We just got back from our first trip to Disneyland with our 3.5 year old son and 6 year old daughter. I did a ton of research prior to leaving and learned many valuable tips to getting the most out of our trip to Disneyland. Here are some of our most useful Disneyland Tips:
1) Where to stay? Stay at one of the Disney Resorts. AAA had the lowest rates that we could find, but I’m sure there are deals all the time through other agencies. The Disney resorts are located right next to the parks so that you can come and go back to your room throughout the day (this was helpful for naps and pool time when it got hot). You don’t have to worry about parking/driving and all the hotels are decorated beautifully and very Disney-esque and the biggest perk is Magic Hour (see below). There are 3 Disney resorts.
- Disneyland Hotel – This is where we stayed and we loved it. It has the best pool between all the resorts with big water slides and great rooms.
- Grand California Hotel
- Paradise Pier
2) Magic Hour – The biggest perk to staying at a Disney resort is the “Magic Hour”. All guests get access to the park one hour prior to it opening to the public. Magic Hour rotates mornings between Disneyland and California Adventure. I can’t tell you how HUGE this was to get there before the masses emerged and the lines grew long.
3) Strollers – It is so important to have a stroller when you have little kids and for us we wanted one that provided baskets and shade from the canopy. We didn’t want to haul ours in the car and onto the plane, so we rented ours through City Stroller Rentals http://www.citystrollerrentals.com/ . LOVED IT and am so glad we did. There are a variety to choose from and they’ll deliver it right to your hotel, so it’s waiting when you check-in and then you just leave it at the front desk when you leave. We rented the BOB Revolution Duallie and it only cost us $85 dollars TOTAL for all 5 days.
4) WALKEE – This is the best phone app for line wait times and navigating the park. We used this every day and it was really helpful.
5) Lines, Lines, Lines – Yes, it’s true. There are long lines almost everywhere at Disneyland and California Adventure, but FastPasses can help immensely. A FastPass is a ticket that holds your place in line for a ride. It lets you leave and do whatever you want and then get back in a special shorter line later. Here’s how you use a FastPass:
- Go to the FastPass ticket machine near the line for your ride.
- Insert your Disneyland admission ticket (card).
- Grab the FastPass that comes out and check the time it says to come back.
- They will give you an hour window to come back into the FastPass line. Usually the FastPass line is no more than 5-20 minutes long vs. 1-2 hours for the normal line.
6) Disneyland Guides and FastPass Runners – If you want to spend a stress free, minimal line, AMAZING time at Disneyland/California Adventure, then call Enchanted Guides https://www.facebook.com/enchantedguides . Owners, Chris and Lovely, are not affiliated with Disneyland, but are Premium Pass Holders, LOVE Disneyland and want to help families have a magical time by sharing their knowledge of the park. One of the biggest perks is they will collect FastPasses for you, secure best seating for parades and shows and will help you navigate the park. We did the parks on our own Wednesday-Friday and hired them for Saturday. OMG! We went on so many rides and had such an incredible day with their help. It was wonderful. They met us right before the park opened, then Chris ran around and collected FastPasses for the major rides at both Disneyland and California Adventure, while Lovely took us to non FastPass rides. Our son wasn’t big enough to go on some of the rides, so they took him to the kiddie rides while my husband, daughter and I rode the biggies. They knew where to eat, all the sneaky back ways to the different parts of the parks and saved us premium seating for the Disney Parade, Fantasmic and Fireworks. It was the best day to have them helping us and they are the sweetest couple.
7) Meeting Elsa and Anna from Frozen – Um, ya… good luck with that. Unless you’re the first to get into the park when they open for magic hour, you’ll be waiting in line 2-4 hours. Our wait time was 2.5 hours and I walked into the park 4 minutes after they opened. I wasn’t first into the park, so the early birds run to the line to beat the crowds. By the time I got there it was already 2.5 hours long. Good news… in June the new Frozen parade float will be added to the Disneyland Parade.
8) Meeting the other Princesses – The lines are long to meet characters, especially the Princesses. The best way to get around long lines and really have a magical experience is to book Breakfast or Lunch at Aerial’s Grotto (located in California Adventure). 5-6 princesses will walk around while you’re eating to sign autograph books and take pictures with your children. On our visit, we got to meet Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora and Belle. The look on my daughter’s face was priceless… my husband told me I had the same look on my face and was in awe of meeting them too.
9) World of Color – OK… this is a MUST!! Don’t miss this! I was completely blown away and this was one of my favorite moments of our entire trip. Here’s the trick if you don’t want to wait hours to reserve a seat to see this show… book a World of Color Dining Package for Dinner. When you do this, you then get to sit in their reserved section, which is front and center for the show. No wait times, you just walk down after dinner and take your spot. We got the front row. Woo Hoo! There are only 3 participating restaurants:
- Ariel’s Grotto – The princesses are NOT there for dinner only breakfast/lunch.
- Carthay Circle Restaurant
- Wine Country Trattoria – This is where we ate.
The other tip for World of Color is what day you go. The show is late if you have little ones, but if you plan it, you can see it earlier. Check the Disneyland Calendar for accurate times because it’s always changing https://disneyland.disney.go.com/calendar/daily/#/default/2014/05/22 . When we went it started at 8:30 Monday-Thursday and 9:45 Friday-Sunday.
10) Child Swap/Baby Swap – Disneyland wants to make sure even the “big kids” (aka Parents) can go on all the rides too and have fun. When traveling with a child that don’t meet the height requirement, they will allow for parents to avoid standing in line again and “child swap”. Which means I went on the ride with my oldest daughter, while my husband stayed with our youngest son. Then we swapped and he got to ride with her while I stayed with my son. Bonus for my daughter who got to go on her favorite rides a bunch of times. Here’s how you do it. When you approach the line, tell the first ride attendant you see that you want to switch off. The worker will allow everyone, including young children, to enter the attraction. When you reach the loading area, one adult rides with their child while the other stays with the other child. Then, when the ride is over they swap. Ta da!! Fantastic!
11) Height Restrictions – Here’s a break-down of the most popular rides and the height requirements.
- Space Mountain – 40” or taller
- Star Tours – 40” or taller
- Luigi’s Flying Tires – 32” or taller
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – 32” or taller
- Radiator Springs Racer – 40” or taller
- Indiana Jones – 46” or taller
- Splash Mountain – 40” or taller
- Big Thunder Mountain – 40” or taller
- Tower of Terror – 40” or taller
- California Screaming – 48” or taller
12) The Parades – There are two parades that are incredible and so magical. Disneyland has the Disney Parade down Main Street. Gorgeous floats with your favorite Disney characters, check the calendar link above for Parade times, there are usually two per night. California Adventure Parade is Pixar themed. Toy Story, Cars, Bugs Life, you name it they pull out all the kids favorites. Both of them are so worth seeing and your kids will love them.
I hope these tips help!! Have fun in Disneyland!!