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Disneyland and California Adventure: Hot Tips and Hints for Your Next Trip

Luke Miksa shares his advice for a first-class Disneyland experience.

A trip to the Disneyland Resort isn’t cheap (especially if you come from a great distance, like myself), so undoubtedly you want to make the most of your hard-earned money. The key to a successful visit to Disneyland and California Adventure in Anaheim is to research and plan your days in advance. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over a couple of separate trips:

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Get in Early & Stay Late

Prepare to do most of your attractions first thing in the morning or late at night. The middle of the afternoon is when the Disneyland Resort crowds are at their largest, the sun is at it’s hottest, and lines for popular attractions — such as the relatively new Radiator Springs Racers — can have a wait time of up to 90 minutes!

This may sound mad, but during the afternoon, leave the park entirely. You actually won’t miss anything apart from lines and sunstroke. Go to Downtown Disney for lunch and shopping, or just go back to your hotel. You can chill by the pool (if you have one) or just relax in the air-conditioning.

By avoiding peak times, you will actually become a more efficient guest and I guarantee you will be able to see and do more in the day. And don’t rule out just how important a mid-day rest can have on your psyche, let alone your feet. Conserve your energy! Avoid the rush!

This advice goes mainly for summer, but is applicable for winter, but remember that winter operating hours are drastically shorter, as are crowd numbers.

Disneyland-California-Adven

Park Hopper

When you purchase tickets, you have the choice of buying individual tickets to the two parks, or you can purchase a Park Hopper: a pass that let’s you — you guessed it — hop between the parks at will. For a slightly higher cost, this flexibility is invaluable in getting the most out of your Disneyland experience.

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Magic Morning

If you purchase a 3+ day park ticket, you will be given the option to attend a Magic Morning: a single day where the park opens an hour earlier than regular hours. Take advantage of the Magic Morning by visiting the most popular attractions before the crowd sets in. I recommend using your Magic Morning ticket to see:

Disneyland: Space Mountain, Star Tours, Splash Mountain.

California Adventure: Radiator Springs Racers, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Hit ’em early!

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FastPass

Fastpass is a ticket that you receive with a printed time for you to return to a certain attraction, allowing you to skip the main line. You want to be a Fastpass pro to make the most out of your Disney adventure, but they are definitely not as important as some claim them to be.

First of all, you need to know that you can only hold one FastPass at a time (with a maximum two-hour interval), so you need to be smart and plan your day around your Fastpass times and only use them for the most popular rides. You should consider using Fastpass on:

Disneyland: Space Mountain, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure.

California Adventure: Radiator Springs Racers, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

There are other attractions that have a Fastpass option, but I wouldn’t bother with any. They generally aren’t popular enough and you should be able to walk on during most times without too much of a wait.

Note: Fastpasses are independent of either park, so you can hold a Fastpass for Disneyland and California Adventure at the same time. Another reason why you should have a Park Hopper pass.

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Single Riders

Another way around line times is to take advantage of the Single Rider option; a shorter line for, you guessed it, individual riders. These lines exist so that the Disneyland Cast Members can squeeze as many people as possible in the rides, and you’ll find these lines are smaller and move a lot quicker. As long as you’re happy going on a ride by yourself (or if the people you are with are too chicken), Single Rider is the way to go.

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Know Your Ride Times

The best resource you will have are boards throughout the resort which are updated with current attraction wait times. Use these to your advantage. If there’s a 10-minute wait for Pirates of the Caribbean, go for it! If there’s a 60-minute wait for the Haunted Mansion, forget it and come back later.

There is also an app available for you to check wait times on the go, but be aware that Disneyland currently does not offer guest WiFi so you will need a local sim card.

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Plan Your Events

Parades, fireworks, and live shows; there is a lot more to Disneyland than just rides. Planning ahead to get the best spot is imperative, as people sometimes camp out for hours just to get that perfect spot.

Two of the biggest light and water shows are California Adventure’s World of Colour and Disneyland’s Fantasmic! Both of these shows have Fastpass services available which get you into the best viewing spots.

Then you’ve got the fireworks shows and parades. Unfortunately, you will need claim a spot an hour or more in advance if you want a decent view, as other guests will be doing the same and there are no Fastpass options. First in, best dressed!

Disneyland Forever is the current fireworks show and Paint the Night is the current parade. For Paint the Night, try to find a spot near it’s a small world, as it’s a great spot and possibly the least congested. As for Disneyland Forever, anywhere around Mainstreet USA will give you the best view of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

Unlike rides and attractions which run all day, remember that live shows and events have their own schedule. You can find daily times at the entrance where the maps are located. They will not wait for you, so get moving! If you leave it too late, you will not get a spot and will be ushered into an out-of-the-way section of the park by a Cast Member. Trust me when I say that Disneyland crowd control is extremely organised and you will miss out.

Note: With the Star Wars Land expansion on the horizon, there will be many changes made to show scheduling (including Fantasmic! being put on hiatus indefinitely), and major restructuring of the area around Tom Sawyer Island. This is the ever-changing nature of the Disneyland Resort, but be aware of extra traffic through affected areas.

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Know the Layout

Study the maps. You can find them online or you can get printed copies at all area hotels or at the parks. Know where every land is located, and study where the individual attractions lay in each land. Knowing the lay of the land will make you more efficient.

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Shop Smart

Disney is one of the world’s biggest entertainment conglomerates, so it goes without saying they know how to push merchandise, and it’s no secret Disneyland Parks are a haven for consumerism. If you’re like me, you will want to buy many, many things, but be smart about it. You don’t want to be lugging around shopping bags full of goods on your adventures through the parks, so if it doesn’t fit in your backpack, buy it as you’re leaving the park. I recommend doing it in the afternoon, as you should be leaving to take a break anyway. Just remember that if you leave it until the end of the day, so are many others. And it gets crazy.

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Footwear

I shouldn’t have to tell you the obvious, but you’re going to be on your feet all day, so comfortable shoes are beyond important. You will be shocked with the amount of people you will see walking around in sandals and flip-flops. Don’t be a dummy.

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Stay Hydrated

This is also common sense. During summer, California consistently reaches temperatures in the mid-30’s and higher (95 degrees in Fahrenheit), and the opening hours range from 8am until midnight. Keep a water bottle handy or you’re going to have a bad time. Disneyland allows you to bring your own food and drink, so ensure someone in your party has a small backpack with water and snacks. There a places throughout the parks to top up your bottles when needed.

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Wet Rides

And hey, if it’s a hot day, why not jump on one of the attractions that will get you wet. My favourite is the Grizzly River Run in California Adventure because the lines tend to move quite fast, but you can also jump on Splash Mountain (single rider) or the Matterhorn Bobsleds in Disneyland to get your butt nice and wet.

Disneyland is a magical place, but it is also full-on and can become quite stressful. Hopefully this guide makes your trip a little easier.

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