Atomic Redhead’s Disneyland Tips
June 2019 NOTICE: This post is somewhat out of date. I am planning an updated guide sometime in the summer or fall of 2019. Once a new guide is created, I will post a link to it, which will replace this current line of text. However, I have tried to make updates to this post. So look for those!
You asked for it! Here it is! Finally! My tips and inside info on visiting Disneyland!
First, I should say my tips are, for the most part, for groups or couples without children. (This isn’t to say I’m anti-children. I just haven’t visited with kids, since, well, I don’t have any) These tips are best for like a gal pal group trip or one with your significant other. Second, this is going to be a massively detailed and lengthy post. It should also be mentioned that I am writing this in the now.* So, what I say today could be different in just a few months. This is mostly due to the fact that Disneyland is not just in the midst of celebrating its 60th anniversary, but also massive changes, with the upcoming addition of the new Star Wars themed land. You will see this continually affecting things I mention.
So…planning a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth soon? Read on!
*I have tried, key word “tried,” to make updates to major things over the years, be please stay tuned for a new guide in 2019.
I think the biggest tip I can give right off the bat is that you should ask yourself what your priorities are. How important are rides? Characters? Fireworks? Specific dining experiences? Some people don’t care to eat at the Resort, while food is huge for other people. Some don’t care at all for meeting characters, for others, it’s one of their main reasons for visiting. No matter what your preference is, it’s all okay! Disneyland offers a lot! Some people like to choose days to focus on specific things. Like one day ride as many attractions as possible, then the next focus on meeting as many characters as possible.
Another extremely helpful thing you can do for yourself is to visit Disneyland’s calendar before your visit. There you can see park hours, showtimes, and even planned attraction closures (i.e.: maintenance). Also, check out the Disney Parks Blog. Reading up on both of these will let you know of any special events, such as Annual Passholder parties, Cast Member events, marathons, or anything else that could affect your visit. The “off season” (typically January-April, with a few exceptions during Spring Break, and September-early December) is very popular for adults without children to visit the Resort, as they can take time off without having to take children out of school. Many people recommend visiting during the off season because, typically, it is less crowded. However, it is also when the Resort does a lot of maintenance, and less attractions may be open. The same goes for weekdays The middle of the week is a nice time to go, however some shows and experiences may not be available. This is why checking the Resort calendar can be helpful.
Recently Disneyland created an app that can be downloaded for those with an iPhone or Android. The app is super helpful. I put this in the “Know before you Go” area so you can download it ahead of time, which allows you to explore the app a bit before your visit, which means you can to know it so you aren’t frantic trying to figure it out while at the park. The app offers attraction wait times, character locations, restaurants, and even restroom locations, along with so much more! Recently, the Disneyland Resort added wi-fi, so the app won’t eat too much of your data.
The Disneyland Resort is home to two theme parks; Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (aforementioned as DCA). So, when purchasing a ticket (either on-line, through a travel company, or at the Resort), be aware of the various types of tickets. Some tickets only get you into one park. Other tickets get you into one park per day. “Park Hopper” tickets allow you to visit both parks on the same day. Info on how to book your visit and where to stay will be discussed at the end.
*June 2019 Update: MaxPass is an add-on item you can purchase with your ticket, and will be covered in my 2019 updated guide. Until then, read about it on the Disneyland website here.
Upon arrival know that you and your bags are subject to inspection. Various items are prohibited. For a list, click here. You will also be expected to go through a metal detector. You can opt out for health reasons, and are given a different sort of inspection. The biggest no-no are selfie sticks. They were allowed, then banned strictly on rides, but people kept pulling them out and causing problems. Seriously, rides were going down left and right after these puppies became popular, and it was having a really terrible impact on attractions and Guest experiences, so the Resort banned them completely.
Be sure to grab both a map and an entertainment guide (maps are glossy, multi-colored, entertainment guides are just white with colored text) upon going through the turnstiles at each park. These are your best friends. They inform you of attraction heights, if a Fastpass is offered (more on that in a bit), parade and fireworks times, and much more. Entertainment information can also be found within the Disneyland app.
When you first enter either Disneyland or DCA, the Cast Member at the turnstile will take your photo, and it will pop up each time you go through the gates. This prevents Guests from purchasing multi-day tickets and sharing them with others. Because of this, lines to get into the parks in the mornings can be slow going.
You may find you need a locker for your visit. Lockers vary in price, depending upon the size, and start at $7.00. The rental lasts all day, and you can access your stuff as many times as you wish. Lockers are located in Downtown Disney (more on that later) in the picnic area, in the esplanade (the area between Disneyland and DCA) just to the left of Disneyland’s main gates, and to the left of DCA’s main gates, inside Disneyland midway down Main Street on the right, and inside DCA, just a little ways in and to the right. Larger lockers tend to sell out very early and lockers can sell out completely on very busy days, so if you have a lot, consider it being your very first stop of the day. Keep in mind that typically DCA closes before Disneyland, and if you choose to rent a locker at DCA, you will need to retrieve your items before DCA closes. There are also phone charging lockers, however there are very few. These types lockers are only located inside Disneyland’s locker location. The Resort also offers Fuel Rod machines at various locations throughout the park, where you can purchase and/or exchange Fuel Rod batteries.
If riding attractions is at the top of your list, hit the “big” ones first, or, if the attraction offers, get a Fastpass.
What is a Fastpass? Fastpass is virtual wait system, and it’s free. Not all attractions offer Fastpass though. Attractions that do offer it will have an “FP” icon next to them on the attraction list on the map. Each attraction that offers Fastpass showcases a board with the current Fastpass return time (so if you were to get one at that moment, you would return during the time displayed), which is an hour long window. So, if that time frame appeals to you, go to a Fastpass machine for that attraction, insert your Resort ticket and you will receive a Fastpass ticket for that time frame (remember to take your Resort ticket too). Printed near the bottom of your Fastpass is the time when you can get another one. So, while you are waiting for your return time, go and enjoy other attractions, usually it’s best to visit the ones that do not offer Fastpass.
*UPDATE: The Disneyland Resort made some changes, and now the paper slip that prints out is your reminder, not your actual Fastpass. After you insert your ticket into the Fastpass machine, the Fastpass is digitally loaded onto your ticket, and when your time frame is open, you scan your ticket at the small scanners at the Fastpass entrance to the attraction.
So, what are the “big” attractions? Indiana Jones Adventure, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Splash Mountain (on hot days), Star Tours, and Space Mountain in the Disneyland Resort, each of these offer Fastpass. While not “big” as in “thrill ride”, like the others mentioned, Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice in Wonderland are also very popular, and can quickly reach wait times of 45 to 75 minutes, the later wait time being on extremely busy days, and these two Fantasyland attractions do not have Fastpass. Over in DCA, “big” attractions are Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Break out!, Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’ Over the World, Grizzly River Run (on hot days), and Toy Story Midway Mania, all of which offer Fastpass.
*June 2017 Update: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, as pictures above, is now gone, and has been replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Break Out!, based upon the Guardians of the Galaxy films. It opened in late May of 2017, and is extremely popular, with Fastpass tickets running out early in the day, and seeing wait times from 2-5 hours.
*June 2019 Update: MaxPass is a different way to approach the Fastpass system, however, unlike Fastpass, it costs money. I will cover MaxPass in my 2019 guide, however until then, please read about it on the Disneyland website here.
Radiator Springs Racers, built in 2012, is still very popular, and many Guests go right for the Fastpass distribution for this attraction upon entering DCA. Wait time for Racers can also reach two hours on busy days. Racers is unique in that its Fastpass distribution location is located quite aways away from the actual attraction. Upon walking into the park, continue straight, past the fountain, past Carthay Circle and it will be on the left.
*2019 Update: Racers Fastpass is now distributed within Carsland. Walk into Carsland, and take a right just past Flo’s and on your left will be mobile Fastpass machines. If these machines are not there, then Fastpass distribution has ended for the day.
Currently, neither the Mark Twain Riverboat or the Sailing Ship Columbia are sailing along the Rivers of America, but are are planning to reopen at the end of July, 2017. However, once they are up and running again, keep in mind that they are great to ride if you want to take a load off your feet for 15 minutes or so. At the moment, the Mark Twain is docked and available for Guests to explore as well as meet characters from The Princess and the Frog.
*July 2017 Update: Both the Mark Twain Riverboat and Sailing Ship Columbia are back up and sailing!
A variety of shows happen at the Disneyland Resort. Some are small and simple, others huge and spectacular. From street musicians to fireworks, Disneyland has it all.
In Disneyland the Royal Theatre is an example of a smaller show, in which tales from Disney films play out with with storytellers and usually two characters from the film. Currently they are telling the tale of Beauty and the Beast and Tangled (complete with Flynn, ladies!). The Fantasyland Theatre, which is currently showing Mickey and the Magical Map, is a larger show venue and includes characters, singing, dancing, and awesome visuals. It’s a great place to stop and rest your feet for 25 minutes or so. Previously, on select nights, the Rivers of America come alive with Fantasmic! which uses water screens, pyrotechnics and live characters to showcase the power of the imagination. However, Fantasmic! is currently unavailable as its venue is the Rivers of America, which is being affected by the Star Wars expansion. But it is slated to return in 2017.
Over in DCA there is the Hyperion Theatre, which is home to a live Frozen musical. In the evening Paradise Pier’s lake is home to World of Color, a nighttime show that uses water screens to project some of the most memorable moments from Disney films.
Each park also have what could be described as street entertainment that occurs periodically throughout the day, such as the Dapper Dans in Disneyland and Five and Dime or Red Trolly Newsboys in DCA. These very small pieces of entertainment prove to be a nice surprise over the course of your day, but are “small potatoes” in the grand scheme of things.
Some shows and other forms of entertainment only occur on specific days of the week, like when my brother and his girlfriend were visiting in February, Mickey and the Magical Map was only showing Friday through Monday. Showtimes for these live performances can also change day to day. This is why it is so important to grab that entertainment guide upon entering.
And how can we forget the fireworks? Disneyland’s current fireworks show, Disneyland Forever, is nothing short of breathtaking as it uses not just pyrotechnics, but also projections. Projections are viewable in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Main Street, and it’s a small world. The area in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and along Main Street fill up quickly, so if a front and center seat for the fireworks is at the top of your list, just know you may be sitting for awhile. If you are a huge Tinkerbell or Finding Nemo fan I’ll just say you want one of those spots in front of the castle. Please keep in mind that fireworks can be cancelled due to rain and/or wind.
*November 2016 Update: Disneyland has since ended its 60th anniversary celebrations, and has returned to its regular fireworks programing, with Fantasy in the Sky, except during the holiday season, when it shows Believe…In Holiday Magic.
*June 2019 Update: Disneyland has brought back its 60th fireworks, Disneyland Forever!
Both parks offer parades. Disneyland currently offers a daytime and nighttime parade. Mickey’s Soundsational Parade takes to the streets of Disneyland during the day, and showcases many beloved Disney characters and musical numbers. At night Paint the Night dazzles Guests with amazing lighted floats that harken back to the Main Street Electrical Parade. As Paint the Night arrived just last May, it is still very popular and seating fills up quickly along the parade route.
*November 2016 Update: Paint the Night was originally introduced as part of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, but was so successful it has returned and I believe will remain just as popular as it did before. During the holiday season Disneyland runs its Christmas Fantasy parade during the daytime.
*June 2017 Update: Paint the Night has been retired, but Disneyland has brought back the beloved Main Street Electrical Parade through August 20, 2017.
*June 2019 Update: Currently Disneyland is running only one parade, Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, which makes its way through the park during the daytime.
DCA offers the Pixar Play Parade, a Pixar themed parade where many of your favorite Pixar characters come out for a parade full of fun.
*June 2019 Update: Currently there is no parade offered at DCA.
On the maps of both parks you will observe a dotted line that curves its way through each park. These dotted lines indicate the parade route. So anywhere along that dotted line is a swell spot to see the parade.
It’s important to note that parades cause a traffic jam. I always recommend checking when the parades are early on in the day, and deciding pick a side of the park you wish to be on during the parade, as crossing parade traffic is never fun. It’s possible, but not something to do in a hurry, as there are only select moments during a parade when Guests are allowed to cross. The Disneyland Railroad used to be a swell way to move around the park during parades, but due to the construction of the new Star Wars themed land, the Disneyland Railroad isn’t operating. It is slated to reopen at the end of July, 2017.
*July 2017 Update: The Disneyland Railroad is back up and running!
Like with fireworks, parades are subject to weather as well, and can have altered versions of them, or have the parade cancelled altogether due to rain.
One of my favorite things about Disneyland is it is where your favorite characters come to life and you get to interact with them. Main Street USA is home to many of those lovable animated characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale. Sometimes Cruella De Vil makes an appearance as well. Know that characters rotate throughout the day, and some are only out during earlier portions of the day. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask a Character Host, you can spot these Cast Members as they wear large buttons featuring Mickey’s glove pointing. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto also hang out in their hometown of Toontown. Most of the princesses visit with Guests inside and outside Royal Hall, but they can sometimes be found just inside the main gates of Disneyland. Although Jasmine, along with Aladdin and Genie, are in Adventureland, and Princess Tiana is in New Orleans Square. Those wishing to see Tinker Bell and her fairy friends may visit with her in Pixie Hollow. And you can meet the stars of Star Wars (yes, pun intended) in Tomorrowland. Currently Darth Vader and Chewbacca are available for meet-and-greets and occasionally Boba Fett makes an appearance, all within the Star Wars Launch Bay. Winnie the Pooh and his lovable friends Tigger and Eyore enjoy meeting new friends in Critter Country. And a few characters run around on their own throughout Fantasyland, such as Peter Pan, Hook, Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the Evil Queen.
DCA is also home to characters. On Buena Vista Street Mickey and his friends, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy, are dressed to the nines. One of Walt’s earliest creations (before Mickey) was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and he loves welcoming Guests just inside the gates of DCA. Pluto is on patrol in Grizzly Peak Airfield, Chip and Dale cause chaos near the Eureka mill, and Russell and Dug from Up are right in front of the Wilderness Challenge Trail. Love Frozen? Anna and Elsa have a royal welcome at the Animation Academy, and Olaf is just across the way by Stage 17. Those who are fans of Spider-Man and Captain America can meet them at in Hollywood Land.
*June 2019 Update: Olaf has moved to join Anna and Elsa in the Animation Academy. It has been some time since I’ve seen Russell and Dug from Up. Recently Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde from Zootopia were added to the list of characters, and you can meet them near Ariel’s Under the Sea Adventure. Thor, Loki, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel have joined Spider-Man and Cap in Hollywood Land.
Characters are a lot of fun to interact with, and even though some do not speak, they can still express themselves really well. Mickey and the like will likely give you a thumbs up if you asked how they are doing. I love asking characters questions, like done day I asked Merida if her brothers had been giving her any trouble, and she told me all about how they ate her breakfast that day!
I also want to address the “Andy is coming!” suggestion that has floated around the internet for a long time. Previously, if a Guest shouted “Andy is coming!” while around Woody, Jessie and/or Buzz, they would fall to the ground. This doesn’t happen anymore for two reasons. First, too many people were doing it, and it caused a lot of delay in the meet-and-greet time for the characters, and therefore less Guests were able to meet the stars of Toy Story. Second, Woody and company no longer belong to Andy! They belong to Bonnie now. And I will tell you, a lot of Character Hosts will yell “He/She belongs to Bonnie now!” if you try to pull the “Andy is coming” stunt.
Once again, I highly recommend downloading the Disneyland app if you have an iPhone or Android device, as the app not only tells you of character locations, but of the times they are slated to be there!
You can also meet characters through Character Dining Experiences. More on that in the food section.
There is a lot to buy at Disneyland. Some of you may not be super into souvenirs, others, you just have to have something! I personally think something silly to wear on your head is a must. The shop, The Mad Hatter, which has two locations, one on Main Street and one in Fantasyland has many options, but really unique offerings can be found in other more specific areas. Like leopard or zebra print ears in Adventureland, and Spider-man or R2-D2 ones in Tomorrowland. Those wishing to feel like a princess can purchase character crowns at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Wanting some bling? Rhinestone crowns and tiaras can be found at either visit Crystal Arts on Main Street or Cristal D’Orleans in New Orleans Square.
Maybe the more practical type? I love the hand painted parasols found in New Orleans Square in Disneyland and along the Pier DCA. Just select your favorite Disney princess or villain and maybe a castle or set of balloons and they can hand-paint you a parasol that will be ready within a couple of hours. So, if it sounds like something you would like to have for the day or your extended visit, plan ahead and visit early.
Some souvenirs are costly, but not all are. My favorite souvenir is that of the pressed (or smashed) coin. Pressed coins have been a US souvenir since the 1893 World’s Fair, and Disneyland has plenty of them! Stop by City Hall or Chamber of Commerce and you can get a map of all of the current machines out at the Resort, and it will even tell you what type of coin the machines have. I’ll tell you right now, it’s not just pennies! Some machines press nickels, dimes and even quarters! Disneyland even sells booklets so you can display your collection proudly. I like to select the shiniest coins prior to my visit so the image will come out well.
Another unique and cheap souvenir is Shrunken Ned, a witch doctor located in Adventureland. Stop by and for 50 cents he will tell you your health and give you a printed prescription!
Another favorite, pretty inexpensive and very unique souvenir is at the Silhouette Studio. Starting at just $9.99 you can get your very own silhouette done and you get two copies. Most of the artists can also do pets, that is if you have a profile shot of your furry companion. You can also add on characters.
Disneyland even has free souvenirs! The most popular of these are the Resort buttons. If you’re visiting for a special occasion, there is a chance they have a button that! Celebrating your birthday? You can get a birthday button complete with your name on it! And those hanging out with your during your visit can get “I’m Celebrating” buttons. The Jungle Cruise attraction has maps that you can ask for upon exiting the attraction, a souvenir that you survived “the world famous Jungle Cruise!” Over in DCA there is the Animation Academy. Inside is a massive lobby with giant screens that showcase clips and concept art from various Disney animated movies. From this lobby Guests can find out which Disney character they are most like, talk with Crush the turtle, meet characters (currently its Anna and Elsa), and learn how to draw a Disney character. Guests get to draw a Disney character on paper printed just for the Animation Academy, and are a fun, unique and free souvenir! The lobby is also a nice place for a rest and get out of the heat.
I recommend doing your shopping at the end of your visit, whether you’re there for the day or a couple of days. If you’re there for the day, shopping at the end means you’ve really gotten to look at a lot, and you can just make your purchases and be on your way without having to get a locker. However some shops close early. Currently that would include all of the intense Star Wars merchandise located within Star Wars Launch Bay. If you do need to make a purchase right then and there, but don’t want to carry your item(s) or rent a locker, package check is available and free at select locations throughout the Resort. These locations can be found on park maps.
Stationed at prime photo spots and scattered throughout the Resort are PhotoPass photographers. These are Cast Members who can snap your photo with either your own camera or theirs or both! When a PhotoPass photographer takes your photo with their camera you are given a PhotoPass Card, and you can view the images at the PhotoPass locations (on the corner of Main Street near the Plaza Inn in Disneyland, or at Kingswell Photo Supply inside the Elysian Arcade in DCA) or on-line. You can purchase prints, digital downloads or personalized souvenirs, such as a mug.
*June 2019 Update: Digital Downloads of PhotoPass photos are part of Disney’s new MaxPass system. I plan to cover it in my 2019 guide, but until then, please visit Disneyland’s website to learn more here.
Disneyland gets a bad rap on its food, for both it being poor quality and expensive. You can save money and bring in your own food. However, ask yourself, do you want to haul around food? Or pay for a locker to store it? There are quite a few places where people can split meals as you get a lot of food. But check out some of my favorites, followed by vegetarian and kosher friendly locations, and more.
Price Guide (as described by Disney’s Dining page)
$ = $14.99 and under
$$ = $15.00 – $29.99
$$$ = $30.00 – $59.99
My Favs – Disneyland
Market House, Main Street USA. AKA Starbucks. Yes, get your Starbucks fix, including pastries, at the Happiest Place on Earth. $
Carnation Cafe, Main Street USA. This table service restaurant offers a nice breakfast, and the best burger at the Resort during the lunch and dinner hours. Reservations suggested. $ for breakfast, $$ for lunch and dinner.
Plaza Inn, Main Street USA. During the morning this place offers Character Dining (more on that later) with a breakfast buffet with Minnie. During the lunch and dinner hours though it is cafeteria style. I love getting the fried chicken, and I recommend splitting it, as it is three pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a biscuit. $$$ for Breakfast with Minnie, $$ for entrees during the lunch and dinner time periods.
Jolly Holiday, Main Street USA. Great for breakfast sandwiches (my favorite is the breakfast crescent), tomato soup and grilled cheese, and fun baked goods such as cupcakes and cookies. $
Maurice’s Treats, Fantasyland. A small snack cart located in the Fantasy Faire area. Serves up one of my favorite snacks and beverages, the Cheddar Garlic Bagel Twist and Boysen Apple Freeze. It’s possible to split the twist if you’re looking for a small snack. $
Bengal Barbecue, Adventureland. Small variety of meat and veggie skewers. The Pomegranate Piranha Lemonade is amazing. Portions are on the smaller side, so I don’t recommend splitting. $
Royal Street Veranda, New Orleans Square. Gumbo in bread bowls. Possible to split, especially if you want to eat the bread. Tip: If you really love sourdough, you can buy just the bread bowl itself, and it’s like $2.19. We do that sometimes and share the gumbo of one bowl. $
Cafe Orleans, New Orleans Square. This table service restaurant offers the famous Monte Cristo, which I highly recommend splitting, as it is huge! Also offers Mickey shaped beignets for dessert. Reservations suggested. $$
The Blue Bayou, New Orleans Square. The ambiance of this table service restaurant can’t be beat. You dine inside Pirates of the Caribbean along its water, and under a sky of forever night. The Monte Cristo is available here as well, though only during lunch. Reservations highly suggested. $$$
Mint Julep Bar, New Orleans Square. Your place to get Mickey shaped beignets on the go, as well as a fine, non-alcoholic mint julep. $
Stage Door Cafe, Frontierland and Corn Dog Cart, Main Street USA. These are the places to get the most delicious corn dog on the planet! $
My Favs – Disney’s California Adventure
Fiddler, Fife and Practical, Buena Vista Street. AKA Starbucks. Yep, there’s another one. $
Flo’s V8 Cafe, Cars Land. Variety of American fare. The ribs are fabulous! $
Cozy Cone, Cars Land. Visit one or all of the various Cones and snack on their offerings. I especially like the Chili Cone Queso (basically Frito Pie) and the pulled pork cone. $
Corn Dog Castle, Paradise Pier. You guessed it, another place to get an amazing corn dog! $
Churros, popcorn and ice cream bars can be found throughout the Resort at carts. $
Want to meet characters while you nosh? The Disneyland Resort offers multiple possibilities. I personally think the biggest bang for your buck, if you love classic characters, is Breakfast with Minnie at the Plaza Inn. Meet Minnie and her friends while enjoying a great breakfast buffet. But if princesses are more your thing then dine at Ariel’s Grotto in DCA and meet Ariel and her royal friends. You can learn about all of the character dining options by clicking here. Reservations are highly suggested.
It should be noted that there is no alcohol served in Disneyland Park (aside from Club 33, a members only-exclusive club, don’t ask me how to get in, I haven’t been), but is available in DCA at multiple locations, including beer, wine, and cocktails. It is also important to know that the alcohol you purchase in DCA must remain in DCA. The other day I saw a Guest attempting to leave DCA with an alcoholic beverage in his hand. You can also order alcohol at some of the restaurants inside the Disney hotels (I recommend Trader Sam’s) and Downtown Disney restaurants.
Vegetarian, Vegan, Kosher and Gluten Free Options
Many restaurants do offer options for those with specific needs. As Patrick and I are not of any of these groups, I cannot provide a deep or insightful look at these options and needs. I do have a wee bit of knowledge I can share though.
Vegetarian Friendly Locations
Tiki Juice Bar
Critter Country Fruit Cart
Hungry Bear Restaurant
Fantasyland Fruit Cart
Village Haus Restaurant
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante
Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe
Main Street Fruit Cart
Toontown Fruit Cart
Royal Street Veranda
Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port
Tomorrowland Fruit Cart
Disney California Adventure
Carthay Circle Restaurant
Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe
Cozy Cone Motel
Flo’s V8 Cafe
Wine Country Trattoria
Lucky Fortune Cookery
Pacific Warf Cafe
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta
Corn Dog Castle
Paradies Garden Grill
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante
Disney California Adventure
Carthay Circle Restaurant
I don’t have too much experience with vegan-friendly options at the Resort. However I have one friend who is vegan and loves Disneyland, so I asked her for some tips, and she recommended this post from The Vegan Cowgirl. I would like to mention that this post is already out of date, as it mentions Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, which closed earlier this year, and Condor Flats and the Taste Pilots Grill, which has transformed into Grizzly Peak Airfield and the Smokejumpers Grill.
*June 2019 Update: A more updated post from Vegans Don’t Bite can be found here.
It is my understanding that each restaurant has a gluten free option. It may not be printed on the menu, but you are able to talk to a Cast Member at the restaurant and ask what the gluten free options are. Gluten free dishes are then prepared in a separate area of the kitchen to avoid contamination, and often served on different colored dishes to avoid confusion for Guests.
*June 2019 Update: Some locations offer Mobile Ordering via the Disneyland app, which allows you to “skip the line” and typically wait less time for your food. You can learn more about Mobile Ordering on the Disneyland website here.
You can learn more about Disney’s dining, and all of their options by visiting the dining portion of their website here.
Boo-Boos and Other Aches and Pains
The Disneyland Resort does have first aid locations. At Disneyland Park it is located between the Plaza Inn and Photo Supply. In DCA, First Aid is located to the right of the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve stopped in on the rare occasion, when I needed a band-aid due to a blister, or I caught a headache and didn’t have anything on me. All Cast Members at First Aid are registered nurses.
I honestly hate to even discuss this, but I am going to, having had multiple negative experiences. Please use common courtesy when visiting the Resort, with both Guests and Cast Members alike. Please follow the rules. Rules are there for your safety and to provide the best experience for everyone. One big pet peeve I have is people talking during an attraction. I view attractions like a movie or play. It’s a show. So, if you must talk, try to whisper! Not everyone in the boat on Pirates wants to hear about your friend breaking up with her latest boyfriend. Seriously. And when it says “No flash pictures” there is a good reason. Bright flashes in dark attractions ruin the atmosphere, and thus creates an unpleasant experience for fellow Guests. By taking a flash picture you are being selfish, saying your photos are more important than the experiences of everyone else. And you may never know who you will be on an attraction with, it could be a family of five who has scrimped and saved for years to go for just one day and this may be their only time riding this attraction. You taking a flash picture will certainly spoil the mood.
If you haven’t kicked that habit of smoking, or use an E-cig or vape, you’ll need to use one of the smoking sections located throughout the Resort. These are marked on the maps. If you smoke outside of the designated locations you will be asked to stop and move to one of them.
Cast Members and the “I Don’t Know” Response
There is a lot of talk around the internet that Cast Members are not allowed to say “I don’t know.” That’s not true. Cast Members are encouraged to be honest about their knowledge level, and to attempt to seek out the answer if possible. But note, it can take awhile to get an answer, as they may need to call someone. Upon being cast at the Disneyland Resort, Cast Members are given a general rundown of the Walt Disney Company, and the Resort itself. Then each Cast Member goes onto the training for their specific role. For store operations, each day we were usually given a “Check In” prior to going on stage. This was a time dedicated to informing us of stuff that was going on at the Resort. However, on busy days when we were needed ASAP and a Check In was skipped. Beyond this Check In, our Cast Member info guides and the Cast Member magazine, Cast Members are not given anymore information. It is honestly up to them to stay as up to date as possible. Cast Members are people, just like you, many of which are students too, who juggle an ever changing work schedule and their coursework, and may not have time to know every single detail of what is happening at the Disneyland Resort. I simply ask that you be kind and patient with Cast Members.
Questions, Guest Concerns (aka complaints), Guest Compliments, Disability Access
If you have any questions visit City Hall in Disneyland, Camber of Commerce in DCA, or one of the Guest Information Locations located throughout the Resort. These are also your place to go to if you are wondering about disability access. If you were unfortunate enough to have a bad experience, this is also the place to give a complaint, or “Guest Concerns” as they are referred to. If you had an exceptional experience with a Cast Member you can give that CM recognition at these locations as well. Guest Compliments go on a Cast Member’s record and they receive a certificate. And seriously, they love getting them. My social media blows up when a CM friend gets one. It kind of makes their day.
What is Downtown Disney? Well, it’s like a mall. Yeah, I said it, a mall. It’s an outdoor shopping and dining experience. It’s where I go to get my Sephora and Patrick his Lego fix. But there is also the amazing Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, which has fabulous cajun and creole food, as well as beignets. There is also a Rainforest Cafe, Tortilla Joe’s, and ESPN Zone. If you drive to Disneyland and park in the Mickey and Friends parking structure, you will be dropped off in Downtown Disney.
Disney offers three unique hotel experiences. The Disneyland Hotel, the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, and Paradise Pier Hotel. Staying at the Disney hotel does have benefits, such as access to amazing pools, early entry to the parks, and more. But they do tend to be more expensive than staying at a regular, near-by hotel.
Where to Stay
For those not wanting to stay at a Disneyland Hotel, here are the following places I have stayed and enjoyed. All are within reasonable walking distance to the Disneyland Resort. But I do recommend checking a map to make sure it is a comfortable walking distance for yourself.
Tips on Booking
I am often asked what is the cheapest way to do Disneyland? How to snag cheap hotel rooms? Cheap tickets? Cheap airfare? And I’ll be honest, the travel area is not one where I seek out deals. Instead I seek out the easiest option, which is, in all honesty, booking through Disneyland themselves, using their website. They offer a very easy step-by-step process where you can book your hotel (either a Disney hotel or “Good Neighbor” hotel), Resort tickets, flights, transportation from the airport or rental car, and more, in one simple location and process. No need to call or use multiple websites for each individual item. Then, shortly before you depart, Disney sends you your vacation packet, complete with tickets, vouchers for your hotel and more.
If you are an AAA member, they do offer discounts for Resort tickets. Check your local AAA for more information.
One More Note
It’s extremely important to note that all of my notes, attraction availability, shows, characters, and prices, are all as off February/March of 2016, with some changes over the years. Anything can change at any time. As mentioned on nearly every piece of paper, from your ticket to your guide maps, everything is subject to change. I plan to make another guide in late summer or fall of 2019, and it will be linked to in this post. But I hope that I have been of some help to anyone planning on visiting the Disneyland Resort soon!
All photos were taken by either Patrick or myself.
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5 comments on “Atomic Redhead’s Disneyland Tips”
Thank you Janey. Being as I had family living in Anaheim when I was younger I was at Disneyland pretty much every time we visited. Things certainly have changed since I was a girl to even the last time I visited in 2010 with my daughter but I am still a child at heart and will always love the place. Thank you for the information as we will be visiting in the near future. Hope all is well with you and Patrick. Tami The Foundation From Billie to Bettie Portland Oregon
Great and super informative post Janey! I’ll be visiting the park in mid March and will definitely be getting my silhouette cut! I never knew you could have that done 🙂 I’ve already got my Blue Bayou reservations and have been saving up for all that delicious Star Wars merch <3
What an excellent, thorough post. Thank you for the time, thought and detailed tips you put into this piece. As someone who has never been to Disneyland, I lapped up this fascinating info and am sure that if I ever go, it will prove hugely helpful.
Big hugs & happy weekend wishes!
*PS* My new computer finally arrived at the end of last week. Yay! 🙂
Just a quick tip. If you didn’t get reservations for Carnation Cafe, but can’t resist the siren song of their fried dill pickles, don’t despair. You can snag one of their pagers and wait the 45 or so minutes for a table. The pagers have a huge range, so you can walk up and down Main Street and it will still buzz you when your table is ready.
Great post! I have to have those tiki salt and pepper shakers in your Adventure Land picture!