DISNEYLAND TIPS FROM A DISNEYLAND FANATIC
TIPS FOR YOUR TRIP TO DISNEYLAND
Anyone who knows me knows I am a Disney freak. More specifically, a Disneyland fanatic. I grew up in SoCal, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve had some form of an Annual Pass (now called a Magic Key). And as a kid, my friends and I would go hang out, not always doing the rides and attractions, but to check out the concerts at the Tomorrowland Terrace, dance at the Carnation Plaza Gardens, eat at the Blue Bayou, and attend special events. As an adult going to the Parks, it’s pretty much the same. I’ll hook up with friends, bar hop between Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar and Lamplight Lounge, shoot videos for my YouTube channel, and we still check out the bands performing at the different venues. And once in a while, we’ll jump on the Jungle Cruise or the Millennium Falcon before heading home. Disneyland has always been my playground. So I’m often asked for advice from friends who are trying to plan a trip to the Disney Parks in Anaheim.
First, let me state the obvious. Things have changed since the pandemic. Even getting into the Parks is different. Just because you bought tickets to get into Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, that doesn’t mean you can just walk through the gates. Once you get tickets, you’ll have to download the official Disneyland app (which will be your best friend once at the Parks), get yourself registered, and make a park reservation. And you may notice on the calendar that there may not be any openings for the day you want to go. In fact, as I write this, both DL and DCA are unavailable for most of October through Halloween. This could change your other reservation plans like flights…which is difficult enough with just one flight in and out of the Pangborn Airport. So everything has to coordinate perfectly.
GET THE DISNEYLAND APP
As mentioned, you’ll need to download the official Disneyland app. It’s free. Explore and get to know the app before you go. There are some great features on it that include the wait times for each of the attractions. You can make reservations for dining. Find out when the Disneyland Marching Band will be performing on Main Street USA, etc. Having said that, the app can be a little overwhelming. Stick to the basics. Don’t freak about a wait time that reads, a 90 minute wait to ride a 90 second ride like Peter Pan. More on that later.
WHERE TO GO FIRST
I always recommend planning your trip, but give yourself some time to explore. Disneyland itself has a rich history. It was the Park that Walt Disney himself actually helped create from his imagination. When you’re there, you’re walking in Walt’s footsteps. If you can afford it, take the ‘Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps’ tour. And plan on resting, outside of dining. Sit on a bench and people watch. Or kill two birds with one stone by resting and enjoying an attraction like, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. 99% of the time, I do have a routine when I enter the Parks. Locals tend to hit up Disneyland first in the morning. So maybe one morning, head over to Disney California Adventure first. But make sure when you reserve your Park reservation for DCA first. Then after 1pm, you'll be able to walk over to DL while some of the locals walk over to DCA. What attractions should you do first? More on that later.
If you’re going to make dining reservations, make them on the app long before you fly into SoCal. Limit it to maybe just a couple of places, and then enjoy the experience. Remember, even while reserving early, you’ll see many places like the popular Cafe’ Orleans, already booked up. There are plenty of walk up and order restaurants like Hungry Bear in Critter Country, Rancho Del Zocalo in Frontierland, or just go to the Little Red Wagon on Main Street for the best Corn Dog.
Many have asked about the Genie Plus, the new Disney service that replaced the Fast Pass. Honestly, I would not pay extra for the service. Even those of us who go to Disneyland a lot, are scratching our heads over this somewhat complicated system. So go with the flow, use the free services and wait in line. With many attractions like Rise of the Resistance, there’s plenty to do and see. But for those queues for like it’s a small world, there are apps you can download on your phone to keep you occupied. One of the most popular games you’ll see people playing is called, Heads Up. Instead of me explaining it, go to the app store and give it a look. People are having fun in line playing this game. There’s even a Disney edition.
BEST WAIT TIMES
As for shorter wait times, early in the morning at ‘rope drop’. Note that, although you’re not supposed to run, people will run to their favorite attractions at rope drop and the line to the popular attraction will instantly be long. Get on the second most popular attraction, let the lines die down in the most popular ride. Then go to Indiana Jones, Rise of the Resistance or Radiator Springs Racers. Also, you may find wait times are lower when there’s a parade, fireworks, Fantasmic, or World of Color.
BEST TIME TO GO TO DISNEYLAND RESORT
When is the best time to visit Disneyland? I get this question so often and my standard answer these days is that, there is no ‘off season’ at Disneyland. It used to be where you could check to see if the hotels are booked, or if there’s a convention, or a special event. Then you’d know it’ll be crowded. But today, the resort in SoCal is always busy. I used to go to Disneyland at least three or four times a week. And just when I thought I figured out what day and what time of day would have lighter crowds, I’d find myself shuffling through the streets of Adventureland where traffic is worse than the 91 freeway that got me to Disneyland.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE CROWDS/WHY IS IT ALWAYS CROWDED
Bring your patience when you get to the Disneyland Resort. Remember, while Walt Disney World in Florida is more of a tourist destination, many of the folks walking up and down Main Street USA at Disneyland are going to be locals. Like I mentioned earlier, I go to the Parks to hang with friends. Many local kids are going to be stopping in after school to hang and see their favorite bands like Suburban Legends or Phat Cat Swinger perform. Families are going to have dinner at places like Splitsville in Downtown Disney. And that can be annoying for the family out of town who saved up for a year to enjoy the Parks. Be aware that locals have been through the Haunted Mansion 100+ times, so there’s going to talk through the attraction. Even loudly mimicking and answering back the Ghost Host, “Are these walls actually stretching or is it your imagination?”, as if the Haunted Mansion is the Disney version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. By the way, as a side note, beware of YouTubers. They are everywhere! There are some great YouTubers that create great content. Then there are the YouTubers that can be very annoying, yelling into their self facing cameras. If you see them getting in the same bobsled as you on the Matterhorn, ask for another bobsled.
WHERE TO STAY
Of course I get asked what hotel I stay at when I fly down to Disneyland. Normally I like to stay on the Resort, but I know that a night’s stay can be three times more expensive than a neighboring hotel. If all you need is a place to sleep because you’re gonna be at DL/DCA all day, book a room somewhere up and down Harbor Blvd. The further away, the cheaper. And then you can either walk over to the entrance. Or some hotels have a bus service to the Parks. If you stay at the Disneyland Resort, take sleep in. Or, get up really early and get into the Parks an hour early. One of the privileges for staying at the Disney resorts. Take advantage of the pools and the restaurants. Side Note: Because there's only one flight out of Wenatchee, you will most likely not show up to your hotel in Anaheim until after 8pm. Let the hotel know it may be a late check in.
WHAT TO PACK
Surprisingly, I get questions about security and what you can put in the backpack to carry around the Disneyland Parks. I ALWAYS tell people, bring as little as possible! Water and snacks if needed. The less you bring, the quicker the security line moves. And believe me…it can take forever just to get through security. And remember that there are things that they will stop you for, like your attire. Dress conservatively. You will not be allowed to bring a wagon stroller or a double wide stroller. Check the Disneyland app for what is prohibited. If you're bringing in a stuffed backpack or bag, it takes security a longer time to go through all of it. And then you have to carry it around all day. Think about getting a locker. Soon I'll be writing an article of do's and don'ts at Disneyland, and backpacks will be part of that conversation. Because one of the more annoying situations is being in a tight queue like the one for Snow White's Enchanted Wish, and someone is always hitting you by swinging their oversized bag.
Have any questions for an upcoming trip or planning a trip to Disneyland? Feel free to send me a message. As mentioned, I'll answer some of your questions with a list of Do's and Don'ts at the Parks. Like, what if you see a celebrity? Yep. They love Disneyland as well.