9 Things We Didn’t Like About Disneyland

I know, I’m sorry. Perhaps our expectations were too high or we weren’t the right fit for Disneyland – but it wasn’t our favourite theme park ever. Here’s why…

  1. The Rides
    • Heaps of the rides are old and haven’t been updated recently. Although I understand that this is part of the charm of Disneyland, while some of the rides are great, they are becoming very tired. For example, the “it’s a small world” ride was built in 1966 and while it would have been a game changer back then – waiting 45 minutes to sit on a boat to take you around listening to the same song over and over (and over and over) isn’t that entertaining.d03fc641-8548-410a-b5df-727e3403c573Also, most of the newer rides are nowhere near as good as the ones at other theme parks we have been to. One of the most popular rides at Disneyland is Space Mountain – which has been redone as Hyperspace Mountain to fit in the Star Wars theme throughout Tomorrowland – this was surprisingly average. The ride was redone in 2005 – again, in 2005 it would have been a great ride and before going everyone told us it was the best ride at the park. It was simply a rollercoaster with the lights turned off trying to emulate the feeling of being in space, but unfortunately it fell short. It seemed that many of the popular rides (ie. Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean) followed suit and were all fairly underwhelming.8_15_WDI_004
  2. The Staff
    • There were a number of employees (perhaps 6) who were wonderful, so while we had an issue with the staff, I should note that some of them were an exception to our issue. These staff were what we would expect at Disneyland – they were warm, helpful, seemed to be enjoying their work and acted as though they were happy to have us in the park. Unfortunately, most of the staff we witnessed seemed as though they couldn’t care less about working at the “happiest place on earth”. They weren’t sporting smiles, used the same recycled phrases when working at the rides without any personality, seemed tired and appeared annoyed at the crowds. Although the customer service wasn’t that bad, for a place that is meant to be magical and make you feel like you’re welcome – it’d be nice if the people working there seemed to follow the same mantra. I understand that the crowds can be tough to deal with every day, but that’s literally part of the job. disneyland-vip-tour-2
  3. The Crowds
    • This may seem like an obvious choice for something that we didn’t like, however, there is busy and then there is Disneyland busy. We went on a weekend so we knew to expect a crowd – but it was also a day when there was light rain right at the end of winter. Lining up for rides aside, we often found ourselves standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers and having to carefully navigate ourselves around others. When you’re paying $390 USD for a weekend of entertainment, to stand around and wait in lines seems very steep, especially when there seems to be such an awful attitude about it. Because it’s Disneyland people seem to say “oh but it’s Disneyland it’s just the way it is!”, but I don’t quite understand why that makes it okay. Because of the crowds alone, we weren’t given the service you’d expect when paying such a large amount of money. In any other business it would be unacceptable to have so many people in such a small (unorganised) space and expect patrons to be happy about it. When the park was built, it wasn’t planned for this many people, queues and strollers (more on that later), so it is very poorly designed for the amount of people they cram in there. In addition to this, an article that was released around the time the park open stated “The Disney people expect patrons will spend an average of four and a half hours in the park. They anticipate 60,000 a day, but will try to hold the total at one time to 46,000.“If we get over that amount, we’ll probably close the gates,” said an official. “We don’t want to jeopardize the enjoyment of those who have paid to get in.” They now reach up to amounts of 80,000 people per day – and because there are more rides and attractions now, it’s no wonder it’s so busy.
      Crowd2
  4. The Price
    • For us to go to Disneyland & California Adventure for the weekend (one day at each) we paid $390 USD for the both of us. This included a 10% discount off one ticket that Lincoln received as he has an ISIC (International Student Identification Card) as part of his exchange while he is here. Therefore, this worked out to be $195 each for the weekend and $97.50 USD each per day. I know that some may think that this is irrelevant as it’s not the parks issue – but being that the exchange rate from Australia is awful at the moment, we ended up paying over $500 AUD for the tickets alone. This is a huge amount of money.Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 7.16.57 pmIn addition to the ticket price at Disneyland – other things need to be taken into account. Firstly, staying in the area affordably to visit Disneyland is difficult. There are two options – either to stay close by and pay for the luxury of being walking distance OR stay in the outskirts and pay for parking or a shuttle from the accommodation. There is basically no “affordable” option for accommodation unless you stay at a hostel, Airbnb or get lucky (like we did) using the Hotels Tonight app. In addition to this, while you can take food into the park – when you’re there from 8am until midnight walking around you need a heap of energy, and carrying around food all day in the sun just seems like an all round uncomfortable experience. Food in the park is expensive. Souvenirs are expensive (I bought my Mickey Mouse t-shirt  from Walmart for $7.50 before going and then saw the same one there for around $30) but this is true for all parks. The thing that really grinded our gears about the price of this ticket is that once you enter the park for the day you can only use that park. You need to pay an additional $30 USD per person per day for the park hopper option which allows you to go between both Disneyland and California Adventure. While it’s obvious that we would have just done one park each day – we heavily considered spending a third day at the park which we quickly decided against when factoring in that we would want to do what we missed out on at each park and the basic park ticket wouldn’t cater for that. 1st Disneyland TicketWhen the park opened it cost $1 to enter, I understand that inflation is a thing and people need wages and the rides need upkeep etc, but this just seems to not at all reflect the original model of the park. When families are sacrificing other things to go to an amusement park for the weekend (and they do) it’s an issue. As I mentioned earlier – as with all things, when you’re paying such a large amount of money and getting the service and experience that you’d expect then it would be fine. But when you’re paying this much money and getting an experience like you would somewhere like Luna Park where you pay $30 or $40 per day for unlimited rides – it doesn’t seem worth it.
  5. The Strollers/wheelchairs
    • There were an insane amount of strollers and people in wheelchairs & buggies – more than what seemed necessary. They take up so much space, and the people that sport these clunky pieces of furniture seem to stroll (see what I did there) around the place with a frustrating sense of entitlement. Now, I obviously have no issue whatsoever with handicapped people and parents/guardians with young children using these facilities. What I have an issue with is families who have six and seven year old children in strollers, who are very capable of getting around on their own but feel the need to have special privilege. Mostly, I have a huge issue with people taking advantage of the fact that the staff who distribute the wheelchairs cannot legally ask for proof of your need for the wheelchair. There are able people using this to their advantage. I feel really bad for the handicapable people who are then lumped in with those who use the wheelchairs to push their way to the front of lines. Disneyland-12.18.14-1207
  6. The Explanation of Rides
    • One of the main tips that I read prior to going to Disneyland was to plan what you wanted to do. I’m glad that I did this to an extent, as there was so much to do, it would have been impossible to do everything at Disneyland in one day, as well as mastering the Fastpass system. One of the things that I studied the most before going was the rides. I’m not a rollercoaster fan and I like to know what I’m getting myself into when it comes to rides – the Disneyland website has very clear indicators on how “thrilling” the ride is so you can decide whether or not the ride it suitable for you. By the end of the day we had determined that perhaps the system is designed for children/it indicates that it’s more thrilling than what it actually is so that people don’t complain. Alicesign2This was due to the fact that Lincoln advised me that most of the rides that I didn’t line up and go on would have been fine for me – meaning that I missed out. Obviously these things can be open to interpretation but for example, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride says on the website that its dark, loud, scary and has drops. Individually, I can handle all of these things, but when combined, it’s usually an indication that it’s not a ride for me. However, when Lincoln exited the ride he said that it was really tame. At that point though, we’d have to line up again – so it wasn’t really worth it. It makes me wonder who the information, and park, is catered for – but more on that soon. pirates-of-the-caribbean-gallery00
  7. The (lack of) Fireworks
    • We planned our evening of Disneyland around seeing the iconic fireworks that fill the night sky over Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It wasn’t until the clock ticked over while the streets were jam packed with people looking up to the sky that an announcement came over the park to tell us that due to the weather that they were cancelled. We then had to wait for about half an hour for the fire marshalls to say that it was safe to enter that part of the park again. Anyone would think that we were facing extreme weather conditions – but it was a light wind and a little bit foggy. They have a Disneyland in Paris and they still put on the fireworks when it’s snowing. While I appreciate that they didn’t risk doing the fireworks if it was a real danger – it would have been considerate for them to let the patrons know prior to the fact, earlier in the day when the weather was exactly the same, rather than when everyone in the park was waiting for them. Even if it was a notice earlier in the day to say that there was a chance that the fireworks may not be on – it would be better than nothing. We went home earlier in the day and came back to the park specifically to see the fireworks and were not pleased that we made the effort to do this.
  8. The Signage
    • So I get that Disneyland is well-known for its magical atmosphere, but why does that come at the sacrifice of efficient signs? We were constantly wandering about trying to find our way, whether this was between lands”, or just to find a toilet. Almost all of the restrooms are concealed behind unmarked walls and decor, with no sign nearby to suggest that there is a bathroom in the area. After researching this we found that this was intentional – but to us, it seems like more of a pain. photo (5)We’re all people; we all need to use the bathroom, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Sometimes there are signs telling you “Toontown, this way!” but it points you towards a t-intersection, and once you arrive there, you’re given no further indication of whether to turn left or right. Sure, we can ask the staff, but it hardly seems conducive to a productive atmosphere if guests are constantly asking for directions. We managed to find most of the restrooms by asking staff and using the Disneyland app, but it was more of a hassle than anything else. While using a paper map is fine, it’s not very detailed and it can be hard to translate to three dimensions. If they’re going to keep up the magic of the park by eliminating signposts, why not remove the Disneyland sign from the front gate? Because they want you to know where to enter, they just don’t care what happens to you once you’re in. restrooms_king1_michsel
  9. The Locals
    • When Disneyland was first opened, it was marketed at kids and families. In 2016, I think they should make an addition to that target market: kids and families of Southern California. So Cal residents receive big discounts off their Disneyland tickets (up to 27% off) and are able to invest in affordable annual passes as they’ll be able to use them being local. This is advertised as an incentive to locals who have been bringing their kids to the park for years. It’s nice, these guests have been a big part of keeping the Disneyland spirit alive, and now they’re being rewarded for it. imgBut I believe this is a lot more detrimental than it appears. If you went to Disneyland as a child in 1995, it would have been amazing. The Indiana Jones ride had just opened, Splash Mountain was still pretty fresh, and you were just seeing all the classics for the first time, and they were awesome. You got to meet Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and watched the fireworks over the Sleeping Beauty Castle, and it was the greatest day of your life. Fast forward 20 years, you’ve just moved to LA with your own young family, and you all go to the park together. All of a sudden its like you’re nine again – there are all the same rides, all the same attractions, you even get another photo with Mickey. Plus there’s some new stuff. Your kids love it too, because you told them in advance how great it was going to be, and they’re kids: Disneyland was made for them. So you relive your childhood, and you keep the cycle going with your own kids. It makes more sense at this point to invest in the annual pass as it’s cheaper than going for a couple of weekends a year and paying for the tickets individually. This means that you can visit the park every weekend – or even after work for a few hours after a rough day if you feel like it. You shelled out all that cash for the pass, might as well take advantage of it. Here lies the problem. Disneyland is marketed at and advantages the locals, and they’re lapping it up. They clog up the park because its worth it for them, and us tourists come once in our lives to huge lines of smug So Cal residents who know all the tricks of the park. They nail the Fastpass system, they know when to line up for which rides and they know where stand for the best view of the parade. We felt as though Disneyland knows its rides are average and that there are better theme parks out there (not just worldwide, but right here in California). But, they don’t need to change a thing because the locals are covering all their costs and far more, because Disneyland is a business, and their best-seller is nostalgia. The best thing about nostalgia is it has no upfront costs, and each year that passes it just grows more and more profitable. They’re targeting a market that will never go away, and more importantly, one that will never demand any more of them, and quite honestly its brilliant. Disneyland-Map

Now, it’s all well and good to complain about the things that we found frustrating about the park, and I promise to do a post highlighting what we liked about it too, but it wouldn’t be fair to write about it unless we could back it up with some ideas that would make it better. Walt Disney seemed to care more about the guests than his profits, but that whole ideal seems to have died with him. If Disneyland really cared about their guests as much as they claim to, there are a few things they could do to amend things.

  • Build some more modern rides, and put these in the grounds surrounding the park instead of cramming more stuff inside the park.
  • Tell your staff to smile and pretend like they are enjoying their work.
  • Lower the maximum capacity drastically, eliminate So Cal incentives, and incorporate a booking system when guests purchase a ticket online: they need to specify in advance which date they’ll be attending, and be verified as either local or otherwise. Locals only get to buy tickets once all of the non-local slots have filled up. They can come any day of the year, so we should have priority, not them.
  • Put up some signs.
  • Lower the price of tickets and make it easier to park hop.
  • Have a structure or similar in place for the distribution of strollers and wheelchairs to ensure they’re going to the correct and worthy people

I will write again soon about something more positive – I pinky promise!

 

Bye for now!

 

Sara (with heaps of help from Lincoln)

 

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