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Magic is in the air! Tips on Your First Trip to Disneyland
I was destined to visit Disneyland! Just to be clear, it wasn’t even on my bucket list. I always thought Disneyland and Disney World were to touristy for me, I am more of an “off the beaten path” type of traveler. Getting a text from my daughter-in-law changed my perception of Disneyland. When I receive the text I was sitting in a boat near the beautiful Chain of Lakes State Park in Illinois. She texted saying they were going to change their plans from Disney World in Florida to Disneyland in California. Hurricane Irma was about to hit Orlando and Disneyland was closing for the storm. They were not predicting when it would reopen or in what condition it would be when they did. My daughter-in-law changed their itinerary to Disneyland in Florida to make sure their trip wouldn’t be interrupted by Irma. Hearing the news I thought, hmmmmmm… I wonder what it costs to fly to Los Angeles and catch a ride to Anaheim? The search was on…fishing and searching…life couldn’t be better!
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I found the perfect airfare price, and an affordable transportation service to get me to the Hilton in Anaheim. I would be staying with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren at the hotel… I was going to Disneyland! We decided it would be fun to surprise my grandchildren at the hotel. I was so excited and anxious.
The trip to Los Angeles was perfect, the transportation to the hotel was flawless, the wait was on to surprise my grandchildren! When I saw them enter the hotel doors, I was filled with love and excitement. They saw me, ran to me, and they were screaming and very happy for their surprise!
We settled in to the hotel and watched the evening fireworks at Disneyland from out hotel. That was a treat. The next morning we woke early and prepared to walk to the park. Being my first time to Disneyland I didn’t understand the Disneyland experience that was yet to come. Here is what I learned on my five day adventure at the parks!
As soon as you decide to visit Disneyland you need to download the Disneyland App! The Disneyland App allows you to make reservations to restaurants, check menus, view map of the park, check wait times for rides, check schedule of character appearances for the day, and most important allows you to access FASTPASS for the day.
Important Note: Before I arrived I was confused over the parks themselves. My daughter-in law had been there already and had the park map memorized in her mind and would say, today we are going to Disneyland, tomorrow we are going to Adventure Park…it was like you were talking about a foreign country! She planned for months on where to go first, second, third…what tee-shirts to make, and what ears to wear! Reservations for restaurants were made way before we arrived in Anaheim. I learned quickly (haha after about three days) Disneyland is a series of two theme parks (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park) and a the shopping area Downtown Disney District. Disney Downtown District is a shopping area with a movie theater, shops, and restaurants. Disney Downtown District is free to enter and has no rides. Both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are ticketed areas. You either need to buy the Park Hopper Pass if you want to enter both parks on the same day or choose which one to spend the day if you. Be sure to look at all your ticket options before you purchase.
Inside the Castle
Main Street – Where it all begins, this is where you find many of the shops and all the fun begins. It is a hustle and bustle of people, bubbles, balloons, and of course the mouse ears! It this is your first trip…you need to go here first! Don’t forget to pick out your Disney Ears and get your first visit pin (the pin is free, just ask any cast member, oh yeah…they are cast members not employees)! If you are not wearing ears, matching tee-shirts, and your “My First Visit to Disneyland” pin you are not experiencing the park in all its glory. Once you have donned your ears and pin you move on to another area of Disneyland…but remember always be on the lookout for a Disney character to appear!
Tomorrowland – A fun and futuristic area! Here you will discover Nemo, Star Wars, and Toy Story. The main attractions here would have to be Space Mountain and Disney Railroad.
Fantasyland – This is where all your dreams can come true! Enter through the castle and don’t forget your pictures! When you enter here you are immediately immersed in Disney themed attractions. Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (where little girls turn into a princess), Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, King Arthur Carrousel (where we met Beauty and the Beast!), Casey Jr. Circus Train, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, The Mad Tea Party, Alice in Wonderland, Pixie Hollow (Tinkerbell is my favorite!), Matterhorn Bobsleds, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and “it’s a small world”. So much to do and see! Watch out for wandering characters and check the schedule for the day to be where there when they are scheduled to appear. You also will want to bring something for the characters to sign, they each have a unique signature special to the character.
Mickey’s Toontown – A place for tiny tots to run and play. The attractions are geared towards the toddler in all of us. Here you will find Goofy’s Playhouse, Donald’s Boat, Gadget’s Go Coaster, Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse, Mickey’s House and Meet Mickey, Minnie’s House, and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. Run and play! Have fun and be a kid in Toontown.
Critter Country – This is a small area, but well worth the time! Here you will find the ever popular Splash Mountain along with the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes.
Frontierland – Taking you to the days of yesteryear, you won’t want to miss this area. Pirates, cowboys, and adventurers will enjoy the attractions here. You will love Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, Fantasmic, The Golden Horseshoe Stage Show, Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition, Mark Twain Riverboat, Sailing Ship Columbia and my favorite, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Mozy on over to New Orlean Square next for some Mardi Gras fun.
New Orleans Square – The ever popular Pirates of the Caribbean can be found here and it is well worth the wait! In addition, take a ride on the Disneyland Railroad and visit the Haunted Mansion.
Adventureland – I was so confused by this one at first… I knew there was a whole different park called Disney California Adventure and thought this was it…but wait, you could only go to one park a day…this was the same day and we are going…it took me a while to realize this was an area of Disneyland Park and not the actual Disney California Adventure… I crack myself up sometimes. Anyway, the adventure awaits you in this area. Visit the Enchanted Tiki Room and catch the show, jump aboard the Jungle Cruise, hold on for the Indiana Jones Adventure, and climb on the Tarzan’s Treehouse. When you are done with all the adventures of this area you will be back to Mainstreet.
I can assure you we did not ride every ride and we were there for three days! Too much to experience in such a short time. Take your time and enjoy each experience. If you miss something, just remember you can do it on your next visit. You will always have something to look forward to at Disneyland.
Disney California Adventure Park:
Now onto the next park, Disney’s California Adventure. This is my favorite of the two parks! Why you ask? It has WINE! I love some wine with my fun.
Buena Vista Street – Again, if this is your first visit to a Disneyland park get your first timer pin and ears here! Take a ride on the Red Trolley and then be on your way to the California Adventure!
Grizzly Peak – We were unable to stop in this section, but they have the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, Grizzly River Run, and Soarin’ Around the World. If you have visited this area, please let me know what it was like! I can’t wait to return and experience this area.
Paradise Pier (changing in 2018 to Pixa Pier and Paradise Park) This is changing for 2018 and I will not comment on this area since I will have never been there. I have read about the changes including the new Incredicoaster and instead of Ariel’s Grotto there will be a new restaurant overlooking the pier. They will also present Pixar fireworks.
Cars Land – We spent much of our time here! What a fun time racing around the area and visiting all the Cars Characters. Spring on to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, then dance on over to Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and watch the show, and the most amazing race is waiting for you on Radiator Springs Racers Disney. My grandkids were in heaven here! What great memories.
“a bug’s land” – Walk in and become an ant in this giant forest of grass and flowers. Stop at, It’s Tough to be a Bug! Then scurry on over to Francis’ Ladybug Boogie, Flik’s Flyers, Tuck and Roll’s Drive ’Em Buggies, and hop finally hop into Princess Dot Puddle Park, finally take a ride on the Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train. This area is fun for the little bugs to fly around from ride to ride.
Hollywoodland – We were only here for a short while, again, can’t wait to return to visit more of this area. We did spend time in Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome and we met some wonderful cast members.
Pacific Wharf – This area is a walkway of delicious foods from fish to tacos and everything in-between. In addition, you can get various wines, craft beers and margaritas here! While eating and drinking you can enjoy the view of the Mickey Mouse Ferris across the bay and at night you can catch the World of Color Show.
Eating at the Park – Speaking of food, I am sure you have worked up an appetite in the park!
Plan ahead for dining! Some restaurants require reservations and they may be booked up months before your arrival! The chefs of Disneyland are magnificent! They present all their meals as if you are in a 5 star restaurant, not just the ones that are 5 star restaurants, but even in their many Disney restaurants throughout the parks! Sometime you will be there with cast members like Beauty or Cinderella…you never know who will arrive at your table.
Take time to enjoy a meal! You have been running all day, sit back and relax. Enjoy the experience of dining in the park, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner it is a great time to sit down and talk through all your experiences…what was your favorite? Where do you want to go next? Look through your camera and check out your pictures…did you miss something?
If you don’t want to spend money on eating at the Disney Restaurants you are allowed to bring in your own food. There are a few restrictions though…nothing you need to heat, no glass, no putting together your meal at the park either. Bring prepacked foods like pre-made sandwiches, pre-packaged veggies, small bags of chips, and such. You cannot bring a loaf of bread, lunch meat and mayo and make your sandwiches in the park, you will be turned away at the gate! Also, large containers that you need to serve smaller servings out of are not allowed (like a pasta salad). Pretty much if you stick to pre-packed sandwiches, single servings of items you will be fine. However, it is up to the cast member checking your bags at security to determine if it is acceptable. Each cast member has a different view on this, so what one cast member says is fine, another may say no, their decision is final. Also, you are not allowed to bring in alcohol of any kind.
Disneyland Shows and Character Experiences – The best part of Disneyland is the interaction you have with all the characters! They are so welcoming and friendly. We had some planned times to meet characters in the parks, we reserved restaurants that have Disney Character Experiences, and sometimes they just appeared (these were the best).
FASTPASSES – Make sure you get fast passes for any of the rides you want to ride that day. You can get up to 3 FASTPASSES ahead of time on the day of your visit. You can only use FASTPASSES in one park per day. After you use your reserved three passes, you may get one more at a FASTPASS booth at the park. If you download the Disneyland App you can buy a Disney MaxPass the pass is $10.00 (in September of 2017) and you can reserve your FASTPASSES in the app.
Photopass – Like the FASTPASS the PhotoPass allows Disney cast members to take photos of you and your family and then you can view them on your phone. You can get this with the purchase of the MaxPass. They also have another program PhotoPass+.
The Employees (Cast Members) – The cast members are helpful, kind, and truly appear happy. They never make you feel like you are a burden. Never once did I see one unhappy cast member while we were there for three full days and evenings! I applaud Disneyland for their hiring, training, and ability to keep their cast members happy. Every cast member that was a character remained in character from their appearance, to their costumes, to their signatures! I actually wondered how long they had to practice that signature!
Respect Others at all times! – Please before you go to the park, remind your children to use their manners! I know it is an expensive experience and you want to get your money’s worth. You want to make sure your children get to see and do everything they want. However, everyone is there for the same reason, you and your children are not more important than the other visitors. Pushing, line jumping, running in front of others is rude. You can still have fun and be respectful of others.
Disneyland is an experience I never thought I would enjoy, but I found out I was wrong! I loved every minute of everyday we were in Anaheim! From waking in the morning and discussing what shirts we would wear, to walking to the park and stopping for breakfast, to meeting characters, riding rides, every meal, glass of wine, to experiencing their 5 star menus in the evening! Every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day was a magical memory!
Goodbye Disneyland, California! I will miss you…until next time!
Get your Disney Glam On:
What are you looking forward to at Disneyland?