There will be many sweet things in your day at Disneyland, but the sweetest way to start your day?
Breakfast. Churro. The one pictured above was also a free breakfast churro, which made it that much better.
Until Disney takes our pleas seriously, there is currently not a breakfast-flavored churro complete with maple dipping syrup. But you can just as easily eat a churro in the breakfast hours. This is a breakfast churro. Don’t worry, Tinkerbell has thoughtfully removed the calories from all consumables on Disneyland property. She’s a highly evolved being.
The rest of these tips are slightly more helpful and will ensure you get the most out of your pricey ticket cost.
Start early / Stay late
It’s Southern California. Most of the year it’s warm, and a lot of the year, it’s unquestionably hot during the afternoon. The big crowds don’t set in until 11 a.m. most days, and they taper off around 9 p.m., so take advantage if you can.
How to Dress
Layer your clothes, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to have your feet hurt like hell no matter how comfortable your shoes are. Try to avoid getting a locker and pack a light sweater and water bottle into a small purse or backpack instead.
Make a Plan
Decide what’s a must-hit ride or attraction or meal, and make sure those happen throughout the day. If you are ambivalent about Tower of Terror but you simply must go on Big Thunder approximately 10 times (that’s me), make sure you grab a FastPass for Big Thunder but only go on Tower of Terror if you happen by it when the line is under 30 minutes. FastPasses should be used and worked into your plan throughout the day to optimize your ride-to-not-ride ratio. Which leads me to my next tip…
Yeah, Lines Are Long
You’ll know what you’re willing to wait for depending on many factors, but generally, I will stand in a 30 minute line, no problem. If it’s a brand new ride that has hype like you’ve never seen, then I’m ok with 60 to 90 minutes. Stretch any longer than that and I get punchy and my phone battery dies quickly. Fortunately, Disney does queues better than anyone. You’ll be entertained with the theming, and more importantly, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how the line is almost always less than the posted time. They do that on purpose, because we’re creatures with expectations and they’ve stayed in big business over the years by exceeding them.
Heads Up! is one of our favorites to play in line, but you can also play road trip games like I Spy or simply watch people. (Judge them or not, it’s your day at Disneyland). Take the opportunity to have longer conversations with your friends and/or family and enjoy each others’ company. Take each others’ pictures and be silly. And there’s always, always the option to take your Mid-Morning Churro (or Mickey Ice Cream, turkey leg or Mickey pretzel with cheese) into line. Line snacks are almost the best thing ever.
Look at a Map
If you’re spending all your day walking back and forth between the two parks, you’ll be more tired and you’ll do and see less. Let’s say that handy line app tells you the line for Radiator Springs Racers is only 10 minutes long (ha!), but you’re over in Toontown, and that means a 20 minute+ walk, plus the hassle of park hopping with its turnstiles and security. Look to do as much as you can in each end of each park at once, and you’ll be less exhausted.
Eat When You’re Hungry
If you’re grubbing on Mid-Afternoon Churro #3 at 1 p.m. and you’re not hungry for lunch, skip it. Restaurants at Disneyland, both fast and fast casual, are open (for the most part) the entire day. You might miss the breakfast options if you eat later, but other than that, you’re getting the same meal no matter what time you go.
And Eat Creatively
Disneyland popcorn and hamburgers are just ok, but there are lobster nachos and grilled meats on sticks and flatbread pizzas and noodle bowls, not to mention beignets and Mickey Ice Cream bars and oh, did I mention churros? It’s not the cheapest dining you’ll find, but it’s SoCal. Not much is underpriced. I’d rather pay $11 for a rather giant Boudin sourdough boule filled with creamy clam chowder than pay $11 for a cocktail in the hottest club in L.A. any day, but that’s how I spend my money.
Single Rider Lines Are Your New Best Friend
You won’t get a picture together with your companions, and there’s something to be said for screaming your head off with your buddies by your side on the ride, but you’ll save a lot of time if you take the single rider option. Do it. Become new best friends with whoever you’re riding with.
Some More Ride Tips
For the best experience, ride the back of Splash Mountain because you can duck down and avoid some of the water drenching, ride in the front of Screamin’ Over California for the best views of Anaheim, ride in the back of Big Thunder for the best whipping action, and get the middle front of the B section on Soarin’. The most important one is Soarin. We always make newbies wait for that prime seat, even if it means an extra wait. It’s so worth it.
Go Inside When It’s Hot
I don’t recommend leaving the park to go back to your hotel (or car, if you drove), because it takes forever and you’ll be fighting with crowds at the peak of the day no matter what you do. Instead, hit up some shops, or, do something really awesome: draw. The Animation Academy in California Adventure always has space to sit, and you can do their 30-minute drawing session as many times as you wish. Even if you think you can’t draw, you’re wrong and you can. Plus, all the air conditioning you can stand!
Watch the Sky Sparkle
Disney does better fireworks than anyone else. Their night shows (fireworks and/or World of Color or parade, Fantasmic!, etc.) are almost worth the price of admission alone. Don’t miss all of them, but don’t try to do all of them. Plan ahead, or just be in the right place at the right time to view the fireworks streaming over the castle. Don’t try to move right after the show is done, but if you can wait 10 minutes, you’ll have the park to yourself. Which leads me to…
Burn the Midnight Oil
After the evening’s entertainment, if it’s humanly possible to stick around until park close, do it. The crowds will vanish, the cool air will reinvigorate you, and you can hit a lot of big rides in a short amount of time. Get coffee and an Evening Churro, and enjoy the late hours.
The Expectations Game
The most important rule is also about expectations: know that the crowds will be thick, the prices will be over and you may roll your eyes at the earnest Disney philosophy. But despite the people and money spent, that stuff all makes me happy, and I am willing to bet it’ll make you happy too if you let it. Laugh. Scream. Do the Goat Trick. Eat a lot. Be silly. Sing out loud. And follow my rules.