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07/29/17 - Thoughts and observations from Saturday at the Disneyland Resort including first impressions of the new Rivers of America.
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07/29/17 - Thoughts and observations from Saturday at the Disneyland Resort including first impressions of the new Rivers of America.

I spent a full day at the Disneyland Resort on Saturday. Arriving before park opening and staying through Fantasmic. I had a group of family members with me including a first visit for my 9 month old nephew. Overall the park did not feel too crowded considering it was a pleasant Saturday in July. The couple times I looked the highest I saw was an hour, most were less most of the day.

Thoughts and Observations:

  • Arriving early it is always interesting to see where you end up parking. Today I was directed up to the roof of the Mickey and Friends parking structure. The tollbooth lines were moving ok with a handful of cars in each. The right hand lane to park was inching along once you reached the level though. They are still working on all levels of the parking structure near the escalators on the tile replacement project. So there are fences and scrims up. Not the best first impression. It looked like the demo work was wrapped up on the couple floors I could see into.

  • Unfortunately arriving early meant I was looking right into the rising sun when I tried to take a look at the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge work. I did see several crews working on a Saturday morning, not nearly as busy as Friday afternoons but still some work going on. Nothing too drastic stood out as new this week, just incremental progress.

  • The Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America watercraft officially returned to operation on Saturday morning. Friday there was a brief ceremony and soft opening period. One of our first attractions of the morning was the Disneyland Railroad. We boarded in Tomorrowland since that is where we were and it took three trains before we made it on. Only a handful of guests were disembarking each time. The wait for the trains looked long all day long with many guests wanting to do the grand circle tour, or more.. I spoke to some friends later in the day and they waited an hour at Main Street.

  • I thought the new section between Critter Country and Toon Town was great! Being right on the river and being able to see the watercraft and river sights more clearly was a huge plus. The new show elements along the way are some nice touches and nods to the past even. The new waterfalls, trestles and sweeping curves made for some great views of our train. Since it was my first time through and I was snapping away and trying to soak it in I really did not pay attention to the spiel or sound effects so cannot comment on either yet. The new transition to Toon Town with the larger and more detailed tunnel is much smoother and more refined than the old tunnel. The dioramas also received some TLC during the renovation with new lighting and a general renovation. They looked as good as new, maybe better than new. I am looking forward to me next trip to take in more of the detail.

  • Later in the day I went for a cruise on the Mark Twain to see the opposing perspective. I was near the front on the top deck and concentrated on the port (left hand) side since I wanted to see the rock work, water falls and trestles. Everything looked great and being able to see trains pass by on your trip more clearly adds a lot of energy to the area. Currently you can see the top of the Star Wars building and parking structure, but in a few years once the trees fill in and grow it should be better.

  • You can now walk up to the entrance tunnels for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in all three locations. Walls are blocking the passages, but the rest of the walkways and areas in Critter Country and the Big Thunder Trail are open. All three areas look great. The rocks around the Frontierland entrance are fairly imposing with the other two less imposing entrances. I thought the stage coach prop was a nice plus to find. On the Critter Country trail you can look more up river than before and the new backdrop makes it fun to linger and watch trains and boats go by.

  • Today I gave MaxPass a try with our entire party of 5 adults. I thought the linking process was very forgiving and painless. I was able to scan the tickets as I was walking up Main Street. The app picked them up even at the awkward angles I was holding them while walking with no hiccups. The only thing that would have been nice is to be able to call the entire group up on a second phone without having to rescan all. But again they did scan quickly so it was not too big of an issue. Throughout the day we used them for a total of five attractions only due to our itinerary and the wait times. We also used the app at the scan points. It was really quick to just hold the phone there and swipe through all five people and it scanned them in almost as fast as the app displayed them, so it was a minimal wait, substantially faster than Magic Bands at Walt Disney World. Two notes on this to share. First is it would be nice to be able to scan as a group without swiping, that would even be faster. Secondly they really need wi-fi in attractions with cell dead spots that require a second scan.. Soarin is the one that popped to mind. The CMs outside warned not to turn the phone off or close the app and you are fine. The others in the group really liked not having to hike out to attractions to pick up tickets and they really liked that I did all the scanning so they could just walk right on.

  • FastPass return experiences were a bit poor with a couple of attractions. Radiator Springs Racers it took almost 15 minutes from walking up to on the attraction. I opted to do single rider and I was done and standing out on Cross Street for over 10 minutes before the rest of my group that used FastPass made it through. Indiana Jones was worse with the wait time being over 25 minutes from entering the queue to exiting, this equaled the posted stand-by wait time. The issue was they were sending too many guests into the temple which just clogged it up and caused a longer wait. It was nice to see some of the queue that you normally walk quickly through but with FastPass we had planned on a shorter time.

  • As I mentioned this was the first visit with my nine month old nephew. He was a good trooper and made it from park opening until past 8pm. We lucked out and he did take a couple naps in the park. It was great to see his reactions to the park, attractions, and characters. We were also lucky that he was not afraid of the characters and enjoyed interacting with them. He is familiar with them from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I look forward to seeing how his experiences evolve over the years.

  • For Fantasmic I used a FastPass. This was my first time using one for the new show and load process. Our return location was the Mark Twain dock, which is literally the Mark Twain queue area. We arrived just after 8 and found a good number of guests there. They had already started to seat dining package guests. Around 8:15-20ish (I did not record the time) we were allowed into the seating area. From the dock around to the dining package seating along the river was available for us to choose a spot. We were near the front so opted to go as close to show center as possible and ended up in the seating area closest the dining packages near the back. The sections on the Frontierland side from us to the dock were standing, we were the last sitting section. Being back further and sitting was better than the second row I had for a previous show when it came time for pictures. Also the audio sounded better to me, but that could be because I was enjoying the show more than taking pictures. One tip I would give with FastPass is to be sure to show up early if you want to pick a spot.. the later you show up the worse your choices may be. I am not a fan of FastPass for Fantasmic, I would prefer to have everything be open standing space except for the dining spaces and make it so you can not claim spots until a certain time.

  • We decided to leave the park right after Fantasmic. Adventureland was once again flowing smoothly when I passed through. It slowed a bit but not gridlock like years past. I reached Main Street as Remember started so we decided to skip the fireworks this evening. No problems leaving Disneyland, but Caltrans made the drive home longer than usual. They had quite a few active projects along my route, my backup route, and a plan C route. It took me an extra half hour to get home.

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