We decided to mix things up a bit this year with our Disney vacation and picked the west coast parks this time instead of heading to Florida. It was also our first time at Disneyland and California Adventure! I was especially excited about all the Halloween events going on like Oogie Boogie Bash and Haunted Mansion Holiday. All the characters were in their spooky costumes and the parks were really decorated for the fall season, which made the ambience all that more fun.
I booked our trip including our hotel stay through a Disney vacation package, which was really quite affordable. Park tickets were included with our hotel stay and we were within walking distance to the parks, which was also really convenient.
Although we got a good deal, I wasn’t super impressed with our hotel (Hilton Anaheim), but for the short time we were there, it did the job even if our sink decided to leak all over the bathroom one day while we were gone. There was also some weird black gunk that came up out of it each night and during the day. So I probably would NOT recommend staying at that hotel if you decide to go. Disney has several partner properties – if we go back, we will stay elsewhere.
The biggest difference between the Florida parks and the California parks is definitely size. Disney World is spread out so much more and Disneyland and California Adventure are literally right across the street from each other with Downtown Disney adjacent to that. You can enter through Downtown Disney and go into either park entrance from there, which is what we did most of the week.
The lands are squished together inside the parks and while crowd sizes were smaller, it still seemed pretty full because there’s not much space to spread out. It also seemed like ride operations weren’t quite as smooth as Disney World. We had several break down while we were in line and that seemed to happen all day long with quite a few of their big rides (Indiana Jones, Rise of the Resistance, etc.)
Comparing rides that are in both parks, we both thought that Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and Small World were BETTER in Disneyland. Haunted Mansion’s exterior was way cooler than Disney World, but I really can’t compare the rides since Disneyland had the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay instead of the regular ride. I obviously liked that better than the original, but it’s a seasonal thing so unfair to really compare them 🙂
Space Mountain was closed for refurbishment, so I was unable to compare that ride to the Disney World version.
Disneyland (and California Adventure) food was better than Disney World for sure. I was able to snag a mobile order for the newest restaurant, Tiana’s Palace, which opened a few weeks before our trip. I had the gumbo, which was rich in flavor and had a slight bit of heat. You don’t find spicy food very often in Disney Parks, so this is a really nice addition to the menu and something I’d definitely eat again. I also appreciated the okra in the gumbo! If you want to try Tiana’s Palace, mobile order reservations open at 7 a.m. and you can pick a window to get your food at any time during the day. This was very easy and worked out well for me!
Other seasonal treats I tried at Disneyland were the Poisoned Apple Macaron and Darth by Chocolate.
Another major plus for the west coast park – there are TONS of character meet & greets and many characters are out walking around the park and interacting with people. This is pretty much not a thing at Disney World with the exception of a few characters frolicking off in the distance like Pooh or Chip & Dale. Wait times for characters weren’t too bad – we probably stood in line for 45 minutes to meet Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. I hear the wait at Disney World for these two can by 4 hours or more.
As for how much time you need in the park – I think that kind of depends! We probably could have used another half day because there were a few rides we just didn’t get to, but we were able to knock out all the main attractions so I didn’t leave feeling like I had missed anything important. Two days likely would have been too much time for one park, so having park hopper might be the way to go next time!
I’ll recap California Adventure in another post, but for now, check out my Disneyland vlog and let me know if you’ve ever been to the west coast parks and what your favorite ride is!