I spent my entire childhood without going to Disneyland or Disneyworld and constantly reminding my parents of it. 23 years later my mom finally decided to take advantage of our three day president’s day weekend and our family went on a trip to Disney. You might be thinking- Alex, you’re 23 years old. You seriously wanted to spend a vacation at Disneyland? The answer is yes I did and I found out you can be any age to enjoy all there is at the happiest place on earth.
Our family planned to go to Disneyland for two days- we bought the park hopper pass online ahead of time so we could spend one day at Disneyland and one day at the California Adventure Park. Our trip began early Friday morning on a flight from Denver to Orange County (The John Wayne airport is the closest in proximity to Disney). We spent our first day renting a car and traveling around the Huntington Beach area. We explored the beach and shops before the real fun began in Disney the next day.
Friday night we drove from Huntington to Anaheim where we checked into our hotel to relax and prep for our Disney adventures. We stayed at The Best Western across the street from Disneyland, but there were plenty of hotel options located around the park if you don’t have the funds to stay within Disney. Our hotel offered a $5 shuttle to Disneyland the next morning, but we found it was actually cheaper for us to get an Uber from the Best Western to the front gate for $7 instead of $20 for four people.
Day 1 at Disney:
We woke up early and ate breakfast- as the park opened at 8am and we knew with it being a Saturday on a holiday weekend the line would be crazy. We waited in line to get into Disney for around 30 minutes (it went pretty quickly) where they allowed us to bring in bags filled with snacks and water bottles (if you’d like to bring your own food). Once we were inside Disney- we wanted to buy the MaxPass for $15 per person to ensure we could get multiple FastPasses to cut the lines.
THIS EXTRA $15 IS WORTH IT!
We waited in line maybe 30 minutes tops with our FastPass, whereas we saw some families waiting in line for the same ride for four hours. If you want to enjoy your day at Disney- I really recommend getting the MaxPass which allows you to reserve a spot in line via the Disneyland app on your phone. From here, it allows you to pick a time to hop back in line when you don’t have to wait. We did this with several popular rides such as Star Tours, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Incredicoaster, and other iconic rides such as Space Mountain. The saddest part of Disneyland was that most of it was under construction since we came in the “off season”. The castle itself was really just a tarp they through over the real castle while they worked on it (extremely disappointing for a girl wanting to meet all the princesses like myself).
On a happier note- my family and I hit every single ride and area of the park we wanted to. I recommend starting at the back left of the park since most people instinctively go right and get stuck admiring the front (this might help mitigate the crowds). Our first time at Disney we got inside around 9am and did not leave the park that night until 10pm. Wear your walking shoes people.
My favorite rides and foods inside Disneyland were the Indiana Jones Ride (interactive, fast, roller coaster), The Haunted Mansion (interactive, slow, spooky), and Star Tours (interactive, dark). The snack best food we got inside the park was the Dole Pineapple ice cream and the Mickey pretzel. We ate lunch at the French Market and dinner at pizza planet which was a bit pricey- but iconic. Both of these restaurants were also buffet style so it was really quick to get your food and we didn’t have to make any reservations.
Another thing we didn’t see in the park was the Mickey parade and the fireworks. When we went, the parade was delayed and we decided to hit more rides instead of waiting for it and the fireworks were delayed at well. Maybe it was because of the off- season, but if you go I would recommend waiting for these two experiences as they are free and I heard spectacular.
Day 2 at California Adventure Park:
Unpopular opinion… I thought California Adventure Park was a way better experience than Disneyland. Maybe it was because the castle was closed or the demographics of people in this park seemed to be a little older, but I enjoyed the rides and the movie memento’s much more. On our second day in the park we also learned how to better use our MaxPass to get the most use out of FastPass lines. We started early and stacked as many FastPasses as we could at one time (you can use 2 every two hours, unless you’re ride time is done before that, then you can schedule another within two hours). We also learned that with MaxPasses you get all of your photos taken in the park for free- so utilize this for photo opportunities on rides as well! (Once again, definitely worth $15!)
My favorite rides inside California Adventure Park were the Incredicoaster (large, upside down roller coaster), Guardians of the Galaxy (previously the tower of terror, not for the faint hearted), The Little Mermaid (interactive, slow, dark), and the Radiator Springs Racer (fast, interactive, roller coaster). These rides were all pretty intense roller coasters and mostly for older kids (besides the Little Mermaid). We wanted to hit as many rides as possible in California Adventure since this side of the park was smaller and attraction wise there was less to see. We also really enjoyed walking around Hollywood Land, which was designed like the old 50’s Hollywood. This section didn’t have a lot of rides but mostly had food, shops, and characters such as marvel and the Frozen Disney princesses. Here we also went to “Animation Academy,” where a Disney animator teaches a short 20 minute class on how to draw Disney character’s, which was fun (even for un-artistic people like myself).
The food in California Adventure Park was really good and seemed to have more options (as well as alcohol). My favorite foods included the ghirardelli chocolate shop (I got the coco and some chocolate squares), the bread bowls from the Fisherman’s Wharf, and the some of the various Asian stir fry dishes you could get along Pixar Pier. The food options were spread out among this park and were offered in more of a food truck style. This was convenient because it was quicker but it was also difficult, as there were not many places to sit inside.
Long story short- Disneyland was a really fun, short family vacation. If you have the expenses to go- I recommend going to this iconic universal attraction (no matter what your age!) The park is fun for both kids and adults with lots to do, see, and eat. If I ever go again, I would probably choose to go in the summer or spring. Even though summer and spring might be a busier time of year, I think Disney is always busy, and it might be worth it to go during the tourist season when the park is in full swing.