This stop on our visit to the west coast of America, was a no-brainer for me. As soon as the general area was mentioned, I started planning the entire trip around our time in Disneyland! Disneyland is without a doubt, one of the most amazing places on the planet. The park in California (Anaheim) has something very special about it as it is the original instalment in the world-wide phenomenon. The magic that you see on screen in all those amazing Disney movies, comes to life in front of your eyes as soon as you enter the park. It truly is an incredible place for both children and BIG children!! I will be honest though, when we initially started planning the trip, I worried as to whether it would suit a couple with no kids. I had nothing to worry about…as soon as we saw our first pair of Mickey Mouse ears, we were like a pair of big kids!
There is also the extra draw card in Anaheim of having a second theme park to visit in the same vicinity. California Adventures is located directly opposite Disneyland and there is an option to purchase tickets that allow you freely enter both parks during your stay. We opted for this ticket choice and were glad we did…I will explain the perks of this later when I touch on queuing for popular rides.
We decided to stay in a hotel a short walk away from the parks. Firstly, we found this a much cheaper option in comparison to the official Disney hotels. Although the latter were much closer to the parks they were also more expensive. This may be worth looking into as an option though if you are visiting with young children – having easy access to your hotel during the day to pop back for a rest or for nap time etc may outweigh the price difference for some.
For us, the Marriott Hotel Anaheim was perfect. It was about a 15 minute walk from the theme parks, clean and comfortable and had a Starbucks located on the ground floor…perfect fuel to get us set up for a busy day in the parks! The hotel also had an inviting bar in the lobby area – the perfect finish to a day park hopping. On our return each night from Disneyland, we treated ourselves to a couple of cocktails with our feet up, as we relived our favourite rides and worked out our plan of attack for the following day.
A Day at Disney
The best tip I think for a day at the theme parks is to start early. The gates opened at 9am so we made sure we were in the queue before this time (yes, there were major queues forming before the opening time of the gates!). As soon as you enter into the general area of the park, you really start to become immersed in the magical atmosphere. From Mickey Mouse ears and princess dresses to people ‘Disney bounding’ – (a more subtle way to pay homage to ones favourite Disney character) – you feel like you have entered the enchanted castle before you are even on the grounds of the park.
When you get through the gates, you will receive a park map. My advice would be to have done some research beforehand and suss out the areas of the park you are most interested in – you can easily become swept up in the crowd and ushered along someone else’s path if you don’t have a clear plan in mind. It is also a good idea to take note of the times for the shows you wish to see and plan your break times around these. Not only are the shows incredible but they are also an opportunity for you to rest your feet and even have a little snack without having to waste precious park time. Depending on the show, you may have to get there early to nab a good seat so bear this in mind to avoid disappointment. And I know I underestimated the size of the park, so plan your movements wisely to ensure you are in the correct area of the park for the shows you want to catch. There is no need to be crossing from one side of the park to the other if you have done your research and at busier times of the year (and indeed most times of the year are busy here!), it may take a lot longer to get from one point to another than you anticipate.
On our second day at Disneyland we were much smarter in terms of our plan of attack. We had circled the rides that had a fast-track ticket option and ordered them in terms of our preferences. Although you may have to wait a couple of hours for you allocated time to take the ride, it means you don’t have to wait in that particular queue and are guaranteed your time slot later in the day. Even though you can only hold one fast-track ticket at a time, it means you can visit other rides during this time. As we had tickets to both Disneyland and California Adventures, we took full advantage of the fat-track options in each and although we had to leave one park to get to the other, it was worth the effort to skip those crazy lines for the most popular rides.
To finish off a dream day in this magical land, there are a few things you must see:
• The parade that goes through main street
• Sleeping Beauty Castle lit after dark
• The light show projected on the building of It’s a Small World (this may have been just a Christmas special)
• The fireworks!!! (As we were there in December, it even snowed after the fireworks)
There really is something for everyone at Disneyland, from toddlers to adults. Toon Town was such an adorable area of the park for those little Disney lovers. It perfectly caters to the needs of littlies and had very age-appropriate attractions and rides in this area. My favourite part of Toon Town was definitely the cute Buggy parking bays at the entrance!
For kids a little older, a visit through the arches of Cinderella’s castle will take them to a place where they can be transformed into screen-worthy princes and princesses – a dream come true for any little Disney fan. In this area (Fantasyland), there were rides perfect for kiddies without the heart-stopping factor of some other areas of the park.
For more mature kids (like us!), we couldn’t go past Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and Space Mountain. When we visited the park, Space Mountain was certainly the most in-demand ride so I would advise grabbing a fast-pass ticket for this as soon as you arrive if you want to try it. You can relax for the rest of the day then knowing you won’t miss out on that experience without wasting precious time in a huge queue.
There are several casual eating options in the parks themselves. Be aware though if you are a fussier eater like me, that many of those options are not terribly healthy. There are fast-food outlets where you can sit and dine-in as well as food stands dotted around the park selling fried and sweet snacks to nibble as you go. There are also cafes with sandwich options and baked goods if that is more what you are looking for. I found that taking snacks such as muesli bars and rice cakes meant we didn’t have to buy food in the parks the whole day (it can be a bit expensive) and it almost meant we didn’t waste precious time stopping to eat and could have our snacks while in the queue for a ride or watching a show.
Just outside the gates of the park there is a little shopping and restaurant precinct. This had many different food options from casual dining to more expensive restaurants. We ate in one of the outdoor bar/restaurants one evening while visiting Anaheim. It was a lovely alternative for our meal that evening without having to venture too far from the parks. As the days can be quite long at Disneyland and draining due to the crowds, this was a nice break and the perfect way to refuel and recoup before we returned for the night time shows and fireworks.
What to Wear/Bring
As much as you might want to be totally fashion conscious for the sake of your photos, comfort is definitely the key when planning your wardrobe for this trip. Runners or shoes you know are up for the challenge of an entire days trekking are a must, and comfy trousers/shorts depending on the time of year you visit of course (I wouldn’t recommend a skirt or short dress – think about some of those crazy rides!).
A back-pack is another must for a day at the parks. There is nothing worse than worrying about minding a handbag as well as the fact that a back-pack will hold so many more bits and pieces and can easily be carried about on your back keeping your hands free to take those all important photos!
Handy things to have in your back-pack:
• Snacks and a refillable water bottle
• Hand wipes
• Tissues (some of those rides can make you emotional lol)
• Ponchos (even if the weather is good, there are some water rides – this is a cheaper option than buying branded ponchos in the park)
There is so much more I could write about our amazing experience at Disneyland and California Adventures but I think I have rattled on long enough. I hope this information can be of some help to anyone planning a trip to this incredible place or might even entice some to add it to their bucket list.
Thank you for taking the time to read our post and we will be back soon with more exciting travel adventures. If you would like some tasters of what’s to come or perhaps samples of destinations we have already covered, why not pop over to our Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/chalkandcheesetravels/ and check out some pictures from our other trips.
But for now…happy planning!
Michelle and Richard xx