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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Advice for a Disneyland and California Adventure Newbie

My friend asked me for advice on going to Disneyland and California Adventure for the first time. A newbie! She's finally braving the parks with her 10 year old and didn't know where to start. After giving her all the links at the bottom to read (from my Disney series), I gave her this advice. Now keep in mind, her son is 10. We're not talking toddler here.

How much time to spend at Disneyland and California Adventure?
Two days is enough, if you want to see a lot and you're willing to spend the entire day there. I'm a maximalist, so I'm the type who gets to the park at (preferably before) opening, and stays until the end (yes, midnight). Though when travelling with my husband, we have to leave earlier, because he may divorce me otherwise. I insist on staying until after fireworks, no matter how crabby everyone is. The fireworks are a highlight. If you have leisurely time, enough money, and want to go back and forth from your hotel and maybe sleep in, then go for three days. But don't take me with you. We'd strangle each other. 

To buy a park hopper?

If you want to spend the extra bucks, get a park hopper. At time of posting this, for a 2 day park hopper, versus a 2 day, 1 park per day ticket, it's $35 extra. Park hopper is ideal if you're going to maximize your time there because you don't need an entire day at California Adventure, and you can head back to Disneyland at night and do a few more rides there. But to me, the $35 per person is not worth it for just 3-4 hours. I wish it were cheaper to get the park hopper.

Disneyland books?
Get the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. That won't steer you wrong. I'm a HUGE fan. Totally worth your money. And get some Disney apps for wait times. The book on Hidden Mickeys at Disneyland is kind of fun for killing time. See the Hidden Mickeys we found here.

Advice for newbies, or Frisco Kids' top 11 tips for seeing Disneyland for the first time:
1. Get there early and be willing to stay late to avoid lines.

2. Check the apps for waiting times and be willing to traverse the park to avoid lines. Bring spare phone batteries and conserve phone use.

3. Hit the must-see attractions early. 

4. The Fast Pass is your friend! Use it! Here's our guide on the Fast Pass.

5. Some rides suck. The Autopia, for example. It smells really bad (car fumes) and even with a Fast Pass you'll wait a long time. The Finding Nemo submarine ride always has a huge line. If you're claustrophobic, avoid it. It's a long ride, and the renovation made it better, but the ending is kind of hokey and not done very well (with the movie projection). The kiddie rides are fun (for older kids) if there's no line. Don't wait in line for them, though.

6. If you need a break, see a show. The Country Bear Jamboree (can't find a link - is it no longer??) is fun, and you get to sit down. My family, except for my sister and me, hate the Enchanted Tiki Room. You must go. It's a classic. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is a great place for a nap. The Disney live shows (like Aladdin) are great, and you can sit down. Haven't been to the Golden Horseshoe Review in decades, but it's supposed to be good and you can eat there too.

8. If you want a sit-down dinner, consider making a reservation if it's not too late, in the park or in downtown Disney. Or eat an early or late dinner instead, and find a restaurant that's not too busy.

9. You must stay for fireworks at Disneyland. They are truly AWESOME. But don't camp out for a spot. When it gets close, maybe have a late dinner at the Carnation Cafe or Plaza Inn and snag an outdoor spot. Then sit there and wait for fireworks. There may be a tree in your way, but you'll still see well and you won't have to spend hours guarding your spot.

10. Spend some times wandering through some of the shops on Main Street and in New Orleans. Some schlock, but also some cute stuff.

11. Disneyland and California Adventure roller coasters (with the exception of California Screamin) aren't too scary. They are much tamer than Six Flags. Here are my must-do attractions at each park:

Disneyland: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (action/adventure cart ride - awesome effects), Astro Blasters (Buzz Lightyear shooting game while in moving cart), Star Tours (simulator - newly updated), Space Mountain (roller coaster in the dark - not too scary), Pirates of the Caribbean (boat ride - awesome), Haunted Mansion (a classic). The Matterhorn. Not sure if Big Thunder Mountain is back up yet - it was closed for renovations when we were there in the spring. We love it. Splash Mountain is fun, but it might be too cold to enjoy it in winter, if you get really wet. If you want to bring a poncho or change of clothes, you'll probably be okay and lines won't be too long.

Space Mountain will run out of fast passes early, and Indiana Jones won't be far behind. Astro Blasters moves pretty quickly so it's easier to go on this multiple times without having to wait in terrible lines. If the line is too long, come back later). Star Tours is also high on the list for fast passes. These are the ones you want to get early.

Non-rides that are good for down time is the Pirate's Lair island (though you'll have to walk around) and Columbia Boat Trip. The Jungle Cruise line is often long, but you must go. The jokes are great. You get to sit and the ride is probably 10-15 mintues.

California Adventure: Get your Soarin' over California Fast Passes early - this is a must-see and maybe even go twice attraction, and then RUN straight to Toy Story which has no Fast Pass. It's similar to Astro Blasters, but very clever and a little different. Also you'll want to get to the new Cars Land Radiator Springs very early - as you'll see in my post, the Fast Pass tickets can "sell out" really quickly. May be worth going standby and splitting up for that. It will save you time. We did that twice. Tower of Terror is AWESOME and as scared as you may be, it's worth trying it once. It's done really well. We had to convince the kids (mine and my niece) to do it, and it was their favorite ride after. If you go on Mickey's Fun Wheel and you get motion sick, don't choose a car that swings.

If you need a rest (or even if you don't), at California Adventure, go to Turtle Talk with Crush - very well done. And the animation studio teaches you how to draw characters - also quite fun. They show movies in one of their studios if you need to sit for awhile. A Bug's Life section is too young for 10 year olds, but it's still fun to walk through and go on the rides if there's no line. Don't wait in line for Ariel's Grotto if you're not with a 5 year old princess. Not worth it. You can find the whole ride on YouTube to see what it's like. I got a headache from the one I just watched - the camera moved too much.

If you want to learn about landscaping at Disney, read my most awesome article on it here. It will give you something to talk about in long lines, and something to look for while you're there.

What are your tips for newbies going to Disneyland?

What happens when your Disney ride breaks down

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