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Tips for Conquering the Disneyland Resort

Not to brag or anything, but I’d be a pretty amazing Disneyland tour guide (referred to as “plaids” in Disneyland, but apparently that’s an offensive term, so don’t tell anyone that I told you that). I’ve been going to Disneyland for as long as I can remember, and since then, my obsession for the place has only grown. I have a huge stack of Disneyland books in my room that I’m constantly reading, and I follow several Disney YouTubers that always educate me on the most recent Disneyland news. Needless to say, I’ve racked up a good resume of tips and tricks over the years that I’d like to share with you. So without further ado, here are my top tips (in no particular order) when visiting the Disneyland Resort.

#1: Get Fastpasses

New Disneyland guests might not realize that the Fastpass system is a free service that Disneyland offers. Fastpasses can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend waiting in lines, and many people don’t know that you can have two maybe even three Fastpasses at once. If the return time for your Fastpass is over two hours from the time you got it (for example, if you got a Fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers at 8:30 am but it’s not good until noon), you’re allowed to obtain another Fastpass. Disneyland recently started offering Fastpasses for shows such as World of Color and Fantasmic (unfortunately, Fantasmic won’t be back until Star Wars Land opens). With this new system, it is imperative that you get a Fastpass for these shows that you wish to see. You can still get Fastpasses for attractions while possessing a Fastpass for World of Color. Also a side note: cast members use to be flexible with Fastpasses. As long as you returned to the ride the same day you got the Fastpass, they didn’t really mind. Now though, cast members are strict that you return only during the return time on your Fastpass.

#2: Stay in hotels within walking distance

Many guests prefer to stay in off-property hotels that are a short driving distance from the parks because they are cheaper than resort hotels. Although that is true, Disneyland parking is extremely pricy. Plus, driving to and from the parks everyday wastes a good amount of time that you could be spending in the parks. Disneyland has three resort hotels, all in different price ranges that are a ten-minute walk to the parks. There is also a plethora of off-property hotels that are within walking distance. My family loves the Candy Cane Inn which is a short walk to the esplanade. Plus, we have a perfect view of the backside of Cars Land which is pretty cool. My dad especially loves staying at the Candy Cane Inn because he doesn’t have to worry about driving around in the southern California traffic since we walk everywhere.

# 3: Make reservations, I’m begging you!

Whenever I go to Disneyland, I see so many people’s day ruined because they don't make reservations. So many people are furious when a cast member at their favorite restaurant tells them that they’re only taking reservations. It will save you stress and agony if you would make reservations before your vacation. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance. Simply go onto the Disneyland website and under “things to do” click “make reservations”. From there, you can browse the various food options. You can only make reservations at table service restaurants. Once you find a restaurant that you want to make a reservation at, click on the restaurant and on the right side of the screen, enter in the date, time, and party size. The website will then tell you which reservations are available for that time.

#4: Don’t spend your money on snacks and water

Unlike most theme parks, Disneyland allows guests to take in water bottles and snacks (take that Universal and Six Flags!). So, if you don’t want to spend extra money on snacks, bring them along. If you want to be really frugal, bring along a sack lunch. There’s a lovely grass area next to the Disneyland entrance complete with picnic tables that is the perfect lunch spot. If you forgot to bring in a water bottle, don’t buy water in the park; it’s extremely overpriced. Instead, head to a quick service restaurant such as Rancho Del Zocalo or Pizza Port and fill up the biggest cup they have with water; it’s completely free. However, if you did bring a water bottle, fill up at one of the filtered water stations around the park. There is one at Tomorrowland Terrace and another at Rancho Del Zocalo.

#5: Go to Downtown Disney the day you arrive

My family normally spends three days in the parks and one of those nights, we used to spend shopping in Downtown Disney. We realized that we’d rather be spending that time in the park since we paid to be in the park that day. So, last time we were there, we did all of our Downtown Disney shopping the day we arrived in Anaheim. That way, we got all of our shopping out of the way without wasting time we could have spent in the park. Plus, we got to wear our new Disneyland merchandise during our vacation.

#6: Get special occasion pins at Town Hall

I never really experienced how magical Disneyland pins can be until I celebrated my 16th birthday in Disneyland, and my mom got me a pin for the special day. The pins from Town Hall are free; cast members have various pins for many special occasions. The most famous pins are birthday pins, and there are even “celebration” pins where guests can write on the pin what they’re celebrating that trip. The whole day I was wearing my birthday pin, cast members and even other Disneyland guests continuously wished me “happy birthday”, and I got a free dessert at all of the restaurants we went to without even asking because they knew it was my birthday. The cast members really do a fantastic job of making you feel special, no matter what you’re celebrating.

#7: View shows from creative viewpoints

My family always used to view the fireworks from Main Street and the parade from the curb on the parade route. Recently, we started viewing the shows at different viewpoints, and it became a completely new experience. We viewed Paint the Night Parade from the top of the Main Street Train Station. It was a lot less crowded up there, and we could see the whole parade coming down Main Street. We saw everything from a bird’s eye view, and it was really a magical experience. The last time my family was in Disneyland, we viewed the fireworks from the top of the Mark Twain Riverboat. The Mark Twain will be docked until Star Wars Land opens so this viewpoint will only last until then (because they’d normally put the Mark Twain away at night). Again, there weren’t a lot of people on the Mark Twain so we got a perfect view of the fireworks blasting over Thunder Mountain. The music from the show even projects throughout Frontierland from The Golden Horseshoe.

#8: Ride Peter Pan’s Flight after the fireworks

Remember when I told you to view the fireworks from a creative viewpoint? You remember? Okay, good. Because the night you want to ride Peter Pan’s Flight, I want you to stand near King Arthur’s Carousel during the fireworks (the Fantasyland dark rides will be roped off during this time) and immediately when the cast members remove the rope after the fireworks, hustle your butt to the Peter Pan line. Because this is one of the most popular attractions in Disneyland, and because it doesn’t offer a Fastpass, this is the best (and sneakiest) way to ride this E-ticket attraction for a short wait time.

#9: Go to Café Orleans for the Monte Cristo

Sure, the Monte Cristo could cause me to have heart issues down the road (after all, it is a deep fried, powdered sugar covered grilled cheese), but it’s an absolute must when visiting Disneyland. There are two places in the park that serve this sandwich from Heaven: The Blue Bayou and Café Orleans. The Blue Bayou is a restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction while Café Orleans sits in New Orleans Square with a perfect view of the Rivers of America. At The Blue Bayou, the Monte Cristo is $28 while at Café Orleans, the exact same sandwich is $20. So, if you just want to indulge in this delectable sandwich, get it from Café Orleans; it’s almost a third of the price you’d pay for it at The Blue Bayou. There’s no difference between the two sandwiches; the sandwich just sounds fancier at The Blue Bayou because it’s called “Le Special de Monte Cristo Sandwich” while at Café Orleans it’s simply “Monte Cristo Sandwich”. Ha, Disneyland can’t fool us with their fancy sounding French words!

#10: Use California Adventure entrance from the Grand Californian Hotel

My family always likes to eat at least one dinner during our vacation at Storyteller’s Café which is located in the Grand Californian Hotel. If you plan on eating lunch or dinner at one of the resort hotel restaurants or in Downtown Disney, consider entering California Adventure through the Grand Californian Hotel. Technically, this entrance is only for hotel guests. But we’ve never been asked to show a room key or anything showing that we’re staying at the Grand Californian. There is never a line to enter the park, and it spits you out by Grizzly River Run. It’s a great entrance if you’re cutting it close for your World of Color Fastpasses (which my family has done one too many times).

#11: Ride the Matterhorn using single rider

Many of the E-ticket attractions such as Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin’, and Splash Mountain offer single rider which means that you go in a separate line (that is normally a lot shorter than the regular line), and you will be placed wherever there is an open spot on the ride. It’s extremely time efficient to use the single rider if you don’t mind being split up from your party. My sister and I really like riding single rider on the Matterhorn because they are always looking for single riders and because you don’t sit in pairs on the attraction anyway (you sit in a single row), so it’s not like you’d be sitting next to a stranger. Last time, the wait was 45 minutes in the regular line but we waited no more than 10 minutes for single rider. If you’re not sure where the single rider line is, ask a cast member working on that attraction. For the Matterhorn, go to the front of the ride and where the line is being split between the Tomorrowland and Fantasyland sides; there will be a cast member there handing out single rider tickets, and this is where you would enter the ride.

#12: Let the Disney wind take you where it pleases

Up until recently, I was obsessed with riding as many attractions as possible in a day. However, I failed to realize that the best parts of my day were the times when I wasn’t riding the attractions. I’m not saying that the rides aren’t amazingly wonderful, because they are. I’m saying that there are experiences at Disneyland that can’t compete to the attractions. I’m talking about riding the horse drawing streetcar while the Dapper Dans serenade you down Main Street, relaxing in the animation building and watching the screens around you act out your favorite Disney songs, going on a treasure hunt around Fantasyland with Peter Pan, and watching Radiator Springs come to life with neon lights at twilight. Disney is magical because of the unique memories that are created, and these unique opportunities can’t be experienced unless you let the Disney wind take you wherever it pleases. In other words, don’t rush and don’t’ be in a hurry to mark off another attraction on your list. Instead, stop to listen to the Disneyland band when you hear them coming down Main Street, and when you see a character wandering aimlessly around the park, wander along with them. Let the magic of Disneyland decide how you spend your day, not your “to do” list.

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