My family's first visit to Disneyland: Part Two

November 3, 2013, 4:36 PM · [Editor's note: In Part One, James and his family set out for California, checked in to Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel and started their Disney visit with the afternoon parade and dinner at Café Orleans. We'll rejoin the Raos after diner in New Orleans Square.]

For those who have only experienced the Orlando version of Pirates of the Caribbean, you really are doing yourself a disservice. The Disneyland version is longer, a bit more thrilling, and bigger (in both physical sets and story) than the hacked version at the Magic Kingdom. The difference is like night and day. A ride on Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, for those who have not had the pleasure, is quite simply worth the price of admission to the park. It is a masterpiece of animatronics, story, and song, an attraction that transcends age, gender, nationality, theme park bias, and time. It is one of the few attractions that I believe will still be standing in 2067 (its 100th anniversary). It is the definition of a classic. All my great memories and braggadocios comments about the greatness of Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean were justified in one ride on that one glorious day in September.

Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean

As much as I was looking forward to re-experiencing Pirates, the next attraction on our list, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, might have been even more highly anticipated. And, wow, what an amazing, wonderful, thrilling, outstanding attraction it turned out to be. Yes, it is the same track and ride system as Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom, but from its immersive queue to its intro movie to its action packed race through the darkness, Indy and the Forbidden Eye simply cannot be beat. It is as close to a perfect attraction as I can imagine – no matter what a recent panel of jaded TPI experts might have said on the Theme Park Insider podcast. I could not disagree with them more. Yes, the technology has been around awhile, and yes, the special effects aren't always perfect, but there is probably no better modern day example (except maybe Radiator Springs Racers) of Disney Imagineering just getting everything right. I love Dinosaur, I really do, but Indiana Jones just blows it away. The difference is quite simply astonishing. Wow. As excited as I was to experience Indy, and as much as I expected from it, I was still blown away by the actual experience, it is just an amazing attraction. FWIW, I offer a standing ovation to Tony Baxter and WDI for a job well, well done.

While we knew Pirates and Indy would be frequent stops during this vacation, my primary goal for this first night was to knock out all the attractions in Adventureland, in order to keep the touring plans on the following days a bit more streamlined. So, next up we headed to the Jungle Cruise. While I am not a huge fan of TH Creative's favorite boat adventure, I figured a night time excursion would be worth a shot. Sadly, it was not. First off, the ride went 101 just as we stepped into the line (for all the talk of Disneyland's superior maintenance record, we experienced far more ride closures during this trip than I have ever experienced in one visit to WDW). Secondly, when the ride came back online an hour or so later and we rode it, the sound system on the boat was so bad it was nearly impossible to hear the Skipper's spiel. Jungle Cruise is a pretty lame attraction anyway, but when you can't hear the spiel, it is even worse. Ugh. As I have stated many times in the past, for all its history and nostalgia, Jungle Cruise needs a significant overhaul. It, like Burgess Meredith in that classic Twilight Zone episode, is obsolete. Sorry, TH. I really wanted to enjoy the original version of the ride, but it was not meant to be.

The Dole Whip Pineapple Float at Disneyland

While Jungle Cruise was 101, we visited the Enchanted Tiki Room. This attraction is a pleasant diversion, but even in its original incarnation, it is not a must do. However, because the Disneyland version sports an in-queue Dole Pineapple Float stand, I highly recommend a stop. And here's a tip: if the line for Dole Pineapple Floats outside the attraction is intimidating (as it usually is), go ahead and enter the queue and try that side of the counter instead. Usually the line is much shorter, and sometimes it is completely open. Even if you don't want to visit the Tiki room you can use this tactic and simply exit the queue when you have your wonderful treat in hand.

After the Tiki Room and Jungle Snooze, we visited Indy one more time before touring through Tarzan's Treehouse. Meh. I would love to have this massive tree house in my backyard, but at Disneyland it is simply something to do when all the other lines are too long. However, the views from the top are pretty neat, if the people slogging behind you are patient enough for you to wait and enjoy them. Following Tarzan's Treehouse, we rode Pirates again (Yo Ho Yo Ho the Pirates life for me!), then prepped for Fantasmic.

Tarzan's Treehouse

There were two showings of Fantasmic that night, with a fireworks show in between. So, we took the advice of theme park insiders everywhere (as well as the extremely helpful concierge at the Paradise Pier Hotel) and planned to see the second show. Our strategy was very simple: while the first showing of Fantasmic was underway, we busied ourselves by taking pictures of the current entrance to Club 33, visiting the Court of Angels (the secluded rest area that will soon be the new entrance to Club 33), and getting Mint Juleps at the nearby counter service area. Once the first showing of Fantasmic completed, people exited the viewing area in droves providing ample room for newcomers. We moved in, picked a good spot and waited for the evening fireworks to begin. While the Fantasmic viewing area is not the best place to watch the evening fireworks, it is serviceable enough. And, once the fireworks were complete the area emptied out even more so we had our choice of spots from which to watch the show. Please note: I do not recommend the very front of the viewing area because the safety rail between you and the Rivers of America makes it difficult to see the action on Tom Sawyer's Island. A better option is to stand at the back of that same section where you will have a great view of the proceedings.

Disneyland's version of Fantasmic is better in every way (except seating) than the version in Orlando. I was especially impressed at how the Sailing Ship Columbia was used during the Peter Pan sequence, and with Murphy the Dragon, whose fire breathing antics were amazing. My whole family agreed the show was terrific. Well worth the discomfort of sitting on the damp, hard, ground.

Fantasmic was the exclamation point to an amazing first night. I could not have hoped for a better beginning to our Disney adventures. We walked cheerfully out of the park and back to our hotel where we crashed for the night, unable to sleep due to a steady flow of adrenalin and joy.

Over the course of the next week, we toured Disneyland two more times from park open to park close. In order to save some time, and keep the few folks still reading this narrative from passing out with boredom, I will summarize my observations from those two days.

As any Disney fan worth his salt knows, Walt's original park is small, cramped, and simply cannot handle crowds as well as the Magic Kingdom. Don't get me wrong, Disneyland's attractions are expansive and wonderful, but the walkways and queues, not so much. Touring the park, at times, can be less than relaxing even though the crowds when we visited were what Disney considers small (headliner attraction wait times never went beyond 30 minute). The combination of small walkways, tight, unthemed switchback queues and the masses of after work, local, season pass holders arriving on the scene made for some very congested touring. Don't get me wrong, the park is still quite amazing, but there is a reason Walt and Company made much bigger parks when they set up shop in Orlando. Other theme park companies with lower attendance numbers can get away with being small, but Disney cannot. I would not want to visit Disneyland when it is truly crowded as I cannot imagine the claustrophobic conditions that would ensue.

The Easily Congested Walkways of Disneyland

I mentioned earlier that Disneyland's maintenance record is often touted over that of its sister parks in Orlando. However, during our visit no less than a half dozen attractions went 101 (Jungle Cruise, Splash Mt, Mr. Toad, Roger Rabbit, the Tangled stage show, Mickey and the Magical Map, Winnie the Pooh, and a couple more). I was shocked. Granted, the downed attractions were usually back up and running quickly, but for a park that is lauded as a maintenance mecca, my experience was quite the opposite (note, DCA did not have nearly as many attraction 101s, but it did have a few, Soarin' and California Screamin' most notably). I have visited WDW many times since 2003 and have never seen so many rides go down in one visit. Maybe my timing was bad, but methinks Burbank has a ways to go to live up to the wonderful reputation fans of the park give it.

The Halloween Ghost Galaxy overlay for Space Mountain is excellent. Essentially, there is a space ghost (not the one from the old Saturday morning cartoons) who chases you throughout the course of the ride. It is a very cool effect. My whole family loved Ghost Galaxy and we rode it several times. I also loved the way the onride music ebbed and flowed with the track layout, and how it swelled whenever the ghost appeared. Many people say the Disneyland version of Space Mountain is better than the Florida version, but both versions are a whole lot of fun, and are different enough that they can mutually coexist. If I was forced to pick one or the other I guess I would give a slight nod to Disneyland's version, but my wife says the opposite. Either way, Space Mountain continues to be a fun and invigorating coaster.

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy

Another holiday overlay that was in place when we visited was the Nightmare Before Christmas version of the Haunted Mansion. It too was very cool. We enjoyed the overlay quite a bit, but overall I think WDW's version of the Haunted Mansion, overlay or not, is the better attraction.

Speaking of the Haunted Mansion, I am reminded that for the most part, the queues at Disneyland are awful. Only the Indy ride, Roger Rabbit, Star Tours, and part of Space Mountain use their queues to fully immerse you in the attraction the way WDW does with their queues. Furthermore, most of the Disneyland queues are simple chain link switchbacks like you would find at any iron ride park. And they are mostly cramped and, generally, uncovered. Standing in the midday sun waiting for the Storybook Land Canal Boats was quite a un-Disney-like experience. I was very disappointed in most every queue at Disneyland.

While I am picking at this wonderful theme park, a few other disappointments included the Matterhorn (working Yeti or not, this coaster is a real dog), Splash Mountain (a lesser version than the one at WDW, and just as broken during my visit), Winnie the Pooh (my ride vehicle was broken and did not hop when Tigger hopped), Alice in Wonderland (I like that it spans two levels, but the outdoor portion is just lame – and dirty), Captain EO (quite possibly the worst attraction currently in existence at any Disney park), and the Nemo Subs (I'm sorry, Mr. Baxter, but this mediocre attempt just never serves to capture the imagination the way I had hoped). I don't want to pick at Disney, by any means, but for those WDW fans traveling to SoCal for the first time, any and all of the listed disappointments can be skipped during your visit if you need to save time.

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

On the other hand, some really nice surprises included Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (a fast and furious dark ride), Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin (very imaginative and wild, with some great set pieces), the aforementioned Storybook Land Canal Boats (a unique diversion), the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough attraction (another pleasant diversion), Pirates Lair at Tom Sawyer's Island (a tragically overlooked and excellent playground), and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (a combination history lesson / animatronic stage show). Great Moments was especially good, and, IMHO, should be required viewing for all Americans. Sadly, when we attended the show, the theater was largely empty. Why people continue to squander the opportunity to see pure Disney Magic at work in such an edutaining way is beyond me. It is a real shame that these types of patriotic attractions are tragically rare and pretty much exclusive to Disney theme parks. I regard Great Moments as an E-ticket caliber treat, and find it to be far superior to (and less polarizing than) Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents, and at least on par with Epcot's The American Adventure, if not better. When you visit Disneyland, do NOT miss any of the attractions I just mentioned, especially the one of a kind experience that is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

As far as shows go, we saw two and a half of them. Both the Tangled and Beauty and the Beast shows in the Royal Hall area were great. The performers were outstanding, the songs were fun, and the humor was top notch. Sadly, the Tangled show was canceled mid performance due to sound issues, but even as technical issues occurred, the performers were outstanding in every respect. I was very impressed. The other show we watched was Mickey and the Magical Map. It too was very good, but much larger in scope and size than the small shows at the Royal Hall. The show itself was an amalgamation of classic Disney songs, combined with a very cool magical map - a series of video screens that uses various images to enhance and advance the story. We liked Mickey and the Magical Map quite a bit, especially for the part when Pocahontas, Mulan, and Rapunzel were on stage at the same time – that scene was simply breathtaking. One note about the show: the sound was rock-concert loud, which I enjoyed, but be aware if you have sensitive ears.

Our dining experiences at Disneyland were all very, very good. I was extremely impressed with the quality and flavor of the in park counter service food across the board at the resort. One day we ate lunch at Pinocchio's Village Haus where the stand out item was the BLT Flatbread pizza. Later that same day we had dinner at Redd Rockett's Pizza Port. Based on the recommendation of one Mr. Robert Niles we ate Count Down Chicken Fusilli, which is an amazingly addictive mac n' cheese with something akin to Alfredo sauce instead of cheddar cheese sauce. YUM. And the portion size is immense, so feel free to share.

Disneyland's Matterhorn Macaroons

On a subsequent day we visited the Jolly Holiday Bakery and had a variety of sandwiches, all good, and topped them off with some Matterhorn Macaroons, which came close to being our favorite Disneyland dessert, running second behind the Boysen Apple Freeze found at Maurice's Snacks in the new Fantasy Faire area of Fantasyland. This delectable dessert beverage was an instant hit with my family, something we purchased each time we visited the park. It is similar to Red's Apple Freeze/LeFou's Brew at DCA/MK, but in addition to the frozen apple juice and passion fruit foam topping, this signature beverage has several shots of highly addictive boysenberry flavoring. The combination of sweet and sour flavors made for an amazingly refreshing and sweet-tooth satisfying dessert. We give the Boysen Apple Freeze the Rao Family Seal of Approval and offer two thumbs way up for this winning combination of flavors. Outstanding.

Boysen Apple Freeze at Disneyland

Overall, Disneyland is an amazing, transcendental park. It has its flaws, mainly being that it simply was not designed to handle the 15 million people that storm through its gates every year, but those flaws, as the cliché goes, are what make the diamond so precious. We thoroughly enjoyed our adventures at Disneyland, and would not hesitate to return someday should the opportunity present itself.

Coming Monday: Part Three, with more on the Paradise Pier Hotel, plus California Adventure!

Replies (22)

November 3, 2013 at 5:07 PM · Nice to see someone not rant that disneyland is far superior to Magic Kingdom! I really think both parks have a lot to offer in their own respects. You gave a fair comparison of both parks. I personally have always enjoyed magic kingdom more, though I love Disneyland! And I think New Fantasylans makes each park even more unique from eachother!
November 3, 2013 at 8:10 PM · Having been to both parks many times (and I currently live in Florida, moving from Seattle last month, partly for WDW for my family), you made some very good points.

There are pluses and minuses to each park. It's hard to pick a favorite. One of my favorite things about the DL resort in general is the walkability between CA, DL, and Downtown DL and your hotel. You just CAN'T get that in WDW.

On the other hand, the vastness and amount to do in WDW is just unbeatable. You can do 3-5 days in DL.... you can do a MONTH in WDW. It's just night and day in terms of the overall experience of a true vacation adventure.

I look forward to part three!

November 3, 2013 at 8:57 PM · Very well written! This trip report is like actually being there, and your joy for Disney magic really shines trough the report. You've captured that feeling. I have to disagree about Captain EO however, for those of us that were not alive in the 80's this is an awesome way to see a once defunct attraction come back to life. It's presented as an artifact of another time, it's very entertaining from that perspective.
November 3, 2013 at 10:07 PM · I enjoyed reading about your visit, and your assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Disneyland. I agree with 90 percent of your opinions, especially how congested the park feels when it starts to get crowded. The off-season for the park, which used to include October and most of November, is disappearing with promotions like Halloween Time and the winter Holiday season.

I can't agree that the Matterhorn Bobsleds are a waste of time--it may not be the most thrilling ride, but it's wonderfully themed, a favorite for families, and a historic roller coaster in its own right. The Pooh ride is much hated by those who remember its predecessor the Country Bear Jamboree, but those honey-shaped vehicles don't hop because they weren't designed to--the ride was done on the cheap.

About Mr. Lincoln--I have not seen the Hall of Presidents or the American Experience in Florida, but when I recently saw the Lincoln show at Disneyland after not having seen it for at least ten years, I thought it was uninspiring, not especially educational, and the animatronics were quite dated. I am a student of American history and the Civil War period, but I felt that the attraction captured none of the complexities of the man and the political leader, only the watered-down stereotypes.

November 4, 2013 at 4:27 AM · James...are you kidding me??? Not long enough!!!! :)

Actually...I like your writing..I admit to cringing at times when you describe the "what was not good" will admit to wearing Disneyland-colored glasses.

But when i do allow myself to admit the truth...yeah...I know...its NOT perfect...but is still the Happiest Place on Earth!

I enjoy your style and look forward to part three...we stayed at the disneyland Hotel in march for a week and were curious about the Paradise Pier as a future place to lay our heads at night...I like the good neighbor hotels...but its Disney!!!! ;)

November 4, 2013 at 5:13 AM · Some great points, gang. I appreciate that we can agree to disagree and still get along!

- Why rant about the differences, when both DLR and WDW are amazing, magical places. It is fun to compare and contrast, but face it, folks won't be disappointed in either of Disney's US resorts!

- Yes, the closeness of the DLR resort cannot be matched at WDW. The best you can hope for is to stay within walking distance of one (Contemporary to MK), or two parks (Boardwalk and Beach Club to Epcot and DHS), but to be totally enclosed within all the magic the way visitors are at DLR is very cool. If you don't mind me being blasphemous for a moment, DLR has more in common with the set up at Universal Orlando than WDW. You can't beat good proximity!

- The Matterhorn may be a classic, but after one ride on it my wife was done. Said it gave her a headache, and she is a seasoned coaster veteran. Honestly, I have to admit the ride was more "Ouch" than "Yay" most of the time. The mountain itself is impressive, but the theming along the course is uninspired and dated, and the queue is 100% Six Flags. DAK's Expedition Everest, broken Yeti and all, is a MUCH better attraction. Look, I hate to pick at someone's favorite (and your opinion is every bit as valid as mine), but in this case I think the Matterhorn is not worth the trouble. I know it has its fans, and hey, I remember loving it back in 1981, but for me and mine it was a disappointment.

- As for the Pooh vehicles not hopping, I specifically asked a cast member about it, and she told me, "Yes, they hop, but sometimes they are stubborn." Now, if she lied to me, then any misinformation in my report is on her!

- Finally, my family's unbridled enthusiasm towards Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is more focused on the unflinching patriotism of the attraction than its factual recording of historical events (although I did not notice anything wrong with the history presented in the show). And we also appreciated the message of hope provided in Abe's final speech. In this day and age of cynicism and revisionist history, it is nice for an attraction to focus on the hope of this nation rather than its sometimes grim reality. Finally, the animatronic Lincoln is top notch... perhaps you saw the show before its somewhat recent upgrade?

Anyway, the views expressed throughout this report are not intended to be a statement of rightness, or correctness, or certainty, just one family's opinion of a wonderful resort destination. The Rao Family does not mean to offend or incite, only to entertain and educate (except in the case of TPI expert and woefully slow author TH Creative, who I love to both offend and incite). ;)

November 4, 2013 at 8:59 AM · I do recommend buying the Dole pineapple swirl in the Tiki Room side. Not only is the line shorter, you also get to sit in the shade. By the time the outside queue works its way up, you already have seen the show and exiting the theater. It is just a better experience.

The issue of Disneyland having better maintenance isn't a matter of having all the rides running. The overall maintenance is better and WDW doesn't nearly have the same amount of rides as Disneyland. We do have to temper our expectations since we are still dealing with a Disney organization that tries very hard to have similar systems on both sides. The better maintenance can not overcome organizational inertia.

November 4, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Good report but if you think Captain EO is "quite possibly the worst attraction currently in existence at any Disney park" you should do Disneyland Paris for your next compare & contrast article and try the Studios Tram Tour. It makes Captain EO look like Harry Potter.
November 4, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Wow Ian.... what you wrote just scares me. No wonder the Paris parks are always struggling to make a profit.

And Anon, I am not clear what you mean with your statement "having better maintenance isn't a matter of having all the rides running". I would think there is a direct correlation. But I may just be misunderstanding your point.

Look, I think the Disney parks are beautiful. And, with the exception of glaring problems like the inanimationic Yeti at Everest, I think Disney does a fantastic job of maintaining things. I only mentioned maintenance at all because it is so often compared between the two coasts, and personally, I do not think Land is doing any better at maintaining things than World. Both coasts do a terrific job, IMHO.

November 4, 2013 at 1:07 PM · Looking forward to the next report. Your writing is so interesting that I definately hope your next report is long & in depth. When the subject is so well done, there is no such thing as too long. Thanks for all the work & thought you've put into these articles.
November 4, 2013 at 1:11 PM · Thank you, Rob, for your very kind and gracious words.
November 4, 2013 at 1:27 PM · "But I may just be misunderstanding your point."

Of course since you didn't read the following sentence where I said "The overall maintenance is better and WDW doesn't nearly have the same amount of rides as Disneyland."

A failed ride here and there tells you little of the overall failure of rides and the overall maintenance of the parks is better at Disneyland. You just had an unlucky day.

November 4, 2013 at 3:36 PM · I think what anon meant is that rides don't always go down for maintenance issues. Usually it's actually a guest issue, either a lost item in the track or someone moves too slowly, etc. Also, the beehicles in Disneyland's pooh ride don't bounce with Tigger, they dip and roll throughout the entire ride in the same pattern.
November 4, 2013 at 4:39 PM · It was more like an unlucky week, Anon. And I assure you that I read every word of your post. I like to read.

As for the beevehicles and the reasons for the 101s, anon poster, I appreciate your input, but can only go by what the cast members told me (beevehicles "do hop but are stubborn" and "this attraction is down due to mechanical issues"). Any misinformation on these points is on those cast members, not me!

November 4, 2013 at 6:21 PM · Wow excellent report! The last time we were at DL was in 2006, so this makes me really want to go back! We didn't get to ride Pirates then because they had just completed the Jack Sparrow addition and there was like a 4 and half wait for it. Not knowing how good it was, we didn't wait. Bummer!
November 4, 2013 at 9:14 PM · 4.5 hours is too long to wait for ANY attraction. You made the right choice, my friend! Just ride Pirates first the next time you visit Disneyland!
November 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM · James, you seem to be reading all the comments, and if you're serious that you like to read, I might suggest this article from the blog Passport to Dreams Old & New about some of the differences between Disneyland and Disney World's Magic Kingdom, particularly how part of Disneyland's "charm" and "intimacy" are due to the themes of the park being juxtaposed with very little transition between the lands. A little academic, but very thought-provoking.
November 5, 2013 at 9:59 AM · Glad to see some love for Storybook Land Canal boats! It's a must-do on my family's trips (which is easy because there is rarely a wait). Charming, unique, relaxing, and one of the few attractions which is constantly updated.
November 5, 2013 at 6:12 PM · @Hubert Interesting article and some great points. Thank you for sharing. I love both resorts, Land and World and agree with the author of that blog (and most fans) that both mutually coexist nicely together. Overall, if I had to chose one or the other (which thankfully I do not), I prefer WDW simply because, IMHO, it handles crowds much better than DLR. But I am very happy to be at either resort.
November 6, 2013 at 6:44 PM · Tokyo's Haunted Mansion is WDW's Original Mansion before any updates and does a superior version of the Holiday Overlay. Mystic Manor, Pooh's Hunny Hunt, Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek, and virtually everything at Tokyo DisneySea including their superior version of Indiana Jones Adventure also show Disney's capabilities. I would Studio Tram Tour, Animagique, and Armageddon in Paris as well as Stitch's Great Escape and the current Journey Into Imagination in Orlando to be worse than Captain EO, and you forgot to mention Indiana Jones, Matterhorn, and Radiator Springs Racers consistently go 101 3-4 times every day. The parks in Tokyo and Hong Kong are IMHO superior to the parks in Anaheim and Orlando, and definitely to that lame excuse for a Disney Resort in Paris. Also, try eating at Blue Bayou instead of Cafe Orleans if you go back.
November 6, 2013 at 9:48 PM · @anon poster

- Appreciate your insights as a world wide Disney traveler. Thanks for sharing.

- I have heard that Indiana Jones, Matterhorn, and Radiator Springs Racers do go 101 a lot, but that downtime was not an issue the week we were there. I think RSR went down once for about an hour. But the other two, I never noticed any downtime.

- Maybe I should have written that Captain EO is the worst Disney attraction my family has ever visited. Because we will hold fast to that opinion. Even the kids were like, "What the heck was that, Dad?" I just shook my head and said, "I know, I know." And as much as I dislike the Stitch attraction at MK, it is light years ahead of the dated kitsch of EO. To be honest, I probably would not have liked EO even when it was new and now it just looks and feels really, really, really old.

- As for the Blue Bayou, I almost pulled the trigger on that reservation, but it came down to cost. I simply could not afford it. The price would have been almost double what we paid at Cafe Orleans, and we would not have been able to get those wonderful Pommes Frites. Granted the atmosphere of the Blue Bayou cannot be beat, but the budget was what it was. Like you said, maybe next time.

November 7, 2013 at 4:07 PM · I also visited Disneyland recently after a 16 year absence. I haven't been to Florida since 1998, but I visited Tokyo and Hong Kong in 2010 when I studied abroad.

I had a great time, but absolutely agree that the park is can seem extremely claustrophobic because of the crowds and the smaller park (Hong Kong, also small, was somewhat similar). And with all of the gushing about how much better the maintenance was over Florida, and seeing how much people trashed MK's Splash Mountain's issues, I found several animatronics in the finale scene broken on CA for the entire trip. I get the impression that the difference is largely exaggerated.

Finally, while I can't say that I would choose Hong Kong over Anaheim, Tokyo was certainly fresh in my mind and while I loved Disneyland, it was no Tokyo, IMO. That was, honestly, the only thing wrong with the park.

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