It’s crazy how much the world has changed in the last 6 weeks…
We went to Disneyland and California Adventure for 4 days the end of February. It was crazy and exhausting, but also so magical and fun. We had a really great time and I’m so glad we went when we did, because the park closed about two weeks after we got home. I’m not sure when the park will open again, but it’s always fun to plan for the future, right? 🙂
Below are a few tips and details from our trip:
There are several places you can buy tickets online and in person. We personally bought them from Disney’s website. We did the 4 day tickets that allows you to go in one park per day – it’s a really great deal if you have the time (and energy) to go that many days. With our young children, we felt that one park per day would be more than enough (we were right). You can also get tickets from Costco or sometimes the hotels in the area also sell tickets (my in laws came with us to Disneyland and bought their tickets from our hotel lobby and got a great deal on them). You can also always buy them in person, but keep in mind that it will be another line to wait in on your day at the park.
There are sooooo many places one can stay at for Disneyland! So. Many. Places. It can be super overwhelming. There are the resort hotels themselves, but for us personally, we felt that all of those were more than we would like to spend. Our criteria when looking for a place was that it had to be safe and clean (obviously) and walking distance from the park. We didn’t have a rental car on this trip, but also neither of us wanted to have to deal with parking anyway or taking a double stroller on and off a tram. So, close proximity was a must. We stayed at Desert Palms Hotel. It had great ratings on Booking.com and was a 10-15 minute walk to the park without breaking our budget. It also offered a complimentary breakfast and had a pool. After staying there, I would totally recommend it (this was where our in laws got a great deal on tickets too). We had zero issues, the breakfast was good (James loved the oatmeal and the girls had lots of waffles), and the girls swam in the pool the morning we checked out while I packed up our room. It was great!
We did 3 of our 4 days at Disneyland. I love Disneyland! I grew up going every year (I’m originally from Southern California) and it’s always so magical and so well done. We also figured that the girls would overall have more fun at this park as well and everyone was excited to check out the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
First things first. If you’re not already aware, there is an app that you can download for free on itunes that is called “Disneyland”. This was totally new for me (While we went to Paris Disney twice while living in France, I hadn’t been back to CA Disneyland for close to 6 years) and such a great thing to have on hand. It gives you all the wait times on a map of the parks while also showing where all the different characters are walking around. It also shows where bathrooms and the amazing Baby Care Centers are (this is the best place to change diapers and nurse with a bit of privacy). It’s also currently the only way to get on the waitlist for the new Star Wars ride, Rise of the Resistance (more on that below). You can also use it to digitally store your tickets, which can come in handy for getting Fastpasses throughout the park. Make sure to definitely have it downloaded before your trip (on a side note- there’s a second app called “Play Disney Parks” that has games and trivia while you wait in line. This came in handy a few times, but mostly went unused for us personally). Be aware that this app will use up a good amount of phone battery. My phone never died, but came very close a couple of our days.
Favorite Rides and Attractions
It’s so hard to only pick a few favorites, but here’s what we personally enjoyed the most:
- Peter Pan’s Flight (Fantasyland) – Everyone loves this ride. It’s beautifully done and worth the often long wait (in my opinion). We tried to ride it first thing when the line wasn’t quite as long.
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Tomorrowland) – This is such a fun, interactive ride! Everyone gets a “blaster” and tries to stop Zurg while scoring points for every target that’s hit.
- It’s a Small World (Fantasyland) – This is a great, relaxing ride. Our girls loved the music and trying to spot the hidden disney characters throughout the ride.
- Pirates of the Caribbean (New Orlean’s Square) – This is a personal favorite that’s fine for older kids and adults, but was a little scary for our 5 year old. That said, I personally love the pirate theme and always make sure to go on it when we’re at the park.
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (Adventureland) – Another family favorite and a great place to cool off while enjoying a Dole Whip. All of our kids enjoyed the show and our 5 year old still talks about the singing birds. 🙂
- Indiana Jones (Adventureland) – Definitely an adventurous ride for adults and older kids! It’s very action-packed and a bit jerky at times. My husband and I snuck off for a ride while our kids were with their Grandma and Grandpa.
- Goofy’s Playhouse (Toontown) – This was such a great spot for the kids to run around a bit. It’s basically a small, mostly enclosed play area with plenty of things for small children to climb or crawl through.
That said, just about all of the rides are great to go on at Disneyland. Disney does a fantastic job with developing the different themes and atmospheres on each ride.
Disneyland actually has some surprisingly good food options. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Blue Bayou (New Orlean’s Square) – This cajun/creole restaurant is actually inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It has a beautiful setting and delicious food, but usually requires reservations ahead of time to get in. It’s also a little pricey – we’ve gone a few times prior to this trip to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.
- French Market Restaurant (New Orlean’s Square) – If you’re unable to go to the Blue Bayou, the next best thing is the French Market, which serves similar food for a more reasonable price. There’s also often jazz bands playing nearby and sometimes Princess Tiana herself walks through to say hello. On the back of the restaurant, there’s also a walk up window where you can purchase mint juleps and beignets.
- Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor (Main Street) – A great spot to stop and enjoy an ice cream!
- Rancho Del Zocalo Restaurante (Frontierland) – Great Mexican food!
- The Tropical Hideaway (Adventureland) – This was our first time eating here, but it was really good! We especially enjoyed the lumpia.
- Ronto Roasters (Galaxy’s Edge) – They really only serve a couple food options here, but it’s a great place to grab a quick bite. I especially liked the Rising Moons Overnight Oats (we got that on our early morning entry).
First off, we’re not huge spenders and we don’t like to buy a ton of stuff so I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as savvy on the best things to buy in the park. My photos are probably our most cherished souvenir that we come home with, but I also understand how fun it can be to bring a little special toy or something home after a great vacation. Both of our girls saved up a bit of money before our trip and each had around $20 to spend on a souvenir at Disneyland. Walking around the park, here’s a few places that I thought would be worth shopping at:
- Pretty much anywhere in Galaxy’s Edge (Creature Stall/Toydarian Toymaker/Droid Stall/etc.) – I loved walking around all the shops in Galaxy’s Edge. They’re all fantastic and worth peeking into. There are tons of plush character dolls (we got our middle child a plush Rey doll for her birthday that she loves), build your own lightsabers and droids, and more.
- Emporium (Main Street) – This has a huge variety of almost everything that you would find elsewhere in the park (but not plush Star Wars characters along with a few other more specialized items).
- Silhouette Studio – I’ve never actually done this before, but I love the idea of getting a silhouette of my kids sometime.
- Parasol Stand (New Orleans Square) – Both of our girls decided on a parasol for their souvenir. It’s very cute and waterproof (great for here in the PNW).
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
This was our first time experiencing the new Star Wars part of the park. We found it very well done and so much fun to walk around. The characters here don’t sign autographs, but will pose for a photo. Rey asked our oldest to help her on a secret mission and both the girls played a game with R2D2. When our middle child dressed up as Princess Leia for the day, Chewbacca made sure to come up to her multiple times to say hello. Everyone and everything is very interactive. That said, if you’d like to get some cool photos with Darth Vader or Boba Fett, you’ll want to head over to Tomorrowland where they have Star Wars Launch Bay.
To get on the newest ride, Rise of the Resistance, you must download the Disneyland app and try to get into the park by opening. Right at opening, you have to try and get on the waitlist to go on the ride. You and your party will get a number and once it’s called, you can go get in line for the ride. While we got there right at opening one morning, we still weren’t quick enough to get a number that was low enough to get on the ride. Maybe next time. 🙂
We did got on the new Smuggler’s Run and enjoyed it. Both of our girls had fun and we used a Rider Switch pass to make sure all the adults could ride at some point as well. My husband and I went back to the park one evening while my in laws stayed with the kids at the hotel and we used the single rider line to get right on (and we even got in the same group!).
We only spent 1 of our 4 days at California Adventure, but still had a great time! It’s a fun park, although there always seems to be a bit of construction (this trip they were working on the new Avenger’s Campus).
Favorite Rides and Attractions
- Frozen Live at the Hyperion (Hollywood Land) – The girls loved this live show of Frozen! They also met Anna and Elsa beforehand at the Disney Animation Building.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout (Hollywood Land) – It’s a free-fall type thrill ride (so not great for younger children) and was my favorite ride at CA Adventure. It used to be Twilight Zone themed, but they did a really great job updating it to Guardians of the Galaxy.
- The Little Mermaid Ariel’s Underwater Adventure (Paradise Gardens Park) – This is a cute indoor ride that’s great for small children, especially on hot days.
- Luigi’s Rollickin Roadsters (Cars Land) – Our girls loved riding in these dancing cars!
- Radiator Springs Racers (Cars Land) – A racing ride that goes through the Cars story.
- Soarin’ Around the World (Grizzly Peak) – A fun IMAX ride around the world
- Toy Story Midway Mania (Pixar Pier) – An interactive 4D ride playing different little games along Woody and the rest of the gang.
California Adventure has some really great food options! Here are our favorites:
- Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill (Pacific Wharf) – Quick service, delicious Mexican food.
- Flo’s V8 Cafe (Cars Land) – American food in a fun atmosphere.
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop (Pacific Wharf) – The best ice-cream in either park. 😋
- Lucky Fortune Cookery (Pacific Wharf) – Great asian food and quick service
We didn’t purchase any souvenirs at this park this time, but there are still some really cute shops worth checking out:
- Knick’s Knacks (Pixar Pier) – Great variety of plush Pixar characters!
- Off the Page (Hollywood Land) – Beautiful artwork and collectibles
We really enjoyed our time at both parks and I’m so thankful that we were able to go before everything shut down (and even see some good friends while we were there!). Hopefully the park will open again soon and everyone can stay safe and healthy. 💛
If you’ve been to Disneyland and/or California Adventure before, what are some of your favorite spots?