Where: Outside Soarin' Over California at Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, California
When: Sept. 6, 2009 (they let you in for free on your birthday, you know)
Disneyland or California Adventure? Tough one. Disneyland is more lively, but the soundtrack and attractions are better at California Adventure.
Disneyland has nothing to match Soarin' Over California, for example. Have you done this? It's a simulated hang-glider ride over California's highlights - Yosemite, orange groves in Camarillo, the coast, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Diego, a bunch of other places. It's spectacular - the illusion of speed, the banked turns, even the smells (although those weren't as realistic this time as they were a few years ago). The best part of either park, if you ask me.
California Adventure also has California Screamin'. I've ridden just a few roller coasters, but I like this one a lot better than Space Mountain at Disneyland (and the Matterhorn? Don't make me laugh). It's fast and smooth and has a fun loop-de-loop. Problem is, the thing wrecks me. Turns my brain to mush and adds some discomfort that lingers even on relatively tame rides like Tower of Terror. Worth it, of course.
Those two rides alone make California Adventure worthwhile. And I enjoy the atmosphere - carnival-keyboard renditions of Beach Boys music, plus the original versions of songs from the '60s that I can still stand to hear (believe me, there are precious few of those). As we were leaving on Sunday, "California Dreamin'" started playing. Perfect.
Still, Disneyland has its charms. There are more visitors running around in costumes and all kinds of silly mouse ears, and things are closer together, so there's more energy. Pirates of the Caribbean is still more fun than any of those Johnny Depp movies, and for a legal psychedelic experience, it's hard to beat the updated "It's a Small World" (I do get sick of that song, though).
Luckily, we don't have to choose between Disneyland and California Adventure. They're only an hour and a half away, and Dani's birthday is coming up in a few months. I imagine we'll spend it at Disneyland. No need to twist my arm.
Images and text ©2005-2012 Mark A. Dodge Medlin