Are you planning a trip to Disneyland, but you’ve never been there before? My son has been to Disneyland four times now and he hasn’t yet turned 4 years old. Mickey Mouse is his favorite character, and California and Disneyland are common words in his vocabulary. When people find out we are going to Disneyland, they usually ask “Disneyland, again?” Yes. Disneyland. Again. We’ve been there so many times that I decided to write down Disneyland tips for first time visitors!
Disneyland is not only enjoyable for us as a family, but it’s also convenient. Because we live in Arizona, we are able to drive to California in one day, and we like that we can take what we want, and travel at our own pace. Not only are we able to save on airfare, but we are also able to save on food since we are able to bring food with us.
Even though we’ve been to Disneyland four times in the past 3 1/2 years, we still experience something different every time we go. We usually buy three day park hoppers, and even then, we still aren’t able to see everything. So here it goes.
Disneyland Tips for First Time Visitors
Download the Official Disneyland App
The official Disneyland app is a lifesaver. It not only tells you the wait times for the rides, but it will also say when and where certain characters will be. It will also list places to eat, and locations of restrooms.
The Benefit of Magic Morning Early Admission
When we can swing it, we like to stay at a Disney hotel to take advantage of the magic morning early admission every day we are at the park (guests of Disney hotels are able to enter the park an hour early and this can be a huge benefit). However, sometimes it’s too expensive to stay on site, so in that case, we receive one morning of early entry with a three day park hopper (all 3 day park hoppers come with one morning of early entry regardless of whether you are a guest at a Disney hotel). We usually reserve that for the day we are at Disneyland Park (as opposed to California Adventure) and head directly to the Peter Pan ride. For some reason, that particular ride always has a long wait! If you do decide to ride Peter Pan first thing in the morning, know that the line forms through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. In any case, we are able to accomplish a lot in the first couple of hours.
For Popular Characters, Get in Line Before the Times Listed in the Official Disneyland App
Even though the app lists the times of character appearances, don’t take it for granted that if you arrive during that timeframe, you’ll still be able to have a picture taken with some of the characters. For example, Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps are some of the new characters at California Adventure, and the line was extremely long to have a picture taken with them (FYI, they currently do not sign autographs). My husband was told by a cast member to start getting in line 15 mins before the listed time. I ended up standing in line 30 mins before the listed time, and there were already people in front of me! Once Nick and Judy arrived, people who arrived at the beginning of the listed time were turned away, and told that the line was already closed!
Divide and Conquer
Divide and conquer with your family members can also help move things along. Captain America and Spiderman are also new attractions at California Adventure, so while I held our place in line, my husband took our son on the Monsters, Inc ride since it is located nearby.
And at one point at Disneyland Park, I waited in line with my son for Minnie Mouse, my husband waited in line for Pluto, and my mom (who joined us on this trip) waited in line for Mickey Mouse. Our timing worked out really well. After my son had his picture taken with one character, we met my husband and then my mom for the other character pictures. Our son is at an age now where he loves having his picture taken with the characters and getting their autographs.
Even Though Certain Rides and Attractions May Be Closed for Refurbishment, There’s Still Plenty to See/Do
Even though some of the attractions are closed, there are still plenty of things to do. For example, while Star Wars Land is being constructed, the train at Disneyland Park isn’t running. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still see the train and go inside of it. The engineer let my son pull the train whistle, to my son’s delight!
Try to Experience the New Attractions Early in the Day to Avoid Long Waits
Besides meeting the new characters during our latest visit, we were able to experience the newer attractions like Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters in California Adventure (this line gets long so try to get in line as early as possible) and Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland Park.
Enjoy the Performances and Parades
We decided to see Mickey and the Magical Map at Disneyland for the first time, and we weren’t disappointed! It’s definitely worth it to see the performances offered throughout the day, especially if you have younger children.
Book a Character Breakfast As Soon As Possible
Last but not least, we ended our trip by going to a character breakfast at Paradise Pier Hotel called Surf’s Up with Mickey and Friends. Reservations can be made 60 days in advance and I called to reserve the character breakfast as early as I could. Our friends and their daughter joined us and we had a great time. The food is delicious, and many of the main characters are present, like Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Pluto and Stitch.
I think the highlight of my son’s trip was dancing with Mickey himself.
We chose Surf’s Up for a number of reasons, the main reason being that my son really wanted to go to a character breakfast with Mickey and Surf’s Up is the only character breakfast with Mickey. It also didn’t interfere with our time in the park since it’s at a hotel and doesn’t require park admission and we were able to make reservations for the morning we were scheduled to drive back home.
A great time was had by all!
Here are more of my other favorite pictures of our trip.
Getting ready to enter the park…
Three generations on Dumbo!
Before leaving on our trip, my son told my mom that he wanted to ride the tea cups with her. He got his wish 🙂
I love this picture I took of my mom on Radiator Springs Racer 🙂
One of my favorite rides – Toy Story Midway Mania.
My son especially enjoys the Redwood Creek Challenge in California Adventure. At one point, he told my husband that he wanted to live at Disneyland.
As for me, my favorite food quickly became the Mickey Pretzel. Needless to say, the diet went out the window this past week.
Please let me know if any of you have any particular questions. We’ve tried different dining packages, and while I recommend some of the packages, there are other packages that I do not recommend. And when we stay at a non-Disney hotel, we prefer the Hyatt Place – we are able to use our hotel points, it’s relatively new, it’s very clean, within walking distance of the parks, and includes breakfast. But I’m also all ears if any of you have any recommendations as well 🙂