Disneyland: the self proclaimed “happiest place on earth” is located just a few minutes outside of Los Angeles. So how could I not address such an iconic tourist destination? (It also happens to be my absolute favorite place on the planet and I am determined to work in this magically amazing world of dreams) And yes, everyone knows the basics- Mickey, Minnie, Roller coasters, etc.- but only true locals know the tips and tricks that make your Disneyland experience all that more magical.
First things first: which park to go to? At Disneyland Resort visitors have the choice of either going to California Adventure or Disneyland Park. Both are absolutely brilliant (as anything Disney is) and both have their own unique experience.
Disneyland Park: to be honest, if you only have the chance to go to one, this is it. Disneyland is the original park built by Walt Disney back in 1955 and it showcases the iconic Disney princesses and rides. On the plus side, this park has way more attractions that the whole family will love. However, the wait times will be much longer and therefore there will be less of an opportunity to ride your favorites over and over without sacrificing your chances to try everything. The highlighted rides at Disneyland are its five major roller coasters: Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones.
tips & tricks: One, is to have a plan for lunch. If you eat right, Disneyland lunch can be a continuation of the festivities. For instance, the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland offers classic American food with a country music show and around lunchtime Alice and the Mad Hatter can be found playing musical chairs with guests by the Coke Corner on Main Street. There is also a restaurant, the Blue Bayou, located inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but you will need reservations ahead of time for this (Especially for dinner, reservations are crucial anywhere at Disneyland Resort if you want to avoid another long line). Two, is to head to Finding Nemo as early as you can. This ride can draw incredibly long lines and provides no fast-pass to shorten the wait. If you want to try it out, it is much smarter to go there first, then get fast-passes for the roller coasters. Three, is to try everything only Disney can offer. For example, Dole Whip (an amazing, rare tropical treat available by the Tikki Room), fried pickles (Carnation Cafe) or Mickey themed snacks (throughout both parks).
California Adventure: Disneyland’s younger sibling is a more eclectic park that features most of the Disney-Pixar characters. This park has less rides that everyone will enjoy, but it also has less people which means you can ride Tower of Terror over and over and over again. Along with the Tower of Terror, CA Adventure is also popular for Soaring over California, California Screaming, and its new addition of Cars’ Land.
tips & tricks: One, is to try the non-ride attractions throughout the park. For instance, the Animation Academy provides free 15-minute drawing lessons on your favorite Disney characters and the Bugs Life Show provides a 4D movie complete with what feels like actual bugs crawling under your seat. Similarly, the Aladdin show features a Broadway-style production of the well known Disney movie and the Sourdough bakery gives quick tours of their bread making process along with a free sample. Two, is to again plan where you are going to eat. In my opinion, CA Adventure has more exciting dining options like Ariel’s Grotto (a character dining experience), Ghirardelli Soda Fountain (They occasionally give out free samples here too), Award Wieners (They have a vegetarian and possibly vegan option) and Flo’s V8 Cafe (try the pie). Three, is to plan ahead so you don’t end up running from one end of the park to the other. This goes for both parks, but I seem to always find myself doing it more at CA Adventure because my favorite rides are more spread out.
Both parks have access to Downtown Disney, which is another good option for food. (I’d recommend the Rainforest Cafe or Catal, but all restaurants and their menus can be seen on disneyland.com. Again, I repeat, reservations are crucial.) Downtown Disney is also home to the biggest souvenir store, World of Disney, which is the perfect place to pick up a memento before heading onto the tram to go home (a very windy/chilly tram ride, by the way). When you first enter either park, you should also pick up a free pin to account for the occasion. They have celebration, birthday, anniversary, first timer, and just married pins at the Town Hall in Disneyland and near the entrance at CA Adventure. (Birthday visitors also get a happy birthday call from Goofy). Also, scattered around both parks are hidden Mickey’s which can only be found with a very keen eye. Searching for them around the park, as well as while waiting in lines (several during the Indiana Jones wait) can be a great activity to keep your group lively all throughout the day. As far as parades go, they provide a great sit-down break in the day, but if you are looking to keep moving and cram in as much as you can, walking the opposite way along the parade route allows you to see the parade in a shorter period of time than if you were stationary.
No matter what you do though, Disneyland will be a magical experience that you will never forget.
Have a wonderful trip!!