"The trouble with telling a good story is that it invariably reminds the other fellow of a dull one"
Sid Ceasar, American comic actor

I wrote an advice column in the Sunday Times for six years, in which I answered reader questions on travel. Thanks to my own trips, my time working for the airlines and selling travel at Trailfinders, I've always genuinely enjoyed helping friends and readers get the most from their holidays.

So here are items of travel news - sometimes small, but still significant, with travel advice weaved into them. A little preparation before a trip helps you go a long way...

Why the original Disneyland is still the best, even after 64 years...
posted by Richard Green on 25/09/2019

The original Disneyland in Los Angeles was the cherished dream of Walt Disney himself: he designed it, opened it and ran it. Largely because of that I think it is by far the best. Since opening its doors in 1955 some half a billion people have clanked through the turnstyles and excitedly strolled along Main Street, and even if you don’t do theme parks, have kids, or become anxious around large costumed mice, this really is the most authentic and best of the Disney parks.

Walt and his mouse greet visitors to Disneyland; a statue unveiled in 1993. Photo Disneyland

When Walt Disney bought the 160-acre orange grove in Anaheim, the Santa Ana Freeway aside, it was in a semi rural area. These days the park has been enveloped by LA's inexorable sprawl, but it's special as it was very much Disney's brainchild. He was closely involved in all aspects of the project, from imagining the five distinct 'lands' down to plotting how far away to place bins from each of the food outlets (it took him about 30 paces to consume a hotdog, and the bins remain about that distance away today).

Disneyland is smaller than the global sibling parks in Orlando, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and Shanghai, and aside from holiday weekend squeezes (when it does get extremely busy), it feels more intimate than the others.

In its 34 hectares you'll find the original Sleeping Beauty Castle - loosely based on the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and looking taller than its 23 metres thanks to a false perspective caused by features at the top being deliberately shrunk. Also a suite of terrific rides, like the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and the Jungle Cruise. And new for 2019 was the opening of Star Wars Land, which meant thebulldozing of the Big Thunder Ranch section of the park - not a huge loss as it didn't contain any of the iconic features or rides.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle, based on Bavaria's Neuschwanstein original. Photo Disneyland

Many of the historic old rides at the original Disneyland are ideal for younger children and aren’t replicated in any of the newer parks, like the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (actually remodelled from the original 1959 ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ ride, which featured a certain Captain Nemo), and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride (which isn’t wild to anyone over nine years old, but is charming nonetheless), and Tarzan’s Tree house (a new tennant in the faux forest perch of the Swiss Family Robinson).

Walt loved mechanical toys and kept a robotic bird caged in his office. His extraordinary imagination gave flight to the 'Enchanted Tiki Room'. It’s a funny, feel-good take on the Tiki craze that swept the USA in the 50’s and 60’s, where stylised Polynesian culture became the rage. People wore Hawaiian shirts, drank at thatch hotel bars, and surrounded themselves with seafaring bric-a-brac.

The 225 Audio-Animatronics creatures in Disney's Tiki Room have been restored - probably many times over - but the master of ceremony Macaws still squawk in their original 60’s voices. The national stereotyping on steriods is from that bygone era too.

Just a blurred few of the half a billion people to have strolled down Disneyland's Main Street. Photo Disneyland

The original Pirates of the Caribbean ride is unbeatable and remains my favourite. It starts peacefully enough, in a night-time bayou, before the squat 'boat' of the ride passes under a skull warning ‘dead men tell no tales’ and shoots a modest flume to a subterranean world of Jolly Rogers, broadsiding and pillaging. It’s astonishing to think that the spectacularly successful film franchise was based on the original Disneyland ride, not the other way round. If anything the ride’s original theme - altogehter now: 'Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me' is even more annoyingly catchy than the film franchise.

Yo Ho Yo Ho, a spin-off-movie-franchise-life-for-me. Photo Disneyland

A visit to Disneyland isn’t all about nostalgia – The Disney California Adventure opened in 2001, themed on the history and culture of the state, and within it, Cars Land and Buena Vista Street opened in 2012; the former homage to the Disney-Pixar film and the latter a representation of 1920’s LA.

The newly opened 'Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge' area includes a large planet-scape, a Millenium Falcon ride and a Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo' food outlet, amongst other diversions. It's a world away from the original homely offerings, which I think by themselves are are hugely worth a visit.  

Any trip to LA’s Disneyland is to experience the wonderful world of Walt Disney’s imagination, but you can discover more detail on an excellent park-run ‘Walk in Walt’s Footsteps’ tour. It lasts 3½ hours and includes a private lunch or dinner on the terrace of the Disney Gallery.



Reasons to be cheerful: the original Disneyland is more intimate than the other parks, and that Walt Disney himself was so heavily involved in the design only adds to the sense of history. If you stay at a hotel inside the park you are walking distance from the attractions. 


You can't always get what you want: the park is less spread out than the newer ones, and with narrower paths it heaves on holiday weekend, and especially at Thanksgiving. Also traffic around the park can be very heavy in the LA rush hours, as day-to-day commuters use the freeways and roads skirting the park.


Fitting Disneyland into a holiday: the park has four hotels - great for hassle free access to the park, but a tad pricey. Disneyland is a 65-kilometres from Santa Monica and 50 kilometres from Long Beach - when the freeways are behaving, that’s fair enough, but be sure to avoid the rush hours. I'd say Santa Monica, Venice and Hollywood make good bases for a stay in the city.


Getting there: the closest airport to the park is John Wayne Orange County Airport - see My Bathroom Wall for other airports named after famous people, including George Best, Indira Gandhi and Cristiano Ronaldo. John Wayne Airport is a 20 minute drive from the park, and has mainly domestic flights - airlines include Southwest, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta. Most international passengers arrive at the busy Los Angeles International Airport, which is just under an hour by car.


When to visit: LA is a year round destination, which doesn't really see extremes in temperatures. The best time to visit is from March to May and September and November, when temperatures are in the 60-70 range. Summer sees temperatures in the 80s and heavy smog levels, while winter is a little chilly and rainy.


More info: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/, and Visit Aneheim 


Visa and safety: always check your government's travel advice before booking, and ensure that your travel insurance is valid in this part of the country. See the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.


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