Owing to its expansiveness and isolation, most visitors to Walt Disney World in Florida basically have their options for arriving at the attraction dictated by where they are sleeping: on-site guests get to use WDW’s Byzantine system of busses, boats, and monorails, while those staying off-site drive their rental cars into the theme park parking lots.
Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort, on the other hand, offers more entry options by virtue of its more accessible design. While there are advantages to staying in one of Disneyland’s three Mouse-owned hotels (early entry to DCA’s Cars Land being chief among them), many off-site properties are nearly as close (or closer) to the Happiest Place On Earth than the official accommodations.
On my recent trip to California I tested three methods for getting into the Disneyland Resort, and I hope my experience will help you in planning your next trip. So, with deepest apologies to The Muppets, let’s look at whether to “[hitch]hike, bus, or yellow cab it.”
Let’s cut to the chase: if you are capable, walking is by far the best way to get from your hotel to Disneyland. It’s fun, it’s healthy, and best of all, it’s free!
The determining factor is the location of your hotel. As you’ll note in our list of recommended walking-distance hotels in The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, the ideal properties to walk from are located along Harbor Blvd between Manchester and Katella Ave. Staying here provides quick access to the main pedestrian entrance to the Resort just north of Disney Way. You can also find good deals on rooms around the intersection of Harbor and Katella that are less than a 15 minute walk from the park; I’m a particular fan of the Super 8 when traveling on the cheap.
Slightly less convenient, but still within walking distance, are hotels near the corner of Katella and Disneyland Drive. From here, you can walk north on Disneyland Drive and enter the resort by cutting through the Grand Californian Hotel into Downtown Disney. On my recent trip I stayed at the Best Western Stovall’s Inn (an unexceptional hotel in most respects) and had a pleasant 14-minute commute to the parks.
Do keep in mind that the convenience of walking is dependent on the composition of your party. Healthy adults should be able to walk 3/4 of a mile or more into the Resort without trouble, while groups with young, elderly, or physically challenged members may want to stay closer.
Especially important for families with stroller-age children are the numbers of intersections you must cross; while area surrounding Disneyland has adequate sidewalks and traffic signals, its best to look at a map and minimize the number of crosswalks you must use. The Candy Cane Inn is ideal of families in this sense because it is the closest off-site hotel that is on the same side of Harbor as the resort entrance.
If your hotel turns out to be too far to walk, resist the temptation to drive your car to the Mickey and Friends parking garage. Its entrance is designed to accommodate visitors arriving on the I-5 freeway, rather than Anaheim surface streets; and it requires a sometimes-frustrating ride on a parking tram, which drops you off in Downtown Disney, still a size able walk from the park entrance.
Instead, investigate the available shuttle bus options. ART, the public Anaheim Resort Transportation system, has twenty numbered routes that all begin and end at Disneyland. One-way fares are $3 per person; daily passes start at $5.
An even better option may be a private shuttle, if your hotel offers one. During my recent stay at the Hyatt Regency on Harbor, I enjoyed their dedicated shuttle, which features comfortable seats and Disney videos during the 15-minute voyage, for the same price as a daily ART pass. Before buying a private shuttle pass, enquire how often it runs (at least twice per hour in each direction is preferable) and if its schedule will accommodate Magic Morning or extended operating hours.
A final option for guests staying on Harbor and Orangewood: you can actually walk into Disney’s Toy Story parking lot and catch its shuttle bus to the resort for free! If you do need to park your car, the Toy Story lot is a popular choice among locals and Annual Passholders because it is more accessible than Mickey and Friends. Travel time from the lot to the park is usually under 10 minutes, thanks to a steady stream of buses; you can often wait longer than that for a Mickey and Friends tram.
Let’s say you’re at the tail end of a full day in the parks, or perhaps you’ve had one too many Uh-Oa’s at Trader Sam’s. If you are too tired to walk, or the shuttle buses have shut down for the night, your best bet is to hail a cab.
Be aware that there is no taxi stand available on the east side of the resort (along Harbor) and flagging down cabs on the street (like in New York City) isn’t advisable. Instead, walk through Downtown Disney to the taxi stand near ESPN Zone, or to the front entrances of the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian.
My recent ride from the Disneyland Hotel to the Hyatt cost $10 (plus tip), a small price to pay for safe passage to my bed after a day of exhausting adventures in the Happiest Place on Earth.
What’s your favorite way to get in and around Disneyland Resort? Let us know in the comments below!