My kids are 9 and 7 and even though we lived less than an hour from Disneyland in their early years, we’ve never been there. As a travel planner, I wanted learn more about the Disney Parks and, as my kids are getting older, I’ve been fearing the Magic door might close on us soon. (I can hear some of you saying, “You’re never too old for Disneyland!” but my kids have never believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or fairies (including the tooth one), so I had reason to worry.
We finally made the pilgrimage to the Happiest Place on Earth for 2 days the week before Thanksgiving with my Disneyland expert friend and her daughter. The trip was totally fun and enlightening. The rides were awesome—some thrilling, some adorable. California Screamin’ and Big Thunder Mountain roller coasters are still referenced daily at our house. I am so glad that we made this trip. I know my kids will remember it forever!
Here are 10 things this first-timer learned about Disneyland. This may be all too obvious to those of you who have traveled before me, but I found it all so interesting!
- It is so CLEAN—Seriously, I saw one piece of trash on the ground the entire time we were there. It was a gum wrapper I noticed near my feet when my daughter and I sat down on a curb for a little break the second night. It wasn’t there for long. In a flash, in swooped a cheery young woman with a broom in hand. Magic!
- The PIN Thing—So, there are all kinds of Disney pins for sale everywhere and people walking around with lanyards around their necks full of such pins. You can trade pins with any cast member (person who works at DL) to perfect your collection.
- The week before Thanksgiving is a great TIME TO VISIT—The crowds were relatively very light. If at all possible, try to avoid visiting DL over school holidays! (You can check online to see what the crowd projections for your particular travel dates.)
- The FOOD was surprisingly good—Sure, there was junk food to be had but I was surprised to find lots of healthy snack options for the kids like fresh fruit, corn on the cob, and pickles! I had a great tofu and veggie curry for lunch one day—-never had that at an amusement park before.
- The LINES are long—Even on our uncrowded days, the lines for a lot of rides were really long! It absolutely amazed me to see all those children waiting patiently for 30 minutes or more without fussing. That’s the Disney magic for you! Related to this…
- FAST PASSES rule!—Work the system. Get one Fast Pass after another. (I keep wondering why anyone would not get these? I’ll tell you why—because they either didn’t know about them or didn’t have an awesome expert friend guiding them through the park!)
- SEVEN is the magic number— 7 year-olds (and tall enough) can ride any ride alone. Kids younger than 7 need to be accompanied by someone older than 14. This is good to know if you want your kids to be able to go on rides without you or if you want to take advantage of the Single Rider lines.
- Get PARK HOPPER tickets—They do cost more but it’s really nice to have the flexibility to go between Disneyland and California Adventure Park in one day. You might want to revisit a favorite ride or catch one you missed or see a parade at DL after a day at California Adventure.
- If you can, stay at one of the DISNEYLAND RESORTS—You get into the park one hour early in the morning (The Magic Hour) and your hotel will be relatively close to the parks so you can take a siesta if you can convince the kids to leave for a couple of hours.
- It’s beautiful at NIGHT—Fireworks, lights, music, parades…magic!