Disneyland tips and tricks:
- If you stay onsite at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, you get an extra magic morning every day. This alternates between parks. There are some exclusive benefits – if the magic morning is at California adventure, you can go on the Radiator Springs Racers ride in that first hour. This is only for hotel guests. If you have a hopper pass that includes one magic morning, you can get into the park early, but you can’t go on the Radiator Springs Racers until the park opens to the public. There are also random meet and greets with Disney Characters in the hotel lobby – and no lineups. The Grand Californian hotel has direct entry into California Adventure park – again no lineups to get into the park in the morning and very easy to go back to the hotel if you need a change of clothes, a nap, a swim or a break from the crowds. The Grand Californian hotel is currently undergoing some renovations and the Whitewater Raft casual dining/takeaway restaurant is closed. They serve pastries, fruit, yogurt and coffee in the Hearthstone lounge as an alternative in the mornings. Coffee is complimentary to hotel guests and breakfast of pastries, fruit and yogurt for 5 of us was usually $25 – a pretty good deal.
- Even if you are not a morning person – it’s worth the early wake up call to get to the parks early. The morning is the best time at the parks – it’s not busy, there are no lineups and you can go on a lot of rides or meet a lot of characters in a short amount of time. The afternoons and evenings get a lot busier. As an example, we went right to the Fantasy Fair to meet the princesses at 8am and we only waited 10 minutes. Later in the day, it was over an hour. You can get on Big Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion or Splash Mountain with only a few minutes wait for the first hour…maybe two. After that it would often be an hour or longer for a wait.
- If there are popular rides that do not offer a FastPass option, do those first. You can always get a FastPass for popular rides, so you can experience them without waiting later in the day. Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, Incredicoaster, etc….all offer Fast Passes and we found the Fast Passes via the MaxPass to be plentiful. Rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan’s Flight do not offer a Fast Pass option. We could ride Pirates twice with no wait at all first thing in the morning. By lunch time it was an hour wait and by dinner time it was almost a two hour wait….with no possibility of a FastPass.
- Have a plan. I’ve mentioned it before, but it really is important to make the most of your time. Know which area of the park you want to do first and which ride you want to get a FastPass for and which one you want to go on before it lines up. Know where and when you are going for lunch so you don’t waste time looking for a restaurant that you like and waiting in long lineups to order food…either use the mobile food order or make a dining reservation in advance.
- If you want special dining options, character dining, large group dining, etc…book well in advance as popular ones fill up fast. Even if you want a regular dining reservation, don’t expect to make a reservation on short notice or to walk up and get in. Restaurants are often full and there was usually a 30-60 minute wait for a table without a reservation. Finding ways to avoid lineups is key to making the most of your time.
- If you are up for a later night, rides are often quieter during parades/Fantasmic show times and for the last hour or two that the parks are open. We were able to walk right on rides at the end of the night – same as we could first thing in the morning.
- Spending the extra few dollars on the “park hopper” option for the parks is well worth it. If you only have a few days and want to make the most of your time, it’s great to be able to go between the parks. The parks are right next to each other, so hopping is very quick and easy. Our last day was a prime example of why you would want to do this. We made a list of all of our favorite attractions that we wanted to do “one last time” on our last day. We started our day at 7am in California Adventure Park for our Magic Hour. We were able to go on the Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree , Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and get some family Photo Pass photos taken with the Cars Characters all by 8am. At that point, we headed across to Disneyland Park for opening and were able to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and the Jungle Cruise all by 10am. We headed back to California adventure for a 1040am fast pass at Guardians of the Galaxy…a full day’s worth of fun that we managed to fit in before lunch time. That meant during the busy afternoon hours, we could head back to the hotel for a swim and a nap and return with fresh kids for Toy Story Midway Mania and Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses, dinner at Wine Country and ended the night with a few more rides when the lineups died down during the parade.
If you have questions about Disneyland or would like to start planning your own magical getaway please reach out to our team! They would love to help get you on your way.