We live less than two hours from the happiest place on Earth, so putting Disneyland on our San Diego bucket list was a no brainer. It’s not just that the kids had a blast; we had so much fun, too. I think we had even more fun because we stumbled on things that made our time there extra magical. We discovered some Disneyland secrets, and I’m here to share them with you!
So let’s get started.
Disneyland Secrets You Need to Know About
A few of these may be tricks of the trade, and may even be common knowledge to Disney fanatics, but if it’s your first time visiting the parks, then you could be in for a (Mickey) treat!
First things first: let’s chat about tickets, because you can’t actually step foot into Disneyland unless you have a ticket.
Well, actually, under three is free, so take those babies to meet the famous mouse and his friends while they’re little so you can save some dough.
(No, they won’t remember it. Yes, they may cry when they see characters. No, you’re not a horrible parent. Yes, you should frame that picture of them crying.)
If you’re military—or know someone in the military—and want to go to Disney (land or world), head over to your local ITT on base and get their 3-day Park Hopper. The price is fantastic for what you get out of it.
Keep in mind that the actual military member must be with you the first time you use the tickets. But after that you can use the other two days whenever you’d like. But on that note, check the expiration date. It’s often a few days before the end of the calendar year.
Be BFF with Mickey or Minnie
Toon Town (the magical place in the Magic Kingdom for littles) opens an hour after the rest of the park does, but don’t dilly-dally. Get there a decent time before the gates open, and you’ll see Mickey and Minnie open the gates and welcome guests to their respective homes.
In fact, they’ll even pick random kids to walk with them to their house. I chalk it up to being in the right place at the right time, but the girls were the lucky ones picked one of the mornings we were there, so Minnie, Julia, and Madilyn all strolled into Toon Town together.
One of the parks photographers will be there documenting it every step of the way, but just in case you forget to have them scan your photo card, or if you lose your photo card and forgot to link it to their app (speaking to myself here), make sure your is camera ready.
If your kid walks in with either of them, they literally go all the way. You can skip waiting in line like everyone else to see them in their house. In fact, they’ll personally show you through their home, and then you’ll be first to take pictures with Mickey or Minnie (depending on which mouse leads the way).
Dinosaurs at Disneyland
Did you know you can see dinos at Disney? Yup! Once you’ve explored all the lands in Disney, and you’re too exhausted to stand in one.more.line, but still want to stick around the park, hop on the Disneyland Railroad and take a loop around Magic Kingdom.
In Primeval World, the last stop before it takes you back to the front of the park, you’ll see an old-school-looking attraction with dinosaurs, lava, and all things prehistoric. In fact, the reason it looks so old is because they were build for the New York World’s Fair in 1964, but parts of the attraction just got a facelift earlier last year.
Fair warning: if you have young kids who frighten easily, these dinosaurs may be a little on the scary side for them. The girls definitely had to cover their eyes for a few parts, but then they said it was, “neat” after we got off.
Skip the Character Meals
Let’s be real: the only reason you’re shelling out the extra mega bucks for a sit-down meal at Disney is so your little prince and princess can see the “real” princesses and other characters up close and personal. Am I right? Here’s another little secret: you can see them for just the price of a ticket, and maybe even without waiting in line!
As soon as the park opens, head over to the Royal Hall, just to the left of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and meet up to three princesses. When we were there the cast members said they’re always shocked that the lines are so short first thing in the morning. They also said it’s almost always Cinderella, and then two of her special princess friends. When we were there we saw Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel.
Each princess has her own little space to meet, greet, hug, and share the Disney magic with their guests. Have your photo card ready, because they’ll snap your pic for you, and have your camera ready for a backup picture.
If you can’t make it to the Royal Hall, or don’t want to stand in that line, keep an eye on the app for times when you can spy princesses, and their main squeeze, posing for photos just outside in the courtyard.
We saw Princess Jasmin and Aladdin while we were there.
Looking to spot some of Mickey’s other friends? They’re scattered around the park throughout the day. If you have the Disneyland app, click on “characters” and it will show you where and when they’ll be in the park. But get there fast. The lines get long pretty fast, and their appearances are short.
Also, you never know who you’ll just run into. We were tag-teaming it in Fantasyland, and while my husband and the kids were riding some rides, I almost ran right smack into Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. There was no time to grab a quick picture, because he almost ran into the Evil Stepmother from Sleeping Beauty, which led to a showdown in front of the Tea Cup ride! You never know who you may run into around the parks.
With that said, you can absolutely see who you want to see if you plan it out a little bit. There are even extra character sightings around the park, like Moana (in Adventurland), Woody from Toy Story (Frontierland), and Star Wars characters, too. (in Adventurland)
See a (Really Great) Disney Show
Speaking of Fantasy Faire, just in front of the Royal Hall is the Royal Theater, a stop you absolutely can’t miss. Here, a storytelling troop share two different tales, either Beauty and the Beast or Tangled (check times to see what’s “playing”).
Why can’t you miss this? Three reasons:
1) It’s covered, which means some awesome shade in the SoCal heat.
2) there are seats, so you can take a load off and rest awhile.
3) The shows are actually really, really, really good!
We saw Tangled, and not only was it completely entertaining, but the kids loved it. They got to sit right up front and were completely mesmerized during the entire 30-minute show.
If your little one can sit still—and even if they can’t—I highly recommend taking a breather and watching.
Channel Your Inner Jedi
So, if princesses aren’t your kid’s thing, or you just want to channel your inner sci-fi side, then head over to Tomorrowland. There kids can actually join the force and become a Jedi. Or at least a padawan (that’s a Jedi-in-training, according to my nerdy husband).
Spaces are limited, and you have to sign up as soon as you get to the park, but once selected, young padawans will wear a robe, hold a coveted light saber, and join the force.
Get Your Dole Whip Without Waiting
Save this tip for the afternoon when it’s hot and you’re tired. Make your way to Adventureland for some of Disney’s famous Dole Whip, only don’t freak out when you see the line. The Tiki Room actually serves the mouth-watering pineapple soft serve on both sides of the shack, and the line is almost always shorter on the other side near the Tiki room.
And speaking of the Tiki Room—it’s the perfect place to cool off and enjoy your Dole Whip in peace. While you’re there, you can check out the show or head on out to your next adventure.
Okay, if you know something fun not mentioned above, comment with your Disneyland secrets below, and share the magical Disney love!