Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Theme Parking: A Trip To Legoland California

  • I can no longer recall how, but I came into possession of a Legoland California park map sometime in the last fifteen years. The old map is worn and creased, a souvenir from my unremembered benefactor's day at the park. I looked at it from time to time over the years and tried to imagine what the park would actually look like. But for as curious as I was, it was never that high on my list of vacation destinations.

  • At least, until I had a daughter.

  • My wife and I decided that we had waited long enough and it was time for a family vacation. Since we already held annual passes for the San Diego Zoo, it seemed prudent to plan a vacation around that area. My wife also loves the ocean, so that narrowed the options. And then, we remembered that Legoland is in that vicinity and our choice was settled. After a day in the zoo, we set out early Wednesday morning to explore this new-to-us theme park.

  • I had been warned long ago that Legoland is a park that pitches its attractions much younger than Disneyland. Still, I was still shocked at the number of rides that our daughter was too short to ride. Making a right hand turn from the entrance took us into what seems to be the newest section of the park. Several of the attractions we ran across required her to be at least forty inches tall.

  • Of course, a little exploration led us to rides more her size: a cute little airplane ride, a swinging pirate ship, a Dumbo-like flying plane ride. In the Adventure zone, we found Legoland's version of a light-gun dark ride, Lost Kingdom Adventure. Castle Hill held the Royal Joust, a kiddie ride on a Lego house. Our daughter enjoyed working out her energy in the Duplo play area. Our favorite area was probably Explorer Island, with the Safari Trek, Coastersaurus, and Fairy Trail Brook. Our daughter enjoyed the boat ride so much that she insisted that we ride it again the next day.

  • The best thing that stood out to me were the play areas built into a couple of the ride queues to entertain waiting children. It was nice to let our daughter play and build Lego while we waited for the line to move. If there was one idea I would import into the Disney park, it would be that.

  • On Thursday we visited the water park and aquarium, much to our girl's delight. Legoland was interesting. Not a place I intend to visit often, but I can see us returning in a few years' time to maybe revisit some of what we missed the first time.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Theme Parking: Four And A Half Ways To Improve Disneyland

  • Over in the Family section of The Orange County Register, staff writer Kedric Francis posted an article titled "10 ways to improve Disneyland". As I am a blogger and it is my nature to respond to articles like this when I have nothing else to write, let's examine the list and see how much of it makes sense.
  1. Streamline the entrance to the parks - Opening a no-bag line at bag check seems like a no-brainer. I can't imagine walking into Disneyland without a bag, but I suppose there are many who do. And while I don't think that the gates are that terrible of a wait, I'm sure I would use an annual passholder entrance were it available. Verdict: Yes
  2. Retire the “Song of the South” characters that populate Splash Mountain - It would be impossible for me to argue about where Song of the South belongs in the Disney pantheon. That the company has all but disowned the film certainly casts the characters' inclusion in the ride in a strange light. The greatest problem is what to replace it with. The article's suggestions of Up, Wall-E, and Marvel Comics seem ill advised as Splash Mountain sits squarely in Critter Country. Considering how popular the ride still is, it would be best left alone until a truly better option comes along. Verdict: No
  3. Add fast, casual breakfast options in the morning - We rarely get to Disneyland early enough to worry about breakfast in the park. The one time we did, we ended up at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café for croissants and muffins. It was fine, but we would have welcomed an option between the continental breakfast fare and a full restaurant meal. (Though had I the means and opportunity, I'd always breakfast at the Carnation Café.) Verdict: Yes
  4. Help provide easier public-transit access to the parks - I am so out of my league on this one, I don't even know where to begin. Verdict: Eh
  5. Go locavore - When a writer just has to make a list of ten items, this is the kind of thing that's likely to crop up. Only the fact that my daughter likes raisins keeps me from laughing the entire suggestion off. Verdict: Sure?
  6. Serve alcohol at Disneyland - First, that an article in the Family section is looking for more ways to get alcohol in the park is pretty funny. Second, it's hard for me to care that much since I don't really understand the fascination with alcohol anyway. I'm not some park purist who has to follow Walt's edict that alcohol sales be limited to Club 33. But I also don't see why people need to drink so badly. Verdict: Eh
  7. Expand early entry - Again, I don't have experience with early entry because we are never in the position to take advantage of it anyway. It sounds like a good deal already, so I don't quite know why it needs to be better. I suppose I'll take the author's word for it. Verdict: Eh
  8. Keep the Main Street bypass alley open at all times, but especially after parades and at closing time - Building bypass alleys behind Main Street seemed like a genius idea for curbing congestion during parades. But I've never actually found them open. I can't say for certain that I even know where to find them. We often find ourselves sneaking through the shops along the western side of the street just to avoid the crowds where we can. Disneyland should be more liberal in allowing their use. Verdict: Yes
  9. Let the characters speak - Really? You don't think that would be creepy as all get out? Would you even be able to hear the performer through the head? Again, this seems like a poorly considered addition to the list. Verdict: No
  10. It’s time to permanently park Autopia - We took our daughter on Autopia for the first time a couple months ago. She was finally tall enough to ride along with her mother. She had a blast, even though she was unable to drive herself. Autopia is a lot of fun and it is unique in the park. However, it takes up a crazy amount of land. If one takes into account Innoventions and the Submarine Voyage, Disney has enough room to open an entire Star Wars Land in the park. I would hate to see Autopia go, but it might be for the greater good. Verdict: Yes
  • So, four good suggestions and one that seems okay. What would you like to see improved at Disneyland?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Theme Parking: A Disney Princess In The Making

  • While driving to her day care last week, my daughter suddenly told me, "It was really great that we got to see Disney Junior." I should not have been as shocked as I was. She is growing up quite fast and constantly surprises me with how much she has learned and how fast. But here I was talking about one of my favorite topics, Disneyland, with my daughter. I decided to prod her a little to see just how much she remembered. I asked, "What was your favorite part?" She answered, "When Stuffy made all the bubbles in the sink." She was right; that was a lot of fun.

  • My wife and I have long been fans of Disneyland. We had annual passes for a few years until it was no longer feasible. But we never stopped loving the parks. When we had a child, I knew that I would want to share so much with her. I should have guessed that it would be Disneyland that caught her attention.

  • Disney is already a big part of her life. She loves watching Disney Junior in the evenings, especially Miles From Tomorrowland with its catchy theme song. We read Disney books before bed. And, of course, she is in love with the Disney Princesses.

  • Prior to her birth, her mother and I talked and planned about how we would encourage our daughter to find some aspiration other than "Princess". We bought books and toys and clothes that cover a variety of tastes. When she was old enough, we enrolled her in soccer and swimming classes. We did everything we could to expand her horizons. In spite all of that, she is a princess.

  • But, she is a princess in addition to everything else she is. She's a storyteller. She can climb and run and kick a ball. She loves her books. And she loves dresses and she loves pink. For as much as I worried, being a princess is not some terrible, anti-feminist affliction. It is just another facet of her life. So long as it makes her happy and doesn't cause any harm, she can be a princess for as long as she wants.

  • Theme Parking is a new category for posts related to my lifelong obsession with Disneyland.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Theme Parking: What Should Disney Do With One Billion Dollars? Ban Selfie Sticks!

  • If you didn't see my update to yesterday's post, it turns out that my predication of a selfie stick ban was exceptionally timely. Within hours of that post1, Disney announced a ban on all selfie sticks inside their American parks starting June 30 and on their international properties July 1.

  • Sorry to every selfie stick user who isn't a terrible person; the terrible people spoiled it for you. My wife and I already offer to take pictures of people awkwardly trying to selfie their families. If you find us in the park, we will be more than happy to do the same for you.

  • The other big news from yesterday was the announcement of a potential one billion dollar expansion of the Disneyland Resort and surroundings. Today, The Orange County Register posted an excellent breakdown of expansion options for the parks. It covers both intellectual properties they are likely to build on as well as areas of the property that are available for construction and remodeling. As packed as the Resort is, it is nice to know that the parks still have room to grow.

  • Because I get a kick out Disneyland maps, so here's a preview from that article:
  • Footnote 1: Four hours to be exact.

  • Theme Parking is a new category for posts related to my lifelong obsession with Disneyland.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Theme Parking: A Billion Dollar Expansion, Rising Prices.... and Selfie Sticks?

  • As I like to do with gaming news, I wanted to round up a few news items about Disneyland that may not deserve in individual post. Such is the power of the bullet point.

  • There is likely no better source for Disneyland News than The Orange County Register.1 Since the parks sit firmly within its jurisdiction, the newspaper has a vested interest in covering Disneyland as a local concern. So when news breaks, the Register's Disney section is likely to cover it first. Such was the case with the news today. Staff writers Art Marroquin and Joseph Pimentel revealed that Walt Disney Co. is considering a $1 billion dollar expansion to Disneyland and California Adventure. With construction beginning in 2017, those plans include new attractions, a new parking structure, and improvements to the surrounding city streets, but not a third park. However, those plans are contingent on Anaheim extending current tax exemptions on park admissions. Considering how much a billion dollars was able to improve California Adventure, I would love to see what more they can do for the resort.

  • Republished on the OC Register site, Drew Harwell's Washington Post story titled "How theme parks like Disney World left the middle class behind" examines the effects of rising prices have on what was once a park for everyone. I know that our family is only able to afford annual passes this year because we have restructured our finances to allow it. I understand that the value I place Disneyland is skewed, but I can't imagine how anyone can manage to take their family without considerable planning and savings. One only has to look at the massive crowds to know that high prices aren't keeping people away. But I wish there was something that could be done to let more people experience Disneyland affordably.

  • MousePlanet, my favorite blog for Disney park news, posted a follow up to their study of posted wait times at Walt Disney World, this time focusing on wait time at the Disneyland Resort. In comparison to its sister resort in Florida, wait times at Disneyland and California Adventure are a lot more accurate. Usually, actual wait times will be about 80% of the posted time, though shorter posted times seem to be underestimations. I'm a sucker for fun statistics like this.

  • Finally, The OC Register posted an article about a recent stoppage on the California Screamin' rollercoaster. The two hour stop was caused by a passenger extending a selfie stick while the ride was in progress.

  • Sigh.

  • I get that someone might have a narcissistic need to document their life for all of their Facebook or Instagram friends. I get that a specialized device might be helpful to make those photos seem slightly less unnatural. But what I don't get is this blatant disregard for the safety of their fellow park guests, if not their own safety. I don't know how many times I've heard warnings broadcast by cast members to parents who are too negligent to keep their children seated on what could be a dangerous ride. There are some rides that I have never experienced without at least one warning. Why do people have to be so stupid? Arrgh!

  • Anyway, watch here for the inevitable selfie stick ban.

  • UPDATE June 25, 2015, 11:00 PM:

    Remember when I said this?

  • Anyway, watch here for the inevitable selfie stick ban.
  • Well, that was fast:
  • Footnote 1: Actually, there probably is a better source for Disneyland news out there, but I haven't found it yet.

  • Theme Parking is a new category for posts related to my lifelong obsession with Disneyland.