The Disney Parks

Paradise Pier

Staying at the Grand Californian, we were pretty conveniently located to be able to run back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure, which we did.  Frequently.  For three days.

California Adventure is a fun park, and there were several rides that we loved over there… a favorite for everyone was the Grizzly River Run, a “raft” style ride that combines river rafting with a rollercoaster.  Prepare to get wet on this ride… there’s a sign as you get in line that warns that you will get wet, and you might get soaked.  This is NOT a joke… the first time through, I got wet but not unbearably so.  The second, third and fourth times we did this ride, I was soaked from head to toe.  I’d recommend doing this ride when it’s very warm, or when you day is about to end; you could be in wet clothes for hours otherwise.

Soaring Over California is a unique experience- a simulated hang-glider flight where you are raised into the air over an 80-foot concave movie screen.  Incorporating music, movement and even “wind” , the Omnimax film that creates this “flight”  provides an aerial view of California’s most famous natural and manmade attractions and sights.

Paradise Pier is the boardwalk area of the park, and lots of fun, especially at night.  You can find rides, entertainment, dining and shopping here.  It’s also the site of the World of Color show, an awe-inspiring water, color, fire and light show done after dark.  Use Disney’s FASTPASS Service for this show- that way you can get a good seat (the pass earns you better, reserved seating) – you’ll want it so you can see all the 3-D projected images.  Otherwise, you’ll miss out on some of the neater portions of the show that are not viewable from all areas.

Jedi Training Academy

I’d say of the two, Disneyland was our favorite park.  It had more of the “magical” Disney feel to us, if you know what I mean.  Main Street USA, which is the gateway into the park, is styled after small town America (circa the early 1900’s) and you are welcomed by gas lamps and horse-drawn carriages.  There’s also lots of shopping, restaurants and entertainment in this area.  You’ll also find the fireworks show here at night, exploding over Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

This park is enormous… we spent the majority of our time here, and I now realize that there was plenty that we didn’t get covered.  Everyone’s favorite ride was located in Disneyland…Star Tours, hands down, is the most impressive ride in both parks.  It’s digital 3-D experience aboard a Starspeeder 1000 that takes you throughout the Star Wars galaxy.  Strap in- the simulator shakes and dives, and wearing 3-D glasses, it truly feels like you are making the flights.  We rode Star Tours 6 times, and the experience was never the same; there are multiple storylines and destinations that provide a different ride every time.  My suggestion is that you hit this ride first thing in the morning, when lines are minimal, then use your FASTPASS for additional rides- which I guarantee you’ll want to take.

Follow this up with a stop at the live Jedi Training Academy show.  We loved it- it was great entertainment, and if your kids adventurous types, they can even take part in the show.

Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage

Among other favorites; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a runaway train ride.  My kids are Toy Story fans, so they also loved Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.  And finally, Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage– all your favorite characters are present in this ride, with a neat underwater environment (a newly erupting undersea volcano).

There’s more in this park than I can even cover, so if you’d like more details about the different lands here- Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Adventureland, Critter Country, Mickey’s Toontown, and Frontierland-and all the associated rides please visit Disneyland’s info page.

These parks are great fun, and so conveniently located to both Los Angeles and San Diego, they make an easy trip.  Don’t miss them if you embark or disembark in one of these cities on your next cruise!


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