Some DL thoughts from yet another WDW vet...

Discussion in 'Disneyland (California)' started by Ray LeBlanc, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. Ray LeBlanc

    Ray LeBlanc Earning My Ears

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    Brought the family out to DLR for the first time last week. Flew in Monday evening, 'crashed' at the Embassy Suites Anaheim South, and Uber'd up to DLH for Tuesday-Saturday. Had the CityPASS, but upgraded to 4-day hoppers from the 3-day hoppers, as we decided we didn't need a day all by itself to be completely removed from the parks, and the price difference was $73 total... completely worth it.

    OVERALL / HOTEL
    It was me, DW, DS (4 years), and DD (5 months). We utilized MP & RS to full effect. I've been to WDW several times, three times with DW, and for a 2-night/1-park (MK) trip last November when DW was 7 months along. I got a little stir-crazy with the baby in the house this winter, and all of a sudden we had a Disneyland trip booked for June :)

    Overall, we had an excellent time. It's not as easy/convenient for us to get to SoCal as Florida, so we wanted to stay on-site. DLH did not disappoint. I'd be hard-pressed to stay offsite in the future... that EMH at DCA is pure gold. 'Next time' will be when DD is at least 42" tall, so a few years... would love to try GCH next time.

    We took breaks each day back at the hotel, and used the pool (pretty much just the monorail pool for the slides) during our breaks on Thursday and Friday. Awesome pools and slides! DS would have stayed at the yellow slide all day if we let him.

    In the parks, I really noticed the Annual Passholder 'culture', which is mentioned on here quite a bit. At WDW, you feel like everybody is on a big family vacation, but we didn't feel that at DLR. Instead of being asked if we were on the Dining Plan everywhere, we were asked if we were AP's. This was fine, not saying it was better or worse, just contributed to a different feel.

    PARKS
    We strongly preferred DCA to DL... but, we didn't grow up on DL, and we typically like newer things. All of the charm and nostalgia at DL didn't mean as much to us, and the rides/attractions at DCA are almost all winners for us, while there aren't too many at DL that we love. I know we are probably in the minority here, just our thoughts.

    Cars Land is the best themed land that Disney has ever produced, and Radiator Springs Racers is the best attraction they've ever created. We'll see how Toy Story Land and SWGE stack up... but it's quite the high bar.

    We hit rope drop Wed/Fri for EMH at DCA, and got to DL within an hour of opening on Tues/Thurs.

    Our top five attractions were: Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania, Soarin', Goofy's Sky School (son loved this), and Grizzly River Run. As you can see, all of these are in DCA... it just felt like 'home' for us over there.

    We also thought Guardians of the Galaxy was awesome, though we only did it once (son did it twice; once with each of us). Also loved Monsters & Little Mermaid.

    We caught the Cars Land "Sh-Boom" moment Thursday night, which gave us goosebumps... how awesome. We waited again for it Friday, but all of a sudden the lights just all came on... no sh-boom... we were pretty upset about this, but happy we had seen it the night before. They were setting up some grad night stuff up there Friday, we wondered if that had something to do with it. I knew the fireworks could get cancelled, but Sh-Boom!?!?!?!?!

    At DL, we enjoyed Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and our son did love Autopia (MUCH better than Tomorrowland Speedway at MK). Nemo was cool, though a little claustrophobic for me. DW and DS did not care for Space Mountain, and I'm not a big coaster guy so I did not go. Did not do Matterhorn (did not want to ride single-file with our son), and didn't get to Splash because of scheduling (only did GRR on our way back to hotel pool).

    The 'dark' rides at DL just didn't appeal to us much, and we didn't care to wait in any sort of line for them. Again, we aren't there for that nostalgia, so it wasn't worth it to us... where we enjoy the Monsters Inc. ride a lot, the Haunted Mansion is just a dark nothing-burger for us :( Sorry!!!

    CHARACTERS
    The characters were awesome, and we did enjoy the spontaneity in both parks, something you don't see at WDW.

    We did both Disney Visa Cardmembers Meet & Greets... DL's was Darth Vader, and it was incredible. Maybe the best meet we've ever done. Vader talked to DS about joining the dark side, it was spectacular. Felt so personal. At DCA, the Visa Experience wasn't as good. We met Minnie in an area that felt like it was thrown together, and she wasn't quite as engaging.

    But the other character meets were awesome. There's a pavilion back behind Goofy's Sky School where Pixar characters rotate through right now with Pixar Fest... I couldn't find it on the app or maps, but these were awesome. We met both Buzz & Woody (at the same time), and Mr. & Mrs. Incredible. We missed Mike & Sulley (these were the 3 character groups that rotated every half hour), but that was okay. The Incredibles in particular were amazing with our kids, especially our 5-month old. Really cool to feel like they were parents relating to us as parents.

    Met Mickey and Minnie in Toontown at their homes, and also ran into Goofy and Pluto back there. Really fun time there (I don't mean to hate on DL... this was a great part of that park!).

    Also met Rey and Chewbacca in the SW Launch Bay after Vader... both awesome.

    I also have to say how awesome ALL of the characters were with our DD... she was so engaged with them, it was a joy to see.

    SHOWS
    Wednesday we watched Together Forever from the middle of Main Street (right by Penny Arcade), and I thought it was the greatest show ever. Then Thursday we watched PTN, and that became the greatest show ever. You can't go wrong with either. Wow. Just amazing.

    Caught the Pixar Play Parade on Friday--it was fun! But not worth staking out a spot for, like the fireworks or PTN.

    FOOD
    Not bad, did counter service for most all meals. Flo's was great, Cozy Cone soft serve was awesome, Alien Pizza Planet was probably the best value, and Boardwalk Pizza/Pasta was solid.

    Did Goofy's Kitchen Tuesday night, which was probably the best character meal we've ever done. PCH Grill for breakfast Saturday wasn't the high note I was hoping for... but fun enough. Wouldn't do that one again, but would return to Goofy's in a heartbeat.

    MINOR COMPLAINTS
    There were just two negative CM experiences, and both happened on the final day (Friday).

    First, we were taking advantage of EMH at DCA and asked the CM for a Rider Swap for Guardians around 8:30 (Park opened to us at 8:00, and public at 9:00). She commented that we didn't need one, as the wait was only 5 minutes. DW asked if she could guarantee us a 5-minute wait, and CM said 'maybe 7-8 minutes'. We insisted on the Rider Swap, and she finally gave in... which is a darn good thing, because by the time DW and DS got off the ride, the public was in the park and there was a 45-minute wait. Really, really unbelievable that she didn't want to do that for us. We knew lines were coming, and she should have, too.... that extra hour is part of why we paid the ridiculous premium to stay at the DLH.

    Later that morning, DW and DS rode GRR and got a Rider Swap. When CM's do this, they basically add a FP to your tickets for a return time in the near future. Well this CM put the return time in for about 45 minutes in the future, so when DS and I went to ride on the Rider Swap our time was about a half hour away. This was our last stop before going back to the hotel for our noon-ish break, so we did not want to wait. I tried explaining the situation, and the CM told me "that's a Fastpass, not a Rider Swap".... Before I could explain his own system to him, the guy in front of me said "Here, we've got 3 extra tickets from people who chickened out, just use ours". So it worked out without bringing in a manager... but, you would think that CM's who scan tickets would know how the system works. A similar situation happened previously in the week, and they let us go no problem.

    MISC. COMMENTS
    Overall, we didn't wait more than 20 minutes in any line... MP/FP is pretty excellent and a great value at $10 per person (ESPECIALLY with all the photos you get! holy cow!). The Rider Swap is really great, too, as it allowed both my wife and I to enjoy everything with our son. It would have been nice to take him together, but at least we each got to experience everything with him (and he got to experience it all twice!).

    I did think there was a little pressure to maximize the MP and keep planning throughout the day... it would be time to book another MP, but I wasn't sure what to do.... but I felt like I had better do something, or else I'm wasting MP! So in that regard it can be nice to just have your FP+ set up at WDW ahead of time, and not be as worried about setting up MP's throughout the day. However, by the end of the trip we had it working well for us, and we had an excellent final night at DCA, finishing with RSR at night as our final ride.

    3 of our 4 days were Grad Nights... While they weren't huge problems, you could really start to notice the crowds of teenagers later in the evening. Most were respectful, and I even took a photo for one group who thanked me a lot afterward. I get that it's a fun thing for SoCal kids to do, a rite of passage so to speak... but, I'll probably avoid Grad Nights when planning future trips.

    I think that's about it... just my general thoughts. We will surely be back some day when DD is older. But it was a really spectacular trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time at DLR. Thanks to all on this board who post so much useful information, it was invaluable in helping us plan.
     
  2. HydroGuy

    HydroGuy DIS Veteran

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    Wow, what a great write-up and so glad you enjoyed your visit. One tip is come back when WOC is playing and then that will be the greatest show ever. :)

    :wizard:
     
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  4. BecAus

    BecAus Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for your report. A very interesting read. Sounds like you had a great trip! :-)
     
  5. Disney_Alli

    Disney_Alli DIS Veteran

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    I feel like in DL they ask so often if you're an AP because they WANT to give you a discount vs in WDW where you practically have to drag it out of CMs that discounts exist...
     
  6. RainyDayPixie

    RainyDayPixie Mouseketeer

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    That was my MP experience too. It's almost TOO good. It was hard to keep up and we missed a lot of smaller rides trying to maximize MP! (Good problem to have, though.)

    Glad you had a great trip!
     
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  7. LilyJC

    LilyJC Mouseketeer

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    We are local and feel the same way. We love DL, but our entire family most definitely prefers DCA. The majority of our time is spent at DCA, and my kids never want to bother with EMH at DL.

    Glad you had a great time, and thank you for sharing a positive trip report!
     
  8. BayGirl22

    BayGirl22 DIS Veteran

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    Glad you had such an amazing time. I was there last week too, with my 2 kids. I agree with you about Grad Nights, I didn't really see any rowdiness or trouble making. Just a lot more young adults than usual. There usually are a significant number of young adults at DL anyway (the AP thing) so I barely noticed. However the first day we left the park and trying to get back in on Harbor from so crowded I learned fast to plan around the evening crowds.
    Still, with MaxPass we were able to do everything we wanted, it was so much easier than the old FP way. I'm surprised you didn't do MP for Matterhorn? That was a game changer for us.
     
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  9. Huff

    Huff DIS Veteran

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    We always spent more time in DCA than DL and that was before Cars Land was opened. Enjoyed the rides there better.
    But I am old enough to enjoy the nostalgia of DL. It's far superior to Magic Kingdom at WDW in my opinion. The attention to detail is abundant at DL and lacking in some areas at MK. I do love the mountain rides at DL!
     
  10. Malcon10t

    Malcon10t DIS Veteran

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    And I like WOC, but don't consider it anywhere near the "greatest" show ever. I think the original Fantasmic! was much better than WOC. But I did like the 60th anniversary version of WOC.
     
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  11. DizneyMommy

    DizneyMommy Every Day is Disneyland Day!

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    As to your Rider Switch experience, both are typical of the way it works, and should work.

    They do not give out RS if the line is under 10 or so minutes. They also typically do not give it out during EMH, because you don’t need it. If EMH was ending and you felt the line was going to form behind you, then you were totally right to push. Some CM’s can’t see the forest for the trees lol.

    On GRR, they probably gave you a return time based on the current line. They give you a buffer so you don’t run out of time while the first party is still in line. They clearly overestimated (or used the standby line time when you had FP?) but they should have been able to adjust it, especially if you just got off the ride (which is easy to tell if you are wet!) and if you showed the baby. The idea is they want you to ride back to back, not sit and wait half an hour.
     
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  12. theluckyrabbit

    theluckyrabbit Moderator Moderator

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    First of all, great report and so glad you and your family enjoyed your trip! Now you have to come back when your DD is tall enough for everything and when WOC returns!

    On CMs asking about APs: since DLR doesn't have a Dining Plan (and when we did, it wasn't very good, so no one misses it!), any discount at all is greatly appreciated. APs are expensive, and pass holders will take any savings that comes along. CMs are really good at trying to help us save wherever possible, and we love them for that!

    On Sh-Boom getting cancelled: the Route 66 Lighting Moment is controlled by a manager on site each night. So if security picks up on something suspicious, the show can be suspended or cancelled outright. Since it was a Grad Night, I wonder if security picked up on some teens planning a joke or something along those lines. We've been there when a Lindy (Hop) Bomb was planned, and the Lighting got called off at the last minute. Security heard a group of dancers laughing over the word "bomb" (you can guess how well that went over!) and went into action. It took a lot of apologizing and explaining to get the Lighting to go on, about 10 minutes late, but with dancers on Route 66 and with happy guests all around.

    On the negative CM experiences: send in a comment to Disney Guest Experiences/Services (use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the DLR webpage). Be as detailed as possible (dates, times, locations, descriptions of CMs in question, exactly what happened, what should have happened, how it affected you and how it could have been better, etc. -- basically a more detailed version of what you've written here). This is the beginning of the summer season, and many CMs are new to the job. These kinds of mistakes need to be fixed and retrained now before things get out of hand. Your comment will be read and sent to the appropriate supervisors. Don't be surprised if you hear back from Disney, so leave contact information where it is requested. Your feedback will help other guests in the future. Rider Switch changed last year to a new system, and the kinks are still being worked out (on a day to day basis, it seems!).
     
  13. kappyfamily

    kappyfamily DIS Veteran

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    Fantastic write up, thank you! Do you remember when the FP for RSR and GotG running out for the day? We won’t arrive to DCA until noon on our first day. We leave in 11 days. thank you!
     
  14. theluckyrabbit

    theluckyrabbit Moderator Moderator

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    Do you have the free Disneyland App? If not, download it now and start following the FP availability for RST and GotG each day to get a general idea of how long the FPs are lasting. Then on your arrival day, be monitoring the FPs so you'll know if there are any left (and, if so, what the return times are) when you get to the gate. (If you purchase MaxPass, you'll be able to get a digital FP as soon as you activate your tickets at the turnstiles.)
     
  15. kappyfamily

    kappyfamily DIS Veteran

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    Ok, duh, I should’ve known that! Hahaha, thanks for the reminder, I keep forgetting you can monitor FP return times.
     
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  16. Ray LeBlanc

    Ray LeBlanc Earning My Ears

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    Thank you! I failed to mention that my wife and I did visit DCA for one day as part of a SoCal trip... December 28ish, 2011, so just before Cars Land opened. We really enjoyed DCA then, and did cap off our night with WOC, which was amazing. It's been a while, so I'm anxious to see it again and compare with these new additions!

    Seriously! I felt like we were just focusing on the big ones. Using RS contributed to this, too, as each MP use basically doubled our time with DS riding once with me and again with DW.

    I meant 'single file' (not single rider) as in we would want to be able to ride next to him, given that it sounds like such a physically jarring ride (at least from what I've read on here!). We could have used MP on it, but just didn't want to ride it with him at all if we couldn't be right next to him. Next time we'll try it!

    I don't really think our two experiences are the way it works or should work. They gave us a RS on RSR, no questions asked, immediately on Wed/Fri, when we were within the first 30 or so people on the ride. Maybe they know that even during EMH the line builds to 20+ minutes, but at the time of granting the RS there was only a 5-minute wait.

    I shouldn't have to educate the CM on the fact that the park may open to the public and a line will subsequently build very quickly. If it was our first day and/or we didn't know better, we'd have been out of luck.

    On GRR, yes, he should have just adjusted it, as they did for us multiple times on other attractions earlier in the week. But it seemed like the CM at the time was not going to give in, and I had to explain the system to him ("No, a FP IS a RS... that's what they give you when you set up a RS").

    As you said, "some CM's can't see the forest for the trees"... and that's why I shared those stories. The vast majority did an excellent job for us... that I only remember those 2 is a testament to how great everybody really was, when you consider how many CM's we encountered on our trip. But you'd think those scanning FP/s and doing RS would have everything straight.

    RSR was the first one to sell out, every day. When DCA opened at 8:00 to the public, they were gone by 11:30-11:45ish... On Friday, we wanted to finish with RSR at night, and the park was open from 9AM-9PM. We shot for a MP return between 7:30-8:30 to be safe. I kept checking the app, but they lasted a bit longer since the park opened an hour later than the previous days... I think I snagged 7:30-8:30 around 12:15 that day.

    GotG, we didn't pay as much attention to... we were afraid DS wouldn't like it, and only rode it Friday during EMH because there was no line and we had already done RSR. (DS thought it was ok... he went on it a second time with me, but that was it). I know it lasted longer than RSR, though it was second to run out at DCA. You probably have until mid-afternoon (at least 2, if not 3) for it.
     
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  17. Ray LeBlanc

    Ray LeBlanc Earning My Ears

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    One other note that may help others in a similar situation:

    We had planned to upgrade our CityPASS tickets to the 4-day hoppers at some point, but every time we saw the ticket lines by the parks they were very long. On Wednesday night, after fireworks, the line didn't look awful, so I jumped in on our way back to the hotel. It was 10PM and the kids had to get to bed (had been at DCA gate at 6:45 and had another park day Thursday), so DW took them back to bed. By the time I got up to the counter it was 10:30... they said they could upgrade the tickets, but needed DW and DS to make sure their pictures matched. This is apparently to stop potentially fraudulent use of the tickets. I said "no way, they are in bed"... I wasn't about to call DW and ask her to bring everybody back to outside the parks (from DLH). I was pretty upset after being exhausted from a long day and waiting in a line that moved at a snail's pace. I do understand why the policy is in place, but I don't understand why they can't transfer the pictures from the old ticket to the new ticket. They said something about privacy and ensuring the people who were on the tickets actually want the new tickets... I"m sorry, I just don't buy it.

    We stopped at the ticket counter first thing Thursday and took care of it... no line, but still took 10-15 minutes, which could have been spent in DL with no lines (by the time we got to Alice in Wonderland it was a 25-minute wait, even during EMH).

    So, if you need to make any changes/upgrades to your tickets, make sure the ticketed individuals are there! Perhaps I "should have" known this, but I'm not sure how/why an out-of-town guest like myself would/should have known. I just wanted to add a day to the ticket, didn't think it was such a big deal.
     
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  18. Amw1064

    Amw1064 DIS Veteran

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    We were there the same exact time as you and came from Florida with over hundreds of visits to WDW over a lifetime and annual passholders for the last 15 years. We made the mistake of coming our first day into Disneyland at 5:30 and it was MOBBED! Like Christmas week mobbed at Magic Kingdom. It was very overwhelming to us. We stayed maybe an hour and decided to switch over to CA. We fell in love with it right away. (We had 2 families with both of us having 15 year old daughters.) It got us away from the crowds and we stayed and watched Paint the Night. We loved it. We were staying at the Grand Californian so it was awesome with the back entrance right into the hotel. We were in the parks the next 3 days at exactly 8am so that helped us do everything and Friday at 9 because the park didn't open until an hour later. (we rode every single ride between the 2 parks minus Nemo submarine) We figured out the fast pass system and used it quite a bit. (didn't do max pass as we were doing fine with the old fashion system, had planned on it one day but was not needed) I agree on Cars land area. That was totally awesome. We loved the 2 smaller rides as well as Radiator Springs. We rode it 3 times over our visit. My daughter was definitely upset that Incredicoaster and Fun Wheel were not opened. We loved the characters interactions at the park and the food we had was so good. All quick serve places. I honestly went with little hope of liking it and we ended up loving.

    As for Disneyland, we went back all day Wednesday & Friday to give it another go. After we figured out the lay of the place we decided we did like it. Our first impression was just not a good one. We went right on Matterhorn and used fast passes throughout the day. Between the 2 days we rode everything and quite a few of them multiple times. (matterhorn, space mountain, autopia, splash, thunder, etc). I loved all the smaller rides that we do not have. (Alice, storybrook, Pinocchio, etc) We were one of the first people to ride Pirates when it opened on Friday morning. We saw the Fireworks, Fantasmic and the pixar parade while there. We also did the Minnie breakfast at the Plaza Inn. The characters were the best and let me tell you how many characters meals I have been to over the last 15 years. Having teen girls who both have grown up Disney, they agreed that it was by far the best of any character interactions we have ever had at WDW. We did the 10:30 seating which was recommended to me and I bet Minnie, Capt Hook and Chip spent at least 15 minutes each as the restaurant was closing. They were dancing and making videos with the girls. Every other character came around at least 3 times as well.

    So our once in a lifetime trip to CA is not going to be that. We spent our first 4 days in Hollywood/LA area and we had a great time there as well. My daughter wants to do a mini trip for her 16th birthday in September. Just trying to see how we could do it all. Her biggest request is to go back to California Adventure. We do have enough points for the plane tickets, sooooo we may be back.
     
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  19. teach22180

    teach22180 DIS Veteran

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    How does it compare to Test Track? I thought they were the same.
     
  20. Amw1064

    Amw1064 DIS Veteran

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    No way! Same concept but you are outside for a lot longer.
     
  21. Malcon10t

    Malcon10t DIS Veteran

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    For me, Cars Land is better themed. I liked Test Track, it is fun, but Racers felt more like you are in the movie.
     

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