Tuesday, March 22, 2011

California Vacation: Disneyland


A trip to Disney could be blogged for a long time!!! I am not going to bore you with all the details that a visit to Disneyland would include but I do want to tell you some "tips" that might be helpful. Of course these are based on my experiences over visits there the past two years.

What we experienced:

Tickets: There aren't really a lot of deals for 1-2 day tickets (unless you want to take your chances with some eBay/Craigslist sales). You'll find more options if you are looking at 3 or more days of park hopper (can go to both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure). Last year we took advantage of a "Give a Day, Get a Day" promotion that Disney offered. My husband and I both volunteered for a day and in exchange we each got a free one park ticket for one day at Disney. My son was under three so we only had to pay for one kid’s ticket for my daughter. This year we wanted 2 days at Disney and we wanted to go to both parks. With the other stuff that we had planned for this vacation it made sense for us to purchase the Southern California CityPass which gave us 3 days of park hopper and one Magical Morning - along with other non-Disney experiences. We only used 2 days at Disney so we gave our remaining day to a family at our hotel.

Parking was $15. We also went just before opening so the parking wasn't' bad. You make your way to a shuttle outside of the parking structure that will take you to Downtown Disney, Disneyland, and California Adventure. You will come back to that same area later to catch the shuttle back to the parking structure. The shuttles run often so you usually don't have to wait more than 10 minutes to catch one.

If you stay in one of the park resorts (we did not but I can see the benefit) you are staying just off Disney Downtown so you are close to it all and can easily walk where you want to go!! It's easy for resort guests to visit the park in the morning, take a break/nap back at your room, and then visit Disney again for the later stuff. We always miss the fireworks because my kids (and honestly us adults too) are tired and ready to go around 3:00 pm.

Make sure you go with some sort of a plan: what rides are a must and what characters are a must? That way you can work your day around making sure you do those. Just remember to not get stressed and enjoy the day. I forgot about that advice the first few hours of our first trip to Disneyland! It was all overwhelming! You can and should get a park map and a schedule of the major events for the day when you are entering the park. You may also want to check out the closed rides online before you go. We planned our lunch around a great place we visited last year only to find that entire section of the park under construction :( You might also want to check out height restrictions of rides. My husband and I were able to pre-plan what rides we wanted to go on but the kids could not. That way we had an action plan to ride them individually.

Magical Morning: On certain days of the week (schedule listed on their website) they allow resort guests to enter the park 1 hour before the rest of the park guests can. This is called a "Magical Morning" experience. We purchased Southern California CityPass tickets which gave us three days of park hopper (could go to both Disneyland and California Adventure) and one Magical Morning. We decided to take advantage of the Magical Morning to beat some of the long lines. I found it to be more of a "Magical Mess"!!! There are a ton of people that have these passes so there were LONG lines to get into the park (after we finally found the correct long line to be in). They only have a portion of Disneyland open for this extra hour so the lines were super long - even longer than the previous day when we decided to just wait until our "Magical Morning". Unfortunately we only fit in one ride before the park was opened to everyone. Last year we only went to Disneyland for one day and I remember being overwhelmed with the lines and how crazy it was. Now I realize that it must have been a "magical morning" day at the park. The park seems to be extra full right from opening time where it's not as bad on the days they don't have magical mornings.

Character Pictures: It's not easy to get your picture taken with a Disney character! When I was little you could just walk up to them but not these days with Disney being so popular! You can see them often throughout the park but there are always lines to wait in. If you see a short line you should take advantage of it. But, the line could be short because they are getting ready to "take a break" and they are no longer letting people join the line (they will usually let you know). If there is a specific character that you would like to see make sure you ask where a good place and time would be to catch them. Tune Town is a great place to see the Mickey Mouse characters. Mickey and Minnie each have a house that you can tour through after you take a picture with them.  Update:  when we visited in 2012 they had changed it so you tour Mickey's house first and then wait in line to visit him.

If you plan to see the princesses or the Tinkerbell fairies you better get in line fast. The first year we went the line didn't look bad but we were told it would be a 3 hour wait (you see 3 princesses with no guarantee who it would be when it was your turn). This year we went there first to see the start time. We got there 15 minutes before they started and were 4th in line. It worked out great but the line was long fast!

You may also want to consider one of the character meals they offer. We have not done this but it seems like a good opportunity to get pictures. Last year we happened to be in a good spot in the morning. We were waiting off to the side of the main area for them to let us into the park. All of a sudden a big dance started taking place with a ton of characters. My kids LOVED it and got to dance with many of their favorites. Here are some pictures of it:

This is where we were standing and where the characters come out

You can also get an autograph from each of the characters. To save some money we bought Disney themed notebooks and pens for $1 each and took them with us.

Tyler is more interested in the autograph than the picture with Mickey :)
Last year we were getting ready to leave when my son noticed Buzz coming out of his changing area. He was walking fast on a mission to get to his assigned area where there was already a long line waiting for him. My son’s little legs were running behind him trying to get his attention. Finally I said, “Tyler, if you want to talk to him you better get in front of him fast”! My little mans legs never moved so fast before! He got in front of Buzz and wasn’t letting him leave without a hand shake. So cute  I’m sure it’s frustrating for the characters but he was super nice about it.

Pictures: Disney offers "PhotoPass". You simply carry a card around with you and have it scanned whenever they take a picture for you (usually at all the character spots). You get your card from the first person who takes a picture for you. Later you go online to view your pictures and make purchases. They are not cheap though! I used my own camera and asked them to take family pictures for me now and then. They were very willing to take pictures with my camera too :)

You can also ask any Disney employee to take your picture at any time.  they will be more than happy too!

Rides: Take advantage of the rides that offer FASTPASS. These are rides that generally have long lines. You just slide your park ticket in a FASTPASS machine and it will give you a FASTPASS ticket for the ride with a 1 hour time frame to return. This gives you "front of the line" access to the ride later. You will need to get a FASTPASS ticket for each rider and you can only have one ride you are waiting on at a time. For example, if you have a FASTPASS for one ride you cannot get a FASTPASS for another ride until your first ride has been used or has expired. Technology can also be your friend! Some cell phones have programs that will update you on wait times for rides!

A ride we used FASTPASS for - my daughter LOVED it!

This was a train ride that takes you around the park with a drop off in each section.  There's some animation on the ride and it makes it a lot easy to get little ones from one area to another.
Food: There are a lot of great options. We also snuck bottled water and snacks in our diaper bag to help with costs.

Mouse Ear Hats: You can buy these in just about any store and there are a ton of versions! We wanted names embroidered on the back. We were told that this could only be done at "The Mad Hatter" stores. There are a few throughout the park.

Parade:  In 2012 we finally caught the parade in Disneyland.  It was well worth it but get there early for a good spot!  The streets were packed with people!!  It is worth it for your little ones who love anything Disney!!!

For those that were able to get front row spots -
characters stop to talk to the kids.

Fireworks:  In 2012 we finally stayed to see the fireworks (went back to our hotel for a break and returned later).  We thought about just watching them from our hotel but my daughter insisted we go to see them at the castle.  I am very glad that we did!  It isn't anything like the fireworks display that I normally see.  Disney really does make it like a dream come true.  It's something that you have to experience to really understand.  Again, get there early for a good spot!  We were in front of the castle where it got really packed!  FYI - You don't want to sit on the street due to horse droppings that were there all day so people on the street are standing and making it hard for little ones to see over them.  Plus, areas are roped off for people to walk so you can not stand in many areas.  

Something creative: Of course I didn’t get a picture of this (wish I would have) but family t-shirts are a great idea. There are a ton of people at the parks and it can be easy to lose each other. I saw a large family that all had red t-shirts on with “Disneyland 2011” on the front and the family name on the back or a number with a made-up Disney name that seemed to fit their personality. I’ve also seen these with groups.

Disneyland vs California Adventure: Disneyland is where you will see most of what you would expect to see at Disney. California Adventure has more of the newer animation themes like Monsters Inc and Cars. There were fewer rides for small kids in California Adventure so we only went there for part of a day. This was under major construction when we were there so we didn't get a good idea of it. All the new stuff sounds great though!

Disney Downtown: The two parks and downtown are all right in one large area together. There is no entrance charge for the Downtown area. It is full of many great shops and famous places to eat. We always make a stop to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner :)

Rainforest Cafe

Making a car at Ridemakerz

No comments:

Post a Comment