Disneyland 2014 Trip Planning Guide


In this article, we previously implored anyone who would listen that 2012 was the perfect time to visit Disneyland. Well, it was in many ways, and those who listened to our advice got to be among the first to visit Cars Land. Disneyland has been on a roll since then, and we’ve updated our Disneyland vacation advice numerous times since then, finally arriving at this version for 2014 trips. We have received messages from a lot of people who had amazing trips thanks to our recommendations, and this guide has been refined based upon our visits to Disneyland in 2013, including a visit in December 2013 for Christmas–our first Christmas in Disneyland since the overhaul to Disney California Adventure (the Christmas season is now, by far, our top pick for when you should visit Disneyland…such a beautiful time of year there!).

Disneyland Resort kept the ball rolling in 2014, expanding upon the success of its big 2012 addition, Cars Land, with the opening of Mickey and the Magical Map, plus World of Color – Winter Dreams, seasonal celebrations, and more! We highly recommend a visit to Disneyland to enjoy these additions. As long as Disneyland keeps doing new things and Cars Land keeps looking great, you may be hearing this same sentiment in 2014, 2015, 2016, and…you get the idea.

There are a lot of great times of year to visit Disneyland (read below for our recommendations of when to go to avoid crowds at Disneyland), but our favorite time of year is Christmas-time at Disneyland. The decorations are beautiful, the spirit is festive, and there are some fun attraction overlays and seasonal foods to enjoy.

Read our Guide to Disneyland at Christmas for more info on visiting during the holiday season. If Christmas isn’t your thing, consider Halloween Time at Disneyland, and check out our Guide to Disneyland at Halloween for assistance planning a trip during that specific time of year. For all other trips, consult the trip planning resources below.

10 Disneyland Trip Planning Steps

If the above didn’t convince you, and you are trying to decide whether you should visit Disneyland in 2014, read the section below titled “Why you should visit Disneyland in 2014.” If you’ve already made up your mind, here are our Top 10 things to figure out when planning a Disneyland vacation, and resources to assist you with those steps:

1. What Time of Year to Visit to Avoid Crowds - The single most important part of planning a trip to Disneyland is determining when to visit to avoid crowds. Disneyland is busiest when school is out of session, so those are the biggest times to avoid. Learn what times to visit in this post!

2. Where to Stay – Off-Site or On-Site Hotels? - Depending upon where you stay, your hotel room could be the costliest aspect of your trip. Read why it doesn’t have to be in this post, why “on-site” hotels are not as important at Disneyland as they are at Walt Disney World, and how to score a close hotel for $50/night!

3. Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets - Our recommendations on what type of Disneyland tickets you should buy, including how many days, whether you should get Park Hopper, and where you can buy Disneyland tickets to save some money!

4. Disney Restaurant Reviews - The stereotype that all Disney food is unhealthy food like burgers and hot dogs is entirely false. Disneyland has inexpensive unique dining options as well as expensive fine dining. Good dining can help define a trip! Read about which restaurants are best in our dining reviews.

5. Disneyland Ride Guide - Disneyland has a ton of attractions, and a lot of visitors only have a day or two to spend at Disneyland. The article reviews every attraction at Disneyland, giving each a numerical score out of 10, plus highlights key attractions that we consider the best ones, which should be prioritized if you have limited time at Disneyland.

6. Disneyland Transportation - Should you fly or drive to Disneyland? Rent a car or rely on your feet for getting around Disneyland? We answer these questions and provide advice for saving money on transportation to (and around) Disneyland Resort!

7. Disney California Adventure Ride Guide - Disney California Adventure had its Grand Reopening in June 2012, and a lot changed since then. Read our reviews of every attraction in DCA, along with numerical scores for each, and a list of the “must do” attractions you should prioritize.

8. Disneyland Dining Plan - This article can be summarized in one sentence: the Disneyland Dining Plan is not worth the hassle. To find out why, read the full post!

9. What to Pack - Packing for Disneyland is comparable to packing for any vacation, but with a few twists. Here’s our list of “unordinary” items to pack that will help enhance your Disneyland trip!

10. Cameras to Use at Disney - Capturing photos to remember the trip by is an important part of any vacation. Read about the cameras and equipment I recommend and used to take the photos on this page (and throughout the site).

Finally, and although this one isn’t necessary for planning a trip to Disneyland, we highly recommend you read our “101 Great Disneyland Tips” post. A lot of these are more obscure and great little things that will help you visit the parks like a local. They are more granular advice than what you’ll find in our other planning articles, but we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from readers who really got a lot more out of their trips because of those tips.

Now that you know what will help you plan a trip to Disneyland, maybe you should know why you should plan a trip to Disneyland. As you’ll read below, 2014 is the perfect time to visit Disneyland!

Disneyland ResortDisneyland (park)Sleeping Beauty's Winter CastleWalt Disney and Mickey Mouse in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle...does it get any better than this?! For more tips, information, and photos of Disneyland, visit my blog: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/

Why You Should Visit Disneyland in 2014

In my experience, a lot of frequent Walt Disney World Guests never visit Disneyland, basically, because it’s smaller than Walt Disney World, not as isolated from the real world, and because it costs more to visit Disneyland. There are other reasons as well, but these are the ones most frequently cited.

Believe me, I know how defensive Walt Disney World fans can be, and how much they can hate Disneyland, seemingly without reason. Once upon a time, I was one of those defensive Walt Disney World fans! In the bowels of the internet, fervent Walt Disney World fans seem to have a serious vested interest in their “home” park complex (despite, as best I can tell, none of these people actually living in Walt Disney World, save for a few Golden Oaks residents) being superior Disneyland. They retort “where’s your Westcot?!” when someone touts the number and quality of attractions in Disneyland. They point at the cheap hotels of Harbor Boulevard contaminating the “bubble” of Magic when someone points out the “blessing of size” of the smaller resort.

After visiting Disneyland a few times, I feel I can say with some authority that these Walt Disney World fans just “don’t get it.”

Yes, Disneyland does have two parks to Walt Disney World’s four. No, Disneyland doesn’t have any water parks. Yes, it only has three resort-hotels, and all are fairly pricey. Yeah, the real world does sort of encroach-upon Disneyland. These seem to be some pretty serious blows to Disneyland being a viable tourist destination, but trust me, it is a great place to vacation.

Why? First, the big reason: Disneyland is the original Magic Kingdom. It’s the only park Walt Disney personally walked, and its history and historic detail is amazing. Anyone who fancies themselves a Disney history buff but has no desire to visit Disneyland doesn’t really care that much about Disney history. The places literally oozes history. (Seriously, it’s this green stuff that rises out of the ground in New Orleans Square! Please don’t tell Cal-OSHA!)

That should be enough of a reason to plan a visit to Disneyland. In case it’s not, Disneyland (the park) has a staggering attraction line-up, with almost every version of attractions that are offered in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland being substantially better in Disneyland. Pirates of the Caribbean is longer. It’s a small world has a beautiful outdoor facade and includes subtle and well done (that’s right!) Disney characters. Indiana Jones Adventure puts the Animal Kingdom attraction with the same bloodlines to shame. The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage puts the enjoyable Epcot attraction to shame. The list goes on and on.

On the topic of attractions, don’t worry, because there’s a ton of them (I feel like Stacey in the “Must Do Disney” video). While many regard Walt Disney World Resort as two full day parks and two half day parks, by contrast, Disneyland Resort is one two day park and one full day park. Seriously, the attraction line-up is really that solid at Disneyland Resort.

This brings us to 2014, and why you should plan your first visit (or a visit) then. In Summer 2012, Disneyland became a more solid resort, and began to shine as a bona fide tourist destination when the billion dollar plus make-over of Disney California Adventure was completed, with Cars Land and Buena Vista Street both opening. Following that in 2013, Disneyland debuted Mickey and the Magical Map, an excellent stage show in Fantasyland. The big “pluses” came during the Christmas season, when World of Color – Winter Dreams and Viva Navidad debuted, giving Disney California Adventure the same level of Christmas offerings as Disneyland. In 2014, it’s expected that many classic Fantasyland dark rides will receive updates, which should be a big plus. Rumors also are swirling that Star Wars Land (or a subland in Tomorrowland) will begin construction in late 2014, although those are just rumors, and that really doesn’t benefit you if you want to visit in 2014! Still, the point is that Disneyland Resort continues to expand in big and little ways.

We visited Disney California Adventure both before and after the big overhaul, and the park is completely different–for the better–now. You can read our full review of Disney California Adventure 2.0 here, but suffice to say, it is now an amazing theme park, and one of the best US Disney theme parks. It received a lot of special attention from executives in Anaheim, and it was clearly overhauled with some incredibly high standards.

This brings us to another important point. Because of the large and vocal Annual Passholder fan-base in California, and probably because of the parks’ proximity to prominent corporate offices, the California parks receive a lot of little additions each year plus more attention to detail that together make a big difference. It’s rare to see broken effects and messy queues. Instead, the parks are incredibly clean, maintenance is excellent, and seasonal overlays and decorations are done with much more vigor and zest. Seriously, there are citrus-peels everywhere!

Disneyland ResortDisneyland (park)Believe... In Holiday Magic FireworksThe

If you compare the top two parks in Walt Disney World to the only two parks in Disneyland (the only fair comparison), the differences are interesting. While Walt Disney World is obviously larger, Disneyland has substantially more attractions on a park for park basis, arguably better dining options, and more of intrigue for the various holidays. While it may lack things like the Osborne Lights, Illuminations, or Flower & Garden Festival, it makes up for this with additional offerings like Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, Haunted Mansion Holiday, it’s a small world holiday, World of Color – Winter Dreams, and Remember… Dreams Come True, which is easily the best fireworks show at a Magic Kingdom style park.

In all honesty, though, comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World isn’t that easy. It’s like comparing two of your children. Yeah, in the back of your mind, you secretly prefer one over the other (kidding, parents), but it’s a tough comparison because you love them both. It’s probably a comparison you shouldn’t even make since both resorts are so different. You simply need to experience both.

Because of all these additional attractions and offerings, it’s easy to turn a trip to Disneyland’s two parks into an actual vacation. If you’re able to spend two or three days at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, you will easily be able to spend three or four days at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure in 2013. We spent five days at Disneyland this spring during the height of Disney California Adventure’s construction, and wish we had MORE time in Disneyland! Plus, there is a lot to do in Southern California besides Disneyland!

In addition to having more to do, you will have less wasted time at Disneyland. Want to park hop? Instead of spending 30 minutes on a bus or monorail, you spend less than 5 minutes walking across the esplanade to the other park. Dinner reservations at the resort’s nicest restaurant? Instead of catching two buses to Jiko or taking a taxi, you walk five minutes to Napa Rose in Disney’s Grand California Resort & Spa. You only ever need one form of transportation on a Disneyland vacation: your feet.

With the smaller size, there is one of (in our eyes) Disneyland’s real flaws: it is encroached upon by the real world far too much. However, if you can get past this, or if you regularly stay off-site at Walt Disney World, this is actually an advantage! We have never stayed on-site at Disneyland because the off-site hotels are all so close, and because there aren’t the same advantages to staying on-site at Disneyland like Extra Magic Hours or Disney’s Magical Express. Plus, we’re cheap and Disney’s Grand Californian is like $300-400 per night. Disneyland Hotel is significantly cheaper and we are big fans of it, although it’s not as close as the Grand Californian. Paradise Pier Hotel is barely a Disney hotel, so it’s out of the question). The hotel at which we stay most regularly is an off-site hotel called Desert Inn that is only a five minute walk to the Disneyland Resort Esplanade and costs ~$90-120/night. This makes midday breaks easier, and allows us to go back to our room to grab coats and my tripod rather than renting a locker.

This savings in price on the hotel (and rental car, which you won’t need) alone make up for any increase in the price of airfare. From our experience, airfare is about 25% more expensive to Anaheim than it is to Orlando, but obviously your mileage may vary on that depending upon your starting location. Food is slightly more expensive in Disneyland (and significantly “more better”), but park tickets are cheaper. Overall, our trips to Disneyland are usually around the same price as a trip to Walt Disney World of a comparable length.

The comparisons don’t end there, and if you’re reading about them in more depth, check out our “Walt Disney World v. Disneyland” post debating the pros and cons of each. If you’ve never been to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort, it’s a good place to start as we attempt to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each in an unbiased manner. It should give you a good idea of which will be better for your family’s vacation!

I could go on for pages and pages about why Disney fans owe it to themselves to visit Disneyland in 2014, but I think I’ve made most of my key points. Two years ago, if I were reading an blog post like this that I perceived to be expressing a preference for Disneyland over Walt Disney World (I’m not–they both are great for different reasons), I would shout “HERESY!” and probably skew some venom at the author. I’ve since learned the error of my ways, and since then, my wife and I have visited every Disney theme park in the world.

*This post has been paid for by the Southern California Chamber of Commerce and the International Association of Off-Site Disneyland Hotel Owners. Just kidding…but seriously, SoCal economy, you’re welcome!

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Your Thoughts…

Are you planning a Disneyland visit sometime in 2014? Did you visit in 2013 on our recommendation? What did you think??? Share your plans in the comments!

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88 Responses to “Disneyland 2014 Trip Planning Guide”

  1. Laura B. says:

    Heading down in September for the first time in 3 years (after being and AP holder for 5 years). So excited!!

  2. Amanda Susan says:

    Don’t discount Paradise Pier. I stayed there in September and loved it. The room was a good size, comparable to the Polynesian. I loved the little Disney touches in the room. It’s a short walk to the parks and I enjoyed walking through the Grand Californian everyday. Sure it may have more of a hotel feel than a Disney feel, but if your argument for staying at a value WDW resort is that you’re never in your room, couldn’t you use the same argument for staying at Paradise Pier?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      From the photos I’ve seen, I haven’t been impressed. That justification works with a Value Resort because of its price. PPH is significantly more expensive. If money is no issue, then the justification works. But if money is no issue, why not just stay at GCH! ;)

      • Amanda Susan says:

        The price isn’t that significantly more expensive. When I went in September I paid less than $150 a night. At a recent trip to WDW in June and staying at All Star Movies I paid around $130 a night. I would put my room at the same level as a Delux room at WDW. All I’m saying is don’t discount it until you’ve stayed. Also while I was there I ran into a group of travel agents who said they were most impressed with PPH and thought GCH was overpriced.

      • Kim H says:

        I have to agree with Amanda…we stayed at PPH this past October and were pleasantly surprised. We have stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter and I would say the rooms were at least the same or better. We had an amazing view of DCA and the walk was not that much further than the Disneyland Hotel. We have also stayed at the DLH and I would not hesitate to go back to PPH, especially if you are looking at saving a little money and staying at a Disney hotel, as it is expensive to stay anywhere “onsite”.

  3. 2 years ago my wife and I went to DL for the week of new years. We had been about 20 years ago (showing my age!) but have been WDW fans in the interim two decades.

    Even with the Holiday crowds, we had a fantastic time. It really is a great place. And equally enjoyable to WDW – but different. Not better or worse, just unique in it’s own way. Visitors just need to be open minded and look for the mickey magic. We are huge fans of the Christmas decor.

  4. David says:

    I totally agree with you, every Disney fan absolutely has to experience the original park. Up until this year I was a total Walt Disney World purist and I always imagined Disneyland to be a bit old-fashioned and dull. But I was SO WRONG. I visited Disneyland in August/September and it is now on par with WDW. The Matterhorn has become my favourite ride in any Disney park (and is particularly special at night!) and Fantasmic around the Rivers of America is beyond words. I love the close proximity between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and DCA will really be great when the new additions open.
    I didn’t even realise that Disneyland was ‘small’ – it has so many more rides than the Magic Kingdom, I was really amazed. The only thing I did miss about the Magic Kingdom was the escapism created by journeying across the Lagoon or by monorail…
    Yet I didn’t so much mind staying on Harbour Boulevard and out of the ‘Disney bubble’ as I’m British and being on street with a Target, an IHOP and a Coldstone Creamery is all part of the American vacation (I also enjoy staying on International Drive when in Orlando… I know, weird!)
    I’d never heard of Superstar Limo until you mentioned it and I looked it up on Youtube. Oh my. That has to be the most un-Disney ride ever!

  5. YR says:

    Nice post! Just wanted to point out that Disneyland Resort does offer its equivalent of extra magic
    hours for resort hotel guests.

    • Shay says:

      In no way to the one-hour-before-opening extra magic hours compare to the EMH at Disney World, particularly to night owls like us who never get 1-3 (3!!!) extra hours at night in the peak season. Being a the Magic Kingdom at 2am? Happy girl. Never get that same benefit at Disneyland.

  6. Nice article, and right you are,
    Disneyland smells like history and I was blown away by the details and little corners with surprises that kept popping up. I visited Disneyland Paris on many occasions (I live in the Netherlands, Europe), then Disneyland Anaheim and finally and saw DisneyWorld too.. All three resorts have their perks, but honestly.. Disneyland Anaheim gave me the biggest thrill due to the history and unique attractions. Disney World on the other hand blew me away with the sheer size of the entire grounds, I fell in love with Epcot and Animal Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom was my least favorite.. but I goes that’ll soon change! As for Disneyland Paris, well.. it’s my home park.. the castle is the best one out there and I can’t wait for next years new night spectacular ; Dreams. But first it’s back to Disneyworld in january 2011!

  7. Dave says:

    Tom, as a frequent visitor to both coasts, I could not agree with you more. I have to say that while dining is better in Disneyland park then The Magic Kingdom, I feel the dining choices at California Adventure and at the resorts is somewhat lacking compared to the huge variety at Disney World.

    also, don’t forget the other advantage Disneyland has. The weather. while winter weather is similar on both coasts, Disneyland in the summer experiences dry days, cool nights, and low humidity. it is a great summer destination if you usually avoid Florida during the hot months as many people do.

  8. Hotel Managers Group sincerely congratulates themeparkinsider.com for their great articles and amazing photos about Disneyland park.
    Disneyland was always is always be the favorite destination in the world for our family.
    We wish you good luck for your blog!

  9. Dave says:

    Somebody knows their way around a camera. Great photographs on the site!

  10. Amy says:

    “Anyone who fancies themselves a Disney history buff but has never been to Disneyland doesn’t really care that much about Disney history”

    I consider myself a Disney “Theme Park” buff… I have not visted Disneyland… This is purely because of financial reasons, it’s a lot more expensive to vist California than it is to visit WDW from the UK (Believe me, I’ve looked into it). It’s on my bucket list though, and I WILL get there, one day. What I’m trying to say is that, not everyone who is a Disney Nerd has the money to visit Disneyland, or even the good fortune to live on the same continent as DL/WDW.

  11. Claire says:

    I know a lot of people are concerned with the “real world” encroaching on Disneyland, but honestly I have never felt like I was in the “real world” while I was in the park. It always felt very magical. The ambiance is present from the moment you step into the park, there is music, detailed decor, and character right by the entrance to greet you. I couldn’t say which park is better, because I love them both, but Disneyland has a special place in my heart because it was my first Disney park as a small child.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I mostly agree, but as soon as you step out of the park (or ride the monorail), you snap back to reality. That doesn’t happen for me from the time we start a Walt Disney World vacation until we end it. Happens at least twice daily at Disneyland. Still, everyone should visit Disneyland–it’s AWESOME!

  12. Dharma says:

    Heading to Disneyland for the very first time this July! Very excited to see Carsland & also to see the differences between Disneyland and WDW. We’ve been to WDW quite a few times in the past 2 years and decided we HAD to check out DL.

    Planning on 3 days there, also staying off-site, but really want to find a few nice places to eat while we’re there! I’m assuming it’ll be a busy time (end of July) but it can’t be worse than WDW for Xmas & new years, right?
    Love your blog btw, it’s very helpful!

  13. naren says:

    California Disneyland is so terrific in the night that I could not take my eyes off Sleeping Beauty Castle which looks so terrific in the night.

  14. jodi says:

    Do you think this will.still be able to be applied for a July 2013 trip? :)

  15. susan says:

    I Beg To Differ On The Price Differances. I Have Been Going To Disneyland For Years. I Prefer The Prices And The Hotel Choices. I Did Take My First Trip To WDW In December Of 2011 For Our 2 Week Honeymoon. It Was Nice But Very Spendy In My Opinion. Disneyland I Can Plan That For A Yearly Trip And Florida Well At Least Two Years To Save Up. The Airfare Is What Kills You. I Can Fly Round Trip To Anahiem For $100.00 And Sometimes Less. Florida We Spent $394 Round Trip Per Person And We Are A Family Of Six. Yes WDW Has More To Offer But Plan To Do Plenty Of Boat Or Bus TRansportation IfU Want To Eat AT Hotel… WE LOVE DISNEY!!

    • susan says:

      We Have A SURPRISE Disneyland Trip Planned For Our Kids During Thanksgiving Week!! We Generally Go In December So This Will Be A First For Us. Looking For Forward To All The Beautiful Christmas Decorations.

  16. tai says:

    disney has always been a place of happiness and fun. i went when i was 9 years old and it was wonderful and now its even better. at night is the best time to stay or come the shows are unbeliveable and amazing. its trely something to see, so go check it out, your children family or friends will love it!!!!

  17. Marcos says:

    For a first time visitor, how many days will you recommend me to stay??. We are from South Florida, but I want to take my 4 years old son to see Cars Land. Thanks in advance!

  18. Pam says:

    Heading to Disneyland from Texas this March…excited to bring my son for his first trip, and mine too! He just turned 5 and I wanted to make sure to bring him while he’s young enough to still enjoy Disney cartoons and all that jazz….I’m sure hoping we have a good time!

  19. The Shaffer Clan says:

    we’re planning on going in August this year. We’ll be traveling by car with a developmentally delayed 3 year old. We will be traveling on a budget and are wondering what additional tips you or others have for us. Thank you in advance!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      My only additional tip would be to read the dining reviews we have for counter service restaurants. If you want to save money, eating at quality counter service restaurants instead of table service restaurants is a great way to accomplish that!

    • Pat Tegges, Scottsdale, AZ. says:

      Hi, what is Superstar LImo?

  20. Mi Mi says:

    Our experience is that both destinations have their own unique perks…which keeps us bouncing back and forth over the years! The nostalgia at DL can’t be beat. It’s especially wonderful for small children. Three of our tiny grand-ones live only a few hours away, so this has become their only Disney park memory-maker… so far. (We have trip planned in 2014 to introduce the rest of the grandchildren there who live outside CA for a family reunion of the best sort. )

    Since my father worked in the security department in the Town Hall the summer of ’55 after DL originally opened, it was my first Disney park experience as a child & it holds wonderful memories. My grandparents lived in Burbank & took guests there all the time. We have great home movies of the park in the earliest of days!
    While DL is more do-able for little ones, and has new Cars Land (can’t wait for this May when we meet them there to see that,) WDW best fits the needs of older children. We first took our 3 then teenaged children to WDW in the mid 90s. After having grown up visiting DL (we lived in Las Vegas then,) WDW was full of new and grander experiences for them, and layered yet more rich experiences on their Disney ‘resume.’
    The less impressive Fantasyland of WDW at that time wasn’t an issue. They loved the Beach Club, water parks, as well as all the new places to explore.
    We plan on bringing the entire family to WDW in the future when all 5 grandchildren can handle the walking, heat, crowds better. My husband & I have enjoyed that locale close to 25 times in the past …almost 20 years! (Work, conferences, fun get-aways…) We live in Colorado, so both are easily accessible. We have no favorite!
    Disney parks on both coasts have become a family tradition for five generations of our family. Both are worthy of extended visits if you want to escape reality and enjoy beautifully manicured design and childlike fun. It just depends on the season and your stamina!

  21. Samantha says:

    I have been to WDW 7 times in the last 6 years (We were living in Georgia). Now, we are living back home in Alaska and have made reservations to visit Disneyland early this May! I have been to Disneyland 3 times, the most recent being 15 years ago (YIKES!). My parents, my husband, myself and our 3 children are all going for a week and will be staying at the Grand Californian. I have to admit, I am a WDW fanatic. However, I can’t wait for our trip to Disneyland in two months!!! For me, it’s all about experiencing the Disney magic in any way I can get it ;) If we were going to WDW again, I would have plans set in stone (When and where to make dining reservations, which park to visit on which days, which fastpasses to get ASAP when we arrive at the parks etc), however, because I was only 15 years old the last time I went AND considering how much has changed in the past 15 years, I am really struggling to get plans made. I know right now that 60 days in advance I will be calling to make reservations to eat at Blue Bayou as well as Goofy’s kitchen (for the character meal – which my 6, 4 and 2 year old will love!), but other than that I am clueless. I can’t seem to find as much information on which rides I should rush to first thing or other “experiences” that are must-do’s. I was hoping they would have a pirate’s league similar to WDW for my boys to get made into pirates, but the only thing comparable is being made into a prince at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and I have a suspicion they won’t be as into that. Guess I will do as much planning as I can while I count down the days until our Disneyland vacation! Thanks for the great article, BTW :)

  22. Kaitlyn says:

    Hi. My friends are coming from out of town. I would like to take them to Disneyland, but its soo expensive right now. We are trying to plan a trip for 10 ppl. Do you know if there are any discounts anywhere for the tickets? Is there 2 day tickets for $99 offered for Socal residents? Thanks!

  23. Sara says:

    Hooray for this!!

    As a lifelong Northern California and avid Disneyland fan/atendee, I appreciate this post.

    I’ve only been to WDW 3 times in my life so far, but absolutely loved it. Whenever I mention it to people they always ask me which I like more, and I tell them that you just have to go, because they can’t(and honestly shouldn’t) be compared. I state my own personal and biased reasons for preferring Disneyland, but don’t discredit how amazing WDW is at all.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I can understand not wanting to compare the parks, but I think it’s fun. What should be avoided, in my opinion, is trying to draw too many unexplained, negative comparisons. As in, “WDW is better than Disneyland because Disneyland only has 2 parks and WDW has 4.” While the numbers there are true, they don’t even begin to tell the whole story…

  24. Tracy says:

    We booked a trip for the end of June and are staying the Anabella. We’ll be traveling with a 5 yo and 11 month old, so proximity was important to us. Have you heard anything good, bad or indifferent? Thanks for the info. Very helpful for people who like to do their homework for vacations.

  25. Brandon says:

    I’m actually going to stay at the hotel with my girlfriend this summer. (Due to the fact that I turned 18 on April 28.)
    We’re going to have a great time. We both share the same interest in cartoons and the history behind it.
    I’ve been to Disney World, and it has amazing attractions, (Specifically, Rock n’ Roller Coaster and Test Track.) but it doesn’t give me the same chills that Disneyland gives me. I’m not a thrill seeker, nor am I a guy who wants to lie on his ass all day in dark rides. I just have a love for Disneyland. The weird smell when you go into the park. The pricy churros. It’s part of my childhood and that’s why I love it so much. I guess you can say that I love Disneyland for the same reason that Floridians my age love Disney World. We grew up with it, and it’s a part of us.
    I have 2,000 saved in my bank account and I’m going to have a fun time with her. I’ve known her for two years and it’s going to be amazing sharing my first time on the park without my parents.

    So that long passionate answer is me paying homage to my long history with Disney.
    :)

  26. bevan says:

    I went last year

  27. Palerogue says:

    We are going for the Third year in a Row Memorial Day weekend (Woo Hoo) One week away from today :)~

  28. Broc Beau says:

    It has been about 3 years since my last visit to Disneyland. I’ve been a regular since it opened. I read all the hype on how fabulous the upgrades at California Adventure are and while that may be true, I opted to take my grandchildren to Disneyland for their first visit. The last time I was there I couldn’t help but notice how run down so many of the original rides were… light bulbs out, faded glow in the dark paint on rides like Peter Pan. Just an overall run down look. So yesterday I was looking forward to watching little faces light up just as mine had at age 5. It appears that all the improvements were invested in attracting more visitors to California Adventure as I found Disneyland to be in the same run down condition as my previous visit. I was devasted when my granddaughter got off her first ride declairing “this is lame”. I agree. The magic goes out the window when the park isn’t properly maintained. It was a ridiculously expensive day and were we able to do it over we would have gone to California Adventure where everything is shiny and new. Shame on the Disney Company. For what you charge a family for admission it would behoove you to keep the park in pristeen condition. It was clean but inexcusably rundown.

    • Micah says:

      That’s sad to hear about your impression of things being rundown and losing ‘the magic’ as a result, Broc. Was that your general impression for the whole park, or just some spots in Fantasyland?

      Going around Christmas this year, so hope the magic is alive and well at that time. I hear Big Thunder Mountain is due to open again this fall; I imagine that would have been a bummer for you with it being closed this year.

    • Pat Tegges, Scottsdale, AZ. says:

      Dear Broc B, what are you, Possessed? There is nothing wrong with the older rides !!!!! I think they’re fabulous!!

  29. Shay says:

    Really appreciate this rundown. My only counter-argument is that I find it surprising you think the food is superior in Disneyland. I am a foodie, for sure. Having grown up with frequent trips to DLR (I live in Seattle, so the flight was more reasonable), and now having 4 trips to WDW in my adult life, I have always been far more impressed with food offerings in WDW. I am not sure what you were comparing, but even if it was straight Magic Kingdom vs. Disneyland, I can’t fully agree with you. Though I am very VERY impressed with the improvements across the board in Disney theme parks nationwide, I still think MK wins over DL. And full resort to full resort, even Napa Rose (one of my fave restaurants in the world) and Carthay Circle can’t go head to head against the likes of Victoria and Alberts…not to mention the ridiculous variety offered throughout 4 parks plus a huge Downtown Disney district at WDW vs. DLR’s two small resorts.

    Ultimately, food aside, I can’t imagine any true Disney fan now “getting” the beauty of Disneyland on its own merits. I often speak to other fans who often say they like DLR more for the “walk in Walt’s footsteps” kind of reasons. The history is deep, and any fan can feel the spirit of all we know to be Disney which started in this park. Personally, having grown up around Disney and having mad love for it, I prefer WDW’s vast offerings. But I still go to DLR whenever I can!!

    • Shay says:

      Erp. now=not!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I suppose I should have qualified that with “pound for pound” or that counter service food is generally better.

      Walt Disney World has some fantastic signature dining (plus V&A’s), as well as great counter service, but there are plenty of duds, too. In terms of raw number of great places to eat, WDW wins out. But, it also has significantly more places to eat.

      I should probably go back and clarify that…

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  32. Jame says:

    While visiting Disneyland, the places you stay are of the utmost importance. As a matter of fact, this is true for every other city. When you are visiting Pasadena, for instance, you can stay in a hotel that is located at the heart of the city and be near the buzz. Heard about Lincoln Motel Pasadena? It is centrally located and also does not cost that much to stay. You can stay here with your family and enjoy all the sights and sounds of Pasadena.

  33. Jeff M says:

    Tom, love what you’re doing with the blog.

    My family of five has been to WDW 6 times in the past four years, but now we are considering making the trek to Disneyland. For the first time out, what would be a good length of stay to fully experience much of what DL has to offer without staying too long? I’m thinking four days would be a good start, but am mostly clueless here.

    Thanks.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That’s tough. It’s going to vary for everyone, but if you really want to take your time enjoying dining and everything the resort has to offer, I’d say 4 or 5 days would be ideal. If you just want to do all of the basics, 2-3 days.

  34. Nikkimouse says:

    Question! I am going to disneyland august 8th-11th but will also attend the D23 Expo. Should I expect Disneyland to be less crowded this weekend? Maybe everyone will be at the expo?

  35. Mike says:

    I am planning to be in Anaheim within a couple weeks and I just have a quick question. Is Epcot a separate ticket than the magical kingdom and adventure park? And is it worth it to go to Epcot. I am 26 and am going there with my girlfriend so some art exhibits and drinking would be good. Is it all in the same area or is it quite far to go from one to another? Appreciate anyone who has advice on this.
    Thanks!

  36. Dan H says:

    Hi Tom, this blog is awesome. So the GF and i are going Dec 12-14. We have the 3 day-1 park per day pass. i was thinking Thursday and Saturday in Disneyland and Friday in DCA. Does this sound OK? I haven’t been to DL in since I was 7 (I’m now 350, and I’m sure it’s been 10 years for my GF.I’m not sure that 2 days is enough in DL, but that’s all the time we have.

    Thanks!

  37. Ellen Hillery says:

    Leaving on 8/20. First visit since 1988. Disneyland hotel for 4 nights. Can hardly wait!
    Love your blog, photos, website, discussion contributions etc!!!

  38. mike says:

    Im Just curious. me and my wife are going from December 26th to Jan 4th. My first time and her 2nd. We have been to WDW about 6 times. I was wondering is that enough time for both parks, and still do some other things.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yeah, you’ll have enough time for the parks and other activities in SoCal. You’re going at a really busy time of year, though, so expect to spend more time waiting in lines than normal.

    • Jane says:

      Enjoy the holiday decor, but be prepared for crazy lines! We (my husband and 2 children) have been both right before and right after Christmas. It was wayyy better before Christmas. Everyone has the time off between Xmas and New Years. You can still experience the grand holiday magic before Xmas, with smaller crowds

  39. Renan says:

    I went on the 15th,16th and 17th of June this year (yes on the 58th anniversary and I didnt realise it until I was there it made me very very happy) and we went 2 days to disneyland and one to california adventure and we did everything in Disneyland except for very kid things and stuff we were not interested.( we just didnt ride the main street vehicles, davy crocketts canoes, Watch the 2 shows at the royal theater the carousel, and dumbo. We watched all other shows and the parade and fantasmic and magical we watched it on both days and we managed to also ride things twice).
    For california adventure we did the same thing but just in one day(we didnt ride the red car trolleys, watch disney junior, ride anything in bugs land except its though to be a bug, maters junkyard. the bakery tower, carousel, jumpin jellyfish, and golden zephyr. We also unforntunally missed the second showing of the parade while at Alladin and we watched all other shows and World of Color and rode california screaming 4 times and tower of terror 5 and radiator springs racers one with fastpass and one with single rider right after 9:00 world of color.) I would also like to say that we did see many characters not just ride and took many pictures. We also didnt eat at the parks we brought out own except for ice cream and other small “cart” snacks.Do you think me and my family were able to do well with this trip. Do you think we really used our time well and the fastpasses since it was busy season and one of the day was the 58th anniversary. Do you think we did well?

  40. Roy says:

    Any idea when the Christmas holiday decorations will be up this year (2013)?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Dates aren’t yet official, but we expect the Christmas season at Disneyland to officially kick off on November 11, 2013. Expect the decorations around Disney California Adventure and Disneyland to start going up two weeks before then.

    • Pat Tegges, Scottsdale, AZ. says:

      Hi Roy,
      the Holiday decorations go up right after Halloween. They are fabulous and you will love them!! Happy Holidays!!

  41. Robyn Lee says:

    Greetings, I grew up 5 miles from Disneyland. Even though my family didn’t visit Disneyland as one might think being so close, it was definitely a big part of my growing up. We could see the fireworks on Wednesday night from Magnolia Baptist Church. My husband and I went to Disneyland on our honeymoon because he had never been. Comparing Disneyland to Disney World is like comparing apples to limes. Both are fruit, but they just aren’t the same. Disneyland doesn’t have four parks that are Disney. If you drive just a little bit you can go to, Medieval Times, The Wax Museum, the beach, but those aren’t apart of Disneyland. I live in Oregon now and it is a great supporter of the, Oregon Ducks football team. For the fans of Disney World to say bad things about Disneyland would be like me saying bad things about the, Red Sox at Fenway Park. I have no desire to visit Disney World. I am content and have great memories here at Disneyland. Hopefully, my husband and I will visit again some day with our sons. Thanks for reading.
    Tim, Robyn, Joseph, and Josh

  42. Rebecca says:

    Hi, firstly, just wanted to say how much I love your blog and how useful it has been when we have been planning our last three trips to WDW from the UK!!! This October we will be visiting DL for the first time and will have 2 days (1 park per day) there as part of our road trip around California. I have bought extra tickets for the Halloween party on 30th Oct and was wondering how this compares to MNSSHP? Also, are there any must do’s whilst we’re there (I know that 2 days might not be enough to see everything!!) Our party is 4 adults and 2 kids (10 and 8). Thank you!!!!!

  43. Kathryn says:

    I’ve booked the flight for Dec 1 to Dec 5. I am taking my 2 daughters (22&20). I sooo want to stay in a Disney hotel, but for the price and reading the on-site versus off-site, glad I booked the Desert Inn. I have never been to Disneyland. One of my daughters (20) has gone a couple of times, just one day each. Plan to saturate our 3-1/2 days with Disney. Thinking California Adventure Park just one day. I even printed off the Vegan Cowgirl’s guide to eating for one of them.

  44. Daina says:

    My husband and I are taking our 2 sons to DL this month for Halloween. As native North Californians we both went at least once a year as kids and continued through adulthood. We went to WDW a about 6 years ago for the first time, when our oldest son was 10 months old. Although the size of WDW was impressive, with a baby, and the strollers, diapers, food, bags and such that go along with them, the trams, monorail, boats and such that you have to take to get from your hotel to a park and back were very inconvenient. At DL, we simply walk everywhere, from hotel to park, to the other park and back. When my 2 year old is fully out of a stroller in another few years we will consider heading back to WDW. (The Animal Kingdom and Water Parks are worth the flight for a change of Disney Pace!)
    At WDW the list of on-property hotels was better, as well as the awesome fun of the water parks. The DL hotels, are all great…although we have stayed off property on occasio, the convenience of on-property and the guarantee of well appointed, clean roooms and the Disney feel is worth the cost. I do think the GC is overpriced, the DLH and PPH have rooms just as nice (and the same size!) for far less. (Although the PPH Pool is not great…so if you like to swim in the summer…go to the DLH!)
    And you didn’t mention the great convenience of DL Downtown Disney in comparison to WDW. In WDW there are more entertainments and clubs in DD, but the DL one is located by all 3 hotels, is easily walked to from any nearby off-property hotel, is cleaner, and has plenty of restaraunts, bars, shops, and music

  45. Deb says:

    I love love love your blog and tips.
    We are travelling from Australia with our two boys next week and have just learnt that the Christmas Celebrations start two days after we arrive. Super excited and will def utilize lots of your tips!!
    Thanks
    Deb

  46. olusegun maxwell says:

    i am a nigerian from africa,i got married last year and me and my wife has been looking for a perfect place for our second year weedding aniversary,untill i came accross disneyland in a book

    please kindly guide me on how i can achieve my dream of visiting disneyland with my wife

    Thank you

  47. Tara says:

    The first two weeks of December 2013 the park was completely crowded. When we arrived at 10am all 4 days the parking lot was full so we were redirected to the Paradise pier hotel parking lot which took us 40 min. To get to the front gates of the park as there was no tram to take us . We had to walk from one end of downtown Disney to Disneyland gates. Same thing last year 2012 parking lot full by 12 pm the first two weeks of December. Every ride was at least 70 min. Or more wait

    • Tom Bricker says:

      We were there the first weekend of December, and while the park was busier than expected, there were definitely a lot of attractions with wait times less than 70 minutes. The vast majority, in fact.

  48. Duy says:

    Thanks for the post. I ve been to Disneyland resort at 2009 for 4 consecutive days and stayed at Disneyland hotel. The resort is really nice. I really dont like people who compare Disney park to Disney Park. Personally I think they are all great, and some are just little greater than others. They cannot compare a park with nearly 60 years old to a park that just opened couple years. Some said that TDR is the best. Japanese does not rate their parks the best. They really like TDR, but they also want to explore all Disney Parks worldwide… and enjoy them, not judge them. The true is each resort all has their own unique E-tickets, as a Disney fan, enjoy all of these are better than anything.

  49. Kirstine says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m from the UK and have been to Disneyland before about 5 years ago but only for a day! Me and my boyfriend are planning a trip to California for the future but were thinking of waiting a year and going in 2015 for the 60th anniversary! I just wondered if you think this is a good idea for the best year to go as we won’t be able to go again any time soon! And also what time of year for that would be best for the anniversary? Hope you can help! I love reading your trip reports.

    Kirstine x

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think waiting for the 60th might be a good idea if you’re a fan of the Disneyland dark rides, as they’re rumored to receive some nice upgrades for the 60th. Otherwise, I don’t really think much will be happening…but I could be wrong!

      Christmas-time is probably the most romantic time of the year. YMMV, though.

  50. veki says:

    I would like to ask what do you think if visiting Anaheim and Disneyland is okay during Thanksgiving Holiday?

  51. Jo says:

    We will be in So. California over Memorial Day Weekend – our only opportunity to visit Disneyland. We’ve been to Disneyworld and Disneyland several times over the years with our kids when they were much younger. This time we’ll have 4 young adults – mid-20′s – with us when we visit in May 2014. Which day will be better to do Disneyland – Saturday or Sunday of Memorial Day weekend? Thanks.

  52. Abi says:

    Hi! We just returned from a magical trip to Disneyland and DCA. With less than a month to prepare for our last-minute vacation, stumbling across your blog was fortuitous and a gift. I scoured through old posts and heeded many of your tips, recommendations and suggestions (esp. 101 Tips and Top Disney/DCA Attractions).

    We never would have considered the park hopper pass, but it turned out to be the perfect option for our two days of Disney. The last week of January was a FABULOUS time to visit. Just a handful of rides were closed for refurbishment, the weather was nice (mid 70s on day one, mid 60s on day two), the longest line we waited in was 40 minutes to get our Radiator Springs fast passes. Otherwise, it was 15 minutes tops! We saw everything we REALLY wanted to see in the first day, so our second day was bonus.

    I could go on and one, but the short of the long is that my husband, kids and I had a WONDERFUL time, and we will fondly remember our first Disney vacation forever. Thank you so much for your great blog, Tom. It was a trip saver.

    All the best to you!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words, and I’m happy to hear that your trip went well! It’s always nice hearing from people who have used the tips here and had a great time! :)

  53. David S. says:

    My wife and I will be visiting Disneyland for the first time in September 2014. We live in Florida and visit WDW all of the time, in fact we are annual passholders there. We are flying out to CA to do the repo cruise of the Disney Wonder back thru the Panama Canal to Port Canaveral Florida. We are flying out early to spend a few days at Disneyland before the cruise. Any tips or suggestions for two newbies to Disneyland? We both are semi-retired and Disneyland has been on our bucket list for a few years now. We are staying at the Disneyland Hotel for our stay at Disneyland.

  54. Erin says:

    I’m planning a vacation in August 2014!!! Hope that’s a good time of year to go. It’s my 7th or 8th time. But my friends first. This is an awesome post! I will keep eveything in mind!

  55. Excellent article. I absolutely appreciate this website.
    Thanks!

  56. Daniel says:

    Hi I’m planning to visit my daughter that lives in San Francisco and would like to take her to Disneyland. I will be traveling 3/19 thru 3/25. I have a couple of questions.

    1. Does it make sense to drive from San fran to Anaheim? Flights from San Fran to LA seem to be expensive for next week.

    2. What tickets should I purchase? Two day park hopper or two single day for each park? Don’t want to waste time and money on things that she may not be interested in.

    Any other suggestions or input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Have you looked into flying into LAX or SNA? Both are good options close to Disneyland. With as short as your trip is, I wouldn’t want to do the drive, but it’s probably not that much longer than flying, once you factor in time at the airport, etc.

      I’d recommend Park Hopper tickets. The two parks are a really short walk from one another, and it’s nice to take advantage of that (and you can double up on FastPasses this way if it’s busy!).

  57. Katherine says:

    Hi Tom,
    We are planning a trip for the first time to DL the second week of May ( 8-17) we have 2 kids ( almost 4 years old boy and 7 years old girl) we live in Seattle and we are thinking to spend 3 days in DL , 1 day in San Diego ( Seaworld and ….) then visit universal Studios ( I’m not sure if the kids would like it or we have to skip it) also what beach would be good to spend a day. We think to rent a car, but not sure if we have have to do it after DL ( we are planing to stay in a hotel within a walking distance to Park )and then rent it for the rest of our trip, we are thinking to buy the Southern California city pass. Which airports do you recommend us? SNA? Other attractions to visit with kids? Do you recommend us to stay in Anaheim in a hotel the 7 days and then make the trips from there or can we move closer to San Diego?

    Thank you very much in advance for this fantastic blog.

  58. Angelina says:

    Disneyland disappointment ….

    Hi everyone my family and I went to disneyland california for Christmas…this was my children’s Christmas present this year…..The happiest place on earth right?…Not for us……we went on Christmas weekend…..my daughter is 10 and my son is 7…this is all they wanted from Santa this year is to go there… so we planned our trip…we planned our trip through Disneyland and stayed at a neighbor resort … I will never again go to the theme park again  …. or trip was miserable.      _____For it to take all of our savings and to drive 23 hours _____…it was horrible my kids were sad…_____.it was so busy we could not ride any rides…people were running in to us about knocking my daughter over…..we could not see any of the shows people were crowded everywhere workers were very rude about standing were you could try to see… it was a reserved spot, ….

    go figure…….. just a heads up dont go durring a holiday they ruined our Christmas. …. I will never go again !!!!!! I also notified the  customer relations desk  of the  problems we were having they said next time dont plan durring a holiday …..well I kind of figured that much…

    they were no help at all….I rate this theme park very low… wish my family could have had fun for christmas…like all the commercials….. well not my kids they were very sad…..lines were like 3 to 4 hours long….we even paid extra for the park hopper tickets

    I guess that a theme park that large wont care about losing business for a family of 4 when they have so much business already….. I think thats wrong..

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Sorry to hear that your experience was negative. It’s pretty well known that Christmas weekend is insanely busy (the busiest weekend of the year). Before going to any theme park (or anywhere, for that matter), it’s a good idea to do a little research. I understand your opinion of Disneyland is tainted, but just some general advice for future trips! :)

  59. Troy houghton says:

    Just found this site. Really enjoy it. we are going to Disneyland in late September and early October. Any thought about what Crowd or wait times should be. Some sites say it should not be bad

  60. Katy says:

    For large groups….check out vrbo.com, it’s actually a great site for anywhere you want to go. Some of the vacation rentals by owners available near Disneyland are just amazing. Many are within walking distance to the parks, have themed rooms, pools, jacuzzis, game/media rooms, toys and playground areas. Well equiped, just bring your food. We rented a 5 bedroom,5 bath for 4 nights, each room had private bath. Lots of living space. Sleeps 22 (19 of us, 11 adults & 8 kids 1-8 yrs old)sounds crazy, but plenty of room for all and HUGE savings.

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