So I live in Arizona (duh) and just a short 6 hour drive west on I-10 is the grand city of Los Angeles. The City of Angels…
and horrible drivers.
But that is neither here or there because what I wish to talk about is the magical place of dreams and make-believe that resides in a little suburb called Anaheim.
A little place called…
Yes indeed folks, Disneyland, touted as the “Happiest Place on Earth”, is a mere 6 to 7 hour drive away from me at any given moment. All the wonderment and excitement and crippling debt lives so close I can taste it!
This past weekend (well, two weekends ago now because I started this post last week and am only just now finishing it), Patrick and I went on a little sibling trip (my sibs, not his) to the Disney Parks and it was pretty dang magical if I don’t say so myself. So magical that even God cried tears of joy for us that poured forth from the heavens and threatened to drown us. But the sparks of our merriment were not doused and we rallied forth into the rain and claimed all we saw…
Okay, so in a normal person voice now:
It was awesome to have a little bonding time with the fam at Disney. And yes, it rained, A LOT. Which didn’t bother me so much except that my shoes got soaked and I hate having soggy shoes and wet feet– UGH! Also, on the way there we broke an axle in the Outback (henceforth to be called ‘Seabiscut’) at like… 11:30 p.m. and we had to call a cab to drive us the remaining hour and a half we had left to hour hotel and our cabbie was something special, oh yes indeed, talked our ears off and my favorite conversation starter was, “how do you fear the world will come to an end?” Philosophical musings at 1 a.m. is just not fair. It was 2 a.m. before we got to sleep and then it was up and at’em at 7 a.m. so we could walk to California Adventure to start our Disney weekend…
Crazy, huh? Amazingly enough none of that dampened anyone’s mood and we tackled the parks with the same fervor the Love’s (my family/madien name) usually do.
My family has been “Doing Disney” since before I was born. I’m a born and bred Disneylander and I know how to roll Disney-Style. So here are my tips and tricks, with pictures of the trip interspersed throughout, to rocking Disney Williams/Love-Style.
#1 – Always have a game plan.
You should never EVER walk into the gates of Disneyland or California Adventure without your game plan in tow. Some key things to remember when making a Disney Game Plan (henceforth known as DGP) are:
A) Get there when the parks open. You’d be surprised at how many rides you can walk right onto just by being the first ones through the gates. By noon the parks are crawling with parents w/ littles and foreigners who have no clue what personal space means. The burdens all Americans must bear ;-).
B) Know what is most important to you/your group. Is your DGP to get through lines as quickly as possible and hit every ride twice before lunch? Then strategize (mini side note: Google Chrome keeps telling me I am spelling “strategize” wrong… like it is not a real word. Had me convinced for second that it was right. Okay moving on…) based on ride popularity and fastpass time. For example, in CA Adventure, ALWAYS fastpass the Radiator Springs Racers if at all possible. The waits for that ride are ridiculous and will definitely slow your roll and crush your dreams (just sayin’). Another good one to fastpass is Soarin’ Over California. Simple ride with a astronomical wait. Finally, good rides to try and fastpass are the Tower of Terror and California Screamin’, their lines usually move at a good pace but they can still be quite long. In addition to being the rides to fastpass, they are also the ones to hit first upon entering the park. ToT and the Racers are near each other with Screamin’ not too far away, I usually recommend that course of action as your initial go to plan.
In Disneyland, you want to hit the mountains first. Fastpass one, wait for another, fastpass one, wait for another, and so on. Your mountains are Space Mountain*, Splash Mountain*, Thunder Mountain*, Matterhorn, and I’d even include Indiana Jones’ Temple of the Forbidden Eye* in this as well as Pirates of the Caribbean, even though neither of them are remotely mountain-like (* indicates rides with fastpass service). These rides will always be the ones with long waits. Always. Also, if the rides are what get you off (sorry to be crude), and you could care little about anything else, then always hit rides up during parades and shows. While those suckers are watching Mickey ‘Paint the Night’, you are riding space mountain 3X in a row.
Now if your DGP is to get the full Disney experience, and you want to see the shows and the parades and meet the characters, be sure to know ahead of time when the various events are happening. Most shows, parades, and character sightings will happen more than once through out the day– schedule accordingly, you can look that stuff up online also there are some awesome apps in your app/play store that will help you keep everything straight, even ride wait times. Also, if you are interested in World of Color in CA Adventure a fastpass is a must! Well, its not like a requirement or anything but if you want any chance of having a good vantage point of the show you’ll want to get a fastpass for this. The fastpasses can be picked up at the Grizzly River Run Fastpass Kiosks early in the day. They are first come first serve so if this is important to you, you’ll want to beeline here and get your passes. I think Fantasmic in Disneyland has started doing fastpasses too but I wouldn’t know where to tell you to get them.
Whatever your game plan might be, it doesn’t matter, you do you and get the most from your Disney experience.
#2 Eat ONLY one meal in Park
I don’t want to say NEVER eat in the park because some of the Disney food is AH-MAY-ZING. I haven’t tried everything on this list, but this blog has a great list of Disneyland Resort Must-Haves, as far as food goes. We made special runs by
The Enchanted Tiki Room and Pooh Corner just to pick up some Dole Whip and Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches– it was worth it. Also, and I wish I had taken a picture of it, the Monte Cristos of Cafe Orleans are TO DIE FOR. Seriously. TO DIE FOR. OMG. Hands down, the best thing I’ve ever eaten in the Disney Parks. It is going to set you back $18 but it is worth it and, if you don’t eat a lot, you can split it (I didn’t. I pigged out all on my own, but you totally can!) as it is way more food than one person should eat in a sitting (did I already say I ate it all by myself?).
This all being said, eating in the park is *CHA-CHING* expensive! Monstrous wallet denters, if you catch my drift. I suggest packing light snacks that will tide you over throughout the day (you can bring in food and liquids as long as none of it is in glass containers) and maybe even pack a PB&J or two for lunch time. If you aren’t about all the prep time that requires, across the street to the east of the parks is a lovely McDonald’s that is clean and cool. There is also an IHOP, Denny’s, and a Buffet called Captain Kidd’s. I wouldn’t recommend the IHOP though, their prices were just as bad as eating in Disney. The one nice thing was eating inside, away from the humidity but we kinda wish we had just gone to the buffet– more food, lower price.
#3 Shop, but don’t buy, Mid-day
Part of the fun of going to a Disney Park is coming home with awesome souvenirs that you can either share or rub in everyone’s faces (to each their own). Each land has its own special feel and the shops are no exception to this. That is why I am all for the occassional “we have a fastpass that doesn’t start for another 30 minutes and we don’t want to wait in line for another ride” shopping. This kind of shopping stresses hubby out as he doesn’t like to look at all these things we can’t afford/won’t be buying but would love to have. I, on the other hand, love to get ideas of what I want to buy AT
THE END OF THE NIGHT. That’s right, you heard me, END OF THE NIGHT. There are a couple reasons for this:
A) If I buy earlier, I have to carry it around with me. So for the rest of the day I am tethered to this item AND, as any avid tea drinker who loves to collect mugs fromplaces you’ve been, your souvenirs are often breakable items. One little jostle on Thunder Mountain and your awesome mug that looks like Chip is now in 152 pieces. Or that sweet shirt you bought for dad because he towed Seabiscut home for you is now covered in gross Splash Mountain water and sitting in a bag getting dank… these are unacceptable scenarios. I like to be unencumbered by things when doing Disney (as you will see in point #4) and early-purchasing of souvenirs does just that– and by that I mean encumbers.
B) I have a tendency to get overzealous and purchase something I only kinda like and then can’t afford something I REALLY like. Can I get an AMEN? I know there are people out there just like me. Every time I see a Stitch pillow pet I
just want to buy it. Why? Because I like Stitch (more importantly, hubby likes Stitch) and I think the pillow pet is awesome. Now… If I buy a $30 pillow pet of Stitch (which, lets be honest, hubby couldn’t care less about) then I can’t afford what I really want which is the mug that looks like three tea cups stacked one on top of another (I have a serious mug addiction, it is bad). Also, what am I going to do with a pillow pet? Actually I can think of a million things, but that is not the point. The point is… if I allow myself some time to stew on a purchase, I can usually talk myself out of it or decide it is something I do absolutely want, and since part of doing Disney Love/Williams-style is saving as much money as possible, I need to capitalize on the souvenirs that I will be most happy to drive home with in hand.
The one downfall is this is a lot of people’s go to method for souvenir shopping in Disney so the stores can be busy. Make sure you have done your pre-shopping, know what you want and where you can find it ahead of time, and head straight for it. Don’t be distracted by other goodies along the way. Get in, get your stuff, get out. Simple as that.
#4 Do NOT bring more into the Parks than you ABSOLUTELY need
My parents both tell me I am crazy for this one, but I get so fed up with strollers (mostly it is just strollers) being all up in the way that when I have kids I am convinced I am going to do this. Plus, I get nervous for people who bring in strollers and leave personal belongings in there. Who says everyone who comes to Disney is pure of heart? You are just asking for people to steal from you. My dad informs me nobody messes with strollers but my question is… how do you know???
So I have decided, while I am BEYOND excited to have a kid of my own that I can take to Disney and experience the wonder and excitement with, I will not do it while they are still needing a stroller/wearing diapers. Nope, not happening, Strollers and diaper bags are cumbersome, I won’t do it. I won’t be that jerk who clips peoples heels because I am pushing a stroller around and trying to wrangle the child who is supposed to be in said stroller. No. I just won’t. The paths in that park are not big enough for your massive Bumbleride Indie Twin stroller to be carving its own path through the masses.
OH! and to the woman whom hubby so patiently assisted (the man is a saint sometimes, I swear) while pushing her two seat stroller THROUGH the Astro Blasters line… there is a reason they have designated stroller parking. Ugh, stroller parking is a double edged sword because it keeps strollers from being in lines but also makes narrow spaces even more narrow! I wish I had thought to take pictures people, I really do. Then you would see how miserable it is to walk through Tomorrowland and Adventureland with the way they have had to set up stroller parking. Kudos to Disney though, they do try their best to keep it all out of the way as much as possible. They even have what I can only assume are stroller parking attendants who keep everything organized. I do not envy their job.
Do us ALL a favor. Don’t bring more into the park than you feel comfortable carrying (that may include children, just sayin’).
#5 Stay in a hotel close to the Parks
I’ve stayed with my grandparents when they lived in Cali., I have stayed in a hotel several blocks away, I have stayed in a hotel across the street, I have stayed in the resort hotels– I have done it all. My best advice in this area, if you are from out-of-town visiting the Parks: Stay close by.
There are a few hotels further away that have free shuttles you can use or there are the paid shuttles for a small fee you can walk to a bus stop and they will take you directly to Disney. These are okay but if you get tired and want to nap, or
have little ones who NEED to nap, this can be a time consuming endeavor, and your Disney time is precious (or at least mine is). Staying in the resort hotels is awesome. I’ve stayed in two of the three Disneyland Resort hotels and it has not only been a great experience, but the convenience of it is super nice. The price tag, unfortunately, is not so nice. If you are looking to plan a budget-friendly vacation like we like to do but you want the convenience of a close location, look at one of the MANY hotels in a one mile radius around the Parks. There are some decent inexpensive hotels just across the street (and some not so decent but hey, you really are only going to be sleeping there, right?) that are just a short walk to the front gates of the Parks. Plus, a few of them have continental breakfasts (yay for “free” meals!) which is a bonus time and money saver.
I’m going to end there because this post is already so long, but if you have your own Disney advice, please share it below! I’d love to hear how you guys make your Disney experience the most magical it can be. Or, if you have questions about something I’ve talked about, or didn’t talk about, feel free to post those too! I’m looking forward to the feedback.
Stay messy, friends!