If you have been following me for a while, you know one of my favorite places on Earth is Disneyland. There is something about going there that makes you forget about the world for a day and really just have fun and let your inner child out for a day.
When To Go
It is always a challenge to know when the best times to go to Disneyland are. Clearly weekdays over weekends are always a safer bet and avoiding holidays helps to. There are actually two really great websites that I use in order to know when the best days to go are. The first one is from the LA Times and the second one is called Is It Packed. Obviously you don’t always have a choice of when you can go, but if you do, definitely consult the websites for recommendations.
I also recommend going first thing in the morning right when the parks open. It is the least busy time and you can maximize a few fast passes in conjunction with short lines and get quite a few rides in.
Each day the parks alternate an extra early Magic Morning which means that people staying at the hotels can go into the parks an hour before opening time. Unless you have access to Magic Morning, I recommend starting in the park that did not have magic morning so that there are already not long lines and wait times.
I have found that going the first week in September, which is often the first week of school or early January have the shortest wait times.
You can order your tickets ahead of time or get an annual pass. If you live in SoCal you can get the SoCal Annual Passport which pays for itself if you go at least twice. You also get discounts on merchandise and dining.
Where To Park
I always recommend parking in the Mickey and Friends Garage. It is easy to access off the I5 and the tram takes you right to the park from the garage. If you are lucky and park near 9A you will be closest to the escalators and the tram. If you get 1K, be ready for a long walk to the escalators.
Getting Into The Parks
From the Mickey and Friends garage, you can take the tram right to the main park entrance. Sometimes the line is long for the tram in which case you can walk over to Downtown Disney and either walk all the way to the park, which is about a 15 minute walk, or you can jump on the monorail which will take you right into the park at Tomorrowland in Disneyland.
I always like to snag a locker first thing and drop off my extra layers and a change of shoes, especially in the winter when It can get pretty chilly at night.
If you take the tram to the front of the Parks, there are lockers just outside of Disneyland or California Adventure Park. If you do the monorail, you can do the lockers on main street inside Disneyland.
I often see people standing in standby lines for hours and wonder why they are not using fast passes for rides. Certain rides have fast pass and you can either go to the ride, and get a fast pass ticket, or you can use Max Pass on your phone and it will sync with your ticket.
Fast pass gives you an hour window to return and you can go on the ride and skip the standby line. You definitely want to maximize your fast passes and always have your next one in the queue. On busy days, most fast passes run out by around 5 or 6 pm so another reason to get into the park early and maximize your fast pass availability.
Some rides like Radiator Springs usually runs out of fast passes by 2 or 3pm so I always recommend grabbing one by lunch time the latest. It will keep you from getting another pass for a few hours but it is one of my favorite rides.
Download The App & Get Max Pass
Disney has a great mobile app that you can download and check wait Times and also utilize max pass. It will cost you $10 per person, but is well worth it and avoids about 3 additional miles of walking a day by not having to go to the rides for a fast pass ticket.
Single Rider Lines
Single Rider Lines are another great way to avoid the long stand by lines. The only catch is you can’t sit with your fiends but they will fill in empty seats on the rides. You can usually get on a ride fairly quickly using single rider.
Parades & Shows
I recommend finding out when the parade are as they can become very hectic to try and get around the park and Main Street. People start to gather for quite some time before and getting in and out of the park or across the park can be a challenge. I like to make sure I am in one area of the park and planning to be on those rides for a while during the parades to avoid the chaos. If you do need to go to California Adventure and are trying to get out during the parade, I recommend going through the stores on Main Street and you can walk entirely through the shopping area instead of on the congested street.
Disneyland often does fireworks at night as well and all of the rides in Fantasy Land will close for a few hours. I recommend getting the fantasy land rides out of the way in the morning.
I like to see the shows later in the day when it is nice to take a break from all the walking and the fast passes are running out. Use the app to check for show schedules.
Disneyland is incredibly accommodating to food allergies which I am very grateful for. I tend to stick to more sit down restaurants since I am so sensitive to gluten, but each time I order, a Chef always comes out an takes my order and makes sure my food is prepared without allergens. Make sure to make dining reservations to up 60 days in advance either by calling or on the app.
My favorite places to eat are:
Blue Bayou is the restaurant that is at Pirates of the Caribbean. The scene is dark and supposed to be inside a Bayou and is one of a kind. The food is a southern New Orleans twist with a focus on steaks and comfort sides. The chefs are always very accommodating to allergies here.
Carnation Cafe is a great cafe on Main St serving burgers and sandwiches. They are very accommodating to gluten allergies and I have eaten here many times with no problems.
Cafe Orleans is a more casual restaurant that has a similar menu to Blue Bayou. The food is well prepared and it can be a quicker dining option.
Carthay Circle is on the California Adventure Park side and is a great restaurant set in a 1920s theme. The food is delicious and also very accommodating to allergies.
Napa Rose is in the Grand Californian Hotel. It is easily accessible from California Adventure Park or Downtown Disney and serves California Cuisine. It is a nice change of pace from the craziness of the park when you want to take a break.
How To Get There
From LA you will take a series of freeways to get down to the park. From West LA / Santa Monica / Venice I like this sequence for a few reasons. First off, there are carpool lanes the whole way, and no one really goes to Disneyland alone so you should be able to take advantage of this. Second, these freeways tend to have the least traffic as the other routes for some reason. Third is there are carpool exit lanes that help you avoid the last of the traffic and you can access the Disney exit from the carpool lane.
110 North - only for about 1 mile
91 E - carpool lane exits to I5
I5 South to Disneyland exit from carpool lane
Where To Stay
If you can stay on the Disneyland Property you will have a much easier time since it is so easy to get to/from the park when you are on it. If that is not an option, there are plenty of hotels in the area and each one has a shuttle or is walking distance. You can also uber in and out if you need to.
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