May 11, 2013
Overlooked Attractions at Disneyland
With space at a premium and lines everywhere for the large attractions Disneyland is famous for, the smaller experiences are well worth exploring. Here are some of my favorites:
1- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Walt Disney loved America and was justifiably proud of its culture and achievements. Disneyland reflects the man's heart. At opening, Frontierland represented the pioneering spirit of the people and Main Street U.S.A. its heart. In the years before he died, Walt was able to see one of his heroes come to life, Abraham Lincoln. This Audio-Animatronic masterpiece debuted at the 1964 World's Fair, but made its way to Disneyland at closing. It's more effective than Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents found in the Magic Kingdom. There, guests are overwhelmed by the spectacle of all the presidents at the expense of the message and its power. Nowadays, as folks rush past its entrance on their way to Indiana Jones Adventure and Splash Mountain, Mr. Lincoln remains in quiet dignity, reflecting an old school Disneyland and its early charm.
2- The Hungry Bear Restaurant. OK, I do not always eat here, but there's that intangible aspect to this place that draws me back repeatedly. A combination of peaceful surroundings, the sounds of nature in the middle of Anaheim, and the fact few visitors ever go all the way out to the bear end. the perfect place to sit, relax, and watch the world go by.
3- Sailing Ship Columbia. The Mark Twain Riverboat may get all the glory- especially on those rare occasions when it is possible to sail at night, but its the Columbia that impresses me more when I take a chance to explore the ship and its lower deck. The attention to detail is part of the appeal, and this nod to America's nautical history is just another example of a park that is a national treasure for good reason.
4- The French Market. Not an attraction in the traditional sense, but its is definitely one for me! There's something so appealing about a leisurely meal here, listening to a little jazz, and sitting at a cafe table, sipping a mint julep. It's not the real thing, but its as close as we can get to New Orleans west of the Mississippi. Besides, for Disney park lovers, the real thing has a hard time competing with Pirates of the Caribbean on one side and the Haunted Mansion on the other!
5- Alice in Wonderland. Admittedly, I do not always make it on this gem of an attraction, as for the last two decades my visits are shorter, limited to one day, and now with two parks to explore. Timing is everything, and if I get into Fantasyland later than 9 or 10am, the line is already trouble. Most guests prefer Peter Pan or Mr. Toad to a zany trip with Alice, and I generally do as well. All said, when I do ride, I am always surprised by just how clever and good the attraction is! The original Disney inspired characters are much warmer and likable then those found in the Tim Burton / Johnny Depp revamp, and the music and narration adds just the right whimsy to the proceedings- all the way to the explosive ending!
6- Mickey's Toontown. Like much of Fantasyland, as an adult male, I avoid this area of the park when the crowds settle. On that rare day when the numbers are light, I'll venture into the space to enjoy all the gags the Imagineers put in place. Surprises everywhere- many overlooked by the little ones enjoying attractions designed just for them.
7- Fire House. Since one of my daughters married a fireman, I decided to stop into the fire house on one of my recent visits. The number of artifacts found inside surprised me, causing me to stop and remember that Main Street U.S.A. is meant for exploring and not just for shopping. A ride on the Fire Engine is fun, but its what's upstairs that is even more appealing: Walt Disney's own apartment, where a light is always burning in tribute to the man that started it all.
(I highlighted the piece with a Disneyland Map from 1958- just for a bit of fun.)