Monday, March 3, 2014

tips and tricks for disneyland...

i couldn't pass up posting about our second day at disneyland, including some tips and tricks we picked up along the way.  growing up so close to disneyland, we spent days there with out of town visitors, middle school band, high school choirs and field trips.  working there (read more here) i learned some of the tips that a lot of people over look.

starting with the start of your day, the best tip i've found is arriving early.  if the park opens at 9am, you are able to go into the park and head down main street about an hour early for some early morning souvenir hunting, picture taking and getting prepped to be some of the first people in the park.  however, there is the extra magic hour, for those staying in a disneyland hotel, that allows guests to enter the actual park an hour early.  arriving early allows you to hit those rides that are #1 on your list.  peter pan, a crowd favorite, is always packed with at minimum 45 minute wait- i love hitting that ride first.  

if you do pick up some souvenirs before your day starts (or anytime throughout the day) you can have your bags held at the newsstand at the entrance of main street.  if you're staying in a disneyland hotel room you can have them delivered for no additional charge.

before you venture into the park, make sure you hit up city hall for pins and buttons.  the collecting of all things pins has taken off like crazy.  our girls go nuts for anything they can collect, compare and keepsake.  you can pick up a button to celebrate and number of occasions- birthdays, first visits, graduations, anniversaries, just married, you name it, there is a pin, and each one is for free!  wearing a button gets you some extra attention in the park- especially from the characters!

so your day is started and you're ready to go.  keep up to date with park capacity, wait times, closed attractions and a digital map with several different iphone and android apps.  my personal favorite is mouse wait.  i love the immediate update on rides, characters and parades and planning our day correspondingly.  it saves us from walking across the park to find that the jungle cruise has an hour long wait and then having to walk all the way back for a spin on the carousel.  (ps- did you know you can ask for a jungle cruise map?  it's so cute!)

if you spot a ride that is a can't miss, but has a killer line, you can always grab a fastpass.  fast pass is a printed ticket with an appointment to ride at a later time in the day.  you can get a limited number of fast passes per entry ticket, so get them early and plan your day accordingly.  find more details, restrictions and which rides offer them here.  the fastpass line for the cars land racers was still over 45 minutes.  if riding together isn't a necessity, you can get through the racers line in a fraction of the time if you're willing to be a single rider.  

aside from fast passes, they also have stroller passes.  gracie is now tall enough for almost every ride in the park, but maddie is 6 inches too short.  a stroller pass allows matthew and gracie to wait in line and ride.  as they exit, they can ask a cast member for a stroller pass.  they'll pass that to me and i can then be ushered to the front of the line to ride (often times i can take gracie along with me if she wants to ride again.)  this allows me to take maddie on something suitable for her instead of wasting time in line.

when it comes to rides, it's always worth it to prepare kids if there will be attractions unopened during your visit.  you can check which rides are scheduled to be closed here.

there are bound to be moments of your day when your whole group needs a little downtime.  we love taking the disneyland railroad.  the just over 20 minute ride offers shade, a pretty comfortable seat and time to kick back.  great for the whole group, or even just one toddler who maybe needs some one on one calm down time (because you know in a large group there is guaranteed to be one!). 

after all those rides you're bound to be hungry.  if you've packed a lunch, you can find all the available picnic areas here.  if you'll be picking up lunch in the park, i recommend the hungry bear restaurant.  i love the fried green tomato sandwich (it should be noted that i don't even really like tomatoes that much!) but mostly the short lines.  it's tucked in a corner right by splash mountain.  the tables are shaded by a pine forest, and as a bonus you can get the best lemon cupcake for dessert!

if you're more into corn dogs (but really, they are the best corn dogs ever) you can get those on main street in the red wagon.  you can also see the whole list of food options throughout the park here.

we are big fans of snacks.  we open up the snacks and allow them to eat in-between meals.  our snacks are always healthy (pretzels and humus dip, fruit, veggies, sandwich, etc.) and a good balance if you're thinking of dessert (or an extra corn dog).  make sure you check out the ice cream on main street- they're cookies and cream is the best of the best.

for those who are bringing along a baby- disneyland can be a tough day.  luckily, (and not widely known) they have a great child care lounge stocked with far more than most would expect.  located on main street, as well as another in california adventure, the lounge features changing tables, microwaves for heating bottles, a private nursing area, high chairs, a tv and on-site shopping for anything you forgot (formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, medication and binkies.) i mean, that is all pretty amazing!

now that everyone is rested and changed, it's a great time to hit up all the characters.  mickey, minnie, donald, daisy, pluto and goofy can often be found on main street right around the round-about.  if you catch them walking out you can snag a quick picture with a great background (plus great lighting!) if they are being swarmed, you can always head back to toontown, where you can tour mickey and minnie's house and visit with them at the end.  toontown empties out at night and it's a great time to visit- or early in the morning.

we waited an hour to see tinkerbell and her fairy friend, fawn.  while in line i was questioning how worth it it was.  i have to say, i would wait again with no hesitation.  pixie hollow allows for more private one-on-one time with the character.  the set is darling and tinkerbell went above and beyond with the girls.  the current princess meet and greet (the fantasy faire) has been said to be equally as great.  if you're opting to not wait in line to greet characters but still want the chance to see them, i recommend the mickey's soundsational parade.  it runs twice a day, starting at 4pm.  we snagged a seat right on the curb on main street and had an amazing view of all the characters.  the characters work to wave and make eye contact with as many kids as possible.  i thought they did a great job and felt it was more than worth it to see.  if you don't want to deal with the hustle and bustle of main street, you can catch it along the way, starting at it's a small world.  

you can check with a cast member about other characters.  keep in mind that if they tell you that snow white is coming out at 2pm, that she'll be out for 45 minutes (barring extreme weather) and then she'll head back to "check on the dwarves", "make a gooseberry pie", "have a tea party", etc. for 15 minutes.  keep close by when they leave and you'll be first in line when they come back.  

hopefully these tips will help you get the most out of your day at disneyland.  thank you so much for reading!

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