My Disney Top 5 - Things I Need to See at Disneyland - Revisited

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. As always, I hope that you are all safe and healthy out there. I also hope that some of you lucky readers out there were able to make it to Disneyland this past week to celebrate its grand reopening. It's certainly a welcome sign of normalcy to see the gates of Disneyland open to its many adoring fans once again.

With this glorious event happening just a few days ago and keeping in mind that many Disney fans throughout the country and probably the world over are deeply wishing they could walk down Walt's original Main Street once again, I thought I'd go back and revisit an article I wrote 12 years ago here on MousePlanet. I'm not sure what is so shocking, that 12 years have passed since I wrote this, or that 12 years later something still hasn't changed and that's the first sentence to that article that I'm reprinting right now:

"Hi. My name is Chris, and I've never been to Disneyland!"

I made that grand, yet sad, statement way back then and I hate to say it but I can only slightly amend it years later by adding the word "still." That's right. I still haven't been to Disneyland. Once I wrote that line I then wrote the next few:

What sort of Disney fan am I? How dare I write for a site like MousePlanet, a site based out of California no less? Who do I think I am?

Well, let me answer those questions.

  • I'm a huge Disney fan.
  • I dare to write for MousePlanet because they let me and I enjoy writing for MousePlanet.
  • I think I'm just a guy who hasn't made it all the way out to Anaheim yet.

My answers to those questions would still be the same to this day. I'm still a huge Disney fan. I still write for this wonderful site because they let me and I love writing for you readers. And, plain and simple, I am just a guy who hasn't made it all the way out to Anaheim yet. Let's face it, it's a whole lot easier to fly to Orlando from New York. It's relatively easy for me to get my Disney fix there in just a few hours, so that's where I've spent all of my Disney loving time.

The last time I was even in the state of California was 1993. I spent a week in August in the Bay Area working on a shoot for the AMC cable network. I did squeeze in some Napa wineries, a drive down to Santa Cruz to watch some real west coast surfers at the famous Steamer Lane surf break and managed to catch three nights of Grateful Dead shows at the Shoreline Amphitheater. So I definitely made the best of my time out there, but there was no time to head south to Disneyland and, sad to say, I haven't been back to the Golden State since. It's kind of hard to believe that I've been involved with the TV and Film business in one way or another since graduating college 30 years ago and I never managed to find my way to Hollywood, never mind Disneyland.

So with Disneyland reopening and two doses of vaccine in my arm am I planning a Disneyland pilgrimage anytime soon? Well…no, not really. My sights are set on heading back to my home turf in Walt Disney World first, hopefully in the fall with all of my crazy, amazing MousePlanet compatriots in tow. But that doesn't mean I don't want to get out there to the original Magic Kingdom one day soon. I have to. I need to. I do need to walk in Walt's actual footsteps through the park that made his dreams come true. So, as some of you out there are finally getting back into Disneyland, after more than a year away, I'm looking back to this 2009 article and seeing if all my Disney wants and desires are still the same. Let's revisit the Top 5 Things I Need to See at Disneyland.

5. New Orleans Square

I can't wait to turn into New Orleans Square and see this unique-to-Anaheim "land." New Orleans is another city on my list of places to see, and I'm sure Disney's version is a bit sanitized. Still, the architecture, the music and the atmosphere really appeal to me, not to mention that two of my favorite attractions will be there waiting for me. That leads me into my next choice.


Disneyland's New Orleans Square is calling to me. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Before I get to that next choice, the answer is yes, New Orleans Square is still one of my top choices of things to see when I finally get to Disneyland. I think I put this on the list because it's just completely unique to Anaheim and that makes it really special. 12 years later I still haven't been to New Orleans, but the city still has an appeal to me. My wife has been there on business and says that my love of music, architecture and great cuisine makes it a natural visit for me. I hope I get to Disneyland's romanticized version first though. It'll definitely be one of my first stops when I get out there.

4. Pirates of The Caribbean

Adventureland may be my favorite "land" in Florida's Magic Kingdom and Pirates, my favorite ride. I love the films. I've read the books. I'm regularly playing the online game. But, from everything I've read and been told, I haven't experienced the "greatest amusement park attraction of all time" until I ride the Disneyland version. Much longer, more elaborate, the ride through the bayou, not one but two drops, what else can I say? I won't be a complete Pirates fan until I experience it.


Someday I'll be headed to Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean. Photo by Todd Pickering.

This choice absolutely hasn't changed. I love the Walt Disney World version of Pirates. I've loved the movies, even the last two that have gotten some mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. I was regularly playing the online game back then but that has since ceased to exist. To me, it's all just good fun and I appreciate all of the work and detail that has gone into the Pirates attractions. I love the sets, the props, the abundant animatronics, the music and the whole feel of Pirates of the Caribbean when I'm in Orlando so I still expect to feel all of that and even more so once I see the original in Disneyland.

3. The Matterhorn Bobsleds

After conquering every mountain in Florida, once all four in a matter of a couple of hours, I'm ready for Walt's original mountain, the Matterhorn. Add on top of that the fact that roller coasters, in general, are my favorite rides. Any roller coaster will do. From the wildest, fastest, looping, scream-inducing beasts all the way down to the simplest "wild mouse" to the rickety old wooden dinosaurs, nothing beats a roller coaster. Can I really call myself a roller coaster fan if I haven't ridden this groundbreaking classic? The first tubular steel track roller coaster ever built, the original Disney Yeti, the splash down pools that serve as brakes; I can't wait.


The Matterhorn towering over Disneyland. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

12 years later, my enthusiasm for roller coasters hasn't dwindled one bit and I can't imagine that's ever going to change. So, yes, I still can't wait to ride Disneyland's Matterhorn in Anaheim.

2. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

I never got to ride on the submarines in Orlando, so this will be a whole new Disney ride experience for me. I've watched a fan produced ride-through video of the newest incarnation of Walt's submarine fleet and I'm ready to board. It's the ride that I'm waiting for most. Why? They're submarines…and I get to go in one…and it's not a museum; it's going to move, and it's going to "submerge." Forgive me as I instantly turn into a five-year-old version of myself, clutching my Corgi Yellow Submarine toy and wondering, "Why haven't my parents taken me to Disneyland yet?" I'm heading here first.


The Finding Nemo subs and the Matterhorn in one beautiful shot at Disneyland. MousePlanet File Photo.

I gotta say, I wish I still had that Corgi Yellow Submarine toy right now! I know the subs aren't open right now but I can't wait to ride them. I love Finding Nemo and this attraction combines that film with classic Disney, classic Walt visionary storytelling and creativity and it's still the number one Disney attraction that I still haven't been on that I'm dying to experience. Will I be overwhelmed or underwhelmed? Who cares? As long as I get on one of Walt Disney's subs one day, I'll be just fine.

1. The Lamp in Walt's Apartment

This is really what it's all about for me. I need to go to Disneyland for one simple reason, because Walt was there. He walked Disneyland's streets and byways. He waited in line with guests. He drove the Main Street Vehicles. He worked on the attractions there, forever imparting his impeccable touch on them. Walt famously said to us, "Disneyland is your land." In my eyes though, Disneyland was Walt's land. Walt dreamed about Walt Disney World and EPCOT, but he lived his dreams at Disneyland. For just over 10 years, the last years of his life, Walt had his home away from home in Anaheim. It's well known that when Walt was staying in his apartment above the Main Street Firehouse, he would put a lamp on in the window. That lamp burns everyday in Disneyland, signifying Walt's constant presence in his own personal magic kingdom. I need to see that and to feel that presence that you can't truly feel in any other Disney park in the world. I won't be a complete Disney fan until I see and feel that.


Walt is always home. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

My top choice rings true 12 years after I wrote it and I can't imagine once I finally do get to Disneyland that I'm going to be disappointed. I know it's just a light, but in reality, we Disney fans all know that it's so much more than that. When I'm at Walt Disney World, I can feel Walt's presence even though he was only there when it was still swampland. I can't imagine being at Disneyland and knowing that Walt was actually there, that at any given moment I could be walking in his footsteps. I know Disneyland is much smaller than Walt Disney World and that Harbor Boulevard is about 50 yards away from Space Mountain. I've heard and read all of the comparisons. Even legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter said something to the extent of, "Disneyland is charming but Walt Disney World is spectacular." That may all be true, but we Walt Disney World fanatics are missing that actual, deep and personal connection to the old man himself. Walt loved his Disneyland, and when I do finally get there, I'm going to love it too. Of that I'm sure.

It has to be mentioned that shortly after this article ran on MousePlanet back in 2009 I was privileged to receive an email response from none other than Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller. It was brief. She said that she had read my article about me wanting to go to Disneyland. She loved my top choice and she said that she was thrilled to see that people felt so strongly about her father after all these years. As if any of us had forgotten about him! The thrill was all mine.

That's all for this Top 5. I'll get back to counting down each and every Walt Disney World attraction in my next Top 5. We left off with Figment in Epcot and we'll be blasting off on Mission: Space later on this month. As usual, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below and let me hear your thoughts. Stay safe and I'll see next time with another Disney Top 5.

 

Comments

  1. By foxtwin

    New Orleans Square is better than you imagine - I spent so much time there I kinda missed a little time in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland so watch your time.

    When you're there, 5 words: bread bowl, monte cristo sandwich



    ~`` todd

  2. By danyoung

    A perfect article - I agree with every choice!

  3. By Dave1313

    I can't disagree with any of those, but I might add a few if you consider expanding a little more to maybe a "top ten".

    6) I always thought the Storybook Land area was very nicely done. The Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train are of course not big thrill type rides, but to me they are classic Disney Park attractions. I'd have to guess there might be a story out there somewhere as to why they didn't recreate those in FL, but if there is, I don't know the reasons.

    7) Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes. There is nothing quite as cool/unique as paddling a real canoe around Tom Sawyer Island with a bunch of other guests and the skilled cast members that somehow get us all to work well enough to make the loop successfully. Looking it up just now, it looks like WDW had these from opening day until 1994, but I didn't visit until years later, so I never got to do this in FL.

    8) I'd probably add one or two more of the "not in WDW" attractions. Alice in Wonderland for one. Not that it's a big thrill or anything, but the travel of the vehicle in the third dimension gives it a bit of variety from other dark rides, IMO. (Peter Pan excluded, of course, the hanging ships you ride in on both coasts are plenty unique enough in their own right, as evidenced by the continuous high demand/long lines all these years later). Alice is not as cool as the Subs, so I agree those are higher in the list, but it's still cool.

    9) Fantasmic in DL. To me the design of the show in DL is far more impressive than that in WDW. When they first imagined this show and designed it as essentially a major "Plussing" of the existing Rivers of America /Tom Sawyer Island area, to me that was a huge win. Though it is of course a challenge also due to the viewing area being along the edge of the ROA, but it's still a HUGE win, in my eyes. The larger scale of the full size Ships used during the show is also a major "cool" factor. True it's not as comfortable as the stadium they built for the show at DHS, and it adds a bit of chaos, but I still would make sure to do this when you do get out there someday.

    10) As to food... I vote for Bengal Barbecue skewers. Those are possibly my favorite counter service food in DL. Really wish they someday find a way to bring these to WDW.

  4. By carolinakid

    I loved your list but for me the Finding Nemo subs are a once and done attraction. I wasn’t a fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at MK either. There are other attractions at DL that are so much better.

  5. By maxbuffmelvin71

    I’ve been to DL almost every other year since 2012 and I recommend it to all WDW fans to give it a shot. Some of my comments are based on being a WDW veteran.

    5. New Orleans Square. NOS is nice. It reminds me of walking through a World Showcase country in EPCOT with the unique dining, shops, and architecture.
    4. Pirates. I agree the DL version is better except I prefer the WDW’s Spanish fort queue over DL’s queue.
    3. Matterhorn. Nice rollercoaster. It reminds me of a tamed Expedition Everest.
    2. Submarines. I only do this when there is no wait. I preferred the 20K ride at WDW. I like the Finding Nemo movies but I am not a fan of their attraction overlays in Submarine Voyage or the Living Seas.
    1. The Lamp in Walt's Apartment. I agree with you on Walt. It is one of the reasons I also love Enchanted Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, Railroad, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the Golden Horseshoe.

    Whenever DL lifts the CA residency requirements, here are my Top 5 things I need to see at DL:
    1. Splash Mountain – my favorite ride at DL just like WDW. It has some unique characteristics different from WDW such as a jazzy soundtrack. Also, as a big fan of Disney Parks history, it's nice to see the critters from former America Sings attraction.
    2. Mr. Toad – I love the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad movie plus I loved this ride as a kid at WDW.
    3. Sleeping Beauty Castle – Although small in comparison to Cinderella Castle at WDW, I am always in awe of this castle.
    4. Pirates.
    5. Big Thunder Mountain – similar opinion to Splash Mountain. It's my favorite rollercoaster at both WDW and DL and the DL version is unique to the WDW version because it has remnants of the former Natures Wonderland attraction.

    Honorable mention: Visiting the following nice attractions only at DL: Pinocchio, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Storybook Canals, Casey Jr., Indiana Jones, and Roger Rabbit Spin

  6. By wdwchuck

    Yes, I used to live in the Pacific Northwest and Disneyland was much easier to get to than the 5.5 hour flight to Orlando. But after the first trip to WDW there was no going back. I tried to think of some kind of comparison but there is none.
    They are not even in the same league. So now that I live in the gator state, no reason at all to even think about going back to Disneyland.

  7. By Mickey021

    Sadly Chris, you will be taunted until you make it out there:-) I'm thinking Mouseplanet meet out west in 2022:-)

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by foxtwin View Post
    New Orleans Square is better than you imagine - I spent so much time there I kinda missed a little time in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland so watch your time.

    When you're there, 5 words: bread bowl, monte cristo sandwich



    ~`` todd

    Those are 5 awesome sounding words.

  9. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    A perfect article - I agree with every choice!

    ...and that's saying something!

  10. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    I can't disagree with any of those, but I might add a few if you consider expanding a little more to maybe a "top ten".

    6) I always thought the Storybook Land area was very nicely done. The Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train are of course not big thrill type rides, but to me they are classic Disney Park attractions. I'd have to guess there might be a story out there somewhere as to why they didn't recreate those in FL, but if there is, I don't know the reasons.

    7) Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes. There is nothing quite as cool/unique as paddling a real canoe around Tom Sawyer Island with a bunch of other guests and the skilled cast members that somehow get us all to work well enough to make the loop successfully. Looking it up just now, it looks like WDW had these from opening day until 1994, but I didn't visit until years later, so I never got to do this in FL.

    8) I'd probably add one or two more of the "not in WDW" attractions. Alice in Wonderland for one. Not that it's a big thrill or anything, but the travel of the vehicle in the third dimension gives it a bit of variety from other dark rides, IMO. (Peter Pan excluded, of course, the hanging ships you ride in on both coasts are plenty unique enough in their own right, as evidenced by the continuous high demand/long lines all these years later). Alice is not as cool as the Subs, so I agree those are higher in the list, but it's still cool.

    9) Fantasmic in DL. To me the design of the show in DL is far more impressive than that in WDW. When they first imagined this show and designed it as essentially a major "Plussing" of the existing Rivers of America /Tom Sawyer Island area, to me that was a huge win. Though it is of course a challenge also due to the viewing area being along the edge of the ROA, but it's still a HUGE win, in my eyes. The larger scale of the full size Ships used during the show is also a major "cool" factor. True it's not as comfortable as the stadium they built for the show at DHS, and it adds a bit of chaos, but I still would make sure to do this when you do get out there someday.

    10) As to food... I vote for Bengal Barbecue skewers. Those are possibly my favorite counter service food in DL. Really wish they someday find a way to bring these to WDW.

    Each of one of those were in my initial list and then got whittled down. Even the skewers because we made them on one of our cooking shows on the MousePlanet Fun at Home shows.

  11. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by carolinakid View Post
    I loved your list but for me the Finding Nemo subs are a once and done attraction. I wasn’t a fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at MK either. There are other attractions at DL that are so much better.

    I think I'd be happy with once and done!

  12. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by maxbuffmelvin71 View Post
    I’ve been to DL almost every other year since 2012 and I recommend it to all WDW fans to give it a shot. Some of my comments are based on being a WDW veteran.

    5. New Orleans Square. NOS is nice. It reminds me of walking through a World Showcase country in EPCOT with the unique dining, shops, and architecture.
    4. Pirates. I agree the DL version is better except I prefer the WDW’s Spanish fort queue over DL’s queue.
    3. Matterhorn. Nice rollercoaster. It reminds me of a tamed Expedition Everest.
    2. Submarines. I only do this when there is no wait. I preferred the 20K ride at WDW. I like the Finding Nemo movies but I am not a fan of their attraction overlays in Submarine Voyage or the Living Seas.
    1. The Lamp in Walt's Apartment. I agree with you on Walt. It is one of the reasons I also love Enchanted Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, Railroad, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the Golden Horseshoe.

    Whenever DL lifts the CA residency requirements, here are my Top 5 things I need to see at DL:
    1. Splash Mountain – my favorite ride at DL just like WDW. It has some unique characteristics different from WDW such as a jazzy soundtrack. Also, as a big fan of Disney Parks history, it's nice to see the critters from former America Sings attraction.
    2. Mr. Toad – I love the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad movie plus I loved this ride as a kid at WDW.
    3. Sleeping Beauty Castle – Although small in comparison to Cinderella Castle at WDW, I am always in awe of this castle.
    4. Pirates.
    5. Big Thunder Mountain – similar opinion to Splash Mountain. It's my favorite rollercoaster at both WDW and DL and the DL version is unique to the WDW version because it has remnants of the former Natures Wonderland attraction.

    Honorable mention: Visiting the following nice attractions only at DL: Pinocchio, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Storybook Canals, Casey Jr., Indiana Jones, and Roger Rabbit Spin

    Great response. Makes me realize how much more I want to see!!

  13. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by wdwchuck View Post
    Yes, I used to live in the Pacific Northwest and Disneyland was much easier to get to than the 5.5 hour flight to Orlando. But after the first trip to WDW there was no going back. I tried to think of some kind of comparison but there is none.
    They are not even in the same league. So now that I live in the gator state, no reason at all to even think about going back to Disneyland.

    Good for you! Nice relocation.

  14. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Mickey021 View Post
    Sadly Chris, you will be taunted until you make it out there:-) I'm thinking Mouseplanet meet out west in 2022:-)

    I humbly accept the taunting. Todd hasn't been to Galaxy's Edge though....

  15. By Mickey021

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    I humbly accept the taunting. Todd hasn't been to Galaxy's Edge though....

    That is very true, and in some ways that's worse:-)

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