🎶Hey there, Hi there, Ho there. It’s a Disney kind of day!🎶
WAKE UP, WAKE UP! You’re in Disney. Time to get out and off to the parks. Seriously, this is what the place is about. Friends to meet, rides to do and so much to see. We are going on a whistle-stop tour of parks and villages.
The best thing about this kind of tour is it’s the ultimate Fast Pass. No queuing for us today.
I’ll admit it. I’m a Disney Parks Geek. I love the design and the history of the place so I can’t take you round without pointing out a few special details but don’t panic. I’m not going to be some dreary, dry guide waving his umbrella at the head of a parade of glazed-eyed tourists.
Got your tickets? Got your map? Got your soon to be ‘death by shopping’ emptied wallet? Excellent. I’ll meet you outside The World Of Disney Store at the top of the village. You will need to have gone through security to get to this point so make your life easy. Phones, keys and coins in your bag to go through the airport style scanner. All bags, including the ones on your pushchair will need to go through so be ready. If you’re staying at an on site Disney Hotel security is before you get into the village. If arriving by train or bus then security entrance is right in front of World of Disney. (WoD)
One more thing. If you didn’t already know DLP fans love to abbreviate. If you don’t know your WDS from your BTM you will by the end of this blog. (Walt Disney Studios and Big Thunder Mountain BTW).
Everyone here? Let’s go. This area outside the store is called The Resort Hub. From here you can get to either park, the village or the train station. If you look down you will see a compass with points showing the direction to every Disney resort except Shanghai (the newest) and the distance. Walking towards the gates you have a decision to make. Left to the Studios or right to Disneyland Park.
I’m the guide, I’m making the decisions today. We’re going to Disneyland Park.
Passed the Legends Statue. This lovely statue is often overlooked. The plaque is dedicated to European Imagineers who worked on the place. Photos later, time’s a wasting.
Fantasia Gardens. Wonderful place, run around down the steps to the Mickey Flower Display. Pushchair and Wheelchair users take the slopping path if you prefer. If you can stand on the back of the chariot it is much more fun. There is a baggage store to the right hand side of the hotel where Disney will look after your bags for a fee!
Obligatory group photo in front of the sign under the Mickey Clock. This is a legal requirement before going in. (It isn’t really).
Under the clock, past the ticket booths to the turnstiles. The CM (cast member, a Disney Employee) will scan your ticket, the turnstile will make a noise that could either be “Welcome” or “Enter” or a fart. I’m never sure which and you’re in!
Cameras ready, there is a lot to photograph. First time I came here in 1997 I used over 9 rolls of film (digital cameras didn’t exist then). After the entrance is your first opportunity to shop. Sale items often found here but no time for that kind of thing now. Look in front. Up a bit. That’s it. The train station has four lovely stained glass windows, each one dedicated to a different land. Depending on the resort theme there is often an appropriate display. 2017 is the 25th anniversary and we have our first ever-changing display.
Through the arches. Take a look at the plaque. “Here you leave today and enter worlds of history, discovery and ageless fantasy”
As we trip lightly through the second arches you have an opportunity to pick up a map and timetable in various languages.
On the other side we are in Town Square. Horse Drawn Trolley stop in front of you and lots of choices for getting down Main Street. On our left is City Hall. Your destination for all things useful such as lost property, dining reservations, information, disabled access passes if you don’t have an Annual Pass (AP). On our right is the transportation company. There is a shop here which hires out push chairs and wheel chairs if you need them.
Loos are either side of Town Square.
Vehicle: Paddy Wagon, Omnibus, Fire Engine, Horse Drawn Tram. Ok, so the picture is of the tram coming up Main Street. I just like it.
Under Cover walk: to our left is Liberty Arcade, to the right is Discovery Arcade
Promenade: quite simply you cannot walk down Main Street. You can run, dance, skip, link arms but never walk.
Exploring Main Street.
We shall skip. Around town square past City Hall on our left to The Story Book Store selling all things Duffy. This isn’t about the shops so you can look elsewhere in the blog for shopping info. Outside here is a Guest House frontage which forms the back drop to a character meet and greet. Often Minnie but check the programme. Next to the guest house is the entry to Liberty Arcade. Skip onwards past the gazebo. Often a character here too and over to the opposite side. You will often see Goofy loitering here in the mornings outside the Hair and Bow boutique. Look up and see the Town dentist. Dr Bitz. 9 out of 10 patients go to Bitz.
Near the shop is a set of gates. This is where the parade ends. Next to them is the entrance to Discovery Arcade.
Time to dance down Main Street, left for the biggest shop, The Emporium, right is Flora’s Boutique (named after Walt’s mum)
The Emporium takes up the top left half of Main Street. TBH it doesn’t stock anything you can’t get more calmly elsewhere and I have no intention of lingering. The right top side is much more interesting with the Boardwalk Candy Palace (FUDGE, CHOCOLATE! Mmmmmmmm. Carry on, I’ll catch up with you)
Main Street USA is full to flags of little details, from period appropriate flags (there are 45 stars on the USA Flag rather than 50 as this is America of 1901) to the stories going on the phones in various shops on the right hand side. Wander round, look at the names on the windows. Say thanks because these are the people who made Disneyland. The train station announcements are a nice detail (voiced by lead designer Eddie Sotto) and you can hear a music teacher getting terribly angry with her useless student near the deli not to mention screams of the dentist patient.
The arcades are practically a museum. Liberty Arcade has more details about the construction and inauguration of The Statue of Liberty than can be absorbed as well as sightly odd tableau of the event itself. Discovery Arcade is home to a series of really lovely models of inventions taken from the Patent Office.
I’m not going to list all the shops and restaurants, we will be here all day and this blog is full of restaurants. Walts is my current favourite place. Each room is themed to a land and has some amazing artwork. Right, you guys have a dance around. I will meet you at the centre of the hub (the area in front of the castle).
Welcome to the hub. In front of us is the most beautiful Disney Castle of all, inspired by Mont St Michel and every fairytale castle you can think of. I love Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Quick photo please.
We are surrounded by 5 lands. Clockwise from our left: Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Discoveryland and Main Street USA behind us.
No arguments, we are moseying on down to the old west. Left to Frontierland, recently tarted up to its former glory. Past the Native American Indian encampment and through Fort Comstock (named after the head gardener, Paul Comstock), sometimes closed in the wet, this is a great walk through with representations of character of the time of the western expansion of the USA. One of the best photos in the resort can be taken on the bridge of Big Thunder Mountain. Up to the left is Phantom Manor. These two are MUST DO attractions although they can be intimidating for young children. Check height restrictions on the map and at the entrance.
BTM, PM and Fort Comstock are all linked to the back story of this land which tells the tale of gold rush riches to society wedding failure and murder. Who said Disney was all about happy endings?
If you fancy a gentle ride then board the Molly Brown, a paddle steamer voyage around the rivers of the old west then grab some lunch at Fuente Del Oro or Cowboy Cookout which is further round past the entrance to BTM. This back area of Frontierland is a grand place to sit, have a beer and watch the world go by. You can only buy beer with meals in the parks. Two more things to show you here. Chapperal Theatre and Pocahontas Play Park.
BIGGEST TIP: if you have kids under 12 you will be very wise to throw the rugrats in Pocahontas Play area. We have spent many a happy hour watching the kids blow off steam after standing in queues and getting frazzled by big attractions. I have so often heard parents tell their kids about how much they have spent to get to DLP and didn’t spend that so the kids can clamber and slide in a play area.
Once again, checkout the restaurant posts but don’t miss Silver Spur, a lovely saloon themed restaurant. To my mind Frontierland is the most immersive celebration of a world that has long since gone (if it ever truly existed) and has a coherent story to tell.
Enough hanging around enjoying yourself. Get up, get your bum in gear we are off back to the hub. You don’t have to return to the hub to move between Frontier and Adventureland but that is what we are going to do.
Adventureland is surprisingly big with the fewest number of attractions, it is a mixture of Arabian fantasy stories, adventure films and pirates. Walking through the archway (look under the torches to see the letters WDI, Walt Disney Imagineering, on the plaque. A little egocentric detail!) On your right is Agrabah Cafe and tucked away on the left is Le Passage Enchante d’Aladdin. If you wish to explore Aladdin’s Enchanted Passage (stop sniggering at the back) then please do. it is a nice retelling of the story in model form.
Moving swiftly onwards, past the Curious Giraffe shop and bear left. Two good counter service restaurants along here. Hakuna Matata and Colonel Hathis are well worth stopping for a second lunch. We are heading towards our next roller coaster. The short but sweet Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril. This is a good step up for coaster newbies after BTM. It features a single loop and is a tad faster than BTM but MUCH shorter.
I know, I’ve made you eat pizza, drink beer and now tipped you upside down on a rollercoaster. I never said this was going to be easy.
We backtrack. As we walk pass Colonel Hathis (more pizza anyone?) you can see a path leading to Frontierland. There is another path next to Hakuna Matata.
On your left you will see a bridge leading to Adventure Isle. AI is an interesting place. It is a series of mazes, bridges, caves, and a tree house telling the tale of The Swiss Family Robinson. Watch the film if you haven’t. Yes it was made by Disney in 1960 but is fun. My kids love dragging me around AI, up and down the steps in search of the treasure in Davy Jones’ Locker, exploring the bouncy bridges and Skull Rock. There is another play area here called Pirates Beach. As with Pocahontas it is worth a visit.
Exit this area via Skull Rock and you will discover the recently re built Pirates Of The Caribbean. PotC inspired the film and ironically the film has now become part of the ride. It is another must do.
I’m in a quandary now. I had planned to enter each land via the hub but frankly that is too far to walk and I’m old. So, exit PotC, turn left and head towards Fantasyland. So many rides, so many shops in which to spend your money, some very special details.
Here’s the map. Wander, but don’t miss Peter Pan’s Flight (it’s right next us on your left) or It’s A Small World. IASW is yet another must do. Trust me, you will love the song…
Before we go on IASW you will pass the time-sucking experience that is the Princess Pavillion. Queue to meet a Disney Princess. I have waited 2 hours before and longer times are not unheard of.
There are no words adequate to describe the joy of IASW, it is a true Disney experience and one created by Walt himself for the 1964 worlds fair in New York. If you have watched the film Tomorrowland I’m afraid that it won’t happen. Even if you are wearing the badge. Try it. If you have no idea what I’m going on about then watch the film.
Ok, still singing it? Good. At the back of Fantasyland are 2 rides which are often overlooked. Casey Junior is a very child friendly and gentle coaster and Le Pays des Contes de Fees is a storybook boat ride. Both are lovely. Incidently you can often see characters lurking near these rides.
Back to the castle. On your left is Auberge du Cendrillion here you can meet Princesses whilst you dine at an exorbitant price. Worth it if you can’t be asked to queue.
There is a dragon under the castle, it is a beautiful animatronic creature and is there for no reason other than it is a lovely idea. The castle itself is a true work of art, have a wander around the gallery. The story of Sleeping Beauty is told in Tapestry, Stained Glass and Tableau.
Out we go back to the hub. Would you believe we have only one more land.
Discoveryland is in a state of flux. Originally designed as a the future as created by visionary writers such as Jules Verne it has morphed into a celebration of creative vision from sources such as Verne, George Lucas and the Pixar staff. It has lost some of its coherence for me but it is improving.
Before we go any further, I love Star Wars but it is encroaching a little too much for me. Space Mountain is the biggest and fastest coaster in this park and it is still awesome although I am not a fan of Star Wars being added in. Star Tours 2 is a superb ride and Meet Darth Vader is great fun. In fact, all of the rides in Discoveryland are quiet simply brilliant it is just that the land needs time to get its story going again after a year of being rebuilt.
This brings us back to the hub again. Seriously, I have only scratched the surface. We haven’t talked about characters so let us have a coffee and a sit down. We can do some meet and greets.
There are 2 ways you can meet the gang. Formal, controlled queue lines such as Princess Pavillion, Darth Vader, Mickey, and the guys around Town Square and the hub. Dead easy this one, find the character you want to see. Join the queue.
Then there is the dreaded scrum. Sometimes a character will appear, usually by IASW (still singing the song?) or Casey Junior and a circle of guests will form all desperate to get the photo. Sometimes it gets a bit fraught. Go with the flow, stand your ground politely and be charming. The cast members will control the crowd but you are not guaranteed to get that photo. Characters will be discussed in more detail elsewhere in the blog.
Shows and Parades.
Don’t miss them! The shows change seasonally so check before you go. Make sure you arrive 40 minutes before the start time to get a good seat. Please don’t sit in the middle of the row. Move to the end. Squeeze up, there is a lot of us to get in.
Personally, I love to watch from outside IASW (still singing it?), it gets busy.
Finally, it’s the end of the day. Everyone still with me. Two more things to see. The night-time projection and firework show Illuminations is a most do once. It is at the park closing so can be very late. For me the bars are calling so I rarely watch it but as a special treat I shall join you for this viewing. Get there 45 mins before to secure your spot. People will shove, people will stand in front of you. I know, it is what it is. As with the character scrums just be patient.
Heading out after the show, walking up Main Street USA look up at the station. Mickey will be there to say good-bye. Give the main mouse a wave. He deserves it.
Altogether now: 🎶It’s A Small World After All, It’s A Small World After All🎶