A DLR Guide for WDW Vets


A Pirate's Life For Me
Jun 5, 2005
Quick Summary of Guide

Last updated January, 2018 - note that content is too long for a single post and continues into post #2

Walt Disney World (WDW) in Florida and Disneyland Resort (DLR) in California have a lot in common - and a number of things not in common. Both give visitors a unique Disney experience. But the location and history of each resort lead to different experiences.

The DLR has two theme parks in contrast to WDW’s four, and three Disney hotels in contrast to WDW’s 20+. A WDW veteran might look at this and assume DLR will provide a lesser experience. I would suggest that the experience at DLR is not lesser, just of shorter duration.

There are a number of differences between the two resorts of which the WDW veteran should be aware. The body of this topic will explore these in more detail. Here the differences will be summarized.

While physically smaller than WDW’s Magic Kingdom, Disneyland actually offers 25-30% more attractions. Most would agree that Splash Mountain is clearly better at MK, and that Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain are clearly better at DL. After these few the differences are marginal, in my opinion. It is common for people to prefer the ride at their “home” park.

One key difference is the location of parks, hotels and Downtown Disney at DLR. They are all located close together. While this is contrary to WDW’s expansive layout, it offers some attractive benefits. Foremost is not having to depend on transportation to move you around the resort or between parks. Just stay at a close-by hotel and use your feet. At DLR you can literally stay across the street from the parks or, in the case of the Grand Californian Hotel, connected to one of the parks. Combined with typically longer park hours at DL, easier parkhopping and overall better weather in California, we find that we spend about 50% more time actually at the parks at DLR than we do at WDW.

DLR has about 40 non-Disney “good neighbor” hotel options. The benefits of staying at a Disney hotel at DLR are not nearly as great as that at WDW. In fact there are a number of good neighbor hotels much closer to the DLR gates than two of the three DLR hotels. Even if you are a diehard Disney hotel person at WDW, you should be open to non-Disney hotels at DLR.

The location of the second park, Disney’s California Adventure (DCA), is face-to-face with DL. They are separated by a plaza about 100 yards (100 m) across. This brings a whole new meaning to the concept of parkhopping to the WDW vet. At DLR it is practical to hop back and forth multiple times during the day – always using just your feet.

One area where DLR does not compare well to WDW is in the area of dining. While DLR does have a number of fine dining options, it lacks the quantity and diversity that exists at WDW.

Unlike WDW, DLR is located in a high population density area and thereby draws many more local visitors than WDW. This means more day trip visitors. This also means that DLR is more crowded on the weekends and holidays than during weekdays. If visiting during the busy season, avoid weekends and especially holiday weekends if possible.

If you plan to visit DLR from out-of-state (or further), plan to stay 3-5 days. There are of course many other interesting places to visit in Southern California for those who would like to extend their trip further. These are discussed in the main body.

DLR has extra hours available outside of regular park hours for certain visitors. Similar to WDW, care should be taken to plan your days around these extra hours or you may find yourself dealing with longer lines than necessary.

The main body below explores the above topics and others in more detail, and also includes links to other resources.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Why I Wrote This Guide

Like any group of people, Walt Disney World (WDW) veterans come in all shapes and sizes. Virtually all of them are aware of Disneyland (DL) in California. Many of them have never been to DL or, if they have, have not been for a very long time. There are some who have come to believe that WDW is superior to DL and have no interest in visiting a "lesser" destination. In addition, there are others who understand DL is physically smaller but are curious as to what is out there in California.

I wrote this guide for two reasons. First, I will try to show that whereas DL, which is part of Disneyland Resort (DLR), is a smaller destination, it is not a "lesser" destination. In so doing, I hope to open some minds to the possibility of visiting DLR and experiencing the magic there.

Second, for those who may already be considering a visit to DLR, I will try to give some perspective on DLR. I will try to help such people understand how a DLR experience differs from one at WDW so that they can focus on the strengths of DLR rather than be potentially frustrated by the differences. Where relevant I will give direction to resources that can provide additional information.

What I will not do is try to write a basic guidebook. Those books exist and can be purchased. Much of the information provided here is at a different level than a basic guidebook.

The magic of Disney is not contained in any single physical location. Both WDW and DLR are full of Disney magic, and each has its own strengths. As I walked around WDW on my first trip there I tried to think of a way of explaining this to a WDW vet.

I would put it this way: DLR’s smaller size does not mean it has less magic. DLR has 100% of the magic as that at WDW. It just does not require as many days to experience it. To be more concise, fewer days but equal magic.


1. Definitions
2. Background
3. Disneyland: Past and Present
4. Who Visits Disneyland Resort
5. Disneyland Resort Internet and Print Resources
6. Transportation
7. Differences between WDW Magic Kingdom and Disneyland
8. Touring DL and DCA: Parkhopping and Other Differences From WDW
9. Touring Plans
10. Dining
11. Hotels
12. Characters and Character Meals
13. FastPass
14. How Many Days Do You Need at DLR?
15. Is DLR a Vacation or Not a Vacation?
16. Best Time To Visit DLR
17. Magic Mornings/Extra Magic Hours at DLR vs. Extra Magic Hours at WDW
18. Weather
19. Entrance Tickets
20. Disney Immersion
21. Not To Be Missed at Disneyland Resort
22. Areas Where DLR Exceeds WDW
23. Other Destinations in Southern California

1. Definitions

AK – Disney's Animal Kingdom (WDW)
AP - Annual Pass
DCA – Disney's California Adventure (DLR)
DHS - Disney Hollywood Studios (at WDW - used to be MGM)
DL - Disneyland
DLH - Disneyland Hotel (at DLR)
DLR – Disneyland Resort (composed of two parks - Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and the three Disney hotels)
DTD - Downtown Disney
EMH – Extra Magic Hours (at WDW and DLR)
FP - FastPass
GCH - Grand Californian Hotel (at DLR)
MK – Magic Kingdom (WDW)
MM - Magic Mornings (at DLR - used to be called Early Entry, not exactly the same as EMH)
MP - MaxPass
PPH - Paradise Pier Hotel (at DLR)
WDW – Walt Disney World

2. Background

Over fifty years ago – in 1966 – I went on my first DL trip I can remember. I had recently turned three years old and I went with my grandfather and uncle (who was ten). I remember several things about that day, but one of them – which helped me pinpoint the year – was my grandfather explaining to me as we drove into the DL parking lot that I was going to be two years old that day and not three. His was not the first attempt - or the last - to avoid paid admission for a young child.

I grew up about 45 minutes away from DL, and we made day trips there every year or so. For me DL was, is, and ever will be a place full of magic. I have four sons currently in their 20's, and I have enjoyed many trips to DLR with them every year or so when we are visiting family still in the area.

Before one of our DLR trips in 2005 I started to become active on Disney Internet forums and soaked up a lot of DLR information which added to my experience over the years. This led me to become more curious about WDW and we ended up taking a ten-day trip there in June 2006. Along the way I spent a lot of time researching WDW and trying to understand how it differed from my "home resort", DLR.

My first trip prompted me to write this guide where I could share some of my observations. I have since taken numerous additional trips to WDW as well as a trip to Disneyland Resort Paris and Tokyo Disney Resort. I am starting to feel like a WDW vet as well as a DLR vet.

I have not experienced all aspects of DLR, and I certainly have not experienced all aspects of WDW. So in certain areas I can only speak from second-hand knowledge. I will do my best and am bound to have some imperfections, and in such cases others with first-hand knowledge are encouraged to contribute and fill up any gaps.

3. Disneyland: Past and Present

Today the Magic Kingdom at WDW is the most highly attended theme park in the world. Do you know which park is a close second? You got it - Disneyland. According to the TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report, in 2016 MK drew 20.4 million visitors while DL drew 17.9 million - 10% less. Not bad for that little park in California, huh? Later in this section I will discuss attendance a bit more.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statues at DL

When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955 it launched a multi-billion dollar theme park industry. Walt Disney chose to locate it in Orange County, California in an unpopulated area where it was anticipated future population would grow. And boy did it.

Due to limited resources Disney was not able to control the area around Disneyland and a bunch of seedy hotels sprung up. This prompted Disney to pursue construction of the first Disney hotel - the Disneyland Hotel - in order to get some control over this aspect of park visitation. The DLH was not originally owned by Disney. But eventually they bought it. Disneyland has worked with the local community and proprietors, and the area around DLR is no longer seedy and is in fact quite clean and upbeat.

Disneyland's early success led Walt Disney to the idea for WDW - a place where Disney could control a larger land area and have essentially infinite room to expand. This happened in 1971 with the opening of WDW, five years after Walt Disney's death.

WDW eventually built four theme parks, two water parks, 20+ hotels and much more. This idea of a multi-park resort eventually became a reality in California. In 2001 Disneyland became part of Disneyland Resort, which encompasses two theme parks (DL and Disney’s California Adventure - DCA) plus Downtown Disney (DTD), a shopping and restaurant area just outside the DL and DCA gates. A third Disney hotel was added, the majestic Grand Californian Hotel (GCH). This was in addition to the older Disneyland Hotel and the more recent Paradise Pier Hotel. DCA and the GCH were built in the original DL parking lot and parking was moved further away.

However, DLR had some struggles after 2001. Particularly this applied to the second gate, DCA, which was opened in 2001.

The truth is that in its first decade DCA attendance numbers never rose to the level expected by the Walt Disney Company. DCA was built during what many refer to as the "Pressler and Harriss" era, former executives who are widely loathed by DL fans. During the 1990's and early 2000's, many knowledgeable sources would argue that these executives made a string of very poor decisions regarding Disneyland. Neither was much of a theme park fan and it showed. Along the way the original budget for DCA was cut from $2.1 billion to $1.4 billion (of which half was spent on building the Grand Californian Hotel), and numerous compromises were made. The end result was a park which underachieved. Further, the entire concept of a theme park located in California which celebrates California culture and history was regularly called into question.

Pressler and Harriss eventually left and a new manager took over named Ouimet (pronounced with a "W") who was widely praised by the DL fan base. Although he has since left the company, he had Disney roots and "got" Disney theme parks. Ouimet is credited with getting DLR back on track. One example was the revamped Space Mountain ride. The revamp was in progress when Ouimet came on board and DL was readying to celebrate its actual 50th anniversary on July 17, 2005. Space Mountain had been down for awhile and was not scheduled to reopen until November 2005 - four months after the actual 50th anniversary and after the critical DLR summer months. Ouimet sagely decided to pour extra resources into the project to make sure it was open for the actual 50th. Space Mountain "re-launched" on July 15, 2005 and has been a huge hit for DL.

Space Mountain in the evening

In early 2006 the Walt Disney Company purchased Pixar, the creators of such hit animated movies as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. This acquisition happened after the resignation of former CEO Michael Eisner - who Pixar had decided they could no longer work with. The new Disney CEO Robert Iger moved quickly to re-establish ties with Pixar and eventually moved to buy them. This has meant a number of things for the Walt Disney Company, but it has meant something special for DLR. Upon buying Pixar, Disney inherited John Lasseter who was an executive and senior creative influence at Pixar and has been empowered at Disney to unleash his creative instincts throughout the company. Lasseter has a special affection for DL, having worked there as a Jungle Cruise Cast Member in his younger days. And before the acquisition he regularly took his family to visit Disneyland. Lasseter has had a significant impact on DL. Among other things, he was a driving force behind the new Cars Land at DCA which opened in summer 2012. So with Lasseter involved, good things will be happening in California for many years to come.

Back to DCA for a moment. If you visited some of the Disneyland Internet forums prior to 2012 you would have seen a lot of scorn heaped upon DCA. A big part of the reason for this is that many DL fans think that Disney did not deliver a true Disney park at DCA. This can be debated - and was ad nauseum on many forums for many years. However, it is now clear that Disney's investment in the DCA makeover - capped by the opening of Cars Land and a the new Buena Vista Street entrance in June, 2012 - has successfully improved the theming of DCA and turned most if not all of the former critics into fans. And along the way turned DCA into a Disney park which everyone believes is worthy of the name.

My visits to WDW left me with the impression that DCA has a WDW DHS park type of feel to it. This was the case up until 2015 when all of the current changes at DHS started (Star Wars Land, Toy Story Land, removal of Lights, Motor, Action and the Great Movie Ride). I will outline later how the dynamics of visiting DL and DCA are very different from the dynamics of visiting the four parks in WDW and give suggestions on how to work this into your planning.

Starting in June 2012 the attendance numbers at DCA have changed dramatically. According to the TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report, the most respected source for such numbers, here were the top 10 in North America in 2016:

1. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 20.4 million, -0.5%
2. Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. 17.9 million, -1.8%
3. Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 11.7 million, -0.7%
4. Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 10.8 million, -0.7%
5. Disney Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 10.8 million, -0.7%
6. Universal Studios Florida at Universal Orlando, 8.1 million, +4.3%
7. Universal's Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando, 9.4 million, +6.5%
8. Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., 9.3 million, -0.9%
9. Universal Studios Hollywood, 8.1 million, +13.9%
10. SeaWorld Orlando, 4.4 million, -7.9%

See this link for more information:

Finally, go to www.scottware.com.au/theme/feature/atend_disparks.htm to see historical attendance at Disney parks.

Paradise Pier and California Screamin at DCA before the World of Color show

Paradise Pier and California Screamin at DCA in the daytime (with World of Color spray nozzles and equipment visible here)

4. Who Visits Disneyland Resort

One very different dynamic at DLR compared to WDW is the issue of locals. Southern California has a population of roughly 20 million (with 15 million or so in Northern California). Many of those in Southern California are within range of a day trip to DLR. And such people make up a significant percentage of DLR visitors. This has several implications. One is that it affects visiting patterns. Specifically, weekends and holidays are a notoriously bad time to visit DLR as this is when the locals can most easily make their day trips. Second is that DLR has many regular visitors. Such people get Annual Passes (APs) - of which there are special ones for Southern California residents. Unlike many WDW AP holders who make one or several longer trips to WDW, many of the DLR AP holders make numerous day trips to DLR. This tends to also fill up the parks on weekends and holidays. Therefore, one badly kept secret to visiting DLR is to avoid weekends if at all possible.

5. Disneyland Resort Internet and Print Resources

The official Disneyland website is www.disneyland.com.

Almost any WDW vet who uses the Internet for WDW visits has found the DIS board and their WDW forum. The DIS DLR forum does not have the same activity level as their WDW forum, and I suspect that WDW vets who go to the DIS DLR forum see this and, perhaps, attribute that to the "lesser" status of DLR. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many high quality DLR Internet forums as discussed below.

Two excellent DLR Internet forums are MiceAge (www.miceage.com) and their DLR forum MiceChat (www.micechat.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=17) and MousePlanet (www.mouseplanet.com) and their DLR forum MousePad (http://mousepad.mouseplanet.com/forumdisplay.php?f=7). The level of knowledge found on these two forums rivals or, in my opinion, surpasses the level of WDW knowledge on DIS. And part of the reason for this are the Southern California locals who visit DLR on a more frequent basis than WDW visitors and therefore have stronger ties to the parks.

My favorite DLR forum is the DIS DLR forum (www.disboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=26) where there are many friendly people and the discussions tend to not be as heated. The people there often have significant WDW experience and that gives the discussions a different flavor.

I cannot recommend any print resources for DLR. The most popular WDW print resource is Sehlinger's "Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World". For what its worth, he also has one for Disneyland. "The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland" can be found on Amazon and elsewhere. I actually bought this book in 2005 to see if there was anything worthwhile, and I did learn a few things I did not already know. If you want a print resource this is probably as good a one as any. Just know that it is not nearly as respected as the WDW version. Similar to the WDW version, the DLR version does include touring plans if that interests you.

There are two touring plan resources for DLR. One is from Touring Plans folks behind the Unofficial Guide. They have a resource for WDW of which you are probably aware, and DLR's resource is very similar. See www.touringplans.com. Note that many WDW vets pay a lot of attention to the park crowd rankings published by Touring Plans. They offer a similar type of crowd ranking calendar for WDW. However, DLR vets who have watched their predictions have little regard for their reliability. It is thus not trusted at DLR nearly as much as at WDW.

Another excellent touring plan resource is RideMax. RideMax offers toruing plans for DLR as well as WDW. They have a longer history at DLR than the Touring Plan folks.

6. Transportation

A significant issue we encountered at WDW was transportation. How do you get from here to there? And how long will it take? And will we be able to make rope drop or our dinner reservation? There are buses, boats, monorails and taxi cabs. And now Uber and Lyft. Or personal transportation (your own or a rental car) in which case you have to deal with the hassle of parking - and usually trams or, in some cases, still the monorail.

So here is where DLR's smaller size offers a huge advantage over WDW. How about removing transportation from the list of things you have to deal with? Just get a nearby hotel (either Disney or non-Disney - called "good neighbor hotels" in Disney-speak), and walk everywhere. Want to go to DL that day? You just walk out your hotel room and you are at the DL gate in 5-10 minutes. Want to hop to DCA? Just walk out the DL gate and in 1 minute you are at DCA. How about that dinner reservation at DTD? A 5 minute walk and you are there. Want to take a hotel break for a swim and nap? Walk out the DL or DCA gate and in 5-10 minutes you are there. No buses. No boats. No trams. No parking. No monorails (well, you can use the monorail from one of the DLR hotels but it only helps from DLH and PPH and only when you are going to DL - no monorail service to DCA).

When we visit DLR we never use a car. If we rented one to get there, we return it. If we drove our own car, we park it and leave it there.

The nearby hotels combined with the typically longer park hours makes it very practical (and highly recommended) to take hotel breaks every day (especially in high season and especially, especially in summer). At WDW a hotel break can take one or usually two hours out of your day just for transportation - 30-60 minutes each way. At DLR the transportation aspect can be almost zero. This means more time for a long nap and swim. And more time in the parks. Whereas at WDW we typically spend 5-8 hours of each day actually inside one of the parks, at DLR we typically spend 10-12 hours.

If the above is not enough to convince you to get a close by hotel, then check the Hotel sections in this guide for more info on local hotels. You can always drive from your hotel to DLR. Some hotels have shuttles. Or you can use the ART (Anaheim Resort Transit) system - see www.rideart.org and www.mouseplanet.com/more/mm020604.

Here are some helpful links:

"How Far Is It?" (shows actual distances in feet from hotels to DLR entrance plaza) www.mouseplanet.com/articles.php?art=mm060329as

Interactive DLR Map - http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=33.8092124&lon=-117.9188132&z=19&l=0&m=b

Regarding air transportation, you can fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport (SNA - nearest DLR and in Orange County), Ontario airport (ONT) or Long Beach Airport (LGB).

See this excellent link for updated transportation information: "Airport Proximity to DLR and Ground Transportation Information" by 3TinksAndAnEeyore www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2318297

7. Differences between WDW’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland

The anchor for WDW is Magic Kingdom (MK) while the anchor at DLR is Disneyland (DL). These parks have a lot in common. How do they compare?

First it is interesting to note that when people post polls on the Internet, WDW as a resort is usually favored over DLR as a resort, but DL as a park is usually favored over MK as a park. And there are reasons for this.

The basic layouts of the parks are similar. You enter through one of two tunnels onto Main Street. Main Street leads to a central hub in front of a castle, and around the hub are different themed “lands”. TomorrowLand is on the right, FantasyLand is straight ahead through the castle, ToonTown is beyond FantasyLand, and AdventureLand and FrontierLand are on the left.

MK has Liberty Square which does not exist at DL. DL has New Orleans Square which does not exist at MK. New Orleans Square is a popular and well-themed area at DL for dining, entertainment and shopping. DL has Critter Country beyond New Orleans Square which is the location of Splash Mountain and the Winnie the Pooh ride.

Pirate stunt show on “Pirate’s Lair at Tom Sawyer Island” with Columbia sailing ship in background and New Orleans Square at the far back (taken in 2007 - this show is no longer offered but gives a nice view of the area)

MK had the advantage of more space during construction and MK is roughly 25% larger than DL – on the surface – 107 vs. 85 acres (but growing in 2019 with the new Star Wars Land expansion). MK also had the advantage of building a more well conceived logistical infrastructure, including an underground tunnel system. This infrastructure allows MK to always run their parades in the same direction, for example. When DL runs a parade twice in the same day, it will run in opposite directions each time because DL does not have the space or ability to move the parade elements back to the original starting point. So they run the second one in reverse.

DL has the advantage of not being located in a wet area so the water table is lower. This allows DL to build extensive underground rides that cannot be built underground at MK. So even though the park perimeter at the surface is smaller at DL than MK, DL actually extends outside the park perimeter underground for some of it’s key rides. The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are both underground rides that extend underground outside the surface perimeter. The Indiana Jones ride extends outside the perimeter below ground and above ground (it's above ground show building is outside the perimeter but you access it through an underground queue - all of this is not apparent to guests).

The castle at DL is much smaller than the one at MK so prepare yourself for that. The smaller castle seems to be one of the biggest disappointments for WDW vets. Nevertheless, it is located in a charming setting surrounded by a moat. However, to DLR vets the castle is not the central visual landmark. The Matterhorn is.

This brings up an important point to keep in mind when visiting DLR for the first time. Namely, you need to be careful about bringing your WDW expectations to DLR. A WDW vet is so accustomed to thinking of the castle as being the park’s visual center that they incorrectly conclude DL must be the same. The smaller castle at DL then becomes a disappointment. If the WDW vet can put aside their “castle centric” thinking and embrace the “mountain centric” thinking at DLR, they can avoid disappointment by looking immediately to the right of the castle and seeing the classic Matterhorn mountain and accepting DL’s unique Matterhorn as the park's center.

Matterhorn mountain behind the castle as seen from the top deck of the Mark Twain in Frontierland

At one time Tomorrowland at DL was a magical place. However, some poor decisions in the 1990’s reduced Tomorrowland to a shell of its former self (also driven by the much maligned Pressler). Recent years have seen a Tomorrowland revival – with the revamped Space Mountain and addition of the new Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride. The finishing of the Finding Nemo Submarine and revamped Star Tours rides have mostly completed the revival. But many will never understand the nonsensical decision to move the Astro Orbiters (the old Rocket Jets) from high above Tomorrowland (as at MK) down to the entrance area of Tomorrowland where it crowds the walkways and is less than inspiring. Or the removal of the PeopleMover.

On the other hand, Fantasyland is more compact at DL and the theming is stronger and more self-reinforcing there than at MK. In addition, there are several additional rides at DL. Even though it is much less spacious, most people prefer DL’s Fantasyland to MK’s.

At WDW Fantasmic is performed at a theater at the DHS park. At DLR it is performed inside DL on Tom Sawyer Island. The experience is quite different and most prefer the experience at DL.

The Audio-Animatronic dragon "Murphy" is awesome in the Fantasmic show (photo taken from "stagefx" on Micechat)

Mark Twain riverboat and Disney characters conclude the Fantasmic show

Overall DL has more attractions than MK. If you look at their respective websites they are very liberal in what they define as an “attraction”. I decided to look at the RideMax software for both MK and DL and count up attractions, and then add some additional interpretation.

As of this writing, it appears to me that DL has 36 true rides while MK has 30. About 20% more than MK. DL currently has two major rides under construction in Star Wars Land, while MK will be getting a new Tron ride in TomorrowLand. Many attractions exist at both parks. Listed below are attractions at one park but not the other.

Attractions at MK but not at DL
- Philharmagic
- Country Bear Jamboree (used to be at DL but was removed)
- Carousel of Progress (used to be at DL but was removed)
- Hall of Presidents
- Stitch’s Great Escape
- Aladdin’s Magic Carpets
- Swiss Family Treehouse (used to be at DL but was changed into Tarzan’s Treehouse)
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority (used to be at DL but was removed - was called the People Mover)
- Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
- Little Mermaid (not at DL but is at DCA)
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Goofy's Barnstormer (similar to Gadget's Go Coaster at DL)

Attractions at DL but not at MK
- Indiana Jones
- Matterhorn
- StoryBook Land Canal Boats
- Alice in Wonderland
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (used to be at MK but was removed)
- Snow White (used to be at MK but was removed)
- Casey Jr. Circus Train
- Pinocchio
- Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin
- Gadget's Go Coaster (similar to Goofy's Barnstormer at DL)
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- Davey Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
- Star Tours (located at WDW DHS)
- Innoventions (located at WDW Epcot)
- Tarzan’s Treehouse (used to be Swiss Family Treehouse at DL)
- Columbia Sailing Ship (in addition to the Mark Twain which is similar to MK’s Liberty Square Riverboat)
- Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Treehouse
- Monorail (I counted this at DL but not MK because it is more of a ride at DL than pure transportation – you can get on this “ride” in the middle of Tomorrowland at DL rather than outside of the park as at MK)

For more on this see https://www.disboards.com/threads/ride-count-comparison-between-dlr-and-wdw.3221332/

Sunset over the Matterhorn and lagoon at the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage


Disneyland also has more headliner attractions than MK. It is fair to say that MK has six headliner attractions:

- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Haunted Mansion
- Seven Dwarves Mine Train

Disneyland has the first five of these two:

- Indiana Jones
- Matterhorn

Ride Comparisons

Without going through each ride one by one, most would agree that MK’s Splash Mountain is a better ride than at DL. Most would also probably agree that Jungle Cruise is better at MK.

There is debate about whether DL or MK’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is better, as is there debate about Haunted Mansion. Suffice it to say that these rides are fairly similar.

Most would agree that Pirates of the Caribbean is better at DL. Most would agree that DL’s Space Mountain is better too.

It’s a Small World is fairly similar in the interior, but the large and creative exterior at DL would lead most to say that DL’s Small World is better.

Other attractions can be debated. In some cases MK may have the better version, while in others DL may have the better version.

A list of “not to be missed” attractions and shows at Disneyland is given in a later section titled: “Not To Be Missed at Disneyland Resort”.

To see another take on the differences between MK and DL, see this take by AllEars www.allearsnet.com/dlr/tp/dl/dlmk.htm.

8. Touring DL and DCA: Parkhopping and Other Differences From WDW

The four theme parks at WDW are miles apart from each other. This has the advantage of giving each park a more separate feeling. And if you want to hop from one park to another it can take an hour out of your day and involve a bit of hassle.

DL and DCA are directly across from each other. Their gates face each other, and the distance is roughly 100 yards - or the equivalent of a 1 minute walk. The downside is that the parks do not feel quite so separate. But the upside is, well, the same thing - namely, that the parks do not feel quite so separate. Here is where I think a switch in philosophy for the WDW vet is helpful. In Disney terms DL and DCA are separate. From the visitor's point of view it is better to consider them as one large park that happens to have two separate gates. To take the concept further, DL has FantasyLand, TomorrowLand and AdventureLand. Now it has "CaliforniaLand", or another themed area of the park.

See Interactive DLR Map - http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=33.8092124&lon=-117.9188132&z=19&l=0&m=b

What I am suggesting here is most definitely not what the Walt Disney Company had in mind when they built DCA. They wanted a separate, standalone park. But in reality they have had a hard time making this case to their visitors. And no matter what they intended, it is more convenient to think of the two parks as one. With this concept in mind, things like parkhopping get obscured. Personally, it is not uncommon for us to hop back and forth from DL to DCA several times a day. Why? Because each has its own rides, shows, parades, and park hours, which makes it useful to move back and forth. In fact, during most all of our recent trips we spent part of every day at each park. That was not on purpose. It was just how it worked out.

It is also worth pointing out the FastPass dynamics between the two parks. This will be discussed later in its own section, but in short DLR does not have MDE, MagicBands or so-called FP+. As of today it still offers the legacy paper FPs much like WDW did pre-2013, and a new system (in 2017) called MaxPass which has some parallels to FP+ but is different. The well prepared DLR visitor should be aware of these. Consult the FastPass section later on for more information.

WDW vets know how passing through Disney security can be a minor hassle. At DLR they have moved security outside the plaza between the two parks. That means you only pass through security once and when you park hop you do not need to do so again. That is very convenient. Passing through security at DLR is similar to that at the WDW parks.

Finally, as of this time DLR has not adopted the biometric turnstiles like at WDW. They rely on entrance tickets and quick photos as you enter of each person with a multi-day ticket.

9. Touring Plans

For those familiar with the Unofficial Guide by Sehlinger, there is also an Unofficial Guide for Disneyland (can be found on Amazon and elsewhere). Like the WDW version it has touring plans.

One of the things I dislike about pre-specified touring plans is it only includes certain attractions. Better would be a custom touring plan for the rides you want to go. This is what RideMax provides (www.ridemax.com). RideMax will create a custom itinerary for the rides you want to go and the day on which you visit. I have personally used RideMax at times and have found their customized touring plans to be quite good - especially on very busy days.

TouringPlans.com (the people behind the Unofficial Guide) has entered the DLR market over the last year. Like WDW, they have a smartphone app "Lines" for DLR which I use and really like. Their crowd prediction calendar that is so respected for WDW is not as respected at DLR. Their wait time data seems to be quite good. Also like, WDW they offer online touring plans. But I still prefer RideMax to the TouringPlans website when it comes to creating touring plans.

Another popular smartphone app for DLR is MouseWait.

10. Dining

For some WDW vets, dining represents a significant portion of their experience. Here WDW vets will find DLR a weaker counterpart. There are some fine dining options at DLR - such as the Blue Bayou in DL and the Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Hotel - which can hold their own with the best of WDW. But in total DLR does not offer the diversity of choices that WDW has because there are fewer resort hotels and no counterpart to Epcot's ethnic dining options.

Neither does DLR have any counterpart to creative dining options such as DHS's SciFi Dine-In. And finally, dinner shows such as the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue or Polynesian Luau are also lacking.

DLR does have a Downtown Disney area adjacent to the parks and thus within easy walking distance. DTD offers a number of additional dining options.

It should be noted that DLR is located in the center of a major metropolitan area and there are numerous non-Disney dining options nearby.

To view menus at DLR park, hotel and DTD restaurants, go to this link on DIS: http://www.wdwinfo.com/disneyland/dining/menus.cfm

This link discusses "What WDW Vets Need to Know About Dining at DLR" http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2914467

Similar to WDW, DLR has introduced special dining and/or dessert reservations for major shows such as Fantasmic, World of Color and certain Parades. FPs are used for Fantasmic and WOC at DLR, and these are highly recommended.

The World of Color show at DCA opened in summer 2010 and it takes dining reservations that offer "preferred standing" tickets for the show. These are available at Wine Country Trattoria, Ariel's Grotto and Carthay Circle Restaurant two months in advance. See World of Color Superthread. There is a limited seating section for WOC for the WOC Dessert. See the WOC Superthread for more information.

You can make dining reservations at DLR by calling: 714-781-3463 (714-781-DINE) or use the online reservation system https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/#/reservations-accepted/.

11. Hotels

The lodging dynamic at DLR is very different than at WDW. DLR has only 3 resort hotels compared to the 20+ at WDW. And when you stay at a WDW resort hotel you are getting closer proximity to the parks and Disney Springs. Not so at DLR. The closest resort hotel to the parks and DTD is the GCH which is literally attached to DCA and DTD and a short walk to DL. But because the GCH is so large, how close you actually are to the parks and DTD depends a lot on where your room is.

In addition, the idea of on-site vs. off-site does not equally apply at DLR. A DLR hotel may be "on-site" in a sense, but much further to the gates of DL, for instance. So rather than talk about on-site vs. off-site, it is clearer to talk in terms of resort hotels, good neighbor hotels, and other hotels. The resort hotels are easy to define as these represent the three Disney-owned hotels. In order to have some sense of hotel quality control DLR implemented a "good neighbor" hotel status. Just to be clear, "good neighbor" does not equal "good hotel". Rather, these are hotels which Disney has forged relationships with. Some or all of the good neighbor hotels can sell you DLR admission tickets, for instance. And they often have mild Disney theming in the lobbies and the rooms. There are roughly 40 good neighbor hotels (see http://disneyland.disney.go.com/hotels/good-neighbor/) broken down into categories of Suites, Superior, Moderate and Economy.

Finally, any hotel that is not a Disney or Good Neighbor falls into the "other" category. And here you are on your own.

Additional information on the Disney and Good Neighbor hotels can be found at DLR's website here: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/reserve/listing?name=PackagesListingPage

It should be noted that some WDW visitors attach a stigma of sorts to staying "off-site". If such a stigma exists at DLR, it is much weaker. In fact, you will find many dual DLR/WDW vets who only stay onsite at WDW but always or at least regularly stay off-site at DLR. The reason being that the cost/benefit ratio is not as strong at DLR as at WDW.

To see how close some of these hotels are to DLR, see:

"How Far Is It?": www.mouseplanet.com/articles.php?art=mm060329as

The same information as above was first given in a DLR forum and thus accompanied by some visitor discussion:

“Answering the ‘which is farther’ debate”: http://mousepad.mouseplanet.com/showthread.php?t=46907

Also see Interactive DLR Map - http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=33.8092124&lon=-117.9188132&z=19&l=0&m=b

We personally have stayed at the DL GCH, DLH and PPH and four good neighbor hotels (the Howard Johnson's (affectionately known as Hojo's), the Best Western Park Place Inn, the Candy Cane Inn and Tropicana). Disney visitors of course come in many shapes and sizes, so there is no "one size fits all" answer to the question of lodging. I can tell you about my family, for what its worth. When we go to DLR it is all about the parks. We are ride warriors who also like to see shows and fireworks. Thus easy park access is paramount for us. We tend to spend very little time at our hotel. If we are awake, we are at the parks. And since park access is so much easier, as I mentioned earlier, the 5-8 hours per day we spend at parks while at WDW is more like 10-12 hours per day at DLR.

Some people plan their DLR visit in such a way as to spend a bit of time at their hotel. For such people, a DLR hotel or other Superior Good Neighbor may be the best option. But I would advise WDW vets that since it is much easier to access the parks at DLR you may find yourself spending less time at your hotel than you do at WDW. Further, with the all around better weather at DLR - especially in the summer months - and the longer park hours at DL compared to MK and the other WDW parks, there are additional reasons why you may find yourself spending more time at the parks than you usually do at WDW. So consider that when choosing a hotel.

Finally, some WDW vets talk reverently about Disney "immersion". I am not going to downplay that, but it is just not the same at DLR. I have dedicated an entire section to the issue of immersion later in this guide.

12. Characters and Character Meals

A big part of Disney parks are the characters - Ariel, Cinderella, and of course Mickey and his friends. Characters can be found at both WDW and DLR in abundance. So if characters are your thing, you can find them at DLR. DL has ToonTown where many characters hang out all day. And there are characters at DCA – though these tend to be more of the Pixar variety. I have been informed that unlike the WDW characters, the ones at DLR often do not have “handlers” and this sometimes results in abrupt and frustrating cutoffs in visits.

DL also offers the "Princess Fantasy Faire", a dedicated area where one can visit princesses all day.

We have never done a character meal at either DLR or WDW. So everything I say about this is second-hand. I know that DLR has character meals, and it appears to me that character meals are very important to some WDW vets.

From my time spent on DLR and WDW Internet forums, it appears to me that character meals are discussed much more often on the WDW forums. From this I suspect that character meals are much more important to WDW vets than DLR vets. When I presented this opinion to a few folks who are both DLR and WDW vets, some agreed with this opinion and some disagreed. So maybe I am right, and maybe I am wrong.

Whatever your opinion is of character meals, just know that DLR has them. See www.wdwinfo.com/Disneyland/dining.htm for more information on DLR character dining. Reservations can be made 60 days in advance.

Darth Vader plays his part in the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple at DL

13. FastPass

DLR has a FastPass (FP) system that is very similar to the legacy FP system (called FP-) at WDW before FastPass+ (FP+). DLR does not have MagicBands or FP+ at this time. In 2017 DLR introduced a new system called MaxPass (MP) which has some similarities to FP+. It costs $10 a day per person, you can use it (and pay for it) on some days and not others, and it currently runs in parallel with the legacy paper FP system. It is all smartphone based like FP+. But the Wifi at DLR has not (yet) been improved like at WDW has so you will likely need to rely on your cell phone service provider to use MP - a potentially difficult issue especially for foreign visitors.

Here is a quick summary of important differences of DLR FP/MP from WDW FP-:

1. FP Initialization for Both Parks – The ability to actually get a FP depends on the entrance media being initialized that day when you pass through the park turnstiles. When you do this at either DL or DCA, your entrance media are initialized for both parks at once. This means you can send FP runners to the opposite park you entered to get FPs for the whole group even though no one in the group has actually entered that park on that day.

2. Using MP you can book FPs in the opposite park even before you enter it.

3. MP also gives you free access to all the ride photos and photopass photographer photos.

Here are some more links:

"Comparing DLR's MaxPass to WDW's FastPass+" - https://www.disboards.com/threads/comparing-dlrs-maxpass-to-wdws-fastpass.3726294/

"Maxpass/Fastpass: an overview and some strategy" by @Skyegirl1999 - www.disboards.com/threads/maxpass-fastpass-an-overview-and-some-strategy.3726246/

A bit of a mini-review of FP+/MP differences: https://www.disboards.com/threads/max-pass-and-memory-maker-differences-from-dw.3681878/#post-59205835

14. How Many Days Do You Need at DLR?

The answer to this question depends on a number of things including the interests of your group and age of any children in the group. If you want to see all or most of the parades and shows, then 4 days would be a minimum amount of days. If you like to visit the Disney parks at a very leisurely pace then 5 days (or more) may be a good idea. If you decide to attach extra days to visit other Southern California locations (e.g., Hollywood, Universal Studios, Sea World, a beach) then of course additional days are needed. But 4 days will be enough for most people.

15. Is DLR a Vacation or Not a Vacation?

Many people take their annual family vacation to WDW. This is consistent with a trip which is 6-10 days long which WDW trips often are. It is my impression that most people do not consider a DLR trip a vacation. Yes it is a fun trip. But I think many people are like my family. We usually vacation at the beach somewhere. And when we are in Southern California we sometimes visit DLR for a few days. But it is not our family vacation spot.

Part of the reason for this is that DLR is 3-5 day trip, which is too short for most family vacations.

16. Best Time To Visit DLR

Best means different things to different people. Some people define best as periods of low crowds. Others define best as periods with nice weather. And still others define best as periods where all the rides and shows are available.

First let’s talk about crowds. As described elsewhere, DLR visitors have a much higher percentage of day visitors than WDW. This is a result of the large population base in Southern California who are within an easy day’s drive. This means that weekends are typically more crowded than weekdays. And holiday weekends are worst of all.

One other dynamic working for you is the notorious Southern California traffic. The traffic on the freeways there highly discourages locals from visiting DLR on weekdays. And if they do, it will be very hard for them to get to the parks for opening – which is all the more reason to get an early start at the parks. For those day-trippers, they will not have anywhere to rest all day and many of them will be tired and ready to leave by late afternoon or early evening. This is all the more reason to take a hotel break in the afternoon and come back to the parks when the day visitors are calling it quits.

One of the first things that surprised me when doing WDW research was that crowds at WDW had very little to do with weekends. I was so accustomed to thinking about Disney parks in terms of avoiding weekends that I really had to ponder this. When I realized that WDW is made up much more of out-of-state (and country) visitors, this made more sense.

So at DLR you should plan your trip for weekdays, especially during busy periods. But during low season this dynamic changes a bit. Even during low season weekdays are less crowded than weekends, but the problem with low season weekdays is that shows are cut back or even not offered. This includes fireworks, parades and Fantasmic. This makes it difficult to see these shows. So if you go during low season you may need to use a combination of weekdays for lower crowds and weekends for shows. See "What You Should Know About Off-Season at DLR" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=18462889

The least crowded day of the week to go to the DL park is Wednesday. If you are doing a day trip this is even more true because MM (Magic Morning) is not offered on Wednesdays at this time. Here is a list of least crowded days of the week at DL which basically reflect that the further away from the weekend, the better:

1. Wednesday
2/3. Tuesday/Thursday
4. Monday
5. Friday
6. Sunday
7. Saturday

DCA follows the same patterns, but even on weekends during peak season can be surprisingly uncrowded. The DCA crowds have not followed as regular a pattern as DL.

Busy periods at DLR parallel WDW a lot. Summer months are very busy. The weeks before and after Christmas are very busy. Spring Break and Thanksgiving week are also busy.

It seems that at both DLR and WDW January through early March are slow periods, as are September though early November.

Personally, I prefer the busier periods at DLR – especially the summer. Unlike WDW, the Southern California weather is consistently good all summer long. It rarely rains, but it does get hot (I have been to DL when it is 100 degrees). Check this link "Detailed Weather History for DLR" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=23004158 for temperature and rainfall patterns in Anaheim, California. Since we go to DLR primarily in summer, I have never even thought about bringing a rain poncho. At WDW we used rain ponchos on half our days during our first trip in June trip – traditionally a rainy month in Florida.

Another reason I like summer weekdays is that the shows are going full bore, and almost all the rides are going. DLR takes rides down in off-season for refurbishment. And since DLR has long park hours in the summer – longer than WDW – it is nice to stay out late most every night. Finally, if you go to WDW during the summer when it is humid (as we did) and you get wet (as we did) – from a ride or from rain – you just never dry off (as we didn’t). At DLR with the arid climate you will dry off much more quickly – especially in the summer. So getting wet is fun. Look for Grizzly River Run at DCA or Splash Mountain at DL.

I have to admit to being annoyed at people who make it their #1 priority to go to DLR when “the crowds are low” and then complain about all of the rides that are down and they will miss. The DIS lists them here: http://www.wdwinfo.com/disneyland/plan.htm#rehab.

So just in case you missed it, here is how it works at DLR: If you want low crowds then expect to miss some rides and shows. If you want to experience all of the rides and shows, go during a more crowded period and learn how to work with the crowds.

For instance, during our high season DLR trips in the summer we rarely wait for a ride more than 20 minutes – usually far less. How? By getting to the parks early, leaving in the afternoon for 4-5 hours for a swim and nap, and then returning in the evening and staying late – usually until closing at midnight. And we use FastPass a lot.

But that is just me. If you want to go during off-season here are a few gotchas. For a number of years now DL has taken down Its A Small World in October for about four weeks to add its “holiday overlay”. And then Small World is taken down again in January or February to remove the overlay – again for several weeks.

For many years now the Haunted Mansion has been taken down in September for several weeks to add its “Nightmare Before Christmas” overlay. And it too goes down again for a few weeks in January or February to remove the overlay.

For the last few years Space Mountain goes down for about 5 days in early September to add its Ghost Galaxy overlay and then again for a few days in early November to remove it.

One final thing to be aware of are special Annual Pass (AP) periods for Southern California residents. These restricted APs have blackout dates that typically go into effect in late June and lift again in late August. This means that people who have these passes often try to squeeze in “one last visit” in mid to late June (right after schools get out). And it also means that these pass holders are eager to get back into DLR after the blackout lifts (and before school starts) in late August. The weekly DLR park update on MousePlanet lists the blackout periods (see www.mouseplanet.com). The park attendance will be affected by these AP visitors during these times. For more info see "The Psychology of the DLR Annual Pass Holder" http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2244322

Also see:

"Choosing When To Visit DLR: Summary of High and Low Season and When Each Happens " http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=36509602

"Understanding AP Blockouts and Impact on Crowds" http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2365983

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A Pirate's Life For Me
Jun 5, 2005
Looks like my content was too much for one post. Here is the rest.

17. Magic Mornings/Extra Magic Hours at DLR vs. Extra Magic Hours at WDW

DLR and WDW have a history of offering extended park hours to certain visitors. These perks change over time and the current form of these perks will most likely change in the future.

The DLR Magic Mornings/Extra Magic Hours and WDW Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are perks offered to guests. Similar to WDW EMH, paying attention to how DLR MM/EMH works will have a major impact on how you plan your days at DLR.

MM/EMH is offered at DL on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. During MM/EMH DL opens 1 hour early for certain guests. The rides open during MM/EMH are fairly regular but subject to change on any day. During MM most of the FantasyLand rides are open, as are Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Star Tours and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in TomorrowLand.

EMH at DCA is offerred on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There is no MM for DCA. Only EMH. During EMH DCA opens 1 hour early for Disney hotel guests guests. The rides open during EMH are fairly regular but subject to change on any day. During EMH all the rides on CarsLand are open, and TSMM, California Screamin, LMAUA, ToT and Soarin are usually open.

Officially the only way to get MM is to buy a 3+ day parkhopper bonus ticket. Note that most DLR tickets are bonus tickets, but some (such as those offered by the military) are not (or so I have heard). If a guest buys one of these 3+ day bonus tickets, they are entitled to one MM morning during their trip. It does not matter if the guest stays at a DLR hotel, a good neighbor hotel, or any hotel for that matter.

EMH at DLR is offerred to Disney hotel guests.

So how should you use or plan around MM/EMH? First, if you have MM/EMH you should definitely use it. This is contrary to certain advice for WDW to avoid EMH parks. Second, MM/EMH at DL should be focused on the FantasyLand rides. These rides are very close together physically and are often 2-3 minutes in length. So you can do a lot of the FantasyLand rides in that one hour - we have done as many as 9 different rides. None of the DL FantasyLand rides have FastPass (except for Matterhorn's recent FP addition), and thus rides like Peter Pan and Dumbo must be done first thing in the morning to avoid lengthy lines later in the day. MM/EMH is a perfect time to do them.

At DCA EMH it is debated whether it is best to do CarsLand rides, Guardians of the Galaxy, or rides like TSMM first.

Some people are tempted to go to the headliner rides during MM/EMH, namely Space Mountain and Star Tours. Both of these rides have FastPass (FP), and as such can be ridden any time of day with a short line using FP, unlike the FantasyLand rides which do not have FP. It is therefore wise to focus on FantasyLand (or possibly Finding Nemo Subs) during MM.

If you visit DLR during high season, that means an 8AM park opening and 7AM MM/EMH. All else being equal, if you only have one MM day I think it is best to use MM on the first possible day you can - preferably the very first day of your trip - because you will have the most energy that day (no park day on the previous day) and, if you can manage it, and earlier bedtime than other nights where you may stay late at the parks.

What if it is an MM/EMH day at DL (Tue/Thu/Sat) but you yourself do not have MM/EMH? On such days even if you arrive at the parks before they open and are first in line for regular opening you will face long lines in FantasyLand right away. Such days are thus good days to avoid FantasyLand altogether. Similarly for EMH at DCA on Sun/Mon/Wed/Fri, you should be careful how you approach CarsLand. In such cases it is a good idea to start your day at the park opposite of the MM/EMH that morning.

In summary there is no other way to slice it. If you want to do FantasyLand during high season without extremely long lines, either do it during MM/EMH or do it first thing on a non-MM/EMH day.

I recommend you check this lengthy thread on MM which is kept up to date by the author: "Early Admission (MM/EMH/APEE) Super Thread" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=1675403

18. Weather

As related in the previous section, Southern California weather during the summer months cannot be beat. See the chart and links below for more information. It can get hot at DLR, but it is generally not humid.

Like Florida, it does get cold at DLR during the non-summer months. And it does rain. But it can also be warm during the winter months as well.

The average annual rainfall in Orlando, Florida is 50 inches. In Anaheim, California it is closer to 10 inches. The thought of bringing a rain poncho to DLR has never occurred to me.

Temperature and humidity data for DLR

Here are some other links to weather:

"Detailed Weather History for DLR" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=23004158

"Comparison of Weather For WDW and DLR" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=1711098

19. Entrance Tickets

Entrance ticket programs change at DLR and WDW almost as often as the extra hours programs. Currently WDW has Magic Your Way tickets. Parkhopping costs extra at WDW. As does access to water parks and other activities outside the theme parks.

In 2012 DLR began charging extra for parkhopping just like WDW does.

I have not seen a non-expiring ticket option at DLR. And there are no water parks at DLR.

20. Disney Immersion

Some WDW visitors place a high value on Disney "immersion". They enjoy being within Disney themed areas during their entire visit. This includes hotel, transportation, shopping and dining, as well as the parks. This experience sort of blocks out the outside world and gives a more enjoyable Disney experience.

Immersion in this sense is more possible at WDW because of its large size which allows the outside world to be more thoroughly blocked out. The 20 Disney hotels also help. The setting at DLR is different. The parks, resort hotels, and DTD are in the middle of Anaheim, California. When you enter the DL park you will find the outside world fairly well blocked out. In fact I can never remember noticing the outside world when inside DL. DCA, for better or worse, was not designed this way. Perhaps the reason is that it would seem odd to design Disney California Adventure and locate it in California, and then try to block out all of the surrounding real California. So DCA does not seem as isolated as DL. In addition, the DLR hotels look out on the city of Anaheim (in addition to DLR) and are not as isolated as at WDW.

The bottom line is that it is just not possible to have the same level of immersion at DLR as at WDW. By staying at a DLR hotel and taking the monorail or walking to the parks through DTD you will come closest.

However, there are some upsides to the DLR geography that may balance this out. The issue of transportation and hotel locations at DLR have already been discussed and will not be detailed again here. But note this - when one stays at a DLR hotel or certain Good Neighbor hotels, you can see the parks right out your window and easily hear (and see) the fireworks at night. In fact, if you are trying to sleep they may wake you up. You are right there, across the street from the parks. Although you are not immersed in Disney as at WDW, you nevertheless feel very close to the parks because you are. When you walk out your hotel room you may clearly see the Matterhorn or Space Mountain at DL, or the Guardians of the Galaxy building (formerly Tower of Terror) or California Screamin (soon to be rethemed as the "Incredicoaster") at DCA. As also mentioned previously, DLR usually has longer park hours than at WDW. If you use the close hotel locations and longer park hours to your advantage, you may sense a different kind of immersion where you are in the parks for most of your waking hours and not waiting for or sitting on buses, boats, etc.

In summary, DLR does not offer quite the same immersive experience as WDW. But the fact that you can spend up to 50% more of your daily hours actually in the parks and have a room literally across the street from the parks can be immersive in a different sense.

21. Not To Be Missed at Disneyland Resort

Here I get to give my unabashed opinion on the major attractions and shows at DLR.

At Disneyland:

Pirates of the Caribbean - Over 40 years old and still my favorite ride at DLR. Better and much longer than the MK version.

Indiana Jones Adventure - I did not like this ride at first because of its jerky motion but it grew into my second favorite at DLR. If you do not like it at first, give it a second chance. Has some similarities to Dinosaur at AK. Indy is a really cool ride that stacks up well against any ride at WDW.

Space Mountain - re-launched in 2005 after two-and-a-half years of refurbishment and a great ride. New version better than the MK version.

Matterhorn - the first Disney "mountain", built in 1959 four years after DL opened, and still a fun roller coaster.

Haunted Mansion - similar to the MK version and very fun.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - fairly similar to the MK version and fun.

Splash Mountain - A fun ride but not as good as the one at WDW.

Star Tours - Same ride as at WDW's DHS park. But inside DL.

Fantasmic! - performed on Tom Sawyer Island and makes use of the Rivers of America as part of the stage. The only downside compared to WDW is that there is no theater and thus no formal seats. Similar to a parade or fireworks, people either stand (in the rear areas) or sit on the ground (in the front areas). This show is similar to that at WDW but differs in several details. I and most others would say it is quite a bit better at DLR because of the setting and use of the ships and - ahem - Murphy. Reserved seating is available.

Remember Dreams Come True (shown seasonally in recent years) - fireworks/laser/special effects extravaganza created for the DL 50th anniversary celebration. You should try to see it from the DL castle hub or Main Street where you have a good view of the castle.

At Disney's California Adventure:

Radiator Springs Racers - an immersive ride which has some similarities to Test Track.

Soarin' Over the World - my third favorite ride at DLR. The attraction itself is the same as that currently at WDW. However, the queue inside the building, as well as the external theming and location at DCA's Grizzly Peak makes for a better experience than the sterile entrance and queue at Epcot.

Grizzly River Run - a great river raft ride similar to Kali River Rapids at AK - but better. It is longer at DCA with more drops and surprises, and they have free lockers right there where you can stow your stuff and keep it dry.

California Screamin' - a long looped roller coaster with theme music and a 0-60 mph start similar to WDW's Rock 'n Roller Coaster but outside. Lots of fun. When it was opened in 2001 it was the longest steel track coaster in the world at over a mile long. I believe it is #2 now.

Disney Animation Studio - If you have kids plan to be here at least 90 minutes. There are several areas here that revolve around animation which allow visitor interaction and creation. Also Turtle Talk with Crush is here, and the larger theater than at Epcot means the lines are much more reasonable any time of day.

Guardians of the Galaxy - sadly DLR converted Tower of Terror to GOTG: Mission Breakout. This is currently the hot ride at DCA and it has six different experiences that are randomly assigned.

Toy Story Midway Mania - Same ride as at DHS.

Frozen: Live at the Hyperion - A 45+ minute Broadway quality stage show inside the plush Hyperion Theater. Excellent show.

World of Color - A spectacular 26-minute night time show that opened June, 2010 that is frankly better than any of the WDW night-time shows. It has 1200 fountain jets, music, lasers, projectors and other special effects. Due to demand and a limited viewing area, guests must get a FASTPASS first thing in the morning or book a dining reservation in order to get access to the viewing area. See DIS Info on World of Color and World of Color Superthread.

DLR Rides not at WDW:

Matterhorn and Indiana Jones (already mentioned)
StorybookLand Canal Boats
Casey Jr Circus Railroad
Alice in Wonderland
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Roger Rabbit CarToon Spin
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
And most everything at DCA

22. Areas Where DLR Exceeds WDW

Let me come out and say it right upfront - WDW has many things about it better than DLR. However, not everything about WDW is better than DLR and there are several areas where DLR exceeds WDW. That is what makes each resort special. Here is my list of areas where DLR exceeds WDW:

1. Weather - IMO the weather at DLR is better than WDW on average, and especially in the summer. Less rain and less humidity. See "Comparison of Weather For WDW and DLR" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=1711098

2. Ride concentration - One would think that WDW would have twice as many rides as DLR since it has twice as many parks. Nope. DLR's two parks have almost as many rides as WDW's four parks put together. DLR has lots more rides packed into those little parks!

3. Entertainment - as of today most of DLR's top shows are better than their counterparts at WDW. That would be World of Color, Fantasmic and the Frozen stage show. DL has had better fireworks than MK since Remember Dreams Come True fireworks/laser/special effects show (shown seasonally) debuted in 2005. However, the new Happily Ever After finally brings MK fireworks up to par with DL.

4. Accessibility - everything can be reached on foot and park hopping takes about 1 minute. The walking distance hotels makes for a different experience.

5. Longer park hours - along with #4 above makes it easier to spend more time in the parks.

6. Much less need for planning - for those accustomed to choosing parks and ADR's 6 months in advance you can forget about that. You can't make dining reservations until 2 months in advance and even then they are in much less demand than WDW. Even if you wait until a week before your trip many dining reservations are still available. And since it is so easy to parkhop there is no need to commit to parks on given days. Finally, if you stay at a walking distance hotel there is no need to plan for transportation.

7. Seasonal makeovers - Because DLR caters less to out-of-town vacationers they are more free to change their rides. So every year three rides get seasonal makeovers: From September-January Haunted Mansion is converted into "Haunted Mansion Holiday". From November-January It's A Small World is converted into "It's A Small World Holiday" and from September-October Space Mountain is converted into Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. This keeps the parks more dynamic and interesting. This does require taking down the rides to install and remove the makeover elements.

8. Extended trip touring outside DLR - as discussed in the next section, there is a lot to do in California if you stay longer than DLR - natural, cultural, historical, entertainment, sports, etc. More of a variety and more interesting things than Florida. Fabulous National Parks such as Yosemite and Sequoia, within reach of the Grand Canyon in adjacent Arizona, accessible to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Wine Country north of the Bay Area, Monterey, Big Sur coastline, and Death Valley. Then there is Hollywood and the entertainment industry, aviation history, a real Universal Studios that is not just a theme park, Spanish mission history, mountains and skiing, and whitewater rafting. The list goes on and on and on. Florida is not without opportunities outside WDW but the list is much shorter.

23. Other Destinations in Southern California

Some potential DLR visitors may conclude that a 3-5 day visit to DLR is not worth the effort because it is too short. To make the trip more worthwhile you may want to consider other destinations in Southern California.

One possibility to consider is the Southern California CityPass, which offers three days at DLR, one day at Sea World San Diego (80-100 miles / 130-160 km away), one day at the San Diego Zoo (also 80-100 miles / 130-160 km away) and one day at Universal Studios Hollywood (40 miles / 65 km away). All for about $350 per adult ticket. Tickets can be bought on the DLR website and other locations.

Knott's Berry Farm is near DLR and is actually older than DL. It has turned into a more full-fledged theme park of its own. I have not been there for 35 years but back then it was a fun place to go. Do some research if you are interested.

Up Interstate 5 about 40 miles (65 km) away from DLR is the real, actual Hollywood. And near that is Universal Studios Hollywood (USH). If you are interested in either or both of these destinations you may want to try to schedule them on or near weekends. If you were to visit both, then a local hotel might be a good idea and you could visit them on subsequent days. The reason for scheduling these on weekends is that it allows easier day time driving from DLR. Or you can do your driving late in the evening. Otherwise you can take your chances with the Southern California freeway traffic. Also if you are interested you can obtain tickets to see live tapings of certain shows. These will be at other network studio locations in and around Hollywood and typically on weekdays. I had occasion to do all of these things when I lived in California.

If you travel south of DLR on Interstate 5 about 80-100 miles you will come to Sea World San Diego which sits on a beautiful location straddling Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. SW is a one-day destination. Nearby is the world famous San Diego Zoo. And in northern San Diego (but inland and away from Interstate 5) is the Wild Animal Park which has some parallels to WDW's Animal Kingdom. It is operated in conjunction with the San Diego Zoo. I had occasion to visit all of these when I lived in San Diego 25 years ago, and have visited Sea World several times over the last few years.

Then there is Legoland in Carlsbad, California. Carlsbad is at the northernmost edge of San Diego County and near Interstate 5 (about 50-60 miles / 80-100 km from DLR). Legoland is a theme park with rides that revolve around the Lego theme. For those of you who missed childhood, Legos are those little building blocks that children use to build up creative three-dimensional structures. I have never been to LegoLand which opened in 1999. Legoland appeals more to the under-12 crowd, but there are some things there to interest older kids. I have been told that they have a few thrill coasters, and Miniland, including an informative and fun boat tour, are not to be missed. Many of the United States’ major cities and historical landmarks have been recreated using nothing but standard Lego bricks that anyone can purchase.

If you travel to the north on Interstate 5 (80-100 miles / 130-160 km) you will come to Six Flags Magic Mountain with its array of thriller roller coasters. I last did Magic Mountain about 25 years ago and it has gained a reputation as a hangout for gang members (just warning you).

OK, a couple of quick mentions to round things out. Mission San Juan Capistrano in south Orange County and right along Interstate 5 is one of the early missions established by the Spanish when exploring California and has a nice tour. And the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles is an area where many pre-historic creatures got ensnared and died. The tar pits are still there bubbling up in the middle of Los Angeles, and the exhibits there and animal skeletal findings are on display and quite interesting. Also there is the Santa Monica Pier on the coast near Los Angeles. This offers some interesting shopping, dining, aquatic displays, and amusement areas. It is often found in Hollywood movies so you may recognize some things there from movies.

Last but not least are the Southern California beaches - a special temptation in the summer time. For those easterners not in the know, the Pacific Ocean waters circulate down from Alaska along the California coast and the water at the beaches is pretty cold. Even during mid-summer the temperatures will peak at around 72 degrees (22 C) - on a good day. If you go in the summer be aware that the water temperature is tolerable albeit a bit shocking when you first get in. Once you get used to it, it is really not that bad. Nice, nearby beaches to DLR in Orange County are Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach. If you go down to San Diego there are many nice beaches there as well - we have frequently spent a week down there in the summer.


Disneyland Resort has a lot to offer the WDW veteran. I hope that you get a chance to experience it.


Thanks to Betty, Lynda, Brian, Amy, Kristy, Jessica and Mark for their feedback and suggestions on this content.
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  • DVC Mary

    <font color="#FF6666">I must have missed the lobst
    Sep 16, 2003
    Thanks. We are thinking of doing DL for the 1st time as a family next summer.


    Earning My Ears
    Aug 4, 2005
    Nicely done! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. The moderators should make this a sticky!
  • kd2226

    Earning My Ears
    Jul 2, 2006
    Thank you! We did WDW last year and are planning to do DLR in 2008. We were wondering how it would compare - and your comprehensive information answered so many of our questions! :cheer2:
  • JayS

    DIS Veteran
    Mar 29, 2006
    As a DLR AP holder and regular visitor, I'd say this is pretty much right on. I'm even adding this to our WDW planning folder as it has some good WDW-DLR comparison info...

    On Six Flags Magic Mountain - if the thrill rides interest you, plan your trip soon. Six Flags is putting the park up for sale, and every indication is that it will probably be purchased by housing developers and closed permanently.


    Jan 21, 2005
    I only spent one day at the MK in Orlando earlier this year, but I concur with your comparison. I will also say that just because you are staying at a disney resort hotel doesn't necessarily immerse you in disney themes all the time. I was at the Contemporary Resort, and it didn't feel particularly magical to me. :rolleyes1


    here to change the world.
    May 1, 2005
    I just started planning a trip to Disneyland next month and you have no idea how much your post helped me. I'm going to be a DL first-timer but am definitely a WDW-vet. You couldn't have posted this at a better time. Seriously. Thank you!


    DIS Veteran
    Feb 19, 2004
    Thank you so much for the amount of time and effort you spent organizing and writing all of this information. I think it will really come in handy for WDW vets who are thinking of coming out to Disneyland. It is really nice to see Disneyland getting so much attention and much deserved it is!

    Judy from Boise

    Watch out – might take away your
    Aug 24, 1999
    Fabulous! Thank you so much. I am a true vet of both parks, and agree with you on almost everything, although I think HM at DL is clearly better :) .


    Mar 20, 2004
    This post was made for me...I am visiting in late August and have only been to WDW until now.. I cant wait..I already downloaded Hydroguys fast pass info thread, But this takes the cake...thanks so much Hydroguy


    Art's Girl
    Apr 10, 2001
    I have not been to DL since I was 10 y.o. and been to WDW 6 times as an adult, so this post is perfect for me. I'll be at DLR in less than a month and I just learned more from reading your post then I'd learned in a month of research. Thank you so much.


    A Pirate's Life For Me
    Jun 5, 2005
    Thanks for all the good feedback. :goodvibes

    I hope everyone has a great trip to DLR! I will not get back there for a multi-day trip until summer 2007, but will sneak in a day trip in early August. I just need to see the Remember Dreams Come True fireworks one more time and am afraid my report of it ending in Feb 2007 will happen.

    FYI, Mary Jo included this post inside the "DLR INFO, MAPS, etc" sticky. So hopefully it will help many more people in the future.


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