I was in the 6th grade and had just sold my first sheep at the 4-H auction. I was so heartbroken (even though they told me it was going to live on the farm) and I swear my sheep cried real tears with me. The only thing that made walking away from Jasper (yes I remember his name) possible was knowing I was headed to Disneyland. It was one of the best memories I have as a child, Disneyland that is, not selling my sheep.
My daughter has asked to go to Disneyland for years and I told her we couldn’t go until her brother was at least 6. When we decided we were going to California and would be staying most of the time in the Palm Desert I knew we had to try and surprise the kids with a day at Disneyland. It was too close in proximity not to and our giant 3 year old is tall enough for all but one ride. Woohoo! Some generous family chipped in to make it possible and we began planning for the surprise. I think it was as fun for me just knowing how excited they would be and the looks on their faces when they figured it out was priceless. We set out clues for them to guess where we were going the day before and when Jenna figured it out she whispered it like it was too good to be true.
So if you’re heading to Disneyland soon here are some tips that we found helpful.
- Stay at a hotel within walking distance. It saves time driving on the freeway and the hassle of messing with parking.
- Go on a day that doesn’t have early opening, unless you’re staying at a Disney Hotel.
- Buy tickets online so you don’t have to wait it line at the gate.
- Use the lockers for food and snacks (make sure it’s big enough). It was so nice to drop our lunches and jackets for the cooler evening in a locker and go back to it as needed.
- Get there for the rope drop and opening, 20-30 min. early. It’s fun to be there and you beat the crowds to rides.
- Go straight to space mountain for a fast pass because it usually has long lines. Get your new fast pass every 90 minutes. Make sure to have all your tickets with you so they can check your times.
- Go to the Fantasyland rides first for Tea Cups, Dumbo, etc. if you have smaller kids. The lines get long and we beat everyone to them.
- Download an app for line times. We used Disneyland Wait Times.
- Watch the Mickey Magic Map show, it’s one of the only places to see characters unless you’re standing in line and the kids loved it. It was a nice break from standing and walking around as well.
- Make sure your kids are tall enough, you can check on line for inch requirements. You can use the Parent Switch on most rides. If a child isn’t tall enough or doesn’t want to do a ride one parent can go and then when they return the next parent can go without having to wait in line again.
- Corn dogs on the New Orleans square were fantastic. We packed our lunch to save money because food is very pricey in the park. We went for one of the cheaper options for dinner, corn dogs. But we all love corn dogs and they are giant and tasty. The atmosphere right on the water is hard to beat too.
- Get to the parade route 30 minutes early if you want to sit and have a good spot.
- Be prepared for LOTS of walking. Our stroller tire blew before leaving the hotel (thankfully not mid-day) and I thought it would be terrible but it was actually a blessing. Walking without a stroller is easier, the kids did great and dad was a champ carrying the giant 3 year old on his shoulders.
- Unless you have really small kids Mickey’s Toontown was crazy crowded and the kids didn’t love it.
- If you’re doing just one day Disneyland is great. We didn’t do a hopper pass and I think our kids are too young to really appreciate two days anyway. We were all exhausted after our 14 hour day. They left tired but happy.
- Pack lots of snacks and some water. Snacks and water are great while waiting in longer lines.
- Go hard until lunch then pace yourself because the crowds get bigger in the afternoon so you have to move slower.
Another fun thing we were blessed to do was a Character Breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen. My aunt insisted my kids needed that and I’m so thankful she did. We went to Disneyland on Monday and then did the breakfast on Wed. You don’t have to enter the park for Goofy’s Kitchen and it made it feel like we had a day and a half of the Disney experience. While in the park we never saw a Disney character we could approach but while at breakfast we had pictures with about 6 characters and they stopped and talked with all the kids. The buffet was also so delicious and there was every food you could want, and should never eat, for breakfast. What child doesn’t want mickey waffles, mac-n-cheese pizza and pudding and gummy worms for breakfast? There was also lots to choose from for the adult with a more mature pallet as well.
My kids are still talking about how much they loved Disneyland. It was such a treat for all of us. It’s one of those things that will be remembered forever and feels like such a great blessing from the Lord. I still think my happiest place on earth is a warm beach, but this was pretty great too.
**More thoughts and tips that came to mind after this post can be found here.