The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, is composed of several major properties:
Disneyland – The original theme park, which opened in the 1950s.
Disney California Adventure Park – A more conventional amusement park, opened in 2001, which is designed to give visitors a taste of “the California experience.”
Three hotels: Disneyland Hotel; Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa; and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.
Downtown Disney District – a shopping / dining / entertainment area adjacent to Disneyland.
For those who want an integrated vacation, staying at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels works well, but there are other hotels near Disneyland which offer great value, too. Unlike Walt Disney World in Florida, where you really must stay “on resort,” the non-Disney hotels are perfectly convenient and offer different amenities at different price points.
Disneyland’s 16 million annual visitors asked for and received more variety in restaurants, entertainment and shops when the Downtown Disney District opened in 2001. The effect has been that travelers tend to extend their stays in Disneyland Resort and, because Downtown Disney is open to the public with no admission charge, it’s also an appealing dining and entertainment destination for local Orange County and SoCal residents. Presently, Downtown Disney parking is also free of charge for the first three hours (or the first five hours with validation), but on very popular days (e.g., July 4 and New Year’s Eve) an automatic parking fee is collected when you enter the lot.
The Disney Parks
Of course, the reason there’s a resort here at all is because of Disneyland Park. Known simply as “Disneyland” when it opened in 1955, it was the first park of its type and still fascinates people the world over. Disney’s imagineers have a way of taking a popular story, like the Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion and making a ride or a show that expands and explores that theme. The Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain and the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage are always popular, as are speedy trips around Splash Mountain, the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. A perennial favorite is It’s a Small World.
But Disneyland isn’t just rides – it’s the special ambiance: Having the Disney characters walking around, giving autographs; having the vintage cars and parades on Main Street; and, having every shopkeeper, waiter, policeman and other member of the “cast” know they are in show business, not just the service business.
Disney California Adventure Park is organized around four main areas: Golden State pays homage to the wonderous natural beauty of California; Paradise Pier resembles a Victorian-era boardwalk and beach; Hollywood Land (formerly Hollywood Pictures Backlot) celebrates the film industry with many special shows; and A Bug’s Land shows the world from the point of view of a bug. Changes that are still in process at the time of this writing are a new Buena Vista Street entrance and Cars Land (expected to open in 2012).
As you can see, Disneyland Resort is a world unto itself, of sorts, where you can, indeed, spend days on end, but there are also many other Orange County vacation ideas and Los Angeles tourist attractions that you may want to consider as you plan your southern California vacation, getaway or holiday. Just try not to have too much fun, okay?
Photo of Disney California Adventure Park at daybreak by Pot Noodle via flickr (Creative Commons) and photo “World of Color” show finale from hotel balcony by HarshLight via flickr (Creative Commons).
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