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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
|I can't possibly say everything I want to about DCA in one column. So today I will begin by providing a general overview of Disney's new Anaheim park. In upcoming columns, I will go into more detail about the attractions and other parenting concerns. |
So what do I think of the new park for families? That's not an easy question for me to answer. After attending the merchandise event last Friday and the Magic Kingdom Club preview day on Monday, my observations keep drawing me back to the same two questions:
"Who is DCA's target audience?" and "Is my family in it?"
At the panel discussion in the Hyperion Theater on Friday night, Marty Sklar made a comment that I really liked. He said that DCA was never intended to compete with Disneyland but to complement it. I have to say that I think that DCA does that. DCA is part amusement park (a term I associate with 'thrill' / carnival- like rides,) and part studio park. (See the sidebar right for more on this.)
If DCA is a c ompanion to not competition for Disneyland, I should be avoiding comparisons. However, the practical side of me cannot help but make comparisons between the two in light of one outstanding feature: the price tag. Currently, DCA's ticket price is set to be the same as Disneyland's.
Consulting the maps provided by both parks, I made some comparisons:
There are a couple of things to note about these numbers. First of all, the height restrictions at Disneyland are overall lower than those at DCA. Four of the eight restrictions at Disneyland are only 40" while seven of the eight at DCA are 42" or higher. Second of all, as for the restrictions on pregnant women, the reality is worse than the numbers convey.
While pregnant women cannot ride on 12% of the attractions there, the remaining 88% of attractions includes 27 rides and seven shows (not counting storytellings and assorted walk through attractions) that we can enjoy (33 total.) At DCA, the 62% of remaining attractions includes only two (yes, two!) rides and five movies or shows (seven total, again I'm not counting walk through attractions here.)
On Friday night, more than one (male) companion expressed concern that my comments about not being pregnant at DCA were getting to be annoying. Well, I spent a lot of time waiting at exits on Friday night. That said, pregnant women and families with young children should keep these numbers in mind when planning a trip to Disneyland and DCA.
There are a few attractions which children will enjoy, some more than others. DCA imported both "It's Tough to be a Bug!" and Muppets 3D from Walt Disney World. I previewed "Bug!" at the merchandise event and Kevin and I agreed that we would not be taking Matthew to see it. When something goes terribly wrong in that show, it gets pretty scary!
The Animation building in the Hollywood backlot is neat, but beware, there may be long waits to have your turn at the interactive displays. Other kid friendly attractions are part the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, Golden Dreams (see sidebar right) and the S.S. rustworthy. Unfortunately, the smoking area in Paradise Pier is located adjacent to one of the only real "children's" attractions in the area: King Triton's Carousel (which is technically a merry-go-round, but I guess carousel sounded better to park designers.) Superstar Limo is another ride without restrictions.
Like Disneyland, DCA has a Baby Care Center (BCC) staffed by some great cast members (CMs.) The DCA BCC has one major advantage to Disneyland's: designers included an adult restroom in the facility, thank goodness! However, the DCA BCC is noticeably smaller than its more luxurious neighbor on Main Street, U.S.A.
While I noticed that the changing tables Disney purchased for this center are a high-end brand of children's furniture, four of them are packed into the small changing area.
The one small potty offers little to no privacy. While this will not be a problem for most children of potty training age, I found the corner with the potty to be a bit tight and not well designed, in my opinion. The sink in this BCC is low enough for small ones to wash their hands easily.
One other BCC note: At Disneyland, the Lost Children's room is separate from the BCC, with its own CM assigned to work in that room. At DCA, lost children are kept in the lobby area of the BCC, by the CMs who are also assigned to work at BCC that day.
I found the changing tables in the public restrooms to be shorter than many of the tables in Disneyland's restrooms. The dispensers for the table towels are placed right in the center of each table, within grabbing reach of a reclining baby or toddler. Don't say I didn't warn you. Besides trying to change Matthew, I was trying to keep him from pulling every towel out of the dispenser.
Being the parenting lady and the potty lady, you expected me to report this type of information to you, right?
As for children's meals at DCA, the selection is interesting. On one hand, DCA restaurants offer more than the typical hot dogs, chicken nuggets and burgers. On the other hand, their menus seem more limited than typical restaurants. On Monday, we met a group of friends near the Boudin Bakery for lunch. There were three restaurants there: Pacific Wharf Cafe, Cocina Cucamonga, and Lucky Fortune Cookery. Of those, only two had any children's meals: Cocina Cucamonga and Lucky Fortune Cookery, and each location only offered one child's meal. Cocina Cucamonga had chicken taquitos ($4.99) and Lucky Fortune Cookery had an egg roll on a stick ($3.99). On that day, only Cocina Cucamonga was actually open.
A friend suggested I run up to the deli at the winery to get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Matthew. Well, that sandwich would have cost $4.25! With our fingers crossed, we bought the chicken taquitos and convinced Matthew that they were round chips (tunnel chips! What can I say, my kid loves trains.) I heard a man in line complain about the cost of the taquito meal. I pointed out to him that with the drink and chips included, it was a much better deal than the PB&J across the walkway.
So let's get down to the bottom line, shall we?
Back to my original two questions: Who is the target audience? and Is my family in it?
A friend of mine says that this park is for DINKs (Double Income No Kids) and teens. I'm going to amend that. I'm going to say that this park is for DINKs and families with teens or else "Orange County Teens." When I refer to DINKs, I think of professional adults who usually have more disposable incomes and whose schedules are more flexible than those of most parents.
The majority of the rides and attractions appeal to and / or are restricted to adults and taller children. There are a few rides and attractions that Matthew and I could enjoy even at one attraction specifically designed for the younger set, Redwood Creek Challenge, the tunnel slide which Matthew begged me to let him ride down had a 42" minimum so he could not ride it!
Higher priced restaurants such as Mondavi's Vi neyard Room and Wolfgang Puck's Avalon Cove, which offer wine, beer and cocktails, will attract adults with more disposable incomes.
Disney built DCA to encourage out-of-town visitors to spend more time at the Disneyland Resort. I think that DCA will achieve this goal. Many families with younger children will probably visit but I think that families with older children will especially appreciate this park.
For the local Annual Passholder market, DINKs will have the money to spend on annual passes as well as the nicer restaurants. Teens from local Orange County families who have more disposable income may purchase annual passports but those looking for economical thrill rides over theme amusement park rides will probably stick to Knott's Berry Farm and / or Magic Mountain.
As for the Krock family, we have decided not to upgrade our Annual Passports to include DCA. Matthew is too small to even ride most of the attractions and for at least six months, I'll be too pregnant to ride them! The finances of purchasing three annual passports this year plus the cost of food in a park in which food is a major attraction have priced us out of this market. We'll definitely visit again in the next year, but most likely when we can visit with a discounted passport.
I don't want to give the impression that I do not like this park. Here are some of the highlights on my list (notice they're not all family oriented.)
One of the truly unique to DCA attractions is "Golden Dreams." This is the movie featuring Whoopi Goldberg as Calafia and briefly tells the highlights in California history. Among the final scenes is my personal favorite: a wooden box, two bearded men who refer to each other as Steve and Woz, and a bite being taken from a big piece of red fruit. Even before the moving finale, I had decided that I liked this attraction. Of course, a current version of that wooden box showed up in the finale, too...
There are as many restaurants as there are attractions at DCA (compared to twice as many attractions as restaurants at Disneyland.) Among these restaurants are a few that I have not been able to try yet, but would definitely be interested in visiting in the future, most likely without my son in tow...
The first of these is "The Vineyard Room" sponsored by Mondavi. My husband and I are not exactly wine experts, but we do enjoy wine tasting at California wineries and we probably know more about wine than the "average Joe." Besides the regular menu items, the Vineyard Room offers a multi-course fixed menu dinner with appropriate wines to accompany each course, for $50 a person ($38 without the wine.) On a slightly more casual scale, I also have to try the Soap Opera Bistro some time, based on reports I've heard from others.
I was glad to see a variety of merchandise throughout the park. I remember the not so distant days when almost every store in Disneyland seemed to sell the same merchandise. I was glad to see that the different stores throughout DCA offered merchandise specifically themed to or selected for that area of the park.
And no, the other Adrienne did NOT pay me to say that, after all, I am on the Creative Advisory Council, too. Just because I'm the parenting Adrienne and we're watching our budget carefully doesn't mean I don't shop also, especially when there are toys, children's books and kids clothing to be found.
40"-- Jumpin' Jellyfish
Grizzly River Run
Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.
Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.
Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.
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