I have many thoughts about where to stay and what to do at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Along with my daughter, I have visited every Disney Resort around the world. I also grew up in Orange County, which means that I have been to Disneyland Resort in California more times than I can count.
We are lucky enough to live just a car ride away. I know that it’s a bucket list destination for many people and families, which is why I created this guide. My goal is to help you maximize your Disneyland Resort California visit by sharing tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over many visits to the parks and the Disneyland Resort Hotels.
More Disneyland Tips
When to Visit
The best time to visit Disneyland if your goal is to avoid crowds is during the middle of the week in January, February, and March. But if you want extended hours, fireworks displays, parades, and shows, the best time to visit Disneyland will be during the summer and holidays.
You don’t have to map out every minute of your itinerary, but one of my top Disneyland tips is that you should have a loose idea of how you’ll spend your time before your trip. After all, there are 50 attractions and rides, plus many shows, restaurants, and shops in Disneyland Park alone with more at Disney California Adventure. Think about what you want to do, eat, and see the most and build your day around dining reservations, FastPasses, and shows.
You can absolutely buy discount Disneyland tickets (click the link for info and options), but be careful because there are scammers out there. Make sure you are buying from a Disneyland Authorized Ticket Seller. Never buy partially used passes or try to “rent” someone else’s pass.
Want to breeze through security? The easiest way to get through the security line fast is to not be carrying a bag. The Harbor Boulevard security lines even have a special express line for guests without bags. If you have to carry a bag into the parks, have it open and make sure you stash anything metal on your person (keys, belt, etc.) in that bag before you get to the front of the line.
It’s also possible to enter Disneyland early. You can take advantage of Extra Magic Hour if staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel on the day you check-in, the day you check-out and all days in between. If you’ve purchased a 3-Day or longer ticket, you can enter an hour before the parks officially open during Magic Morning. Just be sure to check the calendar because each park has early entry on different days of the week.
Tickets and Passes
FastPass will save your sanity. Disney’s free ride time reservation system will help you avoid the longest lines by giving you a set boarding window. During that window, you can access the ride via a much shorter express line. Disney now has a paid option, too. MaxPass is a $20/day ticket add-on that lets you book all of your FastPasses digitally (which can potentially save you a lot of time and stress). I recommend it.
Classic kid rides like Peter Pan are usually most busy in the afternoons. If you’re worried that your little ones will get antsy in line, plan to hit these rides first thing in the morning when they will have the shortest wait times. The wait times are shortest for all rides across parks after 5 p.m. on Sunday.
DISNEYLAND, DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE®… OR BOTH?
It really isn’t a question of Disneyland versus Disney California Adventure. I recommend making time to visit both Disneyland Resort parks over at least two days but if you must hop between both on the same day it is doable. You may be dreaming of enjoying that old-fashioned Disneyland ambiance, but Disney California Adventure has come a long way and has a lot of great rides.
If you can really only do one, then the right choice will depend on what’s most important to you. Disneyland has the best rides for families with younger kids and classic rides like Pirates of the Caribbean®, Space Mountain®, and The Haunted Mansion®. Disney’s California Adventure has the more thrilling rides — like the Incredicoaster — but nothing here is as intense as the coasters you’ll find at other California theme parks.
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