Disneyland isn’t often the first thing that springs to mind when you envisage your trip to California, so you can imagine my absolute delight when I was busy Pinterest-planning our various Los Angeles adventures and stumbled upon a photo of that icon pink castle. When you hear Disney in the context of the USA, you immediately think of Orlando, but as it turns out Anaheim in California is home to the original Disneyland, making it an absolute must if you’re planning a holiday there.
Like all theme parks – particularly in July – Disneyland is bound to be busy but there are a few tips and tricks that can help you to make the most out of your day there. We visited on the 4th which was always a risky decision; it was either going to be even more hectic than usual, or quieter on account of the various celebrations taking place elsewhere. Fortunately the former appeared to ring true and thus we did have the benefit of shorter queuing times and spectacular star-spangled fireworks to round Independence Day off.
1. BUY YOUR TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME
Arriving at Disneyland without a ticket, or even with an e-ticket, could mean a lot of precious time spent in a queue. Buying your ticket in advance through a trusted agent like Attraction Tickets Direct means that you’ll arrive with the paper version in your hand ready to gain instant access to the park, as well as saving yourself a few dollars.
2. ARRIVE EARLY
Perhaps this goes without saying, but you’re going to want to make the most of your time at Disney and the best way to do that is to get there as the park opens. Having your tickets to hand, rather than having to exchange them at the box office, means you get to miss out a whole extra queue.
3. RIDE THE DISNEYLAND MONORAIL
By far the fastest way to get into the park is using the monorail, a high-speed train that takes you from the front security through to Tomorrowland, right in the middle of the park.
4. PURCHASE FAST TRACKS
This isn’t obligatory but if you’ve got your heart set on riding the major attractions then buying fast track access could save you a lot of time as well as potential disappointment. I know it’s an added cost, but Disney really is a special event so it’s worth making the absolute most out of your visit.
5. RIDE THE BIGGEST ATTRACTIONS EITHER FIRST THING OR LAST THING
If you decide against fast tracks then think about planning your day around the major attractions and visit those at the times when the queues are likely to be the shortest. When we arrived first thing we only had to wait in line around 20 minutes for the theme park’s biggest rollercoaster, Space Mountain.
6. BUY YOUR WEARABLE MERCHANDISE EARLY
Cliche, I know, but one of the first things we did was head to one of the gift shops to purchase our all-important Minnie Mouse ears. They make a great photo prop, and when else do you get the opportunity to wander around as a fully grown adult with character headwear?
7. BUT SAVE THE REST OF YOUR SOUVENIRS FOR LATER
Although the majority of the rides are bag friendly given that none of them are really extreme, it’s best to travel as light as you can, so save the giant Eyeore stuffed toy for just before you leave. The queues tend to be shorter then too!
8. LOOK OUT FOR SPECIAL PINS
Actually, I’m not usually one for souvenirs at all (I know, I know…I did just spend $20 on synthetic mouse ears) but when we visited on the 4th of July they had a special pin in the dedicated shop in Frontierland with the date and year on it. You never know, they may even be worth something one day!
9. QUEUE IN TWOS
As a two we noticed we often got to board faster than larger groups who insisted on sitting together, and for many of the attractions we were right at the front! If you’re going as a group then consider offering yourselves up as pairs when you get to the front of the line.
10. OR MAKE USE OF THE SINGLE RIDER QUEUE
If you’re not purchasing fast tracks and aren’t too fussed about sitting next to one another on the actual ride then consider jumping in the single rider line! You’ll reach the front much faster, giving you more time to enjoy the rest of the park.
11. WEAR SUNSCREEN
If you’re visiting in the height of the Cali summer then be sure to wear (and take!) sunscreen. Most of the park is based outdoors and a lot of the lines are completely exposed to the elements too. We didn’t notice quite how hot it had got until we were stood in the midday sun waiting for the parade.
12. CARRY WATER
And in the same vain, take a water bottle into the park with you. It will save you money on constant refreshments as well as making sure you don’t get too exhausted – there are spots to refill your bottles at, or if you ask nicely I’m sure any of the restaurants would fill it for you from their tap for free.
13. CONSIDER TAKING A PACKED LUNCH
The one thing at Disneyland that we were really disappointed with was the food. We tried both sit down and vendor cart options and whilst we had fully expected them to be overpriced, we hadn’t realised the quality would be so poor. In future I would be sure to take lots of snacks in a rucksack instead!
14. FIND OUT WHEN THE PARADES ARE IN ADVANCE
If you ask any of the staff they’ll let you know, in July they were at 12:30 noon and 8:30pm, though they may differ year round. It doesn’t really matter where you stand as the parade stretches all the way from the Town Hall down to It’s A Small World so you’re guaranteed to see it, but we got a great view of the lunchtime parade by sitting on the pavement outside Starbucks.
15. TAKE A SWEATSHIRT FOR THE EVENING
If you’re visiting in the Summer then the last thing you’re going to think about is wearing a jumper, but as soon as the sun drops in the evening the temperature does too. Take a light layer to wear after dark!
16. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR CHARACTERS
There are certain areas where you can find your favourites. We spotted Minnie by the Town Hall at the bottom of Main Street and at the Carnation Cafe, meanwhile the characters from Winnie the Pooh all hangout in their own special spot in Critter Country. If you’re after a particular character then check ahead with Guest Services as they should be able to tell you where they’re due to appear!
17. CELEBRATING A SPECIAL OCCASION?
If you’re visiting the park to celebrate a special occasion, such as a birthday, then be sure to let someone in Guest Services know as you’ll be given a large button badge! Not only is this a great (free!) souvenir, you may also be subject to special treatment during the day. If it’s your first visit to the park you can also let one of the staff know at Guest Services or any of the gift shops and they’ll give you a special pin for that too.
18. THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN RIDE IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST
There’s a reason this is one of the parks star attractions! It’s suitable for all ages and the production values are spectacular. Sit at the front like we did if you want the best view!
19. CONSIDER BOOKING A SPECIAL RESTAURANT RESERVATION
As noted above, we really didn’t think much of the food at Disney. That may have been different though if we’d booked a table at one of the more upmarket dining options. The Blue Bayou restaurant in New Orleans Square really does look very special! I can’t vouch for the food, but situated within the Pirates of the Caribbean ride under a canopy of stars, it is truly magical.
20. SOME OF THE RIDES ARE MOST SPECTACULAR AT NIGHT
Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Jungle Cruise and the Matterhorn are all based outdoors and therefore are extra-special after dark. Just be aware that this isn’t exactly a secret and queues can still be long, so don’t miss out on your chance to ride them altogether by leaving it too late.
21. TREAT YOURSELF AT THE JOLLY HOLIDAY BAKERY CAFE
The one type of food that Disneyland really does do well is the type laden with sugar! Although it’s pricey, the bakery offers treats in the shape of all your favourite characters – they’re totally Instagrammable and very tasty too!
22. WEAR COMFY SHOES
You’re going to be doing a lot of walking!
23. DECIDE HOW IMPORTANT THE FIREWORKS ARE TO YOU
At around 6:30pm we noticed that people had started to camp (literally!) along the Main Street and the castle and so asked a member of staff what they were waiting for. Turns out it was the firework show, which wasn’t due to start for 3 hours! We personally felt that this would be a big waste of time that we could spend exploring the park, but if the fireworks are really important to you then consider saving yourself a spot early.
24. WHERE TO WATCH THE FIREWORKS FROM
If you’ve voted ‘very’ to the above, then you’re going to want to find somewhere along Main Street, but do bear in mind just how quickly this fills up incredibly early on. The easiest spots to watch the fireworks from are It’s A Small World in Fantasyland and beside the lake in Frontierland – you can rock up at both just before they start and be guaranteed a good view.
25. AND IF YOU’RE NOT BOTHERED ABOUT THE FIREWORKS ALTOGETHER…
Then go and make the most of the empty attractions! They keep running throughout the parades and the firework show with minimal queues. When the fireworks had ended we made our way through Tomorrowland toward the Monorail ready to head home and noticed that the Star Tours ride – which had had 60 minute plus queues all day – was down to just a 10 minute wait time.
With Attraction Tickets Direct you can get tickets to hundreds of different tourist hot spots from Orlando to Paris to Dubai at incredibly competitive rates, and better still you’ll receive the paper ticket for instant entry rather than an E-ticket. This makes them great for gifting too!
The Disneyland tickets are valid for an entire year from purchase, so you’re not tied to a particular date either. With customer services based in London you’re guaranteed full support if needed so you can board the plane with a spectacular trip ahead of you and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again when visiting the USA or any of their European attractions.
This post was sponsored by Attraction Tickets Direct. All views and imagery are entirely my own and subject to copyright.