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The New Resort and the Cream of the Cast
Can you believe it has been over a month since Disney's California Adventure park (DCA) officially unlocked its turnstiles to the world?
It has been over a month since Disneyland truly became a real Resort and not just a Park. There's nothing like the opening of a big new attraction, a new land, or a whole new park. As I like to say, there's nothing like the smell of fresh imagineering. Okay, it is suspiciously close to a mix of drying concrete and paint. With a new hotel, a new "retail, dining, and entertainment" district, and a new theme park all freshly unveiled, the Disneyland Resort is still settling in to a new operating routine. The hoopla is settling down and things will continue to move towards the "new normalcy" of The Disneyland Resort. Cast members are solidifying habits, and guests are developing new traditions.
I'm taking this opportunity to reflect on it all, and also write about the first of the annual "Golden Spirit of Disneyland Resort Awards Ceremony" to be held in DCA.
No, this isn't just a list of opinions about the new offerings, nor is it a trip report. Goodness knows you can find enough of all of that elsewhere, especially on LaughingPlace.com. (In case you've somehow failed to notice, LaughingPlace.com has recently added columnists and is better than ever before. I welcome the newest columnists aboard!)
It's Finally a Resort
It finally stuck me while I was walking through Downtown Disney on my way to join my editors at the Storyteller's Café in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel (GCH) one evening. It was the moment it finally all felt like a cohesive Resort. It was similar to the feeling I get when I visit the Walt Disney World Resort (WDW), though The Disneyland Resort is extremely compact in comparison.
That compactness makes it pedestrian friendly. Three Disney hotels and two Disney theme parks are all within walking distance of each other, the Downtown Disney district acting as the glue that ties it all together and keeps the experience continuous instead of being off on its own like it is at WDW.
Disney has been very persistent at pushing Disneyland as a Resort. It is a destination, a place you are going to, not just passing through. This was necessary in order to keep things thriving in Anaheim. In the late 1980's, Disney acquired the Disneyland Hotel. Later, Disney bought the Pan Pacific Hotel, and have since renovated it into the Paradise Pier Hotel. Disney has also bought up or gained use of other land around Disneyland Park in preparation for bringing about the Resort.
Disneyland has changed, and some people don't like that. The entire feel is different, for both cast members and guests.
Some people miss driving Harbor Boulevard, seeing the large Disneyland marquee, driving through the toll plaza, parking in the wide open, massive parking lot with the power lines and towers overhead, taking a tram or walking up the "red carpet" to the entrance area with the ticket booths fanned out. There it was, surrounded by urban sprawl - the charming, magical little eighty-plus acre park, still very much the way Walt Disney left it.
Everything has changed - the freeway, the approach, the parking, the trams, the hotels, and of course the additions of the new hotel, the theme park, and the entertainment district. Regardless of missing the feel of the old Disneyland, I hope everyone can agree that the freeway and street improvements, and the beautification of the area around the Resort are big improvements. This is one of the strongest positives of the upgrade to a Resort.
We may miss the feel of the old Disneyland, but the new Resort has a very nice feel to it. So, even though it isn't your father's Disneyland anymore, it offers so much more than ever before.
First and Foremost at the New Resort
The Grand Californian Hotel is the best thing about Disney's expansion. This isn't a surprise, as Disney's main motivation in turning the site into a destination Resort was to have more hotel rooms, and expensive ones at that. It is a beautiful hotel, and you just can't beat that location.
Disney's Grand Californian is the first Disney hotel at the Anaheim property to be designed and built from the ground up, drawing on Disney's experiences elsewhere, especially the Wilderness Lodge and Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World, and the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris.
Of course, to justify another hotel, there had to be something to get the people who stay on Disney property to stay at least one more night. That would take a second gate, and a retail, dining, and entertainment district would help, too.
At the very least, it is a darn good walkway to the hotels. I'm tight with my money, so this isn't the kind of place I spend much time on. It does act as a key piece to making the place feel like a Resort. It certainly beats a plain walkway.