Welcome Back to our Friday Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!
As many of you who follow along know, Jamie and many Travel Advisors from the Love of the Magic Team recently returned from another incredible Pearls in the Park Trip to Disneyland and on a Pacific Cruise! Today’s blog will focus on the Disneyland part of the experience, and will be extra special, since this List of “Do”s and “Don’t”s has contributions from many of our Travel Advisors, making it an LOTMV Team Effort!
So Let’s Go to the Happiest Place on Earth! But First…
Table of Contents
Jamie and The Love of the Magic Vacations Team’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Disneyland!
Top Favorites, and Jamie and the LOTMV Team’s “Must Do” Experiences
DO Purchase a Park Hopper Ticket
The Park Hopper Ticket really is a “Must” for Disneyland. While at Disney World in Orlando, you can plan to visit only one Park per day as a budget strategy (though having the Park Hopper in Orlando definitely makes planning much easier, and allows more flexibility), the layout of the Parks in California makes it difficult to NOT have a Park Hopper Ticket. Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park are literally steps across from each other, and not being able to walk over to the other Park, especially when you can see low wait times or available dining just a few paces away, is basically a tease. With a Park Hopper Ticket, you’re able to seamlessly enjoy both Parks throughout the day.
DO Stop to Meet the “Wandering” Characters
Disneyland is well-known for the amount of characters who “wander” throughout the Parks, chatting and taking pictures with guests throughout the day. This “Wandering” Character feature is one of the most special things about Disneyland. Unless they are on their way to perform in a show or parade, characters will usually walk to a certain spot where a line will form to meet them (though the spots are generally not official “Meet-and-Greet” locations, like most are in Disney World). Also, Characters in Disneyland will stop to interact with guests while on their way to their “spot,” instead of just bee-lining through the Park. You can even find when and where Characters are out and about on the Disneyland App. For the most comprehensive description of how to find and interact with Characters in Disneyland, check out Disneyland Daily Casey’s post, “All About Characters at Disneyland and California Adventure!”
If waiting for characters to appear, or running to where you see them on the Disneyland App isn’t your thing, another great way to meet characters is by making reservations for Character Meals. Just like at Disney World, there are a bunch of great options for Character Meals at Disneyland, and as always, the Characters come right over to interact and take pictures while you enjoy your meal. It’s perfect for meeting the most amount of Characters in one place, and also keeps kiddos entertained through a whole meal out (a miracle, for sure!). Once again, Disneyland Daily Casey has Character Meals covered with a Complete Guide to Character Meals at Disneyland Resort.
DO Plan in “Free Play” Time
Everyone, kids and parents, too, gets tired of waiting in lines and running from attraction to attraction, so planning in some time for “Free Play” is highly recommended. The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at California Adventure is a great spot for kids to let some pent up energy out. This attraction is a bit like Tom Sawyer Island at Disney World, with trails to follow and ropes to climb, but Redwood Creek is also a great place for grown-ups to enjoy a peaceful moment, too, because of the serene atmosphere. In addition, another great space for “Free Play” is at the Animation Building in California Adventure.
While lots of people go there for the Animation Academy, there are other areas to explore as well, such as the Beast’s Library and Sorcerer’s Workshop. Since these attractions are inside, the Animation Building is a great option for a hot day. Of course, with the Parks and Resorts all so close together at Disneyland, you can always take kiddos who need a break back to the pool at your Disneyland Resort, too. Depending on how old your kids are, these options offer an energy outlet for kiddos, and a bit of a break for parents, which makes planning in some “Free Play” a win/win for everyone!
DO Stay on Disney Property if Possible
Staying at a Disney Resort while visiting the Disney Parks definitely makes your whole Disney vacation feel like the complete package of everything Disney has to offer, not to mention all the perks that come with staying on Disney Property. First, the Disneyland Resorts (The Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier) are all within walking distance to the Disneyland Parks, with the Grand Californian even having access to California Adventure right from the Resort property.
In addition, guests staying at Disney Resorts are allowed to enter the Parks 30 minutes prior to regular Park opening times, and have preferred access to select dining options. There are even Characters who visit the Resorts, during Character Meals, and occasionally at random surprise times, as well. Staying at a Disney Resort definitely levels up your whole Disney experience!
Top Tips that Jamie and the LOTMV Team Learned Along the Way
Invest in Genie+
Adding on Genie+ is definitely worth the investment at Disneyland. Since the debut of Genie+ at Disney World not even two years ago, many people have expressed mixed feelings about it with regard to Disney World, however, the response to Genie+ at Disneyland has been more universally positive. Genie+ at Disneyland makes it easy to book multiple rides, and not much gets “sold out” right away, with even the most popular rides available into the afternoon.
In addition, most return times aren’t a super long wait from the time you book, and then it’s even easy to get a return time for your next ride right away too, and you’re able to continue like that throughout the day. Plus, as a bonus, with the two Parks so close together, you can grab a return time for “the other” Park, and make it in time just by walking over (as long as you have a Park Hopper Ticket). For example, if you’re at Guardians at 1pm, you can get a return time for Space at 1:15 and make it on time. Plus, Genie+ includes Photo Pass at Disneyland, which is a super bonus, for sure!
Rope Drop and/or Take Advantage of Extra Magic Hours if Staying On Property
If your goal is to make sure you get to all of your top attractions, the best way to do that is by Rope Dropping (if you’re unfamiliar, Rope Dropping is entering the Park as soon as the “Rope Drops” at the moment the Parks open). This will allow you to get to attractions (that you don’t have Genie+ entrance times for) before lines get too long. And, as mentioned earlier, one of the bonuses of staying on Disney Property is that guests are allowed to enter the Parks 30 minutes before regularly scheduled opening, giving you even more time in the Parks with much smaller crowds.
Pay Attention to the Fireworks Schedule
The current Fireworks Show at Disneyland is “Wondrous Journeys,” and is part of the 100 Years of Disney Animation Celebration. The show takes place in Disneyland Park at Sleeping Beauty Castle in combination with projections on the castle, too. If seeing the Fireworks Show is a priority for you, MAKE SURE you check the schedule of events on the Disneyland App, because it is NOT a nightly event like at WDW. Often, there are no fireworks mid-week throughout the year, so be sure to plan ahead if you really want to see the show!
Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie and the LOTMV Team Would Do Differently
DON’T Forget to Make Dining Reservations
For some reason, whenever anyone who often goes to Walt Disney World goes anywhere else, whether it’s Disneyland, or Europe, or New York, or Hawaii, or anywhere besides Orlando, we tend to forget to book dining! Am I right? We know all too well the stress of booking Disney World Dining, but when that stress isn’t there, we somehow forget about dining entirely! Don’t do this! Dining reservations for Disneyland restaurants open at 60 days prior to your visit, just like WDW, so make sure you snag the spots you want as soon as it opens, because apparently some people don’t forget about dining, and get all the good stuff at the 60 day mark!
However, even though you should be ready to book your top choice dining reservations at 60 days before your vacation, don’t make a dining reservation for every single meal of every single day you will be there. Disneyland has some really great quick service options, and ways to get creative with when and where you get your snacks and drinks. For example, it’s super fun to grab a drink at Pym Test Kitchen in the Avengers Campus and count how many superheroes you see in just a half hour! Just DON’T forget to mobile order, so you aren’t waiting around for your drinks and snacks!
DON’T Try to Do It All in a Day (or even two)
Disneyland, with two Parks, three Resorts and Downtown Disney, is admittedly smaller than Disney World, with four Parks, two waterparks, Disney Springs, the ESPN Sports Complex, regular and miniature golf courses, and dozens of Resorts. However, that doesn’t mean you should skimp out on time at Disneyland! In fact, taking your time, getting to everything you want, and even enjoying some relaxation and downtime, is what makes Disneyland a favorite among many Disney Enthusiasts!
Technically, if you only have a day or two because of constraints within your vacation schedule, you can make it to many of the popular attractions, especially if you follow a great plan, like this one from Disneyland Daily Casey. However, if your vacation is centered around Disneyland, you should plan for at least 3-4 days to visit the parks, or even up to a week if you really want to include some relaxation time at your resort, or shopping at Downtown Disney.
DON’T Forget to Strategize for Rides
Whether you’ll be at Disneyland for a few days or a whole week, one of the goals of visiting any theme park is to spend the least amount of time waiting in lines, so you’ll definitely want to be prepared with a Strategy for Rides. The plan linked above from Disneyland Daily Casey is a great place to start, since it details exactly how to plan your mornings to make the most of your day at each park, Disneyland and California Adventure.
Other strategies suggested by the team include prioritizing “The Mountains” (Big Thunder, Space, Splash/Tiana’s [when it reopens], and Matterhorn [though Matterhorn at night is also great]), and making the most of the Single Rider lines (depending on the age/maturity level of your kids). More specifically, try the Single Rider lines at Disneyland for: Matterhorn, Millennium Falcon, Smugglers Run, and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure; and at California Adventure for: Radiator Springs Racers, Incredicoaster, Web Slingers, Goofy’s Sky School, and Grizzly River Run. And don’t forget, Rope Dropping is a great strategy, too!
DON’T Miss the Festivals and Seasonal Events
In addition to the incredible everyday experience of being at Disney Park, Disneyland hosts a number of Festivals and Seasonal Events to enhance your stay. Disneyland and Disney World have some of the same great Festivals, such as the Food and Wine Festival, and the Festival of the Holidays, and there are also some events specific to Disneyland, such as Lunar New Year, and the Oogie Boogie Bash. Disneyland also hosts After Dark Events, with themes such as Star Wars Nite. While some Special Events do require a separate ticket, others are included with your regular Park ticket, and you should definitely take advantage of all the Special Events that you can during your visit!
BONUS “Do”s and “Don’t”s from the LOTMV Team
While most of the Tips and Tricks for Disneyland fit into one of the sections above, there were also some other helpful tidbits the Team had to offer. Here are some very personal and specific recommendations:
– DO get a reservation for Lamplight Lounge (and order the Lobster Nachos!).
– DO check out Radiator Springs at sunset for the lighting of Cars Land; Shaboom begins playing as the neon lights all turn on, and it’s a moment of that Disney Magic that actually brings tears to your eyes.
– DO Try Churro Toffee
– DO Splurge for the Woods View at The Grand Californian
– DO Get the Chili-Mango Whip from Tropical Hideaway
– DON’T Wait in the Standby Line for Radiator Springs Racers
– DON’T Miss out on Soarin’ Over California
– DON’T Miss out on Pixar Pal-A-Round (but DO get on the non-swinging side if you’re nervous about motion sickness; it’s much more tame and the views from the top are worth it)
And…that’s a wrap of Jamie and the LOTMV Team’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Disneyland!
Ready to Plan?
Now that you have all of Jamie and the Team’s best advice for getting the most from your Disneyland Vacation, are you ready to plan your next Magical Adventure? Contact your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor or email hello@LOTMV.com to start planning today!
Just like last year, in 2023, a new Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s list will come out the Friday after Jamie returns from her latest trip! And you can find links to all of Jamie’s 2022 Travel Tips at this Blog: Jamie’s 2022 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: A Recap.
Looking for more of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s?
So far, we have:
And don’t forget to check out our Inspiring Itineraries as well, featuring a Perfect Plan for your next vacation, and highlighting a new destination each month! You can find links to all of 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries in this Blog: A Year of Inspired Travel: 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries, Month by Month.