TJ: Last week we visited the Happiest Place on Earth for the third time this past year! The past two times we’ve gone down have mainly been to see my little brother’s volleyball tournament in Anaheim, but everyone knows you can’t go to Anaheim without going to Disney!
Dara: This was actually the first time that we went and did something really cool in addition to Disneyland. There’s a place nearby called the Anaheim Packing District that is AMAZING for hanging out at. It’s basically a hipster farmer’s market and when we were there we tried everything from nitrogen rice balls to make your own popsicles. I would definitely check it out if you have the time because it’s way cheaper than eating at Disney and just as much fun.
TJ: So true! But back to Disney… number one rule? Be prepared! Wear comfortable shoes, water and sunscreen are a must, and be sure to get the Disneyland app. You can buy tickets on the app, it has a map of the parking, lists of the wait times for all the rides, the day’s event schedule, can tell you Fast Pass times, and more!
Dara: Fast Passes are the key to a successful day at Disney. They’re free at Disneyland and are a essentially a line-cutting pass. To get them you just need to go to the Fast Pass machine in front of a ride, enter your ticket, and then you’ll get a pass that will tell you a one hour window in which you can come back to the Fast Pass line and go straight to the front. The catch? You can only have one at a time.
TJ: For popular rides like Space Mountain, Fast Passes are in high demand so you need to go early in the day to even receive a pass to come back in the afternoon. The problem with getting those, however, is that if you pick up a 4pm Fast Pass at 10am, that’s the only one you can hold until you use it at 4pm.
Dara: So this is where the app comes in handy with prioritizing. It’s in your best interest to get a Fast Pass that is far enough away that you have time to wait in line for a ride or two before you use it, but that is also not so far away that you’re waiting in other long, long lines until then.
It’s also nice to have a runner in your group – someone who can take all of your tickets and get everyone Fast Passes, as you wait in line for that person elsewhere. This last time we had our good family friend Lynn, a Disneyland expert, act as our runner for the night, and that saved us a bunch of time since she knew exactly where to go and when!
TJ: Yea, we got to Disneyland very late – around 8:30pm – because we went straight from work (#asstlyfe). But because we planned well and were strategic with Fast Passes, we were able to go on Buzz Light Year Blasters, Star Tours, the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, Thunder Mountain, and Space Mountain before the park closes. Not too shabby for only 3.5 hours!
Dara: Pro-tip: The park closes at midnight but what that really means is that you can get in line for a ride until midnight. We got in line for Space Mountain around 11:20 but didn’t actually get on the ride until 12:30am.
We also highly recommend you get to the park as early as possible. Most days it’s open at 8am, and it’s truly worth it to get there when it opens. It lets you get a lot of the more popular rides out of the way before crowds come, which then lets you relax through the afternoon.
Also, an alternative to Fast Pases is riding in the single rider line. That means you ride individually and just get thrown into any odd-numbered groups that have an extra spot. That’s often the fastest way to get on a ride, but much of the fun of Disney is staying with your group so it might not be the best bet for everyone.
Speaking of, bring something for your group to do in line! We recommend iPhone games like Heads-up or Charades that are easy to play while slowly shuffling forward and really fun. That’s what we were doing while we waited the hour in line for Space Mountain (my favorite ride ever!)
My favorite ride is Indiana Jones. Not only is it the most fun line in Disneyland (you’re thrown into the heart of a jungle temple?!), but it’s also an incredible ride. You’re in a fake jeep that’s made to feel like you’re driving, going through a wild, winding track filled with excitement: evil gods, fire pits, snakes (Indie hates snakes), and more! Plus there’s a surprise ending.
Of course we also love all of the classic rides at Disneyland: Matterhorn (genau!), Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, the Fairy Tale rides, and of course on the California Adventure side, California Screamin’.
Oh of course! If you have the time and money, definitely buy a Parkhopper Pass so you can head to California Adventure too! California Screamin’ is the fastest, most intense roller coaster in the park, with an incredible blast off beginning, Grizzly Peak is a great water tube ride, and Soaring Over California is a one-of-a-kind big-screen adventure, where a cool mechanical lift hoists you over an encapsulating Imax screen that makes you feel like you’re truly flying.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how fun Cars Land is. When we went last year for TJ’s birthday, we had an unbelievable amount of fun on the Radiator Springs Racers coaster, where basically you race side by side with another car, through the wild west. It was a lot faster and more thrilling than I thought it was going to be so I highly recommend!
And if you go this summer, make sure to check out the Summer of Heroes rides and events! The Hollywood Tower of Terror is now a super cool Guardians of the Galaxy ride (which six different versions so do it more than once!). And we haven’t been able to go yet, but I also hear that the new FROZEN show is a treat.
Of course, the rides are amazing, but they’re definitely not everything. The things that really separate Disneyland and California Adventure from any other amusement parks are the little things. You’re constantly surrounded by Disney magic, and the food, the decorations, and even the trash cans are set to match the world you’re inhabiting. If you go early and get all of the rides out of the way, then you really have time to appreciate the stores, and the little details all around you. There’s so much to explore!
Also, look out for Hidden Mickey’s! I think they’re more prevalent in Disney World, but there are definitely some well-hidden ones in Disneyland. (Here’s a list for all the cheaters out there.)
As to what to eat/drink while you’re in the park, your cheapest bet is to actually plan your day well enough that you can leave the park for lunch and just come back in. But if you want a sit-down meal within the Disney magic, make sure to book reservations early for both lunch and dinner. If you don’t, there’s almost no way you’ll be able to sit down for dinner in the park itself. Even in Downtown Disney, reservations fill up fast.
Or, grab meals at one of the to go places. Our favorite food is in Jungle Land – the meat skewers at the Bengal BBQ are great. Turkey legs are another good choice for people who want to eat cheap and on the go.
But our last and most magical tip is this: plan to find a great place to see the fireworks around 9:30pm every night. Just by chance the first time we went, we happened to be in Tomorrowland, near the Astro Orbiter right before the fireworks. Coincidentally, we got in line at the perfect time and were on the Astro Orbiter ride, flying around, as the fireworks started. It was magical! We were literally just zooming around the sky watching the fireworks overhead.
It was the perfect night time moment on a really perfect day 🙂
Yea, with a little bit of planning, Disneyland is completely worth the time and money for a trip to Anaheim. If you haven’t been, you should definitely check it out soon. And hopefully some of our tips can help make your day just a bit more magical!
COST REPORT: $$$
$100/day for Disneyland tickets
$160/day for Park Hopper tickets for Disneyland and California Adventure
$25/day per person for food
$15 for Mickey Mouse ears