Disneyland First Time Visitor – Your Tips

Last month I asked for your tips to help AllEars® reader Nancy plan her first trip to Disneyland this fall. Thanks to everyone who responded. In the interests of length, I have edited and combined similar responses.

Before we start, though, I wanted to mention that AllEars® blogger Jack Spence wrote a couple of blogs sharing his thoughts on Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, and I think those would be helpful:
Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom Part 1
Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom Part 2

Several of you commented on preparing yourself and setting your expectations.

From Craig:
I think the most important planning step for a frequent WDW visitor going to Disneyland for the first time is attitude. When you’re a frequent visitor to one Disney property, half of the fun of visiting another Disney location for the first time is to see the many similarities and many differences between the two. Be prepared for smaller, but don’t make the mistake of equating smaller with not-as-good. I’ll allow for one disappointment: arriving at Main Street for the first time, be prepared to wonder what happened to the castle.

From Amanda:
The first thing I would suggest is to go into the trip realizing that DL is a lot different than WDW. Some WDW vets express disappointment when they see DL for the first time, because they expect it to be the same. It isn’t, but it’s wonderful and so much fun in its own right! 🙂

From Maureen:
For the first time DL visitor:
-read some history of DL so you can appreciate its past as well as its present
-be sure to do the rides and attractions that are unique to DL
-take time to notice the little things;the shops are filled with wonderful, charming detail
-start planning your next trip because you’ll want to go back !

From Dan (a first time visitor last year!):
I would suggest taking two full days (at least) to see the Magic Kingdom. There’s just so much packed into the space (yet it doesn’t seem cramped).

A number of you mentioned concentrating on the attractions that are at Disneyland but not at Disney World, such as the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin, Grizzly River Rapids, and Monsters, Inc.

From Dayle:
Ride the Storybook Land Canal boats – charming and amazing examples of bonsai. Matterhorn Bobsled since this is a Disneyland original. Indiana Jones – much better than Dinosaur. I also think Space Mountain and Autopia are better than the Magic Kingdom counterparts.

From Kameo:
[After arriving at park opening] I’d recommend heading straight to Matterhorn in Disneyland. It is fantastic (though a little rough) and does not have fastpasses. The line can be unmanageable if you wait to ride it later in the day. Also, you absolutely must hit Indiana Jones. It is a great ride (think of the ride vehicle for Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom) and you should hit it or Space Mountain immediately after Matterhorn.

From Dan:
I’d say make sure to take the Disneyland Railroad for a complete circuit of the park, as my suggestion to first timers.

From A.D.:
Others will have plenty to say about attractions – the only one I want to highlight is the Sailing Ship Columbia, a very under-appreciated attraction; don’t miss the museum!

From Barb:
Couple of things they really gotta go for in Disneyland. Our Pirates of the Caribbean, just a much better start and finish than WDW, our Peter Pan, for the amazing fiber optic stars 🙂

From Shirley:
You absolutely, positively, must experience the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. I still do not understand why they don’t have this fantastic ride at WDW. The waiting area is not to be missed as well.

The #1 recommendation was the Aladdin show at DCA, where I received several comments such as the following:

From Dayle:
Biggest recommendation for first time visitor to Disneyland Resort is to see the Aladdin show at the Hyperion Theater within California Adventure. This is a Broadway caliber production with fantastic sets and performers.

From Amanda:
At California Adventure, definitely make time to see the Aladdin musical! There is one character especially who makes the experience very entertaining! This is something I would go see multiple times on a vacation because it’s that good!

And of course there were lots of recommendations on places to eat! 🙂 Quite a few of you suggested the Blue Bayou (I have to admit it’s not one of my favorites, though).

From Gabriela:
While dining at DLR isn’t as big of a deal as WDW, I would suggest at least one meal at the Blue Bayou. The best food may not always be guaranteed, but there’s just something about eating right next to PotC.

From Suzie:
I think that the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Blue Bayou restaurant are must dos. The ride is awesome, of course but the eatery is wonderful and themed so well!

There were quite a few other less-well-known recommendations, though:

From Dayle:
In Disneyland, skip the ice cream carts and go to the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street. For maybe a $1 more, you get a large hand scooped ice cream sundae with the fixings.

From Kameo:
For food, be sure to try the corn dogs! They are in the little red cart just to the right of main street when walking toward the castle. They are the best value in food at Disneyland.

From Barb:
They gotta head to DCA for a swirl ice cream at Catch A Flave- absolutely the best ice cream in the park. We actually will make the drive up from San Diego just to get a taste of it 😉

From Gabriela:
And if you know someone who can get you into Club 33, then go for it!!! Other table service restaurants worth a stop include the Carnation Café on Main Street, and Wine Country Trattoria over at DCA. Great counter service places for me include the French Market at DL (good t.s. food at c.s. prices, mint juleps and live music! what’s not to love?), and the choices over at Pacific Wharf at DCA.

From Connie:
If you enjoy character dining, do go to Disneyland Hotel’s Goofy’s Kitchen. It is one of the best character dining experiences-I have been to many. So many unique characters that you do not usually see or meet. The characters intermingle with the children so well. Another very nice dining experience is at Paradise Pier in California Adventure. It is Ariel’s Grotto. Here it is a restaurant, in Disney World it is a meeting area. I would strongly suggest arranging a Fantasmic package with dessert so you can really enjoy the show.

And there were quite few miscellaneous, but very helpful, suggestions!

From Kameo:
As with Disneyworld, always arrive to the parks at open as this is the time you will get on the most rides in the least amount of time.

From Van:
Just returned from DL for the first time with my son. I would recommend going on the welcome to Disneyland Tour if for any other reason than the priority seating to Aladdin and the fastpasses which can be used for any ride, even those that don’t normally take fastpasses, like the Matterhorn. It is relatively cheap by Disney standards and you can save money with your Disney Visa Card or AAA.

From A.D.:
For the convenience factor, many of the “Good Neighbor” hotels located near Disneyland are just as close as the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier. (The monorail will save you some walking *if* it’s open, but it won’t save you much time, especially if you have to wait.) Disney’s Grand Californian Resort is the only place that really will save you walking time over the other hotels in the area.

From Shirley:
The New Orleans square is beautiful as well (another “why don’t they have this at WDW”). Be sure to stroll through it and grab lunch there as well.

From Brittany – a Jungle Cruise Skipper!:
Ride the Jungle Cruise at night, it’s more exciting that way. It is not like the WDW one in many ways! The Celebrate parade is fun, IF you have small children, but please don’t wait around for an hour for it, it’s good, but not that good. You MUST watch the fireworks in Sept. if Magical is still the show going on then try to stake out a spot before 9pm. The very best spot in my humble opinion would be in the Plaza, which is that little area just after Main Street USA but just before the Hub.


Disneyland AllEars® Meet and Greet!

AllEars® Team members Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lisa Berton and Cathy Bock invite you to come by and say “Hello!” at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 11, 2009, at the Disneyland Plaza Garden Stage.

Directions: Walk down Main Street until you reach the statue of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney. The entrance to the outdoor covered stage with tables and chairs will be up and to the left.

Let us know you plan to attend by emailing allearsnet at yahoo dot com

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Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

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6 Replies to “Disneyland First Time Visitor – Your Tips”

  1. If you or your kids love characters, I would suggest looking for them in DCA’s main plaza. There is rarely a wait to see characters such as Stitch, Minnie or Pluto. Because there are no attractions in this area, people breeze through and miss some great photo opportunities! Many of the characters are dressed in vacation clothes (Hawaiian shirts, etc), which makes the pics even more special, and the small crowds don’t hurt either!

  2. Get a fastpass for Splash Mountain, you won’t believe how much time you’ll save.
    Ride the Jungle Cruise during the day, at night you can barely see anything.
    Don’t waste your time trying to meet characters at Mickey’s Toontown. If you get to the park when it opens, all of the characters will be at the entrance with a much shorter line.
    Don’t be disappointed because Sleeping Beauty Castle is smaller than Cinderella Castle. There’s so much detail in it; it’s just beautiful in a charming way, not an overwhelming way.

  3. Thanks for the updated Blog.

    I kept checking back the original one and saw no other comments. I thought it might have been forgotten. I’m glad it wasn’t.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. I can’t believe no one mentioned Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. At the Golden Horseshoe. Get a sundae at the bar and be prepared to be blown away by the great music and hysterical antics of these backwoods virtuosos.

  5. Accomplish two things at once by having lunch and enjoying a foot-stomping hilarious show by Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at the Golden Horseshoe Stage. Yeehaw!