And with that, I’ve now been to all the Disneys. Yeah, that’s right — all my friends might be getting married and starting families, but have they been to every Disney park in the world? No? Well then, I think we all know who the real winner is (what’s that? It’s them? It’s 100% them? Yeah, that sounds about right).
I’m not going to go into the same level of obsessive detail I did for Tokyo, but I do have some brief thoughts.
The Disney magic starts on the subway ride to the park. Yes, those are Mickey-shaped windows, and Mickey-shaped hand holds. Delightful.
The park was shockingly empty. There appeared to be a decent amount of people when you were walking around, but we didn’t wait longer than ten minutes or so for any rides. Some rides didn’t have a wait at all. It was amazing. Coming from the insane crowds of the Tokyo parks, this felt flat-out bizarre.
There were some great rides here, but the highlight was, without a doubt, a Haunted Mansion-esque ride called Mystic Manor. I had heard really good things about it, so my expectations were pretty high, but it still managed to blow me away. The animatronic technology was probably the best I’ve ever seen, and the ride itself was so fun, with so much personality and a really delightful amount of attention to detail. It was easily one of the best rides I’ve ever been on. We did this one twice, and I honestly regret not doing it a third or even a fourth time.
Universal Studios has a location in Osaka, and I figured that since I quite enjoyed my visit to Disneyland and DisneySea in Tokyo, I’d give it a shot.
The only wrinkle was that the big draw here is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I hadn’t seen a single Harry Potter movie. So I watched them all over the last couple of weeks — that’s just the way I roll.
The Harry Potter area was pretty amazing, including an impressively detailed recreation of Hogwarts.
And, of course, there’s the famous Butterbeer, which I obviously had to try.
It’s basically a cream soda float, only with melted ice cream. It was fine, I guess? It cost a whopping 600 yen (almost seven bucks Canadian) for a tiny cup, so it’s not cheap.
The centrepiece here is the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was easily one of the best rides I’ve ever experienced. It also made me feel like I was moments away from vomiting everywhere, so that was unfortunate.
It was also insanely crowded, as you can see from this board with a listing of all of the various wait times across the park.
Yes, that’s a 170 minute wait (!) for the Harry Potter and Despicable Me rides.
As for the food, it was mostly nothing special, though there was one thing called a croissant brulee that was shockingly amazing.
It’s creme brulee with a croissant base; the custard soaks into the croissant, and it basically becomes the best bread pudding that you’ve ever had (only with a crispy, sugary top to make things all the more delightful). It was so much better than I was expecting it to be.
After the amazingness that was DisneySea in Tokyo, I sort of figured Disneyland would have a hard time measuring up. And yeah, it’s definitely not as good; DisneySea was such a memorable experience that I could easily recommend it to anyone, even people who wouldn’t otherwise be all that interested in visiting a theme park.
Disneyland, on the other hand, was great (I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad Disney park), but it’s definitely more ride-oriented.
There were some pretty memorable rides, though.
There’s the classics, of course. Pirates of the Caribbean, which is fun, though it can’t quite live up to the version in Shanghai, which uses cutting-edge technology in a way that’s downright mind-blowing (it’s probably the best ride I’ve ever been on).
There’s Splash Mountain, which I really enjoyed, and which certainly lives up to the “splash” in its name — I got thoroughly soaked, though I think I was just unlucky, because it seemed like everyone else in the car (the log? The vehicle? I don’t know what to call that thing) barely got wet at all.
The Haunted Mansion was fun, especially because they had completely overhauled it with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme for the season. It was seriously impressive how thoroughly they had modified the ride; it wasn’t just a few cosmetic changes, it was a complete transformation.
There’s a Winnie the Pooh ride, which was insanely popular, with crazy long lines all day. Meanwhile I don’t think I waited longer than five minutes for Pirates of the Caribbean, so go figure.
I also quite enjoyed the Who Framed Roger Rabbit ride, though I have to wonder if anyone under the age of 20 has even heard of that movie.
And there’s a Star Wars ride — a motion simulator that has you flying around with X-Wings (and going underwater with the Gungans, for some bizarre reason). I actually skipped this in Paris because I was afraid it was going to give me motion sickness. And it kinda did, but totally worth it.
Plus, like at DisneySea, the food was surprisingly great. So come back tomorrow for way more detail on the food in Disneyland and DisneySea than any rational person needs.
You might recall that while I was in Paris, I took a trip to the local Disneyland (because that’s what any reasonable person visiting one of the greatest cities in the world would do, right? Go to a theme park?).
Well, I’m in another of the greatest cities in the world, and there’s a Disneyland here, so take a guess at what I did (hint: it involves both Disney and Land).
Actually, I doubled down; there are two Disney parks here. There’s Tokyo Disneyland, and there’s DisneySea. I’d heard that they’re both packed with enough stuff to do that they really need at least a day each, so instead of trying to cram them both into one day, I’m doing a two day Disney extravaganza.
Up first: DisneySea. This is the park that, from what I’ve heard, was meant to be slightly more adult-friendly than the typical Disney park. So it’s a bit less ride-heavy than you’d expect.
But there are still a bunch of rides, of course. The most popular one — by far — is called Toy Story Mania, so I figured I’d head there as soon as the park opened to avoid the crowds.
It turns out that literally every single person in Japan also had this idea, because look at this madness:
That monstrosity is just the Fastpass line, which allows you to come back and do the ride at a designated time with a much shorter line. I did not stand in it, because it was nuts and I’m not nuts.
But of course, the line for the ride itself never got much shorter than about 80 minutes, so eventually I just bit the bullet and waited. And after all that it was easily the weakest ride of the day — basically just a glorified arcade game shooting gallery with a few neat 3D effects thanks to the 3D glasses you have to wear.
The best thing about it, weirdly enough, was the line itself. Once you get to the indoor portion of the line (which takes about an hour), it’s as if you got shrunk down to the size of a toy, with a bunch of humongous toys strewn about.
The other rides were way better, including a pretty exciting Indiana Jones ride, and a Small-World-esque ride called Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage which is notable for how impressively animated all of the animatronic figures are.
But a lot of the appeal of the park is how impressively detailed everything is. The park is divided into various themed sections (one is like old-timey New York, another is Aztec-themed, etc.), and just walking around and taking it all in is really entertaining in and of itself. The amount of thought (and money) that must go into building a park like this is staggering.
There are also some pretty great shows. There’s one called Fantasmic that starts like a pretty typical nighttime laser/light show, and ends with a Fantasia-inspired sequence in which Mickey fights an enormous animatronic dragon, complete with some pretty impressive pyrotechnics.
But the best show (and the best thing I saw/did at DisneySea) was easily Big Band Beat. It’s a really fast-paced, Broadway-inspired song-and-dance show featuring a full big band and some very elaborate musical numbers. It was so much fun. It was half an hour long, and it absolutely flew by.
(I didn’t take that photo — obviously I couldn’t take out my camera and snap a picture in the middle of the show, so just go with it).
And the food was so good, I’m actually going to do a whole separate post about that, so stay tuned (you’re on pins and needles, I can tell).
It might seem weird to go to Disneyland by yourself, but you know what? It’s the happiest place on Earth. You know what’s weird? Not going to Disneyland by yourself. Yeah, that’s right, I turned it around on you.
Disneyland Paris actually consists of two connected parks — Walt Disney Studios Park and Disneyland Park.
Walt Disney Studios Park is the smaller of the two, and could probably use some updating (there’s a studio tour ride that references new and hip films like Pearl Harbor and Reign of Fire — yes, Reign of Fire, that fifteen-year-old Matthew McConaughey movie that you forgot existed, features very prominently in the ride).
But! It had my favourite ride of the day, a Ratatouille-themed ride that used some pretty mind-blowing technology to make you feel like you’re running around with Remy.
That park also had my least favourite ride of the day, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which actually would have been pretty fun if it didn’t make me feel like I was going to throw up and/or pass out (or both — both seemed like a very distinct possibility).
Disneyland Park is the main event, and there’s so much to see there that you could probably be entertained just walking around without doing any rides.
Some other thoughts:
It’s a Small World is still as insanely catchy as ever.
Disney owns Star Wars, which is something they won’t let you forget; it’s everywhere in the park.
I feel like they need to take another shot at a Haunted Mansion movie, because that ride is kind of nuts; it starts out like a pretty standard haunted house, and gets pretty insane by the end. I feel like a movie version of that, done well, would be fun.
They don’t sell churros in the park like a bunch of jerks (isn’t that a Disneyland standard?? ) but this cookie, which has a bunch of Nutella in the middle, was quite tasty.