Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Karen's Semi-Snarky Guide to Disneyland

Tonight I used the Wikipedia lists of current Disneyland and California Adventure attractions as a basis for rating which ones I consider absolutely crucial to a pleasant Disney trip and which ones...meh, not so much. If you love Disneyland, or hope to get there someday, you may find my list entertaining or useful or something. The lists I emailed to Sara and Sarah were almost verbatim copy-pastes from Wikipedia plus my numeric ratings. For the corresponding blog entry, though, I'll be replacing the Wikitext with my comments, if any. And what the heck: let's throw in some pictures from past visits!

1. Wouldn't mind doing this twice or more. Heartbroken if I don't do it at least once per trip.
2. Want to do once per trip if possible.
3. Interested, if there's time, but if not, go without me.
4. Meh.
5. Don't bother unless you've done everything else that's even vaguely interesting.


Hey, it's the park that means more to me than California Adventure, most of the Florida parks and the foreign Disney parks combined. It's the original, the one where Walt planned, and walked, and occasionally slept over.

Main Street, U.S.A.

Disneyland Railroad (opened 1955) KFB: 1
Although you can board the train from a number of places around the park, the best station is the one you see the moment you pass the entry gates. You can use the railroad to ride back from elsewhere in the park instead of walking, but it probably won't save you any time. The most important part of the ride is the last stretch before arriving back at Main Street Station (and no, I won't say why), so sometimes we just ride the whole circle trip rather than use it as transportation.

Main Street Cinema (opened 1955) KFB: 5
This is where you can stand up to see the first six Mickey Mouse cartoons on a continuous loop. Yawn. They're historically important, but absurdly low in entertainment value given the surroundings, and the fact that they're not hard to watch elsewhere.

Main Street Transportation:
  • Fire Engine (opened 1955) KFB: 3
  • Horse-Drawn Streetcars (opened 1955) KFB: 3
  • Horseless Carriage (opened 1958) KFB: 3
  • Omnibus (opened 1959) KFB: 3
These four turn-of-the-century-themed modes of transportation are quaint, low capacity, low-thrill-factor ways to get from the foot of the train station to the Hub at the other end of Main Street USA. They mostly run in the morning. Unless you're trying to ride everything that was here in Walt's day, pick one and get on with it. I kind of like the streetcars myself.

Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years (opened 2005) KFB: 1
The museum-y part of this is wonderful, with films and models and ephemera and a
recreation of Walt's office at the Studio. It's usually staffed by someone who really knows his or her Disney lore, which is often far from true elsewhere. Don't rush into the Steve Martin thing, which replaced Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (and Steve Martin is no Abraham Lincoln). Take the time to explore the exhibits first, watch the films, ask the questions, and listen to the spiel. It's also a great place to just sit down in a quiet, air conditioned room for a bit. THEN go laugh at Steve and Donald.


Astro Orbitor (opened 1998) KFB: 4
This replaced a more interesting ride. The moving baubles are kind of fun to look at, but the bronze retro future rockets with astrological symbols on them (why?) aren't worth the wait. They're basically Dumbo in disguise, without the whimsy.

Autopia (opened 1955) KFB: 4
Go ahead and laugh at me, but I find these kiddie cars very hard and tiring to drive. To make it pull my weight I have to floor it the whole time, and my leg gets tired. The 2000 update added Chevron cars themes and fun signs, but you can see most of this without getting in one of the cars.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (opened 2005) KFB: 3
This is interactive and kind of fun, in a dopey, kid-oriented way.

Disneyland Monorail (opened 1959) KFB: 1
John tells me the monorail cars have been upgraded/replaced again, but I'd be interested anyway. The bad news is that they aren't terribly useful as transporation. Basically they go from Tomorrowland to Downtown Disney. Not sure if the Disneyland Hotel extension has reopened. Hope so.

Disneyland Railroad (opened 1955)
The station in Tomorrowland is basically a bare platform.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
(opened 2007) KFB: 1
We were on the classic Submarine Voyage attraction the last night of its existence (1998, or 2003? I forget!), and have been waiting for the Pixar updated version ever since.

"Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" (opened 1998) KFB: 3 or 4
This is a fun multimedia show with lots of little jokes in the pre-ride and such. Everyone should do it once, but it doesn't require an annual pilgrimage.

Innoventions (opened 1998) KFB: 2, even though it's lame
The building used to be home to the wonderful Carousel of Progress, and oh how I wish I could visit that again instead. Last time I was there, it was a mostly-lame look at the near-future, basically a lot of corporate-sponsored areas of current technology. I gather that it's now mostly Microsoft. Ho-hum. But there are echoes of the older attraction of you know where to look, such as the ASIMO show. And Stitch may or may not still be there for some one-on-one conversation with guests.

Space Mountain (opened 1977, closed 2003, reopened 2005) KFB: 1
I love, love love this, but they should have kept Dick Dale's blistering guitar soundtrack.

Starcade (opened 1977) KFB: 5
Who needs another video arcade?

Star Tours (opened 1987) KFB: 3
This is far from cutting edge these days, but the pre-ride is magnificent,
detailed and funny, and the droid characters (most of them more Johnny Five than R2D2) are fun and likable, especially the one voiced by Paul Rubens, who played a similar role in The Flight of the Navigator.


Alice in Wonderland (opened 1958) KFB: 1
Wikipedia tells me this has been slightly upgraded again. The original voice of Alice narrates, as she's done since the 1980s.

Casey Jr. Circus Train (opened 1955) KFB: 4
Want to ride in a car or a cage? Neither one is a thrill, but it's whimsical, and covers part of the same territory as the canal boats - but faster.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant (opened 1955) KFB: 5
Cute, but mostly for kiddies. Take a few pictures and move on. The low ride capacity pretty much guarantees that it's not worth the wait to get on it.

Disney Princess Fantasy Faire (opened 2006) KFB: 4
This is a meet and greet area for "face characters" and their fans. I'm not one of them.

It's a Small World (opened 1966) KFB: 1 (if open)
It's whimsical and leisurely, and if you don't like the song you won't have a good time, because you're going to hear a lot of it. The dolls were designed by Mary Blair, an important Disney artist with her own unique style. The chiming of the hour is a fun thing to watch from OUTSIDE the attraction. It's a Small World closed for major renovations in 2008, and I think it's still closed, darn it.

King Arthur Carrousel (opened 1955) KFB: 5
It's hard to make a carousel thrilling, even if you know which horse was Walt's favorite.

Mad Tea Party (opened 1955) KFB: 4
I'm not big on things that make you dizzy, and if you don't try to spin these, there's not much point to the ride.

Matterhorn Bobsleds (opened 1959) KFB: 2
This brilliant early reimagining of the classic roller coaster ride was upgraded in 1978. It's fast, fun and not too scary, the view is great, and there is minor splashing involved.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (opened 1955) KFB: 3
He's not the most iconically Disney character, but the ride is fun and the line is short. Upgraded in 1983 as part of the New Fantasyland.

Peter Pan's Flight (opened 1955) KFB: 2
This is the best of the the Fantasyland dark rides, mostly because you're "flying" in your pirate ship.

Pinocchio's Daring Journey (opened 1983) KFB: 4
It's fun and pretty, but not as good as Peter Pan or Snow White.

Snow White's Scary Adventures
(opened 1955 as Snow White's Adventures) KFB: 3
The facade and effects are what makes this upgraded dark ride worth your time. Look! Up in that window!

Storybook Land Canal Boats (opened 1955 as Canal Boats of the World) KFB: 3
A boat ride part a bunch of quaint miniature fairy tale locales can be fun and peaceful or rather boring, depending on whether you're interested in seeing Gepetto's house or Jasmine's palace. I find the (relatively) recent additions a little jarring, but that's probably just me being a Disney traditionalist.


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (opened 1979) KFB: 2
This is a roller coaster update of the old "Nature's Wonderland Mine Train" ride - not too scary, and fun. I assume they've resolved the safety issues of a few years ago.

Tom Sawyer Island (opened 1956) KFB: 1
Back in the day, this was basically Mark Twain-themed places to explore, plus a fort. They closed the fort for a while, and recently added pirate-themed stuff. I see that the fort is open again, which is good news.

Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island (opened 1956) KFB: 1
This is simply the means of getting to Tom Sawyer Island.

Frontierland Shootin' Exposition (opened 1957 as Frontierland Shooting Gallery, became Frontierland Shootin' Arcade 1985, Frontierland Shootin' Exposition 1996) KFB: 5
A laser-based shooting gallery. 'Kay.

Mark Twain Riverboat (opened 1955) KFB: 3
It's not exciting, but it's a pretty trip around the Rivers of America, and you can still hear Thurl Ravenscroft's voice if you listen carefully.

Sailing Ship Columbia (opened 1958) KFB: 2
This is marginally cooler than the Mark Twain, and that's saying a lot.

Big Thunder Ranch (opened 1986 as Little Patch of Heaven, closed in 1996, reopened in 2004, became Big Thunder Ranch in 2005) KFB: 2
This petting zoo is sort of hidden away in the back, away from the crowds. Sometimes it has seasonal shows.

The Golden Horseshoe Stage (opened 1955 as Golden Horseshoe Saloon, changed name to The Golden Horseshoe Stage in 1999) KFB: 3
Once home to the legendary Wally Boag, it now features Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Fun, but not something I need to do every year.


Enchanted Tiki Room (opened 1963) KFB: 1
The first fully animatronic Disneyland attraction, it was upgraded a couple years ago, and is at least as cool as it ever was. Take the time to listen as the Tiki gods introduce themselves in the garden outside, and listen for some classic Disney voice artists inside and out.

Indiana Jones Adventure (opened 1995)KFB: 1
I love the long walk through the pre-ride, the backstory in newsreels and films narrated by Sallah, and the fact that Indy and Sallah say different things on different trips through the temple. Great stuff!

Jungle Cruise (opened 1955) KFB: 2
This is historic, low key, and fun: the guides have a lot of latitude to improvise their jokey live narration, and Marc Davis's whimsical animals and people from an early upgrade are still pretty effective, forty years on.

Tarzan's Treehouse (opened 1999) KFB: 4
It's kind of neat, but I'm still annoyed that it's no longer the Swiss Family Treehouse.

New Orleans Square

Disneyland Railroad (opened 1966) The Disneyland Railroad station in New Orleans Square has some fun "backstage" Mardi Gras decor nearby.

Haunted Mansion (opened 1969) KFB: 1
On my last few visits to the haunted mansion it's been redressed in its annual celebration of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I'm looking forward to seeing the "real" version again.

Pirates of the Caribbean (opened 1967) KFB: 1
This wonderful classic ride, with voices by Paul Frees and Thurl Ravenscroft and others, has been updated a number of times, sometimes to make it more PC, sometimes for technical improvements. The latest update adds Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, and Davy Jones from the films, while still respecting the source material.

Critter Country

Splash Mountain (opened 1989) KFB: 2
It's ironic that this extremely popular ride is based on Song of the South, which Disney refuses to release on DVD due to political correctness issues. (Most people I know dispute the idea that the film is racist - of its time, certainly, but not racist.) The ride's big water drop at the end is just at the edge of what I can tolerate in scary rides.

Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes (opened 1971) KFB: 3 or 4
It's fun to travel the Rivers of America under your own power - yours, and that of a bunch of other guests. Kinda time consuming, though, and it doesn't need to be done every time I visit.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (opened 2003) KFB: 3
Much as I love the original Milne characters, I found this ride disappointing on my only previous visit. But I'll ride it again to look for the hidden characters from the "Country Bear Jamboree" attraction that it replaced. I'd rather see that classic show than the current attraction.

Mickey's Toontown

Chip 'n Dale Treehouse (opened 1993) KFB: 5
I don't even remember seeing this. A lot of the places in Toontown don't really accommodate adults, and this may be one of these.

Disneyland Railroad (opened 1955)
The Disneyland railroad station in Mickey's Toontown tends to be crowded. Expect a wait.

Donald's Boat (opened 1993) KFB: 5
Donald Duck's boat-on-land doesn't have any Carl Barks quirkiness to make it interesting to this adult.

Gadget's Go Coaster (opened 1993) KFB: 4
A weird, tame little roller coaster - it's worth doing once.

Goofy's Playhouse (opened 2006) KFB: 5 (kids only)
Goofy's house is strictly for kids, and isn't even a bouncehouse any more.

Mickey's House and Meet Mickey (opened 1993) KFB: 4
Mickey's house. The decor is fun, and it ends with a meet-and-greet with the great mouse. Not something worth doing more than once every five or ten years.

Minnie's House (opened 1993) KFB: 4
Minnie's house is like Mickey's house - cute, but not a must-see very time. Minnie no longer hangs around waiting for your visit.

Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin (opened 1994) KFB: 2
The pre-ride is fabulous, full of backstory and visual jokes and funny overheard dialogue. The ride itself is kind of meh.

Parades and Shows

Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams (opened May 5, 2005) KFB: 2
Gotta see every Disney parade at least once, if possible! Oh, wait. I have seen it.

Jedi Training AcademyKFB: 4
It's kind of fun to watch, but maybe not the whole thing.

Fireworks (whatever it's called this year) KFB: 3
The fireworks shows are tricky to see properly without a major investment in time, finding a good spot and staying there.

Fantasmic KFB: 2
This is even harder to do properly than the fireworks, because there's really only one area of the park where you can see it.

Disney's California Adventure

Notice that there are only three top priority attractions at CA for me: Soarin' Over California, the new Toy Story thing 'cause I haven't seen it, and the Animation building.

Golden State

Condor Flats:

Soarin' Over California (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 1
This is wonderful, wonderful and again wonderful, beyond all whooping! Well, I may be overstating it a bit. But it is great!

Grizzly Peak Recreation Area:

Grizzly River Run (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 3
It's a raft ride on white water rapids, much the same as the one at Sea World and losts of other places. Fun, but not amazing.

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 4
It's mostly a play area for kids, but it supposedly now features rock climbing and a Brother Bear scene cave. Uh-huh. I might give it five or ten minutes of my time.

The Bay Area:

Golden Dreams (opened February 8, 2001)KFB: 3
This movie about California's past and present is narrated by an animatronic Whoopie Goldberg. No, really!

Golden Vine Winery. KFB: 5
I'm not a fan of wine.

Pacific Wharf:

Mission Tortilla Factory (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 4
Do I really care how tortillas are made? I'm pretty sure I can go watch that in South Tucson.

The Bakery Tour (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 4
This is a presentation the Boudin Bakery and how sourdough bread is made. Probably no free samples, though.

Paradise Pier

California Screamin' (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 5
I've stared repeatedly at this very fast, very scary roller coaster, and my answer is no. I can't do that, Dave.

Maliboomer (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 3
Wikipedia says that this drop ride launches 180 ft. in 4 seconds. I've done it and enjoyed it, repeatedly, which is rather a surprise for me. Still scary in the anticipation, though.

Sun Wheel (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 3
This ferris wheel ride has both swinging and stationary gondolas. There's a wait for the swinging ones, and I chickened out on trying those, the only time I rode it. Should I try again?

Mulholland Madness (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 4
This mini-coaster is fun but not compelling.

Orange Stinger (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 5
These are swings that revolve around a giant orange. Pretty, but dull.

Golden Zephyr
(opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 5
A low-key "swing" ride on retro-style rockets, it's even more lame than the Astral Orbiter.

King Triton's Carousel (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 5
Sea creatures do not make a carousel that much more interesting.

Jumpin' Jellyfish (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 4
A mini-drop ride, but not as interesting as it sounds. Kind of pretty, though, from the ground.

S.S. rustworthy (sic, opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 5, kids only
This model ship is a play area for kids, it says here.

Games of the Boardwalk (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 5
Midway games. They cost money. Yawn.

Toy Story Midway Mania (opened June 17, 2008) KFB: 1
3-D glasses, spinning vehicles, virtual environments, Buzz and Woody, based on classic carnival midway games. That sounds promising.

Hollywood Pictures Backlot

Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! (opened January 23, 2006) KFB: 2
Decent pre-ride, fun ride, but not outstanding.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (opened May 5, 2004) KFB: 3 if I can make myself do it
I did this once, mostly because I wanted to see the decor and enjoy the backstory, and because I tolerate the Maliboomer well. I was still terrified, and not in a good way.

Disney's Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular (opened January 16, 2003) KFB: 2
This musical adaptation of Disney's movie Aladdin at the Hyperion Theater is really well done.

Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage! (opened April 11, 2003) KFB: 5
As an adult with no kids, I have zero interest in a show where visitors can meet the Playhouse Disney characters live.

Muppet*Vision 3D (opened February 8, 2001)KFB: 3
This 3-D show featuring the Muppets is almost as good as you hope it is.

Disney Animation (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 1 for the whole thing
  • Turtle Talk with Crush (opened July 15, 2005): A show in which one can interact with Crush from Finding Nemo. I've wanted to do this for years.
  • Animation Academy - (opened February 8, 2001): A presentation on how to draw Disney characters. Eh.
  • Character Closeup - (opened February 8, 2001): An exhibit featuring the "Toy Story Zoetrope", where visitors can view concept art and models of Disney characters. Basically this is where you see seriously cool design sketches and maquettes and stuff.
  • Sorcerer's Workshop - (opened February 8, 2001): This exhibit features the "Sorcerer's Workshop" where visitors create their own animation (sort of), "Beast's Library" where visitors are told what Disney character they are most like, and "Ursula's Voices" where visitors can recored their own voice into a scene from a Disney animated feature. Basically kid's stuff, but worth a few minutes.
  • The Hollywood Backlot Stage - (opened February 8, 2001): KFB: 4 - CA's performing center may or may not have something worth seeing. I seem to recall some lamish show involving Donald and...hats, I think.
"a bug's land"

It's Tough to be a Bug! (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 4
A 3-D film on the life of an insect. It's fun once.

Bountiful Valley Farm (opened February 8, 2001) KFB: 4
Wikipedia says it's a "water play area for kids about California's irrigation system." Doesn't sound promising.

Flik's Fun Fair - kiddie rides. KFB: 4 or 5
  • Flik's Flyers (opened October 7, 2002): A swing ride based on over-sized food boxes.
  • Francis' Ladybug Boogie (opened October 7, 2002): A ride similar to Mad Tea Party, with ladybugs instead of tea cups.
  • Heimlich's Chew Chew Train (opened October 7, 2002): "A train ride in which visitors see how Heimlich finds food." Huh.
  • Princess Dot Puddle Park (opened October 7, 2002): "A water play area for kids." What, another one?
  • Tuck and Roll's Drive'Em Buggies (opened October 7, 2002): A really low-key bumper car ride. Once was enough.


Disney's Electrical Parade (opened July 3, 2001) KFB: 3
It's a classic, but why does it have to be all the way over at California Adventure?

High School Musical 2: School's Out! (opened August 18, 2007) KFB: 5
Oh, please.

Pixar Play Parade (opened March 14, 2008) KFB: 3
I like Pixar, but again, I'm not sure it's worth my time.

On the other hand, if I had a week to spend - and someday we will - I'd visit every attraction that could physically accommodate an adult!



Astaryth said...

Mostly I have to agree with your ratings if I am only going to be there for a short time (Like you I will ride/do everything I can if I have enough time LOL!) I only have a few exceptions... mostly because I always have my camera with me ;p

The Horse-Drawn carriages are a MUST, but not to ride. I always like to try to get good portrait shots of the horses. Same with all of the Carousels! LOL! OH, and I am a roller coast fanatic so all of them are at the top of the list!

I've only been to the California parks once, but when I lived in Orlando I had season passes for 2 years and would always go spend the day at a park.

Kiva said...

Since I have a pass to the Disneyland Resort, my list is a bit different than yours because I can go off season and go on the rides without the fall-der-ol so the overrated ones aren't so overrated when you don't have to wait. However, I would give the fireworks show a higher rating. I've seen it from Main Street, but also from Small World. It's a different experience at each. I've also seen it from the concierge lounge balcony at the Californian. They pipe in the music and sound. You can't see all of the special effects because some are only visible from Main St or Small World, but it's a really wonderful experience to see the fireworks from farther away. However, if you just like fireworks, I recommend the top level of theDisney & Friends parking lot for a really good view!

Florinda said...

I know Disney World better since I grew up in Florida, but I think we may be going to Disneyland next spring, so I'm saving this for reference.

I think you're the first person I've known who considers "It's a Small World" a must; most people I know think it's a must-avoid. (Not fans of the song.) Thanks for giving the Tiki Birds their props, though!

Anonymous said...

I've been to Disneyland once, around 1980-ish. But your ratings on rides that are also found at DisneyWorld are close to what I would have given them. Epcot Center has one of the coolest rides ever, called Soarin'... you sit as though you are hanging from a hang glider, and you dangle in front of this very tall and wide IMAX-like screen where scenes of the lands, rivers, oceans, country pass by, as though below your feet. Gentle breezes, wind, odors of the land all combine to make you feel like you are really flying over the California landscape. The COOLEST ever ride! I'd give it a ten!