It’s time to plan a family vacation, and you’ve started to narrow it down to a few options, including the Happiest Place on Earth! You know that your family will love traveling to the Disneyland® Resort, but where on earth do you start? How do you know you’ll fit it all in?
As avid Disney lovers and frequent visitors to the Disneyland® Resort, we wanted to share some insider information and tips on how to make the most out of three days at the Disneyland® Resort with your family.
Day 1: Get to Know the Heart of the Disneyland® Resort and Explore Some Lands
We think it goes without saying that every trip to the Disneyland® Resort should start with Disneyland® Park. It’s where the magic begins!
One of our favorite details of the park is the plaque above the entrance tunnel, which reads: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” Entering Disneyland® means leaving the real world behind. And just like that, you’re encompassed by the music of Main Street, U.S.A., smelling fresh churros, and wondering what to do first.
Main Street, U.S.A. is a themed area of its own. You can see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in the distance, we know you can, but take the time to experience classic Disney and all of the history and fun around you before you get there. Walt Disney’s apartment - his real apartment - is still on Main Street, U.S.A. You know that Walt is always there in spirit because of the candle lit in the window. Among the shops, bakeries, ice cream shops, and restaurants you’ll find tidbits on the history of Disneyland®. Grab a snack and enjoy the shops as you make your way towards the castle!
Once you get to Sleeping Beauty Castle make sure you take advantage of one of the many Photopass cast members near the castle. They’re ready to take your family’s photos for you. Every time your photo is taken by a Photopass cast member, your pictures are automatically put on a card that you can use later to print the pictures. They’ll even take pictures on your cell phone or personal camera! Pro Tip: Make sure you purchase tickets with a Magic Morning addition so you can get your picture taken during this time while there are fewer people around!
Choosing the first land to go to is a tough decision! If you’re planning your day around wait times of attractions, make sure you have the Disneyland® Resort mobile app downloaded. You can view wait times for each attraction without having to go to them. And before you even leave for your trip, the app can help you plan on where you want to go and what you want to do. There are a lot of shows and entertainment for you to see in Disneyland® Park!
To make the most of your days, we suggest hitting one land at a time. You don’t want to waste time running from one land to another and back. Star Wars and space fans have an easy choice for their first stop - Tomorrowland! That is until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in 2019!
Tomorrowland offers an opportunity for you to meet characters from Star Wars, explore far away galaxies on Space Mountain, and our favorite - enjoy cream cheese filled cinnamon pretzels! It’s the only place in the park you can get them. By this time, you’re probably ready for a snack! If you’re looking for something more than a pretzel, there are a couple of restaurant options in Tomorrowland or on your way to your next land!
Next, you’ll want to hit Mickey’s Toontown. We suggest heading there sooner rather than later. Many times Mickey’s Toontown closes earlier than the rest of the park, but you definitely don’t want to miss out on visiting Mickey and his friends in their homes! The kids will have fun wandering through the colorful, funky town that Mickey Mouse and his friends call home. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch Goofy or Pluto running around!
After you leave Toontown, you’ll fall right into the famous, It’s a Small World attraction. It’s a must! We promise you’ll find other tunes to get stuck in your head after you leave. For those who need a little mid-day break, Fantasyland is a great place to head next. You won’t find any thrill rides here, but there are plenty of slower rides like Peter Pan’s Flight and Snow White’s Scary Adventure to give your feet a rest while still enjoying some classic Disneyland® Park attractions. You’ll have another view of the castle too! If you have little ones with you, they will love being transformed into princesses and knights at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
The perfect way to end your first day at Disneyland® Park is to watch the Fantasmic! show. If you really want a special treat, book a Fantasmic! dinner package. Another must - especially on your first day - is to watch Disneyland® Park’s firework show, Remember...Dreams Come True. It’s truly a magical end to the day, especially when you’re returning to a castle of your own.
Day 2: Explore The Rest of the Lands
After a busy and exciting first day at Disneyland® Park, it’s time to discover the rest of the park! After you’ve grabbed your Starbucks coffee, we suggest heading straight for Adventureland! Fan favorites like the Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones™ Adventure are best to hit early in the morning before the crowds grow. On a hot day, make sure you grab a pineapple Dole® whip - the most refreshing drink in our opinion! After the excitement of Adventureland’s attractions and sugar rush from the Dole® whip, everyone will be full of energy. Tarzan’s Treehouse™ is the perfect place to let it all out before lunch!
Head on over to New Orleans Square for lunch. You’re bound to find something for everyone here! With a variety of dining options and food carts, it’s a really nice hub for grabbing food. There are several other must-see attractions near New Orleans Square: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion! The wait times can be pretty high for these two, so keep an eye on your app for a good time to hop in line. The great thing about lines at the Disneyland® Resort is that waiting in line is an experience in itself. Many queues have hidden Mickeys to watch out for and interactive features. Pro tip: When you come in contact with your first cast member in the Indiana Jones™ Adventure queue, make sure you ask about the Dumbo parking lot sign! They might show you a piece of Disneyland® history up in the rafters, but you need a flashlight to see it!
Critter Country and the Rivers of America are right around the corner. One of the Disneyland® Resort’s only ‘water’ rides lives in Critter Country. No need for a bathing suit on Splash Mountain, but you’re likely to get a little wet! Be prepared for some silly photos as the ride snaps them on your final drop. You might notice an island nearby and wonder, “How do we get over there?!” Well, you can take a log raft! You’ll hop aboard with other guests in New Orleans Square across the way from the Haunted Mansion where you’ll be taken to Tom Sawyer Island where you can explore a secret island hideaway!
Frontierland is your last land (but don’t worry, there is so much more to see!). We recommend either River Belle Terrace or Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante for dinner, but there are other options in the area as well! If you’re looking for a little bit of entertainment during dinner, The Golden Horseshoe has a stage with knee-clappin’ live music and the best chicken nuggets. Big Thunder Mountain is a roller coaster train, and is so fun!
If it’s later in the day and the shows and fireworks are about to start, it’s a really great time to get in line for this attraction - or really any attraction! Riding Big Thunder Mountain during the fireworks show offers a really fun and unique experience albeit lasting about 3.5 minutes.
Phew! There is so much to do, huh? One of the great things about the Disneyland® Resort is that it’s great for people watching and there are many places for you and your family to take a break, share your favorite memories so far, and re-energize for the rest of the day.
Families with much younger kids like to head back to their hotel for an afternoon nap. That’s why we’re partial to staying at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, it’s close to the parks with a free shuttle service that will pick you up outside the gates and drop you back off when you’re ready for more fun!
Day 3: Explore Disney’s California Adventure
Disney’s California Adventure is a park in itself, and you could easily spend more than a day here, but we want to give you the inside tips on our favorite parts of Disney’s California Adventure.
In Disney’s California Adventure you’ll find eight lands:
- Buena Vista Street
- Hollywood Land
- a bug’s land
- Cars Land
- Paradise Pier
- Grizzly Park
- Pacific Wharf
- Condor Flats
“You’re telling me I have to fit eight lands into one day?!” Yes and no. Experienced visitors can get their favorites in in one day, and you probably could too, but you’d be cheating yourself of truly taking in some of the best parts of the Disneyland® Resort. Let’s talk about the things you absolutely can’t miss, and if your family is on a mission to see more, you’ll know you got the best parts under your belt!
Before you do anything in the morning, you need to get a FastPass® for World of Color. A Fastpass isn’t required to watch World of Color, but trust us. You want the FastPass view. World of Color is a water and light show displaying scenes and characters from your favorite Pixar and Disney movies using only colored lights and over 1,200 fountains to create one of the most magical experiences at the Disneyland® Resort - it’s incredible and you want good seats.
After you get your FastPass®, if it’s a warm day, we suggest riding the Grizzly River Run. You’re likely to get a little wet on this whitewater rafting ride, but it’s worth the adrenaline rush! Speaking of adrenaline, Cars Land has all of the adrenaline and high speed action you could want. Radiator Springs Racers is a popular racing ride where guests hop into cars that ‘race’ across the track against each other. Don’t worry - there’s no real racing involved! The lines here can be pretty long, so you can grab a FastPass® for this as well if you have a chance. It will save you some time!
If your family is full of Pixar lovers, they’ll love Hollywood Land and Paradise Pier (soon to be Pixar Pier!). As you make your way to Hollywood Land after Cars Land, you’ll find yourself wondering how the grass got so tall and why there’s a straw the size of a tree! “a bug’s land” will make kids and adults alike feel like they’ve shrunk to the size of a bug. It’s a fun walk as you make your way to Hollywood Land. When you get to Hollywood Land, heck out the Broadway-quality show, Frozen - Live at the Hyperion, discover the art and animation behind Disney at Disney Animation, or hop on Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
We suggest ending your day at Disney’s California Adventure at Paradise Pier. This works out perfectly with your World of Color tickets! The roller coaster, formerly known as California Screamin’ is currently closed as it’s being transformed in the Incredicoaster, but there is still so much to do! It’s rumored that the Incredicoaster, inspired by The Incredibles 2, will open around the movie’s release date in June 2018.
If you’re looking for fun and games, Toy Story Midway Mania!® is the perfect attraction with a mix of fun and competition. You’ll find pay-to-play boardwalk games, plenty of food, and Mickey’s Fun Wheel, which is the perfect attraction to take a break from walking while getting an amazing view of the park.
Once the sun falls, it’s almost time for World of Color! Your FastPass® tickets are zoned out by color, so scope out your section early in the evening to make it easy to maneuver to your spot where you’ll enjoy the magic and wonder of a water and light show!
We don’t know about you, but we’re pretty excited for our next trip to the park now! We can almost smell the churros. As you’re deciding on where to take your next vacation, we think the Disneyland® Resort offers the perfect place for kids to dream and go on adventures and for their parents to become kids again. Afterall, it was Walt Disney himself who said, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”