Just back! WDW vet's first time at DL!

nkereina

Last chance to lose your keys.
Joined
Feb 11, 2009
DH and I just returned from a week long stay in Southern California. We live in NY and are frequent WDW visitors, but this was our first trip to DL/DCA. We were there the week leading up to Memorial Day, before the opening of SWGE, but still a busy time with the ending of the promotional tickets, Grad Nites, and the holiday weekend. We had mediocre weather – partly cloudy and highs in the 60s. 50s at night and in the mornings. Cool, but comfortable for touring the parks I suppose.

Random thoughts from our trip:
  • LAX wasn’t as bad of a hassle as we thought, and it was worth it for the nonstop flight, ideal flight times, and cheaper price point for us.
  • SuperShuttle was fine but LONG. Lots of stops. Would use Uber/Lyft next time coming from the airport. We did use Uber going back to LA, and it worked out well.
  • Tropicana Inn across the street was great. No frills, but clean and very convenient. Also loved the Cove Market out front for miscellaneous needs and quick breakfasts.
  • Loved how compact everything was compared to WDW, making everything very convenient.
  • We had 3.5 park days and felt that was plenty of time. 3 days is ideal for doing everything at a good pace, IMO.
  • We bought MaxPass every day, including the half day, and found it was worth it. We did everything we wanted more than once.
  • Downtown Disney was considerably smaller than I was anticipating. We enjoyed Black Tap, Ballast Point, and the outdoor bar at Tortilla Jo’s, but nothing was a real stand-out there for us.
  • We lacked for things to do in the evening when we wanted a break from the park. One night we checked out all the on-site resorts and agreed that Paradise Pier was a big disappointment, especially for the money. Felt like a Holiday Inn and our walk from the Tropicana was closer. Loved the vibe at Disneyland Hotel (and Trader Sam’s!), and the Grand Californian was beautiful. Also had an enjoyable dinner at Storyteller’s Café at Grand Californian.
  • We thought the food was generally good, but I would respectfully disagree with the opinion that DL’s food is far superior to WDW food. We are big TS people but found DL lacking in that department – we ate more QS than ever before. We did enjoy Carnation Café and Café Orleans.
  • Rides that DL/DCA wins over WDW: Small World, Pirates, Space Mountain, Guardians, Incredicoaster
  • Rides that WDW wins over DL/DCA: Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, Test Track, TSMM
Overall, our trip was a lot of fun and we are glad to have visited. I have read here a few times of DL vets who were hesitant to visit WDW because of fear of disappointment - I would implore you to give it a try! We were worried about being underwhelmed by DL since its so much smaller, but we were not. I think if I experienced things the opposite way, WDW would blow me away with the amount of things to see and do - in a good way, not an overwhelming way!

We also spent 3 days/2 nights in Los Angeles after we left Anaheim. For anyone interested:
  • Stayed at the Loews Hollywood Hotel – beautiful hotel, great amenities. Very convenient location for walking distance to the tourist spots in Hollywood, but we were shocked at how disgusting Hollywood is! Aggressive vendors, homeless/junkies on the street. Didn’t feel safe at times. Briefly saw the Walk of Fame, Dolby, and Chinese Theater, but mostly wanted to get out of the crowds of people.
  • Randy's Donuts is delicious (we went to the location next to Dolby), and we had great views of the Hollywood sign from the second level landing of the shopping mall in that area. Also ate at Mel's Drive In which was walking distance from the hotel. It was ok, nothing to write home about.
  • We did the double decker hop on hop off bus tour with Big Bus Tours. It’s a newer company to LA (they are in other cities), but they had all the stops we wanted. All of these bus tours had stops walking distance from our hotel. With Big Bus Tours, the buses were never full and they were always on time. They have an app that lets you see how far the next bus is from the stop you’re closest to. Worked out well, and they were very informative.
  • We enjoyed Beverly Hills the most and would stay in that vicinity next time. Very beautiful, safe. Everything you'd expect from one of the richest areas in the world - LOL!
  • We went to dinner and drinks in West Hollywood so I could be a Bravo superfan – really fun area, even if you aren’t interested in the Bravo locations. Would spend more time there if we return in the future.
  • Loved the Farmer’s Market and the Grove! Beautiful area and delicious food at the market. We spent a whole afternoon here browsing and snacking.
  • Warner Brother’s Studio Tour was fun. I wasn’t too familiar with some of the shows that had filmed on-site, but it was worth it to learn how filming a TV show or movie works. We also got to go on the set of the Ellen show which was awesome! I will say that the backlot is kept pretty generic because its still a working backlot, so a lot of the sets and soundstages were unrecognizable from the TV shows and movies shot there, but still interesting to see nonetheless.
  • We spent one evening at Universal City Walk. Didn’t go in the park. Much larger than Universal Orlando City Walk, but we thought Universal Orlando City Walk had better stores and dining options. We ate at the brewery there (the name escapes me) but it was just ok. Not a place I’d return to.
Enjoyed our time in LA, but would probably try San Diego or even a beach day in Huntington Beach next time. If we ever return to LA, I would definitely do a Hollywood Homes tour. I found myself very intrigued by the mansions in the hills that were so close yet so far! Our bus tour pointed out a few visible ones and mentioned who they belonged to, but I think a tour that goes up in the hills and focuses on that would have been very interesting.

Feel free to ask any questions or comparisons!
 
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PatMcDuck

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 12, 2000
Great report! I return to DL in August (D23Expo)

I think Big Thunder is much better at DL, with that ending in the cave, BOOM! And DL is much better known for better QS than table service options. (The locals there are less interested in slow expensive sit down meals.)

MAxPass is amazing.

And I have stayed at Paradise Pier many times, and like it. But I will admit is was better when you could cross the street to use the GC lobby to get to DD or DCA.

We usually stay about 5 days, and never get bored.
 

DisneylandNerd

Earning My Ears
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Awesome report! And I 100% agree with any DL vet should try WDW! I was very hesitant to try it my SO finally convinced that we should go and we did a week long trip and I absolutely LOVED it! Any huge DL fan should try to do WDW at least once. We plan on going back for a special event :) either Christmas or Food and Wine
 
  • Mike_M

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 8, 2008
    .
    • We thought the food was generally good, but I would respectfully disagree with the opinion that DL’s food is far superior to WDW food. We are big TS people but found DL lacking in that department – we ate more QS than ever before. We did enjoy Carnation Café and Café Orleans.
    I think it’s more that the counter service options at DLR are considered better than the equivalent counter service options at WDW.

    The TS options at WDW are much more plentiful and coveted compared to DLR so it makes sense to me that they would be better overall at WDW.

    Rides that WDW wins over DL/DCA: Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, Test Track, TSMM
    Not a criticism, more curiosity. What is it about test track for you that is superior to RSR?
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    I think it’s more that the counter service options at DLR are considered better than the equivalent counter service options at WDW.

    The TS options at WDW are much more plentiful and coveted compared to DLR so it makes sense to me that they would be better overall at WDW.
    Gotcha, that makes sense. We aren't big fans of QS in general, which is probably why we didn't appreciate it as much. But even from the snack perspective, we still thought WDW was equal to or greater than. We found lots of different churros and funnel cakes at DL, but nothing quite as unique as the school bread or almond pretzels at WDW.

    Not a criticism, more curiosity. What is it about test track for you that is superior to RSR?
    The theme of RSR is very cute, but we like the vehicle design element at Test Track. The theme of designing your vehicle and then "testing" it just appeals to us more, so definitely more of a personal preference. I did appreciate how the elements of Test Track were incorporated into RSR (or vice versa?), and think its a very well done ride. I'm also partial to the original Test Track, before it was re-themed, but have grown to love the new Test Track as well.
     

    cinnaminny

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 18, 2017
    I think it’s more that the counter service options at DLR are considered better than the equivalent counter service options at WDW.

    The TS options at WDW are much more plentiful and coveted compared to DLR so it makes sense to me that they would be better overall at WDW.



    Not a criticism, more curiosity. What is it about test track for you that is superior to RSR?
    I agree, the counter service is what is considered better. WDW has way more TS, there is no comparison there.


    I really want to go to Beverly Hills now...why have I never done this?? lol
     

    dreeger

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Dec 10, 2012
    Fabulous report! Looking forward to doing a couples trip to WDW in October 2020.

    My hubby and I are big foodies and TS fans and we do one a day while at DL. Usually a multi-course (with cocktails and bottle of wine) affair and we absolutely love (in order of fave): Cathay Circle in DCA, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in DTD, Steakhouse 55 in DLH, and Napa Rose in GCH.

    We just got back today from a weekend trip and with only 3 evenings, we didn't do Napa Rose this trip, but it also hasn't been awesome the last few times we've gone.

    If you come back to DL, definitely try these out if you like dining as an experience. For us it's as much a part of the DL experience as any of the attractions or shows.
     
  • Ariel1033

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Apr 5, 2019
    Where did you eat in West Hollywood? Huge Bravo fan and want to visit one when we go, but have so many questions!!! TIA
     

    Elk Grove Chris

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 31, 2011
    Thanks for sharing-sounds like you guys had a great time.

    I think the overall ambience of BTMRR at WDW is better, the actual ride experience better at CA.

    Test Track is cool, but pales in comparison to RSR, if that was the comparison you were making. Theming alone takes RSR over the top.

    I give a slight nod to both SM and HM versions at WDW, so I am not completely a DL homer.
     

    tlcdoula

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 7, 2009
    Thank you for taking time to review. I love reading about others experiences. I totally agree about people trying the opposite coasts parks either world or land. I love night for different reasons.

    I love land for the ease of planning for a short trip. You can get away with out any reservations at all if you wanted. But then I enjoy the planning aspect of world too. It can be overwhelming at first but I love it. So hard to decide which is better.
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    Where did you eat in West Hollywood? Huge Bravo fan and want to visit one when we go, but have so many questions!!! TIA
    We ate dinner at SUR and had drinks at TomTom, both from Vanderpump Rules and owned by Lisa Vanderpump of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. We also stopped in Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills (Lisa's other restaurant) but they weren't quite ready to serve lunch so we opted to leave.

    To our surprise, SUR, Pump, and TomTom are within a block or two of each other. We walked between the three. All three places had a mix of locals going out and tourists wanting to see the places Bravo made famous. We are not club or fancy restaurant goers so we were concerned we'd feel out of place, but we didn't at all! Feel free to ask any questions - these places were a highlight for me!

    Test Track is cool, but pales in comparison to RSR, if that was the comparison you were making. Theming alone takes RSR over the top.
    Just personal opinion. The theme at RSR is definitely cute, but we like the element of designing the vehicle and seeing how it performs at Test Track. Also, just a minor thing, but the outdoor speed portion at RSR seemed to whip us around multiple turns, while on Test Track, you gain speed on a straightaway and it has more of an exciting build for us. But they are both great rides!
     
  • Ariel1033

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Apr 5, 2019
    We ate dinner at SUR and had drinks at TomTom, both from Vanderpump Rules and owned by Lisa Vanderpump of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. We also stopped in Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills (Lisa's other restaurant) but they weren't quite ready to serve lunch so we opted to leave.

    To our surprise, SUR, Pump, and TomTom are within a block or two of each other. We walked between the three. All three places had a mix of locals going out and tourists wanting to see the places Bravo made famous. We are not club or fancy restaurant goers so we were concerned we'd feel out of place, but we didn't at all! Feel free to ask any questions - these places were a highlight for me!


    Just personal opinion. The theme at RSR is definitely cute, but we like the element of designing the vehicle and seeing how it performs at Test Track. Also, just a minor thing, but the outdoor speed portion at RSR seemed to whip us around multiple turns, while on Test Track, you gain speed on a straightaway and it has more of an exciting build for us. But they are both great rides!
    [/QUOTE

    Those are exactly all the places that I want to go to! I checked the SUR website, and was surprised how affordable it really was to eat at. Hoping to go to TomTom as well....how were you dressed? Did you see anyone from the show???
     

    elaine amj

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2012
    We spent a week at DLR a few years ago. Loved it. But my heart is at WDW. Like you there were times where I was starting to feel like we were running out of things to do. Then again, I spent 5 full park days and did lots of re-rides :)

    We think BTMR is much better at WDW. DLR had some cool scenes but somehow the one at WDW just makes us giggle through the whole ride. We did BTMR once and even my son, who typically gets us to ride BTMR 3-5 times in a row at the end of the night in MK said once was plenty for him. Then again, DLR has Space Mountain - which is far away so much better than the WDW version. And RSR....which has amazing theming.

    Like many have said DLR has awesome rides and is compact and walkable. WDW has a bigger resort experience and is definitely the place to be for a long vacation.
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    those are exactly all the places that I want to go to! I checked the SUR website, and was surprised how affordable it really was to eat at. Hoping to go to TomTom as well....how were you dressed? Did you see anyone from the show???
    So like I mentioned, we are not club-goers and we are not fine dining people. Comfort is of the utmost importance. LOL! I was so worried about what to wear and that we'd look out of place, but all my worry was for nothing once we got there, much to my surprise. DH wore black jeans with black Vans and a button down shirt (think American Eagle). I wore black "paper bag" style pants from Athleta with Toms (apropos - LOL!) and a boyfriend style t-shirt that I front tucked. We fit in just fine. Jeans would definitely work!

    The only people I recognized were Richardson, who's been in the background of VPR and Housewives - he manages Pump but was working at TomTom that night. We also saw Guillermo at SUR, Lisa's business partner. Also at SUR, I recognized one of the servers - a shorter Asian man with hot pink hair. I don't know his name, but have definitely seen him in the background of VPR. Maybe with James and the people he hangs out with? I was really bummed because I knew the next season of VPR was filming while we were there, and we discovered that the night before Jax had been at SUR and Tom Sandoval had been at TomTom. And the very next day after we were there, Scheana was filming scenes at SUR I would have loved to see Stassi but unfortunately her grandmother passed away and she wasn't even in town while we were there. But come to find out, exactly a week to the day after we were there, she did a book signing at TomTom. So bummed we missed all of that!

    WDW has a bigger resort experience and is definitely the place to be for a long vacation.
    I think this is part of the reason WDW tips the scales for us. It has a more vacation-y feel for us. From the moment we step off the plane, WDW makes everything so convenient and easy. We truly step into the Disney bubble and escape reality for a week or longer. With DL having more local visitors, more people who stay off-site, and more people who do other things in the area on their vacation, they are less inclined to have amenities and things to do to keep people on site. Its just not what they're going for there, and I respect that. Some people want that - I have friends who like Disney enough but want to do other things too, and they would love DL for this reason. But one of our vacation goals is always to unplug and turn our minds off, and we get to do that best at WDW.
     

    Ariel1033

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Apr 5, 2019
    So like I mentioned, we are not club-goers and we are not fine dining people. Comfort is of the utmost importance. LOL! I was so worried about what to wear and that we'd look out of place, but all my worry was for nothing once we got there, much to my surprise. DH wore black jeans with black Vans and a button down shirt (think American Eagle). I wore black "paper bag" style pants from Athleta with Toms (apropos - LOL!) and a boyfriend style t-shirt that I front tucked. We fit in just fine. Jeans would definitely work!

    The only people I recognized were Richardson, who's been in the background of VPR and Housewives - he manages Pump but was working at TomTom that night. We also saw Guillermo at SUR, Lisa's business partner. Also at SUR, I recognized one of the servers - a shorter Asian man with hot pink hair. I don't know his name, but have definitely seen him in the background of VPR. Maybe with James and the people he hangs out with? I was really bummed because I knew the next season of VPR was filming while we were there, and we discovered that the night before Jax had been at SUR and Tom Sandoval had been at TomTom. And the very next day after we were there, Scheana was filming scenes at SUR I would have loved to see Stassi but unfortunately her grandmother passed away and she wasn't even in town while we were there. But come to find out, exactly a week to the day after we were there, she did a book signing at TomTom. So bummed we missed all of that!


    I think this is part of the reason WDW tips the scales for us. It has a more vacation-y feel for us. From the moment we step off the plane, WDW makes everything so convenient and easy. We truly step into the Disney bubble and escape reality for a week or longer. With DL having more local visitors, more people who stay off-site, and more people who do other things in the area on their vacation, they are less inclined to have amenities and things to do to keep people on site. Its just not what they're going for there, and I respect that. Some people want that - I have friends who like Disney enough but want to do other things too, and they would love DL for this reason. But one of our vacation goals is always to unplug and turn our minds off, and we get to do that best at WDW.
    Thank you so much! The dress was what I have been really worried about...you have put my mind at ease! I am so glad that you had such a great time!!!!
     

    mickeymom22

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 28, 2012
    We too are a WDW veteran family going to DL for our first time in July! We are staying at the Tropicana! Please share any tips and likes/dislikes about this resort!
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    We too are a WDW veteran family going to DL for our first time in July! We are staying at the Tropicana! Please share any tips and likes/dislikes about this resort!
    What we liked about the Tropicana is that it was almost as close as you can get to the park without paying the high on-site prices or the higher prices of the Best Western which is directly across the street. We got a great AAA rate at the Tropicana, and loved how close it was and how easy of a walk it was to the entrance. We also loved the Cove Market at the very front of the resort, which had drinks, snacks, medication, a coffee bar, and quick breakfast items. They opened at 6am and closed very late (after the park). The hotel has microwaves and refrigerators in room so we stopped at the Cove to purchase bottled water a few times, in addition to getting a quick breakfast there in the mornings. The rooms were also updated and very clean. We didn't get to use the pool because of the weather, but I did sit by it while making a phone call one day and its pretty nice considering the hotel is on the smaller side.

    The negatives of the resort is that its very compact - almost every room will have foot traffic outside and parking is right outside the rooms. This made for noise when people passed by. We were pretty exhausted every day so between that, the noise of the AC, and our white noise app, we weren't really disturbed by noise but I could see it being an issue for light sleepers. We had a room on the ground floor maybe 8 rooms down from the Cove, so we were towards the front of the hotel - great location for a quick walk, but likely one of the noisier locations. I might request a second floor room or one near the back of the hotel to avoid noise. We didn't have a vehicle, but it did look like parking could be a challenge as well - every spot was full from what I could see. They do offer a valet service, however. The hotel rooms are also on the smaller side and the bed was sub-par, but that's personal preference.

    I'll also add that they do offer secure luggage storage even though they don't have a bell staff. Just bring it to the lobby and they will tag it at the front desk. The storage room is right near the front desk.
     

    Charade67

    Whatcha *do*-in'?
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2016
    OP, it sounds like we almost did the same vacation. We started in Hollywood. I’m glad we went, but will probably not return. The highlights for me were the Warner Brothers tour and seeing Aladdin at the El Capitan theater. We took a quick drive to Beverly Hills to find the intersection of Sunset and Camden. If you are a fan of Singin’ in the Rain you will understand.
    We stayed at the Tropicana and went to Disney. My only real complaint about the Tropicana is the lack of parking. We enjoyed both DIsneyland and California Adventure. We ate at Cafe Orleans and Carthay Circle. The food was good, but I thought it was a bit pricey for the amount you got. Next time I think we will stick to counter service. I think my favorite rides were Guardians of the Galaxy (even though I am afraid of heights) and Radiator Springs Racers. It has been a long time since I have ridden Test Track, so I can’t really make a comparison. SWGE was also a highlight of the trip.
    We are now getting ready to leave San Diego and return home. If you come here, I recommend the zoo. We wanted to see the safari park too, but ran out of time.
     

    RemainSeatedPlease

    Part of Your World
    Joined
    Nov 22, 2014
    We too are a WDW veteran family going to DL for our first time in July! We are staying at the Tropicana! Please share any tips and likes/dislikes about this resort!
    I don't mean this disrespectfully, but I always laugh a little when WDW regulars refer to the DLR area hotels as resorts! I get that it's probably just a difference in terminology, but I would struggle to call any of the DLR area hotels "resorts." Don't get me wrong, I think they are fine hotels and I always stay off-site, but they are just not designed to be resort-like experiences like you would find at WDW.

    Much of the reason for that has been touched upon by others in this thread. Unlike WDW, most people use their hotels at DLR as places to sleep at night and not much else. I know some with kids also enjoy using the pools, but they typically aren't themed or anything fancy. A trip to DLR is about the parks themselves, not necessarily a broader, more relaxed vacation experience. I personally love this about DLR, as I am not the type that can sit down and just relax, even on vacation! So the extra "resort experience" amenities are typically wasted on me.

    I have stayed at Tropicana before and I liked it. It's very close to the parks (which will make a difference when you're tired at the end of the day, or trying to make it back to your room in the hot sun for an afternoon break), is clean, and has a convenient little store as others have mentioned. I've not used the pool, so I can't comment on that. The poster who mentioned that the rooms are packed together and people will be walking on the walkway/balcony in front of your room is correct, but this is true of nearly all of the off-site hotels on Harbor Blvd. They are all built pretty similarly from what I have seen.
     

    TXAKDisneyFan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 26, 2014
    Totally agree about the food, including table and counter service.

    We're going again in August and looking forward to trying out MaxPass.

    We love both DLR and WDW, but WDW wins hands down. Even on the rides that DLR has superior versions of (the ride track on Pirates, for instance), the overall theming of the queue, etc, tends to be much better at WDW (with IASM as a notable exception).
     

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