Tell me about Disneyland!
November 9, 2010 10:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Disneyland for the first time at age 24! I'm dying to know... What are your favorite rides? What are your tips/tricks? Memorable anecdotes? Dos and Don'ts? Interesting tidbits? I'm all ears!

Since I was 5 years old and first became acquainted with the practice of making wishes on pennies and throwing them into fountains, I have wished every single time to go to Disneyland. We were always poor, so I never got to go. Thanks to a loving fiance and another fun couple, my dream is finally going to come true this January!

In the meantime, I am having way too much fun reading about and watching programs about Disneyland. I am unemployed and really have nothing better to do as I follow up on a few interview processes. Fiance has already been to Disneyland in the past and is getting a little sick of hearing me gab about it all of the time. I have already read all of the AskMe threads on Disneyland but I want moar!! I don't want to buy a book.

Mefites! Please share with me any and all info that you have about the awesomeness that is Disneyland.

(Please refrain from mentioning Star Tours or Haunted Mansion. They will be closed while we are there. *sniffle*)
posted by delicate_dahlias to Grab Bag (43 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Also, I hope you have the chance to be there for more than one day so you can "open" both parks -- that means you wake up suuuuupppeeeer early and are there when both parks open. :) It's also worthwhile to get a good seat for fireworks and for the Christmas parade if you like shows like that. Oh my gosh, as a native Californian who went to school about 10 minutes away from Disneyland I am outrageously excited for you because your trip is going to be AWESOME! Feel free to MeMail me if you want to pick my brain a lot. I'm ALWAYS glad to gab about the wonderful world of Disney!
posted by patronuscharms at 10:22 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I forgot to mention that yes, we will be going to both parks. We will be at the parks for two full days.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 10:32 PM on November 9, 2010

I love Disneyland!

Okay, you should definitely get there when it opens and stay until it closes. Disney is expensive. Gotta get your money's worth. Your feet may feel like they are being stabbed by the end of the day, but it will be worth it. Unless you hate Disneyland.

The super long line rides are the ones you want to hit at the very beginning and very end of the day, when the park is less crowded. This means Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Matterhorn, and Dumbo, primarily. Splash Mountain too, maybe, but I don't care for Splash Mountain myself.

Not-too-long lines for the peak of the day: Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, (generally) It's a Small World, plus some of the kiddier story book rides. The tea cups may or may not be in this category - I don't go on them much, but they are a must-do for the first-timer. Every part of the park is fun to explore while you're waiting out lines or Fast Passes, of course.

Ride the train from Fantasyland to the main station (?) or New Orleans Square to see the dinosaurs. (I think they're between Tomorrowland and the Main Gate, but I can't swear to it.)

The most filling, cost-effective meal (IMHO, biased by vegetarianism that keeps me from just eating lots of hot dogs) is the gumbo/jambalaya stand in New Orleans Square. Get a churro for sure.

Bring a water bottle. But don't bring all your food; eating just a PBJ and an apple at Disneyland is so depressing. Don't forget sunscreen.

I hope you have an awesome time!
posted by mandanza at 10:38 PM on November 9, 2010

It kind of depends on whether you go on a weekday or not, but the crowds aren't as big in the winter anyway. But, get there early and head straight for one of the more popular rides that you're interested in (or one that has a typically slow line), like maybe Space Mountain or Indiana Jones. Generally, the "mountain" rides have big lines.

A lot of rides, especially in Fantasyland, consist of you riding in a car on a conveyor belt while passing dioramas from various Disney movies. This may or may not excite you, but the ones of this sort that are particularly good are Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and the Winnie the Pooh one.

I know it's your first time, but definitely take the time to just hang out, and don't make the whole thing about seeing how many rides you can go on. Sometimes it's just kind of nice to sit by the river in New Orleans Square or ride the train all the way around the park.
posted by LionIndex at 10:41 PM on November 9, 2010

When you enter the park, you'll see City Hall which houses guest relations. Stop by and get your FREE pin that says it's your first visit to the park. I also stop by and get my birthday button. I'm a Disney Dork.

If you need a midday nap, the Haunted Mansion is a great place to close your eyes for a few minutes.
posted by 26.2 at 11:20 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Holy god, I love Disneyland. New Orleans Square and Fantasyland are my favorite parts of the park, probably because they are most strongly associated with my childhood and most effectively capture the sense of being in a Disney film or cartoon. The best food is definitely in New Orleans Square -- I think any of the restaurants there are pretty good. (Best candy/sweet stores are on Main Street U.S.A.) If you're in the mood to splurge, eat at Blue Bayou, which is the restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean that you'll glide past (oh, the flickering lightning bugs!) as you begin the ride.

January is a good time to go, because the crowds will be thinner (esp. during the week). My usual strategy is to get there early and head directly toward Space Mountain for multiple go-arounds. (Though since it's your first time, take at least a little time to soak in Main Street U.S.A.) In the morning, especially during the off-season, you'll almost always get through the line quickly enough so that it's worth your while to go multiple times in a row. From there I'll head into Fantasyland via the Matterhorn, then futz around on the storybook rides for awhile (Peter Pan's Flight is my fave). Then we'll amble through Frontierland into New Orleans Square to hit the Haunted Mansion* and Pirates a couple of times (the line for Pirates tends to move really fast, so you can do it a few times in a row as well). Then we'll usually go to Adventureland to check out the status of Indiana Jones (i.e., whether or not to grab a Fast Pass or just get in line) -- if we have to get a Fast Pass, we'll probably go back into Frontierland to do Big Thunder Mountain, then come back for Indiana Jones.

Anyway, it's a little peripatetic, but that's my method for hitting all my must-rides. Once those are in the bag, we tend to improvise from there. Have fun!

*Note re the Haunted Mansion: Check ahead to find out if it's open or not, to save yourself disappointment in case it's not open when you're there. It closes temporarily every January after New Year's for at least a few weeks to change back from the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay that they do for the holidays every year. (The holiday overlay for It's a Small World comes down in January, too, come to think of it.) If you haven't yet booked your tickets and the Haunted Mansion is really important for you to see, check the Disney website to see if you can find out the exact dates that they're slated for closing. (Or let me know via memail if it's a big deal to you, and I will see what I can find out via a friend who works at Disney.)
posted by scody at 11:22 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whoops! I completely missed your caveat about not mentioning the Haunted Mansion, since you already know it's going to be closed. Sorry. (Just tell yourself you're making up for it with lots of extra rides on Pirates!)
posted by scody at 11:25 PM on November 9, 2010

Since no one's mentioned the California Adventure park I would say the one ride that I love the most on that side is Soarin' Over California. I'd spend the whole day on that ride if I could. The big rollercoaster over there - California Screamin'? - is also very good.
posted by platinum at 11:27 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

My best Disney tip is TourGuide Mike. You will get this sort of magical schedule of which parks will be least crowded on which days of your trip, which order to do them in, and basically never wait on a line even for big rides. Other than that and the suggestions above, I am a big fan of dinner in Epcot - you get the whole moonlight / lake / fireworks thing and its a nicely romantic evening.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:33 PM on November 9, 2010

If you have a smartphone and haven't thought about it yet, definitely check out wait time trackers. When I was in Disney World a few months ago, it was pretty busy everywhere we went but my friend found out through one of these apps that there was absolutely no line for Hollywood Tower of Terror (Which is one of my favorites and also at Disneyland), and we milked it for all it was worth.
posted by thepdm at 11:47 PM on November 9, 2010

Tower of Terror is the absolute best. All the rest of the rides in the new park are not so good in my opinion. Although I always like to get a fresh tortilla and a bread bowl filled with hot soup.
posted by boobjob at 1:21 AM on November 10, 2010

Everyone else is right so far, but I'll mention things that you can easily miss but that I think are really, really cool.

1) Take the walk through passageway in Snow White's castle.
2) Be sure to attend the "Animation Academy" in California Adventure. It's become one of our favorite things. (The whole Animation Pavilion is top notch)
3) Pirate Island is really fun to explore. You can also canoe in a really long canoe around it.
4) There is an authentic old fashioned log cabin in the corner of the park near Thunder Mountain that is completely worth it.
5) Free tortillas at Mission Tortilla Factory is California Adventure!
6) Captain EO is a nostalgic trip down Michael Jackson in his prime 80's memory lane.
7) Check out the amazing lobby of the California Lodge which borders California Adventure.
8) Blue Bayou is a RESTAURANT IN THE PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN RIDE!!! Make reservations now if you want to eat there. Totally worth it.
9) When you ride the Monorail, ask if you can ride in the front with the driver, sometimes you can.
10) Near that log cabin, during the Holidays, there are real reindeer! Check them out!!!
posted by visual mechanic at 1:26 AM on November 10, 2010

Best answer: I love Disneyland so much, I joined metafilter just to answer this! You asked for any & all info about Disneyland, so here’s my take. Fair warning—this is going to be long ;)

Disneyland—if you could, I’d say try everything once…but…

Just Okay: 1) Toon Town: There’s not much here, IMO. My friends always go for mini-photoshoots in the characters’ houses, though—they’re fun little walkthroughs and you can get some cute/memorable pictures out of them. 2) Certain rides: Autopia is more fun when you don’t know how to drive, the walkthroughs (Tarzan’s Treehouse, Sleeping Beauty), and Finding Nemo (it’s really neat, but a rather long wait for what you get. It’s good if you want to take a nap, though).

Good: 1) The Fantasyland Rides: These are the ‘kiddie’ rides, but if you’re a fan of the films at all they are totally worth it. I recommend Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and PETER PAN (my fave, really magical) 2) Jungle Cruise: This seems like it would be boring, but if you get a good skipper it can be really hilarious. You can also rest your feet :) 3) Matterhorn!

Faves: Space Mountain and Astroblasters in Tomorrowland, Pirates, Big Thunder Railroad, Splash Mountain (if you don’t mind getting wet), and, unless you get motion sickness, Indiana Jones. You MUST catch Fantasmic!...I know there’s that newfangled water show on the other side, but this one is the original and oh so good (the nostalgia)!

CA Adventure

Faves: California Screamin’ (so fun, if you’re into coasters), Tower of Terror, Soarin’ Over California (it makes me re-love California every time I ride it), Toy Story Mania (this is a must-ride, but the wait is horrendous. Even later at night it can top an hour. No Fastpass). It supposedly shut down summer 2010, but if the Aladdin musical is still playing I’d take a stop—it’s a surprising good production, and very funny. Also I’m totally biased on this point because I work in animation, but I love going to the Animation Building. If you are a Disney film lover it is wonderful to take a break in the main room, surrounded by images/music from the films. I haven’t seen World of Color yet, but all reports say it’s amazing (get the fastpass as early as you can at Grizzly River run machines!)
+ don’t forget to stop by the tortilla and bread factories for free samples. If it’s your birthday they’ll give you a bag of tortillas


The gumbo is nice and all, but really…park food is park food (except Blue Bayou). If you want to go cheap, they have $4 salads at most of the restaurants. There’s also the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ? It’s $25, but also all-you-can-eat. For food carts, hit up the Dole Whip (yum!) cart at the entrance of adventureland, turkey legs, and kettle corn. On main street the Gibson Girl ice cream parlor is delicious, and they have good hot chocolate at the coffee shop. I usually pack some sandwiches/fruit in a backpack so I won’t spend TOO much on food.

1) FASTPASS—I ALWAYS get fastpass for Splash Mtn/Space Mtn/Indiana Jones. IMO you save the most time on those rides—most of the other waits are tolerable. Make sure to get fastpasses for multiple rides, each fastpass will tell you when you can get the next one. I’ve gotten up to three
2) Sunblock, waterbottle (refills!), jacket (it’s getting cooler here).

Apologies if any of this has already been mentioned above—I was in such a rush to write this out that I only skimmed the earlier comments.I think I’ve probably typed way too much already, so last but not least: if you want to have some fun, you can always search for Hidden Mickeys on the rides
Memail me if you want to know anything else! I’m so excited for you, Disneyland is the best!!
posted by sprezzy at 1:48 AM on November 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

sprezzy, you ROCK. Joining for the sole purpose of imparting Disneyland wisdom is a win in my books. :)

All good advice above! Especially the fastpass for Space Mountain and Indiana Jones, which always have the worst lines. Splash Mountain generally does too, but here's a tip for you: wait until after Fantasmic (which you should see, because it's really quite cool) to go on Splash Mountain. The line magically shrinks to 10-25 minutes, rather than 75... 95... 150... And honestly, the ride is fun, and good if you're familiar with the stories, but not worth waiting that long, nor worth wasting a fastpass on, I think. But that's me.

Do not skip the Enchanted Tiki Room. It is corny, and old, and magically, wonderfully, Disneyland. Also very good for taking a break while you eat some yummy Dole whip! I still mourn the fact that they took away the Tahitian Terrace and turned it into whatever silliness they have there now, Aladdin's Palace or somesuch. I've never been. Sigh.

The Jungle Cruise is also corny and terrific, and yes-- if you get a good skipper, it's hilariously awesome. Most of them, in my experience, are good.

I would probably watch Pirates of the Caribbean (just the first one) before you come, to refresh yourself, because you'll want to pay attention to where the movie coincides with the ride. ;) Having done it the other way around, myself, I think it would be fun to watch the movie first and then be able to go, "zomg! There's X!" whilst on the ride.

You're going to have so much fun! There's just nothing like Disneyland. The happiest place on earth, indeed.
posted by po at 2:13 AM on November 10, 2010

Oops, one more thing!

You mention reading about Disneyland...if you've already visited these sites then never mind, ignore this...but if not, they're quite interesting:

Doombuggies--I know you said not to mention Haunted Mansion, but this is a totally fascinating and comprehensive site dedicated to the ride. I wasted a few hours reading it, so can you (unless you're worried about spoiling the ride)!

Club 33
--So elusive! With this site, I can at least pretend to visit.
posted by sprezzy at 2:20 AM on November 10, 2010

Just a couple things I haven't seen mentioned:

1.) Your Fast Passes never expire. It'll say "Return between 3:15 and 4:15," but as long as you come back some time after 3:15, you're good. You don't have to use your first Fass Pass before you can get another one, but there is a waiting period (generally about two hours, it'll say in small print at the bottom of your ticket.) Autopia has been glitched for awhile so that it's on a different system, so you may be able to get a Fast Pass for Autopia and then another ride right away. Fast Passes are key. Wield them like weapons.

2.) My absolute favorite thing at Disneyland is the Storybook Land Canal Boats. Most people walk right past it, but it's a boat tour through "miniature villages" of a lot of classic Disney stories. It's one of those things that shows how much attention to detail Disneyland puts in, and I think it's really cool.

3.) There are no fast passes for Matterhorn, so plan to do it near the beginning or end of the day when lines are shorter. Try to schedule your day while you're waiting in line so that you don't end up crossing back and forth across the park a hundred times. Your feet will thank you, and you'll have more time to enjoy the experience.
posted by karminai at 2:24 AM on November 10, 2010

Just a note on the weather. It's likely to be raining here in January and that will work to your benefit. The crowds thin out in a drizzle and cuts down on wait times considerably. Just take a poncho or raincoat (you don't want to be dealing with an umbrella all day) and enjoy yourselves.

See if you can't get away with keeping all your stuff in your pockets so you don't have to drag a purse or backpack all day. They get really really heavy after a few hours.

We haven't had passes in a couple of years but some of the food places used to give free coffee refills if you kept your receipt.

There was a place we used to like to eat, outside CA in the Paradise Pier Hotel that was a little off the beaten path but I can't find it now on any of the websites. It may have changed names or closed down. It was a combo of self serve items and grill foods. You'd exit CA into the hotel area and head to your left. It's not in the main building. There is a view of the hotel pool. The food is all fresh and the portions are generous.
posted by jvilter at 5:04 AM on November 10, 2010

I haven't been to Disneyland since I was a kid (been to Disney World a couple times, though) - but I always wanted to have dinner at the Blue Bayou, which is the restaurant that's tucked into the entrance area of Pirates of the Caribbean. So it's themed to look like an outdoor restaurant in New Orleans.

Also, I totally agree that the Enchanted Tiki Room is a must see! I remember when I was little and we wandered in there the first time and I had no idea what it was going to be - and I was just blown away when the whole place just came alive.

I also love all of the old classic Fantasyland rides - Peter Pan, Snow White, Mr. Toad, Alice In Wonderland, Small World....

I've seen the Disney World version of the Fantasmic show, and it was totally awesome, so definitely see that.
posted by dnash at 5:04 AM on November 10, 2010

Mentioned above, but worth repeating: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It is the most ridiculously awesome/disturbing children's ride ever made.
posted by puritycontrol at 5:54 AM on November 10, 2010

Not much to add, but one very cool thing was pointed out to me by a friend is in New Orleans square - if you happen to look at the square from a distance, you'll notice the masts and rigging of an old ship sticking up behind the buildings... there's no actual ship, but it's one of those amazing little details that really adds to the sense of environment.

You're going to have a great time!
posted by usonian at 6:19 AM on November 10, 2010

Disboards is about to be your best friend, as well as the Dis Unplugged podcast.

Learn to use Fast Pass.

Make sure you are in the front row for Soarin'.

Have a fantastic time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:25 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I cannot stress enough that you take a pair of VERY good, very supportive walking shoes that you know aren't likely to give you blisters. Maybe even consider getting a brand-new pair and break them in before you go.

Also, take some moleskin, band-aids, and various foot-care products.

Disney parks are super fun, but HARD ON YOUR FEET. It doesn't occur to most people, but you will be walking several miles per day.

Also, Me and Mrs. Fleebnork thought Soarin' was super lame. I will forevermore call it "Snorin'".
posted by Fleebnork at 6:58 AM on November 10, 2010

Best answer: I love, love, looooove Disneyland and have the advantage of having a few friends who work for Disney, so I'm lucky enough to go every few months and it's just as magical every time. I highly suggest going to the Storybook Land Canal Boats, like karminai says, people pass by it all the time, but for me it's one of my favorite parts of the park - miniature Aladdin's castle, Snow White's house, Alice's rabbit hole - everything perfectly groomed and all of the plants are the original ones that Walt and his wife planted. I'm a Small World fangirl, so I would stand in line for hours for a ride, especially when decorated for Christmas, which you'll unfortunately miss! I would suggest also heading to the following oft-overlooked exhibits:
Main Street Cinema is a great place to duck into if it's rainy, but it's also really cool to see all the olde tyme Steamboat Willie era Mickey movies, plus it'll more than likely shut down soon since it's mirror image in Disney World was recently changed and it's always cool to have something under your belt that no one else can experience.
Look up at the fire station after you walk in the front gate, there is a small apartment up there that Walt used to stay in when he had late meetings at the park - there is a light up there that never goes out, it gets me teary eyed every time.
Walk through Sleeping Beauty's castle, even though the technology behind it is 50 some years old, it is still magical.
Also make sure you get your "FIRST VISIT" button, while pretty much everyone can get a button for anything (last time I was there I saw people with JUST ENGAGED and 16TH BIRTHDAY buttons, seriously lame), but cast members will probably go out of their way to at least make sure you have a good ride when you're an adult wearing a FIRST VISIT button.
Make sure you try to pull the sword from the stone in front of the carousal, it's a great photo op.

Since you'll be there for two days, you can cover probably every ride, but I would skip over the long lined Buzz Lightyear ride (lame) but you'll get to go on the newly re-opened Star Wars (it is currently undergoing renovations and is supposed to be AMAZING) which is across the way. Critter Country is completely forgettable now that Country Bears has been shut down.
posted by banannafish at 7:36 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of Blue Bayou, but the cost is pretty high. For me, nothing says "Disney food" like getting clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl in New Orleans Square. Ah, memories.

Also, Tiki Room sucks now. I was so disappointed last time I was there because I was really really looking forward to the original awesome Tiki Room. Like all things perfect, it has been changed and is no longer cool. They brought in Zazu and Iago and totally interrupt all the great songs. So, unless someone can tell me that horrible injustice has been remedied, I will never again recommend the Tiki Room. /rant
posted by purpletangerine at 8:02 AM on November 10, 2010

DarlingBri, Epcot is at Disney World in Florida, not Disneyland. Although, it is definitely awesome.
posted by purpletangerine at 8:04 AM on November 10, 2010

Start at Fantasyland, Peter Pan's Flight (it's on the right just after Cinderella's Castle.

This is not the best ride in the park, but it is, in my opinion, the best first ride you can take. It hasn't changed much over the years (I think, unless it's been recently updated), so there is a lot of wondering "how did they do that?" I think it gives a good flavor of the original Disneyland.
posted by Doohickie at 8:09 AM on November 10, 2010

I was at the Tiki Room less than a year ago, and I don't remember it being awful. I love the Tiki Room, and it is the perfect thing to do in the afternoon (when you've been at the park for hours, have gotten really tired, and need to just sit down and relax for a few minutes). It's so dorky and fun and ridiculous -- it represents everything I love about disneyland.

I'm a total sucker for all the animatronics. It just gives Disneyland character that you don't get from other theme parks. There's just something so earnest and sincere and happy about the animatronics. That's why I love the Tiki Room. It's also why I suggest the following:

--Animatronic Abe Lincoln. You get to see a pretty good robotic Abraham Lincoln reading some speech of his. Again, this is best left for the late afternoons, when you want some time to rest before doing more exciting stuff.

--The train ride around the park. Again, this is for the late afternoon when you need a rest, but there are so awesome animatronic things on it.
posted by meese at 8:23 AM on November 10, 2010

I've been to Disneyland about 20 times. I'll try to keep this short. All of the following pertains to the Magic Kingdom only, not California Adventure.

Start at Fantasyland, Peter Pan's Flight (it's on the right just after Cinderella's Castle.

This is not the best ride in the park, but it is, in my opinion, the best first ride you can take.

Seconding this, though if the park is extra busy that day, you'll want to hit the Matterhorn first. But then hit Peter Pan. You would not think Peter Pan would have long lines, but it always seems to. (But it's totally worth it.)

Ride the train from Fantasyland to the main station (?) or New Orleans Square to see the dinosaurs. (I think they're between Tomorrowland and the Main Gate, but I can't swear to it.)

I can. Also, I'd recommend doing the full circuit, starting from and ending at Main Street Station. That's a good thing to do during busier times, or parades; there's rarely a line, it takes a little time, and it's pleasant but low-key.

Which reminds me:
Find out when and where the daily parade(s) or fireworks show(s) will be happening. There tends to be a big to-do around dusk, and it tends to make movement through the central hub of the park nearly impossible.

I know it's your first time, but definitely take the time to just hang out, and don't make the whole thing about seeing how many rides you can go on. Sometimes it's just kind of nice to sit by the river in New Orleans Square or ride the train all the way around the park.

Seconding this. Another great place for this is Tom Sawyer Island. It's hard to adequately describe how cool Tom Sawyer Island is. Just budget a little time, because there are lines to get onto the raft both to and from the island.

Finally, my list of absolute must-do without-fail rides (not including those that will be closed while you're there, which normally would be on the list...), in order of priority:
Pirates of the Caribbean - Monorail - Space Mountain - Matterhorn
posted by AugieAugustus at 8:40 AM on November 10, 2010

I forgot to mention under BEWARE OF PARADES that many rides will close when the parades/shows take place. It will not always be easy to predict which ones close or why. Sometimes the rides will seem so far from the festivities that the closures make no sense at all. In short: don't commit to one of your absolute-must-do-without-fail rides during one of the parades/shows.
posted by AugieAugustus at 8:41 AM on November 10, 2010

The Tiki Room sucks if you have any nostalgia for what it was like before they added the branded characters. It used to be my absolute favorite part of the park; I think they made a huge mistake in choosing to update it when they did (it had already gone almost all the way through 'dated' and was well on the way to 'retro',) and I found it depressing that it now opens by literally interrupting and then mocking and insulting the original show.

But if you've never been, none of that matters; it'll be awesome and you should go so in 2031 you can be the one grousing online about how much better it was back in the day.
posted by ook at 9:15 AM on November 10, 2010

Others have already said it, but for the sake of emphasis:
Peter Pan's Flight.
There are moments during that little ride where you feel like you're touring through the sweetest parts of your own past.
posted by Ventre Mou at 9:39 AM on November 10, 2010

Disneyland turns me into a 5-year-old boy every time I go. I've been 8 times in the last year! Great advice above. I would nth everything that's gone before (except the tiki room, yuck!).

Regarding World of Color, a great way to catch the show is to find a spot at the patio bar in the Ariel's Grotto ahead of the show. You have to pay a cover charge (can't remember exactly how much either- $10 or $20 per person), but you get to see the show without standing cheek by jowl with the hoi polloi. Plus, Ariel's Grotto has AMAZING lobster nachos and a nice little wine selection.

Also, Peter Pan needs to be called out separately. Truly magical! Have an amazing time!
posted by bluejayway at 9:41 AM on November 10, 2010

Worked at Disneyland for a year and a half at the start of this last decade. MeMail if you want.

Must do: Tiki Room, Mr. Toad (they send you to hell), Splash Mountain, It's a Small World, Pirates, Indiana Jones, Peter Pan, Space Mountain, Soarin' Over California, Storybookland Canal Boats, the entire grand circle tour of the park on the train. Ask Guest Relations if they've got any parades you can be in. Consider forking over the cash for a premium experience (dessert buffet for an evening show, character breakfast, etc.) Have one meal in the hotels; my favorite is the Grand Californian. Eat at the Blue Bayou. Bring an extra battery for your camera and charge your phone fully before you leave for the park in the morning. Say hi to my buddies in Store Operations, but know that you can get a lot of park stuff through Disney mail order when you're done.

(I will have more to say once I am at my house and have free use of Google.)
posted by SMPA at 10:05 AM on November 10, 2010

I love the Jungle Cruise so much that that was my Halloween costume this year. Do yourself a favor and ride it. Apparently, the best time is after dark, because the skippers get a little looser with the jokes.

Fast passes for the more popular rides will run out by the afternoon/evening. I recommend fast passing Space Mountain first. The last couple of times I've gone, we didn't do that, and we ended up not riding it or standing in a two hour line. And the queue area for Space Mountain is the WORST one in the park, especially in the middle of the day -- it's almost entirely in the sun and is not very themed at all.

FYI, World of Color is at CA Adventures and not Disneyland -- a lot of people seemed to be confused about that when I went in early October. I'm personally not a fan of the shows and the parades, but perhaps I'm a jaded southern California resident. (I also skip most of the Fantasyland rides now, except Teacups, but you definitely shouldn't!) I was pleasantly surprised I accidentally caught the Merlin/Sword in the Stone skit, maybe check that out.

Keep your eyes open for hidden Mickey heads all over the park. There's a book you can buy that tells you how to find them. The only two I know off the top of my head are in the Haunted Mansion and Pirates -- check out the Spanish style breastplates on the left in the dynamite room. Also, just really LOOK at all the props, especially in the line areas. For instance, there's a radio room off to the side in Indiana Jones that has cargo crates addressed to "Mos Eisley Cantina." Though lately they haven't been routing the lines past that room, so you may not get to see it.

I'm still finding new things every time I go. Last time, I discovered a jukebox orchestrion in the Penny Arcade - AWESOME!

Haven't been to CA Adventures in a while, but Soarin' Over California, Screamin' California, the Toy Story ride, Tower of Terror, and Crush's Turtle Talk are all fun. Grizzly River Run is good, but no better than that same kind of ride at other parks. I also love how they California-ize the music playing over the loud speakers.

Have fun! I want to go back now!

You guys have made me very sad about the Tiki Room -- I had no idea! ::sob::
posted by natabat at 10:38 AM on November 10, 2010

Also, Tiki Room sucks now. I was so disappointed last time I was there because I was really really looking forward to the original awesome Tiki Room. Like all things perfect, it has been changed and is no longer cool. They brought in Zazu and Iago and totally interrupt all the great songs.

I believe the Tiki Room "under new management" remodel is only at Disneyworld. I was at Disneyland last week and it absolutely was the original awesome version.

My number-one secret tip: you can always get the front seat on a ride if you ask the attendant if you can wait for it. You might have to wait a few more loading cycles, but on some rides it's totally worth it. (Space Mountain is awesome from the front seat, as is California Screaming.)

The other secret: you can overlap Fastpasses. Once you reach the "return by" time on your current Fastpass, you can go get another Fastpass before you use your current one. So if the park is busy, start thinking two rides ahead on the Fastpasses.

Also: you will be on your feet for a long time. The slower rides can be good for taking a quick rest break: Pirates is excellent for this because it usually loads fast and then you get a nice 20 minute sit-down on the boat with some fun scenery to look at. The Tiki room is a 15-minute sit-down with some truly bizarre things going on around you. The Storybook Land boats and It's A Small World are relaxing, except for that damn song.

Take the Disneyland Railroad at least from Tomorrowland to Main Street: it goes past some old-school Disney dioramas.

World of Color in DCA is astonishing but will be crowded -- even with a $15 picnic reservation or a Fastpass for viewing, the crush to get into the viewing areas is unpleasant. Get there early for a good spot, totally worth it.

If they're running the Electrical Parade, see it.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:14 AM on November 10, 2010

Oh, and: Big Thunder Mountain is a little tame during the day, but is a totally different experience at dusk or in the dark -- feels a lot faster and a lot scarier.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:17 AM on November 10, 2010

I believe the Tiki Room "under new management" remodel is only at Disneyworld. I was at Disneyland last week and it absolutely was the original awesome version.

Seriously? That's great news!
posted by ook at 11:44 AM on November 10, 2010

The Tiki Room in Disneyland used to have Zazu and Iago, but they were gone when we went in July.

You can probably do California Adventure in half a day or so. I'm ambivalent about Soarin' over California, but I absolutely adored the new Toy Story ride in California Adventure. There's not much to it, but boy is it fun. It's pretty new, though, so lines are going to be long and there's no FastPass. My advice is to open California Adventure one day, immediately get a fastpass for Soarin', and then run for the Toy Story ride. Also, you should definitely do the Bug's Life & Muppets 3D shows; it's completely worth it. Do California Adventure in the morning because a lot of the rides shut down for World of Color.

The advice here is all really great. The only thing I would add is always be looking around, and touch everything. Towntown and the line for Roger Rabbit are completely filled with hidden sounds and effects, but they're everywhere -- try the golden apple in front of the Snow White ride, the bamboo shoots in the spike room of the Indiana Jones line, and the archeology dig in that line as well. My guiding philosophy is pretty much, if there's a sign telling you "please don't pull on the rope" you're supposed to pull on the rope.

We had a deal, Kyle : My number-one secret tip: you can always get the front seat on a ride if you ask the attendant if you can wait for it. You might have to wait a few more loading cycles, but on some rides it's totally worth it. (Space Mountain is awesome from the front seat, as is California Screaming.)

It's absolutely worth it for Indiana Jones as well. For Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, though, you want to be in the back.
posted by lilac girl at 12:03 PM on November 10, 2010

If you want to go eat at Blue Bayou, you'll have to run over there the second that the park opens to make a reservation. Those go incredibly fast. Might I recommend Big Thunder Mountain Ranch as good eating as well? Might be colder to eat outside there (er, if it's open... I can't recall if it is open in January or not), but then again, it's SoCal, so you never know on the weather. When I went in January we had lovely spring-y weather and then it poured buckets the day we left, so who knows.

Most of what I would plug has already been plugged, but let me recommend (at CA) Turtle Talk with Crush again. I don't know how the hell they do it, but that is NIFTY. And the Toy Story Midway is a super fun shooting ride, love it.

Indiana Jones is great to look at. It does tend to break down FREQUENTLY, though, so keep an eye out for that. And there's always the snarky commentary over at the Jungle Cruise. I am also a sucker for It's A Small World, which now has hidden Disney characters through the ride. (I thought I'd find that objectionable, but they are done in Mary Blair's style and really blend in/go well with the show. It was a "hidden Mickey" search thing for me.) Toon Town is cute to look at, but there isn't that much to do there for those over the age of six, so if you're running low on time, maybe skip it. Interesting shopping there though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:37 PM on November 10, 2010

If you want to go eat at Blue Bayou, you'll have to run over there the second that the park opens to make a reservation.

Maybe when the park is super-busy, but I'm not sure that's always the case. The last time I was at Disneyland (this past January, actually), my friend and I literally just walked in to Blue Bayou and got seated for dinner in five minutes. Though I agree it certainly couldn't hurt not to leave it to chance at the last minute.

posted by scody at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2010

I went to Disney World when I was 44 for the very first time. I was a hopeless cynic, but went at the invitation of a dear, loving friend who so wanted to spend time with my son that she paid for our trip.
Sheesh. My cynicism melted in about 2.5 minutes. I's the happiest flipping place on earth for sure.
There were two things that I did that were COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone. I bought Minnie ears and wore them the entire first day. The second day I had my face painted like a mermaid (or princess, or whatever you like with pretty colors and sparkly stuff). I had little girls coming up to me and telling me how pretty I was! I got the opportunity to interact with a lot of very cool people I probably never would have talked to without the facepaint.
In short, my suggestion to you is to really just go for it ALL, no matter if you think it's stupid and goofy and dumb. I'm glad I did!
(I am saying a little prayer for you that your time there is extra special!)
posted by littleflowers at 5:23 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Memorable Anecdote? I have one of those.

The summer after taking the bar, a few friends and I went to Disneyland. We had a big meal and then went on Space Mountain.

One of my friends told me later that watching me stumble out of the ride, "it looked like I had been hit with a tranqulizer gun." As for me, all I saw was the big garbage can. And I prayed to god that I would make it.

Alas, it was not be. Every ounce of the aforementioned big dinner was forcefully ejected from my stomach. And when a little boy yelled, "Daddy look, he's puking," out of instinct, I turned towards him and splattered his shoes with my puke

As my friends carried me out of there, one of them surveyed the damage and said, "it's not gonna be the happiest place in the world for someone tonight."
posted by cjets at 10:09 PM on November 10, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for all of your insights and well wishes! I am so excited for my trip and I will be sharing all of this info with my Disneyland trip buddies. :)
posted by delicate_dahlias at 9:32 AM on November 11, 2010

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