This has been the year of Disneyland! We became season passholders last May and have definitely made the most of it. We created SO many amazing memories during each trip. There have also been a few moments that I don’t really care to look back on, ha! If you’ve never been before, it can be super overwhelming, especially with young kids. With each trip, we’ve learned something new. I thought I would share some of our favorite things to do, where we like to stay and just some general tips to make it a little more enjoyable! My biggest tip is to make sure there is one adult for each child (especially if they’re toddler age). Trust me.
- Have a plan
The first time we went, we had no idea what we were doing. We thought we would just wing it. BAD idea. It makes for a really stressful day. You honestly need to have a plan of attack. Figure out which rides you really want to do that day and don’t try and cram too much in! You really do need AT LEAST two full days (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are always the least crowded).
Everyone hates waiting in the long lines. This is one way to help. It’s a paper pass given to you at FASTPASS distribution points at the most popular attractions. You just insert your park ticket (or annual pass) into the machine. Go enjoy another ride or eat until the time stated on your FASTPASS ticket. When you return to that ride, you get to skip ahead everyone to the FASTPASS line to cut out a considerable wait time!! Boom.
- Rider swap passes
FASTPASSES are handy when you don’t have a toddler or baby with you. If you do have little ones, try the Rider Swap! This is how it works: Let’s say your toddler/baby is napping or too small for a certain ride; your husband can go wait in line while you stay outside with the baby. After he’s done, he brings you the Rider Swap pass and you can go in the fastpass line to get on the ride right away, while he waits outside with the baby. It’s not the ideal situation if you don’t want to ride alone, but it also works out well if you have another child who is big enough to go (and maybe even wants to ride twice).
Even if your child is not typically a “stroller child”, trust me, they WILL be at Disneyland. Make sure to have enough stroller space for all children as well as all the souvenirs you’ll acquire by the end of the day. We always bring our own, but they are available to rent at Guest Services for $15 a day.
- Pack a bag for valuables
There are stroller parking stations at basically every ride. Even though I feel totally comfortable leaving the stroller, I always pack a smaller bag with valuables to carry on each ride with me, just in case.
They will allow you to bring in your own food (within reason) so in order to monitor the kids sugar intake and not spend an arm and a leg, we pack our own snacks for the kiddos.
- Baby Care Center
There are two Baby Centers, one in Disneyland (end of Main Street) and one in California Adventure (near the bakery in Pacific Wharf). The Baby Center is awesome. If you need to breastfeed or pump, they have private rooms. If you need to change diapers or clothes, they have soft changing tables and more space than a regular bathroom. They have a microwave to heat up food and a sink to wash out bottles. A mother’s dream at a theme park.
- Annual Pass
We knew we would be going to Disneyland at least twice this year, so when I looked into the annual pass, it made perfect sense to get one. There are lots of perks, too. You get 10 % off rooms at any of the Disney hotels, 20% off merchandise within the park and 15% off dining in the park. See more information, here.
- Disneyland App
The official Disneyland app is really helpful. It shows you wait times for all of the rides, gives you the fast pass return times, and even allows you to skip the ticket line and buy your tickets on the app.
I personally prefer California Adventure over Disneyland. It’s always less crowded, my girls seem to like the rides better and let’s be honest … they serve alcohol. Here are some of our favorite things at California Adventure.
- Ariel’s Grotto
This is one of our absolute favorite things to do. If you have a princess-obsessed child like we do, you have to do this. Ariel’s Grotto is a restaurant at California Adventure. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but at breakfast and lunch, ALL of Disney princesses make a grand entrance. It is SO fun to see the kids faces light up when each princess is announced.
- Little Mermaid Ride
Both of the my girls LOVE this ride. However, there is a scary Ursula part that Delainey was scared of for awhile. The cast member noticed that she was hesitant to go on and offered her a “secret, magical wand” that when you wave it at Ursula, she can’t see you. Delainey was so excited to hold the wand and is no longer afraid. So sweet!
- Bug’s Land
If you have a baby, this part of the park is perfect for them. We always spend a lot of time there. They have little water play areas that definitely comes in handy when it’s scorching hot. Just remember to bring their suits to change in and out of! We forgot last time, but that didn’t stop Delainey because it was that hot!
- Cars Land
My girls are still too short to ride Cars, but oh my gosh, it is SO fun! My husband and I got to ride it together and had a blast. This is definitely one to use the rider swap passes on if you can!
Mater’s Mischief is super fun too and is age-appropriate for the toddlers!
Hang glide over all over California! This ride is hands down, my FAVORITE!! It is amazing. Starting in June, they are changing it to Soarin’ Around The World! Can’t wait!
**Tip: Top Knot / Cowboy Boots
I was SO determined to get Delainey on Soarin’ (they have to be 40″). However, she was just a hair too short. After being turned away twice, we put her hair in a top knot and she got right on! I’m so glad too, because it was the highlight of the trip and all she has been talking about since we got back!! If you have a boy, try cowboy boots! I do realize they make those height restrictions for a reason, either the ride isn’t safe for kids shorter than the listed height or it’s too scary. I had ridden Soarin’ many times and knew she would love it!
- Disney Jr. Live on Stage
This is perfect if you’re in need of some cool shade and some rest. The girls love to see their favorite Disney Jr. characters on stage! It’s super interactive and a good change of pace for everyone!
- Animation Academy
This place is really cool. It’s a huge (air conditioned) room surrounded with big screens playing all of the best Disney music videos. This is also where you meet Anna and Elsa. They used to offer fast passes to meet Anna and Elsa but last time we were there they told us they stopped doing that. Luckily, the line moves pretty fast and the kids are so entertained by the music videos that the wait is rather pleasant.
Also at the Animation Academy is “Turtle Talk with Crush” (from Finding Nemo). Crush talks to the kids in the audience and is actually really funny – the kids had a blast. We did this a couple trips ago just to try it and ended up loving it! Highly suggest it!
- Wine Country Trattoria
This is always a must for us when we go. They have amazing food, beer, wine and champagne. Also, you can ask for the World of Color menu, which gets you the best seats for the World of Color show that night! It’s a little more expensive, but totally worth it, in our opinion.
- World of Color
This is definitely a must. We have seen this show so many times now and it will never get old. It takes you through Walt Disney’s journey of creating Disneyland using music and lights with fire and laser effects held at Paradise Pier. Seriously amazing. If you don’t get the voucher from a restaurant, I would recommend getting there at least an hour before to get good seats.
There are so many amazing rides at Disneyland! It would take me days to list all of our faves. The rides we always make sure to do are the following:
- Carousel (this is probably their favorite, ha ha, we come all the way to Disneyland to ride the carousel over and over…and over!)
- Small World
- Jungle Cruise
- Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
A lot of people don’t know that you can actually go in and walk through the magical castle. It’s not technically a ride, but it’s really fun and quick – especially if your child is obsessed with the movie!
One of my favorite Disneyland memories EVER, is seeing the “Paint the Night” parade. Oh my gosh, it was incredible!! However, as amazing as it is, we’ve only done it twice. You seriously have to get to Main Street by at least 4pm to get front row seats (it starts at 8:45pm). Crazy, right? That’s how crowded it gets. My sweet mom sat there for that long saving seats for us while the girls and I rode rides.
Following the parade is the fireworks show. Another highlight and must-see! Delainey’s favorite part was seeing a real-life Tinkerbell fly across the sky in front of the castle.
After that (if your kids are still awake) they have an amazing light show on the side of the buildings on Main Street! It’s really fun to watch as you’re making your way out.
A little hidden gem that I love to tell friends about is the Silhouette Studio on Main Street. We randomly stopped in one time and ended up getting one of my favorite souvenirs! The lady has your child sit in the chair (or on your lap) and she draws their profile (takes her under 5 minutes). Look at how cute these are?! Such a great keepsake.
Another fun little shop is called the “Bibbidy Boppidy Boutique“. Not only do they have a great selection of princess dresses, but little girls can get their hair, make-up and nails done to look like their favorite princess. Boys can also be made over to resemble their favorite heroic character. We’ve never tried it, but I’ll see the little girls walking around the park and they always look so happy with their new do. You do have to make reservations for this …. they take reservations up to 180 days in advance.
We have stayed at Paradise Pier as well as the Disneyland Hotel. Hopefully we’ll get to try the Grand California one of these days!! The Disney hotels really are amazing! The rooms are great and the pools are so fun. However, they are very pricey, even with the passholder discount.
We randomly came across the Anabella Hotel on a booking site last year. The pictures looked great and the reviews were all good. The price was a FRACTION of what we pay at the Disney hotels and since we would be staying for four nights, we figured we would try it out and save some money. I’m not going to lie, I was super nervous when we were about to pull into the hotel. Fortunately, I was very pleasantly surprised. It was perfect!! And turns out, it has become our favorite place to stay.
It’s only a 15-minute walk to the park. The rooms are super spacious and clean (we always book the Concierge King room). The restaurant there has the BEST food and staff is super friendly.
Holy moly that was a long post!
I hope that I provided some helpful tips and that if you’re planning on going to Disneyland soon, you have a great time!!
If you have any Disney tips, leave a comment below, I am always looking for suggestions!!