West Coast Mouse: five Disney experiences not found in Florida

If you’re a west coast family (like ours), you may associate certain things with Disney that those visiting the Florida theme parks do not: the original Disneyland Hotel, driving the 5 or 405 into Anaheim with excited kids bouncing in the back seat (or maybe you were such a kid?), the beloved Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Sleeping Beauty’s–as opposed to Cinderella’s–castle. When you close your eyes, even the Disney skyline to materialize in your mind is altered by the imposing height of the Matterhorn. While we love Disney World and all it offers, the following things can only be found in California:

Matterhorn Disneyland Resort1. California Adventure. No, it’s really not the West Coast’s version of Disney Studios, although they do share certain attractions. California Adventure is a celebration of the Golden State, emphasizing the natural beauty and cultural contributions of California. In-between attractions, kids can walk through a street-scene set in the Hollywood Back Lot, but they can also run a-muck through the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. We always love this oasis free of lines and congestion in the heart of the park, complete with rope courses, log slides, and climbing nets.

2. The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. We’ve visited both the Grand Californian and Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge, and while similar, the five-star amenities at the Grand Californian can’t be beat. Nor can the location: mere steps away from both Disney theme parks, this hotel reminds guests of one of the great benefits of the Disneyland Resort: proximity. Everything, from shopping to playing to the pillows ready to receive your children’s weary heads at night are only steps away.

3. Cruising on the Disney Wonder. If you and your family want to experience the Mexican Riviera, the Last Frontier, or even Hawaii, embarkation on the Disney Wonder (recently relocated to the West Coast from Florida) takes place exclusively on the West Coast (in Los Angeles for Mexican and Hawaiian cruises, Seattle for Alaskan cruises). If you’re a West Coast family, this is great news, as a significant portion of your travel money may otherwise have been lost to trans-U.S. airfare.

California Adventure4. Vacationing wild west-style with Adventures by Disney. Disney’s premiere family tour operation travels to destinations across the globe, but there’s plenty to see and do within a state or two of home as well. Tour the Grand Canyon, Wyoming, or Glacier National Park, with all the extra Disney service included. Families can even feel like VIPs while touring backstage at the actual Disney Studios.

5. Direct flights to the land of Aloha…Disney style. Slated to open its doors this August (2011), the Aulani Disney Resort and Spa is located on the less populated leeward side of O’ahu, and will no doubt offer vacationing families everything we’ve come to expect of a Disney experience: fabulous amenities, family-oriented entertainment and attractions, and stellar guest service…all in tropical sunshine.

Find more Disney travel advice and tips in Pit Stops for Kids’ Disney Done Right series.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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