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First-Time Disneyland Trip: Into the unknown

As a frequent Walt Disney World visitor, my familiarity with the resorts and the parks makes each visit even more enjoyable. Because of this my first visit to Disneyland was somewhat terrifying. At least the planning was. Now the moment of truth.

Flying from the east coast I arrived at my Harbor Blvd. hotel by 2pm. Within a few minutes I was in the parks. My first impression was astonishment of the short walk to the parks. In fact I counted 200 steps and I was on property.

I could already see the frustration Walt must have felt. Walking just a few yards down Harbor Boulevard it seemed like I passed more cast members than guests. Each cast member in their respective costume. It’s like we are all heading in to the park for the day. Very odd – apparently I’m not inside the Disney Bubble yet. It must be a small bubble indeed.

The next big difference I quickly found was that the park entrances are in close proximity to each other. Very close. In fact the park entrances face each other with turnstiles only 275 feet from each other. So you approach the entrance to either park from one of two sides. The Harbor Blvd Side or the parking lots/Disney Resort Side. The nice thing about this arrangement is that you pass through security first and can then enter either park. That makes park hopping seamless without the need to pass through another bag check.

Everything I have heard and read has prepared me for a shock. The park will be minuscule indeed. Perhaps I will not fit inside the park with my backpack. Maybe I’ll need to turn sideways to walk down some alleys. Indeed I was wrong. Disneyland and California Adventure feel spacious and they are 100% Disney. No question, there is evidence of space constraints, but neither park felt small.  I believe these stories are over-blown.

One of biggest challenges I encountered was navigating the parks. Many attractions were not where I expected. Some close, some far away.  Buzz Lightyear is located where Stitch should be.  Space Mountain was where Buzz should be.  This was Bizarre.  Worse yet: Someone stole the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’ve never needed to look at a park map to navigate but it could not be avoided in this case.

Having a park ticket purchased within the Disneyland App I walked up to the turnstile, scanned the barcode presented by the app, the cast member took my picture and handed me a paper ticket to use if needed.  How old-fashion!  No finger scanning.

Fastpass anyone?  No worries about making reservations in advance.  None can be made until you enter the park.  That made it really easy and worry free.  Fastpasses are still the paper variety.  However, for an extra $10 per person, per day you receive the added benefit of making them through the Disneyland App.  Definitely worth $10 for my party of one.  Especially since I spent most of my time lost.  I’d never find the Fastpass Machine.  The $10 also includes unlimited Photopass Pictures.  At $10 per person per day this option is nice but would add up for a family.

More on my first visit to Disneyland – coming soon.