Walt Disney World ICP - Day 78 - My first visit to Disneyland: The best day of my life - 19th August 2013

Disclaimer: This is a long blog post which only attests to how much I loved today.

This morning Becky maingated herself, me and Rachael into the park so we all had a 1-day, 2 park hopper to explore the parks with. We started off the day with the premiere ride here - Radiator Springs Racers. This is where you get in a car from the hit-film ‘Cars’ and race against another car - I was so, so excited for this land and it did not disappoint. It was beautiful in every way possible. Radiator Springs Racers in particular has to be one of my favourite rides - it’s just so much fun, the characters inside the ride are incredible and it really is one of those things that you just have to experience in person. The key is to be there at park opening when we got on in 30 minutes instead of 90 minutes or more - but it does have a single rider line which is useful.

Radiator Springs Racers

Cars Land

Radiator Springs Racers - one car always beats the other in the race

I am so glad that I came to Anaheim to Disneyland for Cars Land alone. It is so worth a visit! That’s me excluding the rest of the park which is stunning too, and I instantly started to like it a lot more than Disney World. At California adventure they have the best of the Disney World parks all in one place, Toy Story Midway Mania is really fun, just as it is in Florida, with queues often being some of the longest in the park at 30-45 minutes; California Screamin’ is a really fun rollercoaster - it doesn’t have any particularly incredible elements but it is just fun and a long ride; Soarin’ is a fun ride with only a 20-30 minute wait unlike at EPCOT in Walt Disney World where it regularly gets 2 hour waits. Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers use the side ride system by the way with Radiator Springs winning by a long shot. The Tower of Terror is here too for those who enjoy that.  There’s even a land in the park dedicated to It’s a Bugs Life - how great is that!

We also went on this today which is a ferris wheel which rocks - terrifying!

One of the best themed areas in my opinion is the Grizzly Peak area with Grizzly River Run being a fun water raft ride that gets everyone at least a bit wet, but one or two people get soaked! It’s a much longer ride that Kali River Rapids in Disney World, gets quite a bit of speed and is really fun to ride.

It's a bug's land.

Grizzly Peak area

The Aladdin musical is hilarious and set in an actual theatre with proper seats and lasts about 45 minutes! This is almost worth the admission price on its own. Buena Vista Street at the park entrance is nice and nostalgic, and overall there’s just so many fantastic things in this park to do. I highly, highly recommend a visit.
Aladdin: The Musical with the hilarious genie.

When it hit about 3 o’clock we were tired so we headed back to the hotel and came back for the 6 o’clock parade at Disneyland to meet Becky and Rachael. Here’s another cool thing - they repeat the parades at each park twice a day! Soundsational has to be the best parade I’ve ever seen - the musical theme is great, the characters are actually stunning, and look so so much like the cartoon versions, the performers play live music, the floats are great and it’s a 20-minute long parade.

Jack went over to California Adventure and I tried to do some of the rides that aren’t available at Disney World with the girls such as Snow White, Pinnochio’s Scary Adventures and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It was fun to ride and re-ride some of these classics. The Matterhorn Bobsleds ride was unfortunately closed until Friday which was frustrating but hopefully I’ll get on it then.

We went through the park and did bits and bobs and eventually it was time to get something to eat before watching the 9.30pm shows of the ‘Magical’ fireworks and little did we know how our night was about to change. We couldn’t decide where to eat so I and Jack ate at one place and the girls at another in Tomorrowland. What happened next was purely the result of luck and incredible timing.

Jack and Becky were walking and talking and I and Rachael were doing the same. We were both ride operators at Disney World and were saying how annoying strollers were there when they were parked in the wrong place, and how one of our favourite things to do at work was to move people’s strollers as far away as possible if they did this (Yes it’s mean, but people learn their lesson and it’s fun :P). We said this as we both put our drinks in a bin and as a Cast Member was there moving the strollers.

We kept walking and a couple of steps later, he called for us and said he’d just overheard our conversation. He asked us if we were former Cast Members and we replied “Yeah” so we stopped and chatted to him (his name was Julius, from Star Tours by the way) about how we’d just finished the Disney World college program and how we both worked there. He seemed gobsmacked to hear that we’d worked there and he was just so interested in our program that it made us feel really special, something you don’t feel when working at Disney World where CPs are seen as bottom of the pack. It was a really nice change. Jack and Becky caught up with us at this point and we all had a discussion about how different it was here and there. For example at DW we call our co-ordinators ‘co-ordinators’ whereas they call them ‘leads’ and we call parade people ‘PAC’, they call them ‘PSO’ or something.

A few other Cast Members got involved in the conversation and soon there was a PAC person, a VIP cast member, us and a couple of Star Tours cast all discussing the differences between working at the two parks. He then offered us rider switch cards so we could get on Star Tours at any point and also gave us some cute cards with Stitch on them telling us we can re-ride when we’re tall enough as a souvenir. This was great and we were so grateful. He asked us what we were going to do next and we said “Watch the Fireworks” and we had a debate about how we’d heard Wishes was much better and he said Magical was better (though the VIP Cast Member disagreed) and so we were told we might be able to get into the VIP viewing area for the fireworks and were escorted off.

'Magical' fireworks from the VIP area - a perfect view.
I cannot tell you how special we all felt being able to walk through the crowds, past the ropes and being taken to a special roped off area just at the right distance from the castle. Here we were able to sit on benches and relax and truly appreciate the fireworks. Nothing would ever match this view. As such when the fireworks came on I didn’t really get any photos as I was so enthralled in them and knew I’d see them again later so I had to appreciate this view. Even though the fireworks weren’t my favourite (Wishes is much better), the view was incredible and they do have Dumbo flying over the castle (and Tinkerbell for a long time), and proper shooting stars which they don’t at Disney World. Oh, and there was even a proposal during the fireworks in the VIP section which was cute to watch. To top it all off, Rachael gave me two of her un-used 1-day tickets which really made my day as it meant I'd be able to visit Disneyland a few times when she was gone. I really cannot thank her enough. The whole experience had completely made my night, my trip, my life and there was more to come. I cannot thank Julius enough, he’s the nicest Cast Member I’d ever met and he really did go above and beyond.

We had planned to see Fantasmic at 10.30pm which is easily doable when you have the two shows in one park so with our Rider Switch cards we rode Star Tours and then walked over to Fantasmic. We got there maybe 10 minutes before it started and got a perfect view of the show.

The Dragon in the Disneyland version of Fantasmic
The show is much better than the one at Hollywood Studios with more elaborate sets, more fireworks, more projections and it’s longer too. Don’t get me wrong, it is 90% the same as the Disney World version but it seems that at Disney World they got rid of all the best bits - like the huge animatronic dragon in California, the pirate ship and some of the projection sequences. I was so glad I hadn’t watched it in advance online and really enjoyed the show.

We had five minutes left until park close so opted for a quick ride on Splash Mountain. The ride is similar to the Disney World version but shorter and...you get wet. Very wet. Especially sitting at the front, as Rachael found out. She left the ride drenched - as wet as if she’d been in the shower. At that point, it was the end of the day and we were ready to leave - each of us at least a bit wet and still excited form the fireworks and Fantasmic.

Soaked on Splash Mountain

We couldn’t however leave without thanking Julius so we went to Guest Services at City Hall and did exactly that - though we couldn’t say what he’d done for us as allowing Cast into the VIP viewing area is a no-no. So when the Cast Member there (sorry, we didn't get your name!) asked what Julius did for us we said “He was very courteous, he had good show, was very efficient and very safe.”

Jack then mentioned that we weren’t weirdos who simply knew the 4 keys and then we explained how we’d just finished the College Program as Cast Members. She said she wouldn’t have been surprised if we were just guests as the locals know stuff like that here. She asked us all about our college program, and when I said I worked at Philharmagic I got the reaction that everyone gives me “Oh, I LOVE Philharmagic!” - Julius said the same thing. The Cast Member asked if there was anything we hadn’t done that we’d like to do tomorrow. It was Rachael and Becky’s last night before going to New York tonight so it was up to me and Jack - we said “Space Mountain” as we hadn’t ridden it yet. She left for a second to go and get us our surprise. I looked down at the guest comment card and she’d written “Very safety” in the commotion which made me laugh.

She came back with First Visit pins for everyone and also gave us a Fastpass valid for up to 6 people made out for tomorrow for Space Mountain. This was truly the icing on the cake and not something we’d been expecting so we really appreciated it. We thanked her and knew that it had been a stroke of luck to get all that magic tonight so I guess we have to thank all the guests who park their strollers in the wrong place for all that luck. So “thank you!”

Our Fastpass for the next day!
It does seem like the cast at Disneyland are even more empowered to go “above and beyond” than we were at Disney World, even if we were encouraged to do it. The Fastpasses, the height check cards as souvenirs, letting us into the VIP area for the fireworks - it all attests to Disney's fantastic guest service and the cast members who make the magic. It cost Disney nothing but gave us memories to last a lifetime and made our visit an unforgettable one!

Next Post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 79 - I'm at the original Disneyland! - 20th August 2013

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