Tour Disneyland Like the Lurkyloos
This is by no means a comprehensive travel guide to Disneyland, but it is a collection of our best Disneyland tips for Walt Disney World vets!
The big thing to know is that the “resort” (i.e., the two parks and Downtown Disney) is very compact and walkable. Unlike at Walt Disney World, you don’t have to take transportation everywhere—you can walk it! Disneyland itself is about 30% smaller than the Magic Kingdom, so it may feel a bit crowded to you.
We have New Orleans Square instead of Liberty Square, and it is BEAUTIFUL! If you can afford it, it’s really nice to have a meal at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, which is inside Pirates of the Caribbean. Entrees cost $20–$38, and the food quality is on par with, say, Coral Reef at Epcot. Most of the time…
You will need a “priority seating” reservation (our version of Disney World’s “advance dining reservations”), but you can probably wait to make one until a few weeks beforehand. The number is 714-781-3463.
A less expensive alternative to the Blue Bayou is Cafe De Orleans, if you want table service. You can split one of the world-famous Monte Cristo sandwiches for much less money and have a lovely view of the Rivers of America.
For counter service, Rancho del Zocalo has the best atmosphere, but the food isn’t that authentic or great. None of our counter service food is very good, except Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street. You might do better inside California Adventure or at La Brea Bakery on Downtown Disney—it’s right outside the bag check area for both parks.
Be sure to use FASTPASS to avoid waits. The best thing to do during the summer is get to the park about 30 minutes before it opens and then, when you get in, collect a FASTPASS for something before you ride anything. You should be able to collect another FASTPASS about two hours later, even if your ride return time is later than that. The time is printed at the bottom of your ticket, under the return time. Be sure to get another FASTPASS as soon as you are eligible. You can collect them this way and use them in the afternoon and evening when it gets really crowded (note that Disneyland will soon begin enforcing return times like Walt Disney World has, so this tip won’t work after that).
Another note about opening: On days when Disneyland doesn’t open one hour early for Magic Morning (usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday), guests are allowed to enter 30 minutes early and congregate around the rope at the far end of Main Street, U.S.A. until the park officially opens and the rope is dropped. The shops and the bakery are open, so it’s a good time to grab breakfast without cutting into your touring time.
Of the most popular rides, it’s a good idea to do the Matterhorn, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, and Peter Pan early in the morning because they don’t have FASTPASS.
Rides that are better in Disneyland (or nonexistent at the Magic Kingdom): Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones & the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Storybookland, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, and the Columbia Sailing Ship.
Haunted Mansion is different in fun ways, but you may prefer the Magic Kingdom’s more recently refurbished version. Winnie the Pooh is TERRIBLE in Disneyland. Don’t waste your time, unless you want to see the hidden trophy heads of Max the buck, Buff the buffalo and Melvin the moose—all that remains of the Country Bears attraction Pooh replaced. (Look up and behind you as you leave the Heffalump/Woozle room.) Buzz Lightyear is also not as good here.
The Disneyland fireworks shows are MUCH better, and twice as long as Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. They also change depending on the season, and the Halloween fireworks show rivals the one you have to pay extra for at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom. Our Fantasmic! is considered superior because it takes place right on the Rivers of America and involves the Columbia and the riverboat. It also has a brand new dragon, plus Flotsam and Jetsam on jet skis! If you go to the 10:30pm show instead of the 9pm one, you can show up right at 9:20 or 9:30 as people leave the first show and get a good spot without waiting for 3 hours. (And don’t bother with Disneyland’s Fantasmic! dessert party—you still have to wait in line for an hour if you want one of the few decent seats.)
For information on World of Color, click HERE.
If you get sleepy in the afternoon and don’t have a hotel nearby, you can nap on the train or on the comfy sofas in the Grand Californian’s lobby. The hotel is located inside California Adventure, so if you have a park hopper, leave Disneyland, enter California Adventure, and then head to the right toward Condor Flats. Follow the path around and you’ll see the entrance to the Grand Californian. Alternatively, you can enter through Downtown Disney.
Also at the Grand California is the Napa Rose, the best restaurant on property and one of the best in Southern California. Entrees cost the same as or a few dollars more than those at the Blue Bayou, but the food is WAY better, and it’s easier to get a reservation.