge experience I usually do end up getting when I’m at the park is the Fantasmic dinner package at River Belle Terrace, which is $45 for a great 3-course meal and provides you with a perfect front and centre viewing area for that evening’s performance of Fantasmic, this package is also available at The Blue Bayou for $72 per guest but usually books out a lot quicker than the River Belle Terrace offering.
Atmosphere – 10/10
Disneyland does an incredible job of immersing you within its magical atmosphere which is created just as much by the cast members and other guests as it is created by the attractions and theming. Even though the world outside of the Disneyland Resort is incredibly close to the parks, once you step foot inside you are completely immersed in Walt’s painstakingly designed and detailed world.
Everywhere you look around the park, everyone seems to be having a great time whatever they are doing whether it’s on an attraction, watching a pop-up show, trading pins with other guest pin-traders who randomly will set up around the park, or even just sitting on the porches of the buildings of Main Street USA and people watching.
Services – 9/10
Being a small park size-wise, Disneyland is relatively easy to find your way around even for a first-time visitor, just be aware that the entrance to some attractions such as the Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough can be a little hidden within the park, but don’t be afraid to ask any of the Cast Members for assistance that I’m sure they will be happy to provide. The small park size, however, does mean the park can feel a lot more crowded than it actually is, with walkways often becoming clogged at points of the day and especially during the nights where entire areas can be closed off to try to prevent crowding.
Pin trading is also a thing at the Disneyland Resort but doesn’t see to be as popular or massive as it is at Walt Disney World and it can at times feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack when looking for a good, non-scrapper pin. Also being so close to Disney California Adventure makes park hopping a sub-5 minute journey which is especially useful if you have MaxPass and manage to get a Pass for a ride across the esplanade. Speaking of MaxPass, whilst we generally aren’t a fan of paid Fastpasses here at ReviewTyme we do recommend MaxPass at its current $15 price, it gave us the opportunity to ride a wider variety of attractions and even managed re-rides on all of the bigger rides even on a relatively busy Saturday in the park, but we would be wary of the value of this pass being lost if we see any further price increases.
Disneyland Park is the Disney Park I find myself most often craving to revisit. It provides its guests with an unrivalled collection of attractions, entertainment and experiences all wrapped up in a historical envelope no other park can rival. This year marks a big turning point for the park with Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opening later in the year, whether you think this land belongs in this park or not, what we are seeing from the land so far looks like it will set a new bar for immersion and theming for the resort that I can’t wait to see the park enter a new era.
The one thing though that will never change at Disneyland for me is the memories I have in that park across all my visits and I want to thank my Grandmother for introducing me to this magical world of Disneyland all the way back in 2000 when I was only 8 years old, you have left a lasting legacy on me and my life.
Disneyland Park gets a Final Score of 87/100