50 Spectacular Disneyland Tips
Being a Walt Disney World veteran, planning a Disneyland trip was harder than I expected. Now that I’m back and somewhat of an “expert,” I have some seriously awesome Disneyland tips to share with you.
And I broke them into 4 categories:
If you only want to follow one tip…
Follow this one. To have a successful Disneyland vacation you just have to read one book. And that’s The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.
A few days before your trip, check Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure park hours to plan your trip accordingly. You can write them down and take a picture of that paper or take screenshots if you’re on your phone.
Get to the park 40 minutes before opening time. You won’t be the only family there, far from it. And I promise you will thank me later. If you don’t, you’ll need at least 5 days at the parks to do it all. And who sleeps in at Disney?????
World of Color
World of Color is Disney California Adventure’s nighttime show. The best way to see it with the minimal amount of effort is by getting a FastPass as soon as you can. It’s actually known to be the only way to be able to see the show. Find the FastPass machine near the entrance of The Little Mermaid.
There were a lot of rides closed up until the day I got to CA. Thankfully I checked beforehand and was able to go through the disappointment before my trip. Ride closures happen and they’re hard to miss. Don’t mourn too much over them.
If you’re staying at one of the three Disneyland hotels, make sure to take advantage of the early hours they offer. It’s a really really good step up on the crowds. I picked the park of the day by the early hours.
A must-have for your trip. You can make reservations, have a map handy, AND check wait times. It’s a lifesaver.
Disneyland can be reached by three airports, John Wayne, Long Beach, and LAX. John Wayne is said to be the best one to fly into. It’s nicer, less crowded, and easier to navigate. It’s also closer to Disneyland.
Meet the Characters
Character meals are the BEST and easiest way to see characters and get those signatures and photos. There are a few offerings but Storyteller’s Cafe at the Grand Californian is fantastic.
Best Time to Go
I did endless research on Disneyland before I booked my trip and everything told me to go in September and I am so happy I did. The Halloween decorations were up, crowds were low, and the weather was perfect! Look up when the Halloween decorations go up at Disneyland and that’s when you go!
Charge your phone at the parks! The stations are located in the locker rooms on Main Street, U.S.A. (and Buena Vista Street in DCA). They even have cords if you forget yours.
However, I do suggest a battery pack. Make sure to get a high-quality power bank like this one that can CHARGE YOUR PHONE UP TO 5 TIMES or more! ($39.99)
If you are visiting for a special occasion, like a first visit, engagement, birthday, etc, you are eligible for a free pin so don’t forget to ask a Cast Member for one!
Late Night Shopping
Disneyland stores are open an hour past closing so save your shopping for the end!
Disneyland still uses paper tickets so make sure to take a photo of the back of all of your tickets. This will help if you lose them.
You can start making dining reservations for your Disneyland trip 60 days in advance. Some restaurants book very quickly.
Napa Rose is Disneyland’s #1 restaurant and the best restaurant in Orange County. The prices are high but the food is well worth it. Make sure to make reservations as soon as possible.
A visit here is a must do. Reservations are also highly suggested. Not only is the food delicious but the meal will be budget savvy and there at least three food must try options on their menu.
Food Must-Try #1
The Monte Cristo sandwich at Cafe Orleans is a must try. Not only is the sandwich AMAZING but the portion is good for two, and for only $20.00, you can’t go wrong.
Food Must-Try #2
Also at Cafe Orleans, the Pommes Frites are so good. They are only $7 and pair well with the Monte Cristo sandwich. If you like french fries at all, you are going to like this dish.
Food Must-Try #3
To finish off your visit at Cafe Orleans, try Mickey-shaped Beignets. Four come with the order and they are good sized. Definitely, a shareable dessert and they are all the rage.
Carnation Cafe is one of the most historical table service restaurants at Disneyland. Everything on the menu is tasty and the prices are great.
Food Must-Try #4 and #5
Before you head to DCA make sure to watch at least the first Cars Movie because Cars Land is so awesome and it’s hard to appreciate otherwise. For this two foodie must trys we are going to head to the Cozy Cone Motel to Cozy Cone #3. Here you have to try the Chili Con Queso Cone and the Bacon Mac n Cheese Cone. One of the best things I had at DCA.
Disneyland Bar Crawl
The best thing about Disney is how great it is for the entire family. But this tip is specifically for the adults. Similar to Epcot’s Drinking Around the World, this is a great adult time. Read more here.
Food Must-Try #6
My mom isn’t a huge reader but on my 2nd day at Disneyland, she texts to make sure I try this treat that was all the rage, Dole Whip. Have you heard of it? Located in Disneyland Park near the Enchanted Tiki Room, this ice cream is a staple at Disneyland.
Alcohol is available in Disney California Adventure, but not in Disneyland.
My first tip of this article was to purchase The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. At the back of this book, you will find touring plans for each park. As much as I know about the Disney parks, I live by these touring plans. I purchase this book every single year. No expert can tell you how to tour the parks the way they do.
FastPass (FP) for Soarin
Soarin is a family friendly ride located in Disney California Adventure and it is a must ride. The lines at the ride were very long the entire time. I picked up a FP late morning for a return time of around 2:30pm. Make sure to get a FastPass for this ride before 2pm.
FastPass (FP) for the Haunted Mansion
It just so happened that I had plans to ride the Haunted Mansion the day after it reponed with it’s Halloween decorations. The wait that day went up to 400 minutes. Grab your FastPass for the Haunted Mansion as soon as possible.
First Ride at Disneyland
Riding Peter Pan first thing is a must if you want to get anything done. I walked straight to the ride after the park opened and still waited 15 minutes. Don’t FastPass it or anything else. Just ride it in the morning.
Like any other adult, I have my alcoholic beverages of choice. Beer is one of them but so are Piña Coladas. Both WDW and Disneyland have what’s called a Piña Colava which is a Piña Colada with raspberry puree. It is soo good I can’t get enough of it. Please try if this if it’s your kind of drink. It’s at available where ever you can get alcohol at Disneyland.
When it comes to WDW, I don’t at all suggest the park hopper option. But at Disneyland, it’s very different. You can get from park to park in less than 7 minutes. They are literally across from each other. It will become a lot easier to tour the parks with the Park Hopper. It’s well worth the additional cost.
Grizzly River Run
This is a great ride at DCA, and the wait is never very long but I had to put it on this list. Why? Because you get SOAKED. Luckily we did this right before our midday break where we head back to the hotel for some rest, but a poncho would do the trick too.
Rides at Disneyland constantly close and reopen. I have no idea why but it happened all the time. What I also noticed was that a lot of the times the ride reopens so don’t get discouraged. Just keep checking the app.
FastPass (FP) for Space Mountain
Space Mountain everywhere has long lines. Make sure to make time to grab a FastPass for this ride. Doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning but I would grab one before 2pm.
FastPass (FP) for Guardians of the Galaxy
I almost missed riding this because I tried to get a FastPass after 10am. Don’t ride this first thing in the morning but definitely grab a FastPass as soon as you can. Most touring plans tell you to get a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers first, and I agree but next stop has to be Guardians of the Galaxy.
FastPass (FP) for Radiator Springs
Getting a FP for Radiator Springs first thing when you get into DCA is important. Everyone rushes to ride the ride but you can get a FP and then enjoy 3-4 rides in the meantime.
Disneyland Park Fireworks
Remember…Dreams Come True is a show not to be missed, and that’s what almost happened to me. I am a Disney World veteran and usually, I show up 15 minutes before the nighttime castle and get a good view. So when I showed up 45 min before the Disneyland show, I could not see it at all. It was unbelievable. Disneyland’s circle has a lot more trees and the castle is smaller. I suggest getting there 2 hours beforehand to grab a good spot. Use it as a break time OR have one person hold the spot and alternate riding rides.
Fireworks Viewing Spot
This was my second time trying to see the show and I was going to get a good spot FOR SURE. Here is the best way I can describe the best spot ever. When the Mickey and Walt statue is right in front of you, you want to find the bench that is outside of the statue circle on the left-hand side. There is a snack kiosk to the left of this bench and the entrance to Frontierland is in front of it. Get that bench! See image below with area circled in red.
This is easier said than done, and I am a morning person but trust me on this one. Early in this post, I mentioned the importance of waking up early and getting to the park 40 minutes before the park opening. Doing so will allow you to take a very needed afternoon break. Go back to the room, head to the pool, have an inexpensive lunch and relax. The parks are open until 10/11/12am, it’s impossible to make it all day.
Great Moment with Mr. Lincoln is an often overlooked ride but it’s ever so important to experience. It first showcased in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair and worked on by Walt himself. Not to be missed!
What a great show. Really was a highlight of my trip, both because the show was so good and because it was a very romantic time for me and my girlfriend. Anyway… you want to make sure you see the second and last show of Fantasmic for two main reasons, it’s less crowded and seeing the second show gives you more time to enjoy the park. You also HAVE to get a FastPass for the show. You can do so grabbing one from the machine by Big Thunder Mountain or doing a Fantasmic Dining Package.
Frozen at the Hyperion is a great show, but it’s also an hour long. When I went to see it I only had that first piece of news so little did I know that I was going to be sitting there for an hour. It’s just much better when you have the heads up.
Rides at Night
Try Big Thunder Mountain and the Jungle Cruise at night. It’s a totally different experience.
PhotoPass Photographers will take your picture with YOUR camera so don’t be afraid to ask.
You don’t need to hold onto the paper FastPass, it just serves as a reminder. You’ll scan your tickets to go through the FastPass line.
There are a few essentials you definitely want to bring to the parks with you. Two of those are water and snacks. Touring the parks makes for thirsty and hungry business. Save yourself a good amount of money by following this tip.
My Suggestion: This WATER RESISTANT BACKPACK that folds into a compact square and fits a ton of stuff. ($15.99, available in multiple colors)
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Raise.com allows you to purchase discounted gift cards from multiple retailers. I’ve used them myself without issue. There are giftcards offered for gas, restaurants, Disney, etc. You can get giftcards for 5-12% off here.
There is a Walmart less than two miles from Disneyland with an entire grocery section. I’m not kidding. It’s so close that an Uber is $5. Your first ride is free with referral link or code virginias515ue. Head to Walmart and save a ton of money by purchasing the following; water, snacks, maybe breakfast, maybe alcohol, cheap Disney souvenirs.
Get Away Today has the best Disneyland ticket deals. They sell at the cheapest, are the most efficient, and the safest. I don’t recommend any other company. I used them and picked up my tickets when I checked into the Grand Californian.
You can save even more money on your Disneyland trip by booking a tickets + hotel package with them. Use promo code PLANNING10 for an even better deal.
And the best tip I can give you is to immerse yourself and lose yourself in this vacation. Learn as much as you can before you go, even make a list of things you can walk around with but remember there will be hiccups but it will still be magical.
Want more? Read my post on going to Disneyland on a Budget