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Disneyland Tips for First-Timers

In a few weeks, I’ll be back home, in Disneyland, with some of my favorite people in the world (I’m talking about my family), but there will also be a member in our party who hasn’t been to Disneyland in over ten years; she hardly remembers the last time she was there (which in my book, is a crime). Although I’m looking forward to the sound of the Dapper Dans singing oldies on Main Street and the smell of musty wood from Pirates of the Caribbean (that would make an exquisite perfume as I’ve said so many times before) and the taste of the monte cristo sandwich from Café Orleans, I’m more than anything looking forward to experiencing Disneyland through her eyes, as she will be seeing the park for the first time in a long time. Frequent visitors of the park could learn a lot from first timers (or those who hardly ever visit). Watching someone experience the park for the first time will no doubt be a magically wonderful experience. To ensure that all of you first-timers (and almost first-timers) experience your Disneyland vacation to the fullest, allow me to enlighten you of my top tips for first-timers to the park.

#1: Don’t Watch Disneyland Videos Before You Go

I know, it’s weird that my first tip is telling you something not to do, but it makes a lot of sense, believe me! The world that we live in is saturated with Facebook posts and YouTube videos. There are thousands of YouTube videos just in Disneyland alone. If you truly want to experience Disneyland for the first time, resist temptation and don’t look up any videos of the park, especially ride-throughs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the willpower to even follow my own advise. The day that Cars Land opened, I searched for ride-through videos of the new E-ticket attraction, Radiator Springs Racers. Although it was exciting to see the new ride in the video, the moment when I rode it for the first time wasn’t as special because I knew everything that was happening. However, when Soarin’ Around the World opened last year, my sister and I made a pact that we wouldn’t watch any videos of the new ride. So when we rode it for the first time months after it had opened, it was truly the first time we’d ever experienced the ride, and it couldn’t have been more magical.

#2: Stay in a Disneyland Resort Hotel

I know how controversial this topic can be. Many people believe that staying on property is too expensive, and frankly, not worth it. My family doesn’t even stay on property anymore because we’ve found a reliable hotel that suites our needs while we’re in Anaheim. However, if you truly want a magical first experience, only the Disney hotels can deliver an experience like that. Staying on property guarantees that you’re completely immersed into the Disney experience from the day you arrive to the dreaded day when you travel back home. There are three resort hotels, all in various price ranges. If you can’t possibly afford staying on property, at least walk through the lobby of the Disneyland hotel once during your vacation. There’s a plethora of vintage Disneyland photos and merchandise memorabilia surrounding the lobby that is very interesting to look at.

#3: Purchase a Hat

It’s absolutely imperative that you purchase some form of Disneyland merchandise during your vacation so that you can have something to remember the trip by. I recommend purchasing the famous Mickey ears. The ears have evolved over the years, and there’s now a plethora of styles you can choose from. There are even headband ears for the ladies for those who prefer not to wear a Mickey ears hat. Wearing Mickey ears always makes me feel completely immersed into the Disneyland experience. Frankly, I don’t feel like I’m in Disneyland unless I’m wearing my ears. It has become a ritual that I love taking part in. I recommend purchasing ears the day you arrive in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney. If you would like to purchase ears in the park, check out the Emporium on Main Street or the Mad Hatter’s Hat Shop in Fantasyland.

#4: Get a Pin from City Hall

As I’ve said before, the free pins available to guests at Disneyland can make your Disney experience even the more magical. If it’s your first visit, I highly recommend getting a “First Visit” pin from city hall. Not only is the pin a great souvenir for your first visit, and not only is the pin completely free, the cast members will make your first visit all the more magical because now they’ll know it’s your first visit. They’ll make you feel at home and welcome you into the Disney family while wearing the pin.

#5: Get a Dole Whip and a Mickey Shaped Treat

There’s food at Disneyland that you can’t find at any theme park. Sure, Disneyland has the popcorn and the churros and the hotdogs (which for the record, are all the best at Disneyland compared to other theme parks), but there are treats that guests can only find at Disneyland. One of these treats is the Dole Whip in Adventureland. What is a Dole Whip, you may ask? The short answer; it’s God’s gift from Heaven. In all seriousness, it’s actually pineapple soft serve that can be served alone as just the ice cream, or as a float with pineapple juice. It doesn’t sound as fabulous as it actually is; you’ll just have to try it. It’s so good that I’ve heard of people who hate pineapple but who absolutely love the Dole Whip. And here’s a pro tip for ya that I’ve probably told you before (but there’s nothing wrong with telling you again): hop in the line on the Tiki Room side instead of the line outside the attraction as it’s always a lot shorter; you don’t even have to stay and see the tiki show to get in the line. Another treat that is only available in Disney parks is all of the Mickey-shaped treats. To give you a few suggestions, there’s the Mickey shaped waffles (found at Carnation Café and Plaza Inn), Mickey shaped caramel apple (found at the Candy Palace), Mickey shaped Rice Krispies treat (also found at Candy Palace), Mickey shaped soft pretzel (found at Bengal Barbeque), and the famous premium Mickey shaped ice cream bar (found at most food carts throughout the parks). It’s not a Disneyland vacation until you bite off Mickey’s ear, eating one of his classic treats.

#6: Visit with a Character

Disney characters can take your Disneyland experience from magical to extremely magical. I recently visited with Chip and Dale for the first time in years, and I was reminded why I used to be so obsessed with the characters. Of course you can’t beat meeting any of the fab five (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald), but there are a few characters in Disneyland who engage with the guests on a more personal level. I recommend catching up with the Mad Hatter and Alice, Peter Pan, Gaston, Dr. Facilier, Tiana, and Anastasia and Drizella. These characters have big personalities and some of their magical spirit will surely rub off on you.

#7: Take a Roundtrip on the Monorail

The Monorail is a classic Disney attraction that many guests forget about. The Monorail in Disneyland has two stops: Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland. Personally, I don’t like riding the Monorail into the park from Downtown Disney because I love entering the park “the old fashion way” walking through the turnstiles and meandering down Main Street. However, I recommend that on the first day of your vacation, you head to Tomorrowland and board the monorail for a roundtrip. The trip shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes. Not only is it a good way to rest your feet, it will help you get a good lay of the land while listening to the announcer rattle off classic Disneyland facts.

#8: Not-to-Miss Attractions

In all honesty, all of the attractions in Disneyland are top-of-the-line. But there are classic Disney attractions that aren’t even comparable to other theme park rides. These include Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World, Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Jungle Cruise, the Tiki Room, Soarin’ Around the World, and Radiator Springs Racers. Disney does one thing differently from other theme parks when it comes to attractions. Disney loves to tell good stories in an immersive way. You’ll see what I mean if you ride any of these classic Disney attractions.

#9: Eat at Least One Sit Down Meal

A sit down meal constitutes as anything that includes a waiter or waitress bringing you your food. When most people think of theme park food, sit-down restaurants don’t normally come to mind, but Disney does meals differently from other theme parks. They hire top-of-the-line chefs from all over the world to work in their world-class restaurants. The only way to experience this delicious Disneyland cuisine is to eat at a sit-down meal. It’s a relaxing way to end your day. I highly recommend making a reservation 60 days in advance (check out my third tip in this blog post to see how to make a reservation). Some resort restaurants that I recommend are Carnation Café, Café Orleans, Tortilla Joes, River Bell Terrace, Carthay Circle, Storyteller’s Café, and Wine Country Trattoria.

#10: See a Show

The shows at Disneyland are world-class productions. Even the daytime shows are something that you could easily see on Broadway. I recommend that you see at least one daytime show and one nighttime show during your stay. For daytime shows, I recommend Mickey and the Magical Map or Frozen: Live at the Hyperion. Mickey and the Magical Map is a magical compilation of some of Disney’s famous songs from the movies. Complete with characters and confetti, it’s sure to put a smile on your face. Frozen: Live at the Hyperion is a new show in Disney’s California Adventure. This show could easily be found on Broadway; it’s truly a masterpiece. If you’re planning on viewing Frozen: Live at the Hyperion, arrive in California Adventure early to reserve your seats with Fastpasses. For nighttime spectaculars, you can’t go wrong with the fireworks or the Electrical Parade (the parade is back for a limited time so check it out before it leaves in June!). Be sure to arrive at least a half hour early to view any nighttime spectaculars, as they are extremely popular. Nevertheless, a Disney performance is a great way to end your perfect day at Disneyland.

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