If you’ve been following Quick Whit Travel on Facebook and Instagram lately, you know that we just got back from our first ever visit to Disneyland! I did a LOT of research beforehand, but some things you just can’t know until you get there. But, to make your research easier, here are the top things I’m glad I found out about before we left for Disney! (And also be sure to check out the things I wish I knew before going!)
- The Disneyland app is an incredible resource! Seriously, this is probably the thing I was most thankful to know about before we arrived. I downloaded it to my iPhone several weeks out and just played around with it to familiarize myself with the app’s functions and the lay of the land. The map is very helpful, and on it you can find where the attractions are, their wait times, character locations, restaurants, shops, restrooms, and more! You can see where those things are on the map or in alphabetical order in a list; this will also tell you what attractions are either closed for refurbishment or temporarily closed for any reason. You can also see if a particular ride has FastPass capability (more on FastPass below), what time FastPasses are currently distributing, and if FastPasses are still available or have run out for the day. You can even make dining reservations right in the app. Download it. It’s really handy!
- The staff are called “Cast Members.” This is helpful to know so when you hear, “Please ask a cast member for assistance,” and the like, you know who that means. Cast Members were incredibly helpful in telling us where things were, how to get there, and even letting us in on strategic information—like what’s open during the Extra Magic Hour and what to get a FastPass for first, before the FastPasses run out for the day!
- FastPass. And speaking of FastPasses, they are essential if you want to really make the most of a short trip like ours (36 hours). Here’s the skinny:
- FastPasses are available at many, but not all, rides and shows
- You can have more than one FastPass at a time, but there are restrictions; when you get a FastPass, there will be a time toward the bottom of a ticket telling you when you can get a FastPass for another ride
- A FastPass allows you to return to a specific ride at a designated time, allowing you to skip the long line and get into a shorter line to get on the ride faster
- While you wait for your designated FastPass time, you can be eating, going on other rides, seeing other attractions, etc.
- Official Disneyland Photographers will take pictures with your phone or camera. I was glad to know about this because I would have been too afraid to ask them myself! They take pictures all day for free, so they know just where you should stand and how to take the best picture for you. They will take professional shots for you with their cameras, of course, but then you have to pay for the photos, and you don’t get to instantly upload it to social media so your friends can see how much fun you’re having!
- Downtown Disney is accessible to the general public without admission to the park. The shops and restaurants here are still part of Disney’s property, but they are outside of the park. We saw beautiful candied apples being made, browsed less crowded shops than those inside the park, and got breakfast to go at La Brea Bakery here so we could eat and get a good spot in line #1 before entering the park!
- You can bring food and drinks inside the park. Need to watch your spending? Have to eat a certain kind of food? Afraid of dehydration? Never fear! You are allowed to bring in food and drink from outside the park. You can even bring in a small cooler if necessary. Also, you can get a free cup of ice water at any of the restaurants in the park!
- People 14 and over cannot wear costumes. Bummer, right? The Disney folks don’t want kids to get confused if your costume looks too much like the characters who are being paid to be those characters. It’s best to leave the Tinkerbell outfit at home.
- Parking is $18 per day. This was just good information to be prepared for. Also, because we stayed at a Disneyland property and self-parked our rental car, we paid $18 for overnight parking… So we basically got two days’ worth of parking for the price of one! We went to the park both Friday and Saturday, but we only stayed at the hotel one night. Score for us.
- Extra Magic Hour. The Extra Magic Hour trades days between Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park. For instance, on Fridays the Extra Magic Hour happens at California Adventure Park, but lucky for us, Saturday morning Disneyland Park got the Extra Magic Hour. This meant an extra hour of us to ride rides and see the magic of Disneyland! This was included with our Grand Californian Hotel and Spa stay.
- The Jolly Holiday Bakery. This was our first stop in the park, and it was a favorite! The menu for lunch and dinner was medium-sized, but there was something for each of us, and we got our food quickly! The décor and ambience of Mary Poppins were delightful, and the dessert options—wow!
- The Yule Log. I heard all about the Yule Log before I went—it was on every Disneyland holiday blog as a must-have! We found them at the Plaza Inn, and not only was it beautiful to look at, it was delicious! It was soft, moist, and had the slightest flavor of coffee—yum!
- And speaking of Yule—it was Christmastime! I learned a few weeks before our trip that Disneyland decorated for Christmas starting November 10 this year. Much to my delight, we were already set to arrive on November 11! It really is beautiful, even thought Southern California didn’t feel much like Christmas being in the 80s both days we were there! The decorations, music, and feeling of Christmas made for an extra special weekend for us! I also read that the decorations stay up until mid-January!
Make sure you subscribe to Quick Whit Travel so you don’t miss my upcoming post about all the things I WISH I’d known before our trip! Coming soon!