**If you are looking for Disneyland tips, scroll down half way**
**There are roller coaster videos at the bottom**
When we moved to California, we knew that it was just a matter of time before we made the six hour drive south to Disneyland. We’ve wanted to take the lils for a few years, and this move gave us the nudge that we needed. The schools here are strict about missing classes for fun, so when we started planning this trip in November, we knew it would have to be on a school break. Last week was that week, so early Sunday morning we piled in the car an started driving. We didn’t tell the lils where we were going, just that it would be an “overnight” trip.
We finally spilled the beans when we arrived in Anaheim and were about to check into the hotel. They were starting to get suspicious at this point because, as Goose pointed out, “six hours is a loooooong way for an overnight trip”. They were very excited about everything, especially after we walked to the parks to have a look around on Sunday night. We had three days in the parks planned, so we knew we’d have to make the most of the time there. Willy and I both did a little bit of reading on what to expect and dove in early Monday morning. It was a packed three days, with lots of good memories made.
It was so fun watching the lils move out of their comfort zones and try stuff that was new to them. Woo was identified as the secret spy on the Star Wars ride, which amused him greatly. Goose learned that she really likes carousel rides. They both went from overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, to navigating the fast pass system, lining up, and riding rides without Willy and I before we knew it. Willy got to spend time experiencing the parks with each lil on their own, which was great for all of them. I was super excited to learn that both lils really liked roller coasters, so I know I’ll have their company on the thrill seeking rides from now on. Overall, we liked Disney, but we didn’t LOVE Disney, and we are OK with that. We knew going in that the lils weren’t really on the Disney train. They have never really watched the movies, didn’t really get into any of the characters (save for the Star Wars ones), and don’t really want any of the mouse ears or princess dress paraphernalia. Disneyland, for us, was a good amusement park, albeit a really crowded one.
About half way through the week, we revealed the second part of our plan, that we were driving to Legoland for two more days of fun. Legoland was the perfect second stop for us; less crowded and slower in pace. We splurged and booked into the resort hotel, which was a huge hit. There were Lego creations AND loose Lego everywhere, and the rooms were Lego themed. We had two days there, and that almost wasn’t enough, even though the park is much smaller than Disney and all of the water attractions were closed. While there were rides and games at this park too, the biggest draw for all of us was the amazing collection of Lego creations that were scattered through out the park. We spent hours wandering around in awe of the mini cities and themed displays. I’d return there in a heartbeat.
As we pulled into the driveway after our really long ride home, Woo sleepily told his dad that this was the best vacation ever. It was the perfect end to our first adventure.
Tips for Disneyland and California Adventure
*There is no Wifi in either park, so make sure you have data on your phone. You are going to want it to keep in touch with others in your party, entertain you while you are in line, and use the disneyland app.
*Use the Disneyland App. It is actually really, really helpful. I was shocked that there were not more people using it, because it saves you loads of time. The key bits of information that the app provides include whether a ride is open or closed (including temporary closures – but without an estimate as to length); the current wait time, in minutes, for every ride; and the time frame that fast passes for that ride are being issued.
*Fast passes. Disneyland is in the process of adding a fee based fast pass system, but it is not in place yet, so… for those who don’t know, fast passes are available in limited number for the most popular rides. When you are holding a fast pass for a ride, it allows you to skip the bulk of the line-up for that ride. You generally save between 30mins and 120mins of waiting time, and often walk right on.
*The passes are available near the entrance to most rides, from machines that are marked “fast past distribution”. There are some exceptions to this – the fast passes for the Cars ride is in the Bugs Life area, and the ones for the Star Tours is by the Buzz Lightyear ride.
*When you get a fast pass, you typically can’t get another fast pass until the start time for the first fast pass that you are holding. So if you obtain a fast pass at 9:30AM that allows you to ride at 11:00AM, you can only get another fast pass at 11:00am (and you should do that, get the second fast pass before you ride the first ride). BUT if you pass is for more that two hours in the future, you will be allowed to get a new fast pass sooner. Look on the bottom of your fast pass, it tells you the time that you are first eligible to get another pass.
*There will also be at least one ride (possibly one per park) that doesn’t lock your fast pass, so you can hold a fast pass for it and get another pass instantly. When we were there it was the Buzz Lightyear ride, which we all liked, so we went on it often.
*You can get fast passes for all members in your group and have only a subset use them. We got four passes for some rides and the lils went twice, or in the case of the big roller coaster, I went solo multiple times.
*You can have multiple fast passes in each park, but pay attention to the times that you have to use them. If they overlap, it may be tricky to get from one park to the other in time.
*Plan the rides you sorta want, and plan the rides you really want. The most popular rides for our trip were Hyperspace Mountain and the Cars ride. They had the longest waits and were out of fast passes first. If you want these rides, get your fast passes for these first, even if it means you are riding it later in the day.
*Don’t stand in line for more than 30 minutes, for any ride. We went on a week where it was really crowded (not the most crowded it gets, but pretty close), and the waits for the popular rides were all over an hour (some were 2.5 hours!), but we never waited for more than 30 minutes by paying attention the fast passes and the wait times listed on the app.
*Rides randomly shutdown, especially the roller coaster rides. Once they are shut down, they often have to go through many security checks, so they are shut down for a while. Don’t save any ride as a special ride. If you are there and it is available, get on it.
*Bring a lunch. The food in in the parks is expensive and not great. We packed a full lunch and snacks every day and were never questioned.
*The exception to the food thing is the Dole Whip. Have a dole whip. Have a dole whip float. Every day.
*When you go in to Disneyland, go left. Everyone heads right to Tomorrow land. Going left takes you to the Indiana Jones ride, Big Thunder Mountain and the Haunted mansion. You can get a fast pass for one, ride the all three then use your fast pass all within the first hour if you are organized.
*The “magic morning” is available for both parks, but it is not all that magic – not all the rides are open and you can’t get fast passes, so the line ups for fast passes when the machines do open are actually really long. Ditto for the rides. It does let you get *into* that line before the rest of the crowd, though.
*Pay attention to the park opening hours. In addition to the magic morning, the times vary by day and by park. If you go on a day when the magic morning for one park is the same as the open time for the other park, expect long lines for both security and getting in to the parks.
*Find out what nights the parade and the fireworks are. They aren’t held every night. We found the parade to be OK, but the fireworks were really good.
Big Thunder Mountain