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My First Disneyland Resort Experience

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. The trip was a great deal of fun – I heard updates on New Fantasyland, saw an amazing rendering of Shanghai Disneyland’s Enchanted Storybook Castle, and oh yeah, visited Disneyland park for the first time.

I grew up vacationing at the Walt Disney World Resort and have been lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris twice, but I’d never been to the Disneyland Resort, so I jumped at the chance to attend this year’s D23 Expo.

I promised my team I’d share some of my first-trip highlights with all of you, so as we like to say at Disney Parks, “Let the Memories Begin!”

Jen in Front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park

  1. Visiting Disneyland Park – Each Disney park is uniquely wonderful in its own way, but in this case, there’s just something about being at the first park, the one that Walt Disney himself introduced to the world and forever changed the way many of us vacation, imagine and dream. I had the best time just strolling through the park, enjoying the attractions Walt would’ve seen, and trying to pick out buildings that looked familiar from park’s opening-day broadcast.

Jen on the Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction at Disneyland Park

  1. Experiencing the original Pirates of the Caribbean – I was lucky enough to try out several of the park’s classic attractions on this trip, including The Haunted Mansion, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, “it’s a small world” and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but I just fell in love with this version of Pirates. It starts out a bit differently, with a gentle coast through the Blue Bayou, then a drop underground through caverns brimming with pirate treasure. A second plunge brings you to the scenes that Magic Kingdom Park fans would recognize – pirate ships, blasting canons, the bride auction, and of course, Captain Jack.

Jen in Club 33 at Disneyland Park

  1. Hosting a live-chat from Club 33 – Last Thursday night, my fellow authors, Thomas Smith, Jim Ames, Erin Glover and I were very fortunate to do a live tweet from Disneyland park’s Club 33. While I was amazed with every aspect of this unforgettable dining experience, I was equally pleased to see our messages get retweeted in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. (I think the photo above was the only time my hands weren’t on a computer).

'World of Color' at Disney California Adventure Park

  1. Attending “World of Color” – On the last night of our trip, Thomas and I were able to break away from the D23 Expo for a viewing of “World of Color” at Disney California Adventure park. As you can see from the photo above, it was simply amazing! And Mickey’s Fun Wheel makes one heck of a background to the show.

Dessert at Napa Rose in the Disneyland Resort

  1. Gaining at least five pounds – I have to admit I’m a quite a foodie, so when Disney Parks Blog Food Author Pam Brandon sent me a list of must-try restaurants for my first trip, I was up for the challenge – to hit all of them! Pam sent me on a true tour through culinary destinations big and small that ranged from Corndog Castle (best crispy corndogs ever, according to Pam), to Napa Rose (best wine selection), Blue Bayou (best New Orleans-style chow), and beyond.


  • I like to think of DLR and WDW like filet mignon and lobster or a hot fudge sundae and chocolate cream pie– they’re both excellent in their own right, it just depends on what you’re in the mood for! ºoº

  • I was at club 33 on wednesday night, best food around Disneyland, even Napa Rose !!! The atmosphere is awesome!

  • Love to see a WDW native’s perspective on Disneyland. I have been to Disney World countless times, living only two hours away, but have never had the opportunity to visit the original. I really wanted to go this summer, but unfortunately, could not.

    I know a lot of people say Disneyland is better because it’s the first and designed by Walt himself, but I think Walt Disney World has so many qualities that the DL doesn’t have, and that we take for granted.

    Anyway, love the post! Makes me want to visit as soon as possible. (;

  • Growing up in California, I grew to really appreciate the DL park as Walt’s original vision and will always be partial to it. My fondest memories growing up are of running around the park with my best friend. Now that I’m a mom, myself, my kids have been fortunate to visit both DL and WDW. We’ve grown to love and appreciate the differences and look forward to any chance we get to run ANY of the disney parks!!

  • You should change your blog photo with the one of you in front of Sleeping Beauty castle. Great pic!

  • I hope I’ll be able to visit Disneyland someday. Since I live in Montreal Canada, we’re used to fly down to Orlando, but not California. A quick question Jennifer, aur you the one who took the picture of the Pirates above? If so, how did you manage to take a shot so bright? Mines are always too dark and blurry, even with a fast speed setting.

    • Nope…that was taken by our PR team. I wanted to relax and enjoy the attraction and not have to worry about taking pics.

  • Jen, wait till you visit Tokyo Disneyland, you will be even more disoriented!

  • Why are people from California so defensive about Disneyland? It is a magical place and so is WDW. I wonder what they would fall back on if Walt had lived long enough to open WDW. It’s like trying to pick a favorite child.

  • So glad you got to see the original Disneyland. I’m quite partial to it, it being the original and me being a southern Californian and all.
    I’ve only been to WDW once and Disneyland Paris once. I hope to go back to each again.
    Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  • So, did you rebook a trip to Disneyland when you returned home? Ha!
    I love the Matterhorn, Nemo subs, and Disneyland’s Space Mt rules over WDW’s…

    • Seriously, I can’t wait to take my son and husband! It’s so convenient with the resorts within walking distance, too!!

  • I really enjoyed reading over all the comments to this post. I have yet to visit Disneyland – we always head out to the Magic Kingdom, with another trip coming up in just a few weeks! 🙂 – so reading about other first time experiences at Disneyland Resort has been quite amusing. Eric, you are hilarious! You actually made me laugh out loud.

  • Now Jennifer, where you able to go to sleep that night or were you to excited?

    • Because of the time change (and packing the parks into my schedule after D23 Expo fun) I was quite worn out each night.

  • I went to Disneyland when I was 6 and dont remember too much of it. I do remember however The Casey Jr. Circus Train I loved that ride and the song I was very much into trains then. I wish they would make an actual casey ride in new fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. I’m always at Disney world now because there is so much to do.

  • What you really missed are the face characters at Disneyland – especially Alice, Mad Hatter, Peter Pan, and Wendy.

  • Dean–
    I have to agree with you! 🙂

  • I agree with Dean, Disneyland is the best resort of them all, because it’s the orginal.

  • Know what you mean, I’m an East coaster who didn’t make his first “serious” exploratory visit to DLR/DCA until a few years ago.

    The main points of disorientation for WDW vets:
    1) You’re in a CITY: I’m used to traveling through twenty minutes of Florida wilderness to get to a WDW resort, but in Anaheim, you’re on a downtown street…With MOUNTAINS in it. You cross a street and walk straight into the ticket/front court, and it’s like you’ve taken a teleportal from International Drive to the TTC. You turn around from Main St. train station expecting to see a lake, and see DCA instead!
    2) The Castle’s “smaller”; Sleeping Beauty’s castle doesn’t have as many high towers as Cindy’s, and…gee, it always looked bigger on Walt’s TV show! 😉
    3) The layout’s different: Even for those who thought everything past Main Street was the “same” and they could both parks blindfolded, you suddenly find yourself making wrong turns–WDW doesn’t have winding side paths by the Matterhorn, and DLR doesn’t have a Liberty Square. I caught myself trying to cut over from Frontierland to Fantasyland, and ran dead-end into Big Thunder…Who put that there? 🙂

    • I wondered which castle I’d like better…Cinderella Castle (here) is so majestic and tall, but Sleeping Beauty Castle is very pretty and detailed.

      Totally agree with you on the layout. I haven’t used a park map in YEARS. I totally felt like a theme park newbie again!

  • You’d think you’d gain, but as I learned at WDW, I walked around soooo much that I actually dropped a few pounds in spite of eating amazing food on the deluxe dining plan.

  • Coming from someone who visits Disneyland Resort every 1-2 weeks, it’s refreshing to hear a persons first reaction and observations about something we locals take for granted.

    I can’t remember the last time I really observed and appreciated the calm beginnings to ‘Pirates’, but I will now 🙂

    On the West Coast we’re always jealous of the Disney parks you’ve got in Florida, but maybe we should try to appreciate that we’ve got the original version!

    • Thanks! I was amazed to see some of the differences. I knew the castles were vastly different, but to me, Main Street was as well. I enjoyed checking out the differences in fascades and the shops inside.

  • Awsome!!! I personally think that Disneyland is the best Resort out of all of them.

  • Thanks for the post Jennifer!

    Its awesome that you were able to visit the Disneyland Resort.

    Yes, Disneyland is a very special place, being Walt’s original park and all.

    Its also awesome that you were able to visit Club 33!

    • We got VERY lucky there. I’m so happy we could share it with our @disneyparks Twitter followers.

  • Looks like you had a magical time! Like you, I had grown up visiting Walt Disney World. I’ve also been lucky enough to go to DLP, but it was only recently that I discovered Walt’s original idea. And I have to say, “World of Color” was the highlight of the trip! Hope you had fun at D23.

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