Whether you’re a hardcore fan or a first-timer, Disneyland is sure to delight. There’s a reason they call it The Happiest Place on Earth, after all!
If you’re on a personal crusade to have the best Disney vacation ever, and be a step ahead of everyone else at the parks, here are some useful tips & tricks to consider.
These unique ideas will add extra magic to every aspect of your vacation and help you make the most of your time while you experience Walt Disney’s pride and joy – Disneyland!
On top of thrilling rides, great food, and character experiences to melt your heart, Disneyland provides guests with incredible water, fire, laser, and live performances.
Below, you’ll find some tips to make sure you have the best experience with every spectacular show that Disneyland has to offer.
Even if you don’t plan to attend any of the shows, pay attention to all showtimes; this includes the parades, fireworks, Fantasmic!, and World of Color. It can be difficult to navigate the park during and soon after these times due to the vast number of guests in one area.
- If you must leave Disneyland during or soon after the Firework Spectacular, consider walking through the shops on Main Street instead of using the sidewalk. These shops are all interconnected.
If possible, eat and enjoy Disney’s entertainment at the same time.
- If you’d like a picturesque view of Fantasmic! while enjoying some down-home Southern cooking, reserve a special 8pm seat at the River Belle Terrace restaurant. To reserve your seat and Fantasmic! dining package, call (714) 781-DINE. You can find more Fantasmic! dining options by clicking here; these packages provide dinner before the show and a preferred viewing area.
- There are also dining packages for the World of Color nighttime spectacular. These dining packages provide dinner before the show and a preferred viewing area. Click here for additional information!
- Occasionally, you can dine at the Plaza Inn and see the fireworks. It’s important to note that you should still plan to arrive about 30 minutes before the show to get a table with a good view.
- For parade views, eat at the Carnation Café, Plaza Inn, or the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café.
In the extended hours of the summer and holiday months, Disneyland provides two showtimes for Fantasmic! and World of Color, as well as some parades. These later showtimes are usually less crowded.
Disneyland’s Most Popular Shows :
“Remember…Dreams Come True” Fireworks Spectacular
- Best viewing spot: (besides the front row) near the Main Street Train Station. Usually the platform of this station is reserved, but by asking a Cast Member, you can occasionally snag a spot there. This will lift you away from the crowd of tourists and give you a prime view of Main Street, the Castle, and the Fireworks. This is also a great spot to watch the show if you’d like a quick exit from the park afterwards.
- Another viewing spot, if you’d like to avoid the crowds and don’t mind missing the projections on the Main Street buildings and the Castle, is near It’s A Small World or at the entrance of Tomorrowland.
World of Color
- Best viewing spot: (besides the front row) on the Paradise Pier bridge. To sit here, you’ll need a Blue Section FastPass; Blue FastPasses are the first to be distributed, so get these first thing in the morning. Sitting on the bridge will give you a gorgeous left-side view of the entire show including the lights in the audience, the full length of the fountains, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, and the lights on California Screamin’.
- Best viewing spot: (besides the front row) on the bridge that goes over the Pirates of the Caribbean line queue. You’ll be able to see over everyone’s head on the lower seating level – it’s like a front row seat without getting wet!
BONUS SHOW HACK: Some hotels may have a view of the Firework Spectacular or even World of Color. If you have little ones that might not be able to make it to the shows, find a hotel with a view by taking a look at our Disneyland good Neighbor Hotel post!
VERY IMPORTANT: HOW NOT TO BE A JERK DURING SHOWTIMES AT DISNEYLAND
- If you have a front row seat and you notice that a child near you is struggling to see the show, let them stand in front of you. It’s the right thing to do and you’ll still be able to see over them.
- If you’re going to do this, make sure it’s okay with the parents so they know where their kid has gone.
- On the other hand; if you haven’t put in the time to wait for a front row seat, don’t expect others who have to let your kids (or you) up front.
- If your group has front row seats, have the shorter people stand in front of the taller ones so you’re only taking up a few feet of precious front row realty, instead of making a long, single file line along the railing.
- Don’t record the shows. Just don’t. It’s distracting to others and blocks people’s views. Instead, just enjoy the beautiful spectacular unfolding before your eyes. If you wish to see a video of the show after you get home, there are a lot on YouTube, just look one up.
Time To Relax
Disneyland is a magical place that is absolutely packed with fun, but don’t get ahead of yourself; set aside time to simply relax. I mean it – set aside time – otherwise you’ll be running around like a crazy headless chicken for hours on end before you even realize it.
There are many relaxing things to do in both parks, believe it or not. There’s nothing more magical than enjoying a mint julep in New Orleans Square, a Dole Whip in Adventureland, or a Churro on Main Street and just soaking in the magic of Disneyland.
If you’re not the kind of person that likes to sit around, try these different options:
The best places to cool off, but still have fun:
- Star Wars Launch Bay (located in Disneyland, near Space Mountain): This is a great place for Star Wars fans! It’s full of actual movie props on loan from Lucasfilm, character experiences, and the greatest Star Wars merchandise in all of Disneyland. It’s air-conditioned and a great spot to chill for a few minutes.
- Disney Animation Building (located in DCA (Disney California Adventure Park), near Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!): In this building, you’ll find Turtle Talk With Crush, the Animation Academy, a Sorcerer’s Workshop, and character experiences with Anna and Elsa. Like the Star Wars Launch Bay, it’s air-conditioned and a great spot to both relax and cool off.
If you’d still like to experience a few attractions during your rest period, try a few of these relaxing rides:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: This is one of my personal favorite rides. There are a lot of entertaining details to look at, and after the 15+ minute ride, your feet will feel well-rested.
- It’s A Small World: As annoying as it may be for some, this 15+ minute original ride deserves a little credit. The soothing rocking of the boat also makes it a great ride for young children to nap on. Occasionally, Cast Members may let you ride a few times without getting off if your child is asleep.
- The Storybook Canal Boats: Go after dark for a 5+ minute romantic cruise under the stars that Aladdin and Jasmine once soared through.
- The Disneyland Railroad: This is not only a good way to save some steps and get around the park, there’s also a great view of Splash Mountain, the backside of the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer’s Island, the Grand Canyon, and even some dinosaurs throughout the 20 minute round-trip!
- Jungle Cruise: The boat skippers are my favorite part of this entire ride. With corny jokes and puns, and a 8+ minute ride, you’ll be well-rested and “safari, so goody!”
Try out a play area when the little ones are tired of waiting in line:
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (DCA, across from the entrance to Grizzly River Run): It’s like a military-style obstacle course for children! There are even some areas that are adult-friendly.
- Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island (Disneyland, between Adventureland and Critter Country): Check out the crazy caverns and pirate ship wreckage on the island, and find some buried treasure too! To get to the island, board a log raft located across the way from the Haunted Mansion line entrance.
The best way to relax at the Disneyland Resort:
- My personal favorite way to cool off and relax is to catch Frozen: Live At the Hyperion in the DCA. It’s a 60+ minute show in an air conditioned theater with plush seats. This extravaganza is filled with adventure, gorgeous special effects, and enchanting live performances. Watch out for Olaf – he certainly steals the show!
There is a secret eating area (okay, it’s not a secret, but it’s pretty well hidden) that will give you a much-needed break from the Disneyland crowds. The entrance to this secret area is just across the way from the Haunted Mansion ride exit, near the smoking area along the Rivers of America.
Find the Harbour Galley restaurant, and walk around to the right of it. This may look like a “Cast Members Only” area, but it’s not: keep going. You’ll pass a few buildings on your left, including Fowler’s Inn. Keep walking around the bend, and you’ll find four quaint tables and (depending on the time of day) a lot of shade.
If you want to continue along the path, you’ll find a great place to watch riders from Splash Mountain who just made their final drop and are usually soaked and laughing.
Free at Disneyland? Believe it or not, there are some great free souvenirs you can get at the Disney parks:
- A special button at City Hall! They have all kinds of buttons including “I’m Celebrating,” “Happy Birthday,” “First Visit,” and much, much more! You may even get special treatment if you wearing one throughout the park!
- A copy of The Buena Vista Bugle (Disney’s very own newspaper) from the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café in the DCA.
- A sample chocolate from Ghirardelli (located in the DCA’s Pacific Wharf dining area) and a delicious bread sample from the Boudin Bakery Café (near Ghiradelli; enter through the Bakery Café Tour entrance).
- Park maps.
- Character autographs: Autograph books are available for purchase inside the parks, but I recommend making your own or purchasing one from places like Amazon or Walmart. Even getting a signature on a plain piece of paper or a napkin is a great souvenir!
- A character drawing that you make yourself at the Animation Academy in the DCA.
If you catch the Jambalaya Jazz Band playing in New Orleans square, they might throw you some Mardi Gras beads!
- Smash or press pennies to commemorate the best rides and your favorite areas of the park! Coin collector books are sold in the parks – you could collect all of the designs!
- For only $10 each, get a hand-cut silhouette from the Silhouette Studio on Main Street, USA. The artists are incredible to watch as they free-hand cut a silhouette of your beautiful mug!
When you first get to your hotel, grocery shop for snacks.
Snacks at Disneyland, for the most part, are very pricy and filled with grams upon grams of glorious sugar. By grocery shopping for your own snacks, or even bringing some from home, you’re sure to save money and your health
- Vons & Safeway deliver directly to your hotel room! You’ll need a minimum order of $50, and you’ll need to order two days in advance to utilize this option, but how nice would it be to arrive at your hotel room, tired and weary, and get multitudes of yummy snacks delivered right to you? P.S. Don’t binge eat all of your snacks on the first night, as tempting as it may be.
- Amazon also offers a similar service.
- Select Disney Good Neighbor Hotels also offer a complimentary grocery shopping service:
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Anaheim Resort/Convention Center
- Hyatt House Anaheim Resort/Convention Center
- Residence Inn Anaheim Maingate
- Residence Inn Anaheim Resort/Convention Center
- Check all of your receipts before you get rid of them – they may have a special surprise discount on the bottom for you!
- Find a hotel that’s within walking distance to Disneyland or has a shuttle.
- Disneyland charges $20+ per day to park in their lots so if you can avoid it.
FastPass and MaxPass
Disneyland introduced a new mobile FastPass system in 2017, known as a MaxPass.
This new system makes getting FastPasses much easier, as well as allows you to enjoy unlimited PhotoPass downloads! Since it would take a completely separate post to go into detail about this new system, I’ll send you over to the Disneyland Website for more information.
There is a $10 per guest, per day fee for this new system; if you’re not interested in paying, don’t worry! You’re still able to get the regular paper FastPasses (for free), just like you could before MaxPasses were introduced.
Also new in 2017!
- FastPasses for Matterhorn, Midway Mania, and the nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic! Consider getting a FastPass for one of these attractions early in the day – they’ll go quickly!
Remember to get FastPasses for World of Color and Fantasmic early. These will not interfere with any other FastPasses you may want to get.
If you would like to attend the later showing of either show, ask a Cast Member when those FastPasses will be distributed (FastPasses for shows are distributed for the earlier showtime first, and after those run out, the later).
- To find a FastPass return time, check the Disneyland App. Just click on the ride you’re interested in, and voila! the return time is right there.
This is very helpful information if you have a dining reservation or any other scheduled activity. It’s never fun to traverse the entire park for a FastPass, and then discover that the return time won’t work with your schedule.
Check the FastPass return times before entering a standby line, they may be within 5-10 minutes!
- At the entrance to every standby line, there is a sign with the standby wait time and the FastPass return times posted on it. Occasionally, you can find a line with a FastPass return time that’s less than (or not much more than) the standby wait time! If you’re able to, grab the FastPasses, find something fun to do in the area while you wait for your FastPass return time, and then jump in the shorter FastPass lane instead of standby!
You don’t always have to wait until your FastPass return time to get another one.
- Always check your FastPass ticket: below the allotted return time for your FastPass, you’ll find information about when you’re allowed to get another FastPass. This may be before your return time.
FastPass distribution machines are generally located near the attraction for which they are used, however, some are harder to locate. When in doubt, ask a Cast Member (or even a friendly person in the area).
Well that’s it for part 1 of our Disneyland Resort Master list of tips and tricks. Do you have a favorite Tip or Trick? Share in the comments section below!
This MDT Post By: Steve Bell
Steve is the the Military Disney Tips Founder. He a retired U.S. Military Member who's been touring the Disney Parks since 1971! Steve's mission is to help military families with their Disney vacations in every way. Check out Steve's Bio.
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