Since my husband and I were Disneyland AP holders last year, we have continuously been asked how we make the most of our time there. We always receive the “next time I go to Disney, we are taking you!” comment, so I figured it was time to write this little cheat sheet down!
1st things first… if you’re like us and feel the need to be at the park right when it opens, prepare to wait outside 30-60mins before the park opens. If you have a 3+ day ticket, you are entitled to Magic Morning at Disneyland. This allows you early access to certain rides in the park 1 hour before it is open to the general public. Check the calendar on the website to see which days you have this opportunity.
In my opinion, Magic Morning was not worth it. We were only able to get one 1 ride in that hour because SO many people want to take advantage of that extra time. However, if you are staying at one of the Disney resort hotels, you also have Extra Magic Hour at California Adventure. My husband and I found that going into CA Adventure an hour early was well worth it! We were able to hit most of the rides there and park hop to Disneyland right when they opened their front gates.
If you have park hoppers and you choose to go to CA Adventure first, you are going to want to get to the Fast Pass distribution area for Radiator Springs Racers as quickly as possible. It is easily the most popular ride in the park at the moment and the wait time goes up pretty fast! A word of caution, do NOT be alarmed if your FP says to return at 5pm and it is only 10am when you received it. This is normal for that ride, which is why I cannot stress enough to get a FP 1st thing in the morning.
After grabbing your FP for the Racers, head on over to Grizzly River Run to get your FP for World of Color seating areas! There are standby viewing areas for the show, but they fill up quickly and are far from Paradise Bay. If you are not interested in watching World of Color (do it, it’s magical!) then feel free to head to the pier and get in line for Toy Story: Midway Mania! This ride is super fun, but does not have a FP and the line gets pretty long later in the day. Again, if you are not interest in watching WOC, it will serve as a great time to get on Toy Story because the other rides that surround it are closed early for the show.
The other big rides at CA are Soarin’ Over California, Tower of Terror, California Screamin’, and Grizzly River Run. Each of these attractions have FP machines as well. If you check the bottom of your 1st FP, it will let you know what time you are able to acquire a new one. The wait time to obtain a new FP is 2 hours. Feel free to hit all the other fun little rides while you’re waiting for your next time slot to come up!
Now… if you choose to make Disneyland your 1st destination, you will want to rush over to Space Mountain and either get a FP or get in line immediately. At the moment, this ride has undergone a Star Wars transformation for Season of the Force, so the line gets a lot longer a lot quicker! FP will also go quickly for this ride. It may be 2pm and the sign will say “FP no longer available” … so don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉
Other rides that have FP distribution at Disneyland are as follows:
* Splash Mountain
* Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
* Indiana Jones
* Star Tours (also extremely popular right now)
* Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (only available during peak season)
* Haunted Mansion (also only available during extremely busy days)
[[A word of caution about Star Tours: if you suffer from motion sickness, do not get on this ride. As much as I love it, I can no longer handle it without getting sick!]]
Make sure you take advantage of all of the FP opportunities throughout the park! There is a whole lot to see and I wouldn’t want you to miss any of it 🙂 Again, if you like shows, Disneyland also has an incredible nighttime spectacular for you to watch. Unlike WOC, you do not need a fast pass for Paint the Night. Now… there are usually 2 showings of this parade, choose wisely! People have started to line up earlier and earlier for the 1st run through, so if you do not want to wait for the 2nd one, be prepared to fight for a spot on Main St. about 3 hours before the show!
Don’t get me wrong, sitting down for the 1st showing has it’s perks. The fireworks start 10 mins after PTN, so if you have a clear view of the castle from where you are sitting on the parade route, you will also have a great view of the fireworks. HOWEVER… if seeing the projections on the castle and the Matterhorn during the firework show isn’t important to you, then find any spot in the park where the sky isn’t blocked by a ton of trees and enjoy the fireworks from there!
Moving on to the 2nd most important thing: FOOD! We tend not to be at CA Adventure around meal times, but when we are, we like to hit up the burger joint right next door to Soarin’. It is a pretty decent sized burger and you get to add your own toppings at the burger bar after you order. They also serve sandwiches and nuggets for the kids. Another great option is the Cozy Cone Inn at Cars Land. My sister-in-law introduced me to the deliciousness that is the Macaroni and Cheese cone! They also serve chili cone queso, chili verde in a bread cone, and churros with a very tasty caramel dipping sauce!
At Disneyland, our favorite place to have dinner was Big Thunder BBQ (REST IN PEACE!)…. now that it is gone to make room for Star Wars Land, we have found new favorites. If you are looking for a good bang for your buck, head on over to the Little Red Wagon and get yourself a corn dog w/a bag of chips. If you prefer fries, head to the Stage Door Cafe for your corn dog. Another great place that didn’t break the bank was Carnation Cafe on Main St. There you will find a really good burger, sandwiches and comfort food such as meatloaf.
If you’re in a sharing mood, head on over to our absolute favorite spot for lunch: the Plaza Inn. At this big pink restaurant (near the entrance to Tomorrowland) you can get a huge portion of fried chicken w/mashed potatoes and veggies, pasta, pot roast, giant salads, and an array of tempting desserts.
When it comes to snacks, BRING YOUR OWN! We carry 2 bags: 1 with Goldfish crackers, peanut butter cracker sandwiches, trail mix, snack size candy, fruit by the foot, beef jerky, etc… in the other bag, we carry our own WATER. Before we bought our insulated bag (can be found in the fishing aisle at walmart) for our drinks, we would freeze bottled water and wrap them in paper towels then double zip-loc bag them to keep them cold and to keep our other belongings dry.
You will find a ton of goodies to eat at the park, but they will be expensive, so I highly recommend bringing some of your own like we do. Water will kill you too at $4 a pop! If its a really hot day, you’re going to drink A LOT of water. Your bag will be heavy at first, but the more you drink, the easier it gets and you won’t end up in the hospital from dehydration! 🙂
That being said, don’t forget to set aside a little bit of cash for the snacks that you can only get at the park! We like to save money any way we can while at Disneyland, but a Dole Whip is well worth the $$$!!! The popcorn at the park is also phenomenal. Why? Because you can carry it around in your souvenir bucket all day and as you munch throughout the day, it will taste just as fresh as when you bought it. ALL DAY LONG. No joke. And on your way out, do not forget to pick up an adorable character themed caramel apple. I know I can’t help myself… haha!
Oh, one more thing! If you have young children in your party who are not tall enough to get on the big rides (or are frightened by them) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE RIDER SWAP SYSTEM! It will save you a ton of time and it will ensure that all the adults in your group get to enjoy all that Disneyland and CA Adventure have to offer.
Now… Disneyland may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but you will encounter some not so happy people throughout your time there. Don’t let them get to you! Bad attitudes tend to be contagious, but when you encounter these people, take a deep breath and SMILE. You’re at Disneyland!!! Make friends with people in line. Have conversations with the Cast Members and be nice to them! Some of them will surprise you with a little extra magic for making their day a little easier 🙂 Soak up all the wonder and magic and enjoy your day…
… and never forget:
THE DISNEY LIFE IS THE BEST LIFE ❤