Wondering how to spend a romantic date night at Disneyland? This post gives you tips and recommendations for an evening in the park with your significant other: where to dine, what to do, and ways to enjoy an “adult” evening in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure while still retaining that sense of childhood whimsy that makes the parks special.
Like so many fans, we are nostalgic for Disneyland’s past. While our nostalgia for Walt Disney World encompasses extinct attractions that we experienced as kids, we have no such history with Disneyland. Rather, that nostalgia at Disneyland is for the park’s own history. Its connection to Walt Disney, Americana, and the park’s rich legacy that has made it a cultural touchstone and entertainment icon.
In looking through my old books of Disneyland concept art, I find myself overcome with a sense of nostalgia, and yearn for what the park used to be. One of these things was “Date Nite at Disneyland.” (Hence the title of this post.) Just looking through those marketing materials and photos will have you pining for a bygone era, and (if you’re like us) will make you want to plan a special, adult evening at Disneyland. (I suspect this sense of nostalgia was one of the original motivations behind Dapper Day.)
Fortunately, you don’t have to attend Dapper Day to have your own adult evening at Disneyland. Whether you’re honeymooning at Disneyland or just want an evening away from the kids, here are some of the ways that you can have your own Date Nite at Disneyland…
Dress the Part – Rather than going for a pin-up or period costume like you’ll find common at Dapper Days, we prefer timeless and traditional styles. Like what you’d actually see in 1950s photos, rather than idealized or caricatured interpretations of the era.
We also skew more towards practical attire that is feasible in a theme park (and weather-appropriate). Usually this means a sport coat and slacks (even a coat coupled with dark jeans or khakis will work) and dresses. Pairing your outfit with traditional Mickey Mouse ears is a great, playful contrast, and provides a whimsical vibe.
A Nice Meal… – Our go-to for this has become Napa Rose, where we’ve done the standard dining room, the lounge, and the Chef’s Counter. We like this for special occasions like birthdays, and have also enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner at Napa Rose. The appeal for us is that this is outside of the parks, so the atmosphere is typically a bit more befitting of a fine dining restaurant; if we are going to drop a lot of money on a meal for a “date night,” we prefer this type of atmosphere over something more casual.
If you would prefer something more casual, we think Cafe Orleans is another great option. We did this last year for Thanksgiving, and it was definitely more laid back than Napa Rose (and significantly cheaper). You also get the in-park ambiance, which is great. For the best of both worlds, Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure and Blue Bayou in Disneyland are good picks.
Kiddie Attractions – If you’re looking for a whimsical contrast to the evening, look no further than the attractions typically viewed as being “for kids.” The beauty of Disneyland is that just about everything works on multiple levels.
A ride through hell on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, relaxing boat ride through the Storybook Land Canal Boats, or being seated in a cage on the Casey Jr. Circus Train all can be really fun experiences that remind you that you’re a kid at heart. Other great options, particularly if you want nice photos that mix the whimsy of the evening with the dressed-up nature of your date night, include the Carousel in Disneyland and Silly Symphony Swings in Disney California Adventure.
Photo Shoot – On the topic of photos, we recommend taking some fun photos in the late afternoon/early evening, before it gets too dark. Locations that highlight the contrast between your sophisticated wardrobe and the whimsy of Disneyland are ideal, we think. This makes Fantasyland a good spot (the Sword in the Stone photo op, Mad T Party, and the prop Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride car), but it is often incredibly crowded at this hour. For less crowds, but equally fun photos, head back to Toontown, where there are a ton of photo ops.
Adult Attractions – The kiddie attractions are a great way to let go and embrace your inner child as you do something distinctly adult, but they aren’t the only fun to be had. Embrace the adult nature of the evening by going on some of Disneyland’s more thrilling attractions. Relive your youth in a different way as you hold your partner tight on Space Mountain or Indiana Jones Adventure, harkening back to those ‘magical moments’ you might have experienced during Grad Nights, or a scary movie. Just no funny business–there are cameras everything. 😉
End the Night with a Bang – Get your mind out of the gutter; we mean by watching the fireworks.
Night Cap at Disneyland Hotel – Trader Sam’s and the Lounge at Steakhouse 55 both offer a great way to unwind after an evening in the parks, while maintaining the themed atmosphere of Disneyland and continuing to enjoy the adult side of an evening in Disneyland. We’d recommend Trader Sam’s for something more lighthearted, and Steakhouse 55 for something more sophisticated.
Or, you can head over to Grand Californian Hotel, which offers the Napa Rose Lounge or Hearthstone Lounge. We also enjoy just sitting in the lobby here, chatting while the sounds of the pianist provide gentle background music. This is a particularly attractive option during the Christmas season, when the tree is up. It’s almost like you’ve been transported to Northern California where you’re snowed in for the holidays at a rustic lodge. (That sounds like the perfect plot for a Bing Crosby film.)
That does it for our Date Night at Disneyland tips! After enjoying a nightcap at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels, you can head back to your hotel room or home, and end the night with a…restful sleep!
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, whether you should stay off-site or on-site in a Disney hotel, where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
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Do you have any tips for a Date Nite at Disneyland? Any favorite spots to eat, attractions to do, or other ways you enjoy partaking in the adult side of Disneyland? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!