Mark my words, I’m probably the biggest scaredy cat you’re ever going to meet. You don’t believe me? Maybe this will convince you: I’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz because I’ve been warned of the flying monkeys. Needless to say, I was pretty adamant about riding the Haunted Mansion for the longest time. My younger sister rode it years before I did. Now, even though I’ve ridden it several times, my heart always beats a little faster whenever I board a Doom Buggy, and I always exhale a sigh of relieve when I hear, “Hurry back, hurry back…” as I exit the ride. Despite my wavering loyalty to the Haunted Mansion, this part of the park has always been one of my favorites. The sound of the jazz band playing in New Orleans Square and the thrill of plummeting 50 feet on Splash Mountain in Critter Country always seems to put a smile on my face. Because these lands are pretty small compared to other lands in Disneyland, I will be combining them as I did for Adventureland and Frontierland.
There are no places to eat breakfast in New Orleans Square and Critter Country, so fill up with a hearty breakfast before coming to the park. Immediately after entering Disneyland, head to the Haunted Mansion and get in line. The queue can become insanely long in the afternoon, but during this time of day, you should be able to hop right on without even waiting. Keep your eyes peeled for the Hatbox Ghost in the attic scene. He debuted with the attraction in 1969 but after many technical difficulties, he was taken out of the attraction until last year. He’s a very special piece of Disneyland history for Disney freaks like me. If you’re thirsty for even more spooky sights after riding the attraction, ask one of the cast members to take you to the pet cemetery. Many guests don’t know that this even exists. If you ask to see it during a slow time, cast members are normally more than happy to show it to you.
After visiting the cemetery (that is something I never thought I’d write), head to the New Orleans Square train station. The train won’t be running until Star Wars Land opens but there is always a conductor there that can answer your questions. Guests can even blow the train whistle, which seems like a pretty magical experience. If you’re having trouble relaxing at the train station because of the annoying ticking noise, don’t despair. The noise is actually Walt Disney’s dedication of Disneyland speech he gave on opening day in Morse code. So maybe now that you know the history behind it, you’ll actually smile when you hear that obnoxious noise.
Next, head to Critter Country and visit with some of your friends from the Hundred Acre Woods. The characters normally like to meet guests outside of Pooh’s Corner. Side note: Winnie the Pooh is one of my favorite Disney characters (my room is themed after him, that’s how much I love him). So give him a hug for me when you visit with him. Thank you kindly.
After visiting with Pooh, Tiger, and Eeyore, take a spin through the Hundred Acre Woods on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. For all of you Country Bear Jamboree fans, I’m deeply sorry that Winnie the Pooh took the place of your beloved attraction. Blame the fans of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for taking away the jamboree. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was originally scheduled to take the place of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but alas, the fans united and petitioned until Disney put the attraction in the place of the Country Bear Jamboree. Knowing that all of you Country Bear Jamboree fans deserved something special, the Disney imagineers left a piece of your beloved attraction in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. During the end of the attraction, turn around in your honeycomb when the doors are opening with Pooh’s birthday gifts. You’ll see the busts of three characters from the Country Bear Jamboree.
You’ve probably worked up quite an appetite by now, so head to Harbour Galley for lunch. Enjoy from options such as the clam chowder, lobster roll, or Fisherman’s Salad. If you don’t see open tables near the serving window, walk down the path, passing the little buildings on your left, until you reach another seating area. With a view of the serene Rivers of America, it’s one of the most relaxing spots in the park.
After lunch, hike up the couple steps, following the path. This spot is one of my favorite places in Disneyland, and I have to owe that to FreshBakedDisney (if you’ve already forgotten, they’re my favorite YouTube channel). The host of FreshBaked calls this area the Secret Path since not many guests know about it. The spot is so magical because you can see guests just after they’ve plummeted down the Splash Mountain drop. Everyone is always smiling and laughing and happy that they survived such a scary fall. Check out this video by FreshBakedDisney to see why the Secret Path is so magical.
After spending a fair amount of time on the Secret Path, take a journey with Captain Jack Sparrow. The line for Pirates of the Caribbean is normally pretty long during this time of day, but don’t be frightened. Although it looks terrifying, it’s constantly moving and you’ll be boarding your ship within no time. I’ve never waited more than a half hour to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, even during Christmas, the busiest time of year in Disneyland. While riding the attraction, take in the scent of damp wood and moist air. I’ve always thought that the scent from this ride would make a glorious perfume; I’d douse myself in it every day.
Seeing that Jack Sparrow lived happily ever after with more rum than he could have dreamt of, head to the heart of New Orleans Square and stroll through the quaint shops. Scour the boutiques until you find a Disney souvenir that you can’t live without. I like shopping in New Orleans Square because the merchandise is pretty unique. If you’re a Pirates of the Caribbean or Nightmare Before Christmas fan, this is the place to look for souvenirs.
With your new purchase(s) in hand, head to the Mint Julep Bar and indulge in a Mint Julip. If you’re feeling really daring, treat yourself to some beignets too (Disneyland even serves pumpkin beignets during Halloween and butterscotch or peppermint flavored beignets during Christmas). Relax and tap your foot to the live jazz band as the beignets leave a trail of dust on the table and on your clothes.
Allow your treat to settle before heading to Splash Mountain. Yes, I know that Splash Mountain is one of the wetter attractions at Disneyland, but don’t miss the ride for the sake of keeping your clothes dry or your hair perfectly in place. This timeless attraction is well-worth it. The last time I rode the attraction was late at night. I sat in the very front, and yes, I was drenched. I shivered for the rest of the night and my shoes were soaked for the rest of my trip, but it was just a reminder of the adventure I had experienced on Splash Mountain.
After spending quality time with Br’er Fox and Br’er Rabbit, head to Café Orleans for dinner. If it’s not too chilly, I recommend sitting outside. I love watching the guests hurrying off to their next adventures and the last glimmers of light reflecting off the Rivers of America. Café Orleans is one of my favorite restaurants in Disneyland. Of course you can’t go wrong with the Monte Cristo sandwich, but the New Orleans gumbo or the braised beef crêpe aren’t bad options either. WARNING: Although you’ll be tempted to devour everything on your plate, be sure to leave room for dessert.
With an almost full belly, head to Pooh Corner and purchase one (or more) of their chocolate chip cookies (mark my word, they are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world) and take it with you to the base of the Rivers of America. Then, stake out a spot for the fireworks.
As the fireworks blast over the water, and as the Mark Twain Riverboat glimmers by the light of the fireworks, eat your delightful cookie and reflect on your perfect day in New Orleans Square and Critter Country.
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