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You have saved up, dreamed, and now you are finally ready to take that Disneyland vacation. Disneyland vacations are expensive, so we can often feel a lot of pressure to make the most of our trip. We want everything to be magical and perfect.
Spoiler alert – it won’t be perfect.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing Disneyland vacation with these insider tips and tricks. Here are my best Disneyland tips from years of going to the parks with friends, family, and even solo.
To make this an easy-to-follow guide, we are breaking down our best Disneyland tips and tricks based on when you will use them. These are my tried and true tips for planning your Disneyland vacation, maximizing your time in the park, skipping long lines, and more!
In This Article
Best Disneyland Tips: Planning Your Vacation
Planning your Disneyland vacation is the hardest part of the trip in my opinion. Between choosing the best hotels across the street from Disneyland, to purchasing Disneyland Park Tickets, there is a lot to think about. These tips will help make sure you get the best deals, and plan your vacation in a way to set your travel party up for success.
SAVE ON DISNEYLAND VACATIONS!!!!
Save on tickets, hotel stays and more when you book through my partners. Call 855-GET-AWAY and tell them I sent you, or click on the button below.
Disneyland Tips – Planning When To Go
Choosing when to visit Disneyland is a big part of your vacation planning. While most people want to make sure they go when Disneyland crowds are low, the truth is there are always crowds at Disneyland. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time there. Here are some of my tried and true tips for picking when to go to Disneyland.
Weekends May Actually Have Fewer Crowds
If you are trying to decide the best days to go to Disneyland, in general, Tuesday – Thursdays tend to be the best weekdays to go. That said, if you are traveling during Spring Break at Disneyland, or spending part of Summer Vacation at Disneyland, I have personally found that being in the parks on the weekends leads to lower crowds.
Most Magic Keys (Disneyland’s Annual Pass) are blocked on the weekends, and out-of-area travelers typically use the weekend to travel. This makes Saturdays and Sundays a pleasant time to visit the parks during typically crowded seasons.
Holidays Are Hit or Miss
Holidays seem like they would always be crowded at Disneyland. But lately, we have found that they are very hit-or-miss. Between Magic Key blackouts, and people avoiding them assuming they will be busy, you can find some holidays to have fairly low crowds.
This is mostly true for Easter weekend and the 4th of July. Thanksgiving Day itself is hit or miss, though the week tends to be quite crowded. Winter vacation is very crowded.
Crowds Don’t Have To Ruin Your Vacation
Crowds in theme parks do not have to ruin your vacations. Using the planning tips and tools I will share in the next section can help you get a lot done, avoid long lines, and have the best time at Disneyland, even when it is crowded. That said – pick the dates and days that work best for you.
Disneyland Tips – Hotels and Tickets
Your two biggest purchases for your Disneyland vacation will most likely be your hotel stay and your theme park tickets. These tips will help you save money, choose a great hotel for your travel party, and set you up for an amazing vacation.
Purchase Your Disneyland Tickets In Advance!
The good old days of being able to go to Disneyland and purchase your tickets at the ticket booth are basically gone. Theme Park Reservations are needed to visit the parks, and while you could theoretically purchase at the booth if reservations are available that day, it is not something you want to leave to chance.
Purchasing your tickets in advance not only helps ensure you will get your reservations, but it can also save you money.
How does it save you money?
When you purchase your tickets through my partners at Get Away Today, you can save additional money on theme park tickets. They also often offer specials like an extra day free or adults at kids’ prices. You can purchase tickets by clicking the image below (the one with Mickey Mouse) or by calling 855-GET-AWAY and telling them Becca from This Crazy Adventure Called Life sent you (that way you get any specials for my readers).
The good news is you can also purchase these with discounted hotel stays, which I will talk about soon!
Purchase Tickets with Genie+ Already Included
Genie+ is Disneyland’s paid upgrade that helps you skip the standby line at popular attractions. While you can purchase Genie+ day by day as you scan into the parks, I definitely suggest purchasing this with your tickets.
Because the pricing for Genie+ is not guaranteed. When you purchase it in advance, you will pay $25 per day per ticket. If you wait until you are in the park to purchase, busier days Genie+ could cost more.
We have seen Genie+ reach upwards of $35 during busy seasons.
Not only that, but they limit how many they sell the day of, so if you don’t purchase it early enough, you may not be able to purchase at all.
Important Note: Do not confuse Genie+ with Disney Genie – the free service. See my complete guide to Disney Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lane for more information.
You Can Stay At A Hotel Closer Than The Disneyland Hotel For Half the Price!
One thing that is different about Disneyland and Walt Disney World, is that Disneyland is a smaller area, in the middle of the city of Anaheim. Many of the good neighbor hotels are closer than the Disney-owned properties (save the Grand Californian).
This is great news for you.
You can stay at one of the hotels across the street from Disneyland, for half the price (or even less). This puts you closer to the park gates and is the best way to save on lodging. Many of the hotels are also new, or newly renovated.
Two Ways to Save Big On Howard Johnson Anaheim!
Howard Johnson Anaheim is one of my family’s favorite hotels across the street from Disneyland.
I have 2 ways for you to save big. Book this hotel as part of a package with discount tickets through Get Away Today
Or if you prefer – book direct and use my Corporate ID code to save.
Flying To Disneyland? – Learn the Best Airports and How To Get To Your Hotel
If you are flying to Disneyland, be sure to research the different airports to use for Disneyland vacations. There are several options, and you may find one you hadn’t thought of using before. In my complete guide, I not only share distance, info on how big/busy an airport is, but I also share shuttle services, car rental info, and more.
Best Disneyland Tips – Prepping For Your Trip
Now that you have the trip booked, don’t get caught unprepared for your trip. From what to bring, to things to do in advance, we have you covered. These Disneyland Tips will set you up for a great vacation to the Happiest Place On Earth.
Disneyland Tip: Download This Important App
If you are heading to Disneyland, you will want to download the Disneyland App. The app is not only used to store your ticket info but to manage Genie+, check wait times, mobile order food, check for dining availability, and more. It has become a key component to planning your Disneyland Vacation.
I personally suggest that you download the app, sign in (if you already have a Disney account – like for Disney+ – it will be the same sign in), and get familiar with the app.
Learn What Needs Reservations at Disneyland, and Be Ready To Make Them
There are several things you will need to plan for ahead of your vacation.
First and foremost, at the time of this update, Disneyland Resort still requires Disneyland Park Reservations. Those can be made 120 days in advance.
Dining Reservations at some of Disneyland’s favorite sit-down, full-service dining locations are one of them. Whether it is a character meal, like Breakfast in The Park with Minnie and Friends at the Plaza Inn (one of my personal favorites), the Blue Bayou (the one inside Pirates of the Caribbean), or another sit-down option. Additionally, other experiences may require advance reservations.
Here are experiences at Disneyland that require reservations, which can be made 60 days in advance:
- Select Dining Locations
- Character Meals
- Bippity Boppity Boutique
- Build Your Own Droid
- Build Your Own Lightsaber (the one in Galaxy’s Edge)
INSIDER TIP: If you aren’t able to score your preferred dining reservation, sign up for alerts from Mouse Dining. They offer a free plan, but I love their upgraded paid service.
Purchase These Items For Your Disneyland Vacation
Before you go to Disneyland, I definitely suggest purchasing a few items for your trip. While Disneyland may have some of these items to offer, you will pay MAGICAL prices (akd more) for those items if you purchase them in the parks or at a nearby store.
First, I suggest checking out my article: What to Bring To Disneyland In Your Park Bag as I share my go-to items to take into the park. But I have a few must-have items I will list here for you.
Clothing and Princess Dresses
If you want Disney clothing, matching shirts, or even princess dresses, I suggest purchasing those ahead of time. While you can find cute clothing in Disneyland, it does come at Disney pricing. If you really want park official clothing but want to get it ahead of time, try ordering from shopDisney.
For Disney princess dresses, my friend Julie ordered from a bunch of different places and talks about the pros and cons of each one in her free guide: Best Places To Buy Disney Princess Dresses.
Park Essentials To Purchase Before Your Disneyland Trip
There are a few park essentials I suggest purchasing before your Disneyland Trip to make sure you are ready to go.
Back-Up Battery Packs
As I mentioned the Disneyland App – you will be using cell phones a lot in the parks. I suggest purchasing an extra battery pack to help keep you charged all day. If you want a lighter-weight option, consider purchasing FuelRods off Amazon. These are battery packs that are swappable in FuelRod machines throughout the country.
The great part is, there are machines throughout Disneyland where you can swap them for FREE! (Note: not all locations outside of Disneyland offer free swaps. Some charge a small fee.)
While you can purchase FuelRod directly from the machine in the park, they are $30/each at the machine. You can purchase 2 for $35 off Amazon (pricing is current at the time of the most recent article update).
Reusable Water Bottles
If you don’t already have a vacuum-sealed, reusable water bottle, I definitely encourage you to purchase one before your trip. You can get free ice water at any quick-service restaurant and use that to fill it up. There are also water fill stations throughout the parks as well.
I forgot sunscreen once. I walked to a local Walgreens and was floored by the cost they wanted. The sample sizes were nearly the same price as a full-sized bottle too.
DO NOT forget the sunscreen.
You can also shop on my Amazon Storefront where I have an entire list of my park essentials.
The Best Disneyland Tips To Make The Most Of Your Trip
Enough of the prep and planning tips. You want actionable tips for inside the parks to make the most of your Disneyland vacation. I am sharing my tried and true tips that we use to maximize our vacations to make the most of our time at Disneyland Resort.
Tips for Park Strategies at Disneyland and California Adventure Park
Park strategy is the biggest factor in making the most out of your Disneyland vacation. These tips will help you maximize your time in the park, as well as set you up for a memorable family vacation.
Rope Drop Tips
Rope Drop at Disneyland is one of the biggest tips you can get. If you are staying at one of the Disney-owned resorts (Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, or the Paradise Pier – soon to be Pixar Place Hotel) you also receive Early Entry at Disneyland where you can access certain attractions 30 minutes before other guests.
Rope Drop is basically referring to being at Disneyland Park or California Adventure Park before the official opening time. They let guests on to Main Street, USA (Disneyland) and Buena Vista Street (California Adventure) up to 30 minutes before the park opening where you can line up at ropes to be some of the first guests in the park.
- Rope Drop at Disneyland – Including go-to rope drop strategies tested by an insider (me)
- Early Entry at Disneyland – Including strategies to maximize your early entry time
Tips To Save Time in Line at Disneyland
Crowds and long lines are part of the Disneyland experience. But that doesn’t mean there are no secret tips to help you beat the crowds and long lines. Here are some of the best tips for avoiding lines at Disneyland.
Rope Drop, Late Nights, and Other Times To Ride Attractions
Rope Drop is the biggest time saver as far as lines, but it isn’t the only one. If you are a night owl, the time frame after the fireworks at Disneyland is a great time to ride and usually includes lower wait times.
Some of my favorite rides to do during this time include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and Star Tours.
Additionally, riding rides during big entertainment options (parades, World of Color, fireworks) will also help lower your time in line. For instance, while World of Color is showing, many people avoid the area, and Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is often a walk-on ride. Same with some of the rides that stay open during the show on Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park. You can check the Disneyland App for which rides are still open during the show.
Utilize Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes
I have mentioned Genie+ a little above but wanted to dive into it a bit more here. Genie+ gives you access to Lightning Lanes on select attractions. Basically, you select an attraction and are given one-hour return times to come back and enter through a much shorter line.
While sometimes the Lightning Lane Return line may appear long, note that they do prioritize this lane over the standby line when needed. I even once saw them close down the standby line for Soarin’ Around The World because the Lightning Lane was backed up and only one side was running.
While most popular attractions offer a Lightning Lane included with Genie+, a few only offer Individual Lightning Lanes. These are additional purchases that you make for just those rides. You do not have to have Genie+ to purchase them. They are a la carte purchases. You can purchase up to two of these Individual Lightning Lanes per person per day.
Rides with Individual Lightning Lanes at the time of the most recent update include Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Radiator Springs Racers.
Single Rider Line
One great way to save time in line is utilizing the single rider line when offered. As it implies, the single rider line is for those who are willing to ride without the rest of their party. Be sure to check out my complete guide for if your kids can ride alone at Disneyland if you plan on utilizing this option.
Single Rider Line is available at select locations, and only when needed. Some of the locations that offer a single-rider line include Matterhorn Bobsleds, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Space Mountain, Grizzly River Run, Goofy’s Sky School, and at times Soarin’ Around the World, and WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. Be sure to ask a Cast Member at the queue entrance if they are utilizing a single rider line.
Additionally, Toy Story Midway Mania and Monsters Inc, Mike and Sulley to the Rescue offer a buddy pass type line. This allows parties of 2 or 3 (depending on size, etc) to get in a shorter line to fill a row in a vehicle as needed.
I do hope that they bring the Single Rider line back for Indiana Jones, and will be sure to keep you updated if they do.
Rider Switch Pass
If you have a child who doesn’t meet the Disneyland Ride Height Requirements, your family can utilize the Rider Switch Pass, also known as child swap.
Your entire party will head to the line entrance, and talk to a cast member, showing them the child that will not be riding. You will work with them to have an adult sit out, and then they will get to enter through a shorter line for that ride after the others return.
You can usually bring another person back with you (so adult one can ride with an older kid, and then adult two can ride with the older kid) but check how many you can have in the second party with a Cast Member. We have heard sometimes they allow two additional guests, but sometimes only allow one additional guest.
You can verify if a ride offers Rider Switch Pass on the Disneyland Mobile App.
Currently, at this time, no rides at Disneyland utilize a Virtual Queue system. That said, World of Color does utilize a virtual queue. A virtual queue will get you a spot in a reserved viewing area for a showing of World of Color. Those who do not get this, end up having to sit/stand over to the side on the Pixar Pier bridge and must be there very early to get a good spot.
Read More: World of Color and Virtual Queue – from my friend Jessica at The Happiest Blog On Earth
Secret Wait Time Meanings
A fairly missed Disneyland tip that will help you save time in line is knowing that there are secret wait time meanings… At Disneyland, this is specifically for the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square.
Most rides in Disneyland will only show wait times in five-minute intervals. But Haunted Mansion has a spooky 13-minute wait time. This is the lowest time this ride will show, and it usually means you can walk right on the ride.
Tower of Terror also had this, but I cannot remember if it uses the 13 minute time now that it has been rethemed to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! (Because I have rarely seen it below a 30-minute wait time.)
It may be shocking to know that some of the longest lines at Disneyland can be for food. Especially right at mealtime.
Don’t wait in line for your food – Mobile Order!
Many of Disneyland’s quick-service dining options offer mobile ordering. Want a corn dog? Mobile order it from Stage Door Cafe, Corndog Castle, or even the Little Red Wagon.
You can even mobile order a Dole Whip at Disneyland (from a few places).
Or mobile order ice cream from Gibson Girl on Main Street.
Mobile Ordering is a great way to enjoy shorter lines for your favorite Disneyland food options when available.
Disneyland Tips For Meeting Disney Characters
One of the highlights of a Disneyland vacation, especially for many little kids, is meeting their favorite Disney Characters. Here are some insider Disneyland Tips to help you find characters, get great interactions, and yes, even avoid a long wait to hug Mickey Mouse.
Where To Meet Disney Characters at Disneyland Resort
Disneyland characters are sprinkled throughout the parks. There is no shortage of places to meet the characters throughout the day. That said, some characters have better spots to meet them, or different outfits. I suggest joining my Disneyland with Kids Facebook Group if you want to talk about specific characters and outfits. That said, we will talk about a few of the locations.
A Disneyland Tip for characters if you are wanting autographs – Have your autograph book open and ready for the characters and utilize a good size pen or sharpie (I prefer the sharpies that you click to lower the writing tip).
READ MORE: Alternatives to Disney Autograph Books
Disneyland Tips for Meeting Mickey Mouse and Friends
Nothing is more Disney than meeting Mickey Mouse and his friends. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale can all be found throughout the parks. One great place to meet these classic characters is at Mickey’s Toontown. These characters are often seen in their classic outfits in this land. Additionally, Mickey has a designated meeting space in his house.
For the shortest wait times, head to Mickey’s Toontown first thing in the morning, ride Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and then explore the land and meet Mickey in his house.
Mickey and his friends will also be on Main Street, USA, and Buena Vista Street. Here they are either in their 100th-anniversary attire (Main Street) or in their 1920’s attire (Buena Vista Street). They also appear in their seasonal attire in these locations during Halloween Time and the Holiday Season at Disneyland.
READ MORE: Halloween Time at Disneyland
READ MORE: Holidays at Disneyland
A great place to meet classic characters, including Mickey and Minnie, is at character dining meals at Disneyland Resort. Each meal features a title character (used in the name of the location) and some other Disney friends. You will dine, get great interactions, and more.
Tips for Meeting Princesses at Disneyland
If you have a Disney Princess fan in your travel party, you will find plenty of places to meet the princesses at Disneyland Resort.
The majority of the Disney Princess meet and greets happen in Disneyland Park. Guests can head to Royal Hall (to the left side of the castle when looking at it from the front) to meet 2-4 Disney Princesses. These princesses are not specific princesses but often include Belle, Aurora, Ariel (animated version), Aurora, Cinderella, and Rapunzel.
Fantasyland and Disneyland Park
Princesses may also sometimes appear in Fantasyland near “It’s a small world” where currently, the live-action Ariel is doing meet and greets. I also have seen Moana (not a princess technically but you know), Belle in her village outfit, Jasmin, and others in this area.
Many Disney Princesses can also be found roaming the parks, usually in the later afternoon or early evening.
Meet Anna and Elsa in Disney’s California Adventure Park
Anna and Elsa greet guests at California Adventure Park inside of the Animation Academy Building. The line can get long, so I suggest heading there early. Especially during days where the temperature outside is hot. The Animation Building is a popular spot for guests to try and beat the heat at Disneyland.
Princess Breakfast Adventures at Napa Rose
There is a Princess Character Meal located at Napa Rose inside Disney’s Grand Californian. While spendy, and only offered certain days of the week, die-hard princess fans will love this option to meet several Disney Princesses throughout their meal.
READ MORE: Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures Review – from Jessica at The Happiest Blog On Earth
Other Character Experiences
These are just a couple of the character experiences at Disneyland Resort. You will find many of your favorite characters wandering the parks, or set up to do meet and greets somewhere.
If you are looking for a specific character, you can stop by City Hall, or talk to a Cast member that is a friend of the characters (they have a pin that says “ask me about characters”) to see if they will be out and to get approximate times.
Additionally, if you are staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, they may be hosting pool parties (especially during summer at Disneyland) where you can play games and meet some of your favorite characters.
Disneyland Tips – The Insider Tips You Will Love
There are so many more Disneyland tips that don’t fit into one of the categories above. Disneyland Insiders (like myself) know these tips like the back of our hand, but rarely think to share them because they are so natural to us at this point. So here I am, sharing all I can think of, but if you have one I missed, be sure to share it with me in the comment section.
Best Disneyland Tips for Entertainment
There are so many amazing entertainment options at Disneyland, here are some of my best tips for parades, fireworks, shows, and beyond.
Disneyland Tips – Night-time Entertainment
The Best Disneyland Tips for Night-time Entertainment so you don’t have to stand or campout for hours.
World Of Color – Dessert Party
We already talked about World of Color and the Virtual Queue, but did you know that you have to stand for the entire show unless you are in the accommodation area (which is in the back)? There is a way to be seated for the entire show, however – The World of Color Dessert Party offers you a seat, and dessert platter for the show. The cost is (at time of this update) $89/person but includes unlimited non-alcoholic beverages and 2 alcoholic beverages per adult. This is the only way I will watch World of Color.
Skyline Lounge – Disneyland Fireworks Viewing
A true VIP experience- Skyline Lounge offers a dinner option, and a special location to relax throughout the evening, and watch the Disneyland Fireworks. I really loved this option before the pandemic while it had comfy couches and was a dessert party. While I think the current option is okay, they recently raised the price to $89, and I am not sure I like that price now that they only offer hard metal chairs, or worse… stools at hightop tables that don’t even have backs on them.
READ MORE: My original Skyline Lounge Review (I will be updating this soon for the current experience)
Last Minute Fireworks Viewing
You don’t have to wait for hours for decent firework viewing. While the prime spots will have people camping out an hour or more in advance, you can often join the crowds in the middle of Main Street just 15 minutes or so before the show. While the castle will be a bit far away, you will still have projections on the Main Street Buildings and be able to see the fireworks.
Disneyland Tips For Shows and Activities
Night-time spectaculars aren’t the only entertainment options. In fact, some of these entertainment options are perfect for if you want to avoid long lines at the most popular rides during the middle of the day. Take a break and enjoy these entertainment options with our insider tips.
Storytelling at Royal Theater
I don’t know why I slept on this for so long. We had an incredibly rainy spring at Disneyland this year, so in an effort to avoid a rain shower, we stopped in the Royal Theater to watch their retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I now want to do this every visit. A Disney princess will help retell her story, in a not-so-conventional way and it had us laughing the entire time.
An insider tip for this is that there are multiple shows and you can usually walk up about 5-10 minutes before show time and grab a seat on a bench.
Most Disneyland experts will tell you about the Animation Building as a place to beat the heat, but there is so much more to this building. We already mentioned you can meet Anna and Elsa here, but did you know you can experience Turtle Talk with Crush and ask him questions?
Between that long line for Anna and Elsa and the wall, is a walkway to go down to the Sorcerer’s Workshop where you can learn how hand-drawn animations were made, make your own animation scene, and more. Then continue on to Beasts Library where you can find out what Disney character you are most like.
Additionally, the Animation Academy has shows where you can learn to draw your favorite Disney Characters. A schedule is available to see what characters are featured at different times.
Insider Tip: Use one sheet of paper (provided) and draw your characters a bit smaller so you can put multiple characters on one page, take it home and frame it. Especially great if you can get the fab 5 on one sheet, or another franchise.
Disney Junior Dance Party
If you have a child who loves Disney Junior, the Dance Party is a great activity for them to get their wiggles out and be able to see some of their favorite characters. That said, many parents do not want to sit on the floor during the show.
Insider Tip: There are benches along the walls for parents (and kids) who do not want to sit on the ground. You will still be able to enjoy the show and the air conditioning, but won’t have to sit on the floor.
SAVE ON DISNEYLAND VACATIONS!!!!
Save on tickets, hotel stays and more when you book through my partners. Call 855-GET-AWAY and tell them I sent you, or click on the button below.
This cute show takes place across from the Disney Junior Theater and is one of my family’s favorites. I have never seen this theater fill up though, so if you get there, and have more than 5 minutes til showtime, now is a great time to take a bathroom break. The bathrooms are directly across the street between the Disney Junior Theater and the Animation Building.
Insider Tip: At the end of the show, when the curtain drops, turn around and look behind you.
Insider Tips For Dining at Disneyland
Food at Disneyland is expensive, so check out our best tips for saving money, finding seats, and more.
Save Money On Food Tips For Disneyland
Before we get into some of the ways to save money on food you purchase in the park, I want to make sure you know that Disneyland is one of the only Southern California Theme Parks that allows guests to Bring Food Into Disneyland! This is a great way to save money.
Save Money By Sharing Meals
Several dining options have large portions and are easy to share food. Plaza Inn’s lunch and dinner menu has very sizeable portions that can easily feed two adults with one entree, especially if you order the fried chicken dinner.
Additionally, Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland offers large portion sizes that can be shared.
Other dining options with larger portions include Pasta at Pizza Planet in Tomorrowland, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, and if you are in Downtown Disney, my family often likes to get the Macho Nacho’s at Splitsville to share.
Split The Treats
Many of the treats at Disneyland are good-sized portions and are able to be split. A churro can usually be shared by two people, as well as a pretzel (especially one from Pym’s Test Kitchen). Instead of buying each person their own of every treat, buy one of each item and share them.
Popcorn Buckets And Magic Keyholders
While not always offered, if you are a Disneyland Magic Keyholder (Annual Passholder), keep an eye out for the Magic Key popcorn buckets offered seasonally that include $1.50 refills. When this is offered, this is how I keep my kids happy… filling them with popcorn.
I do wish Disneyland would take a cue from Walt Disney World and offer refillable popcorn buckets to all guests, but sadly, they don’t.
Find Seating To Dine
During major mealtimes, finding seating can be a huge task at Disneyland. Here are a few of my favorite tips and hidden tables to look for at Disneyland when grabbing a bite to eat.
Disneyland Picnic Area
If you are bringing in your own food, Disneyland’s Picnic Area is a great place to take a break from the parks and eat a meal. The area is fairly shaded, rarely crowded, and semi-quiet. Offering a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the parks. It also has some of the largest lockers at Disneyland, that can easily fit a cooler with food in it.
Our Favorite Tables at Golden Horseshoe
The Golden Horseshoe is an amazing location to get out of the heat while eating. You can head upstairs if the downstairs is full. I rarely find the tables upstairs to be full. The only time I find this area packed is when the temperatures at Disneyland have soared to triple digits.
Insider Tip: There are even little tables basically in their own little room inside the Golden Horseshoe. These are great if you want to be a little more secluded.
Quick Service Tables Are Open To Sit At
This is one of my favorite tips because a lot of guests don’t realize this… Quick Service Tables are not limited to guests purchasing food there.
Quick service dining options are those that do not require a reservation and take walk-ups. The only somewhat exception to this is Lamplight Lounge as the tables are not open to the outside.
But if you bought food at Jolly Holiday or Refreshment Corner, and their seating is full, cross Main Street and have a seat at Plaza Inn to enjoy your meal.
Hidden Seating I Love:
Some of my favorite hidden tables in Disneyland include:
- Near Stage Door Cafe seating, there is a small “covered porch” with two tables. Separate from the rest of the area, covered, and has lighting at night
- Take the raft over to Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island and use the picnic tables in this area to enjoy a snack or meal
- Walk up the stairs at the exit of the Enchanted Tiki Room and turn right to find a few tables set away from the rest of the Tropical Hideaway area
- Across from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (between the entrance and exit), are some stairs that lead up to a small area with picnic tables and a view of the Rivers of America
- In California Adventure, in Cars Land, Flo’s Cafe has indoor and outdoor seating. If you head to the left outside area, and keep walking, there is a ton of tables in this area that many guests do not know about. Bonus: You can watch Radiator Springs Racers fly by while you eat
- Also in California Adventure, the seating in Paradise Garden Park’s dining area is huge and almost always has seating available
- In Hollywood Land, the seating to the side of Award Weiners (walk under Mickey’s Philharmagic sign) actually extends all the way back on the right side. Many guests don’t see the tables father back towards the theater exit
Disneyland Shopping Tips
Shopping for souvenirs? Yes, there are even tips for that. These tips will save you a lot of headaches when souvenir shopping.
Avoid Crowds When Shopping
If you want to shop in Downtown Disney, I suggest shopping in the morning to early afternoon. The stores are fairly empty up until right around dinner time. As guests start exiting the parks, they tend to head to Downtown Disney to go shopping. During the same time, guests entering Downtown Disney for dinner may also browse the stores.
In the parks, the same rule applies. As guests leave the parks they tend to do their shopping for the day so the stores are less crowded in the mornings and early afternoons.
Not Everything Is Available In All Stores
While many stores will have an overlap of inventory, not everything will be available elsewhere. If you see something you really want, and will not be back in that store… but it now! This is especially true for items offered in specific lands such as Avengers Campus and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Hold Packages and Have Them Delivered
If you don’t want to carry your packages around all day, and you don’t want to rent a Disneyland locker (or the item won’t fit) you have options.
Guests staying at a Disney Hotel can ask for next-day package delivery. Simply fill out the form and your package will be delivered to your hotel and available for pickup the next day starting at 7 am. Each hotel has a designated pickup location that you can find on the Disneyland website.
For guests staying off-site, you still have the option of having your purchases held at locations throughout the parks, and then you will need to return to these locations to retrieve your package by the end of the day.
- Disneyland Resort Stroller Shop
- Elias & Company in Disney California Adventure Park
- Pioneer Mercantile at Disneyland Park
- Port Royal at Disneyland Park
- The Star Trader at Disneyland Park
Other Disneyland-Related Tips
While I wish I could give detailed information on so many things, It would require an entire book to do so. That said, I want to leave you with some quick tips in list form to add to the ones above.
- Special Event during your visit? Know that the non-party park will be extremely crowded that evening and consider calling it an early night
- Bathrooms – Pull up the Disneyland App for restrooms but look for ones that aren’t easily visible from main traffic ways to avoid long lines
- Hidden Mickeys are a great way to keep kids engaged as you walk through the parks and wait in lines
- If a ride goes down during your Lightning Lane Return time and you haven’t scanned in, you will receive a Multi Experience Pass – these are good for several rides in the park, including some that do not include Lightning Lane as an option so click the “what can I use this for” link to see where else you may be able to use it
- You can add your park tickets to multiple Disney accounts – so when traveling with other adults, you can link up to be able to make Lightning Lane selections, etc as a group
- Photopass Photographers are happy to take a picture with your phone if you ask them
- In 2023 – all ride attraction photos are free for guests. Grab the code on your preview picture at the end of the ride, enter it into the Disneyland App and get your free digital download
- Photopass Photographer images are included with Genie+ and only one person in your group needs to purchase Genie+ to use this benefit
- MagicBands at Disneyland are a great perk but are not required. Learn more about MagicBands at Disneyland
- The parade route often fills up early, but you can usually find decent seating near “it’s a small world” up to 30 minutes before the parade starts
- Have a child that is sensitive to the noise from the fireworks? During the spring and fall, Fireworks are normally only included on the weekends. The weekdays are usually only music and projections and a great chance for those who are sensitive to fireworks to view the show. (Note: Fireworks are usually shown nightly during summer and during the Holidays at Disneyland)
- There are several rides where the line will split. Some Disneyland experts swear by going right, others by going left. I say pick the shortest line in most cases but just make sure to keep your party together
- When arriving at Disneyland and heading to the park gates, head to the turnstiles more in the middle or maybe even to the far right. They usually have shorter lines
- As long as you are in an attraction line when the park closes, you will be allowed to wait and ride (unless it goes down). This is true for any ride that stays open until the park close
- Main Street, USA, and Buena Vista Street stay open later than the official park closing time for your shopping pleasure but it is usually fairly crowded in the stores during this time
- If you have a hotel room at a Disney-owned hotel, you can check with guest services to see if they can get you into any last-minute dining reservations. They tend to hold a few spots for guests of the Disney properties
- You don’t have to be a guest of the Disney hotels to explore the grounds and lobbies. I often like to stop into the Grand Californian on a hot day and enjoy their lobby area
- The Disneyland Railroad is another great way to enjoy the parks. You can use it as transportation between lands, or ride the full circle tour. You may even see some dinosaurs on your journey
- Guests on the Sailing Ship Columbia are able to go down into the ship and see what a real sailing ship from this era looked like. This was a really cool experience and I am glad we took the time to do it with our kids
- Check out more of my Disneyland articles for in-depth tips and more
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