Whether you are going for a one-time visit or you are an annual passholder, there is an art to exploring D-land! My husband and I have a route we follow when we go and it works for us. We are seriously stress free when we go! I also follow the Magic Kingdom Mamas blog for tips and up-to-date info. If anything, look at the park map, download the Disneyland app and have a plan! We arrive for opening and leave by 2pm and we manage to get on at least 5 rides and have a meal. Here is our usual plan:
- Walk to the park, the shuttle takes forever plus you have to collapse your stroller. But if I am rolling solo, that’s not an option. There are two areas in the shuttle where you don’t have to collapse it but it does take longer. We walk to Downtown Disney (plus the security line is shorter) and either take the monorail into Tomorrowland or venture through Mainstreet.
- If we want breakfast we go to La Brea Cafe (near ticket counters) but through the walk-in bakery section. The food is the same, fewer options, but so delicious. I usually order the french toast with bacon, egg and potatoes and I share with my two kids. They both split the potatoes and french toast and I eat the bacon and eggs. We quickly eat and head into the park. If we are pressed for time, we grab something at Starbucks (there are two in Downtown Disney).
- Rides in order of our route: Star Wars, Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Winnie the Pooh, Small World, King Arthur Carousel, Casey Junior Train, Finding Nemo’s Submarine, Autopia, Steam Train (we don’t usually go to all of them, but these are our (well our son’s) favorite.
- We fill up our popcorn bucket in front of Alice and Wonderland and Matterhorn (shortest usually and you can ask for an extra popcorn carton for the toddlers), get a frozen apple slushie in front of Casey Junior train (keep the cup), occasional treat depending on what’s in season (beignet in the Mint Julep near Pirates of the Caribbean). If we eat lunch we either get corn dogs (in front of the Plaza Inn), salads and sandwiches at the Jolly Holiday, or go out to a Downtown Disney restaurant. I do want to venture out more in this area because they have some good lunch options. But we tend to bring our own sandwiches and snacks in a cooler and store it under our stroller.
- We visit the Baby Center for multiple reasons (end of Main Street near the Corn Dog Stand and Plaza Inn) We refill our water bottles (free water, yay), change diapers, breastfeed, and use the mini toilets for potty training. The best part is if you forget a diaper, wipes, baby food you can purchase items (inexpensive).
- Cost? Pricey! Starting at $110. You can also buy the SoCal pass and save some money. We realized that we were going to take advantage of it so we purchased an annual pass. If you are going for one day, purchase tickets online to avoid the long line so you can maximize your stay!
- Parking: $20 a day, or free with your pass. Sometimes cars are redirected from the Mickey and Friends parking lot to other parking lots that further away. We make a u-turn and go back towards the 5 fwy which is Manchester Blvd. We make another u-turn and head on the left hand side so we get on the ramp that goes over the traffic trying to enter in.
- Stroller access: We prefer to take our own, some people rent them there. We won’t leave any valuables in our stroller. THere is stroller parking for each ride.
- Make sure to get a map because there is also a list of all the shows and parades.
- Speaking of parades → we found the perfect spot to sit and watch the parades. The Corner Cafe (see picture below) near the Jolly Holiday towards the end of Main Street has umbrella tables. The table closer to the window that leads to the candy shop is where we sit and eat before the parade. This way the kids are entertained while we wait for the parade to begin.
Beyond the castle: I used to wonder how will I incorporate learning in our trips to Disneyland? Once I became an annual passholder, I realized Disneyland is filled with opportunities to learn basic concepts. For example, want to teach your kid about different vehicles? Ride the trains, steam ship, boats, Autopia cars, submarine, trolley, or visit the firetruck and talk about all the different parts. We actually learned from a cast member that the person who steers the submarine is called a helmsman. That was our word of the day. Music is everywhere in Disneyland and DCA, and we take time to watch the bands and listen to the performances.