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Old 10-09-2012, 06:47 PM   #1
alvernon90
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At DLR now, some thoughts

As is my typical practice, I'd like to give back a little to the boards from which I learned so much by giving some thoughts on the trip we are currently taking. This trip is a daddy-daughter trip (daughter is 8) to celebrate Halloween. We have been staying at DLH, and we were here for the entirety of Columbus Day Weekend 2012 and Gay Days 2012 (for you future keyword searchers out there). My thoughts:

1. Halloween at DLR is kind of a bust. I expected something on par with Christmas, but it is not even close. Except for some orange bunting on Main Street, it's hard to tell it is Halloween at DLR. The one exception is the carnival in Big Thunder Ranch.

2. Happiest Haunts Tour a definite bust. I should have listened to the other reviews -- this tour is pretty lame. It's only real value was as a fastpass during the insanely crowded weekend (more on that later), but it was hardly worth that. We had to keep listening to two guys engage in acting reminicent of a 1970's porno film, and the story itself made almost no sense whatsoever. It was disorganized, and we also had some bad luck with a couple of the rides. I would say the tour is not suitable for kids, because there were no kids except my daughter. Some of the adults did not even go on all the rides, which made the whole thing seem extra pointless to me. But we were backstage at DCA to take a back door onto Tower of Terror, which was mildly interesting.

3. The crowds. Sweet merciful Minnie, the crowds have been nearly unbearable. There were lines longer than any I have seen in my life. I discovered places for queues I did not even know existed. Walking was a chore, fastpasses only cut wait times to about 25 minutes on some rides, and lines for food and beverages were crazy. This was made worse by the fact that Indy was down for refurb and every other major ride had at least one lengthy breakdown during the weekend. That said, there were some good points:

3a. Early entry works best on crowded days. Previously I have gone at "slow" times of year and I have not been impressed with early entry. But when the parks are busy enough for an 8:00 a.m. opening, that 7:00 a.m. early entry is glorious. Nobody wants to get out of bed while it is still dark and walk to Disneyland in the dark. Well, a few people did, but not enough to make it necessary to get off of the ride before going again. If you are willing to skip RSR for the day, you can have the run of DCA during early entry while everyone else is in Carsland.

3b. Buying your way out of crowds is key. If you have the means, I highly recommend this as a way of dealing with crowds. The Happiest Haunts Tour was still good for rides (though Haunted Mansion Holiday was so crowded it took us almost 10 minutes just to exit the elevator into the hallway) and the Fantasmic dessert package was also wonderful. The best thing we did was hire Brian at Mouse Expeditions to be our faspass runner and the guy who waited first in line to check in for Fantasmic dessert seating. We had more fastpasses than we could even use that day, and the crowds did not seem so bad.

3c. Take breaks. If crowds are inevitable, split your day into early mornings and evenings, and spend midday at the hotel. It is old advice, but it works so well that I am reiterating it here.

4. RSR is a cool ride, but I'm not sure it is worth the wait, even the fastpass wait. If you have the days at the parks, I highly recommend going one day with no trip on RSR, and using early entry to enjoy the rest of the open attractions.

5. Revamps since my last visit in 2009:

5a. The DLH refurb is quite nice but nothing spectacular. Trader Sam's is a blast, I could easily stay there for hours, but one important warning: it is very difficult to hide your level of day drinking when the souvenir glasses just keep piling up on your table.

5b. Carsland is gorgeous at night, but the crowds are still too intense for me to spend any time looking around. Maybe in another few years.

5c. Star Tours is way better than the old version. They really breathed new life into one of the greatest rides ever.

5d. The Little Mermaid ride is pretty good for a dark ride, on par with Monsters, Inc. But I would not wait more than 3 minutes for it.

5e. We skipped World of Color once we realized that our odds of getting a seat where my daughter could actually see anything were virtually nil. That meant we also bailed on our Carthay Circle reservation, so I have nothing to report on that place except that the prices are still absurd.

5f. Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy may not be that new, I'm not sure. In any event, it was my first time trying it and this is my first time going to DLR and riding Space Mountain only once. That stupid ghost thing absolutely ruins the ride, turning a fun time into an excruciating endurance contest. The effects are crappy and the noise is unbearable. If you think Space Mountain would be better if they turned off the music and every ride featured a toddler having a meltdown in the seat behind you, then Ghost Galaxy is your overlay. For normal people, it's like they dropped a giant turd on the crown jewel of the park.

6. On the subject of overlays, I am just about tired of Haunted Mansion Holiday as well, particularly since this "special" version of the ride is up for 1/3 of the year. The added features just jack up the noise level, and the "snow" in the final graveyard scene makes the whole room far too bright. So far only It's A Small World succeeds on holiday overlays.

7. The AMC at Downtown Disney is not a very good theater. The AMC in my suburb is nicer. I thought this place would be something special, but nope.

I will edit this post after attending the Halloween party, but I do not have high hopes for it.
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:01 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alvernon90 View Post
As is my typical practice, I'd like to give back a little to the boards from which I learned so much by giving some thoughts on the trip we are currently taking. This trip is a daddy-daughter trip (daughter is 8) to celebrate Halloween. We have been staying at DLH, and we were here for the entirety of Columbus Day Weekend 2012 and Gay Days 2012 (for you future keyword searchers out there). My thoughts:

1. Halloween at DLR is kind of a bust. I expected something on par with Christmas, but it is not even close. Except for some orange bunting on Main Street, it's hard to tell it is Halloween at DLR. The one exception is the carnival in Big Thunder Ranch.

2. Happiest Haunts Tour a definite bust. I should have listened to the other reviews -- this tour is pretty lame. It's only real value was as a fastpass during the insanely crowded weekend (more on that later), but it was hardly worth that. We had to keep listening to two guys engage in acting reminicent of a 1970's porno film, and the story itself made almost no sense whatsoever. It was disorganized, and we also had some bad luck with a couple of the rides. I would say the tour is not suitable for kids, because there were no kids except my daughter. Some of the adults did not even go on all the rides, which made the whole thing seem extra pointless to me. But we were backstage at DCA to take a back door onto Tower of Terror, which was mildly interesting.

3. The crowds. Sweet merciful Minnie, the crowds have been nearly unbearable. There were lines longer than any I have seen in my life. I discovered places for queues I did not even know existed. Walking was a chore, fastpasses only cut wait times to about 25 minutes on some rides, and lines for food and beverages were crazy. This was made worse by the fact that Indy was down for refurb and every other major ride had at least one lengthy breakdown during the weekend. That said, there were some good points:

3a. Early entry works best on crowded days. Previously I have gone at "slow" times of year and I have not been impressed with early entry. But when the parks are busy enough for an 8:00 a.m. opening, that 7:00 a.m. early entry is glorious. Nobody wants to get out of bed while it is still dark and walk to Disneyland in the dark. Well, a few people did, but not enough to make it necessary to get off of the ride before going again. If you are willing to skip RSR for the day, you can have the run of DCA during early entry while everyone else is in Carsland.

3b. Buying your way out of crowds is key. If you have the means, I highly recommend this as a way of dealing with crowds. The Happiest Haunts Tour was still good for rides (though Haunted Mansion Holiday was so crowded it took us almost 10 minutes just to exit the elevator into the hallway) and the Fantasmic dessert package was also wonderful. The best thing we did was hire Brian at Mouse Expeditions to be our faspass runner and the guy who waited first in line to check in for Fantasmic dessert seating. We had more fastpasses than we could even use that day, and the crowds did not seem so bad.

3c. Take breaks. If crowds are inevitable, split your day into early mornings and evenings, and spend midday at the hotel. It is old advice, but it works so well that I am reiterating it here.

4. RSR is a cool ride, but I'm not sure it is worth the wait, even the fastpass wait. If you have the days at the parks, I highly recommend going one day with no trip on RSR, and using early entry to enjoy the rest of the open attractions.

5. Revamps since my last visit in 2009:

5a. The DLH refurb is quite nice but nothing spectacular. Trader Sam's is a blast, I could easily stay there for hours, but one important warning: it is very difficult to hide your level of day drinking when the souvenir glasses just keep piling up on your table.

5b. Carsland is gorgeous at night, but the crowds are still too intense for me to spend any time looking around. Maybe in another few years.

5c. Star Tours is way better than the old version. They really breathed new life into one of the greatest rides ever.

5d. The Little Mermaid ride is pretty good for a dark ride, on par with Monsters, Inc. But I would not wait more than 3 minutes for it.

5e. We skipped World of Color once we realized that our odds of getting a seat where my daughter could actually see anything were virtually nil. That meant we also bailed on our Carthay Circle reservation, so I have nothing to report on that place except that the prices are still absurd.

5f. Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy may not be that new, I'm not sure. In any event, it was my first time trying it and this is my first time going to DLR and riding Space Mountain only once. That stupid ghost thing absolutely ruins the ride, turning a fun time into an excruciating endurance contest. The effects are crappy and the noise is unbearable. If you think Space Mountain would be better if they turned off the music and every ride featured a toddler having a meltdown in the seat behind you, then Ghost Galaxy is your overlay. For normal people, it's like they dropped a giant turd on the crown jewel of the park.

6. On the subject of overlays, I am just about tired of Haunted Mansion Holiday as well, particularly since this "special" version of the ride is up for 1/3 of the year. The added features just jack up the noise level, and the "snow" in the final graveyard scene makes the whole room far too bright. So far only It's A Small World succeeds on holiday overlays.

7. The AMC at Downtown Disney is not a very good theater. The AMC in my suburb is nicer. I thought this place would be something special, but nope.

I will edit this post after attending the Halloween party, but I do not have high hopes for it.
Thank you so much for the recap and thoughts, alvernon90!

I am going to go back and read the rest of your points now, but in regards to #1 (bolded and italicized above) - now you see, if you had been following what I've been saying on the DIS, you would know that the Halloween decorations are rather scarce and nowhere near the Christmas season immersion!

I say it all the time on this board - that Christmas season is really extensive and thorough, while Halloween Time's decor keeps getting whittled down, slowly but surely, every year! Halloween Time is nowhere near what the holiday season is in terms of overall festivity and celebration. (Some people may disagree with me on that point, but I kinda think I'm right on that issue!) Everywhere you go during the holidays, you know what time of year it is because of lights or decorations or aromas or music. That is not the case with Halloween Time at all.

Main Street is actually one of the only places in Disneyland that has concentrated Halloween decorations (aside from the bunting I am including the window displays and the pumpkins perched in window sills, on balconies, on top of marquees, etc), with the Round-Up/Carnival/Ranch/Jamboree being the other place.

Okay, off to read your other comments now. Thanks again for such a detailed post - it really helps and is very informative!
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:13 PM   #3
alvernon90
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I wish I had taken to heart that Halloween at DLR is no more spectacular than Fourth of July. I thought they had decided to take it to a new level, but it's ironic that the decorations are getting whittled down rather than expanding.

I wanted to add a note specifically about Gay Days, because I know concern about the parks on those days is a frequent topic on this board:

Gay Days definitely made things crowded, but the crowds were so huge that it could not have been Gay Days alone. The one and only time I was disrupted was during the Bad Pun Photo Op where a large group of bears met for a photo in front of the large bear at GRR.

I witnessed no inappropriate displays. There were quite a few t-shirts that had subtle puns on them, but they were impossible for kids (and probably many adults) to understand. If you worry that Gay Days will turn the parks into the equivalent of an early 80's San Francisco bath house, you have nothing to fear. If you do not believe gay people are fully human and fully deserving of respect and dignity like all humans, then seeing so many gay people having a good time is likely to be upsetting to you -- you'll need to either get with the times or stick to hanging around with the (ever shrinking) group of people who think like you do.
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Old 10-11-2012, 03:51 AM   #4
alvernon90
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Updating the original post with some additional information:

Mickey's Halloween Party actually turned out to be pretty fun, despite being a sellout. The park was packed but lines for rides were very short, comparable to early entry. The treat trails were jam packed early but the lines moved quickly, and the waterfront trail was treated to a performance by a ghost quartet. The costumes were fun, the treat trails emptied out as the evening went on, and the mood was festive until tired kids started melting down after the fireworks.

Note that you should definitely take the time to find space for the fireworks if that is your thing, seeing them from elsewhere in the park just isn't the same. Avoid Fantasyland after the fireworks, as it stays closed long after the fireworks end. Come prepared to carry away a ton of candy.

The new Matterhorn seats are cramped, but the ride is still as fun as ever. I am just under 6 feet tall, and I felt I was pushing it on leg room even in the back seat -- if you are over 6 feet be prepared to be scrunched. It seemed to me that the real issue is having enough agility to get out of the cars when you cannot move your legs. It is no problems if you can lift yourself with your arms, but for older guests or others who cannot do so, getting out will be tricky.

The new pool area at DLH is pretty awesome, but the water slide is not a huge wow factor. We were on it when nobody else was around, but even with no wait my daughter was done with it after about three slides.

The concierge level at DLH was no great shakes. The "lounge" seemed about on par with what you would find at the airport Holiday Inn. Not worth it unless it happens to be the best rate you could find, which would be rare but definitely not impossible. The pool view upgrade is definitely worth the price.

Finally, I think this trip has definitely changed my views on the best time for out-of-towners to go under the new normal at DLR. Lower crowd times are never low anymore, but the park hours are as short as ever. The later the opening, the less crazy you have to be to arrive before opening. When early entry is 7:00 and you stay on property to take advantage every day, the first three hours of each day are a crowd-free paradise, and the evenings are manageable with pre-collected Fastpasses and cooler temperatures. The afternoons can be spent at the hotel pool, or catching a movie, or playing air hockey while holding a margarita at ESPN Zone, or taking a nap. When that turns out to be the best bet for a good trip, the best time to go is summer when the cheap annual passes are blocked out.

Thanks to all of the great people who post advice every day on this board. My parting shot is to say that there are great tips here, but it is up to you to decide what is best for you and your party. Don't do things just because that's how all the people in the know do them. If 10 trips on California Screamin' is worth more than one trip on RSR, then skip the lines. The secret to a perfect trip is not a perfect plan, but an ability to go with the flow.
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Old 10-11-2012, 06:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alvernon90 View Post
Updating the original post with some additional information:

Mickey's Halloween Party actually turned out to be pretty fun, despite being a sellout. The park was packed but lines for rides were very short, comparable to early entry. The treat trails were jam packed early but the lines moved quickly, and the waterfront trail was treated to a performance by a ghost quartet. The costumes were fun, the treat trails emptied out as the evening went on, and the mood was festive until tired kids started melting down after the fireworks.

Note that you should definitely take the time to find space for the fireworks if that is your thing, seeing them from elsewhere in the park just isn't the same. Avoid Fantasyland after the fireworks, as it stays closed long after the fireworks end. Come prepared to carry away a ton of candy.

The new Matterhorn seats are cramped, but the ride is still as fun as ever. I am just under 6 feet tall, and I felt I was pushing it on leg room even in the back seat -- if you are over 6 feet be prepared to be scrunched. It seemed to me that the real issue is having enough agility to get out of the cars when you cannot move your legs. It is no problems if you can lift yourself with your arms, but for older guests or others who cannot do so, getting out will be tricky.

The new pool area at DLH is pretty awesome, but the water slide is not a huge wow factor. We were on it when nobody else was around, but even with no wait my daughter was done with it after about three slides.

The concierge level at DLH was no great shakes. The "lounge" seemed about on par with what you would find at the airport Holiday Inn. Not worth it unless it happens to be the best rate you could find, which would be rare but definitely not impossible. The pool view upgrade is definitely worth the price.

Finally, I think this trip has definitely changed my views on the best time for out-of-towners to go under the new normal at DLR. Lower crowd times are never low anymore, but the park hours are as short as ever. The later the opening, the less crazy you have to be to arrive before opening. When early entry is 7:00 and you stay on property to take advantage every day, the first three hours of each day are a crowd-free paradise, and the evenings are manageable with pre-collected Fastpasses and cooler temperatures. The afternoons can be spent at the hotel pool, or catching a movie, or playing air hockey while holding a margarita at ESPN Zone, or taking a nap. When that turns out to be the best bet for a good trip, the best time to go is summer when the cheap annual passes are blocked out.

Thanks to all of the great people who post advice every day on this board. My parting shot is to say that there are great tips here, but it is up to you to decide what is best for you and your party. Don't do things just because that's how all the people in the know do them. If 10 trips on California Screamin' is worth more than one trip on RSR, then skip the lines. The secret to a perfect trip is not a perfect plan, but an ability to go with the flow.
What a balanced report! Good, solid info. Thanks.

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Old 10-11-2012, 08:16 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alvernon90
...If you worry that Gay Days will turn the parks into the equivalent of an early 80's San Francisco bath house, you have nothing to fear. If you do not believe gay people are fully human and fully deserving of respect and dignity like all humans, then seeing so many gay people having a good time is likely to be upsetting to you -- you'll need to either get with the times or stick to hanging around with the (ever shrinking) group of people who think like you do.
Love this sentiment!
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Old 10-11-2012, 08:35 AM   #7
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Love this sentiment!
I agree 100% - well said.
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:23 AM   #8
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I agree 100% - well said.


Great report. Thanks for posting!
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:34 PM   #9
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<snip>

5f. Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy may not be that new, I'm not sure. In any event, it was my first time trying it and this is my first time going to DLR and riding Space Mountain only once. That stupid ghost thing absolutely ruins the ride, turning a fun time into an excruciating endurance contest. The effects are crappy and the noise is unbearable. If you think Space Mountain would be better if they turned off the music and every ride featured a toddler having a meltdown in the seat behind you, then Ghost Galaxy is your overlay. For normal people, it's like they dropped a giant turd on the crown jewel of the park.

6. On the subject of overlays, I am just about tired of Haunted Mansion Holiday as well, particularly since this "special" version of the ride is up for 1/3 of the year. The added features just jack up the noise level, and the "snow" in the final graveyard scene makes the whole room far too bright. So far only It's A Small World succeeds on holiday overlays.

7. The AMC at Downtown Disney is not a very good theater. The AMC in my suburb is nicer. I thought this place would be something special, but nope.

I will edit this post after attending the Halloween party, but I do not have high hopes for it.

I enjoyed reading all of your report, lots of great info, thanks for taking the time to post.

ITA with you on the dumb GG overlay, but I just couldn't let the HMH comment go without providing a dissenting opinion. I love the NBC treatment on HM!
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:47 PM   #10
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Good report. I'll definitely expect huge crowds for this weekend when we are there so I'm not disappointed. Just had to say though, DH and I are pretty "normal" but we like the GG overlay. Never had a bad experience riding it though.
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:44 PM   #11
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Finally, I think this trip has definitely changed my views on the best time for out-of-towners to go under the new normal at DLR. Lower crowd times are never low anymore, but the park hours are as short as ever. The later the opening, the less crazy you have to be to arrive before opening. When early entry is 7:00 and you stay on property to take advantage every day, the first three hours of each day are a crowd-free paradise, and the evenings are manageable with pre-collected Fastpasses and cooler temperatures. The afternoons can be spent at the hotel pool, or catching a movie, or playing air hockey while holding a margarita at ESPN Zone, or taking a nap. When that turns out to be the best bet for a good trip, the best time to go is summer when the cheap annual passes are blocked out.
Man I hope they keep this policy in place. Non-expiring FPs have been a cornerstone of my WDW touring strategy, and that's gone now. Not really eager to go back, especially if I can stay on-site at UO/IOA and get unlimited FOTL access.
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:47 PM   #12
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Thanks for the report!

I really start thinking that there is no more slow times at Disneyland!!!
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Old 10-11-2012, 03:23 PM   #13
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Finally, I think this trip has definitely changed my views on the best time for out-of-towners to go under the new normal at DLR
Well, even 3 years ago Columbus Day weekend was a horrid time to go. And we experienced that at the *end* of the weekend. This trip (9/29 through 10/8) we experienced the whole run-up to the holiday and the intense crowds. Ick.

We thought we were going to avoid the Monday holiday nonsense but DS's green light-up musket broke at some point between buying it and picking it up the next day from DLH bell services and I had to replace it. And by that time the ONLY place to find it at the entire resort was at Pirate's League. So I got to leave hubby and son swimming at the pool on that hot hot day, and battle my way all the way there and back. I kept thinking "I'm not even supposed to BE here today!"



For anyone with a child old enough (7 and up) and willing, I cannot recommend Single Rider on RSR more! Seriously, it is awesome. My family has not yet been in the same car, and that is fine! We all enjoyed basically the same ride, and we wouldn't be talking to each other during the ride anyway, so I really really recommend it.
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Old 10-11-2012, 07:30 PM   #14
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Love this sentiment!
agreed!
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Old 10-11-2012, 08:40 PM   #15
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I feel like this in regard to most of your post, with the exception of HMH; I actually like it much better than the regular HM. And we were with someone in an ECV for WOC so our view was ok, with the exception of the guy who put his kid on his shoulders just as the show started, right in front of me. It was still worth watching...I know every Disney movie song by heart so I loved it.
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