Vacation Tips

101 Disneyland Resort Tips

Going to Disneyland is a rite of passage and a memorable destination no matter how many times someone has been. There’s always room to make trips better though and blogs like this one exist to make that happen! With that in mind, we’ve created a post of 101 tips to help you enjoy your time even more. We’d like to think these are our best tips but I might think of or see something tomorrow that will replace one of these. As Disneyland Resort is always evolving, we’ll try to evolve this blog post as well.

Why 101 you might ask? There’s a few reasons. One, we’re nothing if not thorough here. Brevity is not really a part of this site’s identity. Second, my family had a Dalmatian growing up named Spotty and 101 Dalmatians is a solid film. This one’s for you Spotty! You’re not here to hear me ramble, you’re here for the tips so let’s get to it!

DL Forever colorful streaks

1. There are ways to save money on tickets, including buying from an authorized ticket seller. There’s always the option to buy from the official Disney website or at the gate (this is incredibly risky) but with the reservation system, we recommend buying from the link above.

2. If you are in an adult group or with older and independent kids then utilizing the single rider line at the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain in Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers and WEB Slingers in California Adventure will save you lots of waiting in line time!

3. Stores on Main Street will stay open an hour after closing while Jolly Holiday, Starbucks and typically a churro stand stay open a half hour after close.

4. Disneyland Resort’s hotel scene is completely different than Walt Disney World’s. While there are 3 official Disneyland hotels, most guests stay at a good neighbor hotel. See our rankings of the ones we’ve stayed in here.

5. Buying water bottles is expensive, any counter-service restaurant will give you a cup of ice water for free if you go up to the counter and ask.

Animation Academy DCA

6. There’s a number of places to cool down but our favorite is the Animation Building, specifically Animation Academy, in California Adventure.

7. If you’re staying at a hotel near the convention center and your feet are barking, take a bus to or from the Toy Story Parking Lot to save a few steps.

8. Need a caffeine boost? Refills on sodas aren’t available at a number of spots but are easily accessible at Alien Pizza Planet in Disneyland and Pym Test Kitchen at DCA. Both counter-service spots at the Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian also have Coke Freestyle machines to get a refill at.

9. Watch California Adventure’s World of Color from the splash zone. The view is far better and you likely won’t get soaked unless it’s a breezy night.

10. Rise of the Resistance will generally have a much shorter wait than posted. If the queue hasn’t gone into the outside loop then the wait will likely be 40 minutes or less.

RotR Storm Troopers DHS

11. Need a break and a comfy seat? Mickey’s Philharmagic (DCA) and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (DL) are the best in park places to go!

12. Outside of the parks, sitting in the cushy chairs in the Grand Californian lobby is blissful. Especially the seats by the fireplace.

13. Pack a sweatshirt, the nights are much cooler than at Walt Disney World.

14. There are lockers right next to Grizzly River Run that offer free storage for 2 hours. Keep your stuff dry!

15. Galaxy’s Edge is the first land to empty out at night in Disneyland. Go there right before closing and you’ll have most of the land to yourself.

SWGE falcon wavy clouds DL

16. Bring protein/granola bars and fruit for on-the-go breakfasts. Mornings are a valuable time to go on rides, so tide yourself over until the crowds come.

17. There is cheaper parking than the Disney lots at Garden Walk and several non-Disney hotels.

18. Sleep when your trip is over.

19. The Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones Adventure and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad queues split into 2 lines. Stay to the left in all of them.

20. Get out of the hot afternoon sun by taking the monorail to Downtown Disney and then grabbing a snack or drink Tangaroa Terrace or Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel.

DL monorail Mickey

21. Always go to the back of modes of transportation loading zones, there will be more seating available!

22. Enter the the parking garage off of Magic Way instead of following the typical parking signs. This will lead to the Pixar garage and will ultimately save you time.

23. Hold off on getting Starbucks until later in the morning. The lines are crazy and the morning is a valuable time for rides!

24. Bring a poncho for Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run!

Eureka Grizzly River Run DCA

25. Buy a really nice pair of walking or shoes or bring 2 pairs of shoes to switch out if you’re going multiple days. Your feet will thank you!

26. Harbor Boulevard, right outside of the parks, has a 7-11, McDonald’s and a few convenience stores if you’re in need of an out-of-the-park snack or forgot an essential.

27. The best place to watch Disneyland’s fireworks is on Main Street but there’s more accessible seating in front of Small World and in Galaxy’s Edge.

28. Cars Land has a special lighting ceremony each night right around sunset, where the neon signs will turn on and a song from the film will play. It’s small but cute!

Luigi's Rollickin Roadsters sunset Cars Land DCA

29. Oga’s Cantina will often have walk up space available in the last hour or two of operation.

30. Autopia Cast Members will give out a little ‘drivers license’ to kids at the ride, if you’re looking for a free souvenir!

31. If there’s 2 showings of a parade always go to the second one, it will be far less crowded!

32. The beignet (Mint Julep Bar) and corn dog (Little Red Wagon) hype is real. Get them!

33. Use mobile checkout instead of going to the register. Once you do it the first time then it is very easy and will save you time!

34. Don’t miss the river and Primeval World sections of the Disneyland Railroad!

Longneck dinos DL Railroad train

35. Don’t bother shooting at the circle targets in Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, others are worth more points.

36. If it’s festival season at California Adventure then make a point of seeing Phat Cat Swinger perform!

37. While we are fans of Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian, we do not recommend staying at Paradise Pier Hotel. There are plenty of better and more affordable options on Harbor Boulevard that are actually closer to the park entrance.

38. There are cats that live at Disneyland. The easiest one to spot is on the walkway between Soarin’ and Grizzly River Run, in the greenery. We call him Chester! Others call him Francisco.

Chester pinecones DCA

39. World of Disney in Downtown Disney will have most of the merchandise you find in Main Street (DL) and Buena Vista Street (DCA) shops. You know, in case you run out of time!

40. The Pear of Dice (prickly pear) Soda at the Cozy Cones is fantastic! It’s our favorite non-alcoholic drink at Disneyland.

41. Parking in Mickey & Friends structure is generally free after 9 PM, if you’re coming for the last few hours of park operation!

42. For the Country Bear fans out there (I see you), you can see Buff, Melvin and Max on the wall behind you when leaving the Heffalump room in Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

43. Placing mobile orders for the candy shops will save you some time.

44. There’s different flavors of Dole Whip at Tropical Hideaway in Disneyland. They are all delicious!

45. Despite it being “on property” Paradise Pier Hotel is farther away from parks than some off-site hotels, although it does have a private entrance into DCA.

46. The path that goes behind Grizzly River Run is one of our favorite hidden gems in California Adventure.

Grizzly River Run stream DCA

47. You get 3 hours of free parking at one of the Disney hotels if you are dining at the table-service restaurant in that hotel.

48. If your phone is low on battery and you don’t have a portable charger, Fuel Rods are available in the park. Once you have one, they are available to switch out once your current rod runs out of charge. We do recommend other portable chargers but these are good in a pinch.

49. Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing services are readily available outside of the park in various spots if your feet hurt just a little too much.

50. If at the resort for multiple days, add a rest day to the middle of your trip!

51. The way to get the most out of Genie+ is by having a park hopper ticket. Since re-rides aren’t available with the system, this is the way to get the most value.

52. The Lobster Mac n’ Cheese and Harbour Galley is the best counter-service value.

Lobster Mac and Cheese Harbour Galley DL

53. Riding the Mark Twain Riverboat at sunset is sublime.

54. The Lobster Nachos and Potato Skins at Lamplight Lounge are 2 of the best items to eat at the whole resort.

55. If you want to watch the fireworks but don’t have a park ticket, watching from the esplanade is a good option!

56. Take a break in the middle of the day instead of sleeping in or leaving early. The parks are the least busy during the first and last hours of operation.

57. Looking for a place to watch the game? Splitsville in Downtown Disney is probably the best bet. For a more intimate setting, Hearthstone Lounge in the Grand Californian may be an option.

58. While the front row is nice on every ride, our favorite attractions to get it for are Incredicoaster and Space Mountain. It’s usually available upon request.

Space Mountain tunnel DL

59. There are a few essential items to pack for a park day. Here’s our list!

60. Watching the second showing of Fantasmic is much easier than the first via standby.

61. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run also has a single-rider line and oftentimes they will allow guests to go with as double riders, if your group has even numbers or you’re with just one other person. Unfortunately, that likely means no pilot seats but it will still save you a good amount of time!

62. There are a number of great places to sit and relax on Main Street including the porches, Center Street, the Main Street Vehicles and the Main Street Cinema.

63. Unlike Disney World, I wouldn’t recommend devoting much time to Downtown Disney. The dining and shopping options aren’t anything exceptional, especially with LA and other quality options so close.

64. California Adventure doesn’t have as many iconic treats as Disneyland but I stand with the lemon soft-serve at Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats.

Lemon dole whip Pixar Pier DCA

65. If you’re coming to the parks with younger kids, make sure to utilize rider swap (rider switch? child swap?) so all of the adults can enjoy the ride.

66. While it’s not in the parks, Napa Rose is by far the best and most prestigious restaurant on property. It’s in the Grand Californian.

67. Both parks have baby care centers (end of Main Street and Pacific Wharf) for those with newborns or toddlers. They are a relaxing place to take the kids for a quick break, with changing tables and nursing rooms.

68. Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island closes at 5 PM every day. If you’re wanting to go (you should!) then I’d recommend checking it out in mid-afternoon.

69. The closest beaches to the resort are Long Beach or Huntington Beach. While both are nice, we’d recommend going the extra 10 minutes to Laguna and enjoying Victoria Beach or Heisler Park.

70. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (DCA) is a great place for kids to run around and enjoy a themed playground. Heck, it’s fun for adults too!

Path lights Redwood Creek Challenge Trail DCA

71. There’s not many free things around but The Bakery Tour in California Adventure usually gives out small sourdough bread samples!

72. Spend some time wandering the back alleys of New Orleans Square, they are a beautiful respite to the crowded paths.

73. No one asked for this but here it goes… My favorite restrooms in Disneyland are either of the Galaxy’s Edge options. In California Adventure, I prefer the Grizzly Peak restrooms.

74. The Matterhorn’s left track (Tomorrowland) is faster than the right. It’s also believed that the ride moves faster as the day goes along.

75. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen!

76. While we do recommend seeing the nighttime shows, attraction lines will be shorter during that time if you don’t care about that stuff. At least give Fantasmic a try though!

77. If you wanna get weird with it, ride on the back car of Casey Jr. Circus Train in the seat that faces backwards. It’s really not that strange but is a fun thing to do on an otherwise forgettable ride.

Casey Jr train DL

78. I don’t have the most sophisticated pallet when it comes to alcoholic beverages but my favorites at Disneyland Resort are the Fuzzy Tauntaun at Oga’s Cantina (not currently on the menu), Nuevo Niche at Napa Rose, Spicy Watermelon Margarita at Hearthstone Lounge and the HippopotoMai-Tai at Trader Sam’s.

79. The exhibits before going into Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln are well worth seeing.

80. The closest airport to the resort is Orange County (SNA, John Wayne, it goes by many names) but Long Beach isn’t far either. If you’re spending time in LA then LAX is also convenient.

81. In Autumn, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! transforms in the evening to Monsters After Dark as a special Halloween overlay.

82. Feeling patriotic? Check out the Flag Retreat in Town Square at 4:30. It’s a classy salute to the servicemen and women in attendance.

83. If you’re at California Adventure during a festival, consider getting the Sip & Savor Pass if you’re planning to snack. It will likely save you a few bucks.

DCA Food & Wine Snickers Macaron

84. The GCH Bar & Grill at the Grand Californian has a relaxing vibe, often with some live music in the evening. Reservations are needed.

85. There are two options for Pixar Pal-A-Round – swinging or non-swinging. They will generally have different wait times, as well. The swinging option might be the scariest ride in all of Disneyland Resort.

86. Exploring the bottom level of the Sailing Ship Columbia is unique and an unexpected treat.

87. The Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at Hungry Bear Restaurant has been my favorite vegetarian dish that I’ve tried at Disneyland Resort. Most places will be happy to accommodate any dietary needs.

88. Getting in line for a ride 1 minute before closing is allowed! As long as you’re in the queue before that closing time then you will be able to ride the attraction.

89. The Fantasmic Dining Package may not offer the most amazing food but it does give very easy access to seeing the show, avoiding any headache of waiting ahead of time.

Sorcerer Mickey with the water Fantasmic DL

90. If you’re theme park double dipping, there is a bus that runs from Disneyland Resort to Knott’s Berry Farm for a nominal fee.

91. Want a sit down meal but weren’t able to score reservations? Keep checking the app throughout the day as walkup waitlists are updated. You may get lucky!

92. Turtle Talk with Crush has a surprisingly comfortable and cool theater in California Adventure. It’s a nice spot to take a break and fun for kids!

93. There’s an Alamo Car Rental about a half mile away from Disneyland Resort, as well as a return in the Hilton Convention Center Hotel if you are dividing up your trip with a rental car.

94. Buying gift cards ahead of time at a store is an easy way to budget for the trip as well as earn store/gas points.

95. If you don’t mind getting a little wet at an inconvenient time, Splash Mountain will have next to no line after 10 PM. Just try to avoid the first row!

IASW Holiday Christmas DL

96. Don’t miss any holiday overlays, Disneyland Resort does an exceptional job with them.

97. Most character meet & greets won’t have egregiously long lines. They’re a good thing to do in the middle of the afternoon, especially if the queue provides some shade!

98. Working remotely inside of the parks is doable but the wifi can be pretty spotty.

99. Like we’ve mentioned, do a lot of attractions in the morning and late at night. In between those times, take a beat and look around. Enjoy the details, design and story that so many people put thought into!

100. There are four character dining experiences. The only one in a park is the Plaza Inn breakfast. Storyteller’s Cafe and Napa Rose (Grand Californian) also offer character breakfast. Finally, Goofy’s Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel) has character dining all day long.

101. It’s good to be prepared. But don’t forget that the idea is just to have fun. Follow basic strategy and itineraries but if you need to break from that then do it. Don’t over plan yourself into frustration with no flexibility!

Carthay Circle from Grizzly Peak DCA

What are your best Disneyland Resort tips? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below! Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our Planning Guide here. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

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