It had been 23 years since I had ventured into Disney! As I had constantly reminded the kids on the road trip, they were very lucky, it wasn’t until my 18th birthday that my lovely mum and dad were in a position to take my brother and I! Believe you me we felt a bit silly as teenagers on the Small World ride!:)
None of us really knew what to expect, but we got carried away in the sheer fun of it all. It’s hard not to have an amazing time in a place like this….
Disneyland Resort and Disney’s California Adventure Park are located next to each other around 45 mins drive from Santa Monica or 30 mins from LAX airport. It feels like a miniature city the whole complex with all the hotels and restaurants surrounding the parks. There is no doubt it’s a smaller set up than the Florida parks but that suited us for this trip and it felt very manageable for the three nights we had to explore. So many hotel options to choose from but remember you will barely be in the hotel during your stay. We opted for a recommendation , the Sheraton Park Hotel Anaheim, a great hotel located a 10min walk from the park entrance with all mod cons and a great little pool complex which we used on our arrival day. There are “on park” options too but they tend to be pricey and are in the thick of it all, but I know that this appeals to many too.
There is so much to write and say about the Disney experience, from logistics, to details of the rides, practical hints and tips…. for once I don’t know where to start! So bear with me as I share with you my thoughts!
1. If you can, go FASTPASS and the download the Disney app
With two days we had so much to see and didn’t really know where to start! I didn’t want to miss anything but at the same time I am never a fan of over planning things within an inch of their lives as it can take the fun out of the experience. FASTPASS is an option you pay extra for on top of the tickets that allows you to pick specific time slots to board a ride rather than turning up on spec and queuing. It was a saviour for us, the days we visited the temperatures were in the late 80’s and whilst there is shade some ride queues were up to 2 hrs. The app which my hubbie downloaded was really helpful too allowing you to hold your park entrance tickets electronically and also book your fastpass rides. We may have been lucky as we visited at the end of August but never had to queue for more than 15mins 🙂
2. Pre book your meals
Again, I do like to wander around and choose what I fancy at the time but it gets really busy and especially if you plan to eat in the park I recommend booking dinners in advance. This can also be done through the app which will provide you with a list of options depending on what time you want to dine. There is a wide range of restaurant types and different price ranges so have a good look at what is on offer. We booked the lovely Carnation Cafe for our first evening meal. Situated on Main Street in Disneyland Resort its a laid back place with American diner type food on offer. If you time it well you can sit outside and watch the start of the evening parade pass by , it’s just magical. On our second evening we opted for a package meal at Ariel’s Grotto , which included three courses and a priority viewing area for the World of Colour show at the Californian Adventure park. The food was OK, nothing special but it was worth it to get the best view of the evening show, an incredible sound and light show the likes of I had never seen before – a must if you visit the Californian Adventure Park!
Take snacks for keeping energy levels up during the day and you can refill your water bottles at the fresh water stations throughout both parks which was great (after a while $3 a bottle of water starts to grind you down!).
3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
If like us you are doing a park a day they are long days – 10am park opening and shows usually finish at around 9ish. It’s a faff going back to the hotel so pack well for the day. Don’t underestimate the need for good shoes, spare clothes for the kids (Splash mountain!), plenty of sun lotion and wipes, plasters, hats, fleeces for when the sun goes down….. I felt like I had returned to the days of toddlers but it was worth it.
4. Whatever you do, do Radiator Spring Racers…
I will let you explore the detail separately in terms of what is in each park. Roughly speaking Disneyland Resort is divided into theme lands ranging from the Main Street where you can meet characters to Tomorrowland with Spacemountain, Smallworld, Fantasyland and Mickey’s Toontown. What is great is there is something for everyone, with some gentle rides for toddlers to roller coaster rides for the thrill seekers! The California Adventure Park also houses a number of lands including Golden State, Paradise Pier and Cars Land. We managed to do most of the rides in both parks over our two days, leaving out only a couple because they were either closed or in the case of Tower of Terror none of us were up for it! Everyone will have their favourite ride and it’s lovely to chat as a family about it all for days after but we all agreed on one – Radiator Spring Racers. Based on Disney Pixar’s cars, and constructed at a cost of over $200million its mind-boggling. It takes you in a six seater racing car through the Cars set as you prepare to race and then you race another vehicle through hairy twists and turns on the track at 40mph for 4 minutes!
Our Disney stay was over in a flash, a full on, intense assault to the senses but we loved it! A big outlay but a worthy investment, there is something amazing about sharing as a family sheer joy and fun. It’s so out of the box of our everyday lives, the escapism was precious and added memories to the rich tapestry of our Californian roadtrip.