What makes Disneyland theme parks so memorable? To find out, my family and I visited both Disneyland Park and its neighbouring Disney's California Adventure Park at Anaheim, California.
Inaugurated more than 50 years ago in 1955, Disneyland at LA was the world's second most visited theme park in 2007, attracting close to 15 million visitors (the first was Walt Disney World at Orlando). More than half a billion guests have paid homage to this icon of childhood wonder, and they included VVIPs like presidents, kings and queens.
Occupying a sprawling 55 acre, the newer California Adventure (opened in 2001) was opened to pay tribute to the Golden State of California. It provides a mini snapshot of the Sunshine State - from the golden gate bridge of San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf, Hollywood, to Santa Monica Pier and others.
So what is the magic formula? In fact, my wife has already visited 5 in her lifetime (1 in Paris, 2 in Tokyo, and now 2 in US)! Here are my thoughts:
Spectacular Scenery & Stunning Sets
Every square metre in both parks is carefully manicured to perfection, including the lawn next to the "train station" offering a ride around Disneyland.
Mickey's Toon Town looked like it came out from a movie set.
Bright and colourful signboards help to usher in the holiday cheer at California Adventure.
At night, the "golden gate bridge" at California Adventure takes on a lovely glow.
The interiors are also nicely designed. Here's Ethan striking a pose in Mickey's house amidst the brooms and pails from Mickey's Fantasia movie.
Rollickin' Good Rides
Naturally, rides are a mainstay in any theme park. We had a chance to venture on an African jungle cruise and came face to face with these "animals" (powered by animatronics).
We had lots of ghoulish good fun at the Halloween-themed "T'was the Fright Before Christmas" at the Haunted Mansion.
The roller coaster at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was one of Ethan's favourite rides, with all its thrills and spills.
3D glasses are pretty common in themeparks. Here, we are gearing ourselves up for "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience" at California Adventure.
The most terrifying must surely be the Hollywood Terror of Tower at California Adventure, which brought us through gravity defying moments. Not for the faint-hearted!
Sensational Shows & Parades
Of course, all of Disneyland is a stage. While I was queuing for lunch, Tina and Ethan caught this "battle" between Darth Vader and young Jedi Padawans.
We also caught the awesome Aladdin musical (California Adventure), which was a full 45 minute feature worthy of our ticket prices alone.
Smaller shows like this Brother Bear performance (suitable for toddlers) helped to charm the little ones.
Naturally, the Christmas Fantasy Parade at night brings everything to a climatic finish. The soundtrack that you are hearing came from that parade of Disney's characters.
Unfortunately, we couldn't stay late enough to catch the fireworks display at night, but that has always been a mainstay of Disneyland Parks.
Ravishing Retail Outlets & Restaurants
The great American sale continues at Disney's theme parks, and what better way than to have your own currency? These Disney dollars are neat as gifts if you can't spend them all here.
Shops at Disneyland don't just look good on the outside...
...they look even better on the inside, with lots of attractive merchandise tempting your shopping bug.
Street stalls like these help one to also fuel one's hunger and satisfy impulse purchases...
...like this huge Turkey leg here which we had difficulty trying to finish. Trust me, it doesn't taste as red and raw as it looks!
Captivating Cast Members
The backbone of Disneyland theme parks must surely be its crew members. Every single employee counts - from actors and actresses, cleaners, cooks, retail assistants to street performers like them.
I bet you $100 that the guy inside that suit isn't Anakin Skywalker himself!
Donning heavy costumes, cast members have to pose with star-struck guests like us. Here's one with Goofy...
...the Big Brother Bear...
...and the king of Disneyland Park himself, Mickey Mouse. We had to queue pretty long to get this shot!
Finally, The Little Touches
To cater to parents of young toddlers, stroller parks like these were located just outside the rides. You could also rent strollers at the front desks if you wish.
Water fountains like these could be found everywhere. Now that's a nice touch even though they also sell drinks at their stalls.
Rubbish and recycling bins can be found everywhere for the convenience of customers.
There is also a place for parents who have lost their kids - or vice versa.
Finally, you can also send letters from Disneyland to your family and friends anywhere around the world. Of course, nowadays an email would probably be better.