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Quarter-Life Crisis Adverted. Sort Of. Part Five: California and Florida

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California and Florida: Driving Cross Country, Part Five

The Wild, Weird and Wacky in the US

In the continental United States, the people are represented by 48 separate yet equally important and fascinating states. Our goal was to see them all. These are our stories.

Disney World. Photo by Halley OfnerCalifornia and Florida. Both are sunny and warm, with ocean and plenty attractions to check out. Originating from the Northeast, it should come as no surprise that we stayed longer in these two states than most others. However, it’s not the incredible driving adventures, random conversations with strangers, and hole-in-wall restaurants I would like to highlight. It is, instead, the universally known theme parks: Disneyland and Disney World.

We had (I believe) the rare opportunity to visit both parks within three weeks of each other and the comparison between the two was expected. While very similar in theory, there were several differences that should be mentioned.


Obviously both parks were crowded but with less acreage, Disneyland was slightly more overwhelming at times. It did not help that apparently we were visiting the first night of the holiday-themed lighting (more on that in a moment). Screaming kids were inevitable, although it is beyond me how there can be so many unhappy people at the happiest place on earth.

Rides and Lines

Again, Disneyland was fairly crowded and I have the feeling it’s always that way because it’s California and the park itself is more like a one-day visit than a week long vacation.

Unknowingly, we managed to visit Disney World during what must be the “slow season.” With the exception of one ride our first night, we did not wait in line for anything for longer than 10 minutes. The racetrack ride that is always a mile long? Walked right on. The Mad Hatter’s Teacups? Don’t mind if we do, four times in a row. Even the wait for such popular attractions as Space Mountain and Splash Mountain was nonexistent.

Holiday Themes

It's a Small World. Photo by Halley OfnerWe were at Disneyland just before Thanksgiving, and at Disney World just after. They both were decked out (get it?) for the holidays (Christmas) but in very different ways.

Disney World, being much larger, spared no expense with the wreaths, lights and Christmas trees at every corner. Each park (MGM, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot) had an enormous tree at the entrance with a different theme, specific to the park. They were gorgeous. Everywhere you went (minus the shuttle rides-picture tired parents and their children) exuded Christmas…I mean…holiday…spirit.

Disneyland, on the other hand, at least while we were there, was not all decked out for the holiday season. We were a little relieved, as we had heard that both parks could get a little crazy. But as we waited in line for It’s a Small World After All, the sun set and with no warning, the ride façade lit up like nothing we’d seen before. It was even a little romantic, if you could block out the loud group behind us. This was nothing, however, compared to what awaited us inside the ride. Every single item was decorated for the holidays. I repeat. Every. Single. Item. It was absolutely unreal. I cannot fathom how many hours it must have taken to decorate. We rode two more times (over a year later and the song is still stuck in our heads) and were managing to find items we had missed the previous ride. We were very excited to see what Disney World had in their version but were disappointed to find that it was merely the same ol’ Small World.


The food was virtually the same at each park. Clearly Disney World had many more options but park food is park food is park food: overpriced and not as good as a homemade meal (although that might just be me). HOWEVER, Disneyland had one little stand just off Main Street that needs to be pointed out. For $4, one can purchase a corn dog at this stand. Frustrated with the price but not wanting to spend additional dollars at a place where you’re waited on, we stood in the ridiculously long line.

It was not long before we made friends with those in front us, who were season pass holders and come to the park for, among other things, the corn dogs. The gentleman explained that it was the best-kept secret in all of Disneyland. He did not exaggerate one bit. As I type, my mouth is watering. They were ginormous and delicious and completely worth the drive to California.

Halley Ofner is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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