Things I Learnt from a Trip to California’s Disneyland
The Happiest Place on Earth –Walt Disney’s very first theme park Disneyland at Anaheim, California just turned 60 years old on this month! This must-go tourist attraction for Los Angeles visitors might be a little intimidating to some. After all, with the long lines and the crowd, it seems impossible to do everything in Disneyland. But I am telling you, it is possible to enjoy the best of the two parks in just two short days if you plan carefully.
During my recent visit to the parks, I have been able to squeeze in everything I want to do and enjoyed two really excellent and eventful days at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The piece hopes to give you a few tips to help with your planning so you can make the best use of time in Disneyland.
There are so many types of tickets. My suggestion would be to buy tickets in advance, go on weekdays to avoid the crowd and check for discounts I bought tickets with the SoCal Resident Ticket Offer, which are typically offered during the so-called off-season from January to May. The discount this year was up to 25 percent off regular price. Anyone with a Southern Californian address can enjoy offer (The cast members at the gates didn’t actually check my proof of residency. Wink wink.) If you plan on parking at Disneyland, you can buy your parking pass online as well.
Park hopper or not? With park hopper tickets, you can enjoy same-day admission to both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. If you have two days or more, park hopper tickets aren’t really necessary in my opinion. You can tackle one park each day.
How about Magic Morning? With Magic Morning, you can go into Disneyland at 8 am, one hour earlier than opening hours, on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. That would give you a head start to other visitors and you can go tackle the most popular rides first. But then again, we didn’t get a magic morning pass and we still survive.
I am not kidding, you need to strategically plan out your visit to the parks. List out all the rides and attractions you want to do, arrange the must-dos in order and note which rides have FastPasses and utilize them!
Rides and Attractions
Speaking of rides, you should totally check out the ratings of the rides here and here so that you won’t waste time going on an utterly boring ride. Both parks aren’t terribly big so rushing from one side of the park to another is not too horrible. Do wear comfortable shoes though. Here is a rough plan for Disneyland, since it is the more crowded of the two parks.
- Start early. Be there when the park opens at nine. Have breakfast before you enter.
- Start with Fantasyland. Rides are so packed together it’s easy to hop from one to another. We started with Fantasyland and the wait for the attractions was never longer than 15 minutes. By noon, we have tackled everything on our list in Fantasyland.
- Next I would recommend going to New Orleans Square for two of the must-dos: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, before the lines get long in the afternoon. After that you can pretty much do anything on your list.
- The late afternoon would be perfect time to have a little rest and enjoy shows like Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Mickey and the Magical Map. I recommend the 4:35 pm show for Mickey and the Magical Map. After that you can go for another short ride, then get ready for the Mickey’s Soundsational Parade at 6pm.
- After the parade you can go have dinner and probably you would still have time for another ride or two before you have to find a spot for the Remember… Dreams Come True! fireworks at 9:25 pm. You would still have time before you catch the Fastasmic! light show at 10:45 pm.
As for California Adventure Park, I recommend skipping For the First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-Along Celebration which is just a giant karaoke singing with excited kids. Aladdin Musical Spectacular, Radiator Springs Racers and World of Color are things you cannot miss.
It’s crucial for you to utilize FastPasses. You can get new FastPasses every 90 minutes. FastPass machines will be just outside the attractions. Attractions that offer FastPasses are:
- Disneyland: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indian a Jones Advent ure, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Storytelling at Royal Theatre & Fantasmic!
* For Fantasmic!, seating is divided into different color zones. It’s almost a must for you to get a fastPass if you want to see the show. Make sure all members of your party are in the same zone.
- California Adventure Park: Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome [Character Encounter], For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Goofy’s Sky School, Grizzly River Run, Soarin’ Over California, California Screamin’, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Radiator Springs Racers & World of Color
* For Radiator Spring Racers, get the FastPass the second you are in the park (they run out very quickly!). World of Color FastPasses work the same way with Fastasmic!
Comparing to Hong Kong Disneyland, it almost takes no effort at all to meet the Disney characters. Major Disney characters are always present at Main Street USA. You can also find them in their houses in Toontown, but lines will be long.
For princesses, you can find them at the Princess Fantasy Faire where the line can get very long. Go there early. At Pixie Hollow, you can find Tinker Bell and other characters. Go to California Adventure Park’s Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome to meet Anna and Elsa (they’re so popular you will need a FastPass to meet them) while other characters like the Incredibles will be around at Hollywood Land. Toy Story characters would be at Paradise Pier.
Eating and Living
Note: you CAN bring food into the parks! So we just packed our own lunches and save a bunch of money. If you are going to dine in the parks though, Plaza Inn has possibly the best fried chicken I have ever had at a reasonable price.
If you are going to stay in the parks for more than a day, I strongly recommend living around the area. If you don’t mind spending much, living at the Disney hotels would be great since you will then enjoy the Magic Morning privilege. Or else, there are plenty of small hotels around that are cheap and within walkable distance.
Putting the cute merchandise aside, there are a few interesting souvenirs you can get in the parks.
- Free Buttons: there is an assortment of these buttons which you can ask the staff for for free. If it’s your birthday, you can even get a happy birthday pin with your name on it!
- Death Certificate: Ask cast members for a death certificate and they will give you one at the end of the ride. Be very nice and very convincing to the cast members.
- Jungle Cruise Map: You can ask cast members for a free map of the Jungle Cruise’s entire route and features.
- Disney Dollars: Exchange your money for Disney dollars, a currency that can be used within the parks but because they are so pretty you will just want to keep them as a souvenir. They sell $1 notes (with Dumbo on it) at Fantasyland, and you can get $5 notes (with Mickey Mouse on it) and $10 notes (with Stitch on it) at Tomorrowland. Ask the cast members for a envelop to keep them in.