Trip Planning

Disneyland Planning for Walt Disney World Veterans – Part 3

by on December 18, 2017

Hopefully, by this point, you’ve read the first couple of articles in this Disneyland planning series and have got the broad aspects of your trip mapped out. Just in case, here they are:

Since you’re going to Disneyland, though, it probably makes sense to know where to devote your precious time, right? Read on to learn what attractions are the “must-dos,” which are skippable, and to pick up a few extra tips and tricks to help you make the most of your trip!

Must-Dos

Obviously, Disneyland has several unique attractions unavailable at Walt Disney World that every Walt Disney World vet should try (subject to your own tolerance for thrill rides, etc., of course). Also, even though there is overlap between the attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, they are not always the same, and there are a few instances where the Disneyland version of an attraction is CLEARLY better and also make the “must” list:

  • Radiator Springs Racers — There are several instances at Disneyland where Disney has taken a ride system that exists at Walt Disney World but created a better experience. Radiator Springs Racers, which uses the same ride system as Test Track, is a great example of this. It is a next-gen experience, with a great story, fantastic animatronics, and some moderate thrills. It is a true “can’t miss” for a Disneyland visit.

 

  • Pirates of the Caribbean — In just about any discussion comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World, someone is guaranteed to point out that Disneyland’s version of Pirates is better. Simply stated, this is correct, and unlike some attractions like Big Thunder and Haunted Mansion, where you could viably make a case for either park’s version, there really isn’t a debate to be had here. Of the folks I know that have done both, I literally can’t think of anyone that prefers the far shorter Orlando version. The concept is the same, but if you like the World’s version, there’s more of that to love out west. For those with small kids, it does have two drops that are much larger than the little launch drop in Orlando, one of which is entirely in the dark. You’re not likely to get more than a spritzing of water and no one would confuse Pirates with a a thrill ride, but worth noting just the same.

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Disneyland Weekly Preview — Week of December 16

by on December 15, 2017

Heading to Disneyland this week? Read on to find out what to expect in this week’s Disneyland preview!

Special Events and Notes

The Festival of Holidays continues this week at California Adventure, featuring food and drink kiosks sprinkled throughout the park.  Also, Princess Elena of Avalor has a special show, and Disney ¡Viva Navidad! (celebrating Latino holiday traditions) will be taking place throughout the Festival. During the Festival, Annual Passholders are eligible to pick up a Sip & Savor Pass for $45 that is good for eight Festival food and beverage offerings (excluding alcohol). In addition to potentially saving you some money, you’ll also get a lanyard and a special AP button at each kiosk where you redeem a coupon.  Passholders can stop by the AP Corner at Sonoma Terrace for exclusive photo opportunities and a complimentary commemorative collectible art button.

At Disneyland Park, A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe… In Holiday Magic are being shown in lieu of the regular daytime parade and evening fireworks, respectively.  Over at Disney’s California Adventure, World of Color has been replaced by World of Color — Season of Light. All of these special shows are included with your normal park admission, so make sure you check them out.

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Disneyland Planning for Walt Disney World Veterans – Part 2

by on December 11, 2017

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read the first part of this article, covering some of the nuts-and-bolts aspects of Disneyland planning. If not, go back and do it now.  I’ll wait.

Done?  OK, great. Now that you’ve got all of that fresh in your mind, let’s talk a little bit about what the Disneyland experience is like. It’s obviously similar in a lot of respects to Walt Disney World, but there are enough differences that knowing where you should direct your focus will really enhance your trip. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

When to Go

Broadly speaking, Disneyland experiences the same sort of seasonal ebbs and flows that you’re used to at Walt Disney World. Spring Break, Summer, and Winter Break tend to be pretty busy, and you can expect lighter crowds when kids are in school. There are some quirky variations attributable to local events, so certainly make sure you check the Disneyland Crowd Calendar, but if you’re familiar with Walt Disney World crowds, the times to target are going to be what you’d expect.

With that said, if I were advising a Walt Disney World veteran as to the best time to visit Disneyland, I’d definitely suggest the latter part of the year if possible. Disneyland has more local visitors that it needs to entice to visit the parks, and is accordingly a lot more cavalier about making seasonal changes to the attractions. For example, Haunted Mansion gets a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay from mid-September to the end of the Christmas season that really transforms the attraction — it’s still vaguely recognizable as Haunted Mansion, but a radically different version. I recall the first time I experienced it, I was expecting a light skinning, where maybe Jack Skellington shows up in a few scenes, but it’s a complete overhaul and is absolutely fantastic.

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Disneyland Preview — Week of December 9

by on December 8, 2017

Another week of holiday-themed fun at Disneyland Resort. Read on to find out what to expect in this week’s Disneyland preview!

Special Events and Notes

Photo: Disney

Lots of holiday cheer at Disneyland resort, and both parks have themed their entertainment to the season. At Disneyland Park, A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe… In Holiday Magic are being shown in lieu of the regular daytime parade and evening fireworks, respectively.  Over at Disney’s California Adventure, World of Color has been replaced by World of Color — Season of Light. Even better, all of these special shows are included with your normal park admission, so make sure you check them out.

The Festival of Holidays also continues at California Adventure. In addition to food and drink kiosks sprinkled throughout the parkPrincess Elena of Avalor has a special show, and Disney ¡Viva Navidad! (celebrating Latino holiday traditions) will be taking place throughout the Festival.  

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Disneyland Planning for Walt Disney World Veterans – Part 1

by on December 4, 2017

For veterans of Walt Disney World, Disneyland planning can be a bit of a challenge in that there are several unknowns. Yes, Disneyland and Walt Disney World are similar in a lot of respects, but there are enough differences that your familiarity with the east coast parks will only get you so far. The good news, however, is that Disneyland planning is actually far easier than planning an Orlando trip — the park is set up to be equally accessible to day guests and locals as people who’ve planned for months — so with just a little bit of planning, you’ll quickly find the same comfort level out west in no time. Read on for all the info you need to take your Disneyland planning from newbie to expert!

The Basics

First and foremost, some basic info to help you get oriented: there are two theme parks at Disneyland Resort, three Disney hotels (for now) and the Downtown Disney area. The theme parks are Disneyland Park, which is similar in layout and content to Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s California Adventure, which I think of as sort of a smorgasbord of attractions you’ll find spread across Disney World’s parks (like Soarin’, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Turtle Talk with Crush), plus several original attractions that only exist there. Unlike Disney World’s parks, these two parks are very close to each other, and park-hopping takes about 90 seconds, exclusive of lines at the turnstiles. Yes, really!

The three Disney hotels are:

  • Grand Californian: the nicest, closest, and most expensive Disneyland Resort. It is attached to Disney’s California Adventure and has its own dedicated entrance to the park.
  • Disneyland Hotel: the original, throwback Disneyland lodging experience, and home to Disneyland icons like Trader Sam’s. It is typically the middle tier from a pricing standpoint.
  • Paradise Pier: the most spartan, and least expensive Disney hotel at Disneyland. Least expensive does not mean inexpensive, however, as will be discussed in more detail below.

Guests of Disney hotels can enter one park an hour early each day, sort of like Extra Magic Hours at Disney World. Disneyland does not do extra hours in the evening at all. In addition to the Disney hotels, there are several non-Disney “good neighbor” hotels that are within walking distance of the parks. While these guests do not get early entry every day, they can purchase multiday tickets that allow them to enter only Disneyland Park one hour early on certain days once over the course of their trip (called “Magic Mornings,” more on that below).

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Disneyland Preview — Week of December 2

by on December 1, 2017

The holiday season marches on at Disneyland Resort. Read on to find out what to expect in this week’s Disneyland preview.

Special Events and Notes

Holiday cheer continues in full force this week at Disneyland. Of particular note at the resort right now is the Festival of Holidays at California Adventure. In addition to food and drink kiosks sprinkled throughout the parkPrincess Elena of Avalor has a special show, and Disney ¡Viva Navidad! will be taking place throughout the Festival.  Lots going on.

During the Festival, Annual Passholders are eligible to pick up a Sip & Savor Pass for $45 that is good for eight Festival food and beverage offerings (excluding alcohol). In addition to potentially saving you some money, you’ll also get a lanyard and a special AP button at each kiosk where you redeem a coupon.  Passholders can stop by the AP Corner at Sonoma Terrace for exclusive photo opportunities and a complimentary commemorative collectible art button.

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Park Hours Changed? TouringPlans.com Notifies You

by on November 28, 2017

In order to power our Crowd Calendar and Personalized Touring Plans tools, we have tracked theme park hours at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Orlando for years at TouringPlans.com. Recently, we enhanced our Crowd Tracker tool so that it will send you an email when park hours change for dates that you specify.  (When you “Add a Trip” on your TouringPlans.com dashboard, the dates of your trip will automatically be tracked.)

To get to the tool, visit a Crowd Calendar and then click on the “Crowd & Hours Tracker” link at the left. The Crowd & Park Hours Tracker has a simple display of the dates, crowd levels, and park hours for the dates that you specify:

Sample Crowd & Park Hours Tracker Page on TouringPlans.com

When Disney and Universal update park hours, we generally notice the changes within 24 hours and then incorporate those changes into our systems. In turn, you will receive an email notification about the change. Here is a sample email notification:

Example Email from Crowd & Park Hours Tracker

As in the past, you also receive a notification if we update our predicted crowd level for any day that you are tracking.

The Crowd & Park Hours Tracker (including email notifications) is only available to TouringPlans.com subscribers.

Enjoy!

 

Disneyland Preview — Week of November 25

by on November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror as we move forward through the holiday season! Read on to find out what to expect in this week’s Disneyland preview.

Special Events and Notes

Photo ©Disney

Lots of holiday touches at every turn at Disneyland! Make sure you check out the Festival of Holidays at California Adventure. In addition to food and drink kiosks sprinkled throughout the park, which are always well-received, Princess Elena of Avalor has a special show, and Disney ¡Viva Navidad! will be taking place throughout the Festival.

Over at Disneyland Park, the daytime parade has been replaced by A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe… In Holiday Magic takes over for the evening fireworks. Also, the holiday overlays for it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion remain in place for the season. Over at Disney’s California Adventure, a couple of Cars Land attractions get the holiday treatment for the first time this year: Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters transforms into Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl, and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. The resorts are all decked out with holiday decorations, including a gingerbread replica of the Grand Californian in that hotel’s lobby! Make sure you check out Rikki’s preview to learn more about what you can expect for the holidays.

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Disneyland Preview — Week of November 18

by on November 17, 2017

The holidays are here, and there are a few special events as Thanksgiving ushers in some pretty large crowds this week. Read on to learn more in this week’s Disneyland preview.

Special Events and Notes

Photo: @Kenlyy1

The holidays are in full swing at Disneyland! In addition to holiday decor at every turn, the daytime parade has been replaced by A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe… In Holiday Magic takes over for the evening fireworks. Also, the holiday overlays for it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion remain in place for the season. Over at Disney’s California Adventure, a couple of Cars Land attractions get the holiday treatment for the first time this year: Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters transforms into Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl, and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. The resorts all get into the spirit as well with holiday decorations, including a gingerbread replica of the Grand Californian in that hotel’s lobby! Make sure you check out Rikki’s preview to learn more about what you can expect for the holidays.

Of particular note is the Festival of Holidays at California Adventure. In addition to food and drink kiosks sprinkled throughout the park, which are always well-received, Princess Elena of Avalor has a special show, and Disney ¡Viva Navidad! will be taking place throughout the Festival. Lots of great stuff happening this season, well worth checking out!

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Disneyland Preview — Week of November 11

by on November 10, 2017

Big, festive week at Disneyland!  Runners descend upon the resort for what will be the last runDisney event out west for a while, and Christmas festivities are officially underway!  Read on to learn more in this week’s Disneyland preview.

Special Events and Notes

Photo by Disney PhotoPass via (clockwise from left)
@Niekon, @Snacob95, @RaisingLasVegas, @Nate_WDW

Lots of activity this week at Disneyland! First and foremost, expect a lot of guests at the resort for Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend. The 10K is held on Saturday, and there will be a half marathon on Sunday morning to wrap up the event. The races add a wonderful energy to the resort, but they also bring a lot of people to the area, even if they aren’t hitting the attractions. Between the runners and the people there to support them, the area may feel more crowded than the crowd levels (which are based on attraction wait times) would suggest. Notably, this will be the last runDisney event at Disneyland for the foreseeable future; it was recently announced that there would not be any events in 2018 on account of the construction for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and other resort improvements.

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