Disneyland is my place. My favorite place. I’m kind of obsessed with it, and I’ve been obsessed for as long as I can remember. I’ve wanted to write a post about Disneyland for a long time, but I get overwhelmed with all of the things I want to say. So I’ve decided I’ll probably turn this into a little series and break up the information. Since I love traditions and I’m definitely a creature of habit, I have a certain method of “doing” Disneyland, and it’s what I do every time. There are steps. A strict regimen. My way is not necessarily the best way or the right way for everybody, but it’s the best way for me. I want every Disneyland trip to be a totally magical, unforgettable experience, and it always is when I follow my method. I probably seem super OCD and uptight about it, but that’s okay. I have so much fun at Disneyland every time, so it’s worth it. 95% of the time I cry at least once of pure happiness during the day. I’m not kidding.
Disneyland is super tourist-y, obviously, and I understand that not everyone can be a professional like me. However, it pains me when I overhear fellow Disneyland-goers say or do things that are anti-productive to the Disneyland experience or preventing them from squeezing all of the magic they could out of the park. So, I’ve decided to compile a list of some of my go-to rules for Disneyland. This is like a Disneyland 101. Like learning the ABCs. I just want to break it down — super simple.
- Watch Disney movies before you go. This is a non-negotiable tradition for me, and I don’t know why more people don’t do it. It totally enhances the magic. You watch the movies, you get swept up in the whimsy and you dream of entering a fantasy world, and then voila – you’re finally there! Watching Disney movies beforehand makes you think, “Ugh, I wish I could just be in this movie.” And if you’re going to Disneyland the next day, then you’ll actually feel like you are in the movie when you’re there. (Can you tell I’m into mind tricks?) If I’m planning a big Disneyland trip, as in 3 days in a row or longer, then I usually do a whole week-long Disney marathon event, make a big list of all the movies I need to watch, and then glue myself to the couch for the week. If I’ll be in the park for just a day or two, then I usually pick 2-3 films to watch right before I go. I always like to mix animated and live-action films, as well as older films with newer ones.
- Choose a strategic date. This is pretty self explanatory, but going during the holidays is going to be a mess. Don’t expect small crowds. Same with spring breaks, and certain periods during the summer. Check isitpacked.com for a better idea of when the best time to go might be. Also, check the weather beforehand. I love Disneyland, but when its 110 degrees outside or pouring rain, it’s not always the best experience.
- Plan out your ride schedule (roughly) ahead of time. Be smart about the process. Planning might seem like unnecessary work beforehand, but it will make your day at the park smooth and seamless. There’s nothing more annoying than going to Space Mountain, then over to Haunted Mansion, then back over to Matterhorn, then over to Splash Mountain, etc. Tackle each part of the park one at at a time, and plan accordingly. If you are going to eat lunch in Adventureland, then be in Adventureland around lunchtime. You get the idea. Land-hopping all day long is a waste of energy and time, and it gets way too exhausting. If there are extra things you want to see, like parades or the fireworks, work that into the schedule, and account for that when deciding which rides to ride. Fantasyland, for example, is closed right before and after the fireworks, so don’t plan on riding Peter Pan at 9 PM because it won’t be open. Even if you’re not going to a certain event, knowing what time things throughout the park will be happening is useful info. No one wants to get trapped in Frontierland during Fantasmic!
- Look at menus and eat good food, which may require reservations. This ties in with planning beforehand. Some restaurants require reservations weeks in advance, like the Blue Bayou. Others don’t require reservations that far in advance, but at least a week or so before, like the Plaza Inn for character breakfast or Carnation Cafe. The food is seriously one of my favorite parts about Disneyland, and it always will be. Do your research and see what looks good, and please do not go to Disneyland and get something super basic like a cheeseburger. You can get that any day. It physically hurts me when I hear people say Disneyland has bad food. Um, no. You’re just not going to the right places. Beignets, churros, caramel apples, turkey legs, chimichangas, Dole Whips… The possibilities are endless! I’m planning on writing a whole post about where/what to eat in Disneyland, but trust me when I say that Disneyland has some of the best food, and the park is extremely accommodating to anyone with food restrictions or allergies like me.
- Use Fastpasses. It kills me when I hear someone say, “What’s a Fastpass?” Like, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! If you’re not using Fastpasses, then you’re definitely not maximizing your time or getting your full money’s worth. Why would you wait in lines if you don’t have to? You can double or triple the number of times you can ride the rides if you’re smart about using your Fastpasses. Fastpasses should be the first thing you get when you enter the park, and as soon as you’re able to get another one, do it. And please be smart about them. There is no reason to waste a perfectly good Fastpass on Thunder Mountain, which would take you no more than 20 minutes to wait in line for, when you could skip that 90 minute line for Space Mountain in the 90 degree weather.
- Take pictures at strategic times and take advantage of the park’s photographers. Let’s be honest, one of the best parts of going to Disneyland is getting some amazing pics. You gotta hit all of the classic photo-ops – the Walt & Mickey statue, the castle, the very front of the park, the teacups, etc. Try and get pictures when there are the least amount of people there, which would be very first thing in the morning and during mealtimes. Think, If I was a parent, what would I be doing with my kids right now? If your answer is “possibly taking pictures” then it’s not the time to go. Also, pay attention to the sun. Don’t waste time taking pictures if the shadows are going to be all weird on your face in photos! At major photo destinations, like the castle or with characters, there are Disneyland photographers there to take professional photographs. Even if you don’t want the Disney photo that you have to pay for, don’t be afraid to ask the photographer to use your own phone or camera to take a picture for you! They are more than happy to help, and they know how to find flattering angles. There’s nothing worse than working hard to get a stranger to take a picture of you in front of the castle only to discover it’s out of focus and half of your face is cut off. The professional photographers also have lights for nighttime castle pics so you actually can take a cute nighttime photograph.
- Wear shoes you are comfortable walking in. Do not be afraid of hard-core walking. Disneyland is not the place to be rocking your stilettos. Save that for the after party. Disneyland is the place to be comfortable and free. You’re gonna be on your feet most of the day, waiting in lines and running from ride to ride. Your feet hurting is literally the last thing you want to be worried about! And don’t be afraid to walk even when other forms of transportation are available. The tram, for example, can be super slow at certain times. Instead, you can walk to reach places faster during those time periods. Sometimes, shuttling back to your hotel might actually take an hour when walking would only take twenty minutes. You might be tired, but your bed will be 40 minutes closer.
- Be picky about who you go with. You don’t want others in your group to ruin the magic. I would personally recommend going with a Disneyland profesh such as myself, because we know all of the tips and tricks and are very efficient with our time and obsessed with having a magical experience. On the other hand, if you want to just go with the flow and not follow a “plan,” then definitely don’t go with someone like me. Also be wary if you have a certain way of “doing” Disneyland and so does the other person, and you’re both stubborn. There might be some clashing going on. Disneyland is not the place to be arguing with your friend about what ride you’re going to go on next. Find out your friends’ agendas, so to speak, before you go. For example, if I want an intense 8AM to midnight, riding all the rides all day long kinda day, I bring someone different than I would if I feel like just leisurely strolling through the park, looking through shops, and riding only my very favorite rides. Also, don’t bring someone who is notorious for complaining, because let’s be honest, there are lots of “annoying” things someone could complain about at the park. Long lines, big crowds, lots of waiting, tons of walking…It’s time to focus on the fun and the magic, not anything else.
What are you favorite parts of Disneyland? Any tips/new traditions I should try? Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions! XO
Photography by Julia Dasen.