Friday 8 March 2019

3 Days At Disneyland - A Complete Overview

For as long as I can remember, I've known one thing  - that Disneyland is touted as the happiest place on earth. Well, I waited until I was well into my thirties and pregnant to visit for the first time, but I figured better late than never - besides, I've always wanted to experience the magic for myself.

Well friends, the magic is REAL! It only took a few short moments after stepping out of our hotel and into the Disneyland parks to feel the stress of my everyday adult life melt away, and this excited feeling take over - I could only describe it as a giddy glee. They say that the magic of Disneyland makes even us adults feel like kids again, and judging by the fact that Brian and I ran around the parks for three days laughing and with awe and amazement - it's totally true!

Our plan for the trip was to be in Disneyland for a total of three days. The first day on the itinerary being a travel day so likely to be taken at a slower pace, followed by three full days to fully explore everything that the parks had to offer, and then leaving early in the morning on our fifth day to continue our trip to Los Angeles. Looking back, I think that this was the perfect amount of time spent at Disneyland; we were able to take the parks at our own pace, and I didn't feel as though I was compromising anything on my long must-do list.

Here's a breakdown of how we spent our three days at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and everything that we learned along the way to get that quintessential Disney magic experience.

Getting To Disneyland

Although there are multiple Disney parks worldwide, for our first trip Brian and I visited Disneyland which is located in Anaheim, California.

We flew direct from Toronto Pearson Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. There are multiple direct flights from Toronto to Los Angeles per day, with ample choice when it comes to times. We chose to leave early in the morning, making sure to arrive into California early to be able to fully maximize our time for our trip.

Once we landed in in Los Angeles, it's about a 35 minute drive to Anaheim - traffic permitting. There are a few different ways to get to Disneyland from LAX:

  • Rent a Car: depending on the number of people in your party, and if you'll be staying away from the parks, renting a car may be the best and most cost-effective option. Brian and I have rented cars every time we visit Los Angeles and the process is quick and easy from the Airport

  • There's a Disneyland Shuttle Bus that leaves from the Los Angeles airport and takes you directly to the Disneyland parks. Prices vary depending on if you choose a one-way or round trip, and the number of people in your party. There is child pricing available for children ages 3 - 11.

  • Take an Uber. If you're staying within the parks, it may be more cost-effective to use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft to get you to Disneyland. Prices will vary depending on the amount of traffic, and number of people in your party. Also make sure to be mindful of the amount of luggage that you're carrying. If you're a party that likes to travel with multiple pieces of large luggage, it may be worth it to consider the shuttle rather than running the risk of playing an unsuccessful game of Tetris once your car arrives.

Staying At Disneyland

Disneyland offers three different hotels on their property, and we stayed at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. What a property! Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa offers everything you would expect from a premium accommodation, with that added Disney whimsey and service. Honestly, Brian and I agreed that we have never experienced such friendly, thoughtful and helpful service from any hotel that we have ever stayed at - and between the two of us, we're talking dozens of hotels per year! Everyone that we came into contact with went above and beyond, and to see how this sentiment extended especially to families with children made us agree that we will be staying here for all future trips to Disneyland.

Aside from being a beautiful hotel and spa, there's many benefits to staying at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, or at any of the accommodations found at Disneyland:

  • Private entrance to the park: Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa is located right on the Disney California Adventure Park grounds, so there's the added benefit of having quick-access to the park and with little-to-no lineup. The most either of us ever waited in line was 5 minutes - pretty incredible if you ask me

  • Magic Hour: Coupled with your park tickets, hotel guests get to enjoy entrance an hour earlier than the public to one of the two parks per day. Each day is a different park. Considering how busy the parks may get during peak hours, this is worth its weight in gold.

  • Onsite Amenities: Between the resort pools, the on-site dinning options and the spa in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa it just takes the convenience factor to the next level.  I was 16 weeks pregnant while visiting Disneyland, so while I was pretty good energy-wise, I got hungry real fast. There were times that I needed a quick dinner before heading up to sleep in the room or to grab a snack before a nap. Staying on-resort with so many dinning options also meant that I was able to go right downstairs to grab a quick breakfast to bring back to the room before the day began; let me tell you, this pregnant lady wakes up hungry. I also took advantage of the pool area to lay out on a sunny afternoon and rest while Brian powered through all of the rides on his list.

Staying at one of the hotels on the Disneyland resort proved to be one of the best decisions that we could possibly make, and will likely be even more beneficial when we have a little one in tow. It's definitely an investment, but keep your eye out for Disneyland Special Offers before you book - you may find discounts on park tickets and hotel accommodations!

Disney California Adventure Park

After checking into our hotel room, and spending the balance of our travel day wandering the parks to get ourselves oriented, Brian and I felt ready to maximize our time at Disneyland. For our first full day, we chose to spend all of our time at Disney California Adventure Park.  Definitely the more "grown up" of the two parks, Disney California Adventure Park boasts some of the newest and daring rides, delicious dinning options that include alcoholic beverages and stunning shows are the appropriate for big and small kids alike!

There is just so much to see and do at this park, and I feel like every individual and family can craft their own unique itineraries from the rides, eateries and shows at Disney California Adventure Park. For me, here's a few of my favourite moments from our day at Disney California Adventure Park.

  • Pixar Pier is absolutely incredible. It reminds me of of a mix between Pier 39 in San Francisco and the Santa Monica Pier - both of which I have great memories from! I enjoyed all of the delicious places to eat; it's here where I found my coveted Mickey-shaped pretzel (with cheese dipping sauce, of course) and had delicious mocktails and appetizers at Lamplight Lounge. Brian enjoyed the Incredicoaster, a rollercoaster set to the theme of The Incredibles! Very cool.

  • I also really enjoyed Cars Land - both Brian and I have always wanted to take a road trip through Utah, and the landscape and retro feel of this part of the park totally caught the vibe. I mean look at the attention to detail! Even the music shifts as you move through the park to make it seem as though you're entering a different time period, a whole different world. 

  • Hands down, my favourite ride of the entire trip can be found in Disney California Adventure Park. Not only is Soarin' Around The World pregnant lady friendly (yay!) it's also one of the most amazing rides experiences that I've ever had in my life. I only wish that we had done it twice! I honestly believe that the experience is amplified if you go into it without knowing a heck of a lot about the ride itself, but I will give you one clue: you may be a bit squeamish if you have a fear of heights! 

  • We were so fortunate to be visiting Disneyland for the premier night of World Of Color, an absolutely unbelievable show that uses over 1000 water jets, colours, lights, music, you name it to bring Disney classics to life right in front of your eyes! It's hard for me to truly articulate just how incredible this show is, but I am not ashamed to tell you that I cried. Yes, as someone who rarely shows any emotion, I was so overcome with feeling watching this show that I cried real tears. This is a popular show, so head over to Pixar Pier early with a snack or two to make sure that you get a great spot to watch it.

Disneyland Park

On our second full day exploring Disneyland resort, we spent the entire day at Disneyland Park. To me, this park is quintessential Disney. This is the park that I dreamed about as a child, and it's even more magical to appreciate it as an adult. True to all things at the Disneyland Resort, the attention to detail is unparalleled and it's in this park where you will find all of the Disney classics. Think It's A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Mad Hatter's Tea Cups - all of the classics. This is also a park that is most appropriate for small children, so you will be hard pressed to find a restaurant that serves alcohol. Fine for this pregnant lady! Because there were so many children-friendly rides, shows and things-to-do that were safe during pregnancy I actually found myself falling in love with Disneyland Park, while thrill-ride loving Brian preferred Disney California Adventure Park. I loved this park so much that I spent the majority of our third day exploring Disneyland Park while Brian was recovering from a cold. Again with so much variety, each individual's itinerary for the park will look totally different. Here are a few of my favourites from the day.

  • Call me a granny but one of my favourite ways to get around Disneyland Park, and just as a ride in general, is the Disneyland Railroad. Guests are able to take a comfortable seat on a genuine steam-powered train and enjoy the view as the train transports them in time, making multiple stops around the park. 

  • We were able to enjoy an afternoon watching Mickey's Soundsational Parade. If you're planning on visiting Disneyland Resort with little ones, this parade is definitely not to be missed. Everyone's favourite Disney characters and Princesses come out and dance, wave and preform to classic Disney tunes. Little and big kids alike will experience the Disney magic during this fun parade, and will be able to check off any special Disney Character that they wanted to see during their visit.

  • I had an absolute blast visiting Mickey's Toon Town. It's exactly as the name describes, and for me it meant being transported into the cartoons that I watched growing up. We were also super lucky to be able to actually meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse right in Toon Town and get our photos - such a magical moment, and totally brought out the kids in all of us!

  • My favourite area in all of Disneyland Park is New Orleans Square. The detail!! I've never been to New Orleans, but I feel as though I have now after spending so much time in this area. I also finally got to ride the Haunted Mansion, a ride I've been wanting to-do since I was a kid! I spend almost an entire day in this area while exploring on my own, whether it be eating treats to simply people watching and taking the whole scene in. 

  • You can't speak about Disneyland Park without mentioning the fireworks. Everyone of my friends who had visited a Disney Park, as a child or as an adult, raved about the fireworks. The show is incredible. Not only are the fireworks themselves just fantastic, but the overall energy and vibe of the show is what truly left a mark on me. Leave it to Disney to have parents and kids alike all dancing to classic Disney tunes while being entertained by a laser show and world-class fireworks. They even made it snow at one point. Snow - in Southern California! I'm so glad that we were able to experience this beautiful show.  

Wait Times and Ride Times

It's no secret that when visiting a Disney Park, there will be the inevitable wait times. Thankfully we were able to avoid most wait times to get into the parks themselves, thanks to staying at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa - it really is a game-changer! The real wait times come into play when you start to plan out your rides. At peak times, some rides can have a wait time of over an hour. Thankfully, there are several options for maximizing your time and making sure that you spent the least amount of time waiting for rides.

  • Fast Pass is a concept that I had vaguely heard of before, but had not experienced until first visiting Disneyland. Essentially what it does is allow you to walk up to some of Disneyland's most popular rides, scan your park ticket and retrieve a Fast Pass ticket that has a time period listed on when to come back. You're then able to use the Fast Pass line during your allotted time slot and the wait is much, much quicker. There's only a certain number of Fast Passes given out per ride, per day so make sure to visit your favourite rides early on!

  • There's also the option of Max Pass, which is an additional $10 USD per day on top of your Fast Pass. The major benefit of having a Max Pass is that you're able to select your Fast Pass options all from the Disneyland App on your phone. It sounds like such a small detail, but honestly it makes all of the difference when trying to maximize your time with rides. In my opinion, if you want to focus on rides for your trip to Disneyland it is so worth it to upgrade to a Max Pass. 

  • You can actually track ride wait-times on the Disneyland App itself, so it makes it easy to try and plan out your day based on how long the wait will be on your favourite rides. We used this feature a lot at night when trying to decide which rides to-do before the Fireworks show started.

A Few Tips

  • Download the Disneyland App. It's truly a wonderful resource when navigating both Disneyland Resort parks. I found that I was using it almost hourly, whether it was to navigate through the park with the map, book our Max Pass rides, pre-order food to save time in lines (this is an amazing feature) and book restaurant reservations. 

  • Consider visiting in the winter. While you won't get those hot California days, there's still plenty of sunshine! I actually preferred a more mild temperature for our visit - February meant that we did have to pack a sweater and jacket during the early mornings and evenings, but it was nice and warm during the afternoon without ever getting too hot.

  • It's no secret that the food at Disneyland is incredible - Brian and I ate like a king and queen! We did have a few restaurants that we really wanted to visit during our stay, and we learned quick that reservations are almost necessary - especially for dinner time! Not to worry though, since you can make all of your reservations either in advance online (I would recommend this) or by using the Disneyland App.

Before we knew it, our incredible trip to Disneyland had come to an end, and we were off in our rental car, listening to a playlist of classic Disney songs, driving to LA. I had such an amazing time, and feel so fortunate to have been able to visit. It was so special to experience the magic of Disney with Brian, and it was made even more special to know that the next time we would be visiting is with a little one of our own. How wild!

Stay tuned for a few more Disney-related posts; specifically what to eat at Disneyland and tips for visiting Disneyland while pregnant.

Let me know your own Disneyland experiences! Have you ever visited a Disney Park? What are some of your favourite Disney memories? Let me know!

xo Joƫlle

Thank you so much to the team at Disneyland for partnering with us for this amazing experience. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.


1 comment

  1. Sounds like you had a blast! Thanks for sharing, makes me want to go back


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