When we started planning our trip to California, visiting Disneyland was on the top of my list. The last time I experienced Disney was as a four year old, and that had been at the Disney World park in Florida. Before the trip, I spent hours researching the best prices, recommendations and ideas, but despite everything I read, nothing actually applied to what I needed to know. Since I’m sure I’m not alone, this post is an overview of the REAL information you need to know about visiting Disneyland as a couple.
9 Tips for Visiting Disneyland
Are there discount Disneyland Tickets?
In short, no. We dug and dug and dug and just about everywhere has the same price. There is no difference between buying your Disneyland tickets at costco, verses buying them at the gate, verses buying them at your hotel. Skip the line at the park and buy them at your hotel or another Disney Authorized seller. If you are lucky enough to live in California, you can purchase discount resident tickets, however they WILL check your id at the door to prove that you are in fact a resident.
Do I need a Park Hopper ticket?
No. If you are planning to stay more than one day you will most likely be just as happy with single park tickets for each day. Especially if you are like us and were not traveling with kids. If you do the Park Hopper, try and go back and forth, planning dinner in one park and riding rides in the other. That way it is worth the additional price for going back and forth.
If you are only staying for a day. Pick the side that most interests you. California Adventure has more roller coaster type rides and just as much themed character stuff as the Disneyland side of the park. California Adventure ALSO serves beer & wine throughout the park.
Disneyland is better if you want to experience the nostalgia of childhood and visit the more iconic rides.
Should I pay extra for a fastpass?
Ok, so this is a trick question. Fastpasses do not cost anything. The most popular rides have fastpass stations somewhere near the entrance of the ride. Using your park ticket you scan the barcode and the machine prints out a fastpass for when you can return. Once you have a fastpass, you return at the time printed on the ticket and can take the fastpass line, jumping those waiting in the regular line. If your ride happens to be down during the time your fastpass is scheduled for, hang onto the pass. They will be good as soon as the ride opens back up.
As you collect fastpasses, pay attention to the times when you can trigger your next fastpass. Every ride is different, but most require that you wait 30-60 mins before you can collect another one. Some special passes, like the World of Color light show, have no wait time.
If you want to get the most out of your time in the park, plan your day around when your fastpasses are. Fastpasses can take a 2 hour wait for a ride down to 30 mins. You can carry multiple at one time, and you can go in between parks and collect them from both sides if you have a park hopper.
How do I spend the least amount of time in line?
Fastpasses help lower time waiting for rides, but the Disneyland App is the BEST way to plan your day in the park. Download the app and use it to see what the wait times are for rides before heading to the line. The app will tell you when rides are down, and help you select ones with less than a 10 mins wait time. As a rule of thumb, rides with a 20 mins wait time are usually the shortest.
What should I wear?
You’ll see people in all sorts of dress throughout the park, mostly couples and families in matching themed shirts. If you plan to ride Splash mountain, pick something that dries quickly, otherwise planning for comfort is the best way to go. Sneakers with a good sole, and casual clothing is your best bet. I wore the same Merrell sneakers I wore throughout our London trip last year and was perfectly comfortable.
Everyone here is on vacation, there’s no reason to be dressed up.
What should I bring with me to the park?
Having a bag with a zipper was a lifesaver for me. Most of the rides provide a secure space to put your belongings in front of you, but just in case I like to have a zipper to ensure nothing flies out mid-coaster. My bag was just big enough to hold sunscreen, a light jacket, cell phone and my wallet.
If you take photo’s, you will see people with DSLRs throughout the park. Personally, I didn’t want to try and deal with having mine on me so I left it at the hotel and cell phone photos turned out fine.
Where should I eat at Disneyland?
If you are on a budget, pack a sack lunch and bring it in with you. If not, you may want to try out some of the iconic food throughout the park. All in all, the prices are on the higher side, but not unreasonable. Our favorite meal was at the Paradise Garden Grill on the California Adventure side where we enjoyed two full meals and a dessert for around $24 total.
Otherwise, its pretty standard park fare. There are a few classics, like the Dole Whip, that are worth trying, but you can’t set your expectations too high with the rest of the options. Outside both parks, in the Downtown Disney area there are a ton of great fast casual and sit down options that let you get a bit of a break from the busy environment of the park.
If you want to experience any of the sit down restaurants in the park, you will need a reservation. For character dining options, make sure to plan in advance, locking in reservations a few weeks before your trip.
What rides do I need to see?
On the California Adventure side, Radiator Springs and California Screaming are the must see roller coasters. Soaring is an indoor fully immersive flight ride and the Toy Story Midway is a 3D ride / game that takes you through the world of Toy Story. We were there the weekend the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride opened and I’ve heard its pretty amazing. We skipped the crazy long line since fastpasses were not valid on opening day but if you are headed to Disneyland definitely check it out and let me know what you think.
In Disney, there’s so many iconic rides its hard to narrow down which ones you NEED to see. Personally I really loved Space Mountain [even though it ate Drew’s sunglasses], Big Thunder Mountain and the Haunted Mansion.
Park rides do go down for maintenance frequently, so don’t get your heart set on seeing a specific ride at a specific time. If there are rides you want to see, like the ones in Fantasy Land, pay attention to if any are closed for fireworks or other shows. You don’t want to miss seeing it’s a Small World [Or maybe you DO] when that side of the park closes for the evening.
Is it weird to go to Disneyland without kids?
Not at all! Actually you’ll notice quickly that there are just as many couples without children as there are families with them. There are sections in both parks, and rides that are intended specifically for children. Skip those and you’ll have a fantastic time at Disney!
Overall, visiting Disneyland as a couple is a fun experience and a great memory that I’m glad we were able to enjoy. The trip was a lot of fun and I definitely think it was worth the cost of admission to plan two days at the park.
What other tips would you add to this list of ideas for visiting Disneyland?