Wandering Disney parks can make for a long, exhausting day. But it’ll be worth it! Here are some tips on how your family can make the most out of a trip to Disneyland or California Adventure.
1. Get There Before the Park Opens
While the Disneyland Resort publishes park hours on their website, they often let visitors through the gates before the scheduled time. While there is no set time for this, it is usually about a half hour before the parks open. So get there early to wander Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. or California Adventure’s Buena Vista Street. While ropes will be blocking Tomorrowland and Adventureland, you can wait for the rope drop. This will amp up the anticipation even more for little ones—and you’ll be some of the first people to get on rides. Head for the ones that usually have long lines like Space Mountain or Indiana Jones.
2. Try to Avoid Magic Mornings
If you are staying at a Disney hotel and have a 3+ day admission ticket, you are entitled to a Magic Morning, giving you access to one of the parks (which park depends on the day) for an entire hour before it opens to the public. Instead, start your day when the parks open—but start at the opposite park. That way, you’ll be in the park with less people and you’ll get to the attractions quicker than you would have in the other park.
3. Grab a Special Occasion Button
When you arrive at Disneyland, head to Main Street U.S.A.’s City Hall (or California Adventure’s Guest Services) for a complimentary button. These will be a big hit with your kiddos—they have options for birthdays and first visits, as well as a generic “I’m Celebrating!” button. The characters look out for them too so your kids might get some extra attention from Mickey and friends.
4. Conquer the Park Methodically
While it may be tempting to hit all of the biggest rides first, you will find that you’re eating up time and battling crowds to get from one side of the park to the other. Instead, come up with a more methodical plan—hit all of the rides in one land before moving on to the next. If you go in order, you will cut out a lot of time.
5. Use Rides to Avoid the Heat
Southern California is essentially a heavily developed desert so it definitely gets warm in the afternoon. Instead of letting the sun beat down, keep the warmest part of the day reserved for long, indoor (air conditioned!) attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World or even The Enchanted Tiki Room. Not only will you have time to cool off but you can rest your feet as well.
6. Ensure You Have Access
Grab the Disneyland Resort app for access to a variety of things, including GPS-based maps and info on where to find characters. But more importantly, it shows you the wait times for most of the rides, something that can make a huge difference in your day. It also shows which rides are temporarily closed. Check it throughout the day to make sure you’re not inconvenienced or heading toward crazy long lines.
7. Experience a Hidden Gem
The Aladdin Musical Spectacular at California Adventure is a phenomenal show—and another chance to rest for a while. The 45-minute performance recounts the classic Disney story of Aladdin and his wish-granting friend, the Genie. With an actual flying carpet, elaborate costumes and opportunities for sing-a-longs, it’s much more like a Broadway show than some of Disney’s other shows. Little ones will be enraptured.
8. Visit the Baby Center
Somewhat unknown to a lot of visitors are the Baby Care Centers. Located on Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland and near the Pacific Wharf in California Adventure, this is definitely your one-stop-shop if you’re trying to conquer Disney with a baby. Purchase things like baby food, formula, diapers, wipes, sunscreen and medication or take advantage of their facilities, including a nursing room and a changing room. There is also a feeding room complete with highchairs, a microwave and a sink.
9. Take a Guided Tour
While Disneyland offers a variety of tours, one in particular is designed with families in mind and can make for a fun afternoon activity in the park. The Discover the Magic Tour takes kids on a treasure hunt through the park, gives them the chance to solve puzzles and includes a treat as well as group trips on family-friendly attractions.
10. Choose Your Fireworks Spot Wisely
While the view of the fireworks is great both in front of the castle and by It’s a Small World, the best spot in my opinion (especially during the 60th anniversary show) is Main Street U.S.A. You may not be able to see Tinkerbell fly from the Matterhorn, but there are tons of other perks. It’s the only place to spot the inflatables and projections on the Main Street buildings plus you’ll get to experience snow falling during—you guessed it—the Frozen portion of the show. There will be a lot of people watching from here so you might feel a bit like a sardine but the feeling of awe that spreads through the crowd is infectious. You’ll also have the perfect view of the castle with the fireworks directly over it—great end to a Disney day!