Finally. You are at Disneyland.
Congratulations on your arrival. Let’s get started on why we came here .
Fun. Family fun. The kind we will remember and talk about for years.
So… a few suggestions.
Did you get that rental car? Parking at Disneyland isn’t inexpensive – $15 a day for cars. If your hotel is close enough, walking may be an option to consider. If you didn’t get a rental car, there are shuttles from area hotels. $4 a day gets you unlimited use of the ART bus system. And your hotel will have the passes for sale.
Cell Phone(s). Do you really need to have it turned on? Are you “on-call” for work, even though you’re on vacation? If so, well, I share that pain. But if I didn’t have to have it, I wouldn’t. Got by for a long time before just fine without it.
Best to plan ahead and turn it on later to check for messages. Personally, I really don’t like waiting for an attraction, only to hear someones phone go off with that unilaterally annoying ring tone. And your oh so important conversation? Ditto.
As to Sissy and her texting fixation? Give her one to make her friends jealous that she’s at Disneyland and then, cut her off. She can experience the Park just fine without the need to text every 30 seconds. Remember, she’s here with family. She can check in later in the day as well. And cell service in some areas of Disneyland, truly sucks. I don’t have time to go into all the details, but in some places, we’re talking no bars of service. Dead, dead, deadski…
Another word on electronics. Don’t try to spend your day seeing Disneyland through the viewfinder of a camera. Still or video. Make a few photos or videos here and there. Quality not quantity. If you want a memorable family photo, look for the Disneyland PhotoPass photographers all about the parks. You will also find them with most character meet and greets around the park. A great way to get that picture with the favorite character. Have the photographer take the picture with their camera and then ask for one to be taken with your camera. Get the whole family into the shot. (There is no commitment to purchase the photo, but you might want to after seeing how it comes out.)
Planning your day. Remember those park maps I mentioned? Get yours at the admission gates. And grab a schedule of park entertainment, too. These small paper treasures will easily answer more questions than a Disney message board weasel in a fit of wild rabid fandom. Trust me, that ain’t a pretty thing.
Disney also offers a free DVD to help you plan you time at the parks. A good way to help cut down on some of the in person overload is to watch this and see what lies in store.
While we’re on the subject of questions, if you want to know anything, ask a cast member. These folks are easily spotted by their Disneyland name tags. If they don’t know they answer to a question, they will find out for you. Also the best people to turn to if you need help of any kind. Especially emergencies.
Now, another tidbit of wisdom. Don’t expect to do everything at Disneyland in one day. On a normal busy summer day, no one can. So don’t hurt yourself trying to. Instead pick and choose things that the family can all do together.
Now some attractions do have a height restriction. The famed “You must be at least this tall to ride this attraction.” Safety is the reason for this and a darned good idea too. They tend to vary by attraction, so check this list to be sure what rides will be among those everyone in the family can enjoy.
What to do first? Remember that the most popular attractions will have the longest lines. Don’t worry about those. Instead, take advantage of the Fast Pass system. This allows you to get a pass to skip the wait by returning at a specific time. Example? Star Tours. Right now, the hottest of the hot attraction in Disneyland. If I were you, this is the first Fast Pass of the day to get. And once in hand, it tells you how soon you can get another one for another attraction. These can be your best friends on a busy day.
Food? Oh, I thought you would never ask. Let’s eat! Except, everyone else in Disneyland has the same idea at the same time. Try to think out of the box here. Don’t plan lunch at noon or dinner at six. You’ll be able to enjoy meal times if you eat earlier or later. Disneyland has far more to offer than just hamburgers or deep fried snacks. Again, from the web site, choices that meet every taste. Even heart healthy meals and tasty, too! Not to say that Disneyland doesn’t offer all kinds of tempting treats. A must try is the newly opened Jolly Holiday Bakery. Oh, those desserts! Yumola.
Disney offers reservations for some of the more popular dining choices. If you are looking to enjoy a sit-down meal inside either park or in Downtown Disney, this is a good option. Giving yourself a break by sitting and enjoying the meal can be a treat all it’s own.
Some suggestions, you ask? In Disneyland, I like to enjoy the places that are a bit off the beaten path. That doesn’t mean less crowded, just less along the main routes through the park. Redd Rocketts Pizza Port in Tomorrowland offers pizza, pasta and salads and a place to sit down inside or out. Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland carries on offering the usual Americanized versions of Mexican food – tacos, enchiladas, burritos and the tostada salad. Again seating inside or out. Disney makes good use of what they call “buffeteria” style dining all throughout the park. Passing along the line, you can order or select your meal choices. Others include the Plaza Inn on Main Street, the River Belle Terrace in Frontierland and the French Market in New Orleans Square. The last offers some great “live” jazz at various times throughout the day.
Shopping? A mixed blessing in my mind. You can find plenty of the same merchandise all throughout both Disneyland and California Adventure. In fact, you can find the same items for sale all over the parks. Think over a purchase that will require you to carry it with you for more than a few hours. Especially it the item is something breakable. Disney does have storage lockers you can rent for the day. Some of them are now even equipped as charging stations with 110v outlets and USB ports. A good place to stow sweatshirts or jackets for later if the weather might cool down enough.
Disneyland’s busiest time for shopping? Would you believe after midnight??? The shops on Main Street stay open one hour after park closing. And on some nights, they need every minute to make those last minute sales. Do yourself a favor and avoid those moments if you can.
And if you are shopping and you are asked if you have an annual pass, not to worry. Those folks who are lucky enough to live close enough to visit more than once in a while may have annual passes. These offer admission (some with restrictions on dates available, especially in the summer) and some discounts – especially for merchandise and food. Don’t feel left out as Disney sometimes offers special discounts to everyone. Check those receipts to see if one is mentioned.
The best advice I can offer is to take a break. If you start your day at park opening (usually 8 am during summer months), a trip back to the hotel can be a great restorative. Think 2 pm or so. A dip in the hotel pool or just getting off your feet for a while can do wonders. Of course, if the hotel has a bar, a smart cocktail won’t hurt either. Thus refreshed, you can hit the parks ready to go until closing (again usually at midnight in summer months). I’ve also seen both kids and adults for whom that afternoon nap would have been a good idea. You’ll see them too, dragging themselves around the park as the night grows longer. Even a hour can work wonders!
Night time at Disneyland! Some of the most magical moments of the day are during this time. Check the Entertainment schedule to see what is offered on the days of your visit. Fireworks at Disneyland have been a summer tradition for years. 9:30 pm. You can set your watch by them.Good places to see them from? Try a spot on Main Street near the Partner’s statue (Walt and Mickey) in the middle of the Hub (so called because the lands of the Park extend like spokes on a wheel from there). Best to find a spot to stand and expect to stay there until after the fireworks end.
Now a word of warning about fireworks. Disneyland will cancel shows if winds above the park make fireworks unsafe for the night. Same for rain or even low fog. So, on nights like these, don’t be surprised if you hear an announcement before the show starts about possible cancellation.
If you happen to walk through Frontierland or New Orleans Square before dusk, you may notice a lot of people lining up along the Rivers of America. Why? Well, this is where Fantasmic is performed. A night time spectacular makes the river and Tom Sawyers Island into the stage where it happens. It makes extensive use of images projected on fountains of water. On windy nights, all those folks who have waited and are standing next to the river? Oh, they get wet. And even some folks further back, too. My hint for seeing this show? Wait for the second performance at 10:30 pm. You can come in after the first show and find a good spot to watch from either the River Belle Terrace or from one of the terraces in front of New Orleans Square. But be nice! Plenty of other folks will have the same ideas.
Across the way in California Adventure you will find World of Color. Call this Fantasmic’s big brother if you will. A great show with plenty of action using lights, fountains and again images projected on screens of misting water. Lot’s and lot’s of misting water. Odds are if you see this show, you will get wet. If you don’t already have one, get a rain poncho before the show or you’ll probably buy that souvenir beach towel after the show.
As wet as folks get, this is one popular show. On some peak attendance nights in summer, Disney may even add a third show to the schedule. Best bet is to get that Fast Pass earlier in the day to save your place for a performance later that night. Again, go with the second or third show and spend your time doing something other than waiting. Disney also offers some dining packages just for World of Color that include passes. From sit-down dining to picnic meals, there are options that work well for everyone.
So, a second park at Disneyland? Indeed there is and that is why the 3-day Park Hopper pass was invented. This pass lets you do just what it says. You can hop between the two parks at any time during the length of the pass. Busy at Disneyland? Think about checking out California Adventure. Some really fun attractions here with something for everyone. Originally, the park was designed to offer guests a glimpse of California without having to make the trip away from Anaheim. Now, the theme has guests visiting the California that Walt Disney encountered when he came west from Kansas City in 1923. It also mixes in some of the newer parts of the Disney canon with the addition of Carsland (a.k.a. Radiator Springs) from the Pixar “Cars” films. That opens this summer (June 15th to be precise) after a major renovation of the park. Expect plenty of folks looking to check the park out this summer with everything new to take in.
I’ve been asked from time to time about how young is too young for Disneyland? Well, as a parent, you should have an idea as to how your little campers will react. A day at Disneyland can be a sensory overload – even for adults! To a small child, Mickey can frightening simply because he is bigger and something never encountered before. Consider past experience your guide. If your child has done well in situations with a lot going on all the same time, that first Disneyland visit should be a good one for all. If not, you may want to think about waiting a while.
And with children of any age? That mid-day break is the right thing to do. I have seen far too many small children being carried through the parks at night as limp bundles. When they are worn out, it is time to head for for the hotel. You’re not creating memories for anyone by carrying a sleeping child around Disneyland. Same goes for cranky. Small children, tweens, teens and adults all have a point where too much is enough. Better to rest and enjoy tomorrow than continuing on.
I know this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of secrets about a visit to Disneyland. But I hope that some of these things will help make your time in Anaheim go that much smoother. I said it before and I’ll say it again.
Remember. You’re at Disneyland. Not everyone can say that.
Relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t try to do everything. You can’t. And you will only end up miserable if you try to.
Take it all one step at a time. You’ll be glad you did.