For me Disneyland was a disappointment. I had imagined it would be a huge amusement park offering something also for adults. Soon I noticed that most of the attractions were made for children, "Goofy" and "Mickey Mouse" were walking around trying to make people laugh.
I had to wait/line/queue for some attraction (there were only three or so for adults) for even two hours, which I think is not bearable. If you want to ride a few attraction, eat and drink something, you won't make it in one day.
Unique Suggestions: The nice things were the Space Mountain, the train on the open air mountain and the thing that made us wet at the end (a steep drop-down to water - a real Splash).
The "Main Street Electrical Parade" in the dark was a very nice experience (see my pictures). A lot of efforts have been put on this parade.
Fun Alternatives: Rather go to the Six Flags parks if you are looking for real attractions, speed, a little fear and fun. Disneyland is just a family park too full of people.
But if you don't like rollercoasters, go to Universal Studios. It is a tourist trap too, but choose a low season time. The studios are much more interesting than Disneyland where you just loose your money for nothing.
Disneyland is actually located in Anahiem, CA a few miles south of the real city of LA, still when people think of coming to Disneyland they fist think of a trip to LA.
Opened in 1955 with very few rides, (I can attest to that as I was there in 1956) Disneyland has grown from one man's idea of a "The happiest place on earth" to a mega-business that is just out to earn money to stay in operation.
The "happyness" of years gon by have been replaced by medocre food, long lines, crowds, irritable parents and crying children because they were not tall enough to get on the ride they'd waited all morning to ride.
Such is the life of a modern day amusement park.
Unique Suggestions: BUT, it must be experienced at least once (or once a year in some cases). In spite of the crowds the nightime light shows and parades do bring back a bit of the glamor that made the park(s) famous.
Fun Alternatives: Just across the parking lot is the newest, The California Adventure. The crowds are typicaly not as heavy even in peak tourist season.
While it does have amusement rides, it is more of an educational park that childeren can learn from while still enjoying.
Downtown Disney is the collection of restaurants and shops adjacent to the entrance of both Disneyland and Disney Adventures. What may surprise first-time visitors is that the prevailing theme here is not really Disney. The restaurants are generally very crowded during the summer and any weekend during the year that the Disney parks are open. The food is varied, but not especially great. The prices are above average to expensive. The shops vary from standard mall quality to unique. If food or shopping for souveniers isn't part of the gameplan, you will be disappointed.
Unique Suggestions: Visit ESPNZone. It's for the sports lover in your family or group. There is a huge amusement center on the top floor as well. The food is ok, but nothing special. You go there for the atmosphere. They also have a talk show located there and will have sports personalities interviewed from time to time.
There is also a House of Blues there for some good music. I've been there once and the food isn't bad. There are live acts headlining there throughout the year, check their web site for dates and tickets.
Fun Alternatives: Try the Irvine Spectrum. It's about 15-20 minutes south of Disneyland and has something for everyone. It's a fun place to hang out anytime. Tons of good restaurants, a comedy club, some music-themed clubs, a brewery, lots of shopping, and a big movie theatre to boot.
Be wary of dropping several Benjamins at Universal Studios. If plastic sharks are intruiging to you, then be my guest. This is rampant consumerism in it's most vile form. Don't expect any meaningful insight into the filmmaking process. Instead, schedule a tour of Paramount or one of the other 'Hot sets' in town. Get tickets to sitcom tapings for real insight into the machinations of tinseltown. If you want rides head north on I-5 about 15 miles to Valencia and hit Six Flags Magic Mountain. Oodles of great coasters; all the value, none of the Jurassic plastic.
Universal Studios Hollywood is the tourist trap of all tourist traps. It's expensive to get in, food is expensive, everything is expensive. It is located along the 101 north of Hollywood, just over the Cahuenga pass. Personally, I think there are much better tourist traps to find yourself in, like Disneyland (Disney added a new theme park in 2001 - California Adventure). But Universal Studios is still an interesting place if you must go see it. They have a great selection of movies - plan on seeing at least one - and an array of eateries.
(Photo: MTA station foreground, Universal Building and Studio entrance background - June 2001)
It's really expencive..so pack food, drinks etc. And don't buy too many stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls..really, you can get them cheaper in the mall back home. I mean..they even have their own money there!!
Universal Studios is a fun place for first timers to visit, but the long lines may wear you out. Bring your Discover Card as there is a $10 discount on admissions with it right now(May 2002).