Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are two of our favorite places on earth, and we seldom have a bad experience at either park. With that said, we have had our share of awful experiences over the last decade-plus, and have come up of this just-for-fun list of things we will never do again. (Updated December 31, 2023.)
Truthfully, there are very few things at Disneyland or DCA that we will never do again. Just about everything deserves a second chance–menus at restaurants change, hotels are overhauled, and attractions are tweaked or re-imagined over time. This is especially true at the California parks, which are necessarily receptive to feedback, as they depend upon repeat business from locals. (It’s not as easy as with the unsuspecting first-time tourists that populate the parks at Walt Disney World!)
There are also ways the parks have changed. If this list were made a few years ago, it would’ve included specific days of the week, under-the-radar holidays, and even bag check areas at certain times. Despite being problems for ages, all of those things are pretty much non-issues now.
Beyond the parks changing, there are ways we have changed. People change, as do preferences; things that were once loathed are now loved, and vice-versa. For example, we used to hate parking in the Toy Story lot, but have been won over in the last year.
Finally, if I’m being honest with myself and you all, there’s also the reality that I have the memory of a goldfish blue tang fish named Dory. Insane as it might be, I make the same mistakes again and again, either forgetting past mistakes or foolishly expecting a different outcome. “Live and learn” is my motto, minus the learn part.
Another thing to note is that this list only covers things that are within our control. Over the years, the company has made the “choice” for us, by eliminating a lot of things that we’d otherwise love to do again. We’d love to enter the grid of elecTRONica, see Country Bear Jamboree, or redeem a free FastPass, but it seems that Disney will deny us those opportunities. And I think I speak for every Disneyland fan who would like another ride on the PeopleMover or Superstar Limo. 😉
Those are things we will technically never do again at Disneyland, but are very much not in the spirit of this list, which is more like shouting “NEVER AGAIN!” than lamenting never again. 😢 With that in mind, here are the “top” 10 things that we’ll (try to) never do again at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure…
Goofy’s Sky School – While testing Genie+ and Lightning Lane strategy, we did Goofy’s Sky School for the first time in what had to have been close to 5 years. For whatever reason, I was actually looking forward to the attraction, fondly remembering the fun details and Easter eggs while, apparently, forgetting just how punishing the ride is…and with zero payoff.
On several occasions, I felt like I was going to fly off the corner of the ride (so in a way, it does deliver thrills!) or was in physical pain as the coaster abruptly started, stopped, and whipped around. There are plenty of rides that are overrated or underwhelming at Disneyland, but this is the only one that’s downright unpleasant and offers no upside to counterbalance that. I’ll probably forget this in another 5 years (hopefully it’s demolished by then), but for now, I have no intentions of ever doing Goofy’s Sky School again.
BONUS: Matterhorn – This cannot legally be included on my list because it’s a “mistake” I make again and again on purpose. Every time I ride Matterhorn, it’s a painful experience due to the vibrating of the bobsleds on the track. The rickety ‘ole roller coaster makes me feel like a rickety ‘ole geezer after I get off…yet I keep getting back on to relive nostalgia for bygone days. And so goes my love-hate relationship with Matterhorn, which I will never stop riding, even though my body is pleading with me to give it up!
World of Color Dessert Party – I’m generally averse to upcharge offerings at Disneyland, especially given its more laid back nature than Walt Disney World. Nevertheless, there’s a pervasive sense of FOMO on social media and in certain online planning communities–even Disneyland-centric ones–that drives many people to spend on unnecessary add-ons. This is exacerbated by certain popular experiences booking up quickly, which only serves to perpetuate the cycle of hype. (In reality, it’s less a reflection of quality and demand than it is limited supply.)
The FOMO machine go into overdrive with the World of Color Dessert Parties. Yes, this can book up quickly and guarantees a seat for the popular (and excellent) nighttime spectacular. But the quality of the dessert spread and substance of the experience leaves so much to be desired. Beyond that, it simply is not necessary for watching World of Color.
There are other (relatively easy) ways to get great views. I can understand why certain guests with unique circumstances book it, but for 95% of people, it’s unnecessary overkill and a waste of money. (For more, see our World of Color Dessert Party Review.)
Abide Affronts to Award Wieners or Suffer Schmoozie’s Smack Talk – DCA 1.0, as it’s now known among fans, has a lot of haters. By extension, some Disneyland diehards still turn their noses up when it comes to any remnants of the much-maligned circa-2001 park. This was never acceptable when it came to Schmoozie’s, which is always out there giving 110% in furtherance of the art of high-quality smoothies and shakes.
At one point, the Disneyland dieharders’ disdain was understandable when it came to Award Wieners. The walk-up window was insanely popular despite mediocre meat medleys served on plain buns and with bags of generic Lay’s potato chips. It was also expensive for what you got, making it a poor value for money. Between the quality and cost, it was arguably the worst restaurant at DCA.
However, that stopped being the case several years ago, as the quality was upgraded across the board. The all-beef meat, toppings, and buns have all improved considerably. Filmstrip fries are top-notch, too. All of this while the price didn’t really change (beyond normal Disneyflation). Award Wieners now lives up to its name, and is deserving of a major award. Suffice to say, there’s a reason why it makes our List of the 24 Best Restaurants at Disneyland in 2024.
In fact, Award Wieners is where I eat more than anywhere else in Disney California Adventure, and I make a point of always getting the seasonal dog. It’s always inventive, loaded with toppings, and filling for a relatively reasonable price. It’s a similar story with the regular menu, which offers the best bang-for-buck at DCA. (I also love the Asada Fries, but I wouldn’t call those a great value.)
TIE: Navigate New Orleans Square Around Fantasmic – In fairness, Fantasmic has been on hiatus most of the year, so this really hasn’t been an issue in 2023. While we miss the nighttime spectacular, this became a ‘never again’ for us after witnessing fights (plural) last summer.
As much as we’ve missed Fantasmic this year, we’ve honestly been somewhat relieved that getting around this side of the park has been so much easier this year. Navigating through New Orleans Square is a nightmare around Fantasmic–and will be again in 2024. The viewing areas are all packed, and there’s not much consistency as to how or when they fill up.
There are ropes that form cattle corrals for guests to watch Fantasmic and more ropes to bypass it, but if you’re a first-timer, it’s difficult to make sense of what’s going on. (Even as a seasoned Disneyland veteran, I had a tough time.) It’s simply a bad way to experience the park’s best land. If you want to see Fantasmic–and you should–be sure to arrive early, linger, and leave late (fireworks viewing from the Rivers of America is surprisingly good).
TIE: Main Street Before Fireworks or Parades – It’s a similar story around the front of the park before fireworks or a nighttime parade. It seems like half of the park becomes one-way, and you literally might need to do a 10-minute loop to access something that started in your general vicinity, but was on the other side of the one-way walkway.
All of this is compounded by the reality that Disneyland PAC Cast Members are “battle hardened.” To put it politely, they have seen some things, experiencing chaos, congestion, and the aforementioned fights. As a result, they (understandably) run a tight ship and make sure walkways are kept clear and people continue moving. The downside to this is a lot of yelling (don’t you dare stop for a photo of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle!) to keep people in check.
Let this serve as a warning for all of you heading out to Disneyland on New Year’s Eve, when all of this is exponentially worse. Trust us, we’ve been down this road, and you’re better off with watching World of Color–Disney California Adventure largely empties out because people want to see the NYE fireworks at Disneyland–or seeing the New Year’s Eve Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks Spectacular from somewhere in the park other than Main Street. You can see the fireworks from anywhere–as the name says, they’re in the sky!
Eat in Tomorrowland – Did you hear that Galactic Grill has a new menu item that looks fantastic in the stock photo? Did you know that Alien Pizza Planet is actually good if you order X and modify your order to Y? Have you tried this new seasonal dish that has the makings of something special?
If something sounds too good to be true with Tomorrowland dining at Disneyland, it is. All of the “questions” above are variations of things I’ve heard over the years, most many times. I’ve eaten in Tomorrowland at least two-dozen times over the last decade, and I can count the number of satisfactory meals on one hand.
By contrast, I’ve lost track of how many nearly-inedible “foods” I’ve consumed in Tomorrowland. If you hear something surprisingly positive about food in Tomorrowland, remember the wise words of Admiral Ackbar: it’s a trap!
Camp Out for Opening Day Stuff – Here is the first of a few “do as we say, not as we do” entries. Few people know this, but Disney bloggers have a code of conduct that’s more stringent than the American Board of Neurological Surgery Code of Ethics. Okay, not really. The blogger code is more what you call guidelines than actual rules.
One of those is that we attend the opening day of everything, no matter how insignificant. And since there are a lot of bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers residing in Southern California, this means surprisingly big crowds for seemingly inconsequential things. (I still vividly recall waiting in line several hours for Super Heroes HQ, an overlay to Innoventions that would never have any wait.)
I am incredibly excited for Disney’s 100th Anniversary, World of Color – One at DCA, and the Wondrous Journeys fireworks at Disneyland. I’m also dreading the day one crowds that are sure to descend upon the parks. Sure, I could just go the following week, but the code demands otherwise. Let us serve as a cautionary tale, and don’t make the same “mistake” as us if you are not required to by some so-called code!
Fly into LAX – We fly into and out of Los Angeles International Airport all the time–including the day before Thanksgiving this year. It isn’t my favorite airport in the world, but I also don’t agree with all of the hate LAX gets. Once you learn the ins and outs (speaking of which, be sure to make a pit stop on the In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda before flying out!), it feels a bit like taming a beast. You know the tricks for avoiding the traffic jams into and out of the airport, where the best lounges are located, and how to get through security in minutes.
However, you will have exactly none of this knowledge on your first trip to California. For the uninitiated, LAX is absolutely overwhelming, bordering on nightmarish. This is especially true if you’re from a small/suburban town or your home airport is regional, you will likely experience significant culture shock. LAX is like trial by fire, and the chaos and crowds can start your trip off on the wrong foot. (That’s especially true if you or someone traveling with you already has negative, preconceived notions about California.)
Meanwhile, John Wayne Airport (SNA) is laid back, quiet, and seldom crowded. Despite being in a highly populated area and only a short drive from Disneyland, it feels very much like a quaint, regional airport. If there were a list ranking the best airports for napping, SNA would be near the top and LAX would be near the bottom.
BONUS: Take the Tram at Park Closing – On the topic of transportation mistakes, we’d put taking the tram at or around park closing relatively high on the list. There’s usually a long line, and it’s often chaotic and unpleasant. Then again, we typically prefer walking to Mickey & Friends, so this might be a “just us” never again entry. If you have small children or elderly family members…or if your ‘dogs are barkin’, then maybe the tram will be a welcome sight, even with a long line!
Stay at Paradise Pier Hotel – Did you ever hear about how Chuck E. Cheese rebranded itself as Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings to dupe unsuspecting Grubhub customers who otherwise never would’ve ordered from there due to horror stories or urban legends about recycled pizza? That sounds similar to what Disney is doing right now with Paradise Pier Hotel.
Currently being rebranded as Pixar Place Hotel, the hotel has already improved in certain and concrete ways. This is undeniable, even for Paradise Pier Hotel haters like me. As the reimagined resort emerges from construction, there are nice features and amenities–like the new pool area and Great Maple lobby restaurant–that are massive upgrades over the last few years. The new rooms also look nicer than what was there before.
In large part, this is because the hotel cannot conceivably get worse. Inefficient elevators, no real restaurants, absurdly-bad value for money, dated everything, rooms that are 2-star caliber, and more–not all of this can be remedied by a quick “reimagining” that is mostly cosmetic. Paradise Pier Hotel is arguably worse than 3 dozen off-site hotels near Disneyland. It is inarguably worse than both Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian, as well as at least one dozen off-site hotels near Disneyland.
Some fans will claim that Paradise Pier Hotel is not as bad as we claim, that this is exaggeration. That is their prerogative. Perhaps they are correct, or maybe it’s possible that fans have sentimentality or nostalgia for something that is objectively bad. All I know is that if I’m dropping a few hundred dollars to stay at a Disney-branded hotel, I’m choosing the other two in an instant. Both of those are among the best Disney hotels in the world. (For choosing between them, see Grand Californian vs. Disneyland Hotel.)
There are very few Disney things we hate with a passion, but Paradise Pier Hotel is right up there with Dino-Rama and Rainforest Cafe. If you’re booking a trip to Disneyland and want to stay on-site, upgrade to the Grand Californian. If that’s out of your price range, “downgrade” and stay in a significantly cheaper and nicer off-site option. Avoid Paradise Pier Hotel at all costs. Seriously, there are hundreds if not thousands of better ways to use your vacation budget at Disneyland Resort.
Regardless of all that, this entry will soon fall off our list, as Paradise Pier Hotel will cease to exist as of January 30, 2024.
Underestimate Southern California Weather – The first time we visited Disneyland, it was the heart of summer. In typical Southern California fashion, the weather was perfect. Plenty of sunshine, minimal humidity, not a cloud in the sky, and warm enough that it was not chilly even at night. We even missed the infamous June gloom. That ideal weather was part of the reason we fell in love with the state–a far cry from what we had experienced in Florida during the same timeframe.
The next time we visited Disneyland, it was late November into early December. It rained almost every day (something I did not know was possible in Southern California!) and both early mornings and evenings were freezing. I was utterly unprepared, having looked only at the average daily high temperatures (which were not that far off from our summer trip) when packing.
I learned a lot that trip about California weather, and have never made the same mistake again. To the contrary, we now use it to our advantage–targeting rainy days or times when there’s a sharp drop in daytime v. nighttime temperatures. I’ll happily wear a parka to the park if it means low crowds and wait times!
Overplan – You don’t need to devote nearly as much time to planning a Disneyland trip as you would a Walt Disney World vacation. Honestly, it’s better to be “underprepared” for Disneyland than overprepared. Planning everything down to the minute or even hour leaves no room for spontaneity, and Disneyland is all about the spontaneous experiences.
Characters appear out of nowhere, there’s atmospheric entertainment you never knew about, and a wealth of “little things” you’ll want to stop to experience. These spontaneous little moments can be the highlight of a Disneyland vacation, and planning everything down to the smallest detail might “force” you to skip these things when you see them.
A detailed itinerary also sets unrealistic expectations. If you plan a trip checklist style with 15 things that you “must accomplish” in a given day, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. The practical realities of navigating crowds, weather, longer-than-expected lines, attraction downtime, or other unplanned variables mean you might not be able to get everything done.
It’s better to go into a Disneyland trip with a rough plan of attack with plenty of downtime–and be prepared to bail on even what you do have on your schedule. Sometimes we have the most fun when we toss aside our plans. The bottom line is that arriving early, staying late, or buying Genie+ at Disneyland will give you a lot of latitude to enjoy an easy-going pace, roll with the punches, and enjoy the spontaneity of the more-relaxed Disney parks in the United States.
What things at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure would you never do again? Is any restaurant, resort, or ride beyond redemption for you? Any day of the week, holiday, or time of year you’d never visit? Do you agree or disagree with our list? Would you do any of these things again? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!