Our Californian road trip is now behind us and we got to see many cool new things. We drove down to Southern California from the San Francisco Bay Area; visited family, Disneyland, a wedding and many national parks. Here is the route we took except few missing stops since one can only use a certain amount of pins:
Our first travel day we spent pretty much on the road. We drove over to our family's place in Rancho Cucamonga and enjoyed dinner with them. The next day we had to wake up early, because we wanted to drive to Anaheim to visit Disneyland. I had visited Disneyland ones before but for my husband it had been a yearly tradition when he was younger. When we got the invitation to the wedding, we decided that it is about time to take our 4 year old to meet Minnie Mouse and other characters, and have some fun. Americans often say that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. Now it was time to find out if it really is that.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT DISNEYLAND
As you can imagine, the Disneyland theme park is very popular, so you should seriously consider the right time to visit. If possible, choose a weekday instead of weekend and make sure the school holidays are over. We went there just in between the spring break and summer holidays, so the timing in that sense was perfect. You can check the estimates of how busy the park will be from the Disneyland website. One year we drove to the park on Christmas break just to find out it was sold out. So it is not impossible even though very rare that you will not get in. Oh well, I probably would have gotten some sort of panic attack in a full park anyway, so maybe it was better this way. It is also nice to visit between Halloween and Christmas when the park is already decorated for the holidays.
On this trip the longest lines were already before getting into the park; in the parking garage. If you want to avoid those, I suggest staying the night in Disney's hotels which will give you access to the monorail taking people to the park. Another perk that you will get by staying in Disney Resorts is called "Magic morning". Some mornings the park opens an hour early for people staying in the resorts, so you can enjoy the rides when others are still on their way to the park. After parking we were directed to a shuttle but the line was so long that we ended up walking. Actually, the park was not far at all and even I, being pregnant, was able to walk it easily.
The next step was to get through the security check. For some reason it felt like there wasn't very many check points and no actual lines to them, just groups of people trying to get in. It was hard to even know which line we were in. If inside the park lines are almost an art, here it was just one big mess. But I do think that the security in this kind of place is important! All we had to do now was get the tickets and yay, finally we were inside the park!
WHAt should one see in disneyland
A day in the park will go fast and most likely you will not be able to go in every single ride they have. It is wise to plan ahead what you want to see and take it from there. Smaller kids usually want to meet the characters which will take time since there is usually a line. We met Goofy, Pluto, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and also saw the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Mickey Mouse's house is usually popular but this time the line went really fast. Our little one was not interested in the princesses, so we skipped that part of the park. Instead we did the "Storybook Land" ride on a canal boat which was nice.
Our ultimate favorites are "It's a Small World" and "Peter Pan's Flight". They go for all ages and are fun. You can check out the short video of "It's a Small World" from below, which features singing dolls from all over the world. I did the "Jungle Cruise" and "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage" for the first time. Based on the lines, the "Pirates of Caribbean" must be the most popular ride in the park at the moment. When you know which is your favorite, you should get a fastpass to it right in the morning. It lets you pass the line at a certain time. Fastpass machines are located near the rides and you can only carry one of them at the time. You can also download some helpful applications on your phone to see how long the lines are to each ride or to use a map of the park. We mostly had 20 to 30 minutes wait times but there were rides with a lot longer lines. So get your fastpasses if you can, or you can do the most popular rides during the parades.
There are many other fun rides in Disneyland, and also some traditional carousels. There is something for everyone for sure! There are also a few different parades during the day. We watched the Main Street Electrical Parade which is in the evening after sun set. We really liked it! Last time we were in Disneyland, they also had great fireworks, but this time we were not there on the right day. That didn't matter though since we had so much fun otherwise.
WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU
There are all kinds of foods, snacks and drinks sold inside Disneyland. We brought water bottles and some snacks with us. We had made a reservation to the Blue Bayou restaurant for lunch, so in the evening we mostly ended up snacking and eating ice cream. If you want to make a reservation to a restaurant, be early since the most popular restaurants get sold out months in advantage. We made ours two months ahead and still didn't manage to get a dinner reservation. Food in the Blue Bayou was delicious even though I noticed that the menus inside the park seemed to be little limited. Inside this restaurant there is a "river" where the "Pirates of Caribbean" ride will go. Even though we sat inside it looked like we were sitting outside on a patio.
The Californian sun can be deceptive, so don't forget your sun screen even if there are some clouds in the sky. Bring some water, you can fill the bottles at water fountains around the park. Also, good shoes are important since you will be walking and standing most of the day. For small kids I would recommend a stroller, so they can get some rest every once in a while. We rarely bring our stroller with us anymore for our 4 year old, but this time it was totally worth it. If you forgot the stroller, you can rent one from the main gate for a day ($15). Many kids are dressed up in their favorite character costumes.
And don't forget your camera! In Disneyland one is allowed to take photos everywhere, and even the official photographers sometimes offered to take a photo of us with our own camera. You will most likely meet some of them where ever the characters are, and they will snap your picture and download it on to a photopass they will give you. Later you can give the card to another photographer who will add more photos to it. Before leaving the park you can go and buy the photos, or you can order them from online later. We also stopped in some souvenir shops before leaving.
Even though I hate crowded places and I'm not a huge fan of amusement parks, I have to admit that there is something special about Disneyland. After struggling to get into the park, I really enjoyed the great rides they have and the atmosphere in the park. This really is not just a regular amusement park and the rides are not like the ones you see everywhere else. The next day I was excited to tell everybody what we saw and what we did. And the best part is of course to see your child being so excited! So is it the world's happiest place? Mmm.. I'm sure it is, at least it is very magical!
A FUN FACT: Did you know that there is a "secret restaurant" inside Disneyland? Club 33 is open only for members and their guests, and is the only place in Disneyland that serves alcohol. According to some resources the membership fee is over $10.000 and the waitlist goes on for many years.
Tips for visiting disneyland
- Try to plan your trip when the park is less busy like during the week and outside vacation times.
- Get the program from the main gate. Many characters can be seen around the park and you might be able to avoid the line to meet them.
- Get your free Disneyland button from the City Hall. Make sure to stop by in the morning since they might run out of them during the day.
- Disney characters will pose for pictures and also write autographs so don't forget to bring a pen and a note book. Or you can buy them from the park.
- Bring strollers for smaller kids. A day at the park is long and kids get tired fast. Stroller parking can be found all over the park. If you forgot your stroller, you can rent one from the main entrance.
- Get the "fastpass" to your favorite ride quickly in the morning.
- Download the Disneyland app on your phone. That way you have an interactive map of the park with you and you can check what the wait times are.