Sunday, December 30, 2012

California Adventure scores points over Disneyland

Back on December 7 my wife and I went to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure—which, for those of you keeping score at home, was our third visit in 2012 (but prior to that we hadn't been since March of 2010, so it's not like we frequent the parks with such regularity). In the past I would have referred to it as merely a trip to "Disneyland" without specifying the other park, but this time we spent more time over on the latter so it seems unfair not to mention it as well. This was, in fact, the first time we've ever selected C.A. as our initial point of entry (rather than going to the Disneyland side first), and the only ride we rode multiple times was over there.

There has been something of a changing of the guard.

For years we didn't "park hop" (that is, get tickets that allowed going to both parks on the same day) and C.A. was merely the afterthought; heck, when we went over there it was because during the off-season  Disney offered two-day tickets to SoCal residents, where we could go to one park one day and then return on another day in the next few months to go to the other park. In that scenario, we essentially had a free ticket and it was worth paying for parking to get in. However, when we'd gone to C.A. that trip was more of a eh-may-as-well than oh-boy-we're-going. C.A. was fun, sure, but it lacked that something to really warrant spending all day there like the Magic Kingdom had.

Heck, prior to this year the last time we'd even been on the C.A. side of the resort was back in 2006; we didn't even bother to get two-day tickets during trips to Disneyland in 2009 and 2010.

Then for this year's visit back in January we spent the extra money for the "two-day park hopper" tickets. As such, we could go do just the attractions on the C.A. side and return to do the Disneyland stuff (and hence the reason we went back in May and could go back and forth between the parks that day as well); the best of both worlds was achieved.

The bigger difference, however, was twofold: First, this year we finally discovered the Toy Story Midway Mania ride. Like the Buzz Lightyear ride over in Tomorrowland (which we liked), it's interactive, with riders acting as players in games to score points. But that one is merely shooting at targets as one rides slowly through rooms; T.S.M.M. is sitting in front of virtual boardwalk games like ring toss, balloon pop, plate smash, etc. It's not thrilling like a roller coaster, but rather relies on competitiveness and skill as those carnival games do, but without having to keep paying the barker over and over to try to win some prize; here it's merely the joy of getting as high a score as possible. And as such, one can keep riding it over and over.

We rode it five times in the 14 hours we were on the resort grounds; no other attraction did we ride more than once. It was the first ride we went on, despite the fact that C.A. had a whole new Cars Land that opened since our last visit, with a number of new rides. We walked through there, thinking it with its charms (but never having seen the Cars movies, it didn't do that much for us), then proceeded over to Paradise Pier to ride T.S.M.M. In the evening we missed the fireworks because we were instead over in line for it. And while the second World of Color show went on nearby, we rode it back to back, with essentially no line. It bookended our day.

The second aspect of C.A. attraction of which we finally availed ourselves back in the May visit: beer. Yes, they sell alcohol over on the C.A. side, and although that's long been the case, we'd never really partaken previously. I'm not sure why; perhaps it seemed like too much of a novelty. But now there is some appeal to it. Perhaps it's the allure of what seems like it should be forbidden on the grounds of Disney, like we're getting away with something.

It's particularly amusing in light of the fact we're not big drinkers. Maybe the thrill stems from that having a bit of a buzz in a place with Disney characters around, with that which we associate with innocence made slightly illicit.

(And they do have actual decent beers available; it's not like the swill one thinks of from years of what used to be all there was to get at sporting events.)

Ostensibly this visit was inspired by seeing the holiday decorations of Disneyland at the holidays, such as the Haunted Mansion redone for Nightmare Before Christmas (which we hadn't seen since 2004), and to check out the new Cars Land (opened after our previous visit). While we did enjoy that, what had us most excited beforehand was thinking of riding Midway Mania and having a beer.

I will say this: When we went over to the Disneyland side and had a corn dog while sitting on a bench along Main Street, we did admit that there's simply something more special about Disneyland that C.A. cannot touch. Perhaps it's decades of nostalgia, but whatever it is, only Disneyland has it. Had C.A. come first (in some alternate reality) it seems doubtful the park would be someplace we'd go multiple times a year, not having the same charm. But now, after years of merely being "that other park" California Adventure has finally emerged as an almost equal attraction for us. And on this particular Friday, it got the better of its older sibling.

However, I can say this: Three times in a year pretty well saturated us; whether we go back at all in 2013 may be questionable. We do have something of a life to get on with.

Perhaps one of these days we'll even have kids to take there.


Click here to see the photos of both parks I've posted over on the photo site.

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