My family recently went on a short trip to Disneyland with another family, enjoying all the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, Calif., has to offer and all of the expenses that come with it. We saved money in a number of areas, but there were two areas where I thought the splurge was worthwhile.
Even if we hadn’t saved money by staying at a hotel a mile away from Disneyland, or used credit card reward points for a free night, or drove instead of flew the 400 miles from home, or only went for two days — I still would have thought it was worth the extra money to do two things that were high on my list for a Disneyland visit.
For an extra $275, my family of three got dinner and front-row seats to the popular World of Color show at Disneyland California Adventure Park, or DCA, and lunch at the Blue Bayou restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
It was an expensive addition to our trip, especially when you consider that it only added up to three more hours of fun — two hours at DCA for dinner and the show, and about one hour at lunch.
Paying for a unique Disneyland experience
I thought both were worth the cost, mainly for a reason I’ve written about before: Fun experiences that you and your children will remember for years are worth the extra cost — if you can afford them. I’m not suggesting that anyone go into debt for such things, but to save and find other ways to pay for whatever extras they think are worthwhile.
A better view for World of Color, as I wrote at another personal finance site I own, was important to me because my wife and I took our daughter, now 11, to see it three years ago but we sat so far at the back of the crowd that we couldn’t see it too well and left early.
For about $50 per person, DCA offers dinner at one of three restaurants and a voucher to get a viewing spot at the front of the crowd. Hundreds of people gather at least an hour early to get a good spot on a terraced viewing area where they stand during the entire 20-minute show.
The voucher lets you arrive only 15 minutes before showtime. We arrived about 30 minutes early after seeing the front area get crowded, and held spots for our friends.
We had a prix fixe dinner at the least expensive of the three restaurants that DCA offers vouchers to the show. The food was excellent, and included a drink, appetizer, main course and dessert.
World of Color is something I’ve never seen before. Disney projects parts of its movies onto water being sprayed over a pond, giving you the sense that you’re at a theater where a pipe has burst.
Much of it takes place at a low level, even at water level, and the terraced area doesn’t provide much of an angle to see the show — especially if you’re behind a bunch of people.
The vouchers allowed us to get down to the first section of the viewing area, though there could still be one or two people in front of you. Still, we saw everything perfectly, and our children stood in the front row and took it all in.
$125 lunch was worth it
The Blue Bayou was someplace I’ve always wanted to go eat at. The $125 we spent there for lunch for three of us — which includes the 18 percent tip I gave — was well worth it. We went for lunch because it was a fair amount cheaper than the dinner menu.
The food was great but that wasn’t the main reason I enjoyed the restaurant so much. The ambiance is what Disneyland is selling here. Pirate ships are boarded across the indoor river on the ride, and at the other end of the restaurant you can hear guests screaming as they go down the initial drop on the ride — or so I’m told.
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride was out of service for a few hours on the day we were at Disneyland, so we didn’t hear or see anyone on the ride. We did hear crickets and frogs, though not the real ones you’d hear in Louisiana.
That was a disappointment, for sure, but the ambiance of the Blue Bayou restaurant still make it worthwhile.
Would I do all of these again? Doubtful. I expect we’ll return to Disneyland someday, when I hope my next splurge will be on something else I’ve wanted to do there — stay at a Disneyland hotel so we can get to and from the park and lot faster and enjoy other benefits that come with an on-site hotel stay.