We started going to Disneyland when we moved to California. While we were waiting for our house to close, we were in a hotel and it happened to be over Christmas. We decided to go to Disneyland on Christmas Day, because we thought, “who would be at Disneyland on Christmas”? Everyone…….that’s who. It was our first trip to a big amusement park with kids, so I didn’t buy tickets online, I didn’t look up best practices or anything. We paid the walk up price, which is the highest price, and it was so busy there. We seemed to be walking around in circles, couldn’t figure out how to get any rides because the lines were so long, we had no idea where to go. We waited in line with a 2 and a 3 year old for 2 hours to ride the carousel! We ended up just walking around mostly, and riding the train around the park. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t worth the couple of hundred dollars we paid to get into the park.
We stayed at the mainly at the Doubletree Tree Suites Anaheim Resort Convention Center most of the times when we went. It is close, clean and the Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) shuttle stops right outside the Double Tree exit. You can get tickets for the shuttle inside the hotel. They are supposed to run every 20 minutes, and they mostly do. At peak times, you will wait.
Click this link before you go get to the Disney Calendar before you go. I wrote down the times in my phones notes section of the events I wanted to see, because I had a plan as to how we would maximize our time at the park, but when you throw kids in the mix, you just never know what’s going to happen. We planned on seeing the Fantasy Faire and wanted to attend Jedi Training. For Fantasy Faire, if you have 2 parents, have one parent stay with the kids while they watch the dancing and the other stand in line to meet the princesses after the show. The princess are very sweet and we didn’t feel rushed. Because of this, though, the line can take a while. FYI- these pictures are old but we have been there so many times, I just picked from an assortment.
The Jedi training is awesome. My girls were a little too young to appreciate Star Wars the first time we went but they were more aware of Star Wars the next time we did Jedi training. The cool part about this time was that both girls got picked and my youngest got to go on stage and fight Darth Vader. Then, my older daughter got to fight Darth Mal. This was so much fun.
Tips to get picked:
- Get a Birthday Button at the front when you enter. If you have a Disney Birthday button, staff tell the kids Happy Birthday all day, and you probably get picked for Jedi training.
- Be enthusiastic! Also, have family around the children be enthusiastic. My poor husband was devastated to find out it was only for kids 4-12, especially since he was very enthusiastic.
- Wear Star Wars gear.
- Get to the show early. You will sit on the ground, and further back people are standing. At a certain point, it will be hard for the Jedi to choose kids to train.
- This tip if for the parents beforehand. Let the children know what to expect. Let them know that they may not be picked and just enjoy the show. Maybe if you come back again at a later time you can get picked. We actually went to an early one, so if the kids didn’t get picked that time, we could try again later if they wanted.
Another show you don’t want to miss is Fantasmic. You use to be able to sit or stand in front of New Orleans Square facing the Rivers of America, then watch the big fireworks show. Now, you have to get a fastpass for Fantasmic. Fantasmic fastpass distribution is along Big Thunder Trail in Frontierland. They will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. Each Fantasmic fastpass will indicate the showtime, suggested return time and assigned viewing section. There is also a small non-ticketed viewing area. Oh, if you get a Fantasmic fastpass, it doesn’t affect you getting a fast pass for rides. This website has a great map and clear directions for getting a Fantasmic Fastpass.
Another tip: understand fast pass, which rides have them and which rides have the longest wait times (Space Mountain and Star Tours have huge lines). Basic premise is that you use your Disneyland ticket to get a fastpass at the ride that has the longest wait times. The Fastpass tell you the time interval when you can come back to the ride and also the time when you can get another fastpass. I tried to get fastpasses to rides as soon as the previous fastpass let me get the next. What I found is that you couldn’t get in line before the fast pass time, but as long as it was after, you could go in the fasts line. However, it did have to be on the same day. For more information, click the image below. For example in the image below, you would not be able to go in before 12:40 but if you wanted to go at 7 pm, they would let you in. I used this in my planning strategy.
Disneyland Fastpass Attractions:
Big Thunder Mountain
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (can get other fastpasses immediately after this fast pass)
Indiana Jones Adventure
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Space Mountain – with the Hyperspace Overlay
Star Tours (distributed next to Buzz Light Year’s distribution point)
Another strategy is to use the wait time apps. I usually download a couple of apps and I look 2 weeks prior on the days I will be going to see what the wait will be for rides. It is hard to have a hard and fast plan as kids get tired, someone gets hungry, a line takes longer than you anticipated. If you don’t mind walking around a little, you can cover most of the park in a really long day. But it will be a great day.
Plan to be at the park 30 minutes before it officially opens. Start early, end late, and take a nap in between! What? Yes. This has worked every year we have gone. If you have kids under 11, this is what I suggest. Why, because Disneyland is a crowded mess during the middle of the day. If the kids take a nap, I can keep them up until Midnight, when the park closes. Most people leave after the fireworks show so that leaves time for us to go ride anything we haven’t ridden or something we want to ride again.
Also, if you get 3+ day tickets, you get enter early on one of the days so long as you go on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. We usually got a 3 day to take advantage of the hour.
Our day would go like this:
- Eat something light we brought to hotel.
- Get to Disneyland 15-30 minutes before opening time (magic hour for us).
- Go to Star tours and get fastpass.
- Go ride space mountain.
- Go ride Buzz lightyear.
- Get space mountain fast pass. (one of my kids was not a space mountain fan so we focused our fastpasses on other rides)
- Ride Star Tours.
- Go to Frontier land. Get big thunder mountain fastpass. If line short, ride.
- Get Fantasmic fastpass by Big Thunder Trail and the Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo)
- Go to Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. Get Mickey-shaped Beignets. Coffee for adults, hot coco for kids. Now that we are all sugar and caffeine up…
- Go to Pirates of the Caribbean, get haunted mansion fast pass before if you can.
- Go to haunted mansion.
- Fantasy Faire times are 11:15 am, 12:30 , 1:45, and Jedi training times are 11:30, 12:35, 1:40 for morning/afternoon shows. Try to make one of these shows. Also, these times could change so look on app to see if these times are accurate.
- Grab food here, Downtown Disney (but don’t spend too much time there!), or by hotel.
- Go to hotel and take a nap. The first time we went my husband and one of my daughters swore they were not tired. Both slept the longest. 🙂
- Go back and get a fastpass for the ride you want to ride most.
- Hit some of the rides that you didn’t hit in the morning. Since we were usually staying 3 day, we would get a fastpass, then go to an area and ride rides, get another fastpass, etc.
- Go to Fantasmic
- Watch Fireworks show.
- Continue riding rides with short lines and using our fastpasses/getting more fastpasses.
You are going to be doing a lot of walking this method. However, when I had family come to town and they were here for a day, we were able to get through most of the park and they were able to hit all the big rides. Have a great trip! If you have questions, leave it in the comment section or go to Contact Me.