Jul 272009

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! — Jiminy Cricket

Do you have a Disney dilemma? Are you wondering about a certain attraction? Are you curious about a resort or a cruise? Give us a little whistle and we’ll help you sort out how to handle it. Questions should be sent to whistle@magically-speaking.com

If you really want to escape the Orlando rain…how about a trip to Disneyland? Here’s a special Disneyland edition of “Give a Little Whistle.”

Q. We have been vacationing to Disney World and Florida for a number of years, and now are looking at a trip to Disneyland. We usually go to Orlando for a week. How long would you recommend for a Disneyland visit? And are there other things in that area that would be foolish to miss?

A. We’re so happy that you’ll get to experience Walt’s original park. Disney World is absolutely massive in comparison to Disneyland Resort, but we think that Disneyland offers a uniquely charming, detailed, and more easily walkable experience!

How long you spend at the Disneyland Resort depends partly on the time of year you’ll be visiting. As with any theme park, if you visit during a less busy time, you’ll be able to ride more attractions in a limited amount of time. However, the park hours are reduced at non-peak times of the year (and might not feature fireworks shows or nighttime parades), so it really depends on what you want to experience.

In general, we’d recommend at least two full days for Disneyland Park and at least one full day for California Adventure — but if you want to take your time, and stop to notice the details and theming that make Disneyland so pleasant, you’ll want to give yourself more time. Especially if you’re traveling during a busy season (winter holidays, summertime, spring break months of March and April, or holiday weekends), you’ll want an extra cushion so you can leave the parks in the afternoon when it gets crowded and return in the evening. If you’re staying onsite at the Arts and Crafts-themed Grand Californian Hotel, you’ll want plenty of time to relax and enjoy the restaurants, spa, pool, or even take a guided tour of the hotel.

Speaking of tours, if you want to really celebrate Disneyland’s uniqueness in being the only Disney park that Walt personally visited (and lived in!), give yourself an extra half-day for a Walk in Walt’s Footsteps guided tour (for more info: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/parks/tours/detail?name=WalkInWaltsFootstepsTourPage).

If you’re still up for more touring after a few days at the Disneyland Resort, Southern California offers tons of entertainment options — depending on how far you’re willing to travel. You can’t get an attraction much closer to Disneyland than Angel Stadium, however. The close-by Knott’s Berry Farm offers more amusements, although its claim as America’s first theme park is definitely arguable.

If you want to get more out and about, many great beaches, shopping plazas, and golf courses would provide entertainment, but also consider the Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles (including the Getty Center, museums, Griffith Observatory and Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn at Griffith Park, the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall), Hollywood (and Universal Studios Hollywood), San Diego (and the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park), and LegoLand — they’re all within 100 miles of Disneyland.

If you go for this kind of sightseeing, you may also get to experience authentic Southern California traffic! Plan for major delays if you’re traveling at peak commute times…or better yet, travel at off-peak times of the day or night. (Our best drive times to Anaheim always seem to happen when we plan to pass through LA around midnight!)

Whether you visit only the Disneyland Resort, or expand your trip to include more of Southern California, we hope you have an absolutely magical time. Here’s a list of attractions from the Disneyland website, to help you explore your options: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/moreMagic/landing?name=SouthernCaliforniaLandingPage.

Q. We’re WDW vets planning our first trip to Disneyland. We have a pretty good sense of the table-service restaurants there, but wondered if you could give us more information on the counter-service options at both parks. Thanks!

A. Magically Speaking’s staff members have been hotly debating what exactly “counter service” entails, and it’s been quite the controversy! For our purposes, we’re going to consider “counter service” to mean any restaurant where you sit down to eat but don’t have a waiter serve your meal. Here are some favorites:

Disneyland Park

New Orleans Square
The French Market Restaurant offers Cajun-Creole dishes, but our personal affection for this spot has really been earned by the lively bands that perform on its outdoor “Dixieland” stage.

To a certain Magically Speaking editor, no visit to Disneyland is complete without at least one (or five) mint juleps from the nearby Mint Julep Bar.

Critter Country
The Hungry Bear offers typical theme park fare, such as burgers and fries, but makes up for its so-so food with tons of seating over its two floors, shade, and tables actually on top of the Rivers of America. If you want a close-up view of the Mark Twain or Columbia traveling the waters, this is a great spot.

Rancho del Zocalo is a Mexican restaurant offering a decent selection of food, but it seems even nicer when you eat outside under its lovely lanterns. However, we get the biggest kick out of a visit because we always refer to it by its hilarious original name: Casa de Fritos (yes, as in the corn chips)!

For dessert (or a meal — hey, you’re on vacation) order a Dole Whip float and a fresh pineapple spear from the Tiki Juice Bar at the Enchanted Tiki Room (and stay for the show, that, thankfully, is under its original management!).

Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port has huge portions of Italian food (and salads), plus retro Disneyland attraction posters. That makes for a good dining choice for us.

California Adventure

Golden State
The Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill is our personal favorite counter-service restaurant in California Adventure, and it was just expanded to include over twice as many service counters. The food is fresh and fast — and you can get alcohol, too! (Just make sure you go on California Screamin’ before you have a margarita from the nearby Rita’s Baja Blenders.)

Then again, the Pacific Wharf Café might be our favorite, except the line can be outrageous! No one can resist soup in a fresh-baked sourdough breadbowl from the Boudin Bakery next door.

Paradise Pier
Pizza Oom Mow Mow’s name may be a tad ridiculous, but the restaurant is generally wait-free (perhaps because no one wants to go to a place called Pizza Oom Mow Mow?). Its menu is nearly identical to Disneyland’s Pizza Port, but without the lines, and with the bonus of surf music.

Downtown Disney

Since the Disneyland Resort is so compact, you can easily head to Downtown Disney for a meal, too. Our favorites include the counter option at the La Brea Bakery (near the esplanade) and Napolini, the grab-and-go version of the sit-down restaurant next door, Naples.

The Disneyland Resort has a wide range of what “counter service” restaurants consist of, and the Disneyland parks’ websites categorize food options as “Fine Dining,” “Casual Dining,” “Quick Service,” and “Snacks,” although we think the categories are pretty debatable. To get a better sense of what the restaurants are like, we recommend visiting the official parks’ sites and clicking through (see links below).

For Disneyland: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/parks/listing?name=DisneylandParkDiningListingPage

For California Adventure: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/parks/listing?name=DisneysCaliforniaAdventureDiningListingPage

For Downtown Disney: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/moreMagic/listing?name=DowntownDisneyDiningListingPage.

Enjoy your trip, and your meals!

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