Disneyland may be “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but even the “happiest” guests in the magical California park are looking for ways to make their trip as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.
As an adult who had never been to Disneyland before, I hit the ground running. I wanted to know all the ins and outs of the legendary park, so I got two Disneyland experts to share their knowledge with me: Jeff Reitz from Disney366 and Jennifer Ruvalcaba from Randomly Riley.
Reitz’s Disney journey actually started as a joke between friends, fuelled by a commercial from the company for the Leap Day 24-hour event hosted in 2012, promoting the “extra day of Disney.”
“We were joking around that how can it be an extra day if you don’t use the others?” Reitz, told Yahoo Canada.
Reitz and his friend were unemployed at the time but did have annual passes. They began making daily trips to Disneyland as a source of entertainment during, which helped them “stay positive” during their unemployment. When his friend stopped going, Reitz took it upon himself to keep the experience alive, still going to Disneyland every single day since. His next major milestone is an astounding 3,000 visits on Mar. 18, 2020.
“I’m just a normal guest who happens to go a little more often,” Reitz says. “Essentially, I’m making the best use of the annual pass that you can.”
In addition to Reitz, I also got some tips from super-mom Ruvalcaba, who tries to bring her kids to Disneyland approximately once a week, each time in new costumes she creates herself. Ruvalcaba taught herself to sew about five years ago, when the family first got annual passes to Disneyland, and wanted to challenge herself to create costumes for her daughter Riley.
“I was just a stay-at-home mom, so it gave me an extra little project that I could do with my daughter,” Ruvalcaba told Yahoo Canada. “We started the Instagram more to share the pictures with our family who live in Texas and Florida and different places, and it kind of turned into something that we never thought was possible.”
Armed with tips and tricks from these Disneyland connoisseurs, I took on the park to experience the “magic” of Disney, curating a list tips for future visitors.
Don’t go to Disneyland without downloading the app
To make your trip as efficient as possible, use the Disneyland app as your guide for everything from wait times at attractions and pre-ordering food, to on-site navigation.
“First thing I’m going to say is download the Disneyland app, do that right now while you’re at home in Canada,” Reitz advised. “As you’re planning your trip or when you’re at your hotel figuring out what you want to do...it helps you to know, before you walk all the way over to one of the lands, where you want to go.”
The app also comes in handy for those looking to skip as many lines as possible at attractions. For the traditional Fastpass, guests need to pick up a physical pass from an attraction or entertainment location. The Fastpass indicates a specific window of time for you to come back, giving you access to a shorter, reserved line. Now you can get a MaxPass, which allows you to reserve your Fastpass time directly through the Disneyland app.
I really like the MaxPass concept because I was able to check out available times for some of the more popular attractions as I roamed around the resort doing other things. It was also an easy way to check back to see if a Fastpass became available for an attraction. But Ruvalcaba isn’t entirely sold on the idea of replacing the physical Fastpass with the MaxPass just yet.
“I think Fastpasses are great, they’re a super good idea…the only thing I really like about the MaxPass on my phone is that I didn’t have to walk all the way to the next attraction to get the Fastpass,” she said. “But you still can only get one Fastpass at a time on your phone, and that’s why I didn’t think it was worth it because you’re still waiting an hour or two hours before you can get a new one.”
If you do have to wait in line, and you start to get a bit bored, there’s also a Play Disney Parks app that allows you to play different games to test your knowledge of Disney and the attractions to help pass the time. If you’re able to get into the new and already popular Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, this app is transformed into a Datapad that helps you fully integrate into the new land.
“It works for everybody and kids especially will love it because it gives them something to do,” Reitz said.
The earlier the better
Yes, Disneyland is a busy place with lots of people, but there are certainly times that are less-busy than others. Reitz, Ruvalcaba and I all agree that the early morning hours, when the park just opens, is least crowded time.
“My biggest tip for avoiding the lines is to get there as early as possible,” Ruvalcaba said. “Get there 30 minutes before opening and get into Fantasyland…the wait is always at least 45 minutes.”
“If you can be there for rope drop when the park first opens, that can make it easier because the lines aren’t as large,” Reitz explains. “You may be able to hit five, ten rides in that first hour or two, versus waiting until say 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock or in the afternoon when you’ve got a lot more people there, especially if it’s in the prime of summer time.”
Since I was staying at Disneyland’s Grand Hotel California & Spa, I was able to pop over to both California Adventure and Disneyland Park during Extra Magic Hour, which lets you get into both areas before regular opening time. In the early morning, it was incredibly quiet without almost no lines in sight but by 11:00 a.m. both parks were filled with guests.
Parents, take advantage of the family areas
As a mother of two, Ruvalcaba strongly recommends that parents utilize the services Disneyland has to accommodate families.
There are baby centres in both Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park that have products like diapers, wipes and formula for purchase. There are also air conditioned nursing rooms, which Ruvalcaba described as “very private and clean,” with special changing areas and small potties for young kids.
If you need to bring a stroller with you, Ruvalcaba wants to remind parents to look at the stroller rules for Disneyland. If your stroller doesn’t fit the requirements (no larger than 79 cm in width and 132 cm in length), they have single and double stroller for rent on-site.
“I usually prefer bringing a stroller that has good storage, make sure you bring extra clothes, things like that,” Ruvalcaba said. “There’s a lot of kid-friendly shows and rides, not just in Fantasy Land...which is really nice.”
Highlight for food and attractions
Favourite food choices for Reitz, Ruvalcaba and I were hard to make, so there are certainly lots of tasty treats.
Since it was my first time to Disneyland, I was determined to eat as many Mickey-shaped items as I could. My favourites were the beignets at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. Reitz is a big ice cream fan so he loves to grab a couple scoops at Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor or the legendary Dole Whips, particularly from The Tropical Hideaway where you can get raspberry or orange, as well as the original pineapple treat. Ruvalcaba frequents a “hidden gem” in New Orleans Square that has steak and vegetarian gumbo that her daughter Riley loves. She also recommends the Cozy Cone Motel in California Adventure Park for some cone-shaped treats, like the chilli con queso served in a bread cone.
Disney attractions are so detailed that even waiting in line is a remarkable experience. In terms of favourites, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT got the thumbs up from Reitz, Ruvalcaba and I, a thrilling drop attractions based on the popular film series. Ruvalcaba’s children like the Radiator Springs Racers attraction in Cars Land in California Adventure, a racing attraction with all your favourite Cars characters.
We are also in agreement that visitors to Disneyland should definitely see at least one show while there. Mickey and the Magical Map is a favourite for both Reitz and Ruvalcaba, while I was completely blown away by the World of Color light show in the evening. There are usually multiple times for the light shows, so if the first one books out quickly the second one, after the fireworks, is much easier to get into.
“A lot of people end up not staying the whole day and then so a lot of times, you can still find room to enjoy the show,” Reitz said.