Advice for Disneyland trip
April 27, 2008 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Going to Disneyland in 20 days with a friend. Any advice on how to make the most of my trip?

Already bought the plane tickets, so that's not really an issue.

We are college-aged and spending one day there. So far, I'm Hell-bent on shaking hands with Mickey, riding Space Mountain, and buying lots of souvenirs. I think we plan on being there the entire time it's open.

Advice on the best rides, how to avoid the crowds, possible discounts, how to get there via public transport, etc. are all appreciated.
posted by JamesJD to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Any other advice falling outside of the above categories is also appreciated.
posted by JamesJD at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2008

You don't say where you're staying, but if you're in the general resort area, most hotels have a shuttle. I've also found that most hotels are actually walking distance from the park if you're not lazy. So, public transport shouldn't be an issue. If you're a little further afield, there is an OCTA bus line or two that runs by the park. The Amtrak line that stops in Anaheim is not close enough to walk from, but you can take the bus or maybe even find a taxi. I don't remember that ride being too expensive...but it's been a couple years.

Your best bet on meeting Mickey is in Mickey's house in Toontown, he's basically there all the time. I think they also print up character meet and greets in the daily schedules now, which you can pick up at the main gate.

I think you're pretty screwed on the discounts front, since most of the stuff happening around now is for people who live in the area. If you're in AAA or the armed forces there's no harm in asking.

Crowd avoidance: get there early and run for the outer borders of the park. People get sidetracked by things on the way to things they actually wanted to go to. Splash Mountain is especially good for this strategy since most of the park is on the way to Splash Mountain. Space Mountain is less good for this strategy because the only things on the way there are Buzz Lightyear, Star Tours, and Innoventions. If you want to get on the submarines (which are cute, for sure) without waiting too long, I think your only real option is to be there when the park opens, and dash HARD for them the second they let down the rope. At least that's how it was last time I went.

If it's hot in the afternoon, people will all want to go on Splash Mountain. Avoid that heinous line by chilling out in the Haunted Mansion instead, which is very aggressively air conditioned, very long, and very dark.

Back when I was in high school and poor like crazy, here was my Disneyland day:
-arrive at opening, having eaten breakfast in the car on the way there
-11am: eat granola bar or peanut butter sandwich smuggled in my pocket
-4pm: eat vegetable gumbo in a bread bowl from the cafe next to Cafe Orleans
-9pm: delicious churro
-leave at closing

Back then, the gumbo was $4 and the churros were about $2, so I'd spend $6 on food all day. This is absolutely impossible now, but that gumbo is still a great deal.

Obviously, I could say a lot more. Mefimail me if you want to plumb the depths of my Disneyland obsession.
posted by crinklebat at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2008

We stayed at a hotel across the road from the park (so long ago I don't recall the name) and it was excellent to be able to walk there and back. But if you've got tickets already then maybe you're booked in somewhere else.

Wear comfortable clothes and *comfortable shoes*. The pavement gets hard. Add a hat too, for shade.

Fun ahead.
posted by airplain at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2008

Oh god, and don't miss Indiana Jones.
posted by crinklebat at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2008

Make *sure* to go on Haunted Mansion and have fun!
posted by bmalicoat at 1:39 PM on April 27, 2008

You'll see at least 2 characters right when you pass through the turnstiles. Look for them. Jasmine, Pocahontas, and the other Disney princess-skanks can usually be found chillin' out there. There are also quite a few characters walking around Fantasyland, as that's where the kiddie rides are.

You can pick up a FastPass from several of the popular rides (Indiana Jones, Space Mtn., Splash Mtn., etc.). It allows you to go enjoy the rest of the park and come back at a designated time and skip to the front of the line.

If you feel like spending more money than necessary, you should put in a reservation at the Blue Bayou. It's a restaurant with lantern light inside Pirates of the Caribbean. It has such great ambiance.

Toon Town is fun to look at, but don't spend too much time there. There's a little rollercoaster there with a perpetually long line that is NOT worth the time spent in line. It takes about 25 seconds from start to finish.

My favorite thing about Disneyland is the Dole pineapple frozen yogurt, which I have never been able to find anywhere else. It's soo good. Perfect on a hot day. Pick some up in front of the Tiki Room, just before you get to Indiana Jones.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:46 PM on April 27, 2008

I went on that damn thing a half dozen times one day and every time, I was sure that death was just around the corner.
posted by SECONDHANDSMOTE at 1:46 PM on April 27, 2008

Something I would like to do one day in Disneyland, that I accidentally experienced as a child: stumble into some behind the scenes rooms. When I went as a kid, my little sister got scared of one of the slow moving rides, perhaps one on a boat, so my parents tried to sneak us out of there. My memory is hazy, but I remember us jumping from the boat onto a platform full of those automated figures in an attempt to get to a nearby, unlabeled door, that my parents thought would lead to an exit. The next thing we knew we were in a giant room that, from a child's eyes, looked like some kind of massive sewage system. I remember waterfalls of this green filth, old rusted metal guardrails, a noxious odor, and our quickly being escorted out by an employee who saw us go inside. It was a very strange experience for a young kid who didn't yet understand that Disneyland was a business and not just a magical funland. I've also heard of extensive underground tunnels that the employees use to get around. Either way, it would be really neat to try to 'accidentally' stumble into some unmarked doors and see what you find.
posted by farishta at 1:53 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you really want to conquer it, get the Unofficial Guide.
posted by ALongDecember at 1:54 PM on April 27, 2008

Some tips here on strategies for using the Fastpass for popular rides.
posted by scody at 1:54 PM on April 27, 2008

Save Pirates of the Caribbean (so fun), Haunted Mansion (lame ride), Small World (might still be under renovation), and Space Mtn. (get a FastPass in the AM), and Splash Mtn. for later, if possible. Those rides are all air conditioned.

There's a big, round building next to Space Mtn. that houses all kinds of futuristic stuff (i.e., inventions, etc.). It's boring. The monorail is boring. The train that circumnavigates the park can be fun, and it's a nice way to get from one side of the park to the other.

If you're able to go to the California Adventure side of the park, be sure to go on the Tower of Terror and Soaring Over California. Both are great rides and worth the wait.

Most hotels in the area provide shuttle service to the park. You don't need to drops loads of cash on one of the fancy schmancy Disney-brand hotels.

Bring backpacks and stuff them full of snacks and water. The price of food is exorbitant once you're inside.

Put your camera in your backpack (or fannypack--you're a tourist so it's OK if you look like a dweeb) when you're on Splash Mtn. and wrap it up in something soft.

If you plan on leaving the park for any reason, hold onto your ticket. You now need to show a hand stamp and your ticket for readmission.

The 50th anniversary firework show every night is pretty damn amazing, so I've been told.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:58 PM on April 27, 2008

P.S. "Disney magic" doesn't generally apply to the food. If you have high expectations, lower them.

People are always selling tickets on Ebay. You might snag a deal.
posted by HotPatatta at 2:03 PM on April 27, 2008

INDY RIDE for sure, as said.

Go to Small World, if you want to share stories with others about how LONG and IRRITATING the ride is. But, if the line is short, it's a good break from the heat of the day.

I'm not sure if it's still this way, but you can get in earlier if you take the shuttle from the actual Disneyland hotel. I parked near the hotel and walked to the shuttle, and got into the park before the gates opened for the general public.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 2:14 PM on April 27, 2008

There's a little restaurant almost directly across from Indiana Jones that has some really good little beef kabobs. They're kind of small, but surprisingly filling, and fairly cheap compared to everything else in the park. The cake in the Golden Horseshoe was not nearly as good as it looked.

When we went, Splash Mountain's fast passes always ran out first, generally by early afternoon if I remember right, so if you don't want to skip it head for it early. Indiana Jones, for some reason, was always completely empty during the evening fireworks. We went through a number of times during that period, and it's still my favorite ride. I think we rode it 8 times in 3 days. Look for the giant mickey head on the left side of the wall during the projection room. My second favorite ride was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, followed by Buzz Lightyear one in Tomorrow Land. Also, don't be afraid to ask for a specific car. They might make you wait a turn, but they're really nice about letting you pick where you sit.

Toontown & Fantasy Land close early for the fireworks, so if there's anything you want to do in there do it before dinner. Peter Pan is always packed, and so is Roger Rabbit. And the area around Tom Sawyer's Island gets really crowded for Fantasmic and is near impossible to navigate through it. So I would try to be in Tomorrow Land or Adventure Land at the end of the day.

I'd wait to buy souvenirs until near the end of the day, since you don't want to have to drag all that around all day. Plus, if I remember right, you can almost get from one end of main street to the other in the stores with minimal sidewalk-age. I wouldn't waste money on a hat or ears, since you'll probably never wear them again. They look really fun when you're in the park, but they lose their appeal the second you get back home.

If you're staying overnight, there's a hotel immediately across the street from the front entrance of the park that was fairly cheap. It's like a Best Western or something. If you stay in the Earl Garr suite (no kidding on the name) you can get a nice view of the fireworks, and can be slightly squicked out at what must be a really dated version of a honeymoon suite -- lots of fake wood paneling, an excessive amount of mirrors everywhere, and a humongous bathtub. Funniest part of our trip.
posted by lilac girl at 2:32 PM on April 27, 2008

My personal preference, LSD and lots of it. YMMV.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:36 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I asked this question, I was told to "go to the left." Whenever there is a fork in the road you should always go to the left because the vast majority of people go to right.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 2:46 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Bring a cheap, disposable, water-proof camera (i.e., Kodak Funsaver). Losing a super-expensive gadget or getting it damaged is the last thing you want to worry about.
posted by invisible ink at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2008

There's no booze in Disneyland, but you can hit Downtown Disney (or one of the wine-serving restaurants at California Adventure if you plan on getting a park hopper ticket).

The discounts on gate tickets only come into play if you're getting tickets for more than a day. There aren't any discounts that I've ever found on single-day tickets.

Some of the Disneyland official hotels (mucho spendy) have early admission to the park. Heading into the part early was very, very awesome and my husband hit Space Mountain a few times before lines even thought of forming.

Do a game plan of the rides you want to hit before the day of, taking in operating hours into account. Toontown closes early and so do some other rides, but the last hours of the park are awesome for doing "It's a Small World" 7 times in a row because you're the only one on it. Also, many of the rides are empty during the big shows as everyone's watching the light parade.

If you want to get a ton of character greeting in, go to one of the character breakfasts. The princess breakfast has far more than princesses and they stop by every table for autographs and pictures - no matter how old or snarky you are. Also, it's an all-you-can-eat-buffet so you can stock up for the day.

I love Blue Bayou, but mostly due to my Pirates of the Carribean obsession. The food in the park is generally overpriced. We'll eat a big breakfast, snack on healthy-ish things (pickles, popcorn, pineapple at the Tiki Room - a must-do) in the park, hit Downtown Disney for a dinner and then pop back into the park for fireworks/parade and rides.
posted by Gucky at 3:21 PM on April 27, 2008

Best answer: Anyone criticizing the Haunted Mansion is clinically insane. Do the Haunted Mansion.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:37 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Using the Unofficial Guide is pretty much the best way to make the most of your trip.
posted by grouse at 4:04 PM on April 27, 2008

Nthing the Unofficial Guide.

Bring a cheap plastic poncho if you think that getting seriously soaked on the water rides might put a crimp in your day (possible even in the heat of August). Offer to lend it to any companions that you think might get whiny if wet. Don't worry how you look: everyone looks like an idiot with a fanny pack or poncho elsewhere but it's beside the point at Disney.
posted by Morrigan at 4:35 PM on April 27, 2008

Be on the "look out" for Hidden Mickeys.
posted by 6:1 at 4:54 PM on April 27, 2008

The children's rides can be just as fun--like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It's corny, but fun.
posted by 6:1 at 4:58 PM on April 27, 2008

The children's rides can be just as fun--like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It's corny, but fun.
posted by 6:1

This is probably the most important point: don't think anything is too cheesy or corny for you. Be a kid, no matter how old you are.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:02 PM on April 27, 2008

When I take a break, I enjoy hanging out at New Orleans Square. It's a good place for people watching.
posted by SPrintF at 5:32 PM on April 27, 2008

Also, check out RideMax. Someone I know at work used it and said it worked really well for them.
posted by sjthomp at 7:01 PM on April 27, 2008

Best answer: In addition to FastPass, don't underestimate the wonder that is the single rider line. If you don't mind riding some rides alone, this will save you quite a bit of time. Single rider was most useful on Splash! Mountain and Indiana Jones, and I was able to ride some of these rides multiple times in an hour if I didn't mind going alone (I didn't!).

And, to agree with some of the above suggestions, DO NOT miss the Haunted Mansion OR Indiana Jones!!!!! Those are absolutely awesome. Also, I love riding Splash! Mountain at night...when I've been in the park, I've tried to save that for the very last ride of the evening (something like 10pm...). It's way cool in the dark.

As for other bits of advice: Try to avoid the water in the drinking fountains. Blech. DO try one of the cool restaurants in the park (Blue Bayou is a great suggestion). Also, my favorite place in the park is the little coffee shop right on Main Street. They have great cookies and iced coffees, and lunch stuff like sandwiches, etc.

Hope this is helpful! Have fun! I'm so jealous... :-)
posted by I_love_the_rain at 9:49 PM on April 27, 2008

if you splurge ($91!) for the park-hopper ticket, make sure to hit Soaring Over California in California Adventure. (try for the front row so you don't have people's feet dangling in your upper field of vision.) the old-fashioned roller coaster is cool too. the Tower of Terror is terrifying and short, and the ambiance is very good - it has the old-fashioned feel that made Disneyland rides so special way back when. take the tortilla factory tour and enjoy what is quite possibly the only free food in either park - fresh, piping hot tortillas! and of course, there's the scariest ride in any amusement park, anywhere, the ferris wheel. with swinging gondolas. seriously, the most frightened I've been on a ride in years. have fun!
posted by killy willy at 10:27 AM on April 28, 2008

I haven't tried this and can't vouch for its effectiveness, but there are some good testimonials at where you can download a program that will customize an itinerary for you to maximize the number of rides you can fit into a day.

It takes into account FastPasses, has histories of wait times for all the rides based on time of year and day of week (taking into account holidays, etc.) and sounds like a good thing.

Again, I have no actual experience with it, but I plan on giving it a try next time I visit Disneyland.
posted by scottnic at 11:04 AM on April 28, 2008

Oops.. sjthomp beat me to the Ridemax thing.

Oh... and as far as rides go, my list of don't miss rides would include:

The Matterhorn
Space Mountain
Splash Mountain
Thunder Mountain Railroad
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Haunted Mansion

.. and second the vote for Soaring Over California and the Tower of Terror if you do the Park-Hopper pass and go to California Adventures as well.

A good cheap lunch is a fried turkey leg. We got one leg for a few bucks ($5?) at a concession stand near the Matterhorn and it was enough to keep me, my wife, and our four young kids satisfied for a few hours. The chowder and/or gumbo in New Orleans Square is delicious as well.

Definitely stay for the fireworks. The best vantage point is somewhere with a clear view of both Cinderella's Castle and the lake.
posted by scottnic at 11:18 AM on April 28, 2008

Here's the original Go to the Left! advice. Read it, learn it, live it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:22 PM on April 28, 2008

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