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.
|This is where we were standing and where the characters come out|
|Tyler is more interested in the autograph than the picture with Mickey :)|
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!
|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.|
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.
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 :)
|Making a car at Ridemakerz|