I think that we’ve already covered extensively in this blog that we are Disneyland converts. Glory, glory, hallelujah! We once were lost, and now we’re found. We once thought Disneyland was just the smaller, inferior park with a tiny castle – but we were wrong. We have seen the error in our ways, and will let anyone who will listen to us know. If you are a Walt Disney World fan, you NEED to make a trip (or many) to Walt’s original theme park in California. It’s charming, whimsical, and full of details and ‘master’s touches’ that only a park that Walt himself oversaw could have. We have decided to put together a 1-Day Disneyland Itinerary (even though you really need more time than that) to assist Disneyland first timers, or those looking to become converts, like we were.
1. Get to the park BEFORE IT OPENS. We are broken records about this, but it’s our number one tip to make any day at any Disney Park more enjoyable. Be there, with your tickets already purchased, at least twenty minutes before the park opens. This does not mean trying to find a place to park twenty minutes before the park opens – but in-line at the iconic turnstiles, staring at the Mickey Mouse shaped flowers, twenty minutes before the park opens. You will thank us later.
2. Once in the park, we recommend heading straight to Fantasyland, and getting in line for Peter Pan’s Flight. These ride has been recently redone with new effects, and it’s AMAZING. It also isn’t on the FastPass system (Disneyland operates on the old school, paper FastPass game), and lines quickly get long enough to make you cringe.
3. After Peter Pan’s Flight, we recommend starting to employ a bit of strategy. You’re going to want to see the most while still enjoying yourself. What we usually do is have one person in our party go get FastPasses at Indiana Jones in Adventureland while the other person grabs coffee and morning snacks for the party at the Main Street Starbucks. We meet up at the patio of the Holly Jolly Bakery and enjoy our morning treats, while taking in the beauty of a bustling Main Street U.S.A.
4. After your caffeine fix, head over to Tomorrowland and ride Space Mountain before the line builds. In our opinion, Tomorrowland has a significantly superior version of Space Mountain than the Walt Disney World counterpart, and it’s an experience that you shouldn’t miss. After Space Mountain, ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds which is close by. If the line is already long, we recommend using the single rider option for this attraction, if you don’t mind your party being split up. We love the single rider line, but we know not everyone feels that way.
5. It should be time to use your Indiana Jones FastPass in Adventureland! Enjoy this Disneyland original – it’s one of our favorite rides in the park.
6. We recommend grabbing another FastPass before lunch. Our choice would be Big Thunder Mountain, as these lines can build, and on busier days, FastPasses have been known to run out.
7. For lunch, we love to go to The Hungry Bear restaurant for good food and relaxing views of the river. Or, if we’re craving a Monte Cristo and Pommes Frites, we’ll lounge on the patio of Cafe Orleans.
8. After you’ve had your fill of delicious Disneyland food (we strongly believe Disney Parks shatter the stereotype for bad theme park food), it’s time for some indoor, continuous loading rides! Ride Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
9. Don’t forget to use your Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain!
10. Grab an afternoon snack! We’re ambitious eaters – we recommend two afternoon snacks that we think no trip to Disneyland would be complete without. Dole Whip from Adventureland, and an iconic Corn Dog from Little Red Wagon (careful, they’re addictive).
11. After your snack, head back to Fantasyland for some relaxing rides. Our favorites are the Storybook Land Canal Boats, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, and the Mad Tea Party. Fantasyland in Disneyland is also just a place we enjoy sitting and watching what’s going on. Disneyland offers great, spontaneous character interaction, and one of the main places we see it is in Fantasyland. It’s not uncommon to see the Evil Queen wondering about, or Captain Hook and Peter Pan getting into a fight.
12. For dinner, our number one recommend spot is The Carnation Cafe on Main Street. It’s charming, old, and full of Disneyland history. The menu even has a section of ‘Walt’s favorites’ to order from.
13. If you’re visiting this year, during the resort’s 60th Anniversary Celebration, or ‘Diamond’ Celebration, you will have the creme de la crem of nighttime entertainment from which to choose. Fantasmic runs always, and is a little bit different than WDW’s version. If you only have one day though, we recommend forgoing Fantasmic in favor of other nighttime entertainment. ‘Paint the Night’ is the electrical parade that Disneyland brought in to celebrate their 60th Anniversary, and it’s phenomenal. It’s so good that we recommend seeing it twice if there are two showings on the day you’re going. Get a spot on Main Street U.S.A as early as you can (it’s important that it’s Main Street, because your spot for the parade will also be your spot for fireworks), and be ready to camp for a while. We saw people lining up as early as three hours before the parade started for front row seats. What we usually do is have one person wait while the other souvenir shops, and then we trade off every thirty minutes.
14. After Paint the Night, walk out into the middle of Main Street, about halfway down the street, for Disneyland Forever fireworks. We recommend this spot because this particular firework show uses both the Castle and the buildings of Main Street as canvas for the projections, and you want a viewing spot where you can take it all in.
15. If you enjoyed Paint the Night as much as we think you will, catch the second showing.
16. This is our favorite time of night to just walk around and enjoy the beauty of the park. We think Disneyland is a meticulously detailed, gorgeous place that deserves to be appreciated. We encourage anyone, before leaving for the day with their checklist of attractions finished, to just take some time to walk around and truly enjoy the details of the park.
We hope you enjoy the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ as much as we do, and that our 1 Day Itinerary at least gives you a starting place when trying to figure out what to do, and where to go, with your limited vacation time. No matter how you spend your time at Disneyland, we know you will have a great time, and make great memories (at the risk of sounding like a Disney commercial).