After going to Disneyland for over 18 years and working at the Happiest Place on Earth for 3 years I have seen it all, and over the years I have learned the ins and outs of how to get the most out of a Disney Day. There are infinite tips for how to make a Disney day great but here are some of my absolute favorite tips and tricks!
- Have a good attitude! I can’t stress how important this is, especially while observing thousands of families while I worked at the park. The simple choice of having a good attitude can change your day entirely. Lines will be long, it will be hot and crowded, the food will be expensive, you probably won’t get on every ride you want to so put all those out of your mind! Focus on having fun with your friends and family and don’t put pressure on getting “everything” done, or I promise you will just be in a bad mood all day.
- Parking. Parking at Disneyland can be expensive. Right now it’s up to $18 a car! (Which is actually cheaper than parking at Knott’s Berry Farm or Universal Hollywood… but still) If you are only planning on staying at the park for a few hours your best bet might be Downtown Disney parking. Downtown Disney offers you a set amount of hours for free with validation from eating anywhere in Downtown Disney or seeing a movie at the Downtown Disney AMC. Take advantage of the Downtown Disney monorail stop to get into the park quickly and easily to take advantage of your free parking hours.
- Shopping. Planning on getting lots of great Disney merch but don’t want to carry all those heavy bags around? Don’t worry! If you take your merchandise to the front of the park they will hold your purchases for you while you play. In Disneyland this service is located at the small store closest to the front of park, on the left hand side before you go under the entrance bridge.
- Main Street, USA. Main Street is arguably the most classic, iconic part of the original Disneyland park. There are many hidden gems that are passed by many daily tourists. Check out the magic shop for some great magic tricks by the wonderful cast members that work there. The “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” show is a great way to get out of the hot sun and into some great A/C on those hot days. (Personally, I think it’s a pretty boring show… but it’s a great excuse to sit down for 20 minutes in the middle of a long, hot day)
- Tomorrowland. At night, especially during the parade and fireworks, this is probably the most crowded of all the lands because this is how the cast members will redirect traffic. Try to get all your Tomorrowland attractions done earlier in the day or after the parade and fireworks when it has cleared out a bit. The line that moves the fastest in Tomorrowland is Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, if you are getting discouraged by the hour long waits for Star Tours or Space Mountain hop over to Astro Blasters for a quick, fun ride. This is also the only ride that offers a free ride photo that you can email to yourself at the end of the ride!
- Fantasyland. Peter Pan is ALWAYS going to have a long wait. No matter what time you go, unless you get super lucky, it will ALWAYS have a wait. It’s a great classic but if you want any chance of getting on it with a less than 40-minute wait be the first there at park opening or wait till the park is about to close! Snow White’s Scary Adventures are called scary for a reason, and it should probably be extended to the rest of the classic rides like Pinocchio and Mr. Toad’s as well. If you are with small children be ready for dark rides, most kids love them but if you are with someone easily scared by dark spaces you might want to skip these.
- ToonTown. If you are an adult who values your sanity avoid ToonTown at ALL
COSTS during the summer time. Because of the asphalt, complete lack of shade and the sheer amount of small children running around in a small area this is just no fun. If you do want to visit ToonTown, do it in the early morning or late at night. And if you are coming to the park with small children you just have to accept your fate of spending at least an hour in the hot, sweaty hell of Disneyland that is ToonTown.
- Frontierland. The great western frontier! Filled with…. Almost nothing. Techincally there is only one ride in Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain. This is probably one of the best Disneyland rides, but make sure you know whoever you’re going to sit next to… you are going to slide all over your seat with the sharp turns and you’re going to get pretty cozy to whoever you sit next to. Also when the great voiceover tells you to “hang on to your hats and glasses” he really means it on this ride, they will fly off! So secure them before you leave the loading platform. The Golden Horseshoe is often overlooked in Frontierland, it has lots of indoor seating which is rare for a Disneyland eatery! Lots of tables upstairs and down for eating or just relaxing!
- New Orleans Square. Haunted Mansion is ALWAYS a must do, I’m slightly biased since it’s my favorite ride… but still. A tip for this one is to move to he opposite side of the elevator when you get inside. Don’t listen to the ghost voice telling you to “pull your bodies to the center of the room”. Once you exit the elevator you will pretty much lose your place in line if you are last to get out. Once you ride it a couple times you will learn where the doors open so you can head to that side straight away. As far as restaurants in New Orleans Square goes, Blue Bayou ABOSLUTLEY NOT WORTH IT and Café Orleans ABSOLUTLEY WORTH IT. Blue Bayou has some cool atmosphere by literally being inside the Pirates of the Caribbean but the over-priced food, not so great food detracts from the experience. If you are looking for good food in the same price range of Blue Bayou check out Carthay Cirlce in California Adventure or the Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel for AMAZING food. Café Orleans, on the other hand, is my absolute favorite restaurant in the whole resort. It has a middle of the road price point but offers sit down dining and some higher quality food choices than your normal quick-serve Disneyland eatery. The Monte Cristo and the Pommes Frites are a must try. Come hungry or plan to share the Monte Cristo, its HUGE and very filling. For dessert at Café Orleans you have to try the beignets (Princess Tiana really does have the best recipe!)
- Critter Country. Don’t underestimate just how far of a walk Critter Country is from everything else, there are no short cuts to get there, just the long way. The Hungry Bear café offers amazing food (and sweet potato fries!!) with a very nice, relaxing view of the Rivers of America if you want to feel like you’re on vacation in the great outdoors. I have even taken homework here before, it’s a secluded corner of the park and great for getting work done!
- Adventureland. Just like Tomorrowland, Adventureland gets SUPER congested in the busiest hours of the day. Get your fastpasses for Indiana Jones early to avoid long lines or, even better, take advantage of the Single Rider option! I have never waited more than 15 minutes for Single Rider. If you are with a group doing single rider make sure to decide on a meeting place after, the ride is underground and there is no cell service down there, so don’t get lost from your friends! Bengal Barbeque is a small eatery that you can probably skip (unless you just REALLY want a kabob?) For the most part it is overpriced for the small amount of food you get and offers very little seating which makes eating your tiny portions of food very hard. Arguably the BEST part of Adventureland is the Dole Whip. If you have never tired Dole Whip you need to get your butt over to the Tiki Room immediately to try some of the pineapple heaven. Bypass the giant line outside the Tiki Room by entering the waiting area of the attraction and getting in the (MUCH shorter) line there. Don’t worry you don’t have to watch the Tiki Room after you get your soft serve if you don’t want to, just walk through the exit!
Obviously, the most important part of a Disneyland trip is to have fun! So don’t stress out about the little things and don’t forget to eat lots off churros! Calories don’t count at Disneyland right??