19 June 2015

Disneyland, California | Questions Answered

We both loved Disneyland, but a lot of planning went in to our day there. We chose just one day in Disneyland (and missed out on California Adventures) as many people said it was the 'classic' and not to be missed. Here's all the questions that I wish I had the answers to... And lots of pictures!!

 I'm 21/an adult/not a die hard disney fan and I don't have kids - is it still worth going to Disneyland?

100%... I went to Walt Disney World when I was 6 and have fond memories of Disney - well I loved it just as much this time round. If anything I appreciated it even more! You have to embrace the cheese and immerse yourself to really enjoy the happiest place on earth.
The rides may not have ten corkscrews - it's all about the theme, building up the suspense in the queue line and special effects. Even still they're just as much fun.

Where to stay?

Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland is embedded within Los Angeles, in an area called Anaheim and so there is less of an incentive to stay in the official Disneyland Hotels. There are so many reasonably priced hotels on Disneyland's doorstep as well as some Airbnb options - for a good value option allow around £60-£70. We stayed at Knights Inn Anaheim and it was perfect - walking distance to the park, friendly staff, clean modern rooms with large fridge and a microwave.

How do you get to the park?

Anaheim is around an hour's drive for LAX airport.
As already mentioned you can just walk to the park from many hotels, there is also a shuttle for $5 return journey covering much of Anaheim. If you're coming from further afield head to Disney Downtown to park for $17 a day (book online in advance).

I'm confused - I can't see the entrance marked on the map.

I know, it's ridiculous that they don't make it really obvious - there are actually two entrances one from the East (Harbour Blvd) and one from the West (Disneyland Drive) in between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park.

What is there to eat? Did you take a picnic?

Technically bringing in food and drink is not allowed , but small snacks and water bottles are normally ignored. There are a plethora of eating options in the park so don't fear - you will not go hungry even with fussy eaters. On the Disney website you can look at the dining options and then set by your budget which is handy. 
You can also double up eating with meeting character at 'Character Breakfasts' and Fantasmic packages of food and show FastPass. I would recommend the later, but not the former if you only have one day in the park, as the morning is the best time to get ahead and beat the queues.
Buy a large bottle of chilled water in the morning and make the most of the fountains around the park. Don't forget that with any table service offering you will need to add tax and a tip (roughly 18%).

What to wear?

I never recommend denim if you're getting wet e.g. Splash Mountain. Something light and cool that will not chaff if wet/sweaty. I wore crochet shorts and a very light cotton tank.

Check the weather, as the evening temperatures can be a real drop (even in June). I was thankful for leggings and a cardigan for the evening performances... No really!

What shall I take in with me?

Money, ID (occasionally been requested alongside our payment card), camera, warm clothes for the evenings (trust me!) a light scarf to sit on, small snacks, a pen and an autograph book. You can buy an autograph in the emporium just as you enter on Main Street.

What's this Fastpass thing all about?

Disney has tried to ease long queues through the use of the FastPass system. By some of the major rides you will see signs for FastPass Distribution. Go up to the machine and scan your entrance ticket. You'll be issued with another ticket (take both!) which gives you an hour timeframe during which you come back and enter the FastPass queue, skipping much of the queue. 
Theoretically you can only hold one FastPass at one time, but if you see the bottom of the ticket it will tell you when you can pull your next FassPass - normally just before your FastPass becomes valid. Utilise this by pulling your next FastPass before heading to the ride.
You can also pull a Fantasmic (a water and lazer show with some of the Disney Characters on the Rivers of America) FastPass and this doesn't stop you from pulling other FastPasses. 

What's the best plan of action to get as many rides in as possible?

Well asides from utilising the FastPasses there are a few other tricks. Utilise the Single Rider queues, especially on Matterhorn Bobsleigh given you sit one behind the other anyway. Make sure you arrive at the park for half an hour before opening to get in when the park opens. The first two hours of your time in the park are crucial, when queues are <10 mins. 

What would you recommend for a one day itinerary?

I based our day on information from Disney Tourist Blog and DLR Prep School but my recommendations would be:
* Eat before you get in to the park.
* If queues are short get some autographs on Main Street.
* Head straight for a very popular ride (Disney Tourist Blog recommends Peter Pan's Flight which was shut when we went) and the queue should be short enough that you don't need to pull a Fasspass.
* Go on the ride nearby that all have very short queues.
* An hour after park opening start collecting your Fastpasses. Space Mountian seemed to be most popular and was one of my favourite rides. 
* If you're persistent getting Fastpasses as soon as they become available then you should be able to get most rides done in the morning.
*Also utilise those single rider lines!
*Lunch I would chose French Market as it had an exciting menu or the Gumbo, both in New Orleans Square
*Afternoon the queues will now be very long, so head to mean as many characters as possible - Tinkabell at Pixie's Grotto, Mickey and Minnie in Toontown, The Royal Hall to meet the Princesses and other characters marked on the map. We met Meridan from Brave and Rapunzel from Tangled outside The Royal Hall.
* Maybe get an afternoon snack in the shade and just take a wander around the grounds, pop in to Sleeping Beautie's castle, enjoy Toontown and just don't fight the crowds.
* Dinner from 6-8. We enjoyed Cafe Orleans, but there are many options.
* During the 8.50 parade take position for 9.30 fireworks and use your FastPass for the Fantasmic 10.45 showing, catch the 11.00 parade along mainstreet. CHECK TIMES when you arrive in the park!

Any advice on all the shows and parades?

We caught the end of the day parade which looked pretty good actually, but if you only have one day I'd focus on the evening entertainment. The rule is the later showings are ALWAYS less croweded and hectic. Getting a position for the first Colour the Night Parade is brutal, so I'd sneak in the area directly in front of the castle, but rows back from the front of the parade. This looks like a bad position, but really it's great - you're now front row for the spectacular fireworks.
Catch the Paint the Night Parade which is equally as impressive as the fireworks. Fantasmic is the one I'd give a miss if you're wanting to use the evening for more rides. Disney Tourist Blog has some good advice on the best spots to stand for Fantasmic and the Fireworks.

Tips for meeting the characters?

Meet a character early on Main Street if the queue is small. Queues in the afternoon were around 30 minutes of less for 'pop-up' signings like Rapunzel. The characters will be in the afternoon parade so aim to get to them just after lunch, Tinkabell closes early at 3.15 and Minnie leaves early too. Micky is busy and full of children but it's the cutest thing to watch - I could have cried it was that adorable (even Josh was gushy).
If you see the characters around the park don't be afraid to ask if you walk with them and grab a photo - they will normally stop for a quick photo but won't want people to start a line.
For characters that aren't a permanent feature they after often there for an hour and a bit at once. If the queue looks long ask their escorting cast member when they'll be back and get there 10 minutes before that. 
Take a pen, as they don't carry one with them.

How much did you spend?

Here's what we approximately what we spent during our day at Disneyland: Autograph Book & Mickey Pen $9.95 each, Special Micky Ears $21.95, Water $3 Dinner $43, Lunch $25, Ice Cream $9 Fruit $5.50, Starbucks $11 (don't do it - its mayhem). TOTAL: $128
You could have a great day spending roughly $20 lunch, $10 snacks, $30 dinner, $20 souvenirs. 

Hopefully that helped clear some stuff up! Disney Tourist Blog is a brilliant site with tons of information. I can't wait to go back to Disney.

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