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  • Writer's pictureDiana Meneses

Magical Memories: Visiting Disneyland, California -Tips, Tricks, What's Worth It and What's Not!

Updated: May 9

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Disneyland Magic Kingdom Castle view from bottom up

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Disneyland, being only a 3hr plane ride from Vancouver, is the perfect escape for families living in Western Canada. My family of 5 (2 kids, 2 parents and 1 grandparent) recently embarked on a journey to this magical place and we came back with all the tips, tricks and do's and do-not's. So if planning a Disney trip is on your bucket list, make sure to read along!


Table of Contents

Getting to Disneyland

wing of plane, on air view of lake

First things first, how did we get to Disneyland? We hopped on a plane from YVR to SNA (John Wayne Airport) which is the closest airport to Disneyland. From there, you grab an Uber, Lyft, taxi or even a shuttle to Disneyland. The trip takes anywhere between 20-40 minutes depending on traffic.


Where to Stay

Staying inside Disneyland

Disneyland offers 3 hotels inside the property; Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier.


Although they are all located inside Disneyland property, the most conveniently located hotel would be the Grand Californian. We stayed in this particular hotel and were amazed at how convenient it is to have direct access to Disney California Adventures and to Downtown Disney (which is a short walk away from Disneyland Park). Other things we loved from the Grand California were the outdoor pools/slides, the character breakfast, getting to enjoy the fireworks from the balcony and the beautiful decor throughout the hotel - it makes you feel as if you are in a luxurious cabin in the woods!

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To learn more about what these hotels offer and how they differ from each other make sure to check out this great blog post from Disneyland Daily.


Staying outside Disneyland

Disneyland has 54 Good Neighbour Hotels you can explore by clicking here. These hotels are a great option since they are Disneyland approved and are all in a close proximity to Disneyland Resort. Moreover, there is a good variety in prices and amenities which will make it easy to find one that caters to your specific family needs and budget.


Additionally, you can always browse Airbnb's in Anaheim that are close to Disneyland if that is something you prefer.


Duration of Trip and Sample Schedule

We stayed for 4 nights which we found was the perfect amount to discover both parks (Disneyland and Disney California Adventure). The perfect schedule for this amount of time would be to spend 1/2 day in the pool (the same day you arrive), 1 day at California Adventures and 2 days at Disneyland.

Disneyland 4 day travel example

Below, we listed our favourites from each category (attractions, food & drinks, and tips) in both parks. These are only a few recommendations to get you started but are in no way an all-encompassing guide. Attraction wise there is a good mix of big thrill rides, slow rides and rides for all the family.


This Maple Life Favourite Attractions, Food and Drinks


Disney California Adventures

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Attractions

Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission Breakout: This ride is loud, thrilling and super fun! Think basically of a tower of terror (an elevator that gets dropped from above) but with a fun-pop-music kinda feel to it.

Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land: This ride tends to have long wait times, so getting there early can help minimize wait times. If you want even shorter waiting times, you can purchase the individual lightning lane for this ride (prices vary depending on stand-by wait time - but are usually between $15 and $25).

Incredicoster: (for the adults in your party - this was one of the few rides my 4yr old daughter couldn't ride). It is faaaaaast, so be prepared for a thrill! Grizzly River Run in Grizzly Peak: The perfect ride to cool down after a day of walking around. On cloudy days this ride has a very small stand-by line so take advantage of that! WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure ride: This ride is any height so the entire family can enjoy it together. It is also interactive, so that makes it even better! Pixar Pal-A-Round Ferris wheel: Take the 'swinging' option if you want an extra thrill (still apt for any height!)

Food and Drink

Disneyland Park

Attractions

It's a Small World: This ride has a special place in my heart since it is one I remember vividly taking as a child with my parents. Taking my own kids was a beautiful experience. It is a slow ride where you cruise through a whimsical world of singing dolls and colourful scenery.

Splash Mountain: I was skeptical about taking my tall 4 (almost 5) year old on this ride. She passed the minimum height so we decided to give it a try and it turns out it was her favourite ride of all time, across the two parks. It's thrilling and refreshing to plunge down a 50-foot drop on this log flume ride.

Indiana Jones Adventure: My husband and I rode this ride alone since my kid wasn't even near the height limit and we quickly discovered why. It is extremely bumpy, fast-paced and even scary at times; but was ultimately one of our favourite rides. So if you like thrill rides make sure to join Indiana Jones on a thrilling expedition through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Star Wars Rise of the Resistance: This ride is an absolute 100% for Star Wars lovers. My favourite part was the entire storyline that goes behind this ride. Be prepared to be surprised when you join the resistance in an epic battle against the First Order.

Food and Drinks


What Was Worth It


Disney Genie+: This is a paid add-on service that allows guests to skip the standby line and access popular attractions more quickly. The cost of the service varies depending on the park and the time of year, but as of May 2023, the cost was $15 per person, per day at Disneyland. In our case, having a squirmy one-year-old that would have made making 60-minute long lines very hard, this extra was completely worth it. Being able to shorten wait times for rides allowed us to explore more attractions in a shorter amount of time. Having said that, I do want to note that Disney Genie + is in no way a non-negotiable in order to enjoy Disneyland. It can be a useful tool for maximizing your time at the parks, but it's important to note that it comes with an additional cost and not all attractions are included (such as Radiators Springs and Star Wars Rise of the Resistance - where Lightning Lane can be purchased individually).


Mickey's Tales of Adventure Character Breakfast at Storytellers Cafe: Located in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, this buffet-style character breakfast was worth it for our family. We met Mickey, Pluto, and Chip'n Dale; they made several rounds during our time at the restaurant and we were able to take several photos with the characters. Moreover, the breakfast was delicious. There was a big fruit selection (berries, bananas, apples, watermelon and cantaloupe), cold cereals, pastries, mickey-shaped waffles, bacon, pancakes and even an omelette station! As with all of Disney's character breakfasts, reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 60 days in advance. You can book online through the Disneyland app (which we highly recommend downloading before your visit), the Disneyland Resort website, or by calling (714) 781-3463. The price range for this breakfast experience is around $40-50 per adult and $25-35 per child (ages 3-9), plus tax and gratuity. Prices may vary depending on the time of year and availability. Be sure to check the Disneyland Resort website or call to confirm the current pricing.

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What Wasn't Worth It


Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures: Okay so this specific character breakfast is a special dining experience held at the luxurious Napa Rose restaurant in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. As of May 2023, the cost was $125 per person, including tax and gratuity. The price for children and adults is the same, and all guests, regardless of age, require a reservation. The price for this breakfast experience is higher than most other character dining experiences, but Disney 'defends' such a high price tag by including special gifts for each guest (such as a small necklace) and with the idea of added activities such as singing and storytelling with princesses. When we heard of this experience we knew it could be special but since we didn't want to spend $500+ on breakfast, we decided that the best would be for Grandma and Granddaughter to go on a special date. Now, If you ask my daughter, this was 100% worth it, however, both parents and grandma would disagree. The biggest inconvenience was the wait time. Their reservation was 10:40 and when they arrived they had to wait in the lobby for almost 45 minutes before they could enter the restaurant. After that, we were disappointed that after spending more than an hour and a half at the actual breakfast, there was no sign of special activities happening. And although the food was delicious, we still found the entire experience lacking. At the end of the day, we suggest you pass on this experience and spend that money and time elsewhere in the resort.


Corn dogs: Not to shame on any corn-dog lover around here, but Disneyland corn dogs are expensive! And not only in a Disneyland-expensive kinda way but for the same price as a corn dog, you could get 2 tacos or a huge turkey leg! All I am saying here is that you can find lots of better bang-for-your-buck options in Disneyland.


Tips

  • Stroller - This was 100% hands down our most valuable possession during the trip. We brought a double stroller where each seat reclines individually (which was perfect for when my 1-year-old was napping mid-day. You can rent strollers at Disney however they do not recline so keep that in mind if you have a napping kid. Here is a double stroller that we love on Amazon: Britax B-Lively Double Stroller, Raven, and here is a more lightweight single one: Summer 3Dpac CS Compact Fold Stroller.

  • Utilize Ride Switch - Disneyland has this amazing feature where you can scan your tickets (before going on a ride) and ask for a rider switch to be set up. They can add up to three tickets! Those tickets would allow the 3 riders to enter the Lightning Lane and skip long lineups after the first party is done with the ride.

  • Utilize Mobile Food and Drink Ordering- This feature is super convenient since you can easily scan available restaurants and allows you to skip big lineups. Download the Disneyland app to get started.

  • Bring snacks and water - Disneyland allows you to bring food and snacks into their parks, so take advantage of that in order to save some money. Some things we brought into the park with us were fruit pouches, cheese sticks (eat this first since it is not safe to eat after many hours in the sun), pepperoni sticks and granola bars.

  • Pack comfortable shoes for the entire family since you will be doing looooooots of walking.

  • If your child decides to wear a costume, make sure to pack an extra (comfortable) set of clothes.

  • Check height restrictions for rides and plan accordingly (we would plan on riding the 'strong' rides while my kid napped)


Final Thoughts


In conclusion, Disneyland will not be a relaxing vacation (we walked more than 20,000 steps per day!) however, it can be a truly magical place that will enchant guests of all ages. From classic attractions (such as It's a Small World) to new experiences (such as Spiderman WEBslinger), there's something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned Disneyland pro, there's always something new to discover and memories to be made. Additionally, if you live in Western Canada, Disneyland is the perfect distance for a quick vacation. So pack your bags, grab your mouse ears, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime at the Happiest Place on Earth!


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