The Ultimate Guide to Disneyland
Disneyland is the happiest and most magical place on earth! Here is the ultimate guide to enjoying Disneyland and California Adventure, from a pro! Don’t forget to download the Disneyland app – it will help you tremendously!
Planning your trip
Figuring out the best place to stay can be overwhelming since there are dozens of options in Anaheim, but trust me when I say, the closer the better within price reason. I’ve stayed at a number of hotels throughout the area, and have my favorites ranked here.
- Alamo Inn & Suites – This place is a short 15-minute walk and will take you through the Grand Californian and Downtown Disney. Plus side: It’s cheap, safe and parking is included. We always stay here!
- Eden Roc Inn & Suites – This hotel is nearby Alamo, but they just renovated and made the rooms very nice, so it’s on the pricier side. I really enjoyed my stay here and it’s close!
- Candy Cane Inn – This adorable hotel is on the east side of the parks so it will take you through the bus entrance, rather than Downtown Disney, but it’s still a short walk! They also offer a bus transportation service.
- Paradise Pier Hotel – Of course, I have to add a Disney option in here, but as I said, I don’t think it’s necessary to spend more for a hotel. However, if you have kids who want a special experience, this is the cheapest of the 3 resort hotels and it’s very festive! Take advantage of the breakfast and character opportunities.
Not thrilled with these options? Don’t worry, there are plenty more to choose from here!
Unless you live in Southern California or are going to Disneyland on a holiday, it’s not necessary to buy your tickets ahead of time. However, if you’re a planner like me, it’s easier to do so!
The Disneyland Resort is an ever-growing theme park. What once only needed 1-2 days, could now be stretched to 3 full days, or even 4 if you want to do absolutely everything and not feel rushed. My number one suggestion when choosing the number of days you go depends on your party size. If you’re traveling with just 2-3 people, two and a half days is more than enough. If you have a larger group, it may be best to take advantage of 3 full days or even go for 3.5 days. To be honest, I don’t think park hoppers are necessary anymore and will definitely save you money.
My fiancé and I usually arrive in the late morning and enjoy the park that afternoon night and then stay two full more days. Start off with Disneyland the first night, and head to California Adventure the second day. On day 3, go back to Disneyland and take advantage of the “Extra Magic Morning” where you can get into the park one hour early!
Southern California residents, be sure to take advantage of your ticket discount!
This is the hardest part – where to eat? It all depends on what you’re looking to spend and how much time you want to use at restaurants. I’ve broken into a few categories: full service (sit down dining), quick service (order at a register), and some snack spots.
- Blue Bayou –Adventureland
- Carnation Café –Main Street
- California Adventure
- Ariel’s Grotto – Paradise Pier
- Carthay Circle – CA Adventure/Buena Vista Street
- Corn dog stand outside of the photo shop (a must!) – Main Street
- French Market –New Orleans Square
- Bengal Barbeque –Adventureland
- Harbour Galley (get a lobster roll) –Critter Country
- Red Rose Taverne – Fantasyland
- California Adventure:
- Turkey Leg (perfect to eat during World of Color) – Multiple locations
- Boudin Bakery (get clam chowder in a bread bowl!) – Pacific Wharf
- Cove Bar – Paradise Pier
- Flo’s V8 Café – Cars Land
- Smokejumpers Grill – Grizzly Peak
- Churros – Multiple locations
- Jolly Holiday Bakery (don’t miss this one!) – Main Street
- Tiki Juice Bar (Get a Dole Whip and go into the Tiki Room…duh!) – Adventureland
- Tropical Imports – Adventureland
- California Adventure
- Ghirardelli Square Shop – Pacific Wharf
- Sonoma Terrace (for the adults) – Pacific Wharf
- Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company – Paradise Pier
- Fruit carts – Multiple locations
FastPasses are an awesome feature provided at the parks! Here is a list of what rides I usually get FP’s for. Keep an eye on the Disneyland app, as they have been adding the FP option to more rides! Also, rumor has it that you’ll soon be able to get your FastPasses straight from the app, with an extra price of $10 a day (totally worth it).
Disneyland: You probably won’t be able to get a FastPass for all of these, but as time permits, here are some rides to consider! Space Mountain, Star Tours, Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain (Spring and Summer), and Haunted Mansion. If the ride wait time is 45 minutes or under, don’t waste it on a FastPass.
California Adventure: Guardians of the Galaxy just opened, so be sure to go there right away! After that, you’ll want to get FastPasses for Soarin’ and Toy Story Mania and Radiator Springs. Keep in mind that Radiator Springs has a single rider line, which I always do in place of a FastPass. You also need a FastPass for World of Color, as it occurs after the park closes. If you don’t have one, you can’t watch. The distribution for this is by Grizzly River Run and you’ll want to get it as early as possible!
Traveling with kids
Bring snacks from home: This is a total money saver. Disney has high security, but they’re pretty great about letting you bring your own food because let’s face it, that park is expensive.
Buy souvenirs at hotels: Another money saver! Many of the hotels nearby will have their own gift shops at a fraction of the park costs.
Give them one souvenir each, per trip: This is something my parents did for me. The temptation to buy souvenirs is everywhere at the Disneyland Resort, but my parents always said I could pick one thing (reasonably priced).
Riding the adult attractions: If it’s only two adults with the kids, you will have the option to ride the adult ride without having to wait in the long lines. Go to the exit and let the Cast Member know you’re a single rider. While one adult waits with the kiddos, the other can have some fun and then switch places.
Strollers: Don’t be that person who causes a foot traffic jam! Be sure to park your stroller in a designated area, and be mindful of the crowds around you while walking.
Tips and Tricks
Go land-by-land: I’ve found it easier to do everything land-by-land, to avoid wasting time all walking back and forth. Then, you can go back later for round two!
What to do in lines: This is the hardest part, especially with kids. Bring some books or travel activities. One thing you’ll see everyone playing is Heads Up, a fun app you can download to your smart phone!
Do long lines first: Just get them out of the way!
Bring a portable charger: Invest in one (or two) of these…seriously. They are life savers especially when you want to use your phone to keep you entertained in lines. Check some out on Amazon!
Pack extra socks: If it’s raining or you plan to go on wet rides, an extra pair of socks will come in handy.
Grab a locker: There are lockers located off of Main Street and Buena Vista Street. I usually utilize the lockers during the colder months and store extra jackets in there until the sun goes down. Some even have phone chargers!
Disney Credit Card Holders: You’ll get 10% off at most dining and a special line for some character meets.
Get a photo card: Any photographer will start one for you. Scan it each time a Cast Member takes your picture and you can later decide if you want to buy any or not. Pro tip: Cast Members will take pictures on your phone, too!
Are you a Disney nerd, too? Let us know! We’d love to hear if you have any helpful tips or what your favorite food is to snack on at the parks. It’s so hard to choose favorites, so of course, there are many awesome dining options and attractions I left out. Don’t forget to tell us your favorite attraction and character!